Independent Women's Forum RSS feedhttp://www.iwf.orgThe RSS feed for the IWF. News/Commentary, Blog posts and publications(...)IWF RSS Defense of Michelle Obama's Fried Chicken Comments<p> Patrice Lee <a href=",-then-Eat-Fried-Chicken">wrote a blog post earlier this week</a> that first lady Michelle Obama &ldquo;was caught on tape making remarks that are insulting to the intelligence of blacks, racist at worse, and contrary to her own efforts.&quot;</p> <p> While I&rsquo;m no fan of the first lady and her nannying initiatives, I disagree that she was trying to insult black voters. In fact, I think she was simply poking fun at herself and going along with a joke set up by the radio host that was interviewing her. If you listen to the radio bit (<a href="">audio here</a>), the host is clearly the one suggesting fried chicken is a good reward after one does their civic duty of voting (a suggestion I can totally get behind, by the way!). It is the radio host&mdash;not the first lady--who suggests fried chicken. He then asks her if it would be okay to indulge.</p> <p> In my view, the first lady was having a perfectly fine conversation with this radio host who was poking fun of her for being a health nut. She was graciously and good humoredly going along with the joke.</p> <p> I&#39;ve been a guest on enough radio shows to know how that game plays out. For instance, many times I&#39;ve been on the radio and because I often complain about Michelle Obama&#39;s Let&#39;s Move Campaign, her failed efforts to reform school lunches, and her other health food initiatives, the radio host might joke that it&#39;s our right as parents to feed our kids Cheetos and sugary orange soda for breakfast. He&rsquo;s kidding, of course. Making a totally outlandish and exaggerated point that parents&mdash;not government&mdash;should be making decisions about their kids&rsquo; diets. He&rsquo;s obviously being funny by suggesting the Cheetos/orange soda example but that&rsquo;s radio! And as a guest, I go along with the joke--laughing and saying that&#39;s precisely what my kids are eating right now.</p> <p> Of course that isn&#39;t true but radio interviews are fun and one often just goes along with the joke and crosses ones fingers that the audience gets it. After all, when discussing legitimate policy issues, one doesn&#39;t always have to present themselves as humorless robots wedded to their very serious talking points.</p> <p> I think it&rsquo;s important that we make that distinction and allow the first lady to tell or participate in a joke now and then.</p> GunlockThu, 6 Nov 2014 14:11:00 CSTen-usIndependent Women's ForumMidterms Recap: Soda Taxes & Labeling Laws • Cam & Company GunlockWed, 5 Nov 2014 14:11:00 CSTen-usIndependent Women's ForumSidwell's School Lunch vs Public School Lunch & Killer Register Receipts • Cam & Company GunlockThu, 30 Oct 2014 13:10:00 CSTen-usIndependent Women's ForumNot the Onion: Killer Cash Register Receipts<p> October is the one time of the year that people seek out unsettling situations--braving haunted houses, cheerfully shrieking while watching gory horror movies, creating stomach-turning costumes. Yet, now it&rsquo;s even easier to get scared. Halloween lovers need only read the daily paper for a dose of scaremongering about chemicals.&nbsp;</p> <p> Take for instance the media frenzy surrounding a <a href="">study released last week in the journal PLOS ONE</a> which claimed regular contact with cash register receipt paper is toxic and can lead to a variety of dreadful diseases because it contains a chemical called Bisphenol-A.</p> <p> Headline writers had a wicked good time making up some ghoulish titles:</p> <p style="margin-left:.5in;"> <a href=""><strong><em>BPA could raise risk of diabetes, obesity and cancer</em></strong></a>--Daily Mail</p> <p style="margin-left:.5in;"> <a href=""><strong><em>Why receipts and greasy fingers shouldn&#39;t mix</em></strong></a>--Time</p> <p style="margin-left:.5in;"> <a href=""><strong><em>Health fears over BPA in receipts</em></strong></a>--Yahoo News</p> <p style="margin-left:.5in;"> <a href=""><strong><em>Chemical may leach into skin from receipts</em></strong></a>--WebMD</p> <p> That&#39;s only a few of the headlines. Bank on several more this month.</p> <p> Yet again, this is a study that needs careful and sober examination--something reporters (some even science reporters!) seem incapable of doing.&nbsp;Instead, it seems reporters are simply lifting the contents of the press release accompanying the study&rsquo;s release. If the reporter is generous, they&rsquo;ll stick a one-sentence response from the chemical industry in at the end&hellip;you know, right at the point where everyone has stopped reading because they can no longer see through their own &ldquo;I&rsquo;m going to DIE!&rdquo; tears. Nice.&nbsp;</p> <p> This increasing tendency to simply rewrite press releases is particularly dangerous when it comes to complex issues&mdash;like those involving chemicals. I believe this trend is technically called repeating, not reporting.</p> <p> It&rsquo;s not difficult to quickly assess these sorts of studies. Just looking at the authors of the study can sometimes offer a hint as to the study&rsquo;s legitimacy. And for those who follow chemical issues and specifically BPA, a few names should ring alarm bells. Sure enough, when I looked at this &quot;cash register receipt&quot; study&#39;s authors, I found a familiar name&mdash;Fredrick vom Saal.</p> <p> A quick primer on vom Saal. First, he&rsquo;s a well-known anti-chemical activist who has been called out within the scientific community for unscientific tactics in academic research. His research has been dismissed by the National Toxicology Program. For more on him, read Trevor Butterworth&rsquo;s <a href="">thorough examination</a> of vom Saal&rsquo;s anti-BPA mission as well as <a href="">this piece</a> by Dr. Richard Sharpe, a professor at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland and an expert on reproductive health issues.