Careen Here!

(Image Credit: C.E.Ayr)

The traffic heading into the city was unusually thin. Natalie couldn’t believe her eyes. Gripping her steering wheel hard she peered into her rear view mirrors at a relatively empty stretch of concrete. Stifling a smile, she navigated the roundabout. Just as she was about to take the second exit, a Honda CRV, came hurtling out of nowhere, careening into her path. Natalie almost stood atop her brakes, but to no avail. As her car turned turtle, the alarm clock shrieked and Natalie was jolted awake with cold sweat streaming down her face.

She knew she would die that morning.

(Word Count: 100)

This story was written as part of the FRIDAY FICTIONEERS challenge, more about which may be found HERE

For more stories based on the above prompt, click HERE 

 

Roundabout

The X – Ray

Tendrils of smoke wafted and swirled upwards in a convolution of asymmetrical shapes

A rasping cough shook him to the bones eliciting from passersby repulsive gawks and gapes;

Rivulets of painful tears streamed down his eyes brushing his parched and cracked lips

With shivering fingers he put away his pack of cigarettes along with a book of matchsticks

 

The trinity of tiny dots on the X-Ray all but signed his death warrant sans pity

SCREW LONGEVITY!

(Word Count: 76)

Courtesy of Sammi Cox Weekend Writing Prompt#133

 

 

Super Immunity – Joel Fuhrman, M.D

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“Super Immunity” is a book reading which one is forced to raise her eyebrows in admiration, astonishment and apprehension – all in equal measure. Dr. Joel Fuhrman, a well renowned nutritionist and bestselling author, in his thought provoking work, argues as to why and how a combination of Greens, Beans, Onions, Mushrooms, Berries and Seeds (“GBOMBS”) not only bestow Super Immunity, but also ward off diseases from niggling infections to deadly cancers. Dr. Furhman also treads into contested and controversial territory by advocating for keeping vaccines at bay and non-consumption of folic acid during pregnancy. Lest I be accused of getting ahead of myself, let me first begin setting out the theme that forms the cornerstone of Dr. Fuhrman’s book.

  • GBOMBS

Dr. Fuhrman exhorts us to make Greens, Beans, Onions, Mushrooms, Berries and Seeds an indispensable part of our everyday diet. Banking on empirical research, he states, “a review of more than 206 epidemiological studies shows that the consumption of green vegetables has the most consistent and powerful association with the reduction of cancer of all types, including stomach, pancreas, colon and breast.” Among the greens, Dr. Fuhrman places high emphasis on Cruciferous vegetables. Some of the vegetables coming under this category and getting a distinguished mention in Dr. Fuhrman’s work are:

  • Arugula;
  • Bok Choi;
  • Broccoli;
  • Brussels sprout;
  • Cabbage;
  • Kale; and
  • Cauliflower

Dr. Fuhrman urges us to blend, chop and chew these vegetables with a view to freeing Sulphur compounds from the cell walls and thereby boosting immunity and keeping colon, stomach and other cancers at bay.

Waxing eloquent on the power of mushrooms, Dr. Fuhrman informs his readers that mushrooms are a repository of “lectins”, proteins that bind only to abnormal cells, before destroying such cells thereby making dangerous replications an impossibility. Again, banking on empirical research, he says, “in one recent study, women who ate at least 10 grams of mushrooms a day (equivalent to one small mushroom) had a 64 percent decrease in breast cancer.”

Dr. Fuhrman also waxes eloquent on the allium family of vegetables consisting of onions, garlic, leeks, shallots, chives and scallions. According to him, these add more than just flavour to one’s diet. They add anticancer, anti-inflammatory, and anti-oxidant compounds. Again research comes to the rescue. “Onion intake scrutinized in a case-control multi country study, the highest consumers of onions had less than half as many cancers compared to people who rarely consumed onions.”

  • A database of Research

Dr. Fuhrman does not pull evidence and statistics out of thin air or try to pull rabbits out of a magic hat. He derives his findings as a result of painstaking statistics from various credible and reputed sources. One prominent go to source for Dr. Fuhrman seems to be the Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews (CDSR), a leading journal and database for systematic reviews in health care. CDSR includes Cochrane Reviews (systematic reviews) and protocols for Cochrane Reviews as well as editorials and supplements.

