Wednesday Morning Open Thread

What’s up? Let’s call this the environmental health edition.

Is anyone else disturbed by Canada pulling out of the Kyoto Protocol? If you recall, it was a worldwide initiative — without the United States, of course — to combat global warming. Often I wonder what kind of world we are leaving our children.

The Environmental Integrity Project released a list of the top 25 most polluting power plants in the United States. It also broke it down by state and which toxins are emitted by plants in those states:

Pennsylvania (#1 rankings for arsenic and lead);
Ohio (#2 rankings for mercury and selenium);
Indiana (#4 rankings for chromium and nickel);
Kentucky  (#2 for arsenic); and
Texas (#1 rankings for mercury and selenium).

Some of the power plants, let by Southern Company, are fighting new Mercury and Air Toxics standards slated to kick in this week. First, they said that it would cost them jobs, even though smaller power plants have implemented filters for these toxins and support the new rules. Now they are saying that the new rules will cause blackouts. Two different utility CEOs wrote letters to the Wall Street Journal slapping down this argument, too.

Enough is enough. Please sign this petition to let President Obama know that you support the new Mercury and Air Toxics standards. MomsRising sent out a petition as well, highlighting the fact that arsenic is in our children’s juice boxes. This is important as this would be the first major piece of environmental legislation introduced since an update to the Clean Air Act 20 years ago to protect our children’s health and that of future generations. It is long overdue.  

Finally, I learned from Arlene Blum, a scientist and expert on flame retardants, that 10% of Fanta Orange, Mountain Dew and Fresca soft drinks are…you got it…brominated vegetable oils (BVOs), which were first developed as flame retardants. BVOs, by the way, are prohibited in soft drinks in Europe and in Japan. Ugh.

In NON-environmental news, Jennifer Garner and Ben Affleck are expecting their third child, according to MSN Wonderwall.

What else is in the news? What’s up with you?



Wednesday Morning Open Thread

What’s up?

Let’s call this the celebrity gossip edition. I can’t listen to the radio in the morning without a mention of Larry King’s possible divorce to wife No. 7, Shawn Southwick. According to media reports like this one, King, 76, filed for divorce from Southwick, 50, after courting his wife’s younger sister Shannon. But then I spotted this ABC News report that they are in counseling and the divorce may not happen. Who knew the interviewer had a juicier personal life than the people on his show!

Holy crap. Did you hear about the Canadian lap-dancing teachers? They were apparently YouTube sensations and have been forced to resign from their jobs for simulating a lap dance and oral sex at a school pep rally. Here is an Associated Press story on it.

I have been reading bits and pieces in the press about Kitty Kelley’s biography on Oprah Winfrey. Needless to say, it doesn’t sound like she makes Oprah look good. Perhaps not surprisingly, Oprah was spotted at an event calling it a “so-called biography” and dumping it in the trash in front of her audience, according to eCanadaNow. Will you be reading Kelley’s book?

People magazine ran a sweet profile on Roger Ebert and his wife, Chaz, on how they cope with his cancer.

This sounds nasty: 7-Eleven is making its own budget-priced beer, according to the Associated Press. I did not know this, but the convenience store is the third largest retailer of beer in the country.

What else is in the news? What’s up with you?


Canadian Parents Negotiate “No Homework” Agreement

We have discussed the mounting piles of homework and debated their value several times here at MotherTalkers. One Canadian family – lawyers, unsuprisingly – have taken their objections to homework to a new level and negotiated an agreement with their children’s school and teachers, agreeing that homework won’t be used as a basis of grade evaluation so long as the children keep up with classwork and perform well on tests.

a Canadian couple have just won a legal battle to exempt their offspring from homework after successfully arguing there is no clear evidence it improves academic performance.

Sherri and Tom Milley, two lawyers from Calgary, Alberta, launched their highly unusual case after years of struggling to make their three reluctant children do school work out of the classroom.

After waging a long war with their eldest son, Jay, now 18, over his homework, they decided to do things differently with their youngest two, Spencer, 11, and Brittany, 10. And being lawyers, they decided to make it official.

