A permanent home for Palestinians and security for Israel are necessary prerequisites for ending conflict in the Middle East. On September 2 Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas resumed direct talks in Washington, following individual meetings with President Obama. Their stated purpose is to agree on a workable two state solution, ideally within a one year timetable.
Meanwhile, through diplomatic back channels, the US informed Israel that Iran, which does not recognize the Jewish state, is at least one year away from developing the capacity to make nuclear weapons. An air raid by Israel on Iran's nuclear energy facilities, long rumored to be imminent, may now be at least temporarily postponed.
Can President Obama with his brand of cool enable cooler heads to prevail? Many observers say that one year is not enough time to settle ancient conflicts. Indeed, Obama's efforts have been scorned by entrenched interests in Israel and the Muslim world, both of which claim Jerusalem as its capital. Conventional wisdom labels the current negotiations "more hopeless than ever," but what is the alternative? If it were not for the vision of naïve idealists, peace itself would be unthinkable. Shalom. Salaam. Pax.
Is it finally time for a broad based anti-war movement? The organizers of Conservatives for Peace write, "When [progressive] Cindy Sheehan gives an anti-war protest nobody comes. (Her own words.) What we need is a coalition of conservatives and liberals serious about the reversing the dire economic and moral consequences of US empire."
On August 27 the US House of Representatives engaged in a full-throated debate over the U.S. military efforts in Afghanistan and Pakistan. The congressional debate was prompted by an unlikely alliance of Reps. Dennis Kucinich (D., Ohio) and Ron Paul (R., Texas), two impassioned lawmakers at opposite ends of the political spectrum. The two congressmen offered a resolution ordering President Barack Obama to withdraw U.S. military personnel from Pakistan, saying their presence violates the War Powers Act since it was not approved by Congress.
The resolution failed by a wide 38-372 margin, but the debate provided a rare venue for lawmakers to voice impassioned views on the war in Afghanistan. It also highlighted divisions within the Democratic Party over the wisdom of a war prosecuted by a president of their own party.
Opines commentator Kevin B. Zeese, "There has to be a better way to stop wars and reduce military spending. Polls show U.S. voters at worst divided on current wars and more often show majority opposition to them. Yet, when Congress debates war the widespread view of Americans is muffled, not usually heard.
"For too long the peace movement has been like a bird with only a left wing. It can barely fly and when it does it seems to go in circles. Perhaps a bird with two wings will fly better?"
According to psychologist and author Bruce E. Levine, America's psychologists are being employed "to teach soldiers how to think more positively about their tours in Afghanistan, Iraq, and wherever else they are next ordered to kill the bad guys and win the hearts and minds of everyone else."
The U.S. Army is planning to require that all 1.1 million of its soldiers take intensive training in positive psychology and emotional resiliency. Army Research Psychologist Capt. Paul Lester, who leads the assessment of the program, told the National Psychologist ("Army to Train its Own in Positive Psychology," July/August 2010), "As far as I can tell this is the largest, deliberate, psychological intervention in human history. . . . We don't know when the global war on terrorism is going to end so we're preparing to have to be engaged for a long period of time."
Lester said the program would develop "communication skills, cognitive reforming skills and help soldiers not to catastrophize don't think of the worse case scenario about every potential problem." The program also teaches soldiers to focus on "expressing appreciation" and "correcting negative views of ambiguous events."
In August 2009, the New York Times reported that Gen. George W. Casey Jr., the Army's chief of staff, said the total cost of this program would be $117 million.
The New York Times was alerted to the program by psychologist Martin Seligman, director of the University of Pennsylvania Positive Psychology Center, who has been consulting with the Pentagon. Seligman initially thought that training the entire Army would be nearly an impossible chore because of the enormous number of teachers required. However, Gen. Casey informed him that the Army had 40,000 teachers. "You do?" Seligman said. "Yes," Casey retorted, they're called drill sergeants." Now 150 sergeants come to Penn each month to take a course in positive psychology.
