Re-Blog: Secret Codes, Medieval Medicine & Witches


(Originally posted 9/19/2017 on Read With The Gringa)

Who uses secret codes? Kids with secret hide-outs, spies, secret societies, lovers, criminals, etc. Was there a secret society during Medieval times who created a complex secret code, the size of a hefty novel, that has still not been cracked? Linguistics, cryptographic and translation experts say no. And the gringa wants to know why since they still haven’t “cracked the code” of a centuries old manuscript. How would they know what they don’t know?


The Voynich manuscript is really a book, like a huge paperback novel. Within those soft vellum covers are pages of astrological charts, 

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naked women bathing in mysterious green liquids, 

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and strange, unknown flora. 

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Describing all of these curiosities is a secret code that has yet to be solved. 


So what kind of information is being shared? Is it dangerous? Taboo? Subject to blackmail? Why would the author go to such trouble as to pen this tome in an unreadable language? Most authors know that it is publish or perish. To publish in a tongue that can never be known by the general public is the same as not publishing at all. What in the world is this book about? 


One literary expert suggests that, because of the illustrations of naked ladies taking baths, perhaps it was a health manual that challenged the medical trends of that era. The author might possibly have faced legal charges as serious as witchcraft for practicing questionable herbal remedies. Is that what is in the book? Recipes for herbal treatments of feminine ailments? 


This expert’s theory has been widely rejected by the literary community at large. A community, mind you, that has already committed much time and effort to decoding the manuscript. Is their reaction just sour grapes? Has Nicholas Gibbs, a professional researcher of history and war artist, hit upon the truth and spoiled their fun and shot at glory? 


In addition to his professional credentials he also has experience evaluating precious curiosities, having worked for the famed Christie’s auction house. But, even more compelling for the gringa, is his biological connection to his working theory. He is a descendant of one of England’s most famous ancient herbalists, Thomas Fromond. And it was the work of his famed ancestor that helped guide Gibbs in his theory.


So, despite the criticisms of his peers, and their claims that his theory is purely satire, their own findings actually seem to support the Gibbs’ theory. After much examination of the flora illustrations, astrological charts and naked ladies bathing depictions, Gibbs’ critics admit that these elements are health related.


These critics also accede that the Voynich manuscript is very similar to a medieval bathing guide, De Balneis Puteolanis. But their main point of criticism is his accomplishment where they otherwise failed. Gibbs actually decoded two lines of the manuscript. So what is the problem?


The critics claim that his translation into Latin is not grammatically correct. The gringa says, “Really?” I mean, dear reader, come on. When the gringa needs to keep on schedule, she might ask an English speaking friend, “What time is it?” If around Spanish speaking friends, the gringa would say, “Que hora es?” Guess what the literal translation of the Spanish is in English… What hour is. Which is NOT grammatically correct in English. So, the gringa doesn’t buy the grammatically incorrect translation complaint.


Then there’s the fact that the lines Gibbs decoded weren’t actually comprised of complete words. He was decoding characters that represented abbreviated words. Kind of like if the gringa used the “#” symbol to represent the “1/2 tbsp” abbreviation in my own secret code. The secret code was never intended to be grammatically correct. Come on, people. Stop being jealous because a rookie on the scene showed you up.


And what of the theory for why a ladies health manual would need to be written in a secret code to begin with? It is carbon-dated to a point of origin in Northern Italy around 1404-1438. What was going on that might make secret communications of controversial subjects necessary? Here are a few historical facts for perspective:


-During this time period there was no clear identity for physicians in Europe.

-When universities established medical studies during the Middle Ages, women were excluded.

-Women healers were forced to go underground to practice except when filling the role of midwife.

-Most women preferred to be attended by a trusted midwife for other feminine health issues, albeit secretly.

-Women training other women as healers had to be creatively covert in the materials used to pass along and preserve knowledge.

-Women healers caught practicing or teaching medicine were acting outside the law and subject to prosecution.

-Prosecution of a woman healer usually involved the woman being charged with the crime of witchcraft.

-The crime of witchcraft was a capital offense with a death sentence attached.


Understanding the environment in which the Voynich manuscript was crafted, the gringa is convinced that it is indeed, a ladies health guide. Despite bearing the surname of the Polish man who purchased the manuscript in 1912 after its discovery in an Italian monastery, the gringa believes the manuscript was most likely authored by a woman healer working outside the law. The code was the result of this female healer fearing for her life if caught. So vital was it for this woman healer to pass on her knowledge to another generation of female healers, she created a complex secret code that has puzzled linguistic experts for centuries. 


When you think about the witchcraft connection, the secret code for a ladies health manual makes perfect sense. Mystery solved. Thanks Gibbs.

Sources:

The Atlantic


Bushehr University of Medical Sciences


Image Credits:

Mitch Testone


Ellis Nelson


CthulhuTech


Daily Mail

Video Credit: The Science Channel

Does Bacteria Fart?


(Originally posted 2/28/16 on Read With The Gringa)

Lately the gringa has been captivated by a variety of aromas. Her dear little puppy, Abby-pup, has her own unique fragrances that identify her dog breath, dirty dogginess, wet dogginess and upset tummy gas. Every morning, while the gringa drinks her coffee, her middle-aged armpit sweat glands produce copious amounts of pungent odor. When the caveman arrives home from work he smells like caliche dust after a long day of delivering gravel. The gringa finds this smell kind of sexy, actually. However, there is one caveman smell that the gringa finds terribly offensive. Caveman farts are the things gringa nightmares are made of.

