Later On

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

Archive for the ‘Medical’ Category

“Multitasking Isn’t Progress—It’s What Wild Animals Do for Survival”

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Ted Gioia writes:

I plan to write a series of posts outlining some unconventional or dissident conceptual frameworks I’ve found useful in understanding contemporary society.

These aren’t the usual tired ideas or dead metaphors already familiar to us. I won’t even mention those stale truisms, because you already know every one of them—in fact, we would all probably be better off forgetting them.

Fewer things are more destructive than a dead-end concept. They are much like dead-end roads—they take you on a trip to nowhere. They provide an illusion of motion, but actually bring you further away from any useful destination.

The concepts I’m sharing are less familiar, and all the more valuable for that reason. They have forced me to look at everyday situations in new ways, requiring me to challenge some of my own preconceptions and attitudes. Even when they fail to encompass all of a particular reality, they still add value by disrupting the labels and assumptions that I use—and all of us use—to navigate through day-to-day life.

In this installment, I want to focus on Byung-Chul Han’s concept of the Burnout Society.

Han is one of the most significant German philosophers of our time, but his background is unusual. He was born in Seoul, South Korea in 1959, and studied metallurgy before moving to Germany to immerse himself in philosophy, theology, and literature. He received his doctorate in 1994, writing his dissertation on Martin Heidegger. His philosophy career didn’t start in earnest until his forties, yet he has now published at least twenty books.

Until recently, Han gave no interviews. In a celebrity-driven culture, he refuses to play the game, remaining stubbornly reluctant to discuss his own life and personal background. But that hasn’t prevented him from gaining a large audience, much broader than you might imagine a German philosopher attracting in the current day.  His lectures draw a capacity audience, and his ideas are now crossing over into other disciplines. In particular, a number of people in the art and culture world have started to pay close attention to his concepts and opinions.

Those who have read my book Music; A Subversive History may recall my use of Han’s aesthetic concepts—notably his view that the cult of smoothness is the defining quality of contemporary art. He applies this concept to everything from the design of the iPhone, with its comforting smooth contours, to the Brazilian bikini wax, which aims at a similar endpoint on our bodies.

In this instance, I want to focus on a different concept, namely Han’s notion that we are living in a “Burnout Society” that causes a wide range of characteristic dysfunctions and ailments. These are difficult for society to address because the assumptions built into our inquiries are actually causing these problems.

What follows below is mostly from Han, but reframed and focused by some of my own ideas.


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THE BURNOUT SOCIETY

Everywhere around us we see the signs: depression, burnout, hyperactivity, anxiety, self-harm. Sometimes the disorders get classified as medical syndromes with impressive acronyms, such as ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder) or CFS (Chronic Fatigue Syndrome) or BPD (Borderline Personality Disorder).

In other cases—a suicide or fatal breakdown, for example—things have gone too far for even medical intervention. All the acronyms in the world won’t help you then. But in every instance, something similar can be seen: the victims are at war with themselves.

That’s misleading, Han would say. They only seem to be the instigators of their problems, which are coming from . . .

Continue reading. There’s much more.

This reminds of something I’ve come to realize in recent years. FOMO (fear of missing out) is pointless because you (and I and any individual) will miss out — inevitably. There is too much in the world — and even too much in human culture or even just in our own particular culture — to absorb. You (and I) will miss out on many more things than we don’t miss out on.

I blogged recently about two brief videos about areas of knowledge and activity on which I’ve totally miss out in the sense of having concrete and specific knowledge, experience, and skill: making movies and making small airplanes. I watched those two videos with fascination because they showed me how much i’ve missed out on in just those two specific areas.

I’ve made my peace with that, and I focus on enjoying (and doing as well as I can, which is generally far short of expertise) things I do encounter and like. Rather than being frustrated by all that I’m missing, I luxuriate in all that I have. That seems the sensible choice, given the ineluctable realities of life. I leap joyously into those things I am not missing out on, and I continue to pay attention to what I encounter, and occasionally seize onto something new (fermenting vegetables, for example).

I believe it’s a big mistake to miss what you actually encounter because your attention is focused on worry about things you’re missing. We taste but a tiny sliver of what life has to offer, so it’s important to enjoy the slice we get.

Written by Leisureguy

24 January 2022 at 12:13 pm

An exchange on Quora

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This morning I responded to a comment on my answer to the question “What is the best way to disagree with someone?” My answer, shown at the link, was

[Originally Answered: What is the classiest way to disagree with someone?]

I like H.L. Mencken’s approach. Mencken was a reporter and writer in Baltimore who did not suffer fools gladly (and who considered much of the public fools). Outraged readers who wrote to H. L. Mencken would receive in reply a preprinted card:

Dear Sir or Madam:

You may be right.

Yours sincerely,

H. L. Mencken

More here: “You may be right”

I’ve received a variety of comments on my answer, including one thanking for the link (which does take one to an interesting article). The comment this morning was:

More seriously, be respectful of their opinion. Just because they don’t agree with you doesn’t mean they’re idiots. Try to understand their viewpoint.

My response to his comment:

I absolutely agree. One of the 7 habits of highly effective people that Stephen Covey discusses in his book of that name is Habit 5: “Seek first to understand, then to be understood,” the idea being that unless you show a willingness to listen, to display what some call “cognitive empathy,” in which you are able to view the issue from their perspective, most people will not listen to you or make an effort to understand your perspective. If you don’t seek to understand, most will feel that you just don’t get what they’re saying, and instead of listening to you, they will try again to explain their view.