</p> <p> Now, if I were a reporter who covered the chemical beat, vom Saal is a name I would most certainly notice. Given vom Saal&rsquo;s dodgy record, a responsible reporter would immediately question the validity of the research.</p> <p> Call me crazy, but that seems to be the basics of good journalism.</p> <p> Equally aggravating is that the reporters covering this issue continuously fail to provide any analysis or push back on the narrative being presented by the researchers. Nor do they mention the many studies that have shown BPA to be safe. Of course, that might be intentional.</p> <p> And for this latest BPA dustup, reporters should have mentioned <a href="">another recent and much more rigorous and well-respected study</a> conducted by researchers at the Finnish Institute of Occupational Health in Helsinki Finland. For that study, researchers went a step further&mdash;looking at the exposure levels of cashiers instead of just random shoppers. The reason is obvious; cashiers touch a lot more receipts than your average shopper. In fact, cashiers touch every single receipt as they hand it to the shopper.</p> <p> The study was set up to capture just how many times a cashier touches the receipt paper. From page 2 of the study&rsquo;s summery of &ldquo;materials and methods&rdquo;:</p> <p style="margin-left:.5in;"> A working day was set to 8 h, including lunch and refreshment breaks. A thermal paper receipt containing 0.9% (w/w) BPA was firmly held by three fingers, the BPA-containing side of the paper being in contact with the pads of the forefinger and the middle finger.</p> <p style="margin-left:.5in;"> &hellip;</p> <p style="margin-left:.5in;"> During the experiment, the paper receipt was handled about 140 times, and the total times the paper&rsquo;s contact with the fingers was approximately 11 min.</p> <p> The <a href="">researchers concluded</a>:</p> <p style="margin-left:.5in;"> The calculated maximum BPA excretion per day after handling thermal paper was less than 0.2 mg/kg of body weight, suggesting a total daily intake over 25 times lower than the European Food Safety Authority&rsquo;s (EFSA&rsquo;s) proposal for a temporary tolerable daily intake (temporary TDI) (5 mg/kg/day).</p> <p> So, let&rsquo;s put that in English: According to this Finnish study, a cashier working an 8-hour shift would touch 140 receipts and still have exposure 25 times <strong><em>below </em></strong>safe established levels. That means, a cashier would have to handle 3,500 receipts in a shift, just to come up to the safe intake values that have been calculated by government scientists and regulatory agencies.&nbsp;</p> <p> As the study shows, cashiers touch around 140 receipts in an 8-hour shift so it&rsquo;s simply impossible for them to reach levels that would be toxic.</p> <p> In other words, you&rsquo;re fine. I&rsquo;m fine.&nbsp;</p> <p> So, go about your business. Shop and take your receipts without fear. Ignore this silly science and get back to being scared of those traditional Halloween ghosts and goblins.&nbsp;</p> GunlockTue, 28 Oct 2014 09:10:00 CSTen-usIndependent Women's ForumAlarmism leads to more regulations and bigger government • WIBC Garrison GunlockThu, 23 Oct 2014 09:10:00 CSTen-usIndependent Women's ForumAre Plastic Products Costing You Your Sex Drive?<p> Are plastics causing women to lose their sex drive? The Guardian warns, <a href="">&ldquo;How household plastics could ruin your sex life.&rdquo;</a> The Telegraph&rsquo;s headline suggests, &ldquo;<a href="">Rubber ducks can kill your sex drive, research finds.&rdquo;</a> Cosmopolitan Magazine wonders <a href="">&ldquo;Are Chemicals in Plastic Reducing Your Sex Drive?&rdquo;</a> while the <a href="">Daily Mail</a> declares that it&rsquo;s all down to those pesky modern products:</p> <blockquote> <p> Chemicals found in PVC flooring, plastic shower curtains, processed food and other trappings of modern life may be sapping women&rsquo;s interest in sex.</p> <p> A study has linked low libido with the additives used to soften plastics which are found in every home. Women with the highest levels of phthalates in their bodies were more than twice as likely to say &lsquo;not tonight dear&rsquo; as those with the lowest amounts.</p> </blockquote> <p> Okay, so let&rsquo;s take a look at this &ldquo;research.&rdquo;</p> <p> The <a href="">Daily mail</a> gives this tidy summary:</p> <blockquote> <p> In the first study of its kind, Dr. Emily Barrett, of the University of Rochester School of Medicine in the US, measured levels of phthalates in the of 360 pregnant women in their 20s and 30s.</p> <p> She also asked them how often they lost interest in sex in the months leading up to their pregnancy.</p> <p> Those with the most phthalates in their bodies were two and a half times as likely to say they had frequently lacked interest in sex as those with the least.</p> </blockquote> <p> Alrighty, does anyone hear any alarm bells going off?</p> <p> First, the study only included single urine samples of a small number of women&mdash;specifically 360 women. This is not a large number. It&rsquo;s not off the wall bad (I&rsquo;ve seen studies on 10 women make headlines), but it&rsquo;s not a huge, years-long toxicological examination of pregnant women and chemical exposure.&nbsp; Second, the study hasn&rsquo;t been published yet. That alone makes these headlines ridiculous because publication is the first step in the peer review process. In other words, this study is very preliminary; it has not yet been tested or reviewed by other scientists. Lastly, it appears (again, I haven&rsquo;t been able to look at the actual study, the methodology or the results so I&rsquo;m guessing based on the news reports) that these women weren&rsquo;t examined throughout their pregnancy but just once&mdash;a single urine sample. This and many other things make this study a case of correlation, not causation.