Representative Scott DesJarlais, a freshman Republican from Tennessee, has introduced legislation in the House of Representatives that aims to “prohibit the use of federal money for advertising campaigns against any food or beverage deemed safe and lawfully marketed under the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act,” according to his site.
DesJarlais’ view is that “The government is reaching too far into our lives in trying to regulate personal habits.” The congressman also cited the need to protect products “made by American workers.” As an example, according to CNN Money, the Coca-Cola company employs about 140,000 people worldwide, though much of the company’s business and manufacturing takes place overseas. The American Beverage Association claims its industry provides “more than 227,000 jobs” in America.
The director of public health in Los Angeles County, Dr. Jonathan Fielding, opposes the legislation, stating, “we need to educate people about what’s in the food they eat.” He also points out that the federal government has sponsored effective ads warning against the dangers of smoking that helped change American perceptions of the practice.
The California Center for Public Health Advocacy has published an infographic (pdf) with statistics about the relationship between soda intake and obesity.
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The PROTECT IP Act, in long form the Preventing Real Online Threats to Economic Creativity and Theft of Intellectual Property Act of 2011, is currently under review by the Senate Judiciary Committee. The Act proposes to allow content industries more powerful tools to sue and shut down websites that violate copyrights. The bill is sponsored by Pat Leahy, D VT, and it has received the backing of entertainment giants such as the Recording Industry Association of America and the Motion Picture Association of America. A similar bill, the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) was recently introduced in the House of Representatives with the goal of appeasing technology companies by requiring court approval of a suit against third parties; however, technology companies, led by Google, have written to the Committee voicing strong opposition, asserting that the bills in their current states, while supporting a worthy goal, go about it in the wrong way. They argue that the measures the bills would put in place give copyright holders too much power to attack legitimate content providers, whose operating costs would be greatly increased by the increased necessity to police their services and censor user-submitted content. They also contend that these regulations would kill jobs in the growing technology industry, a major part of America’s economy. Additionally, they say, measures already in place, such as the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, among others, give adequate protection to content producers. The bills currently have wide bipartisan support, but are extremely unpopular in the public, sparking massive resistance shown in social network and blog posts, with serious mentions even making their way to humor sites such as Memebase. The backers of the bills contend the new regulations are necessary. Bob Goodlatte, R, VA, a co-sponsor of SOPA, states:
“Intellectual property is one of America’s chief job creators and competitive advantages in the global marketplace, yet American inventors, authors, and entrepreneurs have been forced to stand by and watch as their works are stolen by foreign infringers beyond the reach of current U.S. laws. This legislation will update the laws to ensure that the economic incentives our Framers enshrined in the Constitution over 220 years ago – to encourage new writings, research, products and services – remain effective in the 21st Century’s global marketplace, which will create more American jobs. The bill will also protect consumers from dangerous counterfeit products, such as fake drugs, automobile parts and infant formula.”