So it’s helpful to listen to them and ask clarifying questions until you can state their position even better than they can.

I do confess, though, that if their opinion, clearly stated, is that they refuse to be vaccinated because the CIA has worked with Bill Gates to create tiny 5G nanochips that are mixed with the vaccine, then I fall back on “You may be right” and get away as quickly as I can. Experience has taught me that people so far gone into a fantasy require more help than a conversation can deliver.

Nowadays I am often reminded of Don Quixote, who read so many novels of knight-errantry and was so steeped in those fantasies that he no longer viewed the world as others perceive it: instead of windmills, he saw giants, instead of flocks of sheep, he say armies, instead of a discarded barber’s basin, he saw Mambrino’s Helmet, disguised by an enchantment.

His delusions, which certainly made his life more interesting and were comical, had also a tragic aspect. I was told of a high-placed Spanish official who said, back in Franco’s day, that so long as people read Don Quixote and laughed, all was well, but if they read it and cried, then trouble was coming.

Looking about the world today, I believe that reading Don Quixote would be an interesting exercise. (FWIW, in my blog I have written both about Covey’s book — Covey’s 7 habits — and a fair number of posts about Don Quixote — for example, Reading Don Quixote and crying. Searching the blog on “don quixote” will find more.)

Written by Leisureguy

23 January 2022 at 11:32 am

How a New Hampshire libertarian utopia was foiled by bears

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This Vox report by Sean Illing is from just over a year ago — published in December, 2020 — but it deserves some recognition and reading:

Every ideology produces its own brand of fanatics, but there’s something special about libertarianism.

I don’t mean that as an insult, either. I love libertarians! For the most part, they’re fun and interesting people. But they also tend to be cocksure about core principles in a way most people aren’t. If you’ve ever encountered a freshly minted Ayn Rand enthusiast, you know what I mean.

And yet one of the things that makes political philosophy so amusing is that it’s mostly abstract. You can’t really prove anything — it’s just a never-ending argument about values. Every now and again, though, reality intervenes in a way that illustrates the absurdity of particular ideas.

Something like this happened in the mid-2000s in a small New Hampshire town called Grafton. Matthew Hongoltz-Hetling, author of a new book titled A Libertarian Walks Into a Bear, says it’s the “boldest social experiment in modern American history.” I don’t know if it’s the “boldest,” but it’s definitely one of the strangest.

The experiment was called the “Free Town Project” (it later became the “Free State Project”), and the goal was simple: take over Grafton’s local government and turn it into a libertarian utopia. The movement was cooked up by a small group of ragtag libertarian activists who saw in Grafton a unique opportunity to realize their dreams of a perfectly logical and perfectly market-based community. Needless to say, utopia never arrived, but the bears did! (I promise I’ll explain below.)

I reached out to Hongoltz-Hetling to talk about his book. I wanted to know what happened in New Hampshire, why the experiment failed, and what the whole saga can teach us not just about libertarianism but about the dangers of loving theory more than reality.

A lightly edited transcript of our conversation follows.

Sean Illing

How would you describe the “Free Town Project” to someone who doesn’t know anything about it?

Matthew Hongoltz-Hetling

I’d put it like this: There’s a national community of libertarians that has developed over the last 40 or 50 years, and they’ve never really had a place to call their own. They’ve never been in charge of a nation, or a state, or even a city. And they’ve always really wanted to create a community that would showcase what would happen if they implemented their principles on a broad scale.

So in 2004, a group of them decided that they wanted to take some action on this deficiency, and they decided to launch what they called the Free Town Project. They sent out a call to a bunch of loosely affiliated national libertarians and told everyone to move to this one spot and found this utopian community that would then serve as a shining jewel for the world to see that libertarian philosophies worked not only in theory but in practice. And they chose a town in rural New Hampshire called Grafton that already had fewer than 1,000 people in it. And they just showed up and started working to take over the town government and get rid of every rule and regulation and tax expense that they could.

Sean Illing

Of all the towns in all the world, why Grafton?

Matthew Hongoltz-Hetling

They didn’t choose it in a vacuum. They actually conducted a very careful and thorough search. They zeroed in on the state of New Hampshire fairly quickly because that’s the “Live Free or Die” state. They knew that it would align well with their philosophy of individualism and personal responsibility. But once they decided on New Hampshire, they actually visited dozens of small towns, looking for that perfect mix of factors that would enable them to take over.

What they needed was a town that was small enough that they could come up and elbow the existing citizenry, someplace where land was cheap, where they could come in and buy up a bunch of land and kind of host their incoming colonists. And they wanted a place that had no zoning, because they wanted to be able to live in nontraditional housing situations and not have to go through the rigamarole of building or buying expensive homes or preexisting homes.

Sean Illing

Wait, what do you mean by “nontraditional housing”?

Matthew Hongoltz-Hetling

As the people of Grafton soon found out, a nontraditional housing situation meant a camp in the woods or a bunch of shipping containers or whatever. They brought in yurts and mobile homes and formed little clusters of cabins and tents. There was one location called “Tent City,” where a bunch of people just lived in tents from day to day. They all united under this broad umbrella principle of “personal freedom,” but as you’d expect, there was a lot of variation in how they exercised it.

