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Mass. bake sale ban falling flat

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What do Rush Limbaugh and Anderson Cooper have in common? They both think that the new ban on school bake sales in Massachusetts is nuts.

Beginning in August, public schools cannot sell baked goods or any junk foods in the 30 minutes before school begins or in the 30 minutes after school ends.  The ban gives public health officials one more cudgel in the fight against obesity.  About one-third of Bay State children are obese. Massachusetts already prohibits the sale of sugar-laced drinks in schools.

Although the policy has unleashed a new round of Bay State bashing, Massachusetts lines up with national trends in policing school-based food choices. In the New York City schools, bake sales can be held after lunch once a month and evenings after 6 p.m.

This focus on healthy diets hasn’t been completely lost on Bay State parents. A recent study showed that obesity rates in Massachusetts children under the age of six are showing significant declines.

The reality is healthy eating begins at home. Jon Keller opines that the fault for a proposed ban on bake sales is not in our stars but in our ever-expanding selves. The Boston Herald sought out Buddy Valastro, star of the  TLC reality show The Cake Boss and the father of four children under 10. He obligingly proclaimed the Massachusetts ban “stupid,” while riffing on this pearl of ancient Greek wisdom: “We need to teach our kids that you should be able to eat cake, but in moderation.”  

Some Brockton area parents argue that the ban won’t make much of a dent in fundraising since there has been a shift away from large bake sales. But Department of Public Health officials want to see the ban extended throughout the school day and to weekend sporting and other school-related events.

Overlooked by the architects of the ban is the fact that many schools rely on bake sales to fund the extras that districts can no longer afford, from school supplies to scholarship programs and extracurricular activities. In Danvers, the sale of 8,000 pounds of fudge helped finance the high school band’s trip to perform in the 2010 Rose Bowl Parade. Last year, a group of Taunton fourth-graders organized a bake sale and raised nearly $200 to send to the victims of the Japanese earthquake and tsunami. Any way you slice it, yard sales don’t have quite the same appeal as homemade chocolate chip cookies or blueberry muffins.

                                                                                                                                --GABRIELLE GURLEY


BEACON HILL

The federal Secure Communities program is coming to Massachusetts. Bristol Sheriff Thomas Hodgson, a vocal critic of Gov. Deval Patrick’s opposition to the program, hailed the government’s decision to implement the program here.

MUNICIPAL MATTERS

Fall River Mayor Will Flanagan suspended the city’s public works director for three days without pay over an ongoing issue with illegally parked cars downtown.

Haverhill approves a plan to borrow $1.8 million at 3 percent interest to fix up its Citizens Center and make other repairs around town, the Eagle-Tribune reports.

CASINOS

No dice for Foxborough, as Steve Wynn abandons his casino proposal for Massachusetts.  The Kraft Group says “the citizens of Foxborough have spoken,” WBUR reports. Score one for the little guys, the Wall Street Journal reports. Wynn’s failure encourages casino booster Tom Menino, as well as East Boston casino opponents. The owner of Plainridge Racecourse is also cracking a smile.

A child advocacy group wants Carl Stanley McGee, the interim executive director of the state’s Gaming Commission, to provide more information on the sexual assault allegations he faced in Florida that were dismissed without charges being brought. The Cape Cod Times questions gaming commision head Stephen Crosby’s credibility after he failed to investigate the case fully and lied to one of its reporters in the process.

NATIONAL POLITICS/WASHINGTON

North Carolina voters approve a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage and civil unions for gay and straight couples, CBS News reports.

ELECTION 2012

US Sen. Scott Brown calls on Democrat Elizabeth Warren to release her law school applications and personnel files to address questions about her minority status, NECN reports. Howie Carr tells why he thinks “Granny Warren’s” race card is a story that won’t go away.

Republican Richard Tisei balks at US Rep. John Tierney’s “People’s Pledge” proposal, calling the congressman a “PAC addict,” the Lowell Sun reports.

