Capitalism is the Great Anti-Pollutant

Climate science today is a veritable cornucopia of unanswered questions. Photo: Corbis

Contrary to popular myth, the environment over the past 200 years has become less polluted and toxic for humans.

In July 1924, Calvin Coolidge Jr., the Presdient’s 16-year-old son, died of an infection from a toe blister he got playing tennis on the White House lawn. The bacteria that took young Calvin’s life is staphylococcus aureus, known as “staph.” …

Were health-care products such as antibiotics, antibacterial ointments, and inexpensive clean and disposable bandages available 92 years ago, Calvin Coolidge Jr., would have escaped the bacterial pollution that killed him. Factories and vehicles used to produce and distribute these items use energy, and dispense waste. But capitalist production and consumption are not destroying a pristine Eden. Instead, capitalist production and consumption are replacing more immediate and more lethal forms of environmental pollution for less immediate and less lethal forms.

We denizens of modern market economies are today largely free not only of the filth of lethal staph infections, but also of other up-close and dangerous pollutants that our ancestors routinely endured, or died of. We sleep, in sturdy buildings, on beds that rest on hard floors beneath hard roofs. Our pre-industrial ancestors did not. Save for the tiny fraction of people in the nobility and clergy, nearly everyone slept in flimsy huts on dirt floors beneath thatched roofs. (Sometimes these dirt floors would be strewn with hay, thresh, to make them less unpleasant.)

Not only were thresh-strewn dirt floors obvious sources of regular up-close pollution of a sort that is unknown to a typical first-world person today, thatched roof themselves were ferments of filth. They kept out rain and cold less effectively than our modern dwellings. Worse, they were home to rats, mice, birds, spiders, hornets, and other animals, which would drop their own wastes onto the huts’ inhabitants. They were also highly flammable.

Of course these pre-industrial huts contained no running water or indoor plumbing. Daily bathing and other routines of personal hygiene that we moderns take for granted were largely unknown to most before the industrial revolution.

For heat in the winter families would bring farm animals into the huts, especially at night. To shield themselves from the droppings of these farm animals, each of these families would cut a trench in the floor across the width their hut. They’d sleep on the side of the trench opposite where the animals slept. Unfortunately, the trench did little to protect the family from whatever insects the animals brought into the huts with them. Read the rest of this entry »


First Head Transplant Patient Valery Spiridonov Schedules Surgery for 2017

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A man set to become the world’s first head transplant patient has scheduled the procedure for December 2017.

“When I realized that I could participate in something really big and important, I had no doubt left in my mind and started to work in this direction.”

Valery Spiridonov, 30, was diagnosed with a genetic muscle-wasting condition called Werdnig-Hoffmann disease, and volunteered for the procedure despite the risks involved, Central European News (CEN) reported.

Russian computer scientist Valery Spiridonov, suffering from Werdnig Hoffman’s disease, has volunteered for the world’s first head-to-body transplant. VLADIMIR SMIRNOV/TASS/CORBIS

“The only thing I feel is the sense of pleasant impatience, like I have been preparing for something important all my life and it is starting to happen.”

— Spiridonov, a Russian computer scientist

“When I realized that I could participate in something really big and important, I had no doubt left in my mind and started to work in this direction,” Spiridonov, a Russian computer scientist, told CEN. Read the rest of this entry »


[PHOTO] Mansplaining Mortality

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Thanks a Lot: When You Get the Flu This Winter, You Can Blame Anti-Vaxxers

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We’re never going to modernize our outdated approach to preventing annual outbreaks as long as scientists remain stuck in nonsensical debates with the no-shots crowd.

Kent Sepkowitz complains: Now that flu season again is closing in on all of us, it’s time to trot out the annual debate about flu vaccines.

“The bigger problem is that the anti-vax crowd waits for this sort of mess to pounce, as if the biologic unpredictability of a living virus is enough to make their point.  Their point of course is a slippery one…”

On one side are pro-vaccine stalwarts like those in public health (and yours truly), who look at the needle and syringe and see lives saved and hospitalizations averted. On the inevitable other side stand vaxxthose against vaccination, people looking for plot, conspiracy, and intrigue in all the wrong places: the anti-vaccine brigade. Somehow, the discussion each year begins from scratch, Groundhog Day-style, with identical claims, counterclaims, and mud-slinging from all quarters.

 “To vaccinate against the dozens of potentially circulating strains would require a giant syringe more out of a vaudeville act than a nurse’s station.”

This year, it must be admitted, the discussion is a bit more dicey—the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced a few weeks ago that this season’s vaccine is not such a good match, meaning that the vaccine may prevent fewer cases of influenza. On average, the vaccine has an efficacy of about 60 percent. This number is arrived at by comparing proven influenza rates in groups that vaccinated and those that didn’t—a flu-shotfair-enough and simple-enough way to examine an extremely complex epidemiologic problem.

This year, the vaccine protection rate may be even lower because, even in the red-hot super-cool molecular science world of the 21st century, we still generate flu vaccine like it’s 1963. Here’s the staid approach: In winter each year, certified flu experts meet in a room and decide which of the dozens of strains circulating worldwide are likeliest to cause the most harm when the next winter’s flu season hits, eight to 10 months hence. They look at all sorts of data and then like weathermen forced by the ticking clock to make a judgment despite imperfect information, they vote three or four strains into the vaccine. Read the rest of this entry »


Record Measles Outbreak: Thanks to Vaccine Avoidance, Measles Climbs to 20-Year High

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This year’s measles outbreak is the worst in 20 years, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) announced Thursday.