Sean Illing

What did the demographics of the group look like? Are we talking mostly about white guys or Ayn Rand bros who found each other on the internet?

Matthew Hongoltz-Hetling

Well, we’re talking about hundreds of people, though the numbers aren’t all that clear. They definitely skewed male. They definitely skewed white. Some of them had a lot of money, which gave them the freedom to be able to pick up roots and move to a small town in New Hampshire. A lot of them had very little money and nothing keeping them in their places. So they were able to pick up and come in. But most of them just didn’t have those family situations or those 9-to-5 jobs, and that was really what characterized them more than anything else.

Sean Illing

And how did they take over the local government? Did they meet much resistance?

Matthew Hongoltz-Hetling

When they first showed up, they hadn’t told anyone that they were doing this, with the exception of a couple of sympathetic libertarians within the community. And so all of a sudden the people in Grafton woke up to the fact that their town was in the process of being invaded by a bunch of idealistic libertarians. And they were pissed. They had a big town meeting. It was a very shouty, very angry town meeting, during which they told the Free Towners who dared to come that they didn’t want them there and they didn’t appreciate being treated as if their community was an experimental playpen for libertarians to come in and try to prove something.

But the libertarians, even though they never outnumbered the existing Grafton residents, what they found was that they could come in, and they could find like-minded people, traditional conservatives or just very liberty-oriented individuals, who agreed with them on enough issues that, despite that angry opposition, they were able to start to work their will on the levers of government.

They couldn’t pass some of the initiatives they wanted. They tried unsuccessfully to withdraw from the school district and to completely discontinue paying for road repairs, or to declare Grafton a United Nations free zone, some of the outlandish things like that. But they did find that a lot of existing Grafton residents would be happy to cut town services to the bone. And so they successfully put a stranglehold on things like police services, things like road services and fire services and even the public library. All of these things were cut to the bone.

Sean Illing

Then what happened over the next few years or so?

Matthew Hongoltz-Hetling

By pretty much any measure you can look at to gauge a town’s success, Grafton got worse. Recycling rates went . . .

Continue reading. There’s much more — and indeed, there’s the book.

It strongly reminds me of Don Quixote, who spend so much time and study in reading his books of knights-errant that those became his reality, so that when he encountered things in the real world, he could see them only through the warped lens of his reading, so he attacked the windmills as though they were giants and the flock of sheep as though they were an army. He could no longer see things as they were, but only as his books and readings told him they should be.

Written by Leisureguy

22 January 2022 at 4:44 pm

The mask conundrum: A dialogue

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Kevin Drum treats us to a Socratic dialogue. He writes:

There’s a fundamental problem with our campaign to get people to wear masks. It’s pretty obvious, but here it is:

Socrates: Our greatest healers and physicians are united in urging us to wear masks in order to fight the plague that runs rampant among us. Do you believe their advice to be sound?

Glaucon: Why yes.

Socrates: And what evidence do they offer that you find so persuasive?

Glaucon: It is obvious that masks reduce the expulsion of bad airs from breathing and coughing. If I am suffering from the plague—but still out in the agora because I am not yet feeling any ill effects—it diminishes the number of malignant corpuscles that I introduce into the world.

Socrates: So when you wear a mask, you do it to help other people, not yourself?

Glaucon: That is so. It is not perfect, but it is still beneficent to the good health of Athens.

Socrates: And you consider this a virtuous act.

Glaucon: Indeed I do. A respect for the good of society is one of the highest virtues.

Socrates: Quite so. But you’ll admit that not everyone thinks as you do.

Glaucon: Unhappily, all my experience among men teaches me that you are right.

Socrates: So on the one side, we have your fellow citizens of virtue. They are the most likely to heed the advice of our physicians, are they not?

Glaucon: I cannot disagree.

Socrates: And being virtuous, they have probably already visited a physician and procured for themselves a potion that protects against the plague?

Glaucon: Indeed, I myself have done so. I believe it was called a “vaccine.”

Socrates: And what does this “vaccine” accomplish?

Glaucon:  . . .

Do continue reading. Drum points out a paradox we need to solve.

Written by Leisureguy

22 January 2022 at 1:36 pm

Best Food to Prevent Common Childhood Infections

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Written by Leisureguy

22 January 2022 at 11:08 am

Study: Green MedDiet Can Slow Brain Atrophy Among Over-50s

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Paolo DeAndreis writes in Olive Oil Times:

A common aging process known as brain atrophy has been effectively limited by the adoption of a Mediterranean diet significantly high in polyphenols and low in processed and red meat, known as Green-Med.

A team of researchers from Ben Gurion University in Israel has found significant beneficial effects of Green-Med adoption on a large group of overweight employees at the Dimona Nuclear Research Center. Two hundred twenty-seven participants completed the 18-month trial during which several brain parameters were analyzed.

The employees were divided into three groups. The first was asked to follow a healthy diet, the second one was instructed to adopt a traditional Mediterranean diet and the third one was asked to follow Green-Med. All of them were also asked to carry out specific physical activities and all were given a free gym membership.

To enhance the high-polyphenol profile of Green-Med, the researchers introduced walnuts and green tea into the diet.

