I just finished reading Food, Inc.: How Industrial Food is Making us Sicker, Fatter and Poorer — And What You Can Do About it, edited by Karl Weber and compiled as a companion piece to the movie, which I also just watched. I actually watched the movie (by Robert Kenner) first, not realizing that was the correct order of things.
I’ve read Eric Schlosser’s Fast Food Nation, watched King Corn: You Are What You Eat, a documentary by Ian Cheney and Curt Ellis, and read quite a bit on food, the food industry in the United States and food safety (or lack of it). Food, Inc., gathers much of the information out there and puts it all in one place.
In any case, if you eat, you might be interested in this book and film. The film was done first. The book contains information from people who weren’t in the film. Schlosser says the film and the book are not just about food. They’re also about threats to the First Amendment and the corrupting influence of centralized power.
Contributors include (listed in order they appear in the book)
Eric Schlosser, author of Fast Food Nation: The Dark Side of the All-American Meal from 2001 and the movie in 2006
Food & Water Watch, a nonprofit consumer organization that works to ensure clean water and safe food
I think the information provided by this book and film is very important, though not half as fun as reading Barbara Kingsolver’s take on food issues in her book, Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, which I’m reading now. In fact, her book was written before Food, Inc., and I wondered, hey, did they read Kingsolver? Because if they didn’t, they should. But sure enough. She was listed in the “to learn more” section at the end of the book.
(Blue Cross Blue Shield started a site called Get Health Reform Right earlier this year to express the insurance industry’s wishes regarding health-care reform, such as, “Creating a new government plan would cause the employer-provided health insurance system that 160 million Americans rely on today to unravel.”)
U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius released a statement Nov. 18, saying, “I would be very surprised if any private insurance company changed its mammography coverage decisions as a result of this action.” Anyone who says the task force doesn’t influence what private insurance companies do regarding mammograms needs to read the task force’s Web site, which explains that one of its goals is to inform and develop coverage decisions.
The EPCs review all relevant scientific literature on clinical, behavioral, and organization and financing topics to produce evidence reports and technology assessments. These reports are used for informing and developing coverage decisions, quality measures, educational materials and tools, guidelines, and research agendas. The EPCs also conduct research on methodology of systematic reviews. [Emphasis added is mine.]
Besides, where do they think the current mammogram guidelines come from?
To come up with this most recent recommendation, the task force looked at research done in China and Russia.
The research in China (“Randomized Trial of Breast Self-Examination in Shanghai: Final Results,” published Oct. 2, 2002, in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute, Oxford University Press) found that “the efficacy of breast self-examination for decreasing breast cancer mortality is unproven,” based on 266 breast-cancer deaths (135 in the main group and 131 in the control group) over 10 years. The study was conducted from October 1989 to October 1991, and women were followed through December 2000. The task force apparently took the difference of only four breast-cancer deaths to show that breast self-examination plays no part in saving women’s lives from breast cancer.
However, the authors of that study also said, “This was a trial of the teaching of BSE, not the practice of BSE.” They went on to say:
It should not be inferred from the results of this study that there would be no reduction in risk of dying from breast cancer if women practiced BSE competently and frequently. It is possible that highly motivated women could be taught to detect cancers that develop between regular screenings, and that the diligent practice of BSE would enhance the benefit of a screening program.
Yet, the task force recommends that physicians stop teaching patients how to do breast self-examinations.
The articles about the research in Russia are all published in Russian. Unless someone on the task force can read and understand Russian, or unless the task force had the articles translated, it’s fair to say that nobody on the task force read anything other than abstracts on Medline, which provide incredibly limited information, except for dates of publication.
As I was getting ready to write something about the book, I ran across Maloney’s July 29, 2008, appearance on Comedy Central’s Colbert Report. At first, I thought I would just include it with other links, but the more I thought about it, the more it bothered me.
Is it really funny that women get fired for lactating?
Here’s a quote from Maloney’s book.
I also heard numerous stories about difficulties in the workplace, including one woman whose male colleagues mooed outside the door as she expressed milk to take home and another woman being banished to do so in her car across the street from her office.
I didn’t laugh once while reading her book, but maybe I missed something. Exactly which issue that she wrote about was funny? Rape? Domestic violence? Burkas? Breast cancer? Or maybe prostitution? That link goes to a 2007 feature in Prism magazine, which Maloney reprinted on page 246 of her book and said it made the strongest case against sex trafficking she had ever seen.
