Month: March 2018

taubes

As of July, 2017, 100 million Americans have been diagnosed with diabetes.  The Center for Disease Control (CDC) found that in 2015, diabetes was the seventh leading cause of death.   My late grandmother suffered from it for many years prior to her death and my mother also deals with the disease.  In their cases, they are among the millions that have been diagnosed as having type-2.  And with the number of diabetics growing around world,  the future prognosis is grim.  More disturbingly, diabetes is just one of the several conditions that are considered to be effects of metabolic syndrome.  The link between food and health has long been established.  Food has been man’s source of energy and the key to life.  But somewhere along the way, our approach to what we eat changed dramatically and in the process we face health epidemics never before seen.

Gary Taubes appropriately named this book The Case Against Sugar.  What he has written in this book is sure to open your eyes and change the way you look at sugar which might possibly be the most common food ingredient in history.  In fact, it is so common that it is hiding in plain sight in dozens of foods we would never suspect to contain added sugar.  The first thing I should point out is that Taubes does not tell us to refrain from eating sugar nor does he tell us to consume it. He leaves that to the reader to decide.  What he does tell us is the unfiltered truth about the history of sugar and its effects on the human body.   Doctors and other health figures have told us for years that fat and salt were the culprits behind many of the illnesses we battled. But what if the real monster was there all along and ignored either unintentionally or even blatantly? Some readers may find the topic far-fetched and wonder if the sugar they put in their coffee and the sugar found in other products they consume daily are truly that bad.  Well in order to answer that question, we first have to understand how sugar came to be developed and why it has been so important to business and the food industry.  Taubes has done the leg work for us, presenting the material in an engaging format the pulls the reader in.  Additionally, he helps us understand the different types of sugars and why it is important that we know them intimately.

The story is centuries old and incredibly, without sugar, many of the empires throughout history would have had enormous difficulty existing.  In particular, the British Empire became extremely fond of the white crystals that bankrolled their imperialist machine.  Throughout history, sugar has accompanied every civilization, empire and ethnic group.  I dare to infer that its commonplace among all of these thing is precisely what made it so hard to believe for many that it could also be life threatening.  But it is exactly that which we learn but more importantly, Taubes, like a seasoned professor, explores in-depth why sugar was so important to big industry and why it was necessary to be protected.  He includes many facts that some readers may be completely unaware of.  The section on the tobacco and sugar industries should frighten every reader, especially if they are a smoker.

Diabetes is far from a modern disease. In fact, it has been in existence for centuries and its rise has been well noted and documented.   But what we see through Taubes, is that for a large portion of that time, the connection between sugar and diabetes never fully acknowledged.  If you ask any diabetic today, they will readily inform you that sugar is at the same time their worst enemy and most needed substance.    Their inability to produce enough insulin to handle rising blood sugar or inability to produce insulin at all, as in type-1 diabetics, highlights the precarious situation that exist for diabetics.   In essence, they walk a daily tight rope that could spell success or doom.

Diabetes is a focus of the book but the not the main focus and in addition to what is the silent killer, Taubes makes the case for the relationship between sugar and the conditions classified as metabolic diseases.  The connections form an intricate web and at times the reader may need to revisit a section more than once to understand the chain of events that occur in the body upon the ingestion of sugar, whether natural, refined or artificial.  Gout, cancer, hypertension, strokes and heart attacks plague millions of Americans and for years, doctors have known that what we eat does affect how we feel and age.   Inflammation has become a known factor in all of these conditions and other ailments that plague the human body.   Sugar is also known to play a role in all of these conditions. But is it safe to say that the reduction or elimination of sugar could reverse all of these illnesses?  Possibly so and incredibly,  it is believed that at least 4 in 10 forms of cancer are preventable.  I have always refrained from telling anyone what they should or should not eat.  That is a highly personal decision.  But what I can say is that I have had my own battle with sugar and dropped it from my diet well over ten years ago.  When I did, my acne disappeared, I lost weight, my digestive tract improved and I saw a marked improvement in cognitive function in addition to a surplus of energy.  However, there was a withdrawal process and I did suffer from headaches and irritability for a couple of weeks as my body readjusted to the absence of sugar and high levels of carbohydrates.   Today,  I do not even buy it, add it anything I eat or drink and also follow the mantra that if I cannot pronounce what is in a product then I do not eat it.  It may sound extreme to some but we are only given one body on this earth and it is up to us to take care of it.

This is the ugly truth about sugar, the once believed to be harmless product that our parents and grandparents gave to us without the knowledge that we have today.  The children of today are the first generation that may have a shorter lifespan than their parents.  That is unacceptable and I believe, criminal.  Our health has been sacrificed in the name of greed and mass production.  But we can fight back and take care of our lives.  And with books such as this one by Taubes, our minds are being awakened each step of the way.  If you suffer from a metabolic condition, trying to quit sugar or even curious about its dangers, this book is a must read.

ISBN-10: 0307946649
ISBN-13: 978-0307946645

Investigative Report

20180225_1617030In volume two of this three-part series, Bureau 13 saved mankind for a second time as they battled a crafty villain on the USS Intrepid and New York City’s West Side Highway.  At the conclusion of the book, we were able to breathe a sigh of relief as Special Agent Ed Alvarez and his team prevailed.  However, for Bureau 13, there is no such thing as the end and they are back again as a new enemy threatens to obliterate the City of Chicago and turn the United States in a land of  werewolves.  At first, the mere mention of werewolves sounds implausible.  But we must remember that this is Bureau 13 where the impossible becomes possible on a daily basis.