  • Patient Testimony

Dr. Fuhrman’s book is interspersed with glowing testimonies from various patients who seemingly have come back from the brink of perdition to a life of miraculous recovery and contentment. These list of ailments from the clutch of which these patients have been liberated from includes autoimmune disorders of the likes of lupus and infections such as influenza etc.

  • Recipes

The last sixty pages of Dr. Fuhrman’s book is devoted to a plethora of recipes using the various ingredients that are extolled throughout the book. Categorised into Breakfast recipes; Smoothies, Blended Salads and Other Drinks; Salads and Salad Dressings; Dips, Snacks and Condiments; Soups; Main Dishes; Pita/Wrap Stuffers; Desserts; and Recipes with Nonvegan Options, these recipes obtain a special mention from Dr. Fuhrman in so far as their nutritional virtues are concerned.

  • Fuhrman’s Food Pyramid

The entire book can be encapsulated in an interesting food pyramid where unlike in a conventional pyramid the foods of importance are placed along the base, while the ones to be avoided at all costs are positioned at the apex. The idea behind this unconventional thinking, as expressed by Dr. Fuhrman being, “instead of considering adding protective fruits, vegetables, beans, seeds, and nuts to our disease causing diet, we must make these foods the main focus of the diet itself.

Image result for dr. fuhrman's food pyramid

“Super Immunity” is not with its fair share of controversial proclamations. Dr. Fuhrman rails against the administration of commonly used medication for the treatment of cold and flu. Targeted for their supposed lack of efficacy are cough suppressants such as Dextromethorphan and Codeine; antihistamines and decongestants; medications such as Ibuprofen (Motrin and Advil) and Aspirin; and Acetaminophen (Tylenol). Even traditional remedies such as Chicken soup, Steam inhalation, increased intake of fluids, Nasal Saline Irrigation and Vitamin C are not spared.

If this sounds a tad bit radical, be prepared for what comes next. Going against the grain of popular convention and received wisdom, Dr. Fuhrman astonishingly rallied against the use of folic acid by pregnant women. “Getting enough folate from natural foods can keep cancers from starting, by repairing errors in DNA, but folic acid appears to feed tumor development and promote carcinogenesis. In light of this research, I do not include folic acid in my multivitamin or prenatal vitamin. I do not recommend that pregnant women take a prenatal that contains folic acid.”

While pressing hard for the liberal use of cruciferous vegetables and seeds in abundance is one thing, a sensational call for abdicating flu vaccines and abhorring antibiotics even when one’s sputum is greenish yellow in colour is a totally different thing altogether. Such discomfiting philosophy, to me personally at least, seems akin to throwing the baby out along with the bath water.

“Super Immunity”, on the whole is a thought provoking book that while providing most answers, throws up an equal number of questions as well. But one thing is clear. In a world swamped by processed edibles, junk foods, carbonated drinks and unhealthy eating, Dr. Fuhrman’s book plays a key role in both acting as a wake-up call and pointing the right way forward in setting this dangerous imbalance right.

The doom of 3D

(Photo courtesy of DeAnna Gossman)

The harsh afternoon sunlight glistened off and lent a surreal brightness to the 1858 Cabernet Sauvignon Paso Robles. The furry cat purred and bristled, casting surreptitious looks at the high quality wine. The rooster, which looked overtly prosperous in bulk but debilitated in movement cocked its head to one side and intently observed something which could only be perceivable to roosters.

The cat apprehensively sniffed at the wine glass a couple of times and while, it cannot be ascertained with certainty whether it crinkled its nose in apparent disgust, it was obvious that one of the best wines on the planet was no substitute for the tried and tested milk. The cat bristled and moved away from the glass and after giving its fluffy coat a few hard licks, assumed its restive posture with a semblance of equanimity.

Suddenly all hell broke loose. The rooster pounced upon the cat, clawed, pecked and ravaged the unsuspecting feline and within a few minutes the razor sharp beak and claws had reduced the animal to its bones. By the time the 3D Printed troika of the Cat, rooster and wine were buried, killed and disposed of respectively, the damage was done.