</p> <p> So yes, the women that had higher levels of phthalates had a lower sex drive but notice that we really have no idea if these women actually had measurably high levels of the chemicals. We are only told that one set of women had higher levels than the other set of women. Again, we have no evidence (and there remain zero studies) that prove phthalates have anything to do with a lower sex drive.</p> <p> In other words, the researcher in no way demonstrated that phthalates were the reason for this low sex drive.</p> <p> Also, the chemical was measured in the urine&mdash;that means the trace level of chemical in these womens&rsquo; bodies was exiting the body through their urine. A more accurate measure of phthalates residue would be to use blood tests (although again, detection of these trace chemicals in the blood does not mean it is at a high enough level to cause harm).</p> <p> There are literally millions of things that might account for a lower sex drive. For instance, these scientists might just have easily asked them questions bout their eating habits and found a coloration between pizza consumption and sex drive. Perhaps the women with low sex drive had more difficult pregnancies. Maybe they ate carbs more regularly or drank decaf coffee. Maybe they had more stress or maybe women with lower sex drives wore fuzzy socks more than the other women.</p> <p> The point is you can make any sort of correlation you want. It really means nothing in terms of scientific discovery.</p> <p> Yet, none of the newspapers covering this issue made that point. In fact, the <a href="">Guardian&rsquo;s piece on this issue</a>&mdash;written by <a href="">feature writer Paula Cocozza</a> who has an MA in creative writing at the University of East Anglia (a <a href="">university well known to support junk science</a>)&mdash;quotes a <a href="">BBC news story</a> which cited a widely debunked study by my favorite activist in a lab coat Shanna Swan (I&rsquo;ve written about Swan&rsquo;s make believe studies <a href="">here</a> and <a href="!">here</a>). Forbes contributor Trevor Butterworth has also <a href="">written</a> about Swan&rsquo;s studies, saying:</p> <blockquote> <p> Swan claimed that levels of certain phthalate metabolites in pregnant women correlated with a lower anogenital index in their male children (the AGI is a measurement of the distance from the anus to the base of the penis, divided by the weight at the time of measurement)</p> <p> There wasn&rsquo;t a consensus as to what a normal range for AGI was in baby boys or whether it is significant, but there was evidence that a shorter AGI correlated with a slower rate of testicular descent in animals. When a National Institutes of Health expert panel later evaluated her study, it didn&rsquo;t find her evidence wholly convincing. All the babies in the study had normal genitalia with no sign of defects.</p> </blockquote> <p> One would expect a Guardian writer to do the basic research on Swan and other &ldquo;researchers&rdquo; she quotes for her pieces. But why would Cocozza do that when Swan&rsquo;s fiction supports her alarmist headline and leads to more clicks from nervous pregnant women. It&rsquo;s a win-win for The Guardian. Journalism be damned!</p> <p> Back to the study.</p> <p> There&rsquo;s another thing mothers might understand about this study. During pregnancy, very often women aren&rsquo;t all that interested in sex. You feel huge, and swollen and worn out and you&rsquo;ve developed cankles and everything feels tight and well, you have a kid growing in your belly and who the heck wants to get naked. Of course, this isn&rsquo;t true of everyone. Some have raging hormones that work in the opposite way but for the most part, I know a reduced libido is sort of the norm when your carrying a 8 pound watermelon around all day.</p> <p> Lastly, while this study says it&rsquo;s the plastics you surround yourself with all day, what are we supposed to do with this competing <a href="">study</a> that says its house cleaning and fast food that&rsquo;s affecting your sex drive. Goodness, so many things we can&rsquo;t do when pregnant. Clean our houses, eat fast food, drive (that dashboard is chuck full of plastics), cook (is that spatula made of plastic?), get takeout (my food container is made of plastic), take a shower (shower curtains are plastic!), walk around my house (I must now replace all the PVC flooring in my house. Awesome). Wow, as if pregnancy wasn&rsquo;t hard enough.</p> <p> I have better advice: Take note that correlation is an awesome tool used by unethical scientists searching for more funding. It&rsquo;s a clever way to find whatever &ldquo;results&rdquo; one wishes to find, without having to prove a thing.</p> GunlockWed, 22 Oct 2014 13:10:00 CSTen-usIndependent Women's ForumBanning Bathroom Breaks--For Safety!<p> A few weeks ago, I wrote about a <a href="">school district banning swings</a>&nbsp;because apparently swings are silent killers on school playgrounds.&nbsp;At the time, I thought to myself, it can&rsquo;t possibly get more ridiculous than that!</p> <p> And then, I <a href="">read about a school in Great Britain</a> that has decided bathroom breaks are far too risky for kids. The Mirror reports:</p> <blockquote> <p> Two secondary schools have banned pupils from using toilets during lessons for health and safety reasons.</p> <p> Staff at Westlands School and Sittingbourne Community College in Kent lock the facilities and said allowing pupils to use them unsupervised would breach &ldquo;safeguarding&rdquo; rules.</p> <p> From this term, students must produce a doctor&rsquo;s note about a relevant medical condition or go to the nurse&rsquo;s office to request permission during lessons.</p> </blockquote> <p> Talk about safety gone mad! The Mirror also interviewed an angry mother whose child was subjected to an interrogation before being allowed to relieve himself:</p> <blockquote> <p> Clare Stevens, whose stepson Kieran is in Year 8 at Westlands, only heard about the new rule when he came home and said he was initially denied permission to go to the toilet.