Friday, November 30, 2012

Ever more refined sugar

Just a reminder that sugar is in more foods than one could ever have imagined.
The first big problem is bread, one of the staples of modern diets
Some sugar is essential to activate the yeast.

But manufacturers often add extra to give the bread a crispy crust and make it taste sweeter.

Start Quote

Many items that you would normally think of as wholesome and savoury in fact contain hidden sugars”
Kieran FallonDentist
Ciabatta rolls don't have sugar listed in the ingredients, but what you eat it with often has sugar in it. 
Read the ingredients list on the mayonnaise and pesto and many cheeses and discover how many have sugar added. 

Most people do not imagine sugar would be in these.
Almost every meal you give a child or eat yourself will contain some sugar.
Many items that you would normally think of as wholesome and savoury in fact contain hidden sugars.
Look at some staples
Tomato soup is very popular with children and as a family meal but when you check the ingredients on the back you see that it contains sugar, and in fact it's quite a significant amount of sugar.

The same goes for many other types of soup, particularly tinned soup.
Our teeth are being subjected to an onslaught of sugar all day long.
What is useful is to keep all your sugar to mealtimes.
So if the kids want a sweet treat or some chocolate give them that as part of lunch or dinner 

And in between meals focus very clearly on avoiding anything that contains sugar.
Fresh whole fruit (not fruit juice) or cheese as snacks between meals.
But beware several processed cheese products mostly aimed at children. 

They have sugar added.
Lesson one in trying to stay healthy always read the label.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

All is not well in Mecca

Dr Alawi's most pressing concern is the planned £690m expansion of the Grand Mosque.
The most sacred site in Islam which contains the Kaaba.
The black stone cube built by Ibrahim (Abraham) that Muslims face when they pray.

Construction officially began earlier this month with the country's Justice Minister, Mohammed 

al-Eissa, exclaiming that the project would respect "the sacredness and glory of the location, 

which calls for the highest care and attention of the servants or Islam and Muslims".

The 400,000 square metre development is being built to accommodate an extra 1.2 million 

pilgrims each year and will turn the Grand Mosque into the largest religious structure in the 


But the Islamic Heritage Foundation has compiled a list of key historical sites that they believe 

are now at risk from the ongoing development of Mecca, including the old Ottoman and Abbasi 

sections of the Grand Mosque, the house where the Prophet Mohamed was born and the 

house where his paternal uncle Hamza grew up.

There is little argument that Mecca and Medina desperately need infrastructure development. 

Twelve million pilgrims visit the cities every year with the numbers expected to increase to 17 

million by 2025.

But critics fear that the desire to expand the pilgrimage sites has allowed the authorities to ride 

roughshod over the area's cultural heritage. 

The Washington-based Gulf Institute estimates that 95 per cent of Mecca's millennium-old 

buildings have been demolished in the past two decades alone.

The destruction has been aided by Wahabism, the austere interpretation of Islam that has 

served as the kingdom's official religion ever since the al-Sauds rose to power across the 

Arabian Peninsula in the 19th century.

In the eyes of Wahabis, historical sites and shrines encourage "shirq" – the sin of idolatry or 

polytheism – and should be destroyed. 

When the al-Saud tribes swept through Mecca in the 1920s, the first thing they did was lay 

waste to cemeteries holding many of Islam's important figures. 

They have been destroying the country's heritage ever since. 

Of the three sites the Saudis have allowed the UN to designate World Heritage Sites, none are 

related to Islam.

Those circling the Kaaba only need to look skywards to see the latest example of the Saudi 

monarchy's insatiable appetite for architectural bling. 

At 1,972ft, the Royal Mecca Clock Tower, opened earlier this year, soars over the surrounding 

Grand Mosque, part of an enormous development of skyscrapers that will house five-star hotels 

for the minority of pilgrims rich enough to afford them.

To build the skyscraper city, the authorities dynamited an entire mountain and the Ottoman era 

Ajyad Fortress that lay on top of it. 

At the other end of the Grand Mosque complex, the house of the Prophet's first wife Khadijah 

has been turned into a toilet block. 

The fate of the house he was born in is uncertain. 