(Word Count: 198)

Written as part of Sunday Photo Fiction. Write a story of around 200 words based on the photo prompt given (above). Hosted by Donna McNicol . For more details visit HERE

To read more of the stories based on this week’s prompt, click HERE

 

The New Silk Roads – Peter Frankopan

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Waxing eloquent about China’s astonishingly grandiose Belt and Road Initiative, which is both colossal in its sweep and gargantuan in its wake, Helga Zepp-LaRouche, president of the Schiller Institute think tank in Germany, said, “the Belt and Road Initiative will continue to grow and become a true world land bridge. It not only brings economic prosperity to all participating countries, but also serves as a true basis for a peace order for the 21st century.”

Peter Frankopan, author of the bestselling book, “The Silk Roads – A New History of the World”, seeks to unwrap and dissect the Socio-cultural and political aspects that lie hidden behind one of the most (if not the most) ambitious projects ever embarked upon the history of mankind. The Belt and Road Initiative proposed by China and President Xi Jing Ping, audaciously attempts to not only bridge the past with the present, but also seeks to shape the future in a manner un-envisaged and unimaginable. While many expert political commentators feel that the initiative is a dangerous ploy to restore China’s ‘rightful’ place in the political and economic scheme of things, more liberal policy experts of the likes of Zepp-LaRouche opine that the mega project may usher in a new and peaceful world order. Mr. Frankopan also highlights the rapid shift in the balance of economic power from the West to the East. While many of the most reputed vineyards in Bordeaux are now the properties of influential and affluent Chinese – of the likes of Jack Ma and Zhao Wei – one of England’s most famous football clubs, Manchester City is owned by Mansour bin Zayed al Nayhan, the deputy Prime Minister of the United Arab Emirates. Or take the case of Iranian businessman Mehrdad Safari. In February 2017, he so liked an apartment which he had rented in a tower in Istanbul, he “bought the entire block for $90 million (excluding VAT). The sands of prosperity are slowly but steadily scattering across the East.

But as Mr. Frankopan brings to his reader’s attention, a Brexit obsessed and Trump intoxicated world is too busy entangled and enmeshed in its own closeted affairs to pay attention to the paradigm if not tectonic shift that is characterizing the geo political landscape of the world. As an analogy for highlighting this ‘Eastward’ shift, Mr. Frankopan invokes the signature tune of the 1993 Disney film Aladdin, where Aladdin sings “A Whole New World”, to Jasmine. The continuing rise of countries such as India, South Korea and Taiwan, along with the behemoth China, signifies an inexorable tilt towards the tenet that “The Future is Asia.”

Mr. Frankopan in a measured and admirably informed manner, endeavours to demonstrate to his readers both the advantages and perils dotting the BRI landscape. As Mr. Frankopan points out, “Over 80 countries are now part of the initiative, ”.. This accounts for greater than 63% of the world’s population and 29% of its global economic output. As Mr. Frankopan points out, the projects envisaged by a mutual co-operation amongst the participation nations is eye-popping in both size and scale. The Trans-Anatolian Pipeline (“TANAP”) links the Shah Deniz II gas field in Azerbaijan with south-eastern Europe. “A new ‘International North-South transport corridor’ proposing to connect South East Asia and Northern Europe, is expected to net a whopping $2 billion in transit fees alone to Iran. A spanking new sixteen-lane expressway costing a cool $2.4 billion is expected to link Ashgabat with Turkmenabat. But as Mr. Frankopan warns, not everything about the Belt Road Initiative is hunky dory. The projects littering the pathway of the BRI have been mired in conspiracy and murkiness. Countries have come dangerously close to being wrapped in a nefarious debt trap leading to a situation of neo-colonisation. Following a humongous and mind numbing scandal involving a sovereign wealth fund – and one that caused a Prime Minister both his job and reputation – Malaysia terminated an original contract awarded to China Communications Construction Company (CCCC) for working on the East Coast Railway Link (ECRL). The Government also sought to halve the estimated project cost of S$27 billion $13 billion. Or take the case of Sri Lanka. In December 2017, Sri Lanka formally handed control of Hambantota port to China in exchange for writing down the country’s debt. Under a $1.1 billion deal, Chinese firms now have a 70 percent stake in the port along with a 99-year lease agreement to operate it. But as Cambodian prime minister Hun Sen says: “Other countries have lots of ideas but no money. But for China, when it comes with an idea, it also comes with the money.” In 2017, Starbucks announced that it would open 2,000 stores in China by 2021 – this means a new Starbucks outlet every 15 hours.

