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Books: Food, Inc.

March 31, 2010 | Advertising,Books,Economics,Education,Ethics,Family,Food,Health,Journalism,MSM,Politics,PR,Research,Safety,School,U.S. government

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)

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.

Posted by Becky @ 6:00 am | 3 Comments  

Mammogram guidelines

November 19, 2009 | Benefits,Breast cancer,Death,Economics,Ethics,Health,Medical,MSM,Politics,PR,Research,Statistics,U.S. government

Women should now get mammograms starting at age 50, not 40.

Who says?

The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force. It recently published its recommendations in the Nov. 17, 2009, issue of the Annals of Internal Medicine, published 24 times a year by the American College of Physicians.

Who is the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force?

It’s a panel of 16 people from the medical community and 14 “evidence-based practice centers,” which includes medical-research universities and institutions and — at the top of the list — Blue Cross Blue Shield.

(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.

Others weigh in

Posted by Becky @ 7:53 pm | 5 Comments  

A little less conversation, a little more action, please

October 30, 2009 | Benefits,Books,Corporate Voices for Working Families,Economics,Ethics,Leslie Bennetts,Maria Shriver,Media,MSM,Politics,PR,Working Mother

Maria Shriver declares the United States “a woman’s nation” in The Shriver Report: A Woman’s Nation Changes Everything. Why? Because women now make up half the workforce. That, she says, “changes everything.”

Does Maria Shriver live in the same nation as the rest of us?

The same nation …

… that dropped from 27th to 31st place on the World Economic Forum Global Gender Gap Report.

… where boys and men who “weren’t raised to respect girls” gang rape a 15-year-old girl on school grounds after a homecoming dance.

… where The New York Times glorifies on its front page the life of a robed and slippered senior citizen who amassed great wealth and notoriety literally on the backs of thousands of women.

… where people actually debate whether an adult who rapes a child should be brought to justice.

It’s not clear to me what The Shriver Report’s point is, except it doesn’t seem to be a call to action. It does, however, declare the battle of the sexes over. It’s all rather retro to dredge up a “battle” that saw Billie Jean King defeat Bobby Riggs in a tennis match, which was dubbed “The Battle of the Sexes.” That “battle” was essentially a publicity stunt.

Is that what this is? A publicity stunt? If so, to what end?

Established in 1961, the Presidential Commission on the Status of Women was a compromise by John F. Kennedy, who didn’t want to alienate his supporters who were against the Equal Rights Amendment. Maybe The Shriver Report is a compromise to its sponsors, advisers and the rest of corporate America, which is adamantly opposed to legislation that requires equality and/or benefits of any kind.

As pointed out before:

  • At least 139 countries provide paid sick leave to employees, but this “woman’s nation” does not.
  • Almost 100 countries require employers to provide paid annual leave, but this “woman’s nation” does not.
  • Women in this “woman’s nation” get the same amount of paid maternity leave as women do in Lesotho, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea and Swaziland: zero.
  • Men in this “woman’s nation” get the same amount of paid paternity leave: zero.
  • It is legal in most states of this “woman’s nation” for employers to discriminate against mothers.
  • While illegal, women in this “woman’s nation” deal with pregnancy discrimination every day.
  • At least 84 countries have a maximum length workweek, but this “woman’s nation” — whose workweek length was second only to Japan’s hours among industrialized countries — does not.
  • At least 34 countries guarantee discretionary leave from work — Greece and Switzerland offer paid leave specifically for children’s educational needs — but this “woman’s nation” does not.
  • Women in this “woman’s nation” still earn less than men do, and mothers earn less than anyone.

Knowing all that, it’s confusing to see Shriver on national television talking about flex time as if that were the most pressing issue American women faced every day. Imagine my surprise when I read the report and saw things like equal pay mentioned.

Even so, what does it mean that American women comprise half the workforce? Nothing. Especially if women have no power (or very limited power) to implement change or write policy. It means nothing until women make up half of Congress, half the boards of directors and half the executive teams that run American businesses.

How do some of The Shriver Report sponsors and advisory-committee members measure up in terms of women in positions of power? Let’s see.

Sponsors

Advisory committee

So what’s the point?

Last year, I reviewed Carolyn B. Maloney’s book, Rumors of our Progress have been Greatly Exaggerated: Why Women’s Lives Aren’t Getting any Easier and How We Can Make Real Progress for Ourselves and Our Daughters. While I took issue with a few things and especially how she publicized the book, I said it was a comprehensive look at women’s issues. For those who regularly keep up on these issues, however, not much of the information was new.

