Friday, December 30, 2016

More research suggests that the source of our calories does matter: to much sugar leads to Type 2 diabetes even in normal-weight people

The Huffington Post has come out with a new position on diet and heart attacks in a column by Mark Hyman, “Eggs don’t cause heart attacks – sugar does”, link   Oops, I see this article goes back to February 2014.  But it’s gotten a lot of attention on Facebook recently, even (or especially) in the doomsday prepper community.
It’s a lot easier to believe that all calories are the same.  Yet some people seem to do well on the Atkins diet.  And there is a lot of literature around saying that not only refined sugar, but lots of additives in processed foods contribute to obesity, Type 2 diabetes, and blood vessel inflammation leading to heart disease.  All of these things help create the coronary artery disease (starting with inflammation) that led to the cardiac arrest of Carrie Fisher and her mother’s stroke.  
You can also peruse this article from November 2016 in FEE by Annie Holmquist, “Why kids should learn to cook Thanksgiving Dinner”. 

Here’s a short film from Journeyman Pictures, “How Sugary Foods Are Making Us Fat”., from Australia, narrated by Mary Anne Demasi.  

A professor explains how fructose, in particular, encourages internal fat to build up and causes the body to need more insulin, gradually leading to type 2 diabetes (and insulin resistance).  Even slender people can be “skinny fat” and some nominally overweight people can have healthy metabolisms.  

The food industry, back in the 80s, promoted sugar as a food additive to make low fat diets taste better (when nutritionists say you use herbs and spices to do this healthfully).  The American Heart Association went along with the food industry for some years, unfortunately.

Now the CDC reports, as we know, that life expectancy in the US is decreasing slightly, and diet is one reason. 

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Trump and Pence could go strong on school vouchers

The Washington Post has a long article by Emma Brown and Mandy McClaren on how Indiana’s school voucher program has fared (with Tom Pence), link here.   The article posits what may happen under Trump.

Even well-off parents get voucher subsidy support to send kids to private schools.  But an ethical question will be whether schools that discriminate against specific populations based on religious convictions should get federal subsidies, indirectly through parents.   Some parochial schools, for example, will fire openly gay teachers.

The article says that some students indeed do much better in private schools.  But in March 2016, the Cato Institute had held a forum which had shown mixed results in student performance, because of regulation, link to the forum video here.

Even the libertarian model encourages support of non-government instruments closely connected to families (parents) and faith models to impose their own standards of "belonging" on students.

FEE has some articles on the issue, such as "the failure of public schooling" here and the relationship between culture and poverty, here.

Some non-parochial private schools also do a very good job or producing outstanding students (for example, Potomac in northern Virginia), and a voucher program could extend the opportunity to low income families.

Sunday, December 25, 2016

Trump can end ACA subsidies that help the poor on day one, but he'd be biting the voters that put him in office

The Washington Post points out this Christmas morning that Donald Trump can quickly cancel ACA subsidies that do help millions of Americans, including his own rural constituency, as explained in a story by Amy Goldstein here.
The somewhat Scrooge-spirited GOP had a court strike own the subsidies as illegal because Congress had not provided a specific appropriation (as required for all spending) from the House.  The Obama administration appealed, and the DC federal circuit put the suspension on hold until the next term. Trump could order dropping the appeal.

In time this could lead to even higher premiums and copays from people who cannot afford it, most of them the people who put Trump in office.  Will Trump make them “great” again?

Friday, December 23, 2016

Washington Post claims Sinclair Broadcasting, a major owner of TV stations, helped Trump; but Sinclair is strong on reporting on security, infrastructure, sustainability issues, including power grid

Paul Fahri, of the Washington Post style section, has an article tonight, “How the nation’s largest owner of TV stations helped Donald Trump’s campaign, link here.

He’s referring to Sinclair Broadcasting in Hunt Valley near Baltimore, MD.  A fair conservative media outlet in a Blue location. I wrote a comment to this article as follows:

“Sinclair has provided a few news stories on possible threats to the electric power grid, from solar storms, cyberterror and EMP. Sinclair affiliate WJLA has run one of them and mentioned a special town hall but did not run it on Aug 1 (It was broadcast from a Fox or Sinclair station in Green Bay, WI and I was able to watch it by streaming). This subject has generally been associated with the "Right", but only Ted Cruz mentioned (one time to Wolf Blitzer) among major presidential candidates. I carried links to the Sinclair stories on one of my own blogs and soon found Trump advertising on my site (Clinton never did). Peter Thiel, from Silicon Valley, and in Trump's court, has sponsored the work of young inventor Taylor Wilson in Nevada, which would mean decentralizing the grid with many more small stations. In fact, I think these ideas need to be taken seriously. The United States needs to make its infrastructure more secure (from both terror and natural threats) and this would logically mean manufacturing more components at home (like transformers) and depending less on imports for critical infrastructure parts. That would, of course, add many jobs, but not for the same people displaced by globalism. Make the grid more secure is also easier with renewable energy sources, or at least with lower cost and simpler sources (natural gas is easier than coal). So if Trump wants to "make America great again" and add domestic high paying jobs, this is definitely a place to look. But it doesn't help people displaced from old industry jobs (who voted for him). Again, power grid security sounds like a "right wing topic" of the doomsday preppers, but it needs to be brought into the mainstream and not be perceived as politicized. Sinclair deserves credit for running stories on this topic, but other major media sources (other than Fox) have tended to play it down. WJLA (the owner station) have soft-pedaled it.
(Continued) “By the way, Sinclair has also reported that some US utilities were infected with malware in 2012 that has not been removed. If Sinclair has been favorable to Trump, so be it -- but Trump ought to take what Sinclair has reported and seek out expert, professional science on this problem - and I fear some of his choices for appointments aren't very objective on problems like this.”

