#237 Mark & Steve – Childhood Obesity and More
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Hello, everybody, welcome to another installment of the EnglishLingQ Podcast. Mark here with Steve.
Steve: Hello, welcome.
Mark: And, today, we thought we would…well, I guess I was just looking at an interesting news article, the title of which was…let's find it here…
Steve: It said something like “Physical Exercise Doesn't Help in the Fight against Obesity” or some stupid thing like that. Some taxpayer group paid for a study to find out something and they're trying to make themselves interesting.
Mark: “Gym Class: No Solution for Obesity.” Now obesity, of course, is people who are overweight or too fat; body fat index. I don't know the exact definition of obesity, but essentially people who are fat.
Steve: Obesity is being fat.
Gym class, of course, is a physical education class in high schools or in schools.
Steve: Gym is short for gymnasium.
Steve: Which, in many countries, in Europe, means like a high school or something, but here it means your physical education.
So gymnasium, here, is where you play sports.
Mark: At any rate, I read that headline and I certainly don't buy it.
Mark: However, I shouldn't say that. It probably is true, because I live near a high school and I've seen their physical education class. I've seen them out for a run…
Mark: …and you've got the three guys running at the front of the line…
Steve: …and the stragglers…
Mark: …of the group and then three blocks back you've got the stragglers walking.
Mark: Well what's the point of that?
Steve: I mean our physical education, our gym class, was fairly…I mean we had to do tumbling, we had to do, you know…I mean we actually had some instruction. We had to learn how to do rolls, how to do flips, how to do…like we actually had stuff that we had to do.
Steve: We had to climb ropes to the top of the…they wouldn't do that today, because if a guy ever let go of the rope and broke his neck then the school would be sued.
Mark: Yeah, I'm not sure, like we used to have ropes, too, in elementary school. I don't know, I don't think they do that anymore. As you say, I don't think they do much of that stuff like the pummel horse and gymnastics-type stuff. Not at all, right?
Mark: They don't do that at all. We would play…even when I was going to school we didn't do much of that. In high school we would play games like basketball, volleyball, badminton, floor hockey and then you'd have the odd run. Very often you'd go for a run, a 15 minute run and then a 20 minute run, and then play a game for the rest of the hour.
Steve: Right, dodge ball.
Mark: Dodge ball was a great game, but of course you've got those who liked to play games and who are athletic, run and play the game and they would be sporty and athletic anyway and those that are not sporty and athletic are not encouraged or not forced to try a little harder, so they just walk the run and then they kind of stay on the fringes of a dodge ball game and they don't really get much out of it.
Steve: Well…and it's a bit like language learning, too. I mean those physical education classes are not very intense. If it induces the kids to do other stuff, which I don't think it does, because just three times a week doing that is not going to do much for them.
Steve: But it's interesting, these studies like “Gym Class is No Solution for Obesity.
Steve: Well that's obvious. It's like there was a study I heard on the radio, they studied over 20 years, they studied people who ate beef and people who didn't.
Steve: And they found that the people who ate beef are twice as likely to die early or something. But then you look at the details and you found out that they divided their beef eaters into five sort of classes, so that the 20% who ate the most beef, which was like three pounds a day, they had a 100% higher mortality rate; like over the course of the 20 years 13,000 died.
Steve: Whereas, the people in the lowest percentile only 6,000 people died.
Steve: But when you factored in…somebody pointed out that the people who eat two-three pounds of beef a day, they're eating hamburger…
Steve: …they all smoke…
Steve: …they probably drink, they're sedentary, they don't exercise.
Steve: When you factored everything else into it, in fact, there wasn't much of a difference.
Steve: Because if you factored all the other things that came with that there were many other things that contributed to that. But the conclusion seemed to be if you eat beef you're going to die.
Mark: Well, I know you see these studies all the time, which…I mean as the years go by I have put less and less trust into any study I see. I mean one things that's for sure is the guy who…or the people who undertook the study, they set out to prove something.
Mark: They had a goal in mind.
Mark: And, surprisingly, they managed to prove their theory.
Steve: Well, yeah.
Mark: I mean these studies can be skewed in so many ways and the one thing that seems obvious, very rarely do you hear of a study where so and so set out to show one thing and did the study and, oh, actually it showed us this completely opposite result to what we wanted to show.
Mark: I mean you end up being able to show what you wanted to show.
Steve: Well and the other thing, too, is to take the data and to not let…in a way, the people who do the study should not be able to come up with the conclusion.
Steve: It should be some other group that comes in and then draws the conclusion.
Steve: Like, here, on the gym class, maybe the conclusion is that the gym classes are no good.
Well that's my take on it.
