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Submitted by KAT on Thu, 03/08/2007 - 1:20pm.
The climate change-naysayer brigade remains steadfastly unmoved by the plight of polar bears slipping and sliding into extinction as the ice caps melt from under them.
But unseasonably warm weather is spawning a wave of premature wild animal babies, and I defy the hard-hearted, soft-headed climate change deniers to ignore the plight of these fuzzy wuzzy preemies.
The maternity ward at St. Tiggywinkles, a wildlife hospital in Britain, is overrun with baby hedgehogs, bunnies, and squirrels suffering from the misfortune of “being born at the wrong time,” according to the Independent:
OK, so there’s nothing very cuddly about toads, newts, bats, and mice, and you really don’t give a crap if they starve to death. But that leaves the mosquitos to feed on us.
Icky insects and cute lil’ critters form the very foundation of our food chain. Honeybees have vanished en masse and left no forwarding address, leaving farmers in the lurch and scientists scratching their heads.
Baffling, yes, but what mystifies me more is how self-proclaimed Christians can take their colleagues to task for worrying about global warming instead of focusing on “the great moral issues of our time,” which consist, apparently, of abortion, gay marriage, and abstinence education.
Save yourself for marriage, or save the planet? What threatens our future more, the failure to preserve virgin forests, or the failure to preserve virginity? I’m pretty sure the dormice at St. Tiggywinkles don’t give a rat’s ass about the sanctity of marriage.
Submitted by KAT on Wed, 03/07/2007 - 9:45am.
I’ve figured out how to solve three of the biggest problems our nation faces in one fell swoop. The solution to our energy crisis, global warming and the childhood obesity epidemic is sitting right under our noses—or, more accurately, on our sofas.
Yes, it’s true, those chubby little couch potatoes fueling up on high fructose corn syrup-sweetened soda and leaving a fine coat of neon orange Cheez Doodle dust on the cable remote are our future; a huge (and getting bigger all the time) untapped source of energy.
We’re letting all those corn-based carbs go to waste, while the tab for the childhood obesity epidemic is, like the corn in Oklahoma!, “as high as an elephant's eye, an' it looks like it's climbin' clear up to the sky…”
That’s why I’m proposing a new initiative I call KICK, or Kids Into Corn Kilowatts. Think about it. Instead of sending record numbers of our corn-fattened kids to have their stomachs stapled, KICK would convert excess calories into electricity by hooking kids up to energy-storing elliptical trainers and Stairmasters, like the ones they use to power the lights at the California Fitness Health Club in Hong Kong.
With KICK, kids could spend their summers generating energy instead of sitting around stuffing their faces. We’ve been scapegoating lousy school lunches and a lack of gym class for the childhood obesity epidemic, but a new study reveals that kids actually pack on the pounds in the summer, suggesting that “outside the limits of a school setting, children are even less physical and eat even worse.”
So, if parents are going to pump their kids full of Pepsi and Cheetos till they waddle like force-fed geese on their way to the foie gras factory, why not get those surplus carbs off their middles and onto the grid?
While President Bush barnstorms for biofuels in Brazil, the corn-based ethanol craze is already running out of gas and starting to look like a fool’s gold rush. Turning all those amber waves of grain into gas is not only terribly inefficient but environmentally degrading, too. My form of corn-based energy makes so much more sense.
Now, I know the concept of KICK may raise some eyebrows, and some questions, such as “Doesn’t this violate child labor laws?” and “If it’s not ethical for me to enjoy a premium dark chocolate bar because it’s made from cocoa harvested by child slaves on an Ivory Coast plantation, how can it be kosher to power my iPod with electricity produced by peddle-pushing toddlers?”
A couple of points: number one, all KICK power would be made in America, so it’s totally patriotic. Number two, is it really any more dubious than Colorado’s new program that puts prisoners to work picking produce on private farms? Thanks to the crackdown on illegal aliens, migrant farm workers are nearly as scarce as honeybees, and farmers are desperate for a new source of cheap labor.
Luckily, the state of Colorado is willing to loan out low-risk inmates for the low, low price of only 60 cents a day—cheaper than an undocumented worker, and perfectly legal! As Ari Zavaras, executive director of the Colorado Department of Corrections, told the NY Times, it’s a great opportunity for the prisoners:
KICK offers kids an equally terrific trade-off; they won’t get paid at all, but they’ll be building sweat equity in a cleaner, leaner future. Why settle for the status quo of leaving no child behind? Why not start actually moving our kids forward? They just need a good, swift KICK.
Submitted by KAT on Mon, 03/05/2007 - 11:31am.
