Saturday, November 27, 2010

Conscientious organic food items are playing on your compassionate disposition to push sales

Cool cows & hot chicks, time for happy eating

PLANNING a happy meal for your Sunday brunch? How about "stress-free" milk to go with the "cage free" eggs from your neighbourhood organic food store? Welcome to the next level in the organic food revolution. Think shiny happy chickens and cows that line up for morning and evening walks.
    'Natural' food is widening your options and coming up with an interesting mix for the palate. Milk from a "stressfree" cow is what Organic India's global CEO Krishan Guptaa pushes as the USP of his company's organic ghee: "A cow produces milk for her calf. We first let the calf have its fill and do not use machines to extract all the milk. Our cows live in an open area where they are free to walk around and graze to their heart's content in the fields. This, naturally, takes away any fear or restrains in the cattle's minds and hence we have marketed our prod
uct as tension-free cow's ghee." Ergo a happy cow equals a happier customer.
    Guptaa pegs his product on "India's 5000-year old tradition" and says the purity of his product lends it more potency. So the ghee from a "stress-free" cow would last twice the length of a 'regular' pack of ghee. "I tell people that what is not good for them is impurity. And all things pure, be it ghee or neem, carry the goodness of Mother Nature. It is for us to make the best use of these gifts of nature," he says.
    He isn't the only one marketing Indian hoary traditions in service of our taste buds. Ahimsa milk, or milk produced without harm to any living being, produced at a Hare Krishna farm set up by Beatle George Harrison, recently went on sale in Britain. The milk will be sold for £3 a litre in shops around Harrow, London, where there is a large Hindu community. Not only are the cows milked with ancient Sanskrit prayers playing in the background, they are also
given a full Hindu burial after they die.
    Meanwhile, Keggfarms, one of the oldest poultry organisations in the country, makes sure the birds in its poultry houses are not stuffed in 8x8 inch battery cages. While they are given feed sans any chemical agents, another essential trait in their breeding is their access to sunshine and fresh air. "They are not only kept away from cages but allowed to maintain a social order of their own. We try to make sure they are happy birds since every living thing must be treated with humaneness," says Vinod Kapur, the owner of Keggfarms. With the Keggs brand flying off the shelves from around 300 outlets in the Delhi-NCR region and plans to extend the retail network to Mumbai, Hyderabad and Chandigarh among others, happy cows and chicken are clearly the way to go. "In India there was no concept of quality or fresh eggs, only of the cheapest eggs. We combined our emphasis on quality with the tenet that every life
form, whether plant or animal, needs to be treated with respect," he adds.
    Research has shown that the flavour and yolk of an egg are determined by the diet and breed of the hen. Farm fresh eggs tend to have dark yolks where as chicken eggs from battery hens have lighter eggs. Controlled, low-intensity light is also used to delay sexual maturity until the bird's body is big enough to produce larger eggs. While most eggs come in white or brown shades, the Aracuana, a breed of chicken developed in Chile lays blue to green chicken eggs!
    And if milk and eggs weren't doing it for you, you might want to go in for "relaxed meat". There are scientific studies to prove that high stress levels in cattle are likely to alter the acid levels in their meat, affecting its colour, taste and texture. The technical term for meat that has been damaged by this sort of stress is "dark cutting meat".
Vegetarians, take heart
THEN, there is Japan's legendary Kobe Beef. Long-standing legend has it that the Tajima breed of Wagyu cattle in Kobe are fed organic grains, Japanese beer, and even sake to make that perfect steak. "The terms 'organic' and 'free-range' are often used as little more than marketing gimmicks designed to fool compassionate consumers into purchasing more meat, eggs or dairy," says Poorva Joshipura, chief functionary for PETA India. Joshipura believes that the only way we can ensure not contributing to the suffering of animals is to stop eating them. While animal rights activists are hardly likely to support the pampering of cattle on their way to the slaughterhouse, the fact remains that there are some brutal practices going into traditional cattle-slaughter. A realisation that better treated animals will produce better meat is likely to ensure at least some relief for the animals.

    Vegetarians, take heart. Even cheese is coming with a certified "vegetarian" tag. Godrej's nature basket store which stocks a variety of cold cuts, meats, cheese and organic foods, offers vegetable red cheddar for the more discriminating customer. If you're a strict vegetarian, you will want to avoid cheese made with "traditional" (animal) rennet (fat) and should look for cheese with rennet that is made from plants or microbes. Unfortunately, this information is not always on the labels of cheese that has been pre-cut and wrapped by a store. But that is now changing. "Most cheese is animal-fat based so a vegetarian cheese is one which uses plantfat instead. While this hasn't replaced regular cheese, it has become an addon to cater to a certain type of customer," says Uttam Singh, food specialist at Godrej's Nature's Basket GK II outlet. The common thread running through this interesting but sometimes weird sounding spread: Conscientious cuisine is here to stay. 

Friday, November 26, 2010

‘The US model of private health insurers is inefficient, expensive’

Joseph Stiglitz, the Nobel prizewinning economist has written several articles on the inequity in access to health and the flaws in the drug discovery process of pharmaceutical companies. On a recent visit to Delhi, Stiglitz spoke to Rema Nagarajan about the negative role of patents in drug discovery and the pitfalls of private insurance in health:

