Monday, March 31, 2014

Losing in the Stock Market? Blame the Flash Traders for Wall Street Being RIGGED!

High frequency traders plan their next move - to see the 'buy' orders of millions a fraction of a second before they can be placed.

Author Michael Lewis ('Flash Boys') described in detail this morning (CBS Early Show) how flash traders- using the high frequency trading (HFT) gambit are able to see milliseconds ahead of your buy orders to get there before you can, buy the stock and raise the price - so you don't come out as far ahead as you thought. Also, the same applies to sell orders. They can get there first, and you get much less than you originally thought you would.

Lewis, who originally appeared on '60 Minutes' last night, emphasized the flash traders often trade on fractional share values but these pile up. Billions can be made off the backs of poor ordinary suckers, who trust that when they place buy or sell orders no shenanigans or secret advantages are afoot. But alas, this isn't the case. It only takes a tiny fraction of a second of flash trader advantage for them to see slightly ahead - to what you're intention is - and doing it before you do.

Incredibly, none of this seems to be illegal,  though New York AG Eric Schneiderman said this morning (on the same Early Show) that:

"There are two things we have to do. One is to investigate the Commodities Futures Trading Organization, and the SEC has to investigate whether there's anything currently illegal and second, we have to inquire whether this requires new laws and reforms to catch up with technology".

Which means that in the meantime the ordinary investor is a sitting duck, at the mercy of these high frequency traders and their flash trade computer algorithms.

Readers may recall HFT first came to light in the May 6, 2010  “flash crash” of over 500 points. This event brutally demonstrated the perils of so –called “flash trading”. Then we first learned of the high speed computers which use special algorithms to detect large buy and sell orders then adjust their trades to take advantage. Since the high speed computers can act in nanoseconds( to either buy or sell) with the flash information, they inevitably get the better of the more conventional (slower) investors. The “flash crash” likely occurred because a number of flash computers processed information too quickly or inaccurately inciting a mass sell off.

What’s the little guy investor to do? Not much, and as I’ve repeatedly stated before, no little guys belong in the Wall Street scene, especially if they have lots of money (say in 401ks or IRAs) they are depending on for retirement. The reason is not just flash trading but many other gimmicks, including market timing, mutual fund or stock hyping, and misrepresentations, e.g. of "5 year annualized returns".

For example, the 5 -year annualized return (without dividends) at the end of 2012 showed negative 0.6 percent. But at the end of 2013 it showed 15.4 percent, and you'd have been kicking yourself for not being in the market. But hold strain! The reason for the difference is that for the latter 5- year stats the dismal 2008 stats were entirely wiped off the books from the standpoint of the "five year return", especially the S&P 38.5 percent drop without dividends.

How influential is flash or high frequency trading? According to The Wall Street Journal (‘Fast Traders Face Off with Big Investors over ‘Gaming’, June 30, 2010, p. C1) it accounted for two-thirds of total stock market volume. All other things being equal, that meant unless one had access to a flash trade system or algorithm himself, he had a 2 in 3 chance of being victimized by flash trades, if even peripherally. Today, some four years later, that HFT volume exceeds  90% and the little guy is in a perilous position unless he also has access to such trades. In most cases, as AG Schneiderman observes, it is large institutional investors who use them to gain advantage for their members.

Let’s look at one example of how HFT works. Say a flash trade system or firm, using its high frequency computer, detects a large buy order for a stock listed initially at $20 a share. Then - with milliseconds advantage - the flash trade firm will immediately begin scarfing up the stock – driving up the share price – say to $25 or $30 a share or more before you can buy it. The large (institutional) investors then buy it at the lower price, and the flash firm makes a killing,  while the ordinary  "Joe Schmoe"  loses out, paying more.

Bear in mind here 401ks are typically invested in mutual funds comprised of a body of stocks, maybe ten or so. The flash traders’ capability with their high speed system is such that it can control the numbers for all the stocks of a particular fund, though true, there are some funds (e.g. Vanguard Group) which offset some of the effects by systematically lowering trading costs. This is often done by narrowing the spread between what investors pay to buy and sell shares.

