Politifact and Me
National Review‘s Kevin D. Williamson Responds to Polifact
Kevin D. Williamson writes: Politifact, which is published under the flag of the Tampa Bay Times, the chief executive of which, Paul Tash, is the chairman of the Poynter Institute, a member of the Pulitzer prize committee, and a disgrace to his trade, recently decided to “fact-check” my colleague Jonah Goldberg, but it was really fact-checking me, as Jonah was citing a claim in a column of mine.
The claim is a straightforward one: That under the so-called Affordable Care Act, the federal government will recognize and subsidize a great deal of hokum, things like naturopathic medicine and acupuncture that have no scientific basis, that have been clinically shown to be useless or worse, and that are rooted in rank mysticism, from the “qi” energy that acupuncturists claim to manipulate—and which does not, technically speaking, exist—to the “innate intelligence” underpinning chiropractic theory—which does not, in fact, exist, either. As endless peer-reviewed scientific studies document, this stuff is pure quackery, but it is, thanks to the Affordable Care Act and the focused exertions of former Iowa Senator Tom Harkin—one of those Democrats who really love science we’re always hearing about—it is hokum with increasing official status.
Senator Harkin successfully campaigned for ACA provisions that would forbid “discrimination” against any practitioner of purported healing arts who is licensed. Many states, California prominent among them (quelle surprise!) license practitioners of superstitious hokum, including naturopathic “doctors” and acupuncturists.
There are many reasons for this: One is that superstitious hokum is extraordinarily popular, and the state desires to keep an eye on its practitioners; a second is that California is, as advertised, full of lunatics and the entrepreneurs who service their lunacy; the third is that reasons Nos. 1 and 2 combine to generate revenue for the state, which will—in what must be the most perfect example of progressivism in practice—yank your license to practice medically null but voguish Eastern mysticism in the state of California for failure to pay your crushing California taxes. I once encountered a Whole Foods with a yoga studio inside it, and thought that if one could only get Chris Hayes to broadcast from there (there’s still time, Chris!) it would have constituted a turducken of lifestyle liberalism upon which there would be no improving, but losing your California acupuncturist’s license to the Sacramento taxman surely surpasses that.
— Kevin D. Williamson (@KevinNR) February 25, 2015
If you are wondering where the fact-checking comes in for all of that, you’re going to keep wondering. Politifact doubly embarrassed itself on the issue, first with the risibly sloppy and shockingly (if you don’t know very many reporters) lazy reporting habits of Louis Jacobson, who wrote that neither Jonah nor I had “returned inquiries,” by which he means to say responded to them. He tried to contact Jonah by sending a single email to a rarely used public account, and me he tried to contact—if you can call it that—by tweeting that he was fact-checking something. I do not follow him on Twitter, having been contentedly unaware of his existence, and I do not follow Politifact, for that matter. I am not sure that what Jacobson did constituted an “inquiry” at all, but I am sure that it does not constitute “inquiries.”
“This is one of those ‘context’ things that people who do not wish to admit the truth like to talk about. The point is that you could be sure that if similar concessions were made to pseudoscientific hokum less popular among Democrats–intelligent design, for example, or various kinds of gay-conversion therapies–the response would be loud, long, and heavy on the theme of Republicans’ hating and distrusting science.”
When I pointed this out—and noted that National Review is in the telephone directory and has been since the Eisenhower administration, that we employ an energetic young man to answer the telephones, that my email address is obtainable from the web site, that National Review retains the services of various publicists and whatnot for the purpose of connecting its writers with media figures, etc.—“pick up the goddamned telephone,” in short—Jacobson responded in an odd way: by sending the same email again to Jonah the next morning, long after the piece had been published. His editor, the feckless, gormless, and in any intelligent world unemployable Angie Holan, noting the general mockery and merriment that my complaints about Politifact’s practices produced on Twitter and elsewhere, very quickly found a way to get in touch with me—turns out that it’s not that hard!—and asked for a telephone conversation, which I declined, having nothing to say to the intellectually dishonest, the cretinous, or the servile, except in those cases in which I am matched with such on cable-news panels. (Hello, Sally.)
Politifact later apologized for Jacobson’s reportorial slobbery—though not for the fact that he lied about it; “inquiries,” indeed—but stood by its rating of the piece in question: “half true.”
Why half? Read the rest of this entry »
Democrats don’t like to call the Obamacare penalty a penalty; its official name is the Shared Responsibility Payment. But the fact is, the lawmakers’ intent in levying the fines was to make it so painful for the average American to ignore Obamacare that he or she will ultimately knuckle under and do as instructed.
Byron York writes: The Democrats who wrote and passed the Affordable Care Act were sure of two things: The law had to include a mandate requiring every American to purchase health insurance, and it had to have an enforcement mechanism to make the mandate work. Enforcement has always been at the heart of Obamacare.
Now, though, enforcement time has come, and some Democrats are shying away from the coercive measures they themselves wrote into law.
“Enforcement Has Always Been at the Heart of Obamacare”
The Internal Revenue Service is the enforcement arm of Obamacare, and with tax forms due April 15, Americans who did not purchase coverage and who have not received one of the many exemptions already offered by the administration are discovering they will have to pay a substantial fine. For a household with, say, no kids and two earners making $35,000 a piece, the fine will be $500, paid at tax time.
“And there’s very little chance the individual mandate’s approval numbers will improve, now that millions of Americans are getting a taste of what it really means.”
That’s already a fact. What is particularly worrisome to Democrats now is that, as those taxpayers discover the penalty they owe, they will already be racking up a new, higher penalty for 2015. This year, the fine for not obeying Obamacare’s edict is $325 per adult, or two percent of income above the filing threshold, whichever is higher. So that couple making $35,000 a year each will have to pay $1,000.
