When culture influences health, where and when is the right place to intervene?

A premature infant in Gurgaon, India. The poor health of children in India, even after decades of economic growth, is a perplexing public health issues linked to their mothers’ relatively poor health. Credit Kuni Takahashi for The New York Times

When pregnant a woman can be ravenously hungry yet only able to keep down specific foods. I have felt this in my own pregnancies and may have kept a few restaurants in business whilst in the midst of my cravings. However, I live in a culture that indulges pregnant women. A recent study has shown that this is not the case in India. When compared to the poorer countries of sub-sahara Africa, India has a higher infant mortality rate and lower maternal weight. Why? The author suggests that culture and poor sewage are the primary reasons.

The rapidly growing economy in India has led to rapid population growth without adequate infrastructure. Open sewage systems are a large contributor to ill health of all ages, but is especially deadly to infants in two ways. Primary infection leads to death, but maternal infection leads to low birth weight and premature birth which generally leads to death of the child. This is more of a political matter that I will leave for the politicians. The other obstacles within culture is what I wish to explore.

Young married women are at the bottom of the totem pole in Indian homes. They are expected to do the cooking, cleaning and are always the last to eat should there be anything left. These young women are also the ones bearing children. Herein is where culture is affecting health. These women are the ones primarily exposed to the sewage through the cleaning and therefore have higher incidence of infection. Further, their limited diet has led to epidemic proportions of anemia among young Indian women. Both of these maladies contribute to the high infant mortality rate in India. This is not right, but how do we change a culture?

My experience in changing a culture has led me to conclude that change happens from within. I believe that educating members of the culture about the hazards of malnourished pregnant women is a starting point. Perhaps this will lead to cultural changes allowing pregnant women more food, or maybe social changes enabling pregnant women more access to food their body needs. Whatever the outcome, as fellow children of our Father in Heaven, it is my opinion that we have a duty to help. For each person this will look different, some may have money, others skills or maybe just cultural awareness will lead to activism for change (i.e. sharing this story on Facebook). Whatever it is that you have, I implore you to do something for theses children of God in India.

To Honor a Martyr

This past Tuesday, in response to the cold-blooded murder of Boris Y. Nemtsov, thousands gathered to mourn and honor his life and works.  Mr. Nemtsov was shot dead on Friday evening in central Moscow. His mourners came in the thousands, carrying flowers and votive candles.

Sleep in peace, our comrade, your work will be continued

This man had spent most of his life in attempts to help Russia become the great nation he envisioned it could be- even when it put him in opposition to Putin. No one had seen his unexpected end coming so abruptly. So is the whole country united in mourning his death? Sadly, it’s quite the contrary. In fact, according to this article, “Thousands Honor Boris Nemstov, Putin Critic Killed in Russia” by the NY Times, not only were there those who didn’t support the mourners, but the government even restricted the rights of other officials from other countries, such as two European politicians who had planned to attend, Bogdan Borusewicz, the speaker of the Polish Senate, and Sandra Kalniete, a member of the European Parliament from Latvia.

The Russian government refused to comment on why they didn’t allow these officials to participate. In general, all of the government’s responses have been rather shady when it comes to this issue. This is certainly cause enough for rumors to start flying.

“He could have easily lived in comfort abroad, but he chose another path, and it cost his life,” Mr. Yashin said. “Borya left as a hero. This is how heroes leave us. Forgive us, Borya. Rest in peace.”

If it was the government’s fault that this man was killed, then I believe that they seriously underestimated the power of a martyr’s sacrifice. What do you think? How much of an effect will this have on Russia? On the Ukrainian Crisis?

“Honor Killings?…Not Very Honorable if You Ask Me.”

A Thin Line of Defense Against ‘Honor Killings': Women’s shelters are one of the most provocative legacies of the Western presence in Afghanistan by Alissa Rubin

What could be more heart wrenching to a father than to see one of if not all of his children suffer in pain and strife. As fathers, men almost become vulnerable to the constant worryings concerning their children and maybe non so much so in comparison with the worrying and love a father has for his daughter. In Afghanistan however it seem like love is showed in a much “deeper” way. One in which fathers choose to keep their honor, of both nuclear and extended family/clan, by killing their daughters for choosing to go against the clan’s wishes and exercise their right to marry whom they will and decide their own destinies. In countries that see this type of homicide, it is known as honor killings, although it baffles me to think that these “men” would dare to say they restore honor by harming and killing these women.

