Archive for May 31, 2012

Coca-Cola Co and McDonald’s Corp fired back at New York City Mayor, Michael Bloomberg on Thursday for proposing a ban of large-sized soft drinks at restaurants and other food service outlets.

“New Yorkers expect and deserve better than this. They can make their own choices about the beverages they purchase,” Coca-Cola said in a statement.

The world’s largest soft-drink maker, which would also be disproportionately affected by such a ban, said it already includes calorie counts on the front of its bottles and cans in New York and that restaurants already post the calorie content of all their offerings and portion sizes, including soft drinks.

The statement from Coke comes a day after Mayor Bloomberg said he was proposing an amendment to the city’s health code to prohibit food service outlets from selling sugary soft drinks larger than 16 ounces.

The ban would apply to restaurants, mobile food carts, delicatessens and concessions at movie theaters, stadiums or arenas, where sales of fountain drinks are common. It would not apply to convenience stores, grocery stores or drug stores, which mostly sell beverages in bottles and cans.

Targeting cup sizes is the latest move in an ongoing effort to reduce Americans’ calories from sugary drinks. That is part of a broader push to fight obesity, which is a huge and growing burden to the nation’s healthcare system.

“Public health issues cannot be effectively addressed through a narrowly focused and misguided ban,” said a spokeswoman for McDonald’s USA. “This is a complex topic, and one that requires a more collaborative and comprehensive approach.”

For years, advocates and health experts have focused on additional taxes that they say would curb consumption and raise billions of dollars nationally.

Several studies have shown that higher taxes on sugary beverages does reduce consumption, helping to prevent diabetes and lowering health care spending. Critics say the taxes are an unfair way to close budget gaps and hurt consumers.

PepsiCo declined to comment, referring questions to the New York City Beverage Association.

Coke dominates the nation’s soda fountains with a 70 percent share of the market, according to Beverage Digest, followed by PepsiCo Inc with 19 percent and Dr Pepper Snapple Group Inc with 11 percent.

Fountain business accounts for about 24 percent of the 9.3 billion cases of soda sold a year, Beverage Digest said. The total market is worth about $75.7 billion.

Beverage Digest publisher John Sicher called the proposal misguided. He said its impact on the beverage industry will not be known for several years.

“I think that it would have some impact, but how much, we’re really not going to know until we can gauge the impact in New York and see whether it spreads.”

Read more here.

We showed cops sick film of a live KITTEN fed to a snake and an email warning: “Once you kill and taste blood it’s impossible to stop.”

Luka Magnotta, 29, fled after a male pal was chopped up and eaten in Canada. Last night he was feared to be heading back to London.

Magnotta is believed to have written a chilling email to The Sun saying: “I’ll be back — and this time the victims won’t be animals.”

The terrifying message was sent after we quizzed him in London six months ago over a sick video of a KITTEN being fed alive to a giant snake.

We warned the Met Police then of our fears he would go on to kill — but they DROPPED the case, saying it was outside their jurisdiction.

Read more here.

The House on Thursday rejected a Republican bill that would impose fines and prison terms on doctors who perform abortions for the sole purpose of controlling the gender of the child, a practice known as sex-selective abortion.

The Prenatal Nondiscrimination Act (PRENDA), H.R. 3541, was defeated in a 246-168 vote. While that’s a clear majority of the House, Republicans called up the bill under a suspension of House rules, which limits debate and requires a two-thirds majority vote to pass. In this case, it would have required more support from Democrats.

Twenty Democrats voted for the bill, while seven Republicans opposed it. The bill would have needed 30 more yeas to pass.

Suspension votes are normally used for noncontroversial bills, but the GOP-backed measure was clearly controversial. Republicans have occasionally put controversial bills on the suspension calendar in order to highlight that Democrats oppose certain policies.

In some cases, Republicans have rescheduled these bills for regular consideration after they have failed, allowing for passage by a simple majority. But Republicans gave no sign that they would try again with PRENDA.

Earlier in the day, House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) indicated that the issue of stopping sex-selective abortion is important enough that they would try again, but he was not specific.

Read more here.

Earlier this month, news broke that Megapastor Joel Osteen will be executive producing what’s being dubbed the Biblical prequel to “The Passion of the Christ.” The film, entitled, “Mary Mother of Christ,” is going to be released in North America sometime in 2013.

