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vendredi 23 octobre 2009

Home is where your Heart is.. also the Thermometer..

Currently I am in an enviable or unenviable position of calling with increasing frequencies at the cities and airports of Havana, Paris, Miami and Kuala Lumpur. Thus extremely nostalgic for places close to my heart. A few days ago, a Paris Taxi driver told me, " I am truly a Parisian, I miss Paris even when I am in Paris". I can identify with that, I use to look at the beautiful surroundings of Baracoa and tell myself.. I am missing these.. I get up feeling good that I am waking up in Baracoa!
I asked myself the question, since being in the profession my self..Where would I like to be, if I am sick! I am talking about minor sicknesses, the kind one encounters while travelling, and i am not talking about serious illnesses such as degenerative nervous or oncological matters..
I had no doubt where I would prefer to be: La Havana or Baracoa...
why? because of the solidarity that i have felt in all the years I have spent in Cuba, hours and hours of sharing what you have, whatever you have and showing and receiving genuine concern about emotional matters, related to your life and loves and profession..
On the very rare occasions i have been sick in Baracoa or La Havana, I was overwhelmed by the attention of my friends and my family there, Natural Teas of all sorts were brewed, special food prepared, and most importantly, the time they spent with me..
Of all the things our friends and family give us, the one that we remember most is the TIME they spent with us..
In that Cubans excel!
My love for Kuala Lumpur has been increasing exponentially since February 2008 and I have been there at least six times.. and I am quite astounded by the circle of friends that are being built around my best friend in Asia, MC! Each of the twenty odd times I have arrived or departed from KL airport, MC has picked me up or taken me there and spent the entire annual holidays to shepard me around Malaysia, Cambodia and Myanmar! As a token appreciation of this giant hearted friend, I did introduce her to Cuban Ambassador to Malaysia ... Malaysia-Cuba friendships have sprouted, indeed!

Orchestrated Poverty and Good Health

Whenever you come across a situation of Ill Health of a Society, such as Haiti, one can conclude Poverty as a root cause, or at least one of the major causes of societal sicknesses. (Please watch the excellent video on youtube of Paul Farmer: This I believe). Poverty of Misery!
Poverty builds character, the erstwhile masters used to say and as Neruda has protested: Only the rich believe that poverty can build character..
In Cuba, you can say there is an orchestrated poverty, a poverty of material things without great misery. Which country can boast of a dentist in every school in the country, no village without a doctor and doctor to population ratio of 1:134? it is a kind of poverty without misery, and the visitors will add, with an enormous amount of joy which is palpable..they are not mutually exclusive..
Lack of social gradienst, with desperate poverty and utter luxury (one sees that in every single central/south american country), gives another meaning to lack of material goods and inability to travel at will. We do need material goods, but do we need an excess of them? ( as Dalai Lama has repeatedly exhorted: dont look for happiness in material things from outside).

As American Indians say, it is the misery that we hate, not the lack of money. Also the Indians dislike the certain belief that all minorities under oppression share a common sentiment or culture. they refuse to be grouped together with other minorities, and cringe when white or black americans say, they have a bit of indian blood or they were descended from cherokee princesses!They resent being grouped together with other "minorities" especially Blacks, since the Indians would proclaim.. we know which tribe we come from..

Today I spoke with a Cuban colleague attending the IDF meeting in Montreal. At the Cuban Desk in the Global Village of the conference, many an emigrant Cuban doctor, whether from USA/Canada or South America, stopped by to chat and express their nostalgia.. We wonder.. what is this about Cuba, what makes these people leave and at the same time long for it with such a fervour? You don't notice it among emigrants from other countries.. poor developing countries, from where people emigrate for economic reason, the same reason given for emigration from Cuba as well..

These people are better off financially, without doubt, but are they better off emotionally? that is the subject that comes to my mind.. perhaps orchestrated poverty and good health, physical as well as emotional goes hand in hand, perhaps, perhaps!..those who have emigrated from Cuba make do, like the cubans inside the island make do, only in the former case it is emotional equilibrium and the latter it is the monetary stability.. Emotions vs Economy.. neither group have a control over it...

