- The Washington Times - Friday, October 30, 2009

Menu requirements

Tucked inside House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s 1,990-page health care reform bill, which was made public Thursday, is a requirement for chain restaurants to post caloric information on their menus.

Pages 1,511 through 1,519 of the bill mandate that any restaurants operating in 20 or more locations post caloric information “prominently” on menus in a way that’s “designed to enable the public to understand, in the context of a total daily diet, the significance of the caloric information that is provided on the menu.”

That means all the big-name chains — such as Starbucks, Dunkin’ Donuts and McDonald’s — will need to post calorie counts next to their offerings, even on their drive-through menus.

New York City has a similar law that was enacted in July 2008 in hopes of encouraging people to limit their caloric intake while eating out and in turn, lower obesity rates.

But research published this month by Health Affairs and conducted by a group of professors at New York and Yale universities says otherwise. The study found that people in New York typically purchased food items that totaled 825 calories before the menu-labeling law went into effect. After the law took effect, people purchased food items that totaled 846 calories.

“Thus, simply displaying information about the caloric value of various food options may fail to translate into attitudinal, motivational or — most importantly — behavioral changes in line with choosing healthier food options,” the study said.

Vending, too

The federal government also will ensure that vending machines show calorie counts.

The bill says anyone who operates 20 or more vending machines “shall provide a sign in close proximity to each article of food or the selection button that includes a clear and conspicuous statement disclosing the number of calories contained in the article.”

And pet care

Another provision of the same bill makes veterinary students, along with other medical students, eligible for federal grants and scholarships and loan forgiveness under a new Public Health Workforce Scholarship, funded under a larger public health work force program that will cost $283 million from 2011 to 2015.

For comparison

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s Affordable Health Care for America Act: 1,990 pages.

First lady Hillary Rodham Clinton’s 1993 Health Security Act, also known as “Hillarycare”: 1,368 pages.

Tax count

Americans for Tax Reform, a group that lobbies against tax increases, found 13 new tax hikes in the health care bill.

Among them are what the group calls the “medicine cabinet tax,” which says nonprescription medications, except insulin, can no longer be purchased from health savings accounts, flexible spending accounts of health reimbursement arrangements that currently allow participants to buy those products.

A 2.5 percent wholesale tax on medical device manufacturers that sell products for use in the United States is also included in the bill.

Levi strikes again

Levi Johnston repeated on CBS’ “The Early Show” on Wednesday his assertion that Sarah Palin called her son Trig “retarded,” prompting a firm rebuke from the former Alaska governor.

Mr. Johnston, the father of Mrs. Palin’s grandson, reminded co-anchor Maggie Rodriguez of his initial claim in a Vanity Fair tell-all article that the 2008 Republican vice presidential candidate had called her son, who has Down syndrome, “retarded.”

“I think the biggest hit we’ve had on, like, the Vanity Fair, you know, people really look on, is when she called her kid retarded,” he said. “I mean, I’ve got a lot of people talking about that.”

Mrs. Palin fired back via a statement delivered through a spokesman.

“We have purposefully ignored the mean-spirited, malicious and untrue attacks on our family,” she said. “We, like many, are appalled at the inflammatory statements being made or implied. Trig is our ‘blessed little angel’ who knows it and is lovingly called that every day of his life. Even the thought that anyone would refer to Trig by any disparaging name is sickening and sad. CBS should be ashamed for continually providing a forum to propagate lies. Consider the source of the most recent attention-getting lies — those who would sell their body for money reflect a desperate need for attention and are likely to say and do anything for even more attention.”

Mr. Johnston was on “The Early Show” again Thursday, when the second half of his two-part interview aired.

When Mrs. Palin called Mr. Johnston someone “who would sell their body for money” she likely was referring to an agreement Mr. Johnston made to appear nude in Playgirl magazine. He told “The Early Show” on Thursday that his photospread would be done “tastefully.”

He also was featured in a pistachios ad, in which Mr. Johnston appears with bodyguard Tank Jones, who is near Mr. Johnston in nearly every one of his public appearances nowadays, fending off the paparazzi. Once the coast is clear a voice-over says: “Now Levi Johnston does it with protection.”

Joan Wickham, a spokesman for Wonderful Pistachios, has said, unconvincingly, there was no sort of pregnancy pun intended.

Amanda Carpenter can be reached at acarpenter @washingtontimes.com.

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