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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

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

Interesting point about drawbacks of chia seed—and a change in my diet

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I have been routinely taking 2 tablespoons of chia seed in a glass of water each morning, for the omega-3 and the dietary fiber and other micronutrients.

But then I happened across this post by Loren Cordain (author of The Paleo Diet):

In the following table we list the fatty acid content of most commercially available seeds. You can use these tables to help you make an informed decision in choosing a seed based upon its fatty acid composition. If you are unfamiliar with fatty acid nomenclature and how the different types of fatty acids impact your health please refer to our fatty acid primer.

Flaxseed is an excellent source of the omega 3 fatty acid alpha linolenic acid (ALA). I can no longer recommend chia seeds for the following reasons.

I would imagine that many of you have never even heard of chia seeds much less eaten them. Chia seeds are small, oval shaped; either black or white colored and resemble sesame seeds.  They are native to southern Mexico and northern Guatemala and were cultivated as a food crop for thousands of years in this region by the Aztecs and other native cultures.  Chia seeds can be consumed in a variety of ways including roasting and grinding the seeds into a flour known as Chianpinolli which can then be made into tortillas, tamales, and beverages.  The roasted ground seeds are traditionally consumed as gruel called Pinole.

In the past 20 years chia seeds have become an increasingly popular item in co-ops and health food stores primarily because of their high content of the healthful omega 3 fatty acid, alpha linolenic acid (ALA).  Chia seeds have also been fed to domestic livestock and chickens to enrich their meat and eggs with omega 3 fats.  I can endorse feeding chia seeds to animals, but have serious reservations when it comes to humans eating these seeds as staple foods.  The table below shows the entire nutrient profile for a 100 gram serving of chia seeds. . .

At least on paper, it would appear that chia seeds are a nutritious food that is not only high in ALA, but also is a good source of protein, fiber, certain B vitamins, calcium, iron, manganese and zinc.

Unfortunately, in the game of human nutrition, the devil is almost always in the details.  As is the case with many other plant seeds (e.g., cereal grains, legumes) chia seeds contain numerous antinutrients which reduce their nutritional value.  If you look at the table above, notice the high phosphorous concentrations found in chia seeds.  This revealing marker tells us that chia seeds are concentrated sources of phytate, an antinutrient that binds many minerals (calcium, iron, zinc, magnesium and copper) thereby making them unavailable for absorption.  So, in our bodies, chia seeds actually become inferior sources of all these minerals.   Similarly, the table suggests that chia seeds are good sources of vitamin B6.  Unfortunately, in our bodies the utilization this vitamin from plant foods such as chia seeds is quite low, whereas bioavailability of B6 from animal products is quite high approaching 100%.

One of the unusual characteristics of chia seed Pinole or food products comes from a clear mucilaginous gel that surrounds the seeds.  This sticky gel forms a barrier which impairs digestion, fat absorption and causes a low protein digestibility.  Based upon animal and human studies, it is likely that other antinutrients together with this gel may promote a leaky gut, chronic systemic inflammation and food allergies.

Dr. Nieman and co-workers recently completed a study in humans who consumed 50 grams of chia seeds per day for 12 weeks.  At the experiment’s end both men and women experienced increases in a blood inflammatory marker called interleukin 6 (IL-6).  After 12 weeks the men’s blood levels of IL-6 increased 10.2 %, and the women’s increased 10.1%.  Additionally, another inflammatory marker called monocyte chemotactic protein increased 6.9 % in the men and 6.1 % in the women.  In support of the notion that chia seed consumption may adversely affect the immune system and promote inflammation is a rat study showing that after only one month high chia seed diets increased blood levels of IgE by 112.8 %.  Because IgE is a marker for allergenic food proteins that are processed through the gut, chia seeds likely cause a leaky gut and food allergies.  As you can see, the nutritional problems with chia seeds involve similar issues as with cereals grains – they simply are second-rate foods compared to meats, fish and fresh fruits and vegetables. . .

Continue reading.

Well, okay. I’m switching to flaxseed, which (as the table at the link shows) has more ALA (the essential omega-3 fat) than chia seed. Moreover, 2 tablespoons of flaxseed has 5.95g carbs, of which 5.6g is dietary fiber, so only 0.35g of net carbs, which is what I try to minimize in my diet.

Whole flaxseed, however, cannot be digested—the idea of a seed is to pass unharmed through the digestive track of an animal and survive to sprout—so you must grind the flaxseed (or take flaxseed oil, which loses the dietary fiber). However, ground flaxseed (like flaxseed oil) must be refrigerated because it oxidizes readily and quickly. My plan is to buy whole flaxseed and each morning grind the seed I consume (2-4 tablespoons). I’ll mix it with water and see how that works.

I’ve updated my current diet advice to reflect this revision.

Update: I found this post of interest as well.

Written by LeisureGuy

18 July 2018 at 1:03 pm

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

Plutonium is missing, but the government says nothing

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One endemic problem of strongly hierarchical organizations is that problems are hidden away and covered up rather than exposed and solved. We see this in the military, in the church, in police departments, in universities, and now in Rick Perry’s Department of Energy. Patrick Malone and Jeffrey Smith report at the Center for Public Integrity:

Two security experts from the Department of Energy’s Idaho National Laboratory drove to San Antonio, Texas, in March 2017 with a sensitive mission: to retrieve dangerous nuclear materials from a nonprofit research lab there.

