As I passed, I wondered: “Did this author know what ‘inpeach’ ment?”
Then it struck me: Seriously, though, this is a wonderful summer idea — imagine the president amid cool, sweet peaches during this hot summer.
As I passed, I wondered: “Did this author know what ‘inpeach’ ment?”
What? Skip the label? How?
When Cuba’s benefactor, the Soviet Union, closed up shop in the early 1990s, it sent the Caribbean nation into an economic tailspin from which it would not recover for over half a decade.
The biggest impact came from the loss of cheap petroleum from Russia. Gasoline quickly became unobtainable by ordinary citizens in Cuba, and mechanized agriculture and food distribution systems all but collapsed. The island’s woes were compounded by the Helms-Burton Act of 1996, which intensified the U.S. trade embargo against Cuba, preventing pharmaceuticals, manufactured goods, and food imports from entering the country. During this so-called “special period” (from 1991 to 1995), Cuba teetered on the brink of famine. Cubans survived drinking sugared water, and eating anything they could get their hands on, including domestic pets and the animals in the Havana Zoo.
The economic meltdown should logically have been a public health disaster. But a new study conducted jointly by university researchers in Spain, Cuba, and the U.S. and published in the latest issue of BMJ says that the health of Cubans actually improved dramatically during the years of austerity. These surprising findings are based on nationwide statistics from the Cuban Ministry of Public Health, together with surveys conducted with about 6,000 participants in the city of Cienfuegos, on the southern coast of Cuba, between 1991 and 2011. The data showed that, during the period of the economic crisis, deaths from cardiovascular disease and adult-onset type 2 diabetes fell by a third and a half, respectively. Strokes declined more modestly, and overall mortality rates went down.
This “abrupt downward trend” in illness does not appear to be because of Cuba’s barefoot doctors and vaunted public health system, which is rated amongst the best in Latin America. The researchers say that it has more to do with simple weight loss. Cubans, who were walking and bicycling more after their public transportation system collapsed, and eating less (energy intake plunged from about 3,000 calories per day to anywhere between 1,400 and 2,400, and protein consumption dropped by 40 percent). They lost an average of 12 pounds.
It wasn’t only the amount of food that Cubans ate that changed, but also what they ate. They became virtual vegans overnight, as meat and dairy products all but vanished from the marketplace. People were forced to depend on what they could grow, catch, and pick for themselves– including lots of high-fiber fresh produce, and fruits, added to the increasingly hard-to-come-by staples of beans, corn, and rice. Moreover, with petroleum and petroleum-based agro-chemicals unavailable, Cuba “went green,” becoming the first nation to successfully experiment on a large scale with low-input sustainable agriculture techniques. Farmers returned to the machetes and oxen-drawn plows of their ancestors, and hundreds of urban community gardens (the latest rage in America’s cities) flourished.
“If we hadn’t gone organic, we’d have starved!” said Miguel Salcines Lopez in the journal Southern Spaces. Salcines is an agricultural scientist who founded “Vívero Alamar,” one of Cuba’s best known organopónicos, or urban farms, in vacant lots in Havana.
During the special period, expensive habits like smoking and most likely also alcohol consumption were reduced, albeit briefly. This enforced fitness regime lasted only until the Cuban economy began to recover in the second half of the 1990s. At that point, physical activity levels began to fall off, and calorie intake surged. Eventually people in Cuba were eating even more than they had before the crash. The researchers report that “by 2011, the Cuban population has regained enough weight to almost triple the obesity rates of 1995.”
Not surprisingly, the diseases of affluence made a comeback as well. Diabetes increased dramatically, and declines in cardiovascular disease slowed to their sluggish pre-1991 levels. (Heart disease did decline slightly in the 1980s due to improved detection and treatments.) By 2002, “mortality rates returned to the pre-crisis pattern,” according to the authors of the study. Cancer deaths, which fell in the years after the crash, also started inching up after the recovery, rising 5.4 percent from 1996 to 2010.
