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Despite critics, new food plan is sensible

As people continue to put on more weight and die of preventable diseases, the debate over the role nutrition plays in the drama between science and commerce continues. Last Thursday, the federal government released its 2015 dietary guidelines, a generally sensible plan for maintaining good health despite some revisions that drew the scorn of critics.

In February, the Dietary Guideline Advisory Committee issued a report which recommended that people favor fruits and vegetables over meals containing animal products. It said that a diet of more plant foods would also be more sustainable, reducing the impact on the environment of meat production.

By the time the final guidelines were issued last week, the committee’s sustainability provision had not survived bureaucratic tinkering, nor did its recommendation to cut back on eating red and processed meats. The reason was that the meat and dairy industries lobbied officials at the Department of Agriculture and the Department of Health and Human Services who were tasked with writing the final guidelines.

One of the most outspoken critics of the ultimate recommendations was David L. Katz, a Yale University nutritionist. He said that the guidelines were “a national embarrassment” and “a willful sacrifice of public health on the altar of profit for well-organized special interests.”

We won’t go that far. The guidelines are still sensible and encourage Americans to eat a variety of vegetables and fruits; grains, at least half of which are whole grains; fat-free or low-fat dairy products such as milk, yogurt and cheese; and a mix of protein-rich foods such as seafood, lean meats, eggs and nuts. They also recommend limits on consumption of sugar, sodium and saturated fats.

Americans who want to get healthy or stay that way would do well to follow the guidelines. Those who want to go further — and adopt a diet that is meatless or more considerate of the planet — are free to go there.

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Jan. 12

The surge in the abortion wars

In the six months or so since anti-abortion activists unleashed a barrage of deceptive videos falsely accusing Planned Parenthood of trafficking in fetal tissue for profit, women’s reproductive rights have been under siege.

Extremists have firebombed abortion clinics and torn them apart with hatchets. Clinic doctors have been targeted with online death threats.

“I’ll pay ten large to whomever kills Dr. Deborah Nucatola,” read a typical post, referring to a Planned Parenthood physician taped discussing fetal tissue donations, which are legal and crucial to medical research. “Planned Parenthood needs to be blown into hell,” another read.

In the month after the first video was released, clinics reported 849 incidents of vandalism, a 900 percent increase, according to a complaint Planned Parenthood filed Thursday. Security incidents in California offices have quintupled since July. One Planned Parenthood staffer was picketed at her California home during the holidays by demonstrators singing Christmas carols; later, her neighbors found their mailboxes stuffed with hate literature about her. The Planned Parenthood website was hacked.

The organization has spent millions on security, repairs and lawyers. At least 18 states and several congressional committees have had to be convinced — successfully, so far — that Planned Parenthood engaged in no wrongdoing.

Not that that mattered to the madman accused of killing three people at a Colorado clinic during Thanksgiving weekend because, as he later told authorities, he was “a warrior for the babies” out to stop supposed dealing in “baby parts.”

Planned Parenthood sued this week in U.S. District Court in San Francisco, accusing the Center for Medical Progress and its leaders of conspiring to defraud the contraception and abortion provider and undermine women’s health care access.

The complaint — which names, among others, the project’s young leader David Daleiden, activist Albin Rhomberg and accomplices — charges that they violated federal privacy and racketeering statutes and engaged in wire fraud, mail fraud, trespassing, identity theft and illegal recording.

Planned Parenthood claims Daleiden and company lied to the Internal Revenue Service and the California secretary of state to get tax exempt status for the fake company they used to talk their way into Planned Parenthood meetings. And once in, the complaint alleges, they used hidden cameras to record hundreds of hours of private conversations in violation of California, Maryland and Florida statutes.

The video smear and the grandstanding around it has caused immeasurable damage, not just to a valuable nonprofit, but to human beings who have lost reputations, security and, in at least three cases, their lives.

This war is poised for resurgence, even amid a near-historic low in abortion rates. 

The Sacramento Bee, Jan. 15

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