Stories for Tuesday 4 March

Good morning, first up today is the Middle East – we didn’t talk about it yesterday but US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is now in the region on a trip aimed at saving Israeli-Palestinian peace talks. Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas broke off contacts with Israel in protest at its recent offensive in Gaza, so I guess there are talks to save. I’m not sure how far they’ve got since the conference in Annapolis late last year.

Also on the table is the UN Security Council voting in favour of new sanctions against Iran over its nuclear programme. Back in January Akbar in Iran wrote to us saying “God help us if a third round of sanctions is imposed“. What will this new step really mean?

George has written in to flag the situation between Colombia and Venezuela for us.

“Whoa! This may be a topic,” he writes. “Colombia says some documents suggest the rebels have bought and sold uranium… As overworked as our US military is, FARC with uranium may generate more work for the US military.”

What do you think of US involvement (not yet mooted I must add) in the dispute?

We spent quite a lot of time at yesterday’s meeting discussing children and are they growing up too quickly? (Or too slowly?) but we didn’t see this, sent in by Lydia Lovric, who’s been on the programme before. In a nutshell, Lydia says, “an Ontario family court judgment recently cited obesity as a reason for removing a child from the parental home, after determining the mother was contributing to her child’s weight gain and was oblivious to the required medical regime.” The details of the case have not been reported, but do you think the court was right to factor in a child’s weight in a custody case? As the National Post article says, it’s not an isolated incident.

OH, something I forgot earlier – sporting sanctions against Zimbabwe. British Prime Minister Gordon Brown is apparently keen – is it the right thing to do?

And another thing: the US is critical of – and concerned over – China’s plans to increase its military spending by nearly 18%. Beijing has dismissed Washington’s criticism, but are the concerns valid?

11 Responses to “Stories for Tuesday 4 March”

  1. March 4, 2008 at 10:19

    I found you! Oh, I am most interested in the story about the parents and weight.
    Wow, is all I can say, oh I guess not; I have a lot more.

    This april fool’s day will be twenty years since I got out of treatment for anorexia and alcoholism. many of the women there had eating disorders because their mothers pressured them to lose weight. this to me is much more serious than so-called “overweight.” It’s not that I don’t think obesity is a problem, but I question both our definition of obesity and our methods of dealing with it.

    when my girls were teenagers (my youngest had her third birthday while i was inpatient and we couldn’t have a cake–“no celebrations around food”), they and their friends came to me and asked for help with another friend who was bulimic. One or two of the girls had already interviewed me for school papers on eating disorders, and now they wanted to know how to help their friend. they bravely went to speak to the mother and daughter and the mother defended teaching her teenaged daughter to vomit because she herself was fat in high school and wanted to avoid that fate for her daughter.

    And now the courts are going to take away kids unless parents nag their children into eating disorders? I realize that may be oversimplifying, but I wonder how much of this fear of obesity is just another wave of sexism. If you look at the history of what body size is popular for women in the US, you’ll see that when women are in the workforce the are expected to have the shape of adolescent boys and when women are staying at home the Marilyn Monroe fleshiness becomes acceptable.

    I was in a writing group with a woman was in her seventies and she told me that the SMALLEST size shops had when she was growing up was an eight and that going up to size twenty was standard. Of course the sizing has changed, but not that much!

    Why are we so obsessed with losing weight?

    I’m writing too much here but if you want more, go to my blog and see the poem Not Starving For Attention about how when I got really ill and thin, men found me irresistible and women just wished they could get a good illness like that and shed some pounds.

    love and thanks,

  2. 2 steve
    March 4, 2008 at 12:24

    Ruby, because obesity is an even larger expense, health risk, and cause of death than smoking is. That CHILDREN have ADULT diabetes says something. I don’t know where you’ve lived, but I’ve noticed people getting MUCH MUCH fatter during my life. Being in shape is simple. Just eat proper amounts (and none of that rubbish where “I eat so little, I don’t know how I have gained so much weight!”. I work near a woman who claims that, and she’s CONSTANTLY eating all day long.) and exercise. People have gotten lazy, and don’t do any exercise. There are people who work on the second floor of my building that won’t even take the stairs for ONE floor! Please don’t turn this into a “Sexism” thing when people’s lives are at risk. No excuses for obesity, it will get people killed.

  3. 3 Brett
    March 4, 2008 at 14:51

    It is the parents responsibility to take care of their children. Claiming “Oh well they don’t like vegetables.” or “I love them so I give them what they want (twinkies coated in chocolate with whipped cream and powdered sugar) for dinner” is a poor excuse. You had a child, grow up and raise it right. Teach your child the importance of proper diet and exercise. That is where it all starts. Give them a solid base to start a lifetime of healthy eating and living a healthy lifestyle.

    I understand that it is hard to teach kids to eat healthy when they are bombarded with advertisements for every thing but healthy foods, when the schools serve junk food for lunch, when all their friends eat horrible diets, and when all they want to do is sit and play video games. But again, grow up and raise your child right. It is O.K. to tell them they cannot have that pint of ice cream while they sit and play video games or watch the tube. They won’t die because of it…. Trust me…. Its ok. Don’t get lazy because you don’t want to argue with them.

