You are currently browsing the monthly archive for September 2008.

The article linked below is about “additives” to food products marketed to offer health benefits, such as adding purified sardines to Tropicana Healthy Heart orange juice and Wonder Headstart bread.

From the article:

“These additives are often called nutraceuticals, broadly defined as ingredients that are derived from food, and that offer health benefits associated with that food. Nutraceuticals like garlic pills and cranberry capsules became popular in the 1990s, usually taken alone in the form of dietary supplements.”

“Now Kraft, Dannon, General Mills and many other companies are adding nutraceuticals to existing foods: “fat-burning waffles” made from a newly developed corn flour, cheese that kills intestinal parasites, even ketchup that regulates digestion, are on the shelves or in the works. New technologies in food processing, and a landmark 1999 court decision giving the makers of supplements broad leeway to advertise their health benefits, have brought this new class of enhanced foods to supermarket shelves.”

“However, recent studies on supplemental vitamin E, beta-carotene and folate (all of which fall into the broad category of “antioxidants”) surprised everyone by showing no benefits whatsoever for cardiovascular disease. “There is a great deal we don’t know about how the compounds in food are made available to the body,” Dr. Lichtenstein said. “Now we have to be more cautious about individual nutrients, though we should not close our minds, given the successes of the past.”

Fortified food is certainly one of the great triumphs of public-health policy. When vitamin-B-enriched flour was introduced in the 1940s, rates of pellagra plummeted. Iodine-fortified salt virtually wiped out goiter, and vitamin-D-enriched milk eliminated rickets in children. But some experts say that such carefully designed campaigns have little in common with the fortified products now turning up in supermarkets.

“Those decisions were based on rigorous public-health studies,” said Dr. Jeffrey Mechanick, a professor of endocrinology at Mount Sinai School of Medicine. “But the science hasn’t been done on the new nutraceutical products, and the F.D.A.’s current labeling standards are inadequate.”

The agency does not have specific rules for the labeling of functional foods. “It all depends on what type of claim is being made,” said Michael Herndon, an agency spokesman. “An unqualified health claim like ‘calcium reduces your risk of osteoporosis,’ has to be proved in advance. A more general claim like ‘X keeps your heart healthy’ has to be provable by the manufacturer, but we would not require proof in advance.” As with conventional foods, functional foods must clearly state the presence of allergens, like milk or fish, in the ingredients list.

The Food and Drug Administration does not conduct nutritional research. Several other federal agencies do so, but functional foods are not evaluated by any specific office. “Nutraceutical products have characteristics of both food and drugs,” said David A. Kessler, a former commissioner of the F.D.A. “It’s easy for them to slip through the cracks, and the industry is always ahead of the agency.”

“Eating the right nutrients is a complicated question, one that nutritionists say could most easily be solved by eating a wide range of basic foods.

Dr. Lichtenstein of Tufts says that the recent setbacks and surprises in nutrition research have made her rethink the whole model of adding nutrients to the diet, despite the effectiveness of vitamin fortification.”

“Maybe the true benefit of eating a lot of fish is that you are actually eating less of something else, like steak,” she said. “Maybe a subtraction model is the key. We have a long way to go to find out.”

Truth in advertising is the important issue here. Claims about the health benefits need to be back up by hard science. Studies conducted in a scientifically acceptable manner. The whole industry of vitiman supplements and homeopathic medicine is not regulated as far as I know.

Do you take vitamin supplements? I use to when I worked. I did some research and felt all I was doing was making expensive urine.

When you choose between to food products will a label that claims health benefits get you to buy that product?

Should vitamin supplements and homeopathic medicines be regulated like pharmaceutical drugs are?

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Science fiction is becoming science fact. If you haven’t seen it already below is a video of forty-nine year old Yves Rossy, former military pilot, who strapped four four kerosene-burning turbines to his back (Glider), jumped out of airplane, turned the jets on and flew 22 miles across the English Channel to Dover, England. His top speed was 125 mph and the flight took just 10 minutes. The wing had no rudder or tail fin, so Mr Rossy had to steer it using his head and back. As well as a helmet and parachute, he wore a special suit to protect him from the four kerosene-burning turbines mounted just centimetres from him on the wing.

If a jet pack was built and tested to be safe, and you could afford it, would you consider buying one? I would love get one and be able fulfill my boyhood dream of flying like superman, except for the part about actually flying over the ground.

An article in the Christian Science Monitor today addresses the question of how far should in reaching out to those we consider “evil” and our enemy.

