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.

 

Here Comes The Sun, Little Darlin’


China may be one step closer to saying, “Bye, bye,” to fossil fuels. With their latest invention, an artificial sun of hydrogen gas, in fact, an incredibly dense artificial sun of hydrogen gas that is triple the power of that glorious glowing ball of gas high in the sky, they may very well have a limitless power source.

The first thought is, “Hurrah! The global energy crisis is over! Human caused acceleration of climate change can be ceased with no more use of fossil fuels!” However, the gringa hates to be the cynic and rain on everyone’s parade. I will withhold my judgement that this incredible invention will work successfully, everything going as planned. And, if it does, that it will be put to use for humanitarian purposes for the benefit of mankind. The gringa will “wait and see”.

China’s Institute of Physical Science in Hefei is the brainchild and creator of a magnetic fusion reactor that has produced this seemingly inexhaustible source of hydrogen based energy. This is a direct outgrowth from technology developed over 60 years ago by Soviet scientists who created the Experimental Advanced Superconducting Tokamak (EAST). It is a metallic chamber shaped like a figure-8.  The reactor can produce hydrogen energy up to 50 million Kelvins (that’s almost 50 million degrees Celsius or 122 million degrees Fahrenheit). Wow, that’s enough to curl my hair! Consider that the sun burns at about 15 million Kelvins. So, China’s man-made sun is more than three times as hot as the real McCoy. It’s not as big a deal as it seems because scientists were only able to maintain this core temperature for less than two minutes.

Now, really, this artificial sun news is really no new news. The Germans claimed to have created such a thing already. The real news is the length of time the existence of the “sun” lasted. However, at two minutes a pop, the gringa doesn’t see how this is really going to change the energy game around the world. China, Germany and Russia are still years, probably even decades, away from perfecting the technology to the point that it will even matter to mankind.

And really, despite all the fuss being made over China, artificial suns are actually a dime a dozen. The technology has been around for ages. And every nation that has a decent scientific community has one. Consider Coelux. This Italian invention uses nano technology to create the natural lighting of the sun and sky. This technology is being used around the world in museums, shopping malls, airports, subways, garages, and even homes.

However, the gringa’s favorite use of Italy’s artificial sun is in healthcare. The medical community is responding to the human aversion of being confined. By introducing artificial natural light (if THAT’S not an oxymoron!) into treatment rooms that are usually windowless, medical professionals are seeing patients respond positively through the psychological and physiological benefits of being in a space illuminated by the sun and sky.

People can even enjoy this at home. Even on a rainy day you can be enjoying the rays of a tropical sun. And the Italians are not just scientifically sterile in their lighting craft. Channeling Italy’s deep roots within the art community, they offer lighting perspectives for every taste: dramatic tropical sun, a gentle Mediterranean sun, or a cool Nordic sun. The gringa thinks this is sensational, um, I meant “sunsational” (darn you, auto-correct)!

Sources: South China Morning Post, www.scmp.com, www.coelux.com

Photo credit: www.coelux.com

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.