Two Columbia, S.C., churches are fighting it out in a friendly weight loss competition. The losing church promises to contribute 200 pounds of non-perishable food to the winning church's food pantry.
Annie Wilson heads up the Wellness Center at Bible Way Church of Atlas Road. She said that an article making a connection between religious people and obesity spurred her church to invite Brookland Baptist Church of West Columbia to take up the challenge: "We can be healthy. We just need the right tools."
The churches decided to connect the competition to their food pantries because the long recession has increased the number of people needing food, and the supply at both pantries was running low. The connection provided an extra incentive for people to get involved.
About 300 people signed up and weighed in at the two churches. Bible Way divided its participants into seven teams and assigned team leaders to each. Every two weeks participants meet as teams to chart both the percentage of weight lost and the actual number of pounds lost. They also get together to exercise, using Zumba and aerobics. Participants hear talks from nutritionists, take field trips to the grocery store to learn how to read nutrition labels, and learn how to cook in a healthy way.
The challenge ends on Oct. 7. The next day the two churches will celebrate. When asked what kind of tasty food would be at the celebration, Annie Wilson said, "We are not going to go back" to unhealthy ways of cooking.
A January 2011 Newsweek.com article called Grand Rapids, Mich., one of 10 "dying cities" in America. That could have been an obituary for the city some called "Bland Rapids." Instead, two social entrepreneurs dedicated to their hometown, Rob Bliss and Rick DeVos, are making Grand Rapids the kind of place that young, hip professionals want to call home.
In early 2010, Bliss, 22 and out of college, had settled down with a job in Grand Rapids as internet coordinator for a local TV station. But he was familiar with lip dub video, a web genre popular on college campuses where a stream of individuals are shot in one continuous take as they lip-sync a song. With collaborators Jeffrey Barrett and Scott Erickson and a total of about 5,000 participants, Bliss organized performers to lip-sync Don McLean's 1971 song "American Pie" as they strode through downtown Grand Rapids past bouncing cheerleaders, sashaying swing dancers, and a football team running plays.
The video drew more than 3 million views on YouTube. Film critic Roger Ebert called it "the greatest music video ever made." Bliss has also coordinated in Grand Rapids the world's largest pillow fight and built the world's longest water slide. "People here take great ideas and run with them," he said.
Rick DeVos, 29, had a similar experience when he began work on "ArtPrize" in 2009. The DeVos family-wealthy from the success of direct sales giant Amway-offered to artists prizes totaling $500,000 (including $250,000 for first place). Artists had the task of courting owners of potential venues-restaurant hallways, courtyards, parking lots-where their art could be exhibited. Over 19 days people viewed art and voted on their favorites on the ArtPrize website. Artists who received the most votes garnered the prizes.
ArtPrize drew hundreds of artists, and this year more than 1,500 artists from 36 countries and 43 states planned to participate in the show, scheduled from Sept. 21 to Oct. 9. ArtPrize was a bonanza for restaurants-a few, surprised, ran out of food-and this year Grand Rapids expects more than 100,000 tourists to bring millions of dollars in revenue to the city.
-Stephen Kloosterman is a Michigan journalist
You can now buy over-the-counter or online DNA tests that show the sex of an unborn baby as early as seven weeks after conception. The tests, which cost $250 to $350, detect the baby's DNA in the mother's urine or blood. A recent study found the tests predicted whether the baby was a boy or girl with 95 percent accuracy.
A New York Times article about the tests noted ethical dilemmas and quoted bioethicist Audrey R. Chapman asking, will women "look at their pregnancies increasingly as being conditional: 'I will keep this pregnancy only if?'" The Times quoted obstetrician James Egan on the significance of seven weeks: "Women haven't had the ultrasound where you see the fetus that looks like a baby. Many people don't even know that a woman is pregnant. And you can have a medical termination."
Arizona and Oklahoma recently passed laws banning sex selection abortions, and pro-life groups are pushing similar ones in other states. The Times noted that courts bound by Roe v. Wade might kill those laws, but pro-abortion groups may not be eager "to fight them politically or in court because sex selection is not the most socially sympathetic motivation for abortion." Since the experience of China and India is that the babies most likely to be aborted are girls, as shown by the gender imbalances in India and China, it will be harder to argue that abortion is part of a pro-woman agenda.
The Times gives Dr. Egan the last word: The tests raise "issues that I don't think many general obstetricians are ready to deal with."