The movie, which is produced by Mary Aloe of Aloe Entertainment and Shawn Williamson of Bright Light Pictures, promises to be an intriguing project that will surely peak the interest of the faithful.

“Under the reign of terror of Herod the Great and against all odds, Mary and Joseph survive as young parents in one of the most treacherous times in history,” Aloe Entertainment writes on the company’s web site, going on to discuss Osteen’s executive production role. ”Minister Joel Osteen of Lakewood Church, the most prominent Christian Evangelical minister in the world, has signed on his first movie ever as Executive Producer with a massive marketing and promotion plan.”

Osteen, too, has talked about the project, providing a glowing description of Mary’s depiction in it.

“Mary is portrayed as a brave, faithful young woman who readily embraces her divine destiny regardless of the sacrifices and hardships she must endure,” Osteen said of the project‘s depiction of Jesus Christ’s mother.

Read more here.

The commonly-held belief is that Christian schools promote good values. But one Australian university professor claims just the opposite — that faith-based schools go against societal norms. Professor Marion Maddox, who serves as the director for research on social inclusion at Macquarie University in Australia, isn’t shy about her disdain for Christian education.

And with an increase of Australian student attending these schools, the educator recently stated her distress over the phenomenon, as she lamented the increased growth and acceptance of ”Christianisation.”

“The fact that an increasing proportion of students are being educated in schools that determinedly disavow those values of inclusion and equality that we think of as Australian is a cause for concern,” Maddox told the Brisbane Times last week. ”There are plenty of cases of teachers who have been sacked, or students who have been expelled because of their sexuality or sexual behaviour in ways that would be prohibited by law if they were state schools, and yet these schools take government money and cite religious freedom, and that‘s something we haven’t really had a public debate about.”

Clearly, Maddox takes issue with the notion that religious schools create strict moral codes that students and faculty, alike, are expected to live by. She went on to highlight the case of an unmarried teacher who became pregnant and who was subsequently fired from her position at a Christian college in Australia. The teacher, who had signed a “lifestyle agreement,” was let go for violating it.

In America, these same issues are being debated. Recently, Shorter University, a higher education facility in Rome, Georgia, decided to ask its employees to sign a controversial pledge that affirms that they are not engaging in homosexuality, among other forbidden activities. As a result more than 50 employees allegedly resigned.

But beyond individuals’ rights, Maddox also attacked Christian values in terms of their alleged propensity to lead to a poor education. Creationism, rather than evolution, she says, diminishes students’ ability to learn actual “scientific” terms. Additionally, she said that Christian schools would “teach an unusual approach to citizenship, so that God’s law is more important than the law.”

Read more here.

I’m going to get out of the way here and just let NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg explain to you the logic behind his proposed ban on sugary drinks over 16 ounces. Because really, once he starts admitting it‘s his government’s role to “force” people to do things, he kind of buries himself.

“The idea here is, you tend to eat all the food in the container in front of you,” Bloomberg said on MSNBC Thursday afternoon. “If it’s a bigger container, you eat more. If somebody put it in a smaller glass or plate or bowl in front of you, you would eat less.”

And then there’s this: “We’re not taking away anybody’s right to do things, we’re simply forcing you to understand that you have to make the conscious decision to go from one cup to another cup.”

“It’s not perfect, it’s not the only answer, it’s not the only cause of people being overweight – but we’ve got to do something,” he added. “We have an obligation to warn you when things are not good for your health.”

And: “I would just like to … force the consumer to hopefully move over to the less fattening drinks and everybody will be better off.”

Catch that? He’s not taking away your rights, but he’s forcing you into something he wants.

Watch him, below:

A flurry of news media reports last week highlighted a Harlem public elementary school that will become the first in New York to require students to study Arabic.

Entirely unreported is that the organization that co-created and funded the Arabic language program for the New York school, WND has found, maintains close ties to the Muslim Brotherhood, while the group’s founder also started the Al Jazeera television network.

The Qatar Foundation International, or QFI, a nonprofit group financed by the government of Qatar, gave Harlem’s Hamilton Heights, a K-5 public school, a $250,000 grant to support the Arabic program for three years.

The school’s Arabic language program was reportedly developed by QFI and the the Global Language Project.

