June 30, 2017

A “Suffering Prevention Specialist"

Ron Lieber, the “Your Money” columnist for The New York Times, has written a series of articles on the intersection of faith and finance. The one that caught my eye - The Monk Who Left the Monastery to Fix Broken Retirement Plans

The stream of visitors to his monastery would arrive with many purported reasons. As the junior monk, he did not give much religious counsel. But he soon recognized a pattern: Every person who arrived with a spiritual issue had a financial problem lurking somewhere beneath it.

“So I would say, ‘I’ll pray for you, but let’s make a budget,’” he said. “‘Let’s start paying off student loans. Let’s get the child support you deserve.’ Prayer and contemplation can help you take more mindful action, but action is the outcome of contemplation.
After trying and failing to find a better firm to fix his school’s 403(b), he up and started his own, Lynam Financial Services. His solution? Give people a menu of index or similar mutual funds, enroll all employees automatically and increase their savings regularly.....This was, in effect, a third full-time job for Mr. Lynam — and neither monks nor teachers ever feel as if they are truly off-duty. So in the past year, he has left both teaching and the monastery.

 Doug Lynam Former Monk
photo Rick Scibelli Jr. for The New York Times

Former Christian fundamentalist, Marine officer-in-training and Benedictine monk and math and scienceteacher, Doug Lynam is now a financial adviser specializing in retirement plans, a role he calls being a “suffering prevention specialist.”

He wants to help schools build better retirement savings plans, so their teachers can leave the classroom at a time of their choosing with dignity and grace.....“These plans have drifted for decades,” he said. “There are poor investment choices, high fees and annuities that are abusive. Schools have forgotten that they are fiduciaries, and we’re seeing retirements being torpedoed by negligence, essentially.”
His professional conversations now feel a lot like confession, he said, with people sharing stories of unpaid debts, betrayals and sure things that were far from it. He listens, and then he must hold the mirror up to those who may not want to see the truth.

“Perhaps one of the cardinal sins that I see the most, though it’s not a popular one to talk about, is sloth,” he said. “Some people are afraid but also a little lazy, and they don’t really want to do the hard work of facing their mistakes or lack of organization and knowledge on these subjects and take responsibility.”

Other articles in the series are Does God Want You to Spend $300,000 for College? and He Thought He’d Be Your Rabbi. Now, He’ll Get You a Mortgage.

“A place to live, with an emphasis on live and not place. The mortgage in some ways is the means, but the end is being home.”
Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:30 PM | Permalink

June 26, 2017

Our own cultural revolution

A Cultural Revolution in Slow Motion by Sarah Hoyt

I don’t believe in grand historical conspiracies, or in designs that go on over generations. The right suffers from a bad case of “the individualists failed to organize” and the left, by now in its third generation of social dominance, is approaching the sort of behavior and IQ one saw in the last days of the Soviet Union. Or if you prefer, Marxist scientific efficiency has given us in three generations what it took the royal houses of Europe sixteen generations of inbreeding to achieve: an “elite” so profoundly dumb they couldn’t pour p*ss out a boot with instructions on both sides.
Western civilization is not – of course, being human – perfect. It has had its share of monsters and madmen. We were, after all, responsible for Marx, whose ideas have been a worse scourge in Africa than all the supposed greedy colonialists.

We are, however, simply put, the most successful human civilization ever. That is, if you judge success in terms of “fed the most people” and “lifted most of the world above the demands of immediate need,” to be able to create and think as never before. Other things we’ve done go a long way to eliminate the quotidian misery of disease and push back aging by decades.

Sarah remembers how the  Cultural Revolution in China (from 1966 until 1976), led by Mao Tse Tung and his revolutionary and young Red Guards spread across the country bringing terror as they sought to purge remnants of capitalist and traditional elements from society -

Millions of people were persecuted in the violent struggles that ensued across the country, and suffered a wide range of abuses including public humiliation, arbitrary imprisonment, torture, hard labor, sustained harassment, seizure of property and sometimes execution. A large segment of the population was forcibly displaced, most notably the transfer of urban youth to rural regions during the Down to the Countryside Movement. Historical relics and artifacts were destroyed. Cultural and religious sites were ransacked.

,...those too were a bunch of ignorant kids, taught only Maoism and completely ignorant of what the peasants needed to do to survive and grow food...The problem with the latest trend of these feral children, their minds filled with academic lies, screaming about “racist, sexist homophobes” and holding the past up to the standards of their present---is that it makes many people afraid of opening books, of reading our past.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:53 AM | Permalink

June 23, 2017

Miscellany #72

Got Sisu? Essential Guerrilla Tactics from the Finnish Winter War

“Finland alone, in danger of death — superb, sublime Finland — shows what free men can do.” –Winston Churchill, January 1940.


First, Apocalyptic swarm of mosquitoes hits La Guardia, then a  Giant Swarm of Mysterious Bees Shuts Down Fifth Avenue

Gangs of aggressive killer whales are shaking down Alaska fishing boats for their fish

John McHenry, owner of the F/V Seymour, described orca pods near Alaska’s Aleutian Islands as being like a “motorcycle gang.” “You’d see two of them show up, and that’s the end of the trip. Pretty soon all 40 of them would be around you,” he said.
A remarkable 2006 video by the Avoidance Project captured one of the 50,000 kg whales delicately shaking fish loose from a line. After a particularly heavy assault by sperm whales, fishers are known to pull up lines in which up to 90 per cent of the catch has disappeared or been mangled.

Professor Caveman -Bill Schindler is teaching college students to live like early humans

The skills prehistoric peoples depended on seem exotic to today’s college students, who Schindler says arrive on campus each year with less and less of the sort of practical experience that he emphasizes in his class. He tells of the time he asked some students to crack eggs and separate the yolks from the whites. He returned to the kitchen 10 minutes later to find that not a single egg had been cracked. “I asked them if the problem was that nobody had ever told them how to separate the yolk from the whites, and received blank stares in return,” he recalled. “After a minute of silence, one of them said, ‘I’ve never cracked an egg.’ I was floored—how do you even make it to 19 without cracking an egg?”

Swedish inventor created his very own hovercraft - using drones bought online.

 Drones Flying Man

In the footsteps of John McPhee,  AFTER ORANGES by Wyatt Williams

Where does chocolate milk come from?

