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Your Health & Happiness

The Doctor's Consultation 

Agony Column

Camera Class by Snapshot

Money Matters

Life in the Laugh Lane

Your Health & Happiness: Stevia, perhaps an answer to low sugar diets, still banned in Thailand

Preeyanoot Jittawong

Stevia (Stevia rebaudiana Bertoni) is a natural herbal sweetener. Currently its use is banned in Thailand by the Ministry of Public Health as a food ingredient. However, research into the herb is continuing, and recently the Institute for Science and Technology Research and Development and Pharmaceutical-Cosmetic Raw Materials and Natural Products Research and Development Center, Chiang Mai University organized the 6th biotechnology pharmacy seminar, to discuss the future of Stevia in Thailand. The seminar took place on August 11 at Chiang Mai University.

Both organizations believe in the importance for Thailand of Stevia rebaudiana Bertoni, so they are continuing their research to provide answers for the government and to ask for permission to import it legally.

The herb is native to Brazil, Venezuela, Colombia and Paraguay where the indigenous Guarani have used caa-ehe (stevia) for over 1,500 years to sweeten otherwise unpalatable medicinal drinks. Other uses for the plant and its extracts are in weight-loss programs because of its ability to reduce the cravings for sweet and fatty foods. The plant has also been used to treat diabetes, hypoglycemia, candidiasis, high blood pressure, skin abrasions and inhibit growth and reproduction of bacteria-like plaque, but much more research would need to be done to confirm these wide-ranging claims.

Stevia’s greatest economic potential is as a natural alternative to artificial sweeteners (such as aspartame or sodium saccharin). Dry stevia leaf is up to 30 times sweeter than sucrose. The sweetness is mainly attributed to two compounds, viz stevioside (3-10 percent of dry leaf weight) and rebaudioside A (1-3 percent), which can be up to 250 times sweeter than sucrose. Stevioside has a few advantages over artificial sweeteners in that it is stable at high temperatures (100 C) and has a pH range of 3-9 and does not darken with cooking.

In Japan about 40 percent of the sweetener market is stevia-based. It has been called Yerba dulce in Spanish meaning sweet grass herb and used for sweet flavor both in food and drink and to drink as Mate tea for 1,500 years.

The main current commercial constraint on the stevia industry is a ban on its use in food products in the US. This is based on the suspicion that a derivative of stevioside may be harmful to humans.

Stevia grows naturally on infertile, sandy acid soils with shallow water tables. This is normally in areas like the edge of mashes and grassland communities. The natural climate is semi-humid subtropical with temperature extremes from 21 to 43 C, averaging 24 C. Stevia grows in areas with up to 1375mm of rain a year. It is a short day plant, growing up to 0.6 meters in the wild. Flowering under short day conditions should occur 54–104 days following transplanting.


The Doctor's Consultation: Cat Scratch Disease or the Marauding Moggie

by Dr. Iain Corness

Almost every household has at least one cat, and often more. Cats are affectionate, warm pets that will sit on your lap for hours, purring away, while it licks your hands. During that time, it may even be giving you more than love. It may be giving you a little present called Bartonella henselae, or simply, Cat Scratch Disease!

Tell me more, you say, while wondering if you should strangle the cat now or later! But first a little history. A little over 50 years ago, the clinical signs of Cat Scratch Disease were described, called romantically “La Maladie des griffes du chat.” However, the symptoms of this ailment are far from romantic.

Cat Scratch Disease affects between 2-10 people per 100,000 head of population in America, so whilst it isn’t an every day diagnosis, most doctors will come across a few cases in their medical lifetime.

The presenting symptom is a regional swelling of the lymph nodes, generally in a young person or a child, and the usual scenario involves a panicking parent who is sure the child has lymphatic cancer.

What actually happens is that the cat is carrying the organism, known as Bartonella henselae, which it inoculates into the human system. This bug in turn is trapped by the lymph glands, within which one almighty fight takes place, with the end result being that the glands swell dramatically and can even burst through the skin as a suppurating discharge. Other signs and symptoms include a fever, sore throat and headache.

Now there are many causes for swollen glands, fever, headache and sore throat, so how do we pick on the family pussy cat? Quite simply, there will be a history of having been bitten or scratched by the family moggy, and the inoculation site will drain into the affected lymph glands.

