Weekly Roundup 7/25/2011

"Bad Food? Tax It, and Subsidize Vegetables?"
Mark Bitman, The New York Times, July 24, 2011

Synopsis: “What will it take to get Americans to change our eating habits?” asks Mark Bitman, who regularly writes about food for The New York Times’ opinion section. His answer: a tax, big enough to change buying and eating habits, on unhealthful foods, such as sugary soft drinks, fat-laden French fries and the like. He would use the proceeds to subsidize more healthful foods, such as fruits and vegetables, in the hope that better nutrition could reduce food-related illnesses such as obesity and diabetes.

Other views: For a roundup of developments on soda tax proposals at the local and state levels, see this in the newsletter Corporations and Health. The beverage industry discounts the role that soft drinks play in contributing to obesity. The American Beverage Association’s Web site is here.

For background, see these CQ Researcher reports: Barbara Mantel, “Preventing Obesity,” Oct. 1, 2010; and Kenneth Jost, “Diabetes Epidemic,” March 9, 2001 (subscription required).

-- Kenneth Jost, Associate Editor


"Public Schools, Private Budgets"
Ben Jorasky and Mick Dumske, Chicago Reader

Synopsis: Charter schools are funded with public dollars but run by private companies, some of them large. But only 12 of 32 of the biggest charter school management companies operating in charter-heavy Chicago provided budget information in response to a reporter’s Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request.

Takeaway: "Charter schools are the fastest-growing part of Chicago's public education system, but how they spend our tax money is mostly a secret," although the law does require charter operators to respond to FOIA requests, the journalists say.

--Marcia Clemmitt, Staff Writer

For background, see my CQ Researcher report, “Fixing Urban Schools,” April 27, 2007, updated Aug. 5, 2010 (subscription required).


With This Ring…
The New York Times, July 24, 2011

Synopsis: Proper etiquette is terra incognita for many of us, especially when it comes to matters gay, marriage and otherwise. The New York Times to the rescue! To mark the first day that same-sex marriage was allowed in New York State, a special issue of the always readable Sunday Styles section looked at the changes the law will bring to many gay and lesbian couples.

Takeaway: A number of articles deal with everything from planning the perfect wedding to dealing with pushy parents.

For background, see Kenneth Jost, “Gay Marriage Showdowns,” CQ Researcher, Sept. 26, 2008, updated Oct. 15, 2010 (subscription required).

--Thomas J. Colin, Contributing Editor


"Back on the Bus"
Calvin Trillin, The New Yorker, July 25, 2011

Trillin began his five decades as a journalist with a one-year stint in the Atlanta bureau of Time Magazine in 1960-61. From there, he ventured all over the South as the civil rights movement was gathering strength. In a vivid account, Trillin recalls the dangers as well as the professional issues with which he grappled. Among them was his obligation to remain a dispassionate observer. Hence Trillin never dropped any money in the collection baskets that went around during movement meetings. But when it came to his reports, he didn’t pretend that any equivalency existed between demonstrators demanding their constitutional rights and segregationists who responded to those demands by burning down houses. At a time when journalistic ethics are still being debated, Trillin’s unapologetic reliance on morality has enduring value.

--Peter Katel, Staff Writer