July 12 – Daily Feast

July 12 – Daily Feast

The fragrances of the countryside are exhilarating after a summer rain. Wildflowers and morning glories have spread profusely along fence rows, and bittersweet vines abound wherever they can take hold. One breath of fresh air, one beautiful smell of petunias on the evening breeze, is never enough. It has to be repeated and held in remembrance for another time, another place. A pill doesn’t exist that works better than a country lane after a rain shower. Huge drops make secret symbols in the dust and are a da to li gi, a blessing on the head of a Cherokee. It is a special message, a private baptism from the Great Spirit.

~ This country is mine, I was raised on it; my forefathers died on it; and I wish to remain on it. ~


‘A Cherokee Feast of Days’, by Joyce Sequichie Hifler


Daily Motivator for July 12 – In motion

In motion

When you’re on a roll, keep going. When you’re in a slump, get going.

Get in motion and stay in motion. The possibilities are far more powerful and  more numerous when you’re taking action.

If you’re just sitting around doing nothing, you won’t be too thrilled with  whatever happens to come your way, if anything. When you get up and get moving,  you can go any place and experience anything you choose.

Being patient is admirable but being lazy is not. Be eager and persistent  about taking action, while being patient about letting the results come.

The way to have it done is to get up and get it done. The way to live the  life of your dreams is to bring it about with focused action.

Get the power of momentum on your side and keep it there. Get in motion, stay  in motion, and live life on your own very best terms.

— Ralph Marston

The Daily Motivator

Daily OM for July 12 – The Friend We Want to Be

The Friend We Want to Be

Evaluating Our Relationships

by Madisyn Taylor

Be the friend to others that you wish them to be to you.


There comes a time in all our lives when we may need to evaluate our relationships, making sure that they are having a positive effect on us, rather than dragging us down. Without realizing it, we may be spending precious time and energy engaging in friendships that let us down, rather than cultivating ones that support and nourish us along our path. Life, with its many twists, turns, and challenges, is difficult enough without us entertaining people in our inner circle who drain our energy. We can do so much more in this world when we are surrounded by people who understand what we’re trying to do and who positively support our efforts to walk our path.

We can begin this evaluation process by simply noticing how we feel in the context of each one of our close relationships. We may begin to see that an old friend is still carrying negative attitudes or ideas that we ourselves need to let go of in order to move forward. Or we may find that we have a long-term relationship with someone who has a habit of letting us down, or not showing up for us when we need support. There are many ways to go about changing the status quo in situations like this, having a heart to heart with our friend showing through example. This process isn’t so much about abandoning old friends as it is about shifting our relationships so that they support us on our journey rather than holding us back.

An important part of this process is looking at ourselves and noticing what kind of friend we are to the people in our lives. We might find that as we adjust our own approach to a relationship, challenging ourselves to be more supportive and positive, our friends make adjustments as well and the whole world benefits.

What Your Body Is Trying to Tell You: 9 Signs You Shouldn’t Ignore

What Your Body Is Trying to Tell You: 9 Signs You Shouldn’t Ignore

The body is a magnificent machine. When things go awry, it generally  doesn’t  just shut down without warning, like an incandescent light bulb  popping its  filament. Instead it sends us little signals (think of them  as gentle  biological taps on the shoulder) letting us know that  something is amiss.

“Physical signs and symptoms are ways your body  tries to alert you to deeper  imbalances,” says Elson M. Haas, MD, a San  Rafael, Calif., physician with a  natural-medicine approach and author of  Staying  Healthy with Nutrition (Celestial Arts,  2006). “Taking the  time to decipher the body’s codes is always better than  simply popping a  pill and hoping the symptoms just go away. Ideally, we want to  get to  the causes of problems, not just suppress the end result of ill health.”  But interpreting the body’s quirky Morse code requires a deep level  of body  awareness that, like any skill, takes time and practice to  perfect. To that  end, we recruited a handful of the country’s leading  integrative health  practitioners to help identify nine of the most  common conditions underlying  frequent, and sometimes mysterious,  symptoms. Read on to clue into your body’s  messages.

You’re  drinking too much diet soda…

One likely signal: Headaches

Background: Artificial sweeteners, particularly  aspartame   (found in Nutrasweet and Equal), can trigger headaches, even  migraines.  At  highest risk are people with a genetic disorder called   phenylketonuria (or PKU  for short); they lack the enzyme needed to   metabolize a substance  (phenylalanine) that is created when the body   breaks down aspartame. But even those without the genetic  disorder may   find that drinking diet soda results in brain fog or  headache. Why?  Animal  studies have shown aspartame to be a potent  neurotoxin, at least  in young  rats. I’m concerned about whether  aspartame might cause nerve  damage in  humans, as well — or at least  disrupt the nerve signaling that  enables the  brain to register  satiety,” says Sharon Fowler, MPH, a  faculty associate at  the  University of Texas Health Science Center at  San Antonio who studies  the  health effects of artificial sweetener use.  One of the prime  suspects is the  methanol in aspartame, which is broken  down into  formaldehyde, a known  carcinogen. People who are sensitive to   formaldehyde may experience headaches  after ingesting aspartame.