There’s another problem. The administration’s enrollment period just ended on February 15. So if people haven’t signed up for Obamacare already, they’ll be stuck paying the higher penalty for 2015.
“The individual mandate has always been extremely unpopular. In December 2014, just a couple of months ago, the Kaiser Family Foundation found that 64 percent of those surveyed don’t like the mandate. The level of disapproval has been pretty consistent since the law was passed.”
By the way, Democrats don’t like to call the Obamacare penalty a penalty; its official name is the Shared Responsibility Payment. But the fact is, the lawmakers’ intent in levying the fines was to make it so painful for the average American to ignore Obamacare that he or she will ultimately knuckle under and do as instructed.
Except that it’s easier to inflict theoretical pain than actual pain. Read the rest of this entry »
The GOP needs a politically defensible alternative if the Supreme Court overturns federal-exchange subsidies
Phil Gramm writes: On March 4 the Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in King v. Burwell, with a decision expected in late June. If the court strikes down the payment of government subsidies to those who bought health insurance on the federal exchange, Republicans will at last have a real opportunity to amend ObamaCare. Doing so, however, will be politically perilous.
“Of all potential Republican proposals, the freedom option seems the most likely to garner the six Democratic votes in the Senate needed to break a filibuster, pass the bill and put it on the president’s desk.”
The language of the Affordable Care Act states that subsidies should only be paid through state exchanges. The bill’s authors perhaps believed that pressure from citizens and the health-care providers who would benefit would entice states to set up exchanges. But, faced with mounting technical problems in setting up the exchanges, the Obama administration decided—legally or illegally—to allow subsidies to be paid through a federally run exchange. Therefore, political pressure that might have convinced states to set up exchanges never developed.
“The opposition would come solely from those who understand that ObamaCare is built on coercion—and that unless young, healthy Americans are forced into the program to be exploited with above-market insurance rates, the subsidies will prove unaffordable. That will be an exceedingly difficult case to make to the public.”
The political pressures to set up state exchanges if federal subsidies are now struck down will be enormous. The Kaiser Family Foundation used Congressional Budget Office data to estimate that 13 million people will receive subsidies in 2016 through the federal exchange. If the Supreme Court strikes down these subsidies, 13 million people would lose an average of $4,700 a year, and health-care providers would certainly fight to protect some $60 billion a year in subsidies.
The president’s most likely response to an adverse court decision would be to refuse to work with Congress to fix ObamaCare. Instead he will likely mount an effort to force the 37 states now using the federal exchange to set up state exchanges to qualify for the subsidies. His administration could make it easy for states to continue to use the federal exchange while nominally taking ownership through a shell state entity. Ten states already have some form of partnership with the federal exchange.
Absent a strong Republican alternative, the president’s strategy would unleash powerful political pressure on Republican governors and legislators and force them to establish state exchanges. Such a result would saddle Republicans with a partial ownership of ObamaCare, alienating their political base and producing substantial fallout in the 2016 elections.
Republicans need a strategy that is easy to understand, broadly popular and difficult to oppose. Read the rest of this entry »
Not only can people stop worrying about whether drinking coffee is bad for them, according to the panel, they might even want to consider drinking a bit more
Roberto A. Ferdman reports: When the nation’s top nutrition panel released its latest dietary recommendations on Thursday, the group did something it had never done before: weigh in on whether people should be drinking coffee. What it had to say is pretty surprising.
“I don’t want to get into implying coffee cures cancer — nobody thinks that. But there is no evidence for increased risk, if anything, the other way around.”
– Tom Brenna, a member of the committee and a nutritionist at Cornell University
Not only can people stop worrying about whether drinking coffee is bad for them, according to the panel, they might even want to consider drinking a bit more.
“We saw that coffee has a lot of health benefits. Specifically when you’re drinking more than a couple cups per day.”
– Miriam Nelson, a professor at Tufts University
The panel cited minimal health risks associated with drinking between three and five cups per day. It also said that consuming as many as five cups of coffee each day (400 mg) is tied to several health benefits, including a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes.
“We saw that coffee has a lot of health benefits,” said Miriam Nelson, a professor at Tufts University and one of the committee’s members. “Specifically when you’re drinking more than a couple cups per day.”
“The decision, which broke the committee’s more than 40 years of silence on coffee, was driven by heightened interest in the caffeinated beverage as well as a growing anxiety about potential health risks associated with it.”
That’s great news if you’re already drinking between three and five cups each day, which Nelson and the rest of the panel consider a “moderate” level of consumption. But you know what? You probably aren’t, because people in this country actually tend to consume a lot less than that.
“It remains to be seen whether the Department of Health and Human Services or the Agriculture Department will take the committee’s recommendations for coffee intake to heart and include them in the official dietary guidelines update…”
On average, Americans only drink about one cup of coffee per day, according to data collected by the United States Department of Agriculture. Even when Americans drank the most coffee they ever have, back in 1946, they still only drank two cups a day on average. Read the rest of this entry »
ASPB NEWS | VOLUME 41, NUMBER 1
On November 7, 2013, Pope Francis gave his personal blessing to Golden Rice (GR). Why is this significant? Vitamin A deficiency (VAD) is responsible for 500,000 cases of irreversible blindness and up to 2 million deaths each year. Particularly susceptible are pregnant women and children. Across the globe, an estimated 19 million pregnant women and 190 million children suffer from the condition. The good news, however, is that dietary supplementation of vitamin A can eliminate VAD. One way that holds particular promise is the administration via GR, which had been engineered to produce large amounts of vitamin A. A 2012 study by Tang et al published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that 100-150 g of cooked GR provided 60% of the Chinese Recommended Intake of vitamin A. Estimates suggest that supplementing GR for 20% of the diet of children and 10% for pregnant women and mothers will be enough to combat the effects of VAD.
