Measles outbreak tests limits of religious freedom in New York City

By Laura Nahmias, Dan Goldberg, and Amanda Eisenberg

A quick fix to New York City’s measles outbreak is proving elusive, and the reasons are as much political as they are medical.

A powerful voting bloc, the ultra-Orthodox community has managed to carve out what is arguably a separate system of city services with their own ambulances, school buses and police. They run their own private schools for which they receive city, state and federal funds.

That insularity coupled with measles outbreaks in Europe and Israel — two popular destinations for Hasidic Jews — made it only a matter of time before the virus spread out of control.

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City Councilman Looks To Ban Sale Of Detox Teas To Minors

New legislation introduced to the City Council is looking to ban the sale of detox teas and appetite suppressors to minors.

Councilman Mark Levine says the so-called “detox teas” are really just laxatives and likened them to “get skinny fast” products.

Several companies that have been advertising the detox products claim they are weight loss supplements that can increase metabolism, improve digestion and boost energy levels. But, the problem is that these products are hardly regulated.

“They are considered food additives and so they aren't under the same intense regulatory oversight that traditional medications or pharmaceuticals would see,” Levine said.

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Yiddish Kindergarten May Be Coming To A New York City Public School Read more:

By Josh Nathan-Kazis

Three generations ago, before the Holocaust decimated European Jewry, tens of thousands of students studied at more than a thousand secular Yiddish elementary schools dotted across Eastern Europe.

Today, there is only one secular Yiddish school in the world, and it’s in south Australia.

Next year, that could change, and in a dramatic way: Secular Yiddish education might be coming to a New York City public school.

A member of the New York City Council, Mark Levine, is proposing the creation of a dual-language Yiddish-English program in a New York City public school starting in the fall of 2020. The students would spend half of their day learning in English, and half learning in Yiddish.

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NY City Council bill would ban sale of celebrity-endorsed detox teas to minors

By Morgan Gstalter

Legislation introduced in the New York City Council would ban the sale to minors of detox teas and appetite-suppressant lollipops endorsed on social media by celebrities like the Kardashians.

Councilman Mark Levine introduced the bill to take aim at the sale of teas and similar “get skinny fast” products, NY 1 reported on Thursday.

“We learned about the rising prevalence of these products by social media. Appetite suppressants have been around since the '80s, but it’s really Instagram, celebrity endorsers of no less fame than the Kardashians who have been pushing this,” Levine said.

The legislation would require customers to provide proof of age when purchasing these supplements. Those caught selling detox teas to minors could face a $500 fine, NY 1 reported.

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NYC Councilman Aims to Ban 'Flat Tummy' Tea, Lollipop Sales to Minors

By Jessica Sun

New York City councilman Mark Levine has introduced legislation that would ban the sale of "detox teas" and "flat-tummy" lollipops to anyone under the age of 18. 

Advertisements for detox teas, or "skinny teas," promise they will guarantee near-effortless weightloss and flat stomachs.

Though the products are extremely popular and endorsed by social media influencers and celebrities alike, awareness about the tea's harmful effects is growing. 

Levine, who is also the City Council's health chair, is particularly concerned about detox teas being marketed to young people because they give the impression that "the repeated intake of laxatives is part of a healthy lifestyle," he said. Young girls in particular are especially at risk of body-image issues and eating disorders.

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NYC Legislation Would Curb Detox Tea Industry

By Jen Carlson

Just last year, a giant pink billboard went up in Times Square instructing women to "just have [a lollipop]" when your body desires life-fueling food. The billboard was for Flat Tummy Lollipops, and reached eyes far from the Crossroads of the World. "EVEN TIMES SQUARE IS TELLING WOMEN TO EAT LESS NOW? Have we actually gone mad?" actress Jameela Jamil (maybe you know her as Tahani on The Good Place) tweeted at the time, questioning the dangerous detox-branded diet supplement industry.

