Friday, September 30, 2011
Thursday, September 29, 2011
Wednesday, September 28, 2011
US President Barack Obama is a politician who weighs his words carefully. So his comments on Monday that the eurozone crisis is scaring much of the world and that politicians here are simply not reacting quickly enough are extraordinary.
While he did not say anything that exasperated analysts and rather more clear-eyed market traders have not been saying for the last 18 months, it is the first time the US president has assumed speaking out so bluntly about it will not make the situation worse.
It is already as bad as it gets.
Here is what he said yesterday, according to Reuters news agency, at a ‘town hall’ meeting in California.
“They (Europeans)have not fully healed from the crisis back in 2007 and never fully dealt with all the challenges that their banking system faced. It is now being compounded with what is happening in Greece.
“So they are going through a financial crisis that is scaring the world and they are trying to take responsible actions but those actions haven’t been quite as quick as they need to be.”
Until now, Obama has confined himself to saying that he has confidence in eurozone leaders’ ability to find a solution, even if his actions (a few well placed eleventh hour phonecalls to chivvy EU leaders along) suggested otherwise.
His comments mark the culmination of US public pressure on the EU in recent weeks. (Private pressure has been going on for some time, including US treasury officials visiting member states.) US treasury secretary Timothy Geithner, who attended a meeting of eurozone finance ministers (actually very cordial despite acerbic comments by the Austrian finance minister) earlier this month, has gone from giving friendly advice, to what could be termed frank-talking, to statements that border on thehectoring.
Americans feel they have something to offer. They point out that the Term Asset-Backed Securities Loan Facility – which appears to similar to what is now being cooked up for the eurozone bailout fund (EFSF) - coupled with more rigorous bank stress tests stopped a bad crisis in the US becoming worse.
Now with the eurozone crisis threatening the global economy, the US is becoming much more forthright about what it feels is the best medicine for Europe.
They fail to see how the EU, and particularly the Germans, could have let the crisis get out of control in the first place. As far as Washington is concerned, Berlin should have stepped up at the beginning, way back in early 2010, and spelled out to German citizens that saving the eurozone was in their own fundamental interest.
They are also have little understanding for eurozone leaders’ prevaricating with the public about what will ultimately be needed to save the eurozone.
There is much to be said for this.
Eurozone leaders are currently in the ridiculous situation of praying that the beefed up EFSF gets through all parliaments while knowing full well that it will have to be altered almost immediately. Which all means that no one can talk too openly about themassive steps that are apparently around the corner.
Geithner’s ‘get on with it’ comment highlights Washington’s tendency to view the EU and eurozone as one single entity, rather than a set of countries with different traditions and priorities. This is natural given how every action or non-action by the eurozone has repercussions elsewhere. But within the EU, the crisis has exacerbated a go-it-alone feeling among certain member states. It remains open which vision will ultimately prevail.
Overpriced berries and the junk food complex
I was recently having a discussion with a friend who does not work in agriculture, and asked her the following question: If you could ask one thing of the EU’s upcoming reforms of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), what would it be? She replied: “They should make berries cheaper”.
My initial response was to reason that politicians are not there to micro-manage the prices of food products. Then I realised that they can, and they do. The problem is that it is not blueberries or blackberries whose prices are being manipulated downwards, or anything else in the fresh groceries aisle.
Here are some prices sampled from a medium-sized Delhaize supermarket in Brussels: 100g of fresh blackberries at €3.69; 280g of frozen chicken nuggets at €2.25; 100g of pine nuts at €5.49; 200g of coated snack nuts at €1.05. So the chicken nuggets cost 4.5 times less per gram than the blackberries, and the snack nuts 10 times less than the single-ingredient pine nuts. This despite the fact that the two processed items contained a long list of ingredients sourced from far and wide: salt, sugar, corn-based sweeteners, vegetable oils, flavourings, preservatives and so on.
Of course, anything is cheaper if it can be produced and sold in bulk. But not that much cheaper. Perhaps there is nothing we can do, ultimately, to prevent people from making the choice to eat unhealthy food. But there is something we can not do, and that is to not skew agri-food policies in a way that makes junk food artificially cheap, increasing what is already a strong temptation for shoppers.
Obesity epidemic spreading to emerging countries
The poor nutritional profile of highly processed foods, and their impact on health and well-being, are proven and well-documented. But that has not stopped us sleepwalking into an obesity epidemic, and with it a proliferation of potentially avoidable cases of heart disease, cancer and type II diabetes. Obesity rates have tripled in some parts of Europe since the 1980s, starting to rival America’s well-known weight problems. But the real worry now is big emerging countries, where eating habits – along with incomes – are starting to converge with the West. 60% of South African women, and 70% of all Mexicans, are overweight or obese, a problem which runs parallel to continuing malnutrition among other population groups.
