Author Archives: Joseph Cooney

The Data Industry

I’ve been thinking about you… and all that data you generate.

I’m not the only one. Did you ever give proper thought to the data industry?

Down the Drain

This week, data collection news took a rather putrid turn in a story out of England where polio was detected on routine screening of the sewage. Polio has been eradicated in England since 2003, and no cases have turned up thus far. The risk is considered low but investigators are considering what to do with the foul news.

We have all heard that sewage analysis for COVID was occurring and helpful, but I never considered what else was being done. You have to consider perspective of the investigator. Can we test sewage as it leaves each neighborhood or maybe each house to find out where the polio is? And while we are at it what else can we tell about the health of the household? It could quickly become medical testing without consent.

You might not be surprised then to hear about Putin’s policy of collecting his own excrement when abroad and taking it back to the motherland for proper disposal to avoid spilling personal (or state) secrets abroad. Is this where we are?

Eyes on you

You might think that nobody cares about yourexcrement. I’m here to tell you that data is power. You surely already know that data mining projects are lurking everywhere. 

Your personal assistant apps are listening to you. Search engines and websites can track you after you leave their site. They can see what else you have installed on your computer, the size of your screen, your precise location.

We apparently agreed to it all in terms and conditions. You missed that? Facebook is particularly infamous. They watch your every move even when you’re not on it. They own WhatsApp and Instagram and incorporate that data to generate personalize ads and whatever else. They also have many other partners that send them data. It’s as easy to turn off the surveillance as it is to turn back the tide. Articles say the only way to really stop Facebook is to delete all three apps.

Consider this:

A recent investigation showed 33 of Newsweek’s top 100 hospitals used a tool called Meta Pixel, which sent data to Facebook every time a patient scheduled a doctor appointment. “Meta Pixel is a piece of code that tracks users as they navigate through a website. It’s one of the most ubiquitous tracking tools on the internet, present on around 30% of popular websites, the investigation noted.” Experts say it is quite likely a HIPPA violation.

Data is the new Oil

From one perspective the Internet is about getting users to give their money to companies. There is a massive economic engine there. The bottom line is well-targeted ads make real money, and they’re worth all the hassle of getting user data. I read an article that calls data the new oil.

“It runs the engines of modern e-commerce, contributes to the development of new products and technologies, is controlled by a large network of possibly untrustworthy companies, and frequently gets spilled into the wild.”

Who can help us?

We do need help. The government plays a role in keeping us safe. Look here: they just pulled Juul (e-cigarettes) off the market because of potentially harmful chemicals leaching from the company’s refill pods. Yes, those same refill pods that are on the market at this moment and have been on the market for some time. But, better late than never, I guess. The point is harm is out there and we have to protect ourselves. The FDA doesn’t even pretend to protect us from all harm, after all nicotine itself is a bad medicine and banning it is not on the table at all. Prohibition isn’t the point. We need to have them watch out for us, but are our own advocates.

The Solution

Advertising is about influencing behavior. It’s a science as much as it is anything else. In the digital age we are up against a formidable foe. It’s like advertising on steroids.

Basically, if you’re not prepared to think — and you often are not when you’re watching television or scanning the internet or social media — you’ll pretty much accept any suggestion that is offered to you. Since you’re being so passive, you may not even realize it’s happening.

The solution is simple. It’s you, and your activity.

We must think, actively, and be more aware.

That’s the only defense. Realizing we are being targeted in new and sophisticated ways is the first step. That awareness is big. Then the other key is continuously making sure the motives that move us are our own.

I believe in you. I believe in your inherent goodness and your ability to succeed.

I am going to be there in spirit when you breakthrough to your biggest successes in the future. My bags are packed. I’m going to be there.

Self Nurture

What’s New?

Insurrections, lies, extremism.

War, inflation, food shortages.

Abortion battles, mass shootings… oh my!

And that’s just half of it.

So then there’s no wonder you can feel anxious at times.

It almost makes one pine for the “good old days” of the pandemic in full swing. Almost.

An honest non-avoidant human being will carry a lot of angst from the global state of affairs here on earth. That’s not even to mention the personal variety of stressors that we face — busy schedules, relationship strains, financial questions, physical and mental symptoms and even the promise of our own demise one day!

Are you seeing the pattern? We all face massive challenges. To be human is to struggle, there’s no denying it. And yet we still manage to laugh and play and find joy at times. What a relief!  (As an aside: Wednesday was National Smile Power Day, but I’m sure you knew that).

I have a couple thoughts to nurture the smile.

Smiles are infectious and our community can be such an important source of strength. But we all spend a lot of time alone and our relationship with our self is vital.

Self Nurture

We can learn so much from nature’s beauty and solid consistency. It has a rhythm which carries us far beyond the moment’s woes. Step into it daily. Take your vitamin N (Nature).

The longest days of the year are upon us this week. The Northern Hemisphere will experience the 2022 summer solstice on Tuesday at 5:14 a.m. EDT.