Coming back to the first lines, whatever means you look at and judge Cuba by, even in these difficult times, Cuba and Cubans enjoy the best of health.. Does the emotional satisfaction and the social satisfaction that gives rise to it or rises from it.. contribute to that? You be the judge..

Infant Mortality Rates: per 1000 live births
Cuba 6.4 Argentina 14.29 Mexico 19.63 Malaysia 16
Murders per 100 000 of the population
Jamaica 49 Belize 30 Argentina 5.27 Malaysia 2.31 Cuba NEGLIGIBLE .. In the ten years that I could closely follow this trend, I heard of two murders in the country.. one of a cuban american who had just arrived in the country who was murdered on his way out of havana ( a family feud?) and another a teenage fantasy killing in the Oriente..
Literacy Rate, per cent of the population
Malaysia 88.7 Mexico 91 Cuba 99.8

These are my thoughts, on this fine autumn evening, sitting at the city of lights and love, missing tremendously mi isla Rica, mi Cuba..

mercredi 14 octobre 2009

Thoughts on Cuba on hearing about a Cuban Art Exhibition in KL

Cuba, whatever its political and economic shortcoming, was at least, for Gabriel Garcia Marquez, a moral triumph.
It is not Colombia, GGM's birthplace, whose own cachaco military officers plotted to assassinate him. He quickly sought asylum at the Mexican Embassy and was flown out the next day in the company of the Mexican Ambassador to Colombia.
It is not the Peru of the self righteous Vargas Llosa whose international fame has not bettered a little the lives of Peruvians or himself for that matter. Peru did have Shining Path of Guzman and Fujimori.
Fidel has been the shining light for Lula, Tabare, Morales, Chavez, Bachilet, Kirschner, Correa, Funes...
The ghosts of other latin america lives among their migrants to north america,only those dinosaurian latin americans would listen to Vargas Llosa or Plinio Mendoza or Montaner...

Here is a poem by Pablo Neruda, the greatest poet of the 20th Century, who died soon after the rape of his country on the other september 11th in 1973..
the poem well known in Latin America is called the United Fruit Company.

When the trumpet sounded
everything was prepared on earth,
and Jehovah gave the world
to Coca-Cola Inc., Anaconda,
Ford Motors, and other corporations.
The United Fruit Company
reserved for itself the most juicy
piece, the central coast of my world,
the delicate waist of America.

It rebaptized these countries
Banana Republics,
and over the sleeping dead,
over the unquiet heroes
who won greatness,
liberty, and banners,
it established an opera buffa:
it abolished free will,
gave out imperial crowns,
encouraged envy, attracted
the dictatorship of flies:
Trujillo flies, Tachos flies
Carias flies, Martinez flies,
Ubico flies, flies sticky with
submissive blood and marmalade,
drunken flies that buzz over
the tombs of the people,
circus flies, wise flies
expert at tyranny.

With the bloodthirsty flies
came the Fruit Company,
amassed coffee and fruit
in ships which put to sea like
overloaded trays with the treasures
from our sunken lands.

Meanwhile the Indians fall
into the sugared depths of the
harbors and are buried in the
morning mists;
a corpse rolls, a thing without
name, a discarded number,
a bunch of rotten fruit

thrown on the garbage heap.



Eats and Flies Part I October 10, 2009


Breakfast served

New York Style Mini Cinnamon Raisin. Ingredients: among others Palm Oil, partially Hydrogenated Soybean oil.

A small bag of this has 23 ingredients. It has 35 grams of content of which 26 grams are carbohydrates.

No to This

Nature valley Oats and Honey Bar

21 grams bar, has 15 grams of carbohydrates in it. 17 ingredients.

No to this

Cereal. Milk 2%. Fruit Cup. Tea.

I did not know what was in the Cereal since it was served on a dish. But at the Presidents Club in Houston, a sample of cereal was available

Country Corn Flakes

26 ingredients. 16 grams of Carbohydrates. 64 out of its 70 calories are from carbohydrates.

