The Watering Hole, Tuesday February 18, 2014 – Environmental News and Food Politics

Putting his money where his mouth is... retired hedge fund executive willing to spend up to $100 million this year to challenge climate deniers running for office, according to this article from the New York Times.

“A billionaire retired investor is forging plans to spend as much as $100 million during the 2014 election, seeking to pressure federal and state officials to enact climate change measures through a hard-edge campaign of attack ads against governors and lawmakers.”

Read more here.

West Virginia take me home… but don’t drink the water. Another coal slurry spill. As much as people hate fracking and oil drilling, coal is the most environmentally disastrous energy source in the world. There isn’t even a close second. John Denver, are you sure you want to go there?

Biosolids contain more harm? Duke University researchers are looking in the the effects of anti-microbial chemicals are having on soil decomposition. Biosolids are what your sewage treatment plant spreads on parks, farm land fields or bag as fertilizers for sale. They are supposed to be tested by federal regulation for pathogens and heavy metals but chemicals are a different story. It is expensive and complicated to test the right now, but some may contain chemicals harmful to he environment. Read on.

First Clinton and now Al Gore... going vegan. May be old news to some of you but I just uncovered it. Al Gore likes lentils and carrots. Fiftysomething Diet: Is It Time to Go Vegan? Here is the science behind it.

Watering Hole: Tuesday, December 17, 2013 – It Takes Strength

This year has been a difficult year for me.  It’s been a year that has been particularly brutal to my physical and mental health.

We sold our home of 16 years in June and until we moved into our new home on December 6, we were nomads.  Living out of a suitcase isn’t all it’s cranked up to be.  It’s been a stressful 6 months which taxed me emotionally.

Throughout the summer, I experienced severe pain in my left knee, muscle spasms in my left leg, numbness in the first toe on my right foot, migraine headaches, and extreme fatigue.  Since I didn’t have insurance at the time, I put off seeing the doctor until September as that is when my Medicare Part B took effect.  To make a long story short, I was able to convince the doctor to test me for Lyme Disease.  I was even able to get her to start me on Doxycycline.  Sure enough, I had Lyme Disease.  It has taken several months to recover from this devastating disease.  Lyme Disease is serious business.

Next up, I get an exam from my “new” doctor in Eugene, Oregon.  Because of my age, he decided to give me an ECG (electrocardiogram).  The results were not what I wanted to hear.  I have a left ventricular block which means that my heart is working overtime.

I told you that to tell you this.  Blood flow blockage is not a good thing.  I decided to consult the expert, Dr. Dean Ornish.  He recommends diet changes and exercise along with meditation and something else.  Dr. Ornish suggests that we practice “forgiveness, altruism, compassion, and service” and that “it takes strength and courage to forgive; those who are afraid to look weak often preach vengeance and violence”.  He mentions that he was inspired by Nelson Mandela and he quotes from Mandela’s book, “Long Walk to Freedom,”

It was during those long and lonely years that my hunger for the freedom of my own people became a hunger for the freedom of all people, white and black.  I knew as well as I knew anything that the oppressor must be liberated just as surely as the oppressed.  A man who takes away another man’s freedom is a prisoner of hatred, he is locked behind the bars of prejudice and narrow-mindedness.  I am not truly free if I am taking away someone else’s freedom, just as surely as I am not free when my freedom is taken from me.  The oppressed and the oppressor alike are robbed of their humanity.

When I walked out of prison, that was my mission, to liberate the oppressed and the oppressor both.  Some say that has now been achieved.  But I know that that is not the case.  The truth is that we are not yet free; we have merely achieved the freedom to be free, the right not to be oppressed.  We have not taken the final step of our journey, but the first step on a longer and even more difficult road.  For to be free is not merely to cast off one’s chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others.  The true test of our devotion to freedom is just beginning.

This made me start thinking.  If I truly want to regain my health, then along with diet and exercise, I need to be more positive about life, more forgiving of others, and less angry about things that I cannot change.

We all have the power to create our own view of life.

This is our Open Thread.  Enough about me.  Now it is your turn to Speak Up!

