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Pomegranate juice for arterial health

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Pure pomegranate juice (and I prefer pomegranate juice not made from concentrate) has positive effects on arterial health, including reducing plaque, if you drink 1/4 cup (2 oz) daily, which I do, as described in my current diet advice, you get enough for it to be effective.

You can search on “pomegranate juice arterial health” and find many references. Here’s an article from LifeExtension.com by Tiesha D. Johnson, BSN, RN:

Every year, more than a million Americans are struck down by a heart attack or stroke. For many, sudden death will be their first—and last—symptom of undetected vascular disease. Those lucky enough to survive often face invasive procedures like angioplasty and coronary bypass surgery, followed by a lifetime of curtailed physical activity and costly heart medications.

If you trust your vascular health to mainstream doctors, you may be gambling with your life. Although cardiovascular disease remains the nation’s number-one killer, American medicine prioritizes heart disease treatment rather than prevention. Sadly, it has become far more profitable to treat heart disease than to prevent it.

Fortunately, natural strategies that can help avert life-threatening heart attacks and strokes are readily available today. One of the most promising heart-protective agents to emerge in recent years is pomegranate. Packed with unique antioxidants that guard the body’s endothelial cells against free-radical assault, pomegranate has been shown to prevent—and even reverse—cardiovascular disease.

Research also shows that pomegranate can stop the progression of deadly prostate cancer. And scientists are now exploring pomegranate’s potential in averting ailments ranging from diabetes to Alzheimer’s disease, as well as its role in supporting skin, joint, dental, and liver health.

In this article, we examine the growing volume of research that attests to pomegranate’s myriad health-promoting properties—particularly its role in safeguarding the delicate endothelial cells that line blood vessels and are so critical to preserving optimal vascular function in aging adults.

Pomegranate: Powerful Support for Cardiovascular Health

Approximately 71 million Americans suffer from cardiovascular diseases such as hypertension (high blood pressure), coronary artery disease, a history of stroke, or peripheral vascular disease (impaired blood flow to the extremities). Atherosclerosis—a disease of the blood vessels, characterized by inflammation, vascular endothelial cell dysfunction, and impaired nitric oxide production—is a major component of cardiovascular disease.

In both laboratory and clinical studies, pomegranate shows great promise in averting the numerous pathological changes associated with cardiovascular disease. Scientists believe pomegranate works through several mechanisms to fight cardiovascular disease by:

  • reducing oxidative stress
  • supporting the synthesis and activity of nitric oxide
  • inhibiting the oxidation of potentially harmful LDL (low-density lipoprotein).

Reducing oxidative stress and inflammatory damage in blood vessels is a well-documented way to lower the risk of cardiovascular disease, both known and undetected.1 Mounting evidence suggests that compounds in pomegranate known as punicalagins are cardioprotective by virtue of their powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects.

In one study, for example, pomegranate juice outperformed numerous other potent antioxidants—grape juice, blueberry juice, red wine, vitamin C, and vitamin E, among others—in “quenching” the damaging effects of free radicals on cell membranes.2 While all the antioxidant nutrients tested effectively prevented the overgrowth of undesirable muscle cells in blood vessel walls—a factor contributing to elevated blood pressure—pomegranate juice was by far the most effective of all.

Supporting the action of nitric oxide is another way to protect the cardiovascular system. Nitric oxide exerts many essential antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects in the body, including scavenging certain reactive oxygen species, preventing LDL oxidation, deterring the adhesion and aggregation of blood cells and platelets along the endothelial cell lining, and inhibiting the proliferation of vascular smooth muscle cells.3 Together, these effects help retard the progression of atherosclerosis. When scientists tested pomegranate against other antioxidants, they found that it helped enhance the biological actions of nitric oxide, thus conferring significant cardioprotection.

Preventing dangerous LDL oxidation is also crucial to protecting the blood vessels of the heart. Oxidized LDL can severely damage cardiovascular health by injuring cells that line the coronary arteries, leading to inflammation and narrowing that can precipitate a heart attack. LDL oxidation also reduces the activity of enzymes that produce nitric oxide in those blood vessels, thus preventing them from responding normally to changing demands for blood flow. When scientists treated human coronary artery cells with pomegranate juice, they discovered a dramatic correction in levels of nitric oxide production.4 This correction is likely to be beneficial in preventing complications of blood vessel disease, including heart attacks.

Just as water flowing rapidly down a canyon gradually erodes the canyon walls and stirs up residues, blood flowing under high pressure or disturbed by narrowed arteries can damage blood vessel walls, increasing oxidative damage and worsening atherosclerosis.5 A recent Italian study found that pomegranate juice concentrate reduced oxidant-related cellular changes in blood vessel cells exposed to high shear stresses, such as those produced by disturbed blood flow.6 The juice also increased nitric oxide production, further protecting the cells. After demonstrating these effects in cell cultures, the scientists administered pomegranate juice to mice with elevated cholesterol levels, and found that they could markedly impede the progression of atherosclerosis. These exciting findings suggest that the dangerous effects induced by perturbed shear stress can be reversed by chronic administration of pomegranate juice.

