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Brain chemistry as a determinant of mood

All the happiness research concludes that happiness is dispositional:  No matter what happens to us, we return after a while to our genetically pre-set level of happiness.  And happiness is also a strong differentiator of liberals and conservatives.  So liberals are born unhappy, which is why they are always wanting to change things in the futile search for a system that they will be happier with.  The research reported below is concerned with a closely related topic, pessimism/optimism so we may be getting closer to seeing exactly what makes liberals the angry and irrational creatures they are

If you find it hard to look on the bright side and your glass is half-empty rather than half-full, blame your lateral habenula.

Scientists say chemicals in this small part of the brain are crucial to feelings of disappointment. If the chemistry is right, we may find it easier to brush off the bad times.  But if it is out of balance, we may feel set-backs more keenly.

Researcher Roberto Malinow said: ‘The idea that some people see the world as a glass half-empty has a chemical basis in the brain.’

To work out why some people find it hard to be optimistic, the professor looked at the chemistry of a lateral habenula, a tiny area deep inside the brain.

Studies on monkeys have shown the lateral habenula becomes very active when the creatures are denied a fruit juice they are expecting.

In experiments on rats and mice, Professor Malinow showed the balance of two brain chemicals in the region to be key.

One, called glutamate, ramps up activity in the area, while the other, GABA, dampens it down.

Rats with depression made less GABA than others. But when they were given an anti-depressant, levels increased.

It is thought pessimists naturally make less GABA. This would make them feel knock-backs more deeply – and so expect bad things to happen more often.

The finding suggests making enough GABA is crucial to dealing with disappointment.

Professor Malinow, of the University of California, San Diego, said: ‘What we have found is a process that may dampen the brain’s sensitivity to negative life events.’

His research, published in the journal Science, doesn’t just help explain why some people are more pessimistic than others – it could also help in the search for new treatments for depression.

SOURCE

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An unsympathetic view of America

Last night I went to "The perfect American" by modern composer Philip Glass. It was a good opera, with lots going on, lots of drama and lots of dramatic music.  It even had a death scene.  So, except for Glass's unique music, it could have been a 19th century opera.  I went to it only for the music but it was a good show as well.  One's attention did not wander.

The whole point of the opera was to lampoon Walt Disney.  The intelligentsia will never forgive Disney for being anti-Communist but to my mind those who make excuses for Communism are the ethical cripples.

Disney was portrayed as a pathological egotist.  I am in no doubt that a hugely successful entrepreneur such as Disney had  to have a considerable ego but I am equally sure that a man who built up from scratch such a huge organization as the Disney organization had to be a very good people manager -- and no-one likes an egotist.  So whatever ego Disney had must have at least been kept in check most of the time.  So I very much doubt the accuracy of the Disney portrayal by Glass. But much in the opera was admittedly fictional so I suppose one should not take it as history



Another historical blooper was the portrayal of Abraham Lincoln as a champion of blacks and a believer in equality.  That is schoolboy history.  Lincoln was neither of those things.  In his famous letter to Horace Greeley Lincoln said that it was only the union he cared about, not blacks.  And after the war he wanted to send them all back to Africa, but was shot before he could implement that.  Let's have some words from the man himself, words spoken at the White House and addressed to a group of black community leaders on August 14th, 1862:

"You and we are different races. We have between us a broader difference than exists between almost any other two races. Whether it is right or wrong I need not discuss, but this physical difference is a great disadvantage to us both, as I think your race suffer very greatly, many of them by living among us, while ours suffer from your presence. In a word, we suffer on each side. If this be admitted, it affords a reason at least why we should be separated. It is better for both, therefore, to be separated."

Got that?

And Glass's history is equally shaky in portraying Disney as a racist.  His biographer Neal Gabler in his 2009 book 'Walt Disney: The Triumph of the American Imagination' concludes, "Walt Disney was no racist. He never, either publicly or privately, made disparaging remarks about blacks or asserted white superiority. Like most white Americans of his generation, however, he was racially insensitive."

And in describing Disney as the perfect American, Glass was largely disparaging America as a whole -- something Leftists such as Glass generally do.  The opera has yet to be performed in America.  I predict a very mixed reception to it when it is performed in America.

Why the opera first went to Madrid, then to London and then to Brisbane I do not know.  It was a very extravagant production in Brisbane with a far larger cast than needful and a huge (4-ton!) mechanical  contraption in the roof used to change scenes etc so maybe it was that only the Brisbane arts community felt able to afford it -- JR

UPDATE

Below is a picture of the front cover of the program notes for the opera.  It is supposed to be a blending of Walt's face with the face of Mickey mouse.  The effect, however, is to make Disney look insane, and certainly two-faced.  So it is all part of the demonization of him.  A most unpleasant and disturbing piece of Leftist art.



Leftists customarily envy other people's success and  Disney was VERY successful, so this attempt to pull his memory down might have been expected

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The Scottish Fascists fell at the last hurdle

The vote against independence won by a large margin

The essential features of Fascism are socialism and nationalism.  And the SNP has both those characteristics in spades.  Its leader, Salmond, was a far Leftist in his youth and all his policies are still of a Leftist ilk.  That includes his support for Greenie causes.  Hitler and Mussolini were both distinctly Green too.

And it is fascinating how Fascists all turn to intimidation by street gangs to get their way.  The behaviour of the Nationalist street gangs in Scotland was vicious and well within the range of what Fascist street fighters do -- often succeeding in silencing speakers opposed to Scottish independence and intimidating opponents of independence generally.

But the Nationalists walk away with a substantial second prize.  The  Westminster politicians have promised Scotland "DevoMax" if they stay in the UK. Broadly, that means that Scotland will be independent in all but defence and foreign policy.  They will be responsible for their own taxes and will decide on their own government spending on welfare, health etc.

Nothing will hold their socialism in check, however, so their new  powers are highly likely to be impoverishing.  Expect a lot more useless but expensive windmills for a start.

