Oceanus Hosted Greek Ambassador Visit to Bay Area Houston

May 2nd, 2019

Pictured from left, Tony and Emily Panagiotareas, Ambassador Haris Lalacos, Sumer Loggins, Anna Michalopoulou and Rick Clapp.

The Ambassador of Greece to the United States, Harris Lalacos, made his first official visit to Houston. Bay Group Media CEO Rick Clapp and I graciously accepted the invitation to attend the honorary celebration. The commemorative dinner reception on March 24 at Lakewood Yacht Club included distinguished guests Rear Adm. Paul Thomas commander of the Eighth Coast Guard District, Houston mayoral candidate Bill King, Col. Michael Fossum former American astronaut and COO of Texas A&M University at Galveston, League City Mayor Pat Hallisey, R.W. Bray Southeast Texas Deputy Regional Director for Sen. Ted Cruz, the Consul of Greece Ioannis Stamatekos, the Hellenic Attaché for Maritime Affairs Koutsodontis Nikolaos, Admiral Mike Rodriguez, superintendent of the Texas Maritime Academy, and Port of Houston Executive Director Roger Guenther and Senior Director Charlie Jenkins. Ambassador Lalacos succinctly presented the importance of Greek-American relationships which focuses on energy, maritime shipping, and tourism. Greeks are leading pioneers of the sea for the last 3,500 years with the largest merchant marine fleets in the world, comprising 20% of all merchant vessels. Ambassador Lalacos said, “I’m glad I represent a country which is recognized as a stability provider in our region, as a reliable ally in NATO, a friend of the United States, and a country which has never had a conflict with the United States ever since our respective independence.”

International trade is dependent on Greek-owned ships which provides security, research, and resources that connect people around the world. “Greece is the champion of energy diversification in our part of the world,” says Lalacos. Greece has one of the largest terminals for LNG and plans to build a second terminal in Northern Greece. LNG is cleaner, safer, and takes up about 1/600th the volume of natural gas in the gaseous state. Liquified natural gas is non-toxic, non-corrosive, and more efficient to transport. Greece has managed to secure a major pipeline that brings Azari natural gas from the Caspian sea, passing through land bordering Turkey and transported to Northern Greece, Albania and the Adriatic Sea, to Southern Italy and on to Europe. “We have very solid plans and strong American support to enrich amounts of this pipeline and to build vertical interconnectors going from Greece Northbound. This will revolutionize gas flows in our part of the world.” asserts Lalacos. Their newest project, the Eastern Mediterranean Pipeline, with help from the United States and European Union, will bring through Italy a deepwater pipeline with natural gas from Israel, Cyprus, Egypt, and Greece. Israel has already found natural gas reserves but they need more pipelines to distribute it to the world market. Recently ExxonMobil had positive results with exploratory drilling offshore South of Cyprus, and Egypt discovered natural gas in the Mediterranean. Next, ExxonMobil will be drilling South of Crete while multinational companies drill on and offshore in the Western Part of Greece. “We are hopeful to diversify energy flow and production in the Eastern Mediterranean Basin. This may take place in the next decade.” says Lalacos.

Texas is the largest natural gas producer globally and a world leader in the chemical and petrochemical industry. Houston is an international hub for shipping and energy, which are two areas of primary importance to Greece. We are one of eight cities in the United States with a Greek Consulate, and one of two with a Coast Guard Consulate. Private-owned companies with sustainable solutions take the lead in global partnerships to expand energy sources. Oceanus Maritime Services LLC is a Greek-owned company with headquarters in League City. Oceanus started as an idea between business partners Tony Panagiotareas and Kent Dangtran, and now represents a fleet of 500 vessels belonging to 40 shipping companies. They are one of few companies in Texas to hold an International Ship Management Certificate to operate commercial vessels. Oceanus Maritime leads efforts to assist Greece in developing their energy reserves. The International Maritime Organization (IMO) addresses the human health and environmental impact of the oil and gas industry. In 2020 new regulations will implement that all ships must reduce sulphur fuel content to 0.5% 200 nautical miles from the shoreline. This demonstrates a clear commitment by IMO to ensure shipping meets environmental obligations.

Greece celebrated Greek Embassy’s Official Independence Day at Annunciation Greek Orthodox Cathedral in Houston for the first time in history. On March 25 1821, Greek revolutionaries fought for their freedom and victoriously won against the Ottoman Empire. They established hard-earned independence in 1830. The festivities were hosted by the Consul of Greece Ioannis Stamatekos and over 200 Houstonians. The Pappas family graciously donated beautiful selections of wines and Nikos Nikos provided an elegant dinner. It was quite a traditional Greek experience. Besides the exciting opportunities for energy development, Ambassador Lalacos says, “The help that we need is not grants, it’s investment; mutually advantageous, profitable investment. When it comes to investment, the greatest asset [of Greece] is its well-educated workforce.”