Yet China denies that it is out to either destabilize or interfere with the internal affairs of the countries it professes to partner with in its imperial initiative. As Mr. Frankopan points out, “Xi has insisted that China’s investments in sub-Saharan Africa are guided by a policy of “no interference in African countries’ internal affairs; no imposition of our will on African countries; no attachment of political strings to assistance to Africa; and no seeking of selfish political gains””.  But it was precisely with a determined and avowed objective of laying their hands upon the resources in a country that the British Empire embarked upon their untrammeled march across each of their colonies.

Mr. Frankopan does not pull any punches either in holding forth over the lamentable human rights records of China. The “re-education camps” into which a greater number of 100,000 Uighur Muslims in the western provinces have ‘disappeared’ gets a somber mention, as does the overt and covert role played by Russia in the civil conflict ravaging Syria.

The Asian environment that is agog with optimism is not without reason. As Mr. Frankopan asserts, “some 65 to 70% of proven oil and gas reserves, half of global wheat production, nearly 85% of global rice production; some three-fourths of silicon and rare earths, plus a lion’s share of opium poppy production.”

Mr. Frankopan’s “The New Silk Roads” provides more than just a glimpse into the future that is at once appealing as well as apprehensive, in equal measure.

CONSEQUENCES

Aware of neither custom nor practice, he walked into the packed hall;

His crumpled suit made heads nod in unified derision

When the pompous moderator took to the microphone and raised his call

The wealthy and wise wondered whether he had even anything to say, in pompous unison

“Ladies and gentlemen and stakeholders of our future generations” rang out a voice loud and clear

“Mother Earth knows neither rewards nor punishments, but only consequences”

Enraptured they sat as he completely enveloped them with scenarios of both hope and fear

Draconian was he merely in looks, but a sophisticated Mark Anthony in his utterances.

(Word Count: 103)

Courtesy of Sammi Cox Weekend Writing Prompt#132

The Economists’ Hour: False Prophets, Free Markets, and the Fracture of Society – Binyamin Appelbaum

Image result for The Economists' Hour: False Prophets, Free Markets, and the Fracture of Society

Milton Friedman once observed, ““I think the government solution to a problem is usually as bad as the problem and very often makes the problem worse.” Frenzied advocates of the free market breed pounced on this pronouncement in the same vein a believer entrenches within himself what he perceives to be a gospel. As regulations were systematically relegated to the apex of irrelevancies and the economy, ‘unshackled’, the dark side of capitalism took over the stage and in a macabre dance, decimated in a systematic manner the orderly workings of global markets, gifting to the world the second greatest recession post the Great Depression of 1929. By the time the dust had settled on the endemic practices, real gross domestic product (GDP as adjusted for inflation or deflation, in the United States—declined by 4.3 percent, and unemployment increased from 5 percent to 9.5 percent, peaking at 10 percent in October 2009. Spain, Greece, Ireland, Italy, and Portugal suffered sovereign debt crises that required intervention by the European Union, the European Central Bank, and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and resulted in the imposition of painful austerity measures. The entire financial system of tiny Iceland was almost wiped out and the three largest banks of the country had to be nationalized.