Childhood obesity appears to be causing some girls to reach puberty as early as age 9, according to a University of Michigan study just published in the journal Pediatrics:
Blooming too early is a bad sign. Global warming’s got my tiger lilies blooming in July instead of August. And now it looks like a fast food diet’s got girls growing up too fast. Our hothouse culture already cheats tweens out of childhood, and premature puberty can only burden young girls further:
Rhoda Morgenstern, Mary Tyler Moore’s eternally dieting best friend, once held up a brownie and said something like, “I ought to just apply this directly to my hips.” Maybe someone should produce a PSA showing a 9-year-old girl waving a pair of deep-fried chicken breasts and saying, “I might as well apply these directly to my chest.”
Submitted by KAT on Fri, 03/02/2007 - 10:40am.
Will Scooter Libby get his just desserts? Half-baked claims about Saddam Hussein’s alleged appetite for yellow cake, aka enriched uranium, gave rise to the whole Plamegate fiasco, but instead of using the Twinkie Defense, Libby’s lawyers opted for the even more pitiful “I forgot” ploy, inspired, perhaps, by a decades-old Steve Martin SNL monologue:
Libby’s lawyers claim their clients’ felonious fibs to the FBI were a symptom of discombobulation, not duplicity. The pressures of his job were such that he simply couldn’t remember who said what to whom, when.
Had Libby pleaded excess Twinkie consumption instead, his lawyers could have reasonably argued that their client suffered an adverse reaction to all the mysterious minerals and chemical compounds that go into those iconic golden snack cakes.
Exhibit A would be Steve Ettlinger’s hot-off-the-presses Twinkie, Deconstructed, which follows the Twinkie’s odyssey from a simple cream-filled cake with a short shelf life to eternal Big Food legend. The original Twinkie, made from eggs, lard, and flour, has morphed over time since its birth in the thirties from a conventional yellow cake into an Agribiz amalgam of processed ingredients and chemical compounds—39, altogether—that only an alchemist could understand.
The road from eggs, lard and flour to ferrous sulfate, monocalcium phosphate, and sodium stearoyl lactylate is a long strange trip indeed, and a microcosm of our twisted food chain. Steve Ettlinger went digging, literally, to learn what goes into all those indecipherable, unpronounceable ingredients, and lays it all out for the layperson in a friendly and folksy fashion.
That’s not to say, though, that Ettlinger’s expose is easy to digest. But then, we’re talking about a processed food made, in part, from the food grade equivalent of Plaster of Paris. If you’ve got a hankering for a cake made from the same minerals our military uses in tracer bullets and artillery shells, I guess a Twinkie would hit the spot.
Submitted by KAT on Thu, 03/01/2007 - 10:15am.
It seems only fitting that Britain should be the ultimate nanny state; it is a matriarchal monarchy, after all. A spate of spats over fast food in just the past week or so shows just how much more aggressive the Brits are when it comes to challenging Big Food’s chokehold on our children.
Prince Charles took a tour last Tuesday of a diabetes center in the United Arab Emirates, which has the second highest rate of diabetes in the world. In a deliberately audible aside, he asked a nutritionist, “Have you got anywhere with McDonald’s, have you tried getting it banned? That’s the key.”
The Prince of Green’s slam had the golden arches seeing red, of course, and defenders of Mickey D rushed to point out that some of Prince Charles’ own Duchy Originals line of organic food products contain more fat and calories than a Big Mac. Another red herring to go with those post-Oscar attacks on Al Gore’s electricity bill.
Then we had the spectacle of poor Connor McCreaddie, the obese English 8-year-old who weighs in at 218 pounds, more than triple the weight of a healthy child his age. His mother nearly lost custody of him after social workers complained that she and Connor routinely skipped appointments with nurses, nutritionists and social workers. From the AP:
Obviously, Connor is morbidly obese, which endangers his health, and it’s equally obvious that his mom isn’t much help. But what makes his mother more culpable for her son’s corpulence than the millions of other parents of obese children who feed their kids a steady diet of junk food?
Threatening to remove Connor from his grease-steeped household seems a bit draconian, if not Dickensian—in Dickens’ era, of course, working class kids were suitably skinny, and Oliver Twist could not even get a second helping of gruel, despite saying “please.”
Can you imagine the chaos in our culture if parents were faced with the prospect of losing custody of their children for failing to feed them decently? Where would we warehouse all those gluttonous little Augustus Gloops, anyway?
Britain is attempting to stem the tide of tubby tots by banning ads for foods high in salt, sugar and fat during children's television shows. But by attempting to define what constitutes “junk food,” the regulators have crafted a knotty set of standards that nets such foods as cheese, raisins and porridge, while letting some obvious junk foods slip through the loopholes, apparently.