What the heck is a fart? Well, it’s gas. Actually, it’s a combination of gases: nitrogen, hydrogen, hydrogen sulfide, ammonia, carbon dioxide and methane. The oxygen is usually in the air we take in as we swallow food and even snore, which the caveman does on earsplitting levels. The other gases are by-products created by the food as it breaks down in the large intestine. And, eventually, they simply have to escape lest we all blow up like a helium balloon.

You may not realize it but the average person is simply filled with loads of gas. We pass gas about 10-20 times daily, depending on what you eat. In fact, if you could bottle up all of your daily farts, they would probably fill up a quart jar. Now, bits of undigested food don’t just magically change into gas. The gas is actually the creation of bacteria. Inside the large intestine more than 500 varieties of bacteria reside, happily gnawing away at all the undigested bits and bobs that make their way to that netherworld.

But is it the type of bacteria or the type of food that produces the smell? Well, it’s both. The smelliest gas released in a fart is hydrogen sulfide. Beef, poultry, eggs, broccoli, and other foods high in sulfur compounds are the ingredients for really rotten smelling farts. That means that even a vegetarian’s fart smells bad.

Now, bacteria don’t have intestines to actually fart. Basically, they just smell themselves. They simply emanate the appropriate odor for what they’ve been eating. So, in essence, a fart is an explosion of bacterial aromas. Seeing as how there are trillions upon trillions of bacteria throughout your digestive system, it is understandable, then, how such a concentration of smelly creatures can really pack a punch by the time a fart makes it to the outside world.

But don’t be sad or embarrassed that you are farting bacteria produced gas. It helps keep you healthy. Those smelly bacteria are your friend.

Sources: Love Your Gut

Kid’s Health

Unity Point

Image Credit: Style Vitae

Video Credit: TED-Ed

Anger Rooms Make You Dumber & Sicker


Have you seen the new trend in dealing with feelings? Anger rooms. When the gringa first saw these advertised I got a kick out of the thought of unleashing all the destructive forces within me. What a hoot to smash some bottles or tear up a sofa. But then, as so often happens, I had a shower epiphany. The shower is where I do some of my deepest thinking. And as I soaked I began to be sad as to why we even need places like anger rooms. And, according to medical studies of what anger does to the brain, they could be the worst idea ever.

Think about it. We can’t afford to indulge the base instinct of anger. The human body does not indulge disease, giving it a safe place to wreak havoc. Instead, white blood cells gather the troops and wage war until the disease is eradicated. Indulging anger doesn’t just make us sick with all sorts of stress related health problems like high blood pressure. Indulging anger also makes us dumber. And judging by conditions today, the world really can’t afford an influx of dumbness into society.

What exactly happens to the brain when we let ourselves rage and scream and break things and slam doors? First of all, at the root of anger, is a desire to inflict harm upon another person, whether it be through word or deed.  But anger isn’t just a character destroyer. It also destroys your physical and mental health.

  • Anger calls every organ and muscle group into action. This is nature responding to a threat.
  • This heightened state of arousal is draining, exhausting and creates a brain chemistry by-product of depression.
  • Chronic anger is a natural resource depleter that shortens your life span and compromises your immune system as T-cells are destroyed.
  • Heart rate accelerates.
  • Pupils dilate.
  • Digestion comes to a standstill. This can result in vomiting or extremely high acid content in the stomach. This is natural survival mode as the body attempts to empty a stomach because a full stomach impedes fighting for your life.
  • Pain receptors block signals which can result in imprudent behavior that causes severe injury to self and/or others.
  • Throat nerves and muscles are stimulated making it difficult to do anything but scream.
  • Energy surges through your body.
  • As the sympathetic nervous system jumps into high gear, sensitivity heightens which can lead to irrational conclusions of what is going on around you.
  • Brain chemistry changes result in problem-solving skills being suppressed as energy reserves are redirected to muscle groups key to physically fighting.
  • Chronic anger causes damage to brain structure and connectivity due to high levels of cortisol frequently flooding the brain.
  • Elevated levels of cortisol overproduce cells that create myelin rather than functional neurons.
  • Myelin is the brain’s “white matter”. As opposed to the higher functioning gray matter, it is the material that encases axons and controls the communication flow of electrical signals.
  • Too much myelin, in essence, “strangles” the wiring of the brain, impeding the flow of electrical signals.
  • As myelin increases, so do episodes of anger.

So, in a nutshell, giving sway to anger makes you sick, dumb and more prone to be angry again. Give sway to anger habitually and you basically become an anger drone unable to think rationally, get along with others and destined to live a miserable, shorter existence of paranoia. So, no, the gringa is no fan of anger rooms. Rather than be a safe space for people to vent their anger, they are the recruitment centers for the future zombie apocalypse.

People, we need to promote positive thinking and mindful meditation if we want society to evolve as a more civilized people. Humoring angry people will drag us back to a time of dungeons and cave dwelling. Promote positivity and mindful meditation for the well-being and survival of our species and planet.

Don’t get mad. Don’t get even. Don’t worry. Be happy. When concerned, take a deep breath and think your way through. If you find you are getting mad, detach from the person or situation if possible. Meditate until you feel your body relaxing and returning to a state of control. Then begin the process of changing your perspective. Rather than look at the situation from your own point of view, approach it from every angle. How is the other person perceiving things? What might the perspective be of an objective, uninvolved third party? And be open to every perspective. You may discover a truth that is difficult to accept but still true. Accept it. You may also discover that every perspective is legitimate. Life and humanity is almost always complex and extremely nuanced. Don’t let anger keep you focused only through your own lens. And, for heaven’s sakes, stay away from those anger rooms!