This three day weekend of Greek hospitality and festivities elucidates the importance of working together. We have common goals of peace, prosperity, and positive international relationships. We all want independence, security, and a safe, diverse supply of energy. Greece and America are always friends, always allies. Investing in each other is paramount to success and building long lasting friendships. We can work together to overcome challenges as well as preserve liberty, freedom, and sovereignty. It was a symbolic moment to visit with Ambassador Lalacos and maritime officials. We encourage more Greek-owned businesses to come to the Houston Bay Area. We’d like to see more Greek-American collaboration to establish energy independence and a robust economy in both countries.

Looks aren’t everything, they are the only thing

April 1st, 2019

By Sumer Dene

My mom was a model in the 1990s. I traveled with her as a baby at the height of her career. I was modeling in New York and traveling 20 years later. I had a manager in New York, a contract with MSA models in Los Angeles, and boutique agencies along the East Coast. I booked a national broadcast fitness commercial and was fortunate to be featured on the cover of magazines and a book. I flew alone on an airplane for the first time when I was 7 years old, and lived in small towns and big cities all over America. Here are some lifelong lessons and tips I learned from traveling and working as a model.

1. Less is more. If it doesn’t make you happy, get rid of it. I learned to get rid of the “junk” in my life in order to make room for what truly matters. Nothing you buy will add up to what happiness feels like.

2. Be Comfortable in your own skin. I felt like I had to fit a certain mold in order to be beautiful. We all come in different shapes and sizes, yet industry values numbers and symmetry. Much of what you see in advertising campaigns is photoshopped and curated by an industry obsessed with measurements and follower count. Is it ironic only an elite few determine the standards of beauty? People who measure value by appearance and status lead miserable lives. Be happy with who you are.

3. Just say “NO.” When you set boundaries, you respect yourself. Moreover, say no with diction. Make sure your voice is heard loud and clear. Remember, you are a product with a short shelf life. This is the reality because in modeling looks aren’t everything, they are the only thing. Know your worth and say no when something instinctively doesn’t feel right.

4. The importance of Healthcare and Skincare. I struggled with acne for years and tried every possible remedy to manage breakouts. I was prescribed expensive medicine and harsh chemicals that rarely produced positive results. Through research, I found effective and inexpensive products that personally worked for me. Nuvothera’s Super-Micronized Turmeric Curcumin is a natural supplement to maintain overall health and wellness. Nuvothera’s Turmeric combined with curcumin is super-micronized to achieve maximum absorption, potency, and bioactivity without chemical enhancers. Turmeric and its unique compound curcumin heal the gut and the body. Turmeric and curcumin reduce inflammation, help balance blood sugar levels, improve circulation, rejuvenate skin and retain moisture, as well as detox the liver. Since using Nuvothera’s Super-Micronized Turmeric Curcumin, I’ve noticed a major difference. I feel healthier, happier, and my skin is glowing. My choice of face wash is Cetaphil Facial cleanser. It gently cleanses skin without stripping natural oils. I apply a thin layer of Differin gel every night, a topical retinoid treatment that restores skin texture and prevents breakouts. These three products have revolutionized my skincare and healthcare.

5. Be prepared. No one tells models to develop self esteem before marketing items like makeup that covers the face and clothes that expose the body. This could be done by creating programs that teach young models strong core values and a positive self image. How are you supposed to know who you are when you hide behind a mask? The advice models get is to be natural. It’s easy to magnify flaws and lose sight of who you are when you live in a facade.

6. Take care of yourself. It’s just a job. It doesn’t define you. There is an obligation to be “picture perfect” in the competitive world of modeling. You are constantly sized up and celebrated by the way you look. To take care of yourself is a form of self respect, and no job is worth losing your sanity or self-worth.

7. Happiness is key. Home is a mindset, not just a location. Home is where you feel most comfortable to be yourself. You can learn from every place you visit and each person you talk to. Nothing has meaning until you give it meaning. Be happy where you are, regardless of outside circumstances.


April 1st, 2019

By Sumer Dene

Plant-based living is a mindset to preserve health, protect the planet, and align character, quality, and value with a wholesome way of life. Poor diet is not only about individual choice, it’s about systems that make unhealthy eating the only option for many people. Tax dollars hide the true cost of large scale animal operations. The unyielding power of the meat and dairy industry has distorted national policies and priorities. Will the government catch on or continue to fund antiquated industries that harm local economies and the environment? If the U.S. government sidesteps sustainability once again in the U.S. Dietary Guidelines for 2020, it won’t be based on the true impact of meat and dairy. A plant-based lifestyle is to be conscious of what you put in your body and how it affects the world around us. We are in dire need for solutions to maintain health and the planet for future generations.

Be Positive & Prepared
Give yourself time to adjust. Gradually increase fiber intake and stay hydrated. Prepare ahead and search online for quick, easy plant-based cuisine you can prepare at any time. Healthy meals require the sum of all parts, you only need a few simple ingredients to create something colorful, versatile, and great.

