Many of you know I just canceled my Hotmail account. I want to tell you why. Early in September, Hotmail stopped forwarding my subscription e-mails from Truthout.org. Note the use of the word “subscription” there — I CHOOSE to receive e-mails from Truthout and, despite the fact that I’m well past the age of majority and legally able to make my own choices, AND that this country allegedly enjoys freedom of speech, HOTMAIL unilaterally decided to call my subscription “spam” and stop forwarding it.

Mind you, it did NOT stop forwarding me “get your viagra here” e-mails, phony stock-scam e-mails, “easy russian bride” e-mails or a host of e-mails offering me advice on how to enlarge my penis. (For those of you who don’t know, I’m a woman.) THOSE aren’t considered spam, apparently.

But my e-mails from Truthout — which generally consist of links to stories from respected news outlets worldwide — apparently are. I’m not talking the Wack-Job Sun Times, here, people. I’m talking about the Washington Post. The New York Times. The LA Times. The New Orleans Times- Picayune. The Miami Herald. Reuters. The Associated Press. The Christian Science Monitor. A host of foreign news outlets.

I asked Hotmail to justify its actions and it quickly put the blame on Truthout. But it admitted to Truthout that it was “blocking and throttling” its e-mails. And it’s doing it to everyone who subscribes to Truthout from a Hotmail account, not just me. (There are also allegations that it’s doing it to the Independent Institute, but I don’t have confirmation on that.)
There are also allegations that AOL is doing the same thing.

Guys, this is serious. Communication consists of a speaker, a listener, and a medium of transmission — be it spoken voice traveling through air or electrons passing over the Internet. Those who would control our access to information can’t stop me from listening, and they haven’t yet dared shut down the media outlets from investigating and writing, so they’re attacking the vulnerable link between. This is censorship. And it’s wrong.

Everyone, regardless of where they sit on the political spectrum, should be up in arms about this. The party in power in this country changes regularly. Our right to be informed by anyone we choose to listen to should not.

I CHALLENGE YOU TO DO WHAT I DID: Vote with your dollar. Ditch Hotmail. If you’re having the same trouble with AOL, ditch AOL. Tell them why. Donate what you would have spent on Hotmail or AOL to Truthout, so they can continue their effort to put a stop to this censorship. More is at stake here than just Truthout — they’re small, non-corporate sponsored, and vulnerable, which makes them a good starting point. They’re also the place where this needs to end.

Cross-posted at Buck Naked Politics.

Some Tidbits About Obesity

September 5, 2007

BTW — I’m not beating anybody up here. I need to lose 20 or 25 lbs myself, and the reading and research I’ve been doing started out being for my own benefit. I think the more reasons I can give myself for exerting the self-discipline necessary to lose the weight outside my own appearance, health and psychological need to win this battle, the easier the weight will be to lose. But it falls in line with my theories about getting healthy as a way to help the planet, so here it is:

I just finished reading “Fat Land” by Greg Critser (excellent reading, by the way). The data I’m sharing here comes from his book and, I think, lends a small idea of the scope of the problem.

“Obesity takes its toll on our daily quality of life too. Between 1988 and 1994, the number of days of lost work due to obesity increased by 50 percent – to 39 million days, worth $3.9 billion. There were also 239 million restricted-activity days due to obesity, 89.5 million bed-rest days, and 62.6 million physician visits, the last equivalent to an 88 percent rise over 1988. As A. M. Wolfe and G. A. Colditz of the University of Virginia concluded in a study of such costs among a population of 88,000 U. S. residents, “The economic and personal health costs of overweight and obesity are enormous and compromise the health of the United States (emphasis added by Critser).”

Oh, and long as we’re looking for practical applications to personal health, take these two pieces of advice from Critser — ditch the palm oil and ditch the high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS). Palm oil is so highly saturated that “its proponents secretly touted it as ‘cow fat disguised as vegetable oil.'” HFCS, in addition to a number of other problems (like, for example, its high caloric content), apparently actually helps increase insulin resistance — which can lead to blood-sugar regulation problems like diabetes and make obesity harder to combat. (I’m greatly oversimplifying here: Critser explains it beautifully and if his explanation doesn’t make you immediately start reading labels at the grocery store, start having yourself psychologically examined for a death-wish.)

Also, it turns out that constantly bombarding yourself with frequent small snacks and meals (instead of eating periodically and allowing yourself to actually become hungry between meals) probably contributes to insulin-resistance also — yet another way we are actually making ourselves fat. (This one is often done in the name of increasing the likelihood that a diet will be successful. Go figure.)