This week the UN General Assembly makes a rare foray into the public health domain at a summit aimed at combating these lifestyle-induced diseases. What are the chances for a global commitment to crack down on junk food advertising aimed at children or to tax unhealthy food? Unfortunately, very little.
Given the gravity of the health crisis, a few countries may start to pioneer individual measures; France has recently proposed a soda tax, while the South African government has unveiled plans to limit salt content in processed breads and snacks. But huge financial interests, and a huge lobbying operation, swing into action when the spectre of food regulation creeps onto the horizon. Last year’s attempt to introduce ‘traffic light’ nutritional labelling in the EU, and 2009 plans for a federal soda tax in the US, were abandoned following big industry campaigns.
Realistically, agri-food companies can live with a few labelling requirements and none-too-punitive levies, such as the token sales taxes currently applied to sugary drinks in around 30 US states. But what they really don’t want is a wholesale questioning of why junk food is so cheap and abundant in the first place. This goes back to farm subsidies, and the question of what policies such as the CAP can, can’t, should and shouldn’t do.
The real beneficiary of farm subsidies
In a model applying with notable variations in both Europe and America: most agricultural subsidies make their way into the hands of big farm holdings with a history of high production volumes. By definition, these are mostly farms producing cereal crops and oilseeds. The subsidies provide farmers with an incentive to produce lots of the commodities in question, providing food processors with a convenient glut of their key raw ingredients, which they buy up at prices sometimes barely covering the cost of production. It is the subsidies which allow farmers to stay in business, despite the low prices they accept for their output.
And accept they must: the crucial middlemen in the food supply chain – the processors, distributors and retailers who link farmers to consumers – are few and far-between. One firm, Tyson, accounts for nearly 30% of all US meat and poultry sales. This type of market share may sound normal for the dominant player in other sectors, such as petrol extraction, where massive up-front capital and infrastructural operations are needed to yield the first drop of crude. But this should not be the case for a fresh product, chicken, which can be produced and sold in the same area – in anyarea – without the need for an industrial-scale operation.
The food supply chain faces an unrivalled David and Goliath effect: the producers are individual farms, and the processors/distributors are huge multinational companies. The farms that survive and prosper are often those which come to mirror the size and scope of the middlemen, aka factory farms, and what they produce and how they produce it becomes a function of what their buyer wants (for more on this see the excellent documentary Food Inc). The buyer not only benefits from the economy of scale of the factory farming operation, but also from the farm subsidies which continue to pour into these farms, allowing them to sell on their produce at low rates. A subsidy to a farmer is an indirect subsidy to a buyer.
The magical combination of cheap, abundant ingredients and long-life trans fats allows processed foods to be mass-produced, distributed and exported at low cost, and sold on cheaply enough that consumers will not think twice about buying them – even, or especially, where incomes are lower in the developing world.
Changing the status quo
Our subsidy schemes are the first building block in a system which churns out a disproportionate amount of unhealthy food at disproportionately low prices. Why this subsidy system was developed in the first place is one matter; why it has been allowed to remain is because it is in someone’s interests. Not farmers, the majority of whom would much rather receive a decent price for their produce than depend on subsidies. Not consumers, for whom the physical and financial burden of lifelong health complications more than cancels out the savings they make at the supermarket checkout. The real beneficiary is the industry that shepherds the passage of food from producer to consumer, an industry which is able to speak with a powerful and unified voice when defending the status quo.
So should junk food be made more expensive, or fresh fruit and veg made cheaper? Shouldn’t supply and demand decide? Perhaps, but only if we remove the distortions on the demand side that derive from subsidy-skewed price signals.
Reforming multi-billion euro agricultural policies is a complex exercise; a whole array of tools can be used to support different products and different production systems. But, whatever the ways and means, a narrowing of the price gap between blackberries and chicken nuggets should be the first symptom of a successful reform!
Tuesday, September 27, 2011
Monday, September 26, 2011
Friday, September 23, 2011
Thursday, September 22, 2011
Wednesday, September 21, 2011
Tuesday, September 20, 2011
The Victim’s View of Islam
Recently the McCormick Foundation financed a seminar about the print media reporting about Islam. The seminar was held under the auspices of the journalism school at MTSU, a state university in Murfreesboro, TN. It is part of the Establishment program of constructing the fine details of Establishment Islam.