 

Sources:

www.psychologytoday.com/stress-damages-brain

www.psychologytoday.com/evolution-of-self

LinkedIn

www.angerroom.com

Image Credit:  www.hdwallpapers.in

 

 

The Power of a Few


Often, when the subject of climate change is discussed, people begin to feel highly motivated to take action. However, it is easy to get discouraged when it is soon realized that the change that is necessary to save our planet meets with heavy resistance from large and powerful corporations who are more concerned with profit margins than securing a viable home for future generations. After all, most of these high-salaried executives, board members and executives will be long dead by the time humankind is suffering the worst devastation of climate change. But the gringa says, “Don’t give up. You’re voice does matter.”

Much like how a drop of water slowly becomes, over time, a stalactite or stalagmite, or a river can, over eons, cut a gorge as impressive as the Grand Canyon,  community action, even if it’s only a handful of people, can also build something lasting and impressive. By keeping continued pressure upon the neck of a company, by consistently bringing your cause to their attention, by employing multiple calls to action such as petitions that accumulate the voices of all concerned citizens in the local community, a small collection of individuals who are persistent can either:

  • A. Wear down the opposition in a war of attrition; or
  • B. Eventually create so much local awareness that a company realizes it is in the company’s best interest to respond to their demands if they want to continue to enjoy profiting from the local community’s patronage; or
  • C. The best outcome, the company comes around to the same perspective, seeing the value not in the almighty dollar alone, but actually sees real value in the issue.

A perfect example of this can be seen in the videos below featuring a small group of young people representing the cause “Value the Meal” which is pushing for accountability by community leaders in their local pediatric medical community. Texas Children’s Hospital in Houston, Texas specializes in the healthcare of our most vulnerable population, our children. In this place of health and healing is a McDonald’s restaurant which aggressively markets their brand of food which is famous for its low nutrition value.

Linked to chronic health conditions like diabetes and obesity, it is hard to understand why physicians, who are endowed with public trust with regard to health, would be so irresponsible as to seemingly advocate for this kind of food, especially for children who are in recovery and even more vulnerable to a diet that woefully lacks anything that can contribute to strengthening them and improving their healing abilities.

Value the Meal rally at Texas Children’s Hospital in Houston.

“Community health over corporate wealth”. Children’s hospitals shouldn’t have junk food brands like McDonald’s with contracted space in their facilities of health and healing.

No McDonald’s junk food poisoning recovering children patients at Texas Children’s Hospital.

They may not seem very powerful with numbers so small. But that is not where there power lies. There power lies in the “rightness” of their position, the persistence of their action, and the growing community support responding  as they continue to witness this same small group of committed activists maintain a voice and presence on one particular issue.

In your own community, whatever your noble cause, gather together whomever you can trust to remain committed and loyal, even if your numbers happen to be small. Because even one drop of water is powerful and you are much greater than a single drop of water.

Poopbots Running Amok In The Muck


Yes, dear reader, you read the gringa’s post title correctly, poopbots. And they are literally running amok in Boston’s subterranean muck. Mario and Luigi are pioneering waste miners delving the stinky depths of Boston’s sewers. They are gathering data from human effluence for epidemiologists so they can uncover even darker secrets of human health and behavior. So what does the future of poop collection and dissection look like?

MIT researchers involved in Senseable City Lab’s project, aptly named Underworlds, are on a mission to help scientists predict outbreaks of dangerous and deadly diseases. They also want to help discover some of the causes of chronic diseases whose origins in human health remain a mystery. And they believe clues to solving these mysteries lie deep in the sewers, secreted in what’s been excreted.

Project leader, Carlo Ratti, uses the example of influenza to explain. Before a widespread outbreak is evident in local hospitals, the virus could have already been detected in the human waste produced by those first afflicted. Once a city makes poop monitoring a regular thing, they can isolate and respond to any outbreak much more rapidly. Hopefully, future widespread epidemics can be prevented.

Mario and Luigi scan for industrial toxins, human biomarkers, and other chemicals related to contagious disease and chronic illnesses such as diabetes. It’s kind of like an urban poop census. The Environmental Protection Agency is completely on board with the idea of an urban poop census. They see this ambitious project as the latest advance in an inexpensive way to monitor public health in a timely manner that is relevant. The gringa believes that EPA agents are probably just glad to say good-bye to the days of scooping poop to fill their sample quotas.

Luigi and Mario are controlled remotely and use a GPS system to navigate. Within fifteen minutes of a flush, a fresh sample can be collected. By gathering samples so soon after a dump event scientists can determine the difference between chemicals a person is exposed to as opposed to chemicals a person ingested. The most common food products found in human waste thus far in the project are rice, wheat and beans. However, the occasional pomegranate seed collection makes for a nice surprise.

If the underworld of human poop analysis by robots interests you, Underworlds has its own website. Interested poop fans can gaze in wonder as data is disseminated to reveal what types of viruses are in the local water supply right alongside any bacteria or chemicals. If all goes well with Mario and Luigi, the state of Massachusetts may expand their poop inspection territory. The gringa suspects this will, indeed, be the case considering that even Kuwaiti poopers have been so impressed they have implemented their own poopbots in partnership with Underworlds.

Although MIT has long been heralded for the many scientists and engineers and mathematical geniuses who have graduated there, now, it will forever be remembered as the institute of poop pioneers. Better a pioneer than just a lowly pile, is what the gringa says!