Other funds don’t fare as well since the flash traders’ systems “front run” them. Thus, a stock’s orders (or many stocks in a fund) get “picked off” by the flash traders’ computers that detect the orders, then adjust to benefit. This may well be why mutual funds are being decimated as reported in MONEY magazine ('Mutual Funds Gone Down the Drain', March, p. 19).  According to the piece, citing a Morningstar report: "of all the traditional funds operating a decade ago, 4 in 10 shut down before 2014."

Why should you care? As the article notes:

"Even though you can cash out, costs rise and performance falls as the end nears."

This is all the more reason flash trading needs to be brought under control. Readers who seek to lean more should get hold of Michael Lewis' book, 'Flash Boys'.

Vaginas withTeeth: Operating At the Interface Between Human Myth and Reality

Warning: Do not read if you suffer from castration anxiety!

What is the threshold for separating a  myth or legend say that “leprechauns exist”, or Bigfoot, from fact?  Historically, it has been the presentation of at least one concrete piece of evidence – or member of the fabled set - such that the one exception disproves the (fictional claim) rule.  Thus, the duck-billed platypus was once regarded as 'myth' until one was actually identified. Similarly,  if I can present one Leprechaun I can squelch the claim they are a “myth” or “fable”.  The fact that no one has been able to do so indicates that in all probability they are and will remain an Irish fable. Same thing with the tooth fairy and undoubtedly the Loch Ness monster, Bigfoot, and the “rock apes” that were a favorite Florida myth in the 1950s- 60s.

Now, what about the legend of 'vagina dentata' or  vaginas bearing teeth, which undoubtedly comprise the worst form of nightmare for most males.

The 2007 horror- comedy flick ‘Teeth’ – which is more like a slasher  movie- featured a teen female character (‘Dawn O’Keefe’) with the condition known as ‘vagina dentata” or teeth in the vagina. While it’s played partly for laughs, it’s also got lots of horrors – i.e. when certain aggressive males trespass on Dawn’s private property and pay the ultimate price, including one unfortunate whose dog  (a Rotweiler) eats his severed tool after Dawn lures him into bed in a vendetta move and her “property” reacts in a truly vicious manner.

Anyone – especially male- after watching this film might wonder if there’s any chance actual females could be walking around in such a condition.  (An IFC site observed that most males viewing it at the 2007 Sundance Film Festival squirmed numerous times during the showing.)  Of course, we know the initial reaction of most sites and sources will be to dismiss it all as “ancient myth” – most likely to calm fretful males who – as Freud noted- seem to innately harbor such fantasies at subconscious levels.

One site (  blathers:

A classic Body Horror, the Vagina Dentata is a folk myth of toothed female genitalia, which occurs in many cultures worldwide, from Maori to Native American. It is suspected that the concept originally came into play as part of a Scare 'Em Straight cautionary tale, warning of the dangers of sex with strange women, but the surreality of the image, and the castration anxiety it evokes, has made it a hallmark of psychoanalytic painters and writers. Currently, many anti-rape female condoms work along the same principle.”

Perhaps, but maybe it’s not all myth after all.

 Another site:

makes reference to “a dermoid cyst, or cystic teratoma, which has formed inside an ovary” 

 And the writer acknowledges:

 “One of the biggest surprises I encountered during my visit to the collections (the University College London Pathology Collections which comprise over 6,000 specimens dating back to around 1850), was the revelation that the female reproductive anatomy can, and occasionally does, grow teeth.”

Meanwhile, an ardent MSNBC contributor, Brian Alexander, dismisses the whole notion as a “sexual myth”, e.g.


The idea of a vagina with teeth dates as far back as Greek mythology and is rooted in the idea that the female body has hidden, dangerous secrets and that a man who has sex with a woman may risk castration.”

But he goes on to waffle as a wordsmith:

 "While largely the stuff of fiction, such as the 2007 movie "Teeth," at least one real-life case has been documented. In 1989, The American Journal of Forensic Medicine and Pathology reported a benign embroid tumor containing teeth growing in the wall of a woman's vagina:”
The problem here is Alexander’s general portrayal of the condition as “largely the stuff of fiction” – because if there exists one single validated case, it’s no longer myth or “fiction”. One exception disproves the claim of “fiction” or even “largely the stuff of fiction”  as surely as if I found one single leprechaun it would annihilate the general claim that “Leprechauns are largely the stuff of fiction”. They either are, or they aren’t. There’s no “largely” about it. (Of course, the purist - or dentist - may argue that these 'dentata' are not actual teeth as they lack enamel , dentine etc. My point is that if the growths or hard cysts mimic the action of teeth - including causing harm - then why split hairs? After all, the hardness often approaches that of dentine.)
Reinforcing this is the case of a UK woman (Sarah Chateris) whose experience and condition was noted on Youtube, including a detailed explanation by her physician as well as images of the surgically removed teeth (to enable her to finally marry after being celibate for years). See e,g.

