Ebola Spreads To Nurse and Is Affecting Chocolate Supplies (Updated)

It has been a day for bad news related to Ebola. The more serious concern is the apparent transmission of Ebola to a nurse caring for the patient in Texas despite wearing protective gear. It is of concern that these precautions did not prevent the spread to this individual (although it now is reported to have been due to a breach in protocol), but it is at least encouraging that surveillance efforts were successful and the person was quickly identified and precautions taken against further spread.

John McCain, a member of the party which has been protesting the number of czars in the Obama administration, has now called for an Ebola Czar. Perhaps as a first step, the Republicans should reconsider their actions in blocking the appointment of Obama’s nominee as Surgeon General.

On top of this is the news that Ebola could affect supplies of chocolate:

Ebola is threatening much of the world’s chocolate supply.

Ivory Coast, the world’s largest producer of cacao, the raw ingredient in M&M’s, Butterfingers and Snickers Bars, has shut down its borders with Liberia and Guinea, putting a major crimp on the workforce needed to pick the beans that end up in chocolate bars and other treats just as the harvest season begins. The West African nation of about 20 million — also known as Côte D’Ivoire — has yet to experience a single case of Ebola, but the outbreak already could raise prices…

The market is worried, too. Prices on cocoa futures jumped from their normal trading range of $2,000 to $2,700 per ton, to as high as $3,400 in September over concerns about the spread of Ebola to Côte D’Ivoire, noted Jack Scoville, an analyst and vice president at the Chicago-based Price Futures Group. Since then, prices have yo-yoed down to $3,030 and then back to $3,155 in the past couple of weeks.

While not yet time to panic, are we now in danger of seeing riots at the supermarkets and hoarding of chocolate?

(Original post updated with further information on the case in Texas and John McCain’s call for an Ebola Czar.)

Frequent Chocolate Consumption Reduces BMI

This might be the most important scientific finding ever: A study in the March 26 issue of the Archives of Internal Medicine found that frequent chocolate consumption was associated with lower body mass index (BMI). Here is a summary from Medscape:

A recent study showed that frequent chocolate consumption was associated with lower body mass index (BMI), even when adjusting for calorie intake, saturated fat intake, and mood.

Beatrice A. Golomb, MD, PhD, associate professor of medicine at the University of California, San Diego, and colleagues described their findings in a research letter published in the March 26 issue of the Archives of Internal Medicine.

The authors used data from 1018 patients already being screened for inclusion in a widely sampling clinical study evaluating noncardiac effects of statin medications. Of the 1018 participants, 1017 answered the question, “How many times a week do you consume chocolate?” BMI was calculated for 972 participants (95.6%); and 975 (95.8%) answered the validated Fred Hutchinson Food Frequency Questionnaire.

The investigators performed analyses with and without adjustment for calorie intake, saturated fat (satfat) intake, and mood. Fruit and vegetable intake was not associated with chocolate consumption (β, 0.004; P = .55), but satfat intake was significantly related to both chocolate consumption (β, 0.035; P < .001) and higher BMI.

The amount of chocolate consumed was examined, in addition to the frequency of chocolate consumption. Activity (number of times in a 7-day period the participant engaged in vigorous activity for at least 20 minutes) and mood (Center for Epidemiological Studies Depression scale [CES-D]) were also examined.

The relationship between chocolate consumption frequency and BMI was calculated in unadjusted models, in models adjusted for age and sex, and in models adjusted for activity, satfats, and mood.

Study participants consumed chocolate a mean 2.0 (SD, 2.5) times per week and exercised 3.6 (SD, 3.0) times per week. Frequency of chocolate consumption was associated with greater intake of calories and satfats and higher CES-D scores (P < .001 for each of these 3 associations); these all related positively to BMI. Chocolate consumption frequency was not associated with greater activity (P = .41), but it was associated with lower BMI (unadjusted P = .01). This association remained with and without adjustment for age and sex, as well as for calories, satfats, and depression.

Although chocolate consumption frequency was associated with lower BMI, the amount of chocolate consumed was not (eg, per medium chocolate serving or 1 oz [28 g], β, 0.00057 and P = .97, in an age- and sex-adjusted model).

“The connection of higher chocolate consumption frequency to lower BMI is opposite to associations presumed based on calories alone, but concordant with a growing body of literature suggesting that the character — as well as the quantity — of calories has an impact on [metabolic syndrome (MetS)] factors,” write the authors.

