What’s going on in Syria?

Confused about the situation in Syria? This (from an unknown source) will clear everything up for you.

A highly restricted briefing document on Syria….

President Assad (who is bad) is a nasty guy who got so nasty his people rebelled and the Rebels (who are good) started winning (hurrah!).

But then some of the rebels turned a bit nasty and are now called Islamic State (who are definitely bad!) and some continued to support democracy (they are still good although very few in numbers).

So the Americans (who think they are good) started bombing Islamic State (who are bad) and giving arms to the Syrian Rebels (who are good) so they could fight Assad (who is still bad) which was good.

By the way, there is a breakaway state in the north run by the Kurds who want to fight IS (which is a good thing) but the Turkish authorities think they are bad, so we have to say they are bad whilst secretly thinking they’re good and giving them guns to fight IS (which is good) but that is another matter.

Getting back to Syria…

So President Putin (who, according to the Western Press is bad, cos he annexed Crimea and supported the Ukrainian separatists) has decided to back Assad (who is still bad) by attacking IS (who are also bad) which is sort of a good thing?

But Putin (supposedly bad) thinks the Syrian Rebels (who are good) are also bad, and so he bombs them too, much to the annoyance of the Americans (who still think they are good) who are busy backing and arming the rebels (who are also good).

Now Iran (who used to be bad, but now they have agreed not to build any nuclear weapons and bomb Israel are now good) are going to provide ground troops to support Assad (still bad) as are the Russians (who, despite doing a good job, are considered bad) who now have ground troops and aircraft in Syria.

So a Coalition of Assad (still bad) Putin (bad according to the Western Propaganda Press) and the Iranians (good, but in a bad sort of way) are going to attack IS (who are very bad) which is a good thing, but also the Syrian Rebels (who are good) which is bad.

Now the British (who also think they are good, except that nice Mr. Corbyn in the corduroy jacket, who is probably bad ) and the Americans (who continue to think they are good) cannot attack Assad (still bad) for fear of upsetting Putin (who they say is bad) and Iran (good / bad) and now they have to accept that Assad might not be that bad after all compared to IS (who are now super bad).

So Assad (bad) is now probably good, being better than IS (but let’s face it, drinking your own wee is better than IS so no real choice there) and since Putin and Iran are also fighting IS that may now make them good. America (who still insists they are good, but fool nobody) will find it hard to arm a group of rebels being attacked by the Russians for fear of upsetting Mr. Putin (now good) and that nice mad Ayatollah in Iran (also good) and so they may be forced to say that the Rebels are now bad, or at the very least abandon them to their fate. This will lead most of them to flee to Turkey and on to Europe or join IS (still the only constantly bad group).

To Sunni Muslims, an attack by Shia Muslims (Assad and Iran backed by Russians) will be seen as something of a Holy War, and the ranks of IS will now be seen by the Sunnis as the only Jihadis fighting in the Holy War and hence many Muslims will now see IS as good ( Doh!.)

Sunni Muslims will also see the lack of action by Britain and America in support of their Sunni rebel brothers as something of a betrayal (mmm; might have a point) and hence we will be seen as bad.

So now we have America (now finally recognized as bad) and Britain (also bad) providing limited support to Sunni Rebels (bad) many of whom are looking to IS (good / bad) for support against Assad (now good) who, along with Iran (also good) and Putin (also, now, unbelievably, good) are attempting to retake the country Assad used to run before all this started.

So, now you fully understand everything, all your questions are answered!!!


That’s oh so good. But are the good guys wearing white hats or black hats? Maybe gray hats, or beige??

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The Four Agreements

The Four Agreements, some guidelines to live by.

“In The Four Agreements, don Miguel Ruiz reveals the source of self-limiting beliefs that rob us of joy and create needless suffering. Based on ancient Toltec wisdom, The Four Agreements offer a powerful code of conduct that can rapidly transform our lives to a new experience of freedom, true happiness, and love.”

