Kids seeing more unhealthy snack ads, report says

— Food companies have been increasing their advertising to children for chips and other junk foods, even as marketing of healthy snacks such as yogurt has not kept pace, according to a report released on Monday.

About 40% of all the food and beverage ads children and teens see on TV are for snacks, and there’s a growing amount of snack advertising on social media and mobile phone apps, said researchers at the University of Connecticut’s Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity.

For the report, which is being presented this week at the annual meeting of the American Public Health Association, researchers compared how many snack ads young people typically saw in 2010 and 2014, and how many promoted products such as chips, cookies and fruit snacks, or healthier options, such as yogurt, fruit and nuts.

Preschoolers ages 2 to 5 saw an average of 582 snack ads on TV in 2014, an increase of 18% since 2010, researchers found. Children ages 6 to 11 saw 629 snack ads, an increase of 10%, and and teens ages 12 to 17 saw 635 snack ads, an increase of 29%. Adults also saw their share of snack ads: 793 in 2014, a 32% increase since 2010.

Although snacks ads online were much less prevalent than on TV, big food companies placed millions of ads on Facebook and YouTube in 2014.

Researchers focused on the 43 companies — including General Mills, PepsiCo and Kellogg Company — that spent at least $1 million advertising snack food brands. The researchers analyzed Nielsen syndicated data to calculate exposure to TV advertising in 2010 and 2014 and comScore syndicated data to calculate advertising viewed on websites in 2014.

What companies are selling

Advertising for healthy snacks did not get a big piece of the pie. The majority of snack ads that preschoolers, children and teens saw were for sweet snacks and savory snacks, and only about a quarter of these snacks were considered healthy by the USDA Smart Snacks standards. These standards are based on levels of calories, sodium, fats and sugar in the snack and determine which snacks can be sold in schools.

For some of the age groups, advertising of unhealthy snacks increased from 2010 to 2014: Marketing of savory snacks to children increased by 23% and advertising of sweet snacks to teens increased by 17%.

Meanwhile, from 2010 to 2014, exposure to advertising of yogurt products, nearly all of which are considered healthy based on the USDA Smart Snacks standards, did not change.

The number of ads for fruits increased between 3.5 and 6 times to the different age groups and the number of ads for nuts nearly doubled. But even after the increase, marketing for fruits and nuts represented only about 5% of all snack ads.

“It’s hard to translate the number of advertisements to actual consumption, but if you just look at the imbalance (between healthy and unhealthy snacks) it would suggest that advertising is probably not increasing children’s fruit and nut consumption,” said Jennifer L. Harris, director of marketing initiatives at the University of Connecticut’s Rudd Center.

The advertisers and their audience

Among the most concerning findings from the report was the increase in unhealthy snack ads seen by preschool-age children, Harris said.

“Their minds are extremely malleable, so the advertisements aren’t just trying to get kids to get their parents to buy the products, they are trying to create an emotional association in kids’ brains (and) the emotional connection (at this young age) is basically impossible to get rid of,” she said.

Harris was also concerned about the discrepancy between advertising to white children compared with black and Hispanic youth. Marketing of savory snacks to black and Hispanic youth shot up 551%, whereas yogurt ads dropped 93% between 2010 and 2014. Black children saw 64% more snack food ads on TV than white children, and 129% more ads for savory snacks.

“It’s really an irresponsible practice, especially among kids,” given that these minority groups have higher rates of obesity, diabetes and weight-related conditions, Harris said.

Food companies that spent the most money advertising snack foods were General Mills ($315 million in 2014), PepsiCo ($189 million in 2014) and Kellogg Company ($153 million in 2014). PepsiCo did not respond to CNN’s request for comment.

In an email, a spokesperson for General Mills said they haven’t seen the report and can’t comment on it. The company “does not advertise any product on programming or media primarily directed to preschool children.”

“We generally don’t agree with Rudd definitions or analysis,” said Bridget Christenson, General Mills corporate communications manager. The company’s marketing and advertising guidelines are posted on its website.

