Vegan Parenting and an Italian Controversy

I don’t think there is any way to post about this subject, and my thoughts on it, without getting into trouble in the comments. Oh well, here goes.

Recently, an member of the very conservative Forza Italia party proposed a law that would sentence parents to 1-2 years in jail for not providing a balanced diet to children under 16. As the article I found written in English phrases it:

Silvio Berlusconi’s Forza Italia party wants to see parents who feed children under 16 a vegan diet jailed for up to a year.

That sounds both hilarious, and a little extreme. So, I went in search of a more detailed article from Italian news outlets, and found a decent article on the subject in La Reppublica. I feel that a little clarification is needed before I comment on the topic.

First of all, the law does not specifically mention veganism. The wording of the proposal is as follows:

[la legge] rende penalmente perseguibile chi “impone o adotta nei confronti di un minore degli anni 16, sottoposto alla sua responsabilità genitoriale o a lui affidato per ragione di educazione, istruzione, cura, vigilanza o custodia, una dieta alimentare priva di elementi essenziali per la crescita sana ed equilibrata del minore stesso”

Translation: [the law would] render punishable by law those who “impose or adopt for a minor under 16, who is under their parental responsibility or to them entrusted for reasons of education, instruction, care, vigilance or custody, a diet lacking in essential nutrients for the healthy and balanced growth of that same minor”.

While the law itself does not refer to veganism in particular, but rather to any diet which would lead to malnourishment, it is clear that the politician in question has her sights set on veganism. When asked about it, she talks about “radicalized” parents who impose diets which are far too restrictive to the healthy growth and cognitive development of their children, and mentions the essential nutrients often lacking in a vegan diet as her prime example. While she has no objection to informed adults making their own decisions, she says, it is a different matter entirely when those decisions impact the health and safety of children.

This attitude also does not come out of the blue. Veganism is definitely on the rise in Italy, and with it there have been many children hospitalized for malnutrition. One pediatrician in Rome saw three babies hospitalized for severe B12 deficiency in the past year alone. A two year old in Belluno was hospitalized for severe malnutrition, including calcium and B12 deficiency. A three year old girl in Genova had to be resuscitated after she was hospitalized, once again, for a severe B12 deficiency. I personally know someone who’s child almost died from a B12 deficiency. Of course, veganism is not the only kind of diet that can lead to such a severe impact on the health of children, but it is certainly something that is causing a lot of talk in Italy, given that the vegan fad is such a new arrival to the country.

So, here’s what I think about it. I have a controversial statement to make on the topic. As hard as it may seem to accept, the fact of the matter is, veganism is not the ultimate healthy diet. I’ll say it again.

Veganism is not the healthiest diet for humans

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Well, They Were Trailblazers Before…

I never really new much about Colorado before, but I have to say, it is leaving me overall favorably impressed of late. They were one of the first states in the US to legalize marijuana for recreational use, and the rest of the country looked to them and Washington to realize what a smart move that actually was.

This year, they might trailblaze again, as in November they will be voting on the introduction of a single-payer health care system, similar to the Canadian and European models.

A group of more than 2,000 physicians is calling for the establishment of a universal government-run health system in the US, in a paper in the American Journal of Public Health.

According to the proposal released Thursday, the Affordable Care Act did not go far enough in removing barriers to healthcare access. The physicians’ bold plan calls for implementing a single-payer system similar to Canada’s, called the National Health Program, that would guarantee all residents healthcare. 

If the vote passes in November, it will be the first state in the US to finally, finally accept the Universal Health Care model. As I said, they trailblazed once before, and maybe this is their chance to do it again, to demonstrate to the rest of the country that this model simply makes sense.

I’m excited for Colorado. Let’s see what happens

One Small Step For Taiwan

And let’s hope that it is the first of many, many more.

The President of Taiwan has, for the first time in history, apologized for the government’s treatment of their aboriginal people.

 

Of course, after centuries of oppression and marginalization, it’s going to take a Hell of a lot more than an apology to fix the systemic racism that the Taiwanese aboriginal people face on a day to day basis. However, that does not mean that this is not at least, a first small step in the right direction, as well as a historic moment for Taiwan. Stories like these make me hope that, despite the ever-growing gloom that is the news nowadays, perhaps on the whole this world is still moving towards progress. I’m starting to see progress across history as a sort of global warming chart: you have small-scale dips in temperature due to certain events, but the overall trend is irrevocably up. Of course, in the case of progress, this trend is a good thing, rather than disastrous.

 

Tough Questions: Protecting the Elderly, or Violation of Privacy?