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Lame duck Obama administration promulgates old rule on restoring surface mines to original contour; will Trump strike it down?

Daryl Fear reports (“Last minute rule to make coal industry cleaner met with praise, criticism”) on p. 4 of the Washington Post, Tuesday, December 20, 2016, that the Obama administration has promulgated an old rule that requires surface mine operators to restore land to its original contour after mining is finished.  This could prove challenging in mountainous areas, like in southern West Virginia or eastern Kentucky where “mountaintop removal” has been widely practiced.

I could not find the story on the Washington Post site, but there was an image copy on pressreader this morning, here.

Is this a regulation that Donald Trump will try to repeal on Day One?

Underground coal mine jobs (which are very dangerous to start with) have been phased out as surface mining requires fewer workers.  Furthermore, utilities, following normal free market incentives, are tending to switch to natural gas (the “Pickens Plan”) as cleaner and cheaper.  Trump has talked about bringing back “clean coal”.  Decentralization of the power grid (for national security reasons) is cheaper with renewable forms or possibly even with small underground fission reactors (Taylor Wilson) than with older fuels like coal.  Trump should wake up to this.

Picture: From new Rt 48 on eastern edge of coal country in W Va, W of Moorefield (mine, July), 2016).

Update: Dec, 21

But Obama can make his removal of offshore (Atlantic and Arctic) lands from future federal leases stick, CNBC story

Monday, December 19, 2016

Trump wins the Electoral Vote by a final score of 306-232; protests in every state over the Electoral College issue

I got too busy with movies to go to an electoral college demonstration today, but Trump reached the 270 needed.

Here’s a video of a demonstration in South Carolina.

The CNN story on the final electoral college count (306-232) is here.  Two GOP and four democratic electors refused to vote for their candidates.

There were demonstrations today in every state capital, including Richmond (which had gone for Clinton, but just barely).

WJLA showed the protest in Richmond and indoor footage from the Virginia state senate (when the electors met) tonight but has video from Phoenix on its website in its story here.

The Richmond Times Dispatch has video of the protests in Richmond.

Hillary Clinton won the popular vote by 65,788,583 to 62,955,363 (Snopes) and California alone was able to explain her popular vote victory.

Republicans are still saying that Bill Clinton's accidental meeting on a plane with Loretta Lynn fed into Comey's decision to send a letter to Congress Oct. 28.  My own feeling is that the Democrats are overplaying the Comey and hacking issues, and that the rise in Obamacare premiums contributed heavily to her electoral loss.  But there is also resentment and rage from "ordinary people" who feel left out of globalization. 

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Climate scientists expect surges in personal threats from enemies under Trump

Michael Mann, a professor of atmospheric science at Penn State, has a front page story in the Washington Post Sunday morning, as he anticipates a surge in death threats since the election of Trump.

Mann is author of “The Madhouse Effect: How Climate Change Denial is Threatening our Planet, Destroying our Politics, and Driving Us Crazy,”  from Columbia University Press. 

He sees this as bullying from people who believe they are politically connected and who feel threatened by change, even though that change is necessary for the long term sustainability of our way or life. 
Clean energy and clean technology will probably create more jobs than it displaces, but the people whom it disrupts have some tribal political connection now and cannot easily get back up on their own feet on the short run.

Fareed Zakaria said this morning that the solar industry created twelve times as many jobs in 2016 as the fossil fuels industry -- but not for the same people.  
"Anti-science" is an anti-intellectual attitude associated with tribalism and the need to perceive social effectiveness through old-fashioned connections to others.  

Friday, December 16, 2016

Federal government seems to stiff many insurers over sicker patients under Obamacare

Amy Goldstein has a startling story in the Washington Post, reporting that the federal government has reimbursed health insurance companies only about 2% of the additional expenses incurred for covering claims for people with pre-existing conditions.

It sounds as though companies are getting stiffed, almost as if this were a debt ceiling crisis.  That explains why some major insurers, like United Health Care, are leaving Obamacare exchanges.  It’s hard to see how this is even legal.

That’s one reason why I think Trumps should set up a formal reinsurance company to handle pre-existing conditions, although what counts as pre-existing (if related to “behavior” or “moral hazard”) would be highly politicized.

