Saturday, January 28, 2017

What’s All The Fuss About Kratom, And Why Haven’t I Tried It Yet?

What’s All The Fuss About Kratom, And Why Haven’t I Tried It Yet?
By Kurtis Bright

The Lowdown On The DEA’s Latest Whipping-Boy

If someone you trusted told you there was a plant out there, a plant that is perfectly legal and has been used for centuries not only to make textiles, but also to treat maladies ranging from diarrhea, muscle pain, fever, coughing, hypertension, and fatigue to depression, would you consider trying it?

In case you’re not sold yet, in addition workers used this plant in small doses to provide an extra kick of energy, much like the caffeine in coffee. And counterintuitively, in larger doses it provides a euphoric, sedative effect that works as a legit substitute for opiates--without the nasty addictive qualities, and with no known reported overdoses.

In fact this plant has recently been employed in exponentially growing numbers to treat opiate addiction with great success, as well as to treat chronic pain, PTSD and anxiety. So what do you say, are you interested in learning more about this miracle plant, perhaps even in trying it for yourself?

If you’re the DEA, the answer is a resounding, knee-jerk (just say) No.

Kratom is of course the miracle plant, one that is the Drug Enforcement Agency’s latest whipping-boy du jour, taking a place of honor next to that perennial bane of psychotically myopic drug warriors, marijuana.

In spite all the positive benefits--and let’s be very clear, the utter lack of a known downside, in that there have been no known overdoses on kratom, nor is addiction to the substance an apparent factor--kratom is still being considered for the DEA’s Schedule 1 listing. This is the section of drug regulation where the most dangerous drugs are, those with “no known medical benefit” and a high potential for abuse, drugs like meth and LSD.

The evidence clearly demonstrates that kratom is anything but. However, as most observers realize, logic and evidence have never been in the DEA’s armory of weapons.

With an understanding of the false information you will be exposed to in the mainstream press that is fed to the dutiful stenographers there by the government, here are a few actual facts to keep in mind regarding kratom.

  • It is a native plant in Southeast Asia and has been used there for hundreds of years, if not longer. While some countries in Asia have some light restrictions on its use and sale, it is nonetheless widely accepted, to the point that it is often brought out at family gatherings and other semi-public events.
  • Much like with marijuana, there is no such thing as an overdose on kratom, and certainly no deaths have ever been recorded as a result of using it. Dear Mr. DEA Man: contrast that goose-egg with the 75,000 yearly deaths that are directly related to alcohol alone in the U.S. and get back to us on exactly what you mean by the phrase “high potential for abuse.”
  • Kratom is related to coffee. It’s botanical name is Mitraganya speciosa, and it is a member of the Rubiaceace family. Also, kratom is the only known source of opioid alkaloids aside from the poppy plant. 
  • Kratom can be smoked, chewed, or steeped in tea. As mentioned above, at low doses it is used for its stimulating effect, whereas higher doses have an opiate substitute effect--with one important difference: at high doses it doesn’t impair breathing, as opioids do. This, along with the fact that it has no addictive properties is a vital factor in its use as a way to wean opioid addicts off their poison: recovering addicts can use it with no fear of death nor of simply substituting one addiction for another.
  • The DEA has recently made noises claiming that the proposed designation for kratom on Schedule 1 is only temporary. However, once a drug is listed there, it can “temporarily” remain illegal for years, if not forever. Witness how difficult it has been to pry the DEA’s scaly claws off of marijuana, despite all the advances that have been made in medical uses for the plant. By the way, the rumors that pubic outcry forced the DEA to cancel its proposed schedule change were only rumors: while the original date for rescheduling kratom has come and gone, the proposed prohibition is still very much on the table.

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Killing In The Name: How Agri-Business Makes Its Own Rules--And How Thousands Die As A Result

Killing In The Name: How Agri-Business Makes Its Own Rules--And How Thousands Die As A Result
By Kurtis Bright

Death By Big Agriculture

Following yet another salmonella outbreak in the U.S., and in the wake of the Centers for Disease Control’s weirdly heartbreaking warning that people need to stop kissing their chickens, it is high time we take another look at the way we do big agriculture in the U.S. versus how it is done elsewhere.

For one thing, according to CDC estimates, there are around 1.2 million reported illnesses from salmonella every year in the U.S.