While the study’s author’s are cautious about attributing all of these changes in disease rates exclusively to changes in weight, Professor Walter Willett, of the Harvard School of Public Health, Boston wrote in an editorial that the study does provide “powerful evidence [that] a reduction in overweight and obesity would have major population-wide benefits.”
The findings have special relevance to the U.S., which is currently in the midst of a type 2 diabetes epidemic. Disease rates more than doubled from 1963 to 2005, and continue to rise precipitously. Diabetes and its attendant complications have been called one of “the main drivers” of rising health care costs in the U.S. by a report which was published last month by the American Diabetes Association (ADA). “Recent estimates project that as many as one in three American adults will have diabetes in 2050,” according to Robert Ratner, the chief scientific and medical officer of the ADA.
Cardiovascular disease is statistically an even bigger scourge. This illness, which was relatively rare at the turn of the twentieth century, has become the leading cause of mortality for Americans, responsible for over a third of all deaths. Heart disease is associated with our increasingly sedentary lifestyles, obesity, and artery-clogging diets.
The Cuban experience suggests that to seriously make a dent in these problems, we’ll have to change the lifestyle that helps to cause them. The study’s authors recommend “educational efforts, redesign of built environments to promote physical activity, changes in food systems, restrictions on aggressive promotion of unhealthy drinks and foods to children, and economic strategies such as taxation.”
But they also acknowledge that the changes that they are calling for are tough to engineer at the government level: “So far, no country or regional population has successfully reduced the distribution of body mass index or reduced the prevalence of obesity through public health campaigns or targeted treatment programs.”
So where does that leave us? If the United States want to stem the rise of diabetes and heart disease, either we get serious about finding ways for to become more physically active and to eat fewer empty calories — or we wait for economic collapse to do that work for us.
[ Thanks to Chelsea Smith for passing this piece along. ~BL ]
“Pain extends beyond tissue damage and hurt feelings, and includes the distress and existential angst we feel when we’re uncertain or have just experienced something surreal,” University of British Columbia researcher Daniel Randles, the lead author of a paper published in the journal Psychological Science , said in a statement Tuesday. “Regardless of the kind of pain, taking Tylenol seems to inhibit the brain signal that says something is wrong.”
Randles and his colleagues recruited 121 people to participate in two experiments weighing the effectiveness of 1,000 milligrams of acetaminophen against a nameless lurking anxiety stemming from deep within the recesses of the psyche .
In the first experiment, the researchers examined how Tylenol helped people cope following one of the more common sources of existential dread: awareness of one’s own mortality . Participants were asked to either write about what would happen to their body after death — an angst-inducing thought — or write about tooth pain, an uncomfortable but not existential crisis-inducing subject. Then all the study participants were handed an arrest report about a prostitute, and asked to set the bail amount.
According to one psychological hypothesis called the meaning maintenance model, people naturally seek to address things that disturb their expectations. But some kinds of disturbing experiences, like existential dread, aren’t easily addressed, prompting a person to feel the need to assert values or beliefs — even ones unrelated to the source of psychological turmoil — in response to their anxiety. So in this experiment, setting a high bail amount would theoretically allow the study subjects to affirm their belief that prostitution is wrong.
In the group of subjects that wrote about dental pain, people set relatively low bail amounts, with virtually no difference between the medicated and unmedicated individuals. But among the group that had written about their own death, people that took the placebo came down harshly on the prostitute, setting a much higher bail; in the acetaminophen group, bail was lower on average .
A similar scenario played out in the second experiment, where some people were primed for angst by watching a clip from the David Lynch short film series “Rabbits.” These films feature people in bunny suits conversing in non-sequiturs like “I wonder who I will be” on a sitcom-like set, occasionally punctuated by a laugh track and surreal visuals like the sudden appearance of a burning hole in the wall. The control group watched a clip from “The Simpsons.”
Strange art films, like the awareness of our mortality, can induce existential dread because they shake us out of the expected, the scientists said.
“Insofar as it ‘hurts’ to watch some of Lynch’s films, as it arguably does whenever we are assaulted by thoughts and experiences that are at odds with our expectations and values, we might question how this uncomfortable feeling is represented in the brain,” Randles and his colleagues wrote.