They further explain that as chocolate products are frequently high in sugar and fat, they are often assumed to contribute to an increased BMI. The authors note that this may still be true in some cases.

“[O]ur findings — that more frequent chocolate intake is linked to lower BMI — are intriguing,” write the authors. “They accord with other findings suggesting that diet composition, as well as calorie number, may influence BMI. They comport with reported benefits of chocolate to other elements of MetS,” the authors write, noting that a randomized trial studying the metabolic benefits of chocolate in humans may be warranted.

Sue Lowden Backs Down on “Chickens For Checkups”

From time to time I’ve received everything from chocolate to venison from patients, but they have never given such gifts with an expectation of using them for payment for medical services. Nevada Republican Sue Lowden has raced a lot of ridicule since she suggested battering for medical services as a potential solution to the health care crisis. When we first heard this, many bloggers along with myself gave her the benefit of the doubt and at least thought she meant bargaining over prices, as opposed to bartering. I also noted that this happened to be the topic of the Dilbert cartoon published that same day.

Lowden stuck with this argument, and made it clear she was really advocating true bartering–chickens for checkups.

“Let’s change the system and talk about what the possibilities are. I’m telling you that this works. You know, before we all started having health care, in the olden days, our grandparents, they would bring a chicken to the doctor. They would say I’ll paint your house,” she said. “[That’s] what people would do to get health care with their doctors. Doctors are very sympathetic people.”

“I’m not backing down from that system,” she added.

Greg Sargent reports she is finally backing down:

It took around two weeks and a good deal of national ridicule, but Nevada GOP Senate candidate Sue Lowden has finally backed off of her apparent advocacy for a “chickens for checkups” barter policy to bring down health care costs.

In an interview with a local station in Nevada today, Lowden clarified her original comments, claiming she’d been taken out of context. Lowden added she had merely made a “casual statement” designed to describe an ongoing reality, and hadn’t intended to offer a policy prescription.

“They took it way out of context,” Lowden said in the interview, blaming Harry Reid’s campaign tracker for plucking the quote out of an hour-long conversation about multiple topics.

“The truth of the matter is there is bartering going on in this state and in the country,” Lowden said. “It has been going on for years.” She added she had merely made “a casual statement talking about the reality of what’s going on.” Audio here.

In a follow up interview, Lowden spokesperson Crystal Feldman confirmed her intent. “Sue’s comment on bartering was never a policy proposal,” Feldman said, adding it was “an insight on how struggling families in Nevada are working to pay for medical care during these tough times.”

The problem for Lowden stemmed from the fact that she seemed to stray into advocating for a barter system, rather than just describing existing circumstances. In her original quote, Lowden said that “bartering is really good” to “get prices down in a hurry,” urging people to “go ahead and barter with your doctor.”

You Might Be A Liberal If…

Kiera Butler of Mother Jones looks at characteristics of liberals versus conservatives:

You may be a liberal if…you were the Tracy Flick of your nursery school. Confident, dominating preschoolers grow into liberals, while fearful and easily victimized tots turn conservative.

You may be a conservative if…you alphabetize your underwear drawer. Conservatives are more likely to have neat and tidy rooms, and liberals messy ones.

You may be a liberal if…you’re up all night. 28% of liberals have insomnia, compared with 16% of conservatives.

You may be a conservative if…you’re a woman who craves chocolate chip cookies. Liberal ladies prefer theirs fruit filled.

You may be a liberal if…you’re in the mood for Chocolate Peanut Butter Cookie-Dough Cheesecake. Liberals’ chain eateries of choice are the Cheesecake Factory, Panera Bread, and Starbucks, while conservatives dine at Hardee’s and Fuddruckers.

You may be a conservative if…you’re happy with tap water. Domino’s Pizza claims Republican customers are less likely to order beverages.

You may be a liberal if…you’re too lazy to walk to the pizza place. The Domino’s survey found that Democrats rely on delivery more than Republicans.

You may be a conservative if…you have a son. Parents of boys are more likely to be conservative than parents of girls.

You may be a liberal if…you possess Obama-like calm. When shown a picture of a spider on a human face, most conservatives jump in fright; liberals react roughly the same as when they’re shown a picture of a bunny.

You may be a conservative if…your dreams are chaste. Nearly half of liberals report having erotic dreams; only 38% of conservatives admit to it. (This was before Sarah Palin.)