Also planned for demolition are the Grand Mosque's Ottoman columns which dare to contain 

the names of the Prophet's companions, something hardline Wahabis detest.

For ordinary Meccans living in the mainly Ottoman-era town houses that make up much of what 

remains of the old city, development often means the loss of their family home.

Non-Muslims cannot visit Mecca and Medina, but The Independent was able to interview a 

number of citizens who expressed discontent over the way their town was changing. 

One young woman whose father recently had his house bulldozed described how her family 

was still waiting for compensation. 

"There was very little warning; they just came and told him that the house had to be bulldozed," 

she said.

Another Meccan added: "If a prince of a member of the royal family wants to extend his palace 

he just does it. 

No one talks about it in public though. 

There's such a climate of fear."

Dr Alawi hopes the international community will finally begin to wake up to what is happening in 

the cradle of Islam. 

"We would never allow someone to destroy the Pyramids, so why are we letting Islam's history 


Under Threat
Bayt al-Mawlid

When the Wahabis took Mecca in the 1920s they destroyed the dome on top of the house 

where the Prophet Mohammed was born. 

It was then used as a cattle market before being turned into a library after a campaign by 


There are concerns that the expansion of the Grand Mosque will destroy it once more. 

The site has never been excavated by archaeologists.

Ottoman and Abasi columns of the Grand Mosque

Slated for demolition as part of the Grand Mosque expansion, these intricately carved columns 

date back to the 17th century and are the oldest surviving sections of Islam's holiest site. 

Much to the chagrin of Wahabis, they are inscribed with the names of the Prophet's 


Ottomon Mecca is now rapidly disappearing

Al-Masjid al-Nawabi

For many years, hardline Wahabi clerics have had their sites set on the 15th century green 

dome that rests above the tomb holding the Prophet, Abu Bakr and Umar in Medina. 

The mosque is regarded as the second holiest site in Islam. 

Wahabis, however, believe marked graves are idolatrous. 

A pamphlet published in 2007 by the Saudi Ministry of Islamic Affairs, endorsed by Abdulaziz 

Al Sheikh, the Grand Mufti of Saudi Arabia, stated that "the green dome shall be demolished 

and the three graves flattened in the Prophet's Masjid".

Jabal al-Nour

A mountain outside Mecca where Mohammed received his first Koranic revelations. 

The Prophet used to spend long spells in a cave called Hira. 

The cave is particularly popular among South Asian pilgrims who have carved steps up to its 

entrance and adorned the walls with graffiti. 

Religious hardliners are keen to dissuade pilgrims from congregating there and have mooted 

the idea of removing the steps and even destroying the mountain altogether.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Remarks on Government

In my many years I have come to a conclusion that one useless man is a shame,  two is a law firm and three or more is a government.
   John Adams

If you don't read the newspaper you are uninformed, if you do read the newspaper you are misinformed.
    Mark Twain

Suppose you were an idiot.  And suppose you were a member of government.  But then I repeat  myself.
    Mark Twain

I contend that for a nation to try to tax itself into prosperity is like a man standing in a bucket and trying to lift himself up by the  handle.
   Winston Churchill

A government which robs Peter to pay Paul can always depend on the support of Paul.
   George Bernard Shaw

Foreign aid might  be defined as a transfer of money from poor people in rich countries to rich people in poor countries.
    Douglas Casey,  Classmate of Bill Clinton at Georgetown University

Giving  money and power to government is like giving whiskey and car keys to  teenage  boys.
     P.J. O'Rourke,  Civil Libertarian

Government is the great fiction, through which everybody endeavors to live at the expense of everybody else.
      Frederic Bastiat,  French economist(1801-1850)

  I don't make jokes. I just watch the  government and report the  facts.
     Will Rogers

If you think health care is  expensive now, wait until you see what it costs when it's free!
      P.J. O'Rourke
 In general, the art of government consists of taking as much money as  possible from one party of the citizens to give to the other.
       Voltaire  (1764)

 Just because you do not take an interest in politics doesn't mean politics won't take an interest in you!
       Pericles (430  B.C.)

No man's life, liberty, or property is safe while the legislature is in session.
      Mark Twain  (1866)

Talk is cheap...except when government does it.

