Medicinal Herbs of CA

This month the Ojai Quarterly published my “Off the Shelf” feature on Lanny Kaufer’s spectacular and informative new field guide to medicinal herbs in California: Here’s the opening: And below the fold [page 2, below] the full story in a more readable font for the web. Much respect to Lanny, who not only has beenContinue reading “Medicinal Herbs of CA”

Sea lion attacks kayaker with octopus

In an extraordinary incident, a sea lion flung an octopus at a young man kayaking near a New Zealand shore, and was caught live on a digital camera. The clip went viral around the world. National Public Radio’s Rachel Cohen followed up with a wonderfully thorough and appropriately playful story. Check it out: it’s astonishing:Continue reading “Sea lion attacks kayaker with octopus”

Stunt journalism scores again (in the Guardian)

A terrific story today in the Guardian puts the infamous all-beef diet extolled by Jordan Peterson and his clan to the test. This could be described as a stunt journalism, much like Supersize Me, but given that we’re talking about food; yes, it’s fair. It’s reporting. Gabbatt does talk to a medical expert, who sharplyContinue reading “Stunt journalism scores again (in the Guardian)”

Low fat, saturated fat, and sugar: the confusion continues

This month two reputable doctors, horrified by the rise in bariatric surgeries to reduce the harms associated with diabetes, published an op-ed on the front page of the Sunday Review of the NYTimes sharply suggesting that we’re doing it all wrong with it comes to medical measures recommended for diabetics. Most doctors — and theContinue reading “Low fat, saturated fat, and sugar: the confusion continues”

Be grateful, but stay away from the Permagrin

In the NYTimes, the estimable Arthur Brooks — the rare research-oriented conservative writer — makes a case for expressing gratitude this season, even if we do not feel it. This Thanksgiving, don’t express gratitude only when you feel it. Give thanks especially when you don’t feel it. Rebel against the emotional “authenticity” that holds youContinue reading “Be grateful, but stay away from the Permagrin”

The John Muir Way — now in Scotland too

Mark Grossi, a California reporter of long standing, recently retired, and his paper republished some of his best work, notably this recounting of a stretch on the John Muir Trail, walked in memory of Gross’s late father. Mount Mendel’s jagged profile turned a surreal pink at sunset. Staring at the spectacle — it’s called alpenglowContinue reading “The John Muir Way — now in Scotland too”

Did avoiding fats make our obesity problem worse?

Could the misunderstanding about fat have made the American problem with obesity worse? That’s the understated implication — or an implication — of the latest version of the medical consensus on fats in the bloodstream, as defined by Frank Hu, head of Harvard’s School of Public Health, in a story by Jane Brody in the NYTimes with aContinue reading “Did avoiding fats make our obesity problem worse?”

Ventura County: Highest pesticide use in California

Spectacular story for The Food and Environment Network, published in The Nation, by Liza Gross. For Ventura County and Oxnard, here's the nut of it:  Use of many of these sixty-six pesticides has fallen statewide since 2007. But a handful of communities saw a dramatic increase. By 2012, the most recent year for which dataContinue reading “Ventura County: Highest pesticide use in California”

GOP: Party of Big Pizza — and obesity?

Last year at this time I started working on a story about childhood obesity in a couple of small towns in Ventura County, and how different the picture looked in an upscale, mostly white town such as Ojai, where childhood obesity runs behind the national average of about 35%, and how it looks in the poorer, mostly Latino town of Santa Paula, where childhood obesity prevalence is among the highest in the state, at about 48%.

Interviewing the director of food services for Ojai's schools, I learned that she does not allow frozen pizza at all for her students eating school lunches, and did what she could to discourage parents from bringing pizza to after-school events. By contrast, I heard from a student at Santa Paula High, most students went for the frozen pizza at the high school every day.

Naturally I wondered if there was a connection to the high rates of obesity, but my adviser at USC/Annenberg's Health Reporting fellowship, discouraged me pointing the finger of blame at a single food for Santa Paula's obesity problem. 

So my ears perked up when today I came across a characteristically strong but unusually wide-ranging column from Paul Krugman at the NYTimes, who argues that based on contributions, it's fair to say that Republicans are "the party of Big Energy and Big Food…and in particular, the party of Big Pizza."

Could caloric frozen pizza explain the obesity problem among kids eating free and reduced lunches?