Pomegranate May Reverse Atherosclerosis

Human studies of pomegranate juice have demonstrated even more dramatic effects, showing that pomegranate may actually reverse atherosclerosis. Israeli scientists studied patients with narrowing of their carotid arteries as a result of atherosclerosis.7The carotid arteries in the neck are responsible for more than 80% of blood flow to the brain, and narrowing of these major vessels is a major risk factor for stroke. Among patients given daily pomegranate juice supplements (providing 78 mg of punicalagins) for one year, atherosclerotic lesions in the common carotid artery decreased by 35% in size, while actually growing by 9% in a control group. Thus, pomegranate reversed existing atherosclerosis, which continued to worsen in those who did not consume pomegranate. Blood analysis showed that total antioxidant activity increased 130% in the pomegranate juice group, compared to before-treatment values. Finally, the participants’ systolic blood pressure fell by an impressive 21% after one year of pomegranate juice supplementation.

The same Israeli scientists showed that this blood pressure reduction from drinking as little as 2 ounces of pomegranate juice daily (providing 78 mg of punicalagins) was due to decreased activity of angiotensin converting enzyme (ACE).8 This is a tremendously important finding, since drugs that inhibit ACE activity are commonly used to treat hypertension. Further, the study raises the possibility that pomegranate juice may help patients avoid having to take such drugs.

A study from the California-based Preventive Medicine Research Institute examined the effects of pomegranate juice in human patients with established coronary heart disease.9 Forty-five patients with coronary heart disease and cardiac ischemia (insufficient blood flow to the heart muscle) were randomly assigned to drink 8 ounces of pomegranate juice or a placebo beverage daily. At the onset and conclusion

Continue reading.

Be sure you get pure pomegranate juice, not some juice/drink with some pomegranate juice added.

I would say that 8 oz is a lot of pomegranate juice. I’m sticking with 2 oz because pomegranate juice is somewhat expensive, in terms of both dollars and WW points: 2 oz is 2 points, 8 oz is 9 points. (I get just 23 points a day—thank heavens for all the zero-point foods!)

Written by LeisureGuy

21 July 2018 at 11:41 am

Immigrant Shelters Drug Traumatized Teenagers Without Consent

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The US looks uglier and uglier under Trump.  Caroline Chen and Jess Ramirez report at ProPublica:

Whether they came to the U.S. alone, or were forcibly separated from their families at the border, despondent minors are often pressured into taking psychotropic drugs without approval from a parent or guardian.

Fleeing an abusive stepfather in El Salvador, Gabriela headed for Oakland, California, where her grandfather had promised to take her in. When the teenager reached the U.S. border in January 2017, she was brought to a federally funded shelter in Texas.

Initially, staff described her as receptive and resilient. But as she was shuttled from one Texas shelter to another, she became increasingly depressed. Without consulting her grandfather, or her mother in El Salvador, shelter staff have prescribed numerous medications for her, including two psychotropic drugs whose labels warn of increased suicidal behavior in adolescents, according to court documents. Still languishing in a shelter after 18 months, the 17-year-old doesn’t want to take the medications, but she does anyway, because staff at one facility told her she wouldn’t be released until she is considered psychologically sound.

Gabriela’s experience epitomizes a problem that the Trump administration’s practice of family separation exacerbated: the failure of government-funded facilities to seek informed consent before medicating immigrant teenagers. Around 12,000 undocumented minors are in custody of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Refugee Resettlement. The majority crossed the border unaccompanied, while more than 2,500 were separated from their parents while Trump’s “zero tolerance” policy was in effect from April to June.

Emotional distress and mental health issues are prevalent among these children, sometimes a result of traumatic experiences in their home countries, at other times triggered by being separated from parents at the border, or by fear that they will never be released from ORR facilities. Former shelter employees, and doctors and lawyers working for advocacy groups say the shelters lack sufficient counselors and too often turn to powerful psychotropic drugs when kids act out.

Under most states’ laws, before a child is medicated, a parent, guardian, or authority acting in the place of the parent—such as a court-appointed guardian ad litem— must be consulted and give informed consent. But in these shelters, the children are alone. Shelter staff may not know the whereabouts of the parents or relatives, and even when that information is available, advocates say that the shelters often don’t get in touch. Nor do they seek court approval. Instead, they act unilaterally, imposing psychotropic drugs on children who don’t know what they’re taking or what its effects may be.

