There might be dangerous chemicals in your tap water — here’s how to stay safe

Remember the movie “Erin Brockovich”? Of course, you do.

But unless you’ve rewatched it recently, you may not remember that Brockovich—in real life, and in the movie—was fighting a company suspected of polluting a small California town’s drinking water with a cancer-causing contaminant called chromium-6 (aka, hexavalent chromium).

Fast-forward 20 years, and it may shock you to learn that chromium-6 is still a threat to 218 million Americans, including residents of every state. That’s just one of the many findings of a just-released Environmental Working Group (EWG) report on the state of our nation’s drinking water.

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“We’ve known about chromium-6 since Erin Brockovich, but it’s still a pervasive problem, and there’s no federal legal standard for it,” says Nneka Leiba, MPH, the director of Healthy Living Science at the EWG.

Unfortunately, chromium-6 isn’t the only dangerous chemical of concern. After examining data from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and almost 50,000 public water systems across the nation, the EWG found 267 different contaminants in our nation’s water supply—more than half of which have no established legal limit.

How could this be, you ask? “The Environmental Protection Agency hasn’t put a new contaminant on its regulated list since 1996, which is when the Clean Water Act was passed. We’ve learned so much more about chemicals since then, but we still haven’t made any improvements in our policies,” Leiba explains.

Arsenic, lead, the agricultural herbicide Atrazine, perchlorate, and perfluorinated chemicals are just a handful of the hundreds of contaminants the EWG found to be widespread in public tap water systems. Many of these chemicals have been shown to be carcinogenic, impair thyroid function, and cause harm to fetal growth and development.

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When asked for a response, an Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) spokesperson was quick to point out that “more than 90 percent of the country’s drinking water systems meet all of EPA’s health-based drinking water standards” and that the EPA has “set drinking water standards for more than 90 contaminants, including microorganisms, disinfectants, disinfection byproducts, inorganic and organic chemicals, and radionuclides.”

How you can protect yourself

Start by plugging your zip code into the EWG’s database to learn what contaminants are in your local tap water.

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  • Your bottled water has 24,500 chemicals

Next, check out the EWG water filter guide and buy one, stat. You can input contaminants of concern and find filters that are third-party certified by NSF International, a product testing, inspection, and certification organization.

“In most cases, activated carbon water filters will reduce many or all contaminants,” Leiba says, referring to the pitcher-style water filters many of us already use. “Having one is especially important if there’s a vulnerable population in your house—someone who is pregnant or sick, or a baby,” Leiba says. (One EWG-approved filter to try: Brita Chrome 8-Cup Water Filter Pitcher, $40, amazon.com)

Put your water filter to good use with this de-bloating sassy water recipe:

One thing you shouldn’t do: turn to bottled water.

“In many cases, bottled water is just filtered tap water, so it’s the same thing you’d get using a filter,” Leiba says. “But bottled water is much more expensive, and it can also expose you to contaminants leaching into your water from the plastic bottle itself.”

Protecting future generations

Leiba says we all need to “raise our voices” and let elected officials know we need greater source-water protections and infrastructure upgrades (contact information for local government officials can be found on USA.gov.) “Our water utilities are constantly dealing with the influx of contaminants, but the onus isn’t only on the utility,” she says. “They’re usually within federal safety limits, but being within federal limits does not mean our water is safe. In many cases, we’ve done the science and the testing, and we know that these contaminants are unsafe, but there’s been no action taken.”

Amazon’s new smart goggles might make sense, if Alexa is everywhere

I’m not a fan of smart goggles, the awkward device Google tried to pawn off on us a few years ago for a high price tag. Google Glass failed because it didn’t really offer that much functionality, and Google didn’t actually convince anyone it made sense to wear glasses.

And yet news about Amazon making smart goggles caught my attention, because — while I never warmed up to the idea — I can see the benefit for anyone who already wears glasses anyway. This time around I could see myself jumping on board, with one major caveat.

Here it is: I would wear the glasses if Alexa could be found everywhere in other gadgets — like my garage door; my car; the adjustable desk in front of me; the autonomous mower in my yard; the phone I use; and my entire house, including everything from the dishwasher to the TV. Then it would be super easy to talk to my smart glasses rather than to my phone. My guess is that Amazon has the same kind of vision.

I can see how this might work. Sans phone, I’d wake up in the morning, put on my glasses as normal, and talk to Alexa. I might ask her to make a quick cup of coffee and open the blinds. Then, I’d ask her to read the news. I mean, isn’t this really what we want — access to Alexa with no phone or speaker around? (Although Alexa would know to activate a speaker when possible.) A HUD would show me what’s happening, or maybe Alexa would talk to me through the goggles, though I could see that getting annoying.

For this to make sense, it would absolutely have to work…and work all day.

I’m most interested in being able to use the glasses while driving. I won’t name any names here, but I tested Google Glass in a car once and it was pretty amazing to be able to see my speed in real time. What else could Alexa do for me? How about warning me when she notices I am not stopping for a car up ahead, or giving me directions based on the fact that she knows my schedule and knows where I need to be. She could even make sure the lights are on at home when I’m done for the day.

The “everywhere” concept is something I’ve mentioned before. Prevalence is key for the future of all AI. (Just don’t get too prevalent and take over our lives). If Alexa is everywhere, I’ll be happy to wear smart glasses because the benefit will be amazing.

