OUTRAGE! The devastating chemical attack that recently occurred in Khan Sheikhoun, a city in northwestern Syria, involved the usage of a highly lethal gas that goes by the name of sarin. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the symptoms of victims were consistent with those caused by chemicals that fall in the category of nerve agents, such as sarin, making it the likely cause of the attack.
Sarin is a nerve agent; a tasteless, odorless gas (or liquid) that can be fired from a rocket, bombed aerially, or released from the ground. A cholinesterase inhibitor, it turns the nervous system against itself. What does that mean? Nerves transmit information to each other through chemicals called neurotransmitters. After a neurotransmitter has been released to fire a particular nerve and deliver its message, proteins called enzymes come along to destroy it so the same message cannot be sent to the nerves multiple times. However, nerve agents, such as sarin, block enzymes, causing a build up of neurotransmitters in the body. This causes the same message to be repeatedly fired to the nerves, making the body uncontrollable and causing death. Essentially, it kills by excess accumulation of the body’s own chemicals. For example, if your eyes are dry, your body will produce water to lubricate them, but the eyes will not stop watering if the neurotransmitter that caused it is not eliminated. Exposure to sarin will show immediate effects, including drooling, excessive sweating, watery eyes, runny nose, chest tightening, diarrhea, nausea, confusion, drowsiness, headache, paralysis, unconsciousness, respiratory failure, and/or convulsions. Those who are exposed may not be aware, as it has no odor or color. Exposure may occur by breathing air, ingesting food or liquid, or touching surfaces that have been contaminated with the chemical.
The first known use of chemicals as warfare goes back to 1915 during the World War, when the Germans released 150 tons of chlorine gas on their enemies. By 1938, German chemist Gerhard Schrader, along with his team, came up with an pesticide that was discovered to be even more toxic than the chlorine gas – accidentally leading to the discovery of sarin (the name is an acronym for the four scientists who developed it). Upon coming into contact with the liquid, Schrader and his team were incapacitated for nearly a month. Being under Nazi rule at the time, Schrader was told to focus on weaponizing sarin as soon as possible. It ended up not being used due to reasons unclear, but it was supposedly because of its lethal effects and the fear of retaliation from the opposing side. Because of its destructive nature, this Syrian attack would only be the fourth time in history that the gas was used as a weapon, the other three being in Iraq in 1988 (during the Iran-Iraq war, Iraqi aircraft spread the gas over the town of Halabja), Tokyo in 1995 (a religious Japanese cult by the name Aum Shinrikyo attacked a subway), and Syria in 2013 (during the Syrian Civil War, President Bashar al-Assad released rockets containing the gas).
What is the world doing to stop this? The Organization for the Prevention of Chemical Warfare (OPCW) is a international organization working closely with the United Nations and attempting to eradicate all usage of chemical weaponry. In 1993, the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC), a treaty which aims to abolish chemicals as weapons of mass destruction, banned sarin, classifying it as a Schedule-1 chemical. Schedule-1 chemicals are those which do not serve much of a purpose other than as weapons.
Although the ingredients for the production of such hazardous chemicals are controlled, it does not prove too difficult for the average person to get their hands on them, as this man proved. Many are readily available in the supermarket or online, such as sodium fluoride and rubbing alcohol. The tricky part is finding a fully equipped laboratory to work with, since the production of sarin is more dangerous than the chemical itself due to its high volatility.
It is essential to be educated of ongoing global crisis’, and just as important to help if possible. It is easy to turn a blind eye to events that are not affecting us directly, but realistically, there are a number of things that can be done even if you are on the other side of the world. One major way to help those suffering would be to donate! Red Cross, White Helmets, UNICEF, Save the Children, and a ton of other charities need support to continue giving aid. Check out this link for more information.
Quote of the Day
“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” – Martin Luther King Jr.
Word of the Day
Chagrin (n.): A keen feeling of mental unease, as of annoyance or embarrassment, caused by failure, disappointment, or a disconcerting event (He decided to take the day off, much to the chagrin of his boss)
For the crust:
-1.5 cups raw almonds (walnuts, pecans, or cashews could work too)
-1.5 tablespoons cocoa powder
-1/4 cup date syrup
-Pinch sea salt, to taste
For the filling:
-1 cup raw cashews, soaked in water overnight (or soak in boiling water for a couple hours to quicken the time)
-2 tablespoons almond butter
-2 tablespoons lemon juice
-1/4 cup date syrup (or any liquid sweetener)
-1 teaspoon vanilla extract
-1/8 teaspoon sea salt
-1/2 cup water
For the chocolate swirl:
-1/4 cup chocolate almond butter or Rawmio (or make your own)
To make your own chocolate almond butter, take 1/4 cup regular almond butter, 1-1.5 tablespoons date syrup, and 1-1.5 tablespoons cocoa powder. Mix the ingredients until they are thoroughly incorporated. Start out with just 1 tablespoon of the syrup and cocoa powder, and increase it as per taste. If it is too thick to swirl, add a bit of water to thin out the mixture.
For the crust, blend the dry ingredients until it makes a mixture with no nut chunks remaining. Mix in the syrup by hand until a dough is formed. If 3 tablespoons syrup is not enough to make the dough form a crust without breaking, add a tiny bit more until you have just enough. Pat this dough down, medium thick, into a pan (line the pan with wax paper/aluminum foil beforehand, so it is easy to cut the bars out later). Put this pan in the freezer to settle, and make the filling.
For the filling, the cashews should be soaked and ready to blend. Use a high speed food processor if you have one, rather than a regular blender, since it will get the job done more efficiently and there will not be any visible chunks of cashews remaining. Pour all the filling ingredients, (other than the chocolate almond butter), into the food processor, and blend until it is a smooth liquid. Take the crust out of the freezer and pour this over top. Put it back in the freezer to set.
After a couple hours (keep checking on it), the filling should be settled enough so that it is not very hard, but not a liquid either. Now take the chocolate almond butter (it should be easy enough to swirl, so make sure to add enough water if needed to reach the desired consistency). Drop dollops of it everywhere in the pan, and use a toothpick to swirl it around. Then keep this in the freezer to harden.
Serve when the bars are hard enough to cut into, which will take a couple hours. Before serving, put them in the refrigerator to soften a bit. They stay very soft if kept refrigerated the whole time, so I would recommend for longer term storage to keep in the freezer.
Nutritional Info (per serving):
Fat: 7.7 g
Carbs: 6.9 g
Sodium: 32.7 mg
Cholesterol: 0 mg
Fiber: 1.5 g
Sugar: 3.3 g
Protein: 3 g