Wednesday Walk: The Cold-Industrial Complex
A new podcast launch, good writing about Gaza, and new evidence that cold medicines are marketing fluff
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As is typical every Wednesday, I’m bring you a smattering of topics that I hope will make you a bit more curious about the world around you and give you something to think about later. I call these Wednesday Walks, as it’s the type of conversation we might have walking down a path in the woods. Shall we take a stroll?
More Good Gaza Writing
Since fighting in Gaza began, I have been trying to use this space to share good writing that I’ve found around the conflict. Today, I wanted to share a piece byfor titled “Anyone Who Says the U.S. Is Trying to End the Slaughter In Gaza Is Lying to You.”
As the title suggests, Jack contrasts what U.S. politicians are saying about Palestine with the actions the U.S. government is taking.
This passage seemed to capture so much of what I’m feeling in this moment:
“I feel crazy for having to spell this out, but here goes: if you say that you want a country to stop killing so many civilians, and at the same time you are sending that country tens of thousands of weapons that a) are usually used in ‘non-urban’ regions rather than, say, an area that is three times as densely populated as Los Angeles, and that b) you 1000 percent know are being used to massacre civilians, because, among other things, you keep talking about how many civilians are dying, you do not actually want that country to stop killing so many civilians. You are helping the killing continue. Obviously.”
These two paragraphs also clearly summarize things in a way that no traditional media outlet can:
“If the Biden administration wanted to limit Israel’s capacity to commit genocidal war against Palestinians, it would refuse to provide Israel with so many of the weapons it is using to wage that war. But Biden is not doing that. He’s rushing those weapons over. What’s more, he wants to provide $14 billion more worth of military aid, and his government is making clear that it doesn’t want any strings attached to that aid. As National Security Council spokesman John Kirby told ‘Meet the Press’ on Sunday, ‘The security assistance continues to flow. That’s not going to change.’
So let’s not buy into this sick fiction that the White House is putting any kind of brakes whatsoever on Israel. Instead, let’s treat the U.S. government as what it so manifestly is when it comes to Israel’s unprecedented slaughter: a co-conspirator, an accomplice, a partner in crime. Anyone who says otherwise is lying to you.”
In an era where Twitter/X is dying (I no longer post over there) and other social media is struggling to handle breaking news, it’s nice to find interesting reads here on Substack that help make sense of this conflict.
If you have other pieces that you’ve found helpful in this time (either on Substack or anywhere else) please drop a link in the comments so others can benefit from reading them too!
It’s that time of year when “stuff” is spreading around. COVID, flu, common cold, RSV, fevers- you know the drill by now.
I’m just getting over my own sickness that had me not feeling great for about two weeks. In my younger years, I would have reached for the nearest bottle of cold medicine, but for the last few years now, I have avoided all unnecessary medicine and tried to let my body heal itself by eating nurturing foods.
It turns out that I may be on to something.
In September, there were headlines about oral phenylephrine, the active ingredient in Mucinex, Dayquil, and Sudafed, being ineffective. NPR published a follow up report by Lesley McClurg last week where she interviewed doctors and pharmacists who claim that many more cold medicines simply aren’t effective against the common cold.
The article quotes Dr. Lauren Eggert, clinical assistant professor in the Pulmonary Allergy and Critical Care Division at Stanford University:
"Most of the things out there — antihistamines, decongestants, cough medicines — none of them have a lot of evidence that they're super effective at improving cough or common cold symptoms."
The reason stores like CVS sell products that may not be effective goes back to a simple concept: grandfathering:
“Many of the ingredients on store shelves today were grandfathered in more than 50 years ago, when the science backing many drugs did not meet the rigor of today's methodologies. This means companies have been able to create new products using those ingredients without testing their effectiveness.”
Yes, the active ingredients of drugs today have been in use for so long that they did not need to go through a rigorous review process. A combination of brand recognition, brand loyalty, and a placebo effect keep these medicines in circulation when they may not be doing anything for us. In other words, it’s all marketing.
McClurg ends her report by offering advice from Dr. Shalini Lynch, PharmD, health sciences clinical professor at UCSF's School of Pharmacy on how best to treat the common cold. Surprisingly, these solutions are all low-cost and don’t have a brand name attached to them, which may be part of the reason you don’t hear as much about them:
“Saline nasal rinses may help clear your sinuses and honey can quell your cough. Additionally, it may be worth standing in a steamy shower or filling your humidifier to open your nasal passages.
However, Lynch says cozying up on the couch may be your best bet.
‘The common cold is something that pretty much needs to run its course,’ she said. ‘You want to feel better instantly. But the reality is most cough and cold, viral types of upper respiratory infections, just take time to go away.’"
If you’re interested in reading more, you can do so here.
A New Podcast
Finally this week, I have some exciting personal news to share. I had teased a few weeks ago that I was working on a new project with activistand that project is finally live and available to the public.
I interviewed Saira on my podcast a few months ago after reading the amazing book that she co-wrote with Regina Jackson White Women. I also got to meet her in New York in October during a screening of her film Deconstructing Karen.
Earlier this year, Saira co-founded the abolition group, which is focused on eliminating systems of oppression, which include things like firearms and fossil fuels. Saira has also been an outspoken advocate for Palestinian liberation.
Over the last month or so, I’ve been working with Saira and the team at Here4TheKids to develop a new podcast for their movement called Abolition, Liberation, Solidarity. The first episode with H4TK co-founder Tina Strawn went live last week on all podcast platforms. The show is hosted by Saira, with me working behind the scenes as the producer and editor.
Abolition, Liberation, Solidarity is currently running on a bi-weekly schedule, with new shows every other Thursday. New episodes of Abolition, Liberation, Solidarity run opposite weeks to new episodes of Willoughby Hills, and I hope you’ll listen to both shows as they are released.
Please sign up for the Here4TheKids Substack to receive editorial posts and podcast alerts. You can also listen and subscribe in your favorite podcast app.
On the Willoughby Hills side, I have a new podcast on Thursday with Massachusetts-based hot sauce maker Brian Ruhlmann from Craic Sauce. I love the flavors of his sauces, but also appreciate how he has knit together a strong community of farmers, restaurants, retailers, and passionate customers who all feel a connection to his work.
That episode will be live tomorrow on all podcast platforms, but if you’d like to upgrade to a paying membership, you can access the episode right now!
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Other Wednesday Walks
If you’ve missed past issues of this newsletter, they are available to read here.