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TWO medical backflips in one day

Common treatments for prostate cancer could speed the growth of tumours, a major study has warned

Researchers found that steroid drugs which are widely prescribed because they control the disease not only stop working over time - but began to drive the spread of cancer.

The study by the Institute of Cancer Research, The Royal Marsden Foundation trust and the University of Trento in Italy tracked 16 men with advanced prostate cancer in detail.

The research found that use of glucocorticoids - steroid drugs often given alongside hormonal therapy - coincided with the emergence of mutations that led the drug to activate the disease.

Researchers said in future, men with advanced cancer should undergo very regular blood test monitoring to identify such mutations, in order to change their treatment.

They said that "liquid biopsies" analysing tumour DNA circulating in the blood could give an accurate picture of cancer development in individual patients, so treatment could be better targeted.

The study, published in in Science Translational Medicine, used complex genetic analysis of biopsies and blood samples from patients with advanced prostate cancer.

In several patients, use of glucocorticoids coincided with the emergence of androgen receptor mutations and the progression of cancer into more advanced forms.

The study showed that blood tests to measure circulating tumour DNA levels – which is less expensive and invasive than taking repeated samples of tumours with needle biopsies – could be used to monitor the emergence of treatment-resistant prostate cancer.

Study leader Dr Gerhardt Attard, Cancer Research UK Clinician Scientist at The Institute of Cancer Research, London, said: "Our study showed that a steroid treatment given to patients with advanced prostate cancer and often initially very effective started to activate harmful mutations and coincided with the cancer starting to grow again."

Professor Paul Workman, Interim Chief Executive at The Institute of Cancer Research, London, said: "Drug resistance is the single biggest challenge we face in cancer research and treatment, and we are just beginning to understand how its development is driven by evolutionary pressures on tumours.

"This important discovery reveals how some cancer treatments can actually favour the survival of the nastiest cancer cells, and sets out the rationale for repeated monitoring of patients using blood tests, in order to track and intervene in the evolution of their cancers."

Dr Matthew Hobbs, Deputy Director of Research at Prostate Cancer UK, said: "There are currently too few treatment options for men living with advanced stage prostate cancer. Not only do we desperately need to find more treatments for this group of men, we also need to understand more about when those that are available stop working and why."

He said the research was important because it could help to pinpoint the stage at which some drugs stop being effective.

"In the future this could arm doctors with the knowledge they need to ensure that no time is wasted between a drug that stops working for a man and him moving on to another effective treatment," he said.

However he cautioned that the study was an early piece of research, carried out in very few men, with larger studies needed.

SOURCE

Low-calorie sweeteners found in diet drinks RAISE the risk of obesity and diabetes by affecting how the body processes sugar

Millions rely on them to help them stay thin. But low-calorie artificial sweeteners actually raise the risk of obesity, researchers fear.

The popular sugar alternatives found in diet drinks and in sachets in cafes and restaurants may also increase the odds of diabetes.

The sweeteners under the microscope are saccharin, which is found in Sweet’N Low, sucralose, which is found in Splenda, and aspartame, which is found in many diet drinks.

The Israeli researchers that ‘today’s massive, unsupervised consumption’ of artificial sweeteners needs to be reassessed.

The warning at a time when growing concern about the damage done by sugar is likely to mean more people are switching to artificial alternatives.

British experts urged caution, saying that much of the work was done in mice. But they also said that water is the healthiest drink.

The researchers, from the Weizmann Institute of Science, first showed that all three sweeteners made it more difficult for mice to process sugar.

This is known as glucose intolerance and is important because it raises risk of developing diabetes and obesity.

In a study of almost 400 people, the researchers linked artificial sweetener with being fatter and glucose intolerance.

And, worryingly, volunteers who didn’t normally eat or drink artificially-sweetened foods began to become glucose intolerant after just four days of consumption.

The numbers affected were small – just four out of seven men and women in the trial – but the research overall was judged significant enough to be published in Nature one of the world’s most prestigious scientific journals.

Other experiments suggested the sweeteners do the damage by altering type of bacteria in the gut.

While this might seem odd, some of the bugs that live naturally in our digestive system are very good at breaking down food.

If they thrive on artificial sweeteners, this could lead to more energy being extracted from food and more fat being stored – raising the odds of obesity.

 Lead researcher Professor Eran Elinav, said: ‘Our relationship with our own individual mix of gut bacteria is a huge factor in determining how the food we eat affects us.

‘Especially intriguing is the link between use of artificial sweeteners - through the bacteria in our guts - to a tendency to develop the very disorders they were designed to prevent.

‘This calls for reassessment of today's massive, unsupervised consumption of these substances.’

The professor has stopped using artificial sweeteners. He has also removed sugar from his diet – but says it is too early to make health recommendations based on his study.

Dr Katarina Kos, a diabetes expert from the University of Exeter, said that larger-scale human studies are ‘urgently required’.

Brian Ratcliffe, professor of nutrition at Robert Gordon University, Aberdeen, said that most of the experiments related to saccharin – which is rarely found in diet fizzy drinks.  He said: ‘There seems no reason to suggest that swopping to a diet version of your favourite fizzy drink is unwise.’

Gavin Partington, of the British Soft Drinks Association, said research contradicts ‘the overwhelming body of scientific evidence’.

He said: ‘More than 40 studies have concluded that the use of low-calorie sweeteners do not lead to either an increased risk of obesity or diabetes.

‘Decades of clinical research show that low-calorie sweeteners, such as those in diet drinks, have been found to aid weight control when part of an overall healthy diet and assist with diabetes management.’

The International Sweeteners Association, which represents manufacturers including the maker of Splenda, also strongly rejected the research.

SOURCE

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The anti-salt craze is dying

I have been banging on for some years about the idiocy concerning table salt that pervades public health warnings.  Governments are always leaning on food processors to reduce the salt in their products.  That less salty foods are not as safe from bacterial contamination seems to be ignored.

The genesis of the warnings is partly theoretical and only weakly empirical.  The factual part is that high salt intake is correlated with both increased blood pressure and more frequent cardiovascular disease.  But correlation is not causation so the proof is weak.