“These medications do not come cost-free to children with growing brains and growing bodies — psychotropic medications have a substantial cost to a child’s present and future,” said Dr. Amy Cohen, a psychiatrist who has been volunteering in border shelters. “A person whose sole concern is, what is in the best interest of a child — a parent or a guardian ad litem — that role is desperately needed now.”

Gabriela is one of five immigrants under age 18 who are plaintiffs in a class-action lawsuit filed last month in federal court in Los Angeles against Alex Azar, the head of HHS, and Scott Lloyd, director of ORR. The suit alleges that children are overmedicated without informed consent. Another plaintiff, 16-year-old Daniela, became suicidal after being separated from an older sister who accompanied her from Honduras to the U.S. border. She has been given Prozac, Abilify, Clonidine, Risperdal, Seroquel, and Zyprexa in various shelters as staff have been unable to settle on a diagnosis, detecting at different times bipolar disorder, generalized anxiety disorder, PTSD, and major depressive disorder. Her older sister was released from custody and allowed to stay in the U.S., but wasn’t consulted about whether Daniela should take those medications, which have side effects including weight gain, uncontrolled spasms, and increased suicide risk. The lawsuit doesn’t disclose the last names of the plaintiffs. Another ongoing class action lawsuit in the same court, against the U.S. Department of Justice, alleges the U.S. is inappropriately medicating immigrant minors as young as 11 years old, violating standards established in a 1997 legal settlement.

In legal filings, Justice Department lawyers have said that the shelters are acting appropriately, in accord with state laws on informed consent. “There is good reason for this Court to conclude that ORR’s provision of such medications complies fully with ‘all applicable state child welfare laws and regulations,’” the department said. State and local authorities, rather than the court, are best positioned to determine whether shelters are in compliance, it also argued.

Reports of overmedication extend beyond the lawsuits. At the Northern Virginia Juvenile Detention Center, which has a program for unaccompanied immigrant teenagers, at least 70 percent of the residents were on antidepressants, anti-anxiety medications and sleep aids, often taking multiple pills, according to two former employees. The two staffers, who left the facility a few months ago, worried that the adolescents were over-medicated. Although the shelter offered group therapy, many teens didn’t participate.

Most of the teenagers had crossed the border alone, but often had family members in the U.S. who were seeking to sponsor them. Even in cases where a child had a mother or father living in the U.S., the parent was never contacted for permission to medicate, said the former employees, who asked for anonymity for fear of affecting future employment.

By law, when an unaccompanied minor crosses the border, the Department of Homeland Security must transfer the child to ORR within 72 hours. Children who arrive with parents can’t be held in a detention center for more than 20 days. The Bush and Obama administrations typically would release the family with an appointment to show up in court, while the Trump administration decided to separate the family, with the parents remaining in detention. ORR then places the unaccompanied or separated child in one of the roughly 100 shelters contracted to provide housing, education, and medical services. Immigrant children can remain in the shelters for months or even years. If the minor crossed unaccompanied but has family members in the U.S., as Gabriela did, the relative must be cleared by ORR as a sponsor, a stringent vetting process that can take months.

To provide mental health services, shelters typically have an in-house counselor who holds therapy sessions, and a psychiatrist on call to conduct mental health evaluations and prescribe medications. The troubled teens aren’t always easy to handle. Sometimes they try to run away or start fights. In a statement obtained by advocates for one of the pending class-action lawsuits, a 17-year-old boy described breaking a chair and window in frustration.

Virginia law has an exception that allows minors to give consent, without adult permission, for mental health care. The law is intended to help minors who want mental health treatment without having to disclose their diagnosis to their parents, according to Jessica Berg, dean of Case Western Reserve University’s School of Law and co-author of a book on informed consent.

Such laws presume “the individual in question actually has capacity” to make the decision, meaning that the physician should first determine that the minor can understand the consequences of treatment and make an educated choice, said Berg.

That’s not happening at the Virginia center, the former employees said. While skipping consent procedures, staff also made it hard for children to say no. A federal field specialist from the Department of Homeland Security instructed staff to file a “significant incident report” every time a teen refused to take medication, said one of the former employees. That report could then be used to justify delaying reunification with family. The teenagers, fearing being written up, would take their pills, the staffer said.

Johnitha McNair, executive director of the Northern Virginia Juvenile Detention Center, didn’t respond to phone calls and an email requesting comment.

Other states, such as Texas and California, require  . . .

Continue reading. There’s more.

Written by LeisureGuy

20 July 2018 at 7:19 am

A 4-Day Workweek? A Test Run Shows a Surprising Result

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Charlotte Graham-McLay reports in the NY Times:

 A New Zealand firm that let its employees work four days a week while being paid for five says the experiment was so successful that it hoped to make the change permanent.

The firm, Perpetual Guardian, which manages trusts, wills and estates, found the change actually boosted productivity among its 240 employees, who said they spent more time with their families, exercising, cooking, and working in their gardens.

