Monday, April 27, 2009

The Flu Pandemic – Don’t Panic. OK, Panic!

Even the swines are panicking!
There are many conflicting stories coming out of the news media about the possibility of a flu pandemic arising from a strain of swine flu that has, as of this writing, killed over 100 people in Mexico.

Every time I turn on the news or entertainment talk shows like The Today Show and The View, the subject is out in the forefront. Here in the Cleveland area it has made a lot of news since one case as been confirmed case of swine flu in a 9 year old boy in Elyria, which is a suburb just west of Cleveland, and the child’s school has been closed for a week. Right now, the boy is doing just fine and no one around him has gotten ill.

It seems that while flu strains kill many people each year, suddenly the media cares as this one seems to be affecting and killing younger people, and could be very easily transmitted.

The media insists that no one should be panicking, however. But, these disclaimers are followed by urgent calls for people to wash their hands many times a day, along with encouraging people to cover their nose and mouth when sneezing or coughing. (I can’t believe people still must be reminded on the latter, but I see people coughing and sneezing without covering their nose/mouth all the time, especially in supermarkets.) People in Mexico City are walking around with face masks on, yet a doctor on The View today just said these things don’t do much good. Oh well.

Federal health officials have declared a public health emergency, which was done to free up 12.5 million doses of various antiviral medications to fight the illness. So they do appear to be gearing up for a widespread outbreak.

If I didn’t know better, I would say Stephen King, author of “The Stand” – a book where a superbug-type biological weapon gets lose and kills most of mankind - is laughing somewhere. It seems King's fictional bug – nicknamed “Captain Trips” – is coming to life. I have to admit that having read that book many times (I think it’s King’s best book), it was the first thing that came to my mind when I first head about the deaths in Mexico.

The media continues to play the possibility of a pandemic up, at the same time talking out of the other side of their mouths, saying not to panic. It is a typical case of the media wanting to inform, but at the same time, not wanting to create panic. While there are no outward signs of complete panic that I can see here in the Cleveland area, it is quite a topic of discussion and clearly on the minds of many. When I went to the local Heinen's supermarket today, people were taking those clean wipes that are used to wipe down the handle of the shopping cart, but instead some of them looked like they were wiping down the whole cart. In Wal-Mart, the lines were long for a 9:30 on a weekday morning, and many people were talking about needing to stock up in case they were not allowed out of their houses for a week. One woman said to me that she knows they were told by the local news not to panic, but since we’re only about 35-40 miles from Elyria (and we are on the opposite side of the Cleveland metro area), she felt that they were holding something back and they really felt people had reason to panic. Someone in the next line sneezed and everyone got silent, then everyone laughed, including the woman who was just getting a little panicky. She then stated, “Maybe I’m over thinking this thing.”

For me, I am not planning on worrying just yet. Sure, I will wash my hands many times a day, just like I always do. I’ll be careful when I sneeze and cough, just like I always do. But I’m not ready just yet to close myself up in my house for a week while this whole thing passes over. The best suggestion the media has given is that if someone suspects they have the flu, they should contact their doctor immediately. Maybe the doctor can take precautions to make sure the patient doesn’t sit around in their waiting room infecting everyone else, though. Because everyone knows that a doctor’s waiting room cam sometimes be the best place to pick up a bug and get sick.

The Stand Movie Trailer – Just to Refresh Your Memory

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Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Have Earth Day Every Day

Earth Day, April 22, was designated to raise awareness to our impact on the Earth’s environment.

While it is good to have one day set aside to draw attention to the cause - our concern over the earth and its environment, and the affect the ever-growing population has on our planet - we should be thinking of the Earth’s environment every day.

Even one person can make a difference in protecting their environment, especially when all these individual efforts are added up. For me, my community has a good recycling collection program, so I recycle as much as possible. It doesn’t take much effort. At one point, when our city, for a short time, went from individual home pick up of recycling to a central drop off points, I was amazed at the amount of recyclable materials that were collected in just one of the locations is a given week.

So if you do anything on this Earth Day, it should be to pick at least one thing that you can do every day to help preserve the Earth’s environment - and then do it. You may be surprised how easy it can be, and how much difference you can make.

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Thursday, April 16, 2009

Newsflash: Homely People Have Talent, Too

A person couldn’t turn on their local or national news, or some talk shows yesterday without seeing the story about Susan Boyle. She was a singer on the show ‘Britain’s Got Talent” that aired in the UK on April 11. Much was made about the fact that Susan, who wasn’t very pretty and acted a little goofy, sang like an angel. (If you live under a rock and haven’t seen the news story, you can find a video of Susan Boyle’s performance here.)

