The Providence (R.I.) Journal, Aug. 15, 2014
A match has been struck in the north St. Louis County suburb of Ferguson, Missouri, and now the nation is struggling to understand why it flared so quickly into a blaze.
It started when a Ferguson police officer shot and killed an unarmed, 18-year-old African-American man named Michael Brown.
It continued as the passed-along stories fueled community rage — or maybe it was the other way around.
The stories vary. Brown tried to wrestle away the policeman's gun. Brown was surrendering. Brown mouthed off to the cop. Brown was minding his own business. The cop started the scuffle by putting Brown in a neck hold.
We don't yet know what triggered the fatal encounter. We do know that pent-up anger quickly boiled over in this lower middle-class suburb in a Civil War border state. The result has been several days of ugly scenes featuring police in riot gear, clouds of tear gas and looting of businesses.
Such scenes of violence and destruction, sadly, obscure grief and quite possibly legitimate grievances. Ferguson — and St. Louis and the rest of the country — must somehow find the moment and the means to lower the heat. Only then can conciliation and healing begin.
This is no modest hope. The killing of Michael Brown has uncapped pent-up anger, channeling sullen resentments into hot acts of violence. It has tested a suburban police department, which surely is overwhelmed by the degree of anger and the sudden scrutiny by people far beyond Ferguson's borders.
The city was wise to call in the Federal Bureau of Investigation to conduct an independent investigation. It would be wiser still to calmly explain the facts as it knows them, rather than to respond to anger defensively and secretively. It is essential that differences be resolved peacefully, and in accordance with justice and the rule of law.
Anyone familiar with this uneasy region, where neighborhoods have evolved rapidly and old passions are never far away, feels the historical resonance of this story. When pundit and activist Al Sharpton stood with Mr. Brown's parents in front of St. Louis's Old Courthouse, the specter of Dred Scott was on the minds of many observers. Scott, who grew up a slave, sued for his freedom in that courthouse. And lost.
Now, we stand in his place, and hope again for justice. And peace.
The Journal Tribune of Biddeford, Maine, Aug. 14, 2014
Earlier this month, the Food and Drug Administration's new regulations for "gluten free" labels on packaged foods went into effect, giving consumers peace of mind in knowing that the labels are more than just product promotion.
Gluten is a protein found in grains that gives dough its elasticity. According to the American Celiac Disease Alliance, about 3 million Americans have celiac disease and cannot tolerate gluten. Those with celiac disease suffer abdominal pain, bloating and diarrhea upon eating gluten, and can also experience long-term medical problems such as weight loss and fatigue, according to an Associated Press report.
The labeling rule was announced a year ago, giving food manufacturers until now to comply with the FDA regulation, which allows no more than 20 parts per million of gluten in products with the "gluten free" label. That's the threshold recognized by the medical community for people who have celiac disease.
Due to the health effects, gluten-free diets are a must for those with celiac, but the general public has also grown interested in eschewing gluten over the past few years. Many say they feel better when they avoid gluten, and diet fads have been trending away from carbohydrates in general. Gluten-free foods have become so popular, in fact, that they brought in an estimated $4 billion in sales last year, according to AP reports.
The explosion of supposedly gluten-free foods has been unregulated to this point, with nearly every company rushing to get on the bandwagon without ensuring that their products meet the 20 ppm threshold and have not been cross-contaminated during production and packaging.
For those who were just chasing the trend or who feel a gluten-free diet is better for their health, misleading labels have had little impact, but for those with celiac disease, it had created a dangerous marketplace. Requiring labels to reveal not only wheat but also barley and rye ingredients — all of which contain gluten — is a very important change for those who must avoid the protein and gives them much more peace of mind when shopping for food.
Consumers have a right to know what is in their food so they can make informed decisions for their own health, taking into account any allergies, chronic illnesses or ethical considerations. The FDA is charged with making sure the labels are clear and correct, so people know what they're buying and don't end up getting sick unexpectedly due to a hidden ingredient or contamination from another product made in the same facility. This new directive is a strong step in the right direction toward informing consumers.
For now, the labeling requirement doesn't apply to restaurants, only to packaged foods, and that's a loophole that needs to be closed. The FDA is encouraging restaurants to comply, according to Associated Press reports, but that's certainly not enough of a guarantee for people who are made violently ill by gluten. The restaurants that take steps to ensure they are offering truly gluten-free meals will find their business increased as they gain a reputation for being a safe haven for those with celiac.