Monday, February 28, 2005


IT'S humble, inoffensive, excellent for plants and eminently biodegradable. But householders in Cardiff, having drunk deep of the recycyling message, have been ordered to keep their used teabags well away from the city council's compost collections. An EU directive of the straight banana variety has obliged officials in the city of Cardiff to classify the teabag, a simple assembly of paper and dried leaves, as an animal by-product, and therefore the potential source of a future foot-and-mouth outbreak. The reason, according to the EU's Animal By-Products Order 1999, is that teabags, and indeed used coffee filters, could have come in contact with contaminated milk.

Cardiff has been running composting collections alongside the normal dustbin round for more than a year, and the scheme has proved popular. The city's problem is that the council does not possess a high-temperature composting plant, which the EU directive requires to ensure that any undesirable organisms are killed off. Indeed, there is no such plant anywhere in Wales. The city is contemplating upgrading its composting plant, but it could take several years and in the meantime officials are telling residents that it can no longer collect household waste for processing into garden compost which can then be sold back to residents. A council spokesman said: "This affects every single authority in Wales. We have to uphold the law, and we have been informing residents that by law we cannot compost kitchen waste."

Cardiff has the backing of the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, where a spokeswoman said: "Home composting is no problem, but when it comes to commercial or municipal composting, because you can't guarantee the teabag hasn't come into contact with an animal product, namely milk, you can't technically put it in. It needs to be treated as a by-product."

The problem is potentially enormous. The Tea Council, a stickler for statistics, has calculated Britons consume 57.2 billion teabags each year. And of the 156 million cups of teabag tea drunk every day, 98 per cent of them are taken with milk. Put another way, approximately half of all the milk consumed in Britain goes into tea.



Taking the salt out of food won't do any good unless you take people's salt-shakers away too. And the CSPI is a far-Left lobby group which masquerades as a "consumer group". Like all Leftist groups, its aim is to dictate to other people.

A consumer group sued the federal government Thursday, saying that salt is killing tens of thousands of Americans and that regulators have done too little to control salt in food. Despite advisories to take it easy on sodium, Americans are now consuming about 4,000 milligrams a day -- nearly double the recommended limit to keep blood pressure under control, the Center for Science in the Public Interest said.

So the CSPI renewed a lawsuit first filed in 1983 to ask federal courts to force the Food and Drug Administration to declare sodium a food additive instead of categorizing it as "generally recognized as safe." This would give the agency the authority to set limits for salt in foods. "There is no way the FDA can look at the science and say with a straight face that salt is 'generally recognized as safe,"' CSPI executive director Michael Jacobson said in a statement. "In fact, salt is generally recognized as unsafe, because it is a major cause of heart attacks and stroke. The federal government should require food manufacturers to gradually lower their sodium levels."

The CSPI said Americans get most of their salt in processed and restaurant foods. In 1983 the FDA had just begun requiring labels describing sodium content on some packaged foods so the court decided to wait and see how it worked. The new lawsuit, filed in the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, contends that it has not worked well because salt content in foods is higher than ever. "FDA is currently evaluating CSPI's report on salt, including the recommendations it contains," Kathleen Quinn, a spokeswoman for the agency, said.

The government says Americans should try to keep sodium to about 2,300 milligrams a day. "This is about 1 teaspoon," the American Heart Association says.

Salt is not found only in the salt shaker. For example, a teaspoon of baking soda contains 1,000 mg of sodium.

Patients with high blood pressure and others at high risk are told to eat even less salt -- 1,500 mg a day. "Nevertheless, sodium intake has increased steadily since the 1970s," the CSPI said in a statement. "The medical community has reached a consensus that diets high in sodium are a major cause of high blood pressure as well as pre-hypertension, or blood pressure just short of high blood pressure," said Dr. Stephen Havas of the University of Maryland School of Medicine. "Today roughly 65 million Americans have high blood pressure and another 45 million have pre-hypertension."

The CSPI issued a report saying that processed foods and restaurant fare contribute almost 80 percent of sodium to the U.S. diet. Frozen dinners are especially high in salt, the report finds. Depending on the brand, some salad dressings contain nearly a quarter of the day's allowance of sodium while others are low in sodium, the report finds. One chain restaurant's breakfast contains two days' worth of sodium -- 4,460 mg -- the CSPI report said. Chinese restaurant meals can be especially, high too. "A typical order of General Tso's chicken with rice has 3,150 mg," the group said.