In a note, researchers explained that the polyphenols in walnuts decrease the risk for dementia and reduce brain inflammation. Green tea’s polyphenols are also known for their favorable effects on cognitive function and reduced inflammation in the brain. [FWIW, I eat 1/4 cup of walnuts daily, and I drink green tea (and hibiscus tea) daily. – LG]

While walnuts were also given to the MedDiet group, scientists administered a specific strain of . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

21 January 2022 at 3:13 pm

How Predator Priests Avoid Jail

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The previous post contains a detailed example of how a large and strongly hierarchical organization failed its expressed ideals, and this video describes another large and strongly hierarchical organizations failure in ts expressed ideals. It seems to me the source of the problem is not the size — even small organizations, as small as a family, sometimes provide glaring examples — but the strong hierarchy. The families that fail — for example, Amish families that conduct and conceal the rape of their children — are also typically strongly hierarchical. 

Something about a strong hierarchy corrupts those to whom the hierarchy delivers power — perhaps it’s as simply as Lord Acton’s dictum that power corrupts, perhaps because those near the top see themselves as free from rules that apply to the lower ranks, granting themselves privileges by virtue of their position. The lesson is clear: beware strong hierarchies.

Written by Leisureguy

21 January 2022 at 3:07 pm

Abolish Coroners

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Eleanor Cummins writes in the New Republic:

They’re responsible for a massive undercounting of Covid deaths in America. But that’s just the latest reason to get rid of this poorly regulated, overly politicized, and utterly unscientific relic of the colonial era.

Wavis Jordan “doesn’t do Covid deaths.” That’s what the pastor and Republician coroner of Cape Girardeau County, Mississippi, told Missouri Independent last month. He requires families to submit a positive test if they want coronavirus listed on the death certificate. Otherwise, the cause of deaths at home in his county are attributed to a range of other conditions that might be exacerbated by Covid-19, including Alzheimer’s, heart attack, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease—but never the virus itself.

Jordan isn’t the only death investigator undercounting Covid-19. In Louisiana’s Lafayette Parish, for example, people are currently being pronounced dead over the phone; without enough Covid tests, the county writes down “what the families tell us,” according to a recent USA Today report. In Rankin County, Mississippi, the local coroner told USA Today that many families initially refuse Covid-19 as a cause of death—until they learn about the federal government’s burial reimbursement program. The cut corners add up: In 2020 and 2021, there were one million excess deaths in the United States, but only 800,000 have been attributed to Covid-19 by the coroners and medical examiners on the ground.

These stories may seem shocking. But they’re no surprise to anyone familiar with the American coroner system, a notoriously underfunded, under-regulated, and often unscientific relic of the colonial era—and the crumbling bedrock of modern public health surveillance. The pandemic has simply shown what many public health experts have been arguing for years: The coroner system has got to go.

Historically, coroners have been political appointees or elected officials associated with the criminal justice system. They investigate any death that doesn’t appear natural—a broad category that includes suicides, homicides, and accidents. They may also pitch in with pandemics, natural disasters, and other mass casualty events that overwhelm frontline services. For those who die in a hospital, the majority of death certificates are signed by physicians. But when people begin to die en masse at home, as happened in the early parts of the pandemic, the responsibility falls on coroners and medical examiners. In 2018, the most recent year for which national data is available, more than 1.3 million deaths were referred for further investigation, according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics.

In the last century, the role of coroners and medical examiners has become increasingly important for tracking diseases, researching outcomes of both chronic and infectious diseases and safety issues, and developing effective public health intervention strategies. But unlike medical examiners, who are physicians and, in ideal cases, trained forensic pathologists, the bar for coroners is often much lower. In some states, anyone 18 years or older with no prior felonies may be elected coroner. Once they’re in office, training is patchwork; some jurisdictions require no further education at all.

The coroner system has its roots in medieval England, where coroners protected the interests of the crown, including investigating deaths and collecting taxes. It arrived in the U.S. in the colonial period, where  . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

21 January 2022 at 11:36 am

Textual Healing: The Novel World of Bibliotherapy

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I can totally understand this. For one thing, when you are really immersed in a book, your consciousness enters a world far from the chair in which you sit and the room around you. This happens often in reading a work of fiction, but also with some nonfiction (e.g., The Great Influenza, or The Horse, the Wheel, and Language, or No Contest, or Which Side Are You On? or The Kings Depart or. … oops — got lost there for a minute; see this list for links and comments on those titles).

Katrya Bolger writes in The Walrus:

WHEN THE PANDEMIC STRUCK, in March 2020, Anne Boulton was already feeling overwhelmed. She was pursuing a PhD at Laurentian University, which meant teaching in the English department and spending her days at home reviewing readings on literature and psychoanalysis for her thesis. But personal issues were bubbling just below the surface. “When COVID happened,” she says, “suddenly you were faced with your own isolation.” She wanted to better address the strain she was dealing with.

Boulton contacted Hoi Cheu, her supervisor at Laurentian. Besides teaching literary theory, Cheu is a trained marriage and family therapist: he has drawn on his experience in both areas to offer therapeutic support, on and off, for about thirty years. He also trained in bibliotherapy, using his dual background in psychology and literary studies to recommend specific texts for people coping with life challenges from loneliness to mental illness.