In this intriguing video the statistic is cited of roughly 1 in every 12 million women suffering from this condition (4 in the UK) – which is not as vanishingly small  a number as the myth- proponents might have you believe.

In his segment of the interview, a medical specialist points out that despite being “unable to remove two additional teeth deep in the cervix” , she was able to progress to marriage and engage in sexual relations by using a dental dam. Even so, hubby had several encounters with those teeth which he said in their dual interview inflicted “no major damage”.
This gives hope to all the women on the planet who are afflicted with the condition and who may be as the population increases. Above all, it enables them to talk about the condition and get help – having finally put to rest the trope that “it’s only a myth”.   And even if, technically, the dentata aren't actual teeth, they approach sufficiently closely to the appearance and hardness of teeth (see video) that the condition ought not be dismissed as 'mythical' or an outgrowth of a woman's imagination.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

What Happened to Nate Silver? Why Let A Climate Denier Occupy Space On His Blog?

No, "free speech" isn't the issue!  If a massive terrorist  'dirty' bomb was about to go off - say in Manhattan- we would not applaud those who deliberately gave misinformation, offered denial or other deflections. We'd prosecute them at least for obstruction of justice if not treason. A similar analogy can be invoked for radical climate change denial, now demanding a response  more urgent than ever as we learn (from a leaked IPCC report) that Climate change has already left its mark "on all continents and across the oceans", damaging food crops, spreading disease, and melting glaciers.

According to a UK Guardian Report, e.g.

"Some parts of the world could soon be at a tipping point.  For others, that tipping point has already arrived. "Both warm water coral reef and Arctic ecosystems are already experiencing irreversible regime shifts," the approved version of the report will say."


"The gravest of those risks was to people in low-lying coastal areas and on small islands, because of storm surges, coastal flooding and sea-level rise."

This is already being seen in islands like Barbados, where the increasing sea level is reclaiming ever more prime beach land. It's also at work in South Florida, steadily shrinking beach sand unless it's constantly replaced. But tourists sunning themselves on beaches is the least of our concerns. The biggest is catastrophic climate change leading to the runaway greenhouse effect.

NY Times' columnist Nicholas Kristoff,  several weeks ago, noted a contest he'd held for the "Neglected Topic" winner among his columns. By a large margin it was climate change with one person comparing it to "staring down an asteroid". This is not exaggeration, other in terms of the time scale. If we fail to act decisively and dramatically our species will experience as much devastation as if a Torino scale 9 asteroid had hit. What are we doing about it?  Nothing of substance! Even Kristoff admitted:

"We in the news media manage to cover weather very aggressively but we are reticent on climate."

He adds that the coverage of climate has actually declined in American media since 2007 - according to researchers at the University of Colorado. As this media attention factor has declined, so also have the proportion of Americans who accept global warming is real. Of course, the largest divergence is between Republicans (24% accept it) and Democrats (65%).

Into this milieu, statistics guru Nate Silver has entered with his revived 538 blog, now incorporating a climate science section. Unfortunately, Silver picked exactly the wrong person to be the central contributor - a denier named Roger Pielke Jr. who - truth be told - isn't even a climate scientist.   According to one profile on Wikipedia:

"Pielke Jr. is an American meteorologist with interests in climate variability and climate change",

 Leaving out all the fulsome  bollocks on his assorted "numerical modeling" skills  this is basically what it all comes down to: his meteorological background. As I noted in a Jan. 2012 post on the climate agnotologists,  citing the Jan.-Feb. 2011 issue of The Columbia Journalism Review,  most meteorologists have a distorted view on climate change- global warming. They can't help it (as Al Roker also demonstrated a couple weeks ago) it's how they're taught. The Review pointed out the following aberrations in its survey of  members of the American Meteorological Society (AMS) and why most don't buy climate change:

1- Given their familiarity with the defects in their own extended predictions, meteorologists looking at long range climate questions (such as global warming effects) are predisposed to “see a system doomed to terminal unpredictability”.

