Swans Commentary: Letters to the Editor - letter260



Letters to the Editor

(April 8, 2013)


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French Travails

Hey Mr. d'Aymery:

You may poke fun at Pépère [François Hollande] and the judicial travails of Cahuzac and Sarkozy but there is more somber news. Since Pépère was elected in May 2012 France has seen the loss of over 241,000 jobs. To be fair, unemployment has increased under all presidents since 1970. It increased by 300,000 under Pompidou, one million under Giscard d'Estaing, 616,000 under the first term of Mitterrand, 375,000 under his second term, 416,000 under the first term of Chirac, 137,000 under his second term, and 576,000 under Sarkozy. In February, according to the last official figures, another 18,400 jobs have been lost. In a press conference in 1969 Pompidou said that if unemployment reached 500,000 there would be a revolution. Today, there are almost 3.2 million unemployed people in France without counting the underemployed who are looking for a full-time job. Still no revolution, but the situation is playing into populist hands -- Mélanchon on the left and Marine Le Pen on the right.

The French are very pessimistic with 68% considering that the future is bleak. Consumption is down leading to more bankruptcies and layoffs. The economy has contracted for two quarters in a row (recession). The budget deficit is 4.8% of the GDP, public debt over 90%. A majority of the population finds the president and his government incompetent. How confident the government is about the labor market is a tough call, but it has decided to hire an additional 2,000 employees for Pôle emploi, the national agency for employment.

Pépère went on TV on March 28 to have a 45-minute conversation with a friendly journalist, which lasted 1:15 minutes. Most people didn't even bother to watch and from those who did many turned their TV off in the middle of the broadcast. That's how boring and bland he was. He recited a lot of platitudes. He said he went to the hardware store and got a tool box that will fix all the problems of the economy. The future was bright though the path to lightness would be hard and take time, he added. He conceded that he knew about the economic crisis when he ran for president but had not anticipated how deep the crisis was and that it was lasting so long. The man seems to ignore that this crisis began in the early 1970s and has gotten worse over time. He is a good theorician but has absolutely no sense of concrete reality. He should have been a grey professor in one of our schools of higher education instead of becoming the failed president of an ailing country.

Be well.

Alouette Arouet
Paris, France - March 30, 2013


Meat Eaters: Raju Peddada's Meat: The Taste of Sin

To the Editor:

In his article Raju Peddada writes: "How about these geniuses -- Stalin, Hitler, Mao, Pol Pot, Idi Amin, Nadir Shah, Bin Laden, Mahmud of Ghazni, Timur, and Saddam -- there is a theory out there that people who eat meat become blood-thirsty..."

As I recall, Hitler was a vegetarian.

Manuel García, Jr.
Oakland, California, USA - March 28, 2013


The Omega-3 Fish Oil Industry: A Critical Supplement to Manuel García, Jr.'s Eating And Mindful Metabolic Management

To the Editor:

As Ben Goldacre clarifies in Bad Science (Forth Estate, 2009) omega-3 supplements are useless and provide yet another immensely lucrative cash cow for the pharmaceutical industry... with all manner of "researchers" churning out material to enable the continuing profiteering from the public's very real health concerns. One such recent addition to this misleading literature is Susan Allport's Queen of Fats: Why Omega-3s Were Removed from the Western Diet and What We Can Do to Replace Them (University of California Press, 2006) -- the book that Manuel García, Jr.'s problematic article "Eating And Mindful Metabolic Management" uses as it's primary resource.

By way of a warning, we have Allport's word for it that, in contrast to scientists or medical physicians, she has "none of the usual qualifications to write" about the history of omega-3 fatty acids. She, however, sees this as an advantage. Rather than "attempt[ing] to cite the many thousands of studies linking deficiency in omega-3s to a long and growing list of illnesses," Allport instead refers her readers to studies that she assures us provide an excellent overview of the field; these being Andrew Stoll's The Omega Connection: The Ground-breaking Antidepression Diet and Brain Program (Simon and Schuster, 2001), Artemis Simopoulos and Jo Robinson's The Omega Plan: The Lifesaving Nutritional Program Based on the Diet of the Island of Crete (HarperCollins, 1998), William Lands's Fish, Omega-3 and Human Health (Academic Press, 1986), and Doug Bibus's Power-Pak program. The rest of this contribution will thus briefly interrogate the background of these authors to illustrate why we would do well to ignore their work.