Bibliotherapy is premised on the idea that books can be healing tools. It can occur in individual or group settings, though the main distinction is between clinical bibliotherapy, where texts, including fiction and nonfiction, are recommended by a clinical therapist, and nonclinical bibliotherapy, as practised by a facilitator such as a librarian. Though not a stand-alone clinical practice in Canada, clinical bibliotherapy is a method used by professionals who already have certification in counselling, therapy, and clinical therapy and want to help patients seeking an additional outlet. Nonclinical bibliotherapy can’t replace professional help for patients with mental illnesses; instead, it is often used in conjunction with other forms of clinical therapy.

Cheu, based in Sudbury, Ontario, first learned of bibliotherapy during his undergraduate degree, when he came across English professor Joseph Gold’s Read For Your Life, which outlines the benefits of bibliotherapy. In fact, the British-born Gold is widely credited with bringing bibliotherapy to Canada. Cheu began working under Gold during his master’s at the University of Waterloo and later wrote his PhD thesis on James Joyce and the art of Zen, applying principles of Buddhism to his analysis of the Irish writer’s works. He eventually became Gold’s assistant, joining him in sessions with clients in his private practice. Books, Cheu says, provide a safely cocooned space inside which people can unearth painful and sometimes repressed feelings.

When Cheu and Boulton logged on to their first virtual session, Cheu started taking notes on Boulton’s needs. “What literary character do you most identify with?” he asked her. She responded with Anna Karenina. She related to the Leo Tolstoy heroine’s strength of spirit. Like the Russian socialite, Boulton was comfortable asking for what she wanted even when she had repeatedly been discouraged by those around her. From this first session, Cheu started to build out her reading list. There was Kaye Gibbons’s Ellen Foster, a novel about a young heroine’s tumultuous childhood in the American South. And there was Nikolai Leskov’s “Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk,” a short story about a young woman seeking to escape a stifling marriage to an older man. Being a good student of English literature, Boulton dove into the texts with vigour.

THOUGH THE FIRST known use of the term bibliotherapy appeared in a satirical essay published in a 1916 issue of The Atlantic Monthly, the idea of offering reading material to those in mental distress dates back to eighteenth-century asylums. By the early twentieth century, librarians in US hospitals were even considered therapists. American military libraries also prescribed books to soldiers suffering from trauma after the First World War. These programs were eventually expanded to other hospitals and libraries.

The growing interest in the field of psychotherapy in the 1930s led to research on bibliotherapy. Throughout the 1960s and 1970s, several books were published on the subject. And, as mental health treatment expanded, bibliotherapy gained broader appeal, according to Bibliotherapy: A Critical History.

Proponents of bibliotherapy firmly believe . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

18 January 2022 at 4:26 pm

How coal holds on in America

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Cultural forces, conventions, pressures, and loyalty can result in what appears, to someone who is not a part of the culture, something that seems senseless if not outright stupid. The practice, thankfully abandoned, of footbinding in order to deform the feet, or (still practiced) female genital mutilation come to mind. Coal in North Dakota seems to be an example. Joshua Partlow reports in the Washington Post (and that’s a gift link, so no paywall):

David Saggau, the chief executive of an energy cooperative, tried to explain the losing economics of running a coal-fired power plant to a North Dakota industry group more than a year ago.

Coal Creek Station had lost $170 million in 2019 as abundant natural gas and proliferating wind projects had cut revenue far below what it cost to run the plant. After four decades sending electricity over the border to Minnesota, Coal Creek would be closing in 2022, Saggau said, and nobody was clamoring to buy it.

“We made folks aware that the plant was for sale for a dollar,” Saggau, of Great River Energy, told the Lignite Energy Council during an October 2020 virtual meeting. “We’re basically giving it away.”

A renewable future was at hand. Winds come howling over the Missouri River in the heart of North Dakota — at the site where Lewis and Clark spent their first frigid winter — and Great River Energy planned to supply wind power over Coal Creek’s valuable transmission line. NextEra Energy, EDF Renewables and other powerhouse firms were racing to lock landowners into leases to harvest some of the most powerful and sustained winds in the country.

But that new clean-energy future never materialized in this part of coal country, with a landscape that has been mined for more than a century and has the scars and sinkholes to prove it. And the sale of Coal Creek Station, which received its last major permit approval earlier this month, illuminates the United States’ halting transition to renewables. Even in places such as North Dakota, where supply and demand align with clean energy, culture and politics pose major obstacles.

In these rural North Dakota counties, local officials passed ordinances that blocked wind and solar projects. State officials rallied to save Coal Creek, and a politically connected North Dakota energy firm stepped in to prolong its life, promising someday to capture its carbon emissions and store them underground.

“I’m not just looking to prop up coal,” Stacy Tschider, the president of Rainbow Energy Marketing Corp., said in July when his company announced it was buying the plant. “I’m looking to take coal to the next level.”

During the United Nations climate summit in Glasgow in the fall, conference head Alok Sharma declared that “the end of coal is in sight.” More than 40 countries pledged to phase out coal, the single-biggest source of atmosphere-warming carbon dioxide emissions. The United States did not join them. Despite its rapid decline, coal still generates about 20 percent of the nation’s electricity and has strong political backing in pockets of the country.

Charles Stroup, a local banker and land agent who supports wind power in North Dakota’s Mercer County, compared the coal industry here to a dying relative that the community is desperate to save, no matter how grim the prognosis.