For the most part the liberal characteristics fit, but I do love chocolate chip cookies. I’ve also never had an erotic dream about Sarah Palin, but seeing a picture of her in someone’s face might make me react roughly the same way as when shown a picture of a spider.

The 25 Funniest Political Quotes of 2008

After two consecutive long holiday weekends, many of us can use a laugh before getting back to work full time on Monday. Daniel Kurtzman has compiled a list The 25 Funniest Political Quotes of 2008:

1. “I can see Russia from my house!” –Tina Fey, impersonating Sarah Palin on Saturday Night Live (Watch video1)

2. On undecided voters: “I look at these people and can’t quite believe that they exist. Are they professional actors? I wonder. Or are they simply laymen who want a lot of attention? To put them in perspective, I think of being on an airplane. The flight attendant comes down the aisle with her food cart and, eventually, parks it beside my seat. “Can I interest you in the chicken?” she asks. “Or would you prefer the platter of sh*t with bits of broken glass in it? To be undecided in this election is to pause for a moment and then ask how the chicken is cooked.” —David Sedaris2

3. “This campaign needed the common touch of a working man. After all, it began so long ago with the heralded arrival of a man known to Oprah Winfrey as ‘The One.’ Being a friend and colleague of Barack, I just called him ‘That One.'” –John McCain, in his comedy routine3 at the Al Smith Dinner

4. “Even in this room full of proud Manhattan Democrats. I can’t shake that feeling that some people here are pulling for me … I’m delighted to see you here tonight, Hillary.” –John McCain, at the Al Smith Dinner

5. “Who is Barack Obama? Contrary to the rumors you have heard, I was not born in a manger. I was actually born on Krypton and sent here by my father Jor-El to save the Planet Earth. Many of you know that I got my name, Barack, from my father. What you may not know is Barack is actually Swahili for ‘That One.’ And I got my middle name from somebody who obviously didn’t think I’d ever run for president. If I had to name my greatest strength, I guess it would be my humility. Greatest weakness, it’s possible that I’m a little too awesome.” –Barack Obama, in his comedy routine4 at the Al Smith Dinner

6. “He looks like a guy who’s backed over his own mailbox … He looks like the guy at the supermarket who is confused by the automatic doors … He looks like the guy who picks up his TV remote when the phone rings … He looks like the guy at the movies whose wife has to repeat everything.” –David Letterman (Read more of Letterman’s jabs at Old Man McCain5)

7. “After a quick meet-and-greet with King Abdullah, Obama was off to Israel, where he made a quick stop at the manger in Bethlehem where he was born.” –Jon Stewart, on Barack Obama’s Middle East trip

8. “This doesn’t smell right. This is not the way a tested hero behaves. Somebody’s putting something in his Metamucil.” –David Letterman, on John McCain suspending his campaign and canceling his appearance on the “Late Show”6

9. “McCain suspended his campaign, said the debate had to be canceled, he went to Washington, screwed up the deal, and then un-suspended his campaign and flew to the debate even though there wasn’t a deal. Usually when a 72-year-old man acts this way, this is when the kids start calling nursing homes.” –Bill Maher

10. On taking sides in the election: “If you, out of nowhere, are going to grab a woman out of the woods and make her your vice presidential candidate, what can I do? [Sarah Palin] is like Jodie Foster in the movie ‘Nell.’ They just found her, and she was speaking her own special language. Have you noticed how [Palin’s] rallies have begun to take on the characteristics of the last days of the Weimar Republic? In Florida, she asked ‘Who is Barack Obama?’ Hey, lady, we just met YOU five f**ing weeks ago.” –Jon Stewart

A Politically Safer Cappuccino

Coffee has come up in a number of posts over the years, including where one obtains their coffee. I’ve often recommended single cup coffee makers, such as my Tassimo. Besides making a variety of kinds of coffee, including types four from Starbucks, it makes tea, hot chocolate, and espresso. Not being a dedicated espresso machine, the espresso might not be up to the standards of those who drink it straight, but it is certainly good enough to make a cappuccino.

Being able to easily make a cappuccino at home has a number of benefits. It is certainly less expensive than paying for one at Starbucks. John McCain might not care about the cost, but if he had a Tassimo he could have saved himself the embarrassment of this news item:

A nine-car motorcade took him to a nearby Starbucks early in the morning, where he ordered a large cappuccino. McCain otherwise avoided reporters.