So just how does the cat give you a “shot” of bugs? Well, firstly somewhere between 20-40 percent of cats are carrying the organism, and it lives in the cat’s saliva as well as in its blood. While licking its claws, puss leaves a collection of the organism there, which in turn becomes yours when the cat scratches you.

Cat Scratch Disease, although generally localized, can end up infecting internal organs such as the liver, spleen heart and brain, though this is very rare. For most people who contract the illness they quietly recover, though it can sometimes take some months. However, for people with compromised immune systems, spontaneous recovery is not the norm.

There is treatment, with one of the most appropriate antibiotics being Doxycycline, while the most usually available penicillins are fairly ineffective. There are tests which can be done in the laboratory to prove or disprove infection by Bartonella henselae, so what we call a “Definitive” diagnosis can be made. Again you can see the dangers in self medication. If you do indeed have Cat Scratch Disease from the cat bite, the penicillin you bought is useless!

So should we all go out and take our cats down to the vet and consign them to the great veterinary hospital in the sky? The simple answer is no, but the moral to this tale is that we should be on our guard. Cat scratches and bites should not be taken lightly. Immediately after any injuries you should wash the wounds with soap and water and after a thorough cleansing only then apply your favourite antiseptic, and at the first sign of problem, pop into the hospital and get it checked. But please leave the cat at home!


Agony Column

Dear Hillary,
My wife thinks I’m mad, but this is really bugging me. We have visited Chiang Mai twice in the last 12 months, Spring being the latest, and tonight a friend who has not been to Thailand for at least five years asked us how much a small bottle of Singha beer costs in the beer bars these days. Top of my head I answered, about 70 baht give or take a few baht. Straight off he ridiculed me saying that it should be about 35 baht. My wife, who normally holds the purse strings on our visits, she being arguably the sensible one, agreed with me. Adding that she had seen it in the smaller shops at 30 baht. Now, the two chaps who where sitting opposite us at the time, are frequent visitors to Chiang Mai, three or so times a year, so I asked them to back me up. Imaging my surprise when they agreed with him saying that they would normally pay 35 baht a bottle in the majority of beer bars. Hillary, I don’t for one instant entertain the thought that you frequent beer bars at the drop of a hat, but if you can’t trust a journalist to point you in the direction of a good watering hole and know the meaning of value for money, then just what in life can you trust? Can we ask you to intercede in this matter as it will be 2006 before my wife and I will be able to return “home” and it will pray on my mind until I find out the truth? If we are proved wrong then I promise that on our next visit we will consume vulgar quantities of the amber nectar (instead of vast amounts), if in the right then I assure you that a bottle of bubbly and some chocs will find it’s way to you on our next visit (will my personal favourites Demi Sec and hand made Belgium suffice?) actually right or wrong you can have the goodies, not only because you are a good read, but also in the vague hope that it might spur the scoundralous Mistersingha into action. As a Scot who is residing in the Channel Islands may I sign off as,
The Gordon Islander

Dear Gordon Islander,
Of course you can get a small bottle of beer for 35 baht in every beer bar, provided you go back in time to around 1985! The average price is now around 50-70 baht, with go-go bars around 120 baht. My authority tells me that if you go to some small beer bars up sois where nobody else would go, you can get the 35 baht bottles still, but you probably wouldn’t want to drink there. It is also definitely not the ‘majority’ of beer bars as your friend is claiming, either. So my Gordon Islander Petal, I look forward to your bottle of bubbles and the hand made choccies in 2006. I can taste their sweetness already and the bubbles foaming around my teeth!
Dear Hillary,
My wife, whom I love dearly, has but one fault, if you want to call it that. We have a large house, and everyone from her village seems to need to stay with us, “just for one night on their way back to the village,” which seems to stretch out into two or three nights, as transport arrangements seem to change hourly! Should I just ignore this, or should I put my foot down. I really would like your idea on what I should do.
Easygoing Ernie

Dear Easygoing Ernie,
This is fairly standard practice for families, and villagers from the country. They do not have spare cash that they can waste on a 500 baht room, especially as they probably only make around 200 baht a day in wages. If your house is large, then you should be able to keep part of it free of villagers for yourself. Remember that it is also a sign to her former friends in the village that she is doing well, now the ‘lady of the house’. However, I do put forward a caution, my Petal. Make sure the duration of the stay is spelled out to all concerned, and I would put a three day maximum on it, or else you will find that you have become the village big house, something you obviously do not want.
Dear Hillary,
Having had a rather rude shock with a “lady boy” the other evening, is there any foolproof way you can tell, short of DNA typing? I am sure I am not the first to have been fooled (well almost), so how do we poor men discover “true” identities? More than one of us is waiting for your answer.
Confused

