Later On

A blog written for those whose interests more or less match mine.

Archive for February 2020

Turning Up the Heat on Thermal Paper Receipts

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Bisphenol-A, like Teflon, is a contaminant humans have introduced and continue to put into the environment. Joe Schwartz writes at McGill Office of Science and Society:

When you are spending money at a store, the cost may be more than the amount shown on the cash register receipt. According to some researchers, there is a cost to health. That’s because handling the receipt transfers a chemical known to have hormone-disruptive properties to the skin from where it can migrate into the bloodstream. That chemical is bisphenol A, commonly abbreviated as BPA. This is a multi-functional substance that is a component of polycarbonate plastic as well as the epoxy resin that lines food cans. In the case of receipts, it is coated onto the paper to the extent of about 20 mg/g and acts to develop the image when heat is applied. There is some fascinating chemistry involved here. “Leuco” dyes are chemicals that can exist in a colourless or coloured form depending on temperature and acidity. In this case, the paper is treated with the colourless form. When heat is applied, as directed by a printer head, the colorless form combines with BPA, here acting as an acid, to form the coloured image.

A number of studies have shown that BPA can be transferred to the skin from thermal paper. This is done by having subjects handle the paper and then extracting their skin with a solvent such as ethanol and then testing the ethanol for bisphenol A content. Such studies have clearly shown that some of the chemical is transferred and that the transfer is significantly enhanced if previously a sanitizer or moisturizing cream had been applied to the hands. Following the handling of receipts, the concentration of bisphenol A in the blood and urine can also be measured. Indeed, some researchers believe that for most people, cash register receipts represent the most significant exposure to BPA.

The amount of BPA that shows up in the blood after handling receipts has been found to be more than if a comparable amount were consumed. That’s because orally ingested BPA travels through the liver where it is metabolized with the remnants being excreted in the urine. By contrast, transdermal passage does not lead to quick detoxication by the liver. There is also the issue that when BPA is transferred to the fingers, it can further contaminate other substances that are handled, such as food. In one study, eating French fries after handling cash receipt paper resulted in higher blood levels of BPA than after eating the fries with hands that had not touched such paper.

Of course, one cannot equate the mere finding of a chemical in the blood or the urine with the presence of risk. Indeed, high urinary levels may mean that the chemical is being efficiently excreted. However, some researchers maintain that the levels found after handling thermal paper, around 20 nanograms per mL, are comparable to those that in epidemiological studies have been associated with health effects such as obesity, miscarriage, reduced libido, impaired sperm quality and altered immune, liver, thyroid and kidney function. These studies, though, are just associations and cannot prove a cause and effect relationship. For example, diet can influence both the amount of BPA ingested, since it is found in many canned foods, as well as the rate at which it is excreted in the urine. So a higher urinary level of BPA in the urine may just be a marker for a different diet or a different level of hygiene, both of which rather than BPA may account for the health effects.

Nevertheless, . . .

Continue reading. Emphasis added.

Written by Leisureguy

29 February 2020 at 12:48 pm

D.R. Harris and rose, with the Dorco PL602

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The brush is a 24mm synthetic — Starcraft, by Phoenix Artisan — and the shaving cream is D.R. Harris Rose, which made a really terrific lather quite easily. I can see why some favor shaving creams. The Dorco’s comfort and performance matched or exceeded the three previous razors, though the feel in the hand is certainly different. The performance, however, is just amazing, and the comfort of this razor on the face is hard to beat. Three passes to a totally smooth result, and then a good splash of D.R. Harris Pink After Shave. The weekend is launched.

Written by Leisureguy

29 February 2020 at 8:46 am

Posted in Shaving

“The End of History” — a brief time-travel movie

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Written by Leisureguy

28 February 2020 at 4:59 pm

Vegetarian Diet Tied to Lower Stroke Risk

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Judy George writes in MedPage Today:

Members of the Tzu Chi Buddhist communities in Taiwan who ate vegetarian diets showed markedly lower stroke risk than nonvegetarian members, researchers found.

In one cohort, vegetarians had lower ischemic stroke risk (HR 0.26; 95% CI 0.08–0.88). In a second, they showed a lower risk of both ischemic (HR 0.41; 95% CI 0.19–0.88) and hemorrhagic (HR 0.34; 95% CI 0.12–1.00) stroke, according to Chin-Lon Lin, MD, of Tzu Chi University in Hualien, and co-authors.

In a subgroup analysis, vitamin B12 intake appeared to modify the association between vegetarian diet and overall stroke (P interaction = 0.046), they reported in Neurology.

Most participants refrained from alcohol and tobacco, eliminating one source of possible confounding, although 15%-20% had used one or both prior to joining the Tzu Chi sect.

“Overall, our study found that a vegetarian diet was beneficial and reduced the risk of ischemic stroke, even after adjusting for known risk factors like blood pressure, blood glucose levels and fats in the blood,” Lin said in a statement. “This could mean that perhaps there is some other protective mechanism that may be protecting those who eat a vegetarian diet from stroke.”

Research about diet and stroke risk has produced mixed results. Among women, a Mediterranean diet has been tied to reduced stroke risk, and a meta-analysis has tied meatless diets to lower blood pressure.

“Vegetarian diets might offer even more benefit but for B12 deficiency, which increases the risk of stroke by raising plasma total homocysteine,” wrote J. David Spence, MD, of Western University in London, Canada, and Christy Tangney, PhD, of Rush University Medical Center in Chicago, in an accompanying editorial. Based on diagnostic markers, B12 deficiency is common among vegetarians. “The prevalence is high among lacto-ovo vegetarians: 45% or more in adults and infants, and higher in vegans,” Spence and Tangney pointed out.

