Independent Women's Forum RSS feedhttp://www.iwf.orgThe RSS feed for the IWF. News, Commentary and Blog posts from the Independent Women's Foundation.(...)IWF RSS College and "Culturally Appropriated” Food • Cam & Company GunlockTue, 26 Jul 2016 15:07:00 CSTen-usIndependent Women's ForumIn Defense Of Culturally Appropriating Food<p> Lena Dunham needs you to pay attention to her.</p> <p> Despite making headlines in February after the debut of season six of her HBO ratings-bomb Girls, and again making news after revealing her fascinating theory that violent crime in America is directly associated with the handguns present in the latest installment of the Jason Bourne franchise (who knew?), Dunham didn&rsquo;t feel satisfied.</p> <p> Even mean girl Gwyneth Paltrow&rsquo;s invitation to join her A-list group of besties by donating clothes to her charity clothing drive failed to make Dunham feel noticed (Dunham reportedly donated a $250 beer stained maroon shirt, a dirty pair of white shorts, and some overpriced and scuffed Manolo Blahnik flats).</p> <p> What then, other than a cry for attention, can explain Dunham&rsquo;s decision to suddenly <a href="">support</a> the entitled and very delicate snowflakes at her alma mater Oberlin College, who last year raised Cain with the college&rsquo;s insensitive, minimum-wage earning cafeteria workers for failing to provide them with authentic ethnic cuisine? If you need a reminder about this latest millennial outrage, Oberlin Review student reporter Clover Linh Tran first <a href="">reported</a> on the crisis last year (trigger warning: inauthentic food discussed):</p> <p style="margin-left: 40px;"> <em>Diep Nguyen, a College first-year from Vietnam, jumped with excitement at the sight of Vietnamese food on Stevenson Dining Hall&rsquo;s menu at Orientation this year. Craving Vietnamese comfort food, Nguyen rushed to the food station with high hopes. What she got, however, was a total disappointment.</em></p> <p style="margin-left: 40px;"> <em>The traditional Banh Mi Vietnamese sandwich that Stevenson Dining Hall promised turned out to be a cheap imitation of the East Asian dish. Instead of a crispy baguette with grilled pork, pate, pickled vegetables and fresh herbs, the sandwich used ciabatta bread, pulled pork and coleslaw.</em></p> <p style="margin-left: 40px;"> <em>&ldquo;It was ridiculous,&rdquo; Nguyen said. &ldquo;How could they just throw out something completely different and label it as another country&rsquo;s traditional food?&rdquo;</em></p> <p> The horror of culturally appropriated food reads like so many other human rights stories, right? I mean, the crux of the problem Yazidi women have with their ISIS kidnappers and rapists is that the food being served isn&rsquo;t authentic to their culture. If only ISIS had a handle on what real Kurdish food tastes like.</p> <p> Putting aside the smallness of the Oberlin students&rsquo; and Dunham&rsquo;s latest cause, perhaps the most amusing part about the outrage at the ersatz Banh Mi sandwich is that this Vietnamese staple is itself the product of cultural appropriation. (Yeah, chew on that reality for a minute.)</p> <p> The Banh Mi wouldn&rsquo;t be around if the Vietnamese hadn&rsquo;t &ldquo;appropriated&rdquo; French food culture (okay, okay, calm down, I know. . . The Vietnamese wouldn&rsquo;t have appropriated French food if the French hadn&rsquo;t invaded their country. . . I get it).</p> <p> You see, the French colonization of Indochina in the mid 19th century changed Vietnamese food culture and traditions in a significant way. French bread&mdash;specifically the baguette&mdash;became a staple in Vietnamese diets, and soon the Vietnamese were combining French staples (bread, pate, roast pork) with Asian ingredients (cilantro, pickled daikon radish, hot chili peppers) to create a sandwich quite different from the ones served in Paris. Indeed, the Banh Mi is a far cry from the jambon beurre or the croque monsieur. But thank goodness the Vietnamese practiced a little cultural appropriation, right?</p> <p> The same is true for Ethiopians. Go into any Ethiopian restaurant and, oddly, you&rsquo;ll find Italian pasta dishes listed alongside the more traditional Ethiopian stews and meats. Pasta wasn&rsquo;t traditional fare in Ethiopia until the Italians colonized the country in 1935. Like Vietnam, the Ethiopians absorbed some of Italy&rsquo;s food traditions. I&rsquo;ve had an Ethiopian version of spaghetti here in the United States, and while it&rsquo;s delicious, it&rsquo;s hardly authentic Italian. Are the Ethiopians insensitive to Italians when they produce their version of Italy&rsquo;s food?</p> <p> Here in America, new immigrants have often altered their traditional recipes to please American palates, and they&rsquo;ve even altered American food to taste more like home (Cincinnati chili is a good example). That&rsquo;s what makes America food culture so rich and varied. &ldquo;Cultural appropriation&rdquo; used to be called &ldquo;appreciation for other cultures.&rdquo; Yet now, according to Dunham, it&rsquo;s not politically correct to explore the world&rsquo;s great cuisines.</p> <p> Oberlin College will likely cave to Dunham&rsquo;s PC pressure, but this won&rsquo;t necessarily mean offering more &ldquo;authentic&rdquo; food. &nbsp;They might just opt to give students &nbsp;a selection of bland, nondescript American food choices to avoid controversy altogether. And in a decade or so, the pendulum will swing again and Oberlin students (aided perhaps by another whiney actress) will complain about the lack of diversity on the cafeteria&rsquo;s menu.</p> GunlockMon, 18 Jul 2016 10:07:00 CSTen-usIndependent Women's ForumNice Attacks & RNC; Masculinity & Election; Jennifer Aniston • To The Contrary GunlockSun, 17 Jul 2016 14:07:00 CSTen-usIndependent Women's ForumLet Them GO: Pokemon Trounces Obama’s Let’s Move Initiative<p> Yesterday, I spent two hours walking behind my kids as they hunted for Pok&eacute;mon characters. I really don&rsquo;t understand how this hot new app works but my kids are utterly beguiled by this game that lets them hunt for Squirtles, Jolteans, Raichus and Pidgeots in their own backyard and beyond. They&rsquo;re having fun and best of all, they&rsquo;re outside, walking great distances, running to different locations, and getting fresh air.