Dear Confused,
Too easy, Petal. Any lady who is taller than you are and drop dead gorgeous and flaunting it, just has to be a lady boy. It is somewhat difficult to tell at a distance, in these days of excellent plastic surgery, but even if they have had a total make-over, landing gear gone and enhanced superstructure as well, listen for the deeper voice, large hands and feet and tiny hips! Some of them do it for love, but many for money. Like all commercial deals, ‘Caveat emptor!’


Camera Class: Recognizing ‘good’ photographs - and selling them

by Harry Flashman

I received an email a few weeks back from a keen photographer called Tom. He asked, “How do you recognize a ‘good’ photograph when you have taken one? I have attached two photos that I think are OK but would value your opinion and, if they are OK, are they in any sense saleable? And if so, how?”

Firstly, Tom, sorry it has taken a little while to answer you, but these columns are written some weeks in advance. You have really asked three questions - what do I think of your photos, are they saleable and how. That’s a big ask, Tom, but I’ll do my best.

There have been a couple of topics recently, dealing with this subject generally, but here’s what I feel about your photos. I looked at them, as if I were judging them in a competition. I will be brutally honest, so forgive me if you don’t agree with my opinion - but you did ask!

First off, the cook in the Malibu shot. I liked this as it had some immediate impact, and the happy smile of their cook just added to that. It was also a classic of the ‘frame within a frame’ genre, where the serving window delineated the subject. It was also easy to see just who or what was the ‘hero’ (in this case ‘heroine’). The overall darkness was (partially) offset by the bright yellow label on the Maggi sauce bottle, the blue plastic strainer on the left and cook’s white hat. Even the sloppy white paint around the serving hatch added authenticity to this ‘cinema verite’ grab-shot.

What I did not like, was the fact that it was still too dark, and unfortunately there was flare in the cook’s spectacles. This really was a pity, as up till then, this shot was doing well. Did you only take one shot? With anyone who wears glasses, always take a few shots, as flare will kill these photos every time.

As regards saleability - for any shot to be sold, it must fill a need in a marketplace. Where would we sell our cook? That’s difficult. It would not be suitable for a Tourism Authority of Thailand brochure on local restaurants. It could be used in a Health and Hygiene setting (she is wearing a hat), but then it gets hard from there. Chances of selling this to a stock agency would be around 10 percent.

Now the three monks. This one I did not like, sorry Tom. It was too difficult to see what or who was really the hero. Was it the Million Year Stone Park? Was it the three monks standing in the vast background with grounds, trees, stones and acres of sky, or perhaps it was the koi, echoing the saffron robes? You were standing far too far away, Tom, sorry. Look at my cropping of the photograph, at least now the monks are the main feature. Since the monks look posed to me, it would have been a better picture to have them crouching down and feeding the koi, getting in close with a telephoto lens and making the crop fairly tight.

Who would buy this? Perhaps the Million Years Stone Park for a brochure, but I can’t see anyone else lining up for this particular shot. Chances of selling this to a stock agency would be around zero, I’m afraid.

So what should you do? Definitely do not throw the camera in the pond with the koi, because you do have an eye for detail, and for something different. You have to continue to take photographs, as it is all good practice (that makes perfect). Get in close, get in close, get in close! Decide who or what is the subject of the shot and think about how you can show that subject to best advantage. Think about lighting, colours, placement, position. Take numerous shots using different frame-ups, viewpoints and lighting. Don’t take 12 identical shots of the same subject, but take 12 different shots of the same subject.

That’s about it, Tom. Thank you for the nice words, and keep shooting. You have definitely stepped on to the lower end of the ladder, so now start climbing!


Money Matters: A short history of nearly every fiat currency

Part 3

Alan Hall
MBMG International Ltd.

As promised in the opening part of his series, I feel the need to share with you the history of the US dollar. If you don’t have an aptitude for history and/or useless information, now is a good time to roll over and switch off that bed lamp.

