Hershey Bars, Global Warming and Deforestation: a Sweet New Policy
Below is a sermon by a Warmist in praise of the Hershey company. And if the Hershey company are indeed going to reduce the clearing of tropical forest, I will praise them too. Greenies, with their love of paper bags etc., are the big motivators behind trees being cut down. And that is true in this case too. Palm oil is widely used in food products now because Greenies and their ilk demonized saturated fat -- which is now known to be harmless. It is the demand for palm oil created by Greenie and food-freak pressure that led to the removal of native forest and its replacement by palm oil plantations. And the claim that palm oil plantations increase global warming is amusing. If that is so, how come that there has in fact been no global warming for 17 years
As I rode on the train back to Washington today, The Hershey Company announced its strengthened commitment to zero deforestation for all the palm oil it uses. This is another of the welcome corporate statements, over the last several months and indeed the last few days, that have recognized business’ responsibilities to reduce the damage that they cause to the climate. I’m particularly glad to see this one, for several reasons: because it’s a strong policy by almost every criterion; because UCS has been working with The Hershey Company for nearly a year, urging energetic and scientifically rigorous action; and because I’ve liked their chocolate bars for an awfully long time.
The policy that The Hershey Company announced puts it among the leaders in the industry in terms of eliminating deforestation, peat clearing and other kinds of climate damage from its supply chain. It applies to all its products in all its markets worldwide. It includes a commitment to tracing its raw materials back to their sources. It uses the High Carbon Stock (HCS) terminology, which clearly differentiates degraded land from forests that need to be preserved. It provides for monitoring of its progress by TFT, an independent third-party verifier. And it has specific target dates, in the relatively short term, for achieving these goals.
UCS—particular our Palm Oil Outreach Coordinator, Miriam Swaffer—has been talking with The Hershey Company for nearly a full year about this policy. We urged them to follow the science and the lead of the most advanced consumer goods companies, including competitors of theirs like Nestle and Unilever. And they have.
This has been another exciting week of important commitments by companies to end deforestation and protect the climate, including zero deforestation commitments from two major fast food brands, Dunkin and Krispy Kreme. Forty corporations (as well as UCS) are among the 150 signatories of yesterday’s New York Declaration on Forests, committing to cutting deforestation in half by 2020 and ending it by 2030.
With 10% of global warming pollution coming from tropical deforestation, decoupling the production of commodities like palm oil from tropical forest destruction is one of the most efficient ways to address climate change. We’ve said before that the tide is turning against deforestation in corporate supply chains, and today that’s even more evident.
The Hershey Company can still improve its policy by committing to tracing all its palm oil, from all its suppliers, to the plantation where it was grown (the current statement goes most of the way there, tracing palm oil considered most at risk to this level). But it has taken an important step forward, leading consumer goods companies toward a new relationship with our climate. Now it’s time for companies that are still lagging—for example, McDonald’s, Burger King and Yum! Brands—to move quickly to catch up. Tell McDonald’s, that for the sake of our atmosphere, tropical forests and endangered species – the time to act is now.
American Medical Association prostitutes itself to the climate change scare
And let's be clear that it is just a scare. No-one knows what the future holds. Warmism enthusiasts thought that on the basis of the slight warming of the last part of the 20th century they could predict warming from that point on. But their models and predictions were wrong. There has been no climate change (no warming) in the 21st century and no-one knows if the next change will be towards cooling or warming. So the scare is no better than religious prophecies of doom.
JAMA is of course not the first medical journal to turn political. Britain's "Lancet" is notoriously Leftist. They actually campaigned against George Bush and the Iraq war at one stage. And there have been many claims that warming is bad for your health.
All such claims however founder on the fact that winter is the great season of dying. Both warmth and cold can lead to health problems but cold is by far the big killer. A warmer climate should therefore REDUCE mortality overall. To give JAMA its due they did not totally ignore that possibility but they went close. Hidden away in their Method section was a single paragraph of waffle which I reproduce following the abstract below. Most notably however, they made no attempt to address that possibility in their research. They looked only at warm weather problems, not cold weather problems. The entire project was totally one-sided. Not science at all
Climate change: Challenges and Opportunities for Global Health
By Jonathan A. Patz et al.