The first big crack in the dam was a 2011 report in JAMA of a high quality study of the matter.  Its conclusion: "In this population-based cohort, systolic blood pressure, but not diastolic pressure, changes over time aligned with change in sodium excretion, but this association did not translate into a higher risk of hypertension or CVD complications. Lower sodium excretion was associated with higher CVD mortality."

So it was LOW salt levels that killed you!

That study was greeted with a fair amount of outrage and accusations that it was just an unrepeatable "one off" result.

The dominoes are now falling, however.  Just this year another good study exonerating salt has come out.  Abstract below:

Relationship Between Nutrition and Blood Pressure: A Cross-Sectional Analysis from the NutriNet-Santé Study, a French Web-based Cohort Study

Helene Lelong et al

Abstract

BACKGROUND Hypertension is the most prevalent chronic disease worldwide. Lifestyle behaviors for its prevention and control are recommended within worldwide guidelines. Nevertheless, their combined relationship with blood pressure (BP) level, particularly in the general population, would need more investigations. Our aim in this study was to evaluate the relative impact of lifestyle and nutritional factors on BP level.

METHODS Cross-sectional analyses were performed using data from 8,670 volunteers from the NutriNet-Santé Study, an ongoing French web-based cohort study. Dietary intakes were assessed using three 24-hour records. Information on lifestyle factors was collected using questionnaires and 3 BP measurements following a standardized protocol. Age-adjusted associations and then multivariate associations between systolic BP (SBP) and lifestyle behaviors were estimated using multiple linear regressions.

RESULTS SBP was higher in participants with elevated body mass indices (BMIs). Salt intake was positively associated with SBP in men but not in women. The negative relationship between consumption of fruits and vegetables and SBP was significant in both sexes. Alcohol intake was positively associated with SBP in both sexes; physical activity was not. The 5 parameters representing the well-accepted modifiable factors for hypertension reduction plus age and education level, accounted for 19.7% of the SBP variance in women and 12.8% in men. Considering their squared partial correlation coefficient, age and BMI were the most important parameters relating to SBP level. Salt intake was not associated with SBP in either sex after multiple adjustments.

CONCLUSIONS BMI was the main contributory modifiable factor of BP level after multiple adjustments.

Am J Hypertens (2014)

So it was being overweight that killed you, not salt.

So how come people have been getting it wrong?  A theoretical article recently tidies up the loose ends.  There is no abstract associated with it so I reprint the first part of it -- showing that  it was a case of the causal arrow pointing the wrong way:

An Unsavory Truth: Sugar, More than Salt, Predisposes to Hypertension and Chronic Disease

James J. DiNicolantonio et al.

He et al state that the association between sugar-sweetened beverage consumption and blood pressure may be mediated, at least in part, by salt intake. We take the issue with several points made by the authors and make a case for quite different conclusions. The authors state that "salt is a major drive to thirst": "an increase in salt intake will increase the amount of fluid consumed, and if part of this fluid is in the form of soft drinks, sugar will be increased proportionately." In other words, salt consumption drives fluid intake, and sugar may just, coincidentally, come along for the ride. We would argue something more akin to the opposite. Sugar consumption leads to insulin spikes, low blood sugar, and hunger. Sugar is a major drive to hunger: an increase in sugar will increase the amount of food consumed, and if part of this food is in the form of processed foods, sodium will be increased proportionately. In other words, sugar consumption drives food intake, and sodium may just. coincidentally, come along for the ride. Processed foods are the principal source of dietary sodium. They also happen to be predominant sources of added sugars.

American Journal of Cardiology, Vol. 114, Issue 7, p1126–1128

For other findings that alerted me to the salt nonsense, see the sidebar of my  FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC blog


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Since when is speaking AT the same as speaking FOR?

The post below is from the far-Left "Daily Kos". They do not as yet know what Curry will say. But you must not even speak at some places. Just being in the company of conservatives discredits a person, apparently.  In Communist and Fascist regimes you could be executed for the company you keep, so it is nice to see what company the American Left keeps

Curry is actually a Warmist.  She just doubts that we know how severe the warming will be.  She allows that it could be trivial.  That is enough to get her cast into outer darkness however.  No debate permitted!  Science, data and facts no longer matter, only your politics.


Judith Curry, former Chair of the School of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences at the Georgia Institute of Technology was, until now, one of the few skeptics with a veneer of credibility.

But that is slated to change, as she will be featured in a George C. Marshall Institute event at The National Press Club. For those who are unaware, the Marshall Institute is a conservative "think tank" that began lobbying to support Reagan's Strategic Defense Initiative. Over time the Institute shifted from Cold War hype to the downplaying of environmental threats, including the dangers of secondhand smoke, CFCs' effect on the ozone, and now climate change.

The Institute's event is titled "State of the Climate Debate" and will focus on the (supposedly) weakening case for human caused climate change as well as the link between extreme weather events and climate change, and the challenges of "deep climate uncertainty" for policymakers.

Perhaps the bigger story, however, is this event may be the last straw for Curry's dwindling credibility in academia. It's one thing to question the consensus or otherwise indirectly assist anti-climate science arguments. But to speak on behalf of a group heavily funded by fossil fuel companies and conservative donors—a group with a well-known 30 year history of distorting science for political aims—well that may just be career suicide. At least, academic career suicide. Unfortunately, if Curry has given up on respectability, this may just be the first of many such events.

SOURCE


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More prophecy spun out of thin air

The article below appeared under the heading: "Climate Change Gets Personal As Minnesota Faces Loss Of Its Beloved Loon‏".  Sadly the loon concerned is NOT Al Franken.  It is a bird. And what is the story based on?  Is is based on a series of annual population counts that show a decline?  That would be the scientific way.  But this is Warmism, not science, so there is no word of that. The  report appears to be just another Warmist prophecy which ignores the fact that the slight warming of the late 20th century has now stopped for some time and it is anybody's guess whether it will restart or not

Matthew Anderson, just like most other Minnesotans he knows, has a favorite loon story.