Some 450 of those result in death. And of those cases, around 79,000 are caused by salmonella-infected eggs, which alone account for 30 deaths.

But if we take a look at the U.K., we find a very different story: there were almost no illnesses reported associated with salmonella, and zero deaths.

How is that possible? Even if you take into account the U.K.’s population differential with the U.S., statistically you would expect more than a handful of egg-related salmonella cases.

If it weren’t for one thing: in 1997, faced with its own salmonella crisis, the U.K. government ordered that egg farmers must begin inoculating their laying hens with a salmonella vaccine. That year there some 15,000 cases of salmonella related to eggs; by 2010 that number had dropped to around 500.

So, you ask, in a country as populous and wealthy as the U.S. which faces multiple annual salmonella outbreaks, why do we not adopt the U.K.’s model and vaccinate chickens against this potentially deadly disease?

Because big agri-business doesn’t want it that way, and they make the rules now.

Case in point: in 2010 when researchers at the Food and Drug Administration saw the results of the vaccination program in the U.K., they were of course encouraged and excited. The agency was on the verge of mandating a similar program in the U.S.

However, they ran into a massive roadblock: chicken farmers.

The thing is, chicken mega-farmers like Tyson just aren’t that into you. That is to say, they're not into spending money on saving people from contracting salmonella. They would rather pay lobbyists to get them out of such trifling annoyances like preventing disease and death caused by their products and practices.

And people die as a result. Hundreds, possibly thousands of people who could just as well be your neighbors and friends lost their lives between 2010 and today due to this lack of regulation and the FDA’s deference to big agriculture business interests.

All because big agri-business has such a tight grip on our elected “representatives” and the regulations they control. When Tyson and its ilk says jump, Congress and Federal agencies say “how high?”

The example of the chicken farmers and their salmonella-tainted products is just a drop in the bucket. Look at how Monsanto and Bayer and Syngenta have managed to blanket the entire nation and a great deal of the rest of the planet in a multi-billion-ton cloud of carcinogenic glyphosate for the past 20 years. Consider the number of lives and healthy bodies that have been sacrificed, all because big agri-business controls the rules and is constantly seeking to increase its profits uber alles.

So the next time someone wants to spout the tired old line about how “government regulation is always bad,” point out that when government isn’t regulating on behalf of the people, it will by regulate on behalf of big business--often with deadly results.

Go the F*ck to Sleep: Nobody is Getting Enough Rest

Go the F*ck to Sleep: Nobody is Getting Enough Rest
By Kurtis Bright

But Since You’re not Getting Enough Sleep Anyway, Here Are Some Natural Energy Boosters

Don’t you miss nap time like we used to have in kindergarten? It was so nice to lie down on your mat after some juice and a cookie for a luxurious afternoon sleep. It’s not fair that as adults most of us don’t get to enjoy the simple joy and energy boost that comes with a short snooze.

In this era when nobody is getting enough sleep anymore, no matter how much we know about the damage it causes us, more than ever we should be taking the time to sleep more.

But since you’re not going to do that because you’re overworked and overstressed like the rest of us, here are a few natural ways to give yourself an extra boost of energy when you really need it.

  • Eat a healthy snack - Hypoglycemia or low blood sugar has a variety of ugly effects depending on the person: you might get sluggish and foggy, you might get the dreaded “hangry.” It is similar to what happens after a sugar crash: when your blood sugar skyrockets then plummets to earth, it leaves you more tired than you were before. However you can combat this with a small, healthy snack that doesn’t have a high glycemic index, for instance some carrots, or spoonful of peanut butter, maybe some avocado on toast. In short, what you want to go for is something with a bit of fiber, protein, and hopefully some iron and vitamin C to give you that extra energy boost.
  • Drink up - Dehydration is tricky: it often manifests as something else. Symptoms vary: there’s the headache, of course, but another trick many people don’t realize is that a common symptom of dehydration is hunger. And one of the first effects dehydration has on our bodies is it drains our energy. It can even be dangerous: dehydration can lead to fatigue, confusion, and even fainting, so ignore it at your peril. If you’re feeling a little logy or a bit peckish on a long afternoon at the office, grab some water first before firing up the coffee maker or going to the snack vending machine.
  • Get out - Going for a simple walk can have a tremendous energy boosting effect. Counterintuitively, moving around when you’re feeling sluggish--especially when you least feel like moving--can kick you an extra reserve energy boost you didn’t know you had in you. This effect is even more pronounced if you can get outside and expose yourself to the blue light that is naturally visible during the day. It has been shown in numerous studies that the bright light of the outdoors kicks the hypothalamus into high gear. That’s the part of the brain that controls our circadian rhythms, and tells us when to sleep and when to get going, so take advantage of the natural ally you have in the sun.
  • Every breath you take - We all know that breathing pulls oxygen into our bodies. But did you know that deep breaths transport more oxygen to various parts of the body and brain? This has not only a relaxing effect, but also can be tremendously invigorating. Take a moment to remember that you are a living, breathing animal instead of an extension of your computer and smart phone.
  • Rock it out - No matter your musical tastes, kicking out some high-energy jams when you are feeling a little dusty and dreary can really recharge your day. A study in 2011 showed that when people listened to their favorite music even for as little as 15 minutes, it flooded their brains with dopamine, which is the brain chemical associated with reward and pleasure. They also found higher levels of oxytocin and serotonin, both vital components of a sense of well-being and energy. 

