OTHER VOICES

Sugar prohibition

Posted Feb. 12, 2012, at 1:42 p.m.

Nobody is overly sweet on sugar these days, but a bunch of scientists out West have taken concerns about Nature’s sweetener to an extreme.

In a paper published recently, a team of scientists in California argued that sugar is so addictive it should be heavily taxed and regulated, like alcohol and drugs. They even want to set a legal age for buying sugar.

That said, there’s no denying we have a national problem with obesity, and sugar is heavily to blame. Americans eat and drink roughly 22 teaspoons of sugar every day, three times as much as they did 30 years ago. Not all of that comes out of the sugar bowl. Much of it is hidden inside processed food and even bread and cereal.

Obesity contributes to a wide range of health problems. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 112,000 deaths in the United States are associated each year with obesity, and the total medical costs came to $147 billion in 2008.

A new study of more than a million people found that people who carry extra weight report more everyday pain.

How bad is it? Over two decades, obesity rates have doubled in adults, and the percentage of adolescents who are above their normal weight has tripled. The needle on the nation’s bathroom scale is pointing in a scary direction.

But let’s be sensible. Let’s eat more healthfully and get more exercise. And let’s not listen to scientists who want a new Prohibition, this time for sugar.

Chicago Sun-Times (Feb. 7)

Trust Congress?

Under the heading of doing the absolute minimum, Congress is on the verge of passing a law that would ban insider trading and force lawmakers to make more timely disclosures about their financial dealings.

It’s absurd such practices have been allowed to continue for so long without congressional representatives doing something about it. Proposals have been kicked around for years, but they drew scant support until a “60 Minutes” segment was aired on the subject late last year.

The “60 Minutes” piece pointed to several examples — including House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif. — where lawmakers blatantly benefited financially by having knowledge of information before it became public.

No wonder the public’s view of Congress is so low.

With nowhere to go but up, the Senate passed the so-called STOCK Act — Stop Trading on Congressional Knowledge — and the House of Representatives is expected to do so. President Barack Obama says he will sign the measure. The act will require lawmakers and thousands of executive branch officials to post their stock trades online within 30 days. And the legislation appropriately states that members of Congress and thousands of other federal workers are subject to the same federal anti-fraud laws that prohibit other Americans from making stock trades based on insider knowledge.

These representatives are supposed to be looking out for the American people, not protecting their own interests or, worse yet, privately profiting on information they received under the guise of being a “public servant.”

The STOCK Act deserves support, but Congress still has a long way to rebuild trust with the American people.

The Poughkeepsie (N.Y.) Journal (Feb. 7)

For-profit loophole

For years, the U.S. Senate has investigated the recruiting practices of for-profit colleges. The businesses that run so-called career schools depend heavily on federal student aid, cater to low-income learners, and offer flexibility to those who must work while going to class.

While scrutinizing the industry, senators discovered a funding loophole that, for the sake of students and taxpayers, deserves to be closed by legislation introduced by Democratic Sen. Dick Durbin of Illinois.

Federal law says that for-profit colleges and universities may not receive more than 90 percent of their revenue from student aid programs in the U.S. Department of Education. Although the rest must come from sources outside the federal government, not counted toward the 90 percent are education dollars from the post-9/11 GI Bill.

Between 2009 and 2011, eight of the top 10 recipients of GI Bill education benefits were for-profit schools, accounting for $1 billion in such aid. This gaping loophole encourages schools to target military veterans as applicants.

That has to stop. One sure way is to enact Senator Durbin’s bill.

The Blade, Toledo (Feb. 9)

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