I’ve always thought the who talk about Obama supporters who drink lattes as being elitists was rather silly. Going out to Starbucks in a nine-car motorade from one of your eight or more houses definatley sounds elitist, regardless of what you drink.

Why McCain Must Resort to Mudslinging

Writing in New York Magazine, John Heilemann explains that McCain is running this type of campaign because, while mudslinging will damage McCain’s brand, it may be the only way he can win:

The strategy behind all this isn’t hard to discern: Drive up Obama’s negatives and render him unacceptable to pivotal voting blocs. Thus the depiction of him as too young, too feckless, and too pampered to be president. (In almost every shot in the McCain ads, Obama is smiling flashily, whereas McCain is pictured as weathered, sober, staring hard into the distance—a clever bit of jujitsu, using Obama’s pretty mug against him.) Thus the portrayal of him as precious, self-infatuated, and effete: “Only celebrities like Barack Obama go to the gym three times a day, demand ‘MET-RX chocolate roasted-peanut protein bars and bottles of a hard-to-find organic brew—Black Forest Berry Honest Tea’ and worry about the price of arugula,” wrote campaign manager Rick Davis in an e-mail announcing “Celeb.” And thus the emphasis on Obama’s rock-star persona, designed to engender envy and contempt among the swath of Middle America for which hipness is no virtue but a sign of pretension.

The racial undertones of this assault are subtle but undeniable, as Obama himself suggested when he asserted last week that his opponents are trying to make voters “scared” of him because he “doesn’t look like the other presidents on the currency.” They’re most glaring in “Troops,” which features footage of Obama sinking a three-pointer in Kuwait, despite the fact that the shot took place at a military base, which undermines the ad’s argument. But the spot’s deeper aim is to foster an unconscious simile: Obama as a blinged-up, camera-hungry, NBA shooting guard, Allen Iverson with a Harvard Law degree. Am I reaching? Consider this: Would the ad have featured footage of Obama on a golf course draining a hole-in-one? “No, it wouldn’t,” laughs a GOP media savant. “The racial angle is the first thing I thought of when I saw that ad. It fits into the celebrity stuff, too.” (For McCain, that impolitic, pro-Obama Ludacris track was manna from hip-hop heaven.)

Stop Those Tax and Spend Liberals

The Club for Growth (which fails to recognize how sometimes government-financed infrastructure contributes to business growth) is going after a tax and spend liberal from Arkansas. No, it’s not a Clinton but Mike Huckabee. Here’s the text of an attack ad being aired in Iowa:

Announcer: There once was a governor from Hope, Arkansas, who raised taxes like there was no tomorrow.

Higher sales taxes, gas taxes, grocery taxes, even higher taxes on nursing home beds.

Raised spending by 50 percent too.

Who is that liberal tax and spend Arkansas Governor?

Bill Clinton? No. It’s Mike Huckabee.

He even wants to tax the Internet too.

Tell Mike Huckabee to give lower taxes a try.

The word liberal has been used in many ways, but by no stretch of an imagination would Huckabee meet any reasonable definition of liberal. This would make Mike Huckabee the only “liberal” I know of beyond Deepak Chopra who doesn’t believe in evolution.

I don’t know the situation in Arkansas, but based upon past experience with groups like this I bet that there is some creative mathematics going on to reach the figure of a 50 percent increase in spending. Considering all I pay in taxes, for the most part I’d prefer to see tax cuts whenever possible. I’d also prefer to spend the day at the pool reading instead of working, and eat chocolate for three meals a day. In the real world we cannot always have things as we want. Nationwide, tax cuts do not make sense when we are at war. Tax increases may or may not have been necessary in Arkansas, and without such specifics it is nonsense to attack Huckabee based simply on the fact that he raised taxes.

The most amazing thing of all about this ad is that they even feel it is necessary to spend the money to attack Huckabee.

The War on Chocolate


The Modesto Bee is warning of a threat to our chocolate:

The federal Food and Drug Administration is proposing to redefine the very essence of chocolate and to allow big manufacturers such as Hershey to sell a bar devoid of a key ingredient — cocoa butter. The butter’s natural texture could be replaced with inferior alternatives, such as vegetable fats. And consumers would never know.

Chocolatier Gary Guittard said it best: “No one can afford to sit back and eat bonbons while America’s great passion for chocolate is threatened.”