In their study, Lin and colleagues followed 5,050 people in the Tzu Chi Health Study (cohort 1) and 8,302 people in the Tzu Chi Vegetarian Study (cohort 2) to identify stroke events in Taiwan’s National Health Insurance Research Database.

Most study participants were Tzu Chi volunteers, Buddhists who committed to community service, and who completed at least 2 years of training in Tzu Chi core values and stopped smoking and drinking alcohol to become certified volunteers. Cohort 1 was recruited from 2007 to 2009; cohort 2 was recruited in 2005. Mean follow-up time was 6 years for cohort 1 and 9 years for cohort 2.

At baseline,  . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

28 February 2020 at 4:09 pm

Another problem with the low-carb high-fat diet: Colon cancer

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The problem is that low-carb high-fat diets overwhelmingly are high in meat—and thus high in animal protein and animal far.

Written by Leisureguy

28 February 2020 at 10:15 am

Media Struggles with the Rise of Bernie

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Carl Quesnel has an interesting post at The Simple Serial:

It’s been interesting watching the mass media lately as they contemplate what they should do about Bernie Sanders. The panic and desperation are palpable. Do we assume that he’s vulnerable enough that we should continue attacking him relentlessly to try to make sure he doesn’t get elected? Or do we pretend “we knew it all along” [that he could win] and try to “get ahead of this thing” by running positive stories about him?

At times it’s hard to tell the difference, but in general MSNBC leans a little more toward the right than CNN. While MSNBC maintains its penchant for reactionaries like Joe Scarborough and Chris Matthews, CNN has brought in more diverse voices like Van Jones and, more recently, Andrew Yang. Both of those gentlemen are friendly to the Sanders cause, at least more so than the folks at MSNBC. On the other hand, in the debates with CNN moderators, Bernie has endured nonstop accusations from the likes of Wolf Blitzer and Chuck Todd, who only seem to know how to ask “Given that your plan is likely to destroy the country, tell us why we should believe you when you say it won’t.”

Now I definitely can’t say I’m an expert on the national news media. Because MSNBC and CNN are only for those willing to pay astronomical cable bills, I only see their coverage through what free clips are available. And I don’t usually watch network TV because I don’t like cop shows or reality TV series. However, the media are so ever-present and pervasive that one accidentally consumes all sorts of content from many different sources without even realizing it. Also, I have watched almost all of the debates, and it’s rare that I miss any story about Bernie, be it positive or negative.

So whether it’s through osmosis or intentional consumption, I have actually noticed a subtle shift in coverage of the Sanders campaign. Up until recently, it was rare to see any positive stories from any news outlet that was less edgy than Rolling Stone, or Mother Jones, or Grist. (Yes, I know, calling those sources edgy is stretching the definition of the word.) But recently I’ve seen positive stories from USA Today, and even CNN just released one of the most touching articles about Bernie supporters that I’ve seen (‘He understands us’: Why his supporters are loyal to Bernie Sanders).

I think there’s evidence, too, that . . .

Continue reading.

I’m not really following the horse-race aspect of the campaign. On the whole, I currently favor Elizabeth Warren, possibly with Amy Klobuchar as VP. I am unimpressed with Joe Biden. Bernie’s refusal release his medical records — after explicitly promising that he would — shows the degree to which we can rely on his word. (Note that he completely controls whether those records are released or not — it’s not as though he is “unable” to release them. He is simply reneging on his promise.) If Bernie is nominated, the VP slot will be very important.

Written by Leisureguy

28 February 2020 at 8:33 am

Reprising the MJ-90A and another great favorite: J.M. Fraser shaving cream

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J.M. Fraser is a curiously effective shaving cream, easily producing ample lather with a light lemony fragrance. It’s my favorite after Nancy Boy, and the 1-lb tub shown is just $19, so it’s also a great bargain. I highly recommend it for the shaver who’s thrifty but also wants excellent quality.

I wanted to use the MJ-90A right after using the Rockwell — that is, without an intervening shave with my Edwin Jagger razor — so the comparison could be more direct, and thus this morning’s choice of razor. During the shave this morning, I also did a couple of strokes using the Rockwell, just to be sure. The result is that (for me) my rankings stand: Edwin Jagger (good), RazoRock MJ-90A (better), Rockwell 6S (best).

Three passes left my face totally smooth — and I do think J.M. Fraser played a role. As I noted, it is curiously effective. A splash of Thayer’s lemon-fragranced witch hazel with aloe vera astringent (10% alcohol) finished the job.

If any of my readers venture to try J.M. Fraser, I’d be interested to hear your impressions. I’m always very pleased when I use it, and despite its being a shaving cream rather than a shaving soap, I think I’ll have to move it back into regular rotation. (My shaving creams in general take a back seat to shaving soap, though they’re all infinitely better than canned foam.)

And a personal best in fasting blood glucose in recent years: 5.2 mmol/L (93.6 mg/dL). That is well within the normal (non-diabetic) range. That of course doesn’t mean “cured,” as would immediately be evident if I ate unwisely, but it does mean that this whole-food plant-based diet enables me to control it without medication. This excellent reading probably also is a result of my resuming Nordic walking — 2.5 miles yesterday.

Written by Leisureguy

28 February 2020 at 7:10 am

Posted in Daily life, Shaving

A Guide: How To Prepare Your Home For Coronavirus

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Maria Godoy writes at NPR:

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is telling Americans that they should be prepared for the possibility of a COVID-19 outbreak in their community.

But what does preparedness look like in practice? The short answer: Don’t panic — but do prepare.

