Fat-Shaming Campaign Warns Israel's Kids: 'Obese Today... Ugly Tomorrow'

"When your child gains weight, his smile shrinks," read the caption under a cartoonishly ballooned head with a shrunken face beaming from the center. "One in four children in Israel is overweight," it continued. The picture hung on a billboard above the streets of Tel Aviv as part of a short-lived anti-obesity campaign sponsored by the French advertising firm JCDecaux, which was roundly attacked for shaming overweight children as depressed, unlovable rejects.

The campaign, which was axed on Friday less than a week after it debuted, was part of a yearly tradition in which JCDecaux invites ad agencies to weigh in on a pressing social issue. Previous campaigns have addressed things like the environment, pet adoption, and road safety. "We are sorry for the feelings of some parts of the public toward this campaign," the company said in a statement on its Facebook page. "Its purpose is not to cause distress or ridicule children but to convey the importance of the message and raise awareness of health and the implications of child obesity."

Despite the criticism that was levied against the French firm, the ads, which had been selected as the best submissions, maintained that rotund tots they targeted were very much redeemable, if probably unloved as they are now. One pitch, "Obese child today, fat and ugly tomorrow" allows that, while an unhappy fate surely awaits them if they don't shape up, there might still be time. Another declared, "Most cases of depression in children are linked to their appearance," and implored, "Parents, help your children be happy." It portrayed an overweight torso with a nose drawn in the middle, and the bellybutton shadowed into a frown, to show how overweight kids might feel if people were so cruel as to mock them for their appearance:

A more positive rendering -- seen at the top of this post -- depicted a seesaw with one child outweighing his three friends who sat on the other, in that it showed such children having friends at all. It repeated the statistic that one in four children in Israel is overweight.

The campaign was immediately attacked on social media and by pediatric organizations. The Israeli Pediatric Association called the ads "repulsive and humiliating," according to the Times of Israel, and claimed they "may encourage feelings of rejection among children who suffer from this problem." The chairman of the National Council for the Child, Dr. Yitzhak Kadman, said the campaign "causes undue harm to overweight children and could lead them to take drastic action or make them the objects of ridicule."

By Friday, the billboards had been taken down. The problem of childhood obesity, of course, remains. According to a recent study by Mount Sinai Global Health in New York and Clalit Health Services in Israel, the United States and Israel have roughly comparable rates of childhood obesity. JCDecaux's website claims Israel had the world's fifth highest rate.

The fat-shaming billboards were replaced with a message: "Now the posters are removed -- it's in your hands"


Kyrgyz Sex Video: You Can Leave Your Mufti Hat On

Here's a story you don't hear every day: The grand mufti of Kyrgyzstan -- the highest Islamic authority in the country -- resigned Tuesday over a sex-tape scandal. The mufti, Rakhmatulla-Hajji Egemberdiev, admitted that the man in a white tank top (sans mufti hat) on the grainy black-and-white video enjoying the company of a young woman is in fact him.

Earlier this week, 60 protesters gathered in front of the Egemberdiev's house demanding his resignation. The mufti complied with the crowd's demands, even though he claimed that the woman on the video was the second wife that he took on four years ago. Polygamy is illegal in Kyrgyzstan and is not widely practiced. The tape, which appeared on Kyrgyz websites on New Year's Eve, was reportedly shot using a hidden camera.

Here's a news report with some snippets from the video:

"Muslim spiritual leaders are in shock," Bakyt Nurdinov, a Muslim activist told Radio Free Europe. "It's the first time such a thing has happened. It's very upsetting that we've lived to see something like this."

Considering previous Kyrgyz muftis' track records, it seems that the latest scandal shouldn't come as such a shocker. Egemberdiev, according to the Moscow Times, is the sixth mufti to be replaced in four years -- a previous mufti resigned after accusations of corruption, another died after being beaten and kidnapped.

Egemberdiev himself was allegedly involved in a financial scandal when he was chosen to become the country's Muslim leader. Now he is accusing the authorities of sabotaging him with the tape so that they could introduce a more "loyal" candidate.

But the real tragedy here is that he did, in fact, not keep his mufti hat on. Here at FP, we hope the future muftis of Kyrgyzstan will listen to a little more Joe Cocker.