Later On

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Archive for December 2019

How the Egg Industry Tried to Bury the TMAO Risk

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Dr. Michael Greger blogs:

“Metabolomics is a term used to describe the measurement of multiple small-molecule metabolites in biological specimens, including bodily fluids,” with the goal of “[i]dentifying the molecular signatures.” For example, if we compared the metabolic profile of those with severe heart disease to those with clean arteries, we might be able to come up with a cheap, simple, and noninvasive way to screen people. If heart patients happened to have something in their blood that healthy people didn’t, we could test for that. What’s more, perhaps it would even help us understand the mechanisms of disease. “To refer to metabolomics as a new field is injustice to ancient doctors who used ants to diagnose the patients of diabetes” (because the ants could detect the sugar in the diabetics’ urine).

The first modern foray discovered hundreds of substances in a single breath, thanks to the development of computer technology that made it possible to handle large amounts of information—and that was in 1971, when a computer took up nearly an entire room. “[N]ew metabolomics technologies [have] allowed researchers to measure hundreds or even thousands of metabolites at a time,” which is good since more than 25,000 compounds may be entering our body through our diet alone.

Researchers can use computers to turn metabolic data into maps that allow them to try to piece together connections. You can see sample data and a map at 1:28 in my video Egg Industry Response to Choline and TMAO. Metabolomics is where the story of TMAO started. “Everyone knows that a ‘bad diet’ can lead to heart disease. But which dietary components are the most harmful?” Researchers at the Cleveland Clinic “screened blood from patients who had experienced a heart attack or stroke and compared the results with those from blood of people who had not.”

Using an array of different technology, the researchers identified a compound called TMAO, which stands for trimethylamine N-oxide. The more TMAO people had in their blood, the greater the odds they had heart disease and the worse their heart disease was.

Where does TMAO come from? At 2:19 in my video, you can see a graphic showing that our liver turns TMA into TMAO—but where does TMA come from? Certain bacteria in our gut turn the choline in our diet into TMA. Where is the highest concentration of choline found? Eggs, milk, and meats, including poultry and fish. So, when we eat these foods, our gut bacteria may make TMA, which is absorbed into our system and oxidized by our liver into TMAO, which may then increase our risk of heart attack, stroke, and death.

However, simply because people with heart disease tend to have higher TMAO levels at a snapshot in time doesn’t mean having high TMAO levels necessarily leads to bad outcomes. We’d really want to follow people over time, which is what researchers did next. Four thousand people were followed for three years, and, as you can see in the graph at 3:10 in my video, those with the highest TMAO levels went on to have significantly more heart attacks, strokes, or death.

Let’s back up for a moment. If high TMAO levels come from eating lots of meat, dairy, and eggs, then maybe the only reason people with high TMAO levels have lots of heart attacks is that they’re eating lots of meat, dairy, and eggs. Perhaps having high TMAO levels is just a marker of a diet high in “red meat, eggs, milk, and chicken”—a diet that’s killing people by raising cholesterol levels, for example, and has nothing to do with TMAO at all. Conversely, the reason a low TMAO level seems so protective may just be that it’s indicative of a more plant-based diet.

One reason we think TMAO is directly responsible is that TMAO levels predict the risk of heart attacks, strokes, or death “independently of traditional cardiovascular risk factors.” Put another way, regardless of whether or not you had high cholesterol or low cholesterol, or high blood pressure or low blood pressure, having high TMAO levels appeared to be bad news. This has since been replicated in other studies. Participants were found to have up to nine times the odds of heart disease at high TMAO blood levels even after “controll[ing] for meat, fish, and cholesterol (surrogate for egg) intake.”

What about the rest of the sequence, though? How can we be certain that our gut bacteria can take the choline we eat and turn it into trimethylamine in the first place? It’s easy. Just administer a simple dietary choline challenge by giving participants some eggs.

Within about an hour of eating two hard-boiled eggs, there is a bump of TMAO in the blood, as you can see at 4:51 in my video. What if the subjects are then given antibiotics to wipe out their gut flora? After the antibiotics, nothing happens after they eat more eggs. In fact, their TMAO levels are down at zero. This shows that our gut bacteria play a critical role. But, if we wait a month and give their guts some time to recover from the antibiotics, TMAO levels creep back up.