Friday, January 13, 2017

Here’s Why You’re Fat and Sick: Fattening Western Diet Is Also Killing Your Immune Response

Here’s Why You’re Fat and Sick: Fattening Western Diet Is Also Killing Your Immune Response
By Kurtis Bright

How Your Immune System Is Affected by a Western Diet

There is a video making the rounds that shows what happens to a Big Mac when sulfuric acid is poured over it. It is disturbing, not for what happens to the burger but rather what doesn’t.

Not a lot, is the short answer. The bun starts to turn black, and you keep waiting for the thing to dissolve in a puff of smoke, or melt into a puddle of goo like one of Walter White's unfortunate occupants of the infamous blue barrels. But the effects pretty much stop there.

So a 30-minute bath in acid, rather than melting the bread, meat, and sauce just turns the bun hard and leaves the rest of it pretty much the way it looked when it came out of the box. question: what happens in your stomach when you eat one?

Fast food, as most of us know, is so heavily laden with chemicals and preservatives that even calling it “food” has at times proven something of a stretch. (Recall for instance when Taco Bell was sued because their taco “meat” turned out to be only about 35 percent actual meat.)

Of course it is also proven fact that the western, fast-food heavy diet causes more and more people to become obese and has contributed to a concurrent rise in Type 2 diabetes.

However an Australian study shows that fast food is changing us in many different ways, ways that are more subtle, and indeed more disturbing. The New South Wales study focused on T cells, or T lymphocytes, which power our immune system. And what they found was that these vital cells are strongly affected by fatty, preservative-heavy fast food.

A high-fat diet was fed to mice for nine weeks to determine what other effects might occur aside from weight gain. What they found was not what they anticipated.

“Despite our hypothesis that the T cell response and capacity to eliminate invading pathogens would be weakened we actually saw the opposite: the percentage of overactive T cells increased,” said study lead Abigail Pollock.

And while at first blush that might sound like a desirable effect, perhaps resulting in an ultra-healthy immune system, the truth is that over-stimulated T-cells are not a good thing. In such a state they attack healthy parts of the body, which results in problems like autoimmune diseases, including type 1 diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, and inflammatory bowel disease.

The researchers think that the extra fat in the diet has the effect of changing the rodents on a cellular level. This is because cell membranes are constructed of layers of fatty lipid molecules. In the affected mice, the extra fat actually changed the make-up of the cells themselves.

As pointed out by Pollock, this “ ... changes the structure of the cell, altering the responsiveness of the T cells and changing the immune response.”

So remember, when considering a quick trip to the drive-through on the way home from work for some cheap, easy fast food, remember that the price you pay could be much higher than added inches on your waistline.

Take These Steps Today to Save Your Brain: Preventing Alzheimer’s

Take These Steps Today to Save Yourself From Brain Drain: Study Shows Preventing Alzheimer’s Is Possible
By Kurtis Bright

Five Easy Steps to Prevent Alzheimer’s

We’re all getting older, no two ways about it. But when it comes to aging, there’s good news, more good news, and then there’s bad news: for one thing, if you’re getting older, that means you’re still kicking. And especially in a time when there are seemingly new breakthrough medical discoveries every day, it is now more true than ever that where there’s life, there’s hope.