Watering Hole: Monday, January 16, 2012 – Vitamin D

There’s a been a lot of chatter lately regarding the value of Vitamin D.  It seems like this vitamin prevents any disease or disability (only fooling around with this statement).  There are some really crucial benefits to Vitamin D.  Here are a few:

  • Needed for the absorption and metabolism for calcium and phosophorus.  These elements are vital to bone formation and other various functions within the body.
  • As an immune system regulator, it may arm the immune system against the common cold.
  • There may be a connection between insufficient Vitamin and the risk of developing Multiple Sclerosis.
  • Some studies are beginning to show a lower risk of some cancers in people with higher Vitamin D levels.
  • WebMD has a more information regarding the benefits of Vitamin D.

With all this good news about Vitamin D and our health, what would be the best sources for us to get this valuable vitamin?  That would be our bodies.  There is no risk of overdosing when our body manufactures Vitamin D.  Supplements are another source of Vitamin D.  When using supplements as a source, then it is advised that no more than 2000 IU be taken daily as an overdose may occur.  This is one reason that Vitamin D levels in the blood should be measured on a regular basis.  When the body manufactures Vitamin D, it also creates another chemical which stops the Vitamin D production when blood reaches its optimal level of Vitamin D.

Doctor Oz has a good animation on how the body manufactures Vitamin D.

People living above 40 degrees latitude have a difficult time getting sufficient Vitamin D during the winter months.  This is where supplementation with Vitamin D 3 may help.  Another source would be 4 to 6 minutes, depending on skin type, under tanning lights 2 or 3 times/week. In the warmer climates and the warmer weather, step outside for a walk in the sunshine.

This is our Open Thread.  Speak Up!

Sunday Roast: The Common Cold


There’s just never a good time to get a cold, is there?  Even if you really don’t have much going on, getting a cold is not near the top of things to do.

When you have a cold (or any other virus or disease), your body becomes a battle ground.  This is why we feel so crappy!  The immune system is fighting a battle to the death with viral invaders, and we do our best to get on with life and deny anything is happening — while we share our lovely cold with people all around us.  Srsly, don’t do that.

There are four basic stages of a cold:

Stage 1: Inflammation
The first stage of a cold or flu is all about inflammation. Everything is hot and dry. Inflammation occurs as your immune system mounts an attack against the invading virus.

You feel feverish, your throat is sore, you’re thirsty and cranky — stay home with your tea and toast!  If you take medication, your cold will last about seven days, if you don’t, it will last about a week.  I don’t bother with it, since I think the body should be allowed to have its war, and get it over with.

Stage 2: Mucous
At this stage of a cold you are always left wondering how such a small body part can produce so much mucous. The mucous at this stage is clear and runny, and there is usually lots of it.

I’m familiar with this stage right now, and the snot is epic.  No decongestants!  For heaven’s sake, you want the snot on the outside, not withering on this inside.  Treat yourself to soft tissues and chicken soup with a dash of cayenne.  You’ll be glad you did…like I am.

Stage 3: Congestion
Mucous becomes thick and changes colour from the clear to white of stage 2 to yellow or green. As the bacteria that usually live in the nose grow back, they change the mucus to a greenish colour. This is normal.

This is the stage where the snot becomes boogers.  That’s highly technical mom-speak, so if you need translation, just let me know.  Keep drinking lots of warm liquids to keep things flowing (remember, better out than in), and don’t do that thing where you blow your nose and then look at it — that is just gross.

And finally…

Stage 4: Convalescence and Recovery
Convalescence and recovery while not a true stage of colds and flu is a valuable art that we have lost as a society.

Your body literally fights a war each time you have a cold and allowing some time at the end of the infection for your body to clean up the mess and repair the damage can mean the difference between another cold next month or next year.

Convalescence is very simple, all it involves is a few extra days of ‘quiet time’ (don’t schedule in any extra curricular activities), early nights and nutritious foods. You may resume exercise but don’t overdo it, intense exercise has a temporary suppressant effect on your immune system. A long walk is far better at this stage than an intense exercise session at the gym or a run.

Take it easy!  What’s the matter with you?  Your body has been a war zone, and you won.  You want to be sick again?  Fine, get your own chicken soup, and leave my cayenne and soft tissues alone.  *grump*

This is our daily open thread — I just gave you cooties!

Is Your Drinking Water Safe?

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has failed to notify farmers and other people living in watersheds contaminated with atrazine, a pesticide used heavily in the corn growing industry.