The lectures and workshops were lead by Muslims and supporters/apologists/
This division of the world into good and evil has its benefits, but it is too broad a brush in this case. There is another view of Islam besides the “good” Muslims and their apologists. To see this, go back 1400 years to Medina. In Mecca Mohammed had “proven” his divine status by claiming to be in the same lineage of prophets such as Moses and Noah. There were no Jews in Mecca and the story played well enough. Mecca was the home of “Islam, the religion of peace”.
However, in Medina the town was half Jewish, consisting of three tribes. The Jews of Medina told Mohammed that he was not a prophet and this shattered his foundation as a prophet. Mohammed’s attitude about Jews went from being a spiritual brother to that of an archenemy.
Two years later the last of the Jewish children were kidnapped and adopted as Muslims, the Jewish women were sold into slavery and 800 Jewish males were beheaded. Medina was Judenrein, cleansed of Jews.
What are we to make of this well-documented event and the fact that it is only one of over 70 events of assassination, executions, raids, tortures, enslavements, battles and brutalization of the Kafir (non-Muslim) Arabs around Mohammed? All of this is recorded in the Sira (Mohammed’s biography).
The Muslim’s point-of-view is about this vast suffering is that it was a triumph for Islam, a victory and cause for celebration.
The apologist’s point-of-view of this violence is: that was then, this is now. Christians have done worse. Let’s not be judgmental.
Then there is the third view, that of the Kafir victims of Islam. Mohammed led a nine-year rage of jihad against them. There were pagan Kafirs, Jewish Kafirs and Christian Kafirs, but they were all Kafirs who were annihilated. The cause of all of this suffering was an intellectual idea—Mohammed is the prophet of Allah and every person must declare this “truth” or be subjected to violence. The Kafirs were the victims of Islam, then and now.
The story of the jihad against the Kafirs is told in the Sira and the Hadith (the Traditions of Mohammed). No one was allowed the luxury of avoiding Islam. If you were in the neighborhood of Mohammed, then you had to be for him or suffer violence. After Mohammed had conquered all of Arabia, he died while in the next phase of jihad, the conquest of the Christians to the north of Arabia.
This brutal story is told with great vehemence and force. Mohammed and Allah rejoice at the suffering of the Kafirs. And who cares? The apologist agrees that the violent triumph of Islam over all neighbors was a wonderful success for humanity. The Kafirs are human garbage to be put into the disposal of jihad. Who cares about dead Kafirs? Who cares about the annihilation of native cultures?
Why is it that the history of the Native Americans, Blacks and other minorities can be told, but not the Kafirs? Why can those victims have a place in history, but the suffering to the Kafirs is denied? Why do they have no history? Why can’t the victims of jihad and their history be given a valid seat in the marketplace of ideas?
This denial of the suffering of Kafirs can be seen in how our history books are written. The rise of Islam is glorious, but the suffering of the Christians in Turkey, North Africa, the Middle East, the suffering of the Hindus in Pakistan, the suffering of the Buddhists in Afghanistan are all denied. The victims do not exist in our history. If you die at the hands of Islam, you are invisible to history.
Notice that those who have no compassion for the Kafirs in the story of Mohammed’s martial triumph of Islam don’t care about Islam’s victims today. Islam and its apologists don’t give a damn about the suffering today of Christians in Africa, Pakistan, Iraq, Egypt, the Sudan and on and on. Jewish apologists for Islam do not see the 1400 year old annihilation of the Jews in Arabia being connected to the jihad to annihilate Israel today.
There is another thing about the apologists for Islam. They never refer to Islam’s doctrines of jihad, ethical dualism, subjugation of women and the rest of the Sharia. Instead, they constantly refer to the opinions of Muslim “experts”. But, those who support the victims of Islam talk about the foundational experts--Allah and Mohammed. Once you know Allah (the Koran) and Mohammed (the Sira and the Hadith) you do not need opinions of experts. Why? If the expert agrees with Allah and Mohammed, the expert is right, but redundant. If the expert disagrees with Allah and Mohammed, then the expert is wrong. So who needs the experts’ opinions if you know the facts of Allah and Mohammed?
Why is it when the foundations and the journalism schools meet to talk about how to report about Islam, the victims of Islam have no voice? Why is justice served by denying the deaths of 270 million Kafirs in the Tears of Jihad? Why is it that those who recognize the suffering of the victims of Islam today and 1400 years ago are called bigots and contemptible? Why is it that those who asks for the victims’ story be told along side of the apologists and Muslims are said to be Islamophobic and Muslim-bashers? Why is it that those who know the doctrine of Allah and Mohammed are told they are ignorant and despicable?