It took two years to negotiate the Milleys’ Differentiated Homework Plan, which ensures their youngest two children will never have to do homework again at their current school. The two-page plan, signed by the children, parents and teachers, stipulates that “homework will not be used as a form of evaluation for the children”. In return, the pupils promise to get their work done in class, to come to school prepared, and to revise for tests. They must also read daily and practise their musical instruments at home.

This is a very interesting outcome and I wonder how it’ll work and whether other parents at the school will take up the same cause. What do you think? Would you attempt a similar path with your child(ren)’s school(s)?


Friday Morning Open Thread

What’s up?

Excuse my geeking out right now. But I got to see an advanced screening of Capitalism: A Love Story and meet filmmaker Michael Moore! I will post a review and pictures later today.

I was freaked out by this Mamapedia recommendation on books for raising boys. No. 1 on the list was Dr. James Dobson’s Bringing Up Boys. Yikes! He is the right-wing Christian who believes in corporal punishment on children. I voted for Raising Cain myself.

Also, I am still following the debate surrounding toxic flame retardants in the foam of baby gear and came across this interesting tidbit: According to the Green Science Policy Institute, Ikea has agreed to discontinue its use of flame retardants like chlorinated tris, or TDCP, and TCPP. However, it has not agreed to discontinue the use of flame retardants in the United States and Canada because of California’s fire safety requirement TB117, the only regulation in the country to require the use of these chemicals in furniture.

President Obama is making his case for health insurance reform to college students, according to the Associated Press.

What else is in the news? What’s up with you?


Midday Coffee Break

What’s up?

I am posting the midday coffee break a little early as I need your help. Remember the BPA ban for baby products I was advocating for here in California? After an emotional day of testimony yesterday, that vote in the Assembly was delayed until today, according to the Los Angeles Times.

While the Republicans overwhelmingly opposed it, a few Democrats sided with big industry by opposing it. Rep. Jose Solorio of Santa Ana, for example, said the formula companies couldn’t comply with the law by eliminating toxic BPA from their cans. Right. Because other places that prohibit BPA in baby products — Minnesota, Connecticut, Japan and Canada — have no baby formula. The worst part about this argument is that low-income mothers are least likely to have access to BPA-free products.

It isn’t too late to call your Assemblymembers, CA moms! If you live in, especially, southern California please call your Assemblymember. We are also targeting a few key legislators to get them to change their “no” votes to YES votes on SB 797:

  1. Wilmer Amina – Carter 916-319-2062
  1. Alyson Huber- 916-319-2010
  1. Norma Torres- 916-319-2061

We have even provided a script to help you out:

“Hello, My name is _____________________ and I am calling on behalf of Moms in California in favor of supporting SB 797 to get the chemical bisphenol-A out of baby bottles and formula cans.
I know that the Assemblymember has one last chance to support this bill today through an “aye“ vote when it is up for reconsideration. I am greatly concerned that as a mother, Assemblymember ____________ is unwilling to protect the state’s children herself. I am urging her support of SB 797 today.

Thank you for your time!“

I know this is in the middle of your work day, but PLEASE pick up the phone and make one or two calls! It really does make a difference. Thank you for protecting our kids from BPA.

In other health news, Morra Aarons Mele over at BlogHer gave an excellent overview of the historic battle for the government-run, public option Medicare as it relates to today’s discussion on healthcare reform. Also in BlogHer: Maria Niles wrote an impressive overview of all the healthcare systems in the world. In other words, the “for-profit-vs-socialist” debate is a simplistic view of the healthcare debate.

From the PhD in Parenting blog: A Canadian mom gave a detailed description of the single-payer medical system in Canada, which I want to point out, is NOT what is being proposed by Congress or President Obama.

In non-health news: Actor Tony Danza is co-teaching an English class at a high school in Philadelphia for a reality show on A&E called “Teach,” according to AP.

What else is in the news? What’s up with you?


Midday Coffee Break

What’s up?