Wonder if Steve Bradbury from the EPA would be willing to drink the water in these contamined watersheds.

David Vitter: Economic Terrorist

That’s no hyperbole. Louisiana Senator David Vitter has stated that his desire to re-import drugs from Canada isn’t meant to help lower the cost Americans pay for their prescriptions, but rather to implode the Canadian system in order to force them to adopt the free market — and pathetically inadequate — system we have in America.  Via TPM:

The central Louisiana newspaper The Town Talk reports that Vitter was asked at a town hall meeting about the fact that he opposes government health care, but supports re-importing prescription drugs from, as a constituent said, “countries that have socialized medicine.” Vitter has campaigned in the past on re-importing drugs from Canada.

“My ultimate goal,” Vitter explained, “is to use that (re-importation) to cause that (pricing) system to collapse.”

Nothing like a senator attempting to force his free market dogma onto a government which he has no authority over.  What a proud day for his constituents, who probably believe that each country has a right to govern their own affairs.  Is it okay to just go ahead and call this guy and nutcase and an asshole?  I hope so, because that’s what I just did.

Schumer Guarantees Public Option in Senate Plan, but with Caveat

From a diary over at Daily Kos.  Includes video.  It’s great to hear, but Sen. Schumer leaves a little too much wiggle room qualifying his statement with “some form of it.”  Well, there are some forms of the public option that I’d frankly rather not see.  It needs to be a national plan.  It needs to be big.  Some proposals have been floated around to break the plan up into several regionally based public options.  This would, of course, dilute the power such programs would have to drive down costs in the private sector.  They just wouldn’t be big enough to take on the multi-billion dollar private firms that right now — according to the AMA — have basically exercise a monopoly (and a growing one at that) on the care we give (bolding mine):

“The remarkable reduction in the number of competing health plans is troubling for doctors and patients, as competition drives innovation and efficiency in the health care system,” said AMA Board Member J. James Rohack, M.D. “Most alarmingly, in the combined HMO and PPO markets, 95 percent of metropolitan areas have few competing health insurers.”

In addition, the study found that in 95 percent of markets, a single insurer had a market share of 30 percent or greater, and in 56 percent of the markets, a single insurer had a market share of 50 percent or greater.


“Patients do not appear to be benefiting from the consolidation of health insurance markets,” said Dr. Rohack. “Health insurers are posting historically high profit margins, yet patient health insurance premiums continue to rise without an expansion of benefits.”

The AMA findings must be viewed in the context of the unprecedented consolidation of the health insurance market, Rohack said. Between 1995 and 2005, there were more than 400 mergers involving health insurers and managed care organizations, according to a researcher of merger and acquisition trends in the health care industry.

Which is just to remind you the monster we’re up against.  While I’m heartened to hear Schumer come out and say there will definitely be a public option the “in some form” disclaimer makes me worry that these insurance companies may very well succeed in making such a public option weak enough that it poses no real threat to their market dominance, which if that were the case, means the entire plan would fail in its quest to finally contain health care costs.

The ramifications of such failure would set back the progressive agenda for decades.  If we fail at this, it will be a long time before America is ready to again allow government to take on the largest and most urgent problems facing us — and in health care, the environment, and the economy, private industry has made it clear that they have no intention of tackling those problems on their own.

What can I say?  I think capitalism is a great system, but if you don’t harness its power and turn some of it toward the public good, then the animal of industry will trample over anyone not lucky enough to be riding in the saddle.

UPDATE: I guess I should note the enormous progress that’s been made in the last few years.  We’re no longer worried whether Congress will tackle health reform, we’re worried about how strong they’ll make those reforms.  It’s, of course, a legitimate concern, but as the Bard says, “the times they are a-changin’.”

CBO Scores HELP Bill

When the CBO scored a very incomplete health care proposal and concluded that it would cost a trillion dollars over 10 years and leave more than 30 million Americans uninsured, the Right jumped on it as proof positive that the Adminstration’s plan was wasteful spending that would fail to address the root problem.

Now, the CBO has scored the HELP bill (which contains a public insurance option and pay-or-play mandates for employers), and concluded that it will cost $600 billion over ten years and cover 97% of Americans, which is exactly in line with that for which the Obama adminstration was looking. 