In an emailed statement, Kellogg Company spokesperson Kris Charles said the company follows guidelines set forth by the Children’s Food and Beverage Advertising Initiative, does not advertise foods to children younger than 6, and only advertises foods that meet certain nutritional criteria to children ages 6 to 11.

“As a founding member of the (Children’s Food and Beverage Advertising Initiative) and a member of 15 similar initiatives worldwide, we believe self-regulation works and we are actively involved in industry efforts to strengthen the self-regulatory process,” Charles said.

Room for regulation?

Many food companies participate in the Children’s Food and Beverage Advertising Initiative, which was created by and is regulated by the industry. Participants pledge not to advertise unhealthy food options on TV that is directed toward children.

However, this pledge only applies to programming that is considered “child-directed media,” such as shows on Nickelodeon and Cartoon Network, but not programs children might view on other networks, Harris said.

Harris and co-authors of the report recommend the definition of media for children should be expanded to include all shows where children are the intended audience. In addition, the authors urge the advertising initiative agreement to follow the USDA Smart Snacks standards for healthy foods, which are more stringent than the standards that the snack industry group set.

“There is a lot of snacking that is going on among children and a lot of that snacking is less healthy food,” said Aviva Must, professor and chair of public health and community medicine at Tufts University. “I don’t think there’s any doubt that the marketing of these snacks influences eating behavior.”

Must was not involved in the Rudd Center report, but called it helpful and comprehensive.

“I would have hoped that the landscape would’ve improved more than it has (in recent years), but I think in the absence of strong regulation like they have in the United Kingdom, the environment that we have created in terms of food marketing to children is not going to change,” Must said. The UK bans the advertising of unhealthy foods and beverages to children younger than 16.

Although it is probably not realistic to pass regulations in the United States like those in the UK, Harris said, “we found that when parents and the media start getting concerned about what companies are doing, companies will respond.”

Although research by Harris and her colleagues suggests that parents are generally aware that there are a lot of ads for junk food on TV, they usually don’t realize how imbalanced ads are between healthy and unhealthy foods, and the number of ads on social media.

“That’s one of the reasons we do this research — to raise awareness of what’s happening and hopefully get parents to start protesting,” Harris said.

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Russell Simmons speaks out on RushCard glitch

— Russell Simmons hasn’t slept much since news broke in mid-October that users of his RushCard couldn’t access their own money and were locked out of their accounts, due to a computer glitch, leaving some unable to make rent payments, pay utility bills or buy groceries for their families.

“Technology glitches happen, but this was a tsunami,” said Simmons in an exclusive, hour-long interview with the NNPA News Wire.

Users began experiencing problems when Simmons’ company switched to a new transaction-processing provider, something that he said they’ve done successfully at least four times.

“We made the transfer of processes four separate times in the past and the next thing you know, I get a text message that we sent to our customers that we were down for two hours,” said Simmons, the iconic business magnate who founded Def Jam Records and the Phat Farm clothing line. “Our call center usually gets about 600 calls and now it’s [getting] 600,000 calls.”

Simmons said that three multi-billion dollar corporations were involved in the process and each has been helpful in resolving the technical issues related to the latest transition.

Simmons credited MasterCard CEO Ajaypal Singh Banga with immediately responding to the problem and helping to fix it.

“He’s the CEO of a $120 billion company and he picked the telephone up on the first ring,” Simmons said, adding that Banga has talked a lot about finding ways to reach underserved communities and others who don’t use traditional banks.

In the aftermath of the outage that wreaked havoc on the lives of thousands of cardholders, RushCard created a multi-million dollar fund to compensate customers who were affected.

Simmons also said that he has heard the criticism about the outage loud and clear and he’s accepted it and now he’s doing everything in his power to make his cardholders whole, even going beyond that.

“The way I view it, I will take every complaint and claim and pay it, if it has any legitimacy,” said Simmons. “I’ve heard people being put out of their apartments or in the hospital needing medicine and what I have done, what I do, is if they say they [lost] $400, I’ve given them back that exact amount and I’ve also adjusted their fees.”