Many of you who are following the discussions about police brutality in the United States are aware of the call for mandatory body cams on police officers. While this alone will probably do little to counter the apparently abysmal quality of police training, which leads so many officers to commit murder with little to no provocation whatsoever, it is generally agreed that body cams would be a good idea, at least to obtain unbiased evidence of exactly what happened during an altercation which results in someone being severely injured or killed. While policemen are on duty and in public they have no expectation of privacy, and thus body cams would not violate their rights in this regard.

However, recent news out of Australia is bringing up the question of surveillance in a different, and potentially far more complicated context. It involves surveillance in elderly homes, where patients are at particular risk of abuse as they are often too frail to fight back, or are unable to communicate what is being done to them to people outside of the facility.

A woman, suspicious of how her father was being treated in his nursing home in Adelaide, installed a hidden camera in his room, and caught this on tape. I warn you, the video contains abuse of an elderly man.

 

The nurse is, quite clearly, attempting to smother the man in his bed. The statistics mentioned in the video are also startling, claiming that 1 in 20 elderly people in Australia are victims of abuse. This is definitely a problem that needs to be addressed in the country.

However, the proposed solution of mandatory CCTV cameras in nursing homes brings with it far more concerns regarding privacy than any discussion relating to police body cams. In this particular scenario, I’m sure that the woman who managed to record this was very glad she did so, and I expect that the nurse in question was fired and arrested for her behavior. However, the privacy concerns around keeping elderly people in nursing homes under constant surveillance are troubling.

First of all, who would be monitoring these CCTV feeds? If the answer is security personnel within the nursing home itself, it is very likely that cases of abuse will be found and go unreported. Secondly, while the nurses and staff are simply employees who can go home at the end of their shifts, the residents live there. That is their home, and CCTV cameras would be monitoring them in their homes 24/7, which would surely qualify as a violation of privacy. Who wants to spend their last years on this Earth being recorded and monitored every minute of every day, like a rat in a behavioral experiment? Not to mention the fact that those cameras would be picking up medical visits, sponge baths, and a whole lot of other activities that most people would rather not be watched by complete strangers.

Nor is it completely feasible to ask for the consent of those who would be recorded. Some people who live in nursing homes would be competent to give that consent, but many are not. Also, many of these nursing homes have shared rooms, and what if the residents have different opinions on whether or not they should be recorded? Also, why should someone have to choose between completely giving up their privacy and opening themselves up to potential abuse and neglect?

On the other hand, this apparently rampant elder abuse needs to be addressed. I cannot find it in me to fault that woman for secretly recording this footage when she began to suspect her father was being mistreated. Illegal or not, I probably would have done the same thing, because the instinct to protect the people we love will often outweigh our respect for the law in many circumstances, for many people. She clearly felt powerless to address her concerns, and recording him in secret was the only way she could think of to confront the situation.

There is no denying that there should be more accountability and transparency when it comes to the treatment of the elderly in nursing homes, but how does one address this without serious violations of privacy? Right now, I have no way to answer that question. The only thing I can say is, something needs to be done. It is time to give the elderly, as well as the disabled and the mentally ill a voice, to treat them with with respect as human beings, not as disposable burdens on society. It is this mentality towards these groups of people which makes them so vulnerable to abuse in the first place.

 

This Redneck Gets It

People will often adopt a fake, exaggerated redneck accent in order to emphasize that what they are going to say is exceedingly stupid and/or ignorant. This self proclaimed redneck blows that stereotype out of the water, in his message to “his people” about Black Lives Matter.

 

Never judge a person’s reason by their accent.

Now, I can only hope that his perspective, and his ability to put this discussion in a context that others in his community could empathize with, will resonate with at least some of the people he is addressing.

Oh, Pence is That Guy!

I remember hearing about a Governor that had passed such restrictive laws about reproductive rights that, technically, it criminalized periods. In response, I had heard that women were trolling him by calling his office with continual, and detailed, updates on their periods. Just to make sure they were on the right side of the law, you know.

But until this article came out, I didn’t make the connection. It was Mike Pence, new Republican nominee for VP! So, of course, Periods for Pence now had another mammoth to troll, the Trump campaign.

 

Women protesting the Republican Vice Presidential choice’s big government intrusion into their uterine areas – led by feminist group Periods for Pence – have begun a national call flood of the Donald Trump for President Campaign headquarters.

Women who like the Periods for Pence Facebook page from across Indiana originally began calling Indiana Governor Pence  in late March with updates on their periods, because Republican Vice Presidential nominee Pence enacted a big government, anti-choice law to regulate women’s reproductive organs that is so extreme, it would theoretically criminalize every woman in Indiana who has a period, unless they give a funeral to any miscarried fetuses a proper burial or cremation.

 

While some are even sending in used tampons and pads, Periods for Pence advises against that, as it is technically illegal. However, there is nothing wrong with a polite phone call! For those of you who are interested:

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Where Cops Go To Jail

With the recent discussions about police brutality and murder raging in the United States, I was shocked to discover that, in my home country, cops can actually get sent to prison for causing the death of a citizen. Reading further into the article about it (in Italian), I was even more surprised by the details of this precise case.