There's other good news too: prior to age 65, dementia strikes a mere 5 percent of people, only one in 20. Those are pretty good odds, right off the bat.

But as always, there’s bad news too: if and when you cross that 65 year threshold, your odds of getting dementia are going to double every five years.

But fret not; all is not lost. As we learn more about aging, scientists are finding out much more about not only Alzheimer’s and dementia in general, but also about the mechanisms behind it. We are better equipped than ever to not only identify the signs much sooner than ever before, we are also on the road to developing drugs that could treat it within the next few years.

Researchers have identified five specific ways seniors whom they have dubbed “super-agers”--people over 70 who show no sign of dementia and still have the mental vibrancy of people one-third their age--manage to avoid the worst ravages of mental decline. There is lots of excitement in the research community that perhaps they can teach the rest of us how to stave off dementia.

Here are some common factors of these super-agers that we can all adopt in an effort to prevent dementia as we age.

  • Exercise isn’t just for your body - And not those useless “brain-stimulating” game apps. No, what researchers found useful for the super-agers was stimulating their brains through a variety of activities: socializing, learning a new language, taking up new hobbies, etc. It is believed that the key is to constantly challenge the three pounds of goo between our ears to achieve new things. Studies show that a bored brain is a deteriorating brain.
  • Take a pill - Aspirin, that is. Clear this one with your doctor first, but studies have shown that an aspirin a day dramatically reduces the odds of developing Alzheimer’s, and even seems to help people maintain higher cognitive skills and brain function.
  • Go fish - Or find other sources for Omega-3s like flax seed oil. A number of small-scale studies have convincingly illustrated that the omega-3s found in fish oil may retard the progression of Alzheimer’s.
  • Keep the rest of you healthy - There are seven risk factors associated with developing Alzheimer’s: high blood pressure, obesity, diabetes, smoking, lack of exercise, low level of education and depression. Notice that the majority, five of them in all, are related to exercising the body and maintaining a healthy heart. It’s all one machine, folks. You can’t keep a healthy brain without a healthy body to run it any more than you can keep your car running well if you only change the tires and ignore all other maintenance.
  • Have a champagne jam - Sorry? That isn’t a typo: you heard it here first: a U.K. study--and let’s all raise a glass to the creative boozers/researchers at the University of Reading who procured funding for this study--found that in rats who consumed the human equivalent of one to three glasses of champagne a week, their spatial memory was improved. This is a huge finding, not only for those who love the bubbly: spatial memory is a key marker in preventing cognitive decline.

Alzheimer’s is by no means inevitable. Taking charge of our own health, life and destiny today is key.

Plus it’s a great excuse to keep a bottle of champagne in the fridge!

Friday, January 6, 2017

Every Breath You Take: Air Pollution Unacceptably High for 90 Percent Of Humanity

Every Breath You Take: Air Pollution Unacceptably High for 90 Percent Of Humanity
By Kurtis Bright

Air Pollution Is Killing Us and It's Only Getting Worse

Environmental warnings become more and more dire every year, it seems. We have melting icecaps including a huge chunk of Antartica about to break away, to the ocean acidification and the death of the Great Barrier Reed, to near-constant mega-storms to new record temperature every month. The natural systems of the earth just can’t catch up with all the havoc we are wreaking.

However, despite the deniers’ refusal to accept responsibility for what we have wrought, we may be finally be seeing some undeniable human consequences of our environmental folly, in the form of deadly, pervasive air pollution.

The alarm has been sounded in the form of a new study: at least 92 percent of the human population lives in areas where air pollution levels exceed those recommended. The study’s authors estimate that 6.2 million people die every year as a result.

The study comes not from some lone maniac posting on his weird blog but from as reliable a group as they come: the World Health Organization. In it the study authors detail an environment gone awry.

“Fast action to tackle air pollution can't come soon enough,” said the WHO’s top environmental official Maria Neira. “Solutions exist with sustainable transport in cities, solid waste management, access to clean household fuels and cook-stoves, as well as renewable energies and industrial emissions reductions.”

The WHO has published an interactive map of air quality that really brings home what many have suspected for some time: those countries hardest hit by poverty and other poor quality of life measures are the places where most deaths due to air pollution occur. Over 60 percent of deaths due to air pollution occur in low and middle-income countries, mostly centered in Southeast Asia and the Western Pacific region.