These findings did not thrill the egg industry. Imagine working for the American Egg Board and being tasked with designing a study to show there is no effect of eating nearly an egg a day. How could a study be rigged to show no difference? If we look at the effect of an egg meal (see 5:32 in my video), we see it gives a bump in TMAO levels. However, our kidneys are so good at getting rid of TMAO, by hours four, six, and eight, we’re back to baseline. So, the way to rig the study is just make sure the subjects hadn’t eaten those eggs in the last 12 hours. Then, you can show “no effect,” get your study published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, and collect your paycheck.


Unfortunately, this appears to be part for the course for the egg industry. For more on their suspect activities, see:

For more on the TMAO story, see:

Written by LeisureGuy

31 December 2019 at 3:58 pm

The Family Wanted a Do Not Resuscitate Order. The Doctors Didn’t.

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Caroline Chen reports in ProPublica:

A towering figure at 6 feet, 3 inches, with salt-and-pepper hair and matching mustache, Jurtschenko — known to one and all as Andy — delighted friends and family with his seemingly endless supply of wisecracks and goofball humor. On April 5, 2018, he went into surgery at Newark Beth Israel Medical Center in Newark, New Jersey, for a new heart and what he hoped would be renewed energy. He dreamed of returning to his carpet business and to enjoying New York Mets games on the weekends after years of exhaustion and strain caused by congestive heart failure.

Typically, patients begin reviving within 24 hours after transplant surgery. Andy didn’t. As the days passed, his children, Chris and Megan Jurtschenko, became increasingly concerned. On April 26, a neurologist called Chris and explained what an MRI the day before had shown: Andy’s brain had likely been deprived of oxygen during the procedure. The doctor said he “would basically be in a vegetative state,” Chris recalled in an interview. Chris asked to meet with the medical team the next day.

The devastated family took some comfort in knowing what Andy would have wanted. In several conversations before the surgery, he had made clear that “he did not want to be a burden on us, he did not want to live in an incapacitated form,” Andy’s older sister, Anna DeMarinis, said.

Now that their father could not speak for himself, Chris and Megan, as Andy’s next of kin, had to be his voice. On April 27, they went to the hospital for the meeting. Still hoping Andy might recover, they did not seek to withdraw his feeding tube or medications. But they asked for a do not resuscitate order. If he were to stop breathing or have no pulse, a DNR order would direct doctors not to compress his chest, use a machine to force air into his lungs or give electric shocks to restart his heart.

If his heart stopped, “we weren’t going to force him to stay,” Megan said.

Dr. Margarita Camacho, the surgeon who had performed the transplant, deflected their request, the siblings said. She told them that it was too early for a DNR, and that they shouldn’t give up hope because their father might recover, his children said. At Camacho’s urging, Megan and Chris said, they let it go. No DNR order was signed that day. The family would continue to press the issue and finally secure a DNR more than a month later.

Megan and Chris Jurtschenko waived their privacy rights to allow the hospital to discuss their father’s case with ProPublica. Asked directly about the meeting with the surgeon and why the family’s wishes were not followed at the time, Linda Kamateh, a spokeswoman for Newark Beth Israel and Camacho said in an email: “Physicians are obliged to give their best medical advice based on a patient’s medical condition. However, ultimately the decision to have a DNR resides with the patient. The hospital believes that it adhered to those principles in its discussions with the Jurtschenko family.”

Except for “a very specific set of dire medical circumstances, in which a patient may require resuscitation,” a DNR “does not otherwise affect ongoing care and treatment,” Kamateh wrote in a separate email. “… These decisions are often revisited and reassessed within the course of treatment.”

Andy’s medical record doesn’t mention the children’s request for a DNR. “The family was able to express their concerns and decided to continue to see how PT [patient] progresses over the next few weeks,” a social worker wrote.

Bearing out Camacho’s prognosis, Andy would awaken and recover some cognitive ability — but only enough to attain the incapacitated state he had dreaded, not to become again the man that his children knew and loved. They remained adamant that, if his heart stopped, he would have preferred to die than to be resuscitated for such an existence.


