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VALERIEMAHA's Recent Blog Entries

To imbibe, or not to imbibe....

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

The title of today's blog is the headline for a most interesting article I read today in the Life section of USA Today. Though I didn't find it on their website, I DID find the article:

The article says in part, "Yet despite these hazards (the link between alcohol and breast cancer), because alcohol also reduces the risk of coronary artery disease, studies have found that women who indulged in a drink or two a day actually had a slightly lower overall risk of dying from a heart attack....The risk of dying from a sudden heart rhythm disturbance drops, too, by 36 percent, for women who have a drink a day...."

Sooooo, I started wondering whether the heart benefits of wine were equally available by eating the grapes themselves or drinking pure grape juice? Here's a Mayo Clinic response to that question:

Answer from Martha Grogan, M.D.

"It's thought that red or purple grape products may reduce your risk of heart disease by relaxing your blood vessels, allowing your blood to more easily flow. This benefit is most likely due to substances called antioxidants found in the skin and seeds of grapes — especially dark red and purple grapes. One particularly important antioxidant, resveratrol, is also found in grape juice — especially juice made from dark purple Concord grapes.

"Recent studies have suggested that red and purple grape juices may provide some of the same heart benefits of red wine, including:

* Reducing the risk of blood clots
* Reducing low-density lipoprotein (LDL, or "bad") cholesterol
* Preventing damage to blood vessels in your heart
* Helping maintain a healthy blood pressure

"Both red wine and grape juice also contain antioxidants called flavonoids, which have been shown to increase your high-density lipoprotein (HDL, or "good") cholesterol and lower your risk of clogged arteries (atherosclerosis), and may help lower blood pressure.

"Eating whole red or purple grapes has benefits, as well. Some research suggests eating whole grapes also delivers the same antioxidants that are in grape juice and wine. You also get the benefit of the fiber if you eat whole grapes.

"These findings on grape juice are good news for people who want the cardiovascular benefits of red wine without the alcohol. Remember, if you do choose to drink alcohol, do so in moderation — no more than one drink a day for women or two drinks a day for men."

Though I don't generally drink juices (I prefer the fruits from which the juice is derived), Knudsen's Organic Concord Grape 100% Juice is my choice when I do! Funny thing, I used to hesitate to buy it because of the price. But when I compare it to a good bottle of wine (other than the Trader Joe's Shaw wine!), it's a bargain!

With Kaligirl's comment about polyphenols (a type of antioxidant), I had something else to investigate!

First of all, "Polyphenols are chemicals found in foods that help to prevent the damage of free radicals in the body---unstable molecules that can damage the arteries and cause numerous health problems. Different types of polyphenols exist, and eating a wide variety of foods will ensure you get the healthiest diet possible. Several studies have been conducted in an attempt to learn which foods contribute the highest levels of polyphenols to our bodies."

I wanted to know more about these food sources of them. The one I quoted from above was especially concise, and continued:

"The USDA lists blueberries, strawberries, raspberries, citrus fruits and other fruits as good sources of polyphenols...dark grapes, bilberries, cherries, apples, dark plums, blackberries and blueberries were all good sources as well. Fruit juices, such as grape juice, can render especially high levels of polyphenols. All fruits contain polyphenols or other antioxidants, and a healthy diet should contain around three servings of color-rich berries, citrus, melons, fruits with a pit or other fruits each day."

The article continues, discussing all food sources for polyphenols:

  Member Comments About This Blog Post:

GOANNA2 10/6/2010 4:53PM

    Thank you my friend for the wonderful blog.

I have the Mediterranean anaemia(thalassemia)
and have been told I should be drinking red wine.

I love red gapes so what am I waiting for?

Have a great day.

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WALKINGANNIE 10/6/2010 4:23PM

    Wow. What an informative blog.

Many thanks for your research and sharing.


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SHERYLDS 10/6/2010 11:48AM

    I eat the grapes to your health

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FRANCESCANAZ 10/6/2010 11:23AM

    Me gustan las uvas!! emoticon Besos y brazos, Francesca

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SIMPLELIFE4REAL 10/6/2010 9:49AM

    Thanks for sharing that. I don't drink, so it's good to know there are other ways I can get similar benefits.

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PUDLECRAZY 10/6/2010 6:23AM

    This blog makes me miss you; it was fun to talk to you in person, and I hope we have the opportunity in our travels to do that again.