</p> <p> She said: &ldquo;The nurse&rsquo;s office is a 10- to 15-minute walk to the other side of the building, and all the toilets are locked on the way there.</p> <p> &ldquo;When he got there the nurse questioned him about why he had to go.&rdquo;</p> </blockquote> <p> Now, I don&rsquo;t know about your kids, but I&rsquo;m fairly certain my 3, 6 and 7 year old wouldn&rsquo;t make it to the bathroom in time if they needed to go through that sort of process. And let&rsquo;s take a moment to consider what&rsquo;s more damaging to a child&#39;s health and safety: 1. letting them risk going to the bathroom when they need to, 2. having an accident in front of their peers, or 3. developing an infection from holding it too long.</p> <p> Common sense is the first casualty of alarmism. Westlands School is a perfect example of this rule.</p> <p> &nbsp;</p> GunlockTue, 21 Oct 2014 14:10:00 CSTen-usIndependent Women's ForumGestational Diabetes is Dangerous, Not Glucola<p> It&rsquo;s no secret that I&rsquo;m no a fan of the Food Babe (I&rsquo;ve written about her <a href="">here</a> and <a href="">here</a>). Basically, she&rsquo;s a shock jock, stunt woman, a charlatan, a snake oil salesman teetering on her high heels trying to sound like an authority on subjects about which she knows nothing. For the most part, I think of her as an annoyance, nothing more.</p> <p> But then I saw her ranting about Glucola&mdash;a sugary drink given to pregnant women by doctors to screen for gestational diabetes.</p> <p> The Food Babe&rsquo;s&mdash;who incidentally is not a mother&mdash;advice? Don&rsquo;t drink the stuff. That&rsquo;s right. Don&rsquo;t drink the stuff that&rsquo;s going to help protect you and your growing baby.</p> <p> Why not? She offers this standard line:</p> <blockquote> <p> These drinks (also known as &ldquo;Glucola&rdquo;) are essentially sugar water with hazardous artificial colors and preservatives with a VERY LONG shelf life.</p> </blockquote> <p> And then, as if her arrogance wasn&rsquo;t sickening enough, she adds:&nbsp;</p> <blockquote> <p> Realize you have a choice &ndash; Simply ask your doctor what other options you have and if they don&rsquo;t know, <strong>educate them</strong>!</p> </blockquote> <p> Telling moms that Glucola is dangerous and then encouraging them to refuse the test makes the Food Babe far worse than an annoyance. She&rsquo;s dangerous and wildly irresponsible.</p> <p> I refuse to add links to The Food Babe&rsquo;s reckless online musings and I suggest you stay away from her website and harmful advice.&nbsp; But for those left wondering about Glucola, check out <a href="">Dr. Jen Gunter&rsquo;s blog</a>. Dr. Gunter, and OB/GYN, takes on the Food Babe and explains how Glucola is far from toxic and helps doctors protect women and their babies from the real danger--gestational diabetes.</p> <blockquote> <p> &hellip;Glucola is the common name used for the sugary drink that doctors and midwives and nurse practitioners give their pregnant patients to screen for diabetes. Screening for diabetes in pregnancy is recommended as high blood sugar is associated with a number of bad outcomes for both baby and mother.</p> <p> &hellip;</p> <p> The Glucola. It tastes nasty, no getting around that, but that&rsquo;s not because of some harmful ingredient but because it has so much sugar. We use the Glucola to test for diabetes because we need to know the response to an exact amount of sugar with a predictable absorption.</p> <p> The Glucola contains chemicals because everything that we ingest is a chemical. Chemicals are not bad. Dihydrogen oxide is a chemical, but that doesn&rsquo;t make it scary it just makes it water.</p> </blockquote> <p> While The Food Babe spouts off about Glucola, what she doesn&rsquo;t do is inform pregnant women what will happen if they skip it and proceed through their pregnancy with their gestational diabetes undetected.&nbsp; Luckily, <a href="">Dr. Gunter covers that</a>:</p> <blockquote> <p> An affected baby can have dangerously low blood sugar at birth, has a greater risk of needing care in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU), and babies with gestational diabetes can be too large to deliver vaginally. This leads to more c-sections and sometimes if a vaginal delivery is attempted and the baby is too large it can get stuck with its head out of the vagina but shoulders trapped underneath the pubic bone. This is called a shoulder dystocia and is a true obstetrical emergency as the baby is without oxygen for most of the time it is stuck. There is also concern that exposure to elevated glucose levels during pregnancy could lead a higher risk of obesity and diabetes for the baby later in life. Mothers with gestational diabetes have an increased risk of pre-eclampsia, a potentially very serious and even life threatening condition involving high-blood pressure in pregnancy. Furthermore (if all that were not enough) women with GDM have a 60% risk of developing type 2 DM later in life.</p> </blockquote> <p> This blog post should serve more than to reassure women about Glucola; It should teach women a thing or two about The Food Babe and just how far she&rsquo;s willing to go to scare women.</p> <p> Let me be clear: The Food Babe sees nothing wrong with putting pregnant women and the babies they&rsquo;re carrying in danger to promote her site and to further alarmism about harmless chemicals in important medications.</p> GunlockTue, 21 Oct 2014 11:10:00 CSTen-usIndependent Women's ForumToxic Tampons?<p> Are tampons and maxi pads toxic?&nbsp;</p> <p> Pardon me while I laugh hysterically&hellip;.</p> <p> Okay, I&rsquo;m done.