The American Medical Association’s code of medical ethics states, “The ethical obligation to respect patient autonomy and self-determination requires that the physician respect decisions to refuse care.” Yet Newark Beth Israel’s transplant team was often reluctant to sign DNR orders, according to four former employees and an audio recording of a staff meeting. While the team wouldn’t outright refuse, especially when patients or their family members repeatedly asked, it often delayed or discouraged DNRs, especially before key dates tied to performance metrics such as the one-year survival rate, or the proportion of people undergoing transplants who are still alive a year after their operations, three of the ex-employees said.

The team also lacked a process for discussing beforehand whether patients would want CPR if their pulse or breathing stopped after their operations, the former employees said. Typically, the staff addressed the issue only if a patient’s condition became critical and family members were insisting on a DNR.

Newark Beth Israel’s DNR policies are consistent with best practices, Kamateh said. “These policies guide our clinical teams in support of the treatment decisions of our patients and their families, from the most routine procedures to the most complex and stressful situations,” she said. “We strive to explain care options and deliver sound medical advice in ways that are timely and clear, yet also respectful and sensitive.”

At least indirectly, the concern about DNRs may have stemmed from Newark Beth Israel’s aggressive approach to transplants. Newark Beth Israel’s heart transplant program is one of the top 20 in the U.S. by volume, having grown under Dr. Mark Zucker, its director for three decades, and Camacho, the main surgeon. As of November, the hospital had performed 1,096 heart transplants.

The program is known for taking on sicker patients who might be rejected at other programs. From 2014 through 2017, compared with its counterparts in New Jersey and nearby states, Newark Beth Israel’s transplant team operated on a higher percentage of patients who were older, more overweight or obese, and who had been in an intensive care unit while awaiting transplant, according to the Scientific Registry of Transplant Recipients. (The registry is funded by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to track and analyze transplant outcomes.) In those years, Newark Beth Israel also had a higher percentage of patients who had been on a pump or some other support before transplant, which increases the difficulty of surgery. This stance filled an important gap in care and helped the program grow both in size and revenue; hospitals typically bill insurers about $1.4 million for a heart transplant.

“While the Advanced Heart Failure Treatment and Transplant Program at NBI does not seek out cases that are more complex than those handled by other prestigious transplant programs, patients from other programs have been referred to our care and been successfully transplanted,” Kamateh said. “Our clinical decisions are driven by the best interest of our patients, including their personal preferences, not by statistical results.”

Scores of grateful patients say they owe their lives to Zucker and Camacho.

“Dr. Zucker has saved my life again and again,” said Mark Reagan, a retired AIG executive in Bluffton, South Carolina. Reagan received his heart transplant at Newark Beth Israel in March 2003 after suffering from congestive heart failure for eight years. Reagan said his arteries were initially too narrow for a transplant, but Zucker opened his arteries with an experimental treatment so he could get onto the waitlist. After his surgery, Reagan became part of the “Hearty Hearts” volunteers at the hospital who advocate for organ donations and lift the spirits of other transplant recipients. Through “Hearty Hearts,” he said, he has met several transplant candidates who were turned away by other hospitals but “walked out of Newark Beth Israel with a new heart, because of Mark.”

Accepting more difficult cases, though, can raise the risk of adverse outcomes. According to former employees and audio recordings of staff meetings, Newark Beth Israel’s transplant team worried about its one-year survival rate, which would drop below the national average in 2019. That anxiety, the employees said, appeared to underlie the team’s unwillingness to sign DNR orders, since resuscitation might be needed to keep a patient alive.

Besides Andy Jurtschenko’s children, two former NBI employees, including one with firsthand knowledge, said that the transplant team initially balked at a DNR order for him. By ruling out extreme measures to revive him, a DNR could conceivably have hastened Andy’s death and lowered the program’s one-year survival rate. Whether or how much metrics influenced Camacho’s rebuff of the DNR request is unclear. While DNR orders are documented in the medical record, unapproved requests — and the reasons behind those decisions — generally aren’t.


There can be few greater points of contention between physicians and families, few so infused with emotion and anguish on both sides, than whether to resuscitate someone on the verge of death. Hospitals have been sued and nursing homes fined for resuscitating patients who had a DNR order on file. Or families may urge a medical team to initiate resuscitation that a physician believes is futile, or even torture, for a patient with a terminal diagnosis. The decision is inherently subjective, and ultimately, doctors are supposed to respect the wishes of patients — or, if they can’t speak for themselves, their health care proxy.

A heart transplant itself is an act of resuscitation; there is a moment, after the old heart has been removed and the new organ not yet implanted, when . . .