But here is where things get a little complex. In truth, I prefer to use the Google Assistant for many tasks, especially those related to questions. Google often knows the answer, which should not be that surprising given its history of finely tuned web search results. Wearing Alexa glasses makes perfect sense in a world dominated by Amazon, but the goggles would not be as helpful if I’m switching over to Siri or the Assistant (or Cortana).

Maybe the somewhat overlooked announcement about Amazon partnering with Microsoft for bot integrations — essentially, you can activate one bot using another — is a bigger step on the road to bot domination than we all think. Maybe Alexa everywhere will work by triggering other bots and connected services. Maybe one pair of glasses will rule the world.

Pills prescribed for alcoholism might not work, study finds

There is no magic pill to cure alcoholism, according to a scientific review of the evidence of five drugs being prescribed by doctors.

None of the five drugs has a body of reliable evidence behind it, say the scientists, even though one of the drugs, nalmefene, has been approved for use in the NHS by Nice, the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence. Another, baclofen, has generated huge excitement, especially in France, but has been linked to deaths.

The pills have been developed for people who have not stopped drinking completely and are intended to help them cut down, with a view to reducing the harm they are doing to their bodies.

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But at best, says the study in the journal Addiction, the pills had a low- or medium-level effect on the amount people were drinking. The scientists looked at 32 double-blind randomised controlled trials representing 6,036 patients, published between 1994 and 2015. None of them showed any improvement in the health of those taking the pills, because they measured only the reduction in the amount of alcohol drunk each day.

The researchers looked at the trials carried out on nalmefene, naltrexone, acamprosate, baclofen and topimarate against placebos. So many people dropped out of the trials that 26 of the 32 studies – 81% of them – had unclear or incomplete outcome data.

Lead author Dr Clément Palpacuer from Inserm, the French National Institute of Health and Medical Research, said: “Although our report is based on all available data in the public domain, we did not find clear evidence of benefit of using these drugs to control drinking. That doesn’t mean the drugs aren’t effective; it means we don’t yet know if they are effective. To know that, we need better studies. Researchers urgently need to provide policymakers with evidence as to which of these drugs can be effectively translated into a real harm-reduction strategy.”

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Concerns have already been voiced about the drugs. The first to be licensed in Europe was nalmefene, an opioid antagonist that acts on the urge to consume alcohol. But critics pointed out that the trials had not proved it reduced the harm alcoholics were doing to themselves.

That drug was later endorsed for use in the NHS by Nice, but against protests. In August last year, a review of the trial evidence led by the University of Stirling also in Addiction said that “evidence for the efficacy of nalmefene in reducing alcohol consumption in those with alcohol dependence is, at best, modest, and of uncertain significance to individual patients”. This created a dilemma for GPs and commissioners, it said, “where nalmefene has been heavily promoted”.

Baclofen is even more controversial. The drug has been given a provisional licence in France, pending the results of more trials, because it is being widely used. Yet a Dutch study last year said it may work no better than counselling and there have been reports of deaths.

Baclofen took off in France after the cardiologist Olivier Ameisen wrote a book called The Last Drink, describing how he had treated himself with the drug and cured his addiction. But the drug is given to alcoholics in large doses and there are side-effects which can be severe.

One of the authors of the new study, Florian Naudet of Inserm and the University of Rennes, said there were pointers, though not conclusive evidence, to the dangers. “A recent study raised concerns regarding the safety of baclofen, with more deaths observed in the treated group (7 of 162) compared to the placebo group (3 of 158),” he said in an email. A subsequent study published by France’s medicines safety agency drew attention to the risk.

“In particular, the risk of intoxication, epilepsy and unexplained death [on the death certificate] increases with the dosage of baclofen,” it said.

Apple Watch might soon be able to detect heart problems

Makers of fitness trackers or any device with health-related sensors are often careful to remind their customers that these gadgets, advanced as they may be, shouldn’t be considered as conclusive medical data or replace professional opinion. Apple, however, might be going in a different direction and might soon advertise the Apple Watch as a potential medical aid. Sources close to the matter claim that Apple is working with Standford and telemedicine company American Well to determine if the wearable is accurate and sensitive enough to reliably detect abnormal heart rhythms.

Heart rate monitors on wearables like fitness trackers and smartwatches are just that. The sensor is commonly used to give wearers a rough estimate of their heart beat, mostly for the purposes of workout and general health. But depending on the accuracy of the sensor, it could potentially be used to help diagnose problems before they happen.

Abnormal heart rhythm, medically known arrhythmias, is one of the things that the hear rate sensor could detect. Although not life threatening for most, it could be for those with atrial fibrillation. In such conditions, arrhythmias could lead to blood clot and strokes. But the worst part is that there are no external indicators for it until it’s too late.

That’s where the Apple Watch may come in handy. It’s still not a sure deal, but Apple wants to know if its sensor is good enough to be more or less certified to be used for screening high-risk patients. If it ever does get approved, it would put Apple one step closer to its ambitions of getting a foot in the healthcare door.

It is no secret that Apple has its eyes in the health industry, a mission that it inherited from the late Steve Jobs. The Apple Watch, in particular, has been one its biggest bargaining chip. The wearable has already been credited for being instrumental in saving a teenager’s life and has been used in many closed-door clinical tests.