Importance of Pre/Probiotics
Our body is an ecosystem. The protective microbiome in the gut is a community of like-minded organisms. This diverse population has a common goal: to get the most nutrients out of food so we get the most out of life. Probiotics are live microorganisms, typically bacteria, that stimulate function of the digestive and immune system, produce essential hormones and vitamins, increase biosorption of important nutrients, balance blood sugar and cholesterol levels, improve immunity, regulate mood and sustain a healthy weight. Probiotics are found in fermented foods and drinks like kombucha, pickled cucumbers, sauerkraut, miso, natto, kimchi, tempeh, and apple cider vinegar. Beneficial bacteria thrive on fiber, which naturally detoxes the body and is crucial for physical, mental, and emotional health. Prebiotics are high-fiber foods that probiotics eat in order to survive and reproduce. Probiotics and prebiotics work together to prevent toxins from entering the gut barrier, increase energy, and reduce inflammation. Research concludes that most disease stems from inflammation in the gut. Gut health affects how you look and feel, it can even alter gene expression and combat autoimmunity, cancer, and psychological disorders.

Intermittent Fast
Intermittent fasting is an eating pattern where you cycle between eating and fasting. Eat small meals throughout the day in an 8-hour period, and fast within a 16 hour period. A rhythm and schedule is beneficial for your body to cleanse and rejuvenate. This can be simple if you eat from 12 p.m.- 8 p.m., or whichever time frame works best with your schedule.

Acknowledge Cultural Diversity
It’s important children are exposed to different cultures so they understand the interconnected relationship we have with each other and our world. Plant-based cuisine is a collaboration of many cultures because of the diverse array of flavors, colors, aromas and textures. This gives children the opportunity to appreciate cultural diversity and create new stories and traditions.

A Sustainable Society
Positive change is a personal evolution of mind, body, and spirit. In the near future we will see more plant-based options in fast food restaurants, hospitals, venues, schools, as well as greater support to local farms. The health and environmental effects of large-scale animal agriculture is far more than the economic value it is worth. Farm subsidies are costly to taxpayers, but also harm people, the economy and the environment. Subsidies discourage farmers to innovate, diversify land use, and take action to prosper in a competitive marketplace. Slaughterhouse and factory farm workers suffer from PTSD comparable to those who experience war. More than 70 percent of handouts go to farmers of just three crops- corn, soybean, and wheat. Farm subsidies pay farmers to grow food for animals that become meat. Americans choose to eat less than .25 percent of the known edible food on this planet. Big corporations promote unhealthy food and get majority support from American government. Animal agriculture thrives because it it not transparent. Subsidies could be allocated to support local farmers and provide jobs in fields that value education and provide for future generations.

Sawa Restaurant & Grill offers fresh Mediterranean cuisine

April 1st, 2019

By Sumer Dene

Sawa Restaurant & Grill is an international blend of the most authentic Mediterranean cuisine. This establishment is a proud, cultural, independent restaurant family-owned by Abdul Ghonym. The word Sawa means “Equal,” and “Together.” People join together at Sawa Restaurant & Grill to share memories and fresh, delectable cuisine. “I fell in love with Clear Lake because of NASA and the thriving community. I love Clear Lake for its diversity and the expanding market for healthy food and international flavor.” says Abdul.

The food to table is fast and the flavors are tantalizing. Each meal is served with a hot cup of mint or sage tea, depending on the season. All dishes are prepared with the highest quality. For starters try the delicious hand-chopped salads. The Lentil Soup is perfectly spiced, the Hummus is rich and creamy, the Baba Ghannouj is mild and smoky, the Falafel is cooked to perfection, and the fresh baked Baklava is simply delightful. Make sure to try the authentic Ma’amoul cookies that utilize the fresh nuts and fruits of the land. Olive Oil, the main ingredient in Mediterranean cuisine, is imported from the West Bank at Abdul’s family-owned farm. For the finale enjoy a refreshing Mint Lemonade Smoothie. The vegan Ciku Stir Fry contains almonds, walnuts, and raisins on a bed of rice served with onions, bell peppers, and aromatic spices. The Mnazali is a savory mix of onions, garbanzo beans, tomatoes, and layers of eggplant doused in delicious spices.

Come to Sawa Restaurant & Grill for excellent healthy and vegan cuisine, reasonable prices, and staff that treats you like family. Sawa allows you to experience Middle Eastern culture at its finest. “I love when people smile because they like what I prepared for them. Our cuisine is full of choices because it is made from authentic mediterranean ingredients the land has given us. I cater to a community for better and healthier living.” States Abdul. For customer preference each entree is properly marked dairy free, gluten free, or vegan. Sawa Restaurant & Grill serves universities, hospitals, doctors offices, and fitness centers. All NASA and aerospace contract workers receive a 15 percent discount, so for a real authentic mediterranean treat, try Sawa Restaurant & Grill located at 16608 El Camino Real Houston, TX 77062. Look forward to new additions on their menu and a whole new experience of Mediterranean cuisine. Order to go at 281-990-0817 or visit their website at www.sawarestaurantgrilltx.com


Veganism – Fad or Future?