48% of Americans weren't sure, but 7% were positive that it comes from brown cows.  Previous research showed that 20% of Americans didn't know hamburgers are made from beef, that is, meat from cows.

Bananas 29 things you didn't know

4. In the Philippines, bananas are used in place of tomatoes to make the popular banana ketchup.
7. Bananas are curved because they grow upside-down towards the sun.
8. The so-called "banana tree" is not a tree at all. In fact, it is the world's largest herb.
9. Walmart sells more bananas than any other item.
10. Banana fibers can be used to purify water.
11. There are more trade restrictions on bananas than on AK-47s.
21. Bananas give off radiation.

Why is ketchup called ketchup?

---in various dialects spoken throughout Fujian and Southeast Asia in the 18th century, the name for the sauce was ke-tchup, kôechiap, or kê-tsiap, depending on the dialect. These words translate to “fish sauce.” ....By the mid-18th century, ketchup was popular in England, but referred broadly to any type of spiced sauce. Mushroom ketchup, walnut ketchup, anchovy ketchup, and oyster ketchup all became popular...

Magic without Wizards, It's a Wonderful Loaf . A charming animation of a poem written and narrated by Russ Roberts.

 Wonderful Loaf

It’s the product of our actions but no single mind’s designed it
There’s magic without wizards if you just know how to find it

Kennel Club'a Dog Photographer Of The Year Maria Davison Ramos, Portugal

 Winner Dog Photo

Watch Kevin Parry demonstrate 100 walks in 6 minutes on YouTube.

Ecstatic Experiences

The polling company Gallup has, since the 1960s, measured the frequency of mystical experiences in the United States. In 1960, only 20 per cent of the population said they’d had one or more. Now, it’s around 50 per cent. In a survey I did in 2016, 84 per cent of respondents said they’d had an experience where they went beyond their ordinary self, and felt connected to something greater than them. But 75 per cent agreed there was a taboo around such experiences....

‘I was out walking one night in busy streets of Glasgow when, with slow majesty, at a corner where the pedestrians were hurrying by and the city traffic was hurtling on its way, the air was filled with heavenly music, and an all-encompassing light, that moved in waves of luminous colour, outshone the brightness of the lighted streets. I stood still, filled with a strange peace and joy … until I found myself in the everyday world again with a strange access of gladness and of love.’
Posted by Jill Fallon at 7:17 PM | Permalink

Miscellany #71

The Roman Empire’s 250,000 Miles of Roadways Imagined as a Subway Transit Map by University of Chicago sophomore Sasha Trubetskoy.  For $9, he'll send you a full-resolution pdf to print as a poster

 Romanempire Subway

Girl Mistakes Bride For Real-Life Princess From Book She’s Holding

“My wife and I got married last February, and during the photo shoot this little girl and her mom happened to be walking by,” Scott Robertson writes. “The little girl thought my beautiful wife was the Princess from her favorite book (the one she’s holding).” Since this all happened during their photo shoot, photographer Stephanie Cristalli managed to snap some photos. The little girl even got a flower from the bride’s, Shandace Lerma’s, bouquet. “Your wife is forever the Princess of Ballard to her,” the little girl’s mom told Scott.


Two twins in one:

Model and singer Taylor Muhl was born with a rare condition called Chimerism. The California native's torso is divided straight down the middle with her skin color on one side and her twin's pigmentation on the other. Chimerism is an extremely rare medical condition and is when an individual is composed of two or more genetically distinct cell lines originating from different zygotes.

 Model 2 Skintones Twin

The 33-year-old fused with her unborn fraternal twin sister while in the womb. She has two immune systems, two blood streams and her sister's DNA.

Man who mowed lawn with tornado behind him says he 'was keeping an eye on it.' This is just classic.

 Man Tornado Lawnmower

391-Year-Old Bonsai Tree Planted In 1625 Has Survived Hiroshima And Keeps On Growing


Can We Blame the Mafia on Lemons?

Economists and historians are connecting the early rise of organized crime with Sicily’s citrus trade.

States That Can Be Described By A Single Photo

 Single Photo Describes State

Accidentally Excellent  How accidents led to the discovery of safety glass, super prints, penicillin, even silly putty.

Police Dog Fired For Being Too Friendly, Given Fancy New Job Instead

Gavel the German Shepherd was deemed too sociable for life on the force, so he's now officially been made Vice-Regal Dog instead.  In this new role, Gavel's duties include taking part in ceremonial occasions (while sporting a custom-made uniform), welcoming guests and tour groups at the Queensland Government House, and serving as a companion to the governor himself.

Listen to Bob Dylan's Nobel Lecture at Nobelprize.org or read the transcript

When I first received this Nobel Prize for Literature, I got to wondering exactly how my songs related to literature. I wanted to reflect on it and see where the connection was......

It began with Buddy Holly

If I was to go back to the dawning of it all, I guess I'd have to start with Buddy Holly. Buddy died when I was about eighteen and he was twenty-two. From the moment I first heard him, I felt akin. I felt related, like he was an older brother. I even thought I resembled him. Buddy played the music that I loved – the music I grew up on: country western, rock ‘n' roll, and rhythm and blues. Three separate strands of music that he intertwined and infused into one genre. One brand. And Buddy wrote songs – songs that had beautiful melodies and imaginative verses. And he sang great – sang in more than a few voices. He was the archetype. Everything I wasn't and wanted to be. I saw him only but once, and that was a few days before he was gone. I had to travel a hundred miles to get to see him play, and I wasn't disappointed.

And then Dylan recalls his grammar school education back in the days when students read great books and  used Spark notes to prepare for class.

But I had something else as well. I had principals and sensibilities and an informed view of the world. And I had had that for a while. Learned it all in grammar school. Don Quixote, Ivanhoe, Robinson Crusoe, Gulliver's Travels, Tale of Two Cities, all the rest – typical grammar school reading that gave you a way of looking at life, an understanding of human nature, and a standard to measure things by. I took all that with me when I started composing lyrics. And the themes from those books worked their way into many of my songs, either knowingly or unintentionally. I wanted to write songs unlike anything anybody ever heard, and these themes were fundamental.

Specific books that have stuck with me ever since I read them way back in grammar school – I want to tell you about three of them: Moby Dick, All Quiet on the Western Front and The Odyssey.