Steve: But the implication of the headline is that exercise…in fact, they even say, you know, that exercise is no solution for obesity. Well, it's not a single-handed solution. If you stuff your face with milkshakes and hamburgers all day long there's no amount of exercise that's going to overcome that.
Mark: Well that's the other thing. The other finding was they're not sure what causes childhood obesity.
Steve: How about eating too much?
Mark: I'm sure and I don't have to do a study.
Steve: Now, there are issues…
Mark: It's not enough exercise, eating too much, eating garbage.
Mark: It's not rocket science.
That's not to say that there aren't some…there are kids who will eat junk food and not exercise and still don't put on weight.
Mark: Right, but I don't know.
Steve: Yeah, I mean there are…
Mark: There are kids who are sedentary, sit in front of the computer all day, sitting around…
Steve: I remember when I was going to school there were guys that were fat and were excellent athletes.
Mark: Yeah, okay. People's metabolisms are different, but presumably that guy maybe his diet wasn't great.
Mark: I mean I think all…everybody is not the same.
Mark: But, in general…
Steve: …chances are…
Mark: …if you eat garbage…
Mark: …and you don't exercise and you eat too much you're going to be fat.
Steve: I do believe that different people…as you say, metabolism. I think it's very important not to over feed kids when they're very young. I think that has an influence on their metabolism and perhaps their eating habits and things that they crave and things of that nature. I know that certain ethnic groups, for whatever historical reasons, tend to, you know, pick up fat faster, whether it be…I don't know whether it's Eskimos or Hawaiian Islanders or whichever group. You know different people react differently to food.
Mark: For sure.
Steve: But all other things being equal, there is no way that if you have a healthy diet and have a lot of exercise you're going to be obese. I don't believe it.
Mark: I don't believe it either.
Listen, another headline talking about the news, which I thought was kind of fun. President Obama and his advisors have basically turfed, as we would say, kicked out the President of General Motors…
Steve: …Mr. Wagoner who presided over General Motors for four years: “An accumulated amount of losses of $82 billion year after year.”
Mark: I mean that's mindboggling.
Steve: That's mindboggling.
Mark: How does not go under? Well, I guess it is.
Steve: How come he stayed there for four years?
Steve: At any rate, it turns out that his pension is going to be worth $20 million. So that having gone in there…now you could say it's not his fault. If the chief executive officer can't influence things, why do you pay him a big salary? I thought the big justification for paying these guys these obscene salaries is that they're just so important to the fate of the company.
Steve: Well if he is unable to do anything for GM, in fact, causes…maybe didn't cause them to lose, but was unable to prevent them from losing $82 billion, how did he last for four years and how does he get a $20 million pension out of it? I want that job.
Mark: Yeah, no kidding. I mean I guess…
Steve: I can lose $82 billion at General Motors.
Mark: I mean, I think depending on what you read, it suggests that he did do some things to improve the situation there, but they're fighting such an uphill struggle that he wasn't able to do enough. But, as you point out, well then why is he getting the big bucks?
Steve: So you're saying the job is difficult.
Mark: I mean if you can just put a monkey there…
Steve: Well, that's right.
Mark: …and things are just going to happen then why bother. No, it will be interesting. I think there are structural issues there that have to be overcome and, in a way, that company needs to go under.
Mark: It needs to go under. All those people need to lose their pensions and that's it, because now the government is going to go in and they're going to try to do the things that this Wagoner guy couldn't do. But are they are going to be able to say to union, “Yeah, we're cutting your wage to this level, your pensions to this level, all the existing retirees we're going to cut your pensions to this level”?
Steve: Government is not going to do that.
Mark: The government is not going to do that, so what's going to happen, all that's going to happen is the taxpayer is now on the hook for yet another big bill.
Steve: By the way, speaking of the automobile industry, as usual, you know when I fly I often strike up a conversation with the person sitting beside me. So this lady was sitting beside me and I made the comment that I thought that President Obama is on TV too much. I was just down in the States on holiday and every day he's on TV and people get tired of looking…as much as…you know he came in with this great aura, he should make himself scarce.
Steve: “People are going to get tired of him,” I said to her.
Mark: And the more they see him the more the old “familiarity breeds contempt”…
Steve: Well, of course.
Mark: …starts to set in.
Steve: Of course.
What a stupid policy to just kind of smother the airwaves with your face. Because, after all, he does kind of speak in platitudes and after a while people are going to get tired of it; there's a lot of fluff there.
Mark: Plus, there's a lot fluff, there's a lot of I'm going to do this, I'm going to do that.
Mark: Well, you're actually not doing it...
Steve: Well, that's right.
Mark: …and you keep telling us.
Steve: But, to be fair, I mean any politician, how much can he do?