Unfortunately, public misconceptions about genetically modified (GM) organisms have prevented GR from being available to the countries most affected by VAD. One such country is the Philippines, where more than 80% of the population identifies as Roman Catholic and field trials of GR are nearing completion. An official blessing of the church, therefore, could do a great deal to build support, allowing the Philippines to serve as a model for many of its neighbors on the potential health impacts of widespread availability and consumption of the golden grain.
Regrettably, the church did not provide an official endorsement. It turns out that there is quite a distinction between the pope’s personal blessing and an official statement of support from the Vatican. To understand the nature of that distinction, we turned to the person who elicited the blessing, GR coinventor and ASPB member Ingo Potrykus. At the time of the blessing, Ingo, a member of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences, had been attending a meeting at the Vatican on the interaction of nutrition and brain development.
At the end of the meeting, he was able to meet Pope Francis and took the opportunity to share a packet of GR. In response, the pope offered his personal blessing. (If an official blessing of the Holy See was given, it would come from the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace.) From Ingo’s perspective, the pope is concerned that genetic modification technology primarily benefits big business and not the poor. Read the rest of this entry »
While Golden Rice was developed over ten years at the miniscule total cost of $2.6 million, in an extraordinary public-private partnership using funds donated by the Rockefeller Foundation, the Swiss Federation, the National Science Foundation, and the European Union, Greenpeace International alone annually spends about $270 million annually, and upwards of $7 million each year specifically dedicated to burying Golden Rice and any other food or crop developed using biotechnology.annually, and upwards of $7 million each year specifically dedicated to burying Golden Rice and any other food or crop developed using biotechnology.
Julie Gunlock writes:
“I want to start with some apologies. For the record, here and upfront, I apologise for having spent several years ripping up GM crops. I am also sorry that I helped to start the anti-GM movement back in the mid 1990s, and that I thereby assisted in demonising an important technological option which can be used to benefit the environment.”
Mark Lynas, a journalist and environmental activists, is one of the founders of the anti-GMO movement. As Slate reports, as recently as 2008, Lynas blamed corporate greed for threatening world health. In fact, the anti-GMO hysteria we see today (which was on full display on the Women for Food Freedom Facebook page when my Policy Focus on GM food was published) can, to some degree, be blamed on the writing and political activisim of Mark Lynas.
Editor’s note: In a typical example of anti-GMO alarmism, revealing breathtaking scientific ignorance, one punditfromanotherplanet reader complains about possible food allergies, “gastrointestinal problems” (in the first world, of course) and actually boasts about promoting what he believes is a more beneficial approach to global hunger: giving half a box of boutique, “community supported” produce to local food banks (as if this addresses global starvation risks for millions of people who are the victims of ignorant, pro-death anti-GMO activists:
“I would say number of people that we know are affected by GMOs? Very unclear. ‘Food allergies’ and gastrointestinal problems in the US are hugely on the rise. Inserting a gene for a pesticide into a plant that we eat is very very different from selecting the best tomato or crossing two plants. Making seeds that grow plants that cannot reproduce risks endangering our food supply. I have been buying a community supported agriculture box from a local farmer for the last 10 years: five different farms, in fact. This year I will buy the large box and give half to the food bank. I have time this year too for a garden and I will grow some food.
Then, drkottaway adds this little masterpiece of unintended comedy, drawing a comparison between the alleged risks of GMO crops, and the health hazards of smoking tobacco.
“…shoot, look at how long it took to prove that smoking harmed people and how hard the companies fought that and how they hid information. I can afford to avoid GMOs and help another hungry person avoid GMOs.”
True, and here in the reality-based community, we can make an honest, realistic effort to help alleviate life-threatening micronutrient deficiencies in developing countries, and join the global fight to shut down VAD. What is VAD? Vitamin A deficiency (VAD) is responsible for 500,000 cases of irreversible blindness and up to 2 million deaths each year. Giving food to food banks is laudable, of course. But let’s not pretend it’s a substitute for serious intervention in preventable deaths. Shoot, I wouldn’t want to be among the pro-death alarmists who participate in promoting ignorance, hunger, starvation, and blindness, would you?
- Also see — Biotech’s Mommy Issue: Women are targeted by anti-GMO activists but deserve to know the truth (punditfromanotherplanet.com)
- More — Yet Another Study Confirms GMOs Are Safe, So Why Are Bans Still Spreading? (dailycaller.com)
It is therefore remarkable that he has made this reversal. And he’s not being shy about it. I encourage anyone interested in this subject to read his whole speech, but here’s just a sample of how he discovered many of his assumptions about GMOs were wrong:
I’d assumed that it would increase the use of chemicals. It turned out that pest-resistant cotton and maize needed less insecticide.
I’d assumed that GM benefited only the big companies. It turned out that billions of dollars of benefits were accruing to farmers needing fewer inputs.
I’d assumed that Terminator Technology was robbing farmers of the right to save seed. It turned out that hybrids did that long ago, and that Terminator never happened.
I’d assumed that no-one wanted GM. Actually what happened was that Bt cotton was pirated into India and roundup ready soya into Brazil because farmers were so eager to use them.
I’d assumed that GM was dangerous. It turned out that it was safer and more precise than conventional breeding using mutagenesis for example; GM just moves a couple of genes, whereas conventional breeding mucks about with the entire genome in a trial and error way.
But what about mixing genes between unrelated species? The fish and the tomato? Turns out viruses do that all the time, as do plants and insects and even us – it’s called gene flow.
— Harry Siemens (@hsiemens) February 1, 2015
Originally posted on TIME:
Marijuana legalization advocates appear to know a good slogan when they see one.
