Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Einstein 'Stole' Relativity From Others? Irredeemable Codswallop!

Every so often a question comes out of 'left field' and appears  at ‘All Experts’ (Astrophysics forum) that confounds  and also piques curiosity. In this most recent case the person wrote:

"Up till now I have read that Einstein definitely stole much of his work from others, simply plagiarising them. What interests me now is that a current scientist is claiming , re a recent study,

 that Einstein was wrong and that black holes cannot exist.

Is this correct, that, with no black holes in the Universe, Einstein has a gaping flaw in his theories?"

There are two literal howlers that emerge in the question, and it's well to  consider each in turn:

1)     The belief that Einstein somehow plagiarized all the previous work of others, in particular Lorentz and Poincare, and

2)     The belief  that Einstein was responsible for the black hole concept. (A subsidiary howler is that black holes "cannot exist" which I will consider in conjunction with the claim Einstein was the creator of the black hole concept)

Let’s take (2) first, which is the more straightforward to deal with. As I pointed out in my response:

First of all, Einstein never claimed that black holes existed. What Einstein actually showed was a kind of precursor to the idea in one of his papers (‘On the Influence of Gravitation on the Propagation of Light’). Therein he described  how light could bend in a gravitational field. He found this angle of deflection of starlight - say from a distant star passing near the Sun during a total eclipse, was:

a   = 2k M/ c2 R

In truth, though Einstein provided a quantitative method to estimate gravitational bending of light, he himself never believed a celestial body could collapse in on itself such that its own light rays would never escape.

That didn't emerge until Karl Schwarzschild showed the Einstein field equations could be used to show such collapse. A simplified threshold for making this cut is given by the well known Schwarzschild radius or:

R(s) = 2GM/c

where G is the Newtonian gravitational constant, c is the speed of light in vacuo, and M is the gravitating mass. Once a stellar remnant collapses within this radius, light cannot escape and the object is no longer visible.  R(s) then is a characteristic radius associated with every mass of macroscopic scale.   It is this that (technically) gave rise to the black hole concept.

(Incidentally, the term "black hole" never existed until 1964 when it appeared in a science article written by journalist Ann Ewing.)

I added:

This is another thing, IF black holes were fictitious objects then a heck of a lot of astrophysicists are wasting their time on them in their research. What good reason would there be to do so? And more importantly, why would esteemed journals like the Astrophysical Journal publish such fictitious, "fantasy" work? It makes no sense so the onus is on those who claim they don't exist to explain and explain in full!

Some recent titles of papers on black holes appearing in recent issues of the Ap. J.:

'Illuminating Massive Black Holes with White Dwarfs: Orbital Dynamics and High-energy Transients from Tidal Interactions'

'Single-epoch Black Hole Mass Estimators for Broad-line Active Galactic Nuclei: Recalibrating Hβ with a New Approach'

'Roche-lobe Overflow Systems Powered by Black Holes in Young Star Clusters: The Importance of Dynamical Exchanges'

All of these appeared in Ap. J.,  Vol. 794,  No. 1, Oct. 10. 2014



Again, and not being facetious, if black holes don't exist why all the papers on them?

 The point emphasized is that if black holes genuinely were an impossible fiction, they’d never be granted the space they have in a peer-reviewed journal like the Ap. J.

Then there is the nonsense about Einstein "plagiarizing" earlier work. As I pointed out:

As for the claim that "Einstein definitely stole much of his work from others, simply plagiarising them" - all I can say is: ‘Bollocks’! What evidence is there for this? WHO made the claim and where? In what peer-reviewed paper or source? If it is just sappy opinion blabbed in some rag of a newspaper the claim isn't worth anything. There has to be substance to it. This again reinforces the cautionary note that what must be careful about what one reads and always do very careful cross-checking. Don't believe the first thing you see even if it might resonate at some level.

Also, if Einstein did plagiarize previous work, how come no other serious physicists have come to this conclusion?

Look, the world is full of iconoclasts all trying to make a name for themselves (like that astronomer who claimed to 'prove black holes don't exist' cited in the Daily Mail) and some do - for a time. But it never lasts, because ultimately it is usually found they were too quick on the draw and overlooked key facts - as you did in merely putting this question forward- presuming that Einstein himself had anything to do with black holes.

 The questioner clearly couldn’t accept this response and wrote in a further comment after giving his ratings:

"Look up "Relativity priority dispute" on wikipedia to see that it isn't just fringe people who have evidence that Einstein ripped off other scientists' ideas. Roger Schlafly now has a book out "How Einstein ruined physics", which goes into detail on this issue.”

Relativity priority dispute? Who would have ever thought? I'd never before heard of such a thing, since in all the monographs and peer-reviewed papers I've read - such as in Physical Review D- all the papers citing Einstein or his work never ONCE referred to "plagiarism" or not giving enough credit to predecessors. So where did this odious meme or claim come from? What nest of vipers hatched it and spread it in assorted books and all over the net?

 As I responded to the questioner:

I did look up the so called "relativity priority issue" and the consensus appears to be Einstein was still original in his particular development. Yes, Poincare, Lorentz et al had seminal ideas predating the special theory but it was still left to Einstein to put them together and it was Einstein who first applied the tensor calculus to put them in that setting - paving the way for general relativity. Alas, much of the "plagiarism" nonsense originated as Nazi propaganda. See also:

As noted therein:

"Since Einstein was Jewish, the Nazis had to argue that he was no scientific genius, but rather a typical Jew of limited abilities. This 1939 article comes from the Mitteilungen über die Judenfrage, a newsletter published by the Institut zum Studium der Judenfrage, the most prestigious of the Nazi research institutes on the “Jewish Question.”
It is typical of much Nazi propaganda directed against Einstein. It makes, among other things, the interesting claims that there is nothing new about the Theory of Relativity, and even if there were, Einstein plagiarized it."

The Nazis just couldn't stomach that a Jew could develop ground breaking theories of physics, because - of course - they held Jews in such contempt and even consigned them to a "final solution".