Psychologist Levine rejects a 'one size fits all' use of positive psychology: "Tell politicians who are maintaining America's wars and planning still others: Don't kid yourself into thinking positive psychology and chill pills are the answers, especially if soldiers and veterans discover that you deceived them about the necessity and the meaningfulness of their mission.
"Psychologists should loudly warn politicians, military brass, and the nation that if soldiers and veterans discover that they have been deceived about the meaningfulness and necessity of their mission, it is only human for them to become more prone to emotional turmoil, which can lead to destructive behaviors for themselves and others."
Largest Egg Recall In US History Suggests "Looming Threat" of Industrial Farming
The largest egg recall in US history is bringing renewed attention to the dangers of factory farming and growing consolidation in the aggregate food industries. Over half a billion eggs were pulled off US shelves in August following an outbreak of salmonella in the Midwest. Nearly 1,300 cases of people sickened by the eggs have been reported.
Journalist David Kirby, author of Animal Factory, writes in Huffington Post, "Lessons from the Egg Recall: Cheap Food Makes You Sick... What good is a 13-cent egg if it's going to get you hospitalized? And why isn't the federal government doing more to encourage and even subsidize the production of humanely-raised and less pathogenic eggs?"
Speaking with Amy Goodman, Kirby elaborates, "These are the cheapest eggs on the market. The reason they are cheap is because they are mass-produced in these giant, often filthy factories, given substandard feed, in conditions that you would never raise a dog or any other animal. The drive for cheap food has a created a consolidated food production system that pushes out small and independent producers that tend to produce higher-quality food. Chickens that live in a sustainable farm produce eggs that are far less likely to be contaminated with something like salmonella than these big factories."
Various critics have pointed out that adopting European standards of labeling and inspection could greatly reduce toxic outbreaks in the US.
National commentator Jim Hightower is usually identified with progressive politics. Yet, in his own words, "If a political pollster came to my door and asked whether I consider myself a conservative or a liberal, I'd answer, 'No.' Not to be cuteI have a bit of both in mebut because, like most Americans, my beliefs can't be squeezed into either of the tidy little boxes that the establishment provides....
"As I've rambled through life, I've observed that the true political spectrum in our society does not range from right to left, but from top to bottom. This is how America's economic and political systems really shake out, with each of us located somewhere up or down that spectrum, mostly down. Right to left is political theory; top to bottom is the reality we actually experience in our lives every dayand the vast majority of Americans know that they're not even within shouting distance of the moneyed powers that rule from the top of both systems, whether those elites call themselves conservatives or liberals."
Hightower wants to "reclaim populism" from faux populists such as Sarah Palin and Glenn Beck and the largely corporate-funded tea partiers, and return it to its bottom-up, 'small-d' democratic roots:
"There is a spreading and deepening recognition within today's broad middle class that they've been abandoned to a plutocracy that feels free to knock them down and leave them there. The disdain that the power elites have for the rest of us is glaringly and gallingly apparent:
Hightower's mission is to build a social movement strong enough to hold elites accountable for their crimes. Colleague Bill Moyers concurs, "Plutocracy and democracy don't mix... The fate and character of our country are up for grabs. So along with Jim Hightower and many of you, I am biased: democracy only works when we claim it as our own."
SOURCE: Alternet, June 25, 2010.
While both Republicans and Democrats debate how best to grow out of recession, few dare to pose this simple question: How is infinite economic growth possible on a finite planet? According to the Center for the Advancement of a Steady State Economy, "Perpetual economic growth is neither possible nor desirable. Growth, especially in wealthy nations, is already causing more problems than it solves.
"Recession isn't sustainable or healthy either.... A steady state economy is a positive alternative to the unworkable pursuit of endless economic growth. Economic growth is simply an increase in the production and consumption of goods and services. It is a means to some end, not an end in and of itself. A steady state economy provides a better means for current and future generations to achieve a high quality of life without undermining the life-support systems of the planet." Executive board member David Orr says, "Growth for the sake of yet more growth is a bankrupt and eventually lethal idea." Endorsers of a "steady state economy" include economist Herman Daly and MSNBC's Chris Matthews.