Democratic Rep. Jared Polis of Colorado introduced a bill in Congress Friday that borrows its name from the successful ballot measure in his home state: The Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol Act.
As the title suggests, the legislation would remove marijuana from the list of controlled substances and put oversight of it under the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives rather than the Drug Enforcement Agency.
Like similar bills introduced by Polis and former Reps. Barney Frank and Ron Paul, it’s not going anywhere in Washington any time soon. While legalization of recreational marijuana may be underway in Colorado, Washington, Oregon, Alaska and the District of Columbia, it remains a non-starter on Capitol Hill, where lawmakers even moved to bar D.C. from going ahead with its plans.
But Polis’ bill title is revealing. Prior efforts to…
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Amanda Foreman: ‘It Was Horrifying To Realize That Every Aspect of Women’s Beauty Was Intimately Bound Up With Pain’Posted: February 17, 2015 | |
Why Footbinding Persisted in China for a Millennium
Despite the pain, millions of Chinese women stood firm in their devotion to the tradition
Amanda Foreman writes: For the past year I have been working with Britain’s BBC television to make a documentary series on the history of women. In the latest round of filming there was an incident that haunts me. It took place during a segment on the social changes that affected Chinese women in the late 13th century.
“The truth, no matter how unpalatable, is that foot-binding was experienced, perpetuated and administered by women.”
These changes can be illustrated by the practice of female foot-binding. Some early evidence for it comes from the tomb of Lady Huang Sheng, the wife of an imperial clansman, who died in 1243. Archaeologists discovered tiny, misshapen feet that had been wrapped in gauze and placed inside specially shaped “lotus shoes.” For one of my pieces on camera, I balanced a pair of embroidered doll shoes in the palm of my hand, as I talked about Lady Huang and the origins of foot-binding. When it was over, I turned to the museum curator who had given me the shoes and made some comment about the silliness of using toy shoes. This was when I was informed that I had been holding the real thing. The miniature “doll” shoes had in fact been worn by a human. The shock of discovery was like being doused with a bucket of freezing water.
“As I held the lotus shoes in my hand, it was horrifying to realize that every aspect of women’s beauty was intimately bound up with pain.”
Foot-binding is said to have been inspired by a tenth-century court dancer named Yao Niang who bound her feet into the shape of a new moon. She entranced Emperor Li Yu by dancing on her toes inside a six-foot golden lotus festooned with ribbons and precious stones. In addition to altering the shape of the foot, the practice also produced a particular sort of gait that relied on the thigh and buttock muscles for support. From the start, foot-binding was imbued with erotic overtones. Gradually, other court ladies—with money, time and a void to fill—took up foot-binding, making it a status symbol among the elite.
A small foot in China, no different from a tiny waist in Victorian England, represented the height of female refinement. For families with marriageable daughters, foot size translated into its own form of currency and a means of achieving upward mobility. The most desirable bride possessed a three-inch foot, known as a “golden lotus.” It was respectable to have four-inch feet—a silver lotus—but feet five inches or longer were dismissed as iron lotuses. The marriage prospects for such a girl were dim indeed.
“First, her feet were plunged into hot water and her toenails clipped short. Then the feet were massaged and oiled before all the toes, except the big toes, were broken and bound flat against the sole, making a triangle shape…”
As I held the lotus shoes in my hand, it was horrifying to realize that every aspect of women’s beauty was intimately bound up with pain. Placed side by side, the shoes were the length of my iPhone and less than a half-inch wider. My index finger was bigger than the “toe” of the shoe. It was obvious why the process had to begin in childhood when a girl was 5 or 6.
First, her feet were plunged into hot water and her toenails clipped short. Then the feet were massaged and oiled before all the toes, except the big toes, were broken and bound flat against the sole, making a triangle shape. Next, her arch was strained as the foot was bent double. Finally, the feet were bound in place using a silk strip measuring ten feet long and two inches wide. These wrappings were briefly removed every two days to prevent blood and pus from infecting the foot. Sometimes “excess” flesh was cut away or encouraged to rot. The girls were forced to walk long distances in order to hasten the breaking of their arches. Over time the wrappings became tighter and the shoes smaller as the heel and sole were crushed together. After two years the process was complete, creating a deep cleft that could hold a coin in place. Once a foot had been crushed and bound, the shape could not be reversed without a woman undergoing the same pain all over again. Read the rest of this entry »
Interest in phone apps with SOS buttons to alert contacts and websites to report sexual harassment has surged as more women challenge the view that they have a lower status than men
New Delhi — Nita Bhalla and Alisa Tang, report: Indian women armed with smartphones are using the clout of social media to fight sexual harassment by filming and publicly shaming men who molest them as greater awareness of violence against women spreads.
In the latest of a series of incidents, a young Indian woman used her smartphone to shoot video of a man sitting behind her on an IndiGo airline flight who tried to grope her between the seats. She filmed her rebuke of him in front of the other passengers.
“A video is a weapon that scares patriarchy. The proof, like in the IndiGo case, is mostly undeniable. It leaves the woman with more power than usual to fight for her own cause with little need of either empathy or logistical help from a man. It pins a man down for his crimes with little scope of escape.”
– Piyasree Dasgupta, on leading news website firstpost.com
The video, posted on YouTube last week, went viral, adding to growing anger over gender violence in the world’s second most populous country where women are frequently sexually harassed in public and on transportation.
The trend to name-and-shame sex offenders comes after the gang-rape and murder of a 23-year-old woman on a bus in Delhi in 2012. The incident sparked public protests and led to a national debate about the security of women – encouraging victims once embarrassed to come forward to use smartphones to expose perpetrators.
