Runoff election results mean voters will have distinct choices in November
With Tuesday's runoff elections completed, the stage is set for classic political contests come November.
The strength of Tea Party-supported candidates in statewide races and a state Senate contest on the Republican side means the general election battles will feature sharp philosophical contrasts between major party contenders, giving the electorate clear choices on a variety of issues.
Texans will decide this fall just how "red" their state remains, and how far to the right or left its officials can move and still stay in touch with the majority of their constituents.
The candidates for governor were decided in the March primaries. Attorney General Greg Abbott will represent Republicans, and state Sen. Wendy Davis won the nomination among Democrats.
The hardest-fought primary battle, resulting in the biggest upset, was for the Republican lieutenant governor nomination. Ultra-conservative state Sen. Dan Patrick's defeat of three-term incumbent David Dewhurst wasn't a surprise, but his margin of victory — 65 percent to 35 percent — certainly was. Patrick will face Democratic state Sen. Leticia Van de Putte in the general election.
In the Republican runoff for attorney general, another vicious contest, state Sen. Ken Paxton beat state Rep. Dan Branch, setting up a battle with Democrat Sam Houston.
And in the fight for Senate District 10, the Tarrant County seat being vacated by Davis and one that could tilt the Senate to a supermajority for Republicans, Tea Party-backed Konni Burton soundly defeated former state Rep. Mark Shelton. She will be opposed by Democrat Libby Willis.
The Tea Party strength in Texas, due in part to superb organization and funding, will dictate that Republican candidates continue to oppose what they see as too much government spending, get tough on illegal immigration and oppose anything remotely related to the Obama administration.
Democrats, with two women at the top of the ticket, no doubt will want voters to know how different they are from their opponents, on the issues and on leadership style.
Voters this time around shouldn't have any trouble seeing the differences and deciding who they want to represent them.
Bulging problem: Obesity rates across the world are rising
For all the talk about the world getting smaller, it's also getting bigger. According to a recent study in The Lancet, the worldwide prevalence of people who are overweight and obese has increased 27.5 percent in adults and 47.1 percent in children over the last three decades. Almost a third of the world's population, 2.1 billion people, is now fat.
"Parts of the world are quite literally eating themselves to death," as the director-general of the World Health Organization put it.
The extra pounds can't just be shrugged off. As one of the lead causes of preventable deaths in the United States, obesity leads to complicated and expensive diseases: diabetes, heart disease and cancer. And America has the dubious distinction of having the largest number of obese individuals in the world, the study found.
The problem doesn't seem to be abating. Not a single country included in the massive survey saw a significant decline in obesity. The troubling trend comes in the era of easy transportation and processed foods, where fewer people are exercising.
Public obesity prevention programs have been found to help, but individual responsibility when it comes to diet and exercise is equally important. Reducing the number of people who are overweight is important to the community as well because of the huge economic consequences — nearly $190 billion a year in the United States.
When a federal report released in February noted a significant drop in obesity among children ages 2 to 5, it seemed like the tide had turned in the public health campaign against the disease. But for such a widespread and complex disease, it's clear that more will need to be done.