</p> <p> Ladies, your favorite feminine products are not killing you so don&rsquo;t listen to <a href="">Women&rsquo;s Voices for the Earth</a> who claim your maxi pad is soaked in chemicals before being boxed up and sent to your local drug store. Their cute &quot;detox the box&quot; memes might scare you into buying &quot;all natural&quot; and &quot;chemical-free&quot; feminine products (and that&#39;s their marketing strategy) but when you consider why bacteria fighting chemicals are put in feminine products, you might reconsider.</p> <p> The truth is, yes, these products do contain trace (meaning teeny tiny) amounts of chemicals to keep bacteria at bay and to keep it all smelling fresh as a daisy down there but these chemicals aren&rsquo;t used in amounts that are dangerous for you.</p> <p> So, go ahead and buy your maxi pads worry free and ignore the toxic messages coming from the chem-phobes.</p> GunlockMon, 20 Oct 2014 10:10:00 CSTen-usIndependent Women's ForumApple and Facebook to add "benefit" for women: egg-freezing• WIBC Greg Garrison GunlockThu, 16 Oct 2014 10:10:00 CSTen-usIndependent Women's ForumBig Brother: Schools taking up the jobs of parents • WIBC Greg Garrison GunlockThu, 16 Oct 2014 09:10:00 CSTen-usIndependent Women's ForumAs You Were Saying...Feds forget kids’ picky food habits<p> Kids are finicky eaters. Most prefer a few favored items, making it a challenge for parents to provide their kids with the varied, nutritious meals that are critical for a growing body. And now, because of dietary guidelines soon to be released by the Obama administration, getting kids the food they need &mdash; particularly at school &mdash; is going to become even more difficult.</p> <p> The Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee, which is made up of representatives from the Department of Agriculture and the Department of Health and Human Services, has been working all year to update the federal dietary guidelines. These guidelines are supposed to provide Americans with information based on the latest nutrition research and determine the allocation of certain federal food programs &mdash; including the federal school lunch program.</p> <p> During a year of hearings, the committee heard from a variety of witnesses, including nutritionists, environmentalists, food activists and other &ldquo;experts,&rdquo; many of whom told the committee that Americans should switch to a plant-based diet, not for nutrition reasons, but for the environmental benefit of the planet. The committee failed to hear from one critical demographic: parents, who actually know quite a lot about the reality of getting kids to eat their peas and carrots.</p> <p> It isn&rsquo;t hard to find people willing to talk about this topic. The committee could have asked one of the thousands of mommy bloggers who write about struggling to get kids to eat healthy. They might have reached out to Jessica Seinfeld (wife of Jerry Seinfeld) who wrote a charming bestselling cookbook about hiding vegetables in kid-friendly foods.</p> <p> My own three children are exposed to a wide variety of fruits, vegetables, grains, meat, seafood, and dairy products, yet only my middle child is willing to try new things. I often ask myself: Where did I go wrong?</p> <p> Instead of laying blame, parents should know that their child&rsquo;s limited palate isn&rsquo;t their fault. According to Dr. Leann Birch, Penn State University&rsquo;s head of the human development and family studies department, kids are naturally neophobic &mdash; a big word for a phenomenon very familiar to parents: Kids just don&rsquo;t want to try anything new. Studies on children&rsquo;s eating habits also show them to be quite sensitive to bitter tastes &mdash; such as those in some green vegetables. Not surprisingly, children tend to prefer sweeter food and most focus on one or two items at dinner, instead of eating a plate filled with different foods.</p> <p> The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics warns that iron deficiency is the most common nutritional problem and the leading cause of anemia among American children. Kids absorb 2 to 3 times more iron from animal sources than from plants, so the Academy recommends kids eat lean beef, turkey, chicken, lean pork and fish.</p> <p> Yet, the dietary guidelines committee wants all Americans &mdash; including children &mdash; to reduce meat consumption. And because the committee&rsquo;s recommendations dictate how the 32 million students who participate in the federal school lunch and breakfast programs eat at school, kids will simply be getting less meat on their lunch trays. The first lady&rsquo;s school lunch reforms have already proven enormously unpopular, resulting in massive food waste in the school cafeterias. Perhaps the committee should take note of this trend before making recommendations that will make these meals even less popular.</p> <p> <em>Julie Gunlock, mother of three picky eaters, writes for the Independent Women&rsquo;s Forum and is the author of &ldquo;From Cupcakes to Chemicals: How the Culture of Alarmism Makes Us Afraid of Everything and How to Fight Back.&rdquo;</em></p> GunlockSun, 12 Oct 2014 08:10:00 CSTen-usIndependent Women's ForumSchools: The New Social-Welfare Centers<p> &nbsp;</p> <p> There are many reasons that our country&rsquo;s public-school system fails so many American kids. Unions protect incompetent teachers (and even defend convicted child&nbsp;<a href="">molesters</a>), and our location-based schooling system prevents the kind of competition that has spurred tremendous innovation in other sectors of the economy.</p> <p> Yet here&rsquo;s another less-discussed reason many schools are in bad shape: Today, schools are not so much educational institutions as they are child-welfare centers, offering an array of services that lie outside the core educational mission.</p> <p> <strong>BABYSITTING SERVICES</strong><br /> Among the more popular programs offered at schools are the before- and after-school babysitting programs. While some are privately managed and operated, many are run directly out of the school. And even when the federal government awards grants to a private company, the programs are usually located on school property, using school facilities and resources.