Interest in safety apps with SOS buttons to alert contacts and websites to report sexual harassment has surged in the past year or so as more women challenge the age-old patriarchal attitudes in India that view women as lower status than men. Read the rest of this entry »
‘This man on the seat behind mine, put his fingers in the seat gap to touch me!!! I was very shocked for sometime to react. By then the flight went to landing mode. Then the moment flight touched down, i got up. Saw his hand was again on the side ready to take up any opportunity to touch me!!! I created such a scene, humiliated him in front of the whole flight! He thought like usual girls will keep quiet and he can get away with this! I have lodged an FIR now! He is a very rich man of Bhubaneswar and is now very humiliated in front of the people who know him. Cant believe the ordeal i had to go thru but being silent is a crime! The police officer was very helpful and the Indigo staff remained with me throughout. The man is under police custody currently.
I clicked his pictures and made videos, shouted so loud that the entire plane came forward to see him! i made sure i humiliate him as much as possible because i know law will do nothing’
Originally posted on Quartz:
Whenever I return to India, I am always unpleasantly surprised at the popularity of homeopathy. I hear of senior political figures endorsing this quackery. I read that prime minister Narendra Modi has appointed a minister whose portfolio includes homeopathy. And I see that Bollywood stars endorse this pseudoscience.
Perhaps I should not be so surprised, after all the situation is very similar in London, where I currently live. We have several senior politicians in the House of Commons who believe in the power of homeopathy, we have a National Health Service that wastes money on these pointless pills and we also have celebrities who endorse the biggest joke in medicine.
So, how did this peculiar form of medicine (which believes in the ridiculous notion of diluting ingredients to the point of non-existence) become so popular in both Europe and India?
Homeopathy was invented in Germany in the late 1700s, and soon…
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From the Department of ‘We Got That Memo Already’
Originally posted on TIME:
A little fat may not be harmful, while too much of it can be unhealthy, and even fatal. But in the latest review of studies that investigated the link between dietary fat and causes of death, researchers say the guidelines got it all wrong. In fact, recommendations to reduce the amount of fat we eat every day should never have been made.
Reporting in the journalOpenHeart, Zoe Harcombe, a researcher and Ph.D. candidate at University of the West of Scotland, and her colleagues say that the data decisionmakers had in 1977, when the first U.S. guidelines on dietary fat were made, did not provide any support for the idea that eating less fat would translate to fewer cases of heart disease, or that it would save lives.
“The bottom line is that there wasn’t evidence for those guidelines to be introduced,” she says. “One of the…
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TEMPLE CITY (CBSLA.com) — The Health Department has taken action after a local supermarket’s frozen foods section featured an unusual item.
Inspectors from the LA County Health Department visited the Metro Supermarket in Temple City on Tuesday, after being informed that the market was selling raccoons as food.
Employees at the market declined to appear on camera, but did show entire raccoons, frozen, bagged, and selling for $9.99 per pound. The employees say raccoon is considered a delicacy in China.
Customer Christina Dow was at the market, and upon seeing the frozen raccoons, filmed the scene on her cell phone. She shared the video on social media.
“The way it’s packaged in the store, it’s so real, and it’s so fresh, and you don’t see chickens with their feathers and blood all over them, and their expression, with their tongue hanging out,” Dow said.
Dow also went on to contact the LA County Health Department, who says that selling raccoons as food may indeed be perfectly legal, depending on the origins of the meat. Read the rest of this entry »
Still Right on the Black Family After All These Years
Jason L. Riley writes: Next month marks the 50th anniversary of the future senator’s report on the black family, the controversial document issued while he served as an assistant secretary in President Lyndon Johnson’s Labor Department. Moynihan highlighted troubling cultural trends among inner-city blacks, with a special focus on the increasing number of fatherless homes.
“History has proved that Moynihan was onto something. When the report was released, about 25% of black children and 5% of white children lived in a household headed by a single mother. During the next 20 years the black percentage would double and the racial gap would widen. Today more than 70% of all black births are to unmarried women, twice the white percentage.”
“The fundamental problem is that of family structure,” wrote Moynihan, who had a doctorate in sociology. “The evidence—not final but powerfully persuasive—is that the Negro family in the urban ghettos is crumbling.”
[Check out Jason Riley’s book “Please Stop Helping Us: How Liberals Make It Harder for Blacks to Succeed” at Amazon]
For his troubles, Moynihan was denounced as a victim-blaming racist bent on undermining the civil-rights movement. Even worse, writes Harvard’s Paul Peterson in the current issue of the journal Education Next, Moynihan’s “findings were totally ignored by those who designed public policies at the time.” The Great Society architects would go on to expand old programs or formulate new ones that exacerbated the problems Moynihan identified. Marriage was penalized and single parenting was subsidized. In effect, the government paid mothers to keep fathers out of the home—and paid them well.
“Economists and policy analysts of the day worried about the negative incentives that had been created,” writes Mr. Peterson. “Analysts estimated that in 1975 a household head would have to earn $20,000”—or an inflation-adjusted $88,000 today—“to have more resources than what could be obtained from Great Society programs.”
“The most critical factor affecting the prospect that a male youth will encounter the criminal justice system is the presence of his father in the home.”
– William Comanor and Llad Phillips
History has proved that Moynihan was onto something. When the report was released, about 25% of black children and 5% of white children lived in a household headed by a single mother. During the next 20 years the black percentage would double and the racial gap would widen. Today more than 70% of all black births are to unmarried women, twice the white percentage.
For decades research has shown that the likelihood of teen pregnancy, drug abuse, dropping out of school and many other social problems grew dramatically when fathers were absent. One of the most comprehensive studies ever done on juvenile delinquency—by William Comanor and Llad Phillips of the University of California, Santa Barbara, in 2002—concluded that “the most critical factor affecting the prospect that a male youth will encounter the criminal justice system is the presence of his father in the home.”
