Posts tagged: health

Is Apple A Bad Apple?

By , April 7, 2014 5:53 am

Green America, located in Washington, DC, is a wonderful organization and helps most of us with its vigorous vigilance over health problems about which many people are not aware. Green America has just come out with a very strong criticism of Apple, Inc. Green America asserts that Apple is showing a reckless and dangerous disregard for human health. The organization asserts that Apple’s supplier factories in Asia expose its workers to chemicals like benzene and n-hexane causing their workers routinely to develop debilitating nerve damage and leukemia. Green America then asserts that if the employees receive any medical attention at all, they are likely to be sent to hospitals that are controlled by the factories. Their symptoms are then ignored or downplayed. They can be denied proper care and the whole scandal is covered up.

Green America continues that what is even worse about this situation is that the leukemia that many of these workers contract is roughly 80% curable in the West with proper medication. Finally, the workers and their families seldom receive proper compensation for their injuries. They are frequently returned back to work or to their villages with devastating health effects that may last their lifetimes.

Green America is starting a program called “Stop the Bad Apple.” They want you and me to contact Apple and urge two concrete steps.

1) Stop the use of benzene and other dangerous chemicals in their smartphone supply chain as a first step to ending labor abuse in the electronics-manufacturing sector.

2) Create a fund to pay for the medical treatment of Apple factory workers harmed by handling benzene.
Green America asserts that these problems can be resolved by Apple diverting $1.00 from each phone sold into this program. They assert that Apple generated profits of over $37 billion dollars just last year and are currently sitting on an estimated $146 billion in cash and marketable securities.

Green America is not boycotting Apple itself. Life without a cellphone is becoming to be very difficult, but at least with the huge profits of this giant corporation there needs to be a greater sense of justice for the people who are laboring to produce our cell phones.

This approach to bad advertising for large corporations has proven to be successful. Remember the abused employees in Nike factories in Asia? Hershey’s, Proctor & Gamble, General Mills and Home Depot chose to transform the way they did business, rather than suffering from the charge of injustice and exploitation of the poor. Green America says that you and I can make the difference. Let’s try.

You can support and learn more about the Bad Apple campaign at Why not send a note of encouragement to Green America as well. You can contact them at: Green America, 1612 K Street, NW, Suite 600, Washington, DC 20006, 800-58-GREEN,

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An Interesting Time…

By , February 10, 2014 5:17 am

You don’t really have to be too bright to notice them! They are all around you and they pop up more frequently. Today I am referring to telltale signs of no longer being a kid. Many times I feel like a kid. Regretfully, sometimes people tell me that I act like a kid. However, I am clearly aware of the fact that I am not a kid! Being very close to my 84th birthday, one sarcastic priest told me, “John, you are not 84. You are six years from 90.”

Some of the signs are obvious. I can’t lift the same weights that I used to be able to handle easily. I can’t walk very far. I don’t require as much nourishment in this chapter of my life and if I don’t abide by the fact that it is not required, I find that I have to have alterations on my pants. These are all signs but for me, they are all happy signs.
As I see the 90’s on the horizon, I see so many advantages that I have to say I consider this chapter, for me at least, to be a very happy chapter. Here are some of the reasons.

I have said goodbye to many of my friends but those who are still traveling with me are much more appreciated and I thank God for them. I want to take advantage of any opportunity to visit with them, to celebrate our lives, to look back with laughter and to look ahead with confidence. I don’t think that I have any close friends who are atheists, although there is one guy who is on the fence. He is just waiting to see all the answers up there in the sky.

Big problems that I used to face, crises that I struggled through, serious mistakes that I made, all seem to be more clearly in focus. I got through them and when I think about them I cannot help but smile. Was I really that serious? Was I really that worried?

I am very blessed as far as health is concerned. I consider myself rather healthy, being burdened only by sleep apnea, arrhythmia, certain Irish skin problems, congestive heart failure, arthritis in both knees (I’ve got new hips!), and early glaucoma. As I am compiling this list, I am thinking about putting baldness on it but I don’t think it fits into the same category.

All and all, I consider it a happy time. God has blessed me by allowing me to grow up in a small but loving family in Houston, with a very interesting life, a sea of wonderful friends and a faith that makes me very confident of what happens after the next step.

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The Gift of Memory

By , November 26, 2013 5:31 am

While most of us are hurrying around to get ready for the great feast of thanksgiving, I would like to raise a few points for your consideration that really call for serious, in depth gratitude. I’ll mention two today- the gift of memory and the gift of imagination.