From the article, http://www.csmonitor.com/2008/0925/p02s03-usgn.html :

1) “To talk or not to talk. That’s the debate roiling diplomats regarding US relations with Iran. Now that debate has spilled, with all its fervor, into the arena of interfaith dialogue.

“Religious organizations dedicated to global bridge-building and peacemaking are under fire for cosponsoring an interfaith iftar dinner Thursday evening that includes President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of Iran. The Iranian leader is in New York to speak at the United Nations.

The religious groups see the event as part of a multifaith collaboration on issues of shared concern.”

2) “Conservative and Jewish groups outraged about the iftar point to Mr. Ahmadinejad’s nuclear stonewalling, threats against Israel, and questioning of the Holocaust. Last week, the US Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF), an independent body advising the president and Congress, raised a religious freedom issue.

Iran is in the process of legally enshrining the death penalty for apostasy in its penal code, USCIRF said in a statement calling on governments to speak out. If the code is finalized, some members of many religious minorities could be subject to death sentences.”

3) “The dinner is billed as an international dialogue on the subject: “Has not one God created us? The significance of religious contributions to peace.”

It will be the fourth meeting of Iranian religious and political figures with representatives of the Mennonite Central Committee, American Friends Service Committee (AFSC), the World Council of Churches, and Religions for Peace.

The Mennonites and Quakers, among the so-called peace churches, see the interaction as particularly important given the lack of relations at the political level.”

4) I believe that it is more important to develop a dialogue with those we disagree with, those we perceive as our enemy, than to those who agree with us.

This requires us to listen to the other party, even if we find their message, or parts of it, offensive. It requires us to be able to see through the eyes of a person we believe we may have nothing in common with. We should acknowledge irreconcilable differences. However, if we can move past these differences we often find points of agreement, issues we can working together on.

Most of the people on the Internet that I interact with are Christ Followers. They believe in God, I don’t. Once we get past this difference I see that on most other topics we agree far more than we disagree.

Iran and the US have an irreconcilable difference over Israel. Israel is our allie and the enemy of Iran. However the US and Iran do have a common enemy, Al-Qaeda. Al-Qaeda is a Sunni Muslim terrorist group while Iran is actively supporting Shiite Muslim organizations. It is not inconceivable that the US and Iran could work together against Al-Qaeda, especially in Iraq.

Questions – Would you invite Iran to an interfaith conference?  Is there anyone, or any group, you would not invite?

Apologize to any one who reads this blog, which I have been neglecting.  I have been spending more time trying to become a more informed voter and trying, without success, to get a handle on this growing financial crisis, which will affect us all in one way or another.

I wanted to post something funny, or inspiring.  All I got is a political rant.

Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson appeared before the Senate Banking Committee to push the Presidents program (bailout) to deal with the current economic problems.

A transcript of this hearing can be found at:

http://thelede.blogs.nytimes.com/2008/09/23/following-the-bailout-hearing/index.html?hp

Republican response:

1) “Another expression of disgust came from Senator Jim Bunning, Republican of Kentucky, who said the plan would “take Wall Street’s pain and spread it to the taxpayers.”

“It’s financial socialism, and it’s un-American,” Mr. Bunning said.”

2) Mr. Shelby (Republican Senator from Alabama) complained that the emerging program seemed to be “a series of ad hoc measures,” rather than the kind of comprehensive approach that is needed.

3) “There’s a tendency for people to think these are stocks and bonds and you know what the price is,” said Bruce Barlett, a former White House economist under President Reagan. “The problem is people are operating in a world in which nobody knows what the hell is going on. There’s some naïve assumptions about how this would function.”

Democratic response:

4) “Senator Christopher J. Dodd, Democrat of Connecticut and chairman of the panel, called the Treasury proposal “stunning and unprecedented in its scope and lack of detail.”

Asserting that the plan would allow Mr. Paulson to act with “absolute impunity,” Senator Dodd said, “After reading this proposal, I can only conclude that it is not only our economy that is at risk, Mr. Secretary, but our Constitution, as well.”

5) The Bush administration seems to want to give one man, Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson, complete control over hundreds of billions of dollars of debt being bought with taxpayers money.

Wall Street has panicked and so it does appear has our President.



The foster care system in the US is overwhelmed.  Generation Hope is a novel approach, creating a community of foster parents and senior citizens.

From an article in the New York Times linked below.

“In the great tradition of grandmas and grandchildren, Irene Bohm, 84, and Charlie Laws, 8, delight in a little well-earned indulgence. “We watch movies, eat pizza, play games,” said Charlie, as he snuggled in a chair alongside her.They are not related, and live a few doors apart. But there is no mistaking that they are on a great adventure together. “He calls in the morning and says, ‘Grandma, how are you?’ ” said Ms. Bohm, so touched by his sweetness that her eyes glistened.”

