Monday, September 22, 2008

Low vitamin D levels linked to MS

A new study shows that children diagnosed with multiple sclerosis (MS) have lower levels of vitamin D compared to their healthy peers.

Previous studies had reported that individuals living in northern latitudes with less sun exposure are more prone to the disease.

According to a Canadian study, vitamin D insufficiency is more prevalent in children experiencing MS-like symptoms. Sixty-eight percent of the children suffering from a demyelinating condition have low vitamin D levels. Scientists believe the insufficiency of vitamin D, an immune modulator, can interfere with immune cell activity and lead to MS.

Vitamin D helps lower blood pressure, reduce inflammation and boost the immune system. Low levels of the vitamin are associated with the increased risk of several disorders including breast and colon cancers, heart disease, diabetes and tuberculosis.

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Vitamin C shots lower blood pressure

Italian scientists have suggested that the intravenous administration of vitamin C supplements can help reduce high blood pressure.

According to a study presented at the American Heart Association's Conference of the Council for High Blood Pressure Research, while high dose vitamin C injections can significantly reduce diastolic blood pressure they have no effect on systolic blood pressure.

Previous studies had reported that vitamin C and other antioxidants can also reduce the risk of stroke in certain individuals.

Scientists believe these injections lower blood pressure by targeting oxidative stress and calming overactive central nervous systems.

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Saturday, September 20, 2008

Definitions: The Proletariat (Part II)

Definitions: The Proletariat (Part II)
It’s true that every event that happens leaves traces. It is something like mirrors and their reflections. Except that in the mirror’s reflections, the left is right, and the right is left. Illusions all! Illusions are like words unspoken that are no longer words at all. Sometimes we have to banish all possibilities of illusion. Sometimes we have to stop, close our eyes, and allow ourselves to see real reality, not illusion where right is left, and left right. Reality free of brainwash. Free of all those words and euphemisms we hear on TV and read in the establishment press. We can trust none of it.

One problem facing the wage earner-proletariat is the lack of a suitable program. I can’t see an acceptable program for changing the world. The “Another World Is Possible” movement is at best a loose agreement around the planet that change would be a good thing. One answer to those who wonder what the new resistance wants is simple: they want a just society.

Sometimes it is comforting—but not much more than that—to recall that though protest movements of the past have been broken and scattered by Power, many of those people and like-minded others are still out there in society. They could rejoin the growing number of mature people with eyes to see and ears to hear.

But what are they to do? one wonders.

That has always been the question.
Studies show that the class of Power in the USA is surprisingly small, numbering in the tens of thousands. The potential opposition on the other hand is enormous, including all those Che Guevara had in mind when he quipped, “If you tremble in indignation at injustice then you are my comrade.” El Che had in mind the proletariat of the world.

Though much of the ruling class is stashed away in corner offices on top floors behind batteries of secretaries, apparently in hiding, out of its vanity it still wants to be seen. For what is Power if no one knows YOU hold it? Members of the Power class are visible on stage each day, in TV, in Congress, in the military hierarchy, in diplomacy, multinationals, religions and the universities. The higher they ascend the ladder of Power, the more entrenched in the Power system they become. However, those at the very summit are in hiding, the rulers who really rule. The most dangerous are those who meet in secret societies like the Bilderbergers. We can suspect who they are.

Since it seems that the people sitting in the top tiers of our political-social theater have abdicated from the struggle, we tend to underestimate their power. For they too have a stake in the land. One forgets the potential force of those textile strikes of the 1930s. One forgets that organized workers can bring a small city like Asheville in North Carolina or a metropolis like New York or a company like General Motors to a standstill in a matter of hours. The reason that seldom happens is because the people have forgotten their own strength.

People don’t think about their strength because of Power’s astute use of myth and illusion: the myth of freedom and the illusion of happiness made of comfort and ease. And today, above all, more and more out of fear!

Though most people seem to prefer ignorance, some people are learning to distinguish between myth and reality. For many issues are glaringly real and evident: the Iraq War, globalization, US imperialism, legalized torture and genocide, the new American police state, and the degradation of social life in the West in general.

Solidarity too is growing. Resistance spreads. The superiority of “the American way of life” has revealed itself to be a great lie. The result of extended and prolonged resistance is inevitably state violence against dissent. State violence in turn has a multiplier effect: when Power steps in to taser dissenters, it intensifies resistance. An explosion becomes inevitable. First collective action, then civil disobedience, then state violence, then the explosion. For police-state laws change our thinking about legitimacy. This time around the explosion can become something much different than Power imagines. An organized people can shut down the nation without firing a shot.