Other signals: Intense cravings for sweet or salty  foods,   inability to focus, irritability

How to respond: When the urge for diet soda strikes,  Kathie  Swift, MS, RD, LDN, chief nutrition adviser for the online-based  sites   MyFoodMyHealth and My Foundation Diet, suggests drinking  sparkling  water  flavored with a splash of 100 percent fruit juice and a  squeeze  of lime.

You’ve got candida overgrowth…

One likely signal: Itchy ears, throat or mucus   membranes

Background: The average American downs nearly 150  pounds of  sugar and high-fructose corn syrup a year, according to the  United  States Department of Agriculture. And if you’re eating anywhere  near that much  sugar, you may have more than just a sweet tooth — your  body may be hosting an  unhealthy overgrowth of Candida albicans.  A small amount of this  common, yeast like fungus living in the gut is OK  when its numbers are kept in  check by healthy flora. But when an  intestinal imbalance allows it to run amok,  it acts like kudzu,  colonizing everything in its path. Among its favorite  environs are the  body’s warm, dark nooks and crannies, such as between the  toes, under  the breasts and, yes, in the ears. As it infiltrates, it irritates  and  inflames the skin, leading to the telltale signs of itching and  redness.

Other signals: Mood swings, fatigue, weak immune  system, weight gain, frequent yeast  infections

How to respond: If you think you have candida  overgrowth,  the quickest fix is to starve the little buggers. Candida  flourish in the  presence of both refined and unrefined sugar, such as  fresh fruit, dried fruit  and fruit juice. Cutting off their food supply  can bring their numbers back to  a healthy level. They also love refined  flour products and anything fermented,  such as alcohol and soy, so if  you have a serious overgrowth, you may need to  cut out all of the above  for a number of consecutive weeks.

You’re  dehydrated…

One likely signal: Chapped lips

Background: Lips are a reflection of the health and   hydration of the entire body. “If you are well hydrated, then your lips  will be  well hydrated,” says Elizabeth Lipski, PhD, clinical  nutritionist and author of  Digestive Wellness (McGraw-Hill,  2004). Less water  in the body means less moisture for the skin– the  body’s largest organ. The  delicate tissue of the lips is extra sensitive  to drought. “If you are  constantly using lip balm or lip gloss to sooth  chapped lips, it’s a sign you  need to drink up,” says Lipski.

Other signals: Headaches, infrequent urination, dark  yellow  or smelly urine, dry skin, slow turgor (meaning that if you  pinch the skin on  the back of your hand, it doesn’t snap right back into  place). Although the  aging process slows turgor down somewhat, even in  older adults it still should  return to normal within a second or two.

How to respond: Drinking eight 8-ounce glasses of  water a  day can be intimidating, says Swift, so if you’re not able to  quaff that  amount, you can still get hydrated by sipping herbal tea and  working additional  servings of fruits and vegetables into your daily  diet. “The transition to a  more whole-foods diet puts us on autopilot to  get more water because they are  naturally high in moisture,” says  Swift. And, make sure to include whole foods  that are rich in essential  fatty acids, such as nuts and seeds, avocados, and  anchovies and  sardines, which help maintain healthy cell membranes and hold in   moisture.

You’re  not getting enough fiber…

One likely signal: Constipation

Background: Constipation is the clearest indicator  of the  body’s need for more fiber. “Our hunter-gatherer ancestors ate up  to 100 grams  of fiber a day and had an average stool weight of 2  pounds,” says Mark Hyman,  MD, the editor of Alternative Therapies in  Health and Medicine and  author of The UltraSimple  Diet (Pocket Books, 2007).

“Today, the average American eats less than 8 grams of fiber a day,  and the  average bowel movement is a puny 4 ounces.” That’s a problem, he  says, because  the bowels are key to the body’s elimination process.  When traffic is backed  up, toxins from the bowel leach back into the  body and can cause a multitude of  inflammation-based health problems in  everything from your  digestion and skin to your heart and brain. They  can also disrupt hormonal  balance and immunity. The bottom line, Hyman  says: “If stools are hard and hard  to pass, you’ve got a problem.”

Other signals: Frequent hunger pangs, energy slumps,   digestive trouble, skin problems, inflammatory conditions

How to respond: Eat more legumes, vegetables, fruits  and  whole grains. All are chock-full of fiber and other nutrients,  making them  natural go-to foods. Getting the recommended 35 to 40 grams  of fiber a day not only improves bowel health, but it also  lowers the  risk of diabetes and heart disease, says Andrew Weil, MD, director  of  the Arizona Center for Integrative Medicine of the College of Medicine  at  the University of Arizona in Tucson.

