Tuesday, February 19, 2013

When Is a Deal, a Deal?

I have a question.   When is a deal, a deal?  Apparently President Obama is a little fuzzy on the understanding of the concept of a "deal".  In the summer of 2011, the President was eager to get the debt ceiling raised so he could continue to fund his expansive and expensive medical care program (Obamacare) and other domestic social programs.  So he agreed with his fellow Democrats in Congress to compromise with the Republicans on spending cuts and allow a thing called sequestration (don't you just love that word) to occur down the road.   Now for those who have been visiting Mars for a while, sequestration is basically automatic, across-the-board spending cuts in the face of a budget deficit.  The reason for sequestration is to try to tame the exploding national debt which is approaching $ 17 trillion and the current targets would deliver $ 1.5 trillion in spending cuts over the next ten years.  Not enough to fix the problem, but a good start.

Now, even though Obama agreed to this bold action to get his way a year and a half ago, now he wants to back out.  Suddenly, these cuts are now being labeled as the ultimate evil.  Now, Obama says these cuts would "jeopardize our military readiness and eviscerate job creating investments in education and energy and medical research".  Now, Obama is calling sequestration, which he agreed to 18 months ago, a "meat cleaver approach" to budget cutting.  On Tuesday he upped the evil ante and said that sequestration would result is severe cuts in emergency services.  Hear gunshots in your neighborhood and an intruder busting down your door, don't bother calling 911, the line will be busy.  Suddenly, a deal is no longer a deal.

So how are we going to reduce the deficit if sequestration is not allowed to happen or Congress cannot agree on a more structured approach to spending cuts in the next 10 days or less?  (If you believe that can happen, I have some swamp land in Brooklyn you might be interested in).  Simple, the President says we just must raise taxes, again, on the wealthy.  Today he said, once again, he supports the idea that the wealthy are not doing enough to carry the load.  Forget that he just allowed the Bush tax cuts to expire forcing a huge tax increase on all those making $ 350,000.00 per year or more....they apparently STILL are not doing enough.  It seems our President will not be happy until all wealth is redistributed equally....or however he sees fit.

So tell me this, boys and girls, do you believe is it possible for this Congress and this President to accomplish the campaign promise he made to cut the federal deficit in half over the next four years?  I think it is If you believe our President understands when a deal is a deal.  After 40 years in business I can assure you he doesn't have a clue.


Thursday, February 14, 2013

Vitamin D - Who Knew?

This will be my first foray into the area of health and fitness but, before you read on, I have a few disclaimers.  First, I am not a doctor, but I will report the opinions of doctors and findings of researchers.  Second, while I consider myself healthy, there are still many things I need to do to improve my own health so I am not preaching here.  Third, I am not the most fit person in the world but I am working on it.  Finally, I read extensively about health and fitness but that does not make me an expert on the topic.  I resemble the joke about the man who joined the fitness club and after six months was disappointed he had not lost any weight.  Then his wife pointed out that he actually had to go to the club for that to happen.  Who knew?

Three years ago, while on vacation in Cabo San Lucas (I know, name dropper) I read a book I really liked by the famous TV personality, Dr. Mehmet Oz, "YOU, The Owner's Manual".  It was quite an eye-opener so on subsequent vacations I also read "YOU, On a Diet", "YOU, Staying Young" (one of my favorites) and "YOU, Staying Beautiful".  O.K., so the last one was kind of a stretch for me but never give up...right? 

Anyway, one of the things mentioned in every one of these books was the importance of Vitamin D (technically D3 is not a vitamin but a hormone....who knew?) in maintaining just about every bodily function in both animals and in humans.  It regulates and facilitates critical aspects of every cell, most organs and most systems that keep us alive and kicking.  AND, research has shown that most Americans are woefully deficient in this critical vitamin.  Vitamin D, a fat soluble vitamin, is acquired through the food we eat like most other vitamins but Vitamin D is the only vitamin we manufacture ourselves.  When our skin is exposed to sunlight it triggers the mechanisms in our body to produce this important ingredient.  We can also increase our Vitamin D through supplements.

More than a century ago, doctors found that Vitamin D deficiency was the principle cause of rickets, a now virtually extinct ailment that deteriorates the bones.  Vitamin D was then mandated to be added to everything from milk, cheese and margarine to breakfast cereal and, thanks to these fortified products, rickets was eradicated.  End of story. Vitamin D went back into obscurity. 

Then, in our history, we transitioned from an agricultural society to a manufacturing society.  Jobs moved indoors from the farm to the factory, from getting plenty of sun to getting very little.  Other ailments started to rise.  And then, we discovered sunscreen.  Doctors and dermatologists embraced this new protective device to lessen the chances for developing skin cancer and we have been slathering it on ever since.  Now don't get me wrong, sunscreen is a good thing.  If we had had it back when I was frying my body on a regular basis 55 years ago growing up in the intense California sun, I wouldn't be visiting my dermatologist every six months today keeping skin cancer at bay.  But, like most things Americans do, we have gone overboard in protecting ourselves from sun damage and now Vitamin D deficiency is at critical, if not epidemic, levels once again.