The people! Today the American people are broken, fragmented and bewildered, devoid of unity of purpose, as existed briefly, let’s say, during the Vietnam War. According to recent studies the vast majority of American people are still unaffected by America’s ongoing permanent war. The discussion about whether 70,000 or over one million Iraqis have been massacred has a certain theoretical-academic air about it. Not even the mothers of the American dead in Iraq can get organized.

At the same time more and more people have lost faith in the electoral system. Some of them have taken on the job of breaking down the natural passivity of the dissatisfied and fragmented people who, though in potential agreement with revolutionary analyses, are unused to resistance because of the illusionist spin conducted by Power. Therefore the suggested antidote of not voting for any of them.

Then there are the wars to be ended. If the people can’t share the government’s war effort, it can share in anti-war objectives. There is vast and growing poverty and social injustice to be resolved. There is a dramatic need for universal health care. There is a corrupt and mean political class to be removed. All of it. Both parties. There is every need to give power back to the people.

Grassroots organizer Abigail Singer, co-founder of Rising Tide North America and of a recent Southeast Climate Convergence conference in Asheville, North Carolina, said in an interview that voting is not enough because the electoral process has been sold to the highest bidder and that people who get into positions of power have to sacrifice whatever principles they started out with to the point that systemic change is impossible. Real change can come only from the grassroots.

At the same time a growing number of people are losing faith in nonviolence. Singer points out that capitalism itself is extremely violent. “If you’re not nice and polite, some people consider that violence. But most violence is in business as usual and capitalism grinding on, killing workers, forests and oceans. We’re surrounded by normalized violence and don’t recognize it for what it is. Confronting this normalized violence in a direct way is not violent; it’s necessary.”

While liberals and progressives argue that you have to work within the system, the modern activist is mutating because the political climate has changed. The violence of government repression creates violent reaction in the same way war against Iraq creates new shahids.
Violent resistance is nothing new: Black Power backed up the Civil Rights movement.

Historically the US government didn’t grant more workers rights because it became good but because people rose up and demanded their rights. People organizing to defend themselves reaches back through the history of man. Today in America some few people are coming together and developing new ideas of resistance. Their number is destined to grow to the degree that government repression grows.

After my youth in America I have lived my adult abroad. Traveling to the USA today is to go abroad. Therefore I have acquired a double sensibility about my homeland. When I arrive there, abroad, but also at home, I feel double tensions in the air: the tension connected with the widespread fear of losing “the American way of life” and the tension of a minority of dissatisfied people also fearful because it knows it is living an illusion, and that mutiny—still so nebulous as to appear a chimera—will be necessary to change things. In America I sense both a fear of action and a fear of non-action. Perhaps also a fear of change, fear that things can only get worse. The fear, as one friend wrote me today, that something very bad is about to happen to America. A fear like that of a people inhabiting the wrong house, or the haunting fear that the real house it once inhabited is today occupied by usurpers and has lost its soul.

One senses also a disturbing atmosphere of sick pragmatism and a depoliticalization coupled with widespread contentment with just analyzing the current situation rather than challenging it.
It is a good sign that across the land some grassroots activists are working to break down indifference. Radical change presupposes an end to blind acceptance of Power’s fictionalized version of reality. Activists no longer need feel alone. Each person arrested in anti-war demonstrations acquires new faith in resistance and each of them creates new converts.

Acceptance of the legitimacy of Power, indifference to Power’s deviations and passivity in the face of Power’s threats against external enemies seem to have peaked. More and more people believe that Power gone mad has to be put aside. The eventual end of acceptance and passivity could result in a kind of explosion the world has never seen.

Today however that clash is still more hope than reality. Hope that a new strategy of liberation from the oppression of illegal American Fascism will mushroom. In other times, in an older language, that strategy would be called revolutionary theory. The old Leninist concept is apt here: there can be no revolutionary movement without a revolutionary theory. The theory here, the strategy, must explain that it is not just George W. Bush, the system’s current representative, or his replacement, who must go, but the system itself run by that tiny minority at the top.

But people don’t rebel easily. People prefer reforms. People do everything possible to avoid social convulsion and upheaval, even compromising with a Fascist police state, precisely as happened in Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy.

On the other hand, today’s US government is aware that the spirit of mutiny/revolution is brewing. That is why it has armed itself with a set of illegal and anti-constitutional laws to crush it. At this juncture the alternative to ousting today’s corrupt American system is a permanent police state, which if it becomes any more fixed than it is now just might last a thousand years.
The American people will have to decide what to do and how to act. Meanwhile many non-Americans agree that the most extreme problem of this century for mankind is the confused, powerful and violent United States of America.

