Sunday, November 29, 2009

Your World In Review: Struggling Charities, No Kids Allowed, Gun Laws

BPA Exposure
A new study by Consumer Reports found that 1 serving of canned green beans or canned beef stew would give a child a dose of BPA close to the level that has been shown to cause harm in animal studies. BPA, or biphenyl-A, a plastic additive, is an endocrine disrupt or that mimics the hormone estrogen. You can read about it in our article: The BPA Debate.

No Kids Allowed
In an effort to keep the swine flu at bay, kids are being turned away by security at the doors of many hospitals. You might want to check on the policy of your hospital if you are planning on visiting a loved one.

Gun Laws
A recent Gallup survey on gun laws found that 44% of 1,013 adults surveyed in October of 2009 believe gun laws should be stricter. That's down from 62% in 2000 and 78% in 1990. Kind of surprising considering the recent publicity involving mass shootings.

Safe Outdoor Adventures
Outside magazine unveiled a new area of their site filled with stories and instructional videos that show you how to beat the odds in life threatening situations. Outdoor adventure junkies and their families might find it useful. Go to:

Struggling Charities
A survey of the nation’s 400 largest charities in the journal The Chronicle of Philanthropy says they expect giving to decline by a median of 9% this year. That's on top of the 2% drop last year, when charitable giving fell to $308 billion, the first decline since 1987. The tough economy is cited as the primary reason for the decline. Individuals account for about 75% of all charitable giving.

An Appetite for Human Flesh
A report in a recent Proceeding of the National Academy of Sciences tested the carcasses of two notorious man-eating lions that attacked Kenyan laborers more than 100 years ago, once believed to have killed and devoured 135 people. The new research suggests that one Lion likely ate 11 humans and the other consumed 24 people during their final 9 months of life. Either way, it seems safe to say that African Lions can be dangerous and should probably be avoided. Just in case you didn't know.

A new study out from the-California Department of Public Health shows that the death rate for children under 18 who have been hospitalized with the HINI flu strain is 2%. This rate does not include those who may have contracted the virus but weren't hospitalized.

Druggie Day Care
Officials in Ocean Springs, Mississippi, say they found a meth lab inside a home day care center that was caring for 8 kids. Police discovered three currently inactive meth labs and chemicals, says Curtis Spiers with the Narcotics Task Force of Jackson County. Four people were arrested.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Your World In Review: Roadkill, Little Delinquents, Super Junk Food

Not Your Average Roadkill:
Driving comes with risks, and one of those risks is the possibility that you may have a run in with some of the other wildlife we share this earth with. Most accept the possibility that you may hit a deer, or antelope, or raccoon on your way home. But how about an elephant? That is exactly what happened to one Oklahoma couple driving home from church last Wednesday night. While driving down a rural highway, their SUV collided with an elephant that had escaped from the family fun circus at the Garfield County fairgrounds. Thankfully, the couple was not injured seriously. The 29 year old elephant suffered a broken tusk and an injured leg.

Little Delinquents
"I'm sure we've got many other devious kids in the district who are trying to figure out -how to duct tape a spoon and fork to their switchblades right now." -David Resler, vice president of the Christina Board of Education, in defense of zero-tolerance policies, speaking after a 6-year-old was suspended for bringing a multi-purpose utensil that including a knife, fork, and spoon to Downes Elementary in Newark, Delaware. Quoted In USA Today, 11-2~09, p. 3A.

See its statements like that which make school officials seem stupid. Seriously, you can't tell the difference between a 6-year-olds show N' Tell and a switchblade with a spoon duct-taped to it? And if you're really this lousy at determining intent among children, who put you in charge, anyway?

Super Junk-Food
Kellogg's is receiving flak for advertising on its Cocoa Krispies box that the sugary cereal "Now helps support your child's IMMUNITY." Kellogg’s claims that because it increased the vitamins A, C and E in their cereal from 10% to 25% of daily value, and since these vitamins help support the immune system, that their claim of Cocoa Krispies as an immune bolstering food is correct. Critics aren't so impressed. "This one belongs in the hall of fame," Kelley Brownell, director of Yale University's Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity told USA Today. (11-2-09, p. 3A) "By their logic, you can spray vitamins on a pile of leaves, and it will boost immunity." This comes as the FDA is cracking down on what it considers misleading labels on cereal and other food products.