This is the precise moment when the North Pole tilts closest to the sun, making the sun appear at its highest point in the sky of the year.

Midsummer’s Day on June 24th is celebrated in many places in gratitude for the miracles of the bounty. Long days mean short nights and a bonfire on the eve of June 23rd is also part of the tradition. Across the year we have in our mind’s eye the winter solstice. Did you know the moon travels the path in the sky of the sun from the opposite time of year (in this case- low in the sky)? At Christmas we celebrate the inner light amidst the outer darkness. Now we have the opposite. We bask in the fullest outer light and warmth.

Now how’s that for a different type of news broadcast.

The cosmic happenings can help us feel more solidly grounded by nature which works and moves in us.

The Inner Game

Speaking of inner light and its daily cultivation, inner strength is the same as outer strength — it comes from exercising. We know we can’t control what comes towards us daily but we can control how we respond to it. Turn down the noise. Make room for quiet. We have a lot to digest. Our daily habits with our health set the tone for our inner life. Whole foods, good hydration, enough sleep, smart movement matter a lot.

With good habits we nurture an inner island of sanity that mirrors the peace of the deep forest. And you can bring that back to your daily life and put your stamp on the world from that standpoint. That’s a healthy formula as I see it.

News clippings from this week

Cases counts are stable in the nation and continue to trend down in our region. We average 30 cases per day off a recent high of 100 per day and all time high of 300 per day. Omicron variants BA.4 and BA.5 are still increasing in global percentage of test samples and are  “capable of escaping immune protection induced by infection with earlier Omicron and other prior variants, earning them the term “stealth” viruses.. The bottom line is that BA.4 and BA.5 are very highly transmissible, cause little severe disease, and are responsive to boosters (although protection wanes), monoclonal antibodies, and antivirals. A universal Omicron vaccine is in development, but the efficacy is thus far unknown.” (Medpage)

African paradox “Scientists at WHO and elsewhere have speculated that factors including Africa’s young population, the lower incidence of chronic diseases like heart disease and diabetes and warmer weather, may have helped it avoid a bigger wave of disease.”

Eat whole food, primarily vegetables and of the best quality. ‘Heavier consumption of fish, including tuna and other non-fried fish, was associated with an increased risk of melanoma, findings from a large prospective cohort study indicated. Our findings may be explained by contaminants in fish, such as polychlorinated biphenyls, dioxins, arsenic and mercury,” the group wrote in Cancer Causes & Control. “Higher fish intake is associated with higher level of body burden of each of these contaminants, which are associated with higher risk of skin cancer.”

Sign of the times: A surgery implanting a 3D- printed ear made of the patient’s own cells marks a milestone in tissue engineering and regenerative medicine. (New York Times)

Best wishes with all that’s on your horizon! 

Omicron sub-variants

Lots of interesting news this week

As far as cases go, Massachusetts and the Berkshires continue to cool off this week, with case dropping 35% or so. Country-wide cases are lingering in the same range. What will the summer bring? Massive immunity suggests we will enjoy low case rates. We are keeping an eye on the Omicron sub-variants. See below.

All Omicron

Omicron is 100% of what we have circulating globally. No alpha, no beta, no gamma, no delta. As we know, Omicron is associated with higher transmissibility and more cases but less hospitalizations and death.

New Sub-variants

New sub-variants of Omicron, BA.4 and BA.5, are increasing in prevalence. This suggests the ability to outcompete the previous strains and suggests even greater transmissibility. Heavily vaccinated Portugal is having a wave made up predominantly of the new subvariants, raising the question in the scientific community of immune evasion.

However, even with the other strains, evidence has been mounting since last year that the vaccines do not meaningfully prevent spread of infection. The data suggests that their main area of impact is now considered personal, really only decreasing the severity of infection. This trend appeared before Omicron and certainly seems to persist with it and its sub variants.

It’s hard to be precise because previous strains had different characteristics and therapeutics have come a long way. In any case, we can be grateful that lower rates of deaths and hospitalizations are graduating us from the emergency of the last years.

New kid on the block

Novavax is a new vaccine for Covid which has been in the pipeline for a long time. It received almost 2 billion dollars from Project Warp-Speed (that name triggers a wave of nausea, doesn’t it?) but had sluggishness with production. It passed an FDA hurdle this week with an advisory board recommending Emergency Use approval.

It is a more traditional type of vaccine, where a protein, in this case the spike protein, (instead of DNA or RNA coding for spike protein) is created in a lab and administered in a shot. Traditional vaccines, such as this one, don’t reliably elicit an immune response on their own, and so they are given with a toxin, called an adjuvant, to alert the immune system to mount a response. Novavax uses this approach.

Mid-week the fate of Novavax was unclear because of reports of myocarditis in a small number of study participants. The spike protein is known to cause cardiovascular inflammation, which is why myocarditis keeps coming up. However, the rates were quite low and the advisory board passed it unanimously.

