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HuckleB's Journal
HuckleB's Journal
July 1, 2016

Greenpeaceís Colonialist Ambitions



Why is this happening now given that the activist campaigning has been going on for almost two decades? In recent months NGOs have expanded a myth that Golden Rice does not work, is dangerous and that NGO campaigns are not responsible for the delays in developing the technology. Seeing how NGOs can take a debunked article and turn it into a successful social media campaign (Glyphosate 101), scientists felt the need to speak out.

So how did Greenpeace respond when faced with such a scientific slap on the face? Did they acknowledge the eminence of the scientists and take the evidence the Nobel laureates presented into consideration? Did they express regret for the loss of life from Vitamin A Deficiency? Did they request a meeting or conference to discuss the issue and present their own research on how ecological farming will transform impoverished countries and solve malnutrition?

Come on now! This is Greenpeace: the most arrogant and egotistical assembly of zealots history has ever had the horror to have witnessed! On the day that the Nobel laureates presented their letter, Greenpeace released a scathing response accusing industry of overhyping Golden Rice for global approval, reinforcing the anti-GMO myth that the technology does not work and continued to push their alternative of ecological agriculture (farming with no inputs or technologies whatsoever). The NGO’s four citations were to a biased news article, an undocumented and unattributed hearsay from IRRI and two to their own reports against Golden Rice. Talk about defending their scientific credentials! Greenpeace also retweeted an article in Ecowatch where the head of the Organic Consumers Association, Ronnie Cummins, declared that all of the Nobel Laureates were paid by Monsanto! Argumentum ad Monsantium!

This is classic “Age of Stupid” behaviour. Greenpeace is not engaging in debate with the leading scientific minds. They present neither facts nor evidence but rather attempt to cast doubt and undermine trust. They were responding to their tribe, sayng what their followers wanted to hear and disregarding the rest. But their tribe is getting marginalised: good leaders will continue to abandon the NGO; funding will decline (2015 financial statements showed yet another dramatic increase in fundraising expenses) and the mainstream public will continue to consider Greenpeace as an obstacle to progress and technology.


The list of Greenpeace colonization activities is stunning. Check it out.
June 29, 2016

Brexit and Trump: When Fear Triumphs Over Evidence

The psychology behind why so many people are willing to ignore the experts


Brexit proponent and politician Michael Gove, even made it part of his platform to fight the nerds; “people in this country have had enough of experts.” Because, what do experts know about things, right? Wrong.

In a clearly historic referendum with immediate consequences, 52% of the population voted for Brexit. As the nerds predicted, the currency immediately plunged, the prospect of Scotland leaving the UK became “highly likely,” and many people felt betrayed by their country. Some of those who voted to leave immediately felt “regrexit” about their choice.

So, why should you care? Because our pro-Brexit politicians mirrored Trump's campaign tactics and won. Far beyond the comparatively sensible argument of political sovereignty, Brexit campaigners won with anti-immigration invective, lies, and a misguided attempt to reclaim a past that never was. The press claimed we needed to make Britain great again. That’s not to say that the remain campaign did not try to use the fear as well - particularly the fear of a ruined economy—to try to keep the UK in the EU, but this was not nearly as emotional an appeal as the tactics used by the Brexit camp.

I have already written about the influence of false memories of a glorious past on political voting, but xenophobia and expert shaming are on another level all-together.



June 26, 2016

A history of violence: Evidence grows that gun violence in America is a product of weak gun laws

Evidence is growing that gun violence in America is a product of weak gun laws

"WITH awful, numbing regularity Americans use high-powered, high-capacity firearms to carry out mass shootings. And with awful regularity, efforts to reform America’s gun laws in the wake of such tragedies fail. (Indeed, a recent paper published by the Harvard Business School found that a mass shooting leads to a 75% rise in measures easing gun control in states with Republican-controlled legislatures.) More than 30,000 people die in shootings in America each year; no other rich country suffers anywhere near that level of gun violence.

Opponents of gun control argue that such figures have things backwards. In their view, widespread gun ownership deters crime, and thus benefits society. Advocates of tighter restrictions on gun ownership disagree: they believe the spur to gun crime from the ready availability of weapons far outweighs the deterrent effects. Social scientists have long struggled to adjudicate, since, on the surface at least, the data are ambiguous.