Health is inextricably linked to climate change. It is important for clinicians to understand this relationship in order to discuss associated health risks with their patients and to inform public policy.
To provide new US-based temperature projections from downscaled climate modeling and to review recent studies on health risks related to climate change and the cobenefits of efforts to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions.
Data Sources, Study Selection, and Data Synthesis
We searched PubMed from 2009 to 2014 for articles related to climate change and health, focused on governmental reports, predictive models, and empirical epidemiological studies. Of the more than 250 abstracts reviewed, 56 articles were selected. In addition, we analyzed climate data averaged over 13 climate models and based future projections on downscaled probability distributions of the daily maximum temperature for 2046-2065. We also compared maximum daily 8-hour average with air temperature data taken from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration National Climate Data Center.
By 2050, many US cities may experience more frequent extreme heat days. For example, New York and Milwaukee may have 3 times their current average number of days hotter than 32øC (90øF). The adverse health aspects related to climate change may include heat-related disorders, such as heat stress and economic consequences of reduced work capacity; and respiratory disorders, including those exacerbated by fine particulate pollutants, such as asthma and allergic disorders; infectious diseases, including vectorborne diseases and water-borne diseases, such as childhood gastrointestinal diseases; food insecurity, including reduced crop yields and an increase in plant diseases; and mental health disorders, such as posttraumatic stress disorder and depression, that are associated with natural disasters. Substantial health and economic cobenefits could be associated with reductions in fossil fuel combustion. For example, the cost of greenhouse gas emission policies may yield net economic benefit, with health benefits from air quality improvements potentially offsetting the cost of US carbon policies.
Conclusions and Relevance
Evidence over the past 20 years indicates that climate change can be associated with adverse health outcomes. Health care professionals have an important role in understanding and communicating the related potential health concerns and the cobenefits from reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
Might fewer cold-related deaths balance mortality from heat waves? This is a topic of active research and current uncertainty, with results likely differing for climate zone and infrastructure characteristics. Although relative increases in heat-related deaths may exceed relative decreases in cold-related deaths, this may not apply in absolute terms because the balance may depend on location, population structure (proportion of older residents), and amount of warming, and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change expressed low confidence that modest reductions in cold-related mortality would occur. Reasons for this include the observation that many deaths related to cold temperatures do not occur during coldest times and that there is a lag between exposure to cold temperatures and increased risk of death typically much longer than 1 or 2 days.
JAMA. Published online September 22, 2014. doi:10.1001/jama.2014.13186.
Dissenting from American Liberalism & Conservatism
The article by Razib Khan below is not one that I totally agree with but I agree with his central contention that neither the Left nor the Right give appropriate weight to genetics in their thinking. Razib is well versed in genetics research and I too take an interest in that literature. And the more you know about that literature the more you have to shut up if you want acceptance in mainstream politics.
Hardly a day goes by without a new report of some trait or condition being found to be strongly influenced by genetics but that is in the academic literature and any attempt to inject those findings into popular discourse will be howled down as "racist". It will mainly be the Left who do the howling but the cultural predominance of the Left in American society intimidates conservatives into being at least silent on the matter. So in explaining themselves and their policies conservatives rarely refer to genetics, thus omitting a huge explanatory variable in human behavior.
And I sin muchly in often mentioning genetic facts. No candidate in either of the main parties would want to be associated with me. Take the issue of black IQ. The American Psychological Association is the world's premier body of academic psychologists and they are undoubtedly Left-leaning. As it is part of what academic psychologists do to be aware of the research literature, however, members of the APA who are interested in the issue know what the research on IQ shows. So the APA now accepts that the IQ of the average black American is one standard deviation (which is a lot) or 15 points below the IQ of the average non-Hispanic white. Blacks, in other words have on average a sub-adult IQ. The APA even put out a special issue of one of its major journals some years back devoted to presenting the evidence for that one SD gap. See here for more details on the subject.