The main concern that persists is that the vaccine’s studies were against 2020 and 2021 strains. As the world is seeing, Omicron is somewhat of a different scenario.

Shots for Tots?

Approval for the shot in children less than 5 years of age is on the docket currently and expected to go through. However, this group already has exceedingly low rates of case severity, and as above, we can’t say with any confidence that spread will be curtailed. Approval is different than recommendation. Resources are limited. Risk:benefit ratio is not good enough to recommend it for everyone, in my opinion.

Other pipeline news

There is talk of an Omicron specific Moderna shot in the pipeline for the end of the year. That might have been useful this spring. Most of us will have Omicron specific immunity by then.

Wuhan Lab is back

The WHO has come up with a new conclusion, bumping its previous conclusion that the Lab was an extremely unlikely source of the pandemic. Now a panel of scientists at the WHO say all possibilities for the origins of COVID need to be back on the table. Information is lacking and prevents meaningful conclusions at this point. The reports of febrile illness in workers from the lab at the end of 2019 and China’s stonewalling of the investigation as well as the proximity of the lab to the Wuhan market where the outbreak has been traced have long interested observers. Biden’s team is backing the effort to explore this politically tenuous situation.

Methodology

Why did we take the word of the original investigators even though they weren’t able to acquire any information from the Chinese government? Why was discussion of the topic made taboo?

The shift in thinking times up well with a book release from one of evidence-based medicine’s most prominent proponents, Peter Gøtzsche (co-founder of the world renowned Cochrane Collaboration). He also happens to be wary of the drug industry’s tendency to degrade evidence-based medicine. His new book explores what he perceives is a great cover up around the source of Covid 19. The original investigation was done by insiders, with inherent bias. According to Gøtzsche virologists were all too ready to accept the stonewalling by their Chinese hosts.

“If the public knew that the virus that killed their loved ones, bankrupted their businesses and deprived them of their freedom, had escaped from a virology lab, it would have an impact on the virologic profession,” speculates a review of the book which landed in my inbox this week.

The Wuhan lab as a possible origin of COVID is an example of how scientific thought and healthy dialogue to support the scientific process  (including dissent and argument) was one of the early casualties of the pandemic. The era of Big Data and Big Tech has the ability to form conversation like never before. Be wary, says Gøtzsche.

A dutch physician’s review of the book goes on to compare our current approach to another historical period:

In many ways, the debate over COVID-19 resembles the dark period at the end of the Middle Ages when the Spanish Inquisition hunted heretics.

Just as priests during the Inquisition accused individuals of dissent about religion of heresy, social media’s uncrowned kings put the label “anti-vaxxer” on anyone who dared be critical of corona policies and mass vaccinations. Just as the medieval church resisted scientific insights when they contradicted religious doctrines, so editors of scientific journals and the zeitgeist caught up with researchers while refusing to face the facts. Just as medieval universities only taught what the ecclesiastical bureaucracy had approved, most medical journals now only carry the message of the pharmaceutical industry.

It will be clear that under these conditions, which are aimed at forcing a consensus no matter what, science languishes. After all, science is not about consensus. Science is the opposite of consensus. Scientists disagree, and by the grace of that disagreement, science advances. “Without the possibility of an open debate, science simply ceases to exist,” the Belgian doctor Jan Vandenbroucke once remarked.

If you take out politics…

If you take out economics…

If you take out self interest…

Then you’ll find science,

a dispassionate observation of the phenomena.

Let’s ponder that together. 

Losing the signal

Do you often reflect on the fact that we live with wires dangling over our heads on almost every street? We can hardly view the sky except for looking past wires. It’s certainly a marker of modern civilization. 

Some research has shown evidence that long-term exposure to high-voltage wires can lead to several health problems with higher rates of certain cancers and mental health issues like depression.

But even our neighborhood wires have subtle effects that are hard to quantify, even if only on the level of distorting our view. 

We learn to live with them on some level, tuning them out, but I occasionally notice how sweet it is to see a street without wires.

I’m not so much complaining as I am pointing out these two polarities of our existence: free unobstructed landscapes where we can experience the natural light and the color freely.

and landscapes that block the sky with a web of wires.

My perspective this am is that in present times we consist of both of these landscapes. They both clearly are part of our existence, part of us. They both offer possibilities. To notice the polarities is my main point.

COVID SIGNAL

Despite our modern capacities with handling and sending information, Covid is becoming harder to track. Reports of positive tests are becoming somewhat irrelevant, or at least mean something different than other phases of the pandemic. Mid pandemic we said recorded positive tests needed to be multiplied by 10x to reflect the actual cases.

We are in a new phase. The variants are highly contagious, the illness is milder, treatment is available for the higher risk populations, restrictions seem relatively overbearing, testing is more available privately, the immunity wall is high. These all contribute to a larger degree of underreporting of cases to tracking agencies. We are losing the signal. It’s estimated that we currently have to multiply actual positive tests by 30x to get a current actual estimate.