    If a child is overweight or unhealthy it is largely (not entirely) the parents fault.

    Brett ~ Richmond, Va.

  4. 4 steve
    March 4, 2008 at 15:12

    Brett, it’s 2008, you cannot expect people to take responsibility for their actions and choices. it’s always someone else’s fault. Did you know that the food manufacturers point guns at people, forcing them to eat high calories foods? They are victims! Please don’t lecture people on eating properly, as we all know they are under duress by these companies to eat bad foods!

    What I’ll never understand, is that given you only live once, you never get a second chance, why live it being fat? I mean, don’t you want to appeal to the opposite sex (or same if you are gay/lesbian)? That’s enough motivation for me to be in shape. I think some people just get so wrapped up in victimhood that they won’t make any effort to lose weight. THey say “obesity is a disease, thus it’s not my fault, and thus I don’t have to do any work”.

  5. 5 steve
    March 4, 2008 at 15:23

    Anyone remember last year when Lebanon shelled a Palestinian refugee camp for several weeks, killing hundreds? Remember the silence from the rest of the world. Yet when Israel retaliates against Palestinians for launching rockets at Israel, the world is in an uproar? Can someone please explain the double standard for me?

  6. March 4, 2008 at 17:44

    I do see the health risks of obesity. Again I wonder if punishing the parents is the answer. I don’t know how many parents replied here or people who have dealt with health and weight issues. It reminds me of what Charlotte Kasl says about codependence, that it describes a set of behaviours that anyone learns in a one-down position. Then we use it as a word to slam those who act exactly the way they are trained to.

    It’s so easy to say, “why don’t you just. . . ” without really looking at the complex dynamics under an issue.

    I would like to see less punishment and more proactive behavior. Often we throw money or laws at problems on one end and then ignore the way we’re feeding the problems, pun intended, at the other.

    For instance, many schools cannot survive financially unless they install machines selling junk food. Much of this junk food contains corn sweetener, which is the sweetener we in the US switched to from cane and beet sugar once the US started subsidizing corn. Coincdentally (?) this change coincides with the current “obesity” epidemic.

    Corn adds weight quickly; that’s why it’s cattle feed. Now we have the government paying farmers to grow corn and if you have ever lived on food bank food, you’ll find that whatever the government subsidizes is that the poor eat too much of. Corn and wheat allergies, the destruction of crop diversity, this is all related. It’s silly to ignore the big picture and pick on parents for being pulled into the culture that’s shoved down their throats every day (pun intended again!).

    Could we actually cut obesity by funding our schools and cutting funding for crops that destroy health and our environment? Often what doesn’t seem connected is. I brought my kids up on a macrobiotic diet (part of my own eating disorder, I’m afraid) and once they hit public school and those vending machines I had no control. I didn’t try to tell them what to eat either because I didn’t want to encourage shame and secrecy around food.

    Being the one person who won’t drink coca cola or eat candy bars may work socially for some, but not for all. Plus sugar is addictive–read Sugar Blues! I was in the health food industry for twenty years and have watched as people used to ask if items had no sugar. Now they ask if it’s vegan and I joke that some vegans live on crisco and white sugar. I can’t even find sugarless food in natural food stores very often now, although the sugar is often labeled as Dried Cane Juice.

    I see the most overweight people at food banks. I think this is both because of the quality of the food and because when I am poor, I eat more both because I am psychologically “stocking up” for when I won’t have food and because food feels like money and if I don’t have money, I’ll take free food and put in in the “bank” of my body.

    When you are not a parent it’s easy to see what others “should” do. And the problem is so often way larger than that. Yes we do need to see the history of size and gender issues with this too. When I was in treatment, a man who was assigned to the eating disorder until left because he was the only man there and couldn’t handle it. He wanted to hang out in the alcoholism wing with the guys. He finally left because his inability to face his homophobia around being in the “women’s” ward with a “woman’s” problem got in the way of his recovery. Is it progress that now more men have eating disorders too or are we just starting to notice that they do? If someone has a sharp response to me bringing in sexism, does that say that I’m wrong or that I’ve touched a nerve?

    Does everyone who is overweight have an eating disorder? Is it the size or is it the quality of the food and lifestyle that make a difference?

    It’s so easy to want someone else to blame, to point the finger at. But the best way to create change is to ask questions and listen more than we talk, and not just accept what we hear as the complete story.

    When I was in treatment I also saw a movie of a boy who was overweight being asked to choose which of four pictures of chidren he would like to be friends with. His last choice was the fat child over children with varous “differences.” When asked why he didn’t want to be friends with that one, he said, “because he’s fat.” Then he laughed and said, “Just like me!” We all were crying.

    Steve and Brett, I hope you can have some compassion here for people who have problems you don’t. I hear the word Fat used as an insult a lot and I know that fat phobia is alive and well. Try not to assume you know what it’s like for someone else and that you have the solution without having really looked or listened below the surface.

    Food is a very emotional issue. Let’s try to look at what we can do together to solve this rather than find who to blame and punish and ostracize.

