Category Archives: Blog

SUGAR, SUGAR, HOW SWEET IT IS

Five more reasons why too much sugar is bad for you, according to Jillian Kubala, MS, RD.
1. May Increase Your Risk of Depression

While a healthy diet can keep you mellow, a diet high in added sugar and processed foods may increase your chances of developing depression.

Consuming a lot of processed foods, including high-sugar products such as cakes and sugary drinks, has been associated with a higher risk of depression.

Researchers believe that blood sugar swings, neurotransmitter dysregulation and inflammation may all be reasons for sugar’s detrimental impact on mental health.

A study following 8,000 people for 22 years showed that men who consumed 67 grams or more of sugar per day were 23% more likely to develop depression than men who ate less than 40 grams per day.

Another study in over 69,000 women demonstrated that those with the highest intakes of added sugars had a significantly greater risk of depression, compared to those with the lowest intakes.

A diet rich in added sugar and processed foods may increase depression risk in both men and women.

2. May Accelerate the Skin Aging Process

Wrinkles are a natural sign of aging. They appear eventually, regardless of your health. However, poor food choices can worsen wrinkles and speed the skin aging process.

“AGE5” are compounds formed by reactions between sugar and protein in your body. They are suspected to play a key role in skin aging.

Consuming a diet high in refined carbs and sugar leads to the production of AGEs, which may cause your skin to age prematurely.

When collagen and elastin become damaged, the skin loses its firmness and begins to sag.

In one study, women who consumed more carbs, including added sugars, had a more wrinkled appearance than women on a high-protein, lower-carb diet.

The researchers concluded that a lower intake of carbs was associated with better skin-aging appearance. Sugary foods can increase the production of AGEs, which can accelerate skin aging and wrinkle formation.

3. Can Increase Cellular Aging

Telomeres are structures found at the end of chromosomes, which are molecules that hold part or all of your genetic information. Telomeres act as protective caps, preventing chromosomes from deteriorating or fusing together. As you grow older, telomeres naturally shorten, which causes cells to age and malfunction.

Although the shortening of telomeres is a normal part of aging, unhealthy lifestyle choices can speed up the process. Consuming high amounts of sugar has been shown to accelerate telomere shortening, which increases cellular aging.

A study in 5,309 adults showed that regularly drinking sugar-sweetened beverages was associated with shorter telomere length and premature cellular aging.

In fact, each daily 20-ounce (591-Ml) serving of sugar-sweetened soda equated to 4.5 additional years of aging, independent of other variables. Eating too much sugar can accelerate the shortening of telomeres, which increases cellular aging.

4. Drains Your Energy

Foods high in added sugar quickly spike blood sugar and insulin levels, leading to increased energy.

However, this rise in energy levels is fleeting.

Products that are loaded with sugar but lacking in protein, fiber or fat lead to a brief energy boost that’s quickly followed by a sharp drop in blood sugar, often referred to as a crash.

Having constant blood sugar swings can lead to major fluctuations in energy levels. To avoid this, choose carb sources that are low in added sugar and rich in fiber.

For example, eating an apple along with a small handful of almonds is an excellent snack for prolonged, consistent energy levels.

High sugar foods can negatively impact your energy levels by causing a spike in blood sugar followed by a crash.

5. Can Lead to Fatty Liver

A high intake of fructose has been consistently linked to an increased risk of fatty liver disease.

Unlike glucose and other types of sugar, which are taken up by many cells throughout the body, fructose is almost exclusively broken down by the liver. In the liver, fructose is converted into energy or stored as glycogen. However, the liver can only store so much glycogen before excess amounts are turned into fat.

Large amounts of added sugar in the form of fructose overload your liver, leading to non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD), a condition characterized by excessive fat buildup in the liver.

A study in over 5,900 adults showed that people who drank sugar-sweetened beverages daily had a 56% higher risk of developing NAFLD, compared to people who did not.

Eating too much sugar may lead to NAFLD, a condition in which excessive fat builds up in the liver.

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SUGAR, SUGAR, THE WORST IS WAITING FOR YOU – PART I

“Sugar, sugar, how sweet it is”
“Honey, honey, you’ve got me wanting you.”

The lyrics from The Archies’ hit song about teenage love.

The first five of 10 reasons why too much sugar is bad for you

From marinara sauce to peanut butter, added sugar can be found in even the most unexpected products. Many people rely on quick, processed foods for meals and snacks. Since these products often contain added sugar, it makes up a large proportion of their daily calorie intake.

In the U.S., added sugars account for up to 17% of the total calorie intake of adults and up to 14% for children. Dietary guidelines suggest limiting calories from added sugar to less than 10% per day.

Experts believe that sugar consumption is a major cause of obesity and many chronic diseases, such as type 2 diabetes.

Here are the first five of 10 reasons why eating too much sugar is bad for your health, according to Jillian Kubala, MS, RD.

1. Can Cause Weight Gain

Rates of obesity are rising worldwide and added sugar, especially from sugar-sweetened beverages, is thought to be one of the main culprits. Consuming fructose increases your hunger and desire for food more than glucose, the main type of sugar found in starchy foods. Additionally, excessive fructose consumption may cause resistance to an important hormone that regulates hunger and tells your body to stop eating.

In other words, sugary beverages don’t curb your hunger, making it easy to quickly consume a high number of liquid calories. This can lead to weight gain. Research has consistently shown that people who drink sugary beverages, such as soda and juice, weigh more than people who don’t.

Also, drinking a lot of sugar-sweetened beverages is linked to an increased amount of visceral fat, a kind of deep belly fat associated with conditions like diabetes and heart disease.
Consuming too much added sugar, especially from sugary beverages, increases your risk of weight gain and can lead to visceral fat accumulation.