Finally, as an epilogue, see what Henry David Thoreau (1817-78), great American author and philosopher, wrote in his “On the Duty of Civil Obedience”:
“All men recognize the right of revolution; that is, the right to refuse allegiance to, and to resist, the government, when its tyranny or its inefficiency are great and unendurable. Those who, while they disapprove of the character and measures of a government, yield to it their allegiance and support, are undoubtedly its most conscientious supporters, and so frequently the most serious obstacles to reform.

“If the injustice is part of the necessary friction of the machine of government, let it go, let it go…. if it is of such a nature that it requires you to be the agent of injustice to another, then I say, break the law. Let your life be a counter-friction to stop the machine. What I have to do is to see, at any rate, that I do not lend myself to the wrong, which I condemn.

"But what shall I do? You ask. My answer is, If you really wish to do anything, resign your office. When the subject has refused allegiance, and the officer has resigned from office, then the revolution is accomplished.”

Gaither Stewart,Senior Contributing Editor for Cyrano’s Journal/tantmieux, is a novelist and journalist based in Italy. His stories, essays and dispatches are read widely throughout the Internet on many leading venues. His recent novel, Asheville, is published by Wastelandrunes, ( .

Definitions: The Proletariat (Part I)

Definitions: The Proletariat (Part I)
By Gaither Stewart
“Suppose that some great disaster were to sweep ten million families out to sea and leave ‘em on a desert island to starve and rot. That would be what you might call an act of God, maybe. But suppose a manner of government that humans have set up and directed, drives ten million families into the pit of poverty and starvation? That’s no act of God. That’s our fool selves actin’ like lunatics. What humans have set up they can take down….Whoever says we’ve got to have a capitalist government when we want a workers’ government, is givin’ the lie to the great founders of these United States….”

A Stone Came Rolling Olive Tilford Dargan
(Rome-Asheville, N.C.) I was back in Asheville where I started out. I found her gravesite in the obscure Green Hills Cemetery in the frontier territory of the West Bank part of this mountain city, across the French Broad River that the Cherokee called Tahkeostee.

The poet is now forgotten. Her tomb lies far from the monumental cemetery-resting place of other Asheville writers such as Thomas Wolfe and O. Henry. In her long life she was neglected because she was a proletarian writer, no easy undertaking in her times in Western North Carolina. Concerning the workers’ struggles in America last century, Dargan admitted that literature was secondary to her social commitment. ‘The struggles lie closer to real experience than the flutter of an eyelid which has occupied bourgeois writers ….’ A widely traveled Radcliff graduate, Olive Tilford Dargan lived most of her life in Asheville, NC. Acclaimed poet and novelist and in Who’s Who, she was blacklisted during the McCarthy Communist Scare in 1950s. Other writers labeled her writings propaganda because she “hobnobbed” with Communists.

Dargan described her first novel, Call Home the Heart, published in 1932 by Longmans, Green and Company, under the pseudonym of Fielding Burke—as ‘a proletarian novel depicting the role of mountain folks in the Gastonia, North Carolina cotton mill strikes,’ also largely forgotten as are the wave of violent textile worker strikes that swept through North Carolina in 1929. The strike in Gastonia reflected the tensions rising from the industry’s rapid development in the South after World War I when northern capitalists took over the southern mills to exploit cheap labor.

Since Gastonia was the epicenter of the phenomenon, mountaineers from the Smokies swept into town to work in the mills. The Loray Mill (pronounced Low-Ray) was the first in the South to undergo new “techniques” such as speed-ups forced on the worker rather than new technology. That exploitation of labor ignited the anger of textile workers in the region until walkouts began. The strike in the Loray Mills was the most famous and the most violent.

I still remember the red brick buildings, the chain-link fences and the little houses in Loray Village in West Gastonia that we passed each time we arrived in Gastonia where my grandparents lived. At that point my father always said, “Well, we’re at Loray, so we’re nearly there.”

Mill owners and state law enforcement crushed those strikes so viciously that subsequent attempts to organize labor in the North Carolina textile plants were unsuccessful. Yet the history of the strike remains, recorded in novels like those of Dargan and in the writings of one of the organizers of the Gastonia strike, Vera Buch Weisbord, a Communist and member of the National Textile Workers Union, NTWU. No less than Marxist writings, such histories of the battles for social justice throw light on the eternal struggle between labor and capital.