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Written by LeisureGuy

31 December 2019 at 2:25 pm

What Happens When Sheriffs Release Violent Offenders to Avoid Paying Their Medical Bills

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Connor Sheets reports in ProPublica:

Joel Tucker was booked into Alabama’s Fayette County Jail in December 2014 after being charged with the violent assault of his sister. According to court records, he punched her in the face, leaving her with a brain hemorrhage, a broken shoulder and other injuries.

“My brother almost killed me,” said Tucker’s sister, Joycelyn Gugaria, now 53.

Nonetheless, the following month, the Fayette County sheriff released Tucker on his own recognizance, citing “medical reasons.”

Sheriffs across Alabama and the U.S. regularly find ways to release sick and injured inmates from county jails to avoid paying for their hefty hospital bills, a practice often referred to as medical bond that AL.com and ProPublica reported in September. Some sheriffs defend the practice as a way to keep jail medical costs down while allowing people who aren’t a threat to society to access care.

In Alabama, it’s now clear that some of those inmates were in jail awaiting trial on charges that they’d committed violent crimes, even murder, AL.com and ProPublica have found.

Tucker is one of more than a dozen violent offenders released from Alabama jails via medical bond that AL.com and ProPublica have identified. One shot and killed another man in a nightclub. Another shot and killed a man outside his house. A third man was released the day after he was charged with second-degree assault.

With convictions that include domestic violence and manufacturing and selling drugs, Tucker, now 47, has been in and out of jails and prisons since the 1990s.

While he was out on medical bond after hitting Gugaria, Tucker committed additional crimes, for which he is now serving a 17 ½ year federal prison sentence in Terre Haute, Indiana. He could not be reached for comment.

Rodney Ingle, who at the time was sheriff of Fayette County, said this month that he did not recall the details of Tucker’s case and could not say whether he believed he was right to allow Tucker to be released. But Ingle, whose term as sheriff ended in January, said he does not “think it’s a good idea” to let violent criminals out of jail on medical bond.

“If you’re a violent offender, just because you’ve got a medical issue you shouldn’t be bonded out,” he said. “I don’t think they should be able to get right back out. I don’t agree with that.”

To be sure, many people charged with violent crimes can post bail and be released pending trial. With medical bond, however, the calculus is less about whether the defendant will show up for future court proceedings and more about how much his or her medical care will cost.

The state of Alabama does not keep statistics on how often defendants are released on medical bond or on the charges they faced when they were let go. Cases receive periodic attention when outraged victims file lawsuits or speak up in news reports.

The way sheriffs in Alabama use medical bond is drawing scrutiny following the AL.com and ProPublica investigation. State Rep. Neil Rafferty, a Birmingham Democrat who serves on the House health committee, and several of his colleagues on both sides of the aisle said they plan to tackle the issue of medical bond during the 2020 legislative session.

Rafferty said he was appalled that some violent offenders are released from county jails in Alabama so sheriffs can avoid paying their medical bills.

“That’s not good for public safety, if we’re releasing people who are threats to public safety,” he said. “That is ridiculous.”

Accused of Murder, Out on Bond

In February 2015, James Herrod was arrested and charged with murdering a woman and leaving her on the side of the road in Selma. His bond was initially set at $1 million. In December 2016, Circuit Judge Marvin W. Wiggins denied a motion by Herrod’s attorney to reduce his bond to $50,000.

But three months later, Harris Huffman Jr., who was then sheriff of Dallas County, which includes Selma, requested Herrod’s release. Wiggins turned aside prosecutors’ objections and let Herrod go.

“The Dallas County Sheriff has to transport him to Montgomery twice or three times a week for Chemotherapy treatment,” Herrod’s attorney wrote in a February 2017 court filing.

“There will soon be a time when the Defendant will need to be hospitalized for one week at a time and there will be three or four of such stays in Montgomery,” the pleading said. “The Defendant needs to be home to have the support of his family and spend quality (sic) with his family.”

Huffman defended his decision to ask Wiggins to allow him to release Herrod in an interview with the Selma Times-Journal, saying that Herrod’s treatment had already cost the county over $200,000. Huffman, who did not respond to requests for comment, chose not to run for another term last year and his 24-year tenure as sheriff ended in January.