If you want other ways to sneak extra roughage into your day, Swift  suggests  sprinkling rice-bran fiber on salads or oatmeal. She likes  rice-bran fiber  because it’s gluten-free and has been shown to help  eliminate toxins, such as  PCBs. Another one of her favorite fiber  boosters is a seasoning she makes out  of crushed pumpkin seeds, ground  flax meal, sesame seeds, kelp flakes and sea salt —  basically, a riff on  gomasio, which is used as a salt alternative in Japanese  cuisine. Put  it in a wrap, sprinkle over brown rice or use to garnish soups,  she  says. “The nuts, seeds and ocean veggies are a nutrient- and  fiber-licous  powerhouse.” (Keep it in the fridge to lengthen its  lifespan.)

You  have a B-vitamin deficiency…

One likely signal: Cracks at the corners of the  mouth

Background: “You see nutritional deficiencies first  in  those  tissues that turn over the quickest, such as the tongue and  lips,” says   Lipski. Studies show that cracks or sores that appear at the  corners  of the  mouth (a.k.a. cheilitis) may be a sign that your body  isn’t  getting enough B  vitamins. “Deficiencies of one or more of the B   vitamins may occur fairly  easily,” notes Haas, “especially with diets   that include substantial amounts  of refined and processed food, sugar or   alcohol.”

Other signals: Anemia, low energy, fatigue, skin  problems,   dark circles under the eyes

How to respond: Your best bet is eating a  whole-foods  diet and prioritizing foods high in B vitamins.  The richest   dietary source of B vitamins is found in brewer’s yeast or  nutritional   yeast (although, if you have candida issues, you’ll want to skip  those).   Other solid picks include wheat germ, whole grains, legumes, egg   yolks,  sweet potatoes, salmon, red meat, liver and poultry.

Taking a good B-complex vitamin  supplement can also be helpful  (particularly if  you’re a  vegetarian). Under the care of a nutritionally  inclined health   professional, you may also be prescribed a supplement  for a specific B  vitamin  (or even given a vitamin B-12 shot) to help  correct a  significant deficiency.  But be careful mixing up your own  B-vitamin  cocktails. When taken in excess  and out of balance with other  B’s,  certain B vitamins can wind up leaching  nutrients out of your  system.  That’s why emphasizing B-rich foods should be  your first  priority.

You’re eating something that doesn’t agree with you…

One likely signal: Eczema

Background: First a little background about food  intolerances. When the body doesn’t tolerate a food  well, ingesting that  food creates a chronic, low-level irritation or  inflammation in the  gut. Over time, with regular exposure, the irritation  worsens and  creates fissures in the spaces between the cells. (Picture the  walls of  the gut, once tightly knitted together, looking more like an old   afghan.) These holes allow bacteria and their toxins, as well as  incompletely  digested proteins and fats, to “leak” out of the gut and  into the bloodstream.  Called leaky gut syndrome (or increased intestinal  permeability), this  condition sets the stage for myriad health  problems, including rashes and skin  problems, like eczema.

The skin is the body’s largest elimination organ, notes Lipski, so  it’s not  surprising that it comes under assault when toxins careen  through the  bloodstream. “A skin rash or eczema is a sign that the body  is trying to slough out  these toxins,” she says. “It’s trying to  eliminate the problem the best way it  knows how.

Other signals: Gas, bloating, fatigue, sinus  congestion,  foggy thinking

How to respond: An elimination diet is the best way  to  pinpoint the offending food. “Start with one or two foods you  suspect,” says  Swift, who prefers to call this the “illumination diet”  because its focus is on  “illuminating your health.”

Don’t know where to start? Foods that are most likely to wreak havoc  on the  gut include wheat and gluten-containing products, dairy products,  sugar, soy, eggs, corn and yeast. If you’re  uber-motivated, take Haas’s  advice and go off what he calls “the big five” for  a week: wheat,  dairy, sugar, caffeine and alcohol. “It’s not easy to do”, he  admits, “but you’re guaranteed to learn a lot about your body’s signals.” You  might also consider keeping a food journal. Spend a week or two  writing down  what you eat and how your body feels in the minutes, hours  and days afterward  (e.g., an hour after you eat dairy, you feel  bloated). “It’s about pattern and  symptom recognition and connecting the  dots,” says Swift, which in turn helps  you decide which foods to  eliminate first.

You’re  drinking too much caffeine…

One likely signal: Fatigue

Background: “Caffeine goes to an already low energy  bank account and  tries to lend it a little extra energy for the short  term,” says Haas. “But  it’s getting that energy from your own stores,  meaning you have less and less  on reserve, leaving you less able to  generate your own energy on an ongoing  basis.”