Dr. Claude Lenfant, president of the World Hypertension League and a former head of the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute supported the report. "If we could reduce the sodium in processed and restaurant foods by half, we could save about 150,000 lives per year," he said.



At last week's Harvard faculty meeting, President Larry Summers saved his job, but he took a pummeling from his angry critics. Summers is easily the most outstanding of the major university presidents now on the scene--the most intelligent, the most energetic, as well as the most prominent. So, alarmed at his abilities and intentions, the Harvard faculty decided it would be a good idea to humiliate him......

Summers saved his job by skating backwards, listening to his critics without demur and occasionally accepting their harsh words by saying he agreed with them. At no point did he feel able to say yes, but . . . in order to introduce a point of his own in response. His accusers were relentless and, as always with feminists, humorless. They complained of being humiliated, but they took no care not to humiliate a proud man. They complained too of being intimidated, but they were doing their best to intimidate Summers--and they succeeded.....

More than most people--to say nothing of university presidents--Summers lives by straightforward argument. He doesn't care whether he convinces you or you convince him. He isn't looking for victory in argument. But his forceful intelligence often produces it, in the view of those with whom he reasons. Sometimes the professors he speaks with come out feeling that they are victims of "bullying," as one of his feminist critics stated. As if to reason were to bully.

One faculty colleague said in response to this, "Can anybody on earth have less reason to fear than a tenured Harvard professor?" True enough, a Harvard professor has both the prominence to awe and, if that doesn't work, the security to escape. But feminists do not think like this. They insist on a welcoming atmosphere of encouragement to themselves and to their plans. If they do not get it, they will with a straight face accuse you of intimidating them even as they are intimidating you.

It takes one's breath away to watch feminist women at work. At the same time that they denounce traditional stereotypes they conform to them. If at the back of your sexist mind you think that women are emotional, you listen agape as professor Nancy Hopkins of MIT comes out with the threat that she will be sick if she has to hear too much of what she doesn't agree with. If you think women are suggestible, you hear it said that the mere suggestion of an innate inequality in women will keep them from stirring themselves to excel. While denouncing the feminine mystique, feminists behave as if they were devoted to it. They are women who assert their independence but still depend on men to keep women secure and comfortable while admiring their independence. Even in the gender-neutral society, men are expected by feminists to open doors for women. If men do not, they are intimidating women.

Thus the issue of Summers's supposedly intimidating style of governance is really the issue of the political correctness by which Summers has been intimidated. Political correctness is the leading form of intimidation in all of American education today, and this incident at Harvard is a pure case of it. The phrase has been around since the 1980s, and the media have become bored with it. But the fact of political correctness is before us in the refusal of feminist women professors even to consider the possibility that women might be at any natural disadvantage in mathematics as compared with men. No, more than that: They refuse to allow that possibility to be entertained even in a private meeting. And still more: They are not ashamed to be seen as suppressing any inquiry into such a possibility. For the demand that Summers be more "responsible" in what he says applies to any inquiry that he or anyone else might cite.

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Another comment on the Summers affair (excerpt):

"Summers did not contend that one gender is smarter. He postulated the two genders as intellectually different. Is that no longer sayable in the groves of academe? Does the inquiring mind now find itself fenced out? An avalanche of data points in the direction of differentness; anyone with his (or her) eyes open knows it -- and vive la diff‚rence!

Is it sexist even to suggest complementary gray matter on the part of the genders? Can the data not even be discussed for fear of what feminist termagants might say in the faculty lounges? If men and women differ in, say, upper-body strength, might they not differ in their brains as well? If genetic predisposition to the arts and humanities (women) and to math and the hard sciences (men) is such a misguided proposition it is not even discussable, then what of debates about affectional preference vs. genetic predisposition among some toward homosexual behaviors?

If we all are equal in rights, are both genders and all races equal in abilities as well? Do we move, now, to the insertion of equal numbers of women as men on the front lines -- and to the elimination of gender-specific sports?

What of the field of behavioral genetics? Are the great debates -- nature vs. nurture, biology vs. society -- now over, with nurture and society declared the victors? Is there no "intrinsic aptitude"? Do innate differences not exist?"

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