Winners of the Red Bull photo contest
The Overall Winner was Lorenz Holder for this image of BMX Pro Rider Senad Grosic on a bridge in Gablenz, Germany.

 Winner Redbull Photo Contest

Posted by Jill Fallon at 5:51 PM | Permalink

Rage and Apathy

In the U.S, the escalating attacks and threats of violence against Republicans is deeply troubling.  Mary Katherine Ham writes Aftermath Of Alexandria Shooting Showed The Left’s Cultural Bullying At Its Worst

My, how quickly we move in the news cycle from Republicans literally shot to Republican overreach about Republicans being literally shot.....

A week later, one of the victims, Rep. Steve Scalise, had been smeared by one national media figure and told his wound was “self-inflicted” by a nightly news anchor while he was still in the hospital fighting for his life....

It all revealed once again the overweening cultural hubris of the American Left, which has been in control of so many institutions and the prevailing political narrative for so long, it can’t conceive of Republicans as victims even when they’re being shot. Many of them are cultural bullies convinced of their righteousness, and as Reid did, they’ll kick you when you’re down after being shot on a baseball field. Why, it’s enough to drive you to hire a giant, coarse, shameless bully of your own and make him president.

30 GOP Congressmen Have Been Attacked or Threatened with Death Since May
Twenty one of them were practicing on the Alexandria baseball field at 7 in the morning when a gunman opened fire last week. House Majority Whip Steve Scalise and three other people were wounded while the gunman, James T. Hodgkinson, prepared with "a lot of ammo," fought a gun battle with police before he, too, was shot and later died. 

Only the two Capitol Police officers assigned to Scalise "stopped a massacre".  The only members of the House that are given security details are constitutional office holders: the speaker of the House, the majority and minority leaders, and both the whips.  "Without Capitol Hill police, it would have been a massacre," Sen. Rand Paul, a Kentucky Republican and one of the lawmakers on the scene, said on Fox News. "We had no defense, we had no defense at all.” Paul said the scene was like a "killing field." He added: "We were sitting ducks."

Scalise was the most seriously injured in the attack. The bullet pierced his pelvis, fracturing bones and injuring internal organs. He has undergone several surgeries and received multiple blood transfusions. He is no longer in intensive care and his condition has been upgraded to fair.

We learned from social media that Hodgkinson was an active Democratic activist and Bernie Sanders campaign volunteer who hated Republican members of Congress and raged against them online.

The FBI tried to claim that the shooting at the baseball field was spontaneous and had no target, despite all evidence to the contrary. writes Mollie Hemingway

The FBI admits that Hodgkinson:
vociferously raged against Republicans in online forums,
had a piece of paper bearing the names of six members of Congress,
was reported for doing target practice outside his home in recent months before moving to Alexandria,
had mapped out a trip to the DC area,
took multiple photos of the baseball field he would later shoot up, three days after the New York Times mentioned that Republicans practiced baseball at an Alexandria baseball field with little security,
lived out of his van at the YMCA directly next door to the baseball field he shot up,
legally purchased a rifle in March 2003 and 9 mm handgun “in November 2016,”
modified the rifle at some point to accept a detachable magazine and replaced the original stock with a folding stock,
rented a storage facility to hide hundreds of rounds of ammunition and additional rifle components,
asked “Is this the Republican or Democrat baseball team?” before firing on the Republicans,
ran a Google search for information on the “2017 Republican Convention” hours before the shooting,
and took photos at high-profile Washington locations, including the east front plaza of the U.S. Capitol and the Dirksen Senate Office.

The FBI’s briefing appears so contrary to the facts as to be insulting. When a man with a history of hating Republicans cases a location, takes pictures, verifies the targets are Republicans before opening fire, has a list of Republican politicians in his pocket, and shoots and nearly kills Republicans, it’s hard to swallow the FBI’s contention that the shooting was “spontaneous” with “no target.”

As Peggy Noonan writes in the WSJ Rage Is All the Rage, and It’s Dangerous,

That’s what we’re doing now, exciting the unstable—not only with images but with words, and on every platform. It’s all too hot and revved up. This week we had a tragedy. If we don’t cool things down, we’ll have more....

We have been seeing a generation of media figures ....losing their heads. ...They have been making the whole political scene lower, grubbier...By indulging their and their audience’s rage, they spread the rage. They celebrate themselves as brave for this.
Do your part, take it down some notches, cool it. We have responsibilities to each other.

In Europe, German police are wearing chain-mail armor as defense against knife-wielding terrorists


Sweden - A Paradise Lost: 150,000 women undergo FGM, authorities admit large areas under Islamic rule

Living under the world’s only “feminist government” is becoming increasingly dangerous, especially for  women.  Sweden has a population of 10 million (five million women and girls).  In the report,  partly written by SVT, the Swedish state media, authorities conclude that large parts of the country, including its capital Stockholm, are effectively ruled by Sharia-adherent Muslims.....

Big areas of Sweden are now under de facto Islamic rule. Stockholm, Sweden’s capital, is almost completely surrounded by areas (commonly called “no-go zones”) that are veritably ruled by Muslim gangs and Islamic sharia police. “There is lawlessness in parts of the Stockholm region now,” a nervous police chief, Lars Alvarsjø, said. “There are some areas where we seem to lose control.”  ..... From 2015 to 2017, lawless areas increased from 15 to 23. According to the Swedish authorities, “religious police have taken the role as law enforcement” in many areas now.

Sadly, when Ayaan Hirsi Ali and Asra Nomani, two Muslim women, testified before the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs about the ideology of political Islam, both speaking from their personal experience and with scholarly expertise, the four Democratic women senators brushed them off, chosing not to ask them a single question.  So they wrote an op ed in the New York Times:

...in the rubric of identity politics, our status as women of color is canceled out by our ideas, which are labeled “conservative” — as if opposition to violent jihad, sex slavery, genital mutilation or child marriage were a matter of left or right. This not only silences us, it also puts beyond the pale of liberalism a basic concern for human rights and the individual rights of women abused in the name of Islam....

The silence of the Democratic senators is a reflection of contemporary cultural pressures. Call it identity politics, moral relativism or political correctness — it is shortsighted, dangerous and, ultimately, a betrayal of liberal values.