The other fact above all, cited by more than one source, is that if Einstein had indeed plagiarized previous work he'd never have been published in journals like 'Zeitschrift fur Physik'. The nonsense that the referees were too dumb to learn of it because Einstein provided few references is just plain balderdash.

Then there is the guy he cites, Roger Schlafly. At first the name didn't ring a bell but then the surname jibed and I instantly related it to an extremist right winger, Phyllis Schlafly, who's  always been dedicated to an American nativist imperium and dominion. Then Roger had to be related to her in some way and it turns out he's her son. That the 'apple' never falls far from the tree was evident from this Rational Wiki synopsis of this character:

"Roger Schlafly writes two blogs. At Dark Buzz, a science-focused blog, he conveys "ideas and information that are essential to understanding our world...ignored by the mainstream media".[ There, he engages in quite a bit of Einstein-bashing and frequently labels him a plagiarist and fraud. He frequently writes about Henri Poincare, a French physicist who he believes is a victim of under-appreciation because of Einstein, despite that everyone seems to know the name

 He writes from (as you'd expect) the perspective of a right-wing, white male heterosexual American Christian with libertarian leanings, and has cited the white nationalist website VDARE

Like Larry Schweikart with his false liberal history nonsense, Schlafly turns out to be another putz who wants to turn scientific iconoclast. But why would anyone take the scribblings of  a white nationalist sympathizer and the son of Phyllis Schlafly seriously? Besides, his specialty isn’t even physics but electrical engineering and math. While true, physics is  needed in electrical engineering and math is used in physics, neither Schlafly specialty is as concentrated as one expects in graduate specialist  Physics courses.   Fair question: Could he pass a  Ph.D. comprehensive exam in mechanics, thermodynamics, general relativity or quantum mechanics? I seriously doubt it. (I will post one of these soon, to see if he can.)

 I mean, as  one of the (negative) reviewers of Schlafly’s book also noted (correctly):

"Lorentz himself said in 1927:

'Only the true time existed for me. I regarded the transformation of time merely as a heuristic working hypothesis. Thus, the theory of relativity is, in fact, exclusively Einstein's product.' "

So if even  Hendrik Lorentz acknowledged Einstein’s priority in special relativity – why not Roger Schlafly or the person who asked the Einstein question at All Experts? Well, not Schlafly because as a white nationalist sympathizer  it would not be his wont to be fair to a Jew – who white nationalists and earlier Reich propagandizers  never regarded as equal to "Aryans". Hence who'd try to diminish Einstein’s accomplishments.  As for the naïve questioner, well, all I can say is that he was misled by Schlafly’s apparent academic creds into buying into this hogswill and that he really had a case – he didn’t.

Others who may dispute this - for whatever reason, even if they genuinely question Einstein's honesty - are invited to look up and read his most seminal paper on special relativity: 'Does the Inertia of a Body Depend On Its Energy Content?' (Annalen Der Physik, Vol. 17, 1905). Therein the doubters will see first hand how Einstein ingeniously used the Lorentzian  radical :

[1 - (v/c)2)]1/2

Einstein deftly uses this to arrive at his most famous equation:  

  E  = Mc2   

To quote the reviewer again:

In summary, if nothing of what we think Einstein did was actually his original work, how in the world can we say that Einstein ruined physics? Assuming that Physics is ruined, and assuming Dr. Schlafly's thesis is correct regarding Einstein's dishonesty, I would rationally tend to blame those who `really' developed Modern Physics, those of us who were so naïve as to allow ourselves to be deceived by Einstein for over 100 years, or both.... But not Einstein, whose only crime was -apparently- to be a thief!!!”

Points well taken!

And further advice to those who jump on claims that seek to take down a genuine genius of physics: Look at the source! Find out all you can about him or her before jumping the gun and conferring validity on his assertions!

Monday, September 29, 2014

Powerful Toxin 'Enlist'- If Approved By FDA For GMO Foods - Poses Serious Health Risks

John Phillips: Bio-geneticist and nutrition specialist, has found new links between GMO foods and Alzheimer's.

The warning went out loud and clear on Dr. Mehmet Oz's show on Sept. 19th. But one wonders how many are paying attention, as the potential nears to poison most of the nation - and we behold a "health calamity" to use Oz's expression, as non-Hodgkins lymphoma, Parkinson's disease, Alzheimer's and other conditions spread as the horrific weedicide Enlist enters our food supply via GMO foods.

Oz began by putting up on the screen a section of a letter put out by dozens of worried scientists, physicians. The letter began by stating:

"We the undersigned scientists, medical professionals, and researchers are writing to urge the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency not to register a double herbicide mix of 2,4- D and glyphosate - the 'Enlist DUO weed killer"

In the letter all the probable health risks were detailed, as noted in the first paragraph. In terms of the horrors of glyphosate and how it wreaks havoc on foods, I already discussed this in a previous post, e.g.   http://brane-space.blogspot.com/2014/03/alzheimers-epidemic-fro-eating-gmo.html

In that post I quoted Barbadian biogenetic researcher John Phillips:

"Among other toxins and other health-disrupting contaminants, GMO foods contain glyphosate, a horrifically destructive chemical that saps nutrients from foods and quite literally makes them toxic to consume."

The worst part is that GMO foods are everywhere…if something is not explicitly labeled as organic and GMO-free, you should assume that it contains glyphosate. The most damnable shame is that our own Neoliberal government refuses to justify labeling these foods - so consumers have no way of knowing.

Experts like Mr. Phillips now believe that glyphosate is even worse than DDT. It decimates beneficial bacteria in the gut, disrupts immune function, and has been correlated with shocking precision to the rise in autism and other cognitive diseases and conditions.  The moral of the story is that you should stop eating GMO foods at all costs. Do not consume anything (especially soy and corn) that isn’t specifically labeled as non-GMO.  Wonder why Alzheimer's keeps ramping up - blame the GMO foods, and now - with Entry DUO - the potential to add on other diseases like Parkinson's.

In his opening segment Oz set out the facts as we know them:

1- Seventy to Eighty percent of the foods we eat today contain GMOs.

2- There are 1.1 billion pounds of pesticides used per year, used on GMO crops - because those crops are designed to survive the poisons.