Depictions of prostitution in the media and popular culture (including the movie Pretty Woman) can be grossly misleading, even glamorous. In fact, street prostitutes are typically trafficked, exploited, battered, and often force-fed drugs by slavemaster pimps. This series of mugshots of street prostitutes, which documents their first arrest to their eighth, illustrates the reality of life on the street, which more closely resembles a descent into hell than a Hollywood movie.
Is that funny? If not, I’m confused about why one of the first places she went to discuss her book was Comedy Central.
I’ve written about the blurred lines between celebrity and politics. It’s as if something has shifted. Instead of looking back as former government officials (elected or not), they now have to prove they don’t take themselves too seriously while they’re in office, no matter how “serious” the positions they hold. They have to prove that they get the joke. Hey, they’re even in on the joke because so many things that happen in Washington are, well, a joke. Is that it?
Maybe I just don’t get the whole Inside the Beltway atmosphere. Is it really just a non-stop college kegger where everyone has to hit the beer bong and slam shots until they puke their guts out to prove they can keep up?
Maloney’s book is a fairly comprehensive list of women’s issues — what’s been done, what’s been undone and what still needs to be done. For those who regularly keep up on these issues, not much of the information is new, but it’s interesting to read about the issues from Maloney’s perspective as a policymaker.
She put a “take-action guide” at the end of each chapter, providing contact information for some of the groups and organizations working on specific issues. Her goal is to convince readers to do something, anything: “I hope to persuade you that any action in support of your beliefs matters, whether it is large or small, brief or time-consuming, successful or unsuccessful.”
She included women’s personal stories as well as her own story and a wealth of information from other sources.
She also included some of her own research and highlighted inconsistencies between cultural myth and everyday reality.
Maloney mentioned Morgan Stanley, which settled a class-action sex-discrimination case for $54 million and then another one for $46 million, yet it consistently appears on Working Mother magazine’s 100 Best Companies for Working Mothers list, a topic I have written about many times.
You might think that Morgan Stanley would work especially hard to eradicate sex discrimination after so costly [$54 million] an episode. But the firm settled another class action sex discrimination suit in 2007 for $46 million — bringing its overall sex discrimination price tag to an even $100 million. That sounds like a lot, but it only amounts to a few good days of trading.
Despite these incidents, Morgan Stanley has been cited numerous times by Working Mother magazine as one of the 100 Best Companies for Working Mothers. That makes me wonder how bad things are at other companies.
While she pointed out the inconsistency of the companies that appear in Working Mother with their employment track record, she listed in the take-action guide the National Association for Female Executives, which might be a perfectly fine organization. But it falls under the umbrella of Working Mother Media, which publishes Working Mother magazine, whose 100 Best list is — well, let’s just say I’m highlyskeptical of the wholething.
She also gave this example.
If you drive your Mitsubishi to the airport after filling its tank at Sunoco, board a Boeing-built plane for a United Airlines flight, use your Verizon cell phone service to call your spouse before you take off, and then bite into a Krispy Kreme doughnut, you’ve just enriched six household-name companies that have settled or lost sex discrimination cases and lawsuits in recent years.
Right. At least one of those companies — Verizon — makes Working Mother magazine’s 100 Best Companies for Working Mothers list year after year.
In the take-action guide at the end of the “Health Care That’s Always There” chapter, she recommended (among others) Dove’s Campain for Real Beauty as a way to “start health education early by teaching our young and teenaged girls about issues that affect them.” If you scratch the surface of Dove, you’ll find a wee bit of image manipulation of its own.
Wait I got a snow bunny, and a black girl too
You pay the right price and they’ll both do you
That’s the way the game goes, gotta keep it strictly pimpin
Gotta have my hustle tight, makin change off these women, yeah
I remember when that happened, thinking, what?!? There was George Clooney, smugly patting himself on the back for Hollywood being “out of touch” for “giving Hattie McDaniel an Oscar when blacks were still sitting in the backs of theaters.” That was in 1939. Just how long was it, dear George, until the next black person was so honored? That would be 1948, then 1964, then 1982, then 2002. And just how far has Hollywood come, George, by glorifying “the black man” … as a pimp, not to mention portraying women of all colors as simply a venue for making money? Hollywood’s out of touch, George. Ya think?