Sources:

qz.com

underworlds.mit.edu

senseable.mit.edu

 

Image Credit: https://blog.adafruit.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/05/2368.jpg

 

 

 

Drones, UFOs, and Saving The Planet… They Are ALL Connected


UFO enthusiasts got a thrill recently when news agencies all over the United States were sounding the alarm of a strange light seen hovering, then moving about, near the famous St. Louis Arch. The YouTube video posted below, sourced from streetview citycams, begins by speeding up the video 1000 times so as not to bore the viewer with several minutes of nothingness. Throughout the hi-speed progression lightning can be observed. As viewers watch, they can see the light dim and sometimes disappear because of cloud cover. The video records a strange light approach the Arch from the left side of the screen and do some interesting acrobatics. The gringa has provided a play by play script to refer to as the dear reader views the video.

Video begins 2:19:49 streetcam time (SCT)/0:00 YouTube Time (YTT).

2:25:13 SCT/0:15 YTT First arrow indicates the appearance of the light in the top middle portion of the screen with light becoming visible at 2:25:19 SCT/0:17 YTT and approaches the Arch.

2:26:20 SCT/0:39 YTT Light appears to hover over the Arch, “wink out” a couple of times only to reappear in relatively the same place, indicating it was hovering the entire time.

2:26:41 SCT/0:46 YTT Light winks out.

2:28:06 SCT/0:52 YTT Light reappears as indicated by arrow and seems to be in same position above the Arch which would make it seem that it was hovering the entire time it was not visible.

2:28:54 SCT/0:56 YTT Light appears to be hovering above the Arch.

2:29:36 SCT/1:00 YTT Light winks out.

2:30:01 SCT/1:02 YTT Arrow directs attention to higher point above the Arch, indicating that the light has climbed higher. However, it is not visible.

2:31:00 SCT/1:08 YTT Another arrow indicates the light to be in the upper left corner of the screen but the gringa does not see it appear.

2:31:18 SCT/1:14 YTT The gringa begins to click through each second at the rate of 2 clicks per second so I get to see half of a second in each frame. I see a flash of the light at a higher point above the arch as I begin my second click of 1:15 YTT, going into my first click of 1:16 YTT. There is no arrow used in the video here to direct you to the flash of light. If you are not prepared you will miss it.

2:32:08 SCT/1:22 YTT Arrow again indicates that the light is seemingly flashing in the top left corner of the screen. Then there is a clear winking on and off of a light in the far left top corner of the screen as the light begins a rapid descent, disappearing behind cloud cover, but can clearly be seen descending.

2:32:25 SCT/1:28 YTT The arrow draws the viewer’s attention to the light whose rapid descent has been abruptly arrested and it once again begins to hover.

2:32:39 SCT/1:33 YTT Light brightly blinks out after a short rapid descent. If you begin once again to click through frames, 2 clicks per second/frame, the light can be seen faintly descending, angling off to the left, then hooking sharply right and descending quickly and can be viewed practically all the way to its landing on the ground in the lower left portion of the screen, its final landing at about 2:32:47 SCT/1:36 YTT.

Summary of the mystery light’s activity:

  • About 45 seconds of hovering above the Arch.
  • For about 1 minute the light continues to climb and hover above the Arch.
  • Within about 50 seconds the light manages to travel the distance in the view screen from seeming to hover above the Arch to the upper left corner of the view screen.
  • Within 30 seconds light makes a rapid descent that includes a brief hover before two radical left/right maneuvers, like a zig-zag, and appears to land on the ground.

So what was it? The gringa believes it was a drone, not an extra-terrestrial vehicle. It is pretty obvious by the final descent and apparent landing on the ground that it is a very small vehicle and very much Earthling technology. The gringa doesn’t know all the details on speed and distance relative to the camera and the Arch, but that doesn’t change my mind that it is a drone. And the gringa warns her dear readers to be on the lookout for many more videos and hoaxes to come with drone technology becoming more and more affordable for technology enthusiasts.

Other than making interesting UFO hoax videos, what are some actual practical uses for drones? Well, for one thing, drones may very well help save the world, and the gringa’s not talking about how military personnel are already putting them to use in battle. Using them to target and kill fellow human beings is not the gringa’s idea of saving the world.

Using them as a research tool to monitor dolphin and whale populations is more what the gringa considers saving the world. And that is just what marine biologists are doing in Hawai’i. Ocean Alliance is taking advantage of how drones can monitor wildlife without intrusion by humans. With drones capable of being equipped with high resolution cameras, researchers can get close up views and real time video of what dolphin pods and whale families are doing. Even if weather is bad and ocean conditions rough, the drones can still go out and do their job when a human outing would otherwise get postponed.

Drone technology has allowed researchers to compile a more accurate catalog of whale groups and monitor their health conditions with more detailed analysis. Results from boat-based surveys simply do not compare and marine biologists are excited to go even further with drones.

Now, while some people may be excited at the thought of drones delivering pizza or their mail order of retail goods, the gringa is more excited about drone delivery of medicine to hard to reach vulnerable people around the world.

With successful deliveries to earthquake ravaged Haiti in 2012, Doctors Without Borders were inspired to test drone delivery of  a group of dummy TB test samples in remote villages in Papua New Guinea. The Mayo Clinic recently announced that drone medical delivery is poised to take off and revolutionize healthcare for people around the world where access has continued to be a problem.

So what might be the niche technology career of the future for our youth interested in STEM? Development of drone technology and drone piloting. So, don’t get left behind! Get on board to save the world with a joy-stick, a laptop and a map! That’s all you need today to be a superhero!

Sources:

www.whale.org

www.yahoo.com

www.mayoclinic.org

Image Credit: 1.bp.blogspot.com

What Does Your “SNIP” Say About You?


