World leaders smooch in Benetton ads

Italian fashion house United Colours of Benetton has launched a shock and awe advertising campaign called Unhate to boost its lagging brand recognition. Not a huge deal, just a bunch of unauthorized doctored photos of world leaders kissing each other on the lips. Obama smooching Hugo Chávez, for example.

In another photo he kisses Hu Jintao. Last year, the White House called foul when Weatherproof featured their jacket-clad Commander in Chief without permission in one of the company's New York billboards. But I'm sure they'll be fine with this.

Another photo shows presidents Kim Jong-Il and Lee Myung-bak kissing. In Benetton's world, the fact that they preside over one of the most contentious borders on the planet just adds to their latent steaming affection for one other.

Here's the mission statement for the Unhate campaign from the Benetton website: 

Object: the aim of contrasting the culture of hatred and promoting closeness between peoples, faiths, cultures, and the peaceful understanding of each other's motivations... The central theme is the kiss, the most universal symbol of love, between world political and religious leaders  

Someone over there must have picked up on our Merkozy story, too, as France and Germany's leading man and lady lock lips in another Unhate photograph. Also of note is the Prime Minister of Israel rounding first base with the President of the Palestinian Authority.

Will it sell more scarfs and clutches? Maybe. But it most definitely will incite a response from the catholic church whose pope is shown cozying up to the mustache of the sheikh of the al-Alzhar mosque.

(Update: prediction confirmed. But we've still got the Pope photo below... for now.)

Here are more:


Decline Watch: Congress takes action to protect pizza's vegetable status

Don't think it's all fun and games up on Capitol Hill these days. Important steps are being taken to protect our nation's children from being forced to eat vegetables

The final version of a spending bill released late Monday would unravel school lunch standards the Agriculture Department proposed earlier this year. These include limiting the use of potatoes on the lunch line, putting new restrictions on sodium and boosting the use of whole grains. The legislation would block or delay all of those efforts.

The bill also would allow tomato paste on pizzas to be counted as a vegetable, as it is now. USDA had wanted to only count a half-cup of tomato paste or more as a vegetable, and a serving of pizza has less than that.

Decline-o-meter: Yes, this seems like an odd priority at a time when the U.S. has the highest obesity rate of any wealthy country, but as the Washington Post notes, it's not exactly new:

Nutritionists say the whole effort is reminiscent of the Reagan administration’s much-ridiculed attempt 30 years ago to classify ketchup as a vegetable to cut costs. This time around, food companies that produce frozen pizzas for schools, the salt industry and potato growers requested the changes and lobbied Congress.

Pass those (frozen) hash browns. It's morning in America again!

Also, this is probably good preparation for the Cain presidency.