There are three views of Islam. The victims’ view is as valid as the oppressor’s view or the apologist’s view. The truth of victims of Islam’s suffering must be told and heard. It is too bad that the foundations do not have the will to finance the complete truth about Islam, instead of the soothing lies told by the Muslim “experts” and their sycophant apologists.
Monday, September 19, 2011
Sunday, September 18, 2011
Thursday, September 15, 2011
Wednesday, September 14, 2011
Tuesday, September 13, 2011
Monday, September 12, 2011
Sunday, September 11, 2011
Saturday, September 10, 2011
Friday, September 9, 2011
THE BLUE PEOPLE OF TROUBLESOME CREEK
The story of an Appalachian malady, an inquisitive doctor, and a paradoxical cure.
Six generations after a French orphan named Martin Fugate settled on the banks of eastern Kentucky's Troublesome Creek with his redheaded American bride, his great-great-great great grandson was born in a modern hospital not far from where the creek still runs.
The boy inherited his father's lankiness and his mother's slightly nasal way of speaking.
What he got from Martin Fugate was dark blue skin. "It was almost purple," his father recalls.
Doctors were so astonished by the color of Benjamin "Benjy" Stacy's skin that they raced him by ambulance from the maternity ward in the hospital near Hazard to a medical clinic in Lexington. Two days of tests produced no explanation for skin the color of a bruised plum.
A transfusion was being prepared when Benjamin's grandmother spoke up. "Have you ever heard of the blue Fugates of Troublesome Creek?" she asked the doctors.
"My grandmother Luna on my dad's side was a blue Fugate. It was real bad in her," Alva Stacy, the boy's father, explained. "The doctors finally came to the conclusion that Benjamin's color was due to blood inherited from generations back."
Benjamin lost his blue tint within a few weeks, and now he is about as normal looking a seven-year-old boy as you could hope to find. His lips and fingernails still turn a shade of purple-blue when he gets cold or angry a quirk that so intrigued medical students after Benjamin's birth that they would crowd around the baby and try to make him cry. "Benjamin was a pretty big item in the hospital," his mother says with a grin.
Dark blue lips and fingernails are the only traces of Martin Fugate's legacy left in the boy; that, and the recessive gene that has shaded many of the Fugates and their kin blue for the past 162 years.
They're known simply as the "blue people" in the hills and hollows around Troublesome and Ball Creeks. Most lived to their 80s and 90s without serious illness associated with the skin discoloration. For some, though, there was a pain not seen in lab tests. That was the pain of being blue in a world that is mostly shades of white to black.
There was always speculation in the hollows about what made the blue people blue: heart disease, a lung disorder, the possibility proposed by one old-timer that "their blood is just a little closer to their skin." But no one knew for sure, and doctors rarely paid visits to the remote creekside settlements where most of the "blue Fugates " lived until well into the 1950s. By the time a young hematologist from the University of Kentucky came down to Troublesome Creek in the 1960s to cure the blue people, Martin Fugate's descendants had multiplied their recessive genes all over the Cumberland Plateau.
Madison Cawein began hearing rumors about the blue people when he went to work at the University of Kentucky's Lexington medical clinic in 1960. "I'm a hematologist, so something like that perks up my ears," Cawein says, sipping on whiskey sours and letting his mind slip back to the summer he spent "tromping around the hills looking for blue people."
Cawein is no stranger to eccentricities of the body. He helped isolate an antidote for cholera, and he did some of the early work on L-dopa, the drug for Parkinson's disease. But his first love, which he developed as an Army medical technician in World War II, was hematology. "Blood cells always looked so beautiful to me," he says.
Cawein would drive back and forth between Lexington and Hazard an eight-hour ordeal before the tollway was built and scour the hills looking for the blue people he'd heard rumors about. The American Heart Association had a clinic in Hazard, and it was there that Cawein met "a great big nurse" who offered to help.
Her name was Ruth Pendergrass, and she had been trying to stir up medical interest in the blue people ever since a dark blue woman walked into the county health department one bitterly cold afternoon and asked for a blood test.
"She had been out in the cold and she was just blue!" recalls Pendergrass, who is now 69 and retired from nursing. "Her face and her fingernails were almost indigo blue. It like to scared me to death! She looked like she was having a heart attack. I just knew that patient was going to die right there in the health department, but she wasn't a'tall alarmed. She told me that her family was the blue Combses who lived up on Ball Creek. She was a sister to one of the Fugate women." About this same time, another of the blue Combses, named Luke, had taken his sick wife up to the clinic at Lexington. One look at Luke was enough to "get those doctors down here in a hurry," says Pendergrass, who joined Cawein to look for more blue people.