So if I had eaten all they had offered me on this First Class flight, a short one, I would have eaten 55 grams of Carbohydrates plus whatever was in the Fruit Cup and a cup of Tea with milk!

This breakfast was presented, innocent and deceptive, I might add, praising Energy and Health, this simple breakfast would have taken up all of my carbohydrate allowance, almost all of it…

And left me hungry to boot?

How I longed for a Salmon with a piece of Baguette with some Gravlox! And a strong coffee from Nespresso.

This is what I would have had for breakfast, if I were home in Paris! and I wouldnt care to count my calories or my carbohydrate intake, but just enjoy it , knowing that Food villains have not put 33 ingredients into it..

EU is covered by very strict Food Safety rules. While France contributes to 2/10th of one percent of world's fish farming, there is certain amount of security about the ingredients in the food fed to the Fish.The most common fish farmed in Europe is Trout. The common variety of Salmon available is wild caught Norwegian Salmon.

mardi 13 octobre 2009

Eats and Flies Part II October 10, 2009 IAH to EWR


Very comfortable seats and Attentive Staff.. On Continental Airlines. The aircraft was bound for Bombay from Newark even though I did not see too many sub continental people on this sector.

Whole Cashews

6 g carbohydrates out of 21 gram servicing i.e. about a third. Calories 120 , 90 of which from Fat, but who really cares, the ingredients, just three (not 33! And no Maltodextrin either): cashews, canola oil, and salt

If you concentrate on calories, you would have preferred to have eaten the cinnamon bagel chips of the previous flight (much worse for your heart). Eat less so don’t load up on total calories. But stop emphasizing Calories, but emphasize on Food! Food can be metabolized but chemicals damage your liver, heart and kidney. I am not interested whether High Fructose Corn Syrup is counted as Carbohydrates or Fat or whatever, I know that it won’t be metabolized by the same pathway, so talking about calories is useless when chemicals are involved…

A glass of white wine. After one week of abstinence, it felt good. It was a chardonnay from Mendoza.

Chicken Cesar Salad

A small classic Cesar dressing had greater than 20 ingredients!

Broccoli/cheese soup

Didn’t eat the chocolate chip/whatever, it had more than twenty ingredients.. Wow! This is what America eats!

Watched a beautiful Japanese movie

Yukisada Isao

Crying Out Love Center of the World

Ethos, emotions and the dreamy nature of photography, affected me very much. The acting by young actress who portrayed the school girl (nagasawa masami) was superb and she had gone on to win greater awards. The movie was released in 2005 I think, the year I visited Japan 9 times. I had a feeling I have seen this movie, and after about ten minutes I realized I have. A 17 year old in love with her classmate, dies of leukemia.. During the time of Typhoon No 29 and Uluru where they wanted to go, since it was the centre of the earth!

A lovely tale.

As soon as I landed in New York, I sent off an email to a dear friend of mine, Mr. Ho in Kuala Lumpur, a Mahler fan but also an authority on Asian films.. He had given me once his favourite 100 films! Hopefully he would help me also see them… in KL or elsewhere...

He replied as soon as the time difference between New York and KL evaporated... he had in fact written a short note on his blog about the movie...

There you can have other links to Asian Cinema…

So this is the Dichotomy of the USA... I had spent a wonderful week with American Indians, with good results on my health projects with them, now on a Business First Class seat on a Continental Flight, watching a heart rendering Japanese movie…


Incredibly heart and liver damaging, obesity producing food... Thank God for the Chardonnay from Mendoza...

It does appear that things that come from OUTSIDE the country, seems to be purer in content... and does not affect the body as much…

Eats and Flies Part III October 10, 2009 New York to Paris




Seat 7C. With plenty of Leg Room. A French couple, unfriendly and unhygienic was sharing the seat. That is my bad luck, bad stars; I never have good seatmates, whichever part of the plane I am sitting in... But unpleasant ones make it easier not to talk to them...

I had requested a Hindou Meal, mainly because special meals are served first!

Nothing special really, a little bit of rice, lentils and with a flavor of curry. A green salad, generic, with lettuce and a few tomatoes thrown in.

Cesar Salad dressing with its 22 ingredients. A small amount only.