Recorded cases locally have leveled off somewhat over the last two weeks, for what it is worth.

It’s important to note that we are not losing the signal on hospitalizations and they are remaining low, despite the high case load. These variants relative to our immune response are milder, no worse than the seasonal flu, I would say. It’s a new phase.

We are carrying over ideas from previous phases which may or may not fit as well. But I suspect we will carry over ideas from earlier phases for the rest of our lives.

These times are complex and are defining us in many ways. We have each other and that’s a lot. Here’s to today’s random acts of kindness. They help keep it all moving in a good direction.

Creating a Quiet Zone

In the wake of this week’s newest list of tragedies and the ongoing turmoil and uncertainty we see week after week, and the apocalyptic-like content that makes us wonder about sustaining, my first thought is this:

It is ok.

We are ok. We are doing ok. Even though it is very imperfect, we have a future.

We can be here.

We can be home here.

It’s nasty and raw in places, but not everywhere. It’s not broken.

It’s actually unfolding in a way that’s remarkably suited for our development.

Trust me. 

Clearly, the modern world challenges us relentlessly. The pace is astounding, and it needs our best effort. Of course, we should get very busy navigating it all.

How can we cope? Where do we focus?

Three things come to mind.

1. It’s too noisy. Turn down the volume.

We will never escape the noise, both inner and outer noise. We aren’t supposed to escape it, we need to be in it, but turn it down. Way down. Being in it doesn’t mean letting it crush us. Limit your exposures.

A recent study this spring implicates noise pollution as an important cause of heart attacks.

So, we can deduce that silence is a powerful preventative medicine. Treat it like a daily medicine.

There is enough on our plate. Let’s reject the invitation to worry about all the scenarios that could be developing. Monkeypox, resurgent viruses acting strangely, the latest covid modeling; you might as well throw Zika back in there and why not spontaneous combustion while you are at it? Turn it down.

Focus on what you can control. Let healthy habits be part of your coping plan, limit your toxic exposures.

Additionally, create more and more of a quiet zone and sit in it everyday… because your inner world is your most fruitful place of action. 

Need convincing that your inner world is crucial? On many levels the outer world simply reflects our collective inner state. Without inner peace we can never have peace in the world. Self-acceptance is a critical first step to being able to accept the world. Accepting the world is what brings inner peace. And remember peace is not the avoidance of conflict, it’s responding to conflict calmly. The noise makes us frantic. So, turning down the volume fits, doesn’t it?

2. Next: What do you put in that silence?

Speaking of intangible, potent and safe medicine such as silence, let’s keep going. A little more can be said on training your inner environment.Let me comment on a primary mental state that is needs our nurturing:

Wonder.

To wonder is a special state of being. Interest and awe and wonder open up worlds. It’s the portal state to discovering the part of the world that we don’t know. Wonder is the first step to learning; it’s the first in the terrific trio of:

Wondering, learning, and delighting in the discovery.

To wonder is expansive. Its stimulating. It’s enlightening. The inner life opens up. Creative thinking is encouraged.

Look how this following poem places wonder at the top of the list of 4 attributes that leads us on our path. And not just any wonder, but to wonder at beauty!

To Wonder at Beauty

To wonder at beauty
Stand guard over truth
Look up to the noble
Resolve on the good.

This leadeth us truly
To purpose in living
To right in our doing,
To peace in our thinking

And teaches us trust
In the workings of God,
In all that there is
In the widths of the world,
In the depths of the soul.

Rudolf Steiner

Most importantly, wonder must be cultivated — sought out, nurtured and practiced. Meet you at tonight’s sunset?

3. What to not let in!

To help make my point about the invisible indicators of health and wellness, the potent invisible medicines, I want mention the opposite of wonder.

The opposite of wonder closes us down. It is the inner state that disconnects us from the world around.  It stagnates our thinking and makes us susceptible to being controlled. It takes away creativity. The opposite of wonder is fear.

This an inner state that makes us ill.

Fear is understandable; it’s a sign of the times. We know fear. It lives in us. It comes with the terrain. We are clearly attracted in a way to that which scares us, maybe for no other reason than for the sake of preparedness. But, fear can be used to manipulate. We must reject it. We are learners. Our first step is our hard work to confront fear.

Take Monkeypox, for example. When an elected officials tell us we should be concerned about (aka in fear of) monkeypox, as happened this week, I say I disagree. Only a world that’s habituated to fear would condone that. The facts set the record straight:

  • it’s only spread through intimate contact
  • it’s contagious profile is quite low; there’s no pre-symptomatic spread, the infected have indications that they are contagious
  • its potential to cause severe illness is low

For these reasons it very has low potential to be a significant problem. It’s objectively not worth fearing. Educate and prepare but don’t fear.