That “means not only contingency planning but also good old-fashioned preparedness planning for your family,” says Rebecca Katz, director of the Center for Global Health Science and Security at Georgetown University. In other words, what you’d do in case of a possible hurricane or another natural disaster.

We spoke with Katz and other health experts about common-sense things you can do to be ready should the virus hit where you live.

Should I stock up on food and meds?

The reason to stock up on certain products now isn’t so much to avoid potential shortages in the event of an outbreak but to practice what experts call social distancing. Basically, you want to avoid crowds to minimize your risk of catching the disease. If COVID-19 is spreading in your community, the last place you want to be is in line at a crowded grocery store or drugstore.

If you take daily medications — for example, blood pressure pills — make sure you have enough to last a couple of weeks, suggests Katz, as long as you can get approval for an extended supply from your insurance provider.

Also worth pre-buying: fever reducers like acetaminophen or ibuprofen, says Edith Bracho-Sanchez, a pediatrician with Columbia University Medical Center.

Think about adding enough nonperishable foods to your pantry to carry you through for a couple of weeks, adds Amesh Adalja, an infectious disease physician and a senior scholar at Johns Hopkins University’s Center for Health Security.

Bracho-Sanchez suggests having on hand your go-to sickbed foods, like chicken or vegetable broth and crackers in case of illness, as well as hydrating drinks such as Gatorade and Pedialyte for kids (though so far, kids seem less vulnerable to COVID-19). That’s because if you do get sick, you want to be ready to ride it out at home if need be. So far, 80% of COVID-19 cases have been mild. (Think cold or flu symptoms.)

Are special cleaning supplies needed?

We still don’t know exactly how long the coronavirus that causes COVID-19 can survive on surfaces. But Stephen Morse, a professor of epidemiology at Columbia University Medical Center, says what we know from other coronaviruses is that most household cleansers — such as bleach wipes or alcohol — will kill them.

Even wiping down surfaces with soap and water should do the trick, he says, because this coronavirus has a lipid envelope around it — like a coat that keeps the RNA inside the viral particle. And soap is a detergent that can break down lipids. “We use them to take grease and oil, which is a lipid, off our dishes,” he notes.

If COVID-19 does start circulating in your community or there’s someone sick at home, plan on cleaning surfaces that get touched frequently — such as kitchen counters and bathroom faucets — several times a day, says Dr. Trish Perl, chief of the infectious disease division at UT Southwestern Medical Center. That advice, she says, comes from studies on other diseases “where they’ve shown that if you do clean up the environment, you can actually decrease the amount of virus that is on hard surfaces significantly.”

What about face masks?

The science on whether it’s helpful to wear a face mask out in public is really, really mixed, as we’ve reported in depth. (For starters, it depends on what kind of mask you are wearing and whether you use it correctly.)

Some infectious disease experts are reluctant to recommend that people wear masks as a preventive measure because they can provide a false sense of security.

What experts do agree on is that wearing a mask is a good idea if you are sick, so you can reduce the chances that you’ll infect others, whether it’s family members at home or people at the doctor’s office if you go in to be seen. Perl says that wearing a mask when sick is especially a good idea if you live with someone whose immune system is compromised or who’s elderly, since people in their 60s and above seem to be the most vulnerable to COVID-19.

Some research suggests that wearing a mask can help protect you if you’re caring for a sick family member, but only if you wear it all the time in the presence of the sick person and if you are careful not to touch the front of it, which could be contaminated with pathogens.

What to do about work — and telecommuting? . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

27 February 2020 at 8:51 pm

Trump Endorsed a Risky Antidepressant for Veterans. Lawmakers Want to Know if His Mar-a-Lago Pals Had a Stake in the Drugmaker.

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Isaac Arnsdorf reports in ProPublica on what might be a case — another case — of outright corruption in the Trump administration.

House Democrats are expanding their investigation of outside influence at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, examining whether a push to use a new antidepressant from Johnson & Johnson was advanced by a group of unofficial advisers who convened at Mar-a-Lago, President Donald Trump’s private club.

The chairmen of the House veterans affairs and oversight committees sent letters last week asking for emails and financial records from the three advisers, Marvel Entertainment chairman Ike Perlmutter, physician Bruce Moskowitz and lawyer Marc Sherman. The Democrats are seeking, among other documents, any communications the men had with Johnson & Johnson and financial records showing whether they had any stake in the company.

As revealed by ProPublica in 2018, Trump gave the three men sweeping influence over the VA despite their lack of any relevant experience, such as having served in the U.S. military or government. VA officials called the trio the “Mar-a-Lago Crowd” because they met at the president’s getaway in Palm Beach, Florida.

Trump has enthusiastically endorsed a drug called Spravato, made by Johnson & Johnson, as a treatment to help prevent veterans from committing suicide. The federal government has faced criticism for not doing enough to curb suicides by veterans, which the VA says occur at a rate of 20 a day. While the problem has persisted for years, it gained more attention after a series of deaths in VA parking lots.

Through a spokesman representing all three men, Perlmutter, Moskowitz and Sherman said they had no role in the VA’s consideration of the Johnson & Johnson drug. They said they’re reviewing the committees’ request for documents. (The congressional committees have the power to issue subpoenas but usually start by asking for voluntary cooperation.)

“Our volunteer activity was motivated solely by a desire to see America’s veterans get the best possible care from the VA,” the men said in a statement. “We had no authority over decision making, rather we offered advice for VA leadership to accept or reject as they saw fit. We did not seek or receive any personal or financial gain.”

In 2017, the Mar-a-Lago advisers worked with the VA and Johnson & Johnson on a suicide-prevention awareness campaign that culminated in an appearance at the New York Stock Exchange. The event put the VA secretary alongside Johnson & Johnson representatives and superhero characters from Perlmutter’s company, Marvel, and its parent, Disney.

