Today, the misogynist rapper Pitbull gave the opening speech at the 2013 National Charter Schools Conference. Pitbull is "founding" a charter in Miami that will be managed by the for-profit company Academica, which has already made gobs of cash by building school facilities and then renting them to the "non-profit" charters they manage. There is no reporting on what kind of deal Pitbull structured with Academica, although he is well-known for managing and licensing his "brand."
During the same conference, the Walton family was inducted into the National Charter Schools Hall of Fame (yes, there is such a thing - oy). The Waltons, of course, owe their vast fortunes to Walmart, one of the least labor-friendly corporations in the world (their less-than-admirable employee practices, it turns out, are costing them a boatload of money). They've used part of that funding to promote a pro-charter school agenda, which includes funding the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools, who, of course, gave the Waltons the award (least they could do).
Well, guess what else Pitbull and Walmart have in common?
Yes, that's right: Pitbull teamed up with Walmart to sell "Energy Sheets." You'll remember that Pitbull's mother gave him this advice:6/29/12 -- Pitbull met with residents at a Walmart in the small (population 6,130) Alaska town today—a stop Mr. Worldwide probably never thought he'd be making until a promotional campaign with the big-box store, in which he agreed to appear at the Walmart with the most "likes" on Facebook, became the target of a concerted effort to "exile" the rapper.But it appeared to be a win-win situation as the "Give Me Everything" rapper performed at the local Coast Guard base and posed for photos, the fans being the unwitting winners after Boston Phoenix writer David Thorpe started a Twitter campaign to get Pitbull as far off the beaten path as possible.
I would learn during our conversation that his mother advised him to look like “old money,” meaning no gaudy bling blinding you from the sparkling glare. She told him that if he decked himself out in expensive clothes and ostentatious jewelry he would look like “new money,” and the sycophants would want to bleed him dry of cash. [emphasis mine]
Mama must be so proud...
Despite the fact that AdWeek called this the "Worst Ad Campaign of the Year?", Walmart must have loved it. But how about pediatricians?
In recent years, drinks that combine alcohol with caffeine, such as Four Loko, have been blamed for the deaths of teens and college students. But a new epidemic involves younger children: elementary school students are drinking highly caffeinated energy drinks to catch a buzz. Even without alcohol, these drinks are dangerous to kids' health.
"Energy drinks are gateway for elementary school kids," said Mike Gimbel, a national substance abuse educator. "They drink it like it's water. Nurses have kids coming in with heart palpitations."
Gimbel said he has also observed a growing fascination among elementary school students with caffeinated gel strips that you place on the tongue, such as ones made by the brand Sheets.
"One strip is equal to a cup of coffee, but kids are putting five or six in their mouth at once," he said. "You can overdose on caffeine by taking three or four."