</p> <p> Before- and after-school programs begin as early as 6&nbsp;a.m.&nbsp;and run until 6 or 6:30&nbsp;p.m.&nbsp;That means some children will spend more than twelve hours at school &mdash; that&rsquo;s a long day even for adults. While these programs are often very popular and well run, they are also a burden on schools.</p> <p> Moreover, these programs continue the already pronounced trend of shifting child-care responsibilities from family, friends, and, most of all, parents to schools and government-sponsored programs. That creates new challenges for schools, which can no longer expect parents or a loved one to engage with kids after school, helping with homework and hearing about what&rsquo;s happening in their classrooms and among their peers.</p> <p> Schools and these after-school care programs command the lion&rsquo;s share of kids&rsquo; time during the work week and therefore end up providing the bulk of their educational and emotional support. That&rsquo;s a big job even for the most dedicated education professionals, whose time is inevitably divided among dozens of kids. Kids who spend less time and who get less support from parents need more from schools, and even good schools can struggle to deliver.</p> <p> <strong>SCHOOL MEAL PROGRAMS</strong><br /> Unsurprisingly, when kids began spending so many of their waking hours at schools, schools began taking over the responsibility of providing meals to students. And officials also see school feeding initiatives as a way to expand their programs and power.</p> <p> For example, when officials in Washington, D.C., announced that they would expand the school dinner program from 99 to 123 of the city&rsquo;s public schools, they&nbsp;<a href="">explained</a>&nbsp;to the&nbsp;<em>Washington Post&nbsp;</em>that the expansion had three goals: &ldquo;hedging against childhood hunger, reducing alarming rates of obesity, and drawing more students to after-school programs.&rdquo; So one direct purpose of these efforts is to encourage more parents to make use of after-school care. At some point the public might wonder when enough is enough: To what extent should schools be encouraging parents to outsource oversight of their kids to government bureaucracies?</p> <p> This official also noted to the&nbsp;<em>Post&nbsp;</em>that principals and teachers reported that &ldquo;not only were many kids hungry for the last few hours of a long day, some of them weren&rsquo;t eating much at home.&rdquo; The&nbsp;<em>Post</em>&nbsp;reporter focused his story on the expanded school-lunch program but could have instead considered a more fundamental question of why parents are sending their kids to school for ten-plus hours without packing them a simple meal or at least a snack to hold them over until dinner.</p> <p> Similarly, a 2012&nbsp;<em>USA Today</em>&nbsp;story about summer meals programs&nbsp;<a href=";PID=4003003&amp;SID=rgdbvg1ot7dv">explained</a>&nbsp;that these programs offer &ldquo;a safe location for children to eat lunch, and [a place to] get free food to take home to their families.&rdquo; Yet the reporter seemed to miss the much bigger story: Why aren&rsquo;t parents feeding their children during the summer months? Why do children have to go to their schools or to mobile feeding sites to get food for themselves and their families? Talk about burying the lede!</p> <p> Sadly, feeding kids is less and less seen as the parents&rsquo; responsibility, as many school officials actively discourage parents from performing this simple task. The much-lauded Healthy and Hunger Free Kids Act of 2010 &mdash; the school-lunch reform bill pushed by the first lady &mdash; did just that when it created a mechanism for the automatic enrollment of poor kids in school meal programs. Parents no longer even had to take the step of signing their kids up for free or reduced-price meals. Instead, students who were already receiving welfare benefits were automatically added to the meal rolls. The bill authorized the USDA to award bonuses to states that expand their free-lunch rolls &mdash; thereby incentivizing states to increase enrollment in the programs.</p> <p> In February 2014, the first lady&nbsp;<a href="">announced</a>&nbsp;yet another expansion of school feeding programs: All children who attend schools in which 40 percent or more of the students are eligible (not actually participating, but eligible) for free or reduced-price lunch will now be provided, at no cost to them, school-prepared meals. In other words, demonstrating financial need is no longer required to get a government handout. Instead, all parents are encouraged to let the state take over this core parental duty.</p> <p> The first lady said that the expansion was a way to &ldquo;reduce the stigma and paperwork for schools,&rdquo; but it also came at a big cost:&nbsp;<a href="">Study</a>&nbsp;after&nbsp;<a href="">study</a>&nbsp;shows that parental involvement is key to helping kids eating right and maintain a healthy weight, yet government increasingly seeks to push parents out of the role of feeding their own kids.</p> <p> <strong>AND THERE&rsquo;S MORE&nbsp;.&nbsp;.&nbsp;.&nbsp;</strong><br /> Today, schools do an awful lot more than reading, writing, and arithmetic. From gardening programs to school-based clubs to condom handouts and sex education to those often-politicized environmental and recycling efforts, schools have become the hub for everything a child must learn and do. Some would argue that this is a good thing, because schools have become a gathering place for the community. But putting so many responsibilities in the hands of schools erodes it.