Slavery in the US now?

Abby Mann has done it again. She’s reported on a human rights abuse that is silently encroaching on the freedoms we seem to take for granted in this country. The culprits are the very people that we would expect to recognize the evil they are doing. Apparently, they are members of the UN delegations from their own countries, bringing women to New York to act as domestics for their mansions and luxury suites. The women are told that they will not be domestics, and that they will be free to move around normally in the US. Then when they get here, they are locked in the homes, have their passports removed, and are forbidden to use the phones. If you have the stomach for it, you can watch the video here. Be prepared to be depressed at this further sign of abuse and dysfunction in the oligarchy that rules this world.

An open letter to Glastonbury, from a victim.

There are good people in the world and this is proof of it.

lifeonlauralane

Dear The Eavis family, and all who make Glastonbury happen,

So I write a lot of letters, but I promise this one will be worth reading – stick with it. This isn’t complaining about the crowds or the headliners, or telling the world how life changing the week was for me to provoke envy inducing angry faces all over Facebook. This is a story about a girl who contacted a giant festival who cater for hundreds of thousands with a request for help and was met with compassion, love and overwhelming acts of kindness.

I was lucky enough to get tickets to Glastonbury for the first year ever, with a group of friends who were equally as excited as I was – WhatsApp groups sharing outfits and line up rumours sprung up within minutes of receiving the golden tickets, and June 2017 could not come soon enough.

Unfortunately for me…

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Diabetes and a cure?

I have been a fan of Dr. Neal Barnard for many years. He’s the founder of the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, which advocates for better practices in medical schools, better work by the federal government on nutritional issues, and the helpfulness of a whole food plant based diet (WFPB) for health and the environment. One of his books details the benefits of a low fat WFPB diet in the treatment of diabetes.

I was diagnosed with diabetes after several years on a vegetarian, and then vegan, diet. I was not by any stretch of the imagination on a WFPB diet. I was the kind of vegan who ate canned and frozen food after returning from a stressful day at work, and would be no more likely to buy fresh veggies or fruit than the next person. When I returned to Vermont from a stint in the nation’s capital, I reverted to vegetarian with all that lovely Vermont cheese to bolster me. My diabetes worsened and I was placed on insulin at 30 cc a day of a long-acting version. My diabetes worsened more and then improved, then worsened again.

In February, I converted to a WFPB low fat diet as much for the environment as for my health. Animal agriculture (including dairy and eggs) contributes more to climate change than the entire transportation sector. Many conservative estimates suggest that it is responsible for 14-18% of the problem. A more inclusive calculation that adds in the loss of Amazon rainforest to animal feed and ranching, places the number at closer to 51%. I was no longer going to be a part of that in any way.

I read as much as I could about the effects of my new diet on my diabetes, and was somewhat concerned after three months that my weight loss (30 pounds to date) had not led to a lower need for insulin. I got a rude surprise. One afternoon last week, I suffered a bout of hypoglycemia for the first time in years. I treated it as I had been taught and sent a message to my doctor. This was on a Thursday, and I had not heard from her before the weekend. She had advised me that I might need to reduce my insulin if I continued to lose weight and exercise. I followed her instructions. I had another hypoglycemic attack Monday morning, and called the office for immediate assistance.

The assistant I talked with was the medication manager. We discussed how to treat my current low blood sugar, and she instructed me to lower my insulin further. I was to call again on Wednesday, and I did before I took my insulin. She told me to drop to 5 cc, one sixth of what I had taken the prior Thursday. When I woke up Thursday morning, my fasting blood sugar was still very low in spite of the lower insulin the day before. I resolved to stop taking the insulin.

This morning that step was confirmed by the medication manager, and she advised me to call in a few weeks so we could discuss lowering my other medications with a goal of removing all meds.

Am I cured? Not yet! But I will be within a few months. And I am not alone. If I could shout it from the rooftops, I would. This disease is a scourge on the American economy for everybody except Big Pharma and the doctors who care for us. It costs an average of $13,000 more a year to treat a diabetic than someone without the disease. Current estimates say that fully one third of the population will have the disease in the next 20-30 years.

And why? For the same reason that heart disease is the biggest killer in this country. They are lifestyle diseases. We are fed them by the Standard American Diet (SAD). You can graph the correlation between eating animal products and these diseases and see an upward trend.

In Norway, heart disease was increasing at the same rate as here from the beginning of the twentieth century until the Nazis invaded in 1940. Then all of the agricultural animals were seized by the Germans to feed their army, and the people of Norway were perforce eating a plant based diet. The drop off  in coronary artery disease was greater than any produced by any drug Big Pharma has foisted on us. After the war, Norway’s rate of heart disease returned on the upward track we see in all western societies.

The science is clear and undeniable. But the animal agriculture industry is as strong or stronger than the tobacco industry when it was faced with similar damning evidence. Our USDA is crippled by its dual mission to support American farming interests while producing nutritional guidelines for the people. The business people are more important to USDA’s ongoing work than the people. While the evidence shows that meat and dairy are the primary causes of most lifestyle diseases in this country, are promoters of cancer and possibly Altzheimers, the USDA fails to give us that message. While we are actively encouraged to eat fruit and vegetables, we are advised to eat “protein.” A little bubble adds “Dairy” to the mix. We are told to avoid saturated fats and trans fats, but not told that virtually the only sources of saturated fats are in the animal market. (The one notable exception is coconut oil, solid at room temperature, a sure sign of saturation.)