20 places, things and experiences your Kiwi mates might show you if they weren’t so keen to keep them secret

John Corbett Escape
WENTY amazing places in New Zealand that Kiwis like to keep for themselves.

Mountains and fjords: tick. Geysers and mud pools: tick. Bungee jumping: tick. It’s easy to think you’ve been and done the Land of the Long White Cloud, but New Zealand is full of amazing things that tourists often miss.

From the top to the bottom of the country, here are 20 places and things and experiences that really say “New Zealand” – and that your Kiwi mates might show you if they weren’t so keen on keeping them to themselves.

 

THE KAURI COAST

On the well-beaten track to the Bay of Islands turn left on to State Highway 12 at Brynderwyn and drive into Northland’s best-kept secret. In this quiet corner of the country you’ll find the biggest harbour in the southern hemisphere, and big, big skies.

The Kauri Museum in Matakohe reveals the region’s rich 19th-century history. Enjoy a kumara, because this is the sweet potato capital of the world. West of the township of Dargaville is the desolate beauty of 100km-long Ripiro Beach. North past gin-clear swimming lakes at Kai Iwi is the Waipoua Forest, home of giant kauri trees that give the region its name.

See

kauricoast.co.nz

 

WAIHEKE ISLAND

If your Auckland friends really like you they will take you to Waiheke Island – because they really, really love going there. Thirty minutes northeast of the city by high-speed catamaran, this lush green, 92sq km jewel of a destination has it all: headlands lined with sculpture trails, wonderful Pacific scenery and restaurants and wineries galore.

Once a Byron Bay-type haven for alternative lifestylers, the island has become favoured by the rich who like commuting by high-speed ferry. Plentiful artists’ galleries and studios give it an arty vibe. It’s a vibrant/laid-back/high-powered slice of heaven.

See

waiheke.co.nz

STATUE OF RIFF RAFF

Because New Zealand is a small place at the end of the world it is sometimes a little weird. The city of Hamilton, for instance, just a jump to the south of Auckland, is the birthplace of the

Rocky Horror Picture Show

.

At 206 Victoria St, a cast-bronze sculpture portrays hometown boy and

Rocky Horror

creator, Richard O’Brien, as the character Riff Raff. It stands on the site of the old Embassy Theatre, Hamilton’s “Late Night Double Feature Picture Show”. Everybody mocks Hamilton for being dull, but this proves that it isn’t.

See

riffraffstatue.or

RAGLAN

If Raglan (pop. 3400) didn’t exist, someone would have to invent it. Without trying at all hard, it stands out from hundreds of other New Zealand beach towns with its unique Kiwi ambience.

Voted “NZ’s best-looking town” by Lonely Planet (and they aren’t just referring to the hot surfer dudes), Raglan has a large artistic community and a bohemian vibe. From gallery-browsing to shooting the world-famous surf breaks to horse trekking or simply taking the kids fishing on the harbour wharf, there’s plenty to do.

See

hamiltonwaikato.com

Yes, this is a giant carrot. Ohakune, North Island. Picture: Alamy Source: Alamy

BIG CARROT OF OHAKUNE

They’ve got big ones in Ohakune – carrots, that is. In 1982, to the consternation of many locals, the Ohakune Growers Association decided to erect a 7.5m carrot at the entrance to the town. Eventually installed in a park on the fringe of the Carrot Capital, the big orange symbol has since been photographed by thousands of tourists.

In 2011, it was painted black to support the All Blacks’ bid for the Rugby World Cup. It could be worse: in Cromwell, Central Otago, they have giant fruit.

See

visitohakune.co.nz

 

FUN HO! TOYS

You don’t expect to find the maker of an iconic range of handmade cast-aluminium toys in a quiet corner of the North Island’s west coast, but Inglewood, Taranaki is the place.

From racing cars and tractors to tip trucks, fire engines, aircraft and more, these staples of Kiwi childhoods have been produced since 1935 and are still made on-site. Warning: Fun Ho! toys are addictively collectable.

See

funhotoys.co.nz

 

FORGOTTEN WORLD ADVENTURES

Kiwis have a big melancholy streak and their soggy green landscapes certainly encourage it. Thumb your nose at it all by riding a RailBike through it.

Forgotten World Adventures operates seasonal semi-guided tours along a mothballed 140km stretch of railway between Okahukura in the Central North Island and Stratford in Taranaki.

The six-hour RailBike adventure traverses the unspoilt wilderness of the Tangarakau Scenic Reserve on comfy two-seater, pedal-your-own machines. This beautiful remote area has defied all efforts to “break it in” but you travel through it with a yee-ha!

See

forgottenworldadventures.co.nz

GISBORNE

The sign on the airport terminal reads: “Gisborne – at the world’s edge”, and as you’ll find, the first city in the world to greet the sun each day is a bit quirky.

It also has everything you want for a memorable Kiwi holiday including great surfing, safe swimming, heritage and adventure tourism, fishing and diving. The seafood (especially the lobster) is magnificent and Gisborne is smack in the middle of a great wine region: Lindauer, the nation’s signature bubbly, is made here and the chardonnays are the nation’s best.

See

gisbornenz.com

ESCAPE: NEW ZEALAND .. John Corbett story .. Hiking track on the Tongariro Crossing, New Zealand. Picture: iStockSource: Supplied

THE TONGARIRO CROSSING

New Zealanders have a national obsession with hiking (they call it tramping) and there are treks and trails everywhere. One of the best is the 19.4km Tongariro Crossing, rated as one of the top 10 single-day treks in the world.