Sewage in the Water Supply
In Iowa, raw sewage is being dumped into streams that provide drinking water for up to 500,000 residents, The Des Moines Register reported. ( In some stretches, the waterways carry almost nothing but sewage, and paddlers and fishers report seeing human waist. One in every five of the state's 1,910 city and commercial plants discharged more pollution than permits allowed over the last 5 years, and $3.5 billion will be needed from Iowa communities over the next 20 years to bring sewer systems up to Clean Water Act standards.

Busing low SES kids
USA Today reported that more than 60 school systems now use Socioeconomic Status (SES) as a factor in assignments, busing certain low income students to different schools. Since low income children tend to have more learning problems and do better amongst middle-class students, schools see it as a way to spread the burden.

Bear Thievery
The Journal of Mammaology reported that black bears at Yosemite National Park have begun to discern which cars have the goodies. They found that bears seem to have taken a special liking to breaking into minivans, which seem to get ravaged by bears more than any other type of car. Can't blame the bears. If I were after juice boxes and snacks, I'd probably head for the minivan too.

Vitamin D Deficiency
A new study in the journal Pediatrics estimated that around 6.4 million children, or 1 in 5 U.S. kids ages 1 to 11, are vitamin D deficient. Minorities are especially at risk...the survey suggested that nearly 90% of black children and 80% of Hispanic kids this age could be deficient. Learn more about this problem in our article: Vitamin D Deficiency in Children.

Child Poverty
"When I was 8-years-old, my dad went bankrupt and lost his business. I remember entering our apartment, and all the furniture was gone, our two cars were sold, there was no air-conditioning. Our whole life changed. My parents took me to the park where all the orphans sniffed glue to deal with the tragedies of their own lives. That made such an impression." -Singer Shakira, who grew up in Columbia, speaking about why she got involved in combating child poverty. It might also go to show that as bad as things may seem too many struggling families amidst this economy, there is almost always someone in a worse situation.

Teenage Adventures Gone Too Far?

How far would you let your child go in following their dreams and desires? Would you let them go camping with friends? Take a missionary trip to South America? How about sail around the world alone? The reason I ask is because on July 16, 2009, 17-year-old Zac Sunderland became the youngest person to sail around the world solo. The journey took 13 months, and was riddled with problems. Yet he completed it safely and earned himself a place in the record books as one of the youngest persons to ever complete the journey.

He's got competition. 16-year-old Jessica Watson, From Sidney, Australia, just left in early October attempting the same feat. She planned on taking a more difficult, nonstop version of the journey, with the intention of shattering Sunderland's record in the process. But what really takes the cake is that a 13-year-old Dutch girl, Sailor Laura Dekker, also is planning to embark on the trip and put her name-in the record books. She had planned to launch earlier this year, that is, until Holland's child-protection services took custody of her for two months to block her voyage. She's back with her family, and still planning the trip. Now 14, she plans to wait until the school year ends to complete her voyage, assuming an Amsterdam court allows it. "Before I made the plan, I didn't expect (so much publicity), but now I'm trying to make the best of it," she said in a television interview. Laura has been sailing solo since she was six and says she began dreaming of a quest around the world when she was 10.

Sailing around the world is a daunting task, and accomplishing such a feat puts one in an elite club. Since Joshua Slocum became the first to do it in 1898, fewer than 250 people have solo-sailed around the globe. To put this in perspective, more than 3,000 people have reached the top of Mount Everest in only 56 years of climbing it.

Hearing such stories sorta gives you a new perspective about teen freedoms, doesn't it? Just think about this the next time your teen wants to go out with friends. I can almost hear it now: "But mom...Zac's parents let him sail all the way around the world, and you won't even let me spend the night at Jessy's house? Man you suck!" Whatever you do, be sure not to tell them about this article, because you'll never hear the end of it.