2. May Increase Your Risk of Heart Disease

Sugar diets have been associated with an increased risk of many diseases, including heart disease, the number one cause of death worldwide.

Evidence suggests that high-sugar diets can lead to obesity, inflammation and high triglyceride, blood sugar and blood pressure levels—all risk factors for heart disease.

Additionally, consuming too much sugar, especially from sugar-sweetened drinks, has been linked to atherosclerosis, a disease characterized by fatty, artery-clogging deposits.
A study in over 30,000 people found that those who consumed 17-21% of calories from added sugar had a 38% greater risk of dying from heart disease, compared to those consuming only 8% of calories from added sugar.

Just one 16-ounce can of soda contains 52 grams of sugar, which equates to more than 10% of your daily calorie consumption, based on a 2,000-calorie diet.

This means that one sugary drink a day can already put you over the limit for added sugar.

Consuming too much added sugar increases heart disease risk factors such as obesity, high blood pressure and inflammation. High-sugar diets have been linked to an increased risk of dying from heart disease.

3. Has Been Linked to Acne

Foods with a high glycemic index, such as processed sweets, raise your blood sugar more rapidly than foods with a lower glycemic index.

Sugary foods quickly spike blood sugar and insulin levels, causing increased androgen secretion, oil production and inflammation, all of which play a role in acne development.
Studies have shown that low-glycemic diets are associated with a reduced acne risk, while high-glycemic diets are linked to a greater risk.

For example, a study of 2,300 teens demonstrated that those who frequently consumed added sugar had a 30% greater risk of developing acne.

Also, many population studies have shown that rural communities that consume traditional, non-processed foods have almost non-existent rates of acne, compared to more urban, high-income areas.

These findings coincide with the theory that dies high in processed, sugar-laden foods contribute to the development of acne.

High-sugar diets can increase androgen secretion, oil production and inflammation, all of which can raise your risk of developing acne.

4. Increases Your Risk of Type 2 Diabetes

The worldwide prevalence of diabetes has more than doubled over the past 30 years.

Though there are many reasons for this, there is a clear link between excessive sugar consumption and diabetes risk.

Obesity, which is often caused by consuming too much sugar, is considered the strongest risk.

What’s more, prolonged high-sugar consumption drives resistance to insulin, a hormone produced by the pancreas that regulates blood sugar levels, causes blood sugar levels to rise and strongly increases your disk of diabetes.

A population study comprising over 175 countries found that the risk of developing diabetes grew by 1.1% for every 150 calories of sugar, or about one can of soda, consumed per day.
Other studies have also shown that people who drink sugar-sweetened beverages, including fruit juice, are more likely to develop diabetes.

A high-sugar diet may lead to obesity and insulin resistance, with of which are risk factors for type 2 diabetes.

5. May Increase Your Risk of Cancer

Eating excessive amounts of sugar may increase your risk of developing certain cancers.

First, a diet rich in sugary foods and beverages can lead to obesity, which significantly raises your risk of cancer.

Furthermore, diets high in sugar increase inflammation in your body and may cause insulin resistance, both of which increase cancer risk.

A study in over 430,000 people found that added sugar consumption was positively associated with an increased risk of esophageal cancer, pleural cancer and cancer of the small intestine.

Another study showed that women who consumed sweet buns and cookies more than three times per week were 1.42 times more likely to develop endometrial cancer than women who consumed these foods less than 0.5 times per week.

Research on the link between added sugar intake and cancer is ongoing, and more studies are needed to fully understand this complex relationship.

Too much sugar can lead to obesity, insulin resistance and inflammation, all of which are risk factors for cancer.

We’ll outline the other half next week.

It’s pretty overwhelming.

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WHAT DOES BDS REALLY WANT?

Media often report that the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement is a “protest against Israeli occupation of the West Bank”—but facts prove otherwise.

Some mainstream press and politicians whitewash the BDS position, representing it as legitimate criticism of Israeli policy toward Palestinians. The truth is, BDS stands openly against the very existence of Israel—and advocates anti-Semitic measures to destroy the Jewish state.

What are the facts?

The U.S. Senate recently passed a landmark bill—the Combating BDS Act—upholding the rights of states to punish companies that discriminate commercially against Israel. While the ACLU, a few media and several presidential candidates opposed this Act, saying it violates free speech rights, this rationale ignores the fundamental nature of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement.

In fact, BDS has nothing to do with political speech and everything to do with commercial discrimination against a religious and ethnic group—Jews—as well as opposition to Jewish national self-discrimination. Imagine these media and politicians objecting to an act of Congress meant to protest the existence of a religiously Muslim or racially black country that is opposed by its enemies solely for religious or racial reasons.

Yet, as facts show—and despite media misrepresentations—this is precisely the intention of the BDS movement.

BDS doesn’t just criticize Israeli policy, it opposes the state of Israel. BDS doesn’t simply question Israel’s “occupation” of its Jewish biblical homeland, Judea-Samaria (the “West Bank”). Rather BDS opposes Israel’s occupation of the entire Holy Land. The BDS slogan says it all: “Palestine shall be free from the (Jordan) river to the (Mediterranean) sea”—meaning the entire state of Israel. Indeed, BDS founder, Omar Barghouti, admits, “If the occupation ends, would that end support for BDS? No, it wouldn’t—no.” Why do the media neglect this damning fact?

BDS doesn’t criticize any other nation for its treatment of Palestinians. While BDS attacks Israel stridently for its defensive policies in the disputed territories and Gaza, the movement does not criticize any other nation or ethnic group. It ignores the slaughter of Palestinians in Syria. It voices no objection to brutal discrimination against Palestinians in Arab Lebanon, where for 70 years Palestinians have been prohibited from leaving their refugee camps, practicing in many professions and even owning land. This double standard proves that BDS is not a Palestinian support group—rather it is an anti-Semitic, anti-Israel group, bent on the destruction of the only Jewish state. Why do journalists fail to reveal this?