The hard truth is that there are fundamental conflicts between universal human rights and the principle of Shariah, or Islamic law, which holds that a woman’s testimony is worth half that of a man’s; between freedom of religion and the Islamist idea that artists, writers, poets and bloggers should be subject to blasphemy laws; between secular governance and the Islamist goal of a caliphate; between United States law and Islamist promotion of polygamy, child marriage and marital rape; and between freedom of thought and the methods of indoctrination, or dawa, with which Islamists propagate their ideas.

Mark Steyn, as usual, as the last word.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 4:16 PM | Permalink

Double Pulsar - the cyber 'nuclear bomb'

In the New York Times - A Cyberattack ‘the World Isn’t Ready For’

Two weeks after IDT was hit, the cyberattack known as WannaCry ravaged computers at hospitals in England, universities in China, rail systems in Germany, even auto plants in Japan. No doubt it was destructive. But what Mr. Ben-Oni had witnessed was much worse, and with all eyes on the WannaCry destruction, few seemed to be paying attention to the attack on IDT’s systems —

Worse, the assault, which has never been reported before, was not spotted by some of the nation’s leading cybersecurity products, the top security engineers at its biggest tech companies, government intelligence analysts or the F.B.I.....the assault on IDT relied on cyberweapons developed by the N.S.A. that were leaked online in April by a mysterious group of hackers calling themselves the Shadow Brokers — alternately believed to be Russia-backed cybercriminals, an N.S.A. mole, or both.

The WannaCry attack — which the N.S.A. and security researchers have tied to North Korea — employed one N.S.A. cyberweapon; the IDT assault used two... EternalBlue...and DoublePulsar. The N.S.A. used DoublePulsar to penetrate computer systems without tripping security alarms....“The world is burning about WannaCry, but this is a nuclear bomb compared to WannaCry,” Mr. Ben-Oni said. “This is different. It’s a lot worse. It steals credentials. You can’t catch it, and it’s happening right under our noses.” And, he added, “The world isn’t ready for this.”
The chances that IDT was the only victim of this attack are slim. Sean Dillon, a senior analyst at RiskSense, a New Mexico security company, was among the first security researchers to scan the internet for the N.S.A.’s DoublePulsar tool. He found tens of thousands of host computers are infected with the tool, which attackers can use at will. “Once DoublePulsar is on the machine, there’s nothing stopping anyone else from coming along and using the back door...

More distressing, Mr. Dillon tested all the major antivirus products against the DoublePulsar infection and a demoralizing 99 percent failed to detect it....The Shadow Brokers resurfaced last month, promising a fresh load of N.S.A. attack tools, even offering to supply them for monthly paying subscribers — like a wine-of-the-month club for cyberweapon enthusiasts.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:39 AM | Permalink

June 22, 2017

Health Roundup: Anesthesia, white teeth, sleeping pills, cancer clinical trials, oral sunscreens and BPA

Anesthesia: what we still don't know about the 'gift of oblivion'

Halting, almost apologetic, I explained to the receptionist that I had spent some years researching the process known as anesthesia, and that I was now rather nervous about what was going to happen to me. "I think I know too much," I said.

"Oh dear," they said. "That's not good."

Some Americans spend billions to get their teeth whiter.  Some wait in line to get them pulled.

Teeth generally are treated separately from the rest of the body, a tradition that dates to dentistry’s origins as a specialty of barbers, who performed oral surgery and pulled teeth. Today, many public health officials view that division as a mistake. Poor oral health can lead to heart disease and other serious medical problems, and tooth loss can lead to depression and difficulty eating and speaking.

Sleeping pills are as dangerous as smoking a packet of cigarettes a day, expert claims

Recent studies have seen them linked to cancer, falls and even heart attacks.  Over recent years, scientists have conducted various studies to assess the true side-effects and risks of taking sleeping pills.  They have found an increased risk of: heart attacks, broken bones, dementia and infections. 

Why cancer patients must look for their own clinical trials

"Oncologists can barely keep up. My sister found a trial I was a perfect candidate for, and my doctors didn’t even know it existed.”...She was referring to the rapidly changing landscape of clinical trials for immunotherapy drugs. These medicines are not working for all advanced cancer patients but they are proving effective for some like her – even if sometimes only briefly. Researchers are racing to figure out for whom they work and why.

‘This is not the end’: Using immunotherapy and a genetic glitch to give cancer patients hope

The oncologist was blunt: Stefanie Joho’s colon cancer was raging out of control and there was nothing more she could do....But her sister couldn’t accept that... Jess opened her laptop and began searching frantically for clinical trials, using medical words she’d heard but not fully understood. An hour later, she came into her sister’s room and showed her what she’d found. “I’m not letting you give up,” she told Stefanie. “This is not the end.”

That search led to a contact at Johns Hopkins University, and a few days later, Joho got a call from a cancer geneticist co-leading a study there. “Get down here as fast as you can!” Luis Diaz said. “We are having tremendous success with patients like you.”

What followed is an illuminating tale of how one woman’s intersection with experimental research helped open a new frontier in cancer treatment — with approval of a drug that, for the first time, capitalizes on a genetic feature in a tumor rather than on the disease’s location in the body.
The breakthrough, made official last week by the Food and Drug Administration, immediately could benefit some patients with certain kinds of advanced cancer that aren’t responding to chemotherapy. Each should be tested for that genetic signature, scientists stress....In August 2014, Joho stumbled into Hopkins for her first infusion of the immunotherapy drug Keytruda.

The new pills that promise protection from UV rays

Heliocare and Sunsafe Rx offer 'sun protection' in the form of oral capsules. Heliocare claims to 'maintain skin's ability to protect against sun-related effects'. Sunsafe Rx, on the other hand, promises to 'defend against UVA and UVB rays'. Neither of these products have been approved by the FDA.

BPA, the'gender bending' chemical used in a wide range of plastics is finally named as a 'substance of very high concern' by European health officials

BPA is used to make plastics, including materials that come into contact with food, toys and cosmetics. It is most widely found in refillable drinks bottles and food storage containers, as well as the protective coatings and linings for food and drinks cans. Bisphenol A has been widely linked to cancer, birth defects and male infertility.

