Which Is the Biggest Threat to Americans: Zika, Cancer or ISIS?
The unfolding information about the Zika virus and saddening images of babies infected with microcephaly should really scare us all.
Zika isn’t an epidemic. It is endemic—meaning it is here to stay. And we have no means of establishing an immunity or an antidote in sight.
Of course, many of those infected will be people who are not pregnant and may only suffer mild symptoms.
Others, however, will give birth to children stricken with diseases, malformations and even premature death. Then there is the number of women who will elect not to have children, at least in the short term.
When these two groups are coupled together, there is a reasonable prospect that Zika, if not contained, could have significant long-term effects on the world’s demographics: fewer children born, more children in need of extensive care, more children dying in tropical countries.
Knowing a Threat When You See It
I’m not an expert on diseases. There are others far more qualified to discuss the medical elements than I am.
But I know a threat when I see it.
There are three kinds of threats.
Zika is what is called an naturogenic threat. It comes naturally from nature. It isn’t what we call an anthropogenic threat—an unintended product of human activity on nature like pollution and climate change. And it isn’t the product of deliberate human malfeasance—like terrorism and war.
Manufacturing a Threat
I guess the last type is the only threat that politicians really care about.
Maybe that’s because these are the only kinds of threats that they can even remotely plausibly suggest they can do something about—preferably using muscular and provocative terms that make them sound like “leaders.”
Nobody is going to “kick nature’s ass,” as those of us who recently lived through Winter Storm Jonas on the East Coast will testify. But you can make the claim when talking about the Islamic State or ISIS—as Sarah Palin recently promised that Donald Trump would do.
So maybe that is why, during the last Republican debate before the Iowa caucuses, Marco Rubio chose to use the term “apocalyptic” in reference to ISIS. And why Jeb Bush and Ted Cruz talked about “destroying” them.
In fact, a quick examination of the transcript of the debate reveals that ISIS was mentioned 44 times. In contrast, climate change was mentioned only three times—all in one question to Marco Rubio about how he might have once expressed the view that it was real. And Zika? Or Ebola? They were not mentioned at all.
I believe that these small details tell you a lot about how threats are constructed in America.
We let our politicians tell us what should be our greatest fears. And they serve us really badly. Of course, ISIS is a group with evil intent who behave barbarically. But they do not and will not have the ability to invade the U.S. and kill Americans in their beds. This does not mean that they should not be opposed. But they should not, I would argue, dominate our debate about foreign policy.
Public health (or that more fashionable term “global health”), on the other hand, should. Zika or Ebola or dengue fever—which accounts for almost 100 million infections a year—may actually kill us in our beds. But talking about that isn’t sexy.
Indeed, the work on this problem is disparagingly left to “geeks” and scientists.
So despite the growing threats posed to the U.S. by these diseases, Congress’ appropriations for expenditures on global health have stagnated in the last two years and really gone nowhere since 2010.
President Obama’s initiative to find a cure for cancer—presaged, like most things in American politics, by an episode of the West Wing—was also ignored by the Republicans in their debate. This despite the fact that cancer is projected to kill just shy of 600,000 Americans this year.
What Threats Will Americans Care About?
So with the primary season upon us at last, we are left with a familiar question.
If Americans are so indeed angry, disgusted and anguished—so “sick of politics”—why do they let blustering politicians define what is important to them? Like telling them what they should fear when that is so patently false.
H.L. Mencken is reputed to have said that,
"No one ever went broke underestimating the intelligence of the American public."
He obviously had little regard for the average American.
Yet the evidence suggests he is wrong. Every time that America is pronounced on the verge of demise, it astonishingly finds a way to adapt and rejuvenate itself—like the resurgence of the U.S. economy since 2008.
And let’s hope that American voters can ignore the rabble-rousing of politicians and figure out what really threatens them in the months ahead.
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By Gwen Ranniger
In the midst of a pandemic, sales of cleaning products have skyrocketed, and many feel a need to clean more often. Knowing what to look for when purchasing cleaning supplies can help prevent unwanted and dangerous toxics from entering your home.