I do drink a glass of red wine several days a week. I am conflicted about both red wine and about grape juice. The grape juice has so many fruit sugars it triggers a hypoglycemia event later in the day if I drink a cup of it. I do not find that to be the case with the wine. On the other hand, I have a family history of breast cancer, so the wine may be a very poor choice for me.

Nutrition is a very complex issue, and new discoveries are constantly being made about the nutritional value or harm of various food sources. I like to keep up with the new info, with the knowledge that there may be conflicting reports the following year. Who knew chocolate was so good for you 20 years ago???

Fresh fruits and veggies of many colors and shapes, organic if possible, well washed if not, whole grains, and unprocessed foods lead my groceries choices. I am grateful to live in a small town where organic foods are available in the main groceries store, and where there are farmer's markets and food co-ops.

This is the perfect place to blog about foods that are good for you. Of course, I also love your poetry blogs.

Have a lovely Wednesday, my friend!


Comment edited on: 10/6/2010 6:24:28 AM

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CARRAND 10/5/2010 10:06PM

    Thanks for sharing this important information. My husband drinks grape juice every day. Maybe he's got the right idea. I keep thinking I'm going to drink red wine every day, but I forget to do it. I do eat blueberries every day. Hopefully that will be enough.

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KALIGIRL 10/5/2010 9:41PM

    I'm not a grape juice drinker (actually not a juice drinker @ all). I do consume black table grapes daily and have concords planted in my backyard. (Looking for grapes next season). I enjoy my glass of red wine high in polyphenol (now 5 days a week). The high polyphenol is not so much a disease fighter as a longevity aid.
So I raise my glass of Sardinian Cannonau red wine to you as you enjoy your Knudsen Concord grape juice.
Namaste my friend.

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MISS_VIV 10/5/2010 9:28PM

    The price is definitely better than some of the other shelf wines.

If you EVER get a chance - here is one you would really like.

Mendocino Organic emoticon

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DENI_ZEN 10/5/2010 9:26PM

    Outstanding blog entry, Maha...and very much in time for all the upcoming holidays, as people usually celebrate with wine at dinner. I LOVE that R.W. Knudsen grape juice! Great choice! Another rich source of similar antioxidants is blueberries, which I also adore. My internist recommended that I eat all kinds of berries, so I love cranberries, too. They're a "berry" good choice! ;) - Sandi emoticon

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The Words Under the Words

Friday, September 24, 2010

Inspired this morning by my friend PennyAn's sharing of some of the riches of one of my heroes, poet-philosopher Ralph Waldo Emerson,
I decided to share a poignant poem by a contemporary poet-philosopher -- Naomi Shihab Nye, a political, spiritual Palestinian-American from Texas(!), who also *speaks to* my heart, mind, and soul.

The blog title, The Words Under the Words, is the name of the collection in which this piece is found. (I highly recommend anything by her!)
I love what the great poet William Stafford says about her, "Reading her work enhances life."


These shriveled seeds we plant,
corn kernel, dried bean,
poke into loosened soil,
cover over with measured fingertips

These T-shirts we fold into
perfect white squares

These tortillas we slice and fry to crisp strips
This rich egg scrambled in a gray clay bowl

This bed whose covers I straighten
smoothing edges till blue quilt fits brown blanket
and nothing hangs out

This envelope I address
so the name balances like a cloud
in the center of sky

This page I type and retype
This table I dust till the scarred wood shines
This bundle of clothes I wash and hang and wash again
like flags we share, a country so close
no one needs to name it

The days are nouns: touch them
The hands are churches that worship the world

~ Naomi Shihab Nye ~
(The Words Under the Words)

Naomi Shihab Nye was born on March 12, 1952, in St. Louis, Missouri, to a Palestinian father and an American mother. During her high school years, she lived in Ramallah in Jordan, the Old City in Jerusalem, and San Antonio, Texas, where she later received her B.A. in English and world religions from Trinity University.

Nye is the author of numerous books of poems, including You and Yours (BOA Editions, 2005), which received the Isabella Gardner Poetry Award, as well as 19 Varieties of Gazelle: Poems of the Middle East (2002), a collection of new and selected poems about the Middle East, Fuel (1998), Red Suitcase (1994), and Hugging the Jukebox (1982).

