Wednesday March 13, 2013

Truth in advertising?

Editor of the Reformer:

Lately the Reformer has been publishing a paid advertisement, placed by the American Beverage Association. This full-page color spread attempts to lobby against the proposed tax on sugar sweetened drinks. It works its magic thorough an artfully arranged photo, depicting a tempting array of these beverages, all seeming to say "don't make me pay more for the good things I love."

Funny how my reaction to this effort is just the opposite of the advertiser's intention.

As in much of advertising, the facts behind the image represent something much different. Behind the labeling and packaging of this ad is the product -- sugar, water, coloring and flavoring. The displayed drinks represent between four and five pounds of sugar. Open a five-pound bag of sugar, turn it upside-down on your kitchen counter and compare the resulting white mound with the attractive color advertisement.

What this ad really says is "We, the paid lobbyists for the beverage industry, don't want to see our multi-billion dollar market shrink."

Truthfully, if you had to shovel the 15 to 20 teaspoonfuls of sugar into each 20-ounce bottle of sweetened beverage you drink, do you think you would consume as much? The branding, packaging and container all conspire to mask the truth of the product, making it easier for you to grab it off the shelf and gulp it down, never thinking about what you are actually drinking.


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This advertisement certainly clarifies the choice for me -- a penny-an-ounce excise tax on sweetened beverages, with the funds earmarked to support health-related programs versus sustained profits for the sugar sweetened beverage industry.

Gerald Stockman,

Brattleboro, March 8

Congress is
failing us

Editor of the Reformer:

If the members of the Congress of United States are employees of the citizens of United States and are unable to do their job then they are ripe to be released from the seat they have been giving. The congress has continued to show little ability to come to a sensible agreement for a budget which serves the best interest of the citizens of our country.

If congress continues to treat its employers with such disrespect by not doing the most important assignment of their elected position; by the citizens of United States; they at minimum need not be paid. The fact that half of congress has taking so many breaks during this time of great disagreement shows only disregard to the position. Why are these people being paid when they can't do their job?

If any employee were to decide to take a three day weekend or a week vacation at a time when their employer needs them to complete an essential task in order for the company to remain operational, that person would be released from the job. It is time for "We the people of the United States of America" stand up to our employees and make them do the job they have been elected to do.

If congress cannot work together and pass a budget then they should be required to remain in session until they complete the task. Close the doors of the senate and the house and keep these people in their seat until a budget plan is passed in both the house and senate. If they after a week are unable to come to an agreed budget then fire them. Release them without pay or any type of benefits package. This is a job. Congress is a collective of people who have asked the people of their states to elect them into the position with the understanding that they will perform tasks to serve not just the state they represent but the entire population of this country. If congress continues to show such disregard for the people of this country by refusing to complete the most essential requirement of their position then they need to be released from the giving position.

Mark Raymond,

Brattleboro, March 1

Biology: Not that hard to understand

Editor of the Reformer:

I read recently that testimony about the effect on fish of Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant is being disregarded because it is being presented by a person who is not a biologist.

The issue is probably that the plant raises the water temperature, which reduces the amount of dissolved oxygen, impacting species of fish that need a high level of dissolved oxygen, to survive. It doesn't take a degree in biology to understand this. This is basic high school level biology that an average 14-year-old can understand.

I had a job for a summer, working at Barry Conservation Camp, which is run by University of New Hampshire Cooperative Extension, at the Berlin, N.H., trout hatchery. One project we did with our teenage campers was we went to various bodies of water and tested the temperature, parts per million of dissolved oxygen, and pH, and we collected and identified as much wildlife as possible, including plants, tiny animals, insects, and fish. We learned that when the water temperature goes up, there is less dissolved oxygen, and it doesn't take very many degrees of temperature change to impact the ability of trout to survive.

Salmon and shad have the same need as trout, for a very high level of dissolved oxygen. This is impacted when the water temperature is raised.

The information gathering about Vermont Yankee should be about the information, not about the people presenting the information. A responsible action for the Public Service Board to take would be to find out this information. It would be easy to do -- ask any high school science teacher who has done this project with students, or any college biology professor who has. I am sure you can find such people at the University of New Hampshire, Keene, N.H., State College, or Keene High School. Ask them. Find out the facts. Don't ignore information because of the lack of "qualifications" of the presenter.

Heidi Henkel,

Putney, Feb. 28

To clarify ...

Editor of the Reformer:

With all due respect to my Guilford neighbor, Richard Davis, I wish to clarify his coverage of my remarks at the Guilford Town Meeting, as reported on the front page of the March 6 Reformer, in the article "Guilford votes to close middle school."

The purpose and intent of my contribution at Town Meeting had one goal only: to plead for much greater parental involvement in the lives of our children who attend public schools, be they in Guilford, Brattleboro or somewhere else. It was not my intent to speak about "social diversity and the welcoming attitude of (sic) racial differences in the school"; nor did I say emphatically that "social influences in Brattleboro may be a bad influence for Guilford seventh- and eighth-graders." They are no worse for Guilford kids than they are for Putney or Brattleboro teens. As was so rightfully pointed out by a voter, there are potential "bad influences" in any community, including Guilford. No school, even BAMS, regardless of how caring its faculty, nor how strong its academic and extra-curricular offerings, can totally isolate its students from "bad social influences." How young people deal with these "bad influences" is up to the child, and to some degree the parent, not the school.

That said, I am deeply grateful for the positive comments I heard about my children at Town Meeting, both of whom attended Guilford school and BUHS. Since both of my children are black, Ugandan-born Americans, I would simply like to thank the "villages" of Brattleboro and Guilford who have helped me to raise these children. It does indeed take a village to raise a child.

I strongly believe that basic moral grounding begins at home, long before a child goes to school. And it is very demanding of a parent, especially a single parent living in Guilford. *But it is possible*.

We now know our children will be going to BAMS next year. My plea remains the same: Please stay involved, or get involved now, in your children's lives, especially in their social lives outside school. Believe me, they need and want you there.

M. Carol Jaenson,

Guilford, March 8