Monday, April 30, 2018

One-third of American households have essentially zero liquid wealth

Market Watch reports a Consumer Financial Protection Board paper maintaining that one third of American households can’t afford food, shelter and medical care and are essentially in the hole. 

The median family net worth in 2017 was about $81000, and that presumes an average household size slightly larger than 2.5 people. So the per person average net worth would be about $35000, including minor children.

The report expands to a full dashboard, “The State of the American Wallet”.

But the tendency of the past three or four decades, with the increase in technology and the reduction in family size, has been a “winner take all” economy.
This was shared by conservatives on Facebook, and one person commented that “charity begins in the home.”

Saturday, April 28, 2018

Bill Gates warns about global avian influenza pandemics likely to happen

Bill Gates has raised the issue of global pandemics, and of the Trump administration’s lackadaisical approach to filling positions in the CDC, as in this story Saturday by Lena H. Sun, link

The biggest threat would be avian influenza, especially H7N9, which could kill 33 million people around the world in six months.  In China, it has killed 40% of the people it in infects.  The main danger is that it become possible to spread directly person to person rather than animal to person.

Gates wants the US to accelerate the development of a global universal flu vaccine, which has a different strategy block chemical processes in all influenzas.   A universal vaccine could have lessened the impact of H3N2 this past winter. 
Gates also believes that bioterror is one of the more likely forms of global terrorism.
The rapid increase in antibiotic resistant super bacteria could upend hospital and surgical sanitation protocols. Expect CNN’s Sanjay Gupta to say more about this soon.

Thursday, April 26, 2018

Mainstream business news sites are getting more concerned about enemy EMP strike possibilities

While Trump and Moon keep working toward talks with Kim Jong Un, and given the appearance of conciliation by North Korea over the nuclear issue, a mainstream (only mildly conservative) site Bloomberg has picked up on the grave public safety threat (to say the least) were an enemy actually able to detonate a nuclear weapon at high altitude over the US.

The story by James Stavridle is titled “North Korea’sSecret Weapon: Electromagnetic Storm”. The byline is “A couple of nukes detonated at high altitude could be like thousands of lightning strikes hitting every home and business in the U.S.”
The article explains the difference between E1 and E3.  The former fries electronics;  the later can overload the power grid.  E3 would normally require a thermonuclear device, but is simulated by a severe solar storm with coronal mass ejection. The article is appropriately skeptical of scenarios like the novel “One Second After” (books July 20, 2012). 

The article encourages strengthening defenses of the power grid and of data centers (which I think is happening as some server farms seem to be installing shield around their buldings) and of strengthening NORAD and missile defense, which Vladimir Putin tried to belittle recently with his announcement of a super missile that can evade everything.
Friends actually asked me yesterday what I knew about data center defenses.  Tech may well be properly concerned.  This problem needs systematic reporting and fact checking by the mainstream media, not just conservative and “prepper” sites.

AOL has a detailed article and picture show about missile defense in Alaska here

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Increased attention to pancreatic cancer, soon to be #2 in cancer deaths

While Jack Andraka’s Twitter account shows promising work from Stanford on using nanobots and new tests for early detection and treatment of pancreatic cancer, Scientific American seems to throw cold water on all of this with an article in the April 2018 issue, p. 24, Claudia Wallis writes “Why a lethal cancer is on the rise”.  And a of lot of it is related to past smoking, obesity, and Type 2 diabetes. She writes that pancreatic cancer will soon be the number 2 cause of cancer deaths.

But on p. 34 there is an article by Jeffrey Townsend “The Cancer Tree”, tracing how early the neoplastic mutations can occur in a pre-cancer cell’s life.  
Video above: Steve Jobs had a very different kind of cancer.  The video mentions biomarker CA 19-9, also CEA. Ruth Bade Ginsburg had a small pancreatic tumor removed. 

Picture: kayaking stream near Bryson City, NC and the "Road to Nowhere". 

Monday, April 16, 2018

Most whites are socially unaware of "intersectionality" in their own "ranks"; Starbucks incident in Philly; NPR on self-defense

I saw this op-ed by George Yancy of Emory University in Atlanta,. “Should I Give Up on White People?” in the New York Times. And, yes, I remember the film "Dear White People."

The tone of the hate mail is rather shocking, as is the tone of what gets put online (and hopefully more likely to be taken down by moderators today).  I just never see this in my own circles.
And that may be some of the problem.  Within the European-ancestry community (to call it that), there are a lot of bubbles.  We are simply often socially indifferent to others we come across and don’t communicate at all, and then are shocked at the behavior we see online.  And we are shocked that enemies (like the Russians) could leverage this elite indifference and aloofness to create enormous and prospectively unexpected political consequences in the US. 
So, I attend a group called Better Angels.  Then I get emails asking if I can recruit people to more seminars.  And I see that is part of the problem.  I don’t have enough direct social influence myself to recruit people into anything.  I thought that the “mind your own business” approach was a good thing, and it usually is what is expected in my circles.  So a lot of cross-cultural communication never happens.
Here's an account of the Starbucks "loitering" arrest of two black men in Philadelphia, where the white people say they wait for friends all the time.  I wasn't far from there for a cybersecurity meeting in late March (picture above -- may not be the same Starbucks). ;   

Now let's also look at a New York Times editorial Sunday on a "black tax" on housing, feeding into the narrative of how hucksters sold subprime mortgages in the Bush years especially to minorities. But during this time there was a culture of pushy and aggressive salesmanship that was quite shocking to me when I was in the job market as a senior -- and it feeds into Trump's behavior today. 
I’ll also pass along an NPR story questioning 2nd Amendment advocate claims that people really use guns for self-defense, here. 