Caffeine works by stimulating the central nervous system.  Specifically, the  chemical gooses the adrenal glands into releasing  hormones — namely cortisol  and adrenaline that tell the body to go  faster. The short-term result can be  increased focus and better hand-eye  coordination. But overdo caffeine on a  regular basis and, eventually,  the central nervous system runs out of gas. “If  you don’t restore  yourself with sleep, nutrients and relaxation, you’ll quickly get into a   cycle of whipping a weakened horse,” says Haas.

Other signals: Jitters, agitation, insomnia,  heartbeat  irregularities, frequent urination

How to respond: Weil advises limiting your daily  dose of  caffeine to less than 300 milligrams (mg). As a reference, a  12-ounce cup of  Starbucks brewed coffee packs 260 mg of caffeine, while a  12-ounce Americano  (two shots of the coffee chain’s espresso added to  hot water) contains 150 mg.  A 12-ounce cup of black tea, on the other  hand, contains roughly 100 mg and  green tea only 50 mg. “If you’re going  to indulge,” advises Swift, “think about  the quality of the source. Are  you drinking green tea or a chemical-laden energy drink? What’s a   healthy amount for you? Most people know what amount their system can  handle,”  she says. In the meantime, support your adrenal glands with B  vitamins  (especially B5/pantothenic acid), vitamin C and licorice. Also,  fuel up on  healthy, whole foods that boost and maintain your energy.

You’re low on stomach acid…

One likely signal: Burping and indigestion

Background: If you’re low on stomach acid, your body  won’t  digest foods efficiently, especially dense foods like fats and  proteins. When  food sits in the stomach, so does the air you naturally  swallow when you eat.  The air has only two options — get pushed down the  digestive tract with food or  catch the next flight up the esophagus and  out the mouth. The longer food  loiters in the stomach, the more likely  you’ll burp.

Other signals: Gastric reflux, weak immune system,  cracked  fingernails, chronic infections, gas

How to respond: Boost the first phase of digestion by becoming a more “sensory-based eater,” says  Swift. “That means enjoy  the sight and smell of the meal before you dig in so  that your gut has  time to release digestive factors, such as hydrochloric acid,  in  anticipation of a meal.” Then, eat more mindfully. Chew your food so  that it’s easier for  the gut to digest, especially proteins and fats.

If you still feel like your food sits in your stomach like a rock,  Haas  recommends trying digestive enzymes, which can help you better  digest your  food. For example, he says, you might try a product called  betaine  hydrochloride with pepsin (a time-released protein digestant),  found at  health-food stores.

Hydrochloric acid is the main ingredient in stomach acid. By taking  it as a  supplement, you’re basically giving your stomach a head start,  especially with  proteins and fats, which are the hardest food stuffs to  digest, meaning they  require more stomach acids than carbs. After you  begin eating a meal with  protein and fat, for instance, take one  capsule. See how you feel after a  couple of meals. If you feel OK, you  can try two capsules and gradually  increase to three or four. If you  have any sensation of burning or acid  indigestion, cut back to a level  where you didn’t experience any negative side  effects.

You’re  short on good flora…

One likely signal: Frequent colds

Background: The immune system‘s command center is  housed inside the gut.  “An ecological imbalance of organisms in the gut  means the body can’t defend  itself against unfriendly microbes,” says  Swift. “The result is we get sick a  lot.” Ironically, says Hyman, it’s  often medicine, such as antibiotics, that  wipe out the gut’s supply of  good bacteria. “When we wipe them out again and  again with antibiotics  and then eat a poor diet, it’s a disaster for the gut.”  That, in turn,  can spell trouble for the rest of the body.

Other signals: Intestinal gas, bloating, loose  stools or  constipation, vaginal yeast infections, urinary tract  infections, skin rash,  athlete’s foot, nail fungus

How to respond: The experts agree that one of the  easiest  (and most delicious) ways to restore the gut’s healthy flora is  to eat more  foods rich in good bacteria, such as miso, sauerkraut,  kombucha (a fermented Japanese tea),  yogurt that contains live bacteria,  and kefir (a fermented milk drink). “The  gut houses 5 pounds of  beneficial bacteria,” notes Haas. “We have to feed this  stuff.”

If you think your gut needs more than food can deliver, Weil  recommends  taking a daily probiotic that contains Lactobacillus GG or  Bacillus coagulans (BC-30).

Although many of the body’s messages can be decoded with a little  guesswork  and a lot of active listening, it’s important to remember that  some of these  same symptoms can be signs of more serious illnesses. If,  after a couple of  weeks of self-care, things don’t improve or resolve,  it’s best to consult a  health-care professional.

“A chronic ache or pain is an invitation to stop and take a look at  your  life,” says Lipski. “Your body is telling you it’s time to make a  change.  Respect its request and odds are you’ll be heading off a greater  health issue  down the pike.”