Johnson & Johnson is a pharmaceutical giant with annual revenue above $80 billion, 130,000 employees and federal contracts worth more than $100 million a year. It’s one of the largest U.S. companies by market capitalization and spends more than $5 million a year on federal lobbying. “Our interactions with the VA and other payers regarding coverage of Spravato has followed all laws, procedures and ethical standards,” company spokesman Ernie Knewitz said in a statement.

On March 5, 2019, the FDA approved Spravato to treat depression. It is a nasal spray form of esketamine, a variant of the anesthetic ketamine. The FDA imposed restrictions on Spravato’s use because of “the risk of serious adverse outcomes” and “the potential for abuse and misuse.” The regulator took the unusual measure of requiring a health professional to monitor a patient for two hours after taking Spravato.

Several segments discussing the drug aired on Fox News and other news channels on March 6. On Fox News, Marc Siegel, a regular contributor to the channel and a primary care physician at NYU Langone Health, said, “I’m a huge believer in this drug, especially for psychiatrists to have it for a suicidal patient.”

Some experts have been more cautious about the evidence supporting the drug, pointing to weak results from clinical trials and shortcomings in the trials’ methodologies. In an Oct. 31 article in The Lancet Psychiatry, Erick Turner, a psychiatrist at Oregon Health and Science University and the Portland VA, noted that the FDA’s approval relied on fewer trials than usual. In one of the trials, the finding of the drug’s effectiveness was driven by one study site where the drug performed especially well. In response, Johnson & Johnson said it reanalyzed its patient data to exclude the outlier site. The new result barely met the threshold for being statistically significant, Turner said.

“For any other drug they would have said, ‘Oh, this doesn’t meet our criteria and we’re not going to approve it,’ but they bent over backwards for this one,” Turner, who served on the FDA panel that reviewed Spravato but missed the session where the drug was discussed, said in an interview. “There’s risk that clinicians might say, ‘The FDA approved it, it must work’ and leave it at that. It’s not that simple.”

In one of the trials, six people taking the drug died, including . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

27 February 2020 at 6:34 pm

Why extremism is a question of psychology, not politics

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The Eldest pointed out this article by Quassim Cassam in New Statesman:

Responding to the revelation that Extinction Rebellion (XR) had been identified as extremists by counterterrorism police, Sara Khan, the government’s chief adviser on extremism, called for a clearer definition of extremism. Khan was quoted as saying that a clearer definition would “help build a whole-society response by providing a better understanding”.

It’s hard to disagree with this but actually developing a clear definition is not easy. The cynical view is that an extremist is simply someone whose political stance I strongly disagree with, and that there is no neutral way of determining who is an extremist. On this account, “extremist” is a term of abuse rather than a serious tool of political analysis. But the notion that there is no factual means of determining whether, say, Isis is extremist seems absurd. Isis really is an extremist group. This is not just a matter of personal opinion. But then we are back to the challenge of defining “real” extremism.

The simplest suggestion is that extremists use or support the use of violence in pursuit of their political objectives. Since it is a fact that Isis uses extreme violence in support of its objectives, it is a fact that it is extremist. By the same token, XR is not extremist given that its strategy is one of non-violent civil disobedience. The Guardian commentator George Monbiot has argued that “if seeking to defend life on Earth defines us as extremists, we have no choice but to own the label”. But can XR afford to “own the label” if it wants to dissociate itself from any suggestion that it endorses the use of violence?

[See also: How the rhetoric of weaponisation is undermining liberal ideals]

The use of violence alone is not enough to provide a clear definition of extremism. The African National Congress used violence in its struggle against apartheid in South Africa, but this did not necessarily make it an extremist movement. Nelson Mandela defended the ANC’s commitment to armed struggle on two compelling grounds: it was violence in a just cause, and there was no alternative. This suggests that whether using or endorsing violence makes one an extremist is highly context-dependent. Arguments about whether using violence makes an organisation “extremist” are therefore partly arguments about the justice of its cause, and the availability of effective alternatives.

Another way to think about extremism is in terms of left and right. Suppose that political outlooks are arranged on a left-right spectrum. Extremists can be defined as those whose political views are at the far ends of the spectrum. Yet there are extremists who are hard to classify in left-right terms. Isis is a case in point, despite suggestions that its ideology is fascist – and fascism is itself difficult to place on the left-right spectrum.

A more promising approach is to define extremism in psychological terms. To be an extremist is, first and foremost, to have an extremist mindset. It is often pointed out that people at opposite ends of the political spectrum have much in common. What they have in common is their mindset: their preoccupations, attitudes, thinking styles and emotions. To understand these elements is to understand why the extremist label is not one that anyone should be happy to own.

A key extremist preoccupation is victimisation – the perception of themselves as victims of persecution. While extremism can be a reaction to genuine persecution, many extremists are obsessed with fantasies of persecution. For example, so-called “incels”, men who describe themselves as “involuntarily celibate”, believe that they are oppressed by women who refuse to have sex with them. This is a classic extremist persecution fantasy.

Another extremist preoccupation is purity. The purity that extremists are obsessed with can be ideological, religious, or ethnic. Ideological extremists are not just strongly committed to a specific ideology or belief system. Their commitment is to what they see as the purest or most unadulterated version of their favoured ideology. Their biggest fear is dilution, and they see themselves as virtuous because of the purity of their beliefs.

Extremism’s preoccupation with purity explains one of its key attitudes: its attitude to compromise. Extremists hate compromise because it detracts from purity. Being an extremist is as much a matter of how one believes as what one believes. Extremists see compromise as a form of betrayal, and while extremists may hate their opponents, this is usually milder than their hatred of people on their own side who have, as they see it, “sold out”.