 At least 70% of this year’s measles cases involve unvaccinated people

The CDC said 288 cases of the disease have been identified since January, the most in the first five months of the year since 1994. Ohio has seen the most cases with over 160, most of them emanating from the state’s Amish community.

€œ”This is not the kind of record we want to break”

— Assistant Surgeon General Dr. Anne Schuchat

The vast majority of cases still originate from other countries, with people acquiring the disease while abroad and then bringing it back to the U.S., where they spread it to others. The U.S. has not had a home-grown measles epidemic in decades. Read the rest of this entry »


Rare Disorder Gives Woman 50 Orgasms Per Day

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It sounds like something out of an adult film; a woman has 50 orgasms in just one day. But for Gretchen Molannen and thousands of other women, the disorder which causes her to have to relieve her condition is a terrible disease. It’s called “Persistent Genital Arousal Disorder or “Restless Genital Syndrome” and, while rare, afflicts victims with constant, unrelenting sensations in the genital region, causing extreme physical and mental anguish.

For those with the most severe form of this condition, having an orgasm does little or nothing to relieve the pressure. They are forced to attempt to get relief by trying again, until sometimes, they are sore and exhausted. These women often find themselves debilitated; unable to work or maintain a relationship. Read the rest of this entry »


Sanitized Society’s Weakened Immune System, Racial Paranoia, and the Climate of Delusion

Jonah Goldberg’s latest column raises an interesting question:

Is the American body politic suffering from an autoimmune disease?

“…If you think of bigotry as a germ or some other infectious disease vector, we live in an amazingly sanitized society…”

The “hygiene hypothesis” is the scientific theory that the rise in asthma and other autoimmune maladies stems from the fact that babies are born into environments that are too clean. Our immune systems need to be properly educated by being exposed early to germs, dirt, whatever. When you consider that for most of human evolutionary history, we were born under shady trees or, if we were lucky, in caves or huts, you can understand how unnatural Lysol-soaked hospitals and microbially baby-proofed homes are. The point is that growing up in a sanitary environment might cause our immune systems to freak out about things that under normal circumstances we’d just shrug off.

Hence, goes the theory, the explosion in asthma rates in the industrialized world, the rise in peanut and wheat allergies and, quite possibly, the spike in autism rates. There’s also a puzzling explosion in autoimmune diseases. That’s where the body attacks healthy organs or tissues as if they were deadly invaders.

Which brings me to my point. If you think of bigotry as a germ or some other infectious disease vector, we live in an amazingly sanitized society. That’s not to say it doesn’t exist, of course. And we can all debate how prevalent it is later.

My point is that the institutions — the organs of the body politic — that are the most obsessed with eradicating bigotry (as liberals define it) tend to be the places that have to worry about it the least. The Democratic party is consumed with institutionalized angst about prejudice, intolerance, and bigotry in America. But the odds are that relatively few of these people (particularly those under the age of 50) have been exposed to much real racism or intolerance.

The same goes for the mainstream media. In fact, many major media outlets have explicit policies dedicated to hiring and promoting minorities, women, gays, etc. Like the Democratic party, some have very strict hiring quotas in this regard. The well-paid executives and managers of these institutions come from social backgrounds where the tolerance for anything smacking of overt bigotry is not just zero, but in the negative range; they bend over backwards to celebrate members of the officially recognized coalition of the oppressed. (Of course, this coalition doesn’t include traditional-minded Christians, but that’s a subject for another column.)

The overwhelming majority of the people running these institutions come from an educational system that devotes vast resources to fighting bigotry and teaching American history as a story of overcoming prejudice.

College campuses in particular are in a perpetual state of panic that rabid bigotry may break out at any moment. Indeed, you can pretty much major in bigotry panic at most top colleges and universities.

In March, Oberlin College staged the PC version of a Cold War–era duck-and-cover drill because a witness claimed to have seen a Ku Klux Klansmen near the school’s Afrikan Heritage House.

The president and his team of deans issued an emergency communiqué to the whole campus. Classes were canceled, effective immediately. Instead, a noontime “teach-in” led by the Africana Studies Department was convened. That was followed at 2 p.m. by an all-campus “demonstration of solidarity.” And on the off chance even more solidarity was needed, a “We Stand Together” community convocation was scheduled for 3:30.

Campus police later concluded that the robed and hooded “Klansman” was most likely a woman police found walking around campus while wrapped in a blanket. The witness was a half-mile away, and her first thought at seeing a figure wrapped in white cloth was, “The Klan is here!” And everyone thought that made sense.

Oberlin’s defenders insist the campus was already at DefCon 1 because a rash of racist graffiti had been plaguing the campus. As with many similar cases, there are reasons to believe the graffiti was itself an idiotic response to the Orwellian political correctness at the school rather than a reflection of old-timey racism at a left-wing college with a rich and honorable abolitionist history.

Just this week, police issued a citation to a liberal activist at the University of Wyoming for faking a rape threat from a fictional angry, sexist Republican on a campus Facebook forum.

Such hoaxes are commonplace on America’s most liberal campuses. Why? Perhaps because students, faculty, and — most damningly — administrators have fostered a climate of delusion and paranoia that constantly generates fresh excuses for the self-appointed antibodies to justify their attacks on a remarkably healthy society.

— Jonah Goldberg is the author of The Tyranny of Clichés. You can write to him at goldbergcolumn@gmail.com, or via Twitter @JonahNRO. © 2013 Tribune Media Services, Inc.

via  National Review Online