  1. Be Impeccable With Your Word
  2. Don’t Take Anything Personally
  3. Don’t Make Assumptions
  4. Always Do Your Best

Book & video: http://www.miguelruiz.com/

Commentary: http://stress.about.com/od/products/fr/fouragreementsf.htm

Children’s flash mob in Paris delights

Take a few minutes to watch it.

The most ludicrous 9/11 conspiracy theory

More about gum additives in food

I consume a lot of almond milk, rice milk, coconut milk and yogurt. These are supposed to be wholesome and nutritious foods but it is becoming increasingly difficult to find brands without gum additives of some sort or another. Recently I noticed that the Blue Diamond almond milk  that I’ve been using names “carrageenan” as an ingredient. That led me to do some additional research. What i found is not good news. Here is an excerpt of what I found on Doctor Andrew Weil’s website:

Over the years Dr. Tobacman has published 18 peer-reviewed studies that address the biological effects of carrageenan and is convinced that it is harmful to human health. In April 2012, she addressed the National Organic Standards Board on this issue and urged reconsideration of the use of carrageenan in organic foods.

In her presentation, Dr. Tobacman said that her research has shown that exposure to carrageenan causes inflammation and that when we consume processed foods containing it, we ingest enough to cause inflammation in our bodies. She explained that all forms of carrageenan are capable of causing inflammation. This is bad news. We know that chronic inflammation is a root cause of many serious diseases including heart disease, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases, and cancer.

Dr. Tobacman also told the board that in the past, drug investigators actually used carrageenan to cause inflammation in tissues in order to test the anti-inflammatory properties of new drugs. And she reported further that when laboratory mice are exposed to low concentrations of carrageenan for 18 days, they develop “profound” glucose intolerance and impaired insulin action, both of which can lead to diabetes.

She maintains that both types of carrageenan are harmful and notes that “degraded carrageenan inevitably arises from higher molecular weight (food grade) carrageenan.” Research suggests that acid digestion, heating, bacterial action and mechanical processing can all accelerate degradation of food-grade carrageenan.

All told, I recommend avoiding regular consumption of foods containing carrageenan. This is especially important advice for persons with inflammatory bowel disease.

Andrew Weil, M.D.


Got gas? Get the Gum Out!

Gumming up our food. Updated March 1, 2015

I confess, I like ice cream, and I used to indulge quite regularly, but not anymore.

My taste buds prefer to be subtly stimulated rather than blasted with combinations of flavors that leave them confused and reeling with cloying sweetness. Many speak disparagingly of “plain vanilla,” but to me vanilla is one of the most delicious (and natural) flavors ever discovered. What other flavor can better complement the taste of warm homemade apple pie, or luscious berries, or fresh tree-ripened fruits like peaches.

Another feature of ice cream that adds to its delight is its texture. What makes ice cream creamy? Well, uh, could it be cream?

If you are not in the habit of reading the ingredient lists on packaged foods you may not have noticed that within the past couple years every commercial brand of ice cream has added one kind or another of GUM—guar gum, carob bean gum, xanthan gum, tara gum, locust bean gum, cellulose gum—are a few of the various kind of gum you will find in familiar brands, even premium brands like Ben and Jerry’s and Haagen Dazs. Breyers, which I used to count on to avoid artificial ingredients and additives has also slipped.

Sacrilege! I say.

I don’t know what has given impetus to this gummy bandwagon, but I can venture an educated guess. First of all, I would expect that gum is a lot cheaper than cream and thus producers are inclined to use it to simulate the texture of the real thing. Secondly, I suspect that it may have something to do with the anti-fat madness that has for many years been hyped by the media. Women especially seem to have been susceptible to the argument that if they don’t EAT fat they won’t GET fat. Hogwash, I say to that, and to artificial sweeteners, too.

A few months ago, I experienced a sudden onset of severe gastritis that has taken many months and a great deal of effort and expense to resolve. I made some drastic changes to my diet, including avoidance of ice cream, though I still consume large amounts of yogurt and cheese, and I use moderate amounts of butter.