Pro-gun groups point out that rates of gun ownership tend to be highest in rural, sparsely populated states, where crime rates are low. By the same token, over the past two decades, as the number of guns in America has risen sharply, crime rates have fallen. Yet even as the number of guns in America has grown, the share of households with a gun has dropped steadily. Research published in 2000 by Mark Duggan of the University of Chicago concluded that the homicide rate had been falling in tandem with the proportion of households where guns were kept. What’s more, the homicide rate was falling with a lag, suggesting that reduced gun ownership was causing the decline, and was not simply a side-effect of a falling crime rate.

Other studies have reached similar conclusions. An analysis published in 2014, for example, using detailed county-level data assembled by the National Research Council, a government-funded body, suggested that laws that allow people to carry weapons are associated with a substantial rise in the incidence of assaults with a firearm. It also found evidence that such laws might also lead to increases in other crimes, like rape and robbery. A recent survey of 130 studies concluded that strict gun-control laws do indeed reduce deaths caused by firearms.



Interesting analysis.

June 24, 2016

The rise and inevitable fall of Vitamin D


"It’s been difficult to avoid the buzz about vitamin D over the past few years. While it has a long history of use in the medical treatment of osteoporosis, a large number of observational studies have linked low vitamin D levels to a range of illnesses. The hypothesis that there is widespread deficiency in the population has led to interest in measuring vitamin D blood levels. Demand for testing has jumped as many physicians have incorporated testing into routine care. This is not just due to alternative medicine purveyors that promote vitamin D as a panacea. Much of this demand and interest has been driven by health professionals like physicians and pharmacists who have looked at what is often weak, preliminary and sometimes inconclusive data, and concluded that the benefits of vitamin D outweigh the risks. After all, it’s a vitamin, right? How much harm can vitamin D cause?

There’s no lack of research on vitamin D. Unfortunately, much of that research has been observational, which can find interesting correlations, but can’t demonstrate cause and effect. While there have been some high-quality, large prospective trials using vitamin D as a therapy, there are also a huge number of smaller, poor-quality trials, many of which have produced positive results that haven’t been replicated in larger studies. The net effect has been lots of positive press, but some persistent questions that may not be as widely understood. A new paper from Michael Allan and colleagues set out to summarize the evidence base for vitamin D across multiple uses. It was published in the Journal of General and Internal Medicine, and is entitled “Vitamin D: A Narrative Review Examining the Evidence for Ten Beliefs.” And scanning the list, most of the common claims and beliefs are there: osteoporosis, falls, colds and the flu, cancer, etc. As a narrative review, it is important to note that this type of paper has a high risk of bias. The authors do state that they preferentially sought out systematic reviews and meta-analyses (which, when well conducted, can produce very objective information) but when wrapped in a narrative commentary, the risk of bias increases. This doesn’t mean the findings are incorrect, but that the conclusions emerging from a narrative review (compared to a well-conducted systematic review) will be less robust and quantifiable. While the paper is behind a paywall, I will touch on each of the myths and the evidence they cite, because the paper neatly summarizes the overall evidence base for many of the claims made for vitamin D that I and other contributors have discussed in past posts.


#10: No role for routine vitamin D testing

There’s a lack of evidence to demonstrate that routine vitamin D testing is necessary. The Choosing Wisely campaign recommended against routine testing as the results of the test are not likely to change the medical advice you’ll receive, which includes basic lifestyle advice (stop smoking, control your weight, be active, and to focus on getting your vitamin D from food and the sun). Despite the recommendations against testing, it has become widespread: In 2011, US Medicare spent $224 million on vitamin D tests for seniors.

Conclusion: More hype than hope

Despite the correlation of low vitamin D levels with an array of medical conditions, the evidence for supplementation remains unconvincing for most uses. Given the modest benefit, low cost, and relative lack of side effects, vitamin D, when used with calcium, retains a role in the prevention of fractures, along with the possibility it may modestly reduce falls and mortality. As for testing, you might need one if you have osteoporosis, or have any medical condition that affects your ability to obtain or use vitamin D. In the broader population, there’s no clear need for testing at all. This area, like a lot of nutritional research, is plagued with lots of low-quality evidence that is more than likely to steer us in the wrong direction. Until better evidence emerges, taking a cautious approach to vitamin D seems sound. Supplementation at modest doses is safe. If you do decide to supplement, remember that more isn’t better, and keep your dose low enough to avoid potential harms."


