Blog dedicated primarily to randomly selected news items; comments reflecting personal perceptions

Thursday, November 30, 2017

A Puzzling Conundrum on Longevity

"Worldwide, the average life expectancy at birth was 71.5 years (68 years and 4 months for males and 72 years and 8 months for females) over the period 2010–2015 according to United Nations World Population Prospects 2015 Revision,[3] or 69 years (67 years for males and 71.1 years for females) for 2016 according to The World Factbook.[4] According to the 2015 World Health Organization (WHO) data, women on average live longer than men in all major regions and in all individual countries except for Mali and Swaziland.[3]" WikipediaImage result for global map on longevity

From the year 2000 to 2011, the beginning of the 21st Century, vast advances in human mortality took place, as mortality rates in first world countries dropped, seeing averages of several months being added to peoples' lifespans for each of those years. In or around that last year of 2011 some mysterious change occurred and the trend came to a jarring halt. Mysterious because science cannot account for it.

While the United States, Canada, Australia, Japan and Western Europe had realized impressive scales of magnitude in lengthening lifespans, it would have been relatively simple to expect that this would continue upwards giving people fortunate enough to live in those countries ever-lengthening lives, until the unexpected occurred and suddenly something changed. The acceleration plunged and remained static.

In Canada for example, lifespans which had been growing swiftly slowed to 0.4 months a year beyond 2011, representing a fifth of the advances before 2011. A similar shift occurred in the United States and most of Europe, with the United Kingdom and Spain particularly facing a dismal rise. Lifespans for particular age groups in the U.S. and the U.K. diminished since 2011.

And the reason or reasons? No one knows, although there are any number of plausible theories of causation that have been raised. Austerity measures the government of Britain took in the wake of the Great Recession is pointed out as a possible cause there, with cutbacks in health care spending resulting in increased deaths in the population.

The reasons posited in the United States are different; deaths resulting from drug and alcohol poisoning, suicides, chronic liver diseases all have seen a sharp increase since 1999. Especially opioid use is seen as responsible for a mortality rate spike in certain age groups. And then there is the global malaise of obesity rising still in many countries inclusive of the U.S., Canada, the U.K. and Germany.

Obesity did not suddenly rise in 2011; it existed prior to that date yet mortality improvements were seen to continue rising up to 2011. In Spain the mortality improvement statistics sank at a rate more steep than for almost any other country, and its obesity rate remains fairly well unchanged since 2011. Then there is medical advances that served to elongate peoples' life expectancy; the theory there being that those advances have come to a gradual slowdown.

Since the 1950s, there has been a realized two-third drop in early deaths from cardiovascular disease, an improvement in both medical therapies and longevity whose accelerated rate is unlikely to be repeated any time soon. On the other hand there is the potential for cancer death rates to be reduced through a breakthrough, not yet on the horizon.

Japan stands out in this global conundrum; with the lowest mortality rate compared to other advanced nations, it continues to achieve reductions in mortality rates since 2011, standing above and apart from the shift seen in global mortality trends. As for all others, a likely hypothesis is that a root cause exists afflicting much of the glove, since the Great Recession.

And as unlikely as it may seem to some, that root cause has been identified as large gaps between wealthy and indigent in developed countries; the U.S., as an example demonstrates one of the largest margins between its rich and its poor populations in developed countries. It is distinguished by having the lowest life expectancy, while Sweden with the smallest income disparity is less affected than other countries in Europe in mortality trends.

In the United States, in the year 2015, the U.S. experienced a falling life expectancy, the first in decades. While there will continue to be increased deaths resulting from decreased longevity, these countries can anticipate trillions of dollars in savings from the reduced cost of defined benefit pension plans and Social Security systems in North America and Europe.


Labels: , , , , ,

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Hope For Her Future

"I guess I don't know what I was expecting. I expected to get a scan and leave. Cancer was never on my mind."
"The first thing that went through my mind was my son. I have a two-month-old baby. I need to see him grow up. This can't be happening to me."
"I have a lot of motivation. I want to see him grow up. I believe in the power of staying positive and having a positive attitude."
Kayla Bradford, 26, Kanata, Ontario
Kayla and her son Leighton. Wayne Cuddington / Postmedia

"We struggle with advocacy and raising awareness for lung cancer, because it is widely perceived that they deserve it [people diagnosed with lung cancer]. There is a stigma."
"We would argue that it doesn't really matter if you smoked or worked hard to quit smoking or are someone like Kayla who never smoked. If you pass away you will be equally mourned by your family and you are equally deserving of the best treatments."
Dr. Paul Wheatley-Price, oncologist, president, Lung Cancer Canada
Lung cancer's cure rate is nothing to pin your hopes on if you've been diagnosed with that dread disease. Five years following diagnosis, 17 percent of lung cancer patients survive in comparison to 87 percent for those diagnosed with breast cancer, and 95 percent of prostate cancer patients. Certainly, mortality rates would be lower for lung cancer patients if they were diagnosed at an earlier stage of their cancer. The reality is that most patients are diagnosed at the point where their cancer has advanced and many are at Stage 4 by that time; an incurable stage.

This is what happened to Kayla Bradford with her diagnosis. By the time she went to an Ottawa hospital's emergency department, had a brain scan and chest X-ray to try to solve the genesis of that persistent cough, unexplained weight loss and exhaustion two months after she had given birth, the cancer had spread to her brain, her liver and her bones. In an effort to find a solution to this problem of late discovery, a cancer screening pilot project for lung cancer has been initiated in the city she lives in.

Currently limited in access to those considered at high risk, which includes a smoking history, the intention is to evaluate the program and eventually give it wider usage. "The real hope over time is that this [screening] could save thousands of lives", explained Dr. Wheatley-Price. The screening process itself is yet in the development stages, in the hopes that a method will be found dependably safe and sufficiently accurate to enable wider usage, with confidence.