</p> <p> So, why was I trailing them?</p> <p> Some might assume I&rsquo;m a helicopter parent, hovering over my elementary school-aged kids to keep them safe from any predators, pedophiles and perverts (which if you read the newspapers are taking over America&rsquo;s neighborhoods).</p> <p> You&rsquo;d be wrong. The real reason I was following close behind them wasn&rsquo;t because I was worried about my kids being scooped up by an unmarked cargo van; it was because I was worried about my IPhone&mdash;a devise that I sometimes think I love more than my children. Okay, not really. But it&rsquo;s a close call.</p> <p> Sadly, unlike me, many parents do worry about letting their kids roam free&mdash;fearful of the police calling them a negligent parent or being scolded by a nosy neighbor. But now, parents might have to set those worries aside and give in to the pressure to let their kids wander. And that pressure is coming from an unlikely source: their own kids.</p> <p> Pok&eacute;mon GO has only been available for one week and already the mobile app has set records for number of downloads and revenue (as of this writing, Pok&eacute;mon Go has an estimated 7.5 million U.S. downloads and $1.6 million in daily revenue). The app has proven popular with children and adults alike but parents seem particularly thrilled with the game because it forces kids to go outside with the added benefit and persuasive kick that they can still play an electronic game on a mobile phone.</p> <p> The result has been praise for an app that increases kids&rsquo; physical activity. Hot Air&rsquo;s Larry O&rsquo;Connor <a href="">quipped</a> that &ldquo;Pok&eacute;mon GO got more American kids off the sofa in four days than Michelle Obama&rsquo;s seven years of haranguing.&rdquo; He&rsquo;s correct because despite all the speeches, programs, school lunch changes, and costs to the American taxpayer, <a href="">studies show</a> that kids and teens continue to fail to get much exercise, which at least in some part contributes to stagnant obesity rates in this country.</p> <p> Of course, no positive technological advance can go without a few naysayers. And with Pok&eacute;mon GO&rsquo;s success, naturally, the nervous hand wringers have begun to circle, like vultures overhead, warning that this app could spell doom for millions of vulnerable players.</p> <p> Just this week, a Madison, Wisc. television channel <a href="">reported</a> that a group of teenagers robbed players by using the app to luring them to their location (because <a href="">apparently people can&rsquo;t be lured using anything else but an IPhone app</a>). The station also reported that multiple people are &ldquo;being injured from running into buildings and other objects&rdquo; just like people sometimes do when <a href="">staring at their phones</a> or talking into them (yet there seems to be no call to ban mobile phones).</p> <p> The apps potential to kill has become such an important public health crisis that it even solicited a <a href="">statement</a> from University of Wisconsin Pubic Information Officer Mark Lovicott, who tried to sound sanguine while warning people that a Pikachu might just spell their death:</p> <p> We want people to have a fun time but just don&rsquo;t walk in the middle of the street. We have had people biking in the street and using it who are weaving in and out of traffic; it&rsquo;s just not safe. We just don&rsquo;t want someone to get seriously hurt or even killed&hellip;</p> <p> No Pok&eacute;mon character is worth getting hit by a vehicle, and that&rsquo;s what we are worried about.</p> <p> Even government officials from the tough streets of New York are worried about these tiny cartoon characters. The New York City Subway&rsquo;s <a href="">official twitter account</a> showed a picture of a Doduo (yes, I had to ask my 9-year old the name of that Pok&eacute;mon character) on the edge of the subway landing and warned the masses of public transportation consumers, whom they clearly consider to be idiots:</p> <p> &ldquo;Hey <a href="">#PokemonGO</a> players, we know you gotta catch &rsquo;em all, but stay behind that yellow line when in the subway.&rdquo;</p> <p> The Daily Mail&rsquo;s <a href="">warning</a> was predictably horrifying, claiming Pok&eacute;mon GO puts your kids at risk of pedophiles. Another newspaper showed pictures of bruised legs and bloody hands as a warning that the app can lead to physical injury. Of course, the Today Show <a href="">advised</a> their major demographic of viewers&mdash;moms&ndash;to freak saying: &ldquo;The trouble is, it&rsquo;s leading some players into real-world danger, from bumps and bruises to armed robbery.&rdquo;</p> <p> It&rsquo;s fine to remind people, particularly kids, about the need not to get distracted when playing a game and prioritize safety. &nbsp;But, we shouldn&rsquo;t blame this game for dangers that are really just a design flaw in human beings. People do make mistakes, particularly when distracted, and technologies create new opportunities to get in trouble. Cars are dangerous if driven while distracted. Bicycles (a rather old technology) can sometimes veer out of control, dumping a rider in the street. Cooking can sometimes lead to house fires if the cook becomes distracted. Playing baseball can sometimes lead to broken bones as people recklessly round the bases. Walks in the parks can put someone at risk for bees and, these days, West Nile- and Zika-carrying mosquitoes.</p> <p> Shall we all stay inside and hide under our beds?</p> <p> Or shall we try something different: reminding ourselves and our kids that life comes with some risks and mitigating those risks is key to living a long, injury-free life. If you think your kid is incapable of watching out for themselves while playing this game, be a parent and don&rsquo;t let them play. It&rsquo;s simple. As for the adults using the app, it&rsquo;s sort of a Darwin Awards moment. If they fall face first off a curb, bang their head on the side of a building, or get hit by a bus, we need to remember, it&rsquo;s not the app&rsquo;s fault.