Produced by Gary Drevitch
SCHEDULED LATER THIS FALL: A JAUNDICE JAMBOREE, A CONJUNCTIVITIS CARNIVAL, AND MUMPS-A-PALOOZA
The New York Times City section ran a remarkably nonjudgmental story yesterday about a group of Brooklyn moms who abstain from the decade-old chicken-pox vaccine. The group recently celebrated the news that one of their children had actually caught the pox by bringing all their kids over to touch the four-year-old's sores and get the illness themselves:
Elizabeth Rucell, the mother of Willem and Gemma Marx, 3, recently posted a note reading: "Chickenpox: We got 'em. Want 'em?" in the child care room of the Park Slope Food Co-op and on a home schooling e-mail list she subscribes to.
These moms say they're following the example of an earlier generation of parents, for whom chicken pox parties were common. The logic, at the time, was solid: A childhood case of the chicken pox virtually guarantees lifelong immunity, which is important because adult-onset chicken pox can be far more serious. Of course, a major factor in favor of pox parties back in the day was . . . THERE WAS NO CHICKEN-POX VACCINE THEN!
But maybe we're just not being open-minded about it. Maybe we too should decline the vaccine and simply expose our own kids to their pox-infected peers in the hope that they'll start popping as well. After all, childhood pox is only a serious health risk in 1 in 10,000 cases, so the risk is minimal. On the other hand, the vaccine has helped the country avoid almost 13,000 annual cases of chicken pox, and 100-150 deaths. It's also delivered $62 million in yearly health-care savings. But we're sure these moms know what they're doing. And if any of their kids should scratch their pox marks so much that they bleed, we're sure they'll treat the cuts with some fresh leeches instead of Band-Aids, because if it made sense 600 years ago, it surely still makes sense today.
NOW WE KNOW WHY LADIES LOVE COOL FREELANCE DAD
Playgirl (slogan: "Yes, we're still publishing") recently surveyed its readers and discovered that instead of the hairless hunks most often featured in the magazine, American women really like to come home to heavyset, hirsute lugs. But we knew that all along.
"YOU WANT A MOUNTAIN DEW, KID? COME SEE US WHEN YOU'RE 18."
The American Beverage Association, working to evade proposed legislation restricting the sale of their products in at least 38 states, announced last week that it will voluntarily limit soda sales in school vending machines nationwide. From here on in, according to the new guidelines, only water and 100% juice drinks* will be sold in elementary-school vending machines (who the Hell put soft-drink vending machines in elementary schools anyway?); only juice, water, and diet soda will be sold in middle-school machines; and in high schools, no more than 50% of vending-machine product will be soft drinks (although that could include full-calorie sodas). In a handy Q and A, however, the beverage association sticks to its guns about its place in the childhood obesity debate:
Q7. Does the school vending policy mean that soft drink manufacturers recognize that their products are unhealthy?
A. Absolutely not . . . We believe soft drinks can be an appropriate beverage choice for young people who are physically active and following a balanced diet. As with other products sold in schools, the sale of beverages in schools raises unique issues because parents cannot directly supervise the choices their children make in the school environment.
Q8. Are you now saying that you agree with those who claim that increased soft drink consumption is a major contributor to growing rates of childhood obesity?
A. Absolutely not. Obesity is a complex problem and singling out one food or drink defies science and common sense. Causes of obesity include lack of exercise, consuming excessive calories, lifestyle, genetics, and other factors. Numerous scientific studies have found no association between increased soft drink consumption and obesity. The best way to combat childhood obesity is to promote a balanced diet and lifestyle with daily physical exercise. Many people have a role in a child’s nutritional health, starting with parents...
The association is right, of course -- kids getting fat by drinking sodas purchased in school vending machines isn't their fault. If anything, it's the fault of the schools who let the machines on their grounds in the first place. This morning, though, the Times talks to critics of the policy shift who claim it does not go far enough and that, most important, the drinks which will replace sodas in school machines - iced teas, fruit drinks, and demon Gatorade - all contain nearly as many calories as full-calorie soda. Sadly, they're right:
"Any school that would even offer these types of things to children is misinformed about the basics of good nutrition," said Penny McConnell, director of food and nutrition services at Fairfax County Public Schools in Virginia.
[* perhaps the #1 culprit in childhood obesity, by the way; more on that below]
AND SMALL FELLOW WANTS TO KNOW WHY WE DON'T LET HIM WATCH "POWER RANGERS" RERUNS
A former "Power Rangers" star has been hauled in on murder charges in California. It remains to be seen whether his defense - that his victim was in fact the evil Lord Zedd in a clever disguise - will hold water with the jury.
AND NOW FOR TODAY'S INSTALLMENT OF "BAD MEDICAL NEWS FOR TINY GIRL"
A study from Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston has found that just one additional serving of french fries a week for girls age 3-5 increases their chance of eventually contracting breast cancer by 27%.
WE'VE TRIED TO PUT TINY GIRL ON THE NO-FLY LIST, BUT SHE KEEPS JUMPING OFF THE COUCH ANYWAY
Apparently, a number of infants and toddlers who share the same name as people on the government's anti-terror no-fly list have been denied passage on airliners by Transportation Security Administration (TSA) agents, stranding families across the country.
The good news is the TSA has instructed airport security agents not to deny passage to kids under 12 whose names match those on the no-fly lists. The bad news is that since reports indicate that tots continue to be detained at airports in every part of the U.S., this is not a particularly good sign of the agency's ability to communicate policy changes to the field.