The government is like a baby's alimentary canal, with a happy appetite at one end and  no responsibility at the other.
      Ronald Reagan

The only difference between a tax man and a taxidermist is that the  taxidermist leaves the skin.
      Mark Twain

There is no distinctly Native American criminal government.
      Mark Twain

What this country needs are more unemployed politicians.
      Edward  Langley,  Artist (1928-1995)

 A government big enough to give you everything you want, is strong enough to take everything you have.
      Thomas  Jefferson

We hang the petty thieves and appoint the great ones to public office.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Dishonesty or lying

Businesspeople not to mention society at large have given little serious thought to managing dishonesty. 

Managers tend to make two hoary contradictory assumptions. 

First, that there is a sharp line between good and bad apples.

And that a manager’s job is to toss out the bad. 

Second, that everybody cheats if they have the right incentives and the wrong oversight.

So managers must ensure that punishment is sure and swift.
A new book by Dan Ariely, “The (Honest) Truth about Dishonesty”, may reinvigorate the discussion. 

Mr Ariely is a social psychologist who has spent years studying cheating. 

He also teaches at Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business. 

He has no time for the usual, lazy assumptions. 

He contends that the vast majority of people are prone to cheating. 

He also thinks they are more willing to cheat on other people’s behalf than their own. 

People routinely struggle with two opposing emotions. 

They view themselves as honourable. 

But they also want to enjoy the benefits of a little cheating.

Especially if it reinforces their belief that they are a bit more intelligent or popular than they really are. 

They reconcile these two emotions by fudging—adding a few points to a self-administered IQ test, for example.

Or forgetting to put a few coins in an honesty box.
The amount of fudging that goes on depends on the circumstances. 

People are more likely to lie or cheat if others are lying or cheating.

Or if a member of another social group (such as a student wearing a sweatshirt from a rival university) visibly flouts the rules. 

They are more likely to lie and cheat if they are in a foreign country rather than at home. 

Or if they are using digital rather than real money. 

Or even if they are knowingly wearing fake rather than real Gucci sunglasses. 

They are more likely to lie and cheat if they have been stiffed by the victim of their misbehaviour

—companies that keep customers in voicemail hell are frequent victims. 

And people are more likely to break their own rules if they have spent the day resisting temptation.

Dieters often slip after a day of self-denial, for example.
Mr Ariely observes that good sales reps understand a lot of this without attending his lectures. 

Customers like to think well of themselves.

But they also like small bribes. 

The key is to convince them that an inducement is not really a bribe. 

So drug reps make doctors feel beholden by inviting them to give lectures in golf resorts.

Or by offering to fund their terribly important research. 

Doctors naturally think their later decisions are taken entirely with their patients’ best interests in mind.

In fact they may be kidding themselves and cheating their patients. 

Sales reps also take receptionists out for fancy dinners.

Since these faithful gatekeepers decide which calls get put through to the boss.
What can be done about dishonesty? 

Harsh punishments are ineffective.

Since the cheat must first be caught. 

The trick is to nudge people to police themselves.

By making it harder for them to rationalise their sins. 

For example, we find that people are less likely to cheat if they read the Ten Commandments before doing a test.

Or if they have to sign a declaration of honesty before submitting their tax return. 

Another technique is to encourage customers to police suppliers: 

eBay, an online marketplace, hugely reduced cheating by getting buyers to rank sellers.
Let’s hope these wheezes work. 

But human beings have a remarkable talent for getting around rules.

Including the rules they try to impose upon themselves. 

And new technologies introduce new opportunities for cheating.

Just look at the e-mail that slipped through your spam filter. 

Moreover, the line between succeeding by cheating and succeeding by serving customers is not always clear.

The industrial giants of the 19th century were not called “robber barons” for nothing. 

Great entrepreneurs succeed by breaking the old rules and pursuing crazy visions. 

Great salesmen invariably stretch the truth. 

Mr Ariely and his students will have no shortage of material for follow-up books.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Insects as food

Insects, or mini-livestock as they could become known, will become a staple of our diet.
It's a win-win situation. 

Insects provide as much nutritional value as ordinary meat and are a great source of protein, according to researchers at Wageningen University in the Netherlands. 