A team of researchers have been studying 17 “snips” and recently published their findings in Nature Genetics. “Snips” are known as genetic tweaks found in DNA. These scientists delved deep into the genetic material of thousands of humans who participated in the study, all hoping to contribute to the future of medicine by doctors and patients, alike, being able to discover reliable genetic markers that will indicate certain diseases.

One of the lead researchers involved in the project is a Harvard psychiatrist, Professor Roy Perlis, who serves as Associate Director of the Psychiatric Genetics Program for Massachusetts General Hospital. His greatest hopes have been realized in the findings of the research. Discovered were genetic variations that occurred consistently in people who suffered with depression. What is the potential of this discovery in providing relief for depression sufferers and possibly preventing its development in a person who is genetically marked as a potential candidate?

There exists private genomics companies where a client can basically spit in a cup, have their DNA analyzed and learn any number of secrets that may be hiding there, like the potential for developing depression. This type of information, long before the onset of an illness, can transform healthcare as we know it. Rather than show up at a psychiatrist’s office in a full-blown state of debilitating depression, a person can begin preventative measures far in advance, thus improving their chances for a depression-free life of the highest quality.  This could potentially save patients and health insurance providers thousands of dollars per patient throughout that patient’s lifetime (and this could possibly be the motive behind some of the loudest critics).

The findings of the research determined 17 DNA markers linked with Major Depressive Disorder. Some of these variations are also connected with other psychiatric disorders thus connecting depression as a role player in the development of other forms of mental illness. If depression is, say, step one down the road of developing schizophrenia, imagine how many lives can be saved from such suffering if that single step can be avoided altogether.

Because effective treatment of any mental illness depends on patients self-reporting their symptoms and cooperating with treatment measures, mental illness is often under-reported and under-treated as a natural result of the mentally ill not having the capacity to recognize symptoms, or in denial of what they indicate, and often inconsistently participating in the critical component of treatment. By establishing awareness and beginning preventative treatment long before a patient becomes symptomatic, the chances of long-term success are greatly increased because medical professionals are dealing with a psychiatrically healthy  individual from the beginning.

The gringa sees all the critics and naysayers have to say. They are worried about misdiagnosis. They are worried about genomics companies offering unauthorized medical advice. But the gringa is not a Negative Nellie. The gringa is a Positive Polly. I believe that any person who is seeking out the services of a genomics company, willing to pay their own hard-earned money to get an analysis of their DNA in order to better understand their health risks, is a person who is not going to make bad decisions such as exploring medical treatment and advice from non-professionals. I also don’t believe they will be the type of people to be hampered with a misdiagnosis. I believe they will be some of the best informed patients a doctor will ever deal with. So enough with the criticism and embrace an advance in medical science that will most certainly save lives, preserve lives and improve the quality of those lives, as well as the lives of the loved ones surrounding them.

Sources:

www.nature.com

http://chgr.org/index-faculty_perlis.html

www.businessinsider.com

www.theguardian.com

Image Credit: images.boomsbeat.com

 

 

The Big Mac Boot


The gringa’s oldest son is doing her proud. Like many millenials, my son has a strong desire to make the world a better place. He has aspirations of doing this by becoming a community organizer and rallying people around important issues of social justice, working together to bring about public awareness and positive change. He has taken his first steps toward achieving his goal by volunteering with a local organization and participated in a press conference.

As a proud and supportive parent, and a bit of a rabble-rouser myself, I simply had to devote a post sharing the good work this organization is doing. Please see their press release below. Links are provided to other media coverage or research documents for your own browsing pleasure!

MEDIA RELEASE

Doctors, dieticians, parents call on Texas Children’s, Ben Taub hospitals to give McDonald’s the boot

Coalition announces campaign to eliminate junk food marketing in hospitals

HOUSTON –Today, as part of coordinated actions in five cities nationwide, doctors from the Baylor College of Medicine, Rice University, and Texas Children’s Hospital joined more than 35 health professionals and community organizations to demand that McDonald’s and other junk food corporations end all marketing inside Texas Children’s and Ben Taub hospitals. The coalition is calling on the CEOs of Texas Children’s Hospital and Harris Health System, which oversees Ben Taub Hospital, to close on-site McDonald’s stores, citing health concerns.

The call comes on the heels of Cleveland Clinic’s decision in August and Allina Health/Abbott Northwestern Hospital’s decision in December to sever ties with the burger giant, due to concerns for their patients’ health. It also amplifies the voices of more than 3,000 health professionals and advocacy organizations like Corporate Accountability International who have called on McDonald’s to stop marketing to kids and 12,000 physicians of the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine who have urged hospitals, including Texas Children’s Hospital, to go “fast-food-free.” Increasingly, hospital administrators are equating McDonald’s in hospitals to the tobacco industry’s tactic of selling cigarettes in hospital gift shops decades ago.

“In the midst of an epidemic of diet-related diseases, it makes no sense for kids to be treated on one floor of Ben Taub and Texas Children’s and see a McDonald’s on another—it sends the wrong message,” said Rosalia Guerrero, president of Healthcare for All Texas.

Texas Children’s and Ben Taub hospitals would become the twelfth and thirteenth to sever ties with McDonald’s since 2009, joining the ranks of Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, Truman Medical Center, Vanderbilt Medical Center, and others.

“I was shocked and disappointed to find McDonald’s in the world’s largest medical center,” said Azeen Anjum, first year Baylor College of Medicine student and member of Choosing Healthy, Eating Fresh (CHEF). “McDonald’s symbolizes the toxic dieta ry climate that contributes to America’s current epidemic of diet-related illness. It should not be allowed to continue damaging health in hospitals that serve our community’s most vulnerable populations.”