The new ruling on the chemical was made by the European Chemicals Agency based on 'its endocrine disrupting properties' that harm human health. Experts warn the chemical must now be phased out across the continent. However, the Food Standards Agency and the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) have said the chemical is not a safety concern.  The most recent statement from EFSA, in January 2015, said there is no risk posed to human health at current exposure levels. It said the highest estimates for exposure in the diet and from other sources are three to five times lower than the maximum recommended level.  In the US, the Food and Drug Administration's most recent ruling on the chemical was that it was 'safe at current levels'.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:23 AM | Permalink

Health Roundup: Olive oil good, lack of sleep bad for brain, Parkinson's, exercising spiritual muscles good

Extra-virgin olive oil prevents dementia by prompting the brain to clear out harmful debris, reveal scientists

Lead researcher Professor Domenico Pratico, from Temple University in Pennsylvania, said: 'We found that olive oil reduces brain inflammation but most importantly activates a process known as autophagy.' Autophagy is the process by which cells break down and clear out unwanted debris left in the body. Mice with induced Alzheimer's who were fed a diet of olive oil had higher levels of autophagy in the brain, according to researchers.  Professor Pratico said: 'One thing that stood out immediately was synaptic integrity - the integrity of the connections between neurons, known as synapses, were preserved in animals on the extra-virgin olive oil diet.

Your brain may eat itself when you’re overtired: study

Sleep deprivation actually causes the brain to feed off of neurons and synaptic connections, a new study published in the Journal of Neuroscience says.  In other words, when you don’t get enough sleep, your brain starts to eat itself.

Neuroscientist Michele Bellesi, from the Marche Polytechnic University in Italy, led a study examining the brain’s response to poor sleep habits using well-rested and overtired mice....“We show for the first time that portions of synapses are literally eaten by astrocytes because of sleep loss,” ... “But it may cause harm in the long term, and could explain why a chronic lack of sleep puts people at risk of Alzheimer’s disease and other neurological disorders.”
During sleep, glial cells, or astrocytes, clear the brain of  synapses to rejuvenate the brain while  the microglial cell destroys “old and worn out cells via a process called phagocytosis — meaning ‘to devour’ in Greek,”...These processes have a positive effect while you sleep, rewiring and replenishing the brain for the next day. Essentially, the brain is eliminating what’s irrelevant, holding onto what’s vital, and making room for new memories....However, when you stay awake, the cells actually go into overdrive and start hurting the brain instead.

Fat-soluble statins may increase risk of Parkinson's disease

The team examined medical insurance claim data from 50 million people. Of these, they selected 22,000 people living with Parkinson's disease, 2,322 of whom were newly diagnosed with the disease....

"Statin use was associated with higher, not lower, Parkinson's disease risk, and the association was more noticeable for lipophilic statins, an observation inconsistent with the current hypothesis that these statins protect nerve cells," she says. Although more studies are needed to better understand these results, Prof. Huang advocates for a cautious use of statins, particularly for those patients at higher risk of developing Parkinson's disease.

Parkinson's is partly an autoimmune disease, study finds

Researchers have found the first direct evidence that autoimmunity—in which the immune system attacks the body's own tissues—plays a role in Parkinson's disease, the neurodegenerative movement disorder. The findings raise the possibility that the death of neurons in Parkinson's could be prevented by therapies that dampen the immune response.

The study, led by scientists at Columbia University Medical Center (CUMC) and the La Jolla Institute for Allergy and Immunology, was published in Nature.  Study co-leader David Sulzer, PhD, professor of neurobiology (in psychiatry, neurology and pharmacology) at CUMC said. "The idea that a malfunctioning immune system contributes to Parkinson's dates back almost 100 years.. "But until now, no one has been able to connect the dots. Our findings show that two fragments of alpha-synuclein, a protein that accumulates in the brain cells of people with Parkinson's, can activate the T cells involved in autoimmune attacks."

Can church services extend your lifespan? 

Behavioral scientists at Vanderbilt University studied 5,500 people of all races and both genders. Two-thirds of them (64 percent) regularly attended worship sessions. The team found the religious participants scored better in terms of heart health, nutrition, and metabolic health. The effects of attendance at worship services remained after education, poverty, health insurance, and social support status were all taken into consideration.

The study was led by Marino Bruce, a behavioral scientist and ordained Baptist Minister, who worked with nine co-authors on the study, including Keith Norris, professor of medicine at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA. 'We've found that being in a place where you can flex those spiritual muscles is actually beneficial for your health.' ....'We found that they go to church for factors beyond social support,' Bruce said. 'That's where we begin to think about this idea of compassionate thinking, that we're trying to improve the lives of others as well as being connected to a body larger than ourselves.'

Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:06 AM | Permalink

June 21, 2017

Roundup of latest med research and tech: Pond-scum, science of diarrhea, real tans without sun, health-monitoring tattoos and more

How oxygen-producing pond scum could save your life after a heart attack

That’s because thee lowly bacteria in pond scum are capable of producing something a stricken heart desperately needs --- oxygen.  In fact, when Stanford scientists injected massive doses of cyanobacteria into the hearts of rats who suffered the equivalent of a “widow-maker” heart attack, oxygen levels ballooned by a factor of 25.

The results, published Wednesday in the journal Science Advances, suggest a truly original approach to reducing the damage done to heart muscle when it is suddenly deprived of oxygen.....Woo sees the new research as a “proof of principle” that photosynthesis, in some form, might someday be used as a bridge treatment for patients who have had blood flow cut off to any organ.

New study finds that diarrhea serves a purpose and flushes the body of certain infections

The study, conducted by researchers at Brigham and Women's Hospital (BWH), looked at the immune mechanisms that drive diarrhea.  They conducted a study in mice to find out if diarrhea serves a purpose by  infecting mice with the human equivalent of E.coli and analyzing their stools.  They found the infected mice produced proteins that caused tiny leaks in their intestinal wall which allowed more water to enter the intestines, making the mouse poop looser and limiting disease severity.

MIT Has Developed Color-Changing Tattoo Ink That Monitors Your Health in Real Time

Using a liquid with biosensors instead of traditional ink, scientists want to turn the surface of the human skin into an "interactive display, say for diabetics.  "The Dermal Abyss creates a direct access to the compartments in the body and reflects inner metabolic processes in a shape of a tattoo," the team writes on the project website

Scientists Have Discovered a Chemical That Causes Any Skin Type to Tan

It's the complete package: a chemical that can trigger the release of dark pigment in any type of skin tone - even in redheads - while also boosting the body's natural defenses against skin cancer.The new compound, which would work in conjunction with sunscreen, offers a temporary boost in melanin production - the pigment that gives human skin, hair, and eyes their color. If it proves effective in human trials, it could see the end of bad fake tans, and give fair-skinned people better protection when out in the elements.