‘I’m From The Federal Government And I’m Here To Help': U.S. Dietary Guidelines Released in 1977 Had No Supporting EvidencePosted: February 10, 2015 | |
The researchers say they carried out a systematic review and analysis of the trial data that would have been available to the regulatory committees at the time, and found that the dietary advice “lacked any solid trial evidence to back it up.”
LANHAM, Md. (WNEW) — U.S. dietary guidelines released in 1977 encouraged Americans to decrease their fat intake to 30 percent or less of their daily calories and increase carbohydrate intake to 55 to 60 percent of their daily calories, but those guidelines were not supported by evidence gathered from research trials, a new study published in the Open Heart medical journal says.
According to the U.S. Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, this may not come as a surprise to some.
Even at the time, the goals were considered controversial, and were “met with a great deal of debate and controversy from both industry groups and the scientific community,” who “believed the science might not have supported the specificity of the numbers.”
“It seems incomprehensible that dietary advice was introduced for 220 million Americans and 56 million UK citizens, given the contrary results from a small number of unhealthy men.”
The researchers say they carried out a systematic review and analysis of the trial data that would have been available to the regulatory committees at the time, and found that the dietary advice “lacked any solid trial evidence to back it up.”
They found six relevant trials covering seven different dietary interventions. Read the rest of this entry »
Data Systematically ‘Adjusted’
Christopher Booker writes: When future generations look back on the global-warming scare of the past 30 years, nothing will shock them more than the extent to which the official temperature records – on which the entire panic ultimately rested – were systematically “adjusted” to show the Earth as having warmed much more than the actual data justified.
Two weeks ago, under the headline “How we are being tricked by flawed data on global warming”, I wrote about Paul Homewood, who, on his Notalotofpeopleknowthat blog, had checked the published temperature graphs for three weather stations in Paraguay against the temperatures that had originally been recorded. In each instance, the actual trend of 60 years of data had been dramatically reversed, so that a cooling trend was changed to one that showed a marked warming.
This was only the latest of many examples of a practice long recognised by expert observers around the world – one that raises an ever larger question mark over the entire official surface-temperature record.
Following my last article, Homewood checked a swathe of other South American weather stations around the original three. In each case he found the same suspicious one-way “adjustments”. First these were made by the US government’s Global Historical Climate Network (GHCN). They were then amplified by two of the main official surface records, the Goddard Institute for Space Studies (Giss) and the National Climate Data Center (NCDC), which use the warming trends to estimate temperatures across the vast regions of the Earth where no measurements are taken. Yet these are the very records on which scientists and politicians rely for their belief in “global warming”.
Homewood has now turned his attention to the weather stations across much of the Arctic, between Canada (51 degrees W) and the heart of Siberia (87 degrees E). Again, in nearly every case, the same one-way adjustments have been made, to show warming up to 1 degree C or more higher than was indicated by the data that was actually recorded. This has surprised no one more than Traust Jonsson, who was long in charge of climate research for the Iceland met office (and with whom Homewood has been in touch). Jonsson was amazed to see how the new version completely “disappears” Iceland’s “sea ice years” around 1970, when a period of extreme cooling almost devastated his country’s economy. Read the rest of this entry »
[REWIND] Barack Obama 2008: ‘Americans… must know the health effects that are caused by the presence of mercury in vaccines’Posted: February 7, 2015 | |
Posted by Orac on April 22, 2008:
Well, so much for Hillary Clinton’s and Barack Obama’s reputations for supposedly being well-informed about scientific issues. True, they didn’t sink as far into the stupid as John McCain didabout vaccines and autism, but what they said was bad enough. Let’s put it this way: If David Kirbythinks what they said about vaccines and autism is just great, they seriously need to fire all their medical advisors and get new ones who know how to evaluate evidence:
No matter who wins in Pennsylvania today, the next President of the United States will support research into the growing evidence of some link between vaccines and autism.
Senator John McCain has already expressed his belief that vaccines and the mercury containing preservative thimerosal could be implicated in what he has rightly termed an “autism epidemic.”
Senator Hillary Clinton, in response to a questionaire from the autism activist group A-CHAMP, wrote that she was “Committed to make investments to find the causes of autism, including possible environmental causes like vaccines.” And when asked if she would support a study of vaccinated vs. unvaccinated children, she said: “Yes. We don’t know what, if any, kind of link there is between vaccines and autism – but we should find out.”
And now, yesterday, at a rally in Pennsylvania, Barack Obama had this rather surprising thing to say:
“We’ve seen just a skyrocketing autism rate. Some people are suspicious that it’s connected to the vaccines. This person included. The science right now is inconclusive, but we have to research it.”
True, this is not quite as bad as John McCain’s incredible ignorance, but it’s pretty bad.
Obama’s statement, even if the interpretation that his saying “this person included” was referring to someone in the crowd and not referring to himself, is nonetheless particularly ignorant and egregious. The science is quite conclusive thus far that vaccines do not cause autism and becomes more convincing every year. Obama is just plain wrong about implying that vaccines have something to do with an “autism epidemic,” and he was wrong when his campaign supplied this reply to a questionnaire sent to the candidates by A-CHAMP. I’m not going to go through all of the candidates’ responses to the questions, mainly because most of them consisted of only the most vacuous and vapid of soothing political pander-language that looks like it’s saying something but really isn’t. For example, this is Obama’s answer to one question:
Are you satisfied that the federal vaccine approval process is free of conflicts of interests, transparent and rigorous?
As President, I will conduct a thorough examination of all federal programs to ensure that they are effective and operating in the best interests of the American people. And I will ensure that sound and unbiased science, not ideology, guides decisions made in my administration.
