Big Fat Surprise

Big Fat Surprise

Big Fat Surprise

A summary of what's in the major U.S. newspapers.
Feb. 8 2006 3:33 AM

Big Fat Surprise

The New York Timesleads with,and the  Washington Post's top nonlocal spot goes to, a massive study that found no significant evidence that low-fat diets lower women's risk of heart attacks, strokes, breast cancer, or colon cancer. The study involved near 50,000 women over eight years, and the Post calls it "by far the largest, most definitive test of cutting fat from the diet." Researchers said they believe men would show similar results. The Los Angeles Times' top nonlocal spot goes to Coretta Scott King's funeral, where there were 15,000 people, four presidents, three governors, and numerous swipes at President Bush. The LAT plays up the digs against GWB, as the does the NYT. The Post's reporter wasn't impressed: The six-hour service "seemed to strive mightily to project a theme of inclusion and the setting aside of political differences." USA Todayleads with something of a trend piece: Four states have passed laws requiring doctors to tell women seeking abortions that the fetus might experience pain during the procedure (a questionable claim). Nineteen states had such bills introduced (though not passed) last year, and another handful have been introduced in the last month. 

"Just switching to low-fat foods is not likely to yield much health benefit in most women," said one of the heads of the study. But that doesn't mean you should start scarfing down sausages. "Rather than trying to eat 'low-fat,' women should focus on reducing saturated fats and trans fats," said the researcher.

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That's because, as the Post notes, there is "clear evidence from this and other studies" that saturated fats and trans fats are "unhealthful and should be avoided." The study was started a decade ago, before the current taxonomy of fats was established, and it didn't distinguish between "good" and "bad" ones.

What's more, the women in the study who stuck to a low-fat diet did have 9 percent fewer breast cancers than the control group. It's just that the decrease was small enough that researchers decided they couldn't rule out chance. The nuances aren't exactly given prominent play. " 'LOW FAT' DIET'S BENEFITS REJECTED," says the Post.

The LAT's coverage, though, is a notch above. Among other things, it notes concerns about the study's methodology. Women in the low-fat group reported eating relatively few calories, yet they didn't lose weight. "Something is wrong with this picture," said one public-health prof.

The NYT reefers a Republican congresswoman whose subcommittee oversees the National Security Agency saying there should be a full congressional investigation of the agency's warrantless spying. Representative Heather Wilson, who is a vet and was a member of the first President Bush's national security council, told the Times, "The president has his duty to do, but I have mine too." She's the first Republican on either the House or Senate Intel committee to call for an investigation, though she doesn't have the power to start one.

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Knight Ridder reports that the State Department has "sidelined key career weapons experts and replaced them with less experienced political appointees." The changes have come during a reorganization of various offices and created something of an uproar among career bureaucrats. "The process has been gravely flawed from the outset, and smacks plainly of a political vendetta against career Foreign Service and Civil Service (personnel) by political appointees," said a "group of employees" in a rare letter of complaint to superiors late last year.

The LAT fronts and others go inside with interim Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert announcing his still vague plans to withdraw from most the West Bank and keep the three largest settlement blocks along with a presence near the Jordanian border. Of course, before he can do anything, he'll have to win next month's elections.

As the NYT fronts, a jury in Britain convicted the country's best-known radical cleric on charges of incitement and promoting racial hatred. Abu Hamza al-Masri was not accused of being connected to specific acts of violence. Rather, as the judge put it, he's getting seven years hard time for having "created an atmosphere" in which murder was taken to be "not only a legitimate course but a moral and religious duty in pursuit of perceived justice." Al-Qaida men Richard Reid and Zacarias Moussaoui both hung out at Masri's mosque.

The NYT notices that 86 evangelical leaders have signed on to an effort to lobby against global warming. Other evangelical leaders have banded together to oppose their brethren and insist "the science isn't settled."

Only the Wall Street Journal goes high with the latest from Iraq, where four Marines were killed, including three in one roadside bombing. Three bombings in Baghdad killed about 10 people. And the head of Fallujah's city council, which had cooperated with the U.S., was assassinated.

The papers go inside with three Afghans killed during a confrontation between NATO troops and more cartoon protesters. Also, 12 people were killed by a suicide bomber in Kandahar.

Everybody mentions a state-controlled Iranian paper responding to the cartoon crisis by announcing a competition for cartoons to mock the Holocaust. Then there is Iran's Commerce Ministry, which has learned a thing or two from Congress. The ministry, as the NYT notes, "called for changing the name of Danish pastry to that of a flower named after Muhammad."