What would Batman eat?

In the ongoing battle to get children to eat healthfully, parents may do well invoking the names of superheroes to come to their rescue, say Cornell researchers.

Just as Popeye inspired a generation to eat spinach, such role models as Spiderman or Batman could help children make healthy choices, according to Brian Wansink, the John S. Dyson Professor of Marketing and director of the Cornell Food and Brand Lab.

Wansink, with postdoctoral researcher Mitsuru Shimizu and visiting graduate student Guido Camps of Utrecht University in the Netherlands, conducted a study in which 22 children, ages 6-12, at a summer camp were asked if they wanted “apple fries” (thinly sliced raw apples) or French fries during several consecutive Wednesday lunches.

During one of those lunches, the children were first presented with 12 photos of real and fictional role models and asked, “Would this person order apple fries or French fries?”

The researchers hypothesized that children who thought admirable models would eat well would activate positive associations towards healthful food and become more likely to choose apple fries over French fries.

The results supported this theory: 10 (45 percent) of the children selected apple fries after viewing pictures of superheroes and other role models, compared with the two (9 percent) who chose apple fries during other lunches with no prompts. The study was published in the journal Pediatric Obesity in April.

“Fast food patronage is a frequent reality for many children and their parents. Simply instructing a parent to order healthier food for a child is neither empowering for a child nor easy for a parent,” Wansink said. “Advising a parent to ask their child ‘What would Batman eat?’ might be a realistic step to take in what could be a healthier fast-food world.

“On average, children who selected apple fries consumed only 34 calories whereas children who selected French fries consumed 227 calories. That’s almost seven times as many calories just from the side dish of the meal,” he added. “If you eat fast food once a week, a small switch from French fries to apple fries could save your children almost three pounds of weight a year.”

What do their parents eat? My wife was the first to note that when we discuss recipes, watch a FoodTV show and compare what we like – I always point out which was a recipe my mom or grandmother made for us, which was specially loved by my father.

Do parents today function as nonentities in the lives of children — their food choices mean nothing?

SCOTUS hides from coppers tasering pregnant woman


Malaika Brooks and her baby girl

A “defiant” pregnant woman who was subjected to three Taser stun gun shocks by law enforcement officers after refusing to sign a speeding ticket will not get her appeal addressed by the Supreme Court.

The justices without comment Tuesday rejected separate petitions from both Malaika Brooks and the Seattle Police officers sued for excessive force…

Hundreds of such Taser-related lawsuits have been working their way through lower state and federal courts, but the Supreme Court so far has refused to address the issue of what the officers call “a useful pain technique.”

Brooks was seven months pregnant and driving her 11-year-old son to school in 2004. Police clocked her going 32 miles per hour in a 20 mph school zone. She handed over her driver’s license but denied wrongdoing.

A speeding citation was issued but the woman refused to sign it as state law required. Brooks later claimed she mistakenly believed signing the ticket was an admission of guilt. An argument ensued with two police officers. A federal appeals court later said, “she remained defiant even after (Officer) Jones told her she’d be arrested if she continued to refuse.”

The word that these coppers used before editing by the shift captain — probably was “uppity”!

A police sergeant soon arrived and informed the motorist that force would be applied if she did not get out of her vehicle as ordered. Brooks refused. A Taser electro-shock weapon was displayed, and officers warned her it would be used if there was further resistance. Brooks explained her pregnancy, and later claimed one of the officers replied, “Well, don’t do it in her stomach, do it in her thigh.”
The Taser was applied in a “drive-stun” mode three times in a one-minute span — in her thigh, arm, then neck, according to court testimony.

Brooks fell out of the vehicle, was dragged onto the street face down, and then was handcuffed

A federal appeals court in San Francisco eventually issued a split decision, finding excessive force was used, but saying the officers could not be sued because “it was not sufficiently clear” in the law at the time that what they were doing was a constitutional violation…

RTFA for the details. Poisonally, I see nothing wrong with requiring police officers to have a brain and a bit of education about law, health, communication.

Add in a little humanity just for giggles and you might have a copper with good sense.

Then you have the conservative-dominated Supreme Court of the United States. A group with great responsibility – and apparently governed by cupidity, cowardice and a convenience store schedule. Their convenience.

Combo Post: Dumb crook of the day tries for Darwin Award


Thomas sitting in the cab before he fell to his death

A nearly 15-hour standoff ended early Tuesday in Dallas when a robbery suspect who climbed atop a construction crane on the campus of Southern Methodist University fell 150 feet to his death.

Lee Dell Thomas Jr., 44, had barricaded himself in the crane’s cab Monday. He fell after Dallas police sent four officers up the crane to try to remove him…

Thomas had one leg inside and one leg outside the window of the compartment. Then, he clung to the crane’s edge for a moment before falling to his death just before 2 a.m. Tuesday.

Thomas may have been involved in a robbery in Dallas, police said…

Thomas was spotted in the crane’s control cab around 11:30 a.m. Monday, apparently trying to avoid arrest, local affiliates reported. Shortly afterward, he threw an unidentified object from the cab.

The crane was being used to build a housing area near the football stadium, according to CNN affiliate KTVT. The crane is also next to the George W. Bush Presidential Library, which is under construction.

Video from KTVT showed the silhouette of a man holed up in the cab of the crane, refusing to come down.

Local affiliates at the scene said Thomas got sick inside the cab Monday, possibly because the compartment didn’t have air-conditioning. Members of the media saw him take off his shirt and shoes, break out a window and toss his clothing out.