“This is Generations of Hope, a nonprofit adoption agency that has designed a community to resemble a nurturing small town, complete with surrogate grandparents. Created out of a shuttered Air Force base, Generations of Hope seeks to rescue children from foster care and place them with adoptive parents who have moved here. About 30 children currently live with parents in 10 homes. The community is also home to 42 older people who have subsidized rent.”

“At the outset, Generations of Hope had the advantage of using existing homes left by the closing of Chanute Air Force Base. The new sites, more typically, will need to be developed from scratch, on donated land.”

“Adoptive parents earn $19,000 and live rent-free in one of the split-level ranch-style homes built for the base. The older residents, who agree to do community service, like tutoring or yard work, pay a reduced rent of $300.”

At the heart of the program is the ethos that parenthood and grandparenthood are permanent.

“I know of two ways to raise children: you have them biologically or you adopt them,” said Dr. Eheart, a former researcher at the University of Illinois. “Foster care is an oxymoron.”

“The children here have often lived at four or five foster homes before they arrive at Generations of Hope, and they are often in sibling groups, which makes placement more difficult.

While children and adoptive parents are carefully matched, the youngsters form alliances with the older residents more informally, over time. And the transitions are not always easy. These are children who have little reason to trust, and the older residents sometimes need to adjust to boys and girls who have come up the hard way. And neighbors, even those on good-hearted missions, do not always see eye to eye.

“We have our ups and downs,” Ms. Bohm said.

For the most part, it works. Before she came here 14 years ago, Ms. Bohm, a retired schoolteacher and widow who never had children, said she was “bored and lonely and feeling like maybe I should just hang it up.”

“Her role as beloved grandmother for Charlie and his three siblings evolved from her friendship with the children’s adoptive mother, Jeanette Laws, a neighbor of Ms. Bohm’s. Ms. Laws needed the older woman’s help while working at a high school in Champaign and trying to raise four children, including her daughter Shamon, now 20, and her sons Brandon, 19, and Angelo, 9.

Ms. Bohm tutored Brandon in every subject and showed a grandmother’s unconditional love in some very tough times. Despite some misadventures along the way, Brandon found the right path. Now a college student in Rhode Island, he recently came home for a visit to surprise his adoptive grandmother.”

When some children arrive at Generations of Hope, they feel confused and isolated. But Ms. Bohm tells them she knows the feeling. At 13, she was sent to a convent, against her wishes, to become a nun. It was her father’s choice of vocation for her, “not mine,” she recalled. On the drive to the convent in Joliet, she said she had “prayed to God we would have a wreck,” so that she would not have to go. She spent many nights crying. “I never belonged there,” said Ms. Bohm. She left the order in her 40s.”

“Irene is going to live long past 84,” Dr. Eheart said, “because she knows she’s got to see Charlie through high school.”

http://www.generationsofhope.org/
http://www.nytimes.com/2008/09/16/us/16rantoul.html

Cultural exchanges programs are one of the best ways to bridge the barriers that prevent the nations, and people, of the world from understanding and learning to work together.  Programs like the Youth Exchange and Study Program, YES, http://www.yesprograms.org/  are what will bring the world closer together.
 
From an article on the Christian Science Monitor site:
 
“When Junaid Bin Masood, a 17-year-old Pakistani exchange student studying in southern California, was asked whether he had a gun in his backpack, he was speechless. He had never been out of Pakistan before, so this question from a schoolmate was jolting. But he kept his cool and explained that most Pakistanis are not jihadists.

“Everyone knows there are good and bad things all over the world,” Junaid says. “There are some bad people in Pakistan, too. Just like in the US.”

Such incidents underscore the divide between Americans and the people of Muslim countries. That is why the US State Department created the Youth Exchange and Study (YES) program (www.yesprograms.org). This competitive program sends some of the best and brightest teens from Muslim countries worldwide on one-year stints to high schools across the United States.”

“About 3,000 Muslim students from nearly two dozen countries have participated in the program since its inception in 2003. In the 2007-08 school year, it brought 750 students to the US.”

“The State Department is planning to expand the program. Next year, it will add 25 more students and one country, Suriname. Mr. Beiser says the program hopes to take this even further. And starting next year, American high schoolers will study in some of the Muslim countries in a reverse exchange.

“Exchange programs are not the only way to mend relations between the US and Muslim countries, but they are an important one,” Beiser says. “Every time a YES student and an American family have a successful program together, a minisummit takes place and helps relations a little at a time.”