Before Kayla Bradford was given the diagnosis of her condition, a doctor advised that she call someone to the hospital to be with her. That was her first intimation that the diagnosis would be serious. Even then she never dreamed what it might be and the impact it would have on her life. She was advised that the scans had identified spots on her lung and brain which on close scrutiny were identified as advanced lung cancer.

For a young woman who had never smoked, the diagnosis came as an understandable shock.That was ten months ago. Her son is a year old now.

Annually, 20,000 Canadians die as a result of lung cancer, representing more deaths than those caused by breast, colorectal and prostate cancer in combination. However, despite the fact that lung cancer is responsible for over 25 percent of cancer deaths, researchers receive a mere 6 percent of research dollars meant to target specific cancers. A recent survey pointed out that 20 percent of people have less sympathy for lung cancer patients than for those afflicted with other types of cancers.

This, despite that 15 percent of lung cancer patients have never smoked. On the bright side, new treatment options have surfaced, never before available. Kayla Bradford's subtype, ALK-positive lung cancer is a rare form yet several therapies that directly target her cancer are available. Post- diagnosis she had radiation therapy, and then she was prescribed targeted oral therapy, chemotherapy done with. Her reaction to the initial drug made her nauseated and unable to eat. The second type of drug is more readily tolerated by her system and it has been helpful.

The last scan she had undergone showed her tumours to have been diminished in size since using the targeted therapy. Those drugs are costly; $14,000 monthly. She is taking them because the drugs were offered to her on a compassionate basis, cost-free. Just in case she may be required to travel to the United States for further specialized treatment, friends and family have arranged fundraising events along with a GoFundMe campaign at Kayla's Fight Club.

Labels: , , , , ,

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Selecting Statistics : Take Your Pick

"Red regions of the country have higher teen pregnancy rates, more shotgun marriages and lower average ages at marriage and first birth."
"Blue family values bristle at restrictions on sexuality, insistence on marriage or the stigmatization of single parents. Their secret, however, is that they encourage their children to simultaneously combine public tolerance with private discipline, and their children then overwhelmingly choose to raise their own children within two-parent families."
Naomi Cahn and June Carbone, "Red Families v.Blue Families", 2010

"Child marriage is happening at an alarming rate across the United States, but available marriage-license data show more parents, judges and clerks in red states than in blue states seem comfortable with this human-rights abuse."
Fraidy Reiss, founder, Unchained at Last nonprofit

"Individual religious conservatism is positively related to individual divorce risk."
American Journal of Sociology 50-state study

There are always statistics that can be handily selected that will advance preferred theories. It isn't that the statistics are not necessarily reliable in demonstrating the reality of issues, it's that there are often complicating issues within the subject that tend to tilt outcomes in one way or another. Which goes a long way to repeating that the devil is in the details.

Take, for example, political ideologies and how they differ, what their premises are and their values and how they're upheld and what the consequences are. Conservatives, for example can be relied upon to cite their foremost value as being one that upholds the status of the traditional, conventional family: "Family values" has sanctity status; a phrase very familiar to voters in particular, most especially during election times.

In the conventional sense, family values are fairly precise; no premarital sex, children only within the sacrament of marriage, and children raised in two-parent families for optimum outcomes. Despite which, conservative areas reflect high rates of teenage pregnancies, divorce and rates of prostitution, whereas liberal areas, while abstaining from insisting on "family values" because they pride themselves on being more "socially progressive", end up with fewer teen births, divorces and prostitution.

Mississippi, Delaware, West Virginia, Alabama and Arkansas high school students self-reported having had sex in responding to the Youth Risk Behavior Survey of 32 states. Delaware was the only state among them that voted Republican in the last presidential election. Whereas New York, California, Maryland, Nebraska and Connecticut all reported the lowest proportion of high school students who experienced sex encounters, with Nebraska among them having voted Democratic.


In 2015, nine of ten states surveyed with the highest teen birth rates had voted Republican, and nine of the ten states with the lowest teen birth rates had voted Democratic. Liberals boast they are relaxed about strict moral codes while in their personal lives they teach their children the inappropriateness of high school students engaging in sex. On the other hand evangelical students who have sex are unlikelier to use birth control and have a lower rate of abortions.

While averse to pre-marital sex, conservative positions sometimes lead to early marriages, even where the principals are considered to be children. Hundreds of thousands of child marriages take place in the United States. The dozen states ranking with the highest rates of child marriage had all voted Republican in 2015. Divorce too tends to be higher in red states as opposed to blue; Arkansas leading the pack.

A large international survey discovered that Ashley Madison's most numerous group of clients were evangelical Christians. According to a major study from 2013, men in the Houston and Kansas City metro areas were likelier to call on  sex advertisers, while men in San Francisco and Baltimore were less likely to indulge. And then there are Mormons, the ultra-conservative conservatives where Utah stands alone for low teen birthrates, low divorce and low abortion rates.

Utah also has the greatest number of teenagers living at home with their married, biological parents. Interestingly, when Mormonism was founded one of the guiding principles and beliefs was that men were ordained by god to have multiple wives. Due to Federal government pressure, the mainstream Mormon church dropped that major plank in its religion, and now it is the breakaway faction, the Church of Latter-Day Saints that pursues multiple wives in a single marriage with illegal gusto.

Statistical analysis indicates that religious conservatives more commonly divorce in response to early marriages where the partners come from disproportionately poor backgrounds and are poorly educated. It is not, therefore, conservative values themselves that inevitably lead to premarital sex or divorce.