</p> <p> Consider school gardens, which have long been promoted as a solution to the problem of childhood obesity problem. The idea behind the enthusiasm for these gardens was that children would more eagerly consume healthy food if they knew where it came from. But as Caitlin Flannigan observed in&nbsp;<em>The Atlantic</em>, in a powerful essay entitled &ldquo;Cultivating Failure&rdquo;:&nbsp;&ldquo;The suicidal dietary choices of so many poor people are the result of a problem, not the problem itself. The solution lies in an education that will propel students into a higher economic class, where they will live better and therefore eat better.&rdquo;</p> <p> In other words, rather than invest so much time on these outdoor fantasies, shouldn&rsquo;t schools focus on improving children&rsquo;s true educational outcomes? After all, it isn&rsquo;t as though schools are doing such a bang-up job on their core responsibility that they&rsquo;ve earned the right to take on more and more responsibility. In fact, our national test scores&nbsp;<a href="">confirm</a>&nbsp;that schools fail to teach a frightening portion of the next generation even the most basic skills. According to the&nbsp;<a href="">2013 National Assessment of Educational Progress</a>, known as the &ldquo;Nation&rsquo;s Report Card,&rdquo; only a third of eighth-grade schoolchildren attending public schools can read and do math at grade level. High-school students fared even worse &mdash;&nbsp;<a href="">scoring an average of 153 out of 500, and only 288 in reading</a>. In spite of these grim numbers, public schools spend, on average, more than $12,000 per child.</p> <p> <strong>AND IT&rsquo;S ABOUT TO START EVEN EARLIER</strong><br /> The president&rsquo;s&nbsp;<a href="">fiscal-year 2015 budget</a>&nbsp;includes a $75 billion Preschool and Early Head Start Child Care Initiative to create universal government-run child care for all three- and four-year-olds. Stressed parents might applaud the idea of getting more help with their preschoolers, but, once again, there are major costs to government taking over the duties of raising children.</p> <p> When homeschooling became popular in the mid &rsquo;90s, critics often suggested that homeschooled kids would miss out on the socialization aspect of school. In response, many parents created private sports leagues, clubs, and other activities for homeschooled kids. Today, studies show that&nbsp;<a href="">homeschoolers are thriving</a>&nbsp;compared with their peers.</p> <p> Parent involvement matters. When schools take the place of parents in many areas, as they are doing increasingly, it pulls focus from their primary job of educating kids. Even more alarmingly, it marginalizes parents.</p> <p> <em>&mdash; Julie Gunlock writes for the Independent Women&rsquo;s Forum.</em></p> GunlockThu, 9 Oct 2014 08:10:00 CSTen-usIndependent Women's ForumKiller Swings and Other Playground Myths<p> A school in Washington State is banning...wait for it...swings.</p> <p> Ummm, huh?</p> <p> Yeah, swings. You know what swings are, right? Those small, flat seats typically supported by chains, on which a child sits and is pushed or bends their knees to make the device move through the air.</p> <p> They are also known to Washington State school officials as CHILD KILLERS.</p> <p> Because...obviously.</p> <p> <a href=";c=y">A local news station reports</a>:&nbsp;</p> <blockquote> <p> Swings are being phased out of Richland schools.</p> <p> The district says pressure from insurance companies over the liability is part of the issue.</p> <p> Swings are blamed for the most injuries of any play equipment.</p> <p> Richland School District already removed them from some campuses and will phase them out of the rest.??</p> </blockquote> <p> A scardy-cat school official helped the reporter paint the terrifying picture for readers, <a href=";c=y">saying</a>:</p> <blockquote> <p> &quot;As schools get modernized or renovated or as we&#39;re doing work on the playground equipment, we&#39;ll take out the swings, it&#39;s just really a safety issue, swings have been determined to be the most unsafe of all the playground equipment on a playground&quot;</p> </blockquote> <p> And predictably, the reporter added this ominous statistic: &quot;Each year, about 200,000 children go to the emergency room for injuries that happened on a playground.&quot;</p> <p> Well, I looked at the <a href="">CDC numbers and according to the agency</a>, the majority of injuries on public playgrounds occur climbing equipment while it&rsquo;s on home playgrounds that swings are responsible for most injuries. So, when the school bans the things on which kids can climb&mdash;rock walls, stairs, slides, bridges, ropes, etc.&mdash;what&rsquo;s left to play with?&nbsp;</p> <p> Oh, I know&hellip;balls, they can play with balls the type of games that use balls like Dodgeball&hellip;<a href="">oh wait</a>.</p> <p> And, of course, the reporter managed to find that nervous mom who is more than willing to back the school for this insane move:</p> <blockquote> <p> Muge Kaineoz&#39;s daughter will be starting school next year. She&#39;s in favor of the decision to remove swings. &quot;When she starts elementary school, those swings can get crazy!&quot;</p> </blockquote> <p> CRAZY! Just crazy. I mean swings go back and forth and high in the air. There are no straps keeping the kids on the seat. There isn&rsquo;t a net to catch the kids if they go flying into the air and for goodness sake, they do this swinging thing in the open--there&#39;s no fence placed around the swingers to protect kids who might walk by and not notice the human wrecking ball flying through the air! &nbsp;OF COURSE THESE KILLERS SHOULD BE BANNED. So really, everything should be banned because everything is potentially dangerous, right? EVERYTHING CAN KILL.</p> <p> Well sure, but as for keeping kids from killing themselves on the playground, this used to be the job of parents or paid members of the school staff. Yet, today, we&#39;re all too dumb to protect our children and so we should simply remove any potential risks. Fortunately some parents are still doing it. And it doesn&rsquo;t appear to be that hard. In fact, I witnessed it &nbsp;just a few days ago. My friend Lauren and I were at a playground with our (6 in total) kids and while we probably would have preferred swapping chicken recipes, discussing where to get cheap snow boots, and debating who&rsquo;s the better lover&mdash;Quinn from Homeland or Don Draper from Mad Men (it&rsquo;s Quinn, by the way), we had to take a break from our conversation now and then to caution our kids from doing something dumb or slightly dangerous.