But getting known for mentioning that gap is career poison. One thinks of the unfortunate Jason Richwine in that connection. I am old, retired and financially independent so I run no similar risks. The only risk I run is of being ignored. And I largely am. So Razib is right in thinking that neither side of politics has a good grasp of reality. They build their reasoning on sand
I had a long discussion yesterday with an individual who has been reading me since 2003. We talked about lots of things. One issue which perhaps I need to reiterate because it’s implicit is that I dissent to a great extent from the premises which underlay both American conservatism and liberalism. Like American liberals I think the life outcomes of many Americans are not due to their choices simply understood. Rather they are the outcome of chance events, whether it be through social background, or, simple happenstance. Years ago I recall Nassim Taleb complaining that people would read The Millionaire Next Door, and believe that by doing everything those individuals did they too could become millionaires, as if there was no random component to such outcomes. The reality is that some people are in the right place and right time. And, some people are born in the right social positions.
Where I dissent from American liberals is the idea that all of the outcomes in our society, in particular inequality, are due to chance or inherited social position (e.g., race or class privilege). In The Son Also Rises Greg Clark reports on intriguing results which indicate that social competence in heritable. To some extent this is common sense. Personal dispositions are heritable, and some dispositions are more congenial to remunerative activities than others. Though many on the Left (though not all) are willing to acknowledge the arguments in Steve Pinker’s The Blank Slate in the abstract, in the concrete they get very little weight when it comes to social policy. To give an example, for many on the Left we can talk about differences between groups (whether it be cultural or biological) only when all social inequality is abolished. The catch in this though is that any persistent differences may also result in persistent social inequality or difference in outcome.
When it comes to the American Right there are two distinct strands. The first is the child of classical liberalism, to some extent in a more thorough fashion than the American Left. For this element the idea that capitalism is efficient in allocating resources, and that people receive their just desserts due to hard work, becomes such an all-encompassing narrative that other variables are neglected. This was clearly evident in 2008 when some conservative libertarians kept harping on the “free market” mantra because they literally had no other playbook. I recall specifically someone from the American Enterprise Institute on the radio arguing that bankers should keep their bonuses because that’s how capitalism works, even after the bailouts. When confronted by this he really had no response. He was literally dumbfounded. It is as if the market was the ends of the American political system, and all wealth is the product of the market.
Though not as constitutionally hostile to the idea of heritable differences this sort of free market conservatism is not comfortable with the idea that not everyone is born with the same opportunities. The reality is that the liberal Left critique of the nature of the outcomes of a free market is correct in some deep sense, even deeper than American liberals may wish to acknowledge. Some people are born with the genetic deck stacked against them, not just the social one (and of course, as noted above there is a lot of random noise). That undermines some of the moral case for the virtue of the market, since it is not blindly arbitrating the outcomes of our choices, as opposed as sifting based on the accumulated weight of inherited history, some of which is due to the genetic lottery.
The second strand in American conservatism is that of the Religious Right. The problem that it has is most clearly illustrated by the issue of gay rights. Though logically toleration of homosexual behavior and its innate or non-innate nature are not related, the Religious Right prefers that homosexuality be a choice for the purposes of moral censure. That is because though these Christians believe in original sin, they seem to espouse a sort of moral perfectionism where all men are equally endowed with the same sentiments and preferences (those sentiments being debased by Satan or the Satanic influence of culture). As opposed to Homo economicus, these Christians believe in Homo christianus. Though I personally espouse the bourgeois virtues of the Religious Right, their neglect of human diversity in disposition and sentiment leads us down the path of great disappointment, as many will miss the mark. A Religious Right which focused more on social cohesion in a general and collective sense, rather than personal and individual moral perfectionism, probably could produce better results (yes, it does take a village!). But the American radical Protestant model is fundamentally individualistic, and treats each human as equal and similar before Christ. And there I believe is the folly with moral crusades which attempt to turn every American family into the same American family. Such a world never was, and such a world will never be.
The Left looks to the perfect future which could be. The Right looks to the perfect past which was, and could be.