BDS doesn’t criticize Hamas or the PLO for their cruel oppression of Palestinians. Israeli-Palestinians enjoy full equality under law and more civil liberties and economic opportunity than Arabs anywhere in the Middle East. By contrast, Palestinians living under the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) in Judea-Samaria suffer under rampant corruption and the repressive dictatorship of Mahmoud Abbas. Palestinians under the Islamist yoke of terror group Hamas in Gaza suffer even more, living in a virtual police state, whose meager resources are focused on conquering Israel.

Political criticism is legal. Commercial-based racial discrimination is not. Like any democracy, Israel welcomes valid criticism—especially since the country, at just 70 years old, is a thriving, dynamic work in progress. Israel’s legal system has ruled against many of Israel’s policies regarding Palestinians. Israel’s legislature—including Arab caucuses—vigorously debates such issues, which are reported by a free press.

But the BDS movement does not seek policy changes. As the BDS website, literature and public speeches make clear, its entire agenda is dedicated to turning the world’s only Jewish state into the 51st Muslim-majority nation. While the U.S. constitution protects free speech, it also prohibits discrimination against ethnic, religious and racial groups. For this reason, the Combating BDS Act is legal, ethical and politically appropriate, especially since Israel is by far the United States’ staunchest Middle East ally.

The canard that the Combating BDS Act is a violation of free speech rings disingenuous, even hateful. The United States already has hundreds of laws that prevent economic discrimination based on ethnic, religious and racial identity. Indeed, this objection appears no more than a hypocritical excuse invented by Israel haters to justify their opposition to the world’s only Jewish state.

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OUR PERSONAL EXPERIENCE WITH FOREIGN AFFAIRS – PART II

Last month we reminisced with you about our first USAID project in Romania. Here’s a run through of some of our other projects.

In the winter of 1999, we were off to Alexandria, Egypt. I was assigned to work with two partners who were hoping to have a trade show the following summer.

Gabriele had a client who had several retail stores and manufactured all the clothes that were sold there.

We had a junior suite of rooms at a Ramada Hotel and two almost okay restaurants to alternate for breakfast and dinner. Every Wednesday night the lobby would be jammed with dating and engaged couples eating bons-bons and listening to a local musical trio.

My client was hopelessly mired in conflicts about getting anything done and one partner wanted me to be an arbitrator. The other partner who had no trade show experience at all just wanted to be left alone to do things his way.

At the conclusion of the assignment, we went to Luxor and a cruise down the amazing Nile with 2,000-year-old temples.

I designed a website and developed copy for an exhibitor prospectus and attendee invitational materials. Nothing ever got produced and I cannot believe there was any chance of this event ever happening when no decisions could be made.

Gabriele’s assignment went beautifully. Every suggestion she made was immediately implemented.

In 2003, we went to Budapest and put on a two-day seminar for the consulting agency that arranged for projects in Hungary and Bulgaria. Then it was off to Sofia, Bulgaria, where we both had projects.

I met with a young, energetic woman who wanted to start another new business almost every day. Gabriele met with a group who were manufacturing for U.S. brands. They had problems but they weren’t terribly interested in solutions. They liked their problems.

Gabriele had an assignment outside of Bangkok, Thailand, with an apparel manufacturer. It was arranged by one of the large international consulting firms who wanted to direct all the discussions, as well as the input and the output.

When the assignment finished, we got to go to Northern Thailand, Chang Mai and Chang Rai, which was beautiful, and then on to Vietnam. We were one of the first American tourists in Vietnam and not entirely welcome in Hanoi up north.

I joined her for the last part of the consulting. The client wasn’t sure why he needed a consultant and the consulting firm didn’t seem to want any interference.

On her own, Gabriele had assignments in El Salvador and then Moscow, where she tried to help them set up their fashion association. She had an interpreter/ bodyguard and a good 10 days.

These assignments were all very interesting for us. Their success, however, was probably marginal at best.

They were all too long. We work at a much faster pace than any of these people. In Bulgaria, for example, my lady client asked if I could outline an educational program. She thought it would keep us there an extra week. I finished it in two days.

In the beginning, these projects were coordinated by paid staff. Then it changed. There was no more paid staff. There were now local offices of large international consultants with an attitude making arrangements for these projects who more often than not tried to direct the outcomes which made you wonder why you were there.

In most of these assignments, we were the third or fourth consultants brought in. It appears very little or anything the previous consultants had recommended had been implemented and there was no follow up on what we offered, either.

We were contacted to go to the capital of Zambia. They were interested in developing an export business and talked briefly with the consultants (one of the biggies). They wanted to build a trade center. I told them I was not a building developer and that was a huge step to start. There were many programs to start such an effort without raising millions of dollars to start a huge beginning.

Very impractical and overly ambitious. This was typical of many requests we had.

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OUR PERSONAL EXPERIENCE WITH FOREIGN AFFAIRS – PART I

In last week’s blog we discussed what I believe our foreign relations at best are on the wrong track and at worst are a literal disaster. Both Republicans and Democratic administrations, as well as Congress, have created and sustained what I think is a real mess.

On the personal front, Gabriele and I have traveled extensively, having visited over 80 countries and seen all seven continents. As part of these journeys, we’ve had some direct experience with our country’s foreign affairs by completing six assignments for USAID, the United States Agency for International Development.

The USAID projects were interesting adventures that started in the fall of 1996, when we went to Baia Mare, Romania, about 300 miles north of the capital Bucharest. It was a small city of about 150,000 people near the border with Ukraine. It had been the main supply point for the now closed mines in the nearby mountains.