“Mother doesn’t die in 10 minutes,” Stroup said. “She takes a while.”

For many here, the loss of coal remains unthinkable, and new sources of energy — no matter how promising for local residents and governments — represent a serious threat.

“If we get the word that [Coal Creek Station] is gone for sure, the best business and economic play for the lignite counties and the State is to ban any more renewables,” McLean County state’s attorney Ladd Erickson wrote in an email in 2020 to aides to North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum (R) and Sen. John Hoeven (R-N.D.), part of a batch of documents obtained through a state public records request.

Otherwise, Erickson, an elected official who serves as prosecutor and legal adviser to the county commissioners, warned that “there will be no more coal mining because new mine areas will be all wind turbines, solar panels, and power lines.”

Homages to coal

The prospect of Coal Creek’s closing landed hard in Underwood, a city of about 800 people. The antiques shop on its . . .

Continue reading.(Gift link: no paywall)

The fate of human civilization is small potatoes compared to local politics and cultural allegiance. You can see now why the residents of Easter Island were able to chop down every palm on the island and thus destroy the forests that were the basis of the environment on which they depended. North Dakota proudly continues that tradition.

Written by Leisureguy

18 January 2022 at 2:54 pm

Fighting the Ten Hallmarks of Cancer with Food

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Some very interesting findings quoted in this brief video.

In his note on the video on NutritionFacts.org, Dr. Greger adds:

Once I’ve finished researching and writing How Not to Age, my next book will be on cancer survival, so there will be a lot more coming on this critically important topic. Until then, I have dozens of videos on cancer prevention and treatment, including:

How Not to Die from Cancer   
Starving Cancer with Methionine Restriction   
Saving Lives by Treating Acne with Diet   
Prostate Cancer and Organic Milk vs. Almond Milk   
Strawberries vs. Esophageal Cancer   
Should We All Get Colonoscopies Starting at Age 50?   
Breast Cancer Survival Vegetable    
Prostate Cancer Survival: The A/V Ratio   
Anti-Angiogenesis: Cutting off the Tumor Supply Line   
Why Might Vegetarians Have Less HPV?    
Zeranol Use in Meat and Breast Cancer    
Animal Protein Compared to Cigarette Smoking    
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The Food That Can Downregulate a Metastatic Cancer Gene

Written by Leisureguy

17 January 2022 at 1:56 pm

How Killer Rice Crippled Tokyo and the Japanese Navy

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Problems due to nutrition (whether from a deficit or an excess of some micronutrient) are sneaky: even when the health impact is evident, the cause may remain obscure. Anne Ewbank writes in Gastro Obscura:

IN 1877, JAPAN’S MEIJI EMPEROR watched his aunt, the princess Kazu, die of a common malady: kakke. If her condition was typical, her legs would have swollen, and her speech slowed. Numbness and paralysis might have come next, along with twitching and vomiting. Death often resulted from heart failure.

The emperor had suffered from this same ailment, on-and-off, his whole life. In response, he poured money into research on the illness. It was a matter of survival: for the emperor, his family, and Japan’s ruling class. While most diseases ravage the poor and vulnerable, kakke afflicted the wealthy and powerful, especially city dwellers. This curious fact gave kakke its other name: Edo wazurai, the affliction of Edo (Edo being the old name for Tokyo). But for centuries, the culprit of kakke went unnoticed: fine, polished, white rice.

Gleaming white rice was a status symbol—it was expensive and laborious to husk, hull, polish, and wash. In Japan, the poor ate brown rice, or other carbohydrates such as sweet potatoes or barley. The rich ate polished white rice, often to the exclusion of other foods.

This was a problem. Removing the outer layers of a grain of rice also removes one vital nutrient: thiamine, or vitamin B-1. Without thiamine, animals and humans develop kakkenow known in English as beriberi. But for too long, the cause of the condition remained unknown. [See also this article by the Harvard School of Public Health. From the article: “The bran is the fiber-rich outer layer that supplies B vitaminsiron, copper, zincmagnesiumantioxidants, and phytochemicals. Phytochemicals are natural chemical compounds in plants that have been researched for their role in disease prevention.” That’s in part why I cook intact whole grain for my meals. – LG]

In his book Beriberi in Modern Japan: The Making of a National Disease, Alexander R. Bay describes the efforts of Edo-era doctors to figure out the disease. A common suspect was dampness and damp ground. One doctor administered herbal medicines and a fasting regimen to a samurai, who died within months. Other doctors burned dried mugwort on patients’ bodies to stimulate qi and blood flow.

Some remedies did work—even if they didn’t come from a true understanding of the disease. Katsuki Gyuzan, an early, 18th-century doctor, believed Edo itself was the issue. Samurai, he wrote, would come to Edo and get kakke from the water and soil. Only samurai who went back to their provincial homes—going over the Hakone Pass—would be cured. Those who were seriously ill had to move quickly, “for the worst cases always result in death,” Katsuki cautioned. Since heavily processed white rice was less available outside Edo and in the countryside, this likely was a cure. Similarly, a number of physicians prescribed barley and red beans, which both contain thiamine.