2- Most skeptic meterologists (like Bob Breck an AMS-certified chief meteorologist at New Orleans WVUE) didn’t properly recognize the limits of their own scientific training – and hence the implausibility of their pronouncing on climate science.

3- Because of (2) the skeptic meteorologists tend to see their own “informed intuition” as the source of some kind of ersatz scientific authority – particularly if the skeptics are also excellent communicators, or fancy themselves so.

Some of the paradoxical statistics that were cited in the article, based on surveys carried out by Emory University Journalism lecturer Kris Wilson, included:

- 29% agreed with Weather Channel mogul John Coleman’s take that global warming was “the greatest scam in history”.

-Only 24% believed that humans were responsible for most of the change over the past half century.

- 50% were certain this wasn’t true and that humans weren’t responsible.

-Only 17% of the opinionated TV weathermen “received a graduate degree, a prerequisite for an academic researcher in any scientific field”.

If nothing else, this ought to forewarn any person who purports to have a blog featuring climate change topics to look before leaping and choosing an obfuscator like Pielke Jr. But don't take my word for it.

As one reviewer of his book  The Climate Fix: What Scientists and Politicians Won't Tell You About Global Warming,  puts it:

"Pielke Jr. is really astonishing in the way he almost completely denies the urgent need to mitigate climate change by greatly lowering global carbon emissions. He does it in a very slick way by masquerading as someone with real and different solutions, when in reality all he proposes is that society do next to nothing about burning fossil fuels.

 He basically brushes aside climate change as if it were a trivial concern. His proposal is to tax carbon at such a low and inconsequential rate that even Exxon Mobile agrees to the tax, and then to use the proceeds to fund more research on alternative energy and other mitigation strategies. That's IT. Well almost.

 He also spends an inordinate amount of time bashing climate scientists (which he is admittedly not) for being human beings and voicing their intense concern for the future of the planet, which their research has shown is in big trouble if we do nothing or little to decrease carbon emissions in the very near future. This book is not worth reading and I regret the time I spent getting through it. If you want to learn about climate change and our options for dealing with its consequences, there are dozens of other books that really address the issue.”

Why didn't Nate Silver know this before hiring the guy for input on his 538 blog? Perhaps he believed Pielke Jr was a climate  "moderate" and he'd be less likely to be criticized if he chose a "middle ground" guy as opposed to say Michael Mann (associated with the specious nonsense called "climategate" see e.g.
The reviewer's  isn't an exceptional take, but conforms with what most serious climate researchers think of Pielke and his work.  Skeptic Science refers to Pielke Jr as a “classic misinformer” and gives examples.
For example, Pielke Jr. claimed:
"Not all glaciers and ice caps are melting. While the Arctic Ice for example has been decreasing, Antarctic ice has not"
I also dispatched this nonsense in my own blog post here:

To see a comprehensive rebuttal by Skeptic Science of many other of Pielke Jr. claims - go to this link:
A recent article on Pielke Jr. perhaps offers some of the most trenchant observations of the guy, such as:
One remarkable feature of Pielke Jr.’s discussion is its shrillness. “Clique,” “coup,” and “plotting” are the kinds of terms usually reserved for organized crime syndicates, terrorist organizations, and other conspiracies against the public good. The repeated use of the word “activist” mobilizes a characteristic trope of right-wing ideologues. The term is typically applied to judges, who like scientists are supposed to be neutral when carrying out their duties, but all too often, on this view, betray their professional responsibilities.

Even someone who is sympathetic to the claim that political considerations sometimes find their way into climate science might shrink from Pielke Jr.’s characterization of climate science as “a fully politicized enterprise.” He makes such institutions as the National Center for Atmospheric Research sound like an outpost of the Democratic National Committee, or perhaps something even worse.