Oh — one last thing. That stuff that came out in the 1990s about how it was ok to be heavier if you were older? Bunk. Absolute bunk. Some Harvard scientists went back and looked at the data the original researcher had used to draw his well-publicized but erroneous conclusion, and found severe biases, chief among them the failure to control for cigarette smoking (which is more prevalent among thin people). I quote from Critser here (who is himself quoting from the Harvard reworking of the studies):

“‘After controlling for smoking,” they wrote,”the risk of death…increased by two percent for each pound of excess weight for ages 50 to 62, and by one percent per extra pound for ages 30 to 49.’ The same conclusion was reached after reanalyzing an American Cancer Society survey of 750,000 men and women: There was no basis for recommending more lenient weight guidelines. In fact, the numbers suggested just the opposite: Weight guidelines needed to be stricter.”

I see this as a series. Here’s the basic idea which we’ll explore in many posts: The healthier you are, the less of a drain you’ll be on the world’s resources, in oh, so many ways.

For example:

• You won’t be sucking down prescription meds that 1) cost a fortune, 2) generate a tree’s-worth of paperwork at some doctor’s office and some insurance office; 3) use up oil in being developed and transported and encased in oil-based plastic bottles; 4) cause side effects that, themselves, have to be treated; 5) take up expensive doctor-time in a world where in many places doctors are scarce, etc.; and, which, in many cases 6) are intended to be taken long-term, thus compounding the costs to our resources.

• You won’t be as reliant on oil-based transportation because you’ll be healthy enough to walk where you need to go more often, or healthy enough to make taking public transportation feasible (you’ll be able to climb onto the bus or negotiate the stairs to the subway, etc.).

• You won’t be using a host of resources relied on by the unhealthy — meds, social services, medical services/ facilities and the host of drains those pose on resources, equipment (everything from special shoes to those little carts people drive in the grocery store, all of which require oil and resources to manufacture and transport), special (read, usually, “large and gas guzzling”) vehicles, and the energy of those around you who must do more to compensate for your having to stop at doing less.

• You won’t be using a host of non-prescription meds, which have all the same sins as the prescription medications above, except for those which are doctor/insurance-related.

• You won’t be using as many of other resources. If, for example, you’re overweight, by losing the weight you will not only probably solve your involvement in many of the above-listed problems, you also require less cloth in your clothing — and the savings redounds to the planet’s credit on a host of fronts. A field of cotton goes farther making size 8 clothing than size 24, and size 8 weighs less, so it costs less to transport (or more of it can be transported at the same time, which is more efficient). Your car will weigh less when you drive it — therefore it will be more fuel efficient. You may be able to drive a smaller car. You’ll doubtless eat less, leaving more for others and using fewer resources throughout the food industry and its host of support industries. Another example: If you smoke or drink, you are not only harming yourself, you are using resources unnecessarily and probably repeatedly, and it wouldn’t hurt to remind yourself that more than just your health is at stake.

• You won’t be as limited in your ability to choose earth-friendly and society-friendly options.

• You won’t be as limited in your ability to give back.

I find this idea especially cogent as we’re in the juxtaposition of two phenomena: the largest generation of Americans ever is about to enter late-middle or old age, and the world is in serious environmental and climate trouble. We are not going to be able to solve this as a society if a huge segment of us prematurely becomes unable to take itself to the john, thus tying up another huge segment of us in care-taking. I’m not saying that everyone can be healthy. I’m saying all of us can try harder to ensure that we are as healthy as possible for as long as possible, and for reasons outside the benefits to our personal lives.

For those of you who live in the Gainesville area, the Second Street Bakery apparently sells shade-grown coffee, in addition to organic baked goods. Or so I hear. I’m going down this weekend to check it out!

A Great Quote

August 25, 2007

My brother sent this to me:

“The modern conservative is engaged in one of man’s oldest exercises in moral philosophy; that is, the search for a superior moral justification for selfishness.”

– John Kenneth Galbraith

My Terrapass entry got a lengthy and thoughtful comment yesterday (see it here) from someone who also runs a blog (the point of which seems to be exploring a healthy skepticism about global warming, in a calm and non-shrill way) and it has made me think quite a bit today. (I just tried to go back to the commentator’s site, “thankgodforglobalwarming.com” and it seems to have disappeared. Weird.) Anyway, I’m going to address the comment because I believe thinking about the questions it raised is useful.

First, guilt. Pat (the author of the comment, and as I have no idea if Pat is male or female, this could get awkward) asked me where my guilt comes from and at what point to I stop feeling guilty? The simple answer is a) from being part of the problem and not part of the solution for so long and b) when I am more a part of the solution than of the problem. But it goes deeper than that. It’s becoming increasingly obvious on a number of fronts that from where the planet sits, humanity is a cancer — just as rampant, just as destructive, ultimately just as potentially fatal. This is admittedly a nihilist view.

Read the rest of this entry »

Bags!

August 15, 2007

I’m killing two birds with one stone. I have a LOT of fabric (I’m a quilter). One of the changes I’m working on recently is to reduce the amount of stuff I have around (and the concomitant mental stress of not having dealt with it yet). So I’m reading the books I have instead of buying more, and using up my craft stuff, and finding good homes for things I don’t use.

