Editorial roundup

The Portland Press Herald (Maine), Oct. 31, 2015

Thanks, science. It’s bad enough that you had to tell us that bacon is almost as bad for us as smoking (we knew it wasn’t health food!), but just a few days before Halloween you tell us that sugar is toxic.

Not only is the main ingredient in candy corn bad for your teeth and packed with calories, it also contributes to type 2 diabetes and other metabolic disorders.

The good news, researchers tell us, is that all the obese children in their study who dramatically cut back on their sugar intake saw a dramatic improvement in blood pressure, cholesterol and other health markers after just 10 days.

The doctors who conducted the study replaced the calories that the children would have consumed when they were binging on sweets so they could test if what the soft drink manufacturers claim is true: All calories are created equal and sugary food can be part of a healthy diet.

But the researchers found that some calories are more equal than others. Obese children who cut their sugar intake started getting healthier right away, even though they were eating the same number of calories.

“This study definitively shows that sugar is metabolically harmful not because of its calories or its effects on weight; rather, sugar is metabolically harmful because it’s sugar,” said study author Robert Lustig.

Criticism of the study has already emerged and not just from expected sources like the Sugar Institute and 8-year-olds. The sample was small, they say, and the fact that the children’s health improved when they cut back on sugar doesn’t mean that it was sugar that made them sick. More research is needed, but these results are so explosive that they can’t be easily dismissed.

But don’t blame Halloween. Depending on who’s counting, Americans eat upwards of 75 pounds of sugar a year on a per capita basis, and not even the most dedicated trick-or-treater will ever eat that much in one night.

It’s not an occasional indulgence, but the routine consumption of sugar-rich foods and drinks that contributes to chronic health conditions among children and adults.

So kids, enjoy that annual candy apple; parents, reconsider daily servings of soft drinks and sweet snacks; and science, get back to work on studies like that one where you told us that wine is good for our hearts.

Online: http://bit.ly/1GE8dCA

The Republican of Springfield (Mass.), Oct. 30, 2015

Brinksmanship can wait. The alarm bell can be placed into storage. There’ll be no more talk of an imminent government shutdown.

When the Senate, in the early hours of Friday morning, approved a two-year budget plan and boosted the debt ceiling, the risk of more foolishness, at least in the near term, was taken off the table. (The House had voted a day earlier.)

It clears the 2016 calendar for, well, for politicking during an election year, but also perhaps for something to get done. Tax reform, anyone?

Maybe, just maybe, with games of chicken over the debt ceiling and the federal budget set aside until 2017, members of Congress can actually take on some of the people’s business. Oh, sure, we understand well that dodging a bullet is far from a guarantee of future health, but still, where things stand today is, by any reasonable measure, a whole lot better than where they’d been just before.

It would be naive, of course, for anyone to believe that members of Congress are all of a sudden going to begin getting along like some happy, idealized family in a TV show about the 1950s. We’ll not soon see the donkey lying down with the elephant. But removing a barrier, especially one that should never have been there in the first place, is always preferable to constantly running up against it.

There’ll be those who’ll continue to criticize the deal, which was hammered out in several weeks of negotiations among congressional leaders and the White House. They’ll say it spends too much. They’ll say it gives too much to President Barack Obama. They’ll fret and fuss that the deal was worked out behind closed doors rather than in congressional meetings. But their words will be so much hooey.

Congress was facing a real deadline. On Nov. 3, the federal government would have run up against its statutory debt limit, meaning that our government would have defaulted on its financial obligations.

Those who don’t understand what that means now have a couple of years to read up on the fundamentals of economics.

Departing House Speaker John Boehner vowed to “clean out the barn” before he headed out the door. The pacts on the budget and the debt ceiling have done just that.