Figuring Out How Many Calories Are in Your Burrito

burritoAs if the Affordable Care Act wasn’t controversial enough, a lesser-known provision of the law has critics warning of regulatory zeal. Section 4205  of the ACA (in case you haven’t read that far) requires restaurants to post calorie counts for the meals they sell, a requirement critics claim will be costly to comply with, while being of little benefit to consumers who will not know how to use this information.
Critics are especially concerned about the law’s requirement that restaurants post calorie ranges for foods that are customizable – foods like pizza and burritos, where the number of calories varies depending on the ingredients. A large cheese pizza, for instance, has far fewer calories than a large sausage, pepperoni and onion pizza with, of course, extra cheese. Two U.S. congresswomen, Cathy Rogers and Loretta Sanchez, contend that the “ranges can be so wide – conceivably as much as 2,000 calories in the case of a pizza – that they are useless in providing consumers with useful information.”
Fortunately, the FDA has not published final rules on menu labeling yet. So it has time to address critics’ concerns. Our new research has identified a simple tweak that the FDA should consider, one that makes it far easier for consumers to understand calorie ranges…
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How Little Did We Accomplish with First Round of Fiscal Cliff Negotiations?

Here is a quick summary from the Wall Street Journal of what the U.S. Federal Debt looks like now that we have avoided, at least for now, the fiscal cliff.  As you will see, we didn’t do much to balance the budget.  In the short run, that is ok.  Too much balancing, too quickly, and we will be inviting a major recessionary relapse.  But long run?  We have lots of work to do, and fingers crossed that the two parties find a way to come up with a smart combination of spending cuts and revenue enhancement that will change the way this picture looks!


What Airplane Safety, Mammograms, and Gun Massacres Have in Common

Gun rights advocates are correct: a well armed principal might have reduced the death toll from the tragic elementary school shootings in Connecticut last week. Gun carrying citizens might also have been able to take down the shooters in Aurora and Virginia Tech. To most people, after all, guns are about self-defense, not about committing crimes. As the old saying goes: “There has never been a mass shooting at a gun show.”
On the other hand, gun control advocates are correct to point out that mentally disturbed people like Adam Lanza would not be able to commit massacres if they were prevented from getting their hands on high-powered, semiautomatic weapons. They are also correct to point out that Americans have staggeringly easy access to weapons that far exceed what any sportsmanlike hunter would use during deer season.
In other words, figuring out what to do in the wake of the Connecticut massacre means recognizing the truth in both of these views. It means considering the possibility that the answer to reducing gun violence is a matter of both having more guns and less… (Read more and view comments at Forbes)

Evaluating the Quality of Charter Schools and Tertiary Care Hospitals

If Americans judged the quality of hospital care the way Newsweek judges high schools, we would soon be inundated with “charter hospitals” that only treat healthy patients.
As reported in The New YorkTimes , thirty-seven of Newsweek’s top 50 high schools have selective admission standards, thereby enrolling the cream of the eighth grade crop. That means that when these high scoring eighth graders reach eleventh grade, they’ll be high scoring eleventh graders, helping the school move up the Newsweek rankings. These selective admission schools simply have to avoid screwing up their talented students.
That’s no way to determine how good a school is. The measure of a good education should be to assess how well students did in that school compared to how they would have been predicted to do if they had gone to other schools… (Read more and view comments at Forbes)

How Irrationality Can Reduce Traffic Jams

In Singapore, rush hour at the Mass Rapid Transit trains can involve more body contact than a full on TSA pat down, the train so packed you will know whether the guy next to you had garlic toast for breakfast.  Because of this crowding, someone in the Transit office decided to give people a 10% discount if they rode the trains during off-peak hours.  But very few Singaporeans took the…(Read the rest and view comments at Scientocracy)