Trudging up and down the hollows, fending off "the two mean dogs that everyone had in their front yard," the doctor and the nurse would spot someone at the top of a hill who looked blue and take off in wild pursuit. By the time they'd get to the top, the person would be gone. Finally, one day when the frustrated doctor was idling inside the Hazard clinic, Patrick and Rachel Ritchie walked in.
"They were bluer'n hell," Cawein says. "Well, as you can imagine, I really examined them. After concluding that there was no evidence of heart disease, I said 'Aha!' I started asking them questions: 'Do you have any relatives who are blue?' then I sat down and we began to chart the family."
Cawein remembers the pain that showed on the Ritchie brother's and sister's faces. "They were really embarrassed about being blue," he said. "Patrick was all hunched down in the hall. Rachel was leaning against the wall. They wouldn't come into the waiting room. You could tell how much it bothered them to be blue."
After ruling out heart and lung diseases, the doctor suspected methemoglobinemia, a rare hereditary blood disorder that results from excess levels of methemoglobin in the blood. Methemoglobin which is blue, is a nonfunctional form of the red hemoglobin that carries oxygen. It is the color of oxygen-depleted blood seen in the blue veins just below the skin.
If the blue people did have methemoglobinemia, the next step was to find out the cause. It can be brought on by several things: abnormal hemoglobin formation, an enzyme deficiency, and taking too much of certain drugs, including vitamin K, which is essential for blood clotting and is abundant in pork liver and vegetable oil.
Cawein drew "lots of blood" from the Ritchies and hurried back to his lab. He tested first for abnormal hemoglobin, but the results were negative.
Stumped, the doctor turned to the medical literature for a clue. He found references to methemoglobinemia dating to the turn of the century, but it wasn't until he came across E. M. Scott's 1960 report in the Journal of Clinical Investigation (vol. 39, 1960) that the answer began to emerge.
Scott was a Public Health Service doctor at the Arctic Health Research Center in Anchorage who had discovered hereditary methemoglobinemia among Alaskan Eskimos and Indians. It was caused, Scott speculated, by an absence of the enzyme diaphorase from their red blood cells. In normal people hemoglobin is converted to methemoglobin at a very slow rate. If this conversion continued, all the body's hemoglobin would eventually be rendered useless. Normally diaphorase converts methemoglobin back to hemoglobin. Scott also concluded that the condition was inherited as a simple recessive trait. In other words, to get the disorder, a person would have to inherit two genes for it, one from each parent. Somebody with only one gene would not have the condition but could pass the gene to a child.
Scott's Alaskans seemed to match Cawein's blue people. If the condition were inherited as a recessive trait, it would appear most often in an inbred line.
Cawein needed fresh blood to do an enzyme assay. He had to drive eight hours back to Hazard to search out the Ritchies, who lived in a tapped-out mining town called Hardburly. They took the doctor to see their uncle, who was blue, too. While in the hills, Cawein drove over to see Zach (Big Man) Fugate, the 76-year-old patriarch of the clan on Troublesome Creek. His car gave out on the dirt road to Zach's house, and the doctor had to borrow a Jeep from a filling station.
Zach took the doctor even farther up Copperhead Hollow to see his Aunt Bessie Fugate, who was blue. Bessie had an iron pot of clothes boiling in her front yard, but she graciously allowed the doctor to draw some of her blood.
"So I brought back the new blood and set up my enzyme assay," Cawein continued. "And by God, they didn't have the enzyme diaphorase. I looked at other enzymes and nothing was wrong with them. So I knew we had the defect defined.''
Just like the Alaskans, their blood had accumulated so much of the blue molecule that it over- whelmed the red of normal hcmoglobin that shows through as pink in the skin of most Caucasians.
Once he had the enzyme deficiency isolated, methyleneblue sprang to Cawein's mind as the "perfectly obvious" antidote. Some of the blue people thought the doctor was slightly addled for suggesting that a blue dye could turn them pink. But Cawein knew from earlier studies that the body has an alternative method of converting methemoglobin back to normal. Activating it requires adding to the blood a substance that acts as an "electron donor." Many substances do this, but Cawein chose methylene blue because it had been used successfully and safely in other cases and because it acts quickly.
Cawein packed his black bag and rounded up Nurse Pendergrass for the big event. They went over to Patrick and Rachel Ritchie's house and injected each of them with 100 milligrams of methylene blue.
''Within a few minutes. the blue color was gone from their skin," the doctor said. "For the first time in their lives, they were pink. They were delighted."
"They changed colors!" remembered Pendergrass. "It was really something exciting to see."