Alfred Gescheidt/Getty Images

Labels: , , , ,

Monday, November 27, 2017

Out of Africa

"The conventional timeline of human evolution and migration continues to crumble in the face of new research."
Gemma Tarlach, science writer, Discover Magazine

"That's just because of the way that the differences can accrue over time between the genetic lineage and the species, right? You're always going to have individuals and populations within a species that go extinct and leave no living descendants."
"So they represent basically lost lineages of people leaving Africa, and their descendants slowly expanding into parts of Europe and Asia, but then for whatever reason, those populations went extinct. And subsequently, somewhere around 40,000 to 70,000 years ago, we have groups of modern humans beginning to leave Africa again, and they're essentially the ancestors of all of us that are of non-African descent."
"The context of that find really challenged people's thinking, but now, 15 years later, it's not as challenging, because we really see this process of dispersal happening again and again for the past two million years."
"So likely Homo Florsiensis represents descendants of some of those earliest dispersals of humans out of Africa, long before even the common ancestors of humans and Neanderthals evolved and left Africa."
"[The signal of Neanderthal in modern non-African human DNA is] rather small, and there have been clear selective sweeps against Neanderthal DNA in our DNA. So what that means is essentially it wasn't really as compatible as any other two populations of modern humans breeding together." 
"The fact that [the Jebel Irhoud bones] date to that [early] time pretty much excludes them as a potential ancestor of anyone living today."
Matthew Tocheri, anthropologist, Canada Research Chair in Human Origins, Lakehead University

"The common myth that we drove them [Neanderthals] to extinction is just that, it's a myth."
"There's no evidence at all in the archaeological or fossil record of modern humans interacting with Neanderthals."
"There is no way to know from what part of that population [in Europe and Asia] the first modern humans did so [left Africa]."
David Begun, paleoanthropologist, University of Toronto
Two views of a composite reconstruction of the earliest known Homo sapiens fossils from Jebel Irhoud (Morocco) based on micro computed tomographic scans of multiple original fossils.
Philipp Gunz, MPI EVA Leipzig

At one time the scientific hypothesis called the multi-regional theory held that modern humanity resulted from an evolutionary process over the space of two million years taking place simultaneously in archaic human populations existing in Africa, Europe and Asia. That theory eventually surrendered to the more probable one that human origin could be traced to its beginnings in East Africa. More recent studies indicate that human and Neanderthal evolution diverged 500,000 years ago, scant Neanderthal DNA remaining in the human genetic code, of less than five percent.

The view that humans of today all share their origins from a small group of East African ancestors resulting in all of humanity essentially stemming from the same family tree and sharing an attractively theorized grandmother named Mitochondrial Eve, was seen as a great anthropological leveller; that we evolved as a single race. That the Caucasus did not produce Caucasians and nor did Asians originate in Asia; we all evolved from the original East African strain of humanity.

And the human record, thanks to new  strides in genetics and fossils along with biomechanics has led paleoanthropologists to believe humans as a species are older than believed to have been the case.

That the human species 'left' Africa on many occasions over the anthropological time record, evolving in different regions at variant rates, not in one fell swoop of an immense migration in a finite period of time. The Neanderthals and the littler-known Denisovans appeared, according to this new agreement between scientists, to have died out on their own, similarly to every other hominin population that once lived, with the exception of Homo sapiens.

The previously-subscribed-to timeline went back to 200,000 years earlier in East Africa when a small population of Homo sapiens, anatomically modern, having descended from an ape became behaviourally 'modern' in the last 100,000 years, colonizing the entirety of Africa, moving to the Middle East, Europe, Asia and in time, North and South America. An increasingly consistent fossil record of manufactured tools and a progression of artwork helped to tell the story of emerging conceptual thought.

The romance of the Great Rift Valley as the cradle of evolutionary humankind was the locus encouraging the shaping of the human mind and body and where the four "Fs" of evolution emerged: fighting, fleeing, feeding and mating. That is, in the popular imagination of paleontologists of the time. What has remained constant, however, while research advances a more accurate understanding of evolution is that origins in Africa remain certain, even though the scope has been recognized as somewhat more complicated.
The Moroccan hillside where anthropologists found the remains.
Shannon McPherron, MPI EVA Leipzig

In June, a discovery reported in Nature initiated a wholesale re-think when bones from a site called Jebel Irhoud in Morocco, thought to represent Neanderthals, were later identified as human when additional bones were unearthed, augmented by an improvement in scientific dating techniques of the sedimentary layer in which they were discovered, shown to be up to 350,000 years in primitive antiquity. The traditional story of evolution underwent a transformation reflecting the presence of anatomically modern Homo sapiens in Morocco dating that far back.

The lead taken from that discovery was that the emergence of humanity was not confined to a certain East African savanna, more in all likelihood the entire continent of Africa, representing a full fifth of the planet's land mass. Most of those human populations, it seems, simply failed to survive. Similar discoveries have been unearthed in Europe with genetic combinations no longer existing in modern humans, indicating a pattern of ancient humans migrating out of Africa and in so doing becoming isolated and in time, extinct, leaving behind a fossil record.

Fossils discovered in Indonesia in 2003 known as Homo Floresiensis represent one example; those discovered in Indonesia overlapping with the fossils of modern humans as little as a few thousand years ago created a conundrum for anthropologists. That they simply failed to survive as a species lends a new air of discovery relating to Neanderthals as well, dispelling the long-held theory that the superior Homo sapiens involved in conquest of a challenger for resources, exterminated Neanderthals.

This is a schematic representation of the evolutionary scenario for mitochondrial and nuclear DNA in archaic and modern humans. Neanderthal mitochondrial DNA recovered in this study suggests an intermediate migration out of Africa before 220,000 years ago.
Credit: Annette Günzel, © Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History

Labels: , , , , ,

Sunday, November 26, 2017

The Least Among Us?

