Thursday, October 28, 2010

ObamaTV on NBC: ‘Law & Order: Soda Police’

The Law & Order franchise has always made a fetish of being “ripped from the headlines.” Law & Order: SVU—the popular, sexed-up spin-off of the now-retired original—seems particularly intent on cramming up-to-date political commentary into every hour-long episode.

Remember Terri Schiavo? If you don’t, you can refresh your memory with SVU Episode 7×08. Want to hear your favorite detectives debate the standards of Army recruiters? That’s 11×08. And don’t miss 11×10, in which a man kills “anchor babies” of immigrants and claims he did it because he was brainwashed by a right-wing television personality. (Bill O’Reilly was not a fan of that episode.) And then there’s the October 13th episode.

Here’s the “plot”: a beautiful blonde woman named Lindsay is found dead. The detectives investigate. It turns out that Lindsay had a lot of enemies. See, Lindsay was a PR representative for a big soda company—and, of course, soda kills children.

“Lindsay Elding and all the soda companies know their products are poison,” one angry (but sympathetic) lobbyist tells the detectives. When one detective protests gently that lack-of-exercise—not soda—is to blame for childhood obesity, the lobbyist is indignant. “Ask Davy Gamm’s mother,” he says. “She’ll tell you what soda did to her son.”

Cue sentimental scene between female detective and dead child’s mother:

Davy’s Mother: Davy was 12 when he took his life. I tried to make him stop with the cola. But he was addicted to it.

Det. Benson [slowly, with furrowed brow]: Soda made him kill himself.

Davy’s Mother: I collected all the research. High-fructose corn syrup can make you obese. And obesity can make you depressed.

Det. Benson: And depression can lead to suicide.

So let me get this straight: you’re saying soda killed your son because soda can make people fat, and being fat can make people depressed, and depression can make people kill themselves? Guess I never thought about it like that before! Color me convinced!

And there’s more. Davy Gamm’s mother—who’s a nurse—reveals that she filed a wrongful death suit against the soda company for her son’s suicide. When Detective Benson says she’s “not sure” that the company can be blamed for Davy’s death, Davy’s mother shakes her head sadly and replies:

“That’s what the jury said. But we would’ve won our suit if that woman hadn’t built the ColaNow athletic center for the community.”

That woman, of course, is Lindsay. Not only is she guilty of killing children with soda, she’s also guilty of building gyms for underprivileged communities in her corporation’s name. Good thing she’s dead!

In true Law & Order form, the episode has a (predictable) twist: it seems that Lindsay wasn’t killed for her soda-peddling after all, but over a personal grudge.

Yet the real message of the episode is clear: soda is the new tobacco. It’s the monster in the closet; it’s coming for your children; and it’s to blame for whatever’s wrong with your life.

So keep your kids off soda! Or, actually, don’t. Just keep them off Law & Order: SVU—not just because it’s political propaganda masquerading as crime-drama, but because really, when you get down to it, it is a very, very bad show.


Strange taste finding may be useful

The ability to taste isn't limited to the mouth, and researchers say that discovery might one day lead to better treatments for such diseases as asthma.

It turns out that receptors for bitter tastes also are found in the smooth muscles of the lungs and airways. These muscles relax when they're exposed to bitter tastes, according to a report by researchers from the University of Maryland School of Medicine in Baltimore in Nature Medicine.

That surprised Dr. Stephen B. Liggett, a lung expert who noted that bitter tastes often are associated with poisonous plants, causing people to avoid them.

Liggett said he expected the bitter-taste receptors in the lungs to produce a "fight or flight" reaction, causing chest tightness and coughing so people would leave the toxic environment.

Instead, when scientists tested some non-toxic, bitter compounds on mice and on human airways in the laboratory, the airways relaxed and opened more widely.

The compounds "all opened the airway more profoundly than any known drug that we have for treatment of asthma or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease," Liggett said.

Liggett said that eating bitter-tasting foods or compounds would not help in the treatment of asthma. To get a sufficient dose, he said, sufferers would need to use aerosolized compounds, which can be inhaled.


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