Which brings me back around to the Comedy Central appearance.
If it’s a matter of reaching a younger audience? C’mon, they deserve more credit than that. It’s not only “the kids” watching Comedy Central, and “the younger audience” is watching much more than just Comedy Central. And there are tons of young, vibrant, intelligent voices on the Internet. Dust off the mouse and start clicking.
Besides, there’s not a damn thing that’s funny about this book. Just like the issues Maloney discusses in the book — the media and popular-culture myths that harm the efforts to improve the lives of real people — Maloney’s Comedy Central appearance did nothing but belittle and mock some very serious societal issues. The people behind the stories about sex discrimination, prostitution and unacceptably high infant-mortality rates (to name just a few) deserve much more than to become the butt of a comedian’s joke.
1) Why can’t viewers just call in and vote to end the war?
2) Oh, wait. Major Sponsor Exxon Mobil wouldn’t be thrilled. It also wouldn’t be able to “give back” so generously if not for the googillions it’s made on the war. Maybe that’s where Ben Stiller got the term — from checking EM’s financials.
3) By sponsoring images of African and American babies, it can say, “War? What war? I don’t know nothin’ about no war.”
Still no photos, so here’s a lovely video for your viewing and listening pleasure. It’s the song that plays in my head whenever someone tells me they have “walking pneumonia.”
According to The Wall Street Journal today, the longer you stay well, the more it hurts companies’ bottom line. Shame on you.
Kimberly-Clarkexecs apparently had to use their tissues to wipe their own tears after a fourth-quarter drop in sales last year — all because you failed to get sick.
Companies were worried for a while, though, telling shareholders to do their part.
In January, Walgreen Co. CEO Jeffrey Rein told a shareholder gathering that December marked the first time in his 25-year career at the company that cough- and cold-medicine sales fell during the month. If attendees of the meeting needed to cough, he joked, they should leave the room and “go to a movie theater or on a bus” to spread their germs. “We’re really hoping for a very strong flu season,” Mr. Rein told the crowd, according to a transcript of his presentation.
Procter & Gamble Co.said on a conference call in January that quarterly sales of its Vicks cold medicine had been weak. “Unfortunately, people have not been getting sick at a rate that we would all like yet,” P&G CEO A.G. Lafley said on the call, with a chuckle.
Yeah, that is pretty funny.
Hospitals also rode the roller coaster of this flu season. Sicker patients often bring higher reimbursement from insurers or the government, and the flu can cause pneumonia and other complications. “You have a strong flu season, and the ancillary business is very profitable,” David Dill, chief financial officer of LifePoint Hospitals Inc., explained to investors at a conference in January. If an elderly flu sufferer in intensive care needs a tracheotomy, “that turns into higher acuity business for us,” he said. “Or, on the pediatric side, young kids coming into the hospital, that’s a nice margin for us, as well.”
He’s talking about Grandma’s tracheotomy and Baby Jenny’s hospital stay. I bet Grandma would tell you how proud she is of helping that “nice margin,” but, well, she’s got that trach, you know …
“Of course 36,000 die from the flu every year, and more than 200,000 go to the hospital for it. The flu apparently accounts for $16.3 billion in lost earnings every year.”
See that? That’s how much the Kristiansund Hospital in Norway wants for one overnight stay for my daughter in December. That’s NOK 9750,00 (Norwegian kroner) or about $1,780. That brings our running tab for this vacation to almost $14,000. For three weeks — and one day (thanks, Haris) — in Norway. Next time a Norwegian says they have “free” health care? Don’t believe it. I never have. Paying a 50-percent income tax rate when we lived in Norway was enough to make me believe that nothing is free.
So, dear Norwegian Consulate in Houston, can you help a mother out? (Or anyone? Please?) It apparently doesn’t matter that our daughter has dual citizenship, a Norwegian passport and a Norwegian identification number. I know she doesn’t live in Norway, but this was an emergency.