That’s about as vacuous and controversy-free as a politician can make it, as is Hillary Clinton’s reply to the very same question:
I believe that we need independent, thorough, and comprehensive testing of all drugs, including vaccines, to make sure that they are safe and effective. I will ensure that the process of approving vaccines is based on science and research – not ideology or other motives. I will do everything I can to protect the health and well-being of American families.
Such boilerplate language doesn’t need a dose of Respectful Insolence™ because it says nothing of substance that is worth beating on for anything other than the fact that it says nothing of substance. However, this response by Barack Obama to the questionnaire does deserve a heapin’ helpin’ of not-so-Respectful Insolence™:
Do you believe there is an autism epidemic in the United States?
Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) is the fastest growing developmental disorder in the United Sates and, perhaps the world.. One in 150 children is diagnosed with ASD. These numbers can not be explained solely by increased awareness or changes to the diagnostic criteria. It is a health crisis and I will act accordingly. There are many Americans with special needs. They will have a partner in the federal government under my administration. Read the rest of this entry »
The Trip Treatment
Michael Pollan writes: On an April Monday in 2010, Patrick Mettes, a fifty-four-year-old television news director being treated for a cancer of the bile ducts, read an article on the front page of the Times that would change his death. His diagnosis had come three years earlier, shortly after his wife, Lisa, noticed that the whites of his eyes had turned yellow. By 2010, the cancer had spread to Patrick’s lungs and he was buckling under the weight of a debilitating chemotherapy regimen and the growing fear that he might not survive. The article, headlined “Hallucinogens Have Doctors Tuning in Again,” mentioned clinical trials at several universities, including N.Y.U., in which psilocybin—the active ingredient in so-called magic mushrooms—was being administered to cancer patients in an effort to relieve their anxiety and “existential distress.” One of the researchers was quoted as saying that, under the influence of the hallucinogen, “individuals transcend their primary identification with their bodies and experience ego-free states . . . and return with a new perspective and profound acceptance.” Patrick had never taken a psychedelic drug, but he immediately wanted to volunteer. Lisa was against the idea. “I didn’t want there to be an easy way out,” she recently told me. “I wanted him to fight.”
“I felt a little like an archeologist unearthing a completely buried body of knowledge. Some of the best minds in psychiatry had seriously studied these compounds in therapeutic models, with government funding.”
– Anthony Bossis
Patrick made the call anyway and, after filling out some forms and answering a long list of questions, was accepted into the trial. Since hallucinogens can sometimes bring to the surface latent psychological problems, researchers try to weed out volunteers at high risk by asking questions about drug use and whether there is a family history of schizophrenia or bipolar disorder. After the screening, Mettes was assigned to a therapist named Anthony Bossis, a bearded, bearish psychologist in his mid-fifties, with a specialty in palliative care. Bossis is a co-principal investigator for the N.Y.U. trial.
After four meetings with Bossis, Mettes was scheduled for two dosings—one of them an “active” placebo (in this case, a high dose of niacin, which can produce a tingling sensation), and the other a pill containing the psilocybin. Both sessions, Mettes was told, would take place in a room decorated to look more like a living room than like a medical office, with a comfortable couch, landscape paintings on the wall, and, on the shelves, books of art and mythology, along with various aboriginal and spiritual tchotchkes, including a Buddha and a glazed ceramic mushroom. During each session, which would last the better part of a day, Mettes would lie on the couch wearing an eye mask and listening through headphones to a carefully curated playlist—Brian Eno, Philip Glass, Pat Metheny, Ravi Shankar. Bossis and a second therapist would be there throughout, saying little but being available to help should he run into any trouble.
“I thought the first ten or twenty people were plants—that they must be faking it. They were saying things like ‘I understand love is the most powerful force on the planet,’ or ‘I had an encounter with my cancer, this black cloud of smoke.’ People who had been palpably scared of death—they lost their fear. The fact that a drug given once can have such an effect for so long is an unprecedented finding. We have never had anything like it in the psychiatric field.”
I met Bossis last year in the N.Y.U. treatment room, along with his colleague Stephen Ross, an associate professor of psychiatry at N.Y.U.’s medical school, who directs the ongoing psilocybin trials. Ross, who is in his forties, was dressed in a suit and could pass for a banker. He is also the director of the substance-abuse division at Bellevue, and he told me that he had known little about psychedelics—drugs that produce radical changes in consciousness, including hallucinations—until a colleague happened to mention that, in the nineteen-sixties, LSD had been used successfully to treat alcoholics. Ross did some research and was astounded at what he found.
“I felt a little like an archeologist unearthing a completely buried body of knowledge,” he said. Beginning in the nineteen-fifties, psychedelics had been used to treat a wide variety of conditions, including alcoholism and end-of-life anxiety. The American Psychiatric Association held meetings centered on LSD. “Some of the best minds in psychiatry had seriously studied these compounds in therapeutic models, with government funding,” Ross said.
Between 1953 and 1973, the federal government spent four million dollars to fund a hundred and sixteen studies of LSD, involving more than seventeen hundred subjects. (These figures don’t include classified research.) Through the mid-nineteen-sixties, psilocybin and LSD were legal and remarkably easy to obtain. Sandoz, the Swiss chemical company where, in 1938, Albert Hofmann first synthesized LSD, gave away large quantities of Delysid—LSD—to any researcher who requested it, in the hope that someone would discover a marketable application. Psychedelics were tested on alcoholics, people struggling with obsessive-compulsive disorder, depressives, autistic children, schizophrenics, terminal cancer patients, and convicts, as well as on perfectly healthy artists and scientists (to study creativity) and divinity students (to study spirituality). The results reported were frequently positive. But many of the studies were, by modern standards, poorly designed and seldom well controlled, if at all. When there were controls, it was difficult to blind the researchers—that is, hide from them which volunteers had taken the actual drug. (This remains a problem.)