“My concern is he is extremely ill, and to be in a county jail and being that sick, it’s really hard to give him the medical attention that he needs,” Huffman told the newspaper. “It’s expensive, and it’s taxpayers’ money. … I think with him being this sick after several months it was time to do something else.”

Michael Jackson, district attorney for Alabama’s 4th Judicial Circuit, which comprises five counties in the center of the state including Dallas County, said that he’s long advocated for violent offenders to be kept behind bars.

“I understand that when somebody gets sick it can cost a lot of money, and these sheriffs don’t want to pay for that,” Jackson said. “But certain crimes like murder and rape, these people don’t need to be walking around.”

Herrod died on June 2, 2017, 10 days before his trial was slated to begin.

Martin Weinberg, a Birmingham lawyer with experience suing Alabama jails over medical issues, said some county jails in the state notoriously provide substandard in-house care and inadequate access to outside medical providers for sick inmates. Yet he and other experts said it is important to weigh those considerations against the potential societal risks of releasing inmates accused of violent crimes.

“We certainly don’t want to release violent offenders who wouldn’t otherwise be released because they have medical issues and we don’t want to pay for their care,” he said. “They get released and they can’t afford care and they get into more trouble and find their way right back into custody.”

Some sheriffs said they oppose releasing inmates accused of violent crimes for medical reasons.

“We’re just gonna bite the bullet,” Geneva County Sheriff Tony Helms said. “I’m not gonna go to the judge and say they need to be released. If it costs us, it costs us.”

Marshall County Sheriff Phil Sims agreed. “If they’re a threat to someone or if it’s a crime that’s a violent crime, they shouldn’t be released.”

“He’s Always Been Violent”

Gugaria has lived in fear of her brother for most of her life.

Sitting in the living room of her late father’s home deep in the woods of Bankston, a rural community west of Birmingham in Fayette County, Gugaria recounted stories of the “hell” of living through Tucker’s violence, drug abuse and rage.

“He’s always been violent, even when he was a little kid,” Gugaria said. “Something’s just wrong with him.”

In 2013, Tucker was released early from a 15-year sentence for the manufacture of a controlled substance. In August of the following year, he punched Gugaria in the face. She was hospitalized for a day and has required multiple medical procedures over the past five years.

“I had a brain hemorrhage, my right shoulder was broken in two places, all the little bones in my nose were broken, my cheekbone was broken and my sinus cavity was crumpled,” she said. “I still have some paralysis in my face.”

Gugaria, who once worked as a secretary for the city of Tuscaloosa and loved to play poker, now collects a disability check as a result of her injuries.

Gugaria said she waited three weeks to file charges against her brother because she was afraid of him, and by that time, he had fled to Chicago. Local law enforcement obtained a warrant for Tucker’s arrest and went looking for him.

Sheriff’s deputies found Tucker in Fayette County and arrested him in December 2014. His bail was set at $25,000, but Tucker was released at the end of January 2015, on his own recognizance “due to documented medical reasons,” according to his release paperwork, which is part of his public court file.

The only officials who signed the bond were Ingle and his chief deputy. No judge, clerk or other officer of the court signed the document, which goes against standard procedure in Alabama. . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

31 December 2019 at 2:16 pm

Russia’s State TV Calls Trump Their ‘Agent’

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Julia Davis reports at the Daily Beast:

Sometimes a picture doesn’t have to be worth a thousand words. Just a few will do. As Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov returned home from his visit with President Donald Trump in the Oval Office last week, Russian state media were gloating over the spectacle. TV channel Rossiya 1 aired a segment entitled “Puppet Master and ‘Agent’—How to Understand Lavrov’s Meeting With Trump.”

Vesti Nedeli, a Sunday news show on the same network, pointed out that it was Trump, personally, who asked Lavrov to pose standing near as Trump sat at his desk. It’s almost the literal image of a power behind the throne.

And in the meantime, much to Russia’s satisfaction, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky is still waiting for that critical White House meeting with the American president: the famous “quid pro quo” for Zelensky announcing an investigation that would smear Democratic challenger Joe Biden. As yet, Zelensky hasn’t done that, and as yet, no meeting has been set.

Russian state television still views the impending impeachment as a bump in the road that won’t lead to Trump’s removal from office. But President Vladimir Putin’s propaganda brigades enjoy watching the heightened divisions in the United States, and how it hurts relations between the U.S. and Ukraine.