Think about it. Did you see your husband or son or daughter come home from Iraq or Afganistan? You were at the airport, and you saw him several hundred yards away. What an explosive, joyful experience! You had it then, but if you direct your memory toward that event, you can relive it again. Memory enables us to reach back to all that is beautiful and enjoyable, and in a very real sense, relive it. Recreate it. Celebrate it! What a gift!

Memory, of course, can have its down side. We have all experienced pain and no one wants to “recreate” pain. but the downside of memory is minor compared to this gift’s ability to extend joy and pleasure in our lives.

Another comparable gift, and I’ll refer to it later on, is the gift of imagination. Our brain and our mind work together in harmony, giving us the power to look into the future, and to plan on what we are going to do, how we are going to do it, and project the ramifications of this awesome faculty.

Lets take both gifts together. You’re seated at the Thanksgiving table, and without moving from your chair, you can go back to the time when your first grandchild was born beautiful and healthy. At the same time, you can look into the future, and prepare for it so that as the events unfold in your life, you can handle it as effectively as possible. These two gifts together give us a capacity for living that extraordinarily expands the moment. The moment is awesomely important, but it has meaning only in the context of yesterday and tomorrow.

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More Legal Thefts

By , November 14, 2013 5:58 am

Two weeks ago, I cautioned my readers to be very careful when giving to so-called “charities” that are making use of an attractive name usually connected with health issues. Thanks be to God, the American people are extraordinarily generous and there are many organizations providing care to tens of thousands of people and doing it in a very honest and generous manner. Regretfully, however, there are groups and organizations that grab on to one of these appealing names, set up a fund raising mechanism and do very well for themselves financially. These operations are legal! There really is a program! The problem is that the vast majority of the funds that are raised do not go to service the need that is advertised. Usually only 5% actually goes into the work that is connected with the name that is being used.

I referred to the fact that, despicable though it is, these almost legal organizations report to you as to how they are helping to solve the problem at hand, but all they are really doing is using the name to generate money for themselves. I specifically referred to Heart Support of America and the National Cancer Research Center. Aren’t heart and cancer major issues? Aren’t those nice names?
The sad fact about this is that these legal but unethical operations are operating within the confines of the law. They actually do work on the issue but they are using the sensitivity of their fellow Americans to fill their pockets with money. Only about 5% goes to the work whose name they are using. The other is eaten up by fund raising costs and, of course, profits. The people conducting the drive are the ones who decide how much they are to pay themselves!

Today I have another example. I was contacted by phone and urged to give to the Hospice Fund of America. I have tremendous respect for the hospice movement and have been on the board of Hospice Austin for many years. Hospice is a movement that developed about fifty years ago in England and thankfully has moved into this country very effectively. The hospice is a special need for our times because so many families are scattered across the entire country and when death is approaching, it is harder for younger members of the family to provide proper care to those who are approaching death. I asked the promoters to send me a financial report as to how their funds are allocated. Thankfully, they have to do this in order to remain legal or the government would be able to move against them unless they fulfill the letter of the law. Hospice Fund of America sent me their report. They were very proud of the fact that 5% of the money that they raise went to hospice care. They didn’t tell me how they decided who got that little 5%.

Most charitable programs are honest but fund raising is awfully difficult and these technically legal efforts to raise money, touching the hearts of generous Americans, are actually making honest fund raising more difficult because people want to help but are justifiably suspicious. We should all reach out to do all the help that we can. As President Reagan said, “Trust but verify.”

EDITOR’s NOTE- There is a fully legitimate, wonderful organization called the Hospice FOUNDATION of America, who’s name can be so easily confused with the organization noted above (the Hospice FUND of America) that we initially had posted the Foundation’s logo on this page- and for that, we profoundly apologize.

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The Importance Of Breakfast…For Kids!