3- 70 - 170 million pounds of additional highly toxic pesticides will be used if the FDA approves Enlist.

One of the worst scourges is how glyphosate is now in the blood of many kids, and triggering outbreaks of autism (which too many blame on vaccines). As one mom featured on Oz's show observed, her son showed all the symptoms and when she had his blood tested she found inordinate levels of glyphosate. She then went totally organic and the symptoms subsided.

One claim made by the GMO makers (like Monsanto) and promoters is GMOs are crucial to feed a hungry world - by offering higher yields. But as Oz's other guest, Mark Bittman (Food columnist for the NY Times) noted, "Yields are not up and pesticide use is not down. So when you talk about feeding a hungry world, GMOs have not moved us in that direction."

Indeed, it is precisely because of the widespread pesticide-herbicide use connected with GMO foods, that a more powerful toxin has been demanded - by agri-business, and farmers in the maw of the GMO giants. This is because the herbicide overuse has led to the invasive weeds becoming adapted to the toxins and being more difficult to put down. The bottom line: glyphosate alone isn't enough to do the job.

2,4 - D, let us bear in mind, was also used in Agent Orange - the dastardly chemical used to devastate millions of acres of crops in South Vietnam and which left thousands of U.S. military personnel with debilitating conditions.

One of the other worrisome effects Oz presented was the dispersive and diffusive potential from GMO crops - say in the proximity of schools, other public places. Oz demonstrated this dispersal as when winds blow to drive it off onto bordering areas - schools, homes, towns. He stated: "It's just hard to put a fence around it. The Environmental Working Group found that over 5500 schools within 200 feet of these pesticides drift range and GMO farms, potentially putting thousands of children and their families at risk of serious health problems.."

This drift and dispersal scenario is also one with which John Phillips concurs - which is why he's vigorously argued against the use of GMO crops in Barbados.

Introducing Heather White, executive director of the  Environmental Working Group -  she made it clear that 2, 4 -D will "coat corn and soybean crops across the country, and those are the raw materials for the highly processed foods we eat." She expressed the greatest concern for school kids in the proximity of these GMO fields, and going out inhaling the stuff.

Thankfully, we in Colorado at least will have the ability come November to have control of what we eat - by knowing whether the food we buy has GMOs. This is not a "ban" as the hysterical GMO promoters insist, but merely providing the labeling identifying the basis of the food, so we know what we are purchasing.

And while anti-GMO folks are lampooned by the Neoliberal governmental -business estate and its lackeys, let's bear in mind 64 countries already require labeling of GMO foods or ban them outright. Why is the U.S. different? Or better, why is the U.S. the exceptional dumb nation here? Could it be the corporate state has our gov't by the balls, lock, stock and barrel? Maybe? As Heather White observed on Oz' show, they are only willing to "rubber stamp" what the corporations want and most of our agencies are in their maw.

Passing Colorado Proposition 105 will at least put an end to the continued food ignorance of Colorado's citizens. What we really need is a national referendum to enable all our citizens to have the same choice. No one ought to be denied information which may well determine whether Alzheimer's, Parkinson's or autism is in their future.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

College Board Supports Student Protests in Colorado

Student protests
An AP history student screams her indignation at the school board's messing with the AP History curriculum

 It ought to come as no surprise that when a standard national curriculum with name cachet is tampered with, diluted there are bound to be consequences from the official body that governs its content and any changes. So it should have come as no surprise when the Denver Post reported yesterday (p. 3A) that the College Board (source of the SAT and its AP versions) supports the student protests in Jefferson Country (which have included thousands of students including from Columbine High School and Dakota Ridge H.S..).   As the Post report stated:

"The College Board's Advanced Placement program, which oversees the AP U.S. History course at the center of the Jefferson County protests, said in a statement Friday that it supports the teens and their actions.

'These students recognize that the social order can - and sometimes must - be disrupted in the pursuit of liberty and justice' the statement said.

'Civil disorder and social strife are at the patriotic heart of American history - from the Boston Tea Party to the American Revolution to the Civil Rights movement."

It also would have come as no surprise that the College Board stated firmly that "if a school or district 'censors essential concepts from an Advanced Placement course then that course can no longer bear the AP designation".

So one is left to wonder how the  JeffCo sorry excuse for a school board thought they could get away with this perfidy when other states (e.g. Texas) had no recourse other than to drop its revisionist history AP curriculum and go to an exclusively state-sponsored program instead. I mean this stuff is basic: you can't seek to have a program which pretends to be AP history but is actually cafeteria -style revisionist piffle that Larry Schweikart and his groupies might be proud of.  And yet even in yesterday's Post, on the Op-Ed page, one JeffCo school board numskull (John Newkirk) sought to defend the local school board's bastardized history curriculum.

Which makes one wonder what planet Newkirk is living on. Newkirk complained the JeffCo board was "widely criticized for leaving out parts of our underlying story, yet when board member suggested engaging the community - via a curriculum review committee- she and the board were widely criticized,"

As they should have been! Because the time for "engagement" of the community was before the proposal was submitted and accepted at a closed door (i.e. non-public) meeting. So, Newkirk actually writes out of both sides of his mouth, because if you're holding closed door meetings to get a curriculum fast-tracked and passed you are not engaging the community nor do you have any intention to do so. This is what both students and teachers perceived and why they took action.

What Newkirk actually advocates is discussing the curriculum after it's already approved, akin to closing the barn door after all the cows have escaped.  The worst balderdash of all from his op-ed piece was when he blathered:

"The reaction to a new board majority of non-union candidates has been loud and prolonged. This I fear is largely due to fear of the unknown and change in the status quo."

In fact it was largely due to what the Denver Post reported Friday (p. 8A) to the effect that controversy had swirled since a conservative board had been elected to run the 85,000 student district - and most people knew these conservos had their own agenda. It didn't take long for it to surface with the revisionist AP curriculum. The insistence by these board members that positive history be emphasized and civil disobedience de-emphasized, capped it - along with the insistence that students acknowledge respect for authority and appreciate the value of the free market (sic.) By then, everyone with a brain knew what was afoot and the protests ensued.