Volcanic activity permitting, it takes you through the unearthly landscapes of the three great volcanoes at the centre of the North Island. If they look familiar it’s because the footage for the land of Mordor in The Lord of the Rings was filmed there.

See

tongarirocrossing.org.nz

 

WORLD OF WEARABLE ART

What started as a promotion for a small rural gallery in Nelson in 1987 has ballooned into a globally-significant fashion/art/theatre event. Nelson lost the event to Wellington a few years ago so if you can’t make the annual three-week show each September, the WOW & Classic Cars Museum in Nelson displays 60-plus jaw-dropping garments.

See

worldofwearableart.com

wowcars.co.nz

THE CAKE TIN

Since rugby is the national religion, Kiwi friends may invite you to watch a game. They like to give stadiums nicknames, so the Westpac Stadium in Wellington is called the Cake Tin (because it’s big and round and silver), and Carisbrook in Dunedin is the House of Pain (because visiting teams often have a tough time there).

The prized Ranfurly Shield is known as the Log o’ Wood, and so on. Feign polite interest.

See

westpacstadium.co.nz

ABEL TASMAN SEA SHUTTLE

While your companions huff and puff along the walking trails of the Abel Tasman National Park at the top of the South Island, you on the other hand can take in the magnificent marine scenery on the sea shuttle service from Kaiteriteri to Awaroa Bay.

Hop off and have a leisurely lunch at Peppers Awaroa Lodge because there are several shuttles a day.

Abel Tasman holds a special place in New Zealanders’ hearts.

The environment is pristine, the beaches are golden, and the warm, sheltered waters are like a giant swimming pool. It’s a distillation of Kiwi summer.

See

abeltasmanseashuttles.co.nz

nelsonnz.com

HANMER SPRINGS

Once a rehabilitation centre for war veterans and addicts, the alpine village of Hanmer Springs, 90 minutes northwest of Christchurch, has blossomed into a picturesque tourist town. The chief attraction, then as now, is natural hot pools whose therapeutic properties are boosted by all manner of indulgent treatments.

Hanmer’s tree-lined streets and peaked roofs may remind you of a European spa town but the tramping, mountain-biking, golfing, fishing and jetboating in the surrounding wilderness are 100 per cent New Zealand. When you’re thoroughly de-stressed, head for the wineries and food trails of the Waipara Valley an hour away.

See

visithanmersprings.co.nz

CANTERBURY A&P SHOW

If you visit New Zealand during the warmer months you’ll likely encounter an A&P (agricultural and pastoral) Show. A legacy of earlier times, they’re a unique combination of agriculture and entertainment that can include floral art competitions.

The largest A&P Show is held in Christchurch each November and draws more than 100,000 people to see more than 1000 livestock and equestrian displays.

See

theshow.co.nz

HOKITIKA WILD FOODS FESTIVAL

Fancy a huhu grub? (It’s sort of like a witchetty grub). There are lots of food festivals in New Zealand but this one is about exposing your palate to something new. Held annually in the town of Hokitika on the South Island’s West Coast (the next event is March 12, 2016), it’s a chance to tuck in to local offerings such as marinated tuna, whitebait patties, smoked high-country salmon and game meats. Oh, and don’t miss the Feral Fashion Competition.

See

wildfoods.co.nz

TE ANA MAORI ROCKART CENTRE

There’s possibly no more meaningful and authentic experience of New Zealand Maori culture than a visit to Te Ana in Timaru, home of the largest collection of Maori rock drawings in the world. Take in the impressive interactive displays and a tour to a local rock-art site where the abundant limestone of the surrounding Aoraki region provided an ideal canvas for

ancient artists.

See

teana.co.nz

LAKE TEKAPO

One of a string of stunning, glacier-blue lakes along the eastern foot of the Southern Alps, Lake Tekapo is a year-round destination for sightseeing and active pursuits. A popular stop is the Church of the Good Shepherd which has the best view around.

The real action arguably takes place at night in the Mt John observatory high above the town. The observatory is part of the UNESCO Aoraki Mackenzie International Dark Sky Reserve, the first in the southern hemisphere and the world’s largest. Pollution and light-free skies make the area a stargazer’s dream.

See

earthandskynz.com

Victorian architecture survives in Oamaru on the South Island. Picture: Alamy Source: Alamy

OAMARU VICTORIAN PRECINCT

Through a miracle of conservation, the original 19th-century part of this southern coastal town is still in action with boutiques and galleries selling secondhand books, jewellery, clothing and traditional crafts.

The exquisitely beautiful buildings are made from the local white limestone and because this is New Zealand there’s also Steampunk HQ, a quirky science-fiction take on 19th century technology featuring retro-futuristic art and immersive light and sound experiences.

See

victorianoamaru.co.nz

steampunkoamaru.co.nz

 

MANAPOURI POWER STATION

Australia may have the Snowy Mountains Scheme, but it ain’t got nuthin’ like Manapouri. Considered to be New Zealand’s greatest engineering feat, Manapouri is the country’s largest hydro-electric power station and is built almost entirely underground.