“Air pollution continues to take a toll on the health of the most vulnerable populations -- women, children and the older adults,” added WHO's Assistant Director General Flavia Bustreo. “For people to be healthy, they must breathe clean air from their first breath to their last.”

The latest study and the air quality model represent WHO’s most extensive, deep and broad effort to date toward understanding and quantifying the effects of air pollution. Developed in conjunction with researchers at the University of Bath in the U.K., it employs satellite data, air transport models, and data culled from ground station monitors in over 3,000 locations in cities and in rural areas.

The researchers then use these data to map a comprehensive picture that illustrates the specific areas that are most affected by a variety of pollution types: vehicular, household fuel-burning pollution, coal-fired plant pollution and other industrial sources.

Officials and researchers at the WHO are hoping that the new map may offer guidance on how to best alleviate specific problems for the hardest-hit areas.

“This new model is a big step forward towards even more confident estimates of the huge global burden of more than six million deaths -- one in nine of total global deaths,” said Dr. Neira.

Pesticide Manufacturers Knew All Along About Honeybee Harm

Recently Unearthed Documents Reveal Pesticide Manufacturers Knew All Along About Honeybee Harm
By Kurtis Bright

They’ve Known About Neonicotinoids’ Harmfulness to Bees for Years

When a person you have known to be a liar all along is finally revealed to all the world for what he or she really is, it is so very satisfying. However it often turns out to be something of a hollow victory: when a liar has already reaped the benefits of lying for so long, it almost doesn’t matter once they are finally caught. Extracting revenge is likely impossible as a practical matter--the damage lies and liars do goes far beyond that which can be repaired solely by public exposure.

That is the way many in the sustainable community are no doubt feeling in the wake of the revelation that newly released secret documents obtained from pesticide manufacturers shows their own tests revealed that they knew all along about the harm their neonicotinoids could do to honeybees.

Greenpeace conducted the investigation, using documents obtained under the Freedom of Information Act, and it has revealed a trove of unpublished field trials that were conducted by pesticide manufacturers. These studies clearly demonstrated that manufacturers knew all along that their neonicotinoid products were indeed capable of causing serious harm to honeybees. 

The original studies were conducted by Syngenta and Bayer during the period when they were developing their neonicotinoid pesticides, and were submitted to the Environmental Protection Agency. Thus they are part of the public record, and subject to the scrutiny of anyone who wished to file an FOIA request.

We live in a very different world now: neonicotinoids are the world’s most heavily used pesticide, and have earned the aforementioned companies billions of dollars.

At the same time, they have decimated the global honeybee population, jeopardizing the future of food and our ability to feed ourselves outside the purview of agrichem companies’ control.

The data obtained in the recently released studies had to do with examining a couple of neonicotinoid chemicals: Bayer’s clothianidin and Syngenta’s thiamethoxam. The effects they had on honeybees when applied at varying concentrations were the focus of much of the work, and the tests showed conclusively that at high concentrations, both chemicals could cause serious harm to the pollinators.

Now that it is known that honeybees are indeed being harmed by their products, senior researchers in government, universities, NGOs and in the private sector are calling for the companies to release all their data, and stop playing coy. They reason that, since the genie is already out of the bottle and we know the truth about neonicotinoids, the least these companies can do is assist researchers who are trying to understand the mechanisms of how the bee colonies are affected, and perhaps what can be done about it.

“Bayer and Syngenta’s commitment to pollinator health should include publishing these data or otherwise making them public,” said Christian Krupke, an entomologist at Purdue University. “This work presents a rich dataset that could greatly benefit the many publicly-funded scientists examining the issue worldwide, including avoiding costly and unnecessary duplication of research.”

Perhaps researchers like Krupke are more forgiving than some: there are also calls for severe penalties for Syngenta and Bayer for covering up the truth all these years.

Indeed it might be fair to say that their greed-based obfuscation was not only criminal, but genocidal, especially when you consider how reliant humankind is on pollinators being able to do their job.

We eagerly await the hammer of justice to be come down swinging from the EPA.

But don’t hold your breath; they've been working for Monsanto and Bayer et al for years now.

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Patients Diagnosed With Certain Types Of Cancer Living Longer Than Ever

Patients Diagnosed With Certain Types Of Cancer Living Longer Than Ever
By Kurtis Bright

Survival Rates Up To Ten Years After Diagnosis Are Now Common

There is just so much bad news out there--seemingly more every day. So every now and then it’s nice to come across something that is genuinely heartening, some nugget of news that is unequivocally positive.

