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Mexico wants kids to slim down

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Mexico, second in obesity in the world after the United States, wants its children to cut down on the soft drinks and fatty foods that have made them the chubbiest kids in Latin America.

Worried about the growing waistlines in schools, the public education ministry has launched a campaign to encourage youngsters to change their eating habits.

Mexicans are the world champions in soft drink consumption, guzzling down 163 liters (43 gallons) of sweet bubbly drinks per capita every year, according to Consumer Power, an independent organization.

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Food stands are everywhere on Mexican streets, dishing out handfuls of greasy tacos for just $1, while ambulant vendors wait outside schools to sell cheap tamales or tortas (sandwiches) to hungry students.

To nutritionist Tamara Vera, Mexico suffers from “bad nutrition and bad habits like a lack of exercise, a lack of water consumption and too much grease and sugar.”

The education ministry, with the help of various embassies, led a campaign called “The Week of Taste” in 124 schools this week to teach children better eating habits.

The masked and muscular stars from the country’s ultra-popular Lucha Libre, or professional wrestling, circuit have been recruited by the government to help drill new eating habits into people’s consciousness.

But Education Minister Jose Angel Cordova warned that it would take time to reduce child obesity, stressing that a “new culture” must be instilled in families and Mexican society at large.

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“The (child) obesity problem arrived over 30 years and maybe we won’t need 30 years (to reduce it), but we will need at least 10 years to stabilize it,” he told reporters after a meeting of Latin American education ministers.

The French ambassador to Mexico, Elisabeth Beton Delegue, said the goal of “The Week of Taste” is to “give children the desire to eat healthy and become interested again in natural and simple flavors.”

In Mexico, 30 percent of adults are obese compared to 33.8 percent in world leader the United States, according to the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).

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Mexico ranks fourth in the world in child obesity after Greece, the United States and Italy, the OECD says, citing the International Association for the Study of Obesity.

But it tops other Latin America nations with 29 percent of boys and 28.1 percent of girls obese.

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Mexican government figures show that 70 percent of the population is overweight, a number that includes those who are obese.

Health problems linked to being overweight — diabetes, high blood pressure and heart disease — cost Mexico around $3.2 million in 2008.

The number one killer in Mexico is Type 2 diabetes, a chronic disease marked by high levels of sugar in the blood.

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“If we don’t move from a treatment to a preventive system and we don’t change our habits, the health system will not be able to meet the needs of Mexicans,” said Miguel Limon Garcia, social coordinator at the health ministry.

[Image by Hugo Cadavez via Flickr, Creative Commons licensed]


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Pearl Harbor veteran to be interred on sunken ship

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It was an attack that shaped history, leaving more than 2,400 Americans dead and forcing the United States to enter a war it had been reluctant to join.

On Saturday, the 78th anniversary of the 1941 sneak attack by Japan on Pearl Harbor, the remains of one of the survivors of the assault will be interred on his sunken ship, the USS Arizona.

Lauren Bruner, who was among the last sailors rescued from the Arizona as it exploded into flames and sank, died in September at age 98.

He had expressed in years past his wish to be buried alongside fellow sailors who died on that fateful day.

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Suspect swallows poison after verdict in French murder case

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The suspect for the rape and murder of a young woman in northern France almost two decades ago was under guard in hospital Saturday after he swallowed pesticide in an apparent suicide bid following his conviction.

Willy Bardon, on trial over the murder of Elodie Kulik in 2002 in a case that has attracted strong interest in France for years, ingested the substance at the courthouse in the northern city of Amiens late on Friday.

Bardon had been sentenced to 30 years jail for kidnapping and holding a person against their will followed by death. He was however acquitted of murder.

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Fossil fuel groups ‘destroying’ climate talks: NGOs

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Oil and gas groups were accused Saturday of seeking to influence climate talks in Madrid by paying millions in sponsorship and sending dozens of lobbyists to delay what scientists say is a necessary and rapid cut in fossil fuel use.

A day after tens of thousands marched in the Spanish capital demanding climate action, seven environmental groups raised concerns to AFP over the role of fossil fuel representatives at the COP25 summit.

Under the 2015 Paris Agreement, nations agreed to limit global warming to "well below" two degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) and as close to 1.5C as possible.

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