The doctor gave each blue family a supply of methylene blue tablets to take as a daily pill. The drug's effects are temporary, as methylene blue is normally excreted in the urine. One day, one of the older mountain men cornered the doctor. "I can see that old blue running out of my skin," he confided.
Before Cawein ended his study of the blue people, he returned to the mountains to patch together the long and twisted journey of Martin Fugate's recessive gene. From a history of Perry County and some Fugate family Bibles listing ancestors, Cawein has constructed a fairly complete story.
Martin Fugate was a French orphan who emigrated to Kentucky in 1820 to claim a land grant on the wilderness banks of Troublesome Creek. No mention of his skin color is made in the early histories of the area, but family lore has it that Martin himself was blue.
The odds against it were incalculable, but Martin Fugate managed to find and marry a woman who carried the same recessive gene. Elizabeth Smith, apparently, was as pale-skinned as the mountain laurel that blooms every spring around the creek hollows.
Martin and Elizabeth set up housekeeping on the banks of Troublesome and began a family. Of their seven children, four were reported to be blue.
The clan kept multiplying. Fugates married other Fugates. Sometimes they married first cousins. And they married the people who lived closest to them, the Combses, Smiths, Ritchies, and Stacys. All lived in isolation from the world, bunched in log cabins up and down the hollows, and so it was only natural that a boy married the girl next door, even if she had the same last name.
"When they settled this country back then, there was no roads. It was hard to get out, so they intermarried," says Dennis Stacy, a 51-year-old coal miner and amateur genealogist who has filled a loose-leaf notebook with the laboriously traced blood lines of several local families.
Stacy counts Fugate blood in his own veins. "If you'll notice," he observes, tracing lines on his family's chart, which lists his mother's and his father's great grandfather as Henley Fugate, "I'm kin to myself."
The railroad didn't come through eastern Kentucky until the coal mines were developed around 1912, and it took another 30 or 40 years to lay down roads along the local creeks.
Martin and Elizabeth Fugate's blue children multiplied in this natural isolation tank. The marriage of one of their blue boys, Zachariah, to his mother's sister triggered the line of succession that would result in the birth, more than 100 years later, of Benjamin Stacy.
When Benjamin was born with purple skin, his relatives told the perplexed doctors about his great grandmother Luna Fugate. One relative describes her as "blue all over," and another calls Luna "the bluest woman I ever saw."
Luna's father, Levy Fugate, was one of Zachariah Fugate's sons. Levy married a Ritchie girl and bought 200 acres of rolling land along Ball Creek. The couple had eight children, including Luna.
A fellow by the name of John E. Stacy spotted Luna at Sunday services of the Old Regular Baptist Church back before the century turned. Stacy courted her, married her, and moved over from Troublesome Creek to make a living in timber on her daddy's land.
Luna has been dead nearly 20 years now, but her widower survives. John Stacy still lives on Lick Branch of Ball Creek. His two room log cabin sits in the middle of Laurel Fork Hollow. Luna is buried at the top of the hollow. Stacy's son has built a modern house next door, but the old logger won't hear of leaving the cabin he built with timber he personally cut and hewed for Luna and their 13 children.
Stacy recalls that his father-inlaw, Levy Fugate, was "part of the family that showed blue. All them old fellers way back then was blue. One of 'em I remember seeing him when I was just a boy "Blue Anze", they called him. Most of them old people went by that name the blue Fugates. It run in that generation who lived up and down Ball [Creek]."
"They looked like anybody else, 'cept they had the blue color," Stacy says, sitting in a chair in his plaid flannel shirt and suspenders, next to a cardboard box where a small black piglet, kept as a pet, is squealing for his bottle. "I couldn't tell you what caused it."
The only thing Stacy can't or won't remember is that his wife Luna was blue. When asked ahout it, he shakes his head and stares steadfastly ahead. It would be hard to doubt this gracious man except that you can't find another person who knew Luna who doesn't remember her as being blue.
"The bluest Fugates I ever saw was Luna and her kin," says Carrie Lee Kilburn, a nurse who works at the rural medical center called Homeplace Clinic. "Luna was bluish all over. Her lips were as dark as a bruise. She was as blue a woman as I ever saw."
Luna Stacy possessed the good health common to the blue people, bearing at least 13 children before she died at 84. The clinic doctors only saw her a few times in her life and never for anything serious.
As coal mining and the railroads brought progress to Kentucky, the blue Fugates started moving out of their communities and marrying other people. The strain of inherited blue began to disappear as the recessive gene spread to families where it was unlikely to be paired with a similar gene.