Nye gives voice to her experience as an Arab-American through poems about heritage and peace that overflow with a humanitarian spirit. About her work, the poet William Stafford has said, "her poems combine transcendent liveliness and sparkle along with warmth and human insight. She is a champion of the literature of encouragement and heart. Reading her work enhances life."

Nye has received awards from the Texas Institute of Letters, the Carity Randall Prize, the International Poetry Forum, as well as four Pushcart Prizes. She has been a Lannan Fellow, a Guggenheim Fellow, and a Witter Bynner Fellow. In 1988 she received The Academy of American Poets' Lavan Award, selected by W. S. Merwin.

Her poems and short stories have appeared in various journals and reviews throughout North America, Europe, and the Middle and Far East. She has traveled to the Middle East and Asia for the United States Information Agency three times, promoting international goodwill through the arts.

She currently lives in San Antonio, Texas. She was elected a Chancellor of the Academy of American Poets in 2010.

  Member Comments About This Blog Post:

PUDLECRAZY 10/4/2010 8:48PM

    Ahhh, thank you for another poem, Maha!

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SLASALLE 9/29/2010 6:18PM

    Maha, I just have to know right now!! How many amazing poets and authors are you going to introduce me to??? Should I buy stock in Barnes & Noble??? LOL

All kidding aside, you broaden my literary horizons that for so many years were tied up with textbooks.

Thank you!


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CARRAND 9/24/2010 8:19PM

    I always enjoy the poems you share. Thank you.

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DENI_ZEN 9/24/2010 7:06PM

    Thank you so much for sharing Naomi's beautiful, evocative words with us, Maha :) - Sandi emoticon

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SLIMMERJESSE 9/24/2010 7:00PM

    Lovely. Thanks for sharing this.

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WATERMELLEN 9/24/2010 6:56PM

    Nice: thanks!!

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GOANNA2 9/24/2010 6:22PM

    What a beautiful picture and loved the words too. emoticon

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JUGE300000 9/24/2010 4:45PM

    Nice poem.


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WALKINGANNIE 9/24/2010 2:40PM

    Thank you for the words and for the wonderful image Maha. The light and colour in the sky is amazing. It's almost hypnotic.


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KALIGIRL 9/24/2010 1:05PM

    "The days are nouns: touch them" - if only we lived our days and truly touched them...
emoticon my friend for sharing this piece.

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SIRIRADHA 9/24/2010 12:55PM

    Thank you for enhancing my life, too!

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JEANNETTE59 9/24/2010 12:36PM

  Thank you so much, these were the words I needed today emoticon

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SparkPeople BEAT the odds!

Thursday, September 23, 2010

I read this depressing news in Daily Finance today. It's just the sort of thing that we SparkPeople are out to defeat by taking control of our health and our lives!

Whenever I see obese people, I immediately think about how the Spark Program could guide them in changing their life! There's gotta' be a way to share this great resource without offending others...?

By Greg Kellerap

PARIS -Citizens of the world's richest countries are getting fatter and fatter and the United States is leading the charge, an organization of leading economies said Thursday in its first ever obesity forecast.

Three out of four Americans will be overweight or obese by 2020, and disease rates and health care spending will balloon, unless governments, individuals and industry cooperate on a comprehensive strategy to combat the epidemic, the study by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development said.

The Paris-based organization, which brings together 33 of the world's leading economies, is better known for forecasting deficit and employment levels than for measuring waistlines. But the economic cost of excess weight -- in health care, and in lives cut short and resources wasted -- is a growing concern for many governments.

Franco Sassi, the OECD senior health economist who authored the report, blamed the usual suspects for the increase.

"Food is much cheaper than in the past, in particular food that is not particularly healthy, and people are changing their lifestyles, they have less time to prepare meals and are eating out more in restaurants," said Sassi, a former London School of Economics lecturer who worked on the report for three years.

That plus the fact that people are much less physically active than in the past means that the ranks of the overweight have swelled to nearly 70 percent in the U.S. this year from well under 50 percent in 1980, according to the OECD.

In 10 years, a full 75 percent of Americans will be overweight, making it "the fattest country in the OECD," the report said.

The same factors driving the epidemic in the U.S. are also at work in other wealthy and developing countries, Sassi said. "There is a frightening increase in the epidemic," Sassi said, "We've not reached the plateau yet."