So, in many ways, one can blame the clueless Jefferson County voters for removing the trio of hard working board members and putting in the current clowns.  In this guise, the Neanderthals  attacking the students can cease and desist giving the middle finger  when  they pass them in their cars and shouting: "Where are the truant officers?"

The worst insult, as it ought to be for the students (as well as JeffCo teachers),  is the derelict claim by some nincompoops that the students are being exploited as "pawns"  by the teachers. One of these bozos even asked in a letter to the Post yesterday: "Have the students, one month into the semester, the ability or knowledge to critique curriculums?"

Yes, they do, if they have even an overview of how the content might be adjusted or changed. So when JeffCo Board VP Julie Williams'  intent to "promote the positive aspects of U.S. history" - broke in the newspapers (and I do believe students read them, if only online)  along with the reported objectives "to avoid teaching civil disorder and social strife" - the students knew what was afoot: vanilla, or sanitized U.S. history. They didn't have to review or know the entire curriculum to arrive at their conclusions.

The true fact, as voiced by one Jefferson County teacher (ibid.), is the students themselves "have taken this thing on and run with it". They have watched the news and read online info  - they aren't layabout dummies or zombies after all - and have expertly used social media including Facebook and Twitter, to connect with classmates and spread the word.  So, if the JeffCo nattering nabobs have a problem with the protests, they'd be more correct to blame social media and the internet than the teachers.


The Common Core does not include standards for history (though it probably should - more so than for algebra and geometry) so alignment to a national curriculum was not a factor. However, just as Common Core emphasizes a stronger focus on critical thinking, College Board authors note that the new AP U.S. history framework emphasizes analyzing and thinking skills using primary sources. For example, using the Warren Commission's own report but along with an understanding of physics, human anatomy to show it is false, e.g. http://brane-space.blogspot.com/2013/11/frequently-asked-questions-on-jfk_15.html

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Another FAA Snafu: New Air Traffic Control System Didn't Plan For Drones

Even as we learn of a 36-year old air traffic controller in Chicago who went nuts - pouring gasoline all over the ATC consoles and computers and setting them alight - one wonders how much sooner he would have lost it if he had to track 3,000 drones plus aircraft.   This comes to mind as we learn (Denver Post, Sept. 25, p. 12 A, 'FAA Didn't Have Drones On Its Planning Radar') that the FAA dropped the ball when its "ambitious air traffic control system of the future" was put onstream.  According to the article:

"Designers of the 'NextGen', the air traffic control system of the future neglected to take drones into account, raising questions of whether it can handle the escalating demand for unmanned aircraft and predicted congestion in the sky."

This despite the fact congress passed legislation creating NextGen back in 2003 directing the FAA to accommodate all types of aircraft including drones. The new system  is designed to replace radar and radio communications rooted in 20th century technology and ramp it up to the 21st century by instead using satellite-based navigation and digital communications. Because of the significant changes it's not expected to be ready for a decade though the FAA has plowed $5 billion into it - with nearly all the complex software and hardware already installed.

Let's back up and recall most of the initial demand to fly drones came from the Dept. of Defense and Homeland Security. But then, prompted by drone manufacturers who will lose much of their market in the Middle East, commercial and other uses were pushed. No surprise then that potential drone use was primed for: police departments, crop spraying, monitoring of oil pipelines, and now also commercial proposals, i.e. for wedding videographers, real estate agents to show prime properties, and even Amazon deliveries and Google imagery. Projections now call for millions of drone plying the skies by 2020.  But can this NextGen air traffic control system handle them? Doubtful.

The situation has led Chris Stephenson, who represents the National Air Traffic Controllers Association to say (ibid.):

"It's becoming painfully apparent that in order to get drones in there, there is going to have to be a fair amount of accommodation, at least in the beginning."

What sort of accommodation is he speaking of? Given the FAA deputy administrator Michael Whitaker has 'fessed up that "drones weren't really part of the equation when you go back to the origin of NextGen" , it must mean that drone operators will be given much wider latitude to operate in our skies - with less accountability than manned aircraft. It means the standards for safety won't apply to the millions of drones unleashed so that the current level of near collision - as shown on this map:
Photo: FAA Map showing locations of near collisions with drones at major airports.

Will radically increase. These incidents, exposed in an investigation by the Washington Post,  include one in which a pilot descending into LaGuardia observed a drone with a 10 -15 foot wingspan above lower Manhattan. In another LA incident, two separate pilots reported a drone "the size of a trash can" perilously close by.  The FAA was not able to pursue or identify the offenders because either "radar data was not available" or "the operators could not be identified." (Denver Post, 'Drone Close Calls', June 25th, p. 17A)   The D. Post noted that (p. 22A):

"The close calls were the latest in a rash of dangerous encounters between civilian aircraft and drones flown in contravention of FAA rules intended to safeguard U.S. airspace.."

The accumulating incidents so spooked one commercial pilot (Greg Cromer) that he actually wrote a letter to the FAA opposing the whole insane idea of opening U.S. airspace to these mechanical beasties, writing (ibid.):

 "I can see no way to prevent a collision with something that could be as small as a bird or a plane or kitchen appliance."

In addition (ibid.) , "the NASA database confirms that dangerous brushes between drones and passenger aircraft are more common than the FAA acknowledges." 

The ominous portents for future flyers were quite evident in this passage of the current Denver Post piece:

"FAA officials are under pressure from congress to loosen restrictions on smaller drones - and the agency is expected to propose safety rules in November for businesses that operate them"

How rigorous are these rules likely to be? I wouldn't bet on much other than the businesses have to be monitoring their flight paths "as best they can". Question: For a commercial jet taking off at about 200mph would collision with a small drone of 5-10 lbs. pose a problem? I will leave readers to figure that one out for themselves while noting the FAA is the same agency that caved to congress in terms of allowing this drone insanity in the first place.