In his brilliant book, “The Economist’s Hour: How The False Prophets of Free Markets Fractured Our Society”, Binyamin Appelbaum dissects in a surgical fashion the events leading to the proliferation of free market tenets and their unintended consequences. The hotbed of the transition from regulated markets to free markets was the Chicago Business School. Luminaries such as Friedman, George Stigler, a friend of Friedman who exclaimed that “competition is a tough weed, not a delicate flower”, and Friedman’s brother-in-law, Aaron Director, took to the pulpit at the University arguing that the only Mantra worth its incantation was economic efficiency. Working overtime, they more than just succeeded in turning legislations such as antitrust mere relics, thereby embellishing corporate concentration and market power. Further, boosting their enthusiasm was works such as ‘The Road to Serfdom’ by Friedrich Hayek, an economist nursing a preternatural revulsion towards any role played by the Government in an economy.

These were the renowned usual suspects. As Mr. Appelbaum illustrates in an adroit manner, there were other brilliant ‘converts’ to the Friedman cause, who did their best to espouse the glories of the invisible hand. For example, Walter Oi a mercurial economist who also was suffering from a serious visual impairment, calculated the economic cost to the nation of removing the labor of would-be workers from national output during their terms of service. Then there was Richard Posner. A scholar and federal jurist Posner postulated in 2001, that, other than the economic approach, there was no longer any other perspective—political or legal—taken seriously in antitrust policy. Mr. Appelbaum citing Posner: “antitrust is dead, isn’t it?”

Mr. Appelbaum also describes in startling detail the brazen conflict of interest in the form of a ‘Revolving Door’ scenario where some economists seem to be pursuing personal causes rather than enhancing the prospects of society. Stellar protagonists such as Alan Greenspan and Lawrence Summers enjoying implicit and back door financial support and hefty consultancies from parties peddling their own interest assisted in no small deal in pushing, or rather bulldozing through, policies characterized by more than just a taint of self-preservation.

As Mr. Appelbaum details in a tragi-comic fashion, the demolition wreaked by the free market mavens was not restricted to the United States alone. A band of economists, popularly termed the “Chicago Boys” (by virtue of their academic affiliation), extrapolated them polices and passion overseas with an overzealous attitude. Chile, Paraguay, Iceland and Taiwan were all experimental terrains where these much vaunted economists could ride rough shod.

As Mr. Appelbaum clinically illustrates, this egregious market mind-set has not only gone awry, but led to situations that are absolutely unenviable. Inequality has exponentially increased in the developed world and millions of jobs lost under an austerity squeeze as countries struggle to maintain a balanced budget. From 1980 to 2010, life expectancy for poor Americans perilously declined, even as the rich lived longer. Meanwhile, the primacy of economics has not generated faster economic growth. From 1990 until the eve of the financial crisis, U.S. real GDP per person grew by a little under 2 percent a year, less than the 2.5 percent a year in the oil-shocked 1970s.

Mr. Appelbaum’ s book is also made memorable, courtesy some extraordinary anecdotes and the description of some lively and singularly peculiar characters. For example, in describing Phil Gramm, a Professor of Economics at the Texas A&M University, and also a Republican Senator, Mark McKinnon remarked, “he looks like a turtle and he sounds like a rooster.” But, “he has an uncanny ability to sense the public mood before anyone else does.” Also a quote by Paul Samuelson on Milton Friedman, “To keep the fish that they carried on long journeys lively and fresh, sea captains used to introduce an eel into the barrel. In the economics profession, Milton Friedman is that eel.” But the last word on anecdotes, sans any semblance of doubt has been accorded by Mr. Appelbaum to the acerbic and irascible George Stigler. “When a reporter observed to Stigler that he had written one hundred papers while another economist, Harry Johnson, had written some five hundred, Stigler replied, ‘mine are all different.’ Stigler, who was tall, observed of the liberal economist John Kenneth Galbraith, also tall, and of Friedman, who was not, ‘all great economists are tall. There are two exceptions: John Kenneth Galbraith and Milton Friedman.’”

As Nobel Laureate Joseph Stiglitz once remarked to Foreign Policy: “Obviously, the costs [of globalization] would be borne by particular communities, particular places—and manufacturing had located [to] places where wages were low, suggesting that these were places where adjustment costs were likely large.” In his work, Mr. Appelbaum brings to bear those very same adjustments which while bestowing untold wealth upon a small concentration of people, has brought wanton grief to a majority of the world population, who are at the time of this writing suffering the impact of a medley of causes with which they had nothing to associate themselves with.