"It would not actually be a fake tan, it would be the real thing," one of the team, David Fisher from the Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard University, told The Guardian. "It would just be sunless."

New discovery could get everyone a tan without the sun damage

Researchers at Massachusetts General Hospital have discovered a compound that can darken the skin without the sun’s damaging UV rays, according to a new study published in Cell Reports. “Our real goal is a novel strategy for protecting skin from UV radiation and cancer,” David Fisher, lead author of the study, told the BBC. “Dark pigment is associated with a lower risk of all forms of skin cancer – that would be really huge.”

The study notes that more safety testing is needed, especially when it comes to the MITF gene, which regulates skin pigment and could possibly cause cancer on its own if it’s messed around with. Fisher told Smithsonian magazine that it could be another three to five years before the product is close to hitting shelves. .... Fisher stressed that whatever form the eventual product takes, it wouldn’t be a replacement for sunscreen, merely an extra layer of protection.

The one drop flu blood test that could save your life 

The patented test, called The High-risk Influenza Screen Test (HIST), requires a drop of blood and a few hours to predict, with 91 per cent accuracy, which influenza patients are most as risk of deadly secondary infections such as pneumonia. The test was developed by Dr Bejamin Tang and his team, based at Australia's Westmead Institute for Medical Research, and runs on equipment available in most pathology laboratories.

'By using the High-risk Influenza Screen Test we're eavesdropping on the immune system to pick up when the body first mounts a defense against a serious, life-threatening, infection....'The early warning means we have a greater chance to treat the patient's infection before it overwhelms them and potentially kills them.'

A new drug that 'switches off' food cravings is on the horizon

Researchers at the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center at Harvard University used a tiny periscope to access part of brain not accessed before which allowed them to gain deeper understanding of how we react to food cues.

Certain hunger-promoting neurons can be artificially turned on even when full.  If these same neurons can be turned off to reduce food cravings, it could help obese people with a 'faulty' hard wiring that causes overeating.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:50 AM | Permalink

June 14, 2017

Medical Research and Technology: Ipsiihand, weak bladder, allergies, ovarian cancer, endometriosis and PTSD

"Ipsihand" lets 10 stroke patients regain control of their paralyzed hands


The technology called Ipsihand comprises a cap that contains electrodes to detect electrical signals in the brain, a computer that amplifies them and a movable brace that fits over the hand. The device detects the wearer's intention to open or close the paralyzed hand moving it in a pincer-like grip, with the second and third fingers bending to meet the thumb....The machine, developed by the Washington University School of Medicine in St Louis, targets a small part of the brain that is needed to send the first 'movement signal' to our fingers.

After 12 weeks of using the device, 10 patients increased their grasp ability by 6.2 on the 57-point scale.  While it may sound like a small number, experts insist it was a huge step in stroke research. For some, it even provided enough strength to put on a pair of pants.  Neuroscientist Professor Eric Leuthardt said: 'An increase of six points represents a meaningful improvement in quality of life.

Found, the gene that causes a weak bladder:

One in four women suffer ‘stress incontinence’ associated with laughing, sneezing, coughing, exercising or movements that put pressure on the bladder.  In more than half of all cases, the problem appears to be inherited. This discovery leads to hope that existing drugs can be adapted to treat condition that affects millions.

Researchers studied 9,000 women from three groups in Finland and the UK. They found that the genes affecting incontinence were in a similar area to those connected with pulmonary hypertension and Raynaud’s syndrome – where spasms of the arteries reduce blood flow. Dr Cartwright said: ‘Previous studies had failed to confirm any genetic causes for incontinence.

Scientists make breakthrough that could lead to cure for ALL allergies with a single treatment

Researchers say a single treatment giving life-long protection from severe allergies such as asthma could be made possible by immunology research.  A team led by Associate Professor Ray Steptoe, at The University of Queensland in Australia, has been able to 'turn-off' the immune response which causes allergic reaction in animals.

'The challenge in asthma and allergies is that these immune cells, known as T-cells, develop a form of immune 'memory' and become very resistant to treatments. 'We have now been able to 'wipe' the memory of these T-cells in animals with gene therapy, desensitizing the immune system so that it tolerates the protein. Dr Steptoe said the findings would be subject to further pre-clinical investigation, with the next step being to replicate results using human cells in the laboratory. 

In ‘Enormous Success,’ Scientists Tie 52 Genes to Human Intelligence

A team of European and American scientists announced on Monday that they had identified 52 genes linked to intelligence in nearly 80,000 people. These genes do not determine intelligence, however. Their combined influence is minuscule, the researchers said, suggesting that thousands more are likely to be involved and still await discovery. Just as important, intelligence is profoundly shaped by the environment.

Hope for thousands of women with ovarian cancer:

The first results from a landmark trial have found that the treatment dramatically shrank tumors in seven out of 15 women patients in the terminal stages of the illness, extending their lives by 6 months or more.  The team of doctors and scientists from the Institute of Cancer Research in London have described the results as ‘rare’ and ‘very promising’.

The drug BTG945 is given intravenously – as a drip – and patients have 12 doses every two weeks. It is able to penetrate tumors by disguising itself as folic acid – a naturally occurring vitamin that is particularly beneficial to pregnant women. Ovarian cancer tumors are particularly receptive to folic acid and the disguise enables the treatment to enter the cells and attack. This means the surrounding healthy cells are left alone, which is why the treatment causes so few side effects.

Cancer drugs that could help end the monthly agony of women with endometriosis:

Endometriosis occurs when the tissue that normally forms the lining of the womb each month occurs elsewhere in the body. This can cause extreme pain, as every month the tissue is expelled at the time of menstruation, but has nowhere to go. It also triggers inflammation, which can lead to the development of scar tissue that sticks to internal organs, causing even more pain. If endometriosis forms around the reproductive organs, it can affect fertility.  The discovery that endometriosis cells behave in the same way could lead to new way to treat the condition

Can a Single Injection Conquer PTSD?

The U.S. Army has commissioned a study to determine whether an anesthetic injection to the neck alleviates symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder—a treatment that, if proven effective, could be a big step toward easing an affliction affecting hundreds of thousands of troops who have returned from combat.