S. Bryn Austin, a professor at Harvard’s School of Public Health, lauded Jamil for her efforts recently, saying "Jamil has opened the eyes of millions around the globe to the corrupt and deceptive detox tea market. Arguably, she’s done this more efficiently and expeditiously than a quarter century of well-intentioned but utterly unglamorous communications from the federal Food and Drug Administration (FDA)." And her efforts have now reached New York.

According to NY1, Councilman Mark Levine "has introduced legislation to ban the sale of the tea and other similar products to minors after learning about their danger from a staffer whose relative died after consuming them." Under Levine's legislation, the unregulated products wouldn't go away, but purveyors of the product would need to "require proof of ID to purchase the products and impose violations of up to $500 for those caught selling to minors." It's unclear how much Levine's legislation will do to slow down this industry, but it's a step.

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Local Council Member Looks to Expand Food Truck Permits and Enforcement

By Michael McDowell

Will the Upper West Side be one day filled with vegan taco trucks, momo carts, or Thai on wheels?

It’s possible, if legislation scheduled for a Committee on Consumer Affairs and Business Licensing hearing Thursday morning continues to make its way through City Council to Mayor Bill de Blasio.

The proposed legislation would, over the next decade, gradually expand the number of permits for street vending and dismantle the black market on which such permits are currently leased. It would also create a centralized, interagency Office of Street Vendor Enforcement, to be operational by September 1, 2019, which would “exclusively enforce vending laws.” It would additionally establish a Street Vendor Advisory Board composed of “vendors, brick and mortar small businesses, representatives from community groups, labor unions, property owners, and city agencies.”

Council Member Mark Levine, who is a sponsor of the bill, called it a “win-win,” in an interview with the Rag.

“Street vending has been a cherished path to economic opportunity in this city for centuries, and it remains an important part of New York’s character and our street life. Street vendors, like everybody else, have to obey the rules, and we’ve never really had consistent enforcement. We’ve also had a problem of a huge illegal market in permits. This legislation would address both issues,” he said.

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Council members urge de Blasio to fund new hate crimes office

By Anna Sanders

Mayor de Blasio initially denied funding an anti-hate crime office this year despite a spike in complaints since the 2016 and City Council members are urging him to finance the effort.

The Council established the Office of Hate Crime Prevention earlier this year, but no money was put toward its creation in de Blasio’s $92.2 billion preliminary budget plan for next fiscal year.

The office is expected to cost about $475,000 the first year and $713,000 annually going forward.

“We need every city agency and resource to confront this crisis,” 22 members, led by Manhattan Councilman Mark Levine, wrote to de Blasio on Wednesday. “The Office for the Prevention of Hate Crimes would be the first to unite our city and our government in addressing this crisis head on.”
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Kim Kardashian - Jameela Jamil feud has done more to expose detox tea lies than the FDA

By S. Bryn Austin

Admittedly, I do not have my finger anywhere near the pulse of pop culture. I just figure if there’s anything I really need to know going viral through social media, my grad students will let me know. Maybe not the most reliable way for a scientist to gather data, I know, but it seems to be working. This week, it’s actually taught me an important lesson that I never learned through all my years of public health training: Celebrity takedowns of pseudoscience beat a mountain of data every time.

Case in point: In just a few months of shrewdly crafted social media posts, “The Good Place” star Jameela Jamil has opened the eyes of millions around the globe to the corrupt and deceptive detox tea market. Arguably, she’s done this more efficiently and expeditiously than a quarter century of well-intentioned but utterly unglamorous communications from the federal Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

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New York City to pass water tank reforms

By Frank G. Runyeon

In a striking rebuke of city health officials, the New York City Council plans to pass seven new laws tightening oversight and regulation of thousands of rooftop drinking water tanks, citing evidence of contamination, widespread neglect, and lax oversight by agency officials, city legislators told City & State.

After lawmakers decried the city’s “failure to enforce” its public health laws, pointing to reports by City & State that documented cases of dead animals in New York City Housing Authority wooden water tanks, health officials repeatedly downplayed and dismissed the health risks posed by contamination of the drinking water supplies. Despite the pushback, lawmakers plan to pass the water tank laws by Tuesday.

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