It happened this year. Anderson, the executive director of the National Audubon Society’s Minnesota chapter, was out on a boat in western Wisconsin with his four-year-old daughter. They spotted a common loon with two chicks on its back, and watched as the chicks slid off their parent’s back and dove beneath the water’s surface. The parent then stuck its head down underneath the water so it could keep an eye on the chicks as they swam underwater.

“To see her smile on her face … and to think that my four-year-old, when she’s 38, 39, 40, that loons might not be here, that hurts,” he said.

This week, the Audubon Society released a comprehensive report on the threats North America’s birds face from climate change. The report found that the common loon, Minnesota’s beloved state bird, is projected to have just 25 percent of its non-breeding season range and 44 percent of its breeding season range left by 2080.

Due to warming temperatures and changing weather patterns, the report states, “it looks all but certain that Minnesota will lose its iconic loons in summer by the end of the century.” The common loon has a better chance than some other birds of being able to adapt to a new, more northern habitat as the earth warms, but that still means Minnesota won’t have the loons its residents have long been used to.

I think for a lot of people, their trips north aren’t really complete without loon calls or seeing a loon or loon family on the lake.

For Minnesotans, Anderson said, that’s a big deal. Minnesota is the only state to have the common loon as its state bird (unlike the Northern cardinal, which is claimed by seven states, and the western meadowlark, which represents six states), and since the state is known as the “land of 10,000 lakes,” many of its residents frequent lakes and rivers for fishing, water sports, canoeing and boating, making loon encounters common. The loon’s haunting cry and its awkward gait on land — due to its legs, which are set farther back on its body than other birds’ — have helped Minnesotans fall in love with the waterbird.

“People care deeply about loons up here, especially people who live on lakes,” Erica LeMoine, coordinator of LoonWatch, which is based in Wisconsin but does work in Minnesota, told ThinkProgress. “A lot of people who visit northern areas, one of the things they want to experience is loons. I think for a lot of people, their trips north aren’t really complete without loon calls or seeing a loon or loon family on the lake.”

SOURCE


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Some amusing non-news about ozone

Here it is, right from the horse's mouth, the horse being the summary in the official WMO report which is giving a lot of Greenies erections at the moment.  Im my usual pesky way I went back to the original science rather than  accepting journalistic spin about it.  Read it and see whether you think there is anything notable in it:
Total column ozone declined over most of the globe during the 1980s and early 1990s (by about 2.5% averaged over 60°S to 60°N). It has remained relatively unchanged since 2000, with indications of a small increase in total column ozone in recent years, as expected. In the upper stratosphere there is a clear recent ozone increase, which climate models suggest can be explained by  comparable contributions from declining ODS abundances and upper stratospheric cooling caused by carbon dioxide increases.

The Antarctic ozone hole continues to occur each spring, as expected for the current ODS abundances. The Arctic stratosphere in winter/spring 2011 was particularly cold, which led to large ozone depletion as expected under these conditions.


Far from ozone declining, the finding is a small INCREASE in the amount of ozone overhead.  And the Antarctic ozone hole apparently shows no trend other than what can be attributed to recent COOLING.  (Where's that global warming gone?)

I would have thought that the findings were a total disappointment to the Greenies and their Montreal Protocol but they are manging somehow to spin it in a way that keeps their spirits up.

The spin that the Warmists are putting on it is that the ozone "hole" has stopped growing.  But how can they know that?  The hole is highly variable from year to year and it could very easily roar back overnight bigger than ever.  Warmists really are a sad bunch.


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IQ in decline across the world as scientists say we’re getting dumber

This is a generally good article below but it needs a little more background.  In particular, one needs to know why IQ scores rose for most of the 20th century (the "Flynn effect").  The evidence seems to converge on more schooling. As people got more and more  schooling (as they mostly did throughout the 20th century) they learned more and more test-taking strategies and that helped when they did IQ tests.  But that process obviously had its limits and that limit has now generally been reached.  Now that the Flynn effect has run its course we see what the underlying tendency is -- towards a dumbing down of the population.  With dumb women having most of the babies, any other result would be a surprise

FOR at least a century, average IQ has been on the rise, thanks to improved nutrition, living conditions and technology.  But now, scientists think the trend is going into reverse.

In Denmark, every man aged 18 is given an IQ test, to assess them in case of military conscription. It means around 30,000 people have been taking the same test for years — and scores have fallen by 1.5 points since 1998.

The pattern is repeated around the world, according to New Scientist, with tests showing the same thing happening everywhere from Australia and the UK to Brazil and China.

The most rapid signs of IQ growth in the US appeared between the 1950s and 1980s, the magazine reported, with “intelligence” rocketing by around 3 points per decade.

The trend for rising IQs was first documented by New Zealand scientist James Flynn, and is known as the Flynn Effect. It has been attributed to advances in health and medicine, as well as ever-expanding technology and culture forcing us to contend with a multi-layered world.

Now, the theory is that in developed countries, improvements such as public sanitation and more stimulating environments may have gone as far as they can in terms of increasing our intelligence.

The first evidence of a dip in IQ was reported in Norway in 2004, closely followed by similar studies emerging from developed countries including Sweden and the Netherlands.

Dr Flynn has said that such minor decreases could be attributable to reversible issues with social conditions, such as falling income, unhealthy diet or problems with education.

But some experts believe our IQs are in a state of permanent decline.

Some researchers suggest that the Flynn effect has masked an underlying decline in our genetic intelligence — meaning more people have been developing closer to their full potential, but that potential has been dropping.

This has been attributed in some quarters to the fact that the most highly educated people in society are having fewer children than the general population.

It is an uncomfortable thought, and one that strays worryingly close to controversial theories on genetic modification and even eugenics.

Richard Lynn of the University of Ulster in the UK says our IQ has declined by 1 point between 1950 and 2000, which seems very small.

But Michael Woodley, a psychologist at Free University of Brussels in Belgium, said even such a small drop can mean a dramatic reduction in the number of highly intelligent people — those geniuses who are responsible for our greatest innovations.