They’ve also added a cynical new a narrative filled with half-joking ironies as they look at the American president’s bleak prospects when he does leave office.

Appearing on Sunday Evening With Vladimir Soloviev, Mikhail Gusman, first deputy director general of ITAR-TASS, Russia’s oldest and largest news agency, predicted: “Sooner or later, the Democrats will come back into power. The next term or the term after that, it doesn’t matter… I have an even more unpleasant forecast for Trump. After the White House, he will face a very unhappy period.”

The host, Vladimir Soloviev, smugly asked: “Should we get another apartment in Rostov ready?” Soloviev’s allusion was to the situation of Viktor Yanukovych, former president of Ukraine, who was forced to flee to Russia in 2014 and settled in the city of Rostov-on-Don.

Such parallels between Yanukovych and Trump are being drawn not only because of their common association with Paul Manafort, adviser to the first, campaign chairman for the second, but also because Russian experts and politicians consider both of them to be openly pro-Kremlin.

Tightly controlled Russian state-television programs constantly reiterate that Trump doesn’t care about Ukraine and gave Putin no reasons to even contemplate concessions in the run-up to the recent Normandy Four summit in Paris.

State-television news shows use every opportunity to demoralize the Ukrainians with a set of talking points based on the U.S. president’s distaste for their beleaguered country. The host of Who’s Against on Rossiya-1, Dmitry Kulikov, along with pro-Kremlin guests, took repeated jabs at the Ukrainian panelist, boasting about the meeting between Trump and Lavrov.

“There are no disagreements or contradictions between Trump and Russia,” argued Valery Korovin, director of the Center for Geopolitical Expertise, appearing on the state-television channel Rossiya-24. Korovin insisted that the Democrats in Congress are the main antagonists in the relationship between Russia and the United States.

Dmitry Kiselyov, the host of the Sunday news show Vesti Nedeli, accused the Democrats of joining forces with Hollywood, carrying out various conspiracies in order to undermine Trump’s popularity. Reporting for Vesti Nedeli from Washington, Mikhail Antonov used the term “the Cold War,” a fraught rhetorical twist to describe the clash between Trump and the Democratic majority in the House of Representatives.

Appearing on Sunday Evening With Vladimir Soloviev, Mikhail Gusman noted: “The scariest part of our relationship with America is that the level of trust between our countries, our governments, our political powers, is precisely at zero.”

“But not between the presidents,” chimed in the host.

Rudy Giuliani, acting as the president’s personal attorney and determined to divert attention from Trump’s impeachment to former Vice President Biden’s alleged corruption, recently embarked on an “evidence-gathering” trip to Ukraine. Shortly after Giuliani’s return to the United States, Russian state television started airing video clips of his OAN (One America News Network) “documentary.” It purports to prove . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

31 December 2019 at 11:43 am

The Dead Sea and Esbjerg aftershave gel go together like bread and butter

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My Vie-Long horsehair brush, which I soak as I do a boar brush (wet knot, let brush stand sopping wet while I shower), has a pleasantly coarse feel on the face with a soft knot. It make a fine lather from The Dead Sea, which has a fragrance (and a lather) that I like a lot: Lemon, Rosemary, Cannabis, Saffron, and Sandalwood—not a common fragrance. The vendor description:

This soap has been a dream of my uncle for the last two years. Since discovering and using other skin care products that contained Dead Sea Salt, the idea of a luxury shaving soap using this ingredient has been brewing inside his mind. A lot of formulating and testing was required but the finished product is truly something special and a shaving soap both of us are very proud of. The scent of THE DEAD SEA is very unique, containing two oils not typically used in scent building, golden cannabis oil and saffron. I can guarantee you’ve never smelt a soap quite like this one. On top of the wonderful skin care properties of Dead Sea salt, we have added both lanolin and aloe vera extract for a perfect post-shave feel. A shaving soap of this quality wouldn’t be complete unless packaged in an Italian heavy glass jar with an aluminum top. RazoRock THE DEAD SEA is not just another shaving soap, it’s a traditional wet shaving experience you won’t soon forget!

(Again: I get no kickback or remuneration or discounts from any vendors. I provide the information to my readers because I like the products and I think they might as well. That link is not an affiliate link.)