They also cost less to raise than cattle, consume less water and do not have much of a carbon footprint. 

Plus, there are an estimated 1,400 species that are edible to man.

Gaye is not talking about bushtucker-style witchetty grubs arriving on a plate near you. 

Insect burgers and sausages are likely to resemble their meat counterparts.
"Things like crickets and grasshoppers will be ground down and used as an ingredient in things like burgers."
The Dutch government is putting serious money into getting insects into mainstream diets. 

It recently invested one million euros (£783,000) into research and to prepare legislation governing insect farms.
A large chunk of the world's population already eat insects as a regular part of their diet. 

Caterpillars and locusts are popular in Africa, wasps are a delicacy in Japan, crickets are eaten in Thailand. 

But insects will need an image overhaul if they are to become more palatable to the squeamish Europeans and North Americans, says Gaye.
They will become popular when we get away from the word insects and use something like mini-livestock.

It's well documented how the appearance of food and its smell influence what we eat.

But the effect sound has on taste is an expanding area of research. 

A recent study by scientists at Oxford University found certain tones could make things taste sweeter or more bitter.
No experience is a single sense experience," says Russell Jones, from sonic branding company Condiment Junkie, who were involved in the study. 

So much attention is paid to what food looks like and what it smells like, but sound is just as important.

What noises affect what tastes?

Hand bells hanging from rope
The Bittersweet Study, conducted by Charles Spence, a professor of experimental psychology at Oxford University, found the taste of food could be adjusted by changing the sonic properties of a background soundtrack.
We're not entirely sure what happens in brain as yet, but something does happen and that's really exciting, says Jones.
Sound and food have been experimented with by chef Heston Blumenthal. 

His Fat Duck restaurant has a dish called the Sound of the Sea, which is served with an iPod playing sounds of the seaside. 

The sounds reportedly make the food taste fresher.
But more widespread uses are developing. 

One that could have an important impact is the use of music to remove unhealthy ingredients without people noticing the difference in taste.
We know what frequency makes things taste sweeter.

Potentially you could reduce the sugar in a food but use music to make it seem just as sweet to the person eating it.
Companies are also increasingly using the link between food and sound in packaging. 

One crisp company changed the material it used to make packets as the cruncher sound made the crisps taste fresher to consumers. 

Recommended playlists could also appear on packaging to help enhance the taste of the product.
Jones says the use of sound is even being applied to white goods. 

Companies are looking into the hum fridges make, as a certain tone could make people think their food is fresher.

Earlier this year, Dutch scientists successfully produced in-vitro meat, also known as cultured meat. 

They grew strips of muscle tissue using stem cells taken from cows, which were said to resemble calamari in appearance. 

They hope to create the world's first "test-tube burger" by the end of the year.
The first scientific paper on lab-grown meat was funded by Nasa, says social scientist Dr Neil Stephens, based at Cardiff University's ESRC Cesagen research centre. 

It investigated in-vitro meat to see if it was a food astronauts could eat in space.

Ten years on and scientists in the field a

Production also requires a fraction of the land needed to raise. cattle. 

In addition it could be customised to cut the fat content and add nutrients.
Prof Mark Post, who led the Dutch team of scientists at Maastricht University, says he wants to make lab meat "indistinguishable" from the real stuff, but it could potentially look very different. 

Stephens, who is studying the debate over in-vitro meat, says there are on-going discussions in the field about what it should look like.
He says the idea of such a product is hard for people to take on board because nothing like it currently exists.
We simply don't have a category for this type of stuff in our world, we don't know what to make of it.

It is radically different in terms of provenance and product.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Dalai Lama rules for living

At the start of the new millennium the Dalai Lama issued eighteen rules for living. 

Since word travels slowly in the digital age these have not reached many people. 

So for your interest here they are.

Take into account that great love and great achievements involve great risk.

When you lose, don’t lose the lesson.

Follow the three Rs:

Respect for self
Respect for others
Responsibility for all your actions.

Remember that not getting what you want is sometimes a wonderful stroke of luck.

Learn the rules so you know how to break them properly.

Don’t let a little dispute injure a great friendship.

When you realize you’ve made a mistake, take immediate steps to correct it.