In 2014, a man named Riccardo Magherini was found wandering around in Florence. He was agitated, in the midst of a panic attack. When he was accosted by the Carabinieri, they forcefully threw him to the ground and handcuffed him as he was screaming. They held him on the ground and, when he started to have difficulty breathing, an ambulance was called but they were not able to save him. It was later determined that he also had a significant amount of cocaine in his system and that, combined with his treatment at the hands of the cops, caused cardiac arrest. Protests about his death began in Florence, the family demanded justice and hired a lawyer to pursue it.

Now, three of the four cops present have been sentenced to 7-8 months in jail, for what roughly translates to a negligent homicide charge. The judge determined that, once handcuffed, they should not have continued to hold the man to the ground, and that they unnecessarily exacerbated his condition by putting pressure on his chest and thus restricting his breathing. They bore partial responsibility for his death in doing this, and thus they will now go to prison.

He was not shot, he was high on cocaine and agitated, but the cops still went to jail. As well they should, in my opinion, but when one is immersed in the current news coming out of the US, I almost can’t believe that these cops were even prosecuted at all.

Furthermore, Italians are outraged at the sentence, saying it is far too light and that a uniform allows the Carabinieri to commit murder with just a slap on the wrist. Given my current awareness of how cops around the world are treated by the justice system, I don’t even know how to comment on it. Maybe it is too light. Maybe it’s depressing that I can be relieved that this amount of justice was meted out in this case, because it at least means that there is some accountability going on.

I just don’t know anymore. The only thing I can say for certain is somethings gotta give. Civilized societies cannot continue to progress with an ever growing (and evermore justified) fear and hatred of government and those who enforce the law.

Share Your Stories

I came across a facebook post by a woman named Molly Suzanna who, for the first time, is sharing her story of police brutality from when she was 19 years old.

It is important for these stories to be shared, and by as many people as possible. I admire her bravery in doing so, and I hope others follow suit.

Her detailed description of what she felt and how she reacted is a very important lesson in empathy. So many people see videos of policemen brutalizing citizens and say “well why were they struggling?” or “why did they talk back?” or a million other lame excuses. Her story drives home a truth that I hope some of these people will feel, that sometimes people are upset, agitated, angry or frustrated for their own reasons. Sometimes, when you feel your body being attacked and hurt, you react on instinct to make it stop. Most people, in emotionally charged situations that turn violent, are not able to think rationally and coolly and predict precisely what actions to take to appease their brutalizer, no matter how obvious it might seem in hindsight. Deescalation in a skill, and one that is supposed to be taught to the fucking police officers. What kind of a world do we live in where it is upon the average citizen’s shoulders to calm down and deescalate a confrontation with the police? When did it become acceptable for the cops to act like overemotional toddlers with guns and authority?

It is chilling to think how close she came to dying over an unsigned traffic ticket. Then, you realize, that many other people in a similar situation have died for something so silly that instantly got out of hand, and are not around now to tell their story.

For those of you who do not have facebook, screenshots of the full story are below the fold.

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The President Gets Published

Well, would you look at that. Barack Obama has become the first sitting US President to publish a paper in a scientific journal.

As soon as I read that, I had to take a look at the paper. It is about health care reform in the United States, which makes sense of course. It is also published in JAMA, which is a very respectable medical journal indeed. But I wondered, is he the first author? The corresponding author?

He is the only author on the paper, which usually means that he can be contacted about the content. Did the President of the United States just put his email address on a paper?

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Author Affiliations! That’s where you usually get information about the author. So, what happens when you click on Author Affiliations?

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HA! That has got to be my favorite part. What more do you need? President of the United States bitches! I’m surprised there is no middle finger emoticon next to it.

All joking aside, I have the feeling that he got a very easy revision. Unless the reviewers thought it was a joke. I might have, if a paper came across my desk for review with the President of the United States’ name on it.

As for the paper, it finds that the Affordable Care Act has made America’s Health Care System better, no surprises there. Not that I think that it hasn’t, it may well have, but there might be a slight conflict of interest on the author’s part, no? The methodology itself is not one that I have time to comb through, it is essentially an essay with a few stats thrown in there, and there is no methods section in the paper at all. Did he take any steps to prevent confirmation bias? I don’t have time, nor much expertise to re-calculate his stats, but if anyone else wants to give this paper a once over feel free to let us know what you find!

But that also leads to another question: Does this mean that Barack Obama is a decent statistician? He’s the only author on the paper, which means that he is at least claiming to have done the calculations himself. Or did someone else do them for him, and he didn’t put their name on the paper?