What is most troubling about Pielke Jr.’s account is its lack of balance. As we will see, the politicization of science by a handful of climate change deniers and their patrons is extremely well documented, and continues to be a major obstacle to the United States adopting effective climate policy. Yet in a 26-page chapter on the politicization of science, Pielke Jr. devotes only one paragraph to the behavior of those “opposed to action on climate change.” Their worst offense seems to be “[blowing] out of proportion papers at odds with the views of most other scientists.” If only.

The Jewish Daily Forward meanwhile has this take:

"Trained as a political scientist, Pielke is an ornery, combative smart-aleck who claims to accept the facts of man-made climate change, but spends much of his time debunking new climate research, downplaying the threats and ridiculing scientists who disagree. He expends so much energy belittling climate experts — he recently accused White House science adviser John Holdren of “zombie science” — that he was listed in Foreign Policy’s 2010 Guide to Climate Skeptics. (The rest of his time seems to be spent crying foul when his victims hit back.)"

The Daily Forward goes on to note:

"Critics from columnist Paul Krugman to leading climatologist Michael Mann to liberal bloggers at ThinkProgress and Salon all claim Silver hurt his website’s credibility — fatally, some huffed — by hiring a “climate confusionist” like Pielke"

Actually, Pielke Jr is your standard "agnotologist" - one of a species of right wing types who sow deliberate  doubt to postpone critical action on climate, in favor of economic priority. It's exemplified in this 2012 headline and story in the Wall Street Journal:
 Agnotology, derived from the Greek 'agnosis' - the study of culturally constructed ignorance- is achieved primarily by sowing the teeniest nugget of doubt in whatever claim is made.   Stanford historian of science Robert Proctor has correctly tied it to the trend of skeptic science sown deliberately and for political or economic ends . In other words, the supporters of agnotology - whoever they may be- are all committed to one end: destroying the science to enable economic profit and hence planetary ruin. Proctor also notes these special interests are often paid handsomely to sow immense confusion on the issue.
The concept is simple: sow enough doubt, portray denial as a "logical" counterpoint to acceptance, and you win. The Neoliberal media then presents both sides - and hails it as evidence of their "objectivity".  As Nicholas Krisfoff pointed out this cynical trend is already paying dividends as the media retreats from the issue, and Americans follow as fewer accept it as real. Would they do the same if a mammoth asteroid approached? I doubt it, but then human brains simply don't process slow moving catastrophes in the same way.
The question remains of why Nate Silver would help spread agnotology, and my answer is simple: He himself simply isn't adequately educated on climate change. In many ways it reminds me of SPLC Intelligence Report writer Marilyn Elias, who did a piece on the JFK assassination  (actually on Richard Belzer) for the Winter issue and got it all wrong. Why? Because she let disinformationist Gerald Posner do her thinking for her as opposed to performing her own independent investigation - for example of Jack Ruby's role in the assassination of Oswald.
If Silver has learned his lesson, then all the hullaballo may be worth it. In the meantime, bloggers and scientists need to follow the advice of real climate scientist Michael Mann ('If You See Something, Say Something', Sunday Review, NY Times) as he warns:
"If scientists choose not to engage in the public debate, we leave a vacuum that will be filled by those whose agenda is one of short term self-interest. There is a great cost to society if scientists fail to participate in the larger conversation - if we do not do all we can to ensure the policy debate is informed by an honest assessment of the risks. In fact it would be an abrogation of our responsibility if we remained quiet in the face of such a grave threat."
And as the new IPCC report notes, this is a grave threat indeed. Those like Pielke Jr. drive the impetus to shut us up invoking the nonsense we are "politicizing science" but in reality, when a risk as grave as the runaway greenhouse is around the corner - politics itself is subsumed by science. Since politics' role is first and foremost the disposition of resources via governance, than it redounds on us to ensure science has a predominant role if a scientifically disclosed threat warrants it.
Let us hope Nate Silver has learned from this so he uses more discretion in the future in choosing his fellow  538 bloggers.
 See also:


Saturday, March 29, 2014

Solving the Primary Riddle of Magnetic Reconnection in Solar Flares

A letter in Physics Today (January. p. 8, 'The Search for Magnetic Reconnection in Solar Flares' ) summarized the problem of establishing the theory of  magnetic reconnection associated with solar flares.  Peter Foukal noted that we need a direct observational method, as opposed to mere tantalizing clues. He used as an analogy the nature of sunspots and how a century ago the vortex -like structures (e.g. penumbral whorls)  suggested magnetic fields. However, the actual magnetic field existence wasn't really established until George Ellery Hale used the Zeeman splitting of a spectral line to actually detect spots' magnetic fields. E.g.