Another key extremist attitude is indifference to . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

27 February 2020 at 3:39 pm

Portrait of a Fuhrer – The Demagogic Personality

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Gabriel Schoenfeld wrote in The American Interest a piece republished by the  Nikasen Center:

What is the nature of the hold that demagogues and destructive charismatic personalities have on the masses? The question is of perennial interest and has been examined by historians, political scientists, social psychologists, and students of cults. No one answer can ever explain any complex social phenomenon, but in thinking about this question today it is perhaps fruitful to look at demagogic leaders from the past and take note of some of their distinguishing qualities.

One of the most extraordinary attempts in this realm was performed by Walter C. Langer during World War II. Langer was a Harvard professor and practitioner of psychoanalysis who in 1943 was commissioned by the Office of Strategic Services (OSS), the wartime intelligence body and CIA predecessor organization, to create a psychological portrait of Adolf Hitler. Reporting directly to General William “Wild Bill” Donovan, the OSS chief, Langer set up what was called a Psychoanalytic Field Unit and hired three psychoanalytically trained research assistants to staff it. They were assigned to pore through the New York Public Library for relevant German language sources, while Langer himself, as he was later to recount, “scoured the United States and Canada in search of persons who had had more than a passing contact with Hitler at some period of his life.” Some of those he came to interview were Germans interned in American detention camps because of earlier Nazi affiliation.

All told, Langer and his assistants accumulated more than 1,100 single-spaced typewritten pages of quotations and condensations from their sources. It was from this material that Langer constructed his psychoanalytic profile, which was classified for national security reasons until 1972. Completed as a crash program in eight months, it remains an important document, even if some of its findings have been superseded by subsequent historical research. I have presented excerpts below, with editorial interpolations where needed to maintain the textual flow. Quite a number of Hitler’s features bear notice today.

To begin with, there was his megalomania: “Hitler believes himself to be the greatest of all German architects. . . . In spite of the fact that he failed to pass the examination to the Art School he believes himself to be the only competent judge in this field. A few years ago he appointed a committee of three to act as final judges on all matters of art, but their verdicts did not please him. He dismissed them and assumed their duties himself. It makes little difference whether the field be economics, education, foreign affairs, propaganda, movies, music or women’s dress. In each and every field he believes himself to be an unquestioned authority.”

According to one of Langer’s sources, Hitler’s “faith in his own genius, in his instinct, or, as one might say, in his star, is boundless. Those who surround him are the first to admit that he now thinks of himself as infallible and invincible. That explains why he can no longer bear either criticism or contradiction. To contradict him is in his eyes a crime of ‘les majeste’; opposition to his plans, from whatever side it may come, is a definite sacrilege, to which the only reply is an immediate and striking display of his omnipotence.” Speaking to one of his associates, Hitler reportedly said: “Do you realize you are in the presence of the greatest German of all time.”

“Hitler’s outstanding defense mechanism,” according to Langer, “is one commonly called projection. It is a technique by which the ego of an individual defends itself against unpleasant impulses, tendencies, or characteristics by denying their existence in himself while he attributes them to others. Innumerable examples of this mechanism could be cited in Hitler’s case, but a few will suffice for purposes of illustration:

  • In the last six years I had to stand intolerable things from states like Poland.
  • It must be possible that the German nation can live its life . . . without being constantly molested.
  • For this peace proposal of mine I was abused and personally insulted. Mr. Chamberlain in fact spat upon me before the eyes of the world. . .
  • It was in keeping with our own harmlessness that England took the liberty of some day meeting our peaceful activity with the brutality of the violent egoist.
  • The outstanding features of Polish character were cruelty and lack of moral restraint.

As an orator, as is well known, Hitler had some striking qualities. “He was a tireless speaker and before he came to power would sometimes give as many as three or four speeches on the same day, often in different cities.” What was it that made him in the eyes of many, including his opponents, “the greatest orator Germany has ever known”? It was not his voice, the qualities of which, Langer observed, “are far from pleasant—many, in fact, find it distinctly unpleasant. It has a rasping quality which often breaks into a shrill falsetto.” Nor was it Hitler’s diction, which especially in his early days “was particularly bad.” Nor, Langer continues, “was it the structure of his speeches,” which on the whole “were sinfully long, badly structured, and very repetitious. Some of them are positively painful to read but nevertheless, when he delivered them they had an extraordinary effect on his audiences.”

“Even in the early days,” observes the Langer study, “Hitler was a showman with a great sense for the dramatic. Not only did he schedule his speeches late in the evening when his audience would be tired and their resistance lowered through natural causes, but he would always send an assistant ahead of time to make a short speech and warm the audience up. . . . At the psychological moment, Hitler would appear in the door at the back of the hall,” and then would stride toward the podium with his entourage trailing behind him.

“His meetings were always crowded, and by the time he got through speaking he had completely numbed the critical faculties of his listeners to the point where they were willing to believe almost anything he said. He flattered them and cajoled them. He hurled accusations at them one moment and amused them the next by building up straw men which he promptly knocked down. . . . [S]omehow he always managed to say what the majority of the audience were already secretly thinking but could not verbalize. When the audience began to respond, it affected him in return. Before long due to this reciprocal relationship, he and his audience became intoxicated with the emotional appeal of his oratory.”

Hitler possessed a “keen appreciation of the value of slogans, catchwords, dramatic phrases, and happy epigrams in penetrating the deeper level of the psyche.”