The $2 million Army study constitutes the first large-scale randomized control research into use of the shots—called stellate ganglion blocks—to treat PTSD. The injections have been used for decades for arm pain and shingles.  Early clinical experience has produced promising results, with troops experiencing near-immediate relief of anxiety, hyper-vigilance, social withdrawal and other symptoms, said military doctors who have administered the treatment.
“Once people have the shot, they get dramatically better immediately,” Dr. Lynch said. The shot isn’t a cure, he said, but eases symptoms enough to allow talk therapy, pharmaceuticals and other approaches to achieve long-term improvements.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 5:34 PM | Permalink

Health Roundup - Food Edition: Salt, fatty fish, broccoli and gelatin

Top scientist says all you've been told about salt is WRONG:

By Dr James Dinicolantonio -a leading cardiovascular research scientist — based at Saint Luke’s Mid-America Heart Institute, Missouri — I’ve contributed extensively to health policy and medical literature. I am associate editor of the British Medical Journal’s Open Heart, published in partnership with the British Cardiovascular Society, and I sit on the editorial advisory board of several other medical journals.
The dangerous myth that salt raises blood pressure began more than 100 years ago, with French scientists Ambard and Beauchard. They based their findings on studies of just six patients. Successive researchers misinterpreted and misused their data, building on a theory that earned media attention without any solid foundation in fact.
In my work, I’ve examined data from more than 500 medical papers and studies about salt. And this is what I’ve learned: there was never any sound scientific evidence to support this low salt idea. What’s more, as I explain in my new book, eating too little of it can cause insulin resistance, increased fat storage and may even increase the risk of diabetes — not to mention decreasing our sex drive.

Yet salt is an essential nutrient that our bodies depend on to live. And those limits go against all our natural instincts. When people are allowed as much salt as they fancy, they tend to settle at about a teaspoon-and-a-half a day. This is true all over the world, across all cultures, climates and social backgrounds.
Current daily guidelines limit you to 2.4g of sodium yet the average Korean, for instance, eats over 4g of sodium a day and they have some of world’s lowest rates for hypertension and coronary heart disease.

Brain scans reveal for the first time that eating plenty of salmon, mackerel and sardines protects against Alzheimer's by boosting blood flow and memory

Eating oily fish boosts our overall mental and emotional health, study reveals.  Omega-3 makes people better at acquiring and understanding new information. Simple dietary changes could prevent our risk of developing the condition.Past research suggests dementia could even be treated via high omega-3 intake

Lead study author Professor Daniel Amen, of Amen Clinics in Costa Mesa, California, said: 'This is very important research because it shows a correlation between lower omega-3 fatty acid levels and reduced brain blood flow to regions important for learning, memory, depression and dementia.'

Broccoli could be key to treating diabetes

A compound - sulforaphane -  in the broccoli helps to lower blood sugar levels.  Research has found that eating or drinking broccoli in the form of juice could help stop type 2 diabetes.

The Benefits of Gelatin 

Gelatin is a protein product derived from collagen with important health benefits due to its unique combination of amino acids. There is evidence that gelatin may reduce joint and bone pain, increase brain function and help reduce the signs of skin aging. Because gelatin is colorless and flavorless, it’s super easy to include in your diet. 

Who can resist a delicious panna cotta?    Especially after all that fish and broccoli/


Posted by Jill Fallon at 5:24 PM | Permalink

June 12, 2017

Global Warming aka Climate Change Is about Money and Power

The so-called "Consensus” on global warming is a massive lie.  The warming we've experienced over the past few decades is neither dramatic, nor unusual, nor scary.

“Global warming” is a myth say 80 graphs from 58 peer-reviewed scientific papers published in 2017.

By “global warming” these papers don’t, of course, mean the mild warming of around 0.8 degrees Celsius that the planet has experienced since the middle of the 19th century as the world crawled out of the Little Ice Age. Pretty much everyone, alarmists and skeptics alike, is agreed on that....Rather, they mean ...“Global warming” as in the scary, historically unprecedented, primarily man-made phenomenon which we must address urgently before the icecaps melt and the Pacific islands disappear beneath the waves and all the baby polar bears drown.

What all these papers argue in their different ways is that the alarmist version of global warming — aka Catastrophic Anthropogenic Global Warming (CAGW) — is a fake artifact.  That is, all these different experts from around the world — China, Russia, Canada, the U.S., Italy, etc. — have been looking closely at different aspects of the global warming puzzle in various regions and on different timescales and come to the conclusion in irreproachable, peer-reviewed scientific ways that there is no evidence to support the global warming scare story.

Growing petition of 31,487 U.S. scientists reject global warming hypothesis

Several of the U.S.’s top climatologists and at least two Nobel Prize winning physicists are among some 30,000 U.S. scientists to have signed a petition saying that “the human-caused global warming hypothesis is without scientific validity.”  The “Global Warming Petition Project” has 31,487 signers and is growing. The petition “strongly rejects as unproven the hypothesis of man-made global warming or climate change.”    It reads:

There is no convincing scientific evidence that human release of carbon dioxide, methane, or other greenhouse gases is causing or will, in the foreseeable future, cause catastrophic heating of the Earth’s atmosphere and disruption of the Earth’s climate. Moreover, there is substantial scientific evidence that increases in atmospheric carbon dioxide produce many beneficial effects upon the natural plant and animal environments of the Earth.”

The petition also urges the U.S. government to reject the global warming agreement that was written in Kyoto, Japan in December, 1997, and any other similar proposals. The proposed limits would harm the environment, hinder the advance of science and technology, and damage the health and welfare of mankind.”

Can 31,487 scientists be wrong?

In PhD scientist signers alone, the project already includes 15-times more scientists than are seriously involved in the United Nations IPCC process. The very large number of petition signers demonstrates that, if there is a consensus among American scientists, it is in opposition to the human-caused global warming hypothesis rather than in favor of it.

So, was President Trump right to withdraw from the Paris Accord?  What does it say? And what has been its effect? 

The effect first.

U.S. Paid $1 Billion To Paris Agreement Green Fund – All Other Nations Combined $0…

Why are multinational banks, and multinational corporations, and multinational investment groups and pension funds so desperate to retain the Paris agreement? Simple, those funds have been used by the multinational interests to create the entire system. 