The firm ran the experiment — which reduced the workweek to 32 hours from 40 — in March and April this year, and asked two researchers to study the effects on staff.

Jarrod Haar, a human resources professor at Auckland University of Technology, said employees reported a 24 percent improvement in work-life balance, and came back to work energized after their days off.

“Supervisors said staff were more creative, their attendance was better, they were on time, and they didn’t leave early or take long breaks,” Mr. Haar said. “Their actual job performance didn’t change when doing it over four days instead of five.”

Similar experiments in other countries have tested the concept of reducing work hours as a way of improving individual productivity. In Sweden, a trial in the city of Gothenburg mandated a six-hour day, and officials found employees completed the same amount of work or even more. But when France mandated a 35-hour workweek in 2000, businesses complained of reduced competitiveness and increased hiring costs.

[Is the 9-to-5 approach still ideal for workers? We asked the experts]

In Perpetual Guardian’s case, workers said the change motivated them to find ways of increasing their productivity while in the office. Meetings were reduced from two hours to 30 minutes, and employees created signals for their colleagues that they needed time to work without distraction.

“They worked out where they were wasting time and worked smarter, not harder,” Mr. Haar said.

Andrew Barnes, the company’s founder, said he believed his was the first business in the world to pay staff for 40 hours when working 32; other firms have allowed employees to work shorter weeks by compressing the standard 40 hours into fewer days, or allowed people to work part-time for a reduced salary.

Mr. Barnes said he came up with the idea for a four-day workweek after reading a report that suggested people spent less than three hours of their work day productively employed, and another that said distractions at work could have effects on staff akin to losing a night’s sleep or smoking marijuana.

He said the results of Perpetual Guardian’s trial showed that when hiring staff, supervisors should negotiate tasks to be performed, rather than basing contracts on hours new employees spent in the office.

“Otherwise you’re saying, ‘I’m too lazy to figure out what I want from you, so I’m just going to pay you for showing up,’” Mr. Barnes said.

“A contract should be about an agreed level of productivity,” he added. “If you deliver that in less time, why should I cut your pay?”

He said working mothers stood to benefit most from the policy, since those returning to work from maternity leave often negotiated part-time hours, but performed the equivalent of full-time work.

Tammy Barker, a senior client manager with the firm, agreed with Mr. Barnes’s assessment.

Ms. Barker, a mother of two who lives in Auckland, said she spent her day off each week running personal errands, attending appointments and shopping for groceries, which allowed her to spend more time with her family on weekends.

She had realized during the trial how often she jumped between tasks at work as her concentration waned.

“Because there was a focus on our productivity, I made a point of doing one thing at a time, and turning myself back to it when I felt I was drifting off,” she said. “At the end of each day, I felt I had got a lot more done.”

Noting that the company had seen lower electricity bills with 20 percent less staff in the office each day, Mr. Barnes said the change in work hours could have wider implications if more companies adopted such a strategy.

“You’ve got 20 percent of cars off the road in rush hour; there are implications for urban design, such as smaller offices,” he said.

Perpetual Guardian’s board will now consider making the change permanent. . .

Continue reading.

See also this article (listed on the Useful Posts page):  The Gospel of Consumption

Written by LeisureGuy

19 July 2018 at 4:01 pm

Alcohol-related liver deaths have increased sharply

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Marijuana legalization is beginning become attractive simply as harm reduction. Marijuana is not a gateway drug, but alcohol has proven to be, and one of the gates it opens is to physical illness and death. Kate Furby reports in the Washington Post:

Deaths from liver disease have increased sharply in recent years in the United States, according to a study published in the British Medical Journal. Cirrhosis-related deaths increased by 65 percent from 1999 to 2016, and deaths from liver cancer doubled, the study said. The rise in death rates was driven predominantly by alcohol-induced disease, the report said.

Over the past decade, people ages 25 to 34 had the highest increase in cirrhosis deaths — an average of 10.5 percent per year — of the demographic groups examined, researchers reported.

The study suggests that a new generation of Americans is being afflicted “by alcohol misuse and its complications,” said lead author Elliot Tapper, a liver specialist at the University of Michigan.

Tapper said people are at risk of life-threatening cirrhosis if they drink several drinks a night or have multiple nights of binge drinking — more than four or five drinks per sitting — per week. Women tend to be less tolerant of alcohol and their livers more sensitive to damage.

The liver cleans blood as it exits the gut. The more toxins, sugars and fats consumed, the harder it has to work. If the liver gets overloaded, its plumbing can get blocked up, causing scarring that can reduce liver function.

“Dying from cirrhosis, you never wish this on anybody,” Tapper said.

If people with alcohol-related disease stop drinking, “there’s an excellent chance your liver will repair itself,” Tapper said. “Many other organs have the ability to regenerate to some degree, but none have the same capacity as the liver,” he added. He said that he routinely sees patients going “from the sickest of the sick to living well, working and enjoying their life.”