Activist Medea Benjamin made reference to the spectacle of congressional corporate compliance and being bought out by the drone makers, as she said some months ago:
"They’ve been able to write the drone legislation and get their lackeys in Congress to push it through and get the president to sign it.”
In other words, the congressional rats and whores placed the bottom line of corporations over citizen welfare. But this is what we expect in a corporatocracy.

Meanwhile,  drone advocates like General Dynamics' Krista Ochs have expressed concern with how the industry will be set back if and when the first major crashes with commercial airlines occur.  As she put it (DPost, June 25th, p. 17A.):

"If we have a major catastrophe that involves some type of midair collision it could set us back years."

Something the NextGen planners might want to consider as well the FAA currently working with NASA researchers to develop an air traffic control system to handle all aircraft flying at 500 feet altitude or less. There are no such systems today except around airports, perhaps explaining why the guy in Chicago went bonkers from the stress of tracking and why more might if tens of thousands of drones take to the skies.

Friday, September 26, 2014

Another Medical Reversal - This Time On Niacin

Female doctor just out of medical school.
"No more niacin for you!"

Reversals on key medical issues are causing many of us to wonder if it makes any sense to use medical guidelines at all, given they seem to change with each passing week.  The latest turnaround is on Niacin, which had been advised to control HDL - the high density lipoprotein cholesterol that wreaks havoc in arteries. It also had been found to lower triglycerides.

I had been faithfully taking it the past five years for these reasons - and had found that my last lipid panel last year yielded the best results ever (though granted, a role may have been played by other factors such as eating more fish, avocados, good fats in general). But what caught my attention was a medical brief in the most recent AARP Bulletin (September, p. 4) entitled 'Nixing Niacin'.  It noted:

"For 50 years, doctors have recommended high doses of the B vitamin niacin to lower cholesterol and improve heart health. But two large new studies show that niacin not only doesn't reduce deaths from heart disease, it puts patients at risk for serious side effects including infections and diabetes. 'This is no longer a drug for routine use' says Northwestern University preventive cardiologist, Donald Lloyd Jones."

Since I'd only just purchased some $35 in niacin a few days before I was curious to learn more about how the whole issue changed.  It turns out  the National Institutes of Health sponsored an American study, and the drug company Merck funded a large international study. One tested extended-release niacin, and the other evaluated a combination of extended-release niacin and laropiprant, an agent designed to make the niacin more tolerable.  Both studies failed to show that niacin reduced the risks of heart disease, stroke and death.

More sobering, researchers stopped the American study prematurely because the possibility of finding any benefit became so remote that its continuation seemed futile. Additional follow-up analyses conducted in both studies did not show that niacin provided a convincing benefit to any group of patients. 
But the worst news was that niacin caused  multiple side effects, many of which are serious.
It was learning about this that got me to (reluctantly) toss the 250 count  re-supply bottles I'd just purchased. As wifey said: "You can't continue to take it knowing what you know now."  And, of course, I will have to inform our family physician when we see her tomorrow.  One disturbing aspect of these recent studies is that in addition to the discomfort (i.e. flushing, random itching) that many patients have, they show that niacin can cause more serious side effects. In the international study, niacin increased the risk of gastrointestinal events such as diarrhea and ulcers by 28 percent; as well as musculoskeletal problems such as muscle damage and gout by 26 percent; rashes, skin ulcerations and other serious skin-related problems by 67 percent. Worse, increased infections by 22 percent; and gastrointestinal bleeding or other bleeding by 38 percent.
In addition, patients on niacin were 32 percent more likely to receive a diagnosis of diabetes than those not on the drug, and in those with diabetes, niacin increased the risk of serious problems with disease management by 55 percent. Safety problems were also apparent in the American study, in which those taking niacin had a higher risk of gastrointestinal problems and infections than those taking a placebo. It was the concordance of these studies in showing harms that is so convincing and which doubtless led to the AARP Bulletin notice - which I suspect many will now take to heart.
SO, without niacin in the cardiovascular arsenal what can be done? As I noted above, eating more good fats - such as found in avocado and fish like salmon. Also, it is possible that my consistent consumption of those alone may have been responsible for bringing my HDL and triglyceride numbers more in line - much more than the 500 mg of niacin I'd been taking every day.
Stay tuned, more medical turnarounds are bound to come!

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Students, Teachers Fight Against "Vanilla" AP History in Colorado

Student protests
As I noted in a previous blog post (April 26, 2013) I have little or no use for local school boards. They are politicized creatures and are part of what is degrading the educational system in the U.S. In the referenced blog post, for example, I cited way too much interference by School Boards- low level politicos and hacks - whose primary objective is to impose THEIR agenda on schools and dumb down kids.

This was the first thing that struck me on return to the U.S.in 1992 : the degree of interference in all manner of school policies, even choice of textbooks and curricula. School boards thereby sought to imprint their schools with their own biased slants, agendas and beliefs. Obviously, such micro-managed oversight kills innovation and creativity in its tracks, not to mention the ability of students to achieve an objective insight into the objects of their inquiry..

Now, as if to reinforce this, the battle is on in Jefferson County, Colorado - after a misbegotten local school board has seen fit to try to revamp AP History. This has triggered protests from thousands of students who want their history straight - not perverted, "positivized" or rendered like mush. The teachers also are in full revolt as they should be, since no teacher worth his or her salt ought to bend over to replace genuine history content with PR, and mischievous malarkey. That leads inevitably to the swill we behold from clowns like Larry Schweikart and his  '48 Liberal Lies About American History - when he's the one doing the lying!

Anyway, here's the backstory: like 6 other states Colorado law allows local school boards to override school districts and impose their own history content, such as for AP studies, courses.  Taking advantage of this, the Jefferson County school board held a closed door meeting (wherein most nefarious deeds get hatched) last Thursday.

At the meeting, Board Vice President Julie Williams proposed that a committee be formed to review the current Advanced Placement History Curriculum and change it. She wrote in her goofy proposal:

"Materials should not encourage or condone civil disorder, social strife or disregard of the law. Instructional materials should present positive aspects of the United States and its heritage."

Of course, thinking teachers and students mocked this gibberish via Twitter. Two of the tweets:

"Roe vs. Wade was about the best way to cross a river."