- Also see – Psychedelics: Poised for a Comeback (punditfromanotherplanet.com)
By the mid-nineteen-sixties, LSD had escaped from the laboratory and swept through the counterculture. In 1970, Richard Nixon signed the Controlled Substances Act and put most psychedelics on Schedule 1, prohibiting their use for any purpose. Research soon came to a halt, and what had been learned was all but erased from the field of psychiatry. “By the time I got to medical school, no one even talked about it,” Ross said.
“People don’t realize how few tools we have in psychiatry to address existential distress. Xanax isn’t the answer. So how can we not explore this, if it can recalibrate how we die?”
The clinical trials at N.Y.U.—a second one, using psilocybin to treat alcohol addiction, is now getting under way—are part of a renaissance of psychedelic research taking place at several universities in the United States, including Johns Hopkins, the Harbor-U.C.L.A. Medical Center, and the University of New Mexico, as well as at Imperial College, in London, and the University of Zurich. As the drug war subsides, scientists are eager to reconsider the therapeutic potential of these drugs, beginning with psilocybin. (Last month The Lancet, the United Kingdom’s most prominent medical journal, published a guest editorial in support of such research.) The effects of psilocybin resemble those of LSD, but, as one researcher explained, “it carries none of the political and cultural baggage of those three letters.” LSD is also stronger and longer-lasting in its effects, and is considered more likely to produce adverse reactions. Researchers are using or planning to use psilocybin not only to treat anxiety, addiction (to smoking and alcohol), and depression but also to study the neurobiology of mystical experience, which the drug, at high doses, can reliably occasion. Forty years after the Nixon Administration effectively shut down most psychedelic research, the government is gingerly allowing a small number of scientists to resume working with these powerful and still somewhat mysterious molecules.
“Thirty minutes after my taking the mushrooms, the exterior world began to undergo a strange transformation. Everything assumed a Mexican character.”
– Albert Hofmann
As I chatted with Tony Bossis and Stephen Ross in the treatment room at N.Y.U., their excitement about the results was evident. According to Ross, cancer patients receiving just a single dose of psilocybin experienced immediate and dramatic reductions in anxiety and depression, improvements that were sustained for at least six months. The data are still being analyzed and have not yet been submitted to a journal for peer review, but the researchers expect to publish later this year.
“I thought the first ten or twenty people were plants—that they must be faking it,” Ross told me. “They were saying things like ‘I understand love is the most powerful force on the planet,’ or ‘I had an encounter with my cancer, this black cloud of smoke.’ People who had been palpably scared of death—they lost their fear. The fact that a drug given once can have such an effect for so long is an unprecedented finding. We have never had anything like it in the psychiatric field.”
I was surprised to hear such unguarded enthusiasm from a scientist, and a substance-abuse specialist, about a street drug that, since 1970, has been classified by the government as having no accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse. But the support for renewed research on psychedelics is widespread among medical experts. “I’m personally biased in favor of these type of studies,” Thomas R. Insel, the director of the National Institute of Mental Health (N.I.M.H.) and a neuroscientist, told me. “If it proves useful to people who are really suffering, we should look at it. Just because it is a psychedelic doesn’t disqualify it in our eyes.” Nora Volkow, the director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse (nida), emphasized that “it is important to remind people that experimenting with drugs of abuse outside a research setting can produce serious harms.”
Many researchers I spoke with described their findings with excitement, some using words like “mind-blowing.” Bossis said, “People don’t realize how few tools we have in psychiatry to address existential distress. Xanax isn’t the answer. So how can we not explore this, if it can recalibrate how we die?”
Herbert D. Kleber, a psychiatrist and the director of the substance-abuse division at the Columbia University–N.Y. State Psychiatric Institute, who is one of the nation’s leading experts on drug abuse, struck a cautionary note. “The whole area of research is fascinating,” he said. “But it’s important to remember that the sample sizes are small.” He also stressed the risk of adverse effects and the importance of “having guides in the room, since you can have a good experience or a frightful one.” But he added, referring to the N.Y.U. and Johns Hopkins research, “These studies are being carried out by very well trained and dedicated therapists who know what they’re doing. The question is, is it ready for prime time?”
The idea of giving a psychedelic drug to the dying was conceived by a novelist: Aldous Huxley. In 1953, Humphry Osmond, an English psychiatrist, introduced Huxley to mescaline, an experience he chronicled in “The Doors of Perception,” in 1954. (Osmond coined the word “psychedelic,” which means “mind-manifesting,” in a 1957 letter to Huxley.) Huxley proposed a research project involving the “administration of LSD to terminal cancer cases, in the hope that it would make dying a more spiritual, less strictly physiological process.” Huxley had his wife inject him with the drug on his deathbed; he died at sixty-nine, of laryngeal cancer, on November 22, 1963.
Psilocybin mushrooms first came to the attention of Western medicine (and popular culture) in a fifteen-page 1957 Life article by an amateur mycologist—and a vice-president of J. P. Morgan in New York—named R. Gordon Wasson. In 1955, after years spent chasing down reports of the clandestine use of magic mushrooms among indigenous Mexicans, Wasson was introduced to them by María Sabina, a curandera—a healer, or shaman—in southern Mexico. Wasson’s awed first-person account of his psychedelic journey during a nocturnal mushroom ceremony inspired several scientists, including Timothy Leary, a well-regarded psychologist doing personality research at Harvard, to take up the study of psilocybin. After trying magic mushrooms in Cuernavaca, in 1960, Leary conceived the Harvard Psilocybin Project, to study the therapeutic potential of hallucinogens. His involvement with LSD came a few years later. Read the rest of this entry »