France is trying a different tack, announcing yesterday that it will require all food and drink advertisements to include one of four healthy eating messages or face fines. The menu of message choices is:
Good luck with that, or should I say, bonne chance. Why does sound advice, in any language, come out sounding just like the grownups on Peanuts?
Submitted by KAT on Wed, 02/28/2007 - 10:47am.
Bees, our littlest migrant workers, are battling “colony collapse disorder,” a mysterious new malady that has commercial beekeepers in a panic over how they’re going to pollinate some $14 billion dollars worth of crops.
In short, the web of life that binds us all together on this planet is coming undone. If you think biodiversity is only for epicurean elitists with their heirloom peas and heritage pork, you’re not connecting the dots between all our destructive habits and the world’s declining habitats.
But rather than beat you over the head with a sustainably harvested two-by-four, which would be unproductive, unpleasant, and needlessly violent, I encourage you to get up to speed on the urgent need to preserve biodiversity by watching The (Bio) DaVersity Code, the latest progressive parody from Free Range Studios.
Free Range teamed up with The Harvard Medical School’s Center for Health and the Global Environment and the Buckminster Fuller Institute to produce this animated short, which effectively makes the case that what endangers some of us endangers all of us.
In the finest Free Range tradition, The DaVersity Code shows how our colossal carbon footprint is trampling the planet, and lays the responsibility squarely at our feet with links to sites that offer solutions, such as this one from Harvard, which reads, in part:
Biodiversity is not just a buzzword; if you don’t believe me, ask the bees. If you can find any, that is.
Submitted by KAT on Tue, 02/27/2007 - 11:10am.
Food is a form of fuel, so I suppose you could argue that meeting all of one’s daily caloric needs with an appetizer of “pizza skins” is the ultimate in energy efficiency.
Pizza skins, an invention of the restaurant chain Uno Chicago Grill, are a perfect example of American culinary ingenuity/insanity, “a cross between a pizza and stuffed potato skins, with a deep-dish pizza crust crammed with mozzarella and cheddar cheese, mashed potatoes, bacon and sour cream,” according to Reuters.
People have the right to pig out and restaurants have a right to profit from our desire to do so. But the Center for Science in the Public Interest thinks that consumers aren’t being given sufficient information to make informed choices when we eat out.
How many people would still order the pizza skins knowing they contain 2,060 calories, 134 grams of fat, of which 48 grams is saturated fat, and 3,140 milligrams of sodium?
The average person only needs about 2,000 to 2,500 calories a day, and the USDA tells us we should consume, at most, 83 grams of fat daily, and of that, no more than 19 grams of it saturated.
Diners who try to offset such an indulgent appetizer by selecting a healthy sounding entrée, something like, say, Uno Chicago Grill’s “Fresh Chicken and Broccoli Pasta,” will consume another 2,060 calories, with 128 grams of fat, much of it saturated, too.
If you were actually trying to heed the USDA’s dietary guidelines, which evidently no one does, a meal of pizza skins and the chicken and broccoli pasta would require you to fast for several days in order to comply with your Recommended Dietary Allowances.
The National Restaurant Association takes issue with the CSPI’s criticism of the restaurant chains:
Of course, you could argue that routinely serving huge portions of insanely fatty food does the public a grave disservice, too, although it may be a service to gravediggers.
New York City’s Board of Health tried to address the problem by passing a regulation back in December, along with the infamous trans-fat ban, that would require restaurants to post their menu’s nutritional content where consumers could see it, whether on the menu or a menu board.
The restaurant industry has been battling to overturn the rule ever since. They’d rather we didn’t see that information, and most of us don’t really want to know, either. We already know the pizza skins are bad for us, so spare us the gory details.
A diner confronted with the actual caloric and fat content of a side of pizza skins may think twice about actually ordering them, or so the CSPI hopes. Which is why the restaurant industry desperately wants to keep us from knowing. If we do the math, it adds up to problems for them.
Submitted by KAT on Mon, 02/26/2007 - 2:07pm.
The thrill is gone, according to a Valentine’s Day memo from former Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz to Jim Donald, the company’s current CEO. The internal document, whose authenticity has been confirmed by Starbucks, bemoans “The Commoditization of the Starbucks Experience:”
But the NASDAQ bell may have already tolled for Starbucks, according to maverick money mavens The Motley Fool:
The knee jerk assumption that bigger is better may have hamstrung Starbucks, in the end. Up-and-coming entrepreneurs should consider Starbucks a cautionary tale; staying small has its own rewards, as Bo Burlingham, Inc.’s editor-at-large, documents in Small Giants: Companies That Choose to Be Great Instead of Big. Small Giants profiles 14 companies that chose excellence over expansion, and prospered.
Sometimes, I guess, Grande is not so grand.