The history of the clash in Gastonia offers the perfect setting for an epic film or a social play of an insurrection. All the classic characters are present: evil capitalist mill owners, exploited workers in hot dusty factories, tiny ragged children and their emaciated mothers and wives in the square wooden houses, strikers, scabs and strike-breakers and dedicated and corrupt union leaders.
Dargan claimed the sequel to her first novel—A Stone Came Rolling, same publisher, same pseudonym—was even more proletarian. She claimed that she strove not to write propaganda while she fought with conflicting feelings about writing poetry and her social responsibility. Can one combine the two? she wondered. Or are fiction and social reality destined to take separate paths?

Dargan was an idealistic dreamer. To the end she continued to see good in a southern folk that has always been not only violent and brutal but also lacking in any kind of class-consciousness. They were no shield against the capitalism she detested. Neither her Asheville nor strike-ridden Gastonia 100 miles away were safe places for radicals.

This article should be dedicated to wage earners—especially in the USA and Europe—as well as to those peoples of the world who have no wages at all, the potentially class-conscious proletarians who have the capability of changing the reigning social-economic order.

The prologue to this historical play begins in ancient Rome where the proletariat was the lowest class, the plebs, the masses. Then, a jump forward through the English Revolution to the French Revolution where the curious wage earner-spectator finds the same lower classes now represented by the sans culottes, the ragged have-nots of society, ruled over by the bourgeois and the royalty. Then, a half century later, Marx attaches the old label of proletariat to the workingmen and the downtrodden masses capable of war against the bourgeoisie. By the time of the Russian Revolution the working class there has become class-conscious and in the vest of the industrial proletariat—no longer simply ignorant masses—executes its revolution.

Ten years later, when those textile workers strikes spread over the American South, bombs flew, agitation was real and the potential for proletarian revolution was in the air. The missing factor in America was effective leadership as in Russia. There were only strikers for more pay, strikebreakers, scabs and suffering people.

Online I found this eloquent testimony in the book by John A. Salmond, The General Textile Strike of 1934, From Maine To Alabama, University of Missouri Press, Columbia and London.
WE DIDN'T HAVE NO BACKING.... WE SHOULDN'Thave done it. The South hadn't even begun to organize well by then, ” remembered Kasper Smith, former textile worker and striker. “What happened in 1934 has a whole lot to do with people not being so union now.”

The veteran organizer, Solomon Barkin, made much the same point at a 1984 symposium commemorating the strike's outbreak. The strike's leaders had had little “experience with lead­ing large strikes, ” he asserted; there was no money to sustain the effort; “organizational preparation was practically nil”; there was little support from other unions, the federal bureaucracy or the president, “preoccupied” as he then was “with recovery rather than labor relations.” Moreover, the AFL generally had failed its local union base, especially those “which had been spontaneously formed” in the wake of the NIRA's passage. They were essentially left to their own resources during the strike.

There was no national direction, no widespread public or union support. This was not a national strike at all, but rather the sum of thousands of essentially local efforts, often with differing impulses and aims, and this was especially true of the cotton textile South, the strike's supposed epicenter, where the workers' sacrifices were the greatest, the repression the most severe, and the consequences of failure the most long-lasting.

No, the idea of the proletariat is not passé. The word proletariat still conveys the sense of resistance to oppression, of action, of force and strength, of an ideal. The words labor and capital, as Marx used them, are real-life categories. The capitalist and the wage earner are the personification of capital and wage labor. To disparage such words or use them in derision is to deny the dignity of human existence. For today as yesterday the proletariat is no less than the great masses of the world. It is the people. It is one of those words that are exciting and stimulating … but in the abstract. In fact the concrete proletariat is hard to touch.

Though those masses personified by proletariat constitute a class, they themselves are seldom aware of it. To become a class of action the proletariat requires leadership, something those furious, hungry, striking textile workers did not have.

The proletariat is complex. It comprises much more than the industrial proletariat of the Russian Revolution. It comprises any wage earner, the property-less class, which sells its labor to the class of property, money and power who however do not work.

Thus those two classes—those who work and those who don’t—stand face to face on the stage of life, interdependent, but forever at war with each other. The capitalist class understands instinctively this eternal dichotomy dividing men since the Persians, Mesopotamians and the Greeks. But the super-indoctrinated American working class dulled by the “American dream” does not get it. On the other hand the middle class in America and Europe has not grasped that they too are now part of the proletariat.

Having a mortgaged home, a car and a TV does not change the proletarian’s status because his very lifestyle depends on wages determined by the capitalist class which controls property, power and money. The wage earner depends on money lent him by the capitalist bank to buy his home, his car and his TV. The current subprime crisis demonstrates eloquently that those loans make the wage earner a prisoner of his employer, be it industry or banks or the state bureaucracy.