By , April 30, 2013 4:46 am

Image: Grimes

Most of us have heard many times during our lifetime about the importance of breakfast, namely that it is the most important meal of the day. We know that this is fairly accurate but as we have matured, we have learned how to skip it when we are under pressure or running behind in schedule. We know we can hold out until brunch or lunch. However, that is not true for kids. Kids need breakfast and if they don’t get it, real damage is done to their learning potential.
The Austin American Statesman had a really sad column by two writers from the Center for Public Policy Priorities located here in Austin. The authors, Rachel Cooper and Jonathan Louis, pointed out that despite the importance of a good breakfast for all children during their formative years, there are large numbers of them who do not receive it. There are many reasons, most important of which is that there is no food at home. There is also the fact that some families are not as organized as they should be and don’t take care of everything needed in the morning. Finally, some of the school buses come so early that children don’t get a chance to eat breakfast.
The Center points out that we are now in a situation that if we utilized the resources that are at our fingertips, our public schools could make free breakfast available to everyone not just low-income kids. From first-class studies we have learned that eating breakfast can make a big difference. We’ve learned that eating breakfast leads to increased attendance, improved math scores, graduation rates soar, tardiness declines and classroom behavior problems fall dramatically.
Even though some of our schools do have the cafeteria open in the morning and serve breakfast, many of our children do not take advantage of it because of the stigma since at the present time only children who qualify as poverty level families are able to go into the cafeteria and eat. Our state representatives are trying to improve the situation. Eddie Lucio, a Democrat of Brownsville, and Eddie Rodriguez of Austin have proposed legislation that would increase the number of children eating breakfast by simply providing breakfast at no charge to all students on campuses where 80% of the students come from families with such low income that they can qualify for free or reduced lunch. If their bill gets enacted by the Legislature, it will be a dramatic contribution to the improved education of our children.
Let’s hear it for the two Eddies.
There is another issue and that is that social spending is disproportionately in favor of the aged in our society and the children are frequently in many different areas shortchanged. The fact is that we old-timers know how to take care of ourselves. That is all right but we shouldn’t do it at the expense of hurting our children’s education.

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God Bless Benedict XVI

By , March 8, 2013 4:42 am

Benedict XVI is going to go down in history as a very real hero. Hero? Yes, indeed. Tradition is such a powerful force in the life of the Catholic Church that it takes extraordinary courage to go against it and Benedict did that last month when he announced that he would be resigning as the 265th Bishop of Rome. There were only three other resignations in the 2,000 year history of the Church and in each of those situations it was brought about by very special circumstances. Benedict, with a clear mind and in relatively good health, announced that it was time for a younger person to take over. Today, the Petrine Office is vacant. The cardinals have gathered and I am sure that within the next week or ten days we will see an elderly cardinal walk in out into that magnificent balcony of St. Peter’s and tell the excited crowd of several hundred thousand, “Habemus Papam!” – we have a pope.
Who will it be and, more importantly, what kind of Supreme Pontiff will he be? Most commentators say that there are only two possible directions for the new pope to take. He could reach back and recommit himself to tradition and continue doing, and in the same manner, that which has been going on for the last 30 or 40 years, the slow de-emphasizing of the Second Vatican Council. Or that new pope, blessed with the grace of the office, could recommit himself to the work of the 2,500 bishops of the Second Vatican Council and triumphantly announce that the Church is recommitting itself in an explosive manner to its missionary nature, that it will present the message of Jesus Christ with all of its joy and triumph in a way that will be unencumbered by the barnacles of time but will be pristine, pure, clean and precise. And with that, there will be that which recent popes have called for and pleaded for but were not able to see themselves free to do – move the Church forward to a world that is awaiting it and desperately needs it.
May God bless the new pope, whoever he is.

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Looking Back

By , December 29, 2011 5:23 am

As January 1st approaches, all of us will hear a great deal about New Year’s resolutions. Regretfully, most New Year’s resolutions are sincere failures (is that an oxymoron?). People know that they ought to look ahead and endeavor to live better lives, solve problems more easily, avoid unnecessary problems, etc., etc.

I think, however, that we would do a better job at making New Year’s resolutions if we would take great care in looking back over the year just past. Let’s look back before we look ahead.

Was it a successful year? Were we blessed with good health? Were we able to avoid financial loss? Are these things for which we ought to be very thankful and to ask God to allow them to continue in the future? The average person doesn’t have complete control over his or her finances and we don’t have complete control over our health. However, we can control how we share life with the people around us, in our families, in our neighborhoods and on the job. Did I hurt Uncle Bill’s feelings last year? Did I do enough for my neighbor, Mrs. McClendan, when she was sick? We should examine our conscience for the year, not in terms of sin but in terms of positive, good acts. We should ask ourselves: Are we generous people? Do we make decisions on the basis of what is good for the people with whom we are sharing life? Are we cursed by the vice of selfishness? Whether we are or not is up to us.