</p> <p> Until man invents an app to cancel out human error and erase distraction, we need to accept responsibility for our actions.</p> <p> <em>Julie Gunlock is a Senior Fellow at the <a href="">Independent Women&rsquo;s Forum</a>.</em></p> GunlockWed, 13 Jul 2016 10:07:00 CSTen-usIndependent Women's ForumPokémon Go Gets Kids Outside • Cam & Company GunlockTue, 12 Jul 2016 08:07:00 CSTen-usIndependent Women's ForumWhat Does The FBI Ruling On Hillary's Email's Teach Our Kids? • Garrison GunlockThu, 7 Jul 2016 11:07:00 CSTen-usIndependent Women's ForumKids Playing Outside Unsupervised + Lady Gaga & Celebrity Over Substance • Cam & Company GunlockTue, 5 Jul 2016 07:07:00 CSTen-usIndependent Women's ForumWhy Are America’s Mayors Taking Mindfulness Advice from Lady Gaga?<p> Last weekend, American mayors gathered for their annual conference in Indianapolis. As it often does for such conferences, the U.S. Conference of Mayors assembled an impressive array of political leaders, policy experts and industry big wigs. Lectures and panels were held on a variety of issues, ranging from water safety and technological innovation to business development and educational programs. And then the Mayors heard about inner peace and meditation from a pop star.</p> <p> Huh?</p> <p> That&rsquo;s right. The U.S. Conference of Mayors <a href="">invited</a> Lady Gaga&mdash;a pop singer best known for wearing a meat dress to an awards show and for sometimes forgetting to wear clothes at all while running errands&ndash;to sit on a panel with the Dalai Lama to discuss inner peace and meditation. All together now: Namastupid!</p> <p> While the Dalai Lama is certainly an authority on meditation and mindfulness, Lady Gaga is a bit of a head scratcher on this topic. Her qualifications appear to be that she sometimes lights aromatherapy candles and practices yoga. Good enough for the Mayors, I guess.</p> <p> Yet she&rsquo;s hardly a calming force. In fact, she likes to shock and agitate. Her music and lyrics are provocative and her videos often feature violent and disturbing images. At 2009 VMAs, she gave television audiences quite a show. Naturally, MTV gave her revolting performance a glowing <a href="">review</a>:</p> <p style="margin-left: 40px;"> And then, in a wrinkle no one saw coming, Gaga staggered across the stage as blood began to drip from her ribcage and she wailed the lyrics to the song about media vultures. On the verge of tears, she dabbed at the blood, wiped it on her face and collapsed into a heap while a dancer wailed in agony and gently laid her down center stage.</p> <p style="margin-left: 40px;"> Hanging listlessly by one hand, Gaga rose above her dancers and, blood smeared on her face and caked on one of her eyes, stared lifelessly at the stunned crowd while the sound of camera shutters filled the air and a golden halo was projected on the big screen behind her.</p> <p> In recent years, Gaga has been working on her image. Her performances with singer Tony Bennet received wide praise and broadened her appeal beyond the younger club-going music crowd. She&rsquo;s also, smartly, tapped into the social justice movement&mdash;advocating for certain political movements and for her fans, whom she calls her &ldquo;monsters&rdquo; and declares are just like her (minus the millions) because, like her, they just don&rsquo;t fit in. Just like Liza Minnelli is a hero to the gay community, Gaga&rsquo;s a hero to the misfits.</p> <p> Now apparently Gaga is also a thought leader, taking on heady intellectual issues and appearing on stage with religious, media and business leaders. She was respectful, even ladylike, at the Mayor&rsquo;s conference. During the panel, the Dalai Lama focused on compassion and selflessness&mdash;and without understanding the irony, Gaga nodded and agreed that these are important qualities. She offered her own rambling, pseudo-intellectual answers to questions. At one point former Today show news reader Ann Curry&mdash;who moderated the panel&mdash;asked Gaga a question about kindness and why mayors should consider kindness when managing their cities. She responded by saying &ldquo;The really fantastic thing about kindness is that it&rsquo;s free. It&rsquo;s the best recourse that we have because you can give and give and receive kindness and the well of it inside you will never dry up.&rdquo;</p> <p> Yet, when it comes to being kind and respectful to people of religious faith, Gaga&rsquo;s well of kindness dried up long ago. Just like Madonna did decades before her, Gaga takes particular pleasure in insulting Christians. Her 2011 <a href="">video</a> for her song &ldquo;Judas,&rdquo; includes Gaga portraying a lustful Mary Magdalene who has the hots for Jesus&rsquo; disciple Judas Iscariot. The video portrays Jesus&rsquo; followers as jacked-up ravers, his disciples as club bouncers and bodyguards and the foot-washing scene takes place in a hot tub with a writhing and nearly naked Gaga sitting in between a six-pack clutching Judas and a golden thorn crown-wearing Jesus. You know, just like in the King James Bible.</p> <p> Perhaps Gaga will take her own words to heart and realize just how many of her actions, songs, performances and behaviors demonstrate a deep-seated unkindness and contempt for people of faith. Perhaps she&rsquo;ll realize the importance of using her talents in less harmful, disrespectful ways.</p> <p> Maybe she can meditate about it.</p> GunlockFri, 1 Jul 2016 10:07:00 CSTen-usIndependent Women's ForumFêting the Fourth<p> I have one tip for your Independence Day feast: Don&rsquo;t turn on your oven or stove. Who needs the heat?</p> <p> Preparing a proper summer cookout menu while adhering to this rule can be tough. It rules out potato salad (I refuse to boil the potatoes), baked beans (see that word &ldquo;baked&rdquo;? no!), ribs (yes, I know they can be done entirely on the grill, but I prefer to braise mine in the oven before a quick searing and saucing on the grill), and pie (it practically makes me a traitor, but I refuse to bake in summer).