Though the man who works for wages, blue collar or middle class, is a member of the working class, his wage earner status does not make him automatically a class-conscious revolutionary. He can be anything, from a priest to the blackest reactionary, which unfortunately is often the case in the USA.

Modern history shows that the American wage earner—the potential proletarian—is in reality the staunchest flag-waving defender of the capitalist system that exploits him, does nothing for him except pay him unfair wages, sends him to war to defend capitalist interests, and throws him aside at will. American wage earners are so amorphous, so blunted in their ballyhooed ignorance, so unstructured and ill-organized that they do not even constitute a class. Their ignorance and their acceptance of their situation represents one of the great victories of capitalism.

The arrangement doesn’t make any sense at all.
Many Europeans workers are still class-conscious. But not the reactionary American workingman. The absence of class-consciousness of the American workingman exemplifies Marx’s statement that “the working class is either revolutionary or it is nothing.”

Even more: not even the mildly class-conscious workingman is aware that he is willy-nilly engaged in a war with the capitalist class. He continues to accept his role as an indistinct part of an illusion of a society, as an abstraction of a cradle-to-grave category, destined to make no mark on society, to leave no traces of his passage though life.
However, those 1930s textile strikes in North Carolina show that his illusions may one day fall away. The day he and his new middle class companions wake up from their incubus and genuine, fully developed class awareness arrives, the newborn proletariat can then become revolutionary.
That day will be the death of American capitalism, as we know it.
Meanwhile, caution. Let’s don’t confuse revolution with either liberal reform or armed insurrection. Reform is adjustment made by the rulers in order to maintain power, as happened for decades in Tsarist Russia. As a rule, reforms are too little and too late. Insurrection on the other hand is a local, spontaneous and one-issue matter, as was the 1929 Gastonia cotton mill strike. Insurrection is not revolution.

Since drastic and radical social-political change should be the goal of thinking world citizens today, everything that inhibits social solidarity, the blossoming of resistance, the redistribution of wealth, and the creation of a rebellious mindset against a negative myth are obstacles to be overcome.

But wait a minute! A myth? What myth? In this case—the myth is America itself. The Greeks too wondered how can you battle a myth? In the aftermath of the fall of Troy, Menelaus stood before Helen with his sword raised: he stared at the traitoress and let his sword fall. He couldn’t kill her. Helen was a myth. Menelaus wondered how you can kill a myth. He was not a revolutionary. In the final countdown, myths too, that is illusions and false consciousness, must be destroyed to make room for legitimacy.

