After a lifetime of no allergies at all, I have been officially diagnosed with “alpha-gal” or alpha-galactose syndrome–a somewhat rare (but maybe not!) condition where the body sometimes has a severe, delayed immune reaction to red meat, for several years following a tick bite.
Ticks who have bitten a non-human mammal, such as a cow, deliver a meat-based sugar called alpha-galactose (full name: Galactose-alpha-1,3-galactose) in their saliva. The immune system, in properly reacting to the many foreign substances in tick saliva, also treats alpha-galactose (α-gal) as an unwelcome agent. This then leads to a cross-reaction to digested read meat (but not always, which makes it so hard to diagnose). That’s how I can eat the equivalent of multiple herds of cattle for decades with no problem, then start reacting badly to beef.
Unlike traditional food allergies, which kick in fast and furiously soon after consumption, the α-gal reaction is not to a protein, but to a sugar released in meat digestion. In fact, this is the first food “allergy” known to be related to a non-protein molecule, and the first known to cause delayed reactions. This is because meat digests slowly. As such, the sugar isn’t released in substantial amounts right away, and reaction can be delayed 3-6 hours, sometimes 8. The substance is found in all non-primate mammals (cattle, buffalo, deer, horse, rabbit, squirrel, dog, cat, etc.)–but not humans or other primates. Technically, I can be a reaction-free cannibal…but, no thanks! Alpha-gal also appears in the cancer drug Cetuximab, which cannot be taken; I hope not to have that need. Birds, fish, and amphibians do not have α-gal.
In my case, I’ve had hundreds of red-meat meals over the years since the first reaction, but only a few episodes. This has included some huge steaks with no reaction at all. Figuring how often I’ve had red-meat-based meals (and it’s been a lot), I’ve calculated that the reaction has happened around 1 out of every 110 times I’ve eaten beef as a main course. Alpha-gal reaction can (but hasn’t yet) progressed fully to life-threatening anaphylaxis. In two cases, Benadryl pills (and in two others, ER trips with injected Benadryl and steroids) have quelled these episodes.
Four α-gal urticaria (hives) reactions have hit in 12 years, accompanied by varying degrees of intense itching, nausea, and minor swelling of ears and throat, but only this year was it diagnosed by specialists at the Oklahoma Allergy Clinic. Fortunately for me, but not for him, one of their specialists actually has this problem–and has become a leading expert on it. Skin tests yielded no reactions to anything (including red meat); but now a blood test is available to confirm it. I’ll have yearly testing of antigen levels that I hope will drop enough at some point to get back to eating big, juicy steaks. ‘Til then, only occasional small nibbles (BLTs are no problem), otherwise no red meat at all…
The bad news: I’m supposed to avoid red meat for an unknown time (months to years) until antigen levels come down. The good news: in most cases, if tick bites are avoided, α-gal antigens decline and tolerance for red meat eventually returns. The other good news: one who has this disorder can eat all forms of non-mammal meat (poultry, seafood, frogs, snake, etc.) with no problems at all. I also have never reacted to dairy, and still consume it often and with no trouble, though some alpha-gal patients do have intense reactions. Small amounts of well-cooked red meat (i.e., a slice of bacon or a bite of red meat) also cause no reaction for me. Apparently, more intense and thorough cooking does help in some cases.
If you have been bitten by the lone star tick, you are susceptible. If you develop hives or anything else resembling an allergic reaction of unknown cause (outside any common pollen reactions of course), and ever have been bitten by a tick, log your foods during the prior 12 hours and see an allergist. If you suspect this, have your doctor order an “Alpha-gal IgE test” of a blood sample.
The α-gal disorder probably has been around as long as people have had bites from the Lone Star tick, but wasn’t identified until the last seven years, following a paper by Cheryl van Nunen and a self-discovery of the problem by famous UVa allergy professor Thomas Platts-Mills (who got bitten by many ticks, then had a severe reaction to beef). His unit has studied this condition most extensively. If you want to read a good scientific paper on the topic, see their study, “Delayed anaphylaxis, angioedema, or urticaria after consumption of red meat in patients with IgE antibodies specific for galactose-α-1,3-galactose“. Media stories, as usual for scientific topics, have overgeneralizations, missing facts and flat-out wrong information, so stick to the medical experts.
The specific circumstances of the Buk-launched missile attack on a Malaysian civilian airliner, flying over eastern Ukraine near the Russian border on its otherwise routine journey from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur, are still murky. We only know that somebody shot that plane down and, in doing so, slaughtered innocent people from all over the world, perhaps including Americans.