Siting stores in hospitals is one of the many ways McDonald’s attempts to “nutriwash” its brand.   Increasingly, health professionals are linking the skyrocketing rates of diet-related diseases like Type 2 diabetes to pervasive junk food marketing. Research from the Institute of Medicine and the National Bureau of Economic Research has found that ending kid-targeted junk food marketing could benefit the health of millions of children.

Dietitians from across Houston also weighed in on the issue.

“We are learning more every day about the roles of preservatives, refined sweeteners, oxidized fats and their role in diabetes, blood pressure, cancer, obesity and more” said Ali Miller, RD, LD, CDE author of Naturally Nourished: Food-as-Medicine for Optimal Health. “As a nutrition expert I am confident in saying processed fast food like McDonald’s has been shown to have harmful deleterious effects not neutral.”

This week, hundreds of people in Boston, Chicago, Minneapolis and Tampa are also calling on McDonald’s and other junk food corporations to end targeted marketing through schools and other institutions. The groups are organizing to support of school boards and hospital administrators to strengthen existing policies and sever ties with junk food corporations.

In the coming months, the Houston coalition will continue to build community support for Ben Taub Hospital and Texas Children’s Hospital to prioritize its patients’ health over corporate profits.

 

Who Are The Real Entitlement Whinebags?


The gringa has been distracted with concerns about current war migrations and the possibility of future climate change migrants that I haven’t even noticed that my own countrymen are migrating as well. It seems to have been going on rather significantly for about three years now. A little over 4,000 did so in 2015. When I look back to the year 2006 the gringa discovers only 300 people bailed on the country. Why are so many more Americans renouncing their citizenship now?

Apparently, it all comes down to taxes. Now, the gringa hasn’t been on a political crusade and ranted and raged for a cause in some time so, perhaps now is the time. Especially since it’s an election cycle and the you-know-what is getting thick. So, be prepared for a clarifying earful about subjects such as “entitlement whinebags” and “propaganda hounds” aka, the GOP, aka, “compassionate” conservatives, aka, the Republican party. And get comfy because, clocking in at over 3,000 words, you, dear reader, are in for a long read of a long rant.

So, back to the original question… what kind of Americans are giving up their American citizenship and why… Many Americans expatriate to live in other countries. Many of these are Americans who are still working and earning. It is not just retired folk who expatriate. However, even though they live in another country, in the past, they retained their American citizenship because of all the benefits and security the nationality afforded them. Now, it’s just one big tax hassle to be an American in another country. So, they renounce their citizenship. Rather than work to change what’s wrong with their country, they take their ball and go home. Boo hoo.

You see, it doesn’t matter where an American lives. They still have to pay their income tax so that money can be used by the nation to maintain the country’s infrastructure, protect its citizens, and care for its less fortunate at home as well as vulnerable populations around the world. Apparently, these turncoats don’t want to contribute to the well-being of the nation, they only want to reap the benefits. I think that’s the description of an “entitlement whinebag”, someone who expects that they deserve something for nothing.

I mean, the gringa pays her taxes. The caveman pays his taxes. We don’t complain. For our contribution we enjoy lots of good stuff.

I can drive across the highway to the grocery store without the freeway bridge collapsing and killing me because the highway funds keep that bridge in good operating condition.

I can sleep peacefully in my bed at night, without a loaded pistol within reach, because taxes pay for an adequate police presence of law enforcement in my neighborhood.

I enjoy the luxury and safety of clean water running right out of my tap at a dirt cheap price (and so should the people of Michigan).

I don’t have to worry about airplanes falling out of the sky and squishing me flat because my country can afford to have proper safety management controls where air travel is concerned.

And the gringa can go on and on but I’m sure the dear reader has sufficiently gotten my point.

So, what about these renouncers. Who are they? Who are the most likely people to move to another country for work or retirement? Um, they are the people who can afford to. They are not the poor, working class, or even the middle class, American. They are the very people who live a life of comfort and luxury and point their fingers at the indigent and poor and berate them for having an “entitlement” attitude because they are asking their nation to provide such things as living wage protection, affordable healthcare, and affordable housing. Hmmm.

So, the privileged of the country want to enjoy more bang for their abundant bucks by living in another country where their dollar stretches farther. Bully for them but the poor, working folk are stuck back here in the States still eating beans. And, since the corporatists and wealthy are not pitching in their fair share to the household budget, the middle and working classes are the only ones supporting the household.

That is why our economy is suffering. That is why there is not enough money in the budget to do what should be done. If the corporatists and wealthy actually paid their legitimate taxes rather than hide their money in offshore accounts and enjoy the tax loopholes they are rewarded with for big dollar campaign contributions, there would be much more money in America’s household fund. We could easily afford to adequately fund our schools, care for our veterans, provide affordable healthcare for everyone, etc., etc., etc.

But the corporatists and wealthy continue to rob their country of what it is due. And, they use their “propaganda hounds” to convince others that expecting them to pay their fair share of taxes is something very evil called “socialism”. Um, that’s a lie. It’s actually called “obeying a taxation law that is fair, just and undiscriminatory”. You earn, you pay your fair share of taxes, EVERYONE, no matter how much you earn, even if you are a corporation. Period. That is not socialism. That is taxation is a capitalist democracy.

These privileged people are fully aware that they will still be taxed by their homeland even if they live outside its borders. But, they make the decision to do it anyway. Then they complain about the consequences when tax payment time rolls around. They bewail their condition of being double taxed, by the land of their birth as well as their new host country. The gringa doesn’t want to hear their crybabiness. They knew it going into it and made their bed. Now they need to lie in it and suck it up like big kids. Nobody made them move to another country.