The problem, Tapper said, is that “we do not yet have a highly effective treatment for alcohol addiction.”

The study examined death rates in several demographic groups — divided by age, race, place of residence and gender — using death certificate data and census data. The researchers found that deaths for certain groups of people decreased between 1999 to 2008 — but rose sharply starting in 2009. They speculated that the 2008 economic crisis and subsequent rise in unemployment may have been a factor. Studies have shown that losing a job is associated with increased alcohol consumption in men.

The new study found that men were twice as likely to die from cirrhosis and nearly four times as likely to die from liver cancer as women. The study also found whites, Native Americans and Hispanic Americans are experiencing increased death rates for cirrhosis, along with people living in Kentucky, Arkansas and New Mexico. The one positive report from the study is the declining rate of deaths in Asian Americans from both cirrhosis and liver cancer.

“Scar tissue is silent, developing silently, and they [the patients] don’t know. It comes as a big surprise,” said Jessica Mellinger, a clinical lecturer at the University of Michigan  who was not involved in the study. Patients typically experience the symptoms “all of a sudden,” Mellinger said of patients suffering from cirrhosis.

Initial cirrhosis symptoms of yellowing skin, jaundice and a swollen abdomen are usually the first signs that something is wrong, Mellinger said. The fluid in the abdomen can make it look and feel “like you have multiple bowling balls” in your stomach, Tapper said. As the disease progresses, the symptoms worsen, including degenerative brain injury, severe bleeding, kidney failure and increasing frailty.

The BMJ report was consistent with data issued earlier in the week by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In a new report, the agency’s National Center for Health Statistics said that age-adjusted death rates for liver cancer increased steadily from 2000 through 2016 for both men and women. The agency said that  liver cancer had moved to the sixth-leading cause of cancer deaths in 2016, up from the ninth-leading cause in 2000.

The increase in liver cancer comes as  overall cancer death rates in the United States continue to decline, according to the National Cancer Institute. . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

19 July 2018 at 11:05 am

Extremism and extremists

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Nabeelah Jaffer, a former associate editor at Aeon and currently a PhD student at the University of Oxford, writes in Aeon:

A few years ago I discovered that my friend Tom was a white supremacist. This put me in a strange position: I am a Muslim and the daughter of immigrants. I am a member of one of the so-called invading groups that Tom fears and resents. He broadcasts his views from his social media accounts, which are a catalogue of aggrieved far-Right anger. One post warns ‘the Muslim invaders to keep their filthy hands off our women’. Another features a montage of black faces above the headline: ‘This is the white race after “diversity”.’ Underpinning this is a desperate resentment of ‘liberal Leftie attempts to control free speech’.

Tom has never mentioned any of these ideas to me; on the contrary, in person he is consistently warm and friendly. He vents his convictions only online, and it seems unlikely that he would ever translate them into violent actions. And yet much the same was once said of Thomas Mair, the 52-year-old from Birstall, a village in northern England, who spent time helping elderly neighbours tend to their gardens, and who in 2016 murdered the pro-immigration MP Jo Cox, while shouting: ‘This is for Britain!’ His actions were found to have been inspired by white supremacist ideology.

James Baldwin was right to say that ideas are dangerous. Ideas force people to confront the gap between their ideals and their manifestation in the world, prompting action. Ideas can prompt change for better or for worse – and often both at the same time. But attempts to create change are always charged with danger: to act in new ways is to erode old limits on our behaviour. In the forging of new territory – and the sense of danger that accompanies it – actions that might once have been deemed excessive can come to seem not merely necessary but normal.

But to understand what has led someone to extremism it is not enough to point to ideology. Ideas alone did not bring Mair to leave his home that morning with a sawn-off shotgun and a seven-inch knife. The accounts that emerged in the weeks after Cox’s murder dwelt on many details of Mair’s previously blameless life. But more than anything else, they repeatedly echoed the words of a woman who runs a meditation centre in Mair’s local area, which he visited the evening before he killed Jo Cox: ‘He just seemed a really lonely guy who wanted someone to talk to.’

It is worth knowing that my friend Tom finds little satisfaction in his daily life. He does not enjoy his work and has never had a romantic relationship. His part of Oxford is thick with cultural diversity but he has few friends there. A mutual friend once described Tom as seeming spiritually wounded. Like Mair, he exudes an aura of biting loneliness.

‘Loneliness is the common ground of terror’ – and not just the terror of totalitarian governments, of which Hannah Arendt was thinking when she wrote those words in The Origins of Totalitarianism (1951). It also generates the sort of psychic terror that can creep up on a perfectly ordinary individual, cloaking everything in a mist of urgent fear and uncertainty.