Legal Tender cases involve lawsuits brought to the U.S. Supreme Court involving the constitutionality of the Legal Tender Act of 1862, which was passed to meet currency needs during the Civil War. The act had authorized the issue of $150 million in “United States notes” without any reserve or specie basis. Intended originally as only a temporary measure during wartime, about $450 million had been issued in greenbacks by the end of the war. The paper money depreciated in terms of gold and became the subject of controversy, particularly because debts contracted earlier could be paid in this cheaper currency.

Many cases concerning the greenbacks were entered in the courts, but it was not until 1870 that the Supreme Court attacked the constitutionality of paper money.

On June 20, 1860, a certain Mrs. Hepburn made a promissory note, by which she promised to pay to Henry Griswold on Feb. 20, 1862, eleven thousand two hundred and fifty “dollars.” At the time when the note was made, and also at the time when it fell due, there was, confessedly, no lawful money of the United States, or money which could be lawfully tendered in payment of private debts, but gold and silver coin. Five days after the day when the note by its terms fell due, that is to say, on Feb. 25, 1862, congress passed the first legal tender act, commonly so called, by which the United States notes issued there under were made a legal tender for “all debts, public and private, within the United States,” except certain public debts. In March, 1864, Mrs. Hepburn tendered payment of the debt, principal and interest, in the United States notes issued under this act. The amount tendered, $11,250 in legal-tender notes, at that time was worth only about $7,000 in coin. The tender was refused. She was sued in the Louisville chancery court in the state of Kentucky.

In Hepburn v. Griswold (1870), the Majority opinion, written by Chief Justice Samuel P. Chase, declared the act unconstitutional as a violation of Fifth Amendment protections against the taking of property without due process.

The chief justice declared that the act was obnoxious to those clauses of the constitution which forbade the impairment of the obligations of contracts, the taking of private property for public use without compensation, and the deprivation of any person of his property without due process of law. And that the constitution was ordained to “establish justice,” which this act did not do, so far as regards pre-existing debts.

Justice Clifford showed that the words “and emit bills on the credit of the United States” were originally reported in article seven, in the draft of the constitution as submitted to the convention. Mr. Governor Morris moved to strike the clause out on the ground that it was unnecessary, and a vicious suggestion of a power which would be unquestionably used anyhow without it. Mr. James Madison thought it would be sufficient to let the clause remain, as it did not contain the hurtful power to make such bills legal tender, but finally voted in favor of striking out the clause entirely, as was done, as eliminating even a “pretext for a paper currency, and particularly for making the bills a tender either for public or private debts,” without disabling the government from the use of treasury notes.

President Ulysses Grant, angered by the decision, promptly nominated two Republican justices to the Court who reversed the decision in Knox v. Lee and Parker v. Davis (1871), ruling that the act was valid on the basis of the implied powers of Congress. The constitutionality of the act was more widely sustained in Juillard v. Greenman (1884).

The Hepburn decision was handed down by the Supreme Court in February 1870 during the time of what was arguably the most corrupt administration in American history. On the day the decision was given President Grant nominated 2 new judges, who were known to favor Legal Tender, for appointment to the Court. The origin of Court stacking is popularly associated with President Roosevelt and the New Deal of the 1930s. However as the Legal Tender cases show, Roosevelt was not the first to think of it.

Four days after the appointment of the new judges was confirmed in March 1870, the Attorney-General moved the Court to consider 2 further Legal Tender cases. By a vote of 5-4 the Court voted to reconsider Hepburn v Griswold. The Court then took up the 2 new cases and again by a vote of 5-4 in Knox v Lee overturned its 15 months earlier decision. A casual reading of the report clearly reveals some of the bitterness that accompanied this divided judgment.

The court said, in reference to the case of Hepburn vs. Griswold: “That case was decided by a divided court and by a court having a less number of judges than the law then in existence provided this court shall have. These cases have been heard before a full court, and they have received our most careful consideration.”

And Justice Bradley, in his separate concurring opinion said: “And in this case, with all deference and respect for the former judgment of the court, I am so fully convinced that it was erroneous and prejudicial to the rights, interest and safety of the general government, that I, for one, have no hesitation in reviewing and overruling it. It should be remembered that this court, at the very term in which, and within a few weeks after, the decision in Hepburn vs. Griswold was delivered, when the vacancies on the bench were filled, determined to hear the question reargued. This fact must necessarily have had the effect of appraising the country that the decision was not fully acquiesced in, and of obviating any injurious consequences to the business of the country by its reversal.”

