Childhood Obesity on the Rise despite Efforts of the First Lady

It is common knowledge that poor urban areas tend to have a higher rate of childhood obesity. Since her husband took the presidential office more than three years ago, First Lady Michelle Obama has campaigned vigorously to encourage physical activity and sensible eating among America’s youth.

While studies have showed that there are more fast food diners and convenience stores in poor neighborhoods, there were also more grocery stores, which made fruits and vegetables far more accessible. Recent studies have also showed that there is no noticeable correlation between obesity and number of fast food diners within a city.

This raises questions whether increasing access to healthy foods is really the answer as the First Lady has been advocating for. According to federal data, childhood obesity rates remain relatively the same in spite of efforts and programs to get Americans to exercise and eat healthier foods.

Michelle Obama’s crusade for a healthier and leaner nation has also included a call for schools to serve more nutritious meals. Her campaign has been praised by liberals while criticized by some conservatives, claiming that it is a move towards a nanny state.

Helen Lee, a member of the Public Policy Institute of California, conducted a study of 8,000 children in urban areas. The results indicated that poor neighborhoods did indeed have about twice as many fast food joints compared to more affluent neighborhoods. However, they also had just about as many super markets and grocery stores.

Childhood obesity is without a question a growing epidemic. However, the notion that children in poor neighborhoods are at a disadvantage due to a lack of access to healthy foods is just an excuse. It is the responsibility of parents to ensure that their kids get daily exercise and eat a proper diet. If given a choice between a hamburger and a plate of vegetables, children are obviously going to go for the burger because it tastes better. This is where parents need to be the role model and help them make the right decisions. Government intervention is not the answer.

USA Yoga Competition Brings Smiles and Body Postures

Last month was the USA Yoga finales, lasting from Friday to Sunday evening, a full three days where hundreds of competitors from around the nation came up to compete, show off their Yoga stances, and try to win the big finale. Every style was represented, and everyone competed to their best abilities in front of the 700 theater seats at the Hudson Theatre in Manhattan. Everyone remained quiet and supported mentally the competitors, while they watched an endless number of poses and stances, people stretching their legs, arms, and standing in positions most people would think impossible. But this event was the culmination of a lot of preparations, including some unusual ones.

Michael Colwill is a 46 years old kindergarten teacher, and he decided to compete with just three years of Yoga experience, because there’s no entry requirement in the regional entries. Instead of spending his preparation time going over his routine again, he stood in front of the empty theatre bowing down, and smiling, convinced that presentation was as important as skill and performance. Indeed, he was one of those who went up to the National Yoga Asana Championship.

The event was hosted by the United States Yoga Federation, also called USA Yoga, and took place over three days. On Friday, everyone could compete, and people showed up a wide array of techniques and performances. By Saturday however, things had gotten serious, with competitors doing everything they could to win. The audience was silent, and a pin could be heard dropping. Many Yoga athletes find this type of competition hard to go through, since they can go from their calm, well illuminated studio, practicing in front of a mirror, to a scene where spotlights blinded their faces, and hundreds of people stare at them intently.

Even watching this competition was not an easy task, having to sit quietly through a long series of routines. In traditional Yoga, watching this type of event is said to prepare the mind and body for the act of meditation, and reducing external sensations to a maximum. Both adults and children competed, and were divided into special categories. By Sunday, the finals featured 10 men and 10 women, showing their own versions of Asana, along with two additional poses that were chosen by the athletes. The children section was dominated by girls, with only one boy competing at the end.

Backstage, the coaches would throw towels around the athlete’s necks in typical sports fashion, and it’s the hope of USA Yoga that this type of competition would one day be found in the Olympics. For now, even this national event can be exhausting for the professionals competing for the final prize. The woman’s first place went to Afton Carraway, a dancer from Orlando, and the man champion was Jared McCann, a teacher from New York.

Hazardous Waste Ban

More than one-hundred-seventy countries reportedly agreed last week to hasten along the adoption of a global ban on the export of hazardous wastes to developing countries. The environmental group Basel Action Network saw the deal as a major breakthrough.

The deal would make sure that developing countries no longer are dumping groups for toxic waste including industrial chemicals, discarded cell-phones and computers. Delegates at the U.N. environmental conference in Cartagena said the ban will take effect when seventeen more countries ratify an amendment to the 1989 Basel Convention. The convention’s executive secretary, Katharina Kummer, estimated that it will take some five years to reach the required 68 ratifying nations.

Fifty-one countries already ratified the 1995 amendment that enforces the Basel Convention, a treaty aimed at making nations manage their waste at home instead of sending it overseas. The world’s top exporter of electronic waste, the United States did not ratify the original convention. The global ban has been backed by African countries, China and the European Union opponents have been led by Canada, Australia, Japan, New Zealand and India.

The issue took center stage in 2006 when hundreds of tons of waste were dumped around the Ivory Coast’s main city of Abidjan. This killed some 10 people and sickened tens of thousands. The waste came from a tanker chartered by the Dutch commodities trading company Trafigura Beheer BV, that had a contract with a local company to dispose of the waste.

Puckett said shipping companies were against the ban, and wanted to keep sending old ships to Pakistan, India and Bangladesh. He says there are “no reliable estimates on how many tons of toxic waste are exported annually because developed nations don’t accurately report them“.
And that “a private U.S. company will, for example, list them as “exports” in sending them to a developing nation so they can avoid paying taxes and other fees.”

The Basel Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and their Disposal allows its 178 members to ban imports and requires exporters to seek permission before sending toxic materials abroad. Critics, however say insufficient funds, widespread corruption and the absence of the USA have undermined the convention, leaving millions of poor people exposed to PCBs, heavy metals and other toxins.