And:Overconsumption of caffeine, especially in young children who have smaller bodies, can cause seizures, strokes or even sudden death, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics. [emphasis mine]
And:The power of sports heroes is powering a new kind of energy supplement. But pediatricians say parents should be careful their kids aren't using it.The compact 2.5 ounce "quick energy" drinks have competition and some big name competitors are pushing them."Anytime you use an athlete who is well known, that's obviously going to catch the attention of kids," said Dr. Dan Kraft, Riley Children's Hospital.But should kinds be paying attention to sheets of energy strips?Eyewitness News found them at one store for $6 a box, along with an explanation from the store clerk."It has a lot of B12 in it. That's a good, healthy energy and also has some caffeine. Not a lot," the clerk said."Two of these things have twice the caffeine of Mountain Dew," Dr. Kraft said. "You can get some palpitations, where you feel your heart is racing and there can be some side effects to that."Encouraged by sports role models, student athletes may take the caffeine strips, not realizing they make users lose body fluid. In a game, that could mean dehydration and cramping.The size of the strips are of concern, as well."They can very easily take this product at halftime, if people are not watching," Dr. Kraft said."I don't even like my kids drinking energy drinks. I don't know what the long-term effects are. No clue," said parent Doug Holder."It's not good then, especially in the heat," said another parent.Some of the products come with specific warnings, not to take it if you're under 12 and that the strips are not FDA approved. [emphasis mine]
So let's be clear: Pitbull and the Waltons have teamed up not only to sell charter schools to the American public, but to also sell a caffeine-laden product that doctors warn could be harmful to children.A new form of getting that caffeine boost is an energy strip that dissolves in your mouth.But a local health expert says they're a risk.Sheets brand Energy Strips can be found in gas stations across Champaign Urbana.University of Illinois Food Science and Human Nutrition professor Dr. Margarita Teran says consuming too much caffeine is dangerous.Consuming too many of these energy strips or energy drinks can cause harm to the body, affecting sleep, mood, anxiety, gastrointestinal issues and causing severe headaches.Each energy strip contains 100 mg of caffeine.The Academy of American Pediatrics recommends people under 21 years old should have no more than 100 mg of caffeine in one day.Taking 4 of the energy strips in one day puts people at a toxic level of caffeine consumption. [emphasis mine]
It's worth noting that Pitbull is also a spokesman for Bud Light, which can also be purchased at Walmart. Of course, that's not what the rapper himself drinks:
Hey, he's an adult: he can drink whatever he wants. I'm sure he and Walmart join with me and educators across America in doing whatever we can to stop minors from drinking.The watery Anheuser-Busch product is nowhere to be found on the 31-year-old performer’s tour rider. Instead, Pitbull (real name: Armando Christian Perez) requires promoters to provide him with a case of Corona beer, a product of Crown Imports.Click here for a rider excerpt detailing Pitbull’s backstage hospitality demands.In addition to the 24 Coronas, the rapper’s booze requirements include three bottles of Ketel One vodka, and single bottles of Patron tequila, Hennessy cognac, and champagne (either Moët Rose Imperial or Moët Nectar Imperial).
Because we wouldn't want to hurt kids, would we?
ADDING: Pitbull also endorsed Dr. Pepper, another drink laced with caffeine that you can purchase at your local Walmart.
Just wondering: is there anything these two sell together that's healthy for kids?
ADDING MORE: More on Sheets and children:
Teens already consume too many daily doses of caffeine, from the morning Joe to cokes and energy drinks that can cause palpitations, anxiety and sleep disturbances, just at the age when they need their sleep for growth, experts say.
"It's a really bad idea," said Rosalind Cartwright, professor emeriti in neurological sciences in the Graduate College at Rush University Medical Center. "One hundred milligrams is not that much. But if used repeatedly, it can cause all kinds of trouble.
"It will give them a jolt and somewhat better focus and attention for a short while, but it has a pretty steep dropoff, and if you keep taking it, you get enormously sleepy afterwards."
Purebrands CEO Warren Struhl was unavailable for an interview but told ABCNews.com in an email that, "Sheets has been very clear on their packaging in terms of discouraging usage by kids under 12."
But caffeine can be hazardous for any age in teens who are sensitive or those with heart conditions or attention-deficit disorder.
The American Academy of Pediatrics issued a report this month recommending that teens and children avoid energy and sports drinks, which carry no benefit and some risk. That includes all caffeinated drinks, including colas and coffee.
"Caffeine is very safe; it's used in newborns to increase arousal," said John Herman, professor in sleep medicine at University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas.
"But nothing should be packaged that could appeal to children," Herman said. "It should specify dosage and instructions on how to use it and what is the maximum. A high dose of anything -- sugar or salt -- becomes harmful.
"If it's red-colored and it's sweet, kids might take three, four or five of them and go into an anxiety attack and palpitations," he said. "Kids get anxious when they take caffeine and it could put them over the top." [emphasis mine]Just to reiterate: the people making money from selling this stuff are now directing our education policy.
Everyone OK with that?