"Steady state" sounds a bit abstract, doesn't it? We'd prefer "Green Full Employment."
Dr. Joseph Mercola, physician and author, recently posted a good summary of the perils of a certain artificial sweetener and recommends a safer natural alternative:
"Aspartame is the most controversial food additive in history, and its approval for use in food was the most contested in FDA history. Sold commercially under names like NutraSweet, Canderel and now AminoSweet, aspartame can be found in more than 6,000 foods, including soft drinks, chewing gum, table-top sweeteners, diet and diabetic foods, breakfast cereals, jams, sweets, vitamins, prescription and over-the-counter drugs....
"They want you to believe aspartame delivers all the benefits of sugar and none of its drawbacks. But nothing could be further from the truth. There are over 10,000 official complaints, but by the FDA's own admission, less than one percent of those who experience a reaction to a product ever report it. So in all likelihood, the toxic effects of aspartame may have affected roughly a million people already....
"While a variety of symptoms have been reported, almost two-thirds of them fall into the neurological and behavioral category consisting mostly of headaches, mood alterations, and hallucinations. The remaining third is mostly gastrointestinal symptoms....
"Truly, there is enough evidence showing the dangers of consuming artificial sweeteners to fill an entire book which is exactly why I wrote Sweet Deception. A review conducted in 2008 by scientists from the University of Pretoria and the University of Limpopo found that consuming a lot of aspartame may inhibit the ability of enzymes in your brain to function normally, and may lead to neurodegeneration.... This popular artificial sweetener has also been found to cause cancer...."
"For those times when you just want a taste of something sweet, your healthiest alternative is Stevia. It's a natural plant and, unlike aspartame and other artificial sweeteners that have been cited for dangerous toxicities, it is a safe, natural alternative...."
SOURCE: Huffington Post, July 6, 2010.
Nuts certainly are great for heart health. But which nut should you choose if you want to make the most progress against heart disease: walnuts, almonds, or pecans?
Kind of a trick question, according to a recent review of the literature by Real Age. A body of nut research suggests that just about any nut will help lower bad cholesterol and improve the balance of bad to good cholesterol as well.
How do nuts take such a big bite out of bad blood fats? It may be because of the plant sterols in nuts. They somehow stymie the absorption of cholesterol in the small intestine. Something in nuts may also open and relax arteries, so more blood flows to your heart. And it doesn't hurt that nuts are packed with dietary fiber, protein, vitamins, minerals, and a slew of antioxidants.
Lowering your bad (LDL) cholesterol can make your RealAge 3.3 years younger if you are a man and 0.6 years younger if you are a woman.
So just pick your favorite nuts! You can buy wide varieties in bulk at most health foods stores or supermarkets. We prefer organic, raw or roasted without extra oils or salt. If you must have salt, try mixing a portion of unsalted nuts with salted.
Do you wince at the high prices for organic produce? They may be worth the extra expense, according to environmental writer Bonnie Azab Powell.
A new study in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives looked at the effects of both prenatal and childhood exposure to organophosphate pesticides of which 73 million pounds are applied each year in the U.S. and found yet another link to attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. Not surprisingly, children living in agricultural areas are even more at risk.
UC Berkeley researchers have been studying more than 300 Mexican-American children living in California's Salinas Valley, a.k.a. America's "Lettuce Bowl." They tested for levels of pesticide metabolites in urine in pregnant mothers, their newborns, and at 2 years old. The findings? Each tenfold increase in pesticide levels in the mothers' urine was associated with a fivefold increase in attention problems, and boys had it worse than girls.
Farmworkers and their families living in pesticide smothered agricultural communities invariably bear the burden of exposures. Long-term health impacts include asthma, developmental disorders, cancer, Parkinson's, and autism.