“Diana Kamakh, a Palestinian YES participant from Lebanon who spent the past school year in a high school in Colorado Springs, says that those who’ve been to the United States have a much more favorable opinion of the country than those who have not.

“If you’ve been to the US, you must fall in love with something in it,” she says. “Plus you’ll get a chance to know that the government and the people are two different things.”

“Anderson says that the US has not done enough to reverse its bad image in Muslim countries.

“I think most of us involved in higher education in the United States have been dismayed by the US government’s failure to seize on educational exchange … as a way to ameliorate the damaging consequences of our increasingly onerous visa policies since 2001,” she says, adding that student exchanges are a way for the US to brighten its tarnished image.”

“Until this decade, it wasn’t unusual at all for Muslim students from the Middle East and elsewhere to study in the US.

But since 2001, Anderson notes, Muslim parents abroad are much less likely to send their children to study in the United States. The parents are concerned that their children could be harassed at US airports and unwelcome on campuses.

“Many, many national elites around the world studied in the United States when they were young,” she says, “but that pipeline is drying up and we will regret it in 20 years.”

But despite these social bridges, images often drive opinions more than dialogue. “I think the images most people have of the Muslim world come from the Palestinian-Israeli conflict and, of course, from Sept. 11,” Beiser says.

“But it can come as a shock to American students to learn that their own country’s image in the Muslim world is not particularly flattering either, he adds.”

“She met another exchange student (not from YES) who asked if she carried a gun. “I was kind of mad,” she says, “but I understand that he doesn’t know any better. Every time someone knew I’m a Muslim from the Middle East, they ask me questions like that.”

“Junaid says that some of his beliefs about the US were debunked when he came to the US as part of the YES program. Before arriving, he thought American life was a perpetual fraternity party.

But he learned differently during his stay, says Katherine Migliaccio, his host mother. He discovered what it’s really like to be an American. And that’s the image he took home to Pakistan with him.

“They all think it’s like ‘Baywatch’ here,” she says. “He realized that’s not how Americans are.”

I am constantly amazed at the how life can be found on any environment on earth, and can survive any conditions it meets.
 
A little six-legged creature called the water bear, tardigrades, show they can survive even the open harsh vacuum of space and deadly radiation.
 
Why take water bears along in space?
 
From an article on Foxnews:
 
“Jonsson suspects that even the water bears that got through the space trip without any trouble may in fact have incurred DNA damage, but that the animals managed to repair this damage. Figuring out how they did that could inform medical research.

“One problem with radiation therapy in treating cancer today is that healthy cells are also harmed,” he said. “If we can document and show that there are special molecules involved in DNA repair in multicellular animals like tardigrades, we might be able to further the development of radiation therapy.”

I would be shocked if life did not exist on another planet as there are millions of planets with conditions similar to earth.  If life can survive space it can survive anywhere.
 
Questions:
 
Do you believe there is life on other plants?
 
If you believe in God would finding life on another plant affect your religious beliefs?
 
If you don’t believe in God would confirmation that life only exits on Earth cause you to re-examine the possibility that God does exist?
 
More from the article:
 
 
“A tiny, six-legged critter that can suspend all biological activity in extreme environments survived a journey to space that would have instantly killed any human and most other life forms.

In the first test of its kind, researchers exposed the hardy segmented creatures, called water bears, to the open and harsh vacuum of space, with all its deadly radiation, on a spacecraft in low-Earth orbit. Many of them survived.

The water bears, known formally as tardigrades, have an ability similar to brine shrimp, also known as Sea Monkeys, which are familiar to many children for their ability to come to life after being sent to homes by mail-order.

Tardigrades are speck-sized things, less than 1.5 millimeters long. They’re in their own phylum but are thought to be most closely related to arthropods, which includes crustaceans, insects and spiders.

They live on wet lichens and mosses, but when their environment dries out, they just wait for a return of water. They also resist heat, cold and radiation.

The radiation resistance was most surprising to scientists.”

Booksellers.com gives an award called “Diagram Prize for Oddest Book Title of the Year”.  Below is a list of some past titles:
 
I am sure Papa would be interested in knowing how to “Bombproof Your Horse”, especially if Palin ever gets to be President.  🙂  It is also important to know about “Living With Crazy Buttocks”, and the possibly related “American Bottom Archaeology”.   Given the state of our economy we might need to learn about “Reusing Old Graves”.  I guess my favorite is the first one on the list below, of course one has to wonder where the non-nude mice get their clothes.
 