</p> <p> So, in my effort to stay cool as a cucumber on Fourth of July, I&rsquo;ve come up with this simple, hassle-free grilling menu. &nbsp;</p> <p> <strong>Bacon-Wrapped Pork Tenderloin </strong></p> <p> <em>Craving ribs or pulled pork but can&rsquo;t stand the thought of manning a grill all day? Here is a great substitute. Pork tenderloins cook fast on the grill, and the bacon gives them a smoky, salty hit. Serves 6. </em></p> <p> 2 pork tenderloins, silver skin removed, patted dry</p> <p> 1 pound center-cut bacon (thin sliced)</p> <p> 4 sprigs rosemary: leaves removed from one sprig and chopped fine; the other sprigs cut in half but otherwise left intact</p> <p> 6 sprigs fresh thyme</p> <p> 3 garlic cloves, chopped fine</p> <p> Salt and pepper Salt and pepper each tenderloin (salt modestly, as the bacon is salty) then rub each with the garlic and chopped rosemary. Lay out the bacon on a cutting board so that the slices slightly overlap. Tuck under the tapered end of the pork tenderloin and lay it on top of the bacon. Wrap the bacon around the tenderloin (the ends of the bacon will overlap) and transfer the whole thing to a platter (bacon seam-side down). Repeat with the other tenderloin. Place in the refrigerator for about half an hour to chill and firm up.</p> <p> Meanwhile, place 8 to 10 pieces of butcher&rsquo;s twine about an inch apart on a cutting board. Place one chilled tenderloin on top of the twine and tie the bacon in place. Insert sprigs of rosemary and thyme under the twine. Repeat with the other tenderloin. Set aside until ready to grill. (The tenderloins can be prepared several hours in advance and kept in the refrigerator.)</p> <p> Grill the tenderloins on indirect heat (see this helpful video if you&rsquo;re unfamiliar with the indirect-cooking method) until they have reached an internal temperature of 140 degrees (about 15 to 20 minutes). At that point, move the tenderloins to the hottest part of the grill (on the grate directly over the coals) to crisp up the bacon (this will take only a few minutes). Continuously rotate the tenderloins so that they don&rsquo;t burn. Remove the tenderloins when they reach an internal temperature of 150 degrees. Let rest for 15 minutes before removing the twine and slicing into rounds. Serve with your favorite barbeque sauce, pickles, and small rolls. <strong>Chicken and Fruit Kabobs</strong></p> <p> <em>My kids love anything served on a stick. Serves 4. </em></p> <p> 1 pound chicken breasts, cut into cubes</p> <p> Peaches, nectarines, mangos, and pineapple, cubed (make sure to get slightly firm fruit)</p> <p> Olive oil Salt and pepper</p> <p> 20 wooden kabob sticks, soaked in water for half an hour before threading and grilling</p> <p> Toss cubes of chicken with olive oil, salt, and pepper. Thread the kabobs with the cubes of raw chicken and fruit. Make any combinations you desire. Make sure you have some space between the fruit and the chicken; you don&rsquo;t want to crowd the kabobs. Grill the kabobs on a hot grill for 2 to 3 minutes per side, or until chicken cubes are cooked through.</p> <p> Serve with a dipping sauce of Greek-style yogurt mixed with honey, finely diced cucumber, and a little salt and pepper. &nbsp;</p> <p> <strong>Guacamole with Chips </strong></p> <p> <em>Everyone loves guac! I usually aim for one avocado per person. This version serves 6. </em></p> <p> 6 ripe avocados, removed from their skins and roughly chopped (I like big chunks in mine, but puree if you prefer)</p> <p> Half a large red onion (or one very small), diced and rinsed under cold water (this will remove any harshness from the taste)</p> <p> Handful cilantro, roughly chopped</p> <p> 2 roma tomatoes, seeded and diced (optional)</p> <p> 1 or 2 jalape&ntilde;os, seeds and veins removed, diced (optional)</p> <p> Juice from 2 limes</p> <p> Salt to taste</p> <p> Combine all ingredients. Taste to make sure the guacamole has enough lime and salt. Add more if needed. Serve with your favorite tortilla chips. &nbsp;</p> <p> <strong>Raw Corn Salad with Zucchini and Mint </strong></p> <p> <em>There&rsquo;s no need to boil that fresh corn. Cut it off the cob for a crispy, super-sweet salad. Serves 4&ndash;6. </em></p> <p> 8 ears of white or yellow sweet corn, husks and silk removed, rinsed and cut off the cob</p> <p> 2 medium zucchini, chopped into small cubes (similar in size to the corn kernels)</p> <p> 2 tablespoons of mint, roughly chopped</p> <p> Pinch of salt (a small amount of salt is needed, but not too much)</p> <p> A few tablespoons of olive oil</p> <p> <em>Combine all ingredients. Set aside for an hour for flavors to meld.</em></p> <p> <strong>Dessert </strong></p> <p> Ice cream</p> <p> Popsicles</p> <p> Fresh fruit (wouldn&rsquo;t Mrs. Obama be proud!)</p> <p> <em>&mdash; Julie Gunlock is a senior fellow at the Independent Women&rsquo;s Forum.</em></p> GunlockFri, 1 Jul 2016 07:07:00 CSTen-usIndependent Women's ForumFDA Alarmists: Cookie Dough Edition<p> <span style="font-size:12px;">Yesterday the nervous nillies at the FDA issued a warning to all Americans. STOP EATING RAW COOKIE DOUGH!</span></p> <p> <span style="font-size:12px;">ABC News reports:</span></p> <blockquote> <p itemprop="articleBody" style="box-sizing: border-box; border: 0px; font-family: Proxima-Nova, Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif; line-height: 1.4; font-size: 16px; margin: 0px 0px 20px; padding: 0px; vertical-align: baseline; color: rgb(51, 51, 51);"> <span style="font-size:12px;">Cookie dough may be tempting to taste before it&#39;s been baked, but the U.S. Food and Drug Administration is warning people to resist that temptation due to concerns that the dough could be contaminated with E. coli bacteria.&nbsp;</span><span style="font-size: 12px; line-height: 1.4;">Dozens of people have been sickened due to an outbreak of Shiga toxin-producing E. coli O121 linked to flour, prompting the FDA to&nbsp;</span><a href="" style="font-size: 12px; font-family: inherit; line-height: inherit; box-sizing: border-box; border: 0px; font-style: inherit; font-variant: inherit; margin: 0px; padding: 0px; vertical-align: baseline; color: rgb(93, 144, 206); text-decoration: none; outline: 0px !important;" target="_blank">issue a warning</a><span style="font-size: 12px; line-height: 1.4;">&nbsp;on Wednesday to avoid eating raw cookie dough or batter -- whether it&rsquo;s for bread, cookies, pizza or tortillas.