I’ve always been careful about what I eat, avoiding foods containing preservatives and other artificial ingredients, yet my suspicions are that the underlying cause of my problem had to do with something in my diet.

Now, a new study that has just been published has heightened my suspicions. A Los Angeles Times report dated February 25, 2015 says “Consumption of emulsifiers, additives widely used in the production of processed foods, promotes inflammatory bowel disease and a cluster of obesity-related diseases known as metabolic syndrome, and may have contributed to the sharp rise in these conditions over the last three decades, says a new study conducted on rats.”

That study, published in the journal, Nature, reports specifically on the effects of two commonly used emulsifiers, carboxymethylcellulose (also called cellulose gum) and polysorbate-80 (also known as Tween 80). The study using mice showed that these additives “induced low-grade inflammation and obesity/metabolic syndrome in wild-type hosts and promoted robust colitis in mice predisposed to this disorder. Emulsifier-induced metabolic syndrome was associated with microbiota encroachment, altered species composition and increased pro-inflammatory potential.”

The study report goes on to say that, “These results support the emerging concept that perturbed host–microbiota interactions resulting in low-grade inflammation can promote adiposity and its associated metabolic effects. Moreover, they suggest that the broad use of emulsifying agents might be contributing to an increased societal incidence of obesity/metabolic syndrome and other chronic inflammatory diseases.”

That makes me wonder about the other emulsifiers that are commonly used.

Further background on gum additives can be found at the following sites:

Cellulose gum: http://befoodsmart.com/ingredients/cellulose-gum.php

Study Finds Common Food Additive Promotes Inflammatory Bowel Disease And Obesity. http://www.iflscience.com/health-and-medicine/common-food-additive-promotes-inflammatory-bowel-disease-and-obesity-mice.

Harmful or Harmless: Xanthan Gum. http://chriskresser.com/harmful-or-harmless-xanthan-gum

The Truth About Guar Gum. http://www.livescience.com/36580-guar-gum-weight-loss-cost.html

In this day of factory farms, mass marketing, and huge supermarkets, I suppose it’s too much to expect to find products that are wholesome, pure, and unadulterated. Even brands that are labeled “organic” cannot always be counted on.

The bottom line:

  • Read the labels.
  • Inform yourself about the health effects of common additives.
  • Try as much as possible to avoid getting your food from the big corporate producers and suppliers.

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More about the gums that are added to our foods. (Addendum of March 1, 2015)

One good source of information about the various types of gum that are used as food additives is the website of Chris Kresser, M.S., L.Ac According to his website, he “is a globally recognized leader in the fields of ancestral health, Paleo nutrition, and functional and integrative medicine. He is the creator of ChrisKresser.com, one of the top 25 natural health sites in the world, and the author of the New York Times best seller, Your Personal Paleo Code (published in paperback in December 2014 as The Paleo Cure).”


Here’s a brief summary of his postings on gum additives:

Xanthan gum is a largely indigestible polysaccharide that is produced by bacteria called Xanthomonas Camestris. (1) Manufacturers place the bacteria in a growth medium that contains sugars and other nutrients, and the resulting product of bacterial fermentation is purified, dried, powdered, and sold as xanthan gum. (Makes you wonder who first thought to put it in food, doesn’t it?)

Based on the available evidence, the worst xanthan gum seems to be capable of (in adults) is causing some digestive distress in those who are susceptible by increasing stool bulk, water content, and sugar content. But as I just mentioned, those with severe allergies should also be careful.

I recommend that people with digestive problems generally avoid xanthan gum, not because there’s evidence that it could damage your gut, but because its structural properties make it likely to produce unpleasant gut symptoms

Unlike xanthan gum, which is a product of bacterial fermentation, guar gum is derived from an actual food: the guar bean, or Indian cluster bean, which grows primarily in India and Pakistan. ….Because the animal studies showed no harm even at very high doses, guar gum is now being studied in humans as a therapeutic tool for reducing blood glucose and cholesterol levels.