To start with Andrew Stoll: this omega-3 expert is a psychiatrist -- albeit one that his medical license revoked a few years ago -- whose wife, Carol Locke, MD, launched her own high purity omega-3 supplements in 1999 (as OmegaBrite). Locke, in turn, is a "very strong supporter" of Vitamin Angels, a charity supported by the vitamin supplement industry that sees its humanitarian mission as reducing "child mortality worldwide by connecting essential nutrients with infants and children under five." Hinting at the highly dubious nature of most of the powerful claims made by the sprawling vitamin supplement industry, one might note that one of Vitamin Angels' two honorary directors is Bill Sechrest -- who is the chairman of the Institute of Noetic Sciences, or as some might have it, the Institute of Mumbo Jumbo.

Next up we come across Artemis Simopoulos, who amongst his former jobs has served as a nutritional advisor in The White House (between 1978 and 1983). At present, however, in addition to acting as the president of the Center for Genetics, Nutrition and Health, in Washington DC, Simopoulos serves on the scientific advisory board of Nutrilite Products. Nutrilite is of course no small-bit player in the supplement scene, as their products are sold exclusively by Amway; with their pills having a long association with zealous right-wing political operatives as far back as the late 1940s, when they were being distributed by Amway's founders, Rich DeVos and Jay Van Andel. For those who don't know, the late Jay Van Andel served as the chairman of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce (1979-80), while DeVos has been the finance chairman of the National Republican Committee, and in 2011 was acknowledged at the Koch brothers seminar in Vail, Colorado for donating at least $1 million to Koch-related causes.

William Lands, author of Fish, Omega-3 and Human Health, has a Ph.D. in Biological Chemistry, and in 2002 retired as senior scientific advisor to the Director of the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. Since 1998 Lands has been a board member of Omega Protein, whose recent owner, would you believe it, is a crony of George H. W. Bush. In fact, an expose in Mother Jones magazine actually referred to Malcolm Glazer, the billionaire tycoon who owned Omega Protein (until 2006), as the "real-life counterpart" to the Simpsons cartoon star C. Montgomery Burns. In addition to grinding up fish to make all manner of goods from health-food supplements to fertilizers, Omega Protein's environmentally destructive operations are intimately related to the oil industry. They thus merged with Zapata Oil (of George H. W. Bush fame) in 1970, and current board members of Omega Protein still include a number of oil executives, including not least Gary Goodwin, who is a vice president of crude oil marketing for Texon, a privately held crude oil marketing company. Texon is a special enterprise with regard to their connection to the supplement industry, as their advisory board includes all manner of right-wing powerbrokers, like Donald Paul Hodel (the president of Focus on the Family), and Kyle Vann (the former CEO of the Koch brothers' energy company Entergy-Koch).

Finally, Doug Bibus, who "is considered one of the top Omega-3 experts in the world," is presently a community faculty member at the Center for Spirituality and Healing at the University of Minnesota. This Center is run by alternative health practitioner, Mary Jo Kreitzer, and a few years ago was one of a handful of supporters of the Green Tea Party Manifesto... other notable signatories including New Age eco-capitalist Paul Hawken, and influential anthroposophist Eric Utne. Utne is a senior fellow based at the Center for Spirituality and Healing, along with the likes of Archelle Georgiou, who formerly held a series of senior management positions in the health insurance giant UnitedHealth Group. Bibus currently acts as a nutritional consultant for Omega Fields -- which calls itself "the world's best flax based omega-3 supplements for your horses, dogs, chickens, and goats..."

Manuel García, Jr. is correct to observe that "our modern or Western diet is designed and promoted to produce maximal profits for an industrialized processed-food industry, rather than maximal health benefits to the population..." But this does not mean that we should ingest the well-conceived propaganda produced by the supplement industry, which after all, as an industry can hardly be differentiated from the pharmaceutical and biotech industries. The radical right (like the John Birch Society) have long maintained something of a love affair with the alleged power of alternative medicine and supplements -- regularly highlighting them as cause célèbres of the embattled common man fighting off the unwanted intrusions of regulatory agencies into the proper workings of the free market. Likewise, the extreme right are quick to blame the working class for the failures of the American "healthcare" system, and one way they do this is by blaming us for the so-called "epidemic of obesity." Criticisms of this epidemic exist -- for example, see The Obesity Myth: Why America's Obsession with Weight is Hazardous to Your Health -- but such arguments are not endlessly propagated in the corporate media. There is much wrong with the world, but encouraging the already poor to take supplements, and then blaming them for the endless crises caused by capitalist elites, is wrong-headed to say the least.

Michael Barker
London, UK - April 4, 2013


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Published April 8, 2013
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