First bag pictureI’m also trying to kick the plastic grocery bag habit, (see this link from Salon for some information on just how bad this is!) and encourage others to do so too. So I’m making bags with the quilting fabric — good sized, lined and batted, so they’ll stand up to some use. (See picture of the first one.) They’re colorful, they’re cloth (so they’re easy to fold and store) and they’re re-usable and washable. Many people I know can expect to get them as gifts soon, and if I really make a pile of them, I may sell a few on ebay just to give them a good home and de-clutter my life at the same time.

Terrapass

August 10, 2007

I’ve been looking into Terrapass. For those of you who are unfamiliar with it, Terrapass is a company that invests in clean energy projects like wind farms and so forth, while at the same time providing investors with the opportunity to offset their carbon emissions.

Here’s how it works: you go to their website and calculate your vehicle, home, or air flight annual carbon emissions rate. Then you can buy a terrapass based on your emissions that will support a clean-energy project sufficient to offset your emissions. The flight offsets were really good news, because I know someone who flies overseas about 40 times a year for business.

Now, I admit that when I first heard about this I had some misgivings. First of all, global warming seemed too big a problem to just throw money at without making other lifestyle changes. But the fact is, my significant other and I ARE making lifestyle changes. Still, it seemed like a too-easy way to assuage our guilt.

Second, it seemed like it could too easily be a scam. Here, just send us your money and stop feeling guilty!

But I checked them out — they’re independently audited, and they offer a 100 percent money-back guarantee. And for about $50 bucks, I can offset my car’s carbon emissions, and for about another $150, my home’s.

So here’s my thinking: we’re doing (or about to do) whatever we can that’s practical and affordable to reduce our emissions ourselves, and beyond that, investing in something like Terrapass to accomplish the rest seems like a good stopgap while we make other changes. (Need to remember to invest annually, though!!)

And I don’t see why we should stop with only our own mess, either. I’m a great believer in everyone doing what they can, even if they end up giving more than they actually owe — so I might just invest enough to clean up someone else’s car too, because taking as much action to reduce global warming as possible is in my best interest sooner rather than later. I see no reason to wait for some of the rest of the world to get with the program and hope that they’ll do it in time. (What was that thing Churchill said about entering a period of consequences?)

www.terrapass.com. Check it out.

PS — for those of you who use Splenda and are interested in reducing packaging as a way to cut your use of resources and your pollution-generation, Splenda is now available in tablet form — one little plastic (recyclable!) container about the size of a packet of Tic-Tacs. No longer necessary to use up all that paper in those individual packets!

Shade Grown Coffee

August 3, 2007

Here’s something I read the other day:

Unlike shade-grown coffee, most of the $4 billion worth of coffee imported by the United States each year is grown under conditions that severely damage the environment and jeopardize wildlife, especially migratory birds. By contrast, organic, shade-grown coffee plantations are environmentally supportive and provide critical habitat for as many as 200 species of birds, as well as dozens of species of insects, amphibians, and plants.

The piece went on to talk about the relative benefits to the earth of drinking shade-grown coffee:

Organic coffee and shade-grown coffee plantations provide many advantages. For example, shade-grown and organic coffee farms:

    • help maintain soil quality

      • can produce coffee beans for up to 50 years, while sun-grown coffee bushes are good for only 5 to 10 years

        • control erosion

          • facilitate natural pest control, as shade-grown coffee requires little or no chemical pesticides or herbicides

            • provide natural mulch and thus reduce the need for chemical fertilizers

              • provide critical habitat for migratory birds, plus many different species of insects, amphibians, and plants

                I went looking for shade-grown coffee at the grocery store (dream on!) but no dice. Here’s a link to a list of web sources, though. Downside — it’s expensive (well, what did I expect?) but I’m thinking I can at least work it into my coffee routine as a portion of the total.

                BTW, I found this information (including the above-quoted material) on a wonderful site: www.charityguide.org. There’s an animated button for it in the link list on this site — check it out!

                I read something recently that said if you raise your thermostat by two degrees in the summer, and lower it by two degrees in the winter, you can reduce your annual carbon footprint by 2,000 lbs and save about 100 bucks on your electric bill. Well, simple enough — so we tried it for the month of June. It wasn’t uncomfortable. We vary it slightly by cranking the AC just before we go to bed (to get the house cooler) and then turning it all the way off, and I don’t turn it on again the next day until the temperature inside the house hits about 78, which some days is 10 a.m., and some days is around noon.   I also reset it to about 83 when I leave for work around 2, so it’s considerably higher between then and when my sig. oth. gets home around 6.

                We made no other big changes in our power consumption that month. Our electric  bill shows a “same month last year” comparison of kWh used, so when the bill arrived the first week of July, I took a look.

                We used 1/3 — ONE THIRD — fewer kilowatt hours this June than last, just by doing that one thing.  Try it!