….even small amounts could cause unpleasant symptoms in those with sensitive digestive systems, and I’ve had patients with gut issues improve after removing guar gum from their diet. With that in mind, I think it makes sense to avoid guar gum if you have gut issues, like small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO) or IBS, unless you’ve removed it and added it back in without noticing any harmful effects.

Locust bean gum, also known as carob bean gum, is derived from the seeds of the carob tree. During a two-year animal study, rats were given locust bean gum as 5% of their diet, and no carcinogenic or other toxic effects were observed. (12)

I think the same recommendation I gave for guar gum applies here: if you have gut issues, it would probably be best to avoid locust bean gum. Otherwise, I see no indication that it will cause harm.

Based on the available research, gum arabic seems pretty benign, even for those with gut issues. I certainly wouldn’t be concerned about consuming small amounts of it, although as always, be aware of your individual tolerance.

I’m slightly more skeptical of tara gum compared with the other gums because the toxicity results are less conclusive. Also, while all of the other gums have been tested on humans, tara gum has not. That doesn’t mean it’s not safe, because the available evidence indicates it is; it just means we don’t have as much to go on, and it’s always good to be cautious of new food additives.

Gellan gum is similar to xanthan gum in that it is an exopolysaccharide produced by bacterial fermentation. … To test the safety of gellan gum, the diets of ten volunteers were supplemented with gellan gum at approximately 30 times the level of normal dietary exposure for 23 days. (21) Gellan gum acted as a bulking agent similar to xanthan gum, but no adverse effects were reported. However, a rat study with gellan gum supplemented at 5% of the diet for 4 weeks resulted in abnormalities in intestinal microvilli, which is concerning. (22)

I think those with sensitive guts should avoid it just to be on the safe side. For everyone else, I doubt the small amounts found in food will cause a problem, but it might be best to avoid it if possible.

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To or Fro(m): Do you know whether you’re coming or going?

I’m sorry, I just can’t let this go.

“How is this different from that? “How is this different to that?”

Which is the correct way to say it?

I can’t remember ever hearing, until recently, anyone say “different to.” It just sounds wrong and I think it is wrong. I’ve been hearing and seeing it more and more lately. Is that what is being taught in schools these days, or is it a vernacular mutation that is going mainstream?

Surprisingly, a web search of “different to” quickly turned up some useful information on the matter.

Here is what Oxford Dictionaries site has to say about it:

 Different from, than, or to?

Is there any difference between the expressions different from, different than, and different to? Is one of the three ‘more correct’ than the others?

In practice, different from is by far the most common of the three, in both British and American English:

We want to demonstrate that this government is different from previous governments. (British English)

This part is totally different from anything else that he’s done. (American English)

Different than is mainly used in American English:

Teenagers certainly want to look different than their parents.

Different to is much more common in British English than American English:

In this respect the Royal Academy is no different to any other major museum.

Some people criticize different than as incorrect but there’s no real justification for this view. There’s little difference in sense between the three expressions, and all of them are used by respected writers.

But Alt-Usage provides some further information and some statistics on actual usage:

“Different from” is the construction that no one will object to.

“Different to” is fairly common informally in the U.K., but rare in the U.S.

“Different than” is sometimes used to avoid the cumbersome “different from that which”, etc. (e.g., “a very different Pamela than I used to leave all company and pleasure for” – Samuel Richardson).

 Some U.S. speakers use “different than” exclusively. Some people have insisted on “different from” on the grounds that “from” is required after “to differ”. But Fowler points out that there are many other adjectives that do not conform to the construction of their parent verbs (e.g., “accords with”, but “according to”; “derogates from”, but “derogatory to”).

The Collins Cobuild Bank of English shows choice of preposition after “different” to be distributed as follows:

                    “from” “to”   “than”
U.K. writing   87.6   10.8       1.5
U.K. speech     68.8   27.3       3.9
U.S. writing  92.7       0.3     7.0
U.S. speech     69.3     0.6     30.1

So it seems it is the Brits who are to blame.

C’mon you blokes, learn to speak proper English!