Another one bites the dust – pretty much literally. How do you hide from the law in a dead end 150 feet in the air?

Dumb crook of the day caught by a friend’s dedication to Elvis


Wife, hubby – and some dead singer

A father of four who faked his own death to claim more than £850,000 in insurance was caught when a friend attempted to use his HMV staff discount card to buy an Elvis CD, a court heard.

Hugo Jose Sanchez, 57, who worked as a web designer for the music retailer, orchestrated an elaborate plot involving his wife Sophie to embezzle a fortune and start a new life in Central America…

Oxford Crown Court heard that Sanchez was working as a web designer for HMV and living in Farnham, Surrey, when he came up with his plan in 2003.

Over the following year he took out seven separate credit cards and built up large debts, before applying for a £500,000 life insurance policy. He also had loans with payment protection that would be paid in full in the event of his death…

Sanchez took out another series of loans before flying to Ecuador alone. In 2005 his wife informed the authorities that her husband had died and his remains had been cremated. On production of his death certificate she collected large sums from the insurers before returning to Central America. She also received a death benefit payment of £112,000 from HMV and began to receive pension payments.

The couple then moved to Sydney, but the authorities had already uncovered their plot due to an attempt by a friend of Sanchez, Malcolm Jackson, to use the HMV staff discount card. Simon Heptonstall, prosecuting said: “This scheme began to unravel with a simple CD purchase. Mr Sanchez had given his staff discount card to a good friend, having said it had been approved by HMV.”

Mr Jackson was arrested and tried to ring his friend from the police station. Sanchez hung up but inquiries uncovered the fraud.

Sanchez was extradited from Australia in March following a request from Thames Valley Police’s economic crime unit.

Har! That some crooks have sufficient ego problems they must bring their friends in on the fraud – and offer stupid largesse like giving someone a charge card – is almost beyond belief.

Death rate drops among Americans with diabetes

People with diabetes are living longer, according to a new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Between 1997 and 2004, the percentage of people with diabetes who died from any cause dropped 23 percent, and the percentage of people who died from heart disease or stroke dropped 40 percent, the report says.

Improved treatments for heart disease, better management of diabetes and healthy lifestyle changes contributed to the decline in death rates, the researchers said. People with diabetes were less likely to smoke and more likely to be physically active than in the past…

However, obesity rates among people with diabetes continued to increase…

Although adults with diabetes are more likely to die younger than those who do not have the disease, the gap is narrowing. Currently, diabetes is estimated to contribute to an extra two deaths from heart disease per 1,000 people, and an extra six deaths from any cause per 1,000 people, the report said.

Because people with diabetes are living longer, and the rate of new cases being diagnosed is increasing, scientists expect that the total number of people with the disease will continue to rise, the CDC says.

The number of Americans diagnosed with diabetes has more than tripled since 1980, primarily due to increases in the number of people with Type 2 diabetes, which is closely linked to a rise in obesity, inactivity and older age.

The CDC estimates that 25.8 million Americans have diabetes, and 7 million of them do not know they have the disease.

Offhand, I can’t think of any part of being a cranky old geek that doesn’t benefit from an active lifestyle. I don’t have diabetes; but, weight and age qualifies me for pre-diabetic.

Yes, you have to be careful, maybe add a touch of caution to your daily life. I tend to carry a cane with me on my walks not so much to aid the pace; but, to have something to lean on if I stop for a 30-second breather. Or to have it handy to help myself back up if I fall on my butt.

Still, I maintain 45 minutes to an hour walking every day, pretty much every day. Every year I seem to eat a little bit less and the food I consume is heart-healthier. That always seems to help the whole critter. I weigh 50 lbs less than my weight several years ago.

If you’re up for the dry-as-dust report, here’s a link to the .pdf.

Vatican worries that the Pope’s butler scandal erodes trust

The Vatican acknowledged Monday that the newest crisis in Pope Benedict XVI’s papacy was damaging trust in the church, even as it tried to contain a scandal that has sent the Italian news media into a frenzy since the pope’s butler was arrested days ago and accused of leaking the pontiff’s confidential correspondence.

Italian news media have suggested that the butler, Paolo Gabriele, could not — and would not — have acted alone, and several newspapers suggested that a cardinal was the guiding force behind the dissemination of the documents.

“It is painful to see such a negative image” emerge of the Holy See, The Vatican spokesman, the Rev. Federico Lombardi told reporters hastily convened for a briefing. The scandals “put trust in the church and the Holy See to the test.” He added, “That’s why we must confront them directly and not hide.”

The arrest last Wednesday of Mr. Gabriele in connection with the illegal possession of confidential documents was the latest act in a scandal called Vatileaks, which has been punctuated by the periodic release of correspondence laying bare conflicts and clashes within the Holy See, including internal accusations of cronyism and corruption…

Mr. Gabriele, who has been the pope’s butler since 2006, is being held in a Vatican detention facility and on Monday morning he met with his wife and his lawyers. One lawyer, Carlo Fusco, said that his client would “cooperate fully” with Vatican magistrates investigating the leaked documents.

The first question that comes to mind is one of semantics. In practice what the Vatican and the Pope means by “trust” – is obedience.

Then there is the question of transparency. History tells us that “transparency” in an investigation of the Vatican and the papacy – means blind acceptance of whatever tale is proffered. If and when time passes and the real truth is discovered – that’s just another question for another time.