Let’s plan for the New Year but let’s don’t do it until we really take a good look back. Onward through the fog.

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Surprise, surprise…

By , October 31, 2011 5:47 am

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development has for 15 years studied the lives and health of people who have moved from poor neighborhoods to better off neighborhoods. The results are dramatic! Would anybody be surprised that people living in slums or near slums would, because they are living in those conditions, have low income, inadequate variety in purchasing of food, poor health connected from breathing polluted air? Needless to say, the social characteristics of the people around you impact the way we think and act. Dr. Harlan Krumholz, a cardiologist at the Yale School of Medicine, but not involved in the government study, chimed in, “Your health is influenced by all those around you and the environment…some environments are toxic to health.”

While this information could be deduced from horse sense, it is good to have scientific analysis at our fingertips as our society tries to deal with the problems connected with low-income neighborhoods. One of the great causes of hope of the last half century has been the development of strong neighborhood organizations. Saul Alinsky, a frequently defamed organizer and a real hero for those seeking safer and healthier neighborhoods, started the process in Chicago in the 1940’s. The movement has since spread across the United States and has been a special force for good in Texas with successful organizations in San Antonio, Houston, El Paso, the Rio Grande Valley and other areas. These efforts do not come cheaply but they produce wonderful results, including improved health, as mentioned above, traffic improvement, personal safety and so forth and so forth.

Everything is connected to everything.

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Names and Titles Don’t Explain It – Philosophy Might

By , February 2, 2011 4:50 am

The New York Times columnist and Nobel Prize winner in economics, Paul Krugman, developed a very interesting idea recently about how Americans really are divided in terms of how best to run the country.  Krugman’s thesis is that the line of division is not between right and left, it is not between conservative and liberal, and it is certainly not merely between Republicans and Democrats.  What separates the two major groups in the citizenry is the philosophical difference on the question of moral responsibility.  Krugman’s differences run thusly:

One side of American politics considers the modern welfare state – a private-enterprise economy, but one in which society’s winners are taxed to pay for a social safety net – morally superior to the capitalism read in tooth and claw we had before the New Deal.  It’s only right, this side believes, for the affluent to help the less fortunate.

The other side believes that people have a right to keep what they earn, and that taxing them to support others, no matter how needy, amounts to theft.  That’s what lies behind the modern right’s fondness for violent rhetoric: many activists on the right really do see taxes and regulation as tyrannical impositions on their liberty.

This deep divide in American political reality is a relatively recent development.

On the issue of health reform, one side saw the extension of coverage to the uninsured as fulfilling a moral imperative.  The other side saw the same reform as a moral outrage, an assault on the right of Americans to spend their money as they choose without responsibility to anyone else.

As free Americans, we can decide which side of that divide we sit but as Roman Catholics, with any knowledge at all of Catholic social theology, we would find it hard to claim that we do not have responsibility for each otherThe greater our blessings and resources, the greater that responsibility.

Krugman promises to go into much greater depth on the subject and I look forward to following over the next few weeks.

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Human Progress Across the Planet – Both Ups and Downs

By , November 16, 2010 4:50 am

One of the many tasks of the United Nations is to monitor development across the planet and to give its member nations reports on how things are going.  Back in October, such a report was issued and was overall rather encouraging.  Our world has made measurable progress in income, education and health over the last forty years but in some places the report is somewhat negative.  The ravages of AIDS, war and inadequate distribution of food has shortened the lifespan of certain populations.

In 1970, the average lifespan on the planet was 59 years and in 2010, it was 70.  High school enrollment moved up from 55% of eligible students to 70% and the average per capita income doubled more than $10,000 in the 135 countries for which numbers are available.  These statistics cover about 92% of the world’s population.

The signs of progress that we can see are proof that very real and measurable progress has been made.  It means that millions of people, in material terms at least, are living better lives than they were forty years before.  This is encouraging but the developed countries should not sit back on their laurels.  There are still cases of famine, disease, wars and areas devoid of educational opportunities for the majority of its citizens.  Developed countries have certainly helped but they can do much more.  Bringing about a more effective production and a better distribution of wealth creates a worldwide community that is far safer and prosperous for everyone.

The Catholic Church has always proclaimed the oneness of the human family.  National boundaries are an administrative necessity in today’s world but they do not wall people off from each other.  We are one family, created by God, redeemed by Jesus Christ and invited to eternal life.  Let’s not let any of our brothers and sisters starve along the way.

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