So, for all the big money “entitlement whinebags” in and outside of my country, this rant is for you:

With regard to a nation as great as the United States providing healthcare for all of its citizens, let me ‘splain something to the selfish critics who have “got theirs” and don’t care about the working class people who have, for years, been employed by companies that did not offer health insurance and did not make enough money to afford their own health insurance but made too much money to receive Medicaid:

For the first time in over forty years, thanks to Obama’s Affordable Care Act, the gringa has coverage for my pre-existing condition that usually lands me in the emergency room 2-3 times a year. This epileptic also doesn’t qualify for disability because I WORK. Which means I had a revolving door of uninsured healthcare debt averaging about $10-20 grand every year except for now. Because of convulsions and recovery periods, my work cycle was usually work about three months, recover for a month, so I RARELY even made $10,000 annually. I was often out of a job after a health crisis. How in the heck could I possibly afford my medical bills?

In 2015 my medical bills were less than $2000. Thank you Obama and kiss my patootie those who have never walked a mile in those shoes yet want to deny those who have and offer no alternative. That is the GOP’s solution – no solution, simply ignore the need of Americans like me.

So, the real “entitlement whinebags” are those people who are simply too stingy to let a tax dollar be spent for a neighbor in need. “Entitlement whinebags” who resist any effort of the government to create a public benefit attempt to use “propaganda hounds” to protect their dollars by telling lies in an effort to convince everyone else that the benefits are only for undeserving people who don’t want to work and want something for free. That is a big fat lie.

The greed of the wealthy and corporatists, and their arrogant belief that the working poor are undeserving of any public benefit, are the biggest “entitlement whinebags” the United States supports. They live a life of indulgence that has divorced them from empathy and compassion.

Their selfishness leads them also to an argument of erroneous ignorance. All those past years of outrageously high medical bills, the gringa, being conscientious and responsible, always desired to be able to pay them. When you have people who are unable to pay for the medical services they receive, the doctors and clinics and hospitals have to absorb that loss. They do it by spreading the money owed them around, which basically means the cost of services go up. So, one way or another, the bill is paid whether it comes out of a tax funded benefit or an individual’s pocket paying for something at an inflated price to cover a loss. And, the Affordable Care Act is not perfect, but at least it’s a step in the right direction which is something that the Republican party has never done or even offered to do.

Many corporatists and wealthy Americans commit another error of ignorance. They believe that all the poor receive free healthcare. And, I might add, they resent that fact. They actually resent that they have to pay taxes that provide any benefit for the poor. They would rather keep their money and let every single poor American never have medical access. But, I digress, their error in believing that all the poor receives free healthcare is proof of how divorced from reality they are. Most of the poor in the U.S. are the working poor. The working poor make too much to qualify for Medicaid.

If they would take the time to educate themselves, rather than believe the “propaganda hounds”, they would learn that during the Clinton Administration the threshold for qualifying for government benefits was lowered. That created a situation where many poor people who were receiving public benefits were thrust off the dole and into the working arena.

You see, there was a big business boom during the Clinton years and he was scratching the backs of the corporatists who helped him get into office by creating a huge pool of low paid workers available. The ranks of the working poor swelled with an on-slought of unskilled, untrained labor which meant wages stayed low. Most of these were single mothers and the elderly.

We now have people that are pushing eighty-years-old in America working low wage jobs, barely able to feed themselves because corporatists and the wealthy do not believe a nation has any obligation to care for those unable to care for themselves. That is not “compassionate” Conservatism. Whether Conservatives want to admit it or not there are certain people who simply should not and cannot work and they are the Americans the other Americans should be caring for. That would be our old folks and medically disabled (however, I will share a dirty little secret – most Republicans do not believe that anyone is really medically disabled. They believe that every chronically ill person should be doing some sort of job and accepting their lot in life even if that means they can barely afford to feed themselves. Better they live a miserable quality of life than receive a taxpayer provided benefit).

As for single mom’s, don’t even get me started. Not only are they needing to feed, clothe, house and provide medical care for their children, if they work they also have to pay for childcare. How in the world can a mom do it on a forty-hour work week even if she makes $10 hourly much less the average $8 hourly that many actually work at? Huh? Please, answer me that?

Where are they going to find the money and time to manage the needs of their household and get a college education in order to better their conditions? Is it possible? Sure, anything is possible. Is it likely? We all know that many of the mom’s are absolutely exhausted simply by caring for their children. A full-time job on top of that often takes what little bit they’ve got left to give. So, the reality is that most of these moms devote themselves to their children, placing all their hopes and dreams in their future, determined that their children will become college educated and they lay their own dreams aside.

Does that thinking really work for single moms? Take a look at the statistics. It doesn’t. The high school drop out rate in the United States is shameful. The majority of these children are being raised by single parents. The college enrollment rate for children of single parent households is equally shameful. Every single mental health professional tells the truth. Children of single parent households are simply not getting the attention they need. It’s not necessarily the divorce factor that is the problem. The problem is that when only one parent is bearing the burden of financial and time responsibility, they simply can’t provide enough of either.

If we want to preserve the greatness of our country’s future, it begins with securing a future for all of our nation’s children. Giving them the best opportunity to receive the nurture and attention they need to thrive and meet their potential. Children of single parent households need a country who recognizes that need and is willing to invest in assisting that household so that parent is not robbed of critical time with their child because they have to work a 50-60 hour workweek just to put food on the table.