February 1st, 2019

By Sumer Dene

When I was 10 years old, my mom let me make a fundamental life decision. I was a vegetarian from birth and was given the choice to eat meat. Around the same time, my step dad offered me $100 to eat a piece of steak. I didn’t take his offer. My taste buds never acquired the need for meat at a young age, which made it easy for me to turn it down and find other nutrient-dense foods to nourish my body. A child doesn’t make the connection where meat and dairy comes from, they simply correlate savory tastes and flavors to perfectly packaged and marketed animal products. As adults they are programmed to disconnect from the food on their plate. After not eating animals for the last 24 years of my life, the most difficult part is finding options in a meat-centered society. Fortunately, the market is changing due to high demand, especially among millennials.

Favorably, people are becoming inspired to eat plant-based foods. They are learning it’s a lot easier than they thought and that plant-based foods can have a similar delectable taste that sends the same signals to the brain as would a ribeye steak. Plant-based foods are becoming more popular and convenient. For most of us, eating meat is a choice and not a necessity. Because of issues such as world hunger, global warming, and animal suffering, eating animals has become an ethical issue. According to Psychology Today, environmentalists encourage us to cut down on meat consumption in favor of vegetable foods that are better for the environment. The Food and Agriculture organization states that raising livestock takes about 80% of all agricultural land and produces just 18% of the world’s calories.       

Since prehistoric times, humans have been hunters and gatherers. However, it is different in modern society. Many systems put in place are outdated, and need to be reassessed as a whole. Animals are treated as commodities in a society dominated by large-scale animal agriculture corporations. People pay industries to mass produce and slaughter animals for them. This is unnatural in many ways compared to how our ancestors derived food. Agriculture has become an industry concerned with profit, and not about sustaining life. Meat was a necessity for our ancestors who hunted to survive; now it has become something you order off the dollar menu. Corporations genetically modify, chemically alter, and artificially inseminate animals confined in small cages at concentrated animal feeding operations. These animals aren’t here by God’s choice, they were bred into existence unnaturally to be slaughtered at a young age. Plants also are genetically altered and doused in harmful chemicals. The message society is sending to consumers is in order to be healthy; you must be wealthy. Is this the message that will continue?

The word “meat” became indirectly marketed with masculinity. However, many top athletes, including Tom Brady, Aaron Rogers, Serena Williams, and Lewis Hamilton, are adding plant-based protein to their diet, and winning as a result. Kendrick Farris is the only U.S. weightlifter qualified for the Olympics. Aside from breaking records, a plant based diet has helped him decrease recovery time, and improve mood, sleep and energy levels. Meat is a dense tissue and takes massive amounts of energy to break down. The same energy resources could be spent for regeneration, detoxification, and recovery after exercise. “We shouldn’t get so caught up with ‘protein’ because you can get an excess of protein, and most of it just gets passed through the body.” States Farris. All plants have varied amounts of protein that add up throughout the day. Foods such as beans, nuts, seeds, and algae match the protein density found in animal products.

The point of a whole-foods plant-based diet is to be conscious of what you put in your body. Cultures that enjoy health and longevity consume the least amount of animal products. Okinawa, Japan has the highest life expectancy. They believe in mindful eating; they take the time to think about what and how they’re consuming food. Okinawans eat less seafood than most Japanese, and instead of rice, sweet potatoes are the staple food in the traditional cuisine. Their diet is abundant in green and yellow vegetables, fruit, and various soy products. According to BBC, Okinawa’s oldest residents also have far lower rates of cancer, diabetes and dementia than other aging populations. A plant-based lifestyle is for anyone who wants to look and feel their best. It is not a fad or a trend, it’s a way of life and it is here to stay.

The Economist declares 2019 will be the “Year of the Vegan,” while Forbes predicts more people will “embrace a plant-based lifestyle.” According to The Economist, a quarter of millenial Americans identify as vegan or vegetarian. Forget fad diets, short term goals, and depriving yourself of foods. A lifestyle and mindset change is all you need to maintain health and wellness. A whole-foods plant-based lifestyle is about adding nutritious, delicious plant-based foods to your life for a lifetime. Instead of trying to follow a strict regimen, add plant-based diversity to your diet and find a balanced lifestyle suitable to your unique nutritional needs.

More people are developing a vegetable friendly palate. Social media is helping people learn new recipes, join support groups, and swap animal for plant-based protein. There are many reasons to choose nutritious food that loves you back. This movement is expanding every day. It could be for health and athletic endurance, the animals, your taste buds, ethics, or for the environment. Animals are good to us. They give us companionship, unconditional love, and forgiveness. Yet they become slaves to us for food, clothing, experiments, and entertainment which causes them great suffering. We separate each other by class, race, sex, and species. Rather than observing each other as a part of a greater whole, we build imaginary boundaries. As long as humans see other living beings as subservient to them, we will never achieve world peace.