Powell's advice is to get political: "If you'd like to get more involved beyond voting with your wallet, the groups Beyond Pesticides, Californians for Pesticide Reform, and Pesticide Action Network North America are all great resources. PANNA has a link and phone numbers to urge your representative to co-sponsor the Toxic Chemical Safety Act (HR 5820), recently introduced by Representatives Bobby Rush and Henry Waxman, which would overhaul America's outdated chemical policies, including adding strong language to prioritize action on persistent, bioaccumulative, toxic chemicals."
This dark leafy green is loaded with magnesium and a recent Japanese study suggests that getting enough magnesium may be crucial when it comes to curbing the risk of colon cancer.
In the study, men with the highest dietary intakes of magnesium were much less likely to develop colon cancer compared with men who ate few magnesium-rich foods. Interestingly, this particular study did not show a similar benefit for women, although many other studies have concluded that colon cancer risk may be curbed in both genders with magnesium-rich foods. Not a fan of spinach? You can up your magnesium intake with halibut, almonds, cashews, soy, or potatoes instead. (Here's a vitamin that can help keep your colon tumor-free.)
Magnesium may play a vital role in the synthesis and repair of cellular DNA which could explain the colon cancer research results, since DNA damage can lead to the development of cancer cells within the colon. More research is needed to confirm the finding, though. Still, there are lots of other health reasons to add high-in-magnesium foods to your dinner plate like keeping your immune system strong and your heart and muscles functioning properly.
Under stress, "fight or flight" may be a guy thing. New evidence shows how women, unlike men, "tend and befriend," engaging in nurturing and social networking. As reported in Scientific American, stressed women have greater activity in the areas of the brain that involve empathy.
At the Cognitive Neuroscience Society 2010 annual meeting in Montreal, psychologist Mara Mather of the University of Southern California and her colleagues asked male and female volunteers to place their hand in ice water, which increases the release of the stress hormone cortisol. Then they looked at angry or neutral faces while lying inside a brain scanner.
Men showed less activity in a key face-processing region of the brain than the unstressed men did, suggesting that their ability to evaluate facial expressions declined. In contrast, the region was more active in stressed women. Moreover, these women showed greater activity in the brain circuit that enables people to understand the motions of others. The enhanced ability of stressed women to read faces and emphasize could underlie the propensity to bond during trying circumstances. This may have evolved as a way to protect offspring.
SOURCE: Scientific American, July 2010.
People who fill their free time with many kinds of activitiessocializing, relaxing, pursuing hobbies, or exercisingare healthier than those who don't, according to a study published last year in Psychosomatic Medicine. Those who engaged in the most leisure activities had lower blood pressure, fewer sleep issues, and were leaner, too. "Different kinds of restoration are important for overall health," says study author Sarah Pressman.
SOURCE: Prevention, December 2009.
On August 23, 2010, the California Senate approved a bill to repeal a six-decade-old "gay cure" mandate from the state's code. The 1950 law instructed California's State Department of Mental Health to investigate and research "the causes and cures of homosexuality." The old law classified gay men and lesbians as "sexual deviants" and potential child molesters.
The biggest gay advocate in the state, Equality California, was responsible for lobbying for the passage of the repeal. The endeavour was sponsored by Assemblywoman Bonnie Lowenthal, a Long Beach Democrat. Ms. Lowenthal said, "It's discriminatory, it's insulting and it's got to go. Sixty years is more than long enough."
The repeal was approved by assembly members with a 62-0 vote back in April and the measure was passed this week with a unanimous 36-0 vote igniting no debate among senators.
However, "ex-gay" group Parents and Friends of Ex-Gays and Gays (PFOX), who believe sexual orientation can and should be altered, objected to repeal of the law, calling the move "offensive."
Outside the legislature, supporters of the repeal unfurled a large banner reading "Love needs no cure."
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