Regardless of intent, regardless of missile origin, no valid excuse exists for rocketing a commercial Boeing 777. None! As Russia and Ukraine blame each other, 295 souls no longer have living bodies. Their families deserve answers, accountability, and ultimately, reparations both from those responsible and from their enablers.
My prayers are with those families on this awful day of massive, preventable sorrow.
Unfortunately today isn’t the first time something like this has happened–and as you’ll learn from the video below, not even the second. Despite my youth at the time, I recall the Korean Air Lines Flight 007 incident of 1 September 1983 well—and just as well, the strong American and international response to that act of evil. Whether this means anything or not, a factual common denominator was that these barbaric deeds of cowardice and terror occurred over or very near Russian territory.
I do know that a volleyball game of blame between Ukraine and Russia won’t fix this recurring problem. Strong leadership by the free world’s most powerful voices is the only potential solution, in terms of insistence on investigative openness, uninhibited evidence-gathering by international experts, reassurance of victims’ families that justice will be sought and served, and the dogged pursuit of that goal; otherwise, such attacks will happen again. What do I mean by this?
Here’s an example of exactly the kind of decisive, direct, unambiguous, crisis-response leadership that we had in America for the KAL massacre, and which we need again today.
May the answers be found and provided openly to the world just as surely and clearly in the coming days that, as you can see, were delivered directly to us by a great world leader in 1983.
Unless you’ve been in interplanetary exile for a few years, you probably have heard that the Washington Redskins’ team name has become controversial of late. How disparaging is the Redskins name, really, and to what percentage of the only people who matter in this: the American Indians? Later I’ll propose an iron-clad, foolproof way to find out.
Why do I bother with this? I only will this one time. Absolutely more important issues for this nation abound: our outrageous national debt, the orchestrated illegal-alien crisis (as part of a broader Cloward-Piven strategy to overwhelm services), our passive, misguided foreign relations as the world comes unraveled in the Middle East and elsewhere, the deep problem of the jobless who don’t count as “unemployed” because they’re not even trying (another Cloward-Piven manifestation), and of course the overseer of it all, the most scandal-ridden presidency (including Nixon’s) in my lifetime.
Really, I’m only a football fan with (at most) the very tiniest ancestral few drops of native blood, a fan who bleeds OU crimson on Saturdays and Dallas blue and silver on Sundays. I live in a red state with red dirt that respects the red-blooded traditions of the red man–a state populated with a lot of tribal members. Guess what…their opinions vary. Some natives are offended by the Redskins’ team name. Others use it as their own. Some are fine with it. In speaking with some natives here, and in travels to other areas with a large Indian population such as South Dakota and the Olympic Peninsula, it has become apparent to me anecdotally that their opinions on this issue not only are mixed, but seem to be dominated by either “No” or “I don’t care” to the question of whether the Redskins should change their name. The offended, in my experience, are a small and perhaps unrepresentative subset.
A poll taken in 2004 bore this out. Ninety-one percent (91%) of the natives polled did not consider the name offensive; 9% did. How valid is the poll still today? And does it even matter to most non-Indian, anti-“Redskin” advocates what the Indian consensus thinks? I suspect not, because they think they know what’s best for everyone. Imposing their political correctness on the rest of society is what’s most important, not actually respecting the wishes of the affected people’s consensus.
As an outspoken, outlying, sociopolitically conservative scientist, I also am bombarded with a lot of sanctimonious faux-outrage from intellectual white-liberal friends, people of sheltered privilege who, as non-Indians, don’t really understand the issue any more than I (as a non-Indian from a background of inner-city poverty). Still, their opinions don’t tend to vary much on it. They fall lock-stock in company line with the latest “social justice” outrages, fads of sanctimonious offense spoon-fed to them by MSNBC, Bill Maher, Rachel Maddow, the Obama administration, or any number of the usual empty-headed Hollywood celebrities.
Presumptuous, Patronizing, Racist White-Liberal Thought Police
That’s exactly the right descriptor for every single white liberal of privilege who has decided the term is racist. Based on what scientifically reproducible poll of all willing American Indians? Start looking for that, okay…and good luck. Meanwhile, sanctimonious liberal moralists: shut your trap and don’t hold your breath while you look. Until such a poll is done (see below), your basis lies only in subjective, arbitrary, capricious opinion of a vocal few–an invalid basis, and not provably representative of the people as a whole. Yes, whole…not some, not loudest, but whole.
