John McCaslin

Americans awakened this week to a new warning (rehashed and reissued every few years, actually) that eating cheeseburgers will send them to the grave sooner rather than later.

Hours before, yours truly wolfed down not one, but two cheeseburgers at the dinner table of my almost 92-year-old father, "Bob," a retired FBI agent who I've watched consume every cut of meat (is cow's tongue a meat?) in the same home for more than 50 years.

Dad for dinner ate two cheeseburgers and a hot dog (and more than his share of curly fries, I observed), and he was still eyeing the serving tray. Step into his smoky kitchen any morning of the week and you'll find him grilling bologna in the iron skillet alongside his runny eggs.

But I digress. The American Meat Institute (AMI) was quick to respond to this newest red-meat study in the Archives of Internal Medicine, saying it "tries to predict the future risk of death by relying on notoriously unreliable self-reporting about what was eaten in the preceding five years.

"This imprecise approach is like relying on consumers' personal characterization of their driving habits in prior years in determining their likelihood of having an accident in the future," says the AMI, which insists meat products are part of a healthy, balanced diet that actually can help control a person's weight.

Indeed, U.S. dietary guidelines encourage Americans to eat a balanced diet that includes lean meat (the key word being "lean," or else risk living to my father's ripe old age). Consider these recent studies:

• A paper published in the March 11 American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found vegetarians had higher risk of colon cancer than meat-eaters.

• A study in this month's peer-reviewed Journal of Nutrition by the University of Illinois and Pennsylvania State University finds a moderate-protein diet can have a significant positive effect on body composition as well as on cardiovascular disease risk factors, such as cholesterol.

• People on moderate-protein diets reported they weren't as interested in snacks or desserts, and did not have food cravings.

Still confused? Consider one of the more popular books of 2007, authored by David Harsanyi, the title of which speaks for itself: "Nanny State: How Food Fascists, Teetotaling Do-Gooders, Priggish Moralists, and other Boneheaded Bureaucrats are Turning America into a Nation of Children."

GOOD GRIEF

Number of leads and tips about suspected Ponzi schemes and other fraudulent or manipulative activity that U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission chief Troy A. Paredes says come into the SEC's Division of Enforcement every year: "700,000 or more."

"Just keeping on top of tips and referrals can be daunting," says Mr. Paredes, who counts an 1,100-member enforcement staff.

QUOTE OF THE WEEK

"Some of them have even suggested, 'Oh, he had time to fill out his NCAA bracket,' where he correctly had the Memphis Tigers going to the Sweet Sixteen. There's nothing wrong with that. President Obama is good on the Sweet Sixteen, and he's good on the economy."

[-] Rep. Steve Cohen, Tennessee Democrat

ONLY IN AMERICA

Taxpayers could soon be footing the bill for pregnant women who can't quit smoking for the good of their child growing in the womb.

A bill was introduced in Congress this week to "amend Title XIX of the Social Security Act to encourage states to provide pregnant women enrolled in the Medicaid program with access to comprehensive tobacco-cessation services."

GO FIGURE

Three out of four Americans personally know somebody who has been laid off in the current economic crisis, while 40 percent know at least four people who have been laid off, according to a new Rasmussen Reports survey.

"Democrats," for whatever reason, "are more than twice as likely as Republicans to say they would be afraid to say 'no' if their company asked them to take an unpaid furlough, fearing retaliation by their employers."


John McCaslin

John McCaslin is a contributing columnist on Townhall.com and author of Inside The Beltway: Offbeat Stories, Scoops, and Shenanigans from around the Nation's Capital .

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