Bewnjamin Stacy is one of the last of the blue Fugates. With Fugate blood on both his mother's and his father's side, the boy could have received genes for the enzyme deficiency from either direction. Because the boy was intensely blue at birth but then recovered his normal skin tones, Benjamin is assumed to have inherlted only one gene for the condition. Such people tend to be very blue only at birth, probably because newborns normally have smaller amounts of diaphorase. The enzyme eventually builds to normal levels in most children and to almost normal levels in those like Benjamin, who carry one gene.
Hilda Stacy (nee Godsey) is fiercely protective of her son. She gets upset at all the talk of inbreeding among the Fugates. One of the supermarket tabloids once sent a reporter to find out about the blue people, and she was distressed with his preoccupation with intermarriages.
She and her husband Alva have a strong sense of family. They sing in the Stacy Family Gospel Band and have provided their children with a beautiful home and a menagerie of pets, including horses.
"Everyone around here knows about the blue Fugates," says Hilda Stacy who, at 26, looks more like a sister than a mother to her children. "It's common. It's nothing.''
Cawein and his colleagues published their research on hereditary diaphorase deficiency in the Archives of Internal Medicine (April, 1964) in 1964. He hasn't studied the condition for years. Even so, Cawein still gets calls for advice. One came from a blue Flugate who'd joined the Army and been sent to Panama, where his son was born bright blue. Cawein advised giving the child methylene blue and not worrying about it. Note: In this instance the reason for cyanosis was not methemoglobinemia but Rh incompatibility. This information supplied by John Graves whose uncle was the father of the child.
The doctor was recently approached by the producers of the television show "That's Incredible." They wanted to parade the blue people across the screen in their weekly display of human oddities. Cawein would have no part of it, and he related with glee the news that a film crew sent to Kentucky from Hollywood fled the "two mean dogs in every front yard" without any film. Cawein cheers their bad luck not out of malice but out of a deep respect for the blue people of Troublesome Creek.
"They were poor people," concurs Nurse Pendergrass, "but they were good."
- Cawein, Madison, et. al. "Hereditary diaphorase deficiency and methemoglobinemia". Archives of Internal Medicine, April, 1964.
- Scott, E.M. "The relation of diaphorase of human erythrocytes to inheritance of methemolglobinemia", Journal of Clinical Investigation, 39, 1960.
- Cawein, Madison and E.J. Lappat, "Hereditary Methemoglobinemia" in Hemoglobin, Its Precursors and Metabolites, ed. by F. William Sunderman, J.B. Lippincott Co., Philadelphia PA, 1964.
Thursday, September 8, 2011
There is a troupe of Muslim comedians who have been touring the South to counter the stereotypical view of Muslims. They contend that these stereotypes are the core of the cancer that is American Islamophobia. All the shows are free and it is a national tour with heavy publicity. Should there be a follow-the-money question about who is paying the hundred thousand dollars for the propaganda tour?
But there is a great deal of truth about the idea of a stereotype. The true stereotype of Islam is Mohammed. He is declared in 91 verses in the Koran to be the divine human prototype, the perfect being and the sacred model of a pious life. We find him in the Sira (his biography) and the Hadith (his traditions). Guess what? There is a doctrine of humor to found in Islamic doctrine. This should be no surprise, given that the Islamic doctrine is the basis for their civilization.
Here are some of the moments of laughter in Mohammed’s life take from the Hadith and the Sira:
Muslim 031, 5932: … [At the battle of Uhud]… Mohammed said to Saed: Shoot an arrow, may my mother and father be taken as ransom for you. Saed drew an arrow and shot a featherless arrow at the Meccan’s side and he fell down and his private parts were exposed. I saw Mohammed’s front teeth when he laughed.
Muslim 019, 4450: … I said: Mohammed, let me select from our people one hundred men and I will follow the marauders and I will kill them all. Mohammed laughed so much that his molar teeth could be seen in the light of the fire, and he said: Salama, do you think you can do this? I said: Yes, ….
Bukhari 8, 74, 299: ... Mohammed woke up with a smile. 'What makes you laugh, O Allah's Apostle?' He said, 'In my dream some Muslims were displayed before me as jihadists sailing over this sea, like kings on thrones.’
Umayya: 'Now I had bound my prisoner's thumbs with my bowstring, and when Mohammed looked at him he laughed so that one could see his back teeth. He asked my news and when I told him how I had killed a Kafir by pushing my bow through his eye into his brain, he blessed me.' 
By God, we only met some bald old women like the sacrificial camels who are hobbled, and we slaughtered them!' The apostle smiled and said, 'But, nephew, those were the Kafir chiefs.' 