The lifespan of an obese person is up to 8-10 years shorter than that of a normal-weight person, the OECD said, the same loss of lifespan incurred by smoking.

In the U.S. the cost in dollars of obesity, including higher health care spending and lost production, is already equivalent to 1 percent of the country's total gross domestic product, the report said. That compares to half a percent in other OECD countries, Sassi said.

These costs could rise two- or threefold over the coming years, the OECD said, citing another study that forecast obesity and overweight-related health care costs would rise 70 percent by 2015 and could be 2.4 times higher than the current level in 2025.

The OECD found that rates of obesity, defined as a body mass index above 30, show a wide variation across its member countries, ranging from as little as 3-4 percent of the population in Japan and Korea to around one-third in the U.S. and Mexico.

"However, rates are also increasing in these countries," the OECD said. Outside the OECD, obesity rates are rising at similarly fast rates in countries such as Brazil, China, India and Russia.

The OECD advises governments on economic growth, social development and financial stability.

  Member Comments About This Blog Post:

JUSTBIRDY 10/5/2010 9:55PM


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_VALEO_ 9/29/2010 4:12PM

    Scaring because it is disease that is spreading worldwide. And unfortunately it is associated with the pauperization of our societes.

I have no answer to your question as how to spread the Spark? Very tough question indeed.

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DENI_ZEN 9/28/2010 7:01PM

    I am so glad you've written about this dire situation, Maha! I saw this, too - and thought I was having a nightmare. It's so heartbreaking... When I'm out and about most days, I see so many people who are overweight or obese. I've been one of them for most of my life. We're barraged by images of unhealthy food - if not actual "food pushers" - wherever we go. Thanks for helping us to keep our eyes wide open! - Sandi


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B_HORTON 9/24/2010 9:19AM

    Very enlightening blog - thanks for sharing the article. All the more reason for all of us to step up our game to Spread the Spark!!!!

We are indeed, beating the odds.


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FRANCESCANAZ 9/24/2010 6:17AM

    Very sad indeed!

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SUCHAHOOT 9/23/2010 10:23PM

    WHEW!! Sad, scary...BUT not our destiny! We are making the necessary changes!

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CARRAND 9/23/2010 9:46PM

    It's pretty scary, isn't it? One thing that would help is to design suburbs so that people could actually walk to places and not have to drive everywhere. I walked up to the tire store to pick up my car after getting new tires installed and felt in danger the whole walk because there were no sidewalks, combined with lots of traffic.

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GOANNA2 9/23/2010 5:46PM

    The frightening stats are the same in Australia.
All the more reason to follow Spark and get more
people on board. emoticon

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HEALTHY4ME 9/23/2010 3:55PM

    Well I am going to beat this expectation and lower my wt. Also I told someone about the spark at the grocery store the other day, haven't seen a comment from her but hey she was reading the spark so who knows.

I am determined again after a very down blog a few days ago, that I will beat this unhealthy eating and lose this 50 lbs before it gets to be more, cos I remember when it was 25!

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WALKINGANNIE 9/23/2010 3:52PM

    The problem is easy to demonstrate, but we know what the solutions are for us.

The issue is persuading other people that the Spark solution can work.

Thanks for sharing and prompting some thinking. If we could all just Spark 1 or 2 people.......

emoticon emoticon

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SLASALLE 9/23/2010 3:51PM

    Yeah, this news is all over the place now - this is not the first I've heard of it. It's disheartening.

Part of the reason I CHOSE not to have kids is that I realized how much of a sacrifice it would be if I did it right. I struggle enough just to try and keep myself healthy by cooking at home, eating organic, keeping up on all of the research - it's all very time-consuming.

I'm trying to beat the odds too!! Thanks, Maha!

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JEANNETTE59 9/23/2010 3:23PM

  All the more reason to spead the Spark emoticon

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SHERYLDS 9/23/2010 3:12PM

    And the kids are getting programmed to a lifetime of unhealthy habits because it's easier to keep a kid entertained and 'safe', in front computer, than in physical activities in the streets. Lots of parents need to understand that their kids are not their "eating buddies", and that they are slowly killing their children.