Normal exploratory behaviour -- Troy University
"The neurochemistry [of fish] is so similar [to that of humans] that it's scary."
"[While we tend to consider fish simple organisms] ...there is a lot we don't give fish credit for."
Julian Pittman, biologist, Troy University, Alabama
Depressed fish -- Troy University
"You can tell. Depressed people are withdrawn. The same is true of fish."
"Fish perception and cognitive abilities often match or exceed other vertebrates. Fish have a high degree of behavioral plasticity and compare favorably to humans and other terrestrial vertebrates across a range of intelligence tests.”
"The big issue here is that people don't treat fish the same way as they do other animals. It's complicated, but it boils down to the fact that most people just don't understand them and can't relate to them. If you don't have that connection, you are less likely to feel any empathy."
"Each animal is unique, has an identity and a personality. Each is special [so] animals should be treated with respect, and we have a duty of care towards them that demands that we reduce pain and suffering wherever possible."
"[Give your fish a one-meter tank] with lots of plants and stuff. A goldfish bowl, for example, is the worst possible situation."
Culum Brown, Department of Biological Sciences, Macquarie University, Sydney, Australia

"One of the things we're finding, that fish are naturally curious and seek novel things out."
Victoria Braithwaite, professor of fisheries and biology, Pennsylvania State University
Article Image

It doesn't necessarily take the observational skills of an ichthyologist to be able to discern when fish are lively and interested in what's going on around them, as opposed to behaving in a decidedly unhappy mood, uncharacteristic of healthy fish. Anyone who decides to maintain an aquarium for the pleasure of watching fish in perpetual motion, admiring their grace and beauty can surmise when fish behave in ways that don't reflect the normal that they can be dissatisfied with their lives. And since their lives are circumscribed to the dimensions of the container they're in, the quality of that aqua-centric environment and the stimulants within it can be key.

Now, new research is informing biologists about the brains and habits and emotions that fish, a species of animal that most people would attribute no reactive capacity to despite ample evidence to the contrary -- think, for example of desperate measures fish take to survive capture, struggling against the prospect of death -- that fish do indeed have emotions and react to their environment and in ways amazingly close to resembling how humans themselves perceive and react. The very idea of fish cognition represents a whole new era of animal research.

Dr. Pittman is working on the development of medications in the treatment of depression, and his observations about fish reactions can lead the way to new discoveries that will, in the final analysis, be useful for medical treatment of depression in humans. His observations also, on the other  hand, point out how needful fish too are to avoid boredom and give quality to their lives when they are in particular trapped in an environment shrunk to a size nature never meant for them, and far indeed from their usual habitat.

Fish undergo testing with a protocol named the "novel tank test", and Dr. Pittman so readily identifies their depressive state that it brings a challenge as well as enjoyment to working with them. The tank test represents a zebrafish dropped into a new tank. When five minutes elapses it is discerned to be depressed if it swims in the lower half of the tank, but if it swims instead in the upper portion of the tank, exploring its new environment this is taken to be a reliable indication that the fish is not depressed.

According to Dr. Pittman, the amount of time the fish spends at the bottom of the tank as opposed to the top, indicates the severity of its depression. The zebrafish, in reacting to its new, depressing environment will lose all interest in normal life, including food, toys and exploration, reflecting the very same disinterest that depressed people display in their lives. According to Professor Braithwaite, the issue most responsible for depression is lack of stimulants in their environment.

She studies fish intelligence and preferences. Some fish have been demonstrated to be capable of using tools,while others are able to recognize faces. Dr. Braithwaite speaks of enriching the fish environment with ample plants for nibbling and objects to swim through and around, to decrease stress and increase brain growth. As well, according to Dr. Brown, vigilance with respect to water quality is vital to ensure a stable and oxygen-rich environment.

Tippi’s happy. Edible plants coming soon. (ROBBY BERMAN) From: Big Think

Labels: , , ,

Saturday, November 25, 2017

Go Ahead, Have Another Cup -- Not Too Hot, Though

"Coffee consumption seems generally safe within usual levels of intake, with summary estimates indicating largest risk reduction for vicarious health outcomes at three to four cups a day, and more likely to benefit health than harm."
"Even small individual health effects could be important on a population scale."
"Coffee contains a complex mixture of bioactive compounds with plausible biological mechanisms for benefiting health."
New British research, University of Southampton

"Should doctors recommend drinking coffee to prevent disease? Should people start drinking coffee for health reasons?"
The answer is, 'no'."
Dr. Eliseo Guallar, John Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health
Drinking four cups of coffee each day can be part of a healthy diet in healthy people, new research suggests.
Credit: © dubova / Fotolia

For those addicted to daily caffeine intake, this is sturdily affirmative news from the scientific community that their craving leads to existential awards. A new study published in the British Medical Journal by British researchers has concluded with the observation that consuming coffee has great benefits, that three to four cups taken on a daily basis may result in extending lives. This, following on science giving coffee clearance as a potential carcinogen only if it is habitually consumed piping hot.

Over 200 studies were consulted by the researchers who concluded that a lower risk of death and heart disease results from drinking three to four cups of coffee daily, in comparison to drinking none at all; that any amount of coffee is a positive. A lower risk of cancers such as prostate, endometrial, leukemia, non-melanoma skin cancer and liver cancer was also cited, linked with coffee consumption.

Add to that additional benefits linking coffee as a beverage of choice to non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, cirrhosis, Type 2 diabetes, fractures, Parkinson's and Alzheimer's disease, all diminished in incidence resulting from simply doing what comes naturally for most people; making a beeline for the coffee pot, morning, noon and night. Only pregnant women and women with a raised risk of fracture are cautioned against immoderate coffee consumption.

There are some within the medical community expressing a certain level of skepticism. In that most of the studies in the "umbrella review" undertaken by the British researchers related to observational narration, with a mere 17 involving randomized controlled trials. Cause and effect remain unproven in observational studies. Prompting Dr. Eliseo Guallar to write an editorial caution alongside the study results in the BMJ.