Chocolate Banana Nut Muffin

  • 1 pasture-raised egg
  • 3 bananas
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • ½ cup almond butter
  • ½ cup walnuts or almonds (or a mix of both)
  • ½ cup enjoy life semi-sweet chocolate
  • 1 ½ cup almond flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • ½ tsp distilled white vinegar
  • ½ tsp salt
  • ¼ cup pure cane sugar

Grease muffin pan or use silicone muffin tray. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cut bananas in thin slices, add vanilla extract and mash. Mix almond butter, nuts, egg, and sugar together then stir. Add flour, baking soda, distilled white vinegar, chocolate chips, and salt. Stir thoroughly.  Bake for 20 minutes.

Blueberry Açaí smoothie

  • 1 Sambazon açaí superfruit pack
  • 1 cup Blueberries
  • 1 Banana
  • ½ cup Goodbelly Blueberry Acai Probiotic juice or Organic Greek yogurt
  • ½ cup Almond milk

Thousand Island salad

  • Your choice of leafy greens
  • 2 tsp flaxseed meal
  • 4 Cherry Tomatoes
  • 1/2 cucumber
  • Sunflower seeds 


  • ½ cup Vegenaise
  • 1 tbsp Sweet Pickle Relish
  • 1 tsp Ketchup
  • A dash of salt

The Decline of America’s Health and Nutrition

January 2nd, 2019

By Sumer Dene

I received a Bachelor’s degree in Animal Science at Rutgers University. Afterwards, I researched animal law at the Superior Courts in Washington, D.C. These fundamental experiences inspired me to examine how belief systems, laws, and science influence food production.

We are inundated with fast food corporations and advertisements aimed to fix problems while creating them. A “happy meal” entices children to be brand loyal to a logo, while parents are lured by convenience and price. Nonetheless, kids are encouraged to eat addictive, unhealthy food in exchange for a gift and Americans suffer through relentless habit.

Healthy food is inaccessible and unaffordable to many communities while chronic disease is the leading cause of death and disability in America. The most common, and costly preventable health problems include heart disease, stroke, cancer, type 2 diabetes, obesity, and arthritis. According to the United Nations, over 800 million people suffer from undernourishment around the world. For the Dietary Guidelines of 2020-2025, we urge policymakers to make critical decisions in securing the future of nutritious food supply.

Unsustainable Agriculture
Food is an important part of identity to maintain physical, emotional and mental health. It is a creative tool to best represent a person’s heritage and to connect people, globally, culturally, and even spiritually. However, there is a widespread cognitive dissonance in our relationship with food and how it got to our plate. This is a result of mass marketing of ultra-processed foods that undermine traditional culture. The destructive power of large-scale animal agribusiness far exceeds any other technology on earth. The U.N. addresses meat as the “world’s most urgent problem.” Instead of carrying the past in front of us, we must look forward to improve food production, health, the environment, and a booming economy and ecosystem.

The Guidelines
Integrity is determined by individuals awareness of truth and the ability to innovate and lead with research-driven science. Branded labels guide consumers when making important nutritional choices. The USDA oversees Federal Dietary Guidelines as well as policy and promotion of meat and dairy products. They are also in charge of educational systems, nutritional programs and multi-billion dollar advertising campaigns. The Standard American Diet (SAD) promotes food that may make you ill, particularly to the young and the poor. The USDA supports the agricultural economy by partnering with large scale food corporations such as McDonald’s, Taco Bell, and Dominos, to develop heavy meat and dairy menus. Dietary Guidelines affect school lunch programs, nutrition for the military, food subsidies, food labels, SNAP (food stamps), and job growth.

Health Issues:

Hunger and Disease
According to the USDA, models are emerging that view hunger as a health issue. The need for sustainable, nutritious food has skyrocketed. Imagine if the agriculture department existed mainly for land grants to local farmers and funding for agricultural research and education. Many doctors and scientists have recommended to limit meat and dairy for the future of food supply. This would reduce the catastrophic effects of industrial farming, from its vast emissions, water pollution, and disease. A change in dietary guidelines would allow opportunities for new markets to grow, give support to local organic farmers, increase global collaboration, improve access and affordability to healthy foods, and advance sustainable technology for food production.

A Giant Leaf Forward
A dedicated group of chefs, gardeners, researchers, culinary anthropologists, and nutritionists are developing an integrative plant-based menu for the 2030 Mars Mission. Space gardens will be essential to explore space beyond lower earth orbit. The veggie experiment at the International Space station grows plants in a lunar greenhouse with very little water and no soil. This could be used on earth as a large-scale hydroponic source of food. Space exploration brings out the best in people, improves life on earth, and inspires youth to get involved to make a difference in the world. The food choices we make directly affect the world around us. We are a part of a whole, interconnected system. For the upcoming Dietary Guidelines of 2020-2025, scientists, doctors, and policymakers will discuss the imminent changes needed to protect the health and welfare of our planet. The question is: “Where will the future take us?” The committee will conduct a review of evidence and conclude with a scientific report by early 2020.

The Facts, Effects of Agribusiness
80% of antibiotics sold in the U.S. are for livestock.

Less than 1% of U.S. farmland is organic. Livestock covers 45% of the earth’s total land and accounts for more worldwide greenhouse gas emissions than all of the transportation systems combined.