"The Declaration of Independence refers to a song by Beyoncé"

These takes are spot on, given if one only teaches the positive aspects of American History one ends up with propaganda, muddled bilge or worse,  pabulum fit only for kindergarteners, and no genuine comprehension of the opposing forces that shaped our history. How, for example, would you portray the Civil War? As just a bunch of opposing armies getting together to sing songs and sign agreements?

If the JeffCo proposal were to succeed, students would never learn about:

- The basis for the American Revolution, or be allowed to read Thomas Paine's fiery 'Common Sense'

- The Haymarket Massacre and the influence of labor unions in U.S, history

- The Civil War and its bloodiest battles such as Shiloh and Antietam

- The Sand Creek Massacre and the betrayal by the U.S. gov't of its signed treaties with the Indians - to take their land.

- The use of propaganda by Edward Bernays to goad the U.S. into WWI

- The assassination of John Kennedy and the role of the CIA, national security state.

- The pretext for the Vietnam War in the Tonkin Gulf Resolution wherein it was falsely claimed that the U.S. fired in N. Vietnamese gunboats in international waters after being fired on first.

- The false pretext for the Iraq war and "Operation Iraqi Freedom"  pushed by Bush, Cheney and the Neocons like Paul Wolfowitz,

The omission of any or all of these would reduce AP history in JeffCo to mush, suitable only for history dummies and  FOX News broadcasters, but not serious students of history. Worse, it would instill false consciousness in any student that accepts it, see e.g.

Let's also be aware it was propagandist and PR maestro Edward Bernays himself who wrote in his booklet, Propaganda:

"The conscious and intelligent manipulation of the organized habits and opinions of the masses is an important element in democratic society. Those who manipulate this unseen mechanism of society constitute an invisible government, which is the true ruling power of our country.”

If the curriculum proposed by the JeffCo School Board and Julie Williams doesn't follow Bernays' odious playbook, then I don't know what does.

As for civil disobedience, as one Denver Post letter writer put it (Sept. 24):

"We have seen throughout our history that acts of civil disobedience such as the American Revolution, the labor movement, women's rights, and the civil rights movements often spur needed change."

Indeed! So if Rosa Parks had just sat like a zombie and never moved to the front of that bus in Alabama, there never would have been a bus boycott or much else. She knew she had to choose civil disobedience and in doing so helped create history.  If Martin Luther King had not led marches in Selma and Montgomery, same thing. Ditto for the revolutionaries dumping tea into Boston Harbor. Similarly, if all the Vietnam War protestors had just watched TV all day that illegal war might have gone on years longer with many thousands more deaths.

It follows that schools must therefore not be repositories of false facts or omitted events, lest they become vehicles for creating mere consumers as opposed to citizens, As authors D. Stanley Eitzen and Maxine Baca-Zinn note in their wonderful book, 'In Conflict and Order', p. 443:

"The schools perform several vital functions for the maintenance of the prevailing social, political and economic order.  Through their curricula, testing, and bureaucratic control, and emphasis on competition, the schools reflect the social class 'structure' of society  by processing youth to fit into economic slots similar to those of their parents.."

 Schools thereby became  Agents of Corporate False Consciousness.

Now with actual deliberate AP history curriculum changes proposed, with a conscious effort to hide or blind students to their nation's actual history, the costs and stakes have become much higher. We are now very near, in JeffCo, to what the German students suffered during the reign of Hitler and the Third Reich: the selective  'canned' teaching of history to promote and emphasize "patriotism and respect for authority" over historical truth.  

As D. Stanley EItzen and Ms. Baca-Zinn have observed(ibid.) , respect for authority (the "order" paradigm)  has its place but not in all  arenas and venues.  If one only conformed to authority no change would ever come. Rosa Parks would have remained in her place and not violated "authority" by moving to the front of a bus in Montgomery.  Martin Luther King would have remained in his church and wrote sermons and never taken to the streets.  Vietnam protestors would have stayed in their university classrooms and never made a single protest sign or marched. Oh, and a President like JFK would never have printed $4.2 billion in U.S. Notes outside the Federal Reserve system,  e.g.

or sought a rapprochement with Fidel Castro (including secretly sending medical aid, etc.) while his Joint Chiefs wanted to oust the Cuban leader.

Stephanie Rossi, who teaches AP History at a Jefferson County school put it very well this morning when interviewed on CBS Early Show:

"If we can't talk about the struggles that people go through history, to gain a greater equality, a greater America how can we convey a true story and a complete picture to our students?"

In fact, we cannot, and would only be left with a pseudo-history more to the liking of the Larry Schwiekarts of the world and their clueless followers. 

Fortunately, the protests have forced the JeffCo board members to table the proposal for now but every real citizen needs to pay attention to see if the board will try again to sneak them through.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Ezekiel Emanuel and Wanting to Die At 75: What The Media Gets Wrong - And Emanuel!

All kinds of kerfuffle has now blown up over Ezekiel Emanuel's  Atlantic Monthly piece entitled 'Why I Hope To Die At 75?" , e.g.


Most of those who oppose his thesis, like David B. Agus two mornings ago on CBS, admit to being "optimists",  which is understandable. They all share the typical, pie-eyed American conviction that we are all on track to live to 100 and will carry a high quality of life with us. All of which is balderdash.

As Dr. Emanuel pointed out in a segment on 'Morning Joe' 2 days ago, all the stats back up his arguments in the Atlantic piece. Alzheimer's will continue to claim more elderly brains, and medical treatments in the last years will create enormous costs while delivering few good results. (Most elderly will die in hospitals, often at the mercy of the medical-industrial complex which only sees life extension or preservation as its goal.)

His central point about bad aging is unarguable:

"But here is a simple truth that many of us seem to resist: living too long is also a loss. It renders many of us, if not disabled, then faltering and declining, a state that may not be worse than death but is nonetheless deprived. It robs us of our creativity and ability to contribute to work, society, the world. It transforms how people experience us, relate to us, and, most important, remember us. We are no longer remembered as vibrant and engaged but as feeble, ineffectual, even pathetic."