Who adds there is "substantial uncertainty" revolving on the risks of consuming over five cups of coffee daily, that a more "moderate" intake representing no greater than 400 mg of caffeine a day would be prudently preferable.  "Even with these caveats, moderate coffee consumption seems remarkably safe", in the final analysis, agreed Dr. Guallar.

It is generally understood that caffeine has antioxidant effects, with greater intakes daily of dietary antioxidants sourced from coffee than from tea, from fruits or vegetables, according to the researchers. Surprisingly, the team discovered decaffeinated coffee to be associated with a lower risk of death from all causes, along with cardiovascular disease. The greatest risk reduction appeared at two to four cups daily. And a statistically insignificant "marginal" benefit was identified with death from cancer.
Image result

Labels: , ,

Friday, November 24, 2017


"Alcohol is such a big part of our culture in Canada. We're inundated with alcohol marketing that shows us how much fun alcohol is. It's part of most of our celebrations."
"...[But] consumers have a right to know the health risks if they do choose to drink alcohol. If they do choose to drink, they can do so in a safer manner."
Erin Hobin, researcher, Public Health Ontario

"Simply presenting all the negatives all the time, and not the positive, is I'm not sure [sic] terribly helpful."
"You have to have both messages there, because otherwise it comes off as a kind of scare message. You mention the word cancer, and people freak out. And rightfully so."
Jann Westcott, president, Spirits Canada
"Alcohol continues to be a significant factor for violent crime in the Yukon."
"New data from Statistics Canada show that while crime severity in the territory has remained stable from 2015 to 2016, violent crime severity has mounted."
"Dan Cable, a spokesperson for the Yukon Department of Justice, noted in an interview with the Star that 90 per cent of all violent crime lists alcohol as a factor."
"'We have an alcohol problem in the territory,' he said. 'Yukon has one of the highest uses of alcohol, and alcohol is a factor in criminal behaviour'."
"The information comes from Statistics Canada’s annual report on police-reported crime."
"It shows that the Yukon’s crime severity index (CSI) dropped by less than one per cent between 2015 and 2016 – while the violent CSI rose by more than eight per cent."
"The crime rate fell by five percentage points, with 9,118 actual incidents in the territory last year."
"The crime severity index includes all Criminal Code of Canada violations. It tracks changes in crime severity by reflecting the seriousness of individual offences, while the violent CSI focuses on violent violations."
"Other reports show that the Yukon has almost three times the national rate of hospitalizations caused entirely by alcohol. That excludes emergency room visits and accidents resulting from impaired driving."
"As well, the territory had the highest rate of alcohol sales per capita in 2014, and the second-highest percentage of self-reported heavy drinking."
"Last year, there were 366 impaired driving charges in the Yukon and 169 drug violations."
"Yukon RCMP also reported 1,555 violent Criminal Code violations in the territory last year, with assaults accounting for the majority, at 1,019."
Whitehorse Daily Star, Whitehorse, Yukon
In the first experiment of its kind in the world, Yukon introduced warning labels on alcohol bottles this week detailing drinking's cancer risk     Handout

Canadians generally make the assumption that drinking in moderation  is harmless to their health. That assumption rests on the messages that have reached the public through research findings where small amounts of alcohol are seen to be useful in reducing the incidence of heart-health risk. That assurance of moderation and presumed health safety served to convince the public that drinking in moderation is a positive, heart-healthy activity.

Earlier this month though, came the latest medical news from the American Society of Clinical Oncology warning of alcohol consumption dangers, linking alcohol directly with over one in twenty cancers worldwide. Now that's something to think about. And according to researcher Erin Hobin, evidence often cited of health benefits linked to alcohol happens to be "very conflicting", and this appears to be the position of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, along with other like groups.

A survey conducted over the Internet of over two thousand residents of Ontario revealed that most respondents supported the placing of alcohol information labels on liquor bottles. The labels, explaining the size of standard drinks and safe-practise drinking levels appeared to have the support of most people in the general public.

Two diffferent warning labels will be added to alcohol containers in Yukon in the coming months, as part of an ongoing Health Canada study. One label warns of the cancer risk associated with drinking, while the other encourages healthy drinking habits.
Two diffferent warning labels will be added to alcohol containers in Yukon in the coming months, as part of an ongoing Health Canada study. One label warns of the cancer risk associated with drinking, while the other encourages healthy drinking habits. (Government of Yukon)

Labels that warn "alcohol can cause cancer ... including breast and colon cancers". Another that with the use of graphic images recommends that women have no more than two standard drinks daily; men three drinks. Both should set aside two or more non-drinking days weekly to "reduce health risks". While a third label will explain that five ounces of wine, 12 ounces of beer, or 1.5 ounces of spirits represent a standard drink.

Dr. Hobin and a team of researchers put together those labels, and set about at the urging of authorities in the Yukon through the Yukon Liquor Corporation, to hand-affix stickers to thousands of bottles in Whitehorse, as a Canadian first in a type of warning exercise for consumers who may not know how vulnerable they can be when drinking to excess.

Bottles of liquor, wine and allied alcohol in the stores operating in the territory now include these large stickers advising that drinking alcohol has the potential of causing breast and colon caner, offering information on "safe" consumption levels. Two studies launched by Ms. Hobin and colleagues at the University of Victoria led to this initiative whose effect on the public will undergo analysis over the next eight months.

This effort is in lock-step with health groups all over the world attempting to make people aware of alcohol's carcinogenic potential. Korea is unique in having a similar program, though it's labels fail to mention cancers in particular. In the United States there are warning labels on alcohol of a sort; text-only messages in small print addressing known risks of drunk driving and drinking while pregnant.

The labelling runs the risk of irritating some consumers. And the reality is also that many people become inured to the presence of label warnings, and ultimately they have little positive effect. But a study undertaken by Hobin and her colleagues through focus groups held in the Yukon concluded "strong support" for warnings, participants urging that larger ones including pictograms be favoured.