By 1877, Japan’s beriberi problem was getting really serious. When the princess Kazu died of kakke at 31, it was only a decade after her former husband, Japan’s shogun, had died, almost certainly from the mysterious disease. Machine-milling made polished rice available to the masses, and as the government invested in an army and navy, it fed soldiers with white rice. (White rice, as it happened, was less bulky and lasted longer than brown rice, which could go rancid in warm weather.) Inevitably, soldiers and sailors got beriberi.

No longer was this just a problem for the upper class, or even Japan. In his article British India and the “Beriberi Problem,” 1798–1942, David Arnold writes that by the time the emperor was funding research, beriberi was ravaging South and East Asia, especially “soldiers, sailors, plantation labourers, prisoners, and asylum inmates.”

Into this mess stepped a precocious doctor: Takaki Kanehiro. Almost immediately after joining the navy in 1872, he noticed the high numbers of sailors suffering from beriberi. But it wasn’t until he returned from medical school in London and took up the role of director of the Tokyo Naval Hospital that he could do anything about it. After surveying suffering sailors, he found that “the rate [of disease] was highest among prisoners, lower among sailors and petty officers, and lowest among officers.”

Since they differed mainly by diet, Takaki believed a lack of protein among lower-status sailors caused the disease. (This contradicted the most common theory at the time: that beriberi was an infectious disease caused by bacteria.) Takaki even wrangled a meeting with the emperor to discuss his theory. “If the cause of this condition is discovered by someone outside of Japan, it would be dishonorable,” he told the emperor. Change couldn’t come soon enough. In 1883, 120 Japanese sailors out of 1,000 had the disease.

Takaki also noticed that Western navies didn’t suffer from beriberi. But instituting a Western-style diet was expensive, and sailors were resistant to eating bread. An unfortunate incident, though, allowed Takaki to make his point emphatically. In late 1883, a training ship full of cadets returned from a journey to New Zealand, South America, and Hawaii. Out of the 370 cadets and crewmen, 169 had gotten beriberi, and 25 had died.

Takaki proposed an experiment. Another training ship, the Tsukuba, would set out on the exact same route. Takaki leveraged every connection he had to arrange for the Tsukuba to carry bread and meat instead of just white rice. So while the Tsukuba made its way around the world, the doctor spent sleepless nights fretting about the result: If crew members died from beriberi, he would look like a fool. Later, he told a student that he would have killed himself if his experiment failed.

Instead, the Tsukuba returned to Japan in triumph. Only 14 crew members had gotten beriberi, and those men had not eaten the ordered diet. Takaki wasn’t exactly right: He believed the issue was protein rather than thiamine. But since meat was expensive, Takaki proposed giving sailors protein-filled barley, which is actually rich in thiamine. In the face of this evidence, . . .

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Written by Leisureguy

17 January 2022 at 9:56 am

Fox News makes money from poisoning society

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Is it a good thing that Fox News profits from creating a toxic political environment? Not for the public, nor for the functioning of our society and government, but quite good for Rupert Murdoch and his family and shareholders. 

Read this post by Kevin Drum.

A hospital might profit from contaminating a town’s water supply. I don’t think we would want that, nor would we allow it. I do know about freedom of the press, but the press for which that freedom was guaranteed is not at all like the “press” we experience today.

I’m not sure what the right remedy would be, but doing nothing risks the breakdown of social trust and productive amity. 

Written by Leisureguy

15 January 2022 at 1:35 pm

Judge Tosses Teen Rape Conviction, Says 148 Days in Jail Is ‘Plenty of Punishment’

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Just to be clear: the judge reversed his own decision because he decided that raping someone was not that big a deal. (The rape was of a minor (16 years old) and done by an adult (18 years old).) Zoe Richards reports in Yahoo! News:

An Illinois judge had a shocking outburst in court Wednesday, kicking a prosecutor out with minimal explanation as outrage grows over the judge’s decision to reverse his own ruling on a teen accused of rape.

“Mr. Jones, get out,” Adams County Judge Robert Adrian fumed as he ordered Josh Jones of the Adams County State’s Attorney’s Office to leave the courtroom. The Muddy River News, whose journalist was in court, reported that Jones was set to appear in an unrelated case but had apparently “liked” a Facebook post supporting domestic violence survivors in the wake of Adrian’s extraordinary ruling in the rape case .

“I’m not on social media, but my wife is,” Adrian said. “She saw the thumbs up you gave to people attacking me.”

He added: “I can’t be fair with you today. Get out.”

Adrian declined The Daily Beast’s request for comment about the outburst on Wednesday, citing a Supreme Court rule that urges judges to abstain from public comment about pending or impending proceedings.

The move comes as critics slam Adrian for tossing out a sexual assault conviction for 18-year-old Drew Clinton, who allegedly stuffed a pillow in a girl’s face as he raped her at a graduation party in May last year.

Clinton’s accuser, 16-year-old Cameron Vaughan, broke her silence Tuesday days after Adams’ reversal on Jan. 3.

“I woke up at my friend’s place with a pillow over my face so I couldn’t be heard and Drew Clinton inside of me,” Vaughan said, according to WGEM. “I asked him to stop multiple times and he wouldn’t.”

After finally pushing him off, Vaughan said, Clinton jumped up to play video games “as if nothing had happened.”

During a bench trial in October, Clinton was found guilty of one count of criminal sexual assault. But last week, Adrian changed his mind and sensationally declared the teen “not guilty” during a sentencing hearing.