Animal agriculture is responsible to up to 91% of Amazon deforestation, 136 million rainforest acres have been cleared to grow feed and animals. Agribusiness is the leading cause of species extinction, deforestation, water pollution and habitat destruction.

Animal farms pollute waterways more than all other industrial sources and account for more than half of water used in the United States.

Over 95% of farm animals in the U.S. are raised in factory farms with minimal animal cruelty laws.

Livestock operations have created more than 500 nitrogen flooded dead zones in oceans around the world.

1/3 of the planet is desertified, with livestock as the leading driver.

This is known as the largest mass extinction on earth in the last 65 million years.

The Art of Healing Through Space Exploration

January 2nd, 2019

Astronaut Kate Rubin sports ‘Courage’ at the International Space Station Center (ISS).

By Sumer Dene

The SpaceSuit Art PROJECT is a global collaboration of hospitals, volunteers, and the International Space Station aimed to help children battling cancer. The Spacesuit Art Project was founded by artist and writer Ian Cion, retired astronaut Nicole Stott, and the NASA ISS Program Communications team. Nicole Stott is deemed “The Artistic Astronaut,” as she is the first astronaut to watercolor in space. Stott has flown on two spaceflights and spent 104 days living and working in space on the ISS and Space Shuttle. Ian Cion was the founder and director of the Arts in Medicine program at the University of Texas MD Anderson Children’s Cancer Hospital, where he created a series of large-scale public works in collaboration with patients, families, staff, and community partners. Cion is now the exhibition and program manager at Rice University, Moody Center for the Arts. He coordinates and develops program initiatives for the arts center and supports development and implementation of exhibits. Stott and Cion are co-founders of the Space for Art Foundation, and recently concluded their 2nd Space for Art World Tour, which traveled to pediatric oncology hospitals in four countries – The Moscow Institute for Pediatric Oncology in Moscow, Russia; Gustave Roussy in Paris, France; Great Ormond Street Hospital in London, Great Britain; and University Hospital Pediatric Oncology Clinic, Cologne, Germany. Children use their imagination to paint patches of inspirational artwork, which is later stitched together by volunteers at spacesuit company ILC Dover to form a spacesuit. The art spacesuits – Hope, Courage, Unity and Victory; and the two suits currently in work, Exploration and Dreamer, tell the stories of pediatric patients around the world.

The Spacesuit Art Project has partnerships with hospitals in over 30 countries and includes participation with all 5 ISS agencies; spacesuit companies in both the U.S. and Russia; creative artists such as Projekt Postcard founder Loli Lanas and Russian partner and founder of Unity Movement Foundation, Alena Kuzmenko; and more than 45 NASA and international astronauts. This support offers amazing opportunities for kids to reach their highest potential, even in the most dire of circumstances. The positive, interactive experience builds a community among patients, healthcare workers, creative artists, families, and offers children a sense of purpose, hope, and fulfillment. The Spacesuit Art Project wants to increase awareness of pediatric cancer, inspire space-theme art therapy programs around the world, and understand the profound connection between space exploration, technology, art, healing, unity, and the human spirit.

The Spacesuit Art project is partners with many organizations that integrate art, science and technology through education, collaboration, and innovation. “We’d like to bring pediatric cancer research to the ISS and create more arts and medicine programs in hospitals around the world. We’d also like to start additional art projects to continue the positive relationships we’ve built along the way,” Stott explains. The Spacesuit Art Project inspires creative new ideas globally, such as The Space for Art Foundation in the U.S. and the Unity Movement Foundation in Russia, formed to develop space-inspired art therapy programs, exhibits, and research. It has also led to Postcards to Space, artistic messages created by children and sent via an electronic art compilation to astronauts at the ISS, and Earthrise projects, a network of educational and research centers with a variety of space-related activities for all ages. Children at partnering hospitals were even able to visit mission control in Houston to ask questions to astronauts while in space. This encourages children to ask meaningful, imaginative questions and think beyond their circumstance to look forward to the future.

The Spacesuit Art project wants to raise awareness of pediatric cancer. According to the National Pediatric Cancer Society, cancer is the No. 1 cause of death by disease among children, but only 4% of federal government research funding goes to study it. We still don’t really know why children get cancer, although much of what we have learned to treat adult cancers, such as combination chemotherapy, was discovered from childhood cancer research.

Pediatric research has developed groundbreaking new therapies, interventions, vaccines, and diagnostic tests that have improved lives worldwide. Researchers are beginning to understand genetic mutations that might cause certain types of pediatric cancer. Immunotherapy and genomic medicine are inspirational fields of study dedicated to find individualized treatment methods for all cancer types. The Childhood Cancer Data Lab (CCDL) is accelerating the path to a cure by empowering health professionals to harness the power of large-scale collections of harmonized data. The mission is to find the cure for childhood cancer by allocating data and resources sufficiently.