Bread as stale as it can be and Butter

Seagram’s Seltzer which tasted good

To add insult to injury, they had Love and Quiches chocolate cookie with Palm and Palm kernel Oil in it, they sell it as Chocolate Chip? Why?

One thing is clear

In America, eating Food is not an easy affair; one has to be extremely careful: usually it is chemically soiled with an artificial taste; the food has become plastic in taste.

No pointing in counting Carbohydrates, Fat and Protein contents, when the Protein is from cattle injected with Growth Hormones, Estrogen and Antibiotics (has been related to precocious puberty in young girls!), and cattle are in pens with no room to move and are fed corn and not natural foods and fattened up for the market. You can be sure that the chemical content of meat bought at supermarkets to be high. My advice to my Native patients, eat wild meats like your ancestors (Native Americans are not healthy as their ancestors were!): Deer Meat, Buffalo Meat, their chances of getting heart disease are much less.

A recent report released says all fresh water fish are contaminated. When buying fish don’t fall for the propaganda High in Omega 3, find out whether they are farm cultivated or wild caught. Only God and Dick Cheney and his ilk know what is being fed to the fish...Corn?

What can I say? Eat Argentine Beef if you can afford it. Have you ever tasted Kobe Beef?

Live in another country while working in the USA (part time). Inhabitants of the rich countries are imitating the diet of the poor people while the inhabitants of the poorer countries are imitating the West: Dunkin Donuts, Krispy Kreme, Kentucky Fried, McDo are becoming so common and I could see why the Malaysians are the fattest in Asia... Just stop at one of their malls or one of the stops at their highways!

lundi 12 octobre 2009

Barack Obama and Nobel Peace Prize

It was a good news to wake up to.. Barack Obama who in his short tenure has brought so much hope to millions of people around the world and of course, americans, and who is trying his best to bring ethical reform in america, deserve this accolade. I was astonished at the remarks of some of the extreme right wing talk show hosts and politicians (read Republicans) but they dont realize one thing. Before Barack Obama became President, because of the vitriolic and basically Stupid, arrogant and ignorant Government of Bush, Americans were one of the most hated people on earth. Even a normally friendly to the usa country like India, people had become anti american. Since most americans do not travel and are not clued into the world social and political scene ( why should we? is the normal respone), they may not understand the significance of Obama becoming the President and how he has raised the respect people have for the USA. Bernard Henry-Levy, a well respected journalist and writer, gushed in Le Monde over this selection.
I was with my Native American friends that day, without exception, they were elated. I announced to them, I truly feel that I should apply for American Citizenship.. They exclaimed! but truly looking deep into my heart, I felt that I wouldnt mind being a citizen of a country which elected Barack Obama as President...
Having said that, and as a supporter of his Health Care Reform, he has a long way to go since the fraud committed by middle buiness people in the Health field is enormous, in fact more than the annual budget of many small countries.. just the fraud..
Here are my thoughts on that:

From Miami Herald, 12th Oct 2009

Federal prosecutors in Miami have been tracking scammers aggressively since 2005, charging more than 900 Medicare offenders involving more than $2 billion in false claims. Nationwide, taxpayers are hit with $60 billion in healthcare scams each year, and South Florida is at the center of the abuse.

The last two convicted, had surnames Duarte and Garcia, their national origin quite obvious in this Cuban Savvy City.. they had fraudulently claimed 52 Million dollars from Medicare!

Whether you are a medical practitioner or a middle man in the medical field, you should be punished severely for fraud. are you not glad you are not living in China, Garcia and Duarte? did you "escape" from cuba for the "freedom" of cheating and stealing and causing death of innocent people?

That is what i feel..

Welcome to Tijuana.. thus sang ManuChao


Global Entry Programme

As I have to visit USA on a fairly regular basis,( 13 visits this year to Miami, our Other Cuba) I applied for this programme, which is now expanding to assist incoming passengers at over 20 airports in the USA. I am hoping that they will begin these programmes at land crossings as well, since crossing into USA/Texas from Mexico is the only place I have experienced any difficulty with the TSA authorities (in all honesty, I must say they seem to select the less intelligent Americans to their staff!)