Here goes: for people who develop a few common types of cancer, survival rates  are now routinely running to a decade or more following diagnosis.

There was a time when a diagnosis of cancer implied a rush to get one’s affairs in order; today the question is no longer “How long do I have, doc,” so much as “How long do you want?”

For those suffering skin cancer, breast cancer and prostate cancer, huge majorities can now expect to live for a minimum of ten years following their diagnosis, according to the latest government surveys.

The likeliest group to still be going strong a decade after diagnosis is those diagnosed with skin cancer, of whom a whopping 89 percent were able to live long enough to reach that milestone, according to figures provided by the U.S. government Office for National Statistics.

For women diagnosed with breast cancer, more than 80 percent of them now survive an additional ten years following their first diagnosis.

A man who suffers from prostate cancer has a ten-year survival rate nearly as high, with 79.9 percent coming in at the decade mark after being diagnosed.

On the other end of the spectrum, there are certain types of cancer diagnoses that still bring very bad news indeed, when it comes to the long-term survival rate of patients. For pancreatic cancer sufferers, only 5.7 percent of those diagnosed survive an additional ten years. And when it comes to lung cancer, the rate is slightly less dire, but still not very hopeful at 9.8 percent. Brain cancer patients only survive to ten years after diagnosis 11.9 percent of the time.

However, the overall improvement in the statistics suggest that ongoing research, treatment possibilities, and earlier diagnoses are all contributing factors resulting in an incremental increase in life expectancy after diagnosis for certain types of cancer but not others.

An example is that 96.4 percent of women diagnosed with breast cancer between 2009 and 2013 lived for at least a year after they were diagnosed, whereas 86.7 survived an additional five years. This constitutes the highest rate recorded to date.

It remains a fact that any kind of cancer is still very bad news, of course. However, at least we can take some small comfort in the demonstrable fact that it isn’t an immediate death sentence anymore.

When Even Neoliberal Capitalists Sour On Factory Farming, You Know It’s Bad

When Even Neoliberal Capitalists Sour On Factory Farming, You Know It’s Bad
By Kurtis Bright

Investors Worth Trillions Call For Divestment From Factory Farms

A classic joke told by comedian and actor Larry Miller follows a guy as he progresses through “just having one quick drink with the boys” after work, through stages of just one more beer, to a quick shot, and finally to margaritas being mixed by a laughing Satan at a bar across the state line, asking a waitress with fresh stitches in her head to be his wife.

The final scene has the brutal sunlight of dawn streaming in “ God’s own flashlight,” and Satan tells the hapless drunk, “Ooh, buddy you’re on your own. I gotta get some sleep before work.”

You can get something of the sense of that from a recent announcement issued by a group of 16 investment groups representing over $1.25 trillion in funds. Turns out they want to talk about divesting from the factory farm model of agriculture.

Which is something like Satan’s final parting shot to the drunk who has gone too far even for the Prince of Darkness: it’s like they’re saying, “Guys, this shit is just too evil, even for us.”

The group is organized under the name Farm Animal Investment Risk & Return and includes some 40 investors who are campaigning to raise awareness about the environmental and health risks that come with factory farming, especially animal agriculture.

Envisioned by Jeremy Coller, founder and chief investment officer of Coller Capital, the group was founded based on the fact that “...a worrying knowledge gap has emerged among investors in relation to the material investment risks and opportunities connected with intensive livestock farming and poor animal welfare standards,” according to the group’s website.

Coller has enlisted investors who collectively manage over $1.25 trillion in funds, so you can be certain that with that kind of money at stake, the rest of the investment world--as well as players in the world of agriculture--are sitting up and taking notice.

“Backed by a new briefing entitled The Future Of Food--The Investment Case For A Protein Shake Up, produced by the FAIRR Initiative and ShareAction, the investors warn of the risks associated with the growing global demand for protein and an over reliance on the unsustainable factory farming of livestock for its supply,” reads a press release from the group. “The briefing highlights the environmental, social and public health risks inherent in this model, which financial markets are not currently valuing appropriately.”

What FAIRR has accomplished as a first step toward initiating divestment in the factory model of agriculture is to contact 16 global-scale food producers, requesting that they acknowledge the risks of continuing on the current path, and calling on them to focus on investing in plant-based protein sources.