I am just finishing up reading a new book by Dr. Soram Khalasa called "The Vitamin D Revolution".  In it he echos what I read in the Dr. Oz books, we need to get unprotected sun exposure on the majority of our skin for at least 15 minutes each day AND take supplements to bring our Vitamin D levels up to normal.  Why?   Because Vitamin D deficiency has now been linked, through numerous clinical trials and significant research studies to be at the heart of dozens of health issues from premature aging, fatigue, chronic pain, insulin-dependent diabetes, cardiovascular disease, autism, common cold, influenza and, most importantly, cancer of the breast, colon, lung and prostate.

The most researched of the cancers as it relates to Vitamin D is breast cancer.  Several of the conclusions from the most recent large studies were:

*  By combining sun exposure, supplements and Vitamin D-rich foods between 70,000 and 150,000 new cases of breast cancer and 37,500 deaths from breast cancer could be prevented each year.

*  Women diagnosed with breast cancer who had deficient levels of Vitamin D at the time of their diagnosis were 73 % more likely to die from the cancer versus those women with sufficient levels of Vitamin D.

*  Women who started with normal levels of Vitamin D when diagnosed with breast cancer had an 83 % chance of surviving without further spread of cancer over the course of the study.

*  It was projected that a Vitamin D blood level of 52ng/ml would reduce the risk of breast cancer by 50% from the risk that is present when Vitamin D blood levels are less than 13 ng/ml.  (Note: To achieve this level of Vitamin D would require an estimated daily dose of 4,000 IU either from supplements, sun exposure or a combination of both).

Dr. Khalasa, and a rapidly growing number of physicians and specialists, now believe the current FDA minimum daily allowance for Vitamin D is woefully inadequate.  Combined with our indoor, sunless lifestyle, Vitamin D deficiency is common in over 75 % of Americans, a level of 20 ng/ml or less.  He believes the optimal level should be established at 40 - 70 ng/ml.

Bottom line:  Have your Vitamin D3 levels checked by your doctor with a simple and inexpensive blood test (covered by most insurance plans and by Medicare) and follow his advice for getting additional sun exposure or taking supplements.

Or, become a nudist.  Either way, you will enjoy life more and get the Vitamin D you need.  Who knew?


Sunday, February 3, 2013

100 Years Old and Still Gorgeous

There is something magical about someone or something being 100-years old.  On Friday a grand old lady became a Centenarian and she is as beautiful today as she ever was.  Born in 1913, this absolute wonder has all of the sparkle and personality she ever had and will steal your heart if you just spend the smallest amount of time with her.  I admit, she has a special place in my heart. 

I met her for the first time in 1951 when I was just six years old.  We had traveled into New York City on the train from Darien, CT to go see the Rockettes at Radio City Music Hall do their Christmas Special.  And there she was.  Elegant, glittering even, in her holiday attire. I was quite smitten.  My father introduced her to us like she was an old friend and I remember thinking, even at that young age, how there might be something going on between the two of them.  Later on, of course, I found out that he would visit her almost every week day in the early evening and would spend time together.  I didn't know exactly what the attraction was at that time.  All I knew was that my father seemed very satisfied after those visits.

Who is she?  Well, pardon the female reference but I was always taught that things of beauty, grace and speed are usually referred to in the feminine gender.  She...is New York's Grand Central Station.  A monument to railroading history, Grand Central is still the largest train station (actually a terminal, not a station) in the world and was a stellar engineering accomplishment when finished in 1913.  With her soaring ceilings, sparkling chandeliers, gigantic cathedral windows, sweeping staircases, Greek and Roman sculptures and hundreds of thousands of square feet of ceramic tile and marble, this structure is surely a feast for the eyes.  In the main hall the huge free span ceiling is painted like the night sky with the complete Zodiac.  Interestingly, the Zodiac is backwards, the reason given by the artist who painted it was that it was created with God's view in mind, looking down from Heaven. 

The grand old lady got a bit long in the tooth and looked a bit shabby and abandoned before Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis went all the way to the Supreme Court in the 1970's to keep her from the wrecking ball and the lady was painstakingly restored to her original glory.  Trains still stream through her 67 subterranean tracks carrying 275,000 passengers a day.  The main terminal and its many halls, shops, nooks and crannies are visited by over 750,000 people every day and it is a tourist must-see.

Like I said, my dad was an ardent admirer and faithful visitor every work day for nearly eight years from the mid-1940's to early 1950's.  He caught his train out to Noroton Station from Grand Central but not before he stopped at the Oyster Bar for a beer and a dozen oysters to hold him over until he got home for dinner.  For him, it was a love affair without equal.  After being destroyed by fire and left abandoned for several years, the Oyster Bar was restored and operates today as it once did, serving 50 different varieties of oysters, whole Maine lobsters and local crab cakes....the best you will ever eat.

Last year Vicki and I took our grandchildren, Gehrig and Eliana, to Grand Central and introduced them to the Oyster Bar where Eliana, who was only five, ate a whole lobster tail all by herself.  The grand old lady was really Grand that day.

I don't know if I will make it to be one hundred.  Most of us won't and even the likes of Jackie O., may she rest in peace, could help us attain Centenarian status.  But if I do make it that long, I hope I can do it in the style and grace of New York's old Grand Central Station.   All Aboard!