It was one of his primary rules to “never admit a fault or wrong; never concede that there may be some good in your enemy; never leave room for alternatives; never accept blame; concentrate on one enemy at a time and blame him for everything that goes wrong; people will believe a big lie sooner than a little one; and if you repeat it frequently enough people will sooner or later believe it.”

According to one of his contemporaries cited by Langer, Hitler “has a passion for . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

27 February 2020 at 2:24 pm

Posted in Daily life, Government

Supplement Labeling Fraud is Widespread

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Dr. Michael Greger blogs:

The regulation of dietary supplements in the United States has been described as “too little, too late.” “Dietary supplements may be adulterated with dangerous compounds, be contaminated, fail to contain the purported active ingredient, or contain unknown doses of the ingredients stated on the label; be sold at toxic dosages; or produce harmful effects” in other ways. As I discuss in my video Black Raspberry Supplements Put to the Test, “[i]f the composition and quality of ingredients cannot be reliably ensured, the validity of research on dietary supplements is questionable. Moreover, the health of the US public is put at risk.”

A private, third-party company that has independently tested thousands of supplements “identifies approximately 1 in 4 with a quality problem” because it either does not contain what it says it contains, is “of substandard quality,” or is contaminated in some way.

Let’s look at an example. I’ve produced a few videos on the remarkable properties of black raspberries, including one on oral cancer. These berries can’t always be found fresh or frozen, so how about black raspberry supplements, which are available in stores and online? At 0:56 in my video, I show a bottle of Pure Black Raspberry by Pure Health, that says “Fresh – Raw – Pure” right on the label. Sounds good, don’t you think? When we look at the back of the bottle, the label says it contains only seedless black raspberry powder “and absolutely nothing else!” It’s nice to see there are no fillers or artificial ingredients, so why not plunk down $23.77 for a bottle? Well, it turns out we’ve been had.

The first clue is that the image on the front of the label is actually blackberries that had been Photoshopped to look like black raspberries. Pure Health couldn’t even be bothered to put a real image on its fake supplement! The second clue is that the “[d]ark olive-brown-black powder in [the] capsule did not look like berry powder and had a medicinal odor,” according to the researchers. So, it was put it to the test, and, indeed, there was no black raspberry at all. Instead of promoting the fact that the Pure Black Raspberry contains only seedless black raspberry powder “and absolutely nothing else,” the company should have just listed that the bottle contains “absolutely nothing” period—or, at least we hope it contains nothing. Who knows what’s actually in the capsules!

The researchers tested every black raspberry product they could find, and, even of the ones with the correct picture on the front and with powder that actually looked like it came from real black raspberries, more than a third appeared to have no black raspberry fruit at all. “At the moment, a consumer who assumes the US dietary supplement marketplace is free from risk”—or is even honest—“is unfortunately naive.”

How widespread is this deception? Researchers used DNA fingerprinting techniques to test the authenticity of 44 herbal supplements from a dozen different companies. As you can see at 2:33 in my video, less than half of the supplements were authentic and actually contained what they said they did. Most contained plants not listed on the label and product substitution, and many “contained contaminants and or fillers,” also not listed on the label. This isn’t just fraud: Some of this deception could really hurt people. For example, . . .

Continue reading.

Why doesn’t Congress take action? Because the US government is very badly broken and powerful forces oppose fixing it and an overwhelming number of citizens do not vote.

Written by Leisureguy

27 February 2020 at 10:34 am

To protect against coronavirus, follow the instructions in “Leisureguy’s Guide to Gourmet Shaving”

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That is (more or less) the advice offered by the Center for Disease Control. Lateshia Beachum reports in the Washington Post:

Mutton chops, chin curtains and the ever-popular beard have to be shaved off the fighters against coronavirus in the United Kingdom, the Press Association reported.

Leaders of the University Hospital Southampton National Health Service Foundation Trust sent an organization-wide email about shaving beards so masks can properly fit on their faces, according to the PA.

Derek Sandeman, medical director of the trust, passed along the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines for what styles of facial hair are acceptable.

Staff sporting the daring Dali look or choosing to look more rugged with long stubble have been requested to opt for more acceptable styles, such as a soul patch or “walrus,” as noted by the guide.

Employees who have facial hair as part of their culture or religious beliefs are exempt from the new rule.

“I recognise for some this is a big ask, that beards are so popular at present,” Sandeman said in his email, according to the PA. “However I do believe this is the right thing to do.”

The CDC image that shows facial hair styles that don’t compromise the effectiveness of face masks was posted more than two years ago on the health agency’s website.

Though it may appear that the CDC dislikes modern or more stylish forms of facial hair, the allowable grooming styles are the result of public health needs.

People who wear respirator seals for work need to ensure that their masks are sealed properly, and facial hair can get in the way of doing that.

Facial hair, which can be a food trapper depending on length and style, is not great at catching gases, vapors or air particles, the CDC wrote. Toxins can bypass facial hair and enter a person’s respiratory system.

Mike Pence was criticized for his handling of Indiana’s HIV outbreak. He will lead the U.S. coronavirus response.

“While human hair appears to be very thin to the naked eye, hair is much larger in size than the particles inhaled,” according to the CDC. “Facial hair is just not dense enough and the individual hairs are too large to capture particles like an air filter does.”

Getting a grip on a razor is also important to keep stubble at bay, as even day-two fuzz can decrease the amount of protection one receives from a mask, the agency warned. . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

27 February 2020 at 10:27 am

Third time’s the charm: Rockwell 6S R3 baseplate meets I Coloniali shaving cream

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That’s the RazoRock Bruce synthetic brush, and a very nice brush it is. I Coloniali’s shaving cream with rhubarb is pleasant in fragrance and strong in performance. I Coloniali shaving cream is, alas, no more, so I treasure this tube.