Submitted by KAT on Sat, 02/24/2007 - 10:46am.
Thanks to YouTube, people all over the world are gawking at the spectacle of chihuahua-sized rats having an after hours rave at our local KFC/Taco Bell. Film crews from every news channel in the city descended on Sixth Avenue and West 3rd street yesterday after the Rats Gone Wild segment started circulating on the Internet.
I’ve only been to this Taco Bell once, last December, to purchase a prop burrito for a post about the Great Scallion Scare. Thanks to the E. coli outbreak, the place was dead, but with the revelation of this rat pack revelry, it’s deader than dead. Citizen activism has transformed KFC/Taco Bell’s parent corporation, Yum Brands, to Yuck Brands overnight.
Yum Brands hastened to reassure its customers, declaring that "This is completely unacceptable and is an absolute violation of our high standards." As we say in New York, that, and two dollars, will get you on the subway.
The West Village Taco Bell had been cited “as recently as December for a number of health code violations, including evidence of rodents and live cockroaches.” And it’s not the exception; a quick search of NYC’s Health and Mental Hygiene website shows more than a dozen KFC/Taco Bell outlets with significant violations. Guess it depends on what your definition of “high standards” is.
After I photographed my prop beef burrito, I set it on the kitchen counter and opened it, gingerly, just out of anthropological curiosity. I felt a fleeting moment of kinship with those puzzled Afghanis inspecting the packets of peanut butter our military dropped on them as a “humanitarian” afterthought after we started bombing Al Qaeda in 2001. This is something I’m supposed to eat?
I tossed it in the trash. But that’s not to say that Taco Bell burritos aren’t fit for rats, who, after all, have to fit in somewhere on the food chain. Seems only fitting that they’d feel right at home in a fast food chain.
Submitted by KAT on Fri, 02/23/2007 - 9:21am.
Yes, America’s addicted to oil. But there’s another petroleum-based product we can’t seem to get enough of—the ubiquitous plastic shopping bag—and IKEA’s decided to stop enabling our dependency by discouraging our bag habit.
The Swedish retailing giant gives away some 70 million plastic bags annually at its 29 U.S. stores, but starting March 15th, the bags will cost five cents, while the price of IKEA’s sturdy reusable bags will drop from 99 cents to 59 cents.
Bringing your own string bag to the grocery store has been mandatory crunchy-granola protocol for eons, and yet, this simple act of conservation still has the capacity to bemuse cashiers and brand you as some kind of green-tea-sipping, universal-health-care advocating, surge-opposing, foaming-at-the-mouth eco-terrorist treehugger/vegan.
Besides, the bring-your-own-bag ethos means having to carry a bag with you at all times, which requires planning, which precludes impulse shopping. And that’s just too inconvenient for your average free-wheeling, free-spending American. We don’t need no stinkin’ string bags; we’ve got the world on a string.
But we’re “strangling the planet” with our bag habit, as IKEA spokeswoman Mona Astra Liss noted yesterday when she explained why IKEA decided to begin charging customers for the bags. The money will be donated to American Forests, a conservation group. From Reuters:
Collectively, we Americans blithely throw away an estimated 100 billion shopping bags a year, blissfully unaware of all the ways these nonbiodegradable totes degrade our environment.
But plastic bags clutter landfills, clog storm drains and choke wildlife, which is why they’ve been banned everywhere from Ireland to Australia, Rwanda to Bangledesh, even as bag consumption continues unabated in the U.S.
Of course, some Americans consider it our nation’s birthright to pollute and plunder the world’s resources on a heretofore unprecedented scale, so perhaps it’s not surprising that IKEA’s Bring Your Own Bag initiative has apparently ruffled the feathers of that rabid Republican rooster, Rush Limbaugh. I say apparently, because while googling this story, I came across what appears to be a tirade on the topic, but my attempt to read the article was thwarted by the message “You are accessing a page reserved for Rush 24/7 members only.” Ew. Talk about a club you wouldn’t want to join.
Limbaugh’s a proud polluter himself, poisoning the airwaves with his toxic bilge and bile. If he had a soul he would surely sell it to the devil, so it’s no wonder he takes umbrage at any effort to curtail our consumption of “Satan’s resin,” as Elizabeth Royte caustically characterizes plastic in her book Garbage Land .
Royte pleads with us to think “…about the enormous amount of material and energy that goes into the stuff we use for an instant and then discard…We don’t need better ways to get rid of things. We need to not get rid of things, either by keeping them cycling through the system or not designing and desiring them in the first place.”
Whether IKEA’s bag fee will wean America off its toxic tote habit remains to be seen, but, as an old IKEA ad campaign observed, it’s a big country. Someone’s got to clean it up.
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