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TRIGFROST 9/23/2010 2:58PM

    the Picture tells it all.... emoticon

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MISS_VIV 9/23/2010 2:57PM

    tHANKS for this interesting article. We are bombarded everyday about how obesity is striking down our young people. It is time to take CHARGE and that what I hope we are all doing here at SP........... Educate and encourage others that life does not have to be in the 'FAT LANE'.. We can do it.

Thanks and happy autumn.

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Fall Equinox/Full Moon...aligning with the cosmic forces....

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

The Fall Equinox is tonight at 10:09 PM Central Daylight Time.

My dear friend Pamela said it so well: "The equinoxes and solstices are important moments to make our commitments for the next quarter. We have a great opportunity to align with the galactic forces and have universal collaboration with and support for what we have chosen to commit to. The effects of our prayers, meditations and rituals are quantum as the planets are aligning."

This year is special, because the Autumn Equinox occurs within hours of the Full Moon. This last happened in 1991 and will not happen again until 2029.

The Harvest Full Moon is at 4:18AM early Thursday morning.

Here is a wonderful "3-Minute Moon Ritual" from my favorite astrological site for any who are so inclined to bathe in the galactic resonance at this time of cosmic power:



Imagine above you the round glowing disc of the moon, bathing you in a protective circle of light. Vibrant with energy, your space is transformed, filled with the purity of spirit. Stand and raise your arms above your head. Let your palms face each other and curve slightly toward the moon. Feel as though you’re a sacred chalice, drawing the power of the Great Mother into every cell of your being—from your toes, to your womb, to your breasts, to your jaw, and your eyes. Feel the pleasure of this energy. It is vibrant with the power to give, to receive, to nurture life, and manifest what is possible.


Draw your hands to your heart. Massage this area. Imagine that you have become a Full Moon goddess (and that includes any male SparkFriends reading this...get in touch with the aspect of your divine feminine nature!), capable of balancing the earth and harmonizing its opposing forces. In particular you are tuned to the energies of Aries and Libra, the complementary energies of "me" and "we."

Aries wonders, "Who am I?" Libra wonders, "Who are you—and how can we work together?" Aries is adventurous, individualistic, and trailblazing. Through Aries we feel our existence as an independent being, capable of taking action, without needing approval or support. Libra is harmonizing, beautifying, and partnership-oriented. Its primary purpose is sharing—ideas, experiences, space—with others. Aries and Libra are opposing signs, but together they make for a balanced world. Our Libran ability to relate to others is diminished without a secure sense of our own identity. Our Aries efforts are unsuccessful when we alienate others and are uncooperative.

Full Moons bring an opportunity to balance and harmonize its opposing signs.

Too much Aries and we’re combative, self-absorbed, impatient. Too much Libra and we’re indecisive, uncommitted, people-pleasing. For the center of this ritual, imagine that the forces of Aries and Libra come to life in their archetypal form—as the Warrior and the Goddess. As you breathe in the weakness of each of these archetypes, you will breathe out the healing strength of the other. In this way, you will reconcile and balance these energies within yourself around the globe. Your sacred work has that power. Believe in it! Find a comfortable rhythm working with the images and your breath. Repeat the statements until you feel a transformation:

Breathing in…
The warrior, angry, lonely and in fear.
Breathing out…
The tender goddess, soothing the warrior with her healing touch.
Breathing in…
The goddess, feeling ineffective, indecisive, and overwhelmed.
Breathing out…
The warrior, who protects her and leads the way.
Breathing in…
The warrior raising his club, the goddess calling him names.
Breathing out…
The goddess, soft and smiling, as the warrior drops his club, and the two embrace.


See the world bathed in the purifying light of your offering: the sleeping babies, the politicians arguing, the starving children, liars and thieves. See the world transforming with this light, growing peaceful and calm. When you are ready, bring your hands to your sides, palms facing the earth. Send your divine light deep into the earth. See this energy take shape as a round moon, gathering below you in the center of the earth. Feel yourself slowly coming back into your body. Rest in this peace until you are ready to return to your life.


I just sent an email out to a handful of local sisters suggesting that we gather to share the ritual this evening, after being inspired by KaliGirl's comment about sending it out to 3-D friends!

  Member Comments About This Blog Post:

SLIMMERJESSE 9/24/2010 7:03PM

    The other night, I went out to see Jupiter. It was the closest to the earth since the year Kennedy was shot. I was excited to see it and had marked it on my calendar. Well, one of the ironies of life - a thick night cloud cover obscured even the stars. Hooray, hooray for me and my excitement. (smiling)

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FRANCESCANAZ 9/24/2010 6:20AM

    NICE! I'm going out right this minute yo hug Zeus & Onyx under the full moon before the sun is up!