Yukon launches alcohol warning labels linking alcohol and various cancers - a world first! labelling

Labels: , , , , ,

Thursday, November 23, 2017

How (Damningly) Sweet It Is

"The study in question ended for three reasons, none of which involved potential research findings." "The delay overlapped with an organizational restructuring with the Sugar Research Foundation becoming a new entity, the International Sugar Research Foundation."
"[The new paper represents] a collection of speculations and assumptions about events that happened nearly five decades ago [written and funded by] known critics of the sugar industry."
"[The study was halted not as a result of] potential research findings [but rather because it was behind schedule and over budget]."
The Sugar Association, trade group, Washington, D.C.

"Let's say this study had been going the other way and you could have fed these animals massive amounts of sugar and it didn't do anything. I'm sure [the sugar industry] would not have cut off the funding. They would be out there thumping the tub -- 'Look, we fed these rats, like, five gazillion pounds of sugar and it didn't matter'."
"What the sugar industry successively did, is they shifted all of the blame onto fats."
Stanton Glantz, professor, division of cardiology, University of California, San Francisco
A new report reveals how the industry influenced research in the 1960s to deflect concerns about the impact of sugar on health — including pulling the plug on a study it funded.  Karen M. Romanko/Getty Images
A new controversy has erupted over the role of sugar consumption in human health and disease outcomes related to over-consumption. The original study in question, dating back to 1968 and carried into 1970 was known as "Project 259". It appeared to discover that rodents fed a high-sucrose diet contained higher levels of an enzyme in their urine previously associated with bladder cancer in rats, according to the latest analysis of "the sugar papers" whose contents from a cache of internal memos, letters and company reports were discovered by University of California at San Francisco researchers.

The predecessor to the current International Sugar Research Foundation, the Sugar Research Foundation, had enlisted the scholarly service of a researcher to lead a study with laboratory animals and it is this study, initiated in 1968 that appeared to show a link between high sugar consumption and an increase in the test animals' triglyceride levels. Triglycerides are a type of fat circulating in the blood which affect gut bacteria. High triglycerides in humans may increase risk of heart attack and stroke. An enzyme associated with blood cancer was also discovered in the urine of rats fed sugar.

Labels: , , , , ,

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Deliberate Negligence

"He knew he was making nonsterile drugs. Glenn Chin just didn't care."
Assistant U.S. Attorney Amanda Strachan

"The underlying factor is that the company got greedy and overextended and we got sloppy, and something happened,"
"We became a manufacturer overnight. So we were basically trying to have the best of both worlds." "We were going to hurt a patient. We were just thinking hurt a patient. We weren't compounding anymore, we were manufacturing."
Joe Connolly, NECC lab technician

"[It was] a complete investigatory failure on the part of the FDA [U.S. Food and Drug Administration]. The FDA could not determine the route of contamination. That was what their job was."
"Glenn Chin didn't know how to supervise anybody. Glenn Chin was not competent to do that job. Glenn Chin would do anything and everything Barry Cadden told him to do."
"Negligence, even gross culpable negligence, is not enough to support a second-degree murder conviction."
Stephen Weymouth, lawyer 
Barry Cadden, president of the New England Compounding Center, was sentenced to nine years in prison for his role in the deadly outbreak. (Stephan Savoia/AP)
Barry Cadden, president of the New England Compounding Center, was sentenced to nine years in prison for his role in the deadly outbreak. (Stephan Savoia/AP)

When the month-long trial of the owner and the supervisor of the New England Compounding Center in Framingham, Massachusetts concluded, Assistant U.S. Attorney Amanda Strachan gave her summation, then showed the jury photographs of 25 people, victims of contamination in supposedly sterile drugs who succumbed to fungal meningitis, people who lived in Florida, Indiana, Maryland, Michigan, North Carolina, Tennessee and Virginia.

Glenn Chin whose position it was to supervise 20 people at the compounding center, faced a life sentence if he was convicted on a number of charges, including second-degree murder. Glenn Chin was described during trial procedures as the right-hand man of the person who had, with his wife, founded the New England Compounding Center, in 1998. Barry Cadden, that man, also faced trial on the same charges.

In March he was convicted on charges of conspiracy, mail fraud and racketeering, but acquitted on the charge of second-degree murder. He faces nine years in prison. Former NECC employees testified that cleaning logs were falsified, untested drugs shipped without alerting doctors and patients. The facility had a "clean room" where drugs were produced and it was there that deadly mold took hold when cracks in the floor became their breeding ground.

Despite knowing that the drugs the center was shipping off to doctors for use on their patients were compromised, Mr. Chin signed off on contaminated drugs to meet the pressure of client demand for the products produced by NECC. Chin and Cadden did more than cut corners; they made use of expired medication, mislabeled drugs and took to distributing drugs they well knew could be fungus-tainted.

(Cadden hired unqualified staff, ordering employees to cut corners for increased production and profit.
When Chin was hired in 2004, he also had no professional experience in compounding drugs or sterilization, learning everything from Cadden.)

That situation led to an outbreak of fungal meningitis. The disease claimed 76 lives and up to 700 infectious illnesses right across the country. Lawyer Weymouth informed jurors of a 2012 investigation by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration which failed to reveal the source of the contamination. One microbiologist  with the investigating team took swabs of the center's roof and boiler room, but missed samples of the clean room where medications were produced.

The Compounding Center advertised itself to doctors and hospitals as trustworthy, and the best compounding pharmacy in the country. It became such a trusted source of medications it could barely keep pace with the orders country-wide as the compounding pharmacy made and shipped drugs filling orders that hugely profited the center. While in reality some of those drugs were contaminated with a deadly mould.