Their task, according to documents and interviews, was to ensure that the radioactive materials did not fall into the wrong hands on the way back to Idaho, where the government maintains a stockpile of nuclear explosive materials for the military and others.

To ensure they got the right items, the specialists from Idaho brought radiation detectors and small samples of dangerous materials to calibrate them: specifically, a plastic-covered disk of plutonium, a material that can be used to fuel nuclear weapons, and another of cesium, a highly radioactive isotope that could potentially be used in a so-called “dirty” radioactive bomb.

But when they stopped at a Marriott hotel just off Highway 410, in a high-crime neighborhood filled with temp agencies and ranch homes, they left those sensors on the back seat of their rented Ford Expedition. When they awoke the next morning, the window had been smashed and the special valises holding these sensors and nuclear materials had vanished.

More than a year later, state and federal officials don’t know where the plutonium – one of the most valuable and dangerous substances on earth – is. Nor has the cesium been recovered.

No public announcement of the March 21 incident has been made by either the San Antonio police or by the FBI, which the police consulted by telephone. When asked, officials at the lab and in San Antonio declined to say exactly how much plutonium and cesium were missing. But Idaho lab spokeswoman Sarah Neumann said the plutonium in particular wasn’t enough to be fashioned into a nuclear bomb.

It is nonetheless now part of a much larger amount of plutonium that over the years has gone quietly missing from stockpiles owned by the U.S. military, often without any public notice.

Unlike civilian stocks, which are closely monitored by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission and openly regulated – with reports of thefts or disappearances sent to an international agency in Vienna — the handling of military stocks tended by the Department of Energy is much less transparent.

The Energy Department, which declined comment for this story, doesn’t talk about instances of lost and stolen nuclear material produced for the military. It also has been less willing than the commission to punish its contractors when they lose track of such material, several incidents suggest.

That nontransparent approach doesn’t match the government’s rhetoric.

Protecting bomb-usable materials, like the plutonium that went missing in San Antonio, “is an overriding national priority,” President Obama’s press office said in a fact sheet distributed during the fourth and final Nuclear Security Summit that he hosted in late March 2016, a Washington event attended by more than 50 heads of state.

The administration boasted in the declaration that America’s security standards for military-grade materials “meet or exceed the recommendations for civilian nuclear materials” made by the Vienna-based International Atomic Energy Agency. It also touted the strength of its tracking of such materials, which it said would “ensure timely detection and investigation of anomalies, and deter insider theft/diversion.”

The United States also boasted about its transparency, explaining that it “has published studies and reviews of nuclear security incidents, including lessons learned and corrective actions taken.”

President Donald Trump, speaking to a military audience at Fort Myer in Arlington, Virginia, on Aug. 21, 2017, parroted the Obama administration’s refrain that “we must prevent nuclear weapons and materials from coming into the hands of terrorists and being used against us, or anywhere in the world for that matter.”

The Trump administration’s Nuclear Posture Review, released in February, similarly emphasized the threat posed by nuclear terrorism, and asserted that “preventing the illicit acquisition of a nuclear weapon, nuclear materials, or related technology and expertise by a violent extremist organization is a significant U.S. national security priority.”

But America’s record of safeguarding such materials isn’t sterling. Gaps between the amount of plutonium that nuclear weapons companies have produced and the amount that the government can actually locate occur frequently enough for officials to have created an acronym for it – MUF, meaning “material unaccounted for.”

Just a cat or a brick

The gaps have shown up at multiple nodes in the production and deployment cycle for nuclear arms: at factories where plutonium and highly-enriched uranium have been made, at storage sites where the materials are held in reserve, at research centers where the materials are loaned for study, at waste sites where they are disposed, and during transit between many of these facilities.

Production of the bomb materials was so frantic during the Cold War that a total of roughly six tons of the material – enough to fuel hundreds of nuclear explosives – has been declared as MUF by the government, with most of it presumed to have been trapped in factory pipes, filters, and machines, or improperly logged in paperwork. (That figure, which dates from 2012, has not been publicly updated.)

For nearly 40 years, “DOE officials and their predecessors … did not have an effective capability within their accounting systems to know if significant quantities of” bomb-grade uranium were being diverted to illicit use, according to Charles Ferguson, a physicist who is now director of the Nuclear and Radiation Studies Board at the National Academies of Sciences.

The Government Accountability Office declared in Sept. 2015 that the department also had never conducted an authoritative inventory of the location and quantity of plutonium loaned by the United States to other nations, and that eleven foreign sites with U.S.-made bomb-grade uranium had not been visited by U.S. inspectors in the previous 20 years. Many sites inspected before 2010 lacked rigorous security systems, the GAO warned.

Asked for comment, National Nuclear Security Administration spokesman Greg Wolfe said in an email on June 29 that his agency is still working with DOE on that inventory, three years later. He did not say when it would be finished. . .

Continue reading.

There’s much more in the article.

Written by LeisureGuy

17 July 2018 at 3:30 pm

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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