In addition to restoring customer accounts in full, Simmons said that from Nov. 1, 2015 through February 29, 2016, RushCard customers will enjoy a no-fee holiday, which will exempt card users from paying monthly, transaction and ATM fees during that period. People who open new accounts will also be eligible for the no-fee holiday benefits, but all cardholders will still be responsible for paying third-party fees.

While it will cost him money, he said it’s just one way of regaining the trust of his loyal base.

“I like when this company is really profitable, then we can go out and help the community in a way that no bank, no non-Black institution ever will,” he said.

UniRush, LLC, the company that owns RushCard, was co-founded by Simmons 12 years ago to help low-to-moderate income individuals and families have an easier time paying bills and managing their money.

“The RushCard is the embodiment of my message of empowerment, because it is a better and more transparent option for millions of ‘underbanked’ and ‘unbanked’ Americans, who often suffer at the hands of large financial institutions,” Simmons said.

We need to stop calling the cops on our students

— Richland County Senior Deputy Sheriff Ben Fields seemed to think the only way he could get a young black girl out of her seat was to fling her across the room. His brutal attack on her was filmed by one of her classmates, and it’s a good thing he documented the incident. It was said that the young lady punched the officer before Eddie Robinson, Jr. started taping, but he indicates that she was quiet and simply refused to get out of her seat. He said she had only taken her phone out for a minute and “she didn’t do anything wrong”.

On Wednesday, October 28, Sheriff Leon Lott announced that Fields had been fired because his behavior was inconsistent with the training he had. But in response to a question at the press conference he held, he reported that Fields did not feel remorseful, that he was sorry the incident happened, but he was “just trying to do his job.” Not only did he brutalize a young girl, but he also arrested another young woman who simply asserted that the officer was wrong to treat her classmate so roughly. No other student said a word, and they were perhaps frightened to speak up.

Where are our women’s organizations? Where are our African American and civil rights organizations? Or our African American educators? Granted, this is just a few days after the fact and perhaps some of these folks will speak up eventually. Perhaps they are waiting to hear “the facts”, but as Sheriff Lott said there was no excuse for a young lady to be dragged in the way that she was.

Sheriff Lott said his community, a suburb of state capital Columbia, South Carolina, was an “orderly” community. He said there were no marches, no confrontation, because “that is not how we do things here.” While the Sheriff did the right thing by firing Ben Fields, his own attitude could stand some adjusting, and perhaps a march might be a way to express dissatisfaction at his approach (and that of the school system). In his press conference, he said that Fields’ behavior was inappropriate, but he basically blamed the young lady for her plight.

While civil rights leaders routinely turn it out when black men are beaten or killed, far fewer seem to care about what happens to black women. From the time that video hit the airwaves there ought to have been cries of outrage (and perhaps they are coming). Ben Fields’ actions should not simply be called “unacceptable” but also criminal.

Why did the school call the police anyway? From what I understand, the young lady was not making noise or disrupting class. She failed to comply with a request regarding her cell phone (some say she was asked to put it away, others said she was asked for the phone). Either way, the penalty for noncompliance should not have been arrest.

Last year, the Department of Education released a report that showed that African American and Latino students were suspended or expelled far more frequently than their white counterparts, often getting a different level of punishment for the same offense. Some of the suspensions and expulsions even happen at the preschool level – meaning that three and four year old children are being kicked out of school simply because they are little children (who frequently misbehave).

According to the National Center for Educational Statistics, around 43% of our nation’s public schools had police officers on their grounds during the 2013-2014 school year, including 63% of middle schools and 64% of high schools. Why are officers of the law on school grounds? How often is their behavior inappropriate? It is unlikely that is the first time former officer Ben Fields behaved so badly toward a student. Indeed, the student who was arrested for speaking up (he said she was disruptive) indicated that Fields had a bad reputation. He was the subject of at least two complaints for excessive force.