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As a result many of these women have fled to women’s shelters in Afghanistan, their final and very loosely guarded protection from their bloodthirsty families. It is usually not just the father that wishes to seem them returned home by the shelter that not only may father, but brother, sister, uncle, aunt, cousin, etc. may all get a turn at restoring the flighted honor. Unfortunately however, these shelters are often underfunded and receive little help from the government and outside international help. Regardless of the multiple studies that show the correlation between the success of a country relative to the education and well-being of mothers and their ability to properly educate and care for their young.

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Many would argue, and trust me there are those that would, that this is merely a part of Afghan or Muslim, or Asiatic culture and we should address the issue with understanding and find ways in which to accommodate these women and families to reconcile their culture and the new world standards. It is too hard to fix this type of entrenched problem. Wrong! The way to deal with criminals is to punish and educate. When people know they can get away with tings, their natural reaction would be to do it constantly until further correction. Many in the country would see this and do see this as Western colonialism and a push of Western ideals on a culture and people thousands of years old. But the fact still stands that no matter which culture, cult or religion you may belong to. The death of a human being by the hand of another is wrong. Funding the government through humanitarian aid seems not to make it to these shelters, an unfortunate consequence; so why not directly offer these women protection. Fund the shelters, punish the men who commit these crimes and help to educate men on their wrong doings, BUT most importantly help to educate the women that they can become the teachers and examples for the next generation. Help them to be empowered. Killing one sister, or daughter from a family is unfortunate and  might not bring unwanted attention from the world, but try stopping scores of women sick and tired of unfair treatment and threats of death! Something can be done, and these shelters are the fledgling last hope.

CPAC: The Strategy of the Opposition Party

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With the passage of the Keystone Oil Pipeline bill the GOP has shown voters that, in contrast to the last six years, it is finally ready to propose solutions to the nation’s problems. After President Obama’s sweeping victory in the 2008 election, then Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell declared that “The single most important thing we want to achieve is for President Obama to be a one-term president.” This set the stage for years of partisan polarization during which the Republican Party played the role of the loyal opposition to the President’s policies. Doing so, however, came at a cost. With it’s continual criticism of the President and his policies, and few concrete policy proposals that held broad support among the citizenry, the Republican Party lost its perception as a party of ideas.

With 2016 presidential campaigns sure to be in full swing by the end of the year, GOP candidates have an opportunity to bring an end to this notion that the GOP is simply ‘the party of no.’ The failure to do so in 2012 may have been one of the biggest reasons for Mitt Romney’s loss. He was very good at critiquing the Obama Administration, but left voters guessing at what alternatives he would be willing and capable of providing.

As potential 2016 candidates showed up at CPAC 2015 this past week it became clear that while some Republican presidential hopefuls have embraced a focus on ideas, many are still playing the role of loyal opposition, not only to President Obama, but increasing to probable Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton. Such positioning makes the GOP a party of reactions to Democratic proposals rather than a party of solutions. Americans want leadership. They want politicians to stand up for principles and to suggest specific solutions to specific problems. Even Jeb Bush (who was ironically booed during his speech) acknowledged during his CPAC address that Republicans “have to start being for things again.”

If Republicans want to score votes in the upcoming presidential race, their first focus should be on providing the American people a vision to vote for. No more vague promises about limited government, or business friendly economics; we want concrete and innovative plans that will merit our decision to put you in the oval office.

http://www.nytimes.com/2015/03/02/opinion/charles-blow-cpac-hackneyed-and-hollow.html

Strained Relationship between US and Israel Presidents

Netanyahu Tells Aipac He Intends No Disrespect to Obama

http://www.nytimes.com/2015/03/03/world/middleeast/white-house-and-netanyahu-aipac-conference.html?hp&action=click&pgtype=Homepage&module=first-column-region&region=top-news&WT.nav=top-news&_r=0