Living in this transition period between the defunct communist regime and the new era with everyone struggling to get into a free market economy was difficult for all.

Under communism, everyone had a place to live—mostly stark grey concrete apartments—and a job with almost no incentive to grow or promote. The stores had little to sell and the people didn’t have much money anyway.

Now the stores had much more, but jobs and money were scarce. In general, most people weren’t sure if they weren’t better off under communism.

Our first night in Baia Mare, Nehi, our host, sponsored a dinner for us in his little café. We were served a whole fish (with the head still on). Didn’t eat much, but it was nice.

There was no milk anywhere in the city, but bananas in every small boutique grocery. We were given an apartment on the 9th floor of an office building where the elevator worked occasionally. We had a single burner hot plate for cooking and a shower that created hot water by passing through an electric arc.

It was rainy and cold during our first couple of weeks. Our only heat was an electric heater in the middle of the living room until our client finally bribed an official at the gas company to turn on our gas before the prescribed start date.

There were one or two restaurants, but only menus in Romanian and no one spoke English. After a week or so we discovered a farmer’s market on the edge of town with different produce each week.

Many people took advantage of relatives who had farms outside the city to get their milk, eggs and occasional chickens.

Our client, Nehi, who had offices in the building, had invited us to help him expand his business services activities into trade shows. However, by the time we arrived, his partner, the Chamber of Commerce, who owned the building, had decided they would produce the trade shows and wouldn’t need his involvement.

On weekends we hired a car and drove to visit nearby towns and very interesting scenic spots like the cemeteries near the border with colorful five-foot pictured wooden tombstones depicting comic portraits or scenes from the deceased’s life, as well as strikingly unique wooden churches.

We met with all of Nehi’s employees and many of the building’s tenants, at least those that spoke English.

One morning, we put the heater on in the living room. Gabriele was in the electric arc shower and I turned on the hot plate to boil water for tea and, WHAM, we blew a fuse. We didn’t know whether to laugh or cry, so we did both.

After about three weeks, we developed a report outlining several areas of activity expansion for Nehi’s actions. We recommended starting business training programs, starting a tourism promotion bureau and providing consulting services for individual businesses.

In our fourth week, we left our 30-page report with Nehi and took off for a week in Budapest, Prague and Vienna. We had a fabulous time; ate real food, saw great sights and enjoyed long hot showers.

We tried to arrange our trip through the local “travel agency” but they had no clue what we wanted or how to do it. We were finally able to do it with the Bucharest office of USAID.

Faced with this new obstacle, we set out to find new areas of activity. Nehi, our client, was a former administrative manager for the communist run mines. He and his wife ran a bakery to support an orphanage that currently had about 12 kids in residence. He spoke excellent English and was very hospitable.

He ran a small breakfast and lunch eatery in the building and charged us tourist prices until we objected and asked for the same prices as the locals. Of course, it took a week or two to figure that out.

We arrived in Romania and stayed overnight in one of the two Bucharest hotels. The next day we flew up to Baia Mare. As our plane landed, we were surrounded by a squall of machine gun soldiers who escorted us into the terminal. Never did figure out what they were protecting.

By the way, USAID required consultants like us to be married. Gabriele and I decided we had an international marriage that was consummated each time we flew overseas.

With care packages from my LA office, we got by with packaged soup and hot chocolate, as well as what we could scrape from the local groceries.

Each night we sat in our living room and felt sluggish and sleepy. We told this to someone and asked about seeing a doctor. They told us not to worry, it was just the effects of the lead smelter in the center of town; nothing to worry about!

When we returned, Nehi was glad to see us and proceeded to take us to visit some factories and the nearby mountains. We kept asking about our report and when we could discuss it with him. No response!

We figured he didn’t like our report and maybe we should just go home. Right on the verge of taking that route, Gabriele figured out he spoke good English but probably couldn’t read it too well. With that in mind, we suggested that we review the report with him.

Over the next two days we verbalized everything in the report and he was excited and enthusiastic about everything we recommended. We were now nearing our six-week commitment and he wanted us to stay longer.

We declined and hoped he and his people could implement as many of our recommendations as possible. Unfortunately, one of the problems with these projects is there is no follow-up so you don’t know what, if anything, happened.

We were in Bucharest four or more times during our stay in Romania and saw what was once, and could again be, a beautiful city. The Pizza Hut had good soft-serve ice cream and edible salads.

According to Google, Baia Mare is now down to a population of 136,000. There are now 26 hotels and it has become something of a tourist destination.

We’ll tell you more about some of other assignments next week.

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RETHINKING OUR FOREIGN POLICY

During the last 40 years, our main thrust in foreign affairs seems to have been to shower money on all the dictators, human rights abusers and power-hungry autocrats the world over. I guess we did this in the hope we could get their oil and influence them to be a little more democratic.

It’s estimated that our foreign aid budget is a little north of $50 billion going to 25 countries. That breaks down to about $18 billion in military assistance, another $17 billion in economic aid and about $14 billion through USAID, the U.S. Agency for International Development.

The most substantial part of our foreign relations bribery goes to Israel and Egypt who split up almost $5 billion between them.

Not hard to see how little we’ve accomplished, except to make the tyrants bigger bullies.

Wonder why it has never occurred to our Washington elites, be it Democrat or Republican, that we might accomplish more by providing money and counsel to build schools and better educational systems, as well as more effective economic aid. Maybe Arne Duncan, Obama’s Secretary of Education, ought to have been the Secretary of State.