All in all, I'm not sure exactly how I feel about this. If it were my child, my tendency would be to say "You'll do such things over my dead body, because as soon as you leave, I would drop dead of a worry-induced heart attack anyway, so I might as well go down fighting." But there's also a part of me that wants to say "way to follow your dreams, kids." Often times I think society gets way too over-protective of children and adolescents in a way that hinders rather than helps them. After all, it wasn't all that long ago that 13-year-olds would be building their own huts, hunting wilder beast on the plains, and having children of their own. And if a child is really hell-bent on completing such a task, there may be little qualitative difference between letting them do it now versus waiting two to five years until they are eighteen. A lot would also depend on what safety measures could be put into place, and I'm afraid I don't know a lot about sailing. After all, you put your child at risk every time they get in the car to go somewhere. Still, it begs the question: Is this pushing the boundaries too far?

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Your World In Review: Falling Wages, Buckle up or Loose Your Livestock

Wage Drops & Child Support Payments
USA Today (10-16-09) reported that average weekly wages have fallen 1.4% this year for private sector workers, and wages are expected to stay depressed for quite some time. Colorado recently became the first state to drop its minimum wage, which is tied to the Consumer Price Index. Nearly 80 million people have either wages or benefits tied to changes in the Consumer Price Index, including union workers, food stamp payments and some child support checks. More difficult news for struggling families. The positive: Amidst times like this, it's a darn good thing to remember that money has little to do with happiness. ;-)

Food Stamps
The number of people receiving food stamps has jumped from 29.1 million in July 2008 to 35.9 million in July 2009, the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture recently reported.

Buckle Up . . . Or Loose Your Livestock
Highway safety campaigns across the USA are tailoring messages according to ethnic diversity, as is required of federal laws. Since Somalia essentially has no government, the phrase "click it or ticket" is meaningless, since Somali's generally have no comprehension of the word "ticket." Instead, the safety slogan aimed at Somali refugees is translated as "strap it, or lose your livestock." Seriously? This is the best we could come up with? The NHTSA says that since livestock is a family's primary means of income in Somalia, losing livestock is equated with losing livelihood. I still think there's got to be a better translation out there.

Grumpy Teachers
A new survey finds that 40% of teachers in the USA are "disheartened" about their jobs, and that most of this group consists of the older and more experienced teachers. The biggest drawbacks: testing, children’s' "discipline & behavior issues" and poor support from administrators. A mere 37% overall are "contented" with teaching as a life-long career."

Don't Infect Your Kids
Health officials are warning parents not to intentionally expose their children to the H1N1 flu. A September poll by Consumer Reports found that 69% of all parents would rather have their children build a "natural immunity" to the virus by getting sick. Yet when you're talking about a strain that has already killed 100 children nationwide, and hospitalizes around 1% of its hosts (mostly children), this isn't wise. One mother, whose 3-year-old daughter spent 3 months in the hospital with IV needles and a tube down her throat, compliments of H1N1, says to USA Today (10-2109) "I don't even have an enemy I would wish that upon."

Bioterrorism Warning
A new report by the Commission on the Prevention of Weapons of Mass Destruction says the nation isn't doing enough to protect itself from bioterrorism, warning that a crop-duster spreading anthrax spores could "kill more Americans than died in World War 2." Programs to develop vaccines against such attacks are not being properly funded, and surveillance programs fall short, the bipartisan commission found.

"Baby Einstein" Refund
Disney announced it was offering a full refund on all of its 'Baby Einstein' DVDs. The move comes to stem potential lawsuits over false marketing. The DVDs have been shown to have no educational value for babies, and since the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends avoiding television exposure in children under 2, critics claim they are harmful by substituting for quality interaction with adults.

Target Discount
Target announced a plan to give customers a 5-cent discount for every reusable bag they use to pack up their purchases. The move is an attempt to prompt customers to use less plastic bags and reduce waste for the environment. Target claims a pilot program claimed to result in a 58% reduction in plastic bags used. But C'mon, Target, 5 cents? If they were serious about this, let's go for something real. How about a 1% discount on total purchases, something that can actually be realized?

Study Less Weight Gain During Pregnancy
A new Kaiser Permanente study aims to see if obese women can eat healthy during pregnancy without gaining any weight. Normally, weight gain is required for a healthy baby, but in obese women, their pregnancy already puts the baby in higher risk because of excess weight. Those extra pounds are associated with numerous pregnancy complications and birth defects.