This article presented a very difficult dilemma involving the United States, Israel, and Iran. The United States has been negotiating with Iran to reach an agreement on lifting sanctions on Iranian oil. The lifting of sanctions is purportedly conditional upon Iran complying with United Nations policy regarding nuclear activity and other policies. Iran and the US were supposed to reach an agreement by the end of March but it doesn’t appear that this will happen. Mr. Netanyahu voiced his disagreement with President Obama’s nuclear negotiations with Iran. He pointed out that Iran is heavily involved in terrorist activities against his nation and that for America negotiate with them about nuclear power undermines the US-Israel alliance. Numerous government officials have emphasized that the ties between the US and Israel ‘transcend politics’ but there remains a broad chasm between President Obama and Prime Minister Netanyahu. Many people wonder what effects this vocalization will have on US-Israel-Iran relationships.
The Iranian leader in control of the military Ayatollah Ali Khamanei says that if the US doesn’t lift sanctions on oil Iran will continue to build their economy on their own. Mr. Khamanei has the final say in nuclear negotiations with world powers.
I am curious to know what will happen in the coming weeks between the US and Israel. I’ve read books (Chaim Potok’s, The Chosen) and learned some things about the US/Israel relationship and I hope that it remains strong. My religious faith also tells me that if the US and Israel grow farther apart then we will not be in a good position from Heaven’s eyes.

Negotiations with Iran

The Prime Minister of Israel has voiced his concern over the deal we are trying to negotiate with Iran concerning nuclear weapons.  He feels this agreement we may reach with Iran will not adequately cripple its nuclear program.  On the other hand, the U.S. feels that they are getting close to reaching a good agreement with Iran that will prevent them from getting their hands on nuclear weapons.  This disagreement has caused some high tension between the U.S. and Israel.

“What you’re going to see is a very, very deep disagreement over policy by an American government led by President Obama and an Israeli government for now led by Netanyahu,” said Jeremy Ben-Ami, the executive director of the Democratic-aligned and pro-Israel group J Street.

He also mentioned that divide is only going to get worse if an agreement is struck with Iran, and then we could be in a very serious clash between the two countries.  This is a very delicate situation as we try to maintain good relations with Israel and reach an acceptable agreement with Iran.  How do we please both countries?

Link found at:

http://www.nytimes.com/2015/03/03/world/middleeast/white-house-and-netanyahu-aipac-conference.html?hp&action=click&pgtype=Homepage&module=a-lede-package-region&region=top-news&WT.nav=top-news

Netanyahu’s Speech Opens Political Divisions in Israel, Too

In this New York Times article, dated March 1, 2015, the author discusses Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s upcoming speech to Congress on Tuesday of this week concerning Iran’s nuclear program is producing a division among people in his own country just as it has here in the U.S. I didn’t realize until reading this article, that Netanyahu is not coming at the invitation of President Obama, but by the republicans in the U.S. Congress.

The author points out that Mr. Netanyahu “is being accused of interfering in American politics and damaging a decades-old alliance based on bipartisan support for Israel.” He notes that the speech is also “taking place in the highly charged period before Israel’s March 17 elections and has spawned an increasingly fraught debate in Israel about the potential benefits versus the risk of damaging to the crucial Israeli-American relationship.”

He continues, “Israelis are now questioning whether Mr. Netanyahu, who is running for a third consecutive term, is Israel’s savior against the Iranian nuclear threat, which many here regard as existential, or whether his Iran policy has, instead, been an abject failure, with Iran apparently on a course to gain the potential to produce nuclear weapons regardless.”

“I am leaving for Washington on a fateful, even historic, mission,” Mr. Netanyahu said before his departure on Sunday. “I feel that I am the emissary of all Israelis, even those who disagree with me.”

Mr. Netanyahu was photographed offering a prayer Saturday night at the Western Wall as a sign of the seriousness of his upcoming speech. I for one will be listening very closely to what he has to say. I thought it was interesting when Mitt Romney was here at BYU back in November 2014, he mentioned in his speech, his long time relationship with Netanyahu and referred to him as “an old friend.” I suspect that Mr. Romney will be listening to that speech as well.  I feel Israel has every right to speak out against any nuclear program of a country that it feels could be harmful to it in its right to live peacefully, especially one that is right next door to it geographically.  It is interesting however, and perhaps politically motivated, that the Prime Minister is coming to the U.S. to make such a speech.