And, you know what, if we would spend more money on our kids here at home rather than spending money to prepare them to go overseas with weapons, our country might just become a better nation. If this political party that is so resistant to caring for its own citizens in need would consider their hypocrisy of calling themselves “pro-life” when, in actuality, they are really only “pro-birth” because they don’t actually give a hoot about that “life” until it becomes old enough to join the military. Then, once that “life” has been exploited by the war for profit greed hounds of the Republican party and comes home damaged and in need of care and unable to work and care for itself, the party that exploited them is no longer so “pro” about their “life”. It makes me sick. But, I digress. Back to Clinton and his changing of the poverty qualification dynamics.

So, after Clinton’s revamping of welfare, many working class people became underemployed, thus underpaid, unable to even get a full 40 hour work week at times because the working class job market was swarmed with more people looking for jobs than jobs were to be had. Bad news for the working class, good news for the pro-Clinton companies who were getting paid back for their support with an opportunity to exploit the working class for their labor at dirt cheap wages.

And, because there were more working class people than their were jobs, the fierce competition created a desperation where anyone was just glad to have a job no matter how crummy the pay, few the hours and absolute lack of benefits. And, because the poverty line had been lowered, people who would once receive medical, housing and food benefits, now received nothing, despite the fact their earnings had not increased and may have very well decreased. And, poof, like magic, with the stroke of a pen, overnight, the poverty class in America seemed to almost disappear. It was only an illusion. In fact, the quality of life of these people was worse than it was before.

It didn’t matter what numbers a government official scratched on an official document, claiming that’s the minimum income to qualify as poverty class and entitled to a benefit. The reality was that the actual poverty level of real life stayed the same. So, more and more Americans showed up and work and toiled 40, 50, even 60 hours a week but still lived with a poverty income and absolutely no help from the government who had betrayed them and lied about their wage and living conditions. And many working class people couldn’t even find a 40 hour work week job. They settled for whatever they could find. Sometimes that meant two or three part-time jobs. And this problem has never even been admitted openly much less addressed and solved.

There have been a few years when I was unable to work at all. The caveman was the sole supporter of our family. He is a truck driver. Our income tax returns for those years was, well, I won’t say the number but most of you probably know that a truck driver does not make much money. For a family of four, he made too much to qualify for any benefit the government had to offer to “the poor”. We had to pay for housing, food, utilities, keep cars on the road, and, because the company he worked for did not provide health insurance, we also had to pay every single dime of medical expenses we incurred. And the epileptic gringa is expensive.

Now, a corporatist or wealthy person would be arrogant enough to feel entitled to criticize and say, “Why didn’t the caveman get another job with a different company that offered insurance?” Well, actually, he did get laid off once and got a job with a company with full benefits. But, my pre-existing condition wasn’t covered. So, alas, it really did us absolutely no good.

So, “entitlement whinebag” corporatists and wealthy who want to enjoy all of your wealth and not contribute to the upkeep of this great nation and be a good steward with your overabundance by helping those less fortunate, here’s some food for thought for your hateful, selfish, arrogant minds:

I am the working poor. And we are legion. Let me introduce you to us. We’re the people who press your suit and shirts at the dry cleaners. We are the ones who scrub the floor of the salon where you get your nails done. We wipe snotty noses in daycare centers and nursing homes. We pick the veggies and truck them to your supermarkets. We’re the folks who trim your lawn and give your dog a haircut. We change the trash bin liners in the hospital where you were born and dig the grave where you will be buried.

We live in barrio apartments surrounded by other working poor families who are all doing their best to feed their families. There are usually two parents here, working together to raise their children and find a way to take unpaid leave from work to see their programs and games while still managing to pay the bills.

We usually have only one very old car that is paid for. We can barely afford the liability insurance. Forget about a warranty and full coverage. If the alternator goes out or there is a minor accident, the repair cost comes out of our pocket. It may be way too much that a working class Joe can afford. Looking under the hood, a working class Joe scratches his head wondering how he is going to pay for the parts to get the car back on the road because he has to be at work at 6am in the morning.

Fortunately for working class Joe, his neighbors know exactly what’s up. We’ve all been there. Soon, all working class Joe’s neighbors have pooled some money together, driven him to the auto parts store, and several are working by his side with flashlights well after midnight until the car is finally fixed.

You see, “entitlement whinebag corporatists and wealthy”, the poor working class enjoy something you don’t understand. We enjoy freedom. We are not slaves to the latest fashion trends. We have learned to live without them because we cannot afford them. We have learned to live without the manis and pedis. We have learned to live without the brand name can of green beans. We have learned to live without the vacations at the resorts. We have learned to live without the mall and high-end supermarket. We have learned to live without beef or chicken or any kind of real meat on our dinner tables every night. That is how we are able to pull out the last twenty bucks from our pockets and give it to our neighbor in need without complaining and resign ourselves to beans and rice for a week.

You see, the working poor understand and accept that we are our brother’s keeper. We don’t feel entitled to that last $20 even though we earned it. We see our neighbor’s need and understand it and can meet it so we do, even if it means personal sacrifice.

The working poor have a humble dignity the “entitlement whinebag corporatist and wealthy” will never understand. We do not have an “entitlement” attitude. We only ask that our opportunity to send our kids to college not be ruined by a broken arm, appendectomy or serious bout with the flu (or recurrent episodes of seizures).

And if the “entitlement whinebag corporatists and wealthy” want to continue to turn their backs on this nation so they can keep all their wealth rather than contribute their fair share to the nation’s needs, easing their consciences with the delusion that the poor are not worthy of help, the gringa’s okay with that. Because, we don’t need them. We’ll do just fine without them. In fact, we’re better off without that kind of attitude. So, please do say “Bye, bye” to America and let the true, hardworking patriots have their damn country back, because we can fix it.