The Indians have every right not to trust the entity you hold so dear: government. White liberals’ socialistic, pseudo-Utopian ideal of government as all-providing, all-knowing force for greater good actually has a horrible history for our native peoples. I mean, rotten to the core! Through these links, look at what government has done “for” the Indians over the course of time at places like Wounded Knee, Sand Creek and Fort Robinson, countless broken treaties, forced sterilization of native women as late as the 1970s, federal swindling of tribal land that continues to this day…and those are just the tip of the iceberg. And yet, liberals, you think government knows best? Try convincing some Lakota Sioux or Cheyennes of that. History should teach us that neither government nor corporations nor any non-Indian individual should decide what is right for the natives to accept or reject.
Get this, moralizing, patronizing white liberals: IT IS NONE OF YOUR BUSINESS–I repeat, none of your business, what the natives should think about this or any other issue. You are not an Indian, and neither am I. That disqualifies all of us. It’s that simple.
Neither your opinion nor mine matters as to whether the term is offensive. Only the Indians should decide. Yet despite Big Government’s absolutely horrid track record of treating the Native American, it still thinks it knows what’s best today. To wit…
Constitutionality and Due Process
Most recently, the U.S. Patent Office has overstepped its constitutional bounds by rescinding the team’s trademark because it has decided unilaterally, arbitrarily and capriciously that the name is “disparaging to Native Americans”, and was at the time of filing. Say what? Get this–it is very important: If the name was so bad at the time of filing, why did the Patent Office grant the trademark in the first place?
What a bunch of overreaching, presumptuous bureaucratic bullies! This sets a terrible precedent in that any existing trademark that a particular administration or sociopolitical movement declares “offensive” will be removed without due process. That’s right: without due process. A trademark represents intellectual property. To take property of any sort, intellectual or otherwise, without due process is patently (pun intended) and obviously unconstitutional. If Daniel Snyder is smart–and he seems to be in areas other than fielding a worthwhile football product–he’ll attack from this angle (among others) in court.
The Ultimate Solution: Let All the American Indians, and ONLY Them, Decide!
So, what is my opinion on this issue? Simple common sense: let the Indians decide. Once again, it is none of the white man’s business what the native tribes should think–least of all the patronizing, “We know what’s best for you” ethos of the government-knows-best limousine liberal. My proposed solution is a very specific, much bigger variant of the poll of over 700 Native Americans already done ten years ago.
The team’s ownership should pay for an independently conducted nationwide survey of all willing American Indians, by mail, postage prepaid, channeled through and in cooperation with the tribes themselves, in order to maximize distribution, maximize participation and maximize perceived legitimacy on the part of participants. Only registered members of tribes would be eligible. The survey form should be one-page, straightforward and crystal clear, with the question: “Should the Washington Redskins change their name?” The possible answers: “yes”, “no”, “don’t care or no opinion”. A space for comments can be provided also.
Daniel Snyder absolutely can afford this. He has enough wealth that, for him, paying several million for this would be 1) a drop in the bucket, and 2) a great way to show sincerity of purpose with the Indian community nationwide. The survey would be tallied by an independent, reputable surveying and/or accounting organization, its results released jointly by Snyder and tribal representatives. If the majority say “yes”, Snyder agrees to change the name effective for the 2015 season. If the majority is “no” or “don’t care”, the issue is shelved for ten more years, and another survey taken.
There you go: a solution that gives the full voice to the only people who rightly deserve it: the natives themselves!
What if the majority of Indians, or pre-emptively team ownership, eventually decide that the name is wrong? As a Dallas fan, I’ve got some suggestions for renaming that Washington team. Thank me later for my benevolence.
Washington Redskin Potatoes: Too long, and demeaning to spuds of all races and colors.
Washington Deadskins: Often true and quite appropriate, but hackneyed. Lost its luster after a thousand uses in the ’60s and ’70s.
Washington Foreskins: I’m pretty sure I invented this one as a teenager after calling Joe Theismann either of two male-anatomical insults that rhyme with “lick”. Problem is, it’s probably too obscene for audiences under 13. I don’t want to be responsible for tens of thousands of innocent kids having to learn what this is, nor for whatever logo would have to appear on the team helmets as a result.
Washington Cherry Blossoms: Dress them in pink and white with flowers on their helmets. I love it–unless it creates a sort of Boy Named Sue effect that makes them really tough, for the first time ever.
Washington Turd Piles: Hey, this team stinks, and has for a really long time, so it fits. The self-appointed thought police of the PC crowd won’t let it happen, though. Besides, to dung beetles, composters and other advocates of legitimately useful manure, it’s potentially insulting and offensive for that to be associated with this truly useless football team.
Washington Politicians: The one name that would make them even more hated by Dallas fans worldwide. Use a leaking bucket of pond-scum-colored slime, the pail being labeled both with jackass and elephant heads, for the helmet logo, as the most fitting representation of the name. Eureka!
Oh, and one final note: GO COWBOYS!