The full article can be read here: http://www.nytimes.com/2015/03/02/world/middleeast/netanyahus-speech-opens-political-divisions-in-israel-too.html?ref=world&_r=0

Boris Nemtsov’s Murder Brings Protesting Russians to the Kremlin

Last Friday, Boris Nemtsov, a Putin critic, was shot and killed near the capital in Russia and the result of this action has caused massive groups of people to parade and protest in the honor of his life and the lives of all Russians.  Hundreds of people were lined up with flowers in their hands to be laid at the place where Mr. Nemtsov was shot.  It is still unclear who fired the shot and if that person is connected with any groups, but the Russian public wants answers to the crime that was committed to their hero.  Mr. Nemtsov was a former first deputy prime minister for the country, and since his resignation, has set to work many of the white ribbon protests that have been happening near the Kremlin.  Though he had struggled to get his voice out to the nations with the other crisis happening in Russia with Ukraine, His death many have been the spark that ignited the flames in the hearts of hundreds of Russians to stand for what they want in their country.

Secretary of State, John Kerry made a statement that he hopes that the authorizes can come together to find as much information on this murder as possible.  It is hard to say if this momentum will continue as time passes on though.  Could the government have been in charge of Mr. Nemtsov’s murder?  Or was it by another party that was either had high intentions for targeting this man, or simply wanted to kill a public figure?  Much of Russia is now in fear as they wait to see how this events shifts the political and cultural movements of their home.  Many of the protesters would never have considered protesting until the death of Mr. Nemtsov made it personal for each citizen.

For the article about Mr. Nemstov’s death, Click Here.

For full article, Click Here.

My Tiny Secret: The Skimm

the skimm

I have the hardest time keeping up with the News. There are so many sources and so much information, like ALL the time. Luckily, a little gem called The Skimm came into my life. The Skimm was created by two news media veterans, Danielle Weisberg and Carly Zakin. Seriously, The Skimm is amazing. All you have to do is sign up with your email and a daily newsletter is sent right to your inbox. And the best part? It only takes around two minutes to read the whole newsletter and it covers a little bit about everything that is going on around the world.

What sets The Skimm apart? Voice and legibility. Zakin and Weisberg started The Skimm with an audience of young, educated females in mind and created a unique voice and format to speak to it. The newsletter takes news and breaks it into small bites with snappy section headings, quite often referencing pop culture and the Kardashian family mishaps. In the end, you get what you need to know, without having to read multiple sources and slogging through thousands of words.

Just think: CNN meets The E! Channel meets Mean Girls, and you have The Skimm. The Newsletter covers everything from The World Series, to the latest ISIS happenings, to the see-through Lululemon leggings scandal.

Skimm founders, Zakin and Weisberg

Skimm founders, Zakin and Weisberg

It turns out, The Skimm has reached far larger audiences than ever hoped. Everyone from college students, to CEOs, to stay at home moms have become fans of this news source. Even men too… My husband even told me his Goldman Sachs manager faithfully reads The Skimm every morning!

Congrats to the founders, Zakin and Weisberg for recently being named on Forbes’ recent “30 Under 30″ most influential people right now. Take my word for it and go sign up!

Top Obama Advisor Deeply Disappointed in Netanyahu’s Visit to Congress

For any who follow American Politics, it is clear that the Obama administration has had several tense moments and complications with President Netanyahu of Israel. Mr. Netanyahu has recently accepted an invitation to speech before a special session of Congress on March 3, an act which Susan Rice-Ambassador to the UN, deeply disagrees. She said that this speech, ““injected a degree of partisanship, which is not only unfortunate, I think it’s destructive of the fabric of the relationship.”

President Obama and Mr. Netanyahu have had differing opinions on the relationship with Iran and this speech only widens the ideological gap. Speaker John Boehner invited Mr. Netanyahu without the permission of the Obama administration, which they claim is a breach of protocol. Personally I see no issue with Speaker Boehner inviting a special guest as Congress and the White House don’t report to each other. Partisan values have made this a grudge match, but the House may act in its own accords and wishes.

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