1978: Proceedings of the Second International Workshop on Nude Mice (University of Tokyo Press)
1983: The Theory of Lengthwise Rolling (MIR)
1992: How to Avoid Huge Ships (Cornwell Maritime Press)
1993: American Bottom Archaeology (University of Illinois Press)
1994: Highlights in the History of Concrete (British Cement Association)
1995: Reusing Old Graves (Shaw & Son)
1996: Greek Rural Postmen and Their Cancellation Numbers (Hellenic Philatelic Society)
2000: High Performance Stiffened Structures (Professional Engineering Publishing)
2001: Butterworths Corporate Manslaughter Service (Butterworths)
2002: Living With Crazy Buttocks (Kaz Cooke – Penguin US/Australia)
2004: Bombproof Your Horse (J A Allen)
2005: People Who Don’t Know They’re Dead: How They Attach Themselves to Unsuspecting Bystanders and What to Do About It (Gary Leon Hill – Red Wheel/Weiser Books)
2006: The Stray Shopping Carts of Eastern North America: A Guide to Field Identification (Harry N Abrams)

The complete list can be found at:

http://www.thebookseller.com/in-depth/feature/64672-more-odd-than-odd.html

Some baby steps between international rivals.  I have some confidence that both Obama and McCain will be a less confrontational President than Bush.  There is a way to go before negotiations replace war as the favored policy in International Politics, but it’s a start.
 
1) Condoleezza Rice became the first Secretary of State in over fifty years to visit Libya, once described as a “rogue” state that the US bombed in 1986.
 
2) The President of Turkey visited traditional enemy Armenia for “talks” on Sept. 7th.
 
3) Talks between the Greeks and the Turks on Cyprus give some hope that the two sides of the island could be reunited.
 
4) French President Nicolas Sarkozy was the first Western leader in years to visit Damascus, hoping to help Syria break out of a self-imposed isolation as a supporter of terror. His trip may be a model of what the West could someday do with Iran – mullahs willing.

5) Also this week in Europe, Serbia ratified a premembership agreement with the European Union, helped along by Serbia’s role in the capture of a former Bosnian Serb leader for war crimes. This comes nine years after NATO bombed Serbia for its grip on Kosovo.

The Balkan nations, scene of ethnic cleansing during the 1990s, are slowly reconciling. It has taken NATO’s military muscle, careful diplomacy, and the lure of EU membership to turn around this volatile corner of Europe.

6) The winner of the this years election should look to Abraham Lincoln. He welcomed his bitter political rivals into his cabinet after winning. By drawing them close, he turned enemies into allies. And he kept an eye on a grander purpose, which often helps to melt differences.

As Churchill put it, “To jaw-jaw is always better than to war-war.”

Some Tough Questions

1. Are we doing enough to make the world a better place?
2. Could we do more?
3. Should we do more?
4. Whose judgments and standards do we use in answering these questions.

I’ll start with the last question.   Letting the judgement of others determine the decisions I make in life did not work very well for me.   I have come to rely more on my own judgement.  I do seek advice and observe the success or failure of others.  In the end I use my own standards in judging myself.

1. Are we doing enough to make the world a better place?

Since I have not chosen to do more I must be judging myself as doing enough, otherwise I would do more.

I work part time, about four hours a week, at a shelter. I give part of my monthly budget to charity. I try to increase understanding in the world through dialogue with people from other cultures and belief systems, in the hope that we will come to understand each other better. This the primary reason I starting this blog.

I think if I really did not feel this was enough I would do more.

How do you decide when you have done enough, or at least enough for you to feel good about yourself?

2. Could we do more?

This is the easiest question to answer. No, I am not doing as much as I could. I spend time every day at the beach or the park. I could instead be spending this time helping at the shelter. I subscribe to the Major League Baseball cable TV channel. I could instead give this money to charity.

I doubt there are many people in the world who would say they do as much as they can, though clearly some do.

I meet a guy in New York who worked, lived, eat and spent his whole life, as far as I could tell, at a shelter for the homeless. I read recently about a doctor who devotes all his time to a free clinic, he spent his savings to build. Actually I read about people like this everyday. I have written some blog post about them. I would guess if you asked everyone one of them they would say they could do more.

I am interesting in examples of people you know, or know of, who spend their entire life making the world a better place.

3. Should we do more?

This is the most judgemental of all the questions. Should I give up my time at the beach and work at the shelter instead? Should I give up cable TV and donate this money to charity. If I really want to do the most I can to make the world a better place I should do both these things.

I do feel good about myself, so this motivates me to not want to change. I also sometimes do feel guilty when I am laying in the sun at the beach and realize I could be working at the shelter instead. This tells me that I know I should be doing more.

I have no good answer to this question. The best a can say is that I do keep asking my self these question and sometimes this does motivate me to do more.

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