After viewing the film clips, subjects were then asked to comment on the appropriate punishment for rioters in a recent incident following a hockey game. Again, both control groups and the medicated art film watchers were more lenient; people that took sugar pills and watched the Lynch clip called for more punitive measures against the rioters .
[shadowbox]Hah![/shadowbox]Admittedly, there are some limitations to the study. There’s no simple test to detect that someone is suffering from existential dread , and it’s unclear what specific brain regions or signals are responsible for questioning one’s own identity and existence. Other pain relievers might also be effective in keeping ego-shattering anxiety at bay .
But isn’t getting caught up in the throes of existential angst pretty much the reason people go to see art movies anyway? And couldn’t the sudden angst provoked by awareness of one’s death be a positive motivator in a person’s life? There’s larger philosophical questions at play here.
Nevertheless, Randles and his colleagues suggest their findings may shed light on how people that suffer from anxiety and doubt might cope, and demonstrate that “acetaminophen has far more reaching psychological consequences than previously realized.”
SOURCE: Randles et al. “The common pain of surrealism and death: Acetaminophen reduces compensatory affirmation following meaning threats.”  Psychological Science published online 13 April 2013.
[ Despite the U.S. military's repeated denials, it appears the U.S. in fact took action knowing that the "casualties" of war would be the next generation of Iraqi children. ~BL ]
Ten years after the start of the U.S. invasion in Iraq, doctors in some of the Middle Eastern nation’s cities are witnessing an abnormally high number of cases of cancer and birth defects. Scientists suspect the rise is tied to the use of depleted uranium and white phosphorus in military assaults.
skip ahead to 28:35
On the war’s ten-year anniversary, Democracy Now! spoke with Dahr Jamail, an Al Jazeera reporter who recently returned from Iraq. Jamail recounts meeting Dr. Samira Alani, a doctor in the city of Fallujah focusing on the issue of birth defects.
She said it’s common now in Fallujah for newborns to come out with massive multiple systemic defects, immune problems, massive central nervous system problems, massive heart problems, skeletal disorders, babies being born with two heads, babies being born with half of their internal organs outside of their bodies, cyclops babies literally with one eye — really, really, really horrific nightmarish types of birth defects.
Jamail says that the current rate of birth defects for the city of Fallujah has surpassed those of Hiroshima and Nagasaki after the nuclear attacks at the end of World War II.
Echoing Jamail’s findings, a September 2012 study published in the Bulletin of Environmental Contamination and Toxicology that focused on maternity hospitals in the cities of Basra and Fallujah recorded a devastating number of birth defects in the past decade. The study also indicated that childhood leukemia and other types of cancers are on the rise. Continue reading
The millet crust. 1.5 cups millet to 3 cups of water boiled; simmer for 15 minutes. Take it off the heat; add 2 Tbsp butter, and let millet sit to cool for about 10 minutes. Coat the baking pan with butter. Press the millet into the pan to form the crust, pressing with fingers or a spoon. Bake for 25 minutes at 400 Farenheit.
The filling. Cut 2-3 leeks into half-inch rounds. Add minced garlic to your liking (we add a whole head). Sautee together in olive oil. Add veggies to your liking. We add lightly sauteed chopped broccoli & kale. Remove from heat. We added fresh chopped tomatoes & lemon thyme. Fill the baked crust evenly with sauteed vegetables. Top with a cup of shredded cheese (recommended: extra sharp cheddar) and then 1.5 cups of half and half or whole milk.
Bake for 30-40 minutes or till golden brown @ 350 degrees Farenheit.
Use a pre-baked pie shell to keep the pie from bottom sogginess. Layer with tomatoes and top with herbs of your choosing. Use 2 cups of shredded cheddar (Michelle uses extra sharp and 1 cup of mayonnaise mixed together). Top the first layer of tomatoes with half the mixture and then do a second layer of tomato and mixture with the rest. Bake at 425 for 35 minutes; let cool about 15 minutes, and enjoy.
This is highly recommended by Michelle and Brendan.
Not just for Sadie anymore!