For every defender of traditional chocolate, there are powerful proponents who want to replace cocoa butter with vegetable oil: the Chocolate Manufacturers Association, the Grocery Manufacturers Association and the Snack Food Association. These industry titans have filed a “citizens petition” to the FDA, as the Los Angeles Times recently reported, as if there were some groundswell in society to water down chocolate.

At the moment, chocolate requires two basic ingredients — cocoa and cocoa butter. Cocoa provides much of the flavor; cocoa butter, the texture. So if, say, Hershey wanted to make a chocolate bar without cocoa butter, it can under today’s rules. The product has to be labeled “chocolate flavored” (for it still has the cocoa in it) rather than “chocolate.” That gives the consumer a signal that something less than chocolate lies beneath the wrapping. To help defend chocolate, visit www.dontmesswithourchocolate.com and learn how to submit feedback to the FDA.

Posted in Food and Drink, Op-eds. Tags: . 1 Comment »

SciFi Friday: Kara Thrace is Still Dead, Veronica Mars Might Warp Into The Future, and Extermination by Chocolate

No news might not necessarily be good news, but this week no news was bigger news than any real news. That’s no news on Starbuck’s fate. Katee Sackhoff’s name is off the credits for Battlestar Galactica, but otherwise we found out nothing beyond the hints mentioned last week. There was something about preparation for a big trial, but was anyone really paying that much attention beyond searching for clues as to whether Kara will be back? My bet is that we’ll get a teaser in the season finale to keep people guessing over the summer. Maybe we’ll see her eating lunch with Elvis in a restaurant at the edge of the galaxy.

Those who recognize the allusion to Douglas Adams might also be interested in this collection of quotes in honor of his birthday last Sunday. Other recent science fiction posts include this listing of classic science fiction novels.

While Starbuck’s fate remains a mystery, hints about the cast of Heroes are being released, most likely to keep the attention of fans while the show is on a brief hiatus. Slice of SciFi and SciFi Wire reveal that “Linderman has superpowers of his own, that he was once a member of a group of heroes, that the members of the group eventually used their powers for personal gain—and that he is behind the plot to blow up New York as a way to engender widespread fear, which he believes will bring the nation together in hope. Linderman also reveals a prophecy that Nathan will eventually wind up in the White House.”

Looking into the crystal ball with regards to the CW Network is very hazy. Nothing is official, and as of now Veronica Mars might wind up remaining a student as she solves mysteries, the show might be cancelled, and there is yet another possibility. Kristin Veich reports that the show might leap four years into the future and show Veronica as an FBI agent after graduation. This scenario makes it less likely that many of the regulars will return (with some minor characters already getting parts on other shows).

The rumor is that negotiations are not going well for another season of Gilmore Girls. Melissa McCarthy, who plays chef Sookie St. James, has already signed for a role on a comedy pilot on ABC. Alexis Bledel apparently isn’t very interested in another season, and Lorelei says she won’t return without Rory. If this must be the end, at least Dave Rosenthal has managed to pull off something that Amy Sherman-Paladino and Dan Paladino could not. Rory’s idol, Christiane Amanpour, has agreed to appear on the season (series?) finale. Speaking of Rory, anyone else notice that, now that she’s back living with Paris, she has a poster for Fahrenheit 911 up in her bed room?

While I hope to see Vernoica Mars and Gilmore Girls return, even if this wasn’t the greatest season for either, hopefully CW will do the right thing and put Seventh Heaven out if its misery. If they don’t end the show after this year I suspect that God might personally intervene to end it. (Incidentally, to get this back to SciFi, Katerine Hicks, who plays Annie Camden, also played Dr. Gillian Taylor in Star Trek IV.) For those who haven’t been watching this year, Eric Camden finally died of heart disease, but was sent back to earth after an episode in heaven, which appears strangely like Glen Oak. The other big crisis of the year is that Ruthie Camden got a tatoo with the name of the homeless guy she fell in love with going across her rear end. As I said, put this show out if its misery.

Rory’s sign for Fahrenheit 911 isn’t the only sign for anti-government ideas on television this week. I already noted last week that the new character on Lost is named after Russian anarchist Mikhali Bakunin. There must be some meaning to having seen Bakunin killed as a result of Locke’s actions beyond the obvious that destruction seems to follow Locke around ever since his actions led to the destruction of the hatch. Also in last week’s episode we saw Sawyer sitting on the beach reading The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand.

Finally, for those who enjoy various “death by chocolate” recipees, this one takes it to a new level–Extermination by Chocolate. ChocaBlog has the recipe.