Speaking of myths, let’s keep in mind that though born out of solidarity and resistance and reason, the United States of America has always harbored violence in its soul. We now see that peaceful, anti-war, mankind-loving America is a myth. A parallel violent world lives within American society. In America, violence and war are so much a part of life that non-violent opposition to its inbred violence seems to be hopeless folly and unreason. In comparison to America’s homebred terrorism and violence, just a heartbeat away from mainline life, al-Qaeda is stuff for babies and schoolgirls. In comparison to today’s institutional terrorism, past student non-violent protest or even pistol-armed Black Panthers and Weather Underground insurrections appear as innocent as breaking plate-glass windows.
Another illusion to be overcome is that the abstract workingman-proletarian can develop class-consciousness alone. Class-consciousness must be instilled from outside the class. That role inevitably falls to the intelligentsia and activists. Marx wrote in German Ideology that “one of the most difficult tasks confronting philosophers (let’s say, educated people), is to descend from the world of thought to the actual world.” That is, to the world where the workingman lives.
Yet, proletarians reject interference by intellectuals. The American workingman appears allergic to knowledge and history. Therefore he is the most truant in class awareness. The American working people have forgotten that they constitute a class, that classes even exist. They act as if the class idea belongs to another planet. To the world of Communism! That it too is an illusion.
Moreover, the poor economic classes of America accept the American Dream rhetoric that the rich deserve to be rich because they are smarter. Wealth is proof of their virtue. It is good to be rich. The poor are guilty for their poverty. As John Steppling points out on these pages, the American poor produce and reproduce the values of the ruling class, the values and ideals of the rich. The poor live in the illusion of real choices in life while in reality they live their little lives in servitude.
While the “people” are as if paralyzed, blind and dumb, in its name travesty after travesty are committed by those same capitalist leaders ­who betray the people routinely and abominably, making themselves traitors in the process and making the people complicit in their crimes against humanity. In Nazi Germany it was “we didn’t know.” In America today it is “we don’t want to know”. No false airs, please. That’s un-American. Who cares about social theories? Who cares where Laos is located? Or Georgia? If Saddam Hussein wasn’t responsible for 9/11, he could have been, which is the same thing. Only evildoers and anti-Americans believe he didn’t have weapons of mass destruction. The wide admiration for ignorance, I think, is in imitation of the ignorance of the nation’s leaders. And, as we know, ignorance is the handmaiden of the crime of Fascism.
By a strange coincidence I just opened at random the book The Origins Of Bolshevism by one of the forgers of the Russian Revolution, the Menshevik Theodore Dan, and found his remark about the “open war of the Orthodox folk (in pre-revolutionary Russia) with educated people.” Also then, in those different but analogous circumstances of pre-revolutionary Russia, educated people were isolated from the masses. From that perspective the working class in the US has become politically worse than nothing. As a collective it has been molded into a reactionary force that keeps the power elite in power. Conditioned, brainwashed and hoodwinked, the bribed workers seem to believe ignorance is for their own good.
So what happened to the collective? Or, worse, was it always that way? Except for sporadic insurrections in face of starvation in the depression years and isolated periods of resistance, the American collective has never emerged in the glory it must harbor somewhere.
Therefore Marx said that if the proletariat is not revolutionary, what good is it? And that is the pertinent question today. Is the American workingman, the wage earner, the proletariat, reformable? I pose that question for that American wage earner who does not pose the question himself.
At this point we can’t go much further in the American part of the proletarian tragedy without some class distinctions. Today, up there on the political stage we see the prancing billionaire puppets of the capitalist class who control property, money, and, consequently political power.
Whom they decide to place at the top of the pyramid today to represent their interests and misrepresent the masses should be a matter of indifference to the blue collar-middle class wage earner masses. In my mind not voting for any of them is an acceptable choice if accompanied by compensatory revolutionary activity. The most one can say is that a growing number of Americans, now approaching a majority, either through choice or indifference have opted for the non-vote route, while a tiny minority finds satisfaction in minimal grassroots agitation.
And here, another character mentioned above steps on stage. Today, as in recent centuries in the Occident, there is an in-between class. It is part of the middle class, elsewhere and at other times called the petty bourgeois, from which emerge America’s liberals and progressives. Many petty bourgeois beyond America’s borders, chiefly in Europe, prefer to label themselves Social Democrats. Far from wanting to transform society in the interests of revolutionary proletarians, they aspire to making the existing society tolerable … for themselves. In their own interests they want to counteract the rule of capital by the transference of as much power and employment as possible to the state of which they are an integral part.
HOWEVER, in their conception of state and society, the workers, the wage earners, the proletariat, are to remain forever workingmen, wage earners, proletariat. Therefore the petty bourgeois (again, the liberals and progressives) social programs for better wages and security for the workers, with which they bribe the workers to stay in line.
That was the warning Marx and Engels brought to the Central Committee of the Communist League in 1850. But how modern it rings.
That’s where the proletariat must step forward and shout, NO!
To be continued.
Gaither Stewart
Gaither Stewart, Senior Contributing Editor for Cyrano’s Journal/tantmieux, is a novelist and journalist based in Italy. His stories, essays and dispatches are read widely throughout the Internet on many leading venues. His recent novel, Asheville, is published by Wastelandrunes, ( .

Friday, September 19, 2008

Happy 113th birthday for world's oldest man

TOKYO (Reuters) - The world's oldest man celebrated his 113th birthday on Thursday, telling reporters at his home in southern Japan about his joyful life and healthy appetite.

"I'm happy," said Tomoji Tanabe as the local mayor presented him with flowers and a giant tea cup glazed with his name and date of birth. "I'm well. I eat a lot," he added.
Tanabe, recognized by the Guinness Book of World Records as the oldest living male last year, eats mostly vegetables and believes the key to longevity is not drinking alcohol.
The former civil servant lives with his son, drinks milk every day and has no major illnesses, although he now writes in his diary only once or twice a month. He used to write on a daily basis.
"His favorite food is fried shrimp, but we've heard that he's cut back on oily food," said an official at his hometown of Miyakonojo, about 900 km (560 miles) southwest of Tokyo.
"He's said he wants to live for another 10 years, that he doesn't want to die." The Japanese are among the world's longest-lived people, with the number of those aged 100 or older at a record 36,276, a government report last week showed.
Japanese women have topped the world's longevity ranks for 23 years, while men rank third after Iceland and Hong Kong.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Weightlifter makes history for Laos

A Lao weight-lifter has become the country's newest sporting hero after winning Laos' first-ever medal at the 2008 Paralympic Games in Beijing on Tuesday.

Mr Eay Simay, aged 27, won a bronze medal in the men's 48kg category weightlifting event with a lift of 157.5kg.