Seasonal tours (November to April) take visitors across Lake Manapouri (part of the Fiordland World Heritage Area and awe-inspiring in itself) to a visitor centre.

From there, a coach heads down a 2km spiral tunnel to the power station’s vast machine hall. It’s like a mad collaboration between Dr Evil from the

Austin Powers

movies and the MONA dude in Hobart, 200m inside a granite mountain.

See

realjourneys.co.nz

THE CATLINS

The Catlins are as close as you can get to the subantarctic without leaving mainland New Zealand. Forty-five kilometres east of Invercargill, this southernmost tip of the South Island is a thrilling environment of rugged coastlines and temperate rainforests still largely untouched by the modern world.

Home to some of the world’s rarest marine mammals and iconic native birds, the Catlins also breeds resourceful people who conjure warm hospitality out of austere surroundings. It’s a place that stays in your memory.

8 Times You Might Mistake Passion for Flakiness

Everyone has that one person on their friend list who just never seems to be around or makes plans then cancels on the day of. This person is inconsistent, all over the place, and always seems to have something going on in their life. You might call them (or people like me) a flake, but the reality is that you are missing the bigger picture. Passion is often mistaken for flakiness, especially in the following eight circumstances:

1. Dates

This is something I often do (and I am sorry, honestly) to those poor men who seek the elusive date. When I get a creative streak and really need to let it out, sitting down to discuss more about myself to a complete stranger is not the remedy. See, dates and passion, especially personal passions, do not necessarily coincide.

Passionate people are independent, strong-willed, and driven. Oftentimes, the companionship, or even the possibility of one, is frightening. What if they do not understand your passion? What if they deter you from it or make fun of it? Sorry, but I choose to fulfill my passions rather than placate your lust.

2. Projects

At work, there is good flaky and bad flaky. These people are often those with a squirrel-like attention span…and chasing the acorns called ideas comes first. Adhering to the deadlines of work projects is often the biggest issue people with productive flakiness have.

Of course, many know how to channel this ADD-like energy into super productivity and multitasking, but others will skip out on group projects to get the tasks closer to individual goals accomplished first. It all depends on their mood, really.

3. Meetings

Like the above, job-related meetings are, to the passionate individual, a space in time that can be better used for pursuing solutions to problems or finishing up their latest report. These people remain in their workspace until the last second, and even then, you will hear, “Yeah, I will be there in five minutes.” But then five minutes turns into thirty minutes.

4. Relationships

When it comes to friends, family, and significant others, passion can both be a boon and a curse. The passionate friend is the one who suddenly feels the urge to do something, anything, and will often forget they had set plans. Or they will call up those who they made plans with to grab lunch with an excuse like, “I have a dance,” or “So much work just came in.” Again, I apologize for us flaky people. When the urge strikes, we cannot help ourselves.

5. Phone calls

The same flakiness abides by phone calls. When a passionate person is in the zone, so to speak, a phone call is an ultimate distraction. For those of us who prefer to be uninterrupted while delving into the creative rush, stopping to answer a phone call can be the end of the upwelling of inspiration.

And so even if we promised, even if we say we will call you back or send a message “in a sec,” we will get so sidetracked by our new revelations that a minute for us might be two hours for you. It is nothing against you. We want to hear your voice or discuss the current events, but passion comes in waves. And us uber-passionate people need to catch it when it comes.

6. Schedules

As you might have noticed by now, passionate people become flaky people when there are set time guidelines to adhere to. Passion does not understand time. Passion is about going outside of the lines and coloring the world beyond that set moment in time.

I will not tell you just how many times I ran out of the house late because I was too caught up in learning something new or working on dance choreography. If you are friends with someone like me, you know all too well the relief we display when arriving less than five minutes late and the apology of, “I am sorry I am late, I was caught up in X, Y, and Z.”

7. Dreams

A lot of people have a set dream. To be a doctor. To create a cure for a specific disease. To build an organization for homeless people. Do not ask us passionate people about our “dream.” Passionate people have more than one dream, and depending on the day, we might be wound up in two or three. Developing multiple passions to see our endless list of dreams come to fruition not only makes us look flaky but indecisive beyond measure.

8. Habits

Over time all this passion leads to a flakiness habit. Passion is intoxicating, and so if people like myself, even get a smidgen of satisfaction from it, we always seek to better ourselves and our passions. We do not really realize that we are being flakes most of the time. We are just doing what works for us.

Passion often leads people away from setting plans and friendships, but this should not be seen as a negative personality trait. Flakiness and inconsistency are merely the side effects of dealing with a person who is always striving for something more. So support these people in your life. They will thank you for the understanding and will, in time, return the favor a thousandfold.

Why Your Next Trip Is More Important Than You Might Realize

We often talk about the benefits of travel — it’s an opportunity to explore the world, learn about other cultures, meet new people, spark creativity and much, much more. But there’s another, deeper side to the story. Travelers can often have a hugely positive impact on the places they visit, whether they realize it or not.

In a recent study conducted by Hostelworld, nearly half of US citizens said they do not think they have an impact on the communities they visit. However, this same group reports participating in activities that fuel the local economy and enrich the lives of locals. What’s more, nearly 80 percent of respondents said they engage with communities that they have traveled to in some fashion after returning home, whether it be making return visits, encouraging others to travel to the location, keeping in touch with locals or making donations to local charities. Not only are travelers positively impacting the places they visit, they’re often forming lasting, lifelong connections.