“We can shift the role an artist plays by building interdisciplinary teams to utilize art in the field of health and exploration. As an explorer, it’s not just one path. It only matters how we communicate and integrate information to get to the same destination. Art gives kids [and adults] a sense of purpose, wonder and accomplishment. There is a commonality between astronauts and children who are battling cancer, they both require incredible strength and courage to overcome isolation, risk, and medical procedures. These spacesuits are made as a prayer for the kids and a celebration of life.” Cion adds.

The mission of the Spacesuit Art Project could not have been accomplished without the wonderful volunteers, such as the many space professionals like ILC Dover, NASA’s space suit engineers since the beginning of project Apollo, and Zvezda, the Russian space agencies spacesuit manufacturer.

ILC Dover and Zvezda generously donated time and talent to build the Hope and Unity and Victory suits for the Spacesuit Art Project. David Graziosi and many other engineers volunteered time and effort to work with children at hospitals and put together a cutting-edge spacesuit with paintings from thousands of pediatric patients around the world. “Interacting with the children at the hospital was life-changing. It showed me what’s important in life and also how short life can be.” Graziosi explained. Many people are inspired to join the Spacesuit Art Project and the other work of the Space for Art Foundation because of its impact on youth and the opportunity it gives to children and their families. Children recognize the universe and humankind as a whole, interconnected system. They are curious about the mysteries of life and naturally innocent. There’s no borders, boundaries or limits when everyone works together, there’s only opportunities to overcome obstacles in search for a cure.

Healthcare Nation

December 1st, 2018

By Sumer Dene

Change is constant, and culture is changing. A society’s principles and policies represent a nation’s way of life. We all have freedom of choice, the natural rights inherent to all. According to the United Nations, Human rights include the right to life, freedom, liberty, work, education and even to enjoy the arts. However, in our Democracy, do we have the right to truth and transparency in public and private institution? What is the price placed on quality of life and well-being?

A ‘conscious corporation’ succeeds by recognizing a need in society and satisfying that need in the most effective, responsible way. Consumer expectations evolve as we empower each other and find true purpose for the greater good. In the media age, there is no gap between corporation and consumer and no limit to how far we can go together. There is no room left for egos and agendas as we face fundamental issues across the nation, within industries and throughout humanity. Difficulties stem from misunderstanding of ourselves and others, misleading claims in media and advertisements, and insufficient research sponsored by parties of interest. We are inundated with information as we search for innovative ways to discover life-changing medicine, communicate shared value systems, and allocate resources efficiently. If people are confused and distracted, it’s far more difficult to think critically and make imperative, conscientious decisions. Marketing is everything. How something is presented to you determines what you see.

A study from BBC indicates pharmaceutical companies spend more on marketing drugs, in some cases twice as much, than they do on developing them. BBC concludes profit margins are often much larger than money spent on research. Furthermore, companies have been faced with multi-billion dollar fines for malpractice and misbranding unsafe drugs. According to Reuters, an international news agency, “U.S. prices for the world’s 20 top-selling medicines are, on average, three times higher than in Britain.” In America, prescription costs are based on economic incentive and marketable value. Although, by being innovators and leader in research and technology, we help subsidize the rest of the world’s drug costs. The FDA works closely with pharmaceutical companies to determine which drugs can be marketed to the public. In recent years, FDA regulations are not as rigorously regulated. Competition and variety in a free market, in theory, would help lower prices of medication and encourage Americans to be more involved with their health. However, Consumers pay for brand names, not the effectiveness of drugs and the strained relationship between patients and healthcare providers lead to an overmedicated, mismanaged system.

America spends the most per capita and GDP on healthcare, yet has less than average life expectancy rates and higher rates of chronic conditions, obesity, and infant mortality. The U.S. Government mandates outdated dietary guidelines that advise a low-fat diet, which is linked to poor mental health, hormonal imbalances, inflammation and higher risks of insulin resistance and diabetes. The Food and Drug Administration allows companies to market processed, chemically engineered food that is highly addictive and unhealthy, not to mention cheap to produce. A recent study at the 2018 Experimental Biology conference examined the biochemical effects of artificial sweeteners on the body.

Data suggests artificial sweeteners alter how the body ‘processes fat and obtains energy.’ Top researchers at the Center for Science in the Public Interest agree, “Artificial colors pose risks of cancer, allergies and hyperactivity in children and should be banned.” Factory-farmed animals are cramped in small cages and injected with artificial hormones and antibiotics. If one animal becomes sick, they all are treated with antibiotics in order to reduce need for individual care. However, unnecessary use of antibiotics can lead to antibiotic-resistant organisms that propagate in dangerous numbers and enter the food supply. In the US National Library of Medicine, researchers conclude Antibiotic resistance is an emerging public health crisis and the effect on human health is yet to be determined. Experts agree, “Given divergent stakeholder interests and inadequate research to date, public policy discussions of this issue are often contentious and highly polarized.”

A change of perspective begins with grassroots effort. The goal is to spread knowledge and build a connection that links individuals, international policy and industry to global needs. Consumers want dedicated research, consistency and transparency in public and private industry as well as honest, sustainable product development. After all, people are far more important than profit, and we’re all people looking to make a difference while making a living.