By ‘loneliness’ Arendt did not simply mean solitude, in which – as she points out – you have your own self for consolation. In the solitude of our minds, we engage in an internal dialogue. We speak in two voices. It is this internal dialogue that allows us to achieve independent and creative thought – to weigh strong competing imperatives against each other. You engage in it every time you grapple with a moral dilemma. Every clash of interests, every instance of human difference evokes it. True thought, for Arendt, involved the ability to put ourselves in someone else’s shoes. True loneliness, therefore, was the opposite. It involved the abrupt halting of this internal dialogue: ‘the loss of one’s own self’ – or rather, the loss of trust in oneself as the partner of one’s thoughts. True loneliness means being cut off from a sense of human commonality and therefore conscience. You are left adrift in a sea of insecurity and ambiguity, with no way of navigating the storms.

Adolf Eichmann was a senior SS officer who was involved first in the voluntary emigration of Jews, then in their forced deportation, and finally in their extermination. According to Arendt, Eichmann exhibited just such loneliness. He had an ‘almost total inability ever to look at anything from the other fellow’s point of view’ – to empathise in a way that would have meant stepping outside his own Nazi worldview. When questioned about his past by a Jewish policeman in Israel, he defaulted to self-pitying explanations about why he had not been promoted to a higher rank in the SS: ‘Whatever I prepared and planned, everything went wrong … whatever I desired and wanted and planned to do, fate prevented it somehow.’ As Arendt drily notes, it didn’t occur to Eichmann that his interviewer was unlikely to value a rapid rise through the ranks of the SS in the same way that Eichmann himself did.

It was loneliness, Arendt argued, that helped Eichmann and countless others – who might otherwise be models of amiability, kind to their subordinates and inferiors (as Eichmann was reported to be) – to give themselves over to totalitarian ideologies and charismatic strongmen. These totalitarian ideologies are designed to appeal to those who struggle with the internal moral dialogue that Arendt valued as the highest form of thought.

Totalitarian ideas offer a ‘total explanation’ – a single idea is sufficient to explain everything. Independent thought is rendered irrelevant in the act of joining up to their black-and-white worldview. Eichmann himself was always a ‘joiner’ who feared the possibility of ‘a leaderless and difficult individual life’. Becoming an ‘idealist’ assuaged these fears (the word is perhaps better read as ‘ideologue’). After all, if you sign up to the idea that class struggle, racial competition or civilisational conflict is absolute, then you can achieve meaning and kinship as part of a race, class or civilisation without ever requiring two-sided thought – the kind of thought that involves weighing competing imperatives and empathising with a range of people. For Arendt, the evils of the Final Solution were enacted by joiners such as Eichmann. It was pointless to argue with them that their logic was flawed, or that the facts of history did not support it. That wasn’t really why they had signed up to it in the first place.

The act of ‘joining up’ to an absolute ideology involves a kind of winnowing. It happens when someone begins to see the world through the lens of a single story. Friction with a teacher at school, or a struggle to find work, or a neighbourhood becoming more culturally mixed, or casual racism begin to seem like facets of one simple problem. And simple problems offer the alluring prospect of simple, radical solutions. If all our problems are simply part of a bigger story of an inevitable clash of civilisations between the West and Islam, then one has only to pick a side. It seemed to me that Tom – like Eichmann – had found his ideology, and had picked his side.

Of course, Tom is not alone. When I talk to him I am reminded of the young men and women I have interviewed who have expressed their sympathy and support for ISIS, Al-Qaeda, and other violent terror groups. Like Eichmann, many were joiners, drawn to the binary answers and black-and-white worldview on offer. Not one of the jihadist supporters I got to know seemed inherently evil. But all of them viewed the world through jihadist clichés – they struggled with two-sided thought. The theme of turning away from ambiguity and empathy runs through jihadist propaganda. ISIS’s English-language magazine repeatedly criticised the ‘grayzone’ – a term used to describe anything that lay between their own ideology and that of the kuffar, or unbeliever. The epithet was often directed at the space of compromise that immigrants inhabit: between two cultures, two sets of values, and two ways of life. More than one ISIS supporter told me that the problem with Western Muslims was that ‘they are living in the grey area, confused, hesitant and ashamed of their Deen [religion]’.

To say that someone struggles with two-sided thought is not to say that he is stupid: Tom is an engineer by training, and many of the jihadist-sympathisers I have interviewed have had higher education. But they are thoughtless in that they neglect their capacity for independent thought in favour of total commitment to their chosen movement. Like Tom, most of these jihadist supporters had never taken any violent action. But many also mirrored Tom in their concrete adherence to a single ideological premise that seemed to them to explain the world. Like him, they believed that the West and Islam were two clear opposing entities engaged in an unstoppable war. They had simply chosen to support the other side.

If loneliness is the common ground of terror, then there is something fundamentally wrong with the way that we talk about extremism – particularly the jihadist variety. All too often it is viewed as a foreign threat: an infection from an alien civilisation.