More Than One Way to Heal

A multipronged approach to health-care — seeking advice from both  alternative medicine practitioners as well as Western  doctors — can help  you decode your body’s warning signals before they cascade  into  something more serious.

Western medicine has many strengths: stamping out infections;  treating  emergencies, like heart attacks; and swooping in with trauma  care after an  accident or disaster. But when a condition is hard to  diagnose, or is chronic  or nagging, like poor digestion, insomnia or  general fatigue, going outside the  doctor’s office may be your best bet.

“Most medical-school curriculum focuses on acute care and doesn’t  adequately  train for chronic health issues — which constitute the most  common troubles for  most of the patients they see,” says Elizabeth  Lipski, PhD, CCN, and author of  Digestive Wellness (McGraw-Hill, 2004).

As both a medical doctor and a naturopath, Elson M. Haas has a foot  in each  world. He tends to agree with Lipski’s take, and he also sees  limitations in  the way that Western medical practitioners typically try  to snuff out the  body’s attempts to heal.

“Many symptoms, such as sinus congestion, allergies and excess mucus,  are  ways it’s trying to rid itself of excess toxins,” he says. “Western  medicine  tries to control these symptoms, by suppressing the fever or  drying up the  congestion, instead of supporting the body’s natural means  of elimination and  detoxification.”

Alternative practitioners come in many forms. In addition to your  primary  care physician, consider seeing a chiropractor or osteopath if  your condition  is skeletal; a Traditional Chinese Medicine practitioner  for hormone imbalances; or a  naturopath for overall wellness, digestive,  immunity and dietary advice. All of  these modalities have regulating  organizations that provide lists of qualified  practitioners.

Catherine Guthrie is a freelance writer based in Bloomington,   Ind.

7 Foods Banned in Europe Still Available in the U.S.

7 Foods Banned in Europe Still Available in the U.S.

Genetically Modified Foods

Although the E.U. is continuously coming under attack for policies banning GM foods, the community is  highly suspicious of genetically modified foods, and the agro-industrial  pressures that drive their use. The problem with GM foods is that there is  simply not sufficient research and understanding to inform good  public policy. In spite of widespread GM use without apparent negative impacts  in other countries, the recent public reaction to trans-fats are reason enough  to support a precautionary principle for the food supply chain.

Pesticides in Your Food

The E.U. has acted against the worst pesticides typically found as residuals  in the food chain. A ban on 22 pesticides was passed at the E.U. level, and is  pending approval by the Member States. Critics claim the ban will raise prices  and may harm malaria control, but advocates of the ban say action must be taken  against the pesticides which are known to cause harm to health and nevertheless  consistently found in studies of food consumption.

Bovine Growth Hormone

This drug, known as rBGH for short, is not allowed in Europe. In contrast,  U.S. citizens struggle even for laws that allow hormone-free labeling so that consumers have a choice. This  should be an easy black-and-white decision for all regulators and any  corporation that is really concerned about sustainability: give consumers the  information. We deserve control over our food choice.

Chlorinated Chickens

Amid cries that eating American chickens would degrade European citizens to  the status of guinea pigs, the E.U. continued a ban on chickens washed in  chlorine. The ban effectively prevents all import of chickens from the U.S. into  Europe. If chicken chlorination is “totally absurd” and “outrageous” for Europeans, what does that mean for Americans?

Food Contact Chemicals

Phthalates and Bisphenols in plastic are really beneficial. They help  manufacturers create plastic products with the softness and moldability needed  to fulfill consumer needs. But when the food contact additives are found in the  food and liquids contained by those plastics, trouble starts. Both the U.S. and  Europe stringently regulate food contact use of chemicals. However, the standard  of approval is different. In Europe, the precautionary principle requires that  the suppliers of chemicals prove their additives safe, or they will be banned. Of  course, although the E.U. has banned phthalates in toys, both phthalates and  bisphenol-A remain approved for food contact uses — subject to strict  regulations on their use.

Stevia, the natural sweetener

The U.S. recently approved this “natural” sweetener as a food additive.  Previously, it was sold in the U.S. under the less stringent dietary supplement  laws. It has been embraced in Japan for over three decades, but E.U. bans still  stand — pointing to potential disturbances in fertility and other negative  health impacts. But the sweetener is credited with potentially positive health  effects too. Is this a case where consumer choice should prevail?

Planned Ban: Food Dyes

Many food dyes previously recognized as safe are suspected of contributing to  attention deficit disorder. Action is afoot as the UK evaluates a ban on synthetic food colors. Regulation in the E.U. often starts through the leadership  of one Member State, which pushes the concepts up to Brussels after a  proof-of-concept pilot phase. Red 40, Yellow 5, Yellow 6, Blue 1, Blue 2, Green  3, Orange B, and Red 3 are among the food colors associated with hyperactivity.