Some of the corporations they reached out to include General Mills, NestlĂ©, Sainsbury’s, Walmart, Kraft, Kroger, Costco, Whole Foods and Mondelez International (which is the parent company of Triscuit, Ritz, Cadbury and host of other foods).

According to the initiative’s site, “...factory farming is emerging as a high-risk production method linked with significant environmental damage and major public health issues, such as the emergence of antibiotic resistant bacteria and outbreaks of pandemics such as avian flu.”

If even the Devil thinks it’s getting late, maybe it’s time to pay the tab and cash out your chips.

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Mysterious Polio-Like Disease Striking Fear Across the U.S.

Mysterious Polio-Like Disease Striking Fear Across the U.S.
By Kurtis Bright

Acute Flaccid Myelitis Has Medical Staff Scrambling

Among the phrases you don’t want to hear are: “Your child has been stricken by a rare, polio-like disease. He can’t breathe on his own, so we’re going to put him on a ventilator. He has the use of one toe, and he can blink his left eye, but that’s about all.

“And we’re not sure what we can do about it.”

Hundreds of parents across the U.S. are coming to grips with just such a diagnosis right now. A terrifying emerging disease is striking fear into parents across the country, that results in symptoms like those described above and worse.

Called acute flaccid myelitis, the strange disease affected about 120 U.S. children in 2014 alone, many of whom have not recovered to this day. That may not sound like a lot of kids in a nation of 300 million, but consider the pain and frustration and helplessness of the families involved for a moment.

And then consider this fact: thus far in 2016 twice as many cases have been reported than there were at the same point in 2015--and researchers still have no idea what causes it. Neither can they say why affected children are subject to such tremendous weakness in their limbs during the disease.

What researchers do know is that AFM can be triggered by several things: enteroviruses (polio and non-polio), West Nile virus, and adenoviruses all have been shown to be associated with contracting the disease.

What they can’t tell parents and their near-paralyzed children is what to do about it, either to prevent or treat it. No treatment protocol exists for AFM; doctors are forced to work with each patient on a case-by-case basis in an attempt to recover the use of the patients’ limbs in physical therapy programs.

What we do know is that the disease affects the nervous system, in particular the spinal cord, and that it early symptoms often can resemble a cold. However, despite such an inauspicious genesis, AFM rapidly escalates, leaving the child paralyzed in a matter of days.

Just between January and August alone, over 50 people living in 24 states have come down with the disease; last year at this time there had only been 21 victims.

It is heartbreaking to hear the stories of the parents of these afflicted children.

For example, six-year-old Mackenzie Andersen contracted AFM in 2014 and still suffers from symptoms to this day.

Within 12 days she was paralyzed from the neck down, on a ventilator to breathe for her. She was left with her left hand and her feet and toes that move,” her mother said in  Washington Post interview. “How do you wrap your brain around the fact that she got a cold, and now she’s a quadriplegic on a ventilator?”

To put it simply, you don’t. We don’t know yet if the cases that emerged over the rest of the year continued the upward trend over previous years as the numbers haven’t been compiled yet.

But parents should take a moment to be aware of the possibility that even a simple childhood cold could lead to something much more serious.

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Vermont Passes Sweeping New Privacy Laws Designed To Thwart Warrantless Surveillance

Vermont Passes Sweeping New Privacy Laws Designed To Thwart Warrantless Surveillance
By Kurtis Bright

Green Mountain State Puts Feds, Local Cops On Notice: No Surveillance Without a Warrant

Lots of good things seem to start in Vermont.

You’ve got your Ben and Jerry of course. Then you’ve got Bernie--Sanders that is. And no matter where you reside on the political spectrum you have to admit that hearing a sitting senator calling out the incestuous, money-grubbing, one-percent-take-all corruption of our system as it is currently run was refreshing, if ultimately doomed by the machinations of those same fixers.

And don’t forget the genetically modified food labeling law Vermont passed, which sent big agri-business and food manufacturers into a tizzy early last year. That too was ultimately thwarted by the aforementioned corrupt pay-for-play federal government, deeply ensconced in the pockets of big agriculture. But at the very least the hard work in Vermont put the issue of GMOs and the dangerous pesticides they are doused with on the radar for a whole lot of people who may not have previously considered the issue.