Where the left image shows the line-centered sunspot for which the Zeeman effect (right image) is detected and measured. The greater the spectral line splitting the greater the magnitude of the associated magnetic field.

In a similar way, studies of coronal morphology and motions have left solar physicists in a similar position today. There are tantalizing clues for reconnection, but no direct evidence. Foukal cites an earlier article (Physics Today, Sept., 2013) by Johanna Miller that mentions a key signature of reconnection appears to be an intense motional electric field. This would be defined:

E = vB

where v is the plasma velocity, B the magnetic induction, and ℓ  a length element. Foukal notes that "some evidence for such fields has been observed using a relatively simple polarimeter to measure the Stark effect", and that comparison of such observations with the recently developed three dimensional models that Miller describes "might finally enable us to decipher the role of reconnection in solar flares." (The graphic attached shows one such 3-D model for a solar coronal loop with an assumed potential to spawn solar flares via magnetic reconnection).

Key to this is settling, establishing "whether the potential drops expected with reconnection occur across solar structures that produce detectable emission in Stark - affected hydrogen lines."

Make no mistake this would be an enormous advance given that so many current flare parameters, including for energy and power, are more in the way of indirect estimates.

For example, estimation of flare energy from the soft x-ray record is fairly straightforward and entails multiplying the SXR flux (left axis) of the “half-power” points by the time duration (horizontal axis) then by the recorded flare area in square meters.   A segment of such a record is shown below:
No automatic alt text available.
Consider the flare occurring at 04h 30m UT on Nov. 6,  1980 with an estimated half-power point flux of F = 10 -5 W m –2  and a duration t » 3h » 10800s. If the associated Solar Geophysical Data records show it has a flare area of 10 23  m 2    then:

Flare energy » (10 -5 W m –2) (10800s)( 10 23  m 2 )
 »  1.1  x 10 23  J

 The power of the flare is then estimated, by dividing the energy by the time of duration, so:

Power = Energy / time = (1.1  x 10 23  J)/ 10800s

 Flare power » 10 19 W

 Other quantitative estimates are possible but they require that specific models be applied (say for ‘double layers’) or that other ancillary measurements be known (say the magnetic flux, j =  BA, where A is the area of the spot, say, and B the magnetic induction).

  If the electrical resistance R, associated with a pre-flare system is known, then the current I can be estimated and the region assessed for a flare. Thus, if R is known and we know (from basic physics) that:

P =  Io 2 R 

Then the pre-flare current :   Io = [P/ R]1/2

If Io   is then known it is possible to obtain the voltage drop (V(t)) in a double layer (assuming that model applies) since:

 P =  I V(t)

If both V(t) and I are  known, it is feasible to obtain the change in the system’s inductance (dL/dt). Conversely, if we can estimate dL/dt (say using the Spicer (1980) method), and can also estimate I, then we can also estimate the magnitude of the potential drop:

V(t) =  I dL/dt  

For example, say the pre-flare current is estimated to be:  Io »   1.1 x 10 10  A . If  we can also estimate the change in self-inductance, say  dL/dt   »  0.1  H/s then the potential drop would be estimated as:

V(t)  »   1.1 x 10 10  A (0.1  H/s)  »     1.1 x 10 9  V

 Which is a reasonable value though one would like to know its time evolution up the instant of flare eruption.

Clearly, as Foukal indicates, it would be far more satisfactory to be able to obtain a direct measurement of V(t) - say using the Stark effect*.  Fortunately, we may not have too much longer before we can rise above mere estimates of potential drops. Foukal references (ibid.), a "state of the art electrograph installed, for example, on the Advanced Technology Solar Telescope" which could "open the door to a more sensitive study of motional electric fields."  Provided the NASA budget isn't further  cut, this would be a huge boon.