The more we travel, the more opportunity we have to positively impact communities around the globe. And in today’s world, travel is more important than ever before.

Take the Trip

If you’ve been thinking about booking a trip, but haven’t taken the plunge, consider this: there are a number of benefits for you and the community you’ve set your sights on. The more you travel the better. That’s because those who travel frequently are most likely to have a positive impact on the places they visit. Power travelers, those who take 10 or more trips per year, are more likely to engage with the people and places they visit in a meaningful way.

Over 92 percent of power travelers make return visits to one or more destinations on a regular basis. In addition, power travelers are most likely to make donations to some or all of the communities they visit and are more likely to participate in community service projects along their journey.

Well known public figures, such as Mark Zuckerberg, have been vocal about the power of travel, encouraging followers to visit new places and to do so more often. Of course, you don’t have to take 10 trips a year to have a positive impact, but the more you’re able to meet the world, the better.

Make it Last

While we often think of travel as a quick getaway or a temporary escape from reality, it’s so much more than that. Just as travel experiences have a lasting impact on the traveler, the traveler often has a lasting impact on the communities they visit. Nearly half of US citizens make return visits to some or all of the communities they visit. What’s more, over 80 percent said they have inspired or encouraged others to travel to that destination and nearly a quarter keep in touch with locals from some or all of the communities they visit.

Travelers often form lifelong connections while traveling. In fact, 36 percent of US citizens said they have made lifelong friendships that they keep in touch with or continue to travel with. It’s time we stop thinking of travel as an escape from reality, when it’s really a means for enriching reality in a lasting and meaningful way.

Feast On, Foodies

There’s good news for food lovers everywhere — feasting on the local fare fuels the economy and supports local businesses. Luckily, travelers are handing over their snorkel gear and foregoing museum tour tickets in favor of foodie focused getaways. The majority – nearly 65 percent of US citizens – said they spend the most money on “accommodations” while traveling, with “restaurants” coming in as a close second. And nearly half spend extra funds dining out while traveling, supporting local restaurants and tasting the local cuisine. Food is quickly becoming the most popular way to experience a new location. So feast on, foodies.

We’re well versed in how travel benefits our health, our careers, our creativity and so on. But how does travel impact the communities we’re visiting and the people that have welcomed us into their home town with open arms? It’s time to embrace travel for ourselves and the world around us. Whether you purchase a trinket from a local vendor or you volunteer your time, you have an impact on the communities you visit and the people you meet along the way.

When Iodine Might Be Bad For Your Thyroid

Iodine is often suggested for people who suspect that they might have problems related to a low thyroid levels. As I’ve recently been (finally) diagnosed with an auto-immune thyroid condition, I’ve been researching this subject a lot lately. I am not a doctor and this is not medical advice, I’m just sharing personal information that was helpful to me….

It turns out, there are times when taking iodine can actually do more harm than good…

Is Iodine Good or Bad for Thyroid?

It depends.

As with any medical condition, there are many variations that fall under the broad category of “thyroid problems” and they must be handled differently.

I found this out the hard way. I had the symptoms of low thyroid for years and from research, knew that iodine could be helpful for thyroid troubles. After much research and at the recommendation of a chiropractor, I started taking iodine and noticed that I felt a lot worse. I figured it might be some kind of adjustment reaction and continued taking it but eventually decided to discontinue it since I didn’t feel any better.

History and research verify my own experience in this…

Data from a number of countries shows that countries who started adding iodine to salt to combat hypothyroidism saw rising rates of autoimmune thyroid problems. Chris Kresser explains:

The following is just a sample of studies around the world demonstrating this effect:

Sri Lanka
Turkey
Brazil
China
Greece
Why does this happen? Because increased intake, especially in supplement form, can increase the autoimmune attack on the thyroid. Iodine reduces the activity of an enzyme called thyroid peroxidase (TPO). TPO is required for proper thyroid hormone production.

The Confounding Factor

In my own treatment plan, I now avoid iodine as my particular type of thyroid problem makes it more harmful that helpful. In fact, some research shows that those with auto-immune thyroid disease will see some benefit just from avoiding iodine.

On the other hand, those with iodine-deficiency induced hypothyroidism can benefit from *careful* supplementation, but given the research showing the increased risk of autoimmune thyroid problems that can result, it is very important to check with a doctor first!

Dr. Paul Jaminet also proposes another factor that affects the iodine/autoimmunity relationship is the presence of selenium:

“Excess intake can cause an autoimmune thyroiditis that bears all the characteristics of Hashimoto’s. However, in animal studies this occurs only if selenium is deficient or in excess. Similarly, in animal studies very high intake can exacerbate a pre-existing autoimmune thyroiditis, but only if selenium is deficient or in excess.

With optimal selenium status, thyroid follicles are healthy, goiter is eliminated, and autoimmune markers like Th1/Th2 ratio and CD4+/CD8+ ratio are normalized over a wide range of iodine intake. It seems that optimizing selenium intake provides powerful protection against autoimmune thyroid disease, and provides tolerance of a wide range of intakes.”

The Bottom Line

I’ll be sharing my own thyroid journey as it unfolds and the protocol I’m using to reverse my symptoms. Anyone who suspects hypothyroidism or thyroid disease should be very careful about supplementation and consider selenium with (or in place of) iodine to see if symptoms improve.