A Fall River dentist has entered the race for the GOP nomination for the 4th Congressional District seat being vacated by Barney Frank.

Six-term Republican Senate veteran Richard Lugar is soundly defeated in an Indiana primary by state Treasurer Richard Mourdock, MSNBC reports. Lugar appears to kick the congressional GOP on his way out. His opponent seeded the coup by ginning up Tea Party fervor while opposing the auto industry bailout. Nate Silver argues Lugar’s defeat is the latest development in a campaign for ideological purity in the Senate.

Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin shows surprising strength in a Republican primary in Wisconsin, garnering more votes than were cast in the entire Democratic primary, the Daily Beast reports.

The Atlantic compares Mitt Romney’s attacks on a stagnant economy to those Bob Dole made in 1996, and argues that Facebook’s IPO shows the economy is more resilient than Romney gives it credit for.

BUSINESS/ECONOMY

Cambridge’s Ironwood Pharmaceuticals weighs a move to South Boston.

EDUCATION

About that student loan interest rate hike that everyone says they are against? The US Senate found a way to split along party lines and fail to resolve the issue.

The Gateway Cities education plan is imperiled by budget cuts.

A new report from Stanford University details the elements that should be included in teacher evaluation formulas.

Irene Sege of Strategies for Children, in a CommonWealth Voices piece, urges adoption of universal all-day kindergarten in Massachusetts.

Members of the Salem School Committee feud over a proposal to end a longer year at the city’s showcase elementary school, the Salem News reports.

Naomi Schaefer Riley, in a Wall Street Journal op-ed piece, gives her version of why she was fired by The Chronicle of Higher Education for a blog post that described some black studies dissertations as “left-wing victimization claptrap.” (Nearly 6,500 people signed a petition calling for her dismissal.) The Journal, where Riley previously worked and where her husband is an editorial board member, weighs in on the “cravenness of higher education.”

HEALTH CARE

The state Senate health care cost control plan, which will be unveiled today, goes a little easier on the industry than the House plan in setting cost-reduction targets and controls on high-priced care, reports the Globe.

Michelle Obama, a leader in the fight against obesity, hasn’t done enough if a request from the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine is any indication . The group wants to ban photo-ops of the president and the First Family eating hot dogs,  hamburgers, or any other junk foods.

TRANSPORTATION

US traffic deaths dropped last year to their lowest level since record-keeping began in 1949, with the biggest decline coming in New England, the McClatchy Newspapers report (via Governing).

ENERGY/ENVIRONMENT

Newton goes green and expects to save, CommonWealth reports.

Another day, another NStar power outage in Boston’s Back Bay.  Meanwhile, in good NStar news, the utility has proposed a 16 percent cut in the supply rate of electricity because of falling natural gas prices, giving the average customer about a $6 a month savings on their bill.

Many Massachusetts politicians urge the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to spend more time studying the safety of the Pilgrim Nuclear Power Station in Plymouth, but NRC staff say the plant’s license should be renewed for another 20 years, AP reports (via Lowell Sun).

Hundreds of dead dolphins and birds are causing alarm in Peru, the New York Times reports.

Falmouth works out a compromise on the operating hours of one of its two wind turbines.

CRIMINAL JUSTICE

Four employees of the Essex County Sheriff’s Department are suspended as part of an investigation into allegations that include improperly accessing criminal records and filing false time cards, the Eagle-Tribune reports.

The Plymouth County Sheriff’s department will no longer pick up and house prisoners awaiting arraignment from local police departments because of pending state budget cuts.

An Ecuadoran court has sentenced Luis Guaman to 25 years in prison for killing a mother and her 2-year-old child in Brockton.

MEDIA

The “technical difficulties” that knocked Brockton’s WXBR-AM local programming off the air is apparently due to the owners technically not paying their rent and being factually evicted mid-program last week.

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