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SUCHAHOOT 9/23/2010 10:25PM

    Ah, you make me smile! I missed this blog last night. We did go out and admire her beauty before we went to bed though, the three of us.

emoticon emoticon

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PEACEFULONE 9/23/2010 4:11PM

    Beautiful, thank you dear Maha for sharing!

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SIRIRADHA 9/23/2010 3:49PM

    Woke up at 4:00 this morning and went out to do the ritual. Although the moon was behind clouds, it was so still and the air felt wonderful!

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TEENY_BIKINI 9/23/2010 12:49PM

    I love the idea of re-committing to the next quarter. Sounds like a good idea.

I'm in!

emoticon emoticon emoticon emoticon emoticon emoticon

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LUCKY-13 9/22/2010 9:33PM

    I tingled with excitement while reading your blog! I'm a Libra and am looking forward to having the full moon on my birthday (on Saturday)! emoticon

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DENI_ZEN 9/22/2010 9:21PM

    emoticon emoticonHappy Autumnal Equinox, Maha! What a delicious post this is - and calorie- and fat- and sugar-free, too! It's always such a joyous time of the year, isn't it? The promise of so much warmth, richness, and beauty as we progress toward year's end...the time really IS ripe for making our next-quarter commitments. Your gorgeous photo of the Harvest Full Moon have certainly brought me lots of joy on this September evening - and the ritual is sooo lovely!

emoticon Ahhh...I just performed it, and the sense of warmth, healing, and promise are indescribable! Thank you for this gift, dear Maha - and thank you for the gift of you! - Sandi emoticon

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GOANNA2 9/22/2010 5:03PM

    Ah Maha, I am an Aries and just fell in love
with your blog.
It was Spring equinox here and the full moon
was simply breathtaking.
Anna emoticon emoticon

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PUDLECRAZY 9/22/2010 4:46PM

    Ahh, lovely!

No wonder it has been feeling so special. I really enjoyed my moonlight walk with Stella last night - I'll have to go out with her again tonight and celebrate to usher in Autumn.


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EARTHSEAME 9/22/2010 4:06PM

    emoticon I'll pass this on, too! emoticon

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WALKINGANNIE 9/22/2010 3:26PM

    Thank you Maha.

Wherever we are in the world, we share the same moon.

I will think of you and my Sparksisters tonight.

emoticon emoticon

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SLASALLE 9/22/2010 2:49PM

    I will have to be on my own with this, far from you. But I always appreciate the information!!! Looking forward to this awesome experience!!!


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SIRIRADHA 9/22/2010 1:31PM

    Oooh! I can't wait to be the vessel tonight!

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KALIGIRL 9/22/2010 1:06PM

    Thank you for posting this fabulous information - I will send out to my 3D friends!

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An FYI for those concerned about eating clean

Monday, September 20, 2010

Jumping wild salmon

By Mary Clare Jalonickap

WASHINGTON -Tinker with the genetics of salmon and maybe you create a revolutionary new food source that could help the environment and feed the hungry.

Or maybe you're creating what some say is an untested "frankenfish" that could cause unknown allergic reactions and the eventual decimation of the wild salmon population.

The genetically-modified AquAdvantage salmon

The FDA says that the AquAdvantage salmon "is as safe as food from conventional Atlantic salmon." Of course, according to Seafood Watch, one should AVOID Atlantic Salmon:

The Food and Drug Administration hears both arguments Monday when it begins a two-day meeting on whether to approve the marketing of the genetically engineered fish, which would be the first such animal approved for human consumption. The agency has already said the salmon, which grows twice as fast as conventional salmon, is as safe to eat as the traditional variety.

Approval of the salmon would open the door for a variety of other genetically engineered animals, including an environmentally friendly pig that is being developed in Canada or cattle that are resistant to mad cow disease.

"For future applications out there the sky's the limit," said David Edwards of the Biotechnology Industry Association. "If you can imagine it, scientists can try to do it."

AquaBounty submitted its first application for FDA approval in 1995, but the agency decided not until two years ago to consider applications for genetically engineered animals -- a move seen as a breakthrough by the biotechnology industry.