Spend some time alone every day.

Open your arms to change, but don’t let go of your values.

Remember that silence is sometimes the best answer.

Live a good, honourable life. Then when you get older and think back, you’ll be able to enjoy it a second time.

A loving atmosphere in your home is the foundation for your life.

In disagreements with loved ones, deal only with the current situation. Don’t bring up the past.

Share your knowledge. It’s a way to achieve immortality.

Be gentle with the earth.

Once a year, go someplace you’ve never been before.

Remember that the best relationship is one in which your love for each other exceeds your need for each other.

Judge your success by what you had to give up in order to get it.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Now in the UK

A powerful US lobbying group that bankrolls leading members of the Tea Party is mobilising British opposition against plans to sell cigarettes in plain packs.

As the UK government considers the proposals, it has emerged the American Legislative Exchange Council (Alec), an organisation sponsored by big tobacco and other corporate interests, is playing a key role in trying to scupper them.

Supporters of the plans say they will deter young people from smoking. 

But opponents say there is little evidence this is the case and warn that generic packs will encourage counterfeiting.

Alec, which is heavily supported by Charles and David Koch, the billionaire oil baron brothers, has launched a sophisticated global lobbying campaign against the plan.

Alec, which proclaims its "belief in the power of free markets and limited government to propel economic growth", has warned countries looking to impose plain packaging that they will be violating intellectual property provisions laid down by the World Trade Organisation, opening themselves to legal challenges.

It is targeting the UK, where the government has recently pushed the deadline for its consultation on plain packaging back by a month until the end of August as lobby groups on both sides of the debate make their submissions.

Karla Jones, Alec's taskforce director, briefed members of its international taskforce at a luxury retreat that such a move threatened major business interests. Jones told those attending:

Among the countries considering plain packaging bills are Canada, the UK and Australia, and if passed, plain packaging regulations could effectively deprive corporations of what is often their most valuable asset, their brand, trademark and/or logo.

Alec has also written to the Australian government, which intends to introduce plain packaging later this year, saying 2,000 state legislators, representing all 50 US states, "as well as 101 congressional alumni and over 250 companies and public policy associations" oppose the plan.

The organisation is seeking to convince politicians that the move would increase smoking. 

Alec warns in a submission to governments considering the plan: "Studies have shown that increased availability of generic cigarettes drives up cigarette consumption. 

As would be expected from their price, generic cigarettes appeal most to the poor, elderly and most dependent smokers. 

This proposal, then, will exploit those who can least afford to smoke and those who suffer most from smoking.

Alec also persuaded politicians from around the world to back a trade resolution attacking the European Union ban on snus, a moist smokeless tobacco product that comes in fruit flavours and is targeted at younger consumers.

The organisation's attempts to influence the debate outside its native US has angered health campaigners. 

Alec's free-market rhetoric may work in the US but it won't wash here in the UK, said Deborah Arnott, chief executive of Action on Smoking and Health (Ash). 

The tobacco industry and its lobbyists have money to burn, and they might as well just set fire to it as their campaign against plain packs is going nowhere. 

Their legal case is weak and the evidence in support of plain packaging is strong.

Losing their brand identity would be a blow for cigarette companies, which are fighting the proposal tooth and nail.

British American Tobacco, Imperial Tobacco and Philip Morris, a major supporter of Alec, have launched high court challenges against the Australian laws, saying they infringe trademark rights. 

The tobacco companies have placed a series of adverts in the British media, including the Observer

In recent months, concerns about some of Alec's activities have seen a number of its high-profile corporate sponsors resign their membership. 

The exodus has thrust the Koch brothers into the limelight. 

The two are reputed to bankroll the Tea Party via a series of trusts, although both deny attending any of its events. 

According to Greenpeace USA, the Koch brothers have channelled almost $62m (£40m) "to climate change-denial front groups that are working to delay policies and regulations aimed at stopping global warming".

Alec has enjoyed close links with the Atlantic Bridge, the defunct charity chaired by former Tory defence secretary Liam Fox, which sought to foster links between conservatives on both sides of the Atlantic. 

It was dismantled last year after criticism from the Charity Commission of its aims and operations.

Alec did not return calls.