Before her performance, the camera shows the faces of some of the judges and the audience who seem prepared for a disaster. But as Susan began to sing “I Dreamed a Dream” from Les Miserables, the mood changed. As the judges – including the always brutal Simon Cowell – seemed shocked at what they are hearing, one man standing in the stage wings points his finger at the camera and comments that “you didn’t expect that, did you? Did you? No!” Susan’s voice was fantastic, it was on key, crystal clear and full of emotion. The judges lathered praise on her, which was well deserved. It seemed that they expected that someone who looked like Susan couldn’t possibly have been good.

But then the news media got hold of the story, and spread it over the US airwaves yesterday ad nauseam. The big lesson, they touted, is that you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover; Susan may not have looked the part, but she turned out to be a wonderful singer. The topic was discussed at length on The View, with Joy the only person who seemed to be critical of the whole issue, calling the rest of her panel out as hypocrites because they’ve done makeovers on their show (you can see the segment below, it’s about 5 minutes into the clip).

I have a problem with Susan's story, but it's not with Susan. I believe it's the news and entertainment industry who need to learn the lesson that you can't judge a book by its cover. Movies, televisions, magazines, newspapers, etc. all have taken great pains over their lifetimes to elevate those who are beautiful. If you didn’t have the right “look”, you can’t get into the movies or TV. Want to be a model? You’d better look stunning and be wafer thin. Do you want to be an “American Idol?” Look the part and for heaven’s sake don’t be overweight. I could go on, but you get the idea.

There are many, normal, average looking, everyday people out there who have loads of talent, not necessarily limited to the entertainment industry. But as long as the media and businesses only celebrates the beautiful or the well dressed, people like Susan Boyle won’t get noticed and doors won’t be opened. Personally, I am thrilled for Susan and I wish her much success. I feel badly for her, though, that her face or appearance is being used under the guise of the media trying to give viewers a message that things should never be taken at face value. It’s a lesson that they need to learn first for themselves.

The View (April 15)

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Thursday, April 9, 2009

The High Fructose Corn Syrup Ad – They’re Kidding, Right?

I’ve written about high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) before on my blog. To refresh your memory, last April I wrote about this HFCS:

Simply put, it’s heavy-duty sugar. More technically, it’s corn syrup that undergoes processing to increase its fructose content, them is blended with pure corn syrup (100% glucose). The process was developed in the late 1950s and later improved upon by Japanese researchers in the 1970s. HFCS made its way into prepackaged foods and drinks in the US starting in the late 1970s, and exploded into our prepackaged foods shortly thereafter.

I also indicated that the even the FDA concluded last April that HFCS isn’t considered an natural ingredient, despite the fact that it is made from corn. It’s the process which creates the syrup that makes it unnatural.

When I saw a commercial on television the other day touting HFCS, I was shocked. (The commercial is embedded below.) What bothered me about it is that the idiot guy says “you know what they say about it” and then can’t verbalize what they say, and the woman trying to feed him a Popsicle with HFCS in it, replies that is it made from corn, had the same calories as sugar, and is fine in moderation.

It’s the moderation thing that gets me. After all, how can one easily moderate their intake of HFCS when almost everything that they eat these days that is processed in any way has HFCS in it? Even funnier is the HFCS web site is called Sweet Surprise which is their vehicle to try to educate people on HFCS. Your "sweet surprise" will likely be a lot more weight on your body that you ever wanted, plus all the disease that may go along with all those added pounds.

But someone out there read my mind, and came up with a video response to the HFCS advertisement and also placed it on YouTube, and I also have that video below. I think it is a perfect rebuttal.

My suggestions regarding HFCS are the same now as they were a year ago. Avoid it as much as you can. Stop drinking soft drinks containing it, and drink water more instead. Read labels of all the products you buy, and if HFCS is at the top or high in the list of ingredients, pass on it. Eat foods like fruits and vegetables in their natural state as much as possible – cooking things veggies is fine of course, just watch commercially prepared fruits and veggies that are part of things like drinks, pies, canned fruits, etc. Even condiments like barbecue sauces can contain a huge load of HFCS. It’s in many mass-produced breads, too (some are now made without HFCS, you can find them if you look). HFCS is everywhere, so if you really want to “moderate” your intake, you will have to be diligent in reading labels.

I’ve said it before and it bears repeating – you are what you eat!

High Fructose Corn Syrup Ad

High Fructose Corn Syrup – The Response

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