While Fields has been fired, he needs to be held accountable, sued. But the bigger picture is the criminalization of our young people by arresting them (leaving them with a criminal record) for minor offenses. Where are the voices lifted to protect a young woman whose simply “no” earns her a brutal beating? Where are the women, the civil rights leaders, the others who often have something to say? Are they silent because this is a girl? The two young women who were arrested need to be lifted up and affirmed by the African American community and that sheriff’s office needs to be confronted by the community. Sheriff Lott was gratified because there was no marching. There needs to be.

Julianne Malveaux is an author and economist based in Washington, D.C. Her latest book “Are We Better off? Race, Obama and Public Policy” will be released in November 2015 and is available for preorder at www.juliannemalveaux.com.

ABC stands behind Raven-Symone as online petition racks up signatures

— Raven-Symone, the former Disney Channel star turned daytime talk show co-host, has enraged viewers and nonviewers of ABC’s “The View” with some of her opinions, and the backlash is growing.

Thousands signed a petition on Change.org addressed to “View” creator and executive producer Barbara Walters to fire Symone.

As of Sunday, the petition had more than 125,000 signatures.

But ABC is not buckling to the pressure, and the network is standing behind the co-host. Symone is “a great addition” to the show, a network spokesperson told CNN.

Symone has gotten a lot of heat for controversial comments she has made so far this season. Recently, the co-host faced backlash on social media after saying she would not hire a person who had a “ghetto” name.

“I’m not about to hire you if your name is Watermelondrea. It’s just not going to happen,” she said on the show.

Symone also got into a debate with co-host Candace Cameron Bure over religious liberty, when they argued over a bakery’s refusal to bake a cake for a lesbian wedding. She also made divisive remarks about the arrest of a teenager in a South Carolina classroom where a police officer aggressively removed the student from her desk.

The petition letter reads, “Raven Symone has been spouting her ignorant and self hating spiel on the view for Long enough, from stating that she wouldn’t hire somebody for having a ghetto name, to openly complaining about reverse racism, the final straw was her comment about the recent viral video of the school police officer assaulting the student, where Raven Symone said “get off your phone in school then”. African Americans and black people around the diaspora need a voice representative of their views and not a voice representative of what white people want us to say. We need strong black rolemodels in prominent positions on television an Raven Symone cannot provide that. That is why I ask that we petition to remove her from The View.”

The network went on to say in a statement sent to CNN, “We love Raven. She is confident, genuine and opinionated, all qualities that make her a great addition to the panel.”

Raven-Symone joined “The View” for its 19th season this year, along with co-hosts Whoopi Goldberg, Joy Behar, Paula Faris, Michelle Collins and Candace Cameron Bure.

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Baltimore County RSVP bringing experience to schools

— Do you love teaching and interacting with children? Are you a senior, aged 55 or older, looking to volunteer in Baltimore County? If you answered yes to both questions, please join the Retired and Senior Volunteer Program (RSVP) of Baltimore County at one of two upcoming Volunteer Recruitment Round-Ups for volunteers to serve with Baltimore County Public Schools during this school year! Through RSVP, volunteers directly impact the lives of children and young adults across Baltimore County by directly serving in the classroom to assist teachers with instruction; help with activities, programs, and field trips; assist students with homework in afterschool programs, and much more!

During the school year, volunteers, aged 55 and older, are needed to make an impact on the lives of Baltimore County’s Public School students. RSVP volunteers help to create the best possible learning experience for students while also serving as a valuable resource to teachers and administrators. Through RSVP, you can make a difference in the lives of students throughout Baltimore County by serving in a Baltimore County Public School near you!

If you are a caring and patient individual, aged 55 or older, willing to serve six hours (or more) per week, consider joining a vibrant group of volunteers serving in classrooms throughout Baltimore County. For those interested in volunteering, two information and orientation sessions are currently scheduled for Eastern Baltimore County and Western Baltimore County. Interested persons should plan to attend only one of the two sessions and all information will be provided during the session. Participants will be required to pass a background check prior to service.