</p> <p> Shockingly, my friend even got up and ran to her four year old son who was walking too closely to a DANGEROUS swings. She dealt with this terrifying situation by simply kneeling down beside her son to remind him of the last time he&#39;d come in contact with a child&rsquo;s violently swinging rear end. And then she told me he&rsquo;d been hit pretty hard last time (and she chuckled because she&rsquo;s awesome and she didn&rsquo;t see this as a near death moment). My friend simply viewed this as a normal part of her job to remind amnesiatic children of their past bad judgments.</p> <p> One wonders what other things this school will ban. My boys don&#39;t play on the swings anymore. They play in an adjacent field of tall grass where they find sticks to use as swords. It&#39;s a nail biter watching them sometimes and we&#39;ve come away with some bumps, bruises, cuts and hurt egos but that&#39;s the way my boys play and nothing I say or do changes that.</p> <p> Should the school ban sticks?</p> <p> My boys have learned to navigate the school playground area well now and I trust them to know their limits when they &nbsp;climb trees or go so far I can no longer see them from my seat on the playground. &nbsp;</p> <p> Should the school do away with wandering? Tree climbing? Should the say the grassy areas are off limits because of tics? &nbsp;</p> <p> There&rsquo;s another, less often discussed, problem with these sorts of policies--it discourages healthy and fun exercise. &nbsp;I recently sat on a swing next to my son to show him how to pump his legs. After about 30 seconds, I was huffing and puffing like I&#39;d just ran a marathon. It was tough and a pretty good 30-second workout (which was enough for me that day!). By taking away these joyful types of exercise, we are increasingly teaching kids that exercise is something different and not part of the normal part of a day. Rather, it&#39;s a chore, a thing one does in Physical Education class, a thing mommy goes to after dinner or early in the morning. It&#39;s something Dad does on the weekend when he runs around the block a few times.</p> <p> The best way to help kids stay active and get exercise is to let them run and have fun and do entertaining things that burn calories. As we make safety a priority over fun, we&#39;re harming kids by robbing them of important life lessons while making it harder for them to be active and to develop good exercise habits.</p> GunlockTue, 7 Oct 2014 12:10:00 CSTen-usIndependent Women's ForumBreast Cancer Month Should Bring Awareness of Wasted Federal Grants<p> October is breast cancer awareness month where various organizations work to raise money for and awareness of breast cancer. Yet, if the American people really wanted to do something to help breast cancer research, they should do more than just pin a pink ribbon on their lapel. Gestures mean little when Congress refuses to stop funding anti-chemical activists and radical environmentalists instead of the needed research into breast and other cancers.</p> <p> Mattie Duppler of the <a href="">Cost of Government Center</a> made this point in a recent post for <a href="">The Hill newspaper</a>, where she explains that &ldquo;since 2000, nearly $170 million in grants has been doled out to focus on researching one chemical &ndash; bisphenol A (BPA) &hellip; despite regulators around the world insisting BPA is safe.&rdquo; Duppler also points out the paradox that exists in these funding streams--while the agency declares a product safe, it simultaneously funds anti-chemical activists groups that are trying to ban BPA and release dubious studies that claim it&#39;s unsafe for human contact.</p> <p> Duppler <a href="">goes on to say</a>:</p> <blockquote> <p> To be sure, the U.S. agency in charge of regulating BPA has asserted for years that the compound is safe. On its own website, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) conclusively answers the question of whether BPA is safe with one word: &ldquo;Yes.&rdquo; This is consistent with the positions of FDA&rsquo;s counterparts around the world, including regulatory agencies in Canada, Japan, Germany, and the European Union.</p> <p> Given this unequivocal determination, why are American taxpayers underwriting efforts to actively undermine matters that have been settled by FDA itself? Why is one executive branch agency spending millions of dollars to attack the findings of another agency?</p> </blockquote> <p> All good questions. <a href="">The Franklin Center&rsquo;s </a>Erik Telford agrees with Duppler&rsquo;s point <a href="">writing for National Review Online</a>:</p> <blockquote> <p> The recent surge in anti-BPA sentiment becomes even more apparent when we examine where that $170 million went. From fiscal year 2000 to FY 2009, the government spent $51 million on BPA research, but that rate more than quadrupled in the following five years, when agencies spent $120 million. Incredibly, the increase in spending comes on the heels of a 2009 report from the National Toxicology Program, which found, in no uncertain terms that &ldquo;there is no direct evidence that exposure of people to bisphenol-A adversely affects reproduction or development.&rdquo;</p> </blockquote> <p> So, if you want to do something this Breast Cancer Awareness Month, educate yourself on the billions of dollars that are shifted from breast cancer research to anti-chemical and environmental groups, who use taxpayer dollars to keep these non-issues alive while they willfully ignore the real killer--cancer.</p> GunlockTue, 7 Oct 2014 12:10:00 CSTen-usIndependent Women's Forum