Thyroid disorders (and any hormone-related problems) are complex conditions and it is important to find a good doctor or practitioner who can test the proper thyroid levels and do a thyroid ultrasound to know what the proper treatment plan should be.

Sources and Additional Reading

Healing Hashimotos by Dr. Alan Christianson
Hashimotos Thyroiditis: Lifestyle Interventions for Finding and Treating the Root Cause by Izabella Wentz PharmD
The Paleo Approach by Dr. Sarah Ballantyne (for diet help)
Chris Kresser on Iodine and Thyroid Conditions
Chris Kresser – Three Reasons Your Thyroid Medication Isn’t Working
Supplemental Selenium alleviates the toxic effects of iodine on the thyroid (study)
Dr. Paul Jaminet: Iodine and Hashimotos Thyroiditis (Part Two)
Have you ever struggled with thyroid problems or suspect that you might? What has worked for you? Share below!

Mark Zuckerberg might be the most dangerous presidential candidate who isn’t yet

© AP Photo/Eric Risberg, File FILE – In this March 25, 2015, file photo, Mark Zuckerberg talks about the Messenger app during the Facebook F8 Developer Conference in San Francisco. Facebook reports…

Editor’s note: The opinions in this article are the author’s, as published by our content partner, and do not necessarily represent the views of MSN or Microsoft.

If I’m honest, the main reason I can hardly bear to look at Facebook isn’t its well-documented negative effect on mental health, its tedious photos of people I barely know and hardly remember, or the videos it automatically generates of the lowest and most desperate moments from my life, accompanied by ukulele.

None of that. I’ve come to hate Facebook because every so often, a box appears on the screen telling me I might want to like the Facebook page for Mark Zuckerberg. And there he is, grinning like a cartoon imp at me and millions of other unfortunates, intruding with his gangly stomp and his eyes full of monstrous wonder.

I do not like Mark Zuckerberg. But he wants me to.

Let’s not pretend Zuckerberg isn’t up to something, and whatever it is, he shouldn’t be allowed to do it. He’s claimed repeatedly that he’s not interested in making a presidential run, but if he isn’t, his behavior simply makes no sense. Normal, everyday megalomaniacal billionaires might decide to go on a year-long, 50-state tour of America, dropping in on hard-working folks and small business owners, publicly rhapsodizing about the food in every roadside diner they happen to come across. But they probably wouldn’t do it while accompanied by President Obama’s former campaign photographer. Tech giants might be keen to hire some political intelligence. But if it was just smarts Zuckerberg was after, he wouldn’t have snapped up the strategist and in-house pollster who disastrously mismanaged the last election for Hillary Clinton. Our new breed of dorky oligarch micro-messiahs might constantly promote Big Ideas That Could Save World. But they don’t proclaim that the good people of Wilton, Iowa, “share these values around mobility.”

So much for innovation. Mark Zuckerberg can send solar-powered drones to beam Facebook-only internet across the global south, but he can’t deviate from the tired folksy script of every other self-important grifter who decided he wanted the power of life and death over every human being on the planet.

There are some very good reasons why Mark Zuckerberg should not be allowed anywhere near the presidency. For a start, he will lose — to Trump or to whatever other monstrosity the Republicans run against him. He can only embody the politics of bland aspiration and imperious technocratic mumblings, alienating the left and inflaming the right. Second, with the entire media basically functioning as a command economy run by Facebook, Zuckerberg in office would constitute a conflict of interests and a potential for corruption so vast it would make any of Trump’s misdeeds look like minor accounting problems. Third, it would entrench the long slow rot of electoral politics, permanently establishing the nuclear codes as the private property of TV clowns and gussied-up motivational speakers. Fourth, he keeps on describing Facebook as a “community” based on “friendship,” rather than what it is — a social utility that occasionally reveals itself as a seething plasm of technologically mediated dislocation. Finally, the tech industry is a hive of inflated egos and reckless self-regard, widening the wealth gap, steadily consigning most of the human population of Earth to the status of surplus flesh, and it must not be let anywhere near political power.

All of these are very good reasons. But they’re not the most pressing or the most urgent. The real reason all Zuckerberg’s dreams of power have to be crushed now before they bear terrible fruit is this: in the 13 years since he first launched Facebook, he never gave us the dislike button.

If you want to know what Zuckerberg would be like as the warlord-in-chief of human history’s most terrifying empire, go to Facebook and look at the seamless nothing where the dislike button ought to be. It’s not just that it’s thoroughly undemocratic. For as long as Facebook has been an inescapable fact of life, its users have been clamoring for the ability to dislike each other’s posts, and Zuckerberg will not give it to them. Instead, we’ve gotten a series of incoherent cosmetic overhauls—groups are now pages, pages now have groups for pages—that nobody asked for and which are met with an immediate hatred that gives way to impotent acceptance.

It says a lot about his style of leadership. He knows what’s best for us, and he’ll do it, and what we think doesn’t really matter. But it’s more fundamental than that. Commenting on his refusal to add the dislike button, Zuckerberg said, “Some people have asked for a dislike button because they want to be able to say, ‘That thing isn’t good.’ That’s not something that we think is good. . . I don’t think there needs to be a voting mechanism on Facebook about whether posts are good or bad. I don’t think that’s socially very valuable or good for the community to help people share the important moments in their lives.”