What does it say?

If you believe - wrongly in my opinion - that reducing the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere will stop 'catastrophic global warming', you may support the Paris Accord  If you actually read it, you would realize that it does NOTHING substantive to limit CO2 on the planet.

The Paris Accord is  All About Money & Power

"Developed country Parties should continue to take the lead in mobilizing climate finance from a wide variety of sources, instruments and channels, noting the significant role of public funds, through a variety of actions, including supporting country-driven strategies, and taking into account the needs and priorities of developing country Parties. Such mobilization of climate finance should represent a progression beyond previous efforts.”

That paragraph above is the heart and soul of the Paris Accord. It isn’t about science. It isn’t about saving the planet. It is about a small group of very powerful globalists generating TRILLIONS of dollars in a worldwide climate change machine that would shift money from the American taxpayers to “developing country Parties.”

The Cost
Bjørn “Skeptical Environmentalist” Lomborg did the math on global warming

Even if every nation in the world adheres to its climate change commitments by 2030 the only  difference it will make to “global warming” by the end of this century will be to reduce the world’s temperatures by 0.048°C (0.086°F).

Worst Deal In History: $1.5 Trillion A Year To Reduce Global Warming By 0.048°C writes James Delingpole

Even if you’d spent $1 million a day every day since the birth of Jesus, you’d still be less than half the way to reaching $1.5 trillion.

He continues in his unimitable way

We’ve talked about the financial cost of these policies. What we haven’t yet mentioned are the social costs: the hundreds of thousands prematurely killed by the fuel poverty brought about by the drive for “clean energy”; the wildlife sliced and diced or fried by bat-chomping, bird-slicing eco-crucifixes and solar arrays; the remote landscapes ravaged by pylons connecting turbines to the grid; the billions of man-hours wasted on recycling; the increased pollution due to the misguided Europe-wide adoption of “low carbon” diesel cars; the rainforest chopped down and the agricultural land wasted to grow biofuels; the debasement of science for political ends; the needless panic induced in a generation or more of children; the assault on economic progress; the destruction of American forests to create wood-chips to burn as biomass; the harassment, vilification and defunding of skeptical scientists; the diversion of scarce public resources into intellectually bankrupt fields like “climate science”; the corruption of once-proud institutions like NASA, the Royal Society, and the Met Office; and so on.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:51 AM | Permalink

June 6, 2017

Falling Better

I come from New York where, if you fall down, someone will pick you up by your wallet.
Al McGuire


How To Fall To Your Death And Live To Tell The Tale

Fall injuries are the leading cause of death in people over 60, says Horak. Every year, about 30 percent of those 65 and older living in senior residences have a fall, and when they get older than 80, that number rises to 50 percent....."Fear of falling puts you at risk for falling."....
We can't eliminate all falls, says Neil Steinberg. So we must to learn to fall better....Scientists are now encouraging people to learn how to fall to minimize injury — to view falling not so much as an unexpected hazard to be avoided as an inevitability to be prepared for..

Lower body strength is important for recovering from slips, upper body strength for surviving falls.
Fall the right way
If you are falling, first protect your head — 37 percent of falls by elderly people in a study by Robinovitch and colleagues involved hitting their heads, particularly during falls forward. Fight trainers and parachute jump coaches encourage people to try not to fall straight forward or backward. The key is to roll, and try to let the fleshy side parts of your body absorb the impact.

"You want to reach back for the floor with your hands," says Chuck Coyle...Young people break their wrists because they shoot their hands out quickly when falling. Older people break their hips because they don't get their hands out quickly enough. You'd much rather break a wrist than a hip.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:24 PM | Permalink

June 4, 2017

Living the Handmaid's Tale

The most interesting and penetrating commentary on the Handmaid's Tale is by Charlotte Allen
Living 'The Handmaid's Tale' — courtesy of the secular liberal elites of L.A

I’ve lost count of the articles I’ve read about Hulu’s adaptation of Margaret Atwood’s 1985 novel “The Handmaid’s Tale” that used the word “timely.” Timely, that is, in the sense of the presidency of Donald Trump.....The idea, ... America has become — or will become terrifyingly soon — a militant Bible-based patriarchy.... in which women have no rights, especially no reproductive rights, and are divided into rigidly stratified social classes whose very names give their status away....

As the New Republic’s Sarah Jones, one of the “timely” crowd, explains, “Of course, we don’t divide women into classes of Marthas, Handmaids, Econowives, and Wives; we call them ‘the help,’ ‘surrogates,’ the working class, and the one percent.”....

Instead of seeing Atwood’s fictional Gilead as a near-future militant fundamentalist Christian elite dystopia, we should see it as the mostly secularist elite dystopia we live in right now....

Take those elite-class Wives..... the tech and finance billionaires, the media and entertainment moguls who cluster in expensive ZIP Codes...Those folks aren’t known for their church-going, and they vote in favor of liberal social and economic causes from abortion and immigration rights to sustainable energy to higher taxes. They contribute heavily to political campaign, and with their upper-middle-class epigones they run the culture, deciding who gets banned on Twitter, which kinds of “diversity” are allowed on campuses, and what television programs we’ll be allowed to see. Today’s overclass Wives typically hold Ivy League degrees, “lean in” to high-status careers, and stand with Planned Parenthood.....

We also have a rigidly defined caste of Marthas (and “Marthos,” their male counterparts), because the Wives and their high-earning husbands need them to mop their floors, care for their children, mow their lawns and trim their trees, all for bargain-basement wages. ...

Finally, the Handmaids. As in the fictional Gilead, real-life elite-class Wives have something of a fertility problem, although it’s related not to environmental degradation but delayed marriages and childbearing attempts of women who pursue high-power careers. Thanks to 30 years of advances in egg-transfer technology since Atwood published her novel, today’s gestational surrogates don’t have to get into embarrassing “threesome” sexual positions with the Commanders and their Wives in order to do their jobs. And they tend to be drawn not from the ranks of political dissidents, but from the financially strapped Econowife class.....

Still, as in Gilead, there is definitely a class of female pariahs on whom the elites heap condescension, contempt and, when they can, punishment for holding views at variance with what the elites deem correct. They’re not called Handmaids, of course. They’re called Deplorables
Posted by Jill Fallon at 7:50 PM | Permalink