- Associated Press - Thursday, July 16, 2015

BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) - The Bismarck Tribune, Bismarck, July 16, 2015

Generals right, it’s time to slim down

Retired generals from North Dakota have declared war on obesity and it’s not going to be easy one to win. The officers say recruits today are too fat to fight and they want them to slim down.

So they have thrown their support behind the 2010 Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act. The measure sets federal nutrition standards for schools and needs to be reauthorized. The act has drawn criticism across the country because its nutrition guidelines have resulted in major changes in school cafeteria food.

Cookies, fruit-flavored candies, doughnuts, chocolate bars and soda pop have been replaced by peanuts, low-fat tortilla chips, granola bars, fruit cups and zero-calorie flavored water. Fargo public schools decided to replace French fries with sweet potato sticks.

Smaller school districts say they can’t afford to buy kitchen equipment to meet the standards and some students don’t like the food and toss it.

However, retired Gens. Michael Haugen, Keith Bjerke, Jerald Engelman and Robert Schulte used a Fargo press conference last week to make a case for the nutrition standards.

The generals pointed to a 2014 Department of Defense study on Americans ages 17-24 that are not eligible for the military, with the three leading causes being obesity, poor education and crime or drug use. It shows that 73 percent of residents in North Dakota and South Dakota would not make the grade, according to the Associated Press. Only eight states have a higher percentage.

North Dakota’s congressional delegation has been urging changes in the program. The generals are willing to compromise, they don’t want the effort to be dropped. Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, D-N.D., has introduced a measure to provide money for schools to buy equipment, and Sen. John Hoeven, R-N.D., has introduced a provision that would give districts flexibility to meet the standards.

Rep. Kevin Cramer, R-N.D., isn’t as sure about the program. “I applaud the generals for their effort but I don’t think school nutrition is the problem for military recruitment. I think it’s much broader than that,” he told the AP.

It’s hard to argue that obesity isn’t a problem in the state after studies have found we have a weight problem. Kids, and some parents, don’t like the idea of being told what they should eat. Educating everyone about healthy eating habits isn’t easy. Some people gain weight easier than others despite how hard they try. Promoting exercise and staying active can be challenging in this computer era while many remain seated indoors.

The generals do have a point. If you can’t find enough men and women who can pass the military physicals, we may have a security problem along with a health challenge.

The issue requires compromise. We need to be feeding our students healthy meals, but they have to be meals they want to eat. Both sides need to be flexible, and considerate. The days of shaming those with weight issues should be past. The generals are right, we need to get in shape. It’s going to take us a variety of programs to get there.

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Minot Daily News, Minot, July 16, 2015

Enforce existing gun laws

Gun control advocates - many of whom really wish they could outlaw any ownership of firearms by individuals - constantly claim new limits are needed to save lives.

But time and time again, violent crime headlines are followed a few days later by revelations that killers would not have obtained guns had existing restrictions been used properly.

Last week FBI Director James Comey told reporters “heartbreaking” lapses in enforcing the law allowed Dylann Roof to buy a gun in April. In June, he allegedly used it to massacre nine people at a church in Charleston, South Carolina.

Among failures that allowed Roof to buy a gun was one in which his arrest on a drug charge earlier this year was not taken into account by a federal background checker. That would have disqualified Roof from purchasing a firearm. It appears a paperwork error was to blame.

No doubt the Charleston murders will be used as an excuse for promoting new limits on gun ownership - making life more difficult and costly for law-abiding Americans. Instead, why not put more effort into enforcing existing laws?

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