He wants to deprive people of their ability to say no.

What’s at stake is nothing less than the possibility of negation or distinction. After all, at the core of managerial centrism is an instinctive reluctance to say that anything is good or bad. Zuckerberg’s idea is that Facebook can be a discursive space without conflict, in which people can simply share what they want, and meet a quantifiable reward. Everything starts with zero likes and grows from there: you accrue social currency mollusc-like onto yourself, until you’re encased in a hard shell of likes and shares. Everything finds its inherent value, and a community is formed. It’s a shadowless world of pure positivity. But the ability to oppose is essential for anything approaching a critical activity; it’s only by some kind of negation that thought can wrench itself free from what simply is. Negativity, as Hegel puts it, “is the energy of unconditional thinking.” A world of countable positivity is a world that is, essentially, mute.

More simply, this is not how society or politics really work. They do not form a kind of harmonious totality, where we all start from the same place and reach upward. Politics is a sphere of competing interests, agonisms and class struggle, in which the success of one set of aims always means the defeat of others. The expansion of labor rights means muzzling a powerful class of industrial capitalists; civil rights for ethnic minorities means tearing apart an entrenched system of white supremacy. Politics is struggle. But in the Facebook utopia, struggle is supposed to be impossible. There’s no contestation; instead, what is deemed to be bad is simply canceled out, removed silently and overnight by a team of invisible moderators.

In this context, a lot of Zuckerberg’s weirder pronouncements start to make sense. Earlier this year, he published a long, jargon-choked manifesto titled Building Global Community. He wants the world to be coded like Facebook — and by Facebook — as a community based on connections and commonality. The struggles going on in the world don’t need to be won, they just need to be subsumed through a greater inclusion in this community. It’s padded out by a lot of friendly sounding pap like:

“The purpose of any community is to bring people together to do things we couldn’t do on our own. To do this, we need ways to share new ideas and share enough common understanding to actually work together.”

In the end, it can all be summarized in five words. No dislike button, for anybody.

Of course, Zuckerberg isn’t the first to promote these kind of ideas. The notion that a national or supernational entity forms a cohesive community without internal conflict is as old as politics itself, and everywhere it’s put forward it’s as a mask for horrific acts of exploitation within that community. Zuckerberg is different in that he seems to genuinely believe it. This is why he might be the most dangerous presidential candidate yet. In the same way that the Republican party spent decades churning out paranoia and nonsense for a base of frothing reactionaries until they finally found themselves saddled with a president who actually believes everything he reads on Breitbart, the Democrats might be about to create a monster of their own: someone who mouths all their nonsense about never disliking anything and never saying that anything is bad with absolute conviction, a cherub-cheeked gargoyle of pious equanimity, entranced by his own capacity to bring everyone together, as those who suffer are smashed brutally underfoot. And then he’ll turn his terrifying grin toward us, and say: you might like this.

This article was written by Alternet from Salon and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@newscred.com.

Eating this one food might be the trick to losing weight

Could eating more walnuts be the trick to curbing cravings and losing weight?  (iStock)

Food cravings can be a total B, especially if you’re trying your best to avoid temptation. But while distracting yourself when cravings strike can help, new research has found that simply eating a few walnuts—yup, walnuts—can help you squelch the urge to eat something unhealthy.

That’s the takeaway from a new double-blind study published in the journal Diabetes, Obesity and Metabolism. For the study, researchers had 10 people with obesity live in a clinical research center for two five-day sessions. (Being in a controlled environment allowed scientists to know exactly what each person was eating rather than rely on the participants to report what they ate, which can be unreliable.) During one session, the participants were given smoothies each day that had 48 grams of walnuts, the serving size recommended by the American Diabetes Association (ADA) dietary guidelines, while others had a similar smoothie that was walnut-free but tasted the same. During the next session, participants who had a walnut smoothie during session one were given the walnut-free smoothie, and vice versa.

After five days, the study participants underwent functional magnetic resonance imaging (MRIs) while looking at photos of delicious foods like hamburgers and desserts, healthy foods like vegetables, and neutral pictures like flowers and rocks. When they were shown the pictures of yummy foods, people who had consumed the walnut smoothies had increased activity in a part of the brain that regulates impulses and appetite compared to those who had not had the walnut smoothies. The researchers concluded that eating walnuts impacted this part of the brain, which is called the insula. People also said they felt less hungry after eating the walnut smoothie compared to the non-walnut smoothie.

The study’s researchers say that the part of the insula that lit up is involved in mental control, meaning that people were able to pay more attention to food choices and pick healthier options over unhealthy (but tastier) foods. However, they say, they’re not totally sure whether eating more walnuts would lead to even more mental control or if the impact plateaus after a while.

RELATED: WE GOT A TON OF NUTRITIONISTS TO SHARE THE ONE TIP THEY GIVE CLIENTS WHO WANT TO LOSE WEIGHT

Of course, walnuts are known to have a good impact on your health. The American Heart Association points out that they’re high in omega-3 fatty acids, a heart-healthy fat. But they’re also pretty high in fat, which is why the AHA recommends that you stick to a serving size, which is just 1.5 ounces a day—about the same amount that people had in the study.

So, if food cravings have been torpedoing your efforts to eat healthy, try to add a few walnuts to your daily diet and see where that gets you. It might help more than you think.