If we can more accurately identify the actual measured (Stark-effect) related locations in coronal loops where flare -associated potential drops occur, we can more confidently predict them - including large, geo-effective flares. Also the type that can cause CMEs or coronal mass ejections. This would have enormous import for our telecommunications, as well as aircraft navigation - which can be disrupted, adversely affected, by large solar flares and particularly those with CMEs.

*See, e.g.

Friday, March 28, 2014

Are Your Vitamins Killing You? Uh....NO!

My wife was somewhat alarmed on receiving what I regard as a predatory marketing email, whose title blared: 'ARE YOUR MULTI-VITAMINS KILLING YOU?'

She asked me what I thought, and I immediately replied: "It's total recycled horse manure from another shyster out to make a quick buck! In fact, not taking vitamins is what's leading too many to an early death!"

She accepted that, and continues to take her vitamins, which I believe have helped in making her look ten to fifteen years younger than her actual age. (As everyone who encounters her says.)

Anyway, this absurd email went on to claim:

Jaakko Mursu, a nutritional epidemiologist at the University of Minnesota, recently published a study in the Archives of Internal Medicine showing that women who took multivitamins were 6% more likely to die than those not taking them.

Wow! 6 percent. So how did Mursu et al come up with this figure anyway? The fact is anyone can play games with statistics and show whatever he wants. It reminds me of the old statin claim:

"Statins reduce risk of heart attacks by 33%".

 Later found to have been based on comparing a statin-taking sample of 1,000 with a control group of 1,000 where the first experienced 1 cardiac event, and the latter experienced 2 - hence the drug marketeers stat "wizards" computed (which anyone even without a statistical background can see is wrong):

(2 - 1) /3 x 100% = 1/3 x 100% = 33%

And Voila - a 33% improvement! Which was duly reported by the hobbled, semi-competent corporo-media and which had many people thinking: 'Wow! I need to get statins!"

Not appreciating the actual stats disclosed an insignificant difference. So, one was no more likely to have a cardiac event taking them than not doing so. I suggest the same mumbo jumbo could form the basis of the "6 percent" difference here. Say looking at a population of 1,000 vitamin takers, versus a control group of the same number, with 994 survivors in the first group vs. 1,000 in the second.  Of course, to single out a vitamin (or 2, or 3 or 4)  as the unique cause of death is something no one can prove in any case.

Nevertheless the email blurb went on to say:

According to TIME magazine, scientists have suspected for some time that vitamins and supplements may not be as beneficial to health as previously believed: "In recent years, studies have shown that vitamins such as A, C and E, which were supposed to lower risk of chronic illnesses like heart disease and cancer, didn't provide much benefit.  But many patients kept taking them anyway, and few doctors actively discouraged it...

The problem here is that no serious independent researchers ever made such claims, though megadose Vitamin C was briefly linked to interferon production in the 1980s, but later retracted.  Vitamin A, meanwhile, has always been a vitamin one needs to be wary of, and most vitamin takers are cognizant of its risks in even "low" doses.

The email goes on to claim:

Not only are multivitamins linked to a higher risk of death among a group of 38,000 women, average age 62, who were studied for nearly two decades, but Mursu's team found higher odds of death associated with several other supplements, including: 

  • Vitamin B: 10% higher risk of death, compared with nonusers
  • Folic acid: 15%   
  • Magnesium: 8%
  • Zinc: 8%

None of which is valid. Indeed, vitamin B is uniformly found beneficial by specialist researchers such as John Phillips, e.g.

who've found it essential in combating the drastic loss in nutrients from the presence of glyphosate permeating our food supply via GMOs. Magnesium and B-complex, as he notes, are essential supplements for life extension, as well as warding off Alzheimer's.

The vitamin scare mongers also are uninformed about the loss of phytonutrients over the decades, and the general loss of nutrients even in organic foods or 'wild grown' foods.  Particularly over the past 100 years, we've altered the way we produce food so radically that we've actually removed too many vital nutrients that once, yes, were staples of our ancestors diets. And I should add, was a major reason they've not have had to take vitamins.

Actual RELIABLE studies published (not the bollocks cited by the snake oil salesmen)  only in the last few years show our current produce selection is remarkably devoid of phyto- nutrients. These are the compounds that reduce the risk of cancer, diabetes and cardiovascular disease. The reason? With the advent of Corporate agriculture, we've systematically stripped phyto-nutrients from our diet and replaced crops bearing them with diluted GMO substitutes.