Beyond viruses

Being positive is not being dishonest. It’s true the darkness is readily apparent and as plain as day. But there’s always light. Always. And it doesn’t take much light to make a big difference.

With gratitude, and appreciation of your daily striving. 

Covering the COVID beat

After a while on the COVID beat one night runs into the next. They all start to look the same. You don’t know whether you are coming or going.

You start to get a little paranoid.

Deadlines used to mean something to me. Not any more. Now I can barely hear myself think. Worn down by the life of a grunt beat-writer, chasing a morsel of news that might make a bit of difference to one poor soul out there, if I’m lucky.

I can’t make out the letters on the keyboard. The thoughts in my head are drowned out by the ringing in my ears… from the cigar smoke, and too much brandy. 

Who thought I’d be stuck here in this one horse town, tracking an invisible bug to the far reaches of the earth, into fascist regimes, into powerful laboratories, palaces, and parliaments? All for what? A lousy paycheck and my name on the top of a column that no one reads? 

What can you say? It’s the life of a journalist! I can’t say my parents didn’t warn me.

The difference between literature and journalism is that journalism is unreadable and literature is not read.

(Was that them or Oscar Wilde?)

That’s not even to mention, concerning COVID, the outlook for the future is a bunch of crap!

No, literally —  raw sewage surveillance is considered the most exciting prospect for tracking viral activity in the future, as we stop pretending that we can or should forever more run tests on every sniffle and sneeze.

Are we thinking it through?

In all seriousness, I don’t think of myself as a 50s era beat writer nor am I a smoker or a drinker. Most importantly, I think journalists are an important part of an operable democracy because they represent a link to our ability to think.

Our liberty depends on the freedom of the press, and that cannot be limited without being lost.

Thomas Jefferson

Is it working?

As the news streams instantaneously on hundreds of channels, even a personalized channel, and the news cycle doesn’t pause for a minute, however, are we better thinkers? It should be clear that the more channels we get and the faster the news spreads, the less we are able to think.

Upon a closer look, our thinking problem stems just as much as anything else from the electric field exposure of modern life.

This view explains why just the presence of a smart phone makes us dumber. We all know the phenomenon of turning to the screen to document an important idea and being unable to articulate it once we get there.

As an aside, we can measure how breathing polluted air makes us dumber. And be careful because even complaining makes us dumber.

Modern life is an assault on our thinking

Until you realize how easy it is for your mind to be manipulated, you remain the puppet of someone else’s game.

Evita Ochel

An electrified puppet?

Sounds pretty disturbing. It’s clear we need to take control of the world encroaching on our thinking.

Here’s my short list:

  1. Know that screen meetings are not a healthy substitute for social interpersonal interaction. They are a massive compromise. Prioritize personal meetings in your life. Metaverse? I’m beyond skeptical, to say the least.
  2. Battle to limit your screen time. Battle it. Delete your social media. I dare you. They don’t just happen to be addictive, they are MADE to be addictive. They make you dumb. Get an app to limit and monitor screen time. Battle with it. 
  3. Get as much time as possible in the natural light during the day. Consider nature to be as important of a vitamin as any you have. Dose it frequently. Put your bare feet in the grass. Limit the use of electric light once the sun goes down. Get blue blocking glasses.
  4. Plan your meditation routine and your physical exercise like your thinking life and your physical well being depended on it… because clearly they do.

Don’t shy from the work of your life. The comfort seeker in you is not your friend. So be comfortable with being uncomfortable. It’ll take you places.

Enabling a healthy mind

Hey, doc! Nice to hear from you. Did I miss your last bulletin or two?

No. I just haven’t written one in a while.

Why not? Everything ok?

Everything is fine. I was just away.

Where did you go? San Quentin?

No, wise guy, I was in Germany, at a conference. It was on the healing effect of sound! Pretty amazing.

But, it’s good to be home. I’m surprised to see that we have a mini explosion of cases here in the county. Berkshire county is one of America’s hotspots! There aren’t many counties with cases over 1 per 1000 people daily. We are one. For us that means 130 cases per day. Our max was 300 per day at the peak of Omicron original. 

I bet you wish you were still away, huh?  Did you get a little perspective while you were gone?

Oh, definitely. I was able to look back at these last two plus years and see how hard this time has been. Every single one of us has struggled tremendously. That’s clear to me. Even if we can take it in stride it’s still something unlike anything we have known in our entire lives. It was helpful to pause and digest the angst we have all been carrying!

I appreciate you so much, doc. You’re a scholar and a gentleman. We should hang out sometime.

Please, briefly tell us one thing you learned at your conference.

Ok, sure. In Germany on this trip I learned about health and how health for the sake of something like longevity alone is not the fullest picture. Health needs to be kept in context. The point of a healthy body is to enable a healthy mind.  You can’t have a healthy mind without a healthy body. The point of a healthy mind, which can connect to more complex thought worlds, is to free up the body for action which honors the greatness of our essence. The conscious free act is our goal.