I suppose it wasn’t great timing for the hospital stay, considering all the news about Gro Harlem Brundtland at the time. Norwegians were all up in arms about her use of the Norwegian health-care system. She’s a former Norwegian prime minister. She’s also a physician and former head of the World Health Organization. (Sorta ironic, no?) She’s retired now and lives in France, and Norwegians weren’t about to let her get “free” health care that included a hip operation. Never mind that she probably paid up to half of her lifetime salary in taxes to pay for Norway’s “free” health care. And never mind that she’s one of those people Norway’s system is supposed to care for in its cradle-to-grave “safety net.”
‘Twas the Nightmare in Norway, and all through the house
Every creature swam in puke, even the mouse;
The stockings hung by the chimney were dry,
Only because projectile vomit couldn’t blow that high.
The children were nestled all snug in their beds,
While visions of anything but food danced in their heads,
After sloshing through soaked towels and sheets 3 feet deep,
We collapsed, exhausted, and hoped for some sleep.
When from the bedroom came the familiar sound,
Of at least one child horking and stumbling around.
With puke bucket and towel I rushed to the door,
To rip off the sheets and clean up the floor.
The moon and the snow … who cares about that?
I was too busy cleaning up stuff that goes splat.
It all started with one little puke in the morning,
By Daughter One — we got our first warning.
Daughter Two started screaming, we had no idea,
That our days would be filled with puke and diarrhea,
She puked at the restaurant and in the car ride home,
The rest of the day, all night and then some.
Now PUKING! now HORKING! now BLOWING YOUR COOKIES!
On VOMIT! on SPEWING! on BARFING and RETCHING!
To the top of the ceiling, to the top of the wall!
Now puke away puke away puke away all!
To the doctor she went the first and second day,
Then to the hospital two-and-a-half hours away,
She got IV fluids and fell fast asleep,
We slept on the floor in an exhausted heap.
And then, in a rumbling, while I lay on my back
The virus decided it was time to attack.
As I ran for the bathroom, and was turning around,
Up the gullet St. Pukealot came with a bound.
It came in a dash, I didn’t quite get there,
I got to the sink, hell, I didn’t care;
So, great, now we’re ALL locked in isolation,
What a sucky-ass, horrible, nasty vacation.
But, wait, it gets better, for when we got back,
Daughter One did nothing but yack, yack, yack, yack.
More puke in the bed, in her hair, on the floor,
Think that’s enough? Oh, no, hon. There’s more.
The Son joined the chorus of the vomitous pukefest,
He lost too much weight, and we still got no rest,
His face was so gaunt, and his bones stuck out,
Oh, what have we done, I wanted to shout.
Do you think, dear readers, that’s as bad as it got?
Guess what. It got worse, even worse — by a lot.
By the time we recovered, it was time to depart,
Through the Gates of Hell, er, the Oslo Airport.
Ah, I misspoke, we couldn’t leave — not just yet,
We were held hostage and put into more debt,
Because those who run Purgatory, er, “customer service,”
Wouldn’t let us on board; rules are rules, they told us.
So we dished out the dough and got home a day late,
All sick with head colds this time, isn’t that great?
Do you think I’m excited for more holiday cheer?
Bah humbug! We ain’t going nowhere next year.
Remember how Working Mother “teamed up with” Medela to sell more breast pumps make sure companies support breastfeeding employees? Well, Working Mother also is “in partnership with” Kraft Foods Inc. to sell diet food offer employees “nutritious food.”
“SC Johnson is on our ‘100 Best Companies’ due to its family-oriented culture and its commitment to helping employees strike a good work/life balance,” says Tammy Palazzo, Vice President of Research and Women’s Initiative, Working Mother Magazine. “The South Beach Diet(R) Office Kitchen Takeover awards the company even further by providing healthier food options for busy employees — from the convenience of their own office cafeteria.”
Touted as healthy, convenient, nutritious and delicious, the South Beach Diet is a weight-loss plan, according to Kraft’s own press release, with three phases that couldn’t possibly have been implemented in one day. What’s next? Weekly weigh-ins?
If they were really interested in providing employees with healthy snacks, why not “take over” the kitchen with baskets of fruits, vegetables and nuts? But where’s the selling point in that?
Not only does Working Mother offer its 2.2 million readers as a target audience for advertisers, it now uses employees of “100 best” companies/advertisers as a captive target audience.