‘Mohammed, what makes the Lord laugh with joy at His servant?' Mohammed answered, 'When he plunges into the midst of the enemy without armor.' Auf drew off his armor and threw it away: then he seized his sword and fought the enemy till he was slain. 
A common phrase from both the Koran and Mohammed is:
Bukhari 8, 76, 492: Mohammed said, "If you knew what I know you would laugh little and weep much."
We can see that what makes Mohammed laugh a little, makes us weep much. And what makes Mohammed laugh in these quotes? Brutality and cruelty to Kafirs made Mohammed laugh and smile.
Mohammed found cruelty to Kafirs (non-Muslims) funny, but we Kafirs had better never find anything about Mohammed humorous. Have you ever heard a Mohammed joke? There are Jesus jokes, Moses jokes, God jokes and Saint Peter jokes, but in 1400 years there has never been a Mohammed joke. Why? Why isn’t Mohammed funny? There are no Mohammed jokes because of the Islamic reasoning or logic. Islamic reasoning is pure authoritarian.
But there is an even better reason that we don’t have any Mohammed jokes. Jokes point out our errors and flaws. There are 91 Koran verses that say that Mohammed is the perfect man to be followed in the smallest detail by all Muslims at all times. If Mohammed is not perfect, then why imitate him? If the joke points out error or flaws, then the keystone of Islam is flawed. The joke performs the logical task of isolating error. If the joke is based on any reality (and they all are, or they would not be funny) then Mohammed has flaws. That would mean that a Muslim has to start using reasoning to sort out Mohammed’s errors. So the joke destroys the entire edifice of authoritarian reasoning and opens up Islam to critical thought. Since Mohammed must remain the perfect pattern, then no jokes may be allowed.
Humor is an excellent acid test for the type of reasoning that is used. Authoritarian systems never allow humor directed at the authorities. Nobody told Stalin jokes. Joke:
An American was visiting a Russian during the Cold War. They fell to arguing about who had the better political system. The American said, “Let me show how good American politics are.” He tore out a photo of Nixon in a magazine and threw it into the trash and said, “To hell with Nixon. Can you do that?”
The Russian said, “Sure.” And he took the photo of Nixon, wadded it up and threw it out the window and yelled to the world, “To hell with Nixon.” Then he said, “See, we Soviets can do that better than you!”
Authoritative reasoning systems are based on suppression of thought that is not accepted by the Establishment and always have force and punishment in the background. To see authoritative thought in America, go to any college classroom and try for an open discussion of race. Try talking about minority crime, poverty and classroom failures as being the responsibility of the minority.
The Kafir world has a better thought system—critical thought (also: scientific thought). Critical thought loves humor for the reason that all opinions are welcome in critical thought. The idea may not be provable, but you can bring up for discussion.
We see this in political cartoons. One of the triumphs of America during this Obama presidency is that he gets cracked as hard in political cartoons as Bush.
What about a Mohammed cartoon? Oops! That does not work so well. Remember the Mohammed cartoons? People died in riots. Then Mollie Norris of Seattle, WA came up with idea of “Everybody Draw Mohammed Day”. She is now in hiding from death threats. That’s that the Islamic authoritarian reasoning at work.
We got to see Islamic authoritarian reasoning against intellectuals and artists in the death fatwa as Salman Rushdie (author), the murder of: Pym Fortune (an artist and politician), Theo van Gogh (film director and TV personality), Daniel Pearl (newspaper reporter) and other artist/critics for 1400 years. Assassination of artists who criticize Mohammed is pure Islam. Mohammed repeatedly sent out assassins against the artists and intellectuals of his day who criticized and satirized him.
What is the response of the authoritarian media/university/government Establishment today to critical thought about Islam? Those who are critical about Islamic doctrine and history are called immoral bigots, Islamophobes, haters and worse. Why does our Establishment love Islam so much? One authoritarian recognizes another authoritarian. It is a matter of professional courtesy--the same reason that sharks don’t bite lawyers.
The Establishment will not help us, but will only pick up Islam’s complaints and bludgeon us as bigots because we do not agree on an intellectual point. We have to be ideological warriors and bring the truth of Islamic doctrine and political history, which is not funny in any way, to those who have an ear to hear.
But take heart, kind souls, there is at least one form of humor that the Muslim comedy troupe won’t be telling, fart jokes:
Bukhari 8, 73, 68: Mohammed forbade laughing at a person who passes wind, …
So tell me, if you cannot crack fart jokes, how do Muslim males ever get through youth? (For the guys—pull my finger.)
1. The Life of Mohammed, A. Guillaume (the Sira), Oxford University Press, 1982, pg. 675.
2. Ibid, pg. 309
3. Ibid, pg. 301