</span></p> </blockquote> <p itemprop="articleBody" style="box-sizing: border-box; border: 0px; font-family: Proxima-Nova, Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif; line-height: 1.4; font-size: 16px; margin: 0px 0px 20px; padding: 0px; vertical-align: baseline; color: rgb(51, 51, 51);"> <span style="font-size: 12px; line-height: 1.4;">Thankfully, Free Range Kid founder Lenore Skenazy looked into the risks of eating raw cookie dough and it turns out, there isn&#39;t much risk at all.&nbsp;</span></p> <p itemprop="articleBody" style="box-sizing: border-box; border: 0px; font-family: Proxima-Nova, Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif; line-height: 1.4; font-size: 16px; margin: 0px 0px 20px; padding: 0px; vertical-align: baseline; color: rgb(51, 51, 51);"> <iframe allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="315" src="" width="420"></iframe></p> GunlockThu, 30 Jun 2016 12:06:00 CSTen-usIndependent Women's ForumThe FDA & Raw Cookie Dough + The Sharing Economy • Cam & Company GunlockThu, 30 Jun 2016 08:06:00 CSTen-usIndependent Women's ForumDear Harris Teeter Manager: Normal Moms Don’t Believe Chemicals Are Evil<p> Dear Harris Teeter Manager,</p> <p> I heard you got harassed the other day. I know this because last week I received an email from a group called Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families (SCHF). The group&rsquo;s name might not be very creative, but they are effective at reaching moms with their overwrought claims that affordable food and everyday products are destroying the earth and threatening human health.</p> <p> The SCHF organization casts itself as a small, grassroots collection of activists looking to make the world a better place. But in reality, the organization is a well-financed coalition of more than 200 radical environmental groups, labor unions, and businesses hoping to make life much more difficult for the average family.</p> <p> The invite I received via email read:</p> <p> Action outside a local Harris Teeter. We&rsquo;ll talk to the store manager, pass out flyers to customers entering the store and take video of consumers talking about why they care about toxic chemicals in products. This event will be fun and kid-friendly. It&rsquo;s part of a national day of action with events across the country.</p> <p> Sadly, I couldn&rsquo;t make it to the protest. I wanted to go. Really. I wanted to be there so I could pull you aside and quietly tell you that these people don&rsquo;t represent the majority of moms. I would have told you that there&rsquo;s a whole universe of reasonable moms out there who know you don&rsquo;t stock dangerous and toxic products on your store shelves. I would have explained that most moms are like me and don&rsquo;t buy into the bizarre conspiracies peddled by these groups that profit from fear. Most moms know that product manufacturers and grocery store companies aren&rsquo;t working to poison their customers.</p> <p> But I had to miss the protest because, like most other moms, I had a billion other things to do. You see, unlike the mostly white, wealthy, and&hellip;oh, darn &mdash; what&rsquo;s the word activists like to use? &mdash; Ah, yes, &ldquo;privileged&rdquo; professional agitators the SCHF trots out for these protests, I have a job and three young kids. In short, I just couldn&rsquo;t spare the time.</p> <p> Even though I missed the protest, I&rsquo;ve been thinking about it all week. I&rsquo;ve been anxious that these agitators may have made an impact: Some moms might have seen media reports about the protests or encountered these protesters at the grocery store, and now they&rsquo;re worried and perhaps wondering: Are there dangerous products lurking on these store shelves? Some moms (including some that can&rsquo;t afford it) will understandably react by buying more expensive products &mdash; perhaps the ones that just happen to be sold by companies that are members of and financially support the SCHF fear campaign (see the whole list of coalition members <a href="">here</a>). Can you say conflict of interest? Or should we just call it advertising?</p> <p> I also worry businesses like Harris Teeter (and the many other large retailers that have been the target of SCHF bullying) will start to believe that these groups somehow represent the average mom. I know that businesses have to listen to consumers, because happy customers mean more revenue for the company. It&rsquo;s a win-win situation for consumers and businesses. That&rsquo;s basic economics &mdash; which again, most moms understand.</p> <p> These extreme environmental groups are trying to subvert this process and make it seem like all moms are demanding something that we really aren&rsquo;t. Businesses sometimes have trouble telling the difference between what&rsquo;s real and what&rsquo;s fabricated when it comes to feedback from their customers. Sadly, many businesses roll over to the demands of these groups at the first hint of conflict. Understandably you don&rsquo;t want any trouble or bad headlines, so it seems prudent to cave to the demands of these vocal minorities &mdash; confusing activist demands for what their loyal customers actually want.</p> <p> Yet groups like SCHF are pushing companies like yours to go against the interests of most of your customers, and they are using bad science and scare tactics to do it.</p> <p> Consider the SCHF campaign&rsquo;s latest fabrication: that the use of Bisphenol-A (commonly known as BPA) in canned food is dangerous. According to SCHF, the epoxy lining in canned food, which is made of BPA, is toxic. Yes, BPA is toxic <em>if</em> you ingest massive quantities of the chemical. But no human is doing that. Instead, humans come in contact with trace &mdash; almost undetectable &mdash; levels of BPA when they eat a can of soup or touch a piece of plastic that contains the chemical.