In addition to the Harlem school, WND found that QFI just awarded “Curriculum Grants” to seven U.S. schools and language organizations to “develop comprehensive and innovative curricula and teaching materials to be used in any Arabic language classroom.”

The schools include Bell High School, a Los Angeles public school, and Safford K-8 in Arizona’s Tucson Unified School District.

QFI, based in Washington, D.C., is the U.S. branch of the Qatar Foundation, founded in 1995 by Qatar’s ruling emir, Sheikha Hind bint Hamad Al Thani.

Thani is still the group’s vice-chairman, while his wife, Sheikha Moza bint Nasser, chairs the organization’s board.

Thani also launched Al Jazeera in 1996 and served as the television network’s chairman.

The Qatar foundation is close to the Muslim Brotherhood.

In January, it launched the Research Center for Islamic Legislation and Ethics under the guidance of Tariq Ramadan, who serves as the center’s director.

Ramadan is the grandson of the notorious founder of the Muslim Brotherhood, Hassan al Banna. Ramadan was banned from the U.S. until 2010 when the Obama administration issued him a visa to give a lecture at a New York school.

The Qatar Foundation, meanwhile, named several institutions after Yusuf al-Qaradawi, one of the top leaders of the Muslim Brotherhood. Many regard Qaradawi as the de facto spiritual leader of Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood.

The foundation instituted the Sheikh Yusuf Al Qaradawi Scholarships and in 2009 established a research center named the Qaradawi Center for Islamic Moderation and Renewal.

Qaradawi has personally attended scores of foundation events, including conferences at which he served as a keynote speaker.

Read more here.

During the 11 a.m. hour on MSNBC hosted by Thomas Roberts, Texas Democratic Rep. Shelia Jackson Lee warned of a worst case scenario if a bill proposed by Arizona Republican Rep. Trent Franks to put limitations on sex-selective abortions is signed into law.

Jackson Lee said that, despite “unanimous support” against these sort of abortions, women would be physically removed from clinics if Frank’s proposed law were to be put into effect.

“I think the next act will be dragging women out of patient rooms into the streets and screaming over their bodies as they get dragged out of getting access to women’s health care,” she said. “That’s what I feel like is occurring today with the legislation that is on the floor. Thomas, first of all, there is bipartisan and unilateral and unanimous support that we should not have agenda-based abortions for the sake of getting one gender over another. That’s a human, humane and humanitarian issue that none of us quarrel with.”

Jackson Lee explained her opposition stems from what she sees as the bill’s the invasion of privacy, and called the legislation “Draconian.”

“This bill is a direct intrusion into the relationship between patient and physician. We realize that there is a suggestion that cultures around the world do this, but in order to change those cultures, this legislation will not work,” she said. “What you really need is an affirmation of the value of women, and today PRENDA [Prenatal Non-discrimation Act] is an affirmation of the devaluing of woman because what it does is demonizes the physician and the woman, particularly here in the United States.”

“And it suggests, it puts on them the idea that they’re going go in and have an abortion for a dastardly reason other than the choice and the personal need and the faith conversation and medical needs of that particular patient. This is a Draconian, drastic initiative and, frankly, it should go down today.”

She went on to say such legislation is a slippery slope and opens the doors to invasions of privacy.

“But I cannot find in anyway this bill any legitimacy by criminalizing, incarcerating doctors,” she added. “We’re going back to the days of coat hangers. That’s what they want to do — they want to criminalize doctors because what that says is how do you know that a doctor is engaged in helping a woman abort because of the particular gender of the fetus?”

Read more here.

Either the “One Million Moms” boycotts have been totally ineffectual, or there’s someone in JCPenney’s marketing department that really, really enjoys messing with the group.

With its latest catalog, and just in time for Father’s Day, the department store is once again making itself perfectly clear: it has no problem with same-sex couples.

The two men in the ad are “real-life dads Todd Koch and Cooper Smith,” and the two children are their kids, Claire and Mason, according to Gawker.

“First Pals: What makes Dad so cool?” reads the ad’s copy. “He’s the swim coach, tent maker, best friend, bike fixer and hug giver – all rolled into one. Or two.”

As hinted at in the above, this isn’t a first for JCPenney. Back in May, the department store ran an ad featuring two lesbian mothers:

Read and See more here.