Mr Eay, who has being weightlifting since 1993, is the only Lao athlete competing at the games and is currently ranked 18 th in the world. His victory lifted Laos to 49 th place on the medal tally.

Mr Eay told China Radio's international Lao language broadcast that he was very happy with the victory.

“I'm really enjoying today because it came as a very big surprise for me and also it is the first-ever medal for Laos at the Paralympics. Before the games I didn't think I would get a medal because there are so many talented athletes here,” he said.

“I have to express my thanks to my coach and the Lao National Sports Committee for helping me get to where I am today and also the people of Beijing for cheering me on.”
This is the fourth time Mr Eay has achieved highly in international competitions under his coach, Mr Oudome Vilaysack. He won silver medals at the Asean Para Games in 2003, 2005 and 2007.
The gold medal in the men's 48kg category of the weightlifting event was won by Ruel Ishaku of Nigeria , who lifted 169kg to break the world record previously held by China 's Wu Guoying. The silver medal went to Omar Qarada of Jordan , who lifted 162.5kg.

The Xinhua news agency website reported that England 's Anthony Peddle, a pre-event favourite, failed in all of his three attempts to lift 152kg.

In their first attempts, Choochat Sukjareen of Thailand lifted 150kg; Farman Basha from India lifted 155kg and Omar Qarada of Jordan and Mr Eay both lifted 157.5kg.
Omar Qarada's third attempt saw him lift 162.5kg, winning him the silver medal. Not content with the medal alone, he then tried to set a new world record by attempting to lift 169.5kg, but was unsuccessful.

Peddle's last attempt also saw a no-lift and Sukjareen went on to try and lift 160kg for a chance at second place but failed. Farman Basha's and Eay's second attempts at 160kg were also no-lifts, but Eay's clean 157.5kg lift secured him the bronze medal.

The Paralympics is the world's premier sporting event for people with disabilities.
More than 4,000 athletes from 147 countries are participating in the Paralympics, which run from September 6-17.

Events at the games are: archery, athletics, bocce, cycling, equestrian, football, goalball, judo, weightlifting, rowing, sailing, shooting, swimming, table tennis, volleyball, basketball, fencing, rugby and tennis.

Healthy diets can fight chronic diseases

A new study shows that following a Mediterranean diet can help individuals tackle cancer, heart disease and other chronic illnesses.

According to a study published in theBritish Medical Journal (BMJ), strict adherence to a diet rich in fruit and vegetables protects individuals against various forms of chronic diseases and promotes public health.

Findings revealed that the abovementioned diet not only reduces the mortality rate secondary to heart disease but also lowers the risk of developing cancer and neurodegenerative conditions such as Parkinson's and Alzheimer's diseases.

University of Florence researchers encourage living on a Mediterranean diet as a primary preventative measure against major chronic diseases.

The Mediterranean diet implies exercise, activity, healthy nutrition and natural products. It normally follows a dietary pattern in which fruit and vegetables, carbohydrates, fish and olive oil are the main ingredients, while red meat, dairy products and alcohol are almost never included in the diet.

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Friday, September 12, 2008

Poor most affected by corruption

Poor most affected by corruption, says UNDP report

Corruption in the Asia-Pacific region has the greatest impact on poor people who rely on public services and the natural environment to survive, according to a new United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) report released yesterday in Vientiane .

This year's Asia-Pacific Human Development Report, titled “tackling corruption, transforming lives”, focuses on corruption from a human development perspective and the affect it has in limiting poor people's access to education and basic health services.

The report was launched by the UNDP in cooperation with the Lao government, who also held a joint workshop on the United Nations Convention against Corruption to further raise awareness of anti-corruption efforts in Laos .

A senior official from the State Inspection Authority, Mr Bounpone Sangsomsack, said the event was in line with the government's policy to join the international community in combating corruption.

According to the report, corruption has many damaging effects including weakened national institutions, inequitable social services and unjust criminal systems.

Many developing nations in the Asia-Pacific region are rich in natural resources, but due to corruption, much of this national wealth is being drained away, says the report.

Companies may bribe public officials to obtain permits to log endangered tree species or log in protected areas, the report says.

UN Resident Coordinator in Laos , Ms Sonam Yangchen Rana, said corruption had no national boundaries and affected all cultures and societies.

“We live in an age in which it is no longer acceptable for nations to ignore corruption,” she said.
“Around the globe, corruption is recognised for what it is: a crime which deprives mostly poor people from accessing basic services and receiving equal treatment in accordance with the law.”
Ms Yangchen Rana said corruption often led to funding shifting away from priority areas such as poverty reduction to projects where bribes and kickbacks were more readily available.