I had to pay $100 in fees and a few days later received an electronic notification that I must appear for an interview on my next visit. I was transiting through Newark on my way out to France and I presented myself to the office dedicated to Global Entry programme. I looked at the two gentlemen behind their computers, both young, Latin Americans, Melicio and Aricena... name tagged proudly proclaimed their names. I made a mental note, that neither of those names are Cuban, this was to come in handy a little later on.

The usual questions, and then, tell me a little bit about your travels. I remembered a maximum, given to me by a wise American, when dealing with the bureaucratic apparatus, give only information as needed. Australia, Malaysia, India, Vietnam, Myanmar, France... these are the countries I travel to and on a regular basis, I said to him. He looks at the computer for a moment, and says: Tell me about Cuba. If this office was in Miami, and if this officer was of Cuban descent, I would have been in great trouble. He happened to belong to a group of Latin Americans not very fond of Miami Cubans! I am a professor at the University of Havana and all my travels between the two places are sanctioned by the Department of State of the USA! I told him, and was very surprised that he didn’t want to pursue that any further. As long as you have not broken any immigration regulations, I have nothing more to ask. And then he issued me with a little sticker that says that I am approved by the American Border Patrol Agency (TSA) to come and go with ease. The next time, as others are lining up at immigration, I shall walk coolly over to the Global Entry Machine, insert my sticker and put my right hand on glass and then the machine hopefully will issue me a piece of paper with which I can just walk out of Immigrations and Customs!

My next trip to USA would be in November, will be flying/savour the new Premium Voyageur Class of Air France and will be entering JFK...where they have a Global Entry kiosk... Thank you, TSA...

In the attached photograph you would see the masthead of Monocle magazine which has nothing to do with Global Entry even though it is a global magazine and I like to read it. this August 2009 isue had a list of most liveable cities in the World.. do you want to know the list? Here it is

1. Zurich 2. Copenhagen 3. Tokyo 4. Munich 5. Helsinki 6. Stockholm 7. Vienna 8. Paris 9. Melbourne 10. Berlin 11. Honolulu 12. Madrid 13. Sydney 14. Vancouver 15. Barcelona 16. Fukuoka 17. Oslo 18. Singapore 19. Montreal 20. Auckland 21. Auckland 22. Kyoto 23. Hamburg 24. Geneva 25. Lisbon

I am glad to have lived in two of the above 25, Paris and Melbourne. Partially lived in Oslo as a student and had wanted to live in Lisbon and Honolulu. Of the 25, the only city I have not visited is Vienna in Europe and Fukuoka in Japan.. alors!

Hurrah for USA and of course, Hurrah for Australia!

Elizabeth Blackburn was raised in Tasmania and educated in Melbourne before going to Cambridge to get her PhD. She has been in the uSA since 1988. And she is this years Nobel Prize Winner in Medicine.

To me this is the beauty of USA.. not only they take in the tired feet of huddled masses, it is the largest recipient of immigrants on an yearly basis, where it be a kebab seller from Bangladesh or brilliant scientist from Australia. It is the country, without doubt, gives those who try, many chances to succeed. And you can succeed on merit alone..

The photo is of an Australia/Cuba/French/Malaysia lover who is Jewish, eating with two native american women ( both with postgraduate qualifications), thai food cooked by Laotian refugee to Thailand now given asylum in USA.. This beauty of United States of America, never cease to amaze me!