8 Ways Monsanto is Destroying Our Health

8 Ways Monsanto is Destroying Our Health

“The deeper you can manipulate living structures, the more you can  control food and medicine.” Dr. Vandana Shiva

Lots of talk these days about the bullying of young boys and girls in school  by more aggressive students. This brings to my mind the biggest bully of all:  the biotech company, Monsanto Corporation. Taken in context, Monsanto’s list of  corporate crimes should have been enough to pull their corporate charter years  ago. And yet we allow them to continue to destroy our food supply, our health  and the planet. Monsanto or Monsatan? Take a look at the company’s track record  and decide for yourself.

Agent Orange: Monsanto was the major financial beneficiary  of this herbicide used to defoliate the jungles of Vietnam and destroy the  health of American troops and their offspring. It also allowed Monsanto and  other chemical companies to appeal for and receive protection from veterans  seeking damages for their exposure to Agent Orange and any future biotech  creations.

Aspartame: as far back as 1994 the U.S. Department of Health  and Human Services released a report listing 94 health issues caused by Aspartame. It has been shown to  cause slow but serious damage to the human body and yet it is used extensively  in many commercial products.

Saccharin: studies have shown that saccharin caused cancer  in test rats and mice; and in six human studies, including one done by the  National Cancer Institute, that consuming artificial sweeteners, such as  saccharin and cyclamate, resulted in bladder cancer.

Bovine Growth Hormone (rBGH): a genetically modified hormone  injected into dairy cows to produce more milk, despite the fact that more milk  was needed. The cows suffer excruciating pain due to swollen udders and  mastitis. The pus from the infection enters the milk supply requiring more  antibiotics to be given to the cows. BST milk may also cause breast cancer,  colon cancer and prostate cancer in humans.

RoundUp: the worlds most commonly used herbicide and weed killer has been linked to non-Hodgkin’s  lymphoma, in a study by eminent oncologists Dr. Lennart Hardell and Dr. Mikael  Eriksson of Sweden. Used on genetically modified crops resistant to RoundUps  active ingredient glyphosate, environmentalists and health professionals are  concerned that far from reducing herbicide use, glyphosate resistant crops may  result in increased residues in food to which consumers will be exposed.

Genetically Modified Crops (GMO): Monsanto created  Frankenfoods by gene-splicing corn, cotton, soy, and canola with DNA from a  foreign source. Consequently these crops are resistant to massive doses of the  herbicide, RoundUp, but in turn herbicide-resistant Superweeds are taking  over.  After running into resistance in the west, Monsanto is pushing GMO  crops in third world countries. According to physicist, ecologist and activist Dr. Vandana  Shiva, “Syugenta and Monsanto are rushing ahead with the mapping and  patenting of the rice genome. If they could, they would own rice and its genes,  even though the 200,000 rice varieties that give us diverse traits have been  bred and evolved by rice farmers of Asia collectively over millennia. Their  claim to inventing rice is a violence against the integrity of biodiversity and  life-forms; it is a violence against the knowledge of Third World  farmers.”

Get Monsanto GM corn off the supermarket shelves! Click here to sign the petition.

Terminator Seeds: a technology that produces sterile grains  unable to germinate, forcing farmers to buy seeds from Monsanto rather than save  and reuse the seeds from their harvest. Terminators can cross-pollinate and  contaminate local non-sterile crops putting in danger the future seed supply and  eventually giving control of the world’s food supply to Monsanto and the GM  industry.

Standard American Diet: According to the Organic Consumers Association, “There is a direct  correlation between our genetically engineered food supply and the $2 trillion  the US spends annually on medical care, namely an epidemic of diet-related  chronic diseases. Instead of healthy fruits, vegetables, grains, and grass-fed  animal products, US factory farms and food processors produce a glut of  genetically engineered junk foods that generate heart disease, stroke, diabetes  and cancer. Low fruit and vegetable consumption is directly costing the United  States $56 billion a year in diet-related chronic diseases.”

For more information on taking action against Monsanto, visit the website of  the Organic Consumers Association and stand up against GM foods.

Organic Farming vs. Industrial Agriculture: Which Method Wins?

Organic Farming vs. Industrial Agriculture: Which Method  Wins?

Since 1981, the Rodale Institute has been doing side-by-side trials of  organically-grown and conventionally-grown corn and soybeans to see how organic  farming really stacks up against industrial agriculture and GMOs. What they are  finding might surprise you.

You can check out the entire report here (pdf), but these  are a few of the key points:

  • During times of drought, organic farming outperforms conventional methods by  31 percent.
  • Organic farming yields are about the same as conventional yields under  normal weather conditions.
  • Organic farming uses 45 percent less energy than conventional.

Researchers think that the higher yields during drought are due to improved  soil quality from organic farming, which makes the soil better at holding on to  water. The organic soil retained 15 to 20 percent more water than soil on the  conventional land.