The third in the series (RazoRock MJ-90A, Edwin Jagger, and now Rockwell 6S using R3 baseplate) strikes me as a clear winner: it seemed more… incisive, perhaps: precision engagement with great sense of control. For me, it’s clearly the best of the three, though of course based on price it should be: the 6S is $100, though to be fair you get six baseplate “settings,” so you can find the one that works best with your skin and your current beard and preferences. I found all six — R1 through R6 — to be extremely comfortable and extremely efficient, differing mostly in degree of blade feel. And I’ll add a little praise for the handle, which is of a standard type but exceptionally comfortable in that the knurling is not so pointy-sharp. And the result this morning is an exceptionally smooth finish, with the shave totally comfortable along the way.

Some of the smoothness may be due to a smidge of Hermès Eau d’orange verte as a balm — and wonderful stuff it is — and the day begins on quite a good note. Hoping you are the same, I remain, your faithful blogger.

Written by Leisureguy

27 February 2020 at 8:26 am

Posted in Shaving

The result of having an incompetent President: Nearly 700 vacancies at CDC because of Trump administration’s hiring freeze

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Lena H. Sun reports in the Washington Post:

Nearly 700 positions are vacant at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention because of a continuing freeze on hiring that officials and researchers say affects programs supporting local and state public health emergency readiness, infectious disease control and chronic disease prevention.

The same restriction remains in place throughout the Health and Human Services Department despite the lifting of a government-wide hiring freeze last month. At the National Institutes of Health, staff say clinical work, patient care and recruitment are suffering.

Like HHS, the State Department and the Environmental Protection Agency have maintained the freeze as a way of reducing their workforces and reshaping organizational structures after a directive last month from the Office of Management and Budget that said all federal agencies must submit a plan by June 30 to shrink their civilian workforces. HHS, State and EPA also face significant cuts in the Trump administration’s budget proposal for the fiscal year starting Oct. 1. The administration, which unveiled a “skinny budget” for fiscal 2018 in March, is scheduled to release its full budget next week.

A senior CDC official said unfilled positions include dozens of budget analysts and public health policy analysts, scientists and advisers who provide key administrative support. Their duties include tracking federal contracts awarded to state and local health departments and ensuring that lab scientists have the equipment they need.

Though HHS has exempted many positions from the freeze, including physicians and personnel who respond to cybersecurity and public health emergencies, many support personnel who often play critical roles have been affected.

“It’s all the operational details,” said the official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because CDC staff are not permitted to comment publicly without approval from HHS. The situation has been made worse, the official said, because the agency has been operating without a permanent director since Tom Frieden stepped down in January. That job is considered one of the most crucial public health positions in the government given the CDC’s role in tracking and stopping infectious disease outbreaks in the United States and worldwide.

When HHS Secretary Tom Price visited the Atlanta-based agency in April, the former Georgia lawmaker called CDC “an absolute jewel to our nation,” adding that its location in his home town “makes it extra special.” In a meeting with senior leaders, Price promised to name a director within the month.

But at least 125 job categories have been blocked from being filled, according to a recently released CDC document. Each covers multiple people. The document was released through a Freedom of Information Act request by the Sierra Club and reviewed by The Washington Post. Many of the unfilled jobs are high-level positions, at least GS-12 and above, according to the document.

Several positions are in the Office of Public Health Preparedness and Response, which regulates some of the world’s most dangerous bacteria and viruses and manages the nation’s stockpile of emergency medical countermeasures. Others include positions in the director’s office, infectious disease offices and the office for noncommunicable diseases, injury and environmental health.

The hiring freeze, imposed by an executive order that President Trump signed Jan. 22, covers currently open positions, prevents new positions from being created and blocks lateral transfers, officials said. . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

26 February 2020 at 12:53 pm

Podcast discovery

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Hey, do you know about podcasts?

Of course you do. Probably everyone does but me. So long as I’ve been spending most of my time at home, they never seemed all that appealing (as a general idea), but now that I am trying getting around using public transit, I experience more waiting time, and for that podcasts seem ideal (as I’m sure you already know).

I have a minor advantage in that my hearing aids are bluetooth-enabled and connected to my iPhone, so I (in effect) always have my Airpods in and on.

Here’s what you may not know: there are a fair number of podcasts in Esperanto, including an Esperanto course. That’s very nice, I think.

Written by Leisureguy

26 February 2020 at 12:24 pm

Personal finance and managing money

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I have been working on my budget planning, and in the course of doing that I substantially revised and updated this post, including fixing a broken link to the Excel workbook I created to simply budget planning and make visible the implicit spending that so often took me by surprise.

The post is also one of the links in the “Useful posts” page.

Written by Leisureguy

26 February 2020 at 12:02 pm

Posted in Business, Daily life

A very nice green tea this morning

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A tea The Wife brought me from Paris. It has an unusual taste. It tastes a bit like food, somewhat like a freshly baked bread. It provides 7 brewings.

Brewed leaves

Initially it looks like short, fine pieces of dried grass, but the leaves unfurl in the brewing and look like tiny bits of paper. Here:

The back of the package notes:

Precious Liquor

The rarest of the Gyokuro Grands Crus, whose minuscule production is limited to less than 10kg per year, is organically cultivated in a family garden for Mariage Frères. This “White Leaf Gyokuro” is an absolute masterpiece, the tea buses being shaded from the sun for almost a month. Their newly grown tender buds yield a unique pale colour. The velvety, sweet infusion offers rich umami and ooika notes, deliciously refreshing and redolent, flourishing with fragrance and unforgettable emotions.

Tea for an emperor.