Muslim anger and global warming
The inability of Muslims to see any wrongdoing by their fellow Muslims seems to be common worldwide. And we have now seen a prime example of it in Australia. A report of it below. After a young Afghan Muslim, Numan Haider, was shot by police, the sentiment among his community seems to be that he had done no wrong. He had simply made a "mistake" and police should not have shot him. That the police shot him while he was stabbing them with a knife and inflicting serious injuries doesn't matter, apparently. "Infidel" police should let themselves be stabbed by Muslims seems to be the idea. Decent people would be embarrassed that one of their number had behaved so badly but brains rotted by Islam are apparently incapable of that.
The rage is so irrational that it reminds me of a couple of other things. In 1980 or thereabouts in Australia a Yugoslav hoodlum named Kresimir Dragosevic died in a hail of police bullets. Mrs Dragosevic, his mother, thought it was most unfair that the police shot her dear little Kresimir. The fact that Kresimir was shooting at the police at the time did not seem to matter.
So, clearly, for many people, reason flies out the window when their own personal interests are threatened or damaged. Which brings me to global warming. Warmists have the wonderful feelgood belief that they are "saving the planet" and that is far too rewarding to let facts get in the way of such a belief. They will even let themselves be lectured by an emptyheaded High School dropout like Leonardo di Caprio on the subject if it helps to bolster their feelings of righteousness and mission. No wonder there is so much poverty and so much suffering in the world when rationality can so easily be overwhelmed by personal emotional needs.
ANGER boiled over outside a mosque as the body of the shot teen was prepared for burial.
A man threw rocks at media waiting at the Doveton mosque after earlier being seen at Numan Haider’s family home.
The teen terror suspect’s family spoke of their devastation.
Others grieving the loss of Haider lashed out at police for shooting him.
Religious leaders told the Herald Sun Haider was expected to be buried as soon as today, after a Muslim service.
A friend who visited the family’s Endeavour Hills home said they were overwhelmed by grief. “They are very, very upset and devastated,” the family friend said.
“No one knows what happened. It’s a big shock to their family, and they can’t believe what has happened.
“This family is bright. They are well educated and have good connection to the Afghan families.”
There were angry scenes when a member of the Afghan community, on leaving the house, blamed police.
“They should not have shot him — he was 18,” the woman screamed. “If you (the police) can’t protect yourself, how are you going to protect the nation? Did you make mistakes when you were 18? “If someone makes a mistake, you can’t shoot him.”
Conservative sheik Mohammad Jamal Omran visited the home to offer his condolences, and said he was saddened by the tragedy.
“We spoke about their sadness and we spoke about their loss. “They cried on my shoulder, but still they need a long time to recover,” he said.
“There (is) trouble around us in the world. We don’t have to bring the trouble home.
“When I look at my right, I see the sorrow of the two police families.
“And I look at my left, and see this family losing a young man of theirs, of ours, and of Australia altogether.”
The war on fast food: More medical idiocy
The war on fast food is unrelenting so logic must not be allowed to get in the way. The claim below that hamburgers etc make you stupid is itself stupid. All that they have rediscovered are the familiar observations that poor people are more likely to eat fast food and poor people are dumber. It's a class finding only. No effects of the food have been shown.
The authors were aware of the class issue in that they controlled for maternal education but education is not strongly correlated with income, particularly among women. Remember those burger flippers with Ph.D.s and the plumbers who live in the best suburbs? The journal article is "Prospective associations between dietary patterns and cognitive performance during adolescence" by Anett Nyaradi et al. in the Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 2014
It's no secret that eating hamburgers and fries could affect your waist line but new research has found it can also take a toll on your brain.
Researchers found that higher intake of a western diet by 14-year-olds had scored lower in cognitive tasks by the age of 17.
Within the western dietary patterns, the study found participants with a high intake of take-away food, deep fried potatoes, red and processed meat and soft drinks had negative associations that affected their reaction time, mental ability, visual attention, learning and memory.
While participants who had higher consumption of fruits and leafy green vegetables, had a positive cognitive performance.