So now you know the context of certain things, like recommendations for:

  • good water and salt
  • minimal simple carbs and sugars 
  • smart movement patterns 
  • healthy light exposure
  • flexible and strong connective tissue 
  • a healthy routine 
  • reducing screen time

A full picture is so helpful and puts taking care of yourself in an important context. Maybe it even makes it easier to get going with some of your health goals. Health with being in service of the good is a complete picture.

So, here’s to your healthy bodyyour sound mind and the free act! And to the essence of your humanity. 

Food Shortages

As April enters its final days, we wish a warm welcome to the Taurus! and the energy of endurance and stability. It’s the energy of the physical body! 

Food Shortages

In case you haven’t heard, the Ukraine-Russian War is causing “the biggest supply shock to global grain markets in a lifetime.”

Russia and Ukraine are both major suppliers of food to the world, and exports have now halted due to the war. Combined they account for nearly 30% of global wheat exports, nearly 20% of the world’s corn and more than 80% of the sunflower oil.

Russia also exports 48% of the global ammonium nitrate, and combined with Ukraine, they export 28% of nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium fertilizers.

Experts are now predicting fertilizer prices may double as a result of Russia’s ban on fertilizer exports.

What happens when there is a shortage of food?

Prices go up. Globally, food has never been so expensive.

What happens when food prices go up?

Ultimately history says this leads to unrest, riots.

What makes us more vulnerable?

Globalization of the food chain, industrial farming.

What else do we tolerate from industrial farming?

High greenhouse gases, poor nutritive content of food, destroyed ecosystems and soils.

What makes us more resilient?

Communities with local food production will be best positioned over the next decade and beyond. The war is an accelerator of a phenomenon already in the making. Local, organic and biodynamic sources of food are key to having access to good food.

Simple.

Don’t be a stick in the mud. There are things we have to change. We have to navigate new challenges and learn new skills. The solution will never be lab-made food. See through that with me. See how industry wants to offer solutions that don’t actually solve anything.

Case in Point

Scientists Rewind The Clock of Human Skin Cells to Make Them Act 30 Years Younger. (in test tubes) Great, right? I’m not so sure. De-aging isn’t new, but like a lot of things it is gaining traction as it comes around again. The fine print begs us to beware because cancers can result from this technique, at least at this point in the research. Our highest end, in my opinion, is not to be found in tending to our body and its longevity out of context of the soul and spirit.

The beauty of developments like this is that to find peace we are forced to clearly articulate who we are, at our finest essence, in fullest context. That and only that can guide us.

The bull with the lion and the eagle, symbolizing the physical body with soul and spirit.

COVID numbers round up

News from the week:The national case count continues its slight uptick, led by the mild increases in the Northeast. This week the US case count has gone from 38,000 cases per day to just under 44,000 per day. Hospitalizations and deaths are very low right now. This is the trend with Omicron. Many more cases, much less critically ill patients. Remember how people were calling Omicron nature’s vaccine? This trend persists.

  • From The MA Department of Public Health website: “On April 20, 2022 there were 384 patients hospitalized in MA for COVID-19. Of those patients, 239 (62%) were reported to be fully vaccinated for COIVD-19 when they contracted COVID-19. And, of those 384 hospitalized patients, 111 (29%) were primarily hospitalized for COVID-19 related illness.” Only 111 of the 384 COVID hospitalizations were actually hospitalized for COVID. Statistics are like excuses, everyone’s got one and they don’t tell the whole story.
  • In Mass the 7 day average for the entire state rose again slightly to around 1800 cases per day on average, up from 1400 cases per day range last week (max peak was 20,000 cases per day.)
  • Berkshires cases are at 52 cases per 100,000 population per day (seven day average) over the last week up from 39 cases per day last week (max was 300 cases per day). Columbia county continues a slight increase- now 24 cases daily per 100,000 population (seven day average), up from 17.

COVID is out there. Be smart socially. Omicron is different from earlier variants. We are generally still well positioned. I’m still expecting and hoping for just a ripple, not a massive wave. Be careful but don’t fear.

When all else fails think about the coming season of sunshine.

World Peace

Welcome more and more to the budding spring!

World Peace

Thanks to Easter, Passover and Ramadan much of the world will be in a more pensive and devotional period for the next days. It helps to reassure us that we are a world community, clearly deeply fallible but trying to honor our spiritual being-ness. Even if none of these celebrations has strong meaning for you we can all join the worldwide efforts to seek our highest standpoint, to find peace. 

Microplastics

We have decisions to make everyday, and if we break it down, our actions are generally contributing to the joint cause or not. Take microplastics, for example. I read an environmental article this week detailing the exponential increase in plastic production in recent times. It describes the huge amounts of plastic waste dumped into the environment, and, predictably, the increasing microplastic environmental contamination of the entire planet, from the summit of Mount Everest to the deepest oceans.