Genetic engineering is already widely used for crops, but the government until now has not considered allowing the consumption of modified animals. Although the potential benefits -- and profits -- are huge, many individuals have qualms about manipulating the genetic code of other living creatures.

Genetically engineered -- or GE -- animals are not clones, which the FDA has already said are safe to eat. Clones are copies of an animal. With GE animals, their DNA has been altered to produce a desirable characteristic.

In the case of the salmon, AquaBounty has added a growth hormone from a Chinook salmon that allows the fish to produce their growth hormone all year long. The engineers were able to keep the hormone active by using another gene from an eel-like fish called an ocean pout that acts like an on switch for the hormone, according to the company. Conventional salmon only produce the growth hormone some of the time.

In documents released ahead of the hearing, the FDA said there were no biologically relevant differences between the engineered salmon and conventional salmon, and there is a reasonable certainty of no harm from its consumption.

Critics have two main concerns: The safety of the food to humans and the salmon's effect on the environment.

Because the altered fish has never been eaten before, they say, it could include dangerous allergens, especially because seafood is highly allergenic. They also worry that the fish will escape and intermingle with the wild salmon population, which is already endangered.They would grow fast and consume more food to the detriment of the conventional wild salmon, the critics fear.

A wide range of environmental, food safety and consumer groups have argued that more public studies are needed and the current FDA process is inadequate because it allows the company to keep some proprietary information private. Modified foods are regulated under the same process used for animal drugs.

"It is outrageous to keep this vital information secret," said Wenonah Hauter, director of the advocacy group Food & Water Watch. "Consumers have a right to know what FDA is trying to allow into our food supply."

Dr. Michael Hansen, senior scientist at Consumers Union, the publisher of Consumer Reports, says the agency is relying on too little data, much of which is supplied by the company itself.

"FDA has set the bar very low," he said.

Ron Stotish, the chief executive of AquaBounty, countered that the company has more than addressed the concerns, and his product has come under much more scrutiny than most food.

"This is perhaps the most studied fish in history," he said. "Environmentally this is a very sustainable technology."

The company has several safeguards in place to allay concerns. All the fish would be bred female and sterile, though a small percentage may be able to breed. They would be bred in confined pools where the potential for escape would be very low.

In its environmental analysis of the fish released earlier this month, the FDA agreed with the company that there are enough safeguards in place.

Stotish says the fish would be bred in better conditions than many of the world's farmed salmon, and could be located closer to population centers to help feed more people. The company has also said the increase in engineered salmon production could help relieve endangered wild salmon populations.

The company is also arguing that the fish do not need to be labeled as genetically engineered, so the common customer would not know if they were eating the modified product or the conventional product. The second day of the FDA meeting will focus on the labeling question.

"This fish is identical to the traditional food," maintained Stotish. "The label could even be misleading because it implies a difference that doesn't exist."

At the meeting Monday, the FDA, the company and critics will present their findings to an advisory committee, which will in turn advise the FDA. A decision will come after the meeting, though it is unclear how long that will take. If approved, the fish could be in grocery stores in two years, the company estimates.

The industry says their job will be to counter the common impression that the modified salmon are "frankenfish."

"In the story of Frankenstein it was the fear of the people driving it, it wasn't the monster that was evil," says Edwards of the Biotechnology Industry Association. "If you look at the science and the safety and you look at the benefits, they become very exciting products."

See full article from DailyFinance:

  Member Comments About This Blog Post:

JUSTBIRDY 9/22/2010 12:30PM

    This would be too bad if approved. Something else I'll try not to eat.

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VALERIEMAHA 9/20/2010 11:09PM

    Usha, my choice is also vegetarian, as is Tracey's, who sent me a comment today: "If you don't EAT fish, you can't contribute to the DEMAND for fish so fish-growers will have no incentive to INVENT frankenfish....Just sayin'...."

And you are SO right about the misinformation. I just felt compelled to share this horrendous development with my flesh-eating friends.

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BRIGHTSPARK7 9/20/2010 11:02PM

    Stotish is not telling the truth. The fish does not have the same genes and is not therefore bio-identical. And he misuses the word sustainable. This GE salmon could endanger the wild population. It currently does not have a place within an ecosystem.

The FDA needs to mark the food so that people can make informed choices. My choice is still vegetarian.