The center was not the sterile, reliable, trustworthy place its owner claimed it to be. It was plagued by bugs and mice and for a facility that was expected to observe punctilious cleanliness to ensure its products were unfailingly beyond reproach, it was instead, filthy. The jury was informed that Chin had time and again ignored warning signs that the "clean room" had become a source of contamination.

The technicians working there claimed to have been intimidated by their supervisor, Glenn Chin, who followed orders from the owner, Barry Cadden. Sales representatives of the center assured medical centers, doctors and hospitals for years that the compounding center hired registered, trained technicians, and all medication was tested ensuring sterility, then place in quarantine before being shipped off. All these assurances were simply figments of imaginary assurances.

The contaminated injections of medical steroids which lead to an outbreak of fungal meningitis and other infections mostly affected people with back pain for whom the steroids were meant, with the result that 700 people in 20 states became ill in the most serious public health crisis in recent U.S. medical history. According to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 64 people died as a result in 2012, while federal officials raised the total number of deaths to 76.

When the jurors returned with their verdict it was to find the supervisory pharmacist who oversaw the clean room and where he himself formulated the drugs in the mold-contaminated room that spread to the medication, not responsible for the deaths of people who wee injected with those contaminated drugs. They held that prosecutors had failed to prove beyond a doubt that Mr. Chin was responsible.
Glenn Chin, the supervisory pharmacist at the now-closed New England Compounding Center, departs federal court after attending the first day of his trial on Sept. 19. (Steven Senne/AP)
Glenn Chin, the supervisory pharmacist at the now-closed New England Compound Center, departs federal court after attending the first day of his trial on September 19.  Steven Senne/AP

Labels: , ,

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

LGBTQ2 The Inquisition Lives!

Pronoun guidance

"It is hard to imagine that a court would make such a finding [of discrimination]."
"The point of showing the video was to discuss the content of the ideas, and a court would have to balance the rights to non-discrimination with the values of academic freedom and freedom of expression."
Law Professor Brenda Cossman, University of Toronto

"I'm familiar with U.of T professor Dr. Jordan B. Peterson]. I follow him. But can you shield people from those ideas? Am I supposed to comfort them and make sure that they are insulated away from this [controversy over policy guidelines that refusal to refer to an individual by their self-identified personal pronoun]? Like, is that what the point of this [interview] is? Because to me, that is so against what a university is about. So against it. I was not taking sides, I was presenting both arguments."
"...When they [students] leave the university they're going to be exposed to these ideas, so I don't see how I'm doing a disservice to the class by exposing them to ideas that are really out there. And I'm sorry I'm crying. I'm stressed out because this to me is so wrong, so wrong."
"I don't get why I'm being seen as transphobic by virtue, by proxy, of me saying saying, just stating, just exposing people to an idea."
Lindsay Shepherd, teaching assistant, Wilfred Laurier University, Waterloo, Ontario
Dr. Jordan Peterson (left), Lindsay Shepherd (right)  Vice  The head of Wilfrid Laurier University officially apologized to a teaching assistant for a meeting in which she was berated for playing a video clip of controversial professor Jordan Peterson in a classroom.

"So the thing about this is, if you're presenting something like this, you have to think about the kind of teaching climate that you're creating. And this is actually, these arguments are counter to the Canadian Human Rights Code. Even since ... C-16, ever since this passed, it is discriminatory to be targeting someone due to their gender identity or gender expression."
"I understand the position that you're coming from and your positionality, but the reality is that it has created a toxic climate for some of the students, you know...."
"It's more about the effect than the intention. Obviously that wasn't your intention. But, nevertheless, it disturbed students enough...."
Nathan Rambukkana, supervising professor, Wilfred Laurier University

"Um, so gender-based violence, transphobia, in that policy. Causing harm, um, to trans students by, uh, bringing their identity as invalid."
"Their pronouns as invalid - potentially invalid."
Adria Joel, manager of Gendered Violence Prevention and Support, Wilfred Laurier University
Wilfrid Laurier University professors Nathan Rambukkana, left, and Herbert Pimlott, right, reprimanded teaching assistant Lindsay Shepherd for showing a video featuring controversial U of T professor Jordan Peterson without denouncing his views. Wilfrid Laurier University

Well then, is it understood now that society must gird itself punctiliously and take steps to extend their pronoun vocabulary to include ... let's see: "zim", "xe", "thon", "herm", and a galaxy of others, because the simple fact of politically correct life is that these and other pronouns are now required of those among us of patience and goodwill to surrender our conventional use of civil language to denote the presence among us of the aggrieved, the dreadfully wronged victims of yore, demanding their just due.

As respected members of our society, of course. Not so much respected any longer are those who hold out in respect of conventional civility and language to match, language that reflects heritage and culture, not so much dependent on the whims of the entitled who from the depths of their juvenile-arrested minds insist that society turn itself inside-out on their behalf. Which is to say, to mollify their outraged sensibilities that there any any among us so warped and cruel that we would deny them this yet-another victory foisted upon an appeasing public.
University of Toronto psychology professor Jordan Peterson. Tyler Anderson / National Post

And if there is any one single individual who has stepped into the foetid, roiling swamp of blame for upsetting the trans applecart, it can be none other than clinical psychologist and tenured professor of psychology at University of Toronto. Who, in a fit of displeasure at the pressures in the university environment to conform to popular demand that whining gender-confused students be 'respected' by acknowledging that they are not to be insulted through being addressed as 'her', 'him', 'ms' or 'mr', while 'they', bending the plural toward a singular gender-neutral designation is preferred.

By defying the appeasement of these childish demands, Professor Peterson has been identified as a Nazi, no less. He has become notorious, his name and his refusal to bow to the demands of irate transgenders and their myriad of supporters, inclusive of the very-careful-to-accede-to-left-society's championing of LGBTQ2 'rights' against the transgressors who revel in denying them, he has become anathema to right-thinkers, and a champion of the troglodytes who revel in denying trans' "human rights" entitlements.