Now a trio Vermont of state senators have hit a home run for state residents there in terms of privacy and countering police overreach.

Vermont Senators Tim Ashe, Joe Benning and Dick Sears have created legislation in that is being called Senate Bill 155, a law that would limit the types and scope of warrantless surveillance police are permitted to conduct. It is designed to help protect electronic privacy, and it might even throw a monkey wrench into a number of sketchy Federal surveillance programs that rely on the passive compliance and cooperation of local and state law enforcement.

At issue is what is known as the Stingray device, a new favorite surveillance tool of cops everywhere. This machinery/program is essentially a van that is equipped to spoof nearby cell phone towers and collect all data that passes through them in a given neighborhood. It is the undiscriminating backhoe of data collection, scooping up everything that passes through a nearby cell phone tower, with tremendous implications for privacy. Grabbing thousands of text messages and phone conversations sent by people who are not suspected of any crime--messages that are supposed to be protected by privacy laws--is troubling to say the least.

The new Vermont legislation, signed into law in June last year has not only shaken up this law enforcement free-for-all in Vermont by banning warrantless use of stingray devices to track the location of phones and sweep up electronic communications--it also restricts the ways police and use drones for surveillance. Additionally it forbids law enforcement officers from obtaining electronic data from service providers without a warrant or a judicially issued subpoena.

Ending the days of the New Wild West of law enforcement data collection for Vermont residents is a great first step, and people across the country are taking notice.

So here’s hoping the media also notices this grand rebellion on a state level from the new normal in which we are expected to flaccidly give up our rights in exchange for dubious alleged protections.

The nation and the world could do worse than follow the Green Mountain State’s example on any number of things, it seems.

Pass the ice cream and let’s see how this plays out.

A Gut Feeling: Alternative Ways To Contend With A Variety Of Stomach Troubles

A Gut Feeling: Alternative Ways To Contend With A Variety Of Stomach Troubles
By Kurtis Bright

Instead Of Taking Harsh And Sometimes Dangerous Drugs, Try These Remedies First

We often hear the history of the human species told as the story of the development of our ridiculously big brains: why and when they developed, what effects they may have had on us and our ancestors, and what effects the environment may have had.

However there is another viewfinder for tracking the story of who and what we are, what we once were, and what we have become: our digestive tracts. We came from scavengers, pre-humans warily scuttling from the trees to crack open the long bones of antelope and other animals left behind by lions, eventually developing agriculture some 10,000 years ago, eventually creating the vast network of interconnected fields feeding seven billion of us today.

In other words, food has been on our minds for a long time.

Thus, if you think about how much time we spend eating, thinking about food, and developing ways to produce food, maybe we should take more time addressing some alternative ways to deal with digestive distress without resorting to powerful meds.

  • Constipation - One study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, showed that about 15 percent of adults say they have bowel movements two or fewer times a week on average. Especially with an aging population, that number is only likely to climb, given that a common consequence of aging is more common constipation. But you can combat this by increasing the fiber you eat--women over 50 should be getting 21 grams a day, men that age 30 grams. But do go easy on laxatives, even over-the-counter ones. The stimulant-based ones like Correctol and Dulcolax can trigger dependency as well as diarrhea, dizziness and nausea.
  • Heartburn - When stomach acid backs up into the esophagus we’re struck with that nasty feeling of heartburn, and this one also becomes more common as we age. Another common trigger for heartburn is weight gain. So immediately we can see that one way to help yourself is to drop a few pounds if you’re overweight. Other ways to prevent heartburn is quitting smoking and to try not to eat within two hours of bedtime. It is important too to identify the foods that cause you heartburn and cut down on them or eliminate them altogether. These can include  fried foods, spicy food, alcohol, garlic and onions--these are all heartburn triggers, depending on the individual. If you feel you have no choice but to address heartburn with meds, try OTC antacids like Tums or Rolaids. Definitely avoid proton pump inhibitors like Prilosec and Nexium--they are proven to cause kidney disease and even bone fractures among other nasty side effects we are only now beginning to understand and identify, despite being widely prescribed pills.
  • Gas - Burping is the result of taking in excess air as we eat, so for starters, slow down. You can reduce this effect by avoiding carbonated drinks. And if you notice foods like beans or broccoli causing gas at the other end, you can mitigate this effect by introducing such foods into your diet in small amounts to start with, which gives your body time to adjust. More water can help as well.