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SIMPLELIFE4REAL 9/20/2010 10:32PM

    Thank you for blogging about this. I wonder what it will take before the powers that be wise up.

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BYTHEBOOKS 9/20/2010 9:01PM

    thanks for sharing this info!

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GOANNA2 9/20/2010 7:26PM

    Food for thought alright.
Thanks for sharing.
emoticon emoticon

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TIPPINGPOINT 9/20/2010 7:18PM

    thanks for the information.
(and thanks for your comment at my blog)

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GRAMMIE1959 9/20/2010 3:58PM

    food for thought-maybe not for eating. Thanks for the well researched blog.


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PUDLECRAZY 9/20/2010 3:20PM

    Depressing! It gets harder and harder to believe our food is safe unless we grow it ourselves or know who is growing it. I guess that is one value of eating locally produced food. If we would only spend our resources protecting the environment...

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SHERYLDS 9/20/2010 2:56PM

    the world is so focused on energy needs that we are letting both our fertile lands and our waters be destroyed. It's wise to take precautions against genetic engineering but at the same time we need to find better ways to feed the populations. The next big problem is going to be clean water.

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KRISKECK 9/20/2010 10:26AM

    This was covered in the Washington Post today, too. The best thing people can do is call their Members of Congress and express their outrage that the FDA will not even allow us to decide for ourselves whether we want to buy and consume "genetically modified" foods. Clearly the corporate interests are aware that they're trying to put one over on us; that's why they want to keep it all quiet. And there is no monied interest to fight back against it -- I dont think the organic food industry has a strong lobby and public relations operation - so it is really up to us to get this going. Tell all your friends to call their Senators and their Representative and urge them to put a stop to this - and ask them to keep spreading the word, too. Sad and horrifying but not surprising.

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VALERIEMAHA 9/20/2010 10:04AM

    In addition to all the concerns expressed by you, Kat and Sandi, I'm reminded of a conversation I had with a friend yesterday who was talking about her friend who has cancer. She said the friend didn't have much of a chance...her mom, dad, and a sister have all died from cancer. The epidemic proportions of cancer are such a poignant Sign of the Times...Sign of our abuse and misuse of the environment and our own bodies.

It is SO hard to eat "clean" and, as a vegetarian, there is really little support or solidarity, even among friends who were previously also vegetarians.

Organic Consumers Association -- -- is the most vocal "voice of the people" in this regard. I highly recommend signing up for their newsletter if you want to stay informed.

Comment edited on: 9/20/2010 10:44:09 AM

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LYNNANN43 9/20/2010 10:02AM

    Some SERIOUS food for thought here!

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SIRIRADHA 9/20/2010 9:58AM

    Thank you for passing the word along.

Petition to stop genetically modified foods

Comment edited on: 9/20/2010 10:09:32 AM

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KAT573 9/20/2010 9:40AM

    Food for thought especially on a much larger scale; re: energy production and sources and the impact on environment, personal health, etc, the use of plastics a double edged sword, as well; if we were to switch back could we sustain the population we now have? will we be able to safely test all efforts before providing food on the table of not even all the people on this earth, since many live in poverty? Not a simple question and never a simple answer. Yet we still do have to accept full responsibility for our part in this cycle and triad; consumer, business, government. It is mind boggling and really makes us aware of how little real control we have, when we stop and are able to see through a small part of the illusion we have that we CAN do anything. emoticon for sharing this which wakens once again in me how difficult it is to balance ourselves let alone the world.

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DENI_ZEN 9/20/2010 9:25AM

    Oh, Maha...this is sickening...infuriating...really shocking :( You know how you feel when you're so distressed about something, you have to almost consciously force yourself to breathe? That's how I feel right now! THIS IS CRIMINAL! And will the "frankenfish" even be labeled as such? To me, this is as shocking as the prospect of nuclear holocaust... It's becoming more and more expensive to put food on the table, as we have to PAY a fortune now for wild-caught salmon, and if this aberration mingles with that population... I heard on NPR the other day that by 2048, we might not be able to even consume fish anymore. More and more, I'm tempted to become a vegetarian, perhaps even a vegan. Another friend posted a link to this news on her Facebook page, but the article you've cited is much more in-depth...and terrifying. Thank you for alerting us, though - emoticon - Sandi emoticon

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