So why would you not want to go out before you slide into total physical weakness, forgetfulness, or feeble thinking? Are you really ok with letting others take care of you, change your diapers and clean you for the rest of your days? Obviously no, but most Americans brainwashed by the media can't see themselves as older and infirm -  only re-invented "semi-youthful" types who can hike on the Swiss Alps at 75 and do integral calculus.

But that's largely a myth. The boffo, well-lived quality elder years only happen to the relative few. The few who manage to escape debilitating cancers, or injuries or diabetic collateral damage and Alzheimer's.  The proportion of such lucky ones is maybe 5 percent, if that. Even my hale  and hearty sister -in-law Krimhilde, see below, is now experiencing more and more frequent memory deficits and problems. She was 80 in August and has kept herself as mentally and physically fit - including eating a vegetarian diet-  as anyone could. If SHE can experience problems with what she's done then any of us can.

Dr. Emanuel, who has been misquoted in the media - which portray his piece as suggesting we all need to off ourselves at 75 - is clear this is not what he means:

"Let me be clear about my wish. I’m neither asking for more time than is likely nor foreshortening my life. Today I am, as far as my physician and I know, very healthy, with no chronic illness. I just climbed Kilimanjaro with two of my nephews. So I am not talking about bargaining with God to live to 75 because I have a terminal illness. Nor am I talking about waking up one morning 18 years from now and ending my life through euthanasia or suicide. Since the 1990s, I have actively opposed legalizing euthanasia and physician-assisted suicide. People who want to die in one of these ways tend to suffer not from unremitting pain but from depression, hopelessness, and fear of losing their dignity and control. The people they leave behind inevitably feel they have somehow failed. The answer to these symptoms is not ending a life but getting help. I have long argued that we should focus on giving all terminally ill people a good, compassionate death—not euthanasia or assisted suicide for a tiny minority."

This is a fair précis of his position but I have my quibbles, most especially with his opposition to euthanasia. This is especially when the more consistent position would be to embrace it given his willingness to abandon extraordinary measures to prolong life, say be getting special treatments or preventive tests. If you are willing to eschew those measures - say like  getting chemo for an incurable pancreatic cancer (or as he later suggests - doing without colonoscopies after age 65) you should be willing to allow euthanasia under specific conditions. His take that most people seeking it are "depressed" is also flat out wrong. In the case of pancreatic cancer the pain can be devastating. The outlook grim. Most "good, compassionate deaths" are only possible if those suffering are allowed to curb the extreme pain, for example,  by the suitable dispensing of enough morphine - as is done in Barbados. There is NO reluctance there to alleviate patient pain, and the result is a speedier death - though not technically "euthanasia". But this is what most pain paranoid doctors in the U.S. fret over. They shouldn't.

The more controversial case for euthanasia is Alzheimer's disease, and euthanasia ought to be allowed as a rational option if the person desires it. (In Switzerland now, many people  - including those diagnosed with Alzheimer's - are arriving for "tourism euthanasia" to be accommodated by a group called "Dignitas")   The rationale may not necessarily be pain here, or depression, but the realization the person faces a long, degrading  and dependent path toward an inevitable end which s/he desires to terminate. Is it anyone's place to say "No, you can't! You need to tough it out, lose all your identity and perish!"  No, I don't believe so.

Janice's cousin Desmond, when we caught him in one lucid moment, back in 2010,  see e.g.

He understood the track he was on and agreed that if he could have foreseen what was going to happen to him he would have elected euthanasia in a country that allowed it. It is not for any of the rest of us to question that or make moral pronouncements.

Where Emanuel is spot on is when he excoriates the American obsession with perpetual youth - "exercising, doing mental puzzles, consuming various juice and protein concoctions, sticking to strict diets, and popping vitamins and supplements, all in a valiant effort to cheat death and prolong life as long as possible."   As he observes, this fetishism has become so pervasive  "that it now defines a cultural type: what I call the American immortal."

The issue then becomes exactly when Americans are prepared to grow up and face their mortality. I suspect, somewhat like Dr. Emanuel, this is when more health problems accumulate than one's financial resources can accommodate or time allows. (It's a notable stat often circulated, e.g. in the AARP Bulletin, that most medical expenses occur in the last two years of life and the mean life extension for all that expense - about 200 grand- and effort- is a measly 6 weeks.)

Thus, if one simultaneously should be diagnosed - say at age 74 - with bowel, pancreatic and metastatic prostate cancer- I'd say it's time to throw in the towel and move thyself into hospice care. Forget about going to the hospital so the medical-industrial complex can turn you into their latest life extension zombie experiment.  (Interestingly, to reinforce this, though most Americans aver they wish to die at home, fewer than 1 in 4 actually do - because of medical interventionism and people being brainwashed to accept it)

So, let's let Emanuel again restate his argument and position:

"By the time I reach 75, I will have lived a complete life. I will have loved and been loved. My children will be grown and in the midst of their own rich lives. I will have seen my grandchildren born and beginning their lives. I will have pursued my life’s projects and made whatever contributions, important or not, I am going to make. And hopefully, I will not have too many mental and physical limitations. Dying at 75 will not be a tragedy. Indeed, I plan to have my memorial service before I die. And I don’t want any crying or wailing, but a warm gathering filled with fun reminiscences, stories of my awkwardness, and celebrations of a good life. "

All well and good, but let's bear in mind the acceptance of each person's mortality should be his alone to make. For some like Emanuel that may be at 75, for others it may be at 80 or 85 Each person's acceptance will largely depend on the quality of life at that point, and how caregivers respond to that life quality. In the end, there is no one size fits all answer, and though "dying at 75" when he has met all his life accomplishments may work for Emanuel  - it may not work for someone else.

As a footnote: wifey will be 75 next week and she has no intention to die! This is irrespective of how much she's already accomplished with her life - because heck, her Ravens still have another Super Bowl to win and she wants to be around cheering when they do!

Yes, Climate Change -Global Warming IS a More Dire Threat Than ISIS!