Research on nutrient decline by biochemist Bruce Ames shows the following:

- Over the last 50 years, the amounts of protein, calcium, phosphorus, iron, riboflavin, and vitamin C in conventionally grown fresh fruits and vegetables has declined by 50% or more.

- Wheat grown 100 years ago had twice as much protein as modern versions.

- Most of our agri-food crops, from lettuce, to broccoli, tomatoes, cauliflower, beans, peas, cabbage, etc. are so diluted that one would have to eat two to three times the amount daily to obtain an equal nutrient value to what one had in the 1960s. Thus, to do totally without vitamins, get set to eat four cauliflowers, three whole broccoli heads, eight oranges, five bananas (for potassium), ten tomatoes and three pounds of peas or beans!

In other words, in order to replace the nutrients, vitamins you're not getting you'd have to consume vastly larger quantities of veggies - and to absurd proportions! Who the hell is going to eat ten tomatoes, or three pounds of peas or beans in a day, or drink two gallons of milk? Give me a break! 

Part of the problem also has been corporate PR luring American tongues away from the earlier varieties of plants-crops with the highest amount of phyto-nutrients. A lot of this has to do with the other development, the emergence of fast food especially laden in sugars. The contra-indicator? Some of the best produce bearing highest phyto-nutrient content have bitter tastes!

As one example, take a look at corn.  Today,  we're conditioned to eat (and indeed only find available) the white and yellow varietes, so no blue corn is to be found. The crap we consume today (yellow and white corn) has from 1.54 mg to 70.2 mg of anthocyanins per 100 mg dried corn, compared to 99.5 mg of anthocyanins per milligram of dried corn available from blue corn.

If you're still not convinced, check out greens   . Most people into diet wholesomeness believe spinach is the healthiest food around today, but is it really? In fact, there are only 0.89 mg of anti-oxidants in fresh spinach compared to ordinary dandelion greens (which the Germans use in their salads) which had 6.89 mg anti-oxidants per 100 mg.

Still skeptical, then  look at apples .Most 'Muricans gravitate to a Granny Smith or Red Delicious apple - which contain 205 mg and 108 mg of phyto-nutrients per liter of juice, respectively. But the fact is the Siberian crab apple delivers 4,606 mg of phyto-nutrients per liter. If you really want to stay healthy and do away with vitamins, it's dandelion greens and Siberian crab apples you ought to be consuming - along with blue corn!

But since we aren't eating these things, we're not consuming anywhere near the level of anti-oxidants and phyto-nutrients we need - hence the ongoing need for vitamins.

This brings up the question of why the anti-vitamin lobby and medical-industrial complex is so determined to try to convince people to stop taking them. Well, dismissing the profit motive of the ones who sent Janice the email, which ended up advertising "super foods" - as if such could really exist in our GMO-contaminated, nutrient depleted environment-  there is one plausible reason: a determined effort to reduce life span so too many people aren't around to collect social insurance benefits via Medicare or Social Security. Get most people to stop taking them, scare them into it if you must, and watch the life expectancy of those non-consuming groups diminish, leading them to croak before they can even collect Social Security at 62.

In terms of Medicare, it would relieve thousands of medical practitioners having to be faced with provider cuts completing mounds of paper work for every elder patient. It also removes the social stigma  of refusing to treat older patients, or having to ask them to look for charity clinics because the doc is too busy or miffed to deal with the bureaucracy. Finally, it would relieve them of having to tell a terminal patient 'hasta la vista' because there is nothing more the practitioner (e.g. oncologist) can do to help - so why continue a futile effort?

In other words, if people just croak years younger it saves all that grief.

Oh, and let's not forget the biggest economic tidal wave of all: the coming onslaught from Alzheimer's disease expected to explode in the next twenty years to leave 15 million Americans affected. Most of these will contract the disease after age 70. If people die younger, say at age 60 or 63 from refusing to take vitamins, than a whole lot fewer people will get Alzheimer's and the budget won't be shattered from the costs of care.

Never mind, as John Phillips showed, vitamins can actually help stave off Alzheimer's.

Fortunately, Janice has deleted her "super foods, not vitamins"  email and returned to packing next week's supply of vitamins in her container!