:::Shh! Hear that? That’s the sound of corporate executives across the country having a collective heart attack.:::
Nah, not really. The teleconference was a platform for Working Mother to roll out its latest venture: to give “best of congress” awards every two years (starting in September 2008) to members of Congress “in recognition of their leadership in improving the quality of life for working families.”
But I’m jumping ahead. Here’s what happened.
Donna Klein, who earns $200,000 a year as founder and CEO of Corporate Voices, read her welcoming remarks and said we would hear from Rep. Deborah Pryce, R-Ohio, Working Mother Media CEO Carol Evans and Jami Taylor, a mother and activist. Klein tossed out some statistics — that the American workforce was under increasing pressure to meet the goals of a global economy and that childcare-related absences cost business $3 billion a year. (The $3 billion a year is a statistic from 1991 by an organization, Child Care Action Campaign, that apparently no longer exists.)
She mentioned that more than 30 bills dealing with family issues — FMLA, childcare-subsidy increases, workplace flexibility, etc. — were before Congress. She gave statistics about breastfeeding and encouraged working mothers to “advocate for lactation space” because “many employers are open to suggestions.”
Evans also talked about breastfeeding and lactation rooms. Which made me wonder … why are they so focused on lactation rooms?
Then I found this.
A full-page advertisement in Working Mother’s October 2007 issue by Medela, a major breast-pump manufacturer, said that Working Mother “teamed up with” Medela “to gain a better understanding of what the Working Mother 100 Best Companies are doing to help support their employees who are breastfeeding.” Medela offers — for a price — services to corporate clients through its Healthy Babies, Happy Moms, Inc. (That’s one of their corporate lactation rooms in the picture.)
Business ears perked up with the news in 2005 that 73 percent of mothers were breastfeeding. Considering that the United States has a high percentage of working mothers yet offers no guaranteed paid maternity leave … well, you do the math. What did Medela hear? Ka-ching! If maternity leaves were kept at the bare minimum or non-existent, Medela got to sell more breast pumps. Eh?
According to a Jan. 10, 2007, Wall Street Journalarticle, “it is all about business plans, market share and product placement.”
In another lift to sales, nursing products are being reconceived as fashion accessories. Celebrities have discussed their nursing protocols with the news media. When U.S. pump company Medela Inc., a unit of Medela Holding AG of Switzerland, sought to put its products on TV shows three years ago, it found no takers. Last fall, its pumps were included in story lines on “ER,” “Weeds,” and “The Office.”
Pryce mentioned several initiatives before Congress (mortgage foreclosures, war on terror, health care, education, SCHIP) to illustrate “that Congress is always working on something that can affect you,” but she didn’t mention where she stood on any of the issues.
She also didn’t mention that she has been endorsed by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which should offer an idea on where she stands on issues important to employees and working families. Here’s her voting record. Here’s who gives her money.
Next up was Evans, who was introduced as having “surprising” news. Evans went through the list of lists her magazine publishes (100 best, best small companies, best law firms, etc.). Then she talked about a survey of 500 women that revealed the No. 1 reason they work was for money. The No. 2 “surprising” answer was to use talents and training. No. 3 was to be great role models for their children. (She didn’t give specifics of the survey, so I don’t know when or by whom it was conducted.)
Why was the No. 2 answer a stop-the-presses! surprise? Got me. What did she expect the answer to be? Besides, it wasn’t clear what this “surprise” had to do with advocacy.
Here are her suggestions for callers to “get involved.”
Ask your company to apply for our list.
Express your voice through our MomBlog (at workingmother.com, natch).
Next up was Jami Leigh Taylor with “an amazing story of courage and triumph.” Taylor explained that she had been working for a few years on availability and accessibility of maternity insurance. They paid $22,000 out-of-pocket for a healthy pregnancy with no complications because her husband’s company dropped its maternity coverage just before she had a baby. Here are her tips.
Start with congressional staff. Make friends with the chief of staff.
Attend events they are already scheduled to attend.
Bring the kids! (Whisk them out if they get too fussy.)
Look at it as a way to get dressed up and go out on a date!
The results of her BFF-ships with staffers? Has she gotten anyone to write legislation or pass laws? Dunno. She didn’t say.
After a few questions, the teleconference ended.
So what did we learn?
Working Mother and Corporate Voices will give “best of congress” awards.
Evans was surprised! that women work to use their talents and training.