In a recent book called “Mission Failure: American and the World in the Post-Cold War Era,” by John Hopkins’ Foreign Policy Professor Michael Mandelbaum, Mandelbaum argues that the last two decades of U.S. foreign policy were an aberration, an era when America became so overwhelmingly more powerful than any rival that it got geopolitically drunk and decided that it didn’t just want to be a cop on the beat protecting our nation, but also a social worker, architect and carpenter doing nation-building abroad.

It was all done with the best of intentions, and in some cases did save precious lives. But none of the efforts achieved the kind of self-sustaining democratizing order we wanted, which is why neither the last two presidents nor the current one wants to be doing any more of that—if they can avoid it.

Beginning with the 1991 decision by the first Bush admin to intervene in northern Iraq and create a no-fly zone to protect the Iraqi Kurds from their country’s genocidal leader, Saddam Hussein, “the principal international initiatives of the United States” for the next two decades “concerned the internal politics and economics rather than the external behavior of other countries,” writes Mandelbaum.

“The main focus of American foreign policy shifted from war to governance, from what other governments did beyond their borders to what they did and how they were organized within them,” writes Mandelbaum, referring to U.S. operations in Somalia, Haiti, Bosnia, Kosovo, Iraq and Afghanistan and toward Chinese human rights policy, Russian democratization policy, NATO expansion and the Israeli-Palestinian peace process.

“The United States after the Cold War…became the equivalent of a very wealthy person, the multibillionaire among nations,” he argues. “It left the realm of necessity that it had inhabited during the Cold War and entered the world of choice. It chose to spend some of its vast reserves of power on the geopolitical equivalent of luxury items; the remaking of other countries.”

In each case, “the United States sought to make the internal governance of the countries with which it became entangled more like its own democratic, constitutional order and those of its Western allies,” Mandelbaum adds. “In the Cold War, the United States aimed at containment; in the post-Cold War, the thrust was transformation. The Cold War involved the defense of the West; post-Cold War foreign policy aspired to the political and ideological extension of the West.”

“These missions,” he notes, all aimed “to convert not simply individuals but entire countries,” and they had one other thing in common: “They all failed.”

Don’t get him wrong, Mandelbaum says. The U.S. beat back some very bad actors in Bosnia, Somalia, Kosovo, Iraq and Afghanistan, and later in Libya. “The military missions that the United States undertook succeeded. It was the political missions that followed, the efforts to transform the politics of the places where American arms prevailed, that failed.”

But what if we’re now in a post-imperial, post-colonial and post-authoritarian age? The kings, colonels and dictators of old did not have to deal with amplified citizens deeply connected to one another and the world with smartphones. The old autocrats also had vast oil resources or aid from superpowers in the Cold War to buy off their people. What if they now have bulging populations, dwindling oil revenues and can’t buy off their people or shut them up?

The only option is more consensual government and social contracts among equal citizens. But that gets us back to Mandelbaum’s argument: What if it’s up to them and they’re not up to it—and the result is growing disorder and more and more of their people fleeing to the world of order in Europe or North America?

Then there’s the United Nations. We give them $2 billion in dues and another $5.7 billion in voluntary payments to finance UN programs and funds. What we get is a platform for nations who vocally oppose our American values of democracy, justice, free enterprise, privacy and property rights.

According to the Democrats, George Bush was a cowboy who conducted our foreign relations as an ego-powered bully who alienated the world and cast the U.S. in a poor light. His naïve intention to democratize Iraq was costly and ineffective.

Along comes St. Obama who promises to embrace the world’s friends and foes and recast America’s image throughout Europe and the Middle East. His reign on the global stage is quite over, but it doesn’t appear he’s had any more success in restructuring our image or accomplishing anything long-standing than Bush.

Certainly, what we’re doing now is helping create an image that we are weak and indecisive. Neither the Bush nor the Obama approach has made the world like us any better. Maybe we shouldn’t care.

Our current president, Donald Trump, came into office with a dedicated position to balance trade inequities around the world, but no agenda in the foreign affairs arena. He has vigorously pursued that posture and repaired the rupture in foreign affairs along the way.

His predecessors have allowed the trade imbalances to grow and he is determined to correct that problem.

The bottom line is we very much need new thinking and a new approach to what we spend on Foreign Relations.

We should start by making it clear that governments are free to choose any path they desire, but we will only support those who agree that the countries that thrive today: 1) educate their people up to the most modern standards; 2) empower their women; 3) embrace religious pluralism; 4) have multiple parties, regular elections and a free press; 5) maintain their treaty commitments; and 6) control their violent extremists with security forces governed by the rule of law. That’s what we think is “the answer,” and our race to the top will fund schools and programs that advance those principles.

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HAPPY BIRTHDAY, ART

Today I am a man. No, that was my bar mitzvah speech 66 years ago.

Would you believe today, this very day, I am 89 years old. No kidding! Somehow, someone let me live this long.

For 40 years or more, the DMV made me take a driving test every two years because of my poor vision. Last time out in 2013 they gave me a license for five years. I fooled them, at age 87. I stopped driving because I wasn’t comfortable on the road.

And now…drum roll, please! I want to give you my birthday present. Ready? Take one-half an avocado and mush it up and put it on half an English muffin. It’s delicious and a real healthy, light-weight breakfast. All components from life coach Julie Wilhoit.

Sold my car to Carmax and that was a pleasant experience. Nice folks! That same month I acquired a 4-wheel electric scooter and that got me around nicely to the drug store, coffee shop, CVS and a lot of doctors around here. The scooter was great, but the sidewalks tore me apart.

Then last spring I had a series of returning back and neck problems (L4/5 and S1), which led to a July 5th episode where I couldn’t move out of a chair. So, Gabriele got some good-looking fireman to come and take me to the Marina del Rey Cedars Hospital (4 blocks away) where I spent the July 4th weekend while they tried to figure out what was wrong.