</p> <p> Contrary to the bad science promoted by the SCHF campaign, BPA is incredibly safe as commonly used in food and products. In use for over 60 years, the chemical has been the focus of thousands of safety tests and has been declared safe by every major international health agency (you can read the European Food Safety Commission&rsquo;s latest statement <a href="">here</a>). In addition, to date, there has been no reputable scientific studies showing any harm associated with eating something that&rsquo;s been packaged in a container that uses BPA or coming in contact with a plastic item that contains trace amounts of BPA.</p> <p> So, why do manufactures use BPA, or any chemicals for that matter? In short: Chemicals make food safer and products more durable, which keeps prices lower. That&rsquo;s good for consumers. Many moms would be horrified to learn what would happen if companies started doing what the SCHF campaign really wants &mdash; removing chemicals from products. Here&rsquo;s a snapshot: Prices would increase for products that don&rsquo;t last as long and don&rsquo;t work as well. Food would spoil more easily, and Americans would start to see an uptick in food borne illnesses, skin irritations, other infections, even death as food and many other products are left vulnerable to dangerous bacteria. Canned food &mdash; a staple grocery item for the poor and even for middle class families &mdash; would disappear from store shelves as there is no safe alternative to BPA currently available to food manufacturers. Consumers should ask themselves: Is this what they want?</p> <p> I hope you and all Harris Teeter store managers know that the tactics being employed by the SCHF campaign are nothing new. These are the same tactics employed by The Food Babe and CSPI&rsquo;s Michael Jacobson and many powerful environmental groups who are increasingly harassing store owners &mdash; bullying them until their unscientific demands are met.</p> <p> As a mother, I tell my children all the time that they should never bully other kids, that they need to respect people&rsquo;s choices and above all, they should never lie. The SCHF organization breaks all of these rules. It encourages the bullying of local store managers, advocates the use of intimidation and harassment, and promotes the use of fear and exaggeration to promote their agenda. Even worse, these organizations shame lower income mothers who choose to buy inexpensive food and household products.</p> <p> I hope Harris Teeter stands up for science and reassures customers that they stock perfectly healthy and safe items in their stores. Mostly though, I want you to understand that the SCHF organization does not represent moms, but rather the wishes of well-funded and smoothly operated environmental agitators hell bent on making life more difficult for reasonable and budget conscience moms like me.</p> <p> Sincerely,</p> <p> Julie Gunlock</p> <p> <em>Julie Gunlock is a Senior Fellow at the Independent Women&rsquo;s Forum.</em></p> GunlockWed, 29 Jun 2016 13:06:00 CSTen-usIndependent Women's ForumDeLauro's Sour On Sweet<p> On the heels of Philadelphia&rsquo;s misguided soda tax, former New York Mayor (and well known soda scold) Michael Bloomberg (who financed the pro-soda tax campaign in Philadelphia) announced he will fund new soda tax measures in San Francisco and Oakland, California. And now, just in time for those hot summer months, a prominent New England Congresswoman is renewing calls for a national tax on sweetened beverages.</p> <p> Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.) first introduced her SWEET Act (cute!) in 2014, which would create a national sugar-sweetened beverage tax. Happily, for grown adults who enjoy the freedom to choose what to drink, the bill stalled in Congress. Yet, now, many believe there&rsquo;s momentum for this type of nanny state legislation.</p> <p> Consumers should consider a few facts before they drink the Kool-aid offered by the tax&rsquo;s advocates. First, these sorts of &ldquo;sin taxes&rdquo; do precisely nothing to reduce obesity or sway people to make better consumption decisions. Secondly, they raise prices on the poorest individuals the most. Sadly, these are the very people who are less able to avoid taxes (such as by leaving city limits to buy in areas that don&rsquo;t levy a tax).</p> <p> There&rsquo;s a vast amount of evidence showing that these taxes don&rsquo;t work. Consider this study from <a href="">researchers at Cornell University</a> who found that when soda taxes are imposed, soda sales decline. Hooray, right? Not quite. Take a guess at what beverage sales went up? Give up? Beer! That&rsquo;s right. While the tax may have reduced soda sales, they drove up the sales of a beverage that not only has roughly the same number of calories but also comes with the added benefit of making people unable to drive after consuming it. How is that improving things?</p> <p> Americans might also look south to Mexico for that country&rsquo;s failed efforts to reduce sugar consumption. In 2014, the Mexican government levied a nationwide one-peso-per-liter tax on sugar-sweetened beverages (beverages that are intensely popular in Mexico and for some regions, important, as clean water isn&rsquo;t always available). The tax resulted in a 10 percent price increase in the price of sugary beverages&nbsp;&mdash;&nbsp;not insignificant for a country with a per-capita income of around $10,000 American dollars. And while the tax did, in fact, result in a slight decline in soda sales, <a href="">those declines only lasted a year</a>. In addition, the declines seen in that first year translated into only a 16 calories loss. As <a href="">one economist noted</a>, that&rsquo;s &ldquo;a drop in the caloric ocean.&rdquo;</p> <p> Compassionate citizens should also be aware that these taxes impact those who live at and under the poverty line the most because a larger percentage of their income goes to food and beverage purchases, which may include sugar-sweetened drinks. Paying these taxes then leave these people unable to afford other items &mdash; like diapers and personal care products. But don&rsquo;t worry; Rep. DeLauro has a government program for that. Last year, she introduced The Hygiene Assistance for Families of Infants and Toddlers Act, which would allow states to create pilot programs providing diapers and other items to low-income families. Perhaps these families would have more money to spend on diapers if they weren&rsquo;t paying DeLauro&rsquo;s sin taxes.