Researcher Dr Anett Nyaradi told Science Network that it could be due to increased micronutrient content from leafy green vegetables, which has linked to enhanced cognitive development.
Dr Nyaradi said several factors may be at play in this diet-related decline in cognitive skills, including the level of omega-6 fatty acids in fried foods and red meat.
Metabolic pathways function best with a balanced 1:1 ratio of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, but the western diet can shift this to a 1:20 or 1:25 ratio, according to Science Network.
Dr Nyardi told Science Network that high intake of saturated fat and simple carbohydrates has been linked to impairment in the functioning of the hippocampus, which is a brain structure centrally involved in learning and memory that increases its volume during adolescence.
'Adolescence represents a critical time period for brain development. It is possible that poor diet is a significant risk factor during this period…indeed, our findings support this proposition,' she said.
Dr Nyardi said that high intake of saturated fat and simple carbohydrates affected learning and memory during adolescents
The University of Western Australia and the Telethon Kids Institute observed 602 participants from the Western Australian Pregnancy Cohort Study.
Each participant were required to fill out a food frequency questionnaire at the age of 14 to identify the factor analysis of 'healthy' and 'Western' dietary patterns.
When they turned 17, a cognitive performance was assessed using a computerised cognitive battery of tests that included six tasks.
The resveratrol myth is slowly unwinding
That anti-oxidants in food are good for you has by now been extensively debunked. There is some evidence that they are bad for you. See here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here, for instance. And a favorite anti-oxidant is resveratrol. The latest report:
Pregnant women who have the odd drink should avoid red wine, researchers suggest. They say that an ingredient in the wine that is normally viewed as healthy could harm their unborn child's pancreas.
Resveratrol has been credited with having protective effects against heart disease, cancer, Alzheimer's disease and a number of other conditions.
Naturally present in red wine, red grapes and some berries, it is also available as a supplement.
However, a study now suggests it can lead to developmental abnormalities in the foetal pancreas. The study was carried out by the Division of Diabetes, Obesity and Metabolism and the Division of Reproductive and Development Science at Oregon Health and Science University in the United States.
Lead researcher on the study Dr Kevin Gove said: 'This study has direct relevance to human health. 'Resveratrol is widely used for its recognised health benefits, and is readily available over the counter.
'The important message in this study is that women should be very careful about what they consume while pregnant, and they should not take supplements, like Resveratrol, without consulting with their doctors. 'What might be good for the mother may not be good for the baby.'
As part of the study, Dr Grove and colleagues gave resveratrol supplements every day throughout pregnancy to obese macaque monkeys eating a Western diet.
A second group of obese monkeys was not given the supplement, and both were compared with lean monkeys fed a healthy diet.
The animals were closely monitored for health complications, and blood flow through the placenta was determined by ultrasound.
The foetuses were analysed for developmental abnormalities, and findings showed definitive evidence of pancreatic abnormalities.
The study was published in the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology Journal.
Anti-immigrant party does well in Sweden
Scotland is not the only place to have an election recently. Sweden did too. The Sweden Democrats are greatly hated by the political establishment in Sweden but they have just become the third largest party in the Riksdag. From Wikipedia:
"The Sweden Democrats believe that the current Swedish immigration and integration policies have been a failure. SD is the only party in the Swedish Parliament without an integration policy. They oppose integration because they believe that integration involves "meeting in the middle" and do not think that the Swedish people should have to bear the burden of what they see as a reckless immigration policy. SD feels that the current situation with a large number of immigrants living in cultural enclaves is not beneficial for the country. They argue that the immigrants themselves are rootless, that there have been rising antagonistic tensions between various population groups (socially, ethnically, religiously and culturally), and the immigration in itself, SD says, has caused social and economic strains on the country.
As the party considers Sweden to have had too much immigration in later years, which it claims have seriously threatened national identity and societal cohesion, SD wants to reinstate a common Swedish national identity which in turn would mean a stronger inner solidarity. SD rejects the policy of multiculturalism, but accepts a multiethnic society where cultural assimilation is promoted. SD wishes to strongly restrict immigration, and give generous support for immigrants who instead of wanting to assimilate in Sweden voluntarily prefer to emigrate back to their country of origin. As more state funds are made free from funding mass immigration, SD believes that Sweden in turn will have the possibility to better help refugees in their own nearby locations.