Academic institutions, government agencies, non-profit organizations and industry lead the way to a future of preventative medicine, technological development, educational programs, and breakthroughs in research. Organizations can change culture through collaboration and honest communication. They can create a value system that measures value and outcome on a large-scale by setting a criteria and specific goals. Professionals from many backgrounds could develop teams to measure progress and cost-effectiveness, working together is simple when you speak a universal language.

For the holiday season, I encourage you to continue to be active in festive activities and involved with your health. Communicate with friends and family and do your own research to improve health and wellness. Eat good food but be mindful of what you’re consuming. Most of all, be grateful and give thanks for all of the blessings in your life. Let happiness, love and spirit follow us into the new year.

The Magnificent Marvels of NASA

November 1st, 2018

NASA’s special 747 carries the shuttle above the Johnson Space Center.
Photo Credit: NASA/ Sheri Locke

Sumer Dene with a Space Exploration Vehicle (SEV), which is designed to safely navigate harsh terrain.

By Sumer Dene

Wonder is experienced, it can’t be taught. Through exploration and research, aerospace changes everything. NASA celebrates 60 years of encouraging passionate, dedicated individuals to go above and beyond what they see.

The Johnson Space Center, home of human spaceflight, made Bay Area Houston the thriving waterfront city it is today. Furthermore, NASA is voted year after year the best place to work in the federal government. The International Space Station improves lives through education and innovation to strengthen relationships with academia, government and private sector leaders. The space station is built piece-by-piece in orbit with the help of many nations. The modules are built in separate countries and first meet in space to be assembled. Friday nights at the space station, astronauts and cosmonauts join together to watch movies and share cuisine. They become family with an outlook that reaches beyond our scope.

Astronauts and Cosmonauts enjoy the pre-release of ‘Star Wars: The Last Jedi at the International Space Station.

Educating the world
Improved technology in robotics can lead to minimally invasive surgeries, safer cars, and mass harvesting of fruits and vegetables. Robotics engineer Lucien Junkin says, “The purpose of the Robotics Education program is to gather knowledge and spread it to the public. Failures are meant to teach you; the most important philosophy in engineering is safety, commitment and hard work.” Young adults overcome challenges with collaborative effort to reach competitive goals. NASA offers free educational programs and scholarships to help empower education in STEM. The Robotics Education program is in need of young leaders to build the future in technological development.

The highly-respected professionals involved in aeronautics push forward courageously in pursuit of a new frontier. NASA Public Affairs Officer Gary Jordan develops and hosts Houston’s first space podcast, “Houston, we have a podcast.” The podcast discusses many influential aspects of space travel live at Johnsons Space Center. It is released every Friday with various guests, sometimes including astronauts in orbit. Questions can be asked using hashtags #askNASA and #HWHAP on various social media accounts. “NASA shows that we are all connected. We are on the same mission and happy to explore new ways to make our lives better on Earth. It is important to communicate that with the public. Society is shaped by what we do today.” We have come a long way.

What has changed?
In the early 60s, it was easy to imagine space exploration. The lives of people and how they communicated was vastly different. A peaceful movement began to end all wars, remove barriers and expand consciousness through music and language. The youth wanted to end all wars so people would realize we are all parts to a greater whole. Traveling across the galaxy in an intergalactic world to save the human race was something first seen in black and white fantasy films.

NASA developed in 1958 during a crisis in the last “idealist” time in America. Hate, fear and propaganda spread through the use television and radio. Sixty years later, we long to connect, have our voices heard and be a part of something greater than us. Now, our generation faces many more distractions. “Hope” first begins with “Focus.”

NASA is working on robonauts to help human astronauts complete simple, repetitive and dangerous tasks in space.

The Vision
NASA looks forward to the future with a goal to solve pertinent problems and coexist peacefully. Intensive research help people live a better quality life and find answers to meaningful questions. The space center influences medical and technological advances, as well as society’s culture. Dr. Liz Warren is a NASA scientist who investigates how human physiology changes in microgravity. She leads a team to implement experiments in space. Cells change to a spherical, 3D structure and protein crystals grow perfectly in space, leading to a perfect environment for groundbreaking research in all life and physical sciences.

“Our bodies are capable of enduring and adapting to new environments. We explore because we want to push ourselves further to learn, grow and make an impact. We want the next generation to feel inspired.” Space research discovers ways to combat endemic disease, understand how the planet is evolving, and harness energy and resources sufficiently.

Space exploration has helped us understand human psychology. “The Overview Effect” is coined by Frank White as the cognizant shift in awareness some astronauts experience when viewing earth from the lunar surface. He describes space exploration as the “inevitable steps in the evolution of human society and consciousness.” On Earth, conflicts and differences divide people as our navigation system judges distance from our feet to the ground. Astronauts see 16 sunsets and sunrises each day and orbit earth every 90 minutes. In space, distance is measured expansively as the speed of light. There are no borders to separate the universe and humankind, opportunities are limitless when we work together on a mission.

Bay Area Houston Magazine