</p> <p> There&rsquo;s a vast amount of evidence (and a tip to her staff, it&rsquo;s easily Googled) that shows beverage taxes do nothing to improve the health of Americans. Demonizing single ingredients &mdash; in this case the sugar in sodas &mdash; ignores the complexity of obesity and it&rsquo;s many causes (such as lack of exercise or the fact that you might be eating a large pizza or a plate of fried clams and fries along with your 150-calorie glass of Coke Classic).</p> <p> Politicians are free to build awareness and offer opinions of what constitutes a healthy diet. Anything more constitutes an indefensible violation of people&rsquo;s freedoms.</p> GunlockWed, 29 Jun 2016 11:06:00 CSTen-usIndependent Women's ForumNo, Crazy Police Chief, Your Kids Don’t Need to Be 16 to Play Outside Alone<p> As school comes to an end, and moms and dads begin the annual summertime ritual of having a panic attack at the realization that their will be children home all day, hopefully some parents will try to get a bit of peace and quiet by encouraging their kids to spend more time outside, visiting friends&rsquo; houses, riding their bikes, and exploring the neighborhood.</p> <p> This is precisely how I spent my summer breaks in the small Midwestern town I grew up in. &ldquo;Be home for dinner!&rdquo; my mom would say as she shooed me out the door (and then locked it). I&rsquo;d head across the street to Beth&rsquo;s house to check if she was home. Then I&rsquo;d head down to the tennis courts where I might see some teenagers smoking (hugely exciting!). I&rsquo;d ride my bike to the charming, old-fashioned main street to do some window-shopping (I never had any money). I&rsquo;d pass the gas station as I headed to the park. My town was small so I often saw people I knew and waved when honking cars slowed down to say hello. At dinnertime, I&rsquo;d stumble into the house sweaty and dirty and my mom would tell me to wash my face and hands.</p> <p> This is the story of most kids of my generation spent the summer. During school break, we were free.</p> <p> And now I&rsquo;m a parent and I want to replicate those summers for my kids. Yet, today, I feel nervous to give them such freedom and autonomy over their own time and schedule. Sure, my kids are a bit younger (9, 7, and 6) but at those ages, I was allowed to wander a large, several-block circumference around my house&mdash;totally unattended by my mom. Today, I linger at the window as I watch out for my 9-year-old son to peddle around the one small neighborhood block I allow him to circle (he could hear me yell clear on the other side of the block&mdash;that&rsquo;s how small it is). My two younger children stay within site of the house.</p> <p> It bothers me to not give them more freedom. It isn&rsquo;t predators that give me pause. I&rsquo;m not worried they&rsquo;ll be snatched or run over by some drunken teenage driver. I don&rsquo;t think they&rsquo;ll be harmed by a pedophile on the loose. Rather, what stops me from saying &ldquo;be home before dinner&rdquo; is the nagging feeling that I&rsquo;ll get in trouble. (I nearly did a few months ago when I left all three in the car unattended for 15 minutes while I ran in the grocery store, which I wrote about <a href="">here</a>.) What really puts me on edge is the possibility that a do-gooder, 911-dialing parent or a government official (a police officer, a city councilman, the dog catcher) will harass me, scold me, or even arrest me for not hovering over my kids.</p> <p> My fear isn&rsquo;t unfounded. Consider <a href="">this story</a> out of New Albany, Ohio, in which the city&rsquo;s police chief&mdash;a nervous man named Greg Jones&mdash;told a local television station that he believes children under the age of 16 shouldn&rsquo;t be allowed to play outside by themselves on the off chance they&rsquo;ll be come face to face with &ldquo;an attacker.&rdquo; Explaining his reasoning (I&rsquo;m being generous using the word &ldquo;reasoning&rdquo;) further, Chief Jones said:</p> <p> &ldquo;I think [16-years-old] is the threshold where you see children getting a little bit more freedom,&rdquo; he says.</p> <p> While the ultimate decision comes down to parents and personal preference, he says no matter how mature a child may seem, it&rsquo;s what happens after a child is abducted that is the greatest concern.</p> <p> &ldquo;If you were to allow them to take off at 7 or 8 and you don&rsquo;t hear from them for a while, where would you begin? What would you do? How would you even know what happened to them?&rdquo; Jones asks.</p> <p> Of course, to many reasonable moms out there, this seems a clear affront to the traditional way children have been raised for years&mdash;allowing them to roam relatively free, honing importing skills like decision making, risk analysis, good judgment and survival. Yet, to Chief Jones, learning these skills should only coincide with earning a drivers&rsquo; license. Call me crazy, but shouldn&rsquo;t kids be practicing these skills before their allowed to drive a half-ton box of metal?</p> <p> Perhaps Chief Jones deserves a break. Maybe he&rsquo;s aware of some scary crime statistics in his city that makes him feel this way. Luckily, Lenore Skenazy, the founder of the Free Range Kids movement looked into that very detail, <a href="">writing in Reason</a> that Jones isn&rsquo;t giving himself enough credit for his city&rsquo;s low crime statistics:</p> <p> So let&rsquo;s take a little look at New Albany&rsquo;s crime record.&nbsp;<a href="">Here it is</a>. Last month the town of 8,829 logged&mdash;hmmm, let me get out my calculator&mdash;two whole&nbsp;counts of criminal activity. One case of burglary/breaking and entering, and one &ldquo;other.&rdquo;</p> <p> Unless that &ldquo;other&rdquo; was &ldquo;crimes against humanity,&rdquo; I&rsquo;m not sure just how many kids are being abducted right and left by strangers.