SD has referred to the recommendations from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) which state that the return of refugees should be the solution to refugee problems. Former party secretary between 2003–2004, Torbjörn Kastell had said in 2002 that the party wanted "a multicultural world, not a multicultural society." In a 2008 survey, a significant minority of 39 percent of all Swedes thought that there were "too many foreigners in the country", and in 2007 a survey showed that 49 percent of all Swedes wanted to restrict the number of asylum seekers. In recent years, SD has tried to approach the immigration policy of the Danish People's Party, which from 2001 to 2011 provided parliamentary support for the former Danish liberal/conservative government in return for a tightening of Danish immigration policies and stricter naturalization laws."
The detailed election results are set out below (from here)
The SD took most of their votes off the conservatives so the conservatives got fewer seats than the socialists. So the socialists seem most likely to form a government. Since the socialists got only 31% of the vote, however, they will need coalition partners and we have yet to see how that plays out. It will certainly be a weak and indecisive government that will probably not be able to do much, which is good.
A Feminist bird?
That's Mrs Phalarope on the RIGHT
The sexual dimorphism and contribution to parenting are reversed in the three phalarope species. Females are larger and more brightly colored than males. The females pursue and fight over males, then defend them from other females until the male begins incubation of the clutch. Males perform all incubation and chick care, while the female attempts to find another male to mate with. If a male loses his eggs to predation, he will often rejoin his original mate or a new female, who will lay another clutch. Once it becomes too late in the season to start new nests, females begin their southward migration, leaving the males to incubate the eggs and care for the young. Phalaropes are uncommon among birds and vertebrates in general in that they engage in polyandry, one female taking multiple male mates while males mate with only one female. Specifically, phalaropes engage in serial polyandry, wherein females pair with multiple males at different times in the breeding season.
Mr Key has the keys to New Zealand
NZ is a nation of only 4 million people so might seem of no importance. But for people tired of the squabbles of the big world it could be very important indeed. It is about as far away from Europe as you can get and has a very large ocean separating it from the USA. And perhaps most importantly, NZ consists of two large and beautiful islands (imaginatively named North Island and South Island) with a very mild climate. Even in the South of the South island, snow very seldom stays on the ground for long. And they speak English (in a rather odd way) and you can drink the water! And you never have to Press 1 for English. Worth thinking about -- particularly for soon-to-be snowed-in residents of the Northern USA
New Zealand's ruling National party secured a third term in government in the election on Saturday, winning an outright majority on a platform to continue strong economic growth.
Prime Minister John Key's centre-right party received 48.1 per cent of the vote, giving it 62 of 121 parliamentary seats and improving its performance on the previous vote in 2011.
The 53-year-old former foreign exchange dealer triumphed despite allegations of dirty political tactics involving government ministers, and claims that a government spy agency had planned mass secret domestic surveillance.
The National Party was set to make electoral history under the proportional voting system by being able to govern on its own, but is seen as having strengthened its majority by renewing support deals with minor parties which formed the previous coalition government.
The leader of the opposition Labour Party, David Cunliffe, conceded defeat yesterday, with the centre-left party winning 24.6 percent of the vote. "The truth is, the party vote has returned a National government, and over the coming days and weeks we will need to reflect upon why," Mr Cunliffe said in his concession speech. He said he had called Key to congratulate him on his victory.
"It is rare for any government to be defeated while surfing an economic rebound with around a four percent growth rate, even though the longer-term problems remain to be addressed," Cunliffe added.
Key said he was "ecstatic" about the result. "It's a great night," he said. He added that people could see the nation was moving in the right direction and that he was grateful to them.
Key campaigned on the government's record of economic management and strict controls on spending, which helped New Zealand record decade-high growth.