Actress Kyra Sedgwick (The Closer) gave an inspiring interview to Ladies’ Home Journal on raising two children — who are now 17 and 20 — while working on the opposite coast. She did not achieve her success until recently in her 40s and after years of staying home with the kids. She has been married to actor Kevin Bacon for 22 years. Very cool.

One more inspiring story in LHJ: The magazine profiled Sarah Thomas, the first female referee for the National Football League. This 35-year-old mother of two went from being a pharmaceutical representative to referee — by actually attending a ref camp. LHJ did not run the article online, but I found many articles on her, including this ESPN one.

The Associated Press had a story about “Stockholm Syndrome,” in which kidnapped people begin to identify with their captors and resist running away from them. The article was written in light of the Jaycee Lee Dugard case.

Also in AP: There is a story on the Canadian healthcare system, which unlike anything proposed by the Obama Administration, is still being dragged into our healthcare debate.

What else is in the news? What’s up with you?


U.S. Still Debating BPA in Baby Bottles

Enough studies have declared the plastic chemical Bisphenol A (BPA) toxic that Canada has banned it in baby bottles.

But here in the United States, scientists are still trying to convince the Food and Drug Administration to take another look at its stance — and research — on BPA. From a recent article in the Washington Post:

In a highly critical report to be released today, the panel of scientists from government and academia said the FDA did not take into consideration scores of studies that have linked bisphenol A (BPA) to prostate cancer, diabetes and other health problems in animals when it completed a draft risk assessment of the chemical last month. The panel said the FDA didn’t use enough infant formula samples and didn’t adequately account for variations among the samples.

Taking those studies into consideration, the panel concluded, the FDA’s margin of safety is “inadequate”. The panel is part of the Science Board, a committee of advisers to the FDA commissioner, and was set up to review the FDA’s risk assessment of BPA.

Many of the studies that the panel said the FDA ignored were reviewed by the National Toxicology Program, which concluded in September that it had “some concern” that BPA can affect brain and behavioral development in infants and small children.

Officials at FDA, which regulates the chemical’s use in plastic food containers, bottles, tableware and the plastic linings of food cans, accepted some of the criticism in the report.

“FDA agrees that due to the uncertainties raised in some studies relating to the potential effects of low doses of bisphenol-A that additional research would be valuable,” said spokeswoman Judy Leon. The agency has commissioned new research on BPA.

And yes, I plan to stick with my glass baby bottles.


“Parent” Versus “Mommy” Play Groups

Daddy blogger At Home Dad has been following a case in Canada, in which a dad was banned from a play group because he is a man. At least one mom has left the play group in protest.

According to the publication Surrey Now of Canada, Rick Kaselj, father of an infant son, was told he could not join the Cloverdale Mothers Group for the “security of our children and especially since you have not been able to attend a meetup.”

Kaselj wonders why something wasn’t said earlier when he first joined online and is really puzzled about the reference to the security of the other members’ children.

“I’m not sure what that means,” he said.

“All that time I’m getting their emails, then all of a sudden, it’s a problem.”

This was shocking to me. I would put that up there with parents who oppose male day care center workers. Keeping men — especially dads — away from children is something that would never occur to me especially in this setting.

What do you think, MotherTalkers? Should play groups exclude dads? Are you part of a play group? Is it female or co-ed?


MT Diversion: E-mail Forwards

Here is a hilarious e-mail forward I just received to lighten the mood for tomorrow’s vice presidential debate:

From the MANITOBA HERALD, Canada (a very underground paper):

The flood of American liberals sneaking across the border into Canada has intensified in the past week, sparking calls for increased patrols to stop the illegal immigration.

The possibility of a McCain/Palin election is prompting the exodus among left-leaning citizens who fear they’ll soon be required to hunt, pray, and agree with Bill O’Reilly. Canadian border farmers say it’s not uncommon to see dozens of sociology professors, animal rights activists and Unitarians crossing their fields at night.

“I went out to milk the cows the other day, and there was a Hollywood producer huddled in the barn,” said Manitoba farmer Red Greenfield, whose acreage borders North Dakota . The producer was cold, exhausted and hungry. “He asked me if I could spare a latte and some free-range chicken. When I said I didn’t have any, he left. Didn’t even get a chance to show him my screenplay, eh?”