Two weeks ago, the CBO was one of  the most important voices in the health care debate.  Anyone care to guess whether the Republicans will still tout their findings now that the bill includes a public option and a pay-or-play mandate, which both greatly reduce the cost of the program?  Somehow I doubt it.

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How to use teabags.Sensibly.

There are so many uses of teabags, which are really doing something good. I have my own thoughts what the tea partying crowd out on the streets can do with their teabags, but that’s not fit for printing. I’ll stay civilized, at least a bit.

1. You have been deprived of your sleep and need to dress up to the nines and look splendid ? Lie down for ten minutes, make yourself a strong black tea and place a cooled teabag over each eye. The pouches will go away in no time and you will look your best for your date.

2. The tannic acid that occurs naturally in black tea is also said to help eradicate warts (skin warts, not the ones mentioned in the link above). Place a warmed, wet tea bag directly onto a wart for ten to fifteen minutes. Repeat two or three times each day and you will notice the wart shrink in size after just a few days of this treatment.

3. Soak a tea bag in cool water and place it on to the site to stop the bleeding and pain of a lost tooth.

4. Sprinkling some used tea bags near the rosebushes enhances their growth by nourishing them.

If you should have had a run in with one of the foolish teabaggery crowd that’s on the loose today, you can soothe your blackened eye, or, preferably, be a good samaritan to the other party by placing a teabag on their injured spot. For forcibly extracted teeth, see # 3 above.

And for those GOPers over 18, see here. Here’s to your sense for symbolism.

FDA Cracks Down-Products That Cause Blindness & Rapid Heart Rate

The FDA (Food and Drug Administration) is taking steps to stop companies from marketing unapproved ophthalmic balanced salt solutions (BSS) and unapproved topical drug products containing papain, must stop manufacturing and marketing these products or risk enforcement action. FDA announced it has received reports of unapproved products that have been linked to serious adverse reactions.

The eye wash, known as a balanced salt solution, is used to keep the eyes moist during surgery. Two companies, Alcon Laboratories and Akorn, Inc. have versions that are officially approved by the Food and Drug Administration, and are not affected, the FDA said in a public notice.

But three other firms are selling similar types of eye wash without federal validation of their safety and effectiveness, said Deborah Autor, who directs the FDA’s unapproved drugs initiative. They are B. Braun, Baxter, and Hospira, she said.

There are more than 300 reports about ophthalmic balanced salt solution products. Some of these events resulted in patients permanently losing the ability to see objects clearly.

FDA said one manufacturer’s unapproved ophthalmic balanced salt solution product a couple years ago was contaminated with endotoxins, resulting in several hundred reports of adverse events, some of which were serious. In some patients, exposure to the contaminated product led to a noninfectious inflammation of the anterior segment of the eye.

“These unapproved products have put consumer’s health in jeopardy, from reports of permanent vision loss with unapproved balanced salt solutions to a serious drop in blood pressure and increased heart rate from the topical papain products,” said Janet Woodcock, M.D., director for the Center for Drug Evaluation and Research. “Consumers need to be assured that all drug products are manufactured according to the high quality standards required for FDA approval and that they are safe and effective.”

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US Bars Kansas Meatpacker from Mad-Cow Testing

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Our safety obviously doesn’t matter to Big Agriculture; they only test a small percentage of cows for the deadly disease.  The U.S. tested about 20,000 out of a possible 1 million animals that fit the high risk category.  The high risk cattle are 3 yrs or older. The highest risk are “downer cows” (those unable to walk or stand on their own).

Big Ag had a big win today in Federal Court.  A federal appeals court says the government can prohibit meat packers from testing their animals for mad cow disease.

Makes you think twice about that juicy hamburger or grilling those steaks this weekend.

What started this uproar was a Kansas meatpacker Creekstone Farms Premium Beef wants to test all of its cows.  Sounds to me like a great idea and responsible policy to have.  Which is exactly what Japan does; they have the most extensive testing system in the world. All slaughtered cattle there are tested, no matter the age.

Throughout the continental European Union, countries test all cattle over 30 months that are slaughtered; Germany includes all over 24 months.  The American approach, not so good, has been to test roughly one in every 1,700 slaughtered.

Well this didn’t sit well with the other larger meat companies.  They worried that if Creekstone is allowed to perform the test and advertise its meat as safe, they could be forced to do the expensive test, too.  Advertise meat safety, wow, what a concept.
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