In fact, Dr Woodley says our IQ has been in decline since Victorian times, while Professor Gerald Crabtree says it happened as soon as we started to live in densely populated areas with a steady supply of food — 5000 to 12,000 years ago.

The importance of IQ trends is up for debate in itself, since IQ tests can be an unreliable measure of intelligence, skewed by education and preparation for solving certain kinds of problems.

Furthermore, many experts say there are multiple forms of intelligence. While academic intelligence is important, it is often people with other qualities, such as determination and self-control, who are most successful or socially productive.

When we say we are becoming more intelligent, are we simply learning different ways of thinking?

As Dr Flynn himself said: “There are other intellectual qualities, namely, critical acumen and wisdom, that IQ tests were not designed to measure and do not measure and these are equally worthy of attention.

“Our obsession with IQ is one indication that rising wisdom has not characterised our time.”


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Who was to blame for this death in custody?

Clementine Ford below doesn't really know.  She even admits that the woman may have died from something she had before she was taken into custody.  She nonetheless suggests that the woman died because she was an Aborigine. There is no doubt that the woman received poor healthcare from a government hospital but is it only Aborigines who receive poor healthcare from government hospitals?

It is not.  Almost every day in the Daily Mail one can read cases where ordinary (white) Brits failed to receve appropriate heathcare from British government hospitals despite many hospital visits.  And they do sometimes die as a result.

So I will tell you what Clemmie (who is a radical feminist) would never tell.  The woman died because of the insanity of having uncaring government employees running hospitals.  Most Australians know that from contact with their own government hospitals  -- which is why around 40% of Australians have private hospital insurance

Clemmie also displays typical Leftist dishonesty below.  She says, as if it proved something, that "Aboriginal people make up only 2.3% of the Australian population, yet they accounted for around 18% of deaths in custody".  She totally ignored the findings of the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody which found that the number of Aboriginal deaths in custody has been roughly commensurate with the fraction of prison inmates who are Aboriginal.

Clemmie is an embittered crook and all the lipstick in the world won't hide it



In terms of infrastructure, Australia is a developed nation. We have a (mostly) affordable healthcare system, access to effective medical intervention and a welfare system that, while imperfect, is still more comprehensive than many other countries. So why do we still hear stories of people who have been so grossly failed by the system that they have become casualties to it?

Last week, the compassionate among us were rocked by revelations that an asylum seeker imprisoned on Manus Island had lapsed into a coma which rendered him brain dead after a cut on his foot was left untreated and became septic. A cut. In response, vigils were held where citizens called once again on the government to apply some basic humanity to the treatment of asylum seekers.

And yet, this despicable disregard for human lives deemed less worthy as a result of Australia's institutionalised racism is not limited to those unfortunate souls who have the temerity to seek safety on our shores. Just over a month ago, a 22 year old woman in Port Hedland died while in police custody. Her crime? Ostensibly, the failure to pay a $1000 fine.

But maybe it was also just that she was Aboriginal.

In early August, the young Yamatji woman (whose name we will refer to only as `Miss Dhu' and whose photograph we will not publish in accordance with her family's wishes) was incarcerated for four days alongside her partner for failing to pay a fine. In WA, recipients of fines can elect to pay them off in custody at a rate of $250 a day, a policy which the shadow Aboriginal Affairs Minister Ben Wyatt believes helps to maintain the persistently high rate of incarceration of Indigenous people while failing to address the underlying issues which might lead to this.

And so it was that Miss Dhu ended up police custody. Despite complaining early on of experiencing severe pain, vomiting and even partial paralysis (which may have been as a result of a septic infection relating to a blood blister on her foot acquired prior to her arrest), Miss Dhu was twice released from the local Hedland Health Campus after being deemed fit to return to the watchhouse. Incredibly, it has been reported that these decisions were made despite Miss Dhu not being seen by a doctor in either visit. Her partner Dion Ruffin has alleged that as she grew increasingly sicker, police laughed and accused her of acting. Around midday on August 4, Miss Dhu made her final visit to the Hedland Health Campus while in a `near catatonic state'.

Shortly after, she was pronounced dead.

This is an horrific outcome, by any stretch of the imagination. Yet, shamefully, it took me almost a full month to even hear about Miss Dhu, let alone the circumstances surrounding her death. And while I don't wish to further disempower Aboriginal communities by assuming to speak for them, I do want to express my horror at the fact that something like this can happen and not cause even the vaguest ripple across mainstream Australian media. Even now, the most comprehensive reporting I can find is on the independent websites The Stringer and the Deaths In Custody Watch Committee WA, while SBS and The Australian have published a handful of pieces. When I spoke to my editor about writing this piece, she confessed she had also not heard about it.

How does such deafening silence happen without the complicity - conscious or not - of a nation all too comfortable with ignoring the systemic racism and oppression inflicted on some of our most routinely degraded citizens?

Aboriginal people make up only 2.3% of the Australian population, yet they accounted for around 18% of deaths in custody between 1980 and 2007. To put a human face on that, 379 Aboriginal people died while in police custody during this period. Between 2008 and 2012, a further 54 Aboriginal people have died while incarcerated. Despite a 1987 Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody, most of its 339 recommendations (made in its final report in 1991) have never been implemented - recommendations which some people say might have saved Miss Dhu's life.

Why are we so slow to respond to crises involving the treatment of Aboriginal people? Only one person on Twitter raised the issue with me, which was the first I'd heard of it. This silence may be wilful or it may be accidental - either way, it's a shameful indictment on Australia's attitudes towards Aboriginal self determination, autonomy and dignity.

Miss Dhu was a person with as meaningful and complex an identity as anybody else. And while the relative anonymity I have chosen to write about her with may seem isolating to readers used to being provided with names and faces as a point of connection, in the end this may be the most damning point of all. That for an Aboriginal woman living in the Pilbara, death in custody was a fate more likely to befall her than it is me, a middle class white woman living in inner city Melbourne.