What is to be done? Pangloss would tell us that in the best of all possible worlds, we would continue to eat as we have been eating for a century or more, and the health defects would be cured another way. I ask you how many diseases the medical profession has managed to cure. We have defeated some diseases with vaccines, some with antibiotics (although that is another troublesome issue given the excessive use of antibiotics by the animal industry), and there have been some successes in treating various cancers. The only successes in curing heart disease and diabetes have come from complete dietary changes. Cardiologists regularly tell their patients to eat a healthier diet, without telling them what that is. Instead, statin drugs are used to lower cholesterol, when the cholesterol problem could be cured by not eating animal products.

The animal agriculture industry funds studies, some of which do not confirm what I am saying here. For example, one study compared a meat-based diet to a so-called low fat diet, and the meat diet was no worse than the low fat diet. Except for one thing. The “low fat” diet used by the researchers was one under the federal guidelines that suggest that we should eat no more that 30% of our calories from fat. If that’s a low fat diet, I have a bridge I could sell you.

I am on the way to curing my diabetes by not adding fat to the food I cook. I saute in vegetable broth and get more flavorful food. I use bananas in baking to substitute for fats. I make crackers with nothing more than chia seeds to bind the ingredients together. My diet is probably less than 10% fat. Now that’s a low fat diet. Because even veggies and legumes have fat in them, it isn’t possible to go fat-free. But I’m low enough fat to cure diabetes and that’s a start.

 

Lamp Shop and more

I attended a workshop led by the inimitable Partridge Boswell, a poet of some growing renown, about revision and beyond, as he called it. It was a ploy to get us in with near finished poetry and to set us up for a public reading at the Lamp Shop, a cozy little bar and local hot spot. The Lamp Shop has been the home for some time of a Spoken Word night on Mondays, conflicting with my group’s regular poetry workshops. Partridge’s deal was to drag us all over there after the third of three revision workshops and get us up on stage.

I would have enjoyed it more if I had not been suffering all day from an attack of hypoglycemia, caused by my reduced need for insulin for my diabetes since I went on a low fat whole food plant based diet in February. My mind was not very functional and I was shaky on my feet, but I pulled myself together enough to read two poems, one very new.

This was the first time I presented poetry to those outside my tiny writers’ community and it was a total shock at how well my work was received. Not only clapping, but a few hoots and cheers resounded at the end. It awoke me out of my stupor enough to smile at least at the welcome response. A man who had read earlier approached me and told me my poems reminded him of Robert Frost. I was floored.

Needless to say, I submitted those poems to a number of journals today, and I can’t wait for the first rejections!

I would be remiss if I did not laud my fellow poets (I almost feel safe in calling myself a poet now!) for the undeniably great work they did too. Everyone performed well, indeed excelled, under the fine tutelage of Partridge. We also got to see him perform, and it awoke in us all a recognition of how far we still have to go!

 

Lead and what we can learn from it

We have known since Biblical times that lead is poisonous, especially to children whose light weight and growing minds make them particularly susceptible to lead exposure. One of my current heroes. Dr. Michael Greger, has just started a series of short videos on lead, what we knew and when we knew it, what to do about lead poisoning, and other salient and important issues to the modern world. His first video in the series, which can be found here, tells a tale all too common in our capitalist society, an industry digging in its heels against regulation to profit as long as it can, selling poisons to the uneducated masses. We’ve seen this before with the tobacco industry, and we see it now with the naysayers on climate change and the egregious behavior of Monsanto.

When science points to something bad that is happening and we can ameliorate the problem, a civilized society will address it. Note that Europe banned lead in 1909 (we did it in 1978) and has banned Roundup for years. But in corporate America, industry is king. We are bound to keep repeating the tobacco story in myriad different arenas unless we choose to learn from our past mistakes. There should be outrage, but there is barely a whimper.

The 2005 documentary Earthlings

I saw Earthlings for the first time today, although I had heard of it before. Joaquin Phoenix’s narration is masterful, but the footage is very upsetting to watch. I have been either vegetarian or vegan since 1989, so it wasn’t likely that the movie would change any of my beliefs in any serious way. The one belief it did change was that there is a movie out there that is so powerful that I believe every unconscious carnivore who watches it will have an epiphany.

We and our fellow species are all earthlings and this planet will live or die without us all. There is no way we can survive on this planet without the other species to preserve our biosphere. both planets and animals. If I can’t get you to watch Earthlings, a brilliant movie, may I suggest you at least look at the video found here. This video shows why it is necessary for us to allow predators to return to our national treasures, and why the cattlemen’s desire to kill the wolves is short-sighted and selfish. If we can’t protect the wolves by all going vegan, at least we should protect them for restoring Yellowstone for us. If you will watch only one of the two videos I’ve referenced here, watch the second one. But if you’re brave, go for both!