With the aid of blood tests, x-rays and scans of all kinds, they finally got to a scan that showed problems in L2/3. With the help of a CT scan at the hospital, they pinned the problem down to a bone spur in that L2/3 area. That was what was causing pain in my legs while the lower back was causing the back pain.

The doctors I was seeing all sort of agreed I couldn’t consider surgery but I needed to see a pain management doctor. This is kind of a mystery classification. Almost all the pain management doctors only do injections of one kind or another.

Oh my gawd, I turned 89 today. I know they say it’s only a number, but my personal experience tells me there’s a lot more involved than just a number.

There’s only so much you can do to thwart the physical and aging problems.

Since July of last year, I have fallen about 12 times. Fortunately, none were serious but some allowed me to have a tour of all the local ER’s. Main cause was probably Gabapentin. It reduced the back pain but made me unstable. Now off it but still a little unstable.

My father lived to 91 (the last seven years in a nursing home) and my mother made it to 97 before deciding she had enough.

I’m not sure how 89 really happened. Certainly, I never gave any thought to being 89. No one gave me a clue or prepared me in any way. On the other hand, I’m sure I wouldn’t have listened.

So let me be honest with you…are things the same—NO! Have things changed that I don’t seem to be able to control—ABSOLUTELY!

• I have shrunk almost two inches
• It’s a lot harder to make decisions
• I struggle to be fast on my feet with comments, retorts or clever responses
• Still have a good sense of direction, but now uneasy about if I’m driving the right way
• Having anxiety, especially about trips and going anywhere
• Takes me longer to write anything, like my blogs
• I now wear flannel shirts all winter
• Can’t think of anything clever to reply on Facebook postings
• Becoming more ambivalent and blasé about going to things; theater, events, and the like
• Not sure I want to travel anymore. After 81 countries and seven continents, maybe it’s enough.
• Every activity seems more of a hassle
• I like staying home more than I ever imagined. It’s just more comfortable.

Is this really happening? I used to be quick on the draw with decisions, comments and opinions. Yes, I know the alternative is not desirable, but does it all have slowly get taken away.

Physically I’m doing pretty well:

• I have almost a full head of hair
• Only about 10 pounds overweight
• Eat less, especially at lunch and dinner but don’t lose weight
• BP is very normal, with no drugs
• Cholesterol a little high
• Have neuropathy—cold extremities and very poor balance. With the help of a trainer, my balance has improved in spite of doctor’s predictions.
• Teeth strong and healthy
• Only real problem is walking. I’m slow and a little like a drunken penguin.

I never tried:

• Surfing
• Skiing downhill
• Skating – roller or ice

I never ate:

• Short ribs
• Octopus
• Pigs knuckles

I always heard that old people sleep a lot. Sure didn’t work that way for me, at least all at one time in bed. At least a nap or two helps!

I’ll give you another report in 10 years, God willing!

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SHARK TANK INVESTORS OFFER SOME ADVICE TO ENTREPRENEURS

Let’s start with:

Robert Herjavec, one of the sharks on ABC’s Shark Tank, has great advice for small businesses. “You need to have distinct value,” he told Small Business Trends. Herjavec had some other advice for small business; “You really need to know your numbers and you have to have a very clear marketing presence.”

Herjavec has called Tipsy Elves, an ugly Christmas-sweater company, his best investment on the show yet.

Herjavec invested $100,000 for 10% equity in the business in 2013. Two years later, the company pulled in over $10 million in sales and expanded to other holiday apparel.

There’s an important lesson to be learned from the founders’ pitch: They brought energy. Herjavec says if entrepreneurs are able to entertain him, they caught his attention.

“Investors are tired, they’re cold, they’re hungry. They hear boring pitches all the time.” “You have to entertain me.”

When Tipsy Elves cofounders Evan Mendelsohn and Nick Morton appeared on the show in 2013, they gave a quick spiel about their company. Then launched into a surprise fashion show.

Models wearing goofy Christmas and Hanukkah sweaters strutted their stuff for the sharks, while Mendelsohn and Morton provided commentary on the looks.

It was silly, but certainly entertaining—which may have helped the former dentist and lawyer grab Herjavec’s interest.

Barbara Corcoran shared the best advice she gave Shark Tank entrepreneurs who made $2 million in three months.

PiperWai cofounders Jess Edelstein and Sarah Ribner were underdogs when they pitched their all-natural deodorant to the investors on Shark Tank’s premier episode, resulting in weeks of back orders. Corcoran encouraged the cofounders to fire their unreliable partner and find a new supplier.

“And fortunately for me, they’re women that listen,” Corcoran said. “I can’t say that about all my entrepreneurs.”

She said that many Shark Tank entrepreneurs become reckless with their money during the sales spike following their episode premier, as if the “Shark Tank buzz” is everlasting. It’s why she’s telling them to remain disciplined and focused, and to not let the flow of income distract them from building a foundation that can be scaled.

“They’ll have a huge business—you wait and watch,” Corcoran said.

The company was just under a year old—but it was far from enough to convince most of the Sharks that PiperWai could compete in such a crowded field.

Barbara Corcoran admired Edelstein and Ribner and decided to make a deal for $50,000 in exchange for 25% of the company. When the episode aired in December, the tiny company made a big splash. In the past three months, PiperWai has brought in more than $2 million in sales.

The sudden explosive success known as “the Shark Tank effect” can actually be a curse to a business whose owners aren’t prepared for it, and so Corcoran stepped in to guide them. Her advice to Edelstein and Ribner, she told Business Insider at a Zebit event on Tuesday: “Don’t spend the money. Lock it up. Pretend you’re poor.”