In 1884, in Juillard v Greenman, by a vote of 8-1 the Court upheld the constitutionality of the peacetime issue of fiat money. With the rationale of wartime necessity not available the justices effectively fashioned one of economic necessity in its place; only by the mandated use of paper money could there be sufficient currency available for economic growth and to enable Congress to benefit the people. The economic reasoning of the majority has been criticized by economists as na๏ve.

The conclusion of the dissenting judge in Juillard’s case, Justice Stephen Field is worthy of quote:

“From the decision of the court I see only evil likely to follow. There have been times within the memory of all of us when the legal tender notes of the United States were not exchangeable for more than one half of their nominal value. The possibility of such depreciation will always attend paper money. This inborn infirmity no mere legislative declaration can cure. If Congress has the power to make the notes a legal tender and to pass as money or its equivalent why should not a sufficient amount be issued to pay the bonds of the United States as they mature? Why pay interest on the millions of dollars of bonds now due, when Congress can in one day make the money to pay the principal?

And why should there be any restraint upon unlimited appropriations by the government for all imaginary schemes of public improvement, if the printing press can furnish the money that is needed for them?”

Until next week.

The above data and research was compiled from sources believed to be reliable. However, neither MBMG International Ltd nor its officers can accept any liability for any errors or omissions in the above article nor bear any responsibility for any losses achieved as a result of any actions taken or not taken as a consequence of reading the above article. For more information please contact Alan Hall on [email protected]


Life in the Laugh Lane: The S.S. Cellulite: Chapter One

by Scott Jones

In America, I performed in all 50 states, including the states of shock and confusion. (With an act like mine, you had to keep moving.) I mainly played colleges since students still have open minds and attend concerts even if the artist’s name isn’t a household word. (I considered changing mine to Luke Warm, C.D. Player or Hammond Cheeze, though students may have related more to Jim Nasium, Ed U. Cate or Dick Shunary.)

The ivory tower conquered, I wanted to tackle the open sea. After viewing a video of my show, an agent hired me to perform on the Christmas Caribbean leg of a world cruise on the QE2, a ship that was longer and taller than any buildings in our ports of call. I assumed I should perform what was on the video. No one told me otherwise and the bronzed cruise director was too busy charming elderly blue-haired ladies to pay any attention to the new kid on the boat.

It was an entertainment extravaganza. A group of dancing singers actually lived on ship and did schmaltzy musical reviews. There was a generic magician, a geriatric comedian and a lounge lizard dressed in a cowboy outfit, who hopped around frantically, playing the world’s greatest hits on the violin. We were the ‘stars’ who did the ‘big shows’. Banal bands performed in bars around the ship and wherever three or more people had gathered. Every band could play any song requested and every song sounded like ‘Feelings’. An ancient organist played music from the Paleozoic Era wherever food was served.

As the ship left New York, I was relieved to learn I didn’t have to perform for two days. Valuable time to observe my audience. My first and lasting impression was that of being trapped on a floating geriatric club. Everyone was very large, old or some combination of the two. One woman had a pet Pterodactyl and was married to Methuselah. Seven meals were scheduled everyday and none were missed. These folks had come to do some serious eating and wanted to get their money’s worth. If you were shaped like a world at the end of the cruise, you got a discount on the next one. I gained weight just watching them eat and went to my cabin to dream it off.

In the middle of the first night, the ship entered the Storm From Hell. The world’s second largest cruise ship became a bath toy on the world’s largest bath tub. The only way I could have remained in the bed was with Velcro pajamas and sheets. I peered out of the porthole, but it was like looking into a window of a washing machine. My brain turned green and I crawled to the bathroom. There were white caps on the water in the toilet bowl. The Technicolor yawns began.

I spent eternity turning myself inside out and outside in. I understood how a goldfish feels inside that bag of water as its new owner skips home. The terrible spectre of performing on a reckless, shifting stage haunted me, so I dragged myself out of the cabin to practice the fine art of walking. Crew members were splayed out on the couches. Seasickness bags had appeared everywhere. A few diehards entered the dining room but poured their lunches directly into the bags to save one step. I tried to watch a performance by the singing dancers in the theatre, but the curtains hung straight as the stage rocked back and forth. I pursed my lips and raced to my cabin. I resumed the kneeling position and drove the white porcelain bus for the rest of the evening.