The author, a pharmacologist, assesses the state of the science for several claims regarding Vitamin D supplementation.

Good info!

June 24, 2016

Will Scotland and Northern Ireland vote to leave GB and join the EU?

If so, what does that mean for the world economy, if anything?

June 23, 2016

According to this, the GOP did something similar to support off shore drilling in 2008.


"...The aide further noted that Democrats, back in 2008 when they had control of the House, had turned cameras, lights, and microphones off during one similar GOP attempt to push for a vote allowing offshore drilling.


Publicity stunt? Maybe. But at least it's one that's trying to move things in a positive direction for the population. And any GOPer who wasted time on anti-ACA votes the past few years, hasn't got a leg to stand on in regard to publicity stunts.
June 22, 2016

Americans Spend $30 Billion a Year on Alternative Medicine


"Americans seem to believe in alternative medicine, shelling out more than $30 billion in 2012 alone for treatments ranging from acupuncture to homeopathy, federal researchers reported on Wednesday.

They found that 59 million Americans paid for some sort of alternative or complementary treatment in 2012 — an average of $500 per person. That's even though there is little evidence some of these approaches work.

"Substantial numbers of Americans spent billions of dollars out of pocket on these approaches, an indication that users believe enough in the value of these approaches to pay for them," the team at the National Center for Health Statistics reported.

"These expenditures, although a small fraction of total health care spending in the U.S., constitute a substantial part of out-of-pocket health care costs and are comparable to out-of-pocket costs for conventional physician services and prescription drug use."



But, you know, it's no big deal.

June 22, 2016

Mistrust after Tuskegee experiments may have taken years off black menís lives


"The damage from a series of unethical syphilis experiments on Southern black men may have reverberated far beyond the test subjects themselves, a new study has found.

The Tuskegee Syphilis Experiment was a government-run project from 1932 to 1972 in which hundreds of black men in Macon County, Ala., were deprived of a known syphilis treatment so that researchers could observe how the disease progressed. The tests were later widely condemned and President Clinton issued a formal apology for them in 1997. “Tuskegee” has also come to be a stand-in, historians say, for the centuries of abuse that African-Americans have suffered in the medical system.

The syphilis study was known in the medical community, but came into the public spotlight with front-page coverage in 1972 in the New York Times. That same year, the US Public Health Service halted the study. But its legacy carried on, according to a new analysis, which finds that after 1972, black men’s health suffered because they avoided doctors and died earlier than they would have been expected to. The authors claim that the Tuskegee revelation contributed to an eroded trust in doctors.

That finding “adds greater credibility to the conclusion that the Tuskegee Syphilis Study had an impact not only on the men directly involved, but on generations that followed,” said Stephen B. Thomas, director of the Center for Health Equity at the University of Maryland School of Public Health, who has been studying the legacy of Tuskegee since the early ’90s.



June 21, 2016

Getting Slapped Around: An Interview with Dorthe Nors



I spoke with Nors on her final day in the U.S. following the book’s launch. She is warm and confiding and possessed of a Northern European glamour that favors dark sweaters and disdains what most New Yorkers would consider a major and ongoing snowstorm. Throughout the hour we spent together, she drank trucker-strength coffee and held her chin in her hand. She told me about bucking tradition with new forms, the finer points of Danish comedy, and how life finds a way of slashing us all.

After four novels, it’s a short story collection—your first—giving you a breakthrough into the U.S. market. Why do you think that form did it?

Without me realizing it, I found that the short story—this compact, intensive way of writing—suited my voice. The short story isn’t really part of our tradition in Denmark. This is the country of Hans Christian Anderson and Karen Blixen, but for some reason there’s this sense that we don’t want to dirty our hands with the short story. That’s why it’s such a blessing that this is happening for me in America, where there’s such a strong tradition for the form. I feel like I’m presenting my work to a nation without having to explain what I’m doing.

How did you first step outside that tradition and decide to give the short story a try?

I always thought that writing short stories would be too difficult, but I knew this teacher who worked with at-risk teenagers and he asked me to come write a story about his class. So I spent some time with these kids and cooked something up. Afterward, the teacher assembled the entire school to hear me read this story, and when I was done, the kids were actually cheering. They could see themselves in it and they loved it. That experience boosted my confidence.



Nors' "Karate Chop" is incredible.

Her second US book, So Much For That Winter, is released today.

I can't wait!


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