Ms Yangchen Rana said the report came at the halfway point on the timetable for achieving the United Nations' Millennium Development Goals and highlighted the need for closer attention to the connection between corruption and poverty.

“In 2004, the United Nations determined that, in spite of hundreds of billions of dollars in aid being spent, more than 50 countries are actually poorer than they were 15 years ago,” she said.
“There is broad agreement in Laos that good governance is essential to achieving sustainable development. One of the most critica l elements in fighting corruption is to ensure strong, timely and transparent enforcement of the law.”

Ms Yangchen Rana said one tried and tested approach to fighting corruption was to reduce the opportunity for people to engage in corrupt practices by improving public access to information.
The report suggests governments across the Asia-Pacific region should be actively seeking ways to reduce all forms of corruption.

Countries could make immediate progress by identifying and dealing with some of the worst areas, whether in health services, education or in public utilities, the report says.
Laos signed the UN convention against corruption in 2003 and since then has been investigating the possibility of early ratification of the convention.

Monday, September 8, 2008

PM satisfied with socio-economic development

Laos will achieve success in socio-economic development this fiscal year despite rising inflation, Prime Minister Bouasone Bouphavanh said last week.

Mr Bouasone was speaking at a meeting on Friday to review socio-economic development during the 2007/2008 fiscal year.

Addressing finance and planning officials at the International Training and Cooperation Centre in Vientiane , Mr Bouasone said economic growth was on track to reach 7.9 percent at the end of the 2007/2008 fiscal year.

This was only 0.1 percent lower than originally forecast despite the challenges posed by the rising prices of fuel and food items since the end of last year.

This achievement was made possible thanks to the dedicated efforts of all levels of the administration, every sector, the contribution of officials and Party members, and especially the determination of all Lao people to achieve better living conditions, he said.

Mr Bouasone said the service sector would grow by 9.9 percent this fiscal year, about 2.9 percent more than originally forecast. Average annual per capita income will reach 7.4 million kip (US$810), exceeding the original forecast of 7.2 million kip (US$728), he said.

The value of the kip is stable while foreign reserves are increasing, enabli ng the bank to manage its policy effectively. Export value has reached 52 percent of the annual plan, and is about 14 percent higher than the plan of the previous year. The trade deficit remains low and the average inflation rate is 7.6 percent.

Mr Bouasone said the government had a large enough budget to ensure expenditure on prioritised investment projects and debt clearance. Private investment, especially foreign investment, is booming in the country and comprises about 86 percent of total private investment.

Regarding the implementation of the socio-cultural development plan, he said the government was concentrating on the development of village groups, especially those in remote and mountainous areas. This had resulted in a decline in the number of poor families, as expected.

The government is reforming the education sector by raising the number of school years from 11 to 12. The government is also focusing on the development of vocational education.

Public health services now cover a wide area, including towns and rural areas. The government is also on alert for the surveillance of disease outbreaks in the country.

The information and culture sector has seen development, with more people having access to information, which aimed to promote the country's fine culture. Development of the tourism sector has occurred in parallel with sustainable protection of the environment.

The government has agreed to increase the salaries of government officials, and revise its policy to help retired officials and those who contributed physically and intellectually to the cause of the revolution.

Much attention has been paid to the development of sport, as part of efforts to host the 25 th SEA Games in December 2009.

Mr Bouasone said although the government had achieved success in the country's socio-economic development plan, there were still many problems, which the sectors concerned needed to address.

He said the government must build a stronger foundation in the economic and finance sector, ensuring continual economic growth in the right direction. The government must also address challenges concerning debt, fiscal deficit, higher fuel prices and money leakages from the customs and tax sector.

Mr Bouasone also noted economic development was not occurring in parallel with social development and culture, which reflected the love of young people for an indulgent lifestyle. In addition, the education system was not supplying a skilled labour force as required.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Climbing stairs can add to longevity

Swiss scientists believe taking the stairs instead of the elevator can reduce the risk of premature death and add to one's longevity.

According to a study presented at the meeting of the European Society of Cardiology, taking the stairs in individuals with a sedentary life is associated with fitness, less body fat and trimmer waistlines.

Stair climbing also perks up aerobic exercise capacity and reduces the risk of developing cardiovascular diseases by improving lung capacity and reducing blood pressure and bad cholesterol levels.

Findings showed that climbing stairs every day instead of taking elevators and escalators can lower the risk of premature death by 15 percent.

University of Geneva researchers concluded that stair climbing at work or malls can have major public health implications.