    The most radical way to create change isn’t to give answers, it’s to ask questions.

  7. 7 Brett
    March 4, 2008 at 18:39

    Steve and Brett, I hope you can have some compassion here for people who have problems you don’t. I hear the word Fat used as an insult a lot and I know that fat phobia is alive and well. Try not to assume you know what it’s like for someone else and that you have the solution without having really looked or listened below the surface.

    I grew up overweight, during one of the worst times to be so (childhood). I weighed 100 lbs entering my first year of school. I was made fun of for most of my childhood for being overweight and out of shape. What did I do? I got sick of it and started running, joined the Cross Country and Track team in Middle/High School, began eating better (although not as good as I should have), and dropped all unecessary weight. I have been athletic and physically active ever since.
    I do know what it is like to be an overweight and made fun of child. I do know what it is like to pull yourself out of it. While not hospitalized for my problem, it under no circumstances diminishes the effect of being the fattest kid in class and the slowest kid in gym.
    Parents have a large part in it. They could have had a large part in helping me to lose weight. As a child, I did not do the shopping, I did not fully understand nutrition. I just ate what I liked. It should have been my parents job to monitor and guide me in the right direction instread of just letting me know that I was chubby or fat.
    When my mother saw how much I was working to get in shape she did a wonderful job of cutting out buying any junk food and making sure I ate right; Subsequently that had an enormous effect on my ability to get into shape.

    So Ruby, I ask you to also please not assume you know a posters background before discrediting their statements. I fully agree with your statements that there are plenty of factors affecting health and weight of children (there were plenty in my case) and that we need to work on all of them to solve the epidemic.

    Brett ~ Richmond, Va.

  8. 8 Nathaniel
    March 4, 2008 at 18:55

    The sanctions against Zimbabwe is taking it tolls on the people. Is there no other means to pressure Mugabe to heed to democracy? Where is this leading Zimbabwe to? Well there are other examples there is every indication that the international community cannot achieve anything through sanctions. I do think it is time for Mugabe should be engaged in talks that are aimed at understanding his ideologies.
    The sanction on the cricket team will negatively affect Mugabe but it is not enough to end just there.
    More has to be done- lets make sure that every nation including south Africa is involved in sanctions against Zimbabwe.
    Cape town, South Africa

  9. 9 George USA
    March 5, 2008 at 15:22


    A great deal of what you say rings a bell.

    When I went through school and college, cafeterias in both had balanced meals, a “plate lunch”. We all ate them as were, had milk and fruit, and no vending machines were allowed.

    When my son went through school and college, I was shocked to find cafeterias had only pizza and corn dogs, no plate lunches, and vending machines abounded in public school. Then in college they had junk food fast food chains rather than a cafeteria.

    You also bring to mind someone who has always been on my mind for 40 years.

    There was a girl growing up who was over weight- obese.

    She was the only overweight girl in school: we were really average weight back then as a population where I grew up.

    She was mocked, a school joke, cruelty was heaped on her each day throughout the years of growing up.

    I have never forgot her, or what she went through and often wondered how her life went from there.

    That was a very kind and gentle girl who suffered beyond belief from being obese.

    I hope she found happiness of greater measure than the pain of childhood.

  10. 10 Ruby the Resourceress
    March 5, 2008 at 16:13

    Dear Brett,
    Funny that that was the point i was trying to make, that we not assume we know what it’s like for others! Apologies dude, I call it rubyoga: stand on one leg, open mouth, insert foot. I promised on my first pot here to make mistakes and then do my best to clean them up!

    I also do not think that just because I was able to pull myself out of something that others “should” be able to do the same when I don’t know their factors or that the main reason something happened to me is the main reason it happens to everyone.

    Let’s focus on what we agree on: that this is a problem that needs to be solved.

    My parents “should” have talked about my sister’s death but factors of personality as well as lack of knowledge and resources at the time made it difficult. Often someone assumes that if they were born into my life, they could have done a better job with the talents I have. Then they get to know me and wonder why I’m even alive.

    Growing up in the sixties it was ok for my parents to call me fatty patty. This was before parents learned about sefl-esteem. my mom was a gym teacher and my dad an athlete and I was constantly being dragged on hikes, sledding, to games, etc and I hated it. Now I’m grateful for my love of the outdoors and brag that my mom at seventy rides her bike ten miles to work.

    We have come a long way in the treatment of people of size, and boys often get short shrift because worrying about weight is a girl thing, and boys doing girl things triggers people’s fear and homophobia. I have a ton of compassion for what I can only imagine you went through. I hope you are able to motivate others to help themsleves as well without assuming if you did it, they can.

    love and thanks,


  11. 11 Brett
    March 5, 2008 at 17:23


    No problem! I agree that it is an enormous issue with countless factors that attribute to it. In each instance is a different case with different factors affecting it, and there is no clear-cut way to help every case. They need to be treated and dealt with individually. Through eliminating or lessening the effect of what seems to be the largest contributors, hopefully we can help alleviate the problem of childhood obesity and/or unhealthy lifestyles.

    Brett ~ Richmond, Va.

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