In Hitler's footsteps
Some wisdon below from Juan Cole, a Professor of History at the University of Michigan, on Steven Salaita, who was offered a position at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign that was rescinded following publicity on his inflammatory, anti-Israel Twitter posts
Note how Cole draws attention to Jews in prominent positions. Hitler often did the same. The only redemption for Cole may be that he is obviously not very bright. See here
"I strongly suspect that Zionist organizations pressured the university to fire Professor Salaita. . . . This behavior is undemocratic and cult-like, and it is unacceptable in a Liberal society. We also see Jewish nationalists on the bench, in public office, and in high administrative positions who misuse their public position to engage in a sectarian vendetta so as to protect Israel from criticism or to punish its critics."
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.
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."
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
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
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.
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.
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.
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
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
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.
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.”
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.
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.”
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?
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.
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.
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
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.
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
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.
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.
Eating meat is causing 'dangerous climate change', claim scientists
Malthus lives again. Some historically unsophisticated prophecy from the University of Cambridge's department of ENGINEERING (!) below. Just off the top of my head let me point out three large factors that they overlook:
1). If we do get the warming they foresee, vast areas of Canada and Siberia (Siberia is 50% larger than CONUS and also covers a range of latitudes) could be opened to grain production -- and grain is an important feed for both animals and humans. If the Japanese can grow rice in icy Hokkaido (which they do) much must be possible with the Northern lands.
2). They assume that the population will grow or at least remain static. But as affluence increases births tend to fall. They are already well below replacement in the developed world. So Population SHRINKAGE is the most likely scenario by 2050.
3). The food production problem in the developed world has long been one of glut. TOO MUCH food is the big problem -- leading to extensive efforts by almost all Western government to REDUCE food production. Taking off those hobbles would see food production soar just from presently used land
Eating less meat is 'essential' to ensure future demand for food can be met and 'dangerous' climate change avoided, experts have warned.
A study by leading university researchers in Cambridge and Aberdeen found food production alone could exceed targets for greenhouse gas emissions in 2050 if current trends continue.
Population growth and the global shift towards 'meat-heavy Western diets' has meant increasing agricultural yields will not meet projected food demands for an expected 9.6 billion world population in 30 years, according to the researchers.
Increased deforestation, fertiliser use and livestock methane emissions are likely to cause greenhouse gas emissions from food production to rise by almost 80 per cent, experts from the University of Cambridge and University of Aberdeen found.
Lead researcher Bojana Bajzelj, from the University of Cambridge's department of engineering, said: 'Agricultural practices are not necessarily at fault here - but our choice of food is.
'It is imperative to find ways to achieve global food security without expanding crop or pastureland. 'Food production is a main driver of biodiversity loss and a large contributor to climate change and pollution, so our food choices matter.'
He added: 'Cutting food waste and moderating meat consumption in more balanced diets, are the essential 'no-regrets' options.'
According to the study in Nature Climate Change, current trends in food production will mean that by 2050 cropland will have expanded by 42 per cent and fertiliser use increased by 45 per cent over 2009 levels.
A further tenth of the world's pristine tropical forests would disappear over the next 35 years, it said.
The study's authors tested a scenario where all countries were assumed to have an 'average' balanced diet - without excessive consumption of sugars, fats, and meat products.
The average balanced diet used in the study was a 'relatively achievable goal', the researchers said, which included two 85-gram (0.2 pounds) portions of red meat and five eggs per week, as well as a portion of poultry a day.
'This significantly reduced the pressures on the environment even further,' they said.
Co-author Professor Pete Smith, from the University of Aberdeen, said: 'Unless we make some serious changes in food consumption trends, we would have to completely de-carbonise the energy and industry sectors to stay within emissions budgets that avoid dangerous climate change.
'That is practically impossible - so, as well as encouraging sustainable agriculture, we need to re-think what we eat.'
Cambridge co-author Prof Keith Richards said: 'This is not a radical vegetarian argument; it is an argument about eating meat in sensible amounts as part of healthy, balanced diets.
'Managing the demand better, for example by focusing on health education, would bring double benefits - maintaining healthy populations, and greatly reducing critical pressures on the environment.'