Steve: “So don't get on the airwaves all the time.”
Steve: I told her. Well, she was quite offended…
Mark: Oh, really?
Steve: …and she said, “Well, at least we finally got rid of Bush and, you know, one thing Obama did, which I'm really happy about, is he got rid of Wagoner. Because do you know what General Motors did? General Motors killed the electric car. And do you know why they killed the electric car? Because they're controlled by the petroleum interests.” And I said, “Well…”
Mark: This is one of those stories…
Steve: I know.
Mark: …that's been circulating on the Internet.
Steve: And she said she saw the movie and I said, “Well, I don't believe all those movies. You can make a movie to show anything. You can watch Michael Moore's movies…”
Mark: Yeah, I know.
Steve: “…which are very one-sided and distorted.” Besides, I said to her, I said, “You think the American petroleum industry controls the car industry, but if we look at Japan, while Japan makes this Prius, most of the cars made in Japan are essentially the same, in terms of gas consumption, as the corresponding vehicle in North America.”
Steve: They make small cars, they make SUVs, they make sports cars, they make the whole range and it's the consumer who decides what to buy.
Steve: Now, yes, Toyota is more advanced because they produced this Prius car, okay, but don't tell me that for all these years the petroleum industry has been dictating to the Japanese car industry what they should make. So I said to her, “So if you think the petroleum industry decides what cars the industry manufacturers in the States, what is your explanation for the Japanese industry?” “Well, I know nothing about Japan.” Like she didn't even want to deal with it.
Steve: I said, “Well I kind of like to take things at face value, unless there's an obvious compelling argument to the contrary, and I think they made some decisions based on what people were buying. People were buying SUVs; they had some great years for a while.”
Mark: And trucks.
Steve: Yeah, they probably…I think their biggest problem is not that they didn't make an electric car, it's that their cars are under engineered and that they haven't got this reputation for reliability.
Mark: And I think…you talk about Wagoner, I think under him GM started to turn things around on that front. Their cars are better now, their quality is better, their quality rankings have improved…
Mark: …but they're not economical. They don't operate…their cost structure is not economical now, no matter what changes they make. And the other problem they've had is, you know, they're not making cars that people want. You talk about the difference between…
Steve: Well they were for a while.
Mark: Well the trucks and SUVs, yes.
Mark: But cars, no.
Steve: I thought they made these little cars now that are very economical and the gas mileage…
Mark: Yeah, but people don't want…people are not buying. You talk about Honda, Toyota, even some of the European cars, people see them and whether it's styling, features, I don't know…
Mark: …those cars are more attractive, I think.
Steve: Now is that because the market has moved faster than they were able to respond?
Mark: I think their call it their “product cycle” was not very quick. I don't know that much about it.
Mark: And I don't know if the Japanese auto manufacturers moved more quickly or not. But I guess they made some decisions that…because they are one or two years out when they develop these cars before they hit the market, I guess if you make the wrong decisions then your products are not what people are looking for. I think they're coming out with some cars now that are attractive, too, but it's a bit too little too late.
Steve: I read that Buick is right at the top of reliability surveys now.
Mark: Well, yeah. As I said, GM has really come on, on that side, but it's their cost structure that's killing them now.
Mark: At least that's what I've heard.
Steve: I gather Ford has done better.
Mark: Well they're the only ones not asking for a handout.
Mark: So, I don't know, I don't see…I don't know, I guess they're selling, I don't know what's selling.
Steve: Yeah, they're selling. I think they've also had a better reputation for quality and they're saying that if the government is going to help at all they should give money to the consumers…
Steve: …which, of course, is our motto. And I get back to one of my pet beefs, is this whole issue of how we fund education.
Steve: We give all the money to the schools.
Steve: That's like giving the money to General Motors.
Steve: We should give the money to the consumer…
Steve: …and let them decide where to spend the money for their education.
Steve: Even K to 12, we have a learner at LingQ who is a home learner, home schooler; 14 years old, he's studying Russian and Swedish.
Steve: I mean he's learning Russian. He's been with us at LingQ for three months, he can read Russian; he's got a whole bunch of words. If he were doing it in class at school, looking out the window…
Mark: He'd have lost interest a long time ago.
Steve: Exactly. So the whole idea…don't fund the big institutions that are self-preserving and self-aggrandizing and empire building, fund the actual end-user person who needs it.
Mark: And make the service provider hungry to get those funds…
Mark: …because then they'll innovate and they'll provide a better service, all those things. I mean it's…yeah, I mean I think that suggestion…all that money they're pumping into those car manufacturers makes no sense at all.
Mark: The suggestion to give…whatever it was…either to give everybody $1,000 to buy a car or…I can't remember what the suggestion was.