That’s how I feel about The Shriver Report, only worse. Yes, the Rockefeller Foundation/TIME survey of 3,400 people provided new data, as highlighted in a special report in TIME, The State of the American Woman, What Women Want Now by Nancy Gibbs, Oct. 26, 2009. But the rest of the essays feel so out of date and certainly undeserving of a breathless media blitz. Maybe it’s “news” to someone who hasn’t read a thing on the subject in 30 years. But for others it might feel as stale and out of place as the term “battle of the sexes.”

Oprah Winfrey says in the epilogue that the report’s intent is to start a conversation. Hello? When she and Shriver weren’t listening, the conversation had already begun.

Simon & Schuster published The Shriver Report: A Woman’s Nation Changes Everything edited by Heather Boushey and Ann O’Leary, with Karen Skelton, Ed Paisley, Leslie Miller, and Laura Nicholson Oct. 20, 2009. The eBook includes an introductory chapter by Maria Shriver. It lists for $20, but I got my copy for $16 with a $4 discount code.


 
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Posted by Becky @ 6:00 am | 3 Comments  

Employers cut 651,000 jobs in February, but wait! Look over there! It’s Brad Pitt with Nancy Pelosi!

March 6, 2009 | Barack Obama,Brad Pitt,D.C.,Economics,Journalism,Media,MSM,Nancy Pelosi,Politics,U.S. government

Headline: ”Capitol Hill goes gaga over Brad Pitt.” Read the breathless AP copy and you might think the press went a little gaga too. I mean, dig the photos. One mug shot isn’t enough. Here’s an entire montage, showing Pitt looking left, then looking right, then raising his eyebrows … you know, in case you want to rip it out of the pages of Tiger Beat and tape it to your bedroom wall.

What was Pitt doing in Washington, D.C., other than getting Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi to congratulate him publicly for being in Washington, D.C.?

Pelosi mentioned Pitt’s work in New Orleans and how he “serves as a model for the rest of the country.” Model … how? What exactly has he done? What does he plan to do? How does it all work? What does this have to do with what’s happening in Washington, D.C., today?

Pelosi didn’t explain any of those things. Neither did anyone else.

In addition to some air time with Pelosi, Pitt met with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, and he had a “secret” meeting with President Barack Obama.

I don’t know what’s going on, but I just can’t shake the picture of Elvis in the White House with Tricky Dick.

Posted by Becky @ 2:15 pm | 3 Comments  

R.I.P. Rocky Mountain News

February 27, 2009 | Economics,Journalism,Local news,Media,MSM


Final Edition from Matthew Roberts on Vimeo.

Posted by Becky @ 9:47 am | 2 Comments  

Come and whisper in my ear, give us dirty laundry

January 22, 2009 | Ethics,Journalism,MSM,Politics

A person close to Kennedy denied her “personal reasons” were concerns about the health of her uncle, Sen. Ted Kennedy, who is suffering from a cancerous brain tumor discovered last summer. The person wasn’t authorized to disclose the conversation between Kennedy and the governor and spoke on condition of anonymity.

So, umm, a person close to Becky at Deep Muck Big Rake wonders why the heck this got published. Someone at AP afraid of a little Gawker?

Posted by Becky @ 10:42 pm | Comments  

Just not sure how to play good news

January 16, 2009 | Airlines,Journalism,Media,MSM

Have you heard about the “miracle on the Hudson” yet? It’s the plane that went down in the Hudson River yesterday. Everyone on board survived.

It’s nice to have good news, right? Sure, but our media seem somewhat uncomfortable with the whole idea.

I heard about the crash on Facebook, and I didn’t see anything about it on television until later.

I watched Larry King interview two doctors who treated people from the flight. One was in the studio. The other stood outside, probably getting dangerously close to this hypothermia he kept talking about. His nose was red, and his words got more slurred each time they went back to him.

Anyway, at some point, someone told King that everyone survived.

“Hunh,” King said, followed by a weird little silence.

This morning, I watched part of the news conference with the mayor and the rescuers. Some of the questions couldn’t quite get the whole “good news” idea.

“How cold was the water and how long would it take for someone to DIE in it?”

“How does this mission compare with others you have been on?” (You know, others where people DIED?)

The news conference was so relaxed that it even made time for a Spanish-speaking rescuer to take a question from a Spanish-speaking reporter … in Spanish … which CNN, of course, immediately started chattering over, recapping the unbelievable story in which nobody DIED.