Wider society can think of her as faceless and unimportant, just another nameless person whose death can pass us by. Or we can think of her as a symbol for all Aboriginal people disenfranchised by the system, whose oppression is aided by those of us who form part of and benefit from White Australia. She may be a single person of importance whose face can carry the weight of all those unacknowledged deaths, all that ignored pain and suffering.

A person who doesn't matter, or a matter for all persons. Which do you choose?

SOURCE

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Cool summer doesn’t invalidate climate change (?)

You've got to hand it to the guy below.  He's better than most Warmists.  He ATTEMPTS to marshall some scientific evidence for his argunent.  But he has been taken in by Warmist pseudo-science.  He says “Each of the past three decades has been successively warmer" but hasn't noticed that the "warming" concerned is measured in (totally insignificant) hundredths of one degree!  He says the Arctic and Antarctic ice is shrinking. He is quoting old stuff about the Arctic.  In recent years the icecap  has started growing again.  And he is dead wrong about the Antarctic. The ice there has been continuously growing and is now at an all-time high.  So his "facts" are, in effect lies.  But Warmists have got little else.  Lies and distortion are their stock in trade

LABOR DAY has come and gone. Autumn looms. But how can summer be over when it never really began?

If you feel cheated — where were the scorchers and leaden humid nights? — it’s not your imagination. July and August really did feel more like an extension of spring than a separate season. The Boston area had but four days over 90 degrees; usually it has 10. Average temperatures for the summer were well below normal too. This, of course, followed on the heels of a cold and snowy winter that felt like it would never end. And, to top it off, the Farmers’ Almanac predicts that the winter to come will be even worse than last.

So much for this global warming nonsense, huh?

Admit it. In some fashion, you’ve probably given voice to the thought. If climate change is real — if the world is supposedly heating up — then how come last winter was so long and our summer so cool? It’s because our perspective is skewed. We’re like a guy with his head in the refrigerator while his house is burning down, thinking nothing’s wrong. In fact, climate change proceeds apace. Our cool summer offers proof.

The world continues to get warmer. Of that, there is no doubt. The United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change just released drafts of its most recent assessment (the final version should be issued in October), and the news is grim. “Each of the past three decades has been successively warmer at the earth’s surface than all the previous decades in the instrumental record, and the first decade of the 21st century has been the warmest,” it notes. Indeed, despite New England’s experience, 2013 was, worldwide, the hottest year on record, and 2014 may be hotter still. And the impacts of that rise are now being observed everywhere. The oceans are warmer. Ice sheets in Greenland, the Antarctic, and Arctic are getting smaller. Glaciers are retreating. The acidity of the oceans (caused by the absorption of carbon dioxide) has gone up 30 percent since the mid-1800s. Sea levels are rising too — 6.7 inches in the last 100 years. Extreme weather events are on the rise.

SOURCE

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Are lesbians fat?

No.  Surprisingly. My late sister was a lesbian and those of her friends that I met were definitely hefty.  There has previously  been research showing that lesbians are fatter but a recent high quality research project separated out bisexual women from lesbian women and found that it was only the bisexuals who were unusually fat.  Come to think of it, my sister would probably rate as a bi.  She was married to a really nice guy once. I reproduce the abstract below but you really need to look at the tables to get the full picture.

Some of the other findings:  Blacks were fatter regardless; male homosexuals were slimmer than male heterosexuals.  Not surprising.  Male homosexuals are often very "looks" oriented and tend to take considerable care over their appearance.  And fat is not attractive.

Sexual Orientation Disparities in BMI among US Adolescents and Young Adults in Three Race/Ethnicity Groups

Sabra L. Katz-Wise et al.

Abstract

Obesity is a key public health issue for US youth. Previous research with primarily white samples of youth has indicated that sexual minority females have higher body mass index (BMI) and sexual minority males have lower BMI than their same-gender heterosexual counterparts, with sexual orientation differences in males increasing across adolescence. This research explored whether gender and sexual orientation differences in BMI exist in nonwhite racial/ethnic groups. Using data from Waves I–IV (1995–2009) of the US National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health (N = 13,306, ages 11–34 years), we examined associations between sexual orientation and BMI (kg/m2) over time, using longitudinal linear regression models, stratified by gender and race/ethnicity. Data were analyzed in 2013. Among males, heterosexual individuals showed greater one-year BMI gains than gay males across all race/ethnicity groups. Among females, white and Latina bisexual individuals had higher BMI than same-race/ethnicity heterosexual individuals regardless of age; there were no sexual orientation differences in black/African Americans. Sexual orientation disparities in BMI are a public health concern across race/ethnicity groups. Interventions addressing unhealthy weight gain in youth must be relevant for all sexual orientations and race/ethnicities.

J Obes. 2014: 537242


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Pictures, pictures!

I have just gone through my blogs for the first half of this year and picked out what I think are the "best" pictures that appeared in that period.  You can access the result here or here.


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Big Al to the rescue




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Amicable divorce 'is just as damaging for children': Impact of a split on youngsters is same if couple remain friends or not (?)

Groan!  More lazy and hence inconclusive research.  The data was parental reports, nothing else.  It shows that all divorced parents are prone to see their kids as damaged but it tells you nothing about which were in fact damaged.  The journal article is "Postdivorce Coparenting Typologies and Children's Adjustment"

Divorcing parents who try to maintain an amicable relationship for the sake of their children are doing nothing to help them, a major study suggests.

The impact of the split on youngsters is the same whether or not the mother and father keep cordial links, it found.

The findings undermine a Government-backed consensus that the harm caused to children by separating parents can be limited if the couple remain friends.

Three Whitehall ministries are currently ploughing money into supporting a policy on divorce and family break-up which says that it is conflict between the parents and not their separation itself that harms children. The new study, the first in 20 years to examine how the behaviour of separated parents affects their children, was carried out by US academics.

It covered 270 parents who were divorced or separated between 1998 and 2004 in an unnamed US state that compels divorcees to take part in an education programme on ‘co-operative co-parenting’.

Of these, 31 per cent considered their relationship with their ex-spouse as ‘co-operative and involved’; 45 per cent were ‘moderately engaged’ with their divorced partner, with some conflict between them; and 24 per cent said their co-operation was ‘infrequent but conflictual’.