1. Fragrance – Avoid It<p>One of the fastest ways to narrow down your product options is immediately eliminating any product that promotes a fragrance, or parfum. That scent of "fresh breeze" or lemon might initially smell good, but the fragrance does not last. What does last? The concoction of various undisclosed and unregulated chemicals that created that fragrance.</p><p>Many fragrances contain phthalates, which are linked to many health risks including reproductive problems and cancer.</p>
2. With Bleach? Do Without<p>Going scent-free should have narrowed down your options substantially – now, check the front of the remaining packaging. Any that include ammonia or chlorine bleach ought to go, as these substances are irritating and corrosive to your body. While bleach is commonly known as a powerful disinfectant, there are safer alternatives that you can use in your home, such as sodium borate or hydrogen peroxide.</p><p>While you're at it, check if there are any warnings on the label – "flammable," "use in ventilated area," etc. – if the product is hazardous, that's a red flag and should be avoided.</p>
3. Check the Back Label<p>Flip to the back of the remaining contenders and check out that ingredient list. Less is more, here. Opt for a shorter ingredient list with words you recognize and/or can pronounce.</p><p>You may notice many products do not have ingredient lists – while this doesn't necessarily mean they contain toxic ingredients, transparency is key. Feel free to look up a list online, or stick to products that are open about their ingredients.</p>
4. Ingredients to Avoid<p>We already mentioned that cleaners containing fragrance or parfum, and bleach or ammonia should be avoided, but there are other ingredients to look out for as well.</p><ul><li>Quaternary ammonium "quats" – lung irritants that contribute to asthma and other breathing problems. Also linger on surfaces long after they've been cleaned.</li><li>Parabens – Known hormone disruptor; can contribute to ailments such as cancer</li><li>Triclosan – triclosan and other antibacterial chemicals are registered with the EPA as pesticides. Triclosan is a known hormone disruptor and can also impact your immune system.</li><li>Formaldehyde – Causes irritation of eyes, nose, and throat; studies suggest formaldehyde exposure is linked with certain varieties of cancer. Can be found in products or become a byproduct of chemical reactions in the air.</li></ul>
Cleaning Products and Toxics: The Bottom Line<p>Do your research. There are many cleaning products available, but taking these steps will drastically reduce your options and help keep your home toxic-free. Protecting your home from bacteria and viruses is important, but make sure you do so in a way that doesn't introduce other health risks into the home.</p><p><em>Reposted with permission from </em><em><a href="https://www.ehn.org/how-to-shop-for-cleaning-products-while-avoiding-toxics-2648130273.html" target="_blank">Environmental Health News</a>. </em><a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/r/entryeditor/2649054624#/" target="_self"></a></p>
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Returning the ‘Three Sisters’ – Corn, Beans and Squash – to Native American Farms Nourishes People, Land and Cultures
By Christina Gish Hill
Historians know that turkey and corn were part of the first Thanksgiving, when Wampanoag peoples shared a harvest meal with the pilgrims of Plymouth plantation in Massachusetts. And traditional Native American farming practices tell us that squash and beans likely were part of that 1621 dinner too.
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Displaced From the Land<p>As Euro-Americans settled permanently on the most fertile North American lands and acquired seeds that Native growers had carefully bred, they imposed policies that <a href="https://doi.org/10.1086/ahr/87.2.550" target="_blank">made Native farming practices impossible</a>. In 1830 President Andrew Jackson signed the <a href="https://guides.loc.gov/indian-removal-act" target="_blank">Indian Removal Act</a>, which made it official U.S. policy to force Native peoples from their home locations, pushing them onto subpar lands.</p><p>On reservations, U.S. government officials discouraged Native women from cultivating anything larger than small garden plots and pressured Native men to practice Euro-American style monoculture. Allotment policies assigned small plots to nuclear families, further limiting Native Americans' access to land and preventing them from using communal farming practices.</p><p>Native children were forced to attend boarding schools, where they had no opportunity to <a href="https://doi.org/10.5749/jamerindieduc.57.1.0145" target="_blank">learn Native agriculture techniques or preservation and preparation of Indigenous foods</a>. Instead they were forced to eat Western foods, turning their palates away from their traditional preferences. Taken together, these policies <a href="https://kansaspress.ku.edu/978-0-7006-0802-7.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">almost entirely eradicated three sisters agriculture</a> from Native communities in the Midwest by the 1930s.</p>
Reviving Native Agriculture<p>Today Native people all over the U.S. are working diligently to <a href="https://www.oupress.com/books/15107980/indigenous-food-sovereignty-in-the-united-sta" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">reclaim Indigenous varieties of corn, beans, squash, sunflowers and other crops</a>. This effort is important for many reasons.</p><p>Improving Native people's access to healthy, culturally appropriate foods will help lower rates of <a href="https://www.cdc.gov/vitalsigns/aian-diabetes/index.html" target="_blank">diabetes</a> and <a href="https://www.apa.org/pi/oema/resources/ethnicity-health/native-american/obesity" target="_blank">obesity</a>, which affect Native Americans at disproportionately high rates. Sharing traditional knowledge about agriculture is a way for elders to pass cultural information along to younger generations. Indigenous growing techniques also protect the lands that Native nations now inhabit, and can potentially benefit the wider ecosystems around them.</p>
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