According to a copy of last week’s hearing transcript, the judge insisted that . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

13 January 2022 at 4:28 pm

A Q&A With the Scientist Who Discovered Cannabis Can Prevent COVID-19

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Science has its gatekeepers — those who control funding and thus can refuse funding to projects they dislike (because, for example, the project goes against current trends or is contrary to received scientific wisdom). Audrey Cafleton in Vice interviews a scientist whose project was rejected by the gatekeepers and was thus not funded, but who did it anyway and made some interesting findings:

A groundbreaking new study out of two Oregon universities has identified an unusual naturally-occuring substance as a promising tool to prevent COVID-19 infections: cannabis.

Published in the peer-reviewed Journal of Natural Products, the study identified three cannabis compounds—non-psychoactive precursors found in the plant before it’s converted into the stuff that gets you high—as being notably effective at blocking the entry of SARS-COV-2 into human cells by glomming onto the virus’s spike protein. The study is an early sign that cannabis could be an effective tool in the arsenal of global coronavirus responses; but with piecemeal laws and pushback from federal agencies, the future of cannabis in COVID-19 treatment remains unknown.

Here, Dr. Richard van Breemen, first author on the study and professor of medicinal chemistry at the Linus Pauling Institute at Oregon State University, tells Motherboard about his findings, the public response to the study, the legal challenges he encountered in this research, and why cannabis-derived gummies might just be an important public health intervention.

Motherboard: Your paper is really making the rounds—congratulations! Can you walk me through your key findings?
Dr. Richard van Breemen: 
Our interest has always been in discovering natural products that have medicinal value. With COVID, we thought we’d go about trying to find natural products that can stop the virus from infecting cells or inhibit their ability to replicate and go on to infect other individuals. We decided to attack the virus at the starting point, where it enters the cell. That’s the exact same point at which antibodies attack the virus.

We asked the question: “Could small molecules from nature, like from plants, have the same ability to stop the virus from infecting a cell if they had an ability to bind to the surface of the virus and specifically to the spike protein of the virus, which is what’s making contact with the human cell and enabling it to infect the cell?”

Initially, when we proposed this to the National Institutes of Health (NIH) back in 2020, one of the reviewers said, no one’s made the proof of principle that this can work. So they didn’t give me the money. We did it anyway, and we’ve established this principle that small molecules including natural products, in this case from hemp, have the ability to stop the virus from infecting human cells.

We were looking at black cohosh, and red clover and licorice, and we added hemp, and we discovered three compounds in hemp that had this high ability to bind to the spike protein. And we even determined that some of them bind to sites on that spike protein and synergistically they can have a bigger effect than if one is using one compound at a time instead of the mixture. So we think the mixture of cannabidiolic acid (CBD-A), cannabigerolic acid (CBG-A), and tetrahydrocannabinolic acid (THC-A) would be more effective than any one of them alone. So this speaks to the idea that the supplement, containing a complex extract of a plant, sometimes is better than monotherapy in the traditional drug approach, where you purify it and use only one compound at a time.

I did see in the study that, crucially, you couldn’t really test THC-A in the ways that you wanted to, because it’s a controlled substance, and you just weren’t able to get your hands on enough of it to test it. Is that right?
That is correct. We screened extracts of hemp, and there are traces of THC-A in these extracts. And so we identified it, but we weren’t allowed, actually due to campus rules. We weren’t allowed to purify it and even test it alone, because it can be converted to THC. If one heats it, the acid group can be removed and chemically it transforms into a psychoactive substance, but THC-A alone is not psychoactive.

Neither CBD-A nor CBG-A are psychoactive, right? So what we’re looking at is a little more complicated than smoking weed to prevent COVID-19 infection. What we’re talking about is something that would be orally ingested. What do you envision for that?
I envision  . . .

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Written by Leisureguy

12 January 2022 at 5:18 pm

“Restaurant of Mistaken Orders”

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Written by Leisureguy

12 January 2022 at 1:16 pm

Pesticides and cancer risk

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Another example of effects of environmental pollution:

Written by Leisureguy

12 January 2022 at 1:02 pm

Management greed knows no bounds

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Written by Leisureguy

9 January 2022 at 4:38 pm

Study holds warning on pandemic drinking

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Tracy Hampton writes in the Harvard Gazette:

Scientists estimate that a one-year increase in alcohol consumption during the COVID-19 pandemic will result in 8,000 additional deaths from alcohol-related liver disease, 18,700 cases of liver failure, and 1,000 cases of liver cancer by 2040.

In the short term, alcohol consumption changes due to COVID-19 are expected to cause 100 additional deaths and 2,800 additional cases of liver failure by 2023.

The new research, published in Hepatology, was led by investigators at Harvard-affiliated Massachusetts General Hospital.

Using data from a national survey of U.S. adults on their drinking habits that found that excessive drinking (such as binge drinking) increased by 21 percent during the COVID-19 pandemic, investigators simulated the drinking trajectories and liver disease trends in all U.S. adults. The researchers noted that a sustained increase in alcohol consumption for more than one year could result in 19 to 35 percent additional mortality.

“Our findings highlight the need for . . .

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Written by Leisureguy

7 January 2022 at 8:45 pm

Cloth masks not enough as Omicron spreads

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Written by Leisureguy

6 January 2022 at 10:16 pm

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