The other area where organics outperformed conventional plants was in weed  tolerance. Because organic farming principles include biodiversity and crop  rotation, the organic crops were naturally more weed resistant. That’s in stark  contrast to industrial farming, where pesticide overuse is breeding superweeds.

Of course, there are big bucks in conventional agriculture, especially the  expensive proprietary seeds and the fertilizers that go with them. It’s no  surprise then that the pro-GMO lobby is hard at work trying to convince us that  GMOs are the key to feeding our world’s exploding population. One argument that  I see a lot from the pro-GMO crowd is that if you’re anti-GMO you’re anti  science. Thirty years of side-by-side trials strikes me as some pretty solid  science.

What do you guys think? Do you think that organic farming can feed  the world?


Going Solar: Answers to Common Questions

Going Solar: Answers to Common Questions

By Erica Sofrina,  Author of Small  Changes, Dynamic Results! Feng Shui for the Western World

Solar energy has been around for decades, but in the past few years it has  finally started to take off in residential markets. Previously it was considered  too expensive, but times have changed. The rising electricity costs,  improvements in panel technology, mass production of them as well as federal and  local governmental incentives have driven costs down.

Given all these current factors, going solar now is a much more affordable  investment which can lead you to free energy, increased property value & a  chance to do your part in going green.

As a part of my green home series, I interviewed my friend David Javate of SolarUniverse and asked him if he would  demystify solar and answer some common questions and misunderstandings:

Erica: Could you explain in simple terms exactly how solar energy  works?

David: Solar panels consist of “cells” of chemically treated silicon. These  silicon cells, when hit with light, induce a chemical reaction which produces DC  current. An inverter converts DC current into AC current which can then be  used by your household. Any unused electricity gets fed back to the grid, which  in turn spins your energy meter backwards.

E: Is solar reliable?

D: Absolutely. Solar energy has been around for over 50 years, and is a safe  and reliable source of energy. Panels are normally warrantied for a 25 year  lifespan, but usually last longer. There’s a reason that NASA chose solar  panels to power their satellites. You may also notice them on street signs and  some public buildings.

E: What are the environmental benefits of solar energy?

D: Traditionally, electricity is generated through the use of fossil fuels  such as coal and natural gas. Use of these fossil fuels produces carbon  emissions which cause pollution and global warming. The main environmental  benefit of solar energy is that using solar does not produce any carbon  emissions. Throughout the lifespan of a photovoltaic solar system for a 3  bedroom house, one could potentially reduce the carbon emissions equivalent to  140,000 tons of carbon, 227,00 miles not driven, or 2,500 acres of trees  saved.

E: Is solar a good investment for the basic homeowner?

D: It depends on the household and your usage. Physical issues first need to  be considered: Your roof should be south or southwest facing, should have  minimal shading obstructions and should also have enough space to hold the  appropriate number of panels to cover your energy goals.

In California where we are based, we usually recommend it as an energy  solution if your electric bill tends to be over $130/month if you are  considering a leasing option; however, if buying is an option, homeowners with  bills of $50-75/month can reap the benefits.

Currently, there are a number of incentives available, such as a 30 percent  federal tax credit, rebates through your utility company, and local incentives,  such as the GoSolarSF initiative which provides a $2,000 grant towards  installation for homes in San Francisco. If you choose to buy your system,  typical systems can have a payback period of 5-7 years. After you’ve paid it off  you’ll be able to reap the benefits of free & clean energy for the next  20 years!

E: What if someone doesn’t have the money now? Are there financing  alternatives?

D: The most attractive financing alternative is leasing. These come in  different forms, with or without a down payment, with or without a fixed  interest rate, and in a prepaid form, where a bulk amount of the lease  payments are made in advance at a discount. Depending on the lease you secure,  you should be able to take advantage of a substantially lower electric bill, at  a monthly predictable rate, without the upfront cost of buying.

E: If someone is interested in looking into a solar alternative, what  should they do next?

D: Do some research:

  • Look at your electric bill. Has it become a rising and annoying cost for  you? Is it causing you to limit your enjoyment in some activities?
  • Research solar companies in your area. Check them out on review websites  like Yelp & Angie’s list.
  • See what solar incentives are available to you through your utility  company, your city and county.
  • Consider buying versus leasing.  Buying can be a great investment  which pays for itself in a few years. Leasing can reduce your electric bill,  while also giving a predictable fixed rate for energy.

Solar energy can be a great energy solution which can zero out your electric  bill, add value to your property, and help reduce carbon emissions which harm  the environment. Not all homes are ideally suited to take full advantage of  solar, but with the info given in this article you should have a good starting  point to figure out if going solar is a wise choice for you.

David Javate is a SUN Advisor for SolarUniverse South San Francisco, and currently services  homeowners in the San Fransisco Bay Area.  You can reach him at  djavate@solaruniverse.com Website: www.solaruniverse.com

Readers please note: This article is solely for educational purposes, I  have no financial connection to the company mentioned.