Volume three begins a retired veterinarian named Joanne Abernathy hears an earth shattering sound in the distance outside her home.  She lives in a place that could be best described as the outskirts.  Curiosity sets in and the aged and seasoned doctor heads out where she discovers a wolf that appears to have been shot.   But alas, this is no ordinary shooting and this is no ordinary werewolf.  What transpires after the wolf is tended to medically is surreal but sets the stage for the rest of the book.   The team is assigned to an unexplained occurrence in a small town called Hadleyville.  The issue at hand is large numbers of corpses without hands or heads scattered about.  Jessica realizes that something is amiss and the team makes a quick exit.  But they are far from danger and following them is a team of werewolves who speak and have one goal; eliminate mankind.   This book quickly takes us to Defcon 1 .

Chicago becomes ground zero and every law enforcement agency is briefed on the imminent doom.  But this will be no ordinary battled and all hands are on deck as Alvarez and team Tuna Fish take on werewolves, run of the mill creatures and even a floating apartment building.  Pollotta pulls out all of the stops and if the first two books did not meet the standard of guilty pleasure, then this part surely will.    This is the continuing saga of Bureau 13 and the strange and lethal world in which they operate.

ISBN-10: 1554047064
ISBN-13: 978-1554047062

fiction

hugo1Today, Venezuela finds itself at the brink of a migrant crisis that could very surpass that of Syria.  The mass exodus of Venezuelans to surrounding countries in Latin America has increased as social conditions have deteriorated with food shortages, absurdly inflated currency and political suppression having become daily aspects of life. Nicolás Maduro (1962-) is the sitting President of Venezuela.  His administration has come under fire both domestic and abroad for its dismal record on improving Venezuelan society.  The country’s fall from grace is one of the most confusing and astounding transformations in modern history.  The nation was once at the top of the petroleum export industry and under President Hugo Chávez (1954-2013), Venezuela re-merged as a country to be recognized.    On March 5, 2013, he died after a two-year battle with colon cancer and with his death came the end of an era in Venezuela to which the country has been unable and in some cases unwilling to return.

In the United States, Chávez was often demonized as brutal despot that ruled Venezuela with an iron fist.  Absurd stories of public shootings, censorship of the press and human rights violations were regularly broadcast in U.S. media outlets.  The anti-Chávez stance was espoused by the White House as official government policy.   Many Americans firmly believed that Chávez must go.  But how much do we really know about Hugo Chávez and his life?  Bart Jones is a reporter for Newsday and for eight years he worked in Venezuela, documenting the regime changes and spectacular rise and fall of Hugo Chávez.  He has a keen insight into Venezuelan society from a first-hand view and because of this, the book has an even more authentic feel to it.

Jones takes us back in time to 1954 in the small town of Sabaneta in the State of Barinas in west-central Venezuela as Hugo Rafael Chávez Frías enters the world.  Raised at first by his grandmother Ines, there are no inkling that the young child will grow up to rule the country.   What is clear is the high esteem in which Chávez held his grandmother for all of his life and up until her death.   As he matures into a young man and enters the military, it is here that his story begins to pick up speed.  The author goes into great detail about Chávez’s early life, through old-fashioned research and discussions with Chávez that lasted several hours.  The portrait that begins to take shape is of a young man with a passion for baseball, history and the well-being of the country he calls home that has been plagued by corruption and poverty supplemental by a racial hierarchy.   Books become his favorite hobby and through history, Chávez becomes familiar with the man who is the Latin American equivalent of George Washington; Simón Bolívar (1783-1830).  For the rest of his life,  Chávez would inject Bolívar into nearly all of his speeches, plans and actions.   American readers who are drawn to history will appreciate the recap of the story of the late revolutionary and come to understand why he is so revered in Latin America.  For Chávez, there was no Venezuela without the spirit of Bolívar.

Latin America has been plagued by military coups and endless changes in regime.  Venezuela was no stranger to either. Chávez, the brilliant and aspiring leader, seized his opportunity on the heels of political upheaval and in contrast to what is often mistakenly repeated, catapulted to office in a free and open election.   But what is paramount is how he rose to power and that is what Jones carefully explains to us.  The man who was the outsider, achieved the impossible and during his time in office, left a mark on Venezuela that will last forever.   Not without his faults, he was a complex character and the author leaves it up to the reader to decide. And had he not died at such a young age, perhaps he would have gone on to achieve more in his later years.  I forewarn the reader that if you approach this book with anti-Chávez bias, you will not appreciate the gift contained in these pages.   In fact, Jones is no Chávez fan and does an incredible job of remaining unbiased.  He points out Chávez’s triumphs and also his failures.  And what we can take away from what we learn is that Chávez was a human being who some believed was larger than life.  From the comfort of our homes in America, it may be hard for some of us to understand his popularity but in Latin America, hope is more powerful than we may think.  Chávez masterfully became a man of the people and his ascension to power was extremely well-played.

Similar to other biographies of great leaders, the book contains a cast of real-life characters from President George Bush (1946-), Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice (1954-) and even the late Fidel Castro (1926-2016).  Chávez had never served in office before winning the presidential election but he quickly made up for his shortcomings and did change Venezuelan society.  Sadly, it seems that after his death the nation was never the same and under the current administration, is sliding deeper in anarchy with each passing week. If Chávez were alive, I am sure he would be ready to work to carry on the revolution to make Venezuela the greatest Latin American nation the world has seen.  He was brash, inspiring, shrewd and at times unrealistic but above all, he was Venezuela.  This is the incredible life story of Hugo Chávez and the nation he led.

ISBN-10: 158642145X
ISBN-13: 978-1586421458

Biographies