Clearly, Lindsay Shepherd, a teaching assistant at Wilfrid Laurier University in Waterloo, Ontario, is one of those backward types having brought in a video of an interview taken from a well-known and -watched television show, The Agenda, interviewing Dr. Peterson on the politics of grammar, so virulently controversial. For her students, felt Ms. Shepherd, this was as good a lesson as any on communications, language and the intersection of politics. She presented this lesson neutrally, content to have the students reach their own conclusions. For which sin she was brought  to an interview with university heavies to 'explain herself'.
The Globe and Mail
Several hundred students attend a rally protesting the views of U of T professor Jordan Peterson, who refuses to use non binary pronouns.    Fred Lum/The Globe and Mail
In June the federal Liberal government passed Bill C-16 prohibiting discrimination based on gender identity or expression, an initiative typical of this government that celebrates free speech rights, yet enacted this legislation that restricts free speech. It is a measure undertaken to stifle controversy over addressing trans people in the manner to which they prefer to be addressed, by insisting under the law that this is not a matter of free choice, but mandatory. On the other hand because the bill criminalizes extreme speech, it's hard to see how insulting a trans person by referring to that person as he or she would fall under that category.

Canada's hate-crime laws include inciting to genocide or deliberately inciting to hatred toward an identifiable group in categories inclusive of colour, race, religion, national or ethnic origin, age, sex, sexual orientation and mental or physical disability; fairly exhaustive. Charges can be laid only with the approval of a provincial attorney general. The Ontario Human Rights Commission's policy guideline claims that "refusing to refer to a person by their self-identified name and proper personal pronoun" could be considered gender-based harassment.

But a witch-hunt, an inquisition has been launched and in fact, hatred and blame attached squarely to the reputation of Dr. Peterson, as an enemy of alt-gendered victims of societal discrimination. The lines have been drawn; all those who believe that Dr. Peterson's reaction to an unreasonable demand that societal attitudes and an entire language undergo a change to pacify the demands of a tiny segment of society is reasoned and reasonable, are themselves now charged with unforgivably, criminal phobic behaviour.

Cassandra Williams, a U of T student union member, at a Peterson protest in October. Peterson sparked a storm by declaring he would not use pronouns, such as "they," to recognize non-binary genders.
Cassandra Williams, a U of T student union member, at a Peterson protest in October. Peterson sparked a storm by declaring he would not use pronouns, such as "they," to recognize non-binary genders.  (Vince Talotta)

Labels: , , , , , ,

Monday, November 20, 2017

Chronic Inflammation

"You’re going to have occasional inflammation from minor infections, allergies or injuries. This is normal. And every bump and bruise does not require an anti-inflammatory medication."
"However, you can focus on lifestyle choices that reduce your risk of chronic inflammation — the kind that leads to disease. Many lifestyle factors have been shown to play a part in cellular inflammation: smoking, obesity, chronic stress and drinking alcohol excessively, for example. Fortunately, you can control these factors."
Cleveland Clinic
Image result
Harvard Health

The five major signs of acute inflammation - "PRISH"

  • Pain - the inflamed area is likely to be painful, especially when touched. Chemicals that stimulate nerve endings are released, making the area much more sensitive.
  • Redness - this is because the capillaries are filled up with more blood than usual.
  • Immobility - there may be some loss of function.
  • Swelling - caused by an accumulation of fluid.
  • Heat - more blood in the affected area makes it feel hot to the touch.
These five acute inflammation signs are only relevant when the affected area is on or very close to the skin. When inflammation occurs deep inside the body, such as an internal organ, only some of the signs may be detectable
Medical News Today
When your immune system is continually on alert, what results is systemic inflammation (chronic) a process injurious to long-term health. Leading causes of acute inflammation include a totally unhealthy lifestyle, inclusive of diet, sedentary habits, stress and lack of adequate rejuvenating rest during the night-time hours. Environmental pollutants also have a role to play in chronic inflammatory onset.

In the presence of long-term, untreated chronic inflammation, many chronic diseases can result inclusive of cardiovascular disease, Type 2 diabetes and cancers. Lowering the risk of heart attack and stroke can be effectively achieved by reducing inflammation, and to successfully achieve this, diet and lifestyle alterations must be considered as urgent changes leading to improved health.

There is ample research indicating that a diet focusing on anti-inflammatory foods is capable of diminishing chronic disease risk while promoting gut and brain health, and slowing the pace of skin aging. An anti-inflammatory diet introduced for that very purpose holds the promise of adding quality years to one's life. What is known familiarly as the Mediterranean diet is the optimum model.

Processed foods have no place in an ideal, healthful diet, but whole foods such as are known to be nutritious and wholesome do. Fish eaten at least twice weekly, preferably salmon, sardines, mackerel, anchovies and trout are ideal choices. Nuts and seeds have an anti-inflammatory effect; walnuts and almonds in particular, while olive oil, the choice in a Mediterranean diet, is rated high in  antioxidants.

Leafy greens such as spinach, Swiss chard and kale, along with the cruciferous family of vegetables such as broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage and cauliflower deserve a special place on a healthy dinner plate, along with onions and garlic known as anti-inflammatory powerhouses. And nor should fruit such as berries, cherries and oranges be ignored among fruit choices, with the highest anti-inflammatory effect.

Oats, quinoa and other whole grains are useful in anti-inflammatory diets, as are pulses; beans, peas and lentils, high in fibre and magnesium which aids in reducing inflammation. But the other component of a healthy lifestyle is activity, getting out and taxing your body through physical activity whether it is walking, bicycling, swimming or hiking; some measure of using your muscles not your car to get around adds immeasurably to the health-quality of life.

Image result for photos, healthy diet

Labels: , , , ,

()() Follow @rheytah Tweet