    Why have you been pitching for a single payer system for health insurance rather than a system where several private companies compete?
The US model of private health insurers has been proven inefficient and expensive. Rather than provide better healthcare at lower costs, insurance companies innovate at finding better ways of discrimination. They are inefficient because they are trying to figure out how to insure people who don't need the cover
and keep out people who need it. With many companies, they also need to spend on marketing and advertising. The incentives are all wrong and the transaction costs are very high and you have to give them a high profit. In health, social and private incentives are totally disparate. Competition does not work in healthcare especially in the health insurance market. Several countries like the UK, France and Sweden have a single payer system, differing only in the organisation of healthcare delivery.
    Several health insurance companies are setting up business here. Should India be worried?
India would be in a terrible mess, given the size of its population, if it went down the wrong route (of private companies for health insurance). They should
learn from the mess that the US has got into. Once the companies start making profits, special interests in politics will come into play and it will be difficult to get them out. In India, given the disparities in income, a single system for delivery might not work. So, it will probably need a mixture of public and private provision or maybe public healthcare for basic clinics and reimbursement for others, or the UK model where provisioning or delivery is also through public institutions.
    Areyouagainstintellectual property especially in health research into medicines?
I am not against intellectual property (IP). But the benefits of IP have been exaggerated and the costs underestimated. IP creates monopolies. And it does interfere with economic efficiency by interfering with the flow of knowledge and the use of knowledge, particularly for developing countries. The TRIPS (trade-related aspects of intellectual property rights) agreement is trying to impose the same IP framework on everybody. The question is whether IP promotes innovation. Increasingly, the evidence is that it may actually impede innovation. It is leading to infinite negotiations around patents. More money is being spent on lawyers than on research. New ideas are the most important input into
research. IP is making that input difficult to get. We need some IP. But we also need to find better ways of financing and incentivising research such as governmentsponsored research.
    Is it viable for governments to finance drug research?
Yes, public financing of drug research is financially viable. In a system where government pays for drugs, it is in effect, the government or the public who pay for hugely expensive drugs. Drug companies greatly exaggerate the cost, especially on research. If you broke down their costs, you would see that basic research is done by the government. The applied research of a particular molecule is mostly done by small companies, often linked to universities, which is still private. But the biggest cost is testing of the drugs and that is usually blown up and often includes promotion costs.

Monday, November 22, 2010

More Fonts Means More Choice

Posted by Wongoo Lee, Software Engineer

Self expression is a beautiful thing.  It’s one of the best things about having a bloga place where you can control the look and feel of your message and how it’s presented.  Today we’re excited to announce another amazing way to make your blog truly youWeb Fonts.

The Web has traditionally been pretty limited when it comes to font selection, especially for non-Latin alphabets such as Cyrillic and Greek.  But great strides have been made in this arena by our friends on the Google Web Fonts team, and finally there are more choices out there than just Arial and Times New Roman.  In fact, there are now 40 new fonts on Blogger in Draft for you to choose from.  And we’re just getting startedlots more to come!

Simply go into the Advanced tab of the Blogger Template Designer, select the type of text you’d like to change (Post Title, Page Text, etc.) and pick from a number of exciting, new fonts such as Reenie Beanie (which we've used for the title of this post!) or Neucha (Cyrillic) or GFS Didot (Greek) or even Hanuman (Khmer).  You will be spoilt with choice! For the full list, please take a look at the Web Fonts page in our Help Center.

Give it a try, and as always, we’d love to hear your feedback.  Just leave us a comment.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

My First Attempt at a Henna Gloss

I've been reading up on the benefits of henna for hair. Outside of natural reddish brown color deposit, it works as a protein to strength hair and also as a great deep conditioner providing great softness, reduces frizzing and provides wonderful natural shine.

I went to and printed out a copy of her henna gloss recipe, ordered a kit "Henna for African Hair" from and put aside time on saturday for this long process.

I read up on how it is extremely important to get good quality, fresh henna that is Body Quality and 100% pure otherwise it would be useless. The kit I ordered included, 100g of pure Body Quality Henna, 100g of of pure Indigo, 2 rubber gloves and a plastic cone "thingy" designed to help you to be able to better distribute the henna in your hair.  I got the kit with the indigo because I am a long time lover of jet black hair and I have a lot of grays that I need to be covered on a regular basis. The indigo is the second step to the henna process that will help me to achieve the jet black color naturally without the use of conventional chemical dyes.

I got my package in the mail early saturday afternoon around 12 o'clock.

I followed the recipe found on curly nikki's website and I mixed the henna as follows:
- 1.5 cups of warm green tea
- 100g of Jamila henna
- mixed until the henna was as thick as mashed potatoes and then covered with saran wrap and let sit for 4 hours; most people tend to let the mix sit overnight but I didn't have that kind of time
- after 4 hours I then added more green tea to make the mixture a little thinner like yogurt and then I proceeded to add 1 cup of a silicone free conditioner; I used Trader Joe's Nourish Spa conditioner. I then added 2 capfuls of Olive Oil and mixed until the consistency was smooth.
- I then put the mix into may hair making sure every strand was covered from root to tip
- I wrapped my hair with saran wrap completely and put a hat on and proceeded with my day.

After about 6 hours of letting the henna sit in my hair, I prepared the indigo powder with warm water, 1 teaspoon of salt since my grays are a bit dye resistant and mixed to the consistency of yogurt and set aside. I then I rinsed the henna thoroughly from my hair with as little manipulation as possible and then immediately applied the indigo mix, and wrapped again with saran wrap. I let this sit in my hair for another 2 hours. After this I rinsed the indigo from my hair and applied A LOT of the Trader Joe's Nourish Spa conditioner and went to sleep with the conditioner in my hair. Had it been earlier I would have sat under a hot hooded dryer but I was just too tired.

In the morning, I rinsed out the conditioner from the night before I washed once with a sulfate free shampoo and conditioned and dryed my hair.

I have to say, the results weren't earth shattering HOWEVER I did notice my hair was extremeley soft and VERY shiny without the use of any product (oil, sheen, cream) to make it this way.

All in all, I will incorporate this into my regimen as a way to strengthen my hair and I will continue to cover my gray this way from now on instead of using conventional commerical hair dyes.

TTYL, Asha!!