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Life expectancy, Obamacare and the rural poor -- and Trump

Recently the CDC “came out” with a report showing American life expectancy was decreasing slightly again, primarily because of losses in poor rural (often largely white) communities where job loss and poverty become commensurate with obesity, diabetes, alcohol and drug abuse.  It sounds a bit like Putin’s rural Russia.  Here’s the Vox article by Julia Belluz and Sarah Frostenson, complete with map studies.

Brad Pinkerton and Sarah Kliff interview a women in eastern Kentucky and explain “Why one Obamacare enrollee voted for Trump: ‘I don’t see how they can call it affordable care’”.    It is particularly interesting how people with cancer diagnoses stop follow-up scans (like colonoscopies) or opt not to treat cancers.  Without the social and economic support systems, they feel they are better off if they don’t undergo treatment with side effects but simply live as long as possible without treatment (which with older people sometimes makes real sense).

And here’s an important piece in the American Conservative by Rod Dreher, “Why poor people don’t move”, link.

Thursday, December 08, 2016

In DC, people wait in line overnight just for an affordable housing appointment

Like the warehouse-arts-colony fire in Oakland, CA, and the recent apartment fire (August) in Silver Spring, MS, this story on WJLA demonstrates the problem with affordable housing in the Washington DC area.  People waited in line over 20 hours overnight just to have an opportunity to apply for appointments (maximum of 200) to apply for housing.

It does make me ponder something related, hosting and housing for asylum seekers, which doesn’t seem to be very well developed with any kind of system.  The morality of the issue is complicated by the fact that the persons, here legally after applying for asylum, often aren’t allowed to work or get benefits.  So the Trump crowd says, take care of your own first.  But it doesn’t look like we do that, either.  I’m not aware of any organized pressure to say people should  personally house the homeless, presumably because of the risks involved.

Wednesday, December 07, 2016

Paid family leave approved by Washington DC council, with some controversies

DC Council voted Tuesday December 6 on a bill to give all employees of District of Columbia companies six weeks paid family leave (which apparently covers maternity, paternity, adoption, and care of parents) and two weeks paid sick leave, a total potential of almost two months, for example, for maternity.  The front page Washington Post story by Peter Jamison and Michael Allison Chandler is here  Another story by Buck Nichols is here.

The measure is politically controversial because if will benefit commuters from Virginia and Maryland, who make up 64% of the potential “beneficiaries”.

The measure will be supported by an 0.62% payroll tax on employers.  This could be very hard on small businesses (who actually have to hire employees – I don’t, so there is a “fairness” or “skin in the game” argument already).

I had suggested that it be shared with employees, so that associates understand a “use it or lose it” idea – that the measure encourages having children (in marriage) or adoption.

The measure probably won’t start until 2019.

New Jersey and California require 69% coverage for six weeks for parental leave, and New York will require 67% of pay for 12 weeks (in 2018).

In Europe, some countries pay more for mothers than fathers. Switzerland offers 14 weeks paid maternity leave but no paternity leave France offers 26 weeks for mothers and 14 for fathers.

 Germany offers 52 weeks for mothers and 14 for fathers.  But in the US, to the extent that these laws are likely to pass at all, they may be gender neutral.

Trump wants to pay for family leave with unemployment insurance, but it would have to raise.  It’s unclear whether Trump would support gender neutrality.
Most large tech companies offer gender-neutral parental leave.  I don’t know what Trump’s own businesses do.  That may be up to his grown kids now.

Monday, December 05, 2016

New push to ban high school football (and that means all other tackle football)

I like to emphasize news stories that I witness.  Today, with the house water turned off for sewer maintenance, I went a McDonalds for lunch and overheard a curious conversation.  Someone said, “when you go to the hospital, if they find any tobacco in you, they’ll turn you away.”  I’ve never heard that one before.  Sort of blaming the victim.

There’s a big story on ABC News today about a push to end high school football because of the concussion risk, link here with video. That would pretty much destroy college football (which Malcolm Gladwell wants to ban – July 21, 2013) and the NFL.

True, fans “benefit” from the physical risk-taking of football players.  Look at the most brilliant young men around – whether in Silicon Valley, medicine, chess, or inventing new power systems – none of them have found it useful to play significant contact sports when younger.  (Many of them take up physical fitness and individual sports – just not contact.) Even so, many “politicians” and business leaders (the kind who manipulate people rather than create content and do research) did.  Medicine is somewhere in between – people play football and decide to go into sports medicine.  Coaches say the teamwork and sacrifice build character.  I guess it does.  And it is a certain kind of character that comes at a personal cost.

Friday, December 02, 2016

Is Trump inviting crony capitalism and corporate extortion with his Indiana Carrier plant deal?

Bernie Sanders has an op-ed in the Washington Post noting that Donald Trump’s “deal” with Carrier and United Technologies opens the door to other companies extorting tax credits from the government to agree not to take jobs out of the country. “Carrier just showed corporations how to beat Donald Trump:, link.

Guy Benson expresses a similar sentiment on TownHall, here.

Indiana wants Trump indeed.

But we should also remember, when we buy goods made with overseas "slave" wages, out own karma is hurt.