Isn’t it amazing that the renewing life cycles remain undeterred! 

Well, you should probably know that microplastics were detected in human blood for the first time in March. And now, microplastic pollution has been discovered lodged deep in the lungs of living people for the first time. The particles were found in almost all the samples analyzed. Ok, now we’re getting personal! That’s more than just close to home.

We have some cleaning up to do. 

And we can reduce some of our thoughtless habits, right? Shouldn’t we be awake to the ways we all hurt or could help each other? Doesn’t it seem like far often use a much too microscopic lens to our lives?

Can you believe Sarah brought another carrot cake for Tim’s birthday this year? She obviously is the only one who likes carrot cake!” 

That’s not so important.

Turning the Tide

A couple years ago a Irish teen won an international award for clearing microplastics from water. Read about it here.

His words:

I think everybody, all humans, are responsible for this mess of microplastics. I don’t think we can blame one person for it. I’m sure that just in my life, I’ve given out lots of microplastics too, everything from driving my car… and even washing my clothes. I think everybody is responsible. And I think that if I’ve found a method like this, why not use it? And why not put it to a greater good?

Life saving, award winning ideas come around only every-so-often. But each day, with a lens a little more open, we can see ways we can do our small part.

Tips from the Green Education Foundation

  1. Stop using plastic straws, even in restaurants. If a straw is a must, purchase a reusable stainless steel or glass straw
  2. Use a reusable produce bag. A single plastic bag can take 1,000 years to degrade. Purchase or make your own reusable produce bag and be sure to wash them often! 
  3. Give up gum. Gum is made of a synthetic rubber, aka plastic. 
  4. Buy boxes instead of bottles. Often, products like laundry detergent come in cardboard which is more easily recycled than plastic.
  5. Purchase food, like cereal, pasta, and rice from bulk bins and fill a reusable bag or container. You save money and unnecessary packaging. 
  6. Reuse containers for storing leftovers or shopping in bulk.
  7. Use a reusable bottle or mug for your beverages, even when ordering from a to-go shop
  8. Bring your own container for take-out or your restaurant doggy-bag since many restaurants use styrofoam. 
  9. Use matches instead of disposable plastic lighters or invest in a refillable metal lighter. 
  10. Avoid buying frozen foods because their packaging is mostly plastic. Even those that appear to be cardboard are coated in a thin layer of plastic. Plus you’ll be eating fewer processed foods! 
  11. Don’t use plasticware at home and be sure to request restaurants do not pack them in your take-out box.
  12. Ask your local grocer to take your plastic containers (for berries, tomatoes, etc.) back. If you shop at a farmers market they can refill it for you.
  13. The EPA estimates that 7.6 billion pounds of disposable diapers are discarded in the US each year. Use cloth diapers to reduce your baby’s carbon footprint and save money. 
  14. Make fresh squeezed juice or eat fruit instead of buying juice in plastic bottles. It’s healthier and better for the environment.
  15. Make your own cleaning products that will be less toxic and eliminate the need for multiple plastic bottles of cleaner.
  16. Pack your lunch in reusable containers and bags. Also, opt for fresh fruits and veggies and bulk items instead of products that come in single serving cups.
  17. Use a razor with replaceable blades instead of a disposable razor

COVID numbers round up

News from the week:

  • Guidelines shift away from Monoclonal Antibodies

    In the U.S., Omicron BA.2 (the dominant omicron sub-variant) now accounts for an estimated 85.9% of cases, according to the CDC.

    Although monoclonal antibodies have been an important helper against past variants for the at risk population we have found they are not active against the current variant. Previously we have had to replace a version of the monoclonal antibody as COVID has evolved. We are at that point again. The current version has substantially decreased in vitro activity against the Omicron BA.2 subvariant that has recently become the dominant subvariant in the United States. The current guidelines are to not use it. Thankfully, Omicron in all variations is not as virulent as those original strains. We are using supplements for all new cases, and for those at high risk we are offering Paxlovid which is in good supply now.
  • The national case count continues its slight uptick, lead by the mild increases in the Northeast. The US case count has gone from 30,000 cases per day to just under 38,000. Hospitalizations and deaths are very low right now.
  • In Mass the 7 day average for the entire state rose again slightly to around 1400 cases per day on average, up from 1300 cases per day range last week. (max peak was 20,000) -Berkshires cases are at 39 cases per 100,000 population per day (seven day average) over the last week up from 30 cases per day last week. Max was 300 cases per day. Columbia county continues a slight increase — now 17 cases per 100,000 population seven day average, up from 14.
  • The UK, Germany and much of the world is in a down trend.

Our local and national increases remain modest. Nothing really has changed that much. I think they will be just a ripple, not a massive wave. Stay well ventilated! In the meantime, life goes on.

Enjoy the day and the sunshine.

Foolish

Welcome to the the most Foolish edition of Berkshire Whole Health’s Member Bulletin

We sure do experience our fair share of foolishness on this earth.