IF OUR FATHER HAD JUST BUILT US OUR OWN BALLPARK AND HIRED SPARKY ANDERSON TO TRAIN US, WE COULD BE A WASHED-UP SEMIPRO BALLPLAYER NOW
A Connecticut family has built a $6 million state-of-the-art soccer facility and hired Tony DiCicco, the former coach of the U.S. national women's team, to turn their nine-year-old daughter, Nicole, and her friends into World Cup-caliber prospects. Her father, Sebastian DiTomasso, concedes:
"They probably shouldn't even be playing this level of soccer at this age. But everybody else is doing it, so either you jump on the bandwagon, or ... "
Yes, everybody else is building multimillion-dollar training fields to get their daughters in shape for travel-team competition, especially since the recent comments by Harvard's president have led so many parents to shy away from pushing their girls into careers in the sciences. As for DiCicco, who made his name coaching Mia Hamm & Co., he has no worries about what he's gotten himself into:
" . . . pro coaches can better control the behavior of parents on the sideline because they'll listen to us . . . I don't have to identify myself with my youth club's success. I've already identified myself with a world championship team. With a lot of these parent-coaches, the team is their identity. They get so caught up in winning that they lose perspective on what's needed in terms of player development."
Right. Nicole's dad is going to be easy to control on the sidelines. He's probably just a big old pussycat and so if for some reason you decide to limit Nicole's playing time next season, Tony, he'll be just fine with that. We're sure he built a 130,000 square-foot soccer arena with four indoor fields, each covered with the latest artificial turf, just because he wants all the kids to have a good time. So win, lose, or draw, Tony, just drive the girls to Friendly's for a burger and shake after the game, and everyone will be happy.
THE ORIGINAL STEEL MODEL REMAINS FAR SUPERIOR TO THE CHEAP PLASTIC KNOCKOFFS THE KIDS GET IN THEIR BIRTHDAY PARTY GOODY BAGS
The Slinky has turned 60. And, no, we've never gotten one all the way down a flight of stairs, either.
AND YOU STILL WON'T LET YOUR TWO-YEAR-OLD CLIMB THE LADDER AT YOUR LOCAL PLAYGROUND?
A two-year-old British boy just climbed England's tallest mountain, apparently fueled only by a bunch of chocolate biscuits. He may one day become a great track champion in the John Belushi mold.
RIGHT WING TALK RADIO HOSTS, START YOUR ENGINES
One of the shooters in the 1998 Jonesboro, Arkansas, school murders has been released from a juvenile facility after just seven years. Since he served his time as a juvenile, Mitchell Johnson, who helped kill five people, has no criminal record and can even legally buy a gun. His parents aren’t saying where he’ll go now that he’s out, "but his mother says it won’t be Jonesboro." Which seems wise.
THE NAME OF THE RIDE HAS BEEN CHANGED FROM CALIFORNIA SCREAMIN' TO CALIFORNIA POOPIN' IN YOUR PANTS
A tough summer for Disney theme parks continued as one train rear-ended another on the "California Screamin"’ roller coaster at the company's California Adventure theme park last week, injuring 15. It's just one of several fatal and near-fatal ride incidents on the Mouse's ledger this season. And literally adding insult to injury, the Times travel section last week bashed the service at Disney's Florida resorts:
... we were experiencing little of the celebrated Disney ''magic,'' that bend-over-backward brand of service. Instead, our family vacation was turning into a part-nightmarish, part-comical adventure that I quickly took to describing as Disney meets ''Fawlty Towers'' meets the ''Twilight Zone.''
I CAN'T BELIEVE IT'S NOT WONDER BREAD
Because it's easier to spend millions of dollars developing an entirely new grain than to convince American families that they should eat whole-grain bread instead of mushy white, ConAgra has unveiled Ultragrain White Whole Wheat, which Sara Lee is using to make a 30%-whole-grain bread that imitates the look and texture of white.
While nutritionists debate the merits of Ultragrain, products made with it are already coming to cafeterias in 2,600 school districts. Tammy Yarmon, director of nutrition services for Omaha Public Schools, says:
One of our main goals is the education of our students for better nutrition. So we will use some education with this pizza to let them know it does have more fiber than regular pizza crust.
Which has inspired a new slogan for the Omaha public schools: Come for the pizza, stay for the education.
BEISBOL, SI! DISCRIMINATION, NO!
A Little League umpire in Massachusetts has been banned by his league after he ordered players to stop speaking Spanish on the field. The umpire was apparently concerned that the teammates and their coach might be using Spanish to communicate secretly .... kind of like how players are coaches use hand signals. The offending team was leading 3-1 at the time of the umpire's ruling, but went on to lose, 10-6, leading the coach to insist, "We would have won if not for that filthy cabron!"
REASON #79 WE'RE NOT MOVING TO MISSISSIPPI
Anyone who thought there was nowhere left in America where public-school students could have their rumps paddled, welcome to Mississippi, the Magnolia State. To be fair, 22 other states also allow corporal punishment in their schools. But non-parental physical abuse may not be as welcome anywhere else.
The U.S. Department of Education ranks Mississippi as the nation's top paddling state with nearly 10 percent of public school students paddled every year. In poorer parts of the state, where more children are from minority and single-parent families, corporal punishment is even more common ...
Supporters contend that it sustains orderly and disciplined schools, which represent a child's best hope for social and academic advancement.
Hold on a second - we've got to check our class notes. We thought we had heard that good teachers and a lively curriculum represented a child's best hope for social and academic advancement, but in our defense, our rear end was really smarting from a paddling that day, and we were feeling so bitter and resentful about it that we couldn't really pay attention.