Written by Leisureguy

26 February 2020 at 9:42 am

Posted in Caffeine, Daily life

My favorite shaving cream—and the Edwin Jagger, next in the test series

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My favorite shaving cream: Nancy Boy Signature (travel size in photo)

Nancy Boy products are all first rate and advertising is strictly word-of-mouth (or, in this case, text-to-eye). Nancy Boy makes three shaving creams, but my favorite by far is the Signature. (Mantic59 favors the Replenishing shaving cream). The lather works wonderfully, and I love the fragrance and feel.

The (pre-Vulfix) Simpson Wee Scot did a fine job, and the Edwin Jagger is a very good razor — although, in my opinion and in comparing it with yesterday’s shave, I find the RazoRock MJ-90A to be a tad bit better. Were I to keep only one of the two, it would be the MJ-90A — and that’s based on feel and performance, not just on sturdiness.

The MJ-90A head is machined aluminum alloy, which means the threaded shaft on the cap is not going to snap off, something that happens with the EJ (whose head is chrome-plated zinc alloy) when shavers over-tighten the head. Even slight over-tightening will stress and weaken the zinc over time, and eventually just a slight bump will break the shaft. The solution is prevention: don’t over-tighten the EJ head. Tighten it enough to keep the head from loosening during the shave, but avoid bringing to bear the grip of Thor.

Three passes and then a splash of Klar Seifen, a very nice aftershave indeed.

Written by Leisureguy

26 February 2020 at 9:25 am

Posted in Shaving

A Key FBI Photo Analysis Method Has Serious Flaws

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FBI forensics increasingly seems unreliable. Ryan Gabrielson reports in ProPublica:

A study published this week casts doubt on the reliability of a technique the FBI Laboratory has used for decades to identify criminals by purporting to match their bluejeans with those photographed in surveillance images, potentially undermining evidence used to win numerous convictions.

The FBI’s method, used principally in bank robbery cases, matches denim pants by the light and dark patches along their seams, called wear marks. An FBI examiner’s scientific journal article on bluejeans identification in 1999 argued that wear marks create, effectively, a barcode that is unique on every pair. That article provided a legal foundation for the FBI to use an array of similar techniques to assert matches for clothes, vehicles, human faces and skin features.

After a ProPublica investigation raised questions about the technique, Hany Farid, a University of California, Berkeley, computer science professor and leading forensic image analyst, and Sophie Nightingale, a postdoctoral researcher in image science, tested the bureau’s method and found several serious flaws. Their study, published this week in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, is the first known independent research on the technique’s reliability, even though the courts have allowed bluejeans identifications as trial evidence for years.

The new study determined that seams on different pairs of bluejeans are often highly similar. Separately, multiple pictures of the same pant seam, taken under varying conditions, can appear starkly different from one another.

Taken together, the authors write, these deficiencies show “identification based on denim jeans should be used with extreme caution, if at all.”

The FBI declined to comment on the study.

In its articles last year, ProPublica revealed that FBI examiners have tied defendants to crimes in thousands of cases over the past half-century by using crime-scene pictures in unproven ways and, at times, have given jurors baseless statistics to say the risk of errors in their analyses was extremely low. In several cases, the FBI’s most prominent image examiner contradicted the original conclusions and results in his lab reports when presenting evidence to criminal courts, FBI records and legal filings show.

The FBI’s issues with image analysis echo earlier controversies over other forensic techniques. The bureau’s lab technicians and scientists had long testified in court that they could determine what fingertip left a print and which scalp grew a hair “to the exclusion of all others.” Research and exonerations by DNA analysis have repeatedly disproved those claims, and the U.S. Department of Justice no longer permits its forensic scientists to make such unequivocal statements.

ProPublica found that examiners on the Forensic Audio, Video and Image Analysis Unit, based at the FBI Lab in Quantico, Virginia, continue to use similarly flawed methods and to testify to the precision of these methods, according to a review of court records and examiners’ written reports and published articles. At ProPublica’s request, several statisticians and forensic science experts reviewed the unit’s methods. The experts identified numerous instances of examiners overstating their techniques’ precision and said some of their assertions defied logic.

In response to ProPublica’s reporting, Nightingale and Farid said they decided to test the FBI’s photo comparison techniques, starting with bluejeans identification.

The researchers purchased 100 pairs of jeans from local second-hand stores and collected images of more than 100 additional pairs of jeans through Mechanical Turk, the Amazon service that provides workers to complete tasks. The researchers used four high-resolution pictures of the seams on each pant leg.

They documented wear marks in the same manner FBI examiners do. But the researchers used what is known as signal analysis to digitally convert the patterns into numeric values and calculate how similar the jeans in different images were to each other.

The authors were consistently able to mark the same features, suggesting the first step in the bureau’s process works as intended.

mages of bluejeans seams showing wear collected by the researchers. (Courtesy of Sophie J. Nightingale and Hany Farid)

But then the analysis measured wear mark patterns and found the FBI Lab’s method struggled to match images of the same pant seam, which were frequently no more similar to one another than to seams from different pairs.

Nightingale and Farid hypothesize that denim jeans are too flexible, as the material easily stretches and shrinks, changing how wear marks appear, even moment to moment.

The technique failed to correctly match images of the same bluejeans in most cases unless they allowed for a high rate of false positives. When inaccurate matches were limited to one in 10,000, it identified less than 30% of the true matches.

Ultimately, comparing bluejeans seams is relatively useless, Farid said. “If you’re willing to tolerate that only one in four times this will be useful, OK, fine, use the analysis.”

Brandon Garrett, a Duke University law professor who studies the reliability of forensic science, . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

25 February 2020 at 5:03 pm

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