PiperWai wasn’t built on a major investment. “What got them from Point A to Point B is not money, but creativity, intelligence, and chutzpah,” Corcoran said. “And that’s exactly what’s going to build them a huge empire in the future.”

In a slight reversal, Mark Cuban offered Robert Herjavec some friendly advice. “Just recently, over lunch, Cuban looks at me and says, ‘You know? You’re a good guy. And so I’m going to give you a piece of advice. You have to dream bigger,” Herjavec recalls.

“You’re always trying to protect your downside, think about the upside.”

It was a very rare moment where the two agreed on something.

The fear of risk or downside can hold many talented entrepreneurs and professionals back, according to the multi-millionaire.
Focusing more on the upside, or your potential for success, pays off, Herjavec tells CNBC in a video-call from Google’s headquarters, where he was advising young entrepreneurs for a “contest with Frito Lay.”

He cites the time it took him to expand his cybersecurity company as an example. Before Herjavec’s start on Shark Tank, the Hervajec Group operated only within Canada.

“I never thought about expanding outside of Canada,” he tells CNBC. “I don’t know why, maybe I didn’t have the confidence.”

But three years ago, he finally made the leap. Today, the company operates in the U.S., Canada and the United Kingdom.

In their recent conversation, Cuban reminded Herjavec to keep thinking about new opportunities, instead of worrying about the risks.

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THE FUTURE OF AMERICAN POLITICS

A column by David Brooks of the N.Y. Times tells us, “After tribal war, the politics of weaving.”

Men and women are primarily motivated by self-interest. No other partial truth has done as much damage as this one.

If you base your political and social systems on the idea that the autonomous self-interested individual is the basic unit of society, then you will wind up with an individualistic culture that widens the maneuvering room between people but shreds the relationships and community between people.

You will wind up with a capitalism in which superstar performers get concentrated in superstar cities and everybody else gets left behind. In a system based purely on competitive individual self-interest, those who are advantaged get to race out further ahead year by year. The sense of common community and equal dignity is annihilated.

This is the flaw of unrestrained liberalism, what the radicals call “neoliberalism” or “late capitalism.” And they are not entirely wrong.

Populists on the right and the left look at this current reality and they come to a swift conclusion: The game is rigged! Liberalism is a con! Then they come to a different conclusion. The essential logic of society is not actually individuals seeking their self-interest. It’s groups struggling for power. Society is an arena where certain groups crush other groups.

On the Trumpian right it’s the coastal cultural elite trying to crush and delegitimize the white Christian patriots of the heartland. On the cultural left it’s the whole Michael Foucault legacy. Language is a tool that the oppressor class uses to permanently marginalize the oppressed. On the economic left, it’s the Bernie Sanders class war. The greedy capitalist class rigs the system and immiserates the working class.

The populist narratives differ but all have the same underlying structure. We’re locked in a life-or-death struggle of oppressor vs. oppressed groups. It’s Us versus Them—the good people here and the bad people there. The problems in society didn’t just happen; they were consciously engineered by The Evil Other, who must be broken. Our very existence is at stake!

If the anthropology of unrestrained liberalism is the autonomous individual making his own way, the anthropology of populism is warrior ants in a ruthless tribal war. These are very different views of human nature, but they have something in common: Both narratives make us miserable!

In one, life is isolation, inequality and the feeling of being invisible. In the other, it’s malice, fear and constant war. And that’s because both of these political tendencies are wrong about human nature. They create societies that pulverize who we are and are made to be.

Human beings didn’t evolve into the world’s dominant species because we are more autonomous. We didn’t do it because we’re more vicious in tooth and claw. We thrived as a species because we are better at cooperation.

We evolved complex social networks in our brains to make us better at bonding, teaching and collaborating. We don’t cooperate only to get things we want individually. Often, we collaborate to build shared environments we can enjoy together. Often, we pick a challenge just so we can have the joy of collaborating. Relationships are ends to themselves.

Thus, the best future for American politics is not based on individual competition or group war. It’s based on this narrative: We are an incredibly diverse society that got good at collaboration because we had to. The best future politics puts collaborative pluralism, weaving, at the center.

That means, first, electing leaders who are masters at cooperation. No offense, but if you’re supporting Donald Trump or Bernie Sanders this year, collaboration skills are not high on your list of priorities.

Second, it means infusing cooperative weaver values into all of our organizations. There’s a fantastic community organization in Baltimore called Thread that has a few core competencies that shape its culture. We’d be in much better shape if every organization in America lived out these values:

Show all the way up. Be fully present, honest and vulnerable in all interactions. Recognize your own value. Push through discomfort to connect deeply with others.

Learn from all voices. Most of our challenges are complex. It takes every perspective to see an issue whole. Assume people have the best of intentions, and actively focus on the value they bring. Be intentional about being with those different from you.

Treat relationships as wealth. Human bonds are the chief resource of your organization. Recognize the inherent value of each person and meet each person where she or he is.

Fail forward. Life is iterative. Your vision is not always the answer, but rather a step in a creative learning process. Set up feedback mechanisms that support change and personal growth. Dogma won’t get you to the solution. Openness and adjustment will.

The third task of weaver politics is reforming institutions so they encourage collaboration. Some of our institutions, like Congress, have been completely subsumed by tribal warfare. Other institutions, as Yuval Levin writes in his book “A Time to Build,” are no longer formative places where we learn and serve; they have become platforms individuals use to broadcast their supreme selves.

Still other institutions have become dehumanized. Our schools, hospitals, prisons and welfare systems don’t embed people in thick relationships. They treat them as units to be processed and shoved out the door. Still other institutions cease to exist. Why do we still not have a national service program?

America has an enormous task of institutional reform ahead of it, just as it did in the Progressive era.