·Session 1: November 3, 2015 from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. at the North Point Branch of the Baltimore County Public Library Meeting Room located at 1716 Merritt Blvd. in Dundalk. ·Session 2: December 9, 2015 from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. at the Randallstown Community Center located at 3505 Resource Drive in Randallstown.

For additional information or to confirm your attendance at one of the two sessions, call the Retired and Senior Volunteer Program of Baltimore County today at 410-887-3101 email: volunteers@baltimorecountymd.gov.

Joe Flacco leads Ravens to late win

— The Baltimore Ravens came out on top when the game clock hit zero. They beat the San Diego Chargers by a score of 29-26 and now have a 2-6 record on the year. Their victory was a different outcome from what the team had experienced throughout what was a one-win season.

Each of the Ravens games has been decided by eight points or less. Almost all of the games came down to a late drive. The Ravens were down 23-19 and Joe Flacco led them on a 38-yard drive that resulted in a touchdown that put the Ravens ahead.

Flacco played flawlessly in the fourth quarter for the Ravens. He completed eight of his nine pass attempts for 71 yards. Flacco also did a great job of adjusting to his new center after losing Jeremy Zuttah for the game.

He had to find a way to get the job done after the Ravens lost Steve Smith Sr. late in the game. Smith Sr. suffered a torn Achilles. The injury will cost Smith Sr. the rest of the season.

Flacco refused to use the missing players as a reason to quit. He had confidence in the guys that had to fill in. “Adversity is something you have to deal with every day in this league,” Flacco said. “That’s why you have guys on the bench that can come in and step up.”

The Ravens needed to score a touchdown on that second to the last drive of the game. They couldn’t settle for a field goal. A crafty play call by Marc Trestman set the Ravens up at the one-yard line and Flacco punched it in for a touchdown.

A touchback gave the Ravens the ball at their own 20-yard line after the Chargers tied the game up at 26 each. Flacco took them into range for Justin Tucker to kick the winning field goal as the final seconds ticked off of the clock.

When it was all said and done, Flacco threw for 319 yards to help Baltimore snap a three-game skid and dealt the Chargers their fourth straight defeat. He had one touchdown pass along with a one-yard touchdown run.

The veteran quarterback was charged with the task of elevating his team without his top receiver. The late game win was just what the Ravens needed going into the bye week. It gave the team something positive to hang their hat on before they take a short break from the season this week.

“It feels good. You know the game’s going to come down to that. We don’t make it easy.” Flacco explained. “We’re going to have to win games late like this, and [we’ve] just got to be proud of how we’ve stayed together throughout this whole process.”

The Ravens will have the bye next week before returning to M&T Bank Stadium to host the Jacksonville Jaguars on November 15th.

Paul Ryan against expanding paid family leave

— House Speaker Paul Ryan pushed back Sunday against calls to expand paid family leave despite his own desire for a work-family balance in his new job.

“I don’t think that sticking up for being a person with balance in your life, for wanting to spend your weekends in your home with your family … I don’t think that means signing up for some new unfunded mandate,” Ryan told CNN’s Dana Bash on “State of the Union.”

Ryan faced criticism from the left after he said he would not give up time with his children to become speaker. Some liberals even called his remarks hypocritical, citing his vote in 2009 against a proposal that would have given federal workers four weeks of paid parental leave.

“I cannot and will not give up my family time,” Ryan said earlier this month as a condition of his candidacy for House speaker.

“Women in particular heard you talking like this and said, ‘Wow he gets it, maybe he can do something about it,'” Bash said.

But Ryan explained that this personal view does not correlate with his public policy opinion.

Ryan instead referred to a bill, the “Working Families Flexibility Act,” that was proposed by fellow Republican Rep. Martha Roby as an alternative. It would give private sector employees the option of using their earned overtime toward paid time off at the sacrifice of time-and-a-half overtime pay. Ryan co-sponsored the bill.

“I think we’ve had some pretty good legislation on flex time,” Ryan said. “And that’s a bill that I think is a great idea.”

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