They were asked to say how their break-up had affected the youngest child in their family. The average age of children involved was eight years.

The study, published in the academic journal Family Relations, said that children of divorced parents are more likely than others to suffer ‘external’ symptoms such as behaviour problems or drug abuse, more likely to have ‘internal’ difficulties like anxiety or depression, and more likely to do badly at school.

But the researchers, headed by Dr Jonathon Beckmeyer of Indiana University, found that these children’s problems were no worse if their parents continued to row and bicker with each other after the divorce.

The study said ‘despite the expectation that children fare better’ if their divorced parents develop a co-operative relationship, the behaviour of children as assessed by their parents ‘did not significantly differ’ between the friendly and the fighting groups of divorcees.

Divorced parents should be reassured that their children will not be more seriously harmed if they fail to establish a cordial and co-operative relationship with their former husband or wife, it added.

SOURCE


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Psychologizing skeptics, another episode

At least since 1950, there has been a mini-industry among psychologists and other social scientists devoted to finding something mentally deranged in conservatives.  I spent 20 years from 1970 on and had over 200 academic journal articles published which pointed out in detail the flaws in such endeavours. I persuaded no-one, of course.  Leftists need their myths and neither logic nor evidence is enough to discredit those myths.  So after 1990 I hung up my spurs and left them to it.  I no longer read their journals so I don't even know what they are saying any more.  Every now and again, however, I come across a new paper in the genre in the course of my other reading.  When I do, the old temptation arises and I say a few words towards shooting it down.  This is another such occasion.  The paper concerned has been much celebrated by Warmists.  Its abstract follows:


Cool dudes: The denial of climate change among conservative white males in the United States

By Aaron M. McCright &  Riley E. Dunlap

Abstract

We examine whether conservative white males are more likely than are other adults in the U.S. general public to endorse climate change denial. We draw theoretical and analytical guidance from the identity-protective cognition thesis explaining the white male effect and from recent political psychology scholarship documenting the heightened system-justification tendencies of political conservatives. We utilize public opinion data from ten Gallup surveys from 2001 to 2010, focusing specifically on five indicators of climate change denial. We find that conservative white males are significantly more likely than are other Americans to endorse denialist views on all five items, and that these differences are even greater for those conservative white males who self-report understanding global warming very well. Furthermore, the results of our multivariate logistic regression models reveal that the conservative white male effect remains significant when controlling for the direct effects of political ideology, race, and gender as well as the effects of nine control variables. We thus conclude that the unique views of conservative white males contribute significantly to the high level of climate change denial in the United States.

SOURCE



The paper is a 2011 one so several skeptics have already pointed out some of the hilarities in it -- e.g. here, here and here. So I just want to address an hilarity not yet adequately addressed.

What is the “white male effect”?  That concept seems to be the African person in the woodpile in the paper so we need to look carefully at it.  Since white males have contributed the vast majority of humanity's scientific and technological advances, are we talking about people who are particularly likely to be ahead of the curve scientifically?  That interpretation would be highly defensible and logical.  So surely the skepticism of white males should be treated with awe and respect!  That white males tend to be climate skeptics surely validates climate skepticism!

But such an obvious interpretation of their findings appears not to have occurred to the authors concerned.  I wonder why?  They are referring to another (probably dubious) finding in the social science literature.  As this author summarizes:

"The “white male effect” (WME) refers to the observed tendency of white males to be less concerned with all manner of risk than are women and minorities.  The phenomenon was first observed (and the term coined) in a study by Flynn, Slovic & Mertz in 1994 and has been poked and prodded by risk-perception researchers ever since"

So the fact that white males are more willing to take risks is a bad thing?  It seems unlikely.  We would have no businesses without that.  We would have no scientists spending years of their time investigating a hunch that eventually turns out to be right.  We would have no firemen and no policemen.

Presuming there is something in the finding, I would suggest that the finding suggests self confidence among white males -- and self confidence is a good foundation for questioning the consensus.  And we know what the consensus is.  Warmists all tell us that it is the evils of global warming.  So climate skeptics are the independent thinkers and Warmists are the cowardly go-along to get-along types!  I can live with that.


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The strange definition of "racism"




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Some amusing medical news

One of the enduring myths among health freaks is the magical power of fish oil.  There has however always been a lot of doubts about that among medical researchers so there have been many studies looking into the matter.  The latest review of the medical literature knocks the whole thing on its head.  The article concerned is hidden behind a fierce paywall but I think it is too amusing to stay only there.  So I am reproducing the abstract below.  Reproducing abstracts is not generally considered a breach of copyright.  The abstract was in fact sent to me by JAMA so I infer that they want the findings to be known in professional circles

Fish Oil Supplements

Long-chain omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs), which are present in cold-water fish such as herring or salmon and are commercially available in capsules (over the counter and by prescription), can decrease fasting triglyceride concentrations 20-50% by reducing hepatic triglyceride production and increasing triglyceride clearance. 1 With long-term intake, they may increase HDL-C.

Efficacy

The results of recent studies do not offer any convincing evidence that fish oil supplements either prevent cardiovascular disease or improve outcomes in patients who already have it. 2 3

Lovaza (formerly Omacor), a combination of eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), was the first omega-3 PUFA product to be approved by the FDA for treatment of severe hypertriglyceridemia (Table). Daily doses of 3-12 g can lower triglycerides by 20-50%, but have not been shown to prevent pancreatitis, which is a major concern in patients with very high triglycerides. Vascepa, the second FDA-approved omega-3 PUFA product for treatment of severe hypertriglyceridemia, is the ethyl ester of EPA. In controlled trials, it has reduced triglyceride levels by 22-33% compared to placebo. 4

Adverse Effects

DHA can increase LDL-C levels, but EPA apparently does not. Fish oil supplements are generally well tolerated. Adverse effects have included eructation, dyspepsia, and an unpleasant aftertaste. Worsening glycemic control has been reported in diabetic patients taking large doses. Fish oil in large doses can also inhibit platelet aggregation and increase bleeding time; whether it could cause clinically significant bleeding has not been established.