</p> <p> New Albany&rsquo;s low crime statistics reflect what we&rsquo;re seeing nationwide&mdash;a precipitous drop in crimes of all categories, including crimes against children. In fact, the Justice Department recently issued updated numbers on abductions of children by strangers. Lenore Skenazy <a href="">wrote about the new figures for the Wall Street Journal</a>, saying:</p> <p> In 1997 there were 115 &ldquo;stereotypical&rdquo; kidnappings of children under age 17&mdash;&ldquo;stereotypical&rdquo; roughly translating to &ldquo;like the ones you see on &lsquo;Law &amp; Order.&rsquo;&rdquo; These are kidnappings at the hands of a stranger or slight acquaintance.</p> <p> Last week the department released a bulletin with figures for 2011. Roughly the same number of kidnappings, 105, occurred, but only 8% ended in murder. In 1997, by contrast, 40% did. Today, children kidnapped by a stranger have a 92% chance of making it home.</p> <p> This is good news, yet most parents aren&rsquo;t hearing it. Instead New Albany police chief Greg Jones and likely many other police officials around the country are promoting the myth of high rates of child abductions and other crimes. That&rsquo;s the real crime.</p> <p> This story, and, sadly, many others only confirms what many parents have suspected for years: law enforcement is out of control when it comes to policing parents&rsquo; decisions about how to raise their kids. It&rsquo;s costing our kids their childhoods and is robbing them of the skills necessary to become responsible adults.</p> GunlockFri, 24 Jun 2016 10:06:00 CSTen-usIndependent Women's ForumHome Cooked Meals Aren’t Killing Mother Earth<p> According to <a href="">Food and Wine magazine</a>, when I cook a big meal for my family, I&rsquo;m not just offering nourishment and fostering important domestic traditions (and, <a href="">according to studies</a> on childhood obesity, improving my child&rsquo;s chances of staying at a healthy weight), I&rsquo;m &ldquo;wasting money and destroying the environment.&rdquo;</p> <p> That&rsquo;s rather rich commentary coming from a magazine whose raison d&rsquo;&ecirc;tre is to offer guidance to home cooks and provide recipes with enormous serving sizes like <a href="">this one</a> for a meatloaf that serves twenty. That&rsquo;s not a meat loaf, that&rsquo;s a meat couch.</p> <p> Further adding to the confusion for its readers, earlier this year, the magazine <a href="">published an interview</a> with food writer Michael Pollan about his new Netflix series Cooked, which is based on his 2013 book of the same title. Pollan is trying hard to demystify cooking while encouraging people to get back to the kitchen. About cooking, Pollan told Food and Wine:</p> <p style="margin-left: 40px;"> We&rsquo;ve been brainwashed to think of [cooking] as drudgery&hellip; The story I&rsquo;m telling is a very simple story&hellip;Which is: Look how valuable [cooking] is. Look how interesting it is. Look how pleasurable it can be.</p> <p> And now, according to the same magazine, look at how it&rsquo;s destroying the planet. I&rsquo;m having trouble keeping up with Food and Wine&rsquo;s positions on cooking. Should I or shouldn&rsquo;t I?</p> <p> At least Food and Wine writer Mike Pomranz has a sense of humor. After breaking the grim news that I and other kitchen dwellers hate the earth, he offered a &ldquo;shout out to ambivalent and absentee mothers everywhere!&rdquo; Evidently these women &ldquo;get it&rdquo;: they neglect their kids&rsquo; meals and yet they are the real earth mothers!</p> <p> Pomranz&rsquo;s source for this vision of a future where cooking resembles a Michael Bay disaster <a href="">movie</a> is a new study published in the Journal of Food Products Marketing (whatever that is), titled &ldquo;<a href="">Wasted Positive Intentions: The Role of Affection and Abundance on Household Food Waste</a>.&rdquo; Pomranz offers this summary:</p> <p style="margin-left: 40px;"> As many can probably relate to, the research found that mothers (or, more broadly, caregivers) often like to serve large meals to show affection for their family. Families who have faced food insecurity in the past are more likely to keep extra food on hand. But having more food also led to more waste, which not only has the much discussed global impact, but also a personal financial impact: wasting $371 on average per person in the US per year.</p> <p> But it isn&rsquo;t just wasted food and money; the article also suggests home cooked meals could even lead to obesity.</p> <p> It&rsquo;s important to understand the limitations of this study. The first thing one should know (and which Pomranz fails to mention in the Food and Wine piece) is that the researchers only include twenty individuals in the study&rsquo;s sample size. While one can certainly derive some information from a study that small, it&rsquo;s hardly big enough to make the rather dramatic conclusion that we should all be taking a sledgehammer to our kitchens.</p> <p> Secondly, the latest studies on childhood obesity come to quite a different conclusion than Pomranz&rsquo;s itty-bitty study. The <a href="">largest study on childhood obesity was conducted in 2010 by Ohio State University</a> and found that children are more likely to stay at a healthy weight if they eat dinner with their families more than five times a week. Limiting television watching and getting ten or more hours of sleep a night were also shown to benefit kids.</p> <p> Most importantly, the study showed that following these routines reduced the likelihood of obesity even among children within demographics with the highest risk for obesity, such as those with a family history of obesity, or living in a low-income household, or growing up in a single-parent home. More recently, an&nbsp;<a href=";keytype2=tf_ipsecsha">Australian study</a>&nbsp;of overweight children found that children lost weight successfully when their parents were also involved in diet programs, compared to programs that only involved the children. These studies suggest that the key to controlling childhood obesity is hands-on parenting and more home cooked meals.</p> <p> As for Food and Wine; the magazine probably needs to move away from writing about scientific studies and stick to recipe testing and pretty pictures of dinner parties. After all, encouraging people to stop cooking is a recipe for disaster for a cooking magazine.</p> GunlockThu, 23 Jun 2016 10:06:00 CSTen-usIndependent Women's Forum