My RazorRock MJ-90A is the razor the Edwin Jagger would be if it grew up, went to college, and got a good job: the same person, but stronger and more capable and poised. It produced a perfect shave, though I will take some credit for providing guidance along the way (and doing a good job of prep, including MR GLO).

A tiny squirt of Esbjerg Aftershave Gel Sensitve completed the shave. Esbjerg’s fragrance, which is clean and light, differs from The Dead Sea’s, but it seems to me to complement it quite well. I was interested to read at the link the suggestion that this product can also be used as a pre-shave treatment. They note that the product has no fragrance oils included but has a light scent from the ingredients, which they characterize as “rose.” I would say it’s not quite rose, being slightly in the direction of a lemon fragrance (but definitely not lemon itself).

A great shave to close out the year and the decade of the teens, and tomorrow we start the decade of the 20’s. I was bemused to read a column claiming there was some controversy over when the decade starts. What struck me was the use of the definite article “the,” as though there were one decade. A decade can begin on any date — March 15, 1978 can mark the beginning of a decade (that ended March 14, 1986). The decade called “the 20s” will start tomorrow and will end December 31, 2029, the next day beginning the decade called “the 30s.”

Written by LeisureGuy

31 December 2019 at 10:55 am

Posted in Shaving

Instead of “Any questions?” say “What questions do you have for me?”

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And other tips in this Twitter thread.

Written by LeisureGuy

30 December 2019 at 4:34 pm

Brave New World, Deepfakes Dept: The coming deepfakes threat to businesses

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Kaveh Waddell and Jennifer A. Kingson reported in Axos last July:

In the first signs of a mounting threat, criminals are starting to use deepfakes — starting with AI-generated audio — to impersonate CEOs and steal millions from companies, which are largely unprepared to combat them.

Why it matters: Nightmare scenarios abound. As deepfakes grow more sophisticated, a convincing forgery could send a company’s stock plummeting (or soaring), to extract money or to ruin its reputation in a viral instant.

  • Imagine a convincing fake video or audio clip of Elon Musk, say, disclosing a massive defect the day before a big Tesla launch — the company’s share price would crumple.

What’s happening: For all the talk about fake videos, it’s deepfake audio that has emerged as the first real threat to the private sector.

  • Symantec, a major cybersecurity company, says it has seen three successful audio attacks on private companies. In each, a company’s “CEO” called a senior financial officer to request an urgent money transfer.
  • Scammers were mimicking the CEOs’ voices with an AI program that had been trained on hours of their speech — culled from earnings calls, YouTube videos, TED talks and the like.
  • Millions of dollars were stolen from each company, whose names were not revealed. The attacks were first reported in the BBC.

And in March, a Twitter account falsely claiming to belong to a Bloomberg journalist reportedly tried to coax personal information from Tesla short-sellers. Amateur sleuths said the account’s profile photo had the hallmarks of an AI-generated image.

Big picture: This threat is just beginning to emerge. Video and audio deepfakes are improving at a frightening pace and are increasingly easy to make.

  • There’s been an uptick in sophisticated audio attacks over the past year, says Vijay Balasubramaniyan, CEO of Pindrop, a company that protects call centers from scammers.
  • But businesses aren’t ready, experts tell Axios. “I don’t think corporate infrastructure is prepared for a world where you can’t trust the voice or video of your colleague anymore,” says Henry Ajder of Deeptrace, a deepfakes-detection startup.

Even if companies were clamoring for defenses, few tools exist to keep harmful deepfakes at bay, says Symantec’s Saurabh Shintre. The challenge of automatically spotting a deepfake is almost insurmountable, and there are hurdles still ahead for a promising alternative: creating a digital breadcrumb trail for unaltered media.

  • Pindrop monitors for audio attacks like altered voices on customer service lines.
  • Symantec and ZeroFOX, another cybersecurity company, say they are developing technology to detect audio fakes.

What’s out there already isn’t cheap.

  • New Knowledge, a firm that defends companies from disinformation, says its services can run from $50,000 to “a couple million” a year.
  • Just monitoring the internet for potential fakes comes at “a substantial cost,” says Matt Price of ZeroFOX. “And that’s not even talking about the detection piece, which will probably be fairly expensive.”

As a result, businesses are largely defenseless for now, leaving . . .

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Written by LeisureGuy

30 December 2019 at 3:56 pm

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