The fourth and final task of this kind of politics is transformative policies that directly address our most serious divides. For example, reparations are a way to acknowledge the wrongs inflicted on African-Americans and to begin to heal that breach. Congressman Ro Khanna has a proposal that would show rural America that everyone has a place in the new economy. He would fund research and technology hubs throughout the country—a land grant college system for the 21st century.

The politics of weaving grows out of the acknowledgement that there is no dominant majority in America. There is no moderate center. Your group will never pulverize and eliminate your opposing group. There’s no choice but to set up better collaborative systems across difference. This is not a problem, it’s an adventure.

Yes, human beings are partly selfish and self-interested. But we are also supremely social and collaborative. This is the part we have to work on now.

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THE HOMELESS CRISIS – TIMES TWO

The first part of the crisis is the shear numbers and how they have grown to numerous, uncomfortable and embarrassing levels. The second crisis is no one seems to know what to do about it.

Every politician has a somewhat different and changing position about how to deal with the problem, and so do I. It’s hard to know where to start or find much agreement on how to resolve the situation.

A researcher at the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) sums up the problem in a broader context.

By examining the problem of homelessness on a state level, we can better address the magnitude of the situation. California has the largest population of people experiencing homelessness with nearly 130,000, 90,000 of whom are unsheltered according to the Department of Housing and Urban Development. The city of San Francisco alone had a 30% increase in homelessness since 2015. New York has approximately 91,000 and Florida has over 31,000. California is in a state of crisis mainly to the lack of affordable housing and the significant housing shortage. The average house price in the Bay Area is $1.25 million. L.A. is the least affordable housing district in America.

Given these challenges, efforts to tackle homelessness through increased state involvement in the housing sector have not been able to yield the intended results. This strategy amounts to simply throwing money at the problem. Oregon has recently passed the first statewide mandatory rent-controlled bill for all citizens in March of this year as an emergency measure. Rent hikes are capped at 7 percent including inflation during any 12-month period. California is attempting to enact a legal “right to shelter” mandate modeled after that of New York in effect since 1981. Last year, New York spent $3.2 billion on services to house its homeless population and $1.5 billion on shelters. It has created a safe haven. The California “right to shelter” plan does not offer any specifics, yet California is spending tons of money with little signs of progress. California legislators have allocated $650 million, with $124 million for building more homeless shelters despite the majors’ request for $2 billion. The costs to build are much too high.

For another view, I turned to the N.Y. Times California Newsletter and spoke with Dr. Margot Kushel, a leading homelessness researcher.

Margot Kushel is having the moment she never wanted to have.

Dr. Kushel is an internist at the University of California, San Francisco. She started specializing in low-income populations shortly after graduating from the Yale School of Medicine, and has spent two decades researching the underlying causes and consequences of homelessness in relative anonymity.

Lately, however, she’s seen her profile rise, as the problem she has spent her career trying to solve has escalated.

Last year, Dr. Kushel was named director of an Institute For Homeless Research, which was endowed with $30 million from Marc Benioff, the billionaire founder of Salesforce. The initiative is focused on translating proven homeless solutions into widespread adoption and continuing to research what isn’t known.

Here’s the conversation, edited and condensed for length:

Tell me about your career and how you ended up specializing in homelessness.

When I started residency, I realized that approximately half of the inpatients we cared for were homeless. We would admit patients to the hospital, give them all this very high quality, expert medical care, and then, eventually, we would have to discharge patients back to their homelessness, meaning to outside. Patients would ask me to please not discharge them, but eventually we wouldn’t have a choice. Inevitably, a few days later, the patient would be back, often in worse shape than they had been in before. I remember thinking that there had to be a different way and decided to change my career plans.

Most people who become homeless “self-resolve,” meaning they find housing. We don’t know how long that takes, and whether we could shorten it substantially by intervening. We know that for most people, long-term subsidies are the answer, but there may be people who need shorter term help. We are going to try to figure out who needs what, while working to solve the main problem, which is the shortage of extremely low-income housing.

What would it take to end homelessness?

We’ve always known that most homelessness is a result, pure and simple, of poverty: the lack of a living wage, the lack of affordable housing and the insidious impact of racism. If we don’t fix the fundamentals, we are just patching a leaking ship. And that is what has happened.

It would take an investment in creating and sustaining extremely low-income housing and efforts to increase the minimum wage and to close the existing housing gap. Right now in California there are 22 units available and affordable for every 100 households with extremely low incomes.

What was the state of understanding our homelessness when you first got started versus what we know now?

When we first started, people believed that to provide housing, people needed to go through steps. First, a shelter. Then, if they “behaved well” (didn’t use drugs, took medicines, etc.), they could get to transitional housing. If they did everything “right” then they could be offered permanent housing. As a result, only a tiny proportion of people with behavioral disabilities became housed.

Housing First turned that upside down, recognizing that when people were homeless, they couldn’t attend to their mental health or substance use needs (or anything else). This has been enormously successful, housing about 85 percent of the most complex folks. There is overwhelming and incontrovertible evidence that this works—people are housed successfully, and then the other things follow.

What are some of the myths around homelessness?

You hear people saying things like, “You can’t just house people who have addiction problems.” You can, and you must. Another is that homelessness is caused by mental health and substance abuse problems. We know that most homelessness is driven by economic forces. The vast majority of people who become homeless could be easily housed if there were housing that they could afford on their income. Yes, having mental health and substance use problems are risk factors. But, most people with these disabilities are housed.

What don’t we know about homelessness?

There is a lot more work to be done in homelessness prevention. We know that for some people, a small infusion of resources (cash, services) can prevent homelessness. But, for every 100 or so people at high risk, only one will become homeless. So, we need to do a better job of figuring out who the potential homeless people are.

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