In an effort to stop the illegal aliens, Greenfield erected higher fences, but  the liberals scaled them. So he tried installing speakers that blare Rush Limbaugh across the fields.

“Not real effective,” he said. “The liberals still got through, and Rush annoyed the cows so much they wouldn’t give milk.”

Officials are particularly concerned about smugglers who meet liberals near the Canadian border, pack them  into Volvo station wagons, drive them across the border and leave them to fend for themselves.

“A lot of these people are not prepared for rugged conditions,” an Ontario border patrolman said. “I found one carload without a drop of drinking water. “They did have a nice little Napa Valley cabernet, though.”

When liberals are caught, they’re sent back across the border, often wailing loudly that they fear retribution from conservatives. Rumors have been circulating about the McCain administration establishing re-education camps in which  liberals will be forced to shoot wolves from airplanes, deny evolution, and act out drills preparing them for the Rapture. In recent days, liberals have turned to sometimes-ingenious ways of crossing the border.

Some have taken to posing as senior citizens on bus trips to buy cheap Canadian prescription drugs. After catching a half-dozen young vegans disguised in powdered wigs, Canadian immigration authorities began stopping buses and quizzing the supposed  senior-citizen passengers on Perry Como and Rosemary Clooney hits to  prove they were alive in the ’50s.

“If they can’t identify the accordion player on The Lawrence Welk Show, we get suspicious about their age,” an official said.

Canadian citizens have complained that the illegal immigrants are creating an organic-broccoli shortage and renting all the good Susan Sarandon movies. “I feel sorry for American liberals, but the Canadian economy just can’t support  them,” an Ottawa resident said. “How many art-history and English majors does one country need?”


Have you received any good e-mail forwards lately?


Canada’s Food Allergen Labelling Nothing to Sneeze At

I know I’m not the only parent dealing with food allergies here on MotherTalkers. Jessica, as I’ve discussed before, has an egg allergy. Fortunately, one of the easier ones to deal with. I bake at home, don’t buy processed foods, and we’re blessed with a great selection of restaurants and cafes that offer vegetarian and vegan foods as a matter of course (the cafe at Ceres is a favourite!).

So I’m always on the lookout for updates on treatment, prognosis and anything to do with managing food allergies, which is why I was interested to see that the Canadian government is creating new, stricter labelling of food allergens on listed ingredients of food products.  The clearer labelling of allergens will come into effect as of the end of this year. According to this article in The Globe and Mail:

The announcement, made by Health Minister Tony Clement, comes after extensive lobbying from food-allergy groups. Mr. Clement said the more stringent regulations represent an important step forward, adding that, for some Canadians, allergen information can be “a matter of life or death.”

“We know that allergy associations across the country have been asking very patiently – but quite insistently – for these changes, and that the food industry has expressed its support to the general principles behind this proposal as well,” he said.

The labelling will be required for all “food allergens, gluten sources and added sulphites on labels of pre-packaged foods,“ according to a press release on the Health Canada website.

Clement also last week announced that the government is co-sponsoring a “food allergy prevalence study“ to try and define how many Canadians have food allergies, and what foods most commonly cause reactions. The press release  notes that “It is estimated that up to six per cent of young children and three to four per cent of adults suffer from food allergies. Nearly one per cent of the population is affected by celiac disease, a serious sensitivity to gluten.“ However, the press release doesn’t specify where this information comes from , so take it with a grain of salt. Unless that’s a known allergen for you.

This raises an interesting question: how would you like to see potential allergens denoted on labels? I’d love an easy-to-identify set of characters – an egg, a stalk of wheat, a cow or carton of milk  on the back of the label. Usually, when I’m trying to figure out if Jess can eat a new cake or cookie, it’s while she’s with me, hanging on my arm and asking anxiously “any egg? Any egg? Any egg?“ Rather than scanning through 8-point-type and right at the end seeing “egg“ or “albumen“, a large-type or picture of the allergen would suit me really well. How about the rest of you? Also, take this poll and let’s see what allergies show up in the MT set.