Astronomy Picture of the Day – Teimareh Petroglyphs and Star Trails

Astronomy Picture of the Day

Discover the cosmos!Each day a different image or photograph of our fascinating universe is  featured, along with a brief explanation written by a professional astronomer.

2012 July 12

Teimareh Petroglyphs and Star Trails  

Image Credit & Copyright: Babak Tafreshi (TWAN)

Explanation: Engraved in rock, these ancient petroglyphs are abundant in the Teimareh valley, located in the Zagros Mountains of central Iran. They likely tell a tale of hunters and animals found in the middle eastern valley 6,000 years ago or more, etched by artists in a prehistoric age. In the night sky above are star trails etched by the rotation of planet Earth during the long composite exposure made with a modern digital camera. On the left, the center of the star trail arcs is the North Celestial Pole (NCP), the extension of Earth’s axis into space, with Polaris, the North Star, leaving the bright, short, stubby trail closest to the NCP. But when these petroglyphs were carved, Polaris would have made a long arc through the night. Since the Earth’s rotation axis precesses like a wobbling top, 6,000 years ago the NCP was near the border of the constellations Draco and Ursa Major, some 30 degrees from its current location in planet Earth’s sky.

Lighten Up – Star Trek Guide to Neo-Paganism

Star Trek Guide to Neo-Paganism

Gene Roddenberry went to his grave, telling stories that, although they supposedly happened light years away, were relevant to our every day lives. From the beginning, he claimed that the characters and races on Star Trek were parallels for people here on Earth. Little did anyone know that the characters were actually taking on traits of Neo-Pagan sects across the country! Was Gene Pagan? Who knows, but sit back and enjoy this little trip, where no Pagan has gone before…

Wiccans – The United Federation of Planets

The Federation means well. They let just about everybody into their little social club, so long as they agree to play nice. They don’t talk about rules much, but keep referring to one Prime Directive that all other laws are based on. That said, they frequently violate that rule when the need suits them. Often heard speaking in various UK accents, even though they’re not from the islands (Et tu, Jean-Luc?)

Asatruar – Klingons

Obsessed with honor and combat. Have no qualms with eating meat and eat it with obvious relish. Insist they did everything first (“But Hamlet is so much better in the original Klingon.”) And who wants Klingon opera, when you can have Wagner’s Die Neibelung?

Ceremonialists – Vulcans

Have you ever heard someone say, “Excuse, I was reading this and wanted to tell you: “anal retentive” has a hyphen in it.”? Everything is very orderly in their universe. No room for untidy things like emotions and the like.

Druids – Bajorans (with special guests: the Tuatha de Dannan as The Prophets)

You cannot separate the Bajorans from their faith. Religion permeates the very air they breathe. Although this should be a unifying force on their devastated environment, they are constantly fighting with one another. Like many other races, they are subject to charismatic leaders.

New Agers – Betazoids

Profoundly psychic when you don’t want them to be; dense as a rock (crystal) when you actually need some help. Spend an awful lot of time talking about “vibes” and are perpetually concerned with how others feel. If they weren’t so damn cute, you’d just want to smack them. You only see the women of this race.

Numerologists/Kabbalahists – Binars

Numbers are everything, don’t you know. Can loudly pronounce a given number (93!) and have people laugh at it like it was a punch line.  Draws all sorts of really interesting links between things based on the numerological significance. Socially uncouth. The only difference between the Binars and numerologists is that Binars have mates that understand them.

Setians/Satanists – The Skin of Evil (the oil slick that killed Tasha Yar)

A long time ago, a race decided to sluff off all their evil, mean and nasty emotions. They physically excreted these emotions into a big pile of black ooze. The race bailed off the planet, leaving the ooze which, over time, became sentient… sort of, and delights in causing fear and pain in others.

Dianics – The Women of Angel 1

Imagine a planet where women are in charge! It is a wonderful, peaceful place. Everyone gets along all the time and no one ever goes hungry. Yeah, right. Behind the facade of perfect love and perfect trust and gyno-unity, there is an iron fist in that velvet glove.  And, surprise, surprise, the gynarchy is subject to the same power struggles and in-fighting that the rest of us are.

KayOs MagicKians – The Children of Tama (Damok & Jilad on the ocean)

I know I’m speaking English, and I know that they are speaking English. However, sometimes, you just can’t seem to understand what these souls are trying to tell you. Although they have something valid and wonderful to share with the Federation, what they have to say is mired in a language that excludes more than it includes. Fnord.

Llewellyn Publications – the Borg

Resistance is futile, you will be assimilated. Your history and beliefs will become part of the Borg Collective, where they will be watered down and spread out evenly between everyone in our race. Lower your shields and hand over your money; resistance is futile.