jeudi 8 octobre 2009

A day in the life of an Endocrinologist

Walk over to the school in the morning and chat and check about 26 students. Mainly for their propensity for Insulin Resistance and future Type 2 Diabetes.
In between other social chats with librarian and the principal.
Lunch: drive to south Sioux city, 25 miles away. Thai food. Invite my two coworkers to Lunch. I had Panang curry Vegetarian. They had Pad Thai and guao teow.
Afternoon sitting and looking at results collected yesterday. Happy to say the obesity rate is declining. The reason unknown but may be due to: introduction of fruit as snack at school. Closure of the junk food store near the school.
To dinner at Hunan palace, an old ‘Chinese’ restaurant. Michele and her husband Charlie and the three girls. Initially they are shy but soon that is gone. They all polished off their dinners. Felt good being with them. Gave the gifts from Malaysia..
It is getting darker earlier and the temperature is getting colder. While today was a lovely day with a top temperature of 22 C tomorrow is predicted to be a cold 9 degrees..
That is what they pay me for, as a consultant endocrinologist. Imagine the stress I would have if I were seeing patients all day at an office regardless how luxurious the offices are.. this kind of life suits me very much. You really have to choose the life you wish to have..
Thanks to the spirits that have brought me here to this point..

Dr Sudah Yehuda Kovesh Shaheb
Medical Anthropology
Creighton University Nebraska
Omaha and Winnebago Tribes of Nebraska
University of Havana, Cuba
Paris, France
Miami, Florida
Kuala Lumpur
Okkun Come On Arigato Gozaimasu Gracias Obrigado Thanks Merci JesuTinBade teremah kaseh

dimanche 4 octobre 2009

When to drink this poison?

it has been a while since I had drank coca-cola ( I must have been healthy?) btu this morning at Charles de Gaulle Airport- I had, not one, but three cans of Coca Cola.
Why? Because I was sick!
Doctor and Traveller, I am naturally immune to a whole host of voluntary , non voluntary immunizations: Influenza, Pnuemococcus and Hepatitis of various varieties etc..It has been a while since I have had symptoms of Flu, which used to be an accompaniment, an occupational hazard on long distance flying to Japan.
There is no vaccine against food poisoning, since a a variety of bugs cause the symptoms, depending upon the country. Yesterday, at a boulangerie, in a Paris suburb, I ate a 2 tier pita sandwich filled with avacado, cream and what tasted as crab (artificial?)
The result was almost immediate. I have the appropriate medications to stop the symptoms, but I was worried about the nine hour flight to New York.
At CDG, I drank three cans of coca-cola( regular ) within an hour and half.. so reluctantly at first to overcome the psychological hatred for this drink..Soon after the first one, the rumblings of the stomach had ceased.
This is the only time I wished, the Airlines wouldnt upgrade me, since it would be a crime to waste the good food and wine. I preferred the Economy Class where suffering is made much easier-not too much food or service, which is beneficial in a case like mine. Today.
Moral of the story is this: coca-cola is more poisonous than the poisons that give you food poisoning and coca cola can be used as an urgent/emergency measure like a snake anti-venom.
No healthy person should drink Coca-Cola Regular or Light or Diet or whatever or any other soft drink for that matter manufactured in any country.. even though not all coca cola are the same, the ones in Venezuela are still made with sugar I think, Mexico shifted from Sugar to High Fructose Corn syrup after USA took them to International Court and won over Trade practices.. Also the phosphorus added to create the bubbly feeling in your mouth sucks out the calcium in an already depressed calcium millieu of the western diet and leeches the necessary calcium from the bones, I have seen young women with osteoporosis caused by drinking litres of soft drink, Needless to say these things also cause Diabetes when drunk in large amounts regularly..
I wrote this as I was about to arrive in the land that concocts Coca Cola, hoping that i wont have any need to drink that poison!!
It is paradoxical that I got food poisoning in Europe, just few days before I was in Malaysia and indulged in delicious food (food and not fabricated rubbish) to my hearts content without any untoward health problems ..
In Cuba, for most people, a soft drink is usually a Treat since it is not available readily for most of the population and children consider a sip of Tropicola, which used to be made with cane sugar but now with artificial sweeteners, a rare treat..

jeudi 1 octobre 2009

Elegant irreverance of the French

Political collectedness has never bothered the French, the president marries a model who poses nude, the minister of justice has a baby out of wedlock, they refuse to speak English whereas all other Europeans speak English at international meetings.. Elegance is something that comes naturally to them.. and look at the above advertisements.. for shoes. but the theme is North American Indian, but well done... in fact i am sure the Indians would be elated to know that they are being given this beautiful status, rather than thinking that they are being exploited. Hurrah for the French and down with being politically correct.!