Friday, April 13, 2018

Science fair winner and Stanford student Jack Andraka will study the anthropology of Ebola in Sierra Leone

Jack Andraka’s current work at Sanford is described on this website about the 2018 Truman Scholars (his entry is third on the list). 
The article seems to imply that Jack will visit Sierra Leone this summer as he studies the relationship between the anthropology of the native people and the 2014 Ebola outbreak, which led to some edgy situations in the US when some doctors returned and later contracted Ebola and had to be treated in intensive care in places like Emory (CDC) in Atlanta, or NIH in Bethesda. 
Apparently an effective vaccine against Ebola has existed since 2016, according to Wikipedia

Thursday, April 12, 2018

David Hogg, turning 18, challenges Paul Ryan to bring gun control to a vote, since Ryan has "nothing to lose" now

David Hogg announced his eighteenth birthday on Twitter in the wee hours of this morning (Aries) with multiple videos, but moreover he challenged Speaker Paul Ryan to allow a vote on a gun control bill (most of all, some AR15 and bump stocks bans) since Ryan is not going to run for his seat in the 2018 midterm election.  That is, Ryan has nothing “to lose”.

Here is Hogg’s best tweetstorm reference .

In the meantime, the alt-right maintains a “Hoggwatch” website of conspiracy theories, as if a teenager could come along, displace Trump (“President Poopiepants” on Facebook) from the White House and take away everyone’s guns.  The paranoia on the lunatic fringe is that silly.
Hogg could legally be president on April 12, 2035.  Wikipedia needs to be updated.

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Huge local carbon dioxide release near Australia may be part of climate feedback look.

Here’s a disturbing story about a large release of carbon dioxide from a particular seagrass off northwest Australia.  It has not been widely noticed.  We're all too sinful. 
The release comes from the death of a lot of sea plants in 2010 and 2011 after the water was much warmer than usual, which can set off a feedback loop and vicious cycle.

Yet the biggest concerns have been about releases from the permafrost.
Ironically, warmer weather at the North Pole has pushed colder air to the south, meaning unusually cold and snowy early spring in the northeast US.

Monday, April 09, 2018

Trump's tariffs, and DACA "bargaining refusal" can make individuals into Trump's own "losers"

I’m just back from a weekend trip, some of it off the grid, and I’ll be all braced for Zuck’s testimony tomorrow.

In the meantime:  It strikes me as totally wrong to tie giving (former) DACA recipients or Dreamers legal protection to “Build that Wall” to mollify an unintellectual power base.  These young adults did nothing wrong themselves;  their parents brought them here.  Of course, that’s individualism in my part (rejecting familial tribalism).  Congress should fix the DACA policies and make them acceptable from a security perspective without bargaining away the lives of people who made no bad choices.  Congress should also figure out the best border policy, whether it is building a Wall in spots, or using troops, or more surveillance, or rethinking the standards for asylum. 

Likewise, with his tariff policy, Trump is playing off one part of his base against another’s.  Many of the agricultural sectors hurt by the tariffs were Trump supporters and part of his base.
On Saturday, I had a conversation with a convenience store attendant in North Carolina, who said she had supported Trump and made no apologies if that “offended me”.   I thought about a line from “Call Me by Your Name”.  She had no concept of how the tariffs would affect the agricultural sectors of her own county.  OK, some of it is tobacco, which I am not a friend of, but that isn’t the point.

When the government picks winners and losers, it’s all to easy for anyone to become a loser.

To be expanded upon. 

Wednesday, April 04, 2018

"Nightmare" superbugs challenge hospital sanitation, and probably management of HIV

A variety of new “nightmare” superbugs are being described now, as increasingly found in hospitals and nursing homes.
They are resistant to all known antibiotics and can swap genes that increase resistance.  But they seem to live in the bodies of healthy people without symptoms (in nose and throat, in the gut, or even on skin) because healthy people, if not taking other medications, usually have harmless bacteria in their bodies that the dangerous bugs have to compete with.  Healthy people may become immune naturally (without antibiotics) to the bacteria, but in some cases be able to spread them.  (You tend to become immune to your own germs.)
NBC New has a typical story here

People with HIV would be susceptible to such bacteria -- yet I haven't heard much about this in conjunction with HIV.  We will probably hear more;  some of these bacteria are intracellular and behave somewhat like opportunistic infections. 
These would seem to require extraordinary sanitation in hospitals and nursing homes. 
In 2004, I had an unusual gum infection resulting in a granuloma and eventual loss of lower teeth.  There was extreme swelling, which resolved with clindamycin. The infection did not return because I would have become immune to the anaeronic germ. 

Sunday, April 01, 2018

Trump's tweet "severe thunderstorm" Easter Sunday puts Dreamers in danger of poverty

President Trump’s tweet storm Easter Sunday morning, saying suddenly “no deal on DACA” (after demanding one) seems motivated by the “caravan” moving through Central America, possibly intending to enter the US illegally and then seek asylum (defensively, from detention). Fox News seems to have wakened the president with this Buzzfeed story

So the Post reports that Trump has put the future of Dreamers in doubt in the millions.  

Of course, the previous orders are under litigation in the Ninth Circuit, but no new applications were being accepted.

The prospect for all of this is the possibility of dreamers who cannot work and will have to be supported by others, as the case already with some asylum seekers.  And there may be a huge increase of asylees in detention, possibly trying to be paroled out.

And, no, it’s probably not legal for Trump to try to make the military pay for the wall.