Arendt suggested that certain kinds of solitude made people vulnerable to loneliness and therefore to terror. She drew particular attention to a structural problem: the ‘uprootedness and superfluousness’ of modernity. The breakdown of pre-modern political institutions and social traditions had created societies in which people had ‘no place in the world, recognised and guaranteed by others’, and – crucially – no sense of belonging. Society is the mirror in which we see ourselves. Finding our place within it – in ‘the trusting and trustworthy company of equals’ – helps us to understand our own identities, to know ourselves, and to trust our own thoughts. When we are excluded from society, we are vulnerable to the kind of fear and insecurity Arendt talked about. But while Arendt was thinking of alienation among the bourgeoisie, her words acutely describe another experience of not-belonging that is common in Western societies today.

Last year I interviewed someone currently undergoing trial for disseminating terror materials in the UK. As we talked, he returned again and again to a complaint that underpinned his interest in violent extremist materials.

‘I don’t have a place where I can say this is my place,’ he said. ‘A sense of belonging – we don’t have that.’ ISIS had gone a bit too far, he conceded, ‘but their idea of having a place like that – where we can belong…’ His face was bright and his smile was easy as he contemplated the idea. ‘That’s it, it’s as simple as that.’

Belonging – or rather its absence – is a common theme among extremists. Take the case of Abdullahi Yusuf – a Somali-born 17-year-old from Minnesota who tried to join ISIS in 2014 but was stopped at the border. Like so many young extremists, Yusuf was well-integrated into Western society. He had an American accent, loved NBC basketball and supported the Minnesota Vikings. But it is possible to be well-integrated and still feel as if you do not really belong. Yusuf had moved schools three times in a single year – once because the school had been abruptly shut without warning. He didn’t ‘know anyone successful’, as he told New York magazine in 2017, and – perhaps even more importantly – he felt as if there was no way to cling to his Somali and Muslim identity while also finding a place in the US. At his trial, Yusuf spoke about watching videos that told him ‘that Muslims shouldn’t live in the West, that it’s better for them to make a journey to an Islamic State … it’s a better place to live.’ By the time he watched them, he and his friends were ripe for the ideology on offer.

Difference always produces friction. But we rarely acknowledge that no problem of difference is one-sided: difference always involves two parties. . .

Continue reading. There’s much more, and it’s worth reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

19 July 2018 at 10:57 am

Fish oil supplements for a healthy heart ‘nonsense’

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BBC News reports:

Taking omega-3 fish oil supplements is often touted as a simple way to protect your heart – but experts say the evidence that it does any good is flimsy at best.

Cochrane researchers looked at trials in over 100,000 people and found little proof that it prevented heart disease.

They say the chance of getting any meaningful benefit from taking omega-3 is one in 1,000.

Eating oily fish, however, can still be recommended as part of a healthy diet.

The review mainly looked at supplements rather than omega-3 from eating fish. Experts still believe the latter is good for the heart as well as general health.

The NHS says people should try to eat two portions of fish per week, one of which should be oily fish, such as salmon, fresh tuna or mackerel, to get enough “good” fats.

Omega-3

Omega-3 is a family of fats that includes:

  • ALA (alpha-linolenic acid) – which the body can’t make for itself but is found in vegetable oils, nuts, and seeds
  • EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) – which the body can make from ALA but are also present in oily fish and fish oils, including cod liver oil

Some brands of milk, yoghurt, bread and spreads have extra omega-3 (usually ALA) added to them.

But when it comes to fish oil supplements, Cochrane lead author, Dr Lee Hooper, from the University of East Anglia, said: “We can be confident in the findings of this review which go against the popular belief that long-chain omega-3 supplements protect the heart.

“This large systematic review included information from many thousands of people over long periods.

“Despite all this information, we don’t see protective effects.

“The review provides good evidence that taking long-chain omega-3 [fish oil, EPA or DHA] supplements does not benefit heart health or reduce our risk of stroke or death from any cause.

“The most trustworthy studies consistently showed little or no effect of long-chain omega-3 fats on cardiovascular health.”

Some fish contain small amounts of chemicals that may be harmful if eaten in large amounts.

Shark, marlin and swordfish may contain small amounts of mercury and should be avoided by women who are pregnant or planning a baby and by all children under 16.

Other groups should eat no more than one portion of these fish each week.

Prof Tom Sanders, a nutrition expert at King’s College London and honorary director of Heart UK, said: “Current dietary guidelines to prevent cardiovascular disease encourage fish consumption, rather than taking supplements.

“This study provides no evidence to suggest that this dietary advice should change.”

Buy vegetables

Prof Tim Chico, a cardiologist from Sheffield University, said: “There was a period where people who had suffered a heart attack were prescribed these on the NHS. This stopped some years ago.