Conclusion

Omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids can lower high plasma triglycerides, but they have not been shown to decrease the risk of pancreatitis. The results of recent studies do not offer any convincing evidence that fish oil supplements prevent cardiovascular disease.

From The Medical Letter on Drugs and Therapeutics

JAMA. 2014;312(8):839-840. doi:10.1001/jama.2014.9758.  Adapted from "Drugs for Lipids." Treat. Guide Med. Lett. 2014;12(137):1-6.


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Will there be a global famine in 2050? Crops will be overwhelmed by pests in the next 30 years, scientists warn

Another of the "coming shortage" scares that Greenies often resort to, none of which have ever come true.  The scare below  is sheer speculation.  To prove spread they needed similar population counts at two different dates.  But they did not have that.  All they had was "historical observation dates" for a minority of their species.  Anyway, genetic engineering techniques are alrady reducing pest loads and should continue to do so.  That is why Greenies are trying to ban it

Many of the world's most important crop-producing countries will be fully saturated with pests by the middle of the century if current trends continue, a study has found.

More than one-in-ten pest types can already be found in around half the countries that grow their host crops.

And if this spread advances at its current rate, scientists fear that a significant proportion of global crop-producing countries will be overwhelmed by pests within the next 30 years.

The research from the University of Exeter was published in the journal Global Ecology and Biogeography.

COULD 'FRANKENFLIES' HELP PROTECT CROPS?

Experiments by British academics have found that GM insects could be used to wipe out fruit fly pests that damage crops such as oranges, peaches, apples and pears.

Genetically modified versions of the Mediterranean fruit fly were created earlier this year using controversial technology developed by the UK bioscience company Oxitec.

Millions of male GM flies have been created in the laboratory to include a gene which means that when they mate with wild females, any resulting female larvae die before reaching maturity.

The resulting fall in the number of female fruit flies should, in theory, lead to a collapse in the total population which will mean less damage is caused to food crops.

Oxitec has promoted the technology as an alternative to the use of harsh chemical pesticides to protect food crops and so boost yields and has held talks with UK government agencies to run trials in this country.

It describes the patterns and trends in the spread of crop pests, using global databases to investigate the factors that influence the number of countries reached by pests and the number of pests in each country.

Crop pests include fungi, bacteria, viruses, insects, nematodes, viroids and oomycetes.

'If crop pests continue to spread at current rates, many of the world's biggest crop producing nations will be inundated by the middle of the century, posing a grave threat to global food security,' said Dr Dan Bebber of the Biosciences department at the University of Exeter.

The study identifies the pests likely to be the most invasive in coming years, which includes three species of tropical root knot nematode whose larvae infect the roots of thousands of different plant species.

Another, Blumeria graminis, is a fungus that causes powdery mildew on wheat and other cereals.

And the Citrus tristeza virus (given its name meaning 'sadness' in Portuguese and Spanish by farmers in the 1930s) is also a threat, having reached 105 of 145 countries growing citrus by the year 2000.

Fungi lead the worldwide invasion of crops and are the most widely dispersed group, despite having the narrowest range of hosts.

The study looked at the current distributions of 1,901 crop pests and pathogens and historical observations of a further 424 species.

Significant use was made of historical CABI (Centre for Agriculture and Biosciences International) records, which document crop pests and diseases around the world from 1822 to the present day.

'By unlocking the potential to understand the distribution of crop pests and diseases, we're moving one step closer to protecting our ability to feed a growing global population,' said Dr Timothy Holmes, Head of Technical Solutions at CABI's Plantwise Knowledge Bank.

'The hope is to turn data into positive action.'

It supports the view of previous studies that climate change is likely to significantly affect pest pressure on agriculture, with the warming Earth having a clear influence on the distribution of crop pests.

The authors also describe the global game of cat-and-mouse as crops are introduced to pest free regions and briefly thrive, before their pursuers catch up with them.

Professor Sarah Gurr of Biosciences the University of Exeter added: 'New, virulent variants of pests are constantly evolving.

'Their emergence is favoured by increased pest population sizes and their rapid life-cycles, which force diversified selection and heralds the appearance of new aggressive genotypes.

'There is hope if robust plant protection strategies and biosecurity measures are implemented, particularly in the developing world where knowledge is scant.

'Whether such precautions can slow or stop this process remains to be seen.'

SOURCE

The global spread of crop pests and pathogens

By Daniel P. Bebber et al.

Abstract

Methods

Current country- and state-level distributions of 1901 pests and pathogens and historical observation dates for 424 species were compared with potential distributions based upon distributions of host crops. The degree of ‘saturation’, i.e. the fraction of the potential distribution occupied, was related to pest type, host range, crop production, climate and socioeconomic variables using linear models.

Results

More than one-tenth of all pests have reached more than half the countries that grow their hosts. If current trends continue, many important crop-producing countries will be fully saturated with pests by the middle of the century. While dispersal increases with host range overall, fungi have the narrowest host range but are the most widely dispersed group. The global dispersal of some pests has been rapid, but pest assemblages remain strongly regionalized and follow the distributions of their hosts. Pest assemblages are significantly correlated with socioeconomics, climate and latitude. Tropical staple crops, with restricted latitudinal ranges, tend to be more saturated with pests and pathogens than temperate staples with broad latitudinal ranges. We list the pests likely to be the most invasive in coming years.

Main conclusions

Despite ongoing dispersal of crop pests and pathogens, the degree of biotic homogenization of the globe remains moderate and regionally constrained, but is growing. Fungal pathogens lead the global invasion of agriculture, despite their more restricted host range. Climate change is likely to influence future distributions. Improved surveillance would reveal greater levels of invasion, particularly in developing countries.

SOURCE



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Who would be giving the Communist clenched-fist salute these days?



Ecofascists, of course. The pic above is apparently from a new film full of Warmist hysteria. Some of the speakers sound a lot like old uncle Adolf too. One totalitarianism is as good as another to them, I guess.

Details here