Super Bowl Sunday 2009
Super Bowl Sunday has become over the years a national holiday on a par with Presidents’ Day and the Fourth of July. One index of the prevailing mood of the citizenry in any given year is the tone of the television advertisements that punctuate the afternoon leading up to the start of the game and continue throughout all four quarters and halftime as well. After months of bad economic news and gloomy forecasts for the year ahead, bright and bouncy commercials would have seemed inconsistent with the mood of the moment, and the creative people at the advertising agencies seem to have taken that into account.
Advertising revenue for Super Bowl 2009 was down in comparison with previous years, a predictable outcome, and there were few flashes of creative imagination. The ad makers were content to repeat well-worn patterns and strategies familiar to the viewing audience. Could anyone, after all, resent the Budweiser Clydesdale, this year linked romantically with a circus horse? Janet Jackson was absent from this year’s festivities, so there were no wardrobe malfunctions or other unexpected interruptions of this year’s hymn to consumerism.
As a bonus for the viewing public, the game itself was well played and exciting, with two lead changes in the final two minutes. While many viewers may have rooted for 37-year-old Kurt Warner, the much-traveled Arizona quarterback, the Pittsburgh Steelers ultimately prevailed. In the end, Super Bowl Sunday XLIII provided a surprising but satisfying result. For a few short hours the game on the field outshone the hoopla and the commercials.
New Efforts on R2P
The human rights doctrine known as “the responsibility to protect,” sometimes referred to as R2P, received formal approval at the 2005 United Nations World Summit. All member states pledged to hold themselves accountable to populations at risk of mass killings, genocide and ethnic cleansing in the wake of horrific scenes of slaughter like those in Rwanda. Tragically, not all states have lived up to their commitments. Implementation of the doctrine received a boost in late January, however, with the launch of the Global Civil Society Coalition on the Responsibility to Protect. The coalition will reach out to governments and civil society groups in an effort to ensure that member states reaffirm their support for the principle.
Mass killings and large-scale human rights violations have led to the destruction of vulnerable populations in Cambodia, Bosnia, Kosovo, Darfur and now in the eastern part of the Democratic Republic of Congo. The principle rests on a state’s responsibility to shield its population from human-created catastrophes. When states fail in this obligation, responsibility shifts to the international community, which should employ diplomatic and other peaceful measures to meet the crisis. Should these fail, coercive intervention is a final possibility. U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon will soon release a report on the responsibility to protect for the General Assembly to debate. Member states must live up to their obligations: There is no place in a civilized world for the atrocious crimes that occur when sovereign states refuse to act or, even worse, are themselves the perpetrators.
Vitamin Water: Buyer Beware
The Coca-Cola Company is facing a lawsuit filed by the nonprofit Center for Science in the Public Interest. The center contends that the company’s Vitamin Water product line is not, as the Coca-Cola Company claims, a healthy alternative to soda. The company makes a wide range of unsupported assertions—for example, that Vitamin Water reduces the risk of chronic disease and promotes healthy joints. In fact, nutritionists at the center have found that the 33 grams of sugar in each bottle do more to promote obesity, diabetes and other health problems than the vitamins in the drinks do to promote the alleged benefits described on the bottles’ labels. Product names include healthy sounding phrases like “endurance peach mango” and “focus kiwi strawberry.”
According to the suit, though, despite these and similar health buzz words, Vitamin Water contains between zero and 1 percent juice. As C.S.P.I.’s litigation director, Steve Gardner, put it, “Vitamin Water is Coke’s attempt to dress up soda in a physician’s white coat.” Beneath the white coat, he added, “it’s still sugar water.” Nor is this the first time that C.S.P.I. has locked horns with Coke. In 2007 it sued Coke and its partner Nestlé over an artificially sweetened green tea-based drink called Enviga. The two companies claimed that Enviga burns more calories than it contains, and therefore helps weight loss. But C.S.P.I. says that studies of Enviga do not support this claim. Caveat emptor remains a useful caution in supermarket aisles.