Posted by Becky @ 11:25 am | 3 Comments  

Weird things happen on Twitter

January 7, 2009 | MSM,Television,The Today Show,Twitter

So I was on Twitter, and I said I didn’t watch The Today Show, and I said something not terribly flattering about Ann Curry. Before the end of the night? The Today Show was following me on Twitter. Do you think they really care what I have to say … or are they just pulling an Abraham Lincoln on me?

Posted by Becky @ 10:04 pm | 2 Comments  

Campbell Brown: No Bias. No Bull.

December 2, 2008 | Campbell Brown,Family,Journalism,Media,MSM,Politics,Television

I’ve seen Campbell Brown on television for years. I watched her (on and off) do election coverage during the campaign, and I saw her “free Sarah Palin” opinion piece.

Then I caught one of her first No Bias. No Bull. shows, where she said she planned to hold President-elect Barack Obama accountable for all the promises he made during the campaign. I thought, yeah, OK, we’ll see. Then I never watched again. Oh, I planned to watch and even programmed the show into my DVR. But I never got around to watching.

Then I caught about three minutes of tonight’s show, where she takes on Gov. Edward G. Rendell, D-Pa., for perpetuating stereotypes about women. He said that Gov. Janet Napolitano, D-Ariz., would be perfect for the job of Secretary of Homeland Security (she’s Obama’s nominee for the job) because she “has no life” and “has no family.”

Hmm. I might have to check out the ones left on my machine.

Posted by Becky @ 11:28 pm | 3 Comments  

Books: Rumors of our Progress have been Greatly Exaggerated by Carolyn B. Maloney

August 7, 2008 | Advertising,Books,Breast cancer,Colbert Report,Colin Powell,Economics,Ethics,Family,Health,Media,Movies,MSM,Music,Parenting,Pink,Politics,PR,Race,Research,SLBTM,Statistics,Television,U.S. government,Verizon,Work,Working Mother

I just finished reading Rumors of our Progress have been Greatly Exaggerated: Why Women’s Lives Aren’t Getting any Easier and How We Can Make Real Progress for Ourselves and Our Daughters by Rep. Carolyn B. Maloney, D-N.Y. I received a review copy from the publisher, Modern Times, an imprint of Rodale, Inc.

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.

The Colbert Report Mon – Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
Better Know a District – New York’s 14th – Carolyn Maloney
www.colbertnation.com
Colbert Report Full Episodes 2010 Election Fox News

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.

The blurbs on the back of her book are written by Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, D-N.Y., Speaker of the House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi, Gloria Steinem, Pat Schroeder, Ellie Smeal and Arianna Huffington. (Geraldine Ferraro was also included in the online “praise” section for the book.) Were they slapping their knees and giggling at the sight of Colbert using a breast pump while Maloney smiled and kept her cool? If not, does that mean they just can’t take a joke?

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?

Sigh.

About the book

About the author

Excerpt

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 draws upon the work of Martha Burk (Cult of Power: Sex Discrimination in Corporate America and What Can Be Done About It), Ann Crittenden (The Price of Motherhood: Why the Most Important Job in the World is Still the Least Valued), Jody Heymann (The Work, Family, and Equity Index: Where Does the United States Stand Globally?), MomsRising (The Motherhood Manifesto: What America’s Moms Want – and What To Do About It), Evelyn Murphy and E.J. Graff (Getting Even: Why Women Don’t Get Paid Like Men–And What to Do About It), Joan Williams (Unbending Gender: Why Family and Work Conflict and What to Do About It), Marie Wilson (Closing the Leadership Gap: Add Women, Change Everything), among many others.

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 highly skeptical of the whole thing.

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.

Unilever is the maker of Dove products (and major “research” funder), which are the basis for the Campaign for Real Beauty and its self-esteem education for young girls. Unilever also makes and markets Axe products, which exist in a parallel universe where the V.I.X.E.N.S. (Very Interactive Xtremely Entertaining Naughty Supermodels) and Bom Chicka Wah Wahs don’t have “real beauty” or self-esteem issues.

In “The Pretty Woman Myth” chapter, Maloney wrote about misleading portrayals of prostitution in popular culture and mentioned that the Academy Award for Best Original Song in 2006 went to ‘It’s Hard Out Here for a Pimp,’” whose lyrics include:

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.

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Posted by Becky @ 4:10 pm | 18 Comments  


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