Even as Barack Obama speaks to the UN right now about the ISIS terror renegades, and a UN Climate Summit concluded yesterday, also in New York,  it is natural (as Chris Hayes noted yesterday evening) that the two things will vie for attention in people's minds.  But with their over the top videos of beheadings, marching in black masks and yelling anti-American epithets it's a sure bet the bigger, scarier entity will be ISIS. This despite the fact it is global warming-climate change that has the potential to wipe out the entire human species, not ISIS. ISIS are vexing bugs and maggots who could be stopped - as I noted in earlier posts - with sarin nerve gas delivered in the right amounts as they swarm in their trucks and tanks across the desert. They are nothing but human refuse.

CO2, global warming, is another matter - as Naomi Klein, author of This Changes Everything: Capitalism Vs. Climate Change argued this morning.   Basically, as Klein told Scarborough & Company, capitalism is unable to affect or alter  the course of climate change due to its dependence on fossil fuels and need for continuous growth. Also,  the time for marginal fixes has expired, thus forcing us to now make radical changes in how we live.

 We simply don't have the luxury of using all the carbon that lies in the Earth. Yet capitalism's never ending growth engine would demand we do so to support the expansion of new markets for exploitation.  The issue, then,  is whether we can avoid the 2 C tipping point, beyond which lies a REAL Hell, an Earthly climate hell.  Enter Bill McKibben. He is the real deal. A climate scientist who does the math to prove his point.  McKibben's mathematical limits have been carefully parsed and worked out: we have roughly 550 gigatons (gT) left of carbon we can extract  and inject anthropogenically into the atmosphere before the first phase of earthly Hell is unleashed. As rising sea waters, hellish temperatures and heat waves, prolonged droughts and dozens of superstorms.

Give a current 30 gT/year deposition rate - and assuming we don't add to it, don't increase its rate - that leaves us roughly  18 years before give or take a fraction, before we end up in a likely runaway greenhouse world. It's a world you don't want to be living in, as Ms. Klein told Scarborough.

But an even more treacherous limit to cross, which will make the ISIS threat look like a kindergarten dustup is 2, 750 gT. Once we cross this, we will usher in the maw of the runaway greenhouse and be on our way to converting the Earth to another Venus. The problem? The energy- and fossil fuel empires that govern most of our economic system don't see it that way. McKibben cites the fact that Exxon's share price, for example, is based on a total carbon deposition of at least 2,800 gT - which also conforms to expectations set by hedge funds, et al including Peabody Global.

Why doesn't any of this make it into people's heads and arouse more fear - and demand for action - say than attacking ISIS? It's because ISIS and its perpetrated evil - like carving a journalist's head off using a specialized knife-  exists in the 'here and now' and their imagery  stirs  the brain's amygdala into instant fear and visceral reaction. Climate change doesn't because the pace and scale of the impending disaster isn't large or near enough to affect enough brains.  For the latter to be the case, we'd need the equivalent of 12,000 F5 tornadoes striking every area of the country almost simultaneously - leaving massive, 'terror' level destruction in the wake.  But, of course, this will not occur. Instead we are faced with gradual disaster creep: glaciers more or less slowly recede and vanish, sea levels more or less slowly rise - and not so fast - unless you're on certain islands like Kiribati, see e.g.

And the Arctic ice more or less slowly melts reducing the reflectivity of Earth's surface and leading to greater absorption of solar radiation and ramped up greenhouse effect.

The net result of the (relative) slow pace, compared to instant images of ISIS beheadings?  The brains of too many go into sleep or tune out mode when they see or hear the words "climate change" or "global warming".  Alternatively, they rationalize being climate change sluggards by the specious appeal to "natural variations" which lets humans off the hook. These disturbing reactions were superbly described by George Marshall in his book, 'Don't Even Think About It: Why Our Brains Are Wired To Ignore Climate Change'.  Once again, the brain enters as the culprit because evolution has tuned it to respond only to immediate threats. We needed this type of brain while hunting or foraging as saber tooth tigers lurked and a quick rustle of leaves might save our lives. The quick reaction to the immediate threat allowed us to continue. But it's a liability now, because we allow the more deadly slow threat to recede while our brains become preoccupied with the lesser human threat of ISIS.

And so, because of this distraction, this preoccupation whereby fear incepted from the  immediate human threat trumps attention to the far greater natural threat, we demand our government launch attacks and raids on ISIS (and its sister terror outfits like Khorosan) even as it pumps out gigatons of deadly carbon each year - speeding us toward a genuine catastrophe.  Alas, we are so entrapped within the immediate fear matrix, most of us can't see how our brains have gamed us, deceived us - or our leaders-  when we ought to be attending more to preventing the 2,750 gT limit from occurring.

But what can be done? A lot! And as usual Europe, especially Germany, is leading the way. This includes a profound push to renewable energy such as wind and solar (Germany now sports the most massive solar energy infrastructure outside of China) and imposing very high carbon taxes on the use of gasoline. (In Switzerland, we found - as we helped pay for Rolf's gas, that one liter of gasoline there costs almost as much as a gallon does here.)  As noted in today's Denver Post (p. 13A) Europe has cut a much bigger proportion of its carbon emissions (13.9 %  vs. 10%) than the U.S. since 2005.  This is mainly because the U.S. pollutes more.

Meanwhile, in the Swiss Alps, we beheld steam trains, powered by steam engines - as opposed to oil-driven trains. An image of one near Rothorn and Brienze,  is shown below:

A Steam driven locomotive plies the tracks toward Rothorn.

As opposed to fossil-fuel, internal combustion engines, Steam engines are external combustion engines  where the working fluid is separate from the combustion products.  The use of these types of engines means that a trip to Rothorn peak, for example, will be much longer (as much as 2 hours from the town of Brienze) but the pollution is minimal.

We need to begin some kind of consistent action to minimize CO2 production, but most importantly - as Naomi Klein notes - we need to regulate capitalism and prevent it from taking us over the runaway Greenhouse tipping point.

The images of ISIS? Yeah, they are scary all right to most normal brains. But no matter what these assholes do it will not be as devastating as what climate change does if we don't wake up and re-direct our brains' priorities!

See also: