Tuesday, October 20, 2009

A very important fight for freedom

In August the state of New York passed regulation that stated all healthcare workers in the state must receive mandatory vaccinations for both the seasonal flu and the H1N1 virus of face termination. Recently the New York State Supreme Court issued a temporary restraining order to prevent the health department from firing workers who do not comply with the regulation. On October 30th they will have a hearing on the matter, and a very important issue with be decided. Do states have the right to force workers to receive medical treatments against their will?

I'm sure some readers will think that the government SHOULD have the right to force healthcare workers to receive immunizations against their will. The argument being, that since they are around sick people all the time they should take precautions to keep from getting contagious illnesses from those patients and spreading them to others. The thing is, they already do, it's why doctors and nurses are constantly washing their hands and wearing gloves. If a doctor or nurse looks at the potential risks involved with receiving a flu shot why should the state force them, at the risk of losing their jobs, to receive one?

The next thing, you, the dear reader could be thinking is "ohh there are no risks involved in a flu vaccine" but while there may not be wide-spread side effects, there ARE side-effects and risks. The less threatening side effects include soreness, aches, and fever. While on the more serious side there is the possiblity of an allergic reaction that could cause breathing problems, hives, dizzines and a fast heartbeat. There is also the very slim possiblity of developing a neurological disorder as a result of the ethyl mercury in Thimerosal, a preservative found in both the H1N1 and seasonal flu vaccines. If you don't believe me that you can contract serious neurological disorders from a vaccine, Google the name Desiree Jennings. I'd like you to also keep in mind that if you were to suffer a serious side-effect from the vaccine, you would essentially have no legal recourse to receive damages. All 5 makers of the vaccine have immunity from any lawsuits that would make them liable for any damage received from their vaccine.

Now besides for the questions of "what are the risks?" I'd also like to examine the question "is it effective?" I searched long and hard to try and find specific numbers of flu deaths from the year 1945 when the first flu vaccine was made up until the present day. I was unable to do so. What I was able to find was this quote from the insert that comes with every dose of the H1N1 vaccine: "Specific levels of hemagglutination-inhibition (HI) antibody titer post-vaccination with inactivated influenza virus vaccines have not been correlated with protection from influenza illness but the HI antibody titers have been used as a measure of vaccine activity.” What that essentially means is that there is no proof that the vaccine is effective for preventing the flu, but the fact that there are antibodies produced after the vaccine is administered is used anyway, as a way to show that the vaccine is effective. One maker of the vaccine, GlaxoSmithKline, says that “in some human challenge studies, HI antibody titers of ≥1:40 have been associated with protection from influenza illness in up to 50% of subjects.” So even one of the vaccine manufacturers numbers only show a 50% effectiveness rate? No wonder I've heard so many people complain that they got the flu even after getting a flu shot.

This blog post is not intended to influence anyone one way or the other about whether they decide to get a flu vaccine this year. What it is designed to do is present an argument of WHY a healthcare worker might choose not to receive one. And regardless of their profession, they should not be forced to receive a vaccine that they do not want. As much as some people might not like it, for the time being at least, America is a free country and one of those freedoms is the right to choose what medical treatments we do or do not want to receive. So let's hope that on October 30th the New York State Supreme Court makes the right decision and sides with freedom instead of fascism.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

How to avoid being controlled by your fear

Since the beginning of time mankind has been fighting a battle to gain and maintain freedom of mind and body. Most people today think they are completely free and the decisions they make are of their own free will, without anyone exerting any control over them. Unfortunately, people don’t realize the subtle or not so subtle ways that the media and other organizations exert a controlling influence on their mind by spreading fear. The easiest way to control someone is by making them afraid. The most common way fear is used as a control technique is to make people afraid of something and then offer a solution to their fears. This is done in many different ways to achieve a wide array of objectives.

Politicians use fear as a way to convince the public to go along with a proposed bill, like spreading fear of global warming to sell the public on the idea of Cap and Trade. (A bill that will do very little to limit carbon emissions and will cripple the economy, all so some traders on Wall Street can get rich from buying and selling carbon credits) They also use fear to convince the public of the need to go to war. This was a tactic very much beloved by the Bush Administration, spreading the idea that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction (which were never found) and that the U.S. needed to send troops over to stop Saddam from using them.

The media also plays a large role in the spread of fear. How many times have you felt good or safe after you finished watching the news? The news focuses on murder, death, sickness, anything and everything to make you afraid so that a corporation or a politician can come along and offer you a solution. Take for example, the swine flu that was getting massive amounts of media coverage back in January. It got far more media coverage than it seemed to warrant as only 382 people died from the virus WORLDWIDE and only 89,921 even got sick from it. (Those numbers are from the World Health Organization, the same organization pushing for large vaccination efforts) Those numbers certainly don’t seem to indicate that this is an illness worthy of hours upon hours of media coverage and the shutting down of schools and businesses. So why would the media spend so much time focusing on the swine flu when the regular flu was far more common and killed more people last year? The answer to that question can be found in the reports that are starting to come out of the media now as they talk about the millions of swine flu vaccines that are being prepared. Soon they will be telling you that you NEED to be vaccinated or otherwise you could fall victim to the "pandemic." Personally, I’ll take my chances rather than line up for a shot that IS the swine flu along with some other rather nasty additives (like mercury) especially when there has been very little safety testing done on the vaccine.

So what can we as a people do to make sure we aren’t being controlled by fear? First of all, keep in mind that politicians and the media WANT you to be afraid. For the politicians the more afraid you are, the more likely you are to go along with their plans. For the media, the more afraid you are the more likely you are to tune in, and the more likely you are the buy the "solution" that one of their advertisers or corporate owners are trying to sell. So stay aware of your emotions while watching the news or listening to a politician and make sure you aren’t falling for the scare tactics. Second, if they do make you afraid of something, don’t just take their word for it. If you’re reading this right now, you obviously have access to the internet and can do your own research to find out if the threat they are selling you is really as big as they say. And lastly just take a deep breath and let yourself calm down before you make any irrational decisions. Fear is an emotion that makes people do things they otherwise would not do, that is the whole point of using fear as a method for control. Do not allow anyone to make you live in a state of constant fear or you will become a slave to that fear, going along with whatever plan someone comes up with that they tell you will get rid of the fear object. In the words of Franklin D. Roosevelt: "There is nothing to fear but fear itself."

Sunday, July 12, 2009

The power of the media

In my last post I promised that I would continue writing about the dangers and the costs of having a society that is addicted to prescription drugs, and I will get back to that topic at some point. But over the past few weeks I have been struck by just how much power the media has over the minds of so many people in the United States and I couldn't really focus on writing about anything else. Why do so many people put a blind faith into the media, essentially allowing the TV to do their thinking for them?

Over the past few weeks the media has spent a great deal of time covering the life and death of Michael Jackson. Hour upon hour has been spent building him up, talking about his legacy and labeling him an icon. But what so many people who have been caught up in the emotion of the moment have seemingly forgotten is that this is the same media that has spent the last few weeks building Michael Jackson up as an icon and a legend are the same people that spent over a decade tearing him down and using him as a punchline. Since the summer of 1993 they had been accusing the man of being a pedophile and a child molester. How many hours of coverage did they dedicate to the accusations made in 1993? Accusations that were made by a man who was tape recorded saying "If I go through with this, I win big-time. There's no way I lose. I will get everything I want and they will be destroyed forever ... Michael's career will be over" Sounds like someone that is out for money, but no one will ever know whether the accusations were true or false, because there was never a criminal trial. No charges were ever filed against him, but he was essentially found guilty in the court of public opinion, all because of the massive amount of negative attention the media focused on him.

It is not my intention to make this post strictly about Michael Jackson or whether not not the allegations made against him were true of false. I couldn't do that if I wanted to, nor is that the important point to be made here. The lesson that people should learn from this, is that the media here in the United States does not have any honor, they don't have any dignity and they don't care about the truth. The only thing they care about is increasing their ratings by pulling on your emotional strings. Now that they've built him up again and created the image that he was an icon and a legend, they've pretty much milked that for what it's worth. So the next step is going to be tearing him back down by focusing on whether or not he had drug issues that led to his death. They are going to spend a great deal of time "reporting" on his doctor, and getting as many conflicting report from "friends" and family as they can about whether Michael was healthy or not leading up to his death. And you know what? Quite frankly, it isn't news. It should not be getting hours of media coverage, it should not be a focus of national attention.

Why should our national news be focusing so much time on the death of an entertainer? Shouldn't the news be focused on things that actually affect our daily lives? Why isn't there more coverage about where all that money spent on the stimulus is going? It was supposed to keep our unemployment rate from going about 8%, yet it's now at 9.5%. Where is the talk about the Cap and Trade bill, which if passed will cause electric bills to skyrocket and also lead to just about every good and service going up in price? Why should the death of a singer be getting constant media attention instead of what's happening in Iran or North Korea? Or the fact that our current administration is backing a dictator in Honduras that the people legally overthrew because he was trying to get rid of term limits, in an attempt to install himself as ruler for life? When will people wake up realize the news is not about the news, it's not about reporting, it's not about facts or truth, it's about trying to manipulate people's emotions, it's about sensationalism and it's about ratings. I want to end this post with a quote, it's from a legal ruling against 2 reporters who sued their local Fox news station after being fired when they refused to agree NOT to report a story about the potential risks of recombinant bovine growth hormone (rBGH) in milk: "The court's basis was that FCC policies on news agencies reporting the truth are not legally binding; and, as such, Fox had no legal requirement to report the truth in a news story"

Sunday, June 28, 2009

How did America get so hooked on pills?

America has a drug problem. I'm not just talking about illegal drugs, because while that's true too, but America has a larger drug problem. In 2007 there were 3.8 BILLION prescriptions filled in this country. That's a staggering number. If American's are taking that many drugs, and prescription drugs are such lifesavers you would think that means that we have the healthiest population in the world right? Well, that's not exactly the case. The U.S. ranks 45th in average life expectancy compared to other nations of the world. What has happened that's caused America to become so reliant on prescription drugs for all it's woes?

A health care system that writes 3.8 billion prescriptions in one year would seem to have glaring problems PREVENTING illness and disease in the first place. With the cost of health care being such an important subject in people's minds right now, shouldn't we be focusing our attention on preventing disease instead of treatment? Why isn't there more focus by the media and health care practicioners on how lack of proper nutrition affects the immune system? Too much sodium can increase blood pressure, vitamin D deficiency causes bones to soften, potassium deficiency can cause fatigue, heart deterioration and other problems. There are so many different vitamins and minerals that your body needs to function at it's best, and many people just aren't getting the information that they need about the proper foods to eat to maintain this balance. So when people don't have the information they need about proper nutrition, they are much more likely to have a compromised immune system which leads to sickness and disease. Which means they are going to go to their doctor for relief, which is usually administered in the form of a pill.

(As an aside, I know a lot of people think taking their daily multivitamin is enough to take care of this problem. Unfortunately a lot of the vitamins on the market are largely ineffective as the body can not absorb them. Waste treatment plants remove TONS of undissolved vitamins from their treatment plants every year. I'm not against all vitamins, just do some googling and some research and find a vitamin that your body can actually use)

Another reason that people have become so reliant on prescription drugs is the amount of advertising drug companies do. There are only 2 countries in the world that allow direct to consumer advertising of prescription drugs: The United States and New Zealand. In 2006, drug companies spent nearly 5 billion dollars on direct to consumer (TV, radio, magazine) ads. According to Congress' House Committee on Energy and Commerce panel's Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee every dollar spent on drug advertising leads to a $6 increase in drug sales. That's a pretty high rate of return. Another interesting thing about drug ads is that a study done by York University researchers found that in 2004 drug companies spent 24.4% of their total sales on advertising. They only spent 13.3% on research and development. Do you still think the drug companies are interested in saving lives and making people healthier when they spend almost twice as much money on advertising as they do research and development?

One of the problems I have with these ads is they try to make normal, everyday parts of life seem like things that need to be treated with a pill. Possibly for the rest of your life. Things like stress, anxiety, and depression are things that every person goes through during the course of their life, and for the majority of people are not problems that need to be addressed with a drug. Yes, I do realize that there are some people who have legitimate medical problems with stress, anxiety and depression but I find it hard to believe that millions of people need to take an anti-depressant pill every day of their life. Having stress, or being unhappy generally is a signal that something is wrong in your life that needs addressing. But now pills have become so readily available many people find it easier to go get a prescription rather than making the changes in their lives they need to make themselves happier.

I think this blog has laid out a good foundation for why America has become a nation of pill poppers. But there are plenty of other questions that need to be asked: Is America doing harm to itself putting so much of it's trust into drug makers? Is it wise for us to expect that all our health problems and all our worries can be solved by pills? What are the hidden costs of a society that consumes so many drugs? Stay tuned for my next post where I will attempt to answer those questions.


Thursday, June 25, 2009

What's wrong with my milk? It's supposed to do a body good!

Thanks to the Food Renegade for asking me to participate in Fight Back Fridays! Check out the rest of the wonderful blogs there!http://www.foodrenegade.com/fight-back-fridays-june-26th/#more-988

In my last blog, I wrote about why I choose raw milk and the history of why raw milk began to be pasteurized. This time I am going to go over the problems of the large scale dairy operations of today.

Most of the milk you see on the shelves at your local supermarket comes from cows raised in the large scale dairy operations, also called concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs) There are essentially cow warehousing facilities, crowding hundreds of cows together inside pens with little or no access to a pasture. There are two statistics I want you to keep in mind while reading this. First is that a cow's natural life expectancy is around 20 years or more but the average dairy cow in a CAFO only lives around 3-4 years. Another thing to note is that between 1950 and 2000 the number of dairy cows in the US has dropped by more than 50% yet the average annual milk yield has tripled. How has this been made possible?

The obvious thing about milk is that all mammals produce milk to provide for their young. This is no different in cows, for a cow to produce milk it must have recently given birth to a calf. Normally cows are pregnant for 9 months and then nurse their calves for around 7 months to a year. But since these cows are wanted to provide milk to the consumer instead of their young, their calves are taken away immediately after birth or the day after. Obviously, this causes the cows to be very upset and combined with the other problems inherent in the CAFO system leads to a very poor life for the dairy cow.

I think most people, at least here in my home state of Virginia have probably seen a cow pasture or two sometime in their lives. Cows left to pasture on a small family farm eat a diet of mostly grass. Cows have a very complex digestive system and that is what it is designed to eat. But since grass does not provide a very nutrient rich diet for the cow, it does not provide a high volume of milk. So in a CAFO cows are fed a diet of mostly corn or soy, which is very difficult for the cow to digest. Just look at the health of Americans, you'll easily see what happens when people eat food their body is not designed for so you can imagine what health problems this causes for the cows. Is it starting to make sense why dairy cows live only a quarter of their normal life expectancy?

Anyone who knows about the spread of disease is aware that a higher population density causes a higher risk for illness in humans. This is no different for cows. Some dairies house up 1,000 cows inside their "warehouses" or outside on a dry lot. Housing this many cows together into small spaces makes it very difficult to maintain sanitation. I don't think it's a secret that cows produce a large amount of excrement, and if you have 1,000 cows producing how ever many pound of poo that is a day, that is going to create a very large waste and sanitation problem.

Now, I want to go back to the question I asked at the beginning. How did milk yields triple when the number of cows declined? In 1994 the FDA (stay tuned, I'll be writing plenty about them in the future) approved the use of something called rBGH (recombinant bovine growth hormone) to be used in the United States. In the normal nursing period of a cow it's milk production steadily increases until 70 days after the birth of the calf, and then it starts to decrease until it goes dry. The use of rBGH keeps the cow producing at peak levels after the 70 day drop off, which along with an unnatural diet is a factor in the average production of 100 pounds of milk per cow per day. A cow is designed to provide milk for it's calves, and 100 pounds of milk a day, is more than 10 times what a calf needs. Pushing the cows to produce so much milk causes them their bodies to become depleted of nutrients. Everyone knows milk is filled with calcium, well if a cow is producing 10 times more calcium rich milk than it is designed to produce, it would make sense that the cow's body is being depleted of calcium. This is why dairy cows' bones become frail and brittle causing them to fracture as they can no longer support the weight of the cow. Once a cow can no longer stand it is then worthless to the CAFOs and is slaughtered to make room for another cow.

Now, if you haven't started to wonder about whether or not it's healthy to drink milk from cows who are stuffed into unsanitary warehouses and filled with unnatural hormones, I don't know what more I can say. But I think I have at least made the case that the life of a dairy cow is a very sad and unhealthy life. I'm not asking you to start protesting or become an activist, although you are certainly welcome to do so. I am simply asking you to make a conscious decision about your food choices not just for your own health, but for the health of the animal producing it.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Why I drink raw milk (non pasteurized)

So I've had a few people ask me why I bother driving 40 minutes to a farm every week to pick up fresh milk when I can just drive 10 minutes to the store. So I usually try to give this simplest answer I can, but I've found this is really just one of those questions people ask without really wanting to wait for an answer. But I'm going to go ahead and write my explanation anyway so I'll have it ready the next time someone asks me.

If most people have ever heard anything about raw milk it is usually that it is "unsafe" to drink. Well first of all, that isn't totally true. Yes, it COULD be unsafe to drink, but just about anything you drink or eat COULD make you sick. Even foods you wouldn't think of, like the recent outbreak of salmonella from peanut butter. The argument whether raw milk is "safe" or not all comes down to the farming methods and the animals. If the animals are properly cared for, are allowed to graze freely and maintain a proper diet then the likelihood of raw milk making you sick is very low.

The reason I choose to drink raw milk is because it has a higher nutritional value. There are those who say that nothing is killed in the pasteurization process except harmful bacteria, but I find that hard to believe. Studies done in the 1930s comparing pasteurized milk to raw milk found that the pasteurzation process makes the majority of the calcium in milk insoluble, meaning that we can't digest it. Also if no nutrients are lost in the pasteurization process, why do so many zoos use raw milk to feed their animals instead of pasteurized? Because animals fed pasteurized milk develop health problems that those fed raw milk do not. Studies have also shown that people who drink raw milk, like those who grow up on a farm, have less allergies. There is also the fact that I have actually seen the farm where the milk is coming from AND the animal that is producing the milk. So I don't have to worry if I'm getting milk from a healthy animal. Plus there is the fact that is just tastes better.

The reason that milk began to be pasteurized in the first place is because during the mid to late 1800s there were a large number of milk epidemics that were causing people to become sick with typoid, cholera, and scarlet fever. As the epidemics grew worse, there becaming an increase pressure on farmers by legislators and pasteurization plants to pasteurize all their milk. As the farmers resisted, the pasteurization plants started public campaigns against raw milk in newspapers and in 1909 the first mandatory pasteurization law was passed in Chicago. Today, only 4 states allow the sale of raw milk in stores, 24 states allow the sale of raw milk on farms, and the other 22 outlaw sale completely.

But what was missed in the argument over raw milk sales during the early 1900s was the state of the dairy farm. Most barns were filthy, cramped and filled with manure that the cows would then have to lie in. An 1895 study found that more than one-fourth of 165 herds examined in 17 states harbored tuberculosis. Not to mention that in some states, dairy farms were located next to whiskey distilleries and the cows were fed the waste produced from the whiskey production, making the cows sick. Sick cows produce bad milk which leads to illness in the drinker.

So while a large percentage of the milk being produced was leading to illness, this was a cause of bad farming practices that should have been solved by a cleanup of farming procedures, instead of a process of heating or even boiling the milk.

Now that I've given my reasons for choosing raw milk and the history behind the pasteurization process, my next blog will focus on the problems of today's large scale dairy operations.


Thursday, June 18, 2009

What's wrong with America's diet?

The old saying goes "You are what you eat." Well, if that is true there is something very wrong with what we are eating as Americans. According to The National Center for Health statistics 63% of Americans are overweight and 30% of them are obese, meaning they are over their ideal body weight by 20%. Some other disturbing statistics are that from 1962 to 2000 the obesity rate of America jumped from 13% to 31%, and the rates of childhood obseity have more than tripled. Unfortunately, many people are looking in the wrong places for a fix. The solution to obesity is not in a pill, it comes by simple, slow changes to the diet.

Somewhere along the way the idea that "diets don't work" has become accepted as fact. This is most likely because people go from eating what they usually eat one day and then try to rapidly change to their diet of choice overnight. This is just unrealistic and going to cause your diet to fail. Rather than trying to change everything you eat in a day, the best idea is to go slow. Maybe the first change could be exchanging sodas for water. Depending on how much soda you drink, just this change alone could cut anywhere from 300-1000 or more calories from your daily intake. Or maybe even that is too fast, so if you drink soda all day every day, start with saving your sodas for meals and drink water during the other times. Just do what you are comfortable with and make it a slow, gradual change rather than try to force it and then give in because you don't have the willpower. Changing your lifestyle isn't so much about willpower and forcing yourself to do things as it is about changing your mindset so that you WANT to do it.

Another good small diet idea is if you eat a lot of snacks or desserts. A simple switch of almonds or walnuts for a bag of chips, or a bannana or an orange for a cupcake is going to go make a big difference in your body. And most likely your energy level. I'll write another blog about this later, but I know a lot of people suffer from lack of energy, and this is directly related to diet. For right now, all I've got to say is if you're tired all the time, try adding fruits to your diet, from my experience eating an orange first thing in the morning is a great way to start off the day with some energy.

Now that I've written about energy, I think I should go ahead and write something about exercise. I know people have been trying to find a way around it for a long time, but it is true, the key to being healthy and losing weight is diet and exercise. I'm not going to tell you to go out and get a gym membership, or tell you that you have to run 5 miles every day. Like with changing your diet, starting to excercise should be a slow gradual change. There are over 3.8 million people who weigh over 300 pounds in this country, and I am pretty confident in saying that a big contributing factor in this is a complete lack of exercise. For most people to start out with, all they really need to do is pick one commercial break a night while they are watching tv and do some excercise during it. It doesn't have to be anything too strenuous, just do what you can. Two simple starter exercise are squats, demonstated here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qRnGI3c5Jjs and planks demonstrated here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MHQmRINu4jU.

I have some more to write about this subject, but I think I'll save that for another day. If you are struggling with your weight, I think following the advice I've given here could really help you. Just remember you didn't get overweight overnight and you can't expect to get fit overnight either. Take it as a slow, gradual change and you will start finding the results you want. Good luck!