“Such supplements come with a significant cost, so my advice to anyone buying them in the hope that they reduce the risk of heart disease, I’d advise them to spend their money on vegetables instead.”

Dr Carrie Ruxton, from the Health and Food Supplements Information Service, said early studies of omega-3 fats had found a protective benefit for the heart, but it wasn’t always easy to pick up the modest effects of dietary change, particularly in older people on medication. . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

18 July 2018 at 10:48 am

In India, Summer Heat Could Soon Be Unbearable. Literally.

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I still remember how Dana Perino in the White House made the claim that global warming is good for you. (This was in the George W. Bush administration, where there seemed to be an affirmative action program to hire more idiots.) In the NY Times Somini Sengupta reports how global warming is treating India:

On a sweltering Wednesday in June, a rail-thin woman named Rehmati gripped the doctor’s table with both hands. She could hardly hold herself upright, the pain in her stomach was so intense.

She had traveled for 26 hours in a hot oven of a bus to visit her husband, a migrant worker here in the Indian capital. By the time she got here, the city was an oven, too: 111 degrees Fahrenheit by lunchtime, and Rehmati was in an emergency room.

The doctor, Reena Yadav, didn’t know exactly what had made Rehmati sick, but it was clearly linked to the heat. Dr. Yadav suspected dehydration, possibly aggravated by fasting during Ramadan. Or it could have been food poisoning, common in summer because food spoils quickly.

Dr. Yadav put Rehmati, who is 31 and goes by one name, on a drip. She held her hand and told her she would be fine. Rehmati leaned over and retched.

Extreme heat can kill, as it did by the dozens in Pakistan in May. But as many of South Asia’s already-scorching cities get even hotter, scientists and economists are warning of a quieter, more far-reaching danger: Extreme heat is devastating the health and livelihoods of tens of millions more.

If global greenhouse gas emissions continue at their current pace, they say, heat and humidity levels could become unbearable, especially for the poor.

It is already making them poorer and sicker. Like the Kolkata street vendor who squats on his haunches from fatigue and nausea. Like the woman who sells water to tourists in Delhi and passes out from heatstroke at least once each summer. Like the women and men with fever and headaches who fill emergency rooms. Like the outdoor workers who become so weak or so sick that they routinely miss days of work, and their daily wages.

“These cities are going to become unlivable unless urban governments put in systems of dealing with this phenomenon and make people aware,” said Sujata Saunik, who served as a senior official in the Indian Ministry of Home Affairs and is now a fellow at the Harvard University School of Public Health. “It’s a major public health challenge.”

Indeed, a recent analysis of climate trends in several of South Asia’s biggest cities found that if current warming trends continued, by the end of the century, wet bulb temperatures — a measure of heat and humidity that can indicate the point when the body can no longer cool itself — would be so high that people directly exposed for six hours or more would not survive.

In many places, heat only magnifies the more thorny urban problems, including a shortage of basic services, like electricity and water.

For the country’s National Disaster Management Agency, alarm bells rang after a heat wave struck the normally hot city of Ahmedabad, in western India, in May, 2010, and temperatures soared to 118 degrees Fahrenheit, or 48 Celsius: It resulted in a 43 percent increase in mortality, compared to the same period in previous years, a study by public health researchers found.

Since then, in some places, local governments, aided by the Natural Resources Defense Council, an advocacy group, have put in place simple measures. In Ahmedabad, for instance, city-funded vans distribute free water during the hottest months. In the eastern coastal city of Bhubaneswar, parks are kept open in afternoons so outdoor workers can sit in the shade. Occasionally, elected officials post heat safety tips on social media. Some cities that had felled trees for construction projects are busy trying to plant new ones.

The science is unequivocally worrying. Across the region, a recent World Bank report concluded, rising temperatures could diminish the living standards of 800 million people.

Worldwide, among the 100 most populous cities where summer highs are expected to reach at least 95 degrees Fahrenheit by 2050, according to estimates by the Urban Climate Change Research Network, 24 are in India.

Rohit Magotra, deputy director of Integrated Research for Action and Development, is trying to help the capital, Delhi, develop a plan to respond to the new danger. The first step is to quantify its human toll.

“Heat goes unreported and underreported. They take it for granted,” Mr. Magotra said. “It’s a silent killer.”

On a blistering Wednesday morning, with the heat index at 111 degrees Fahrenheit, he and a team of survey takers snaked through the lanes of a working-class neighborhood in central Delhi. They measured temperature and humidity inside the brick-and-tin apartments. They spoke to residents about how the heat affects them. . .

Continue reading. There’s much more in the article.

This heat, which will in time affect all the tropics, is likely to cause the same sort of mass migration that we will see from the rise in sea level.

And still the GOP denies the problem.

Written by LeisureGuy

17 July 2018 at 3:16 pm

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