Steve: What they did in Germany -- I was speaking to Radek today in Germany – there they came up with this idea and they've already run out of money. Like the money allocated for it is gone. If you have a car that's older than eight years or whatever it was, you get $3,000 Euros. You trade it in, you get $3,000 Euros towards a new car; kill two birds with one stone. The most polluting cars are the old cars and you stimulate the car industry. And to the credit of the Germans, they said it doesn't matter what make the car is; in other words, not just German cars.
That you bought.
You can buy a Japanese car, Korean car or French car, it doesn't matter.
Steve: Which I think is a very good policy.
Mark: Very good.
Steve: And now they're going to do this in the States, but knowing the Americans they'll make it only American, right?
Steve: And they call it “Clunkers for Cash.”
Mark: Oh, yeah?
Steve: Yeah, apparently. I was working out in this health club and you know how they have this sort of ticker?
Steve: You know the news flashes at the bottom of the screen? It looks like they're going to give $1,000 per clunker if you get rid of it, but only an American clunker.
Mark: Only an American clunker and only an American car?
Steve: I didn't hear that part of it, but I suspect that they will only…
Mark: Why would it only be an American clunker? What do they care what the old car was.
Steve: But you know what? They're right, because the American clunkers are the really bad polluters.
Mark: Yeah, that's true.
Steve: A “clunker” being, basically, a beat up old jalopy, old car, yeah.
Well there was another…I can't remember where, an email that came around, maybe, talking about what the U.S. should do for housing, saying that they should give…
Steve: …citizenship to anyone who buys a house.
Mark: …a green card to anyone who buys a house in the States.
Steve: What a ridiculous idea.
Steve: I mean I thought to myself, would I ever be mad if I were an American, never been able to afford a house, I didn't waste my money, I didn't buy a house that was beyond my means, now the prices are like half, I can buy a house and now they're going to bring in all these foreigners to drive up the price of housing? You know, let me have a crack at it first.
Mark: I know.
Steve: I mean how many people are you going to bring in…
Mark: Well that's the thing. Like he was talking numbers like…
Steve: …to have an impact?
Mark: I mean how many? It's still a lot of money to buy a house in the States.
Steve: Oh, yeah. There'd be no shortage of people…
Steve: …but how committed are they? They're going to come in there, buy a house as an investment, rent it out…I mean how do you control a thing like that?
Mark: I don't know, I don't know. He had a bunch of conditions and so on that he showed.
Steve: All these little…
Mark: …theories. But I think what I like about that is, I guess, it's not the government throwing money at something.
Mark: It's sort of a free market solution.
Mark: I mean…
I mean, basically, what prevents people from buying a house there now? You can buy a house in the United States; you don't have to be a citizen.
Mark: Yes, but they're saying…they are saying…
Steve: So then it's not really a free market. Because what you're doing is you have a free market, like a person from Armenia can come in and buy a house, now you're saying if you buy a house we're going to give you this thing that we the government control.
Steve: We will give you citizenship, so that's not free market.
Mark: No, you're right, but I guess they're attracting people. I mean part of their hope is they're attracting people with money to come to the States.
Mark: They would subtract the same number of people from their normal immigrant pool…
Mark: …who, presumably, have less money.
But I'll tell you…
Mark: So they're thinking that would be a stimulus, as well, on top of the additional home sales.
Steve: My experience in Canada with immigrants is the so-called wealthy entrepreneurial immigrants are not good immigrants. They come here, they buy a house, they go back to where they came from and they're not interested in the country; whereas, very often people who come here are happy to be here, they got a better job and they're the best citizens.
Steve: So, in the long run, you don't want to distort your whole citizenship program, immigration, because of a temporary…I thought that was a dumb idea.
Steve: I was not in favor of it.
Mark: Plus, as you say, okay, the fact that housing prices have dropped hurts those people who bought when prices were higher.
Steve: Yeah, right.
Mark: But it's certainly good for people looking to buy now.
Steve: Of course.
Mark: And prices were too high, so why do you want to drive them back up to that level?
Steve: To benefit whom?
Mark: If we look at the market locally, I mean the percentage of income required to pay for housing was ridiculous, unaffordable, so prices have to come down.
Steve: Well there are all kinds of people who said my children can never afford to live in my neighborhood.
Steve: Well now they can.
Steve: And now you're going to flood that neighborhood with foreigners to drive the price of houses up again?
Mark: I know, yeah. Anyway, I think we've probably covered quite a few different subjects.
Steve: Yeah, that's good. Yeah, we should do that, talk about different subjects, yeah. Hope it's of interest to people.
Mark: As always, let us know any feedback and we'll talk to you again.
Steve: Bye for now.