On this April Fool’s day, I want to begin by saying that I honor the purity and innocence in the mind of the beginner, the unlearned, the fool. Today, dear reader, I honor not just any part of us, but the pure fool in us.

In addition, today I am in acknowledgement of another type of foolishness, one we must continuously endure because it’s of epic proportions right now. It’s the type of foolishness that would make one say that the world has gone mad.

But we can’t say that, because it hasn’t. No. It hasn’t gone mad because it just is mad. It’s been mad for some time. Long before you or I were born. The most intense April Fool’s reality is that we.. live.. full… time… on this crazy earth. That’s no joke. It’s quite startling if you really let it sink in. It’s actually like a slap across the face, and slaps in the face are actually a thing right now.

I mean, really! What is our story? We have so many lessons to learn but no idea what the facts are.

  • We don’t know in what ways our approach to the pandemic was a success or a failure. For example, I question if we giving enough attention to the studies revealing the catastrophic harm to a generation of children from lockdowns — significant motor and cognitive declines and a mental health crisis? I’m not confident we honed a game plan for future challenges.
  • And what about the origins of things? I read the recent Nature paper making a case for a non-lab origin, presenting the next round of evidence. It wasn’t a smoking gun by a long shot, IMO. What are we learning about our scientific procedures and modus operandi? Why do we choose to study some things and not others? I remember the moment I read the scientific argument that the pandemic originated from a lab. My head has wanted to spin off a few different times over that topic.
  • Fast forward to when we fired the people with natural immunity who refused to get the vaccine. Studies show we fired those least likely to spread the infection.
  • Then there’s this: judges appear convinced we had a coup attempt… in America… and we weren’t even sure that it was going on.
  • And finally, we are lucky if debates even exist. Because there are anarchists amongst us debates are not easy. Censorship is putting free speech on the chopping blocks. Why did we want free speech again? Oh yeah, so we didn’t turn into a fascist country. There really isn’t a Bill of Rights for the metaverse yet. In any case, what was worse? Trump kicking reporters out claiming they were fake news? or Big tech censoring scientists for posting a paper that doesn’t align with government policy?

I don’t blame us. I know that it’s impossible to make a good decision in a pandemic. I realize you try to pick the “less bad” choice.

But, I’m also now convinced there’s no such thing as April fools day, where we switch things around, where up is down, where truth is deception, where good is bad. We live in it every day. 

And I want to be clear that I don’t find despondency in the fact that we live constantly in this territory. I take it as a challenge. I take it as a task: to shine a little light into the darkness. It’s just how I’ve trained myself how to think. A clear head is essential. That’s my advice: train yourself for mental clarity. I don’t see how drugs or alcohol can fit for this. It will become clearer as you start meditating for a few minutes every day. Start today.

Booster Two-ster?

First, we should realize we are boosting with the vaccine built against the ancestral strain. Where is the variant specific booster that was supposed to be ready in March? Isn’t that the promise of mRNA technology? — you can swap out the genetic sequence to modify as you go. Why are we offering the antiquated version of the vaccine? That’s the first question.

In the current analysis, with the data we have, the gain from the second booster isn’t robust and makes sense only in the higher risk categories. Age is the line most countries are drawing, whether it be above 60 or 70 or 80 years old. We are offering it to the largest population, 50 and older.

Data is limited, but the decision to move forward with the second booster is based on the following. The data shows COVID survival with 1 booster: 99.90% of cases survived with 3 shots. With the second booster mortality dropped from 0.10 to 0.03.  So that’s 99.97% survival. That’s preprint data from Israel, not a randomized control trial.

So it’s worth noting that even for people over 60, the added protection of an additional booster shot, is small in absolute terms. People who got the first booster already have a very low risk of dying from COVID.

Should we wait for a updated version, maybe in the fall, because the rates are low now? I think it’s a valid question. It depends on your risk and your exposures. It makes sense to me to keep watching the local numbers and use them in your matrix.

Are there downsides to priming again against the same antigen? Is there some sort of immune fatigue from this technique? I don’t know if we can tell for sure. Again it depends on your risk. People with elevated age and co-morbidity are the ones to give it strongest consideration, but it’s reassuring that the first booster delivers a lot of protection.

COVID headlines and round up

News from the week:In Mass the 7 day average for the entire state rose slightly to 800 cases per day on average, up from 500-600 cases per day range last week. 

  • Berkshires cases are still low but just about doubled last week to 19 cases per 100,000 population per day (seven day average) over the last week up from 10 cases per day last week. Columbia county remains low, below 8 cases per 100,000 population seven day average.
  • US as a whole is dropped further to 27,000 cases per day on average, down from 30,000.

That’s all I have for you! Thanks for tuning in! I pity the fool who doesn’t remember Mr T’s famous line about pitying the fool. So as a April Fool’s reminder of how odd it can get down here, I’ll send you off with this beauty: