Friday, May 31, 2013

Sex-Trade Feels Economic Downturn In Britain

Human Relations

The Rape of The Sabine Women: An article in Wikipedia writes: “Most, if not all, forms
of forced prostitution may be viewed as a kind of sexual slavery.[27] The terms ‘forced
prostitution’ or ‘enforced prostitution’ appear in international and humanitarian conventions
but have been insufficiently understood and inconsistently applied. ‘Forced prostitution’
generally refers to conditions of control over a person who is coerced by another to
engage in sexual activity.[28] The issue of consent in prostitution is a hotly debated issue.
Opinion in places like Europe has been divided over the question of whether prostitution
itself should be considered as a free choice or as inherently exploitative of women.[29]
The law in Sweden, Norway and Iceland—where it is illegal to pay for sex, but not
to sell sexual services—is based on the notion that all forms of prostitution are inherently
exploitative, opposing the notion that prostitution can be voluntary.[30] In contrast,
prostitution is a recognized profession in countries such as Netherlands and Germany.”

Artist: Nicolas Poussin (1594–1665); between circa 1637 and circa 1638
Source: Wikipedia:

An article in The Economist says that sex-trade workers in Britain are also feeling the pinch of a slowed-down economy. Such is bad news for the world’s oldest profession.

The Economist writes:
TIMES are tough for Debbie, a prostitute in western England who runs a private flat with other “mature ladies”. She does two or three jobs a day. A year ago she was doing eight or nine. She has cut her prices: “If I hadn’t, I wouldn’t still be open.” She says that she can now make more money doing up furniture and attending car-boot sales than she can turning tricks.
George McCoy, who runs a website reviewing over 5,000 massage parlours and individuals, says that many are struggling. Sex workers tell him they have been forced to hold down prices. Like other businesses, massage parlours and private flats are suffering from rising rents and energy costs. Even Mr McCoy’s website is under the cosh: visitor numbers are down by a third.
In part, this reflects the sluggish economy. Overall consumer spending at the end of 2012 was almost 4% lower than its 2007 peak. And Vivienne, an independent escort in the south who works part-time to supplement her income as a photographer, says paying for sex is a luxury: “Food is more important; the mortgage is more important; petrol is more important.” She is offering discounts out of desperation, reckoning it is better to reduce prices by £20 ($30) than to have no customers at all. Another woman says that some punters are just as anxious to talk about the difficult job market as they are to have sex.
The days of being able to make a full-time living out of prostitution are long gone, reckons Vivienne, at least in larger towns and cities. “It’s stupidly competitive right now,” she laments. More people are entering prostitution, agrees Cari Mitchell of the English Collective of Prostitutes. Some working women in Westminster say they have halved their prices because the market has become so saturated. In London, and increasingly elsewhere, immigrants provide strong competition. But Sophie, an expensive escort in Edinburgh, says she is seeing an influx of newbies including students and the recently laid-off, many of them offering more for less.
This is what invariably happens when the economy takes a downward turn; there is more competition as laid-off workers from other sectors of the economy look to other professions where there are little barriers to entry other than a willingness to sell your body for money. And in accordance to the economic laws of supply and demand, the greater supply is pushing prices for tricks downward. Some professions have greater risk for their workers; the sex trade can be a rough trade, which makes it a sad testimony that women are drawn to such ways of life.

Then there are the legal considerations. In  Britain, prostitution is legal; in Canada, things are more murky, where the buying and selling of sexual services between consenting adults is legal, but the public advertising is not. It’s one way that conservative morals override what many consider a profession rife with exploitation, notably of vulnerable young women and men. There is some truth to this argument, where in many poorer nations human trafficking, mainly of young women, is commonly done for the purpose of sexual slavery.

Prostitution is still illegal in the United States, except for Nevada, where it is strictly controlled and regulated. In general, for the rest of the U.S.that means that sex-trade workers also face criminal charges if arrested, says a recent report (“Sex Workers at Risk”; 2012), from Human Rights Watch, on sex workers operating in four major cities in the U.S.
Prostitution—the exchange of sex for money or other consideration—is illegal in 49 states and in all of the cities addressed in this report. Law enforcement agencies in these jurisdictions are charged with enforcing laws, including those relating to prostitution.Enforcement, however, must be compatible with international human rights law and governments should ensure that police policies and practices do not conflict with equally important public health policy imperatives, including those designed to curb the HIV epidemic.
It’s a tricky business, where sex workers have to be always be constantly aware of their personal safety. Such raises ethical and moral questions on whether the sex trade ought to be viewed chiefly through the lens of occupational health and safety instead of criminal activity. Even so, leaving aside this argument for now, there also might be other socio-economic factors at play here, which sees less individuals seeking sex from professionals. In a dampened economy, it just might be that clients have less disposable income for such leisure and recreational activities.

You can read the rest of the article at [The Economist]

Iran Remains On The Wrong Side Of Political Reform

The Iran File

The recent exclusion of two more-moderate voices in the upcoming June elections in Iran is a blow to reform and to the ending of sanctions that have crippled the Iranian economy. The hard-liners will have their way in this election, for now, but at a great cost to the people, who must suffer the blows of an isolationist policy that is eventually bound to fail.

An article, by Thomas Erdbrink, in The New York Times, says as much:
At his first presidential campaign rally, Saeed Jalili on Friday welcomed the cheers of thousands of young men as he hauled himself onto the stage. His movements were hampered by a prosthetic leg, a badge of honor from his days as a young Revolutionary Guards member in Iran’s great trench war with Iraq. “Welcome, living martyr, Jalili,” the audience shouted in unison, most of them too young to have witnessed the bloody conflict themselves but deeply immersed in the national veneration of its veterans. Waving flags belonging to “the resistance” — the military cooperation among Iran, Syria, the Lebanese Shiite group Hezbollah and some Palestinian groups — the crowd roared the candidate’s election slogan: “No compromise. No submission. Only Jalili.”
Mr. Jalili, known as Iran’s unyielding nuclear negotiator and a protégé of the supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, is emerging as the presumed front-runner in Iran’s presidential election on June 14, an unsettling prospect for future relations with the West. Mr. Jalili, 47, who many analysts say has long been groomed for a top position in Iran, is by far the most outspoken hard-liner among the eight candidates approved to participate in the election.
Opposing “détente a hundred percent” and promising no compromise “whatsoever” with the West over matters like Iran’s nuclear program and involvement in Syria, Mr. Jalili seems set to further escalate Iran’s standoff with the United States and its allies if elected president.
“He seems to be Ahmadinejad Phase 2,” said Rasool Nafisi, an Iran expert based in Virginia, referring to Iran’s current president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. “He would probably not be a partner to negotiate for the nuclear issues, as we have seen before when he was heading the delegations.”
An analyst based in Iran, who asked to remain anonymous for fear of reprisals, said Mr. Jalili was “the perfect follower of Khamenei.” “If he gets elected I foresee even more isolation and conflict, as he doesn’t care about foreign relations, the economy or anything,” the analyst said.
But many other Iranians do, seeing disaster in the possible and likely election of  Saeed Jalili, the choice of Iran’s supreme leader. A continuation of anti-western, anti-Israel, anti-negotiation policies will only worsen Iran’s position in the world, despite what its clerical leaders say.

It’s a consolidation of power by political Islam, a final gasp and grasp, and in many ways the elections are a piece of political theatre, similar in many respects to the former Soviet Union, where its citizens voted in elections for the one candidate on the ballot.

You can read the rest of the article at [NYT]

Thursday, May 30, 2013

The Goat From Krakow

Life In Poland

There is in the canon of Jewish humour an old joke about a family living in close quarters with a goat. One family actually tried that, George Jochnowitz writes—his father’s: “Whether or not grazing was possible on Ulica Dietla, an apartment must have been a tough place for humans and a goat to live together. The problem reached its peak when, a day or so after moving to the city, my father left to go to school. I don’t know how old he was, but I think he was about six. The kid wanted to follow him, and jumped through the window, breaking the glass. He landed on the side walk unhurt, since goats are good at living in mountains and jumping from high places. My grandparents fixed the window.”

by George Jochnowitz

When my father was a kid (human), he had a pet kid (goat). The two kids loved each other despite the difference in their species. Then his family moved to the city, to Krakow. My father asked his parents if his pet kid could move with them. My grandparents, surprisingly, agreed. They moved into an apartment house at 49 Ulica Dietla. Their apartment was on what Americans call the second floor and what Europeans call the first floor.

When my father told me about his pet kid, I too was a kid. I didn’t ask how it happened that grownups would agree to share their urban apartment with a goat. Alas, it is too late to ask now. He was born in 1903 and died many years ago, in 1962.

Ulica Dietla could have been a very good place for a goat to graze. It is a very wide street, with a big grassy lane in the center—almost a narrow park. I believe that part of the old city wall of Krakow ran in the place where Ulica Dietla is today. Krakow, once the capital of Poland, was north and west of the wall. South and east of the wall was what used to be an independent city, Kazimierz, named after Kazimierz Wielki, or Casimir the Great, who became king in 1333—the king who invited lots of Jews to move to Poland. Even before that, in 1264, Jews were granted freedom of religion in Poland. Jews were allowed to live in Kazimierz but not in the city proper. Eventually, the area became part of the city and therefore the major Jewish neighborhood in Krakow.

Whether or not grazing was possible on Ulica Dietla, an apartment must have been a tough place for humans and a goat to live together. The problem reached its peak when, a day or so after moving to the city, my father left to go to school. I don’t know how old he was, but I think he was about six. The kid wanted to follow him, and jumped through the window, breaking the glass. He landed on the side walk unhurt, since goats are good at living in mountains and jumping from high places. My grandparents fixed the window.

The next day, the same thing happened. My grandparents decided that they and their children could no longer share their living quarters with a kid who broke the window every day. They sold the kid, who, I would guess, was slaughtered within a day or two.

In 1927, my father moved to New York. Had he remained in Krakow, he too would have been slaughtered, which is what happened to his five siblings who still lived in Poland.

George Jochnowitz was born in New York City, in 1937.  He became aware of different regional pronunciations when he was six, and he could consciously switch accents as a child. He got his Ph.D. in linguistics from Columbia University and taught linguistics at the College of Staten Island, CUNY.  His area of specialization was Jewish languages, in particular, Judeo-Italian dialects.  As part of a faculty-exchange agreement with Hebei University in Baoding, China, he was in China during the Tiananmen Massacre. He can be reached at

Copyright ©2013. George Jochnowitz. All Rights Reserved. This essay originally appeared in And Then, Volume 17, 2013. This post can be found on George Jochnowitz. It is republished here with the permission of the author.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Cancer Drug Viewed As Treatment For Alzheimer’s Disease Doesn't Meet Criteria For Repeatability

Advances in Medicine

An article, by Helen Shen, in Nature News casts doubt that a cancer drug can also effectively treat Alzheimer’s disease.

Shen writes:
Bexarotene, a cancer drug touted as a potential treatment for Alzheimer’s disease, may not be the blockbuster remedy scientists were hoping for, according to several analyses published in Science on 24 May 1–4. Four independent research groups report that they failed to fully replicate striking results published in the journal last year 5 by Gary Landreth, a neuroscientist at Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine in Cleveland, Ohio, and his colleagues.
Landreth's team reported that the drug bexarotene could lower brain concentrations of the β-amyloid protein that has long been suspected as a key contributor to Alzheimer’s disease, and could even reverse cognitive impairments in diseased mice. But the study garnered particular attention for its claim that the drug could clear 50% of amyloid plaques — sticky clumps of the protein thought to interfere with brain function—in as little as 72 hours. “That attracted a lot of folks to try to replicate these studies,” says Philip Wong, a neuroscientist at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland. “No drug at the present moment can do things like that.”
None of the follow-up studies published this week replicated the effects of bexarotene on plaques. Two groups did, however, confirm Landreth’s finding that the drug reduced levels of a soluble, free-floating form of β-amyloid, which can aggregate in plaques 4. Not all of the papers examined memory in mice, but one group led by Radosveta Koldamova, a neuroscientist at the University of Pittsburgh in Pennsylvania, found that bexarotene treatment led to cognitive improvements1.
Such mixed results fail the Scientific Method, which is the foundation of modern science. Although it might be a setback for finding ways to treat Alzheimer’s, a debilitating and cruel disease, it is actually a step toward progress. If you read about scientific breakthroughs that occurred in the past, hard work and determination were the keys to success.

Science, and the advancement of medicine, is often a case of one step forward and two steps back. The best scientists understand this and continue to press forward. As the article says: “As the debate over plaques continues, Koldamova says that the cognitive improvement she and Landreth observed suggests that bexarotene is still very promising. ‘Patients don’t go to the doctor because they have plaques. They go because they have memory decline,’ she says.”

You can read the rest of the article at [Nature]

The Selfish Gene & Human Decision Making

Book Review

Richard Dawkins ‘The Selfish Gene’ (Folio Ed.; 2011)
Photo Credit:  © Perry J. Greenbaum, 2013

The Selfish Gene by Richard Dawkins
Folio Ed., 2011; first published: 1975

The Selfish Gene is one of the most misunderstood scientific books in the modern canon of scientific books about human decision making; the problem might be the title itself, which Richard Dawkins admits in later editions could have be better stated as “The Immortal Gene.” It's too late now, however, since the book originally came out in 1975, and the title is fixed in peoples minds, particularly those who view the book in a negative way as a defence of biological determinism.

This is patently false; the book is not a moral take on humanity; its predominantly a scientific view on genes and genetics and how they view the need to survive, whether in the human body or other bodies, which Dawkins calls survival machines, in such species as animals, insects and plants. The book does enter the long-standing and often-tiring debate on the influences of nature over nurture.

Needless to say, its important to clarify once and for all that no serious and rational scientist would ever say that nurture has no place in human development and decision-making. The differences among scientists from the various fields that research human development is the degree to which each has greater influence. But human beings, by dint of having been imbued with free will, to whatever degree it is mastered or considered as essential, can control the outcome of their lives and the decisions they make.

Dawkins writes:
This brings me to the first point I want to make about what this book is not. I am not advocating a morality based on evolution, I am saying how things have evolved. I am not saying how we humans morally ought to behave. I stress this, because I know I am in danger of being misunderstood by those people, all too numerous, who cannot distinguish a statement of belief in what is the case from an advocacy of what ought to be the case. My own feeling is that a society based simply on the gene's law of universal ruthless selfishness would be a very nasty society in which to live. But, unfortunately, as much as we deplore something, it does not stop it being true. … Let us try to teach generosity and altruism, because we are born selfish .(3)
This is an important point. It’s one thing to say that we are under the influences of our genes; it’s quite another to say that we have no choices, moral and others, on how we ought to live our lives. Some choose to live in complete accordance with their gene’s selfish nature; others don’t. If our genes are selfish by nature or design, the awareness of it can go a long way to mitigate our selfish desires.

Awareness, or knowledge of self, is an important step in the process of becoming the human beings we desire to become. Dawkins brings everything down to the level of genes, the units of hereditary to explain to a large degree how we tick. This might explain why highly driven and determined individuals—like Wall Street players, CEOs, and many if not most politicians— are extremely selfish. Such persons have given free rein to their genes to act in accordance to how they are programmed. In such individuals, it would seem that environment (i.e., nurture) plays little role in their development as human beings. I wonder if there exists some research on the relationship between such individuals and their connection to humanity.

This is of course a topic in itself. Dawkins’ book, however, is eye-opening and a fount of knowledge; and whether you agree or not with its premises and conclusions, the book is worth reading.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Chinese Medicine May Soon Become Mainstream

Chinese Botanicals

Ginger Tea: “Ginger is an herb that has been used for thousands of years in China as a medicinal practice to reduce nausea. Ginger was used by the ancient Greeks to prevent nausea after feasting. Recent studies suggest that it may help people with chemotherapy-induced nausea as well,” says
Photo Source:

There has long been interest in the West of non-traditional, non-pharmacological medicines, most notably those that come from China, which has had a long history of providing plant-based curatives to its citizens. An article, by Pamela Boykofff, in CNN says that, with changes in FDA rules, more Chinese medicines will receive regulatory approval and become consumer items in the United States.

Boykoff writes:
At Chi-Med's labs in Shanghai, a group of 70 chemists has been working for a decade to try and crack the mysteries of Chinese medicine. The company's scientists are attempting to break 1,300 medicinal herbs into their component parts and then test them for global use against diseases. It's an ambitious effort and one that looks close to paying off. Chi-Med, in partnership with Nestle, has started the first worldwide phase III clinical testing trials—the final step before approval for sale—for a botanical drug based on Chinese Traditional Medicine.
If Chi-Med and Nestle succeed in winning U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval, the companies will be at the forefront of efforts to export Chinese medicine beyond its loyal following at home. They'll also have tackled the central problem in taking Chinese medicine global: how do you get a centuries-old remedy through the rigors of modern government regulation? "The simpler the product, the better at this stage," says Chi-Med CEO Christian Hogg. "The more similar it is to conventional drugs, the better from the FDA standpoint." That's why the company has started with a drug called HMPL-004, which treats inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) including ulcerative colitis and Crohn's disease.
The testing was made possible by a change in the FDA policies and procedures in 2004 regarding botanical drug products. The new guidelines removed some of the obstacles involved in getting an investigational new drug application (IND), the first step in getting a drug developed and marketed in the U.S. Since the guidelines were introduced, the FDA has only approved two botanical drugs, according to the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services. Fulzaq, an antidiarrheal drug used for HIV/AIDS patients and derived from the red sap of the Croton lechleri plant, was approved in December 2012. Veregen, a treatment for warts based on green tea extract, was given the green light in 2006.
By Chinese medicine standards, HMPL-004 is a simple drug. It's a single extract from a single herb, called andrographis, which has a long history of use in Asia for stomach problems.
This is good news all around; Chinese medicines have the potential to provide westerners complementary methods to combat a host of diseases that affect humanity. The more choices the better for consumers, and for patients seeking relief from illnesses that affect them. In many all-too-many cases, there are serious side effects resulting from taking pharmacological products.

For example, chemotherapy, which I am currently undergoing, often induces severe nausea, an unpleasant side-effect that suppresses the appetite and lasts for days.Ginger tea is as effective relief from nausea as any pill that I have taken, and I prefer the tea with some honey and a slice of lime or lemon. It’s both soothing and tastes great. These are the kind of remedies that humanity needs. All the best to the Chinese scientists in their endeavours

You can read the rest of the article at [CNN]

Radicals Of The Right


—George Orwell 

Much is made about left-wing radicals and their destructive ideas, and understandably and justifiably so; and yet the right has produced three radicals who made it to the top echelons of power in their countries of origin. These right-wing radicals accomplished much in their tenure as political leaders, including the dismantling of the Social Contract, transforming the Just Society into one full of inequalities, and allowing corporations to become so powerful and big that they cannot fail, while allowing individual citizens to fail. All with a nod and a wink and a slap on the back.

The powerful and arrogant troika are no other than President Ronald Reagan of the United States, his pal, Margaret Thatcher of Britain and Reagan’s Irish singing buddy, Brian Mulroney of Canada. Each leader contributed independently and collectively to ensure that their socio-political and economic policies would achieve their aims—essentially pushed down the throats of citizens, like bad medicine, whether they liked it or not. True dictators. Let’s take a look at the measure of each man and women with a view to get a better understanding of their thinking,

Canada: Mulroney and the Schreiber affair: I will start with my own nation’s sordid history. Prime Minister Brian Mulroney was caught taking $300,000 in cash, in 1993, from one Mr. Karlheinz Schreiber, one of those shadowy figures that move within government circles, often unmolested. The cash was ostensibly for acting as a lobbyist for Airbus, after Mulroney stepped down as prime minister but still was an M.P., a member of the government. Then, Mulroney conveniently “forgot” to declare said sum in his tax filings for that year, only doing so six years later. An article, by Chris Higgins, in the National Post says the following about the incident and subsequent government inquiry:
Nov. 7, 2007: German businessman Karleinz Schreiber claims in an affidavit filed in Ontario Superior Court that he and former prime minister Brian Mulroney made a $300,000 deal. He say the agreement came about during a meeting on June 23, 1993 at Harrington Lake, the prime minister’s summer residence in Quebec. Mr. Mulroney allegedly agreed to help establish a light armoured vehicle facility in Nova Scotia or Quebec in exchange for the money. Schreiber claims he provided Mr. Mulroney with three envelopes, each containing $100,000 in cash, over the next two years.
May 14, 2009: Mr. Mulroney fights back tears at the inquiry as he tells of the Airbus affair’s effect on his family. His spokesman claims that the tears came as a result of seeing several reporters laughing during his testimony.
By the time Mr. Mulroney finishes his testimony, he has admitted accepting $225,000 from Schreiber after he resigned as prime minister, but says he did not ask for it as cash. There was nothing “sinister” about accepting it, although it is “to his eternal regret” that he did not ask for a cheque instead. He did not report the cash payments on his income tax until six years later.
When questioned under oath, the ever unctuous Mulroney came up with a convenient excuse, paid his taxes (years later, it seems), and all was forgotten, while Mulroney skulked off into the evening, proud of his abilities to deceive the public, manufacturing tears at will, it seems..

U.S.: Ronald Reagan and the Iran-Contra affair:. An article in PBS Experience spells out the details of what took place under Reagan’s watch in 1985, where he agreed to sell weapons to Iran in exchange for the release of hostages.
The arms-for-hostages proposal divided the administration. Longtime policy adversaries Secretary of Defense Caspar Weinberger and Secretary of State George Shultz opposed the deal, but Reagan, McFarlane and CIA director William Casey supported it. With the backing of the president, the plan progressed. By the time the sales were discovered, more than 1,500 missiles had been shipped to Iran. Three hostages had been released, only to be replaced with three more, in what Secretary of State George Shultz called "a hostage bazaar."
When the Lebanese newspaper "Al-Shiraa" printed an exposé on the clandestine activities in November 1986, Reagan went on television and vehemently denied that any such operation had occurred. He retracted the statement a week later, insisting that the sale of weapons had not been an arms-for-hostages deal. Despite the fact that Reagan defended the actions by virtue of their good intentions, his honesty was doubted. Polls showed that only 14 percent of Americans believed the president when he said he had not traded arms for hostages.
Britain: Margaret Thatcher and the Pinochet affair. Thatcher has never met a right-wing dictator that she didn’t fancy, admiring the strong and despising the weak. The most notable example was Augusto Pinochet of Chile, who had murdered 3,197 of his countrymen and tortured another 29,000. Those that he didn’t kill or torture, he maimed by other means, through his economic policies of austerity through free-market policies. An article, by Walden Bello, in The Guardian says how much influence Pinochet had on Thatcher’s economic policies;
Chile's assistance to British forces during the 1982 Falklands war is said to have indebted Margaret Thatcher to the Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet. However, Pinochet was probably a greater inspiration to Thatcher as the pioneer of radical free-market policies in the mid-1970s, a period when Keynesian policies still reigned in Britain and much of the rest of the world. At a fringe meeting during the Conservative party's annual conference in 1999, Thatcher implicitly acknowledged her debt to Pinochet, saying his enemies hated him because of his "success" in transforming Chile's economy from 1973 to 1990.
The Chilean strongman's free-market policies that the Iron Lady admired indeed transformed his country's economy, but in ways that could hardly be considered a success except among doctrinaire followers of the University of Chicago economist Milton Friedman. Pinochet's programme subjected his country to two major depressions in one decade, first in 1974-75, when GDP fell by 12%, then again in 1982-83, when it dropped by 15%. Contrary to ideological expectations about a positive correlation between free markets and robust growth, average GDP growth in 1974-89 – the radical phase of the Pinochet revolution – was only 2.6%. By comparison, with a much greater role for the state in the economy during 1951-71, Chile's economy grew by an average of 4% a year.
Radical Thinking Predominates

All claimed solidarity with the middle-class, claiming their earlier upbringing with the lower-classes made them suitable for higher office as a man (and women) of the people. Mulroney, the son of a paper-mill electrician; Thatcher, the daughter of a small grocery-store owner, and Reagan, the son of a salesman. Yet, despite their upbringing in humble ways, they all disowned it and decided money and power was the way to a better life. Mulroney became a high-priced lawyer, Thatcher a chemist, and Reagan, of course, an actor of dubious talents and abilities. His real talent lay elsewhere. It was Reagan who said government was the problem, and went about dismantling it as quickly as he could—all with a smile on his face and a quip on his lips.

If they spoke individualism and individual liberty, it was directed at only the few. They had no desire to spread these ideas to the masses. As noxious and deleterious as these individual actions are, they pale in comparison to what their policies achieved in society, and the eventual erosion and destruction of social cohesion. Their policies were as every bit as radical as the policies of marxism. Here’s why.

If marxism is about reducing individuals to mere slaves of the state, then right-wing radicalism is about reducing individuals’ability to make a decent living, thus making them slaves of multinational corporations. Both have similar economic outcomes, in that choice is reduced as either the state or corporations control more of the nation’s or world’s wealth. Coupled with deregulation and unfettered markets, and you have a witches’ brew favouring corporations and not favouring the average citizen. Small wonder that corporations today, which wield so much power and influence, display an arrogance at any thought they ought to be reined in.

How much power? An article (“Revealed – the capitalist network that runs the world”), by Andy Coghlan and Debora MacKenzie in New Scientist, reporting on an academic study found that 147 super-corporations control 40% of the world’s wealth; most are banks and other financial institutions.

Coghlan and MacKenzie write:
When the team further untangled the web of ownership, it found much of it tracked back to a "super-entity" of 147 even more tightly knit companies - all of their ownership was held by other members of the super-entity - that controlled 40 per cent of the total wealth in the network. "In effect, less than 1 per cent of the companies were able to control 40 per cent of the entire network," says Glattfelder. Most were financial institutions. The top 20 included Barclays Bank, JPMorgan Chase & Co, and The Goldman Sachs Group.
John Driffill of the University of London, a macroeconomics expert, says the value of the analysis is not just to see if a small number of people controls the global economy, but rather its insights into economic stability.
Concentration of power is not good or bad in itself, says the Zurich team, but the core's tight interconnections could be. As the world learned in 2008, such networks are unstable. "If one [company] suffers distress," says Glattfelder, "this propagates."
Such super-corporations are not too big to fail; they are too big for the health of democracy. But that matters little to the radicals. They believe in such wealth distribution for individuals, as well, chiefly that it flows upward and remains so in what is called a trickle-up economy. In the U.S., for example the top 1% control 43% of the nation's wealth; and the top 5% hold 72% of America’s wealth. Figures are similar in other industrialized nations..

This is wealth distribution, but not as conservatives decry—to the poor and lower classes; it’s wealth distribution to the wealthy. Wealth distribution is a radical idea and every much a departure from liberal democracy as is marxism and other radical ideologies. So, when the radicals speak out against wealth distribution, that is, a fairer tax code, they are really speaking out against liberal democracy. To consider them conservatives is to deny reality. The only thing they want to conserve is wealth and power, chiefly for themselves, and also for their cronies, including the wealthy and super-wealthy. As for the rest, let them eat cake, if they can purchase it.

It’s hard to understand why the troika gets such acclaim and respect from certain quarters; they are infamous figures, in my estimation, who did more harm to each nation’s health and welfare than any common criminal. Their economic and social policies, simply stated, are unmitigated disasters. They might not have killed with bullets, or caused widespread famines, but their social and economic policies have done great harm to both democracy and capitalism. For some, it’s easy to ignore what they have done. I don’t, and view these individuals—two men and one woman—as they truly are: Radicals of the Right.

Monday, May 27, 2013

The Salt Mines Of Ethiopia

Mining Africa

Hot Salt: NatGeo’s Katia Andreassi writes: “Northern Ethiopia’s Afar Depression—also called the Danakil Depression—is one of the hottest places on Earth. Parts of the region are more than 300 feet below sea level, forming a cauldron where temperatures reach above 120 degrees Fahrenheit in the summer and active volcanoes roil.”
Photo Credit: Siegfried Modola; Reuters
Source: NatGeo
Salt is a common ingredient in food, but also a valuable one that has a long history in food preservation and in taste. Without salt, many fine chefs would be lost. An article in National Geographic looks at one region where salt has had a long and colourful history—Ethiopia.

Andreassi  writes:
The colorful and extreme Afar is also home to a valuable commodity: salt. For centuries the Afar people have mined rich salt deposits left behind from Red Sea floods in the region—most recently, 30,000 years ago. Today, workers cut slabs of salt from the earth and pack them on to camels for a days-long journey across the desert to a market town where the slabs are sold to merchants and loaded on to trucks. (Read more about the Afar people and the salt trade.)
The production and use of salt dates to 6050 BCE; and since then it has varied uses, from its use as currency to its use for religious rituals as a method of purification.

You can read the rest of the article, including seeing more photos, at [NatGeo]

The Cancer Blog: Week 18

My Health

This blog within a blog will discuss cancer and all of my fears, hopes and expectations for a positive outcome—full and complete recovery. In addition, I plan to throw in some latest medical research. All cancer patients are interested, to some degree, in research and the latest medical findings; I am no exception. Today is Day 161 living with cancer; tomorrow is chemo session no. 8.


Let’s talk about money, again. We have spent most of our savings, and both Olga and I still are without work; I can’t yet work, and Olga is still awaiting nursing certification, or licensing, from Ontario’s nursing certification board.  

So, in the interim we have decided to avail ourselves to various government programs to keep us afloat. I have been busy filling out forms for various government entitlement programs, including Ontario disability, Quebec disability pension (for which I paid decades of contributions) and social welfare.

Each program requires a similar set of forms that require completing along with a raft of identification documents to prove our existence. It’s the way bureaucrats operate, and there is no use arguing about it; it’s the way it is. such programs are set up with the ostensible intention of helping the poor and less-fortunate, often with the government PR machine, trumpeting what they are doing for the underclass. But the reality and the truth is far more revealing.

They, most often Conservatives, often do this with much misgivings and resentment, believing for the most part that individuals who apply for such programs are ultimately lazy and public miscreants, taking free handouts (see here and here). Nothing can be further from the truth. That there are some who might “abuse” the system is true; but then again there are some wealthy and super-wealthy who also abuse the system, and do far greater abuse.

Need I remind you of Wall Street bankers, or Corporate America, who happily take all corporate tax entitlements, without feeling that this is morally or ethically wrong? They do so with the arrogance of the monied class.

So, as much as I want to work and contribute my talents and abilities to society, I can’t. And the fault lies not with me, but with an broken and dysfunctional economic system that has no interest in hiring a intelligent, curious and talented thinker and writer like me. Can it be because I am a 55-year-old male?

Sunday, May 26, 2013

President Obama Lays Out New Policy On National Security; Limiting Drone Strikes & Closing Gitmo

American Values

President Obama at NDU at Fort McNair in Washington, D.C: NYRB’s Cole writes about the May 23rd speech: “These were the words of a president with his eye on the long term, on his legacy, and on America’s fundamental values—apparently willing to look beyond the politics of the moment. The question before us now is whether the nation, too, can rise above those politics in order to make the project of restoring peace a reality.”

An article (“Long Road To Peace”), by David Cole, in The New York Review of Books says that President Barack Obama is trying to move the United States away from its decades-long war on terror and toward a way of peace and adherence to its Constitution; this includes limiting the use of drone strikes and closing Guantánamo.

Both will be hard to deploy, using the language of the military, in a nation, and more important a Congress, divided. Yet, it starts with an idea, and this is a good one from the Executive Office.

Cole writes about the speech Obama made at National Defense University (NDU) on Thursday:
After four years of failing to make much progress toward closing Guantánamo, while increasingly relying on a drone war whose legality has often been questioned, Obama might have chosen to speak more cautiously in his NDU speech. Instead, he went much further, outlining a way out of this “perpetual war,” saying that “our democracy demands it.” Whether he can make good on this promise will very likely define his legacy. If he succeeds in doing so, the Nobel Peace Prize committee will be seen not as naïve, but as remarkably prescient, in its awarding of the Peace Prize to Obama in 2009.
The key to resuming a state of peace, Obama argued, lies in acknowledging our limitations. As he put it, “Neither I, nor any President, can promise the total defeat of terror. We will never erase the evil that lies in the hearts of some human beings, nor stamp out every danger to our open society…. We must be humble in our expectations.” Humility has never come easily to the United States or its presidents. But that humility is the foundation of peace.
Even as he defended his controversial use of drones to kill by remote control, Obama laid out a vision for countering terrorism in the future in which the use of force is truly a last resort. He stressed the importance of alternative tools, including law enforcement, intelligence-gathering, diplomacy, foreign aid, and more generally, working to alleviate the underlying grievances that drive human beings to kill innocent people for political ends. He explained that al-Qaeda’s leadership in Afghanistan and Pakistan is on the verge of being decimated, and that the Authorization to Use Military Force, passed by Congress after 9/11 and directed at al-Qaeda, should accordingly be refined and ultimately repealed.
He specifically rejected expanding the president’s power to use military force against unspecified new terrorist groups. And he acknowledged that preventing all terrorist attacks is simply not possible, and that we must learn to live with risk—a truth that all security experts profoundly understand, but that most politicians are deathly afraid of conceding in public, for fear that they will be seen as weak.
I especially like President Obama’s use of the word humble, a rarity among politicians; this does not imply weakness but an intellectual understanding of limitations, including for the world’s dominant military power as to the benefits of relying too much on force. The U.S.’s perpetual war, a legacy of the previous Bush administration, has to end, and the sooner the better. A nation that is continually at war is a nation that is far from peace.

There are other ways, and that Obama is considering them now is a breath of fresh air in a atmosphere poisoned by harsh rhetoric and toxic demagoguery. You could almost see Obama in his struggle on what to do, listening to advice from various trusted sources, weighing all options, and then and only then arriving at a decision. It’an intellectual awakening. I wish Obama all the success that he deserves in this initiative, not bold by normal rational human understanding, but bold among members of Congress.

You can read the rest of the article at {NYRB]

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Expect A Very Active Hurricane Season In 2013, U.S. Meteorologists Say

Weather Reports

Filming Nature: NatGeo writes: “A television crew struggles through the high winds and storm surge caused by Hurricane Rita in 2005.”
Photo Credit: Mike Theiss/Corbis
Source: NatGeo

An article, by Willie Drye, in National Geographic says that the United States and eastern Canada can expect an active hurricane season this year. 
Meteorologists at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration expect that unusually warm water and other factors will produce as many as six major hurricanes during a busy 2013 Atlantic hurricane season, they announced today. "There are no mitigating factors that could suppress hurricane activity," said Gerry Bell, NOAA's lead hurricane forecaster, in a conference call with reporters. "It will be active or very active."
Bell noted that water temperatures in the Atlantic are eight-tenths of a degree Fahrenheit above normal for this time of year. "That might not sound like much, but it's quite a bit," he said. (Read "Weather Gone Wild" in National Geographic magazine.) Hurricanes draw their fierce power from warm water, and can intensify when there are no upper-level winds—known as wind shear—to disrupt their momentum.
NOAA forecasters predict that 13 to 20 named tropical storms with winds of at least 35 miles per hour (56 kilometers per hour) will form between June 1 and November 30. Seven to 11 of those could evolve into hurricanes with winds of at least 74 miles per hour (119 kilometers per hour). And three to six of those hurricanes could intensify into major storms with winds exceeding 110 miles per hour (177 kilometers per hour), NOAA officials said. An average hurricane season sees about 12 named storms and six hurricanes, with only one or two becoming major storms.
This is not good news, since hurricanes by their very nature are destructive forces. That we can now better prepare for such storms is good news, but we can’t prevent such storms from either taking place or from causing widespread damage.  Well, we can mitigate some damage by boarding up windows and reinforcing weak structures. The cohort that continues to deny the anthropological effects of climate change will still not be convinced of the argument’s merits. But then gain, no rational argument or fact will do that.

You can read the rest of the article at [NatGeo]

The Profane History Of Swearing

Language Matters

Common Profanities: Leith writes: “Melissa Mohr's title, then, is more than just an attention-grabber: the history of swearing is one of a movement back and forth between the holy and the shit. At different times in the history of the west, the primary taboo has been to do either with God, or with the functions of the human body.”
Photo Credit & Source: The Guardian

An article, by Sam Leith,  in The Guardian, reviews a book on swearing, the use of vernacular and “street language” in everyday conversation. In Holy Sh*t: A Brief History of Swearing, Melissa Mohr gives us some historical background on how the use of non-sacred language is in many ways a voice of dissent against authoritarianism and conformity

Leith writes:
Swearing doesn't just mean what we now understand by "dirty words". It is entwined, in social and linguistic history, with the other sort of swearing: vows and oaths. Consider for a moment the origins of almost any word we have for bad language – "profanity", "curses", "oaths" and "swearing" itself .
Melissa Mohr's title, then, is more than just an attention-grabber: the history of swearing is one of a movement back and forth between the holy and the shit. At different times in the history of the west, the primary taboo has been to do either with God, or with the functions of the human body. (The latter, though, does subdivide in a meaningful way between the sexual and the excremental. Really, this book should have been called "Holy Fucking Shit".)
Though Mohr is mainly interested in English, she is generous in roping in examples from outside it. A helpful and interesting chapter on ancient Roman filth does much to sketch the background, too. How do we know what was obscene in a dead language? By literary genre, essentially: if it was written on the toilet wall but didn't appear in satire, it was likely to be properly rude. English has a "Big Six": "cunt", "fuck", "cock", "arse", "shit" and "piss" (though Mohr plausibly suggests that "nigger" should now be in there). The Romans had a "Big 10": cunnus (cunt), futuo (fuck),mentula (cock), verpa (erect or circumcised cock), landica (clitoris), culus(arse), pedico (bugger), caco (shit), fello (fellate) and irrumo (er, mouth-rape).
So the Romans, like us, had a primary relationship between the body and the idea of obscenity – though their sexual schema was a little different, with shame attaching, above all, to sexual passivity. Sexual obscenity also, to complicate things, had a sacramental function – as witness the fruity ways of the god Priapus. Some of that shit was holy.
Some people abhor swearing or the use of any vernacular, whether written or spoken; my wife is one of those individuals; as are many women today. Perhaps it has to do with a heightened sense of religious morality; or perhaps it has to do with a fear of words. Profanity in itself is an act of dissent from religious authority. It’s somewhat ironic or amusing that many of the swear words in Quebec among the French-Canadians centre on the Catholic church and its rituals. (Some common examples include osti: host; tabarnac: tabernacle; maudit: damn; brûle en enfer: burn in hell, and it various permutations and combinations.)

Some people think that use of profanities marks the end of civilization; that its continued use reflects loose morals. Historical evidence says otherwise, as swearing has a long uninterrupted period of use. Censorship or self-censorship will never work for the reason that people like and enjoy using profanities. Swearing, in my estimation, has its place in society; and most people, if pressed, would admit they swear or would like to.

Even so, the use of profanities in personal attacks has no place in society and serves no purpose. More so, swearing too often soon loses it appeal. A well-timed use of a profanity can have the appropriate and intended ameliorating effect of releasing negative emotions and thoughts.

You can read the rest of the article at [Guardian]

Friday, May 24, 2013

Reform Stalled In Iran

Iranian Politics

Founding Father Denied Presidential Run: “Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, inside, far left,
with Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini as he greeted supporters in Tehran in 1979, when the
Islamic republic was born,” the NYT writes: “A founding father of the revolution and
a former president, shocked Iranians, particularly those among the 70 percent of the
 population that is under 35 and grew up when he served in many leading positions.”
Photo CreditDavid Burnett/Contact Press Image
Source: NYT

Aarticle, by Thomas Erdbrink, in The New York Times says that two candidates from the scheduled June 14 presidential elections have been disallowed by the clerics, who are essentially conforming to the wishes of Iran’s Supreme Leader.

Erdbrink writes:
The exclusion of Mr. Rafsanjani and another thorn in the conservatives’ side, Esfandiar Rahim Mashaei, could foreshadow even greater repercussions, analysts and commentators said. Since its founding in 1979, the Islamic republic has been characterized by opposing power centers competing constantly and often publicly, a back-and-forth that gave ordinary citizens and private business owners the ability to navigate between the groups.
Barring further surprises, the winner of the June election will now be drawn from a slate of conservative candidates in Iran’s ruling camp, a loose alliance of Shiite Muslim clerics and Revolutionary Guard commanders. That would put the last major state institution under their control — the first time since the 1979 revolution that all state institutions were under the firm control of one faction.
Analysts have long speculated — and some conservative clerics have confirmed — that the ruling faction is determined to abolish the office of president, which has served as a locus of opposition under the populist incumbent, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, and before him the reformist Mohammad Khatami, who pushed for more personal freedoms. While by no means certain, it is now a greater possibility.
At the very least, the anti-climactic election campaign seems likely to further reinforce the alienation of the urban classes, which make up a large portion of the electorate and mostly gave up on politics after the suppression of the 2009 uprising following Mr. Ahmadinejad’s re-election, widely dismissed as fraudulent. A major boycott of the vote could further undercut the government’s already diminished legitimacy.
That well might take place as the people of Iran have grown weary and have become frustrated by the leader's archaic policies of repression and isolation. The clerics might wield some power, for now; but it won’t and can’t last indefinitely when the will of the people are not with them.

You can read the rest of the article at [NYT]

The Totalitarian Mind:Not Open To Rational Ideas

Human Thought

“Totalitarianism is not only hell, but all the dream of paradise—the age-old dream of a world where everybody would live in harmony, united by a single common will and faith, without secrets from one another. Andre Breton, too, dreamed of this paradise when he talked about the glass house in which he longed to live. If totalitarianism did not exploit these archetypes, which are deep inside us all and rooted deep in all religions, it could never attract so many people, especially during the early phases of its existence. Once the dream of paradise starts to turn into reality, however, here and there people begin to crop up who stand in its way. and so the rulers of paradise must build a little gulag on the side of Eden. In the course of time this gulag grows ever bigger and more perfect, while the adjoining paradise gets even smaller and poorer.” 

― Milan KunderaThe Book of Laughter and Forgetting

Religious and secular extremists differ in most respects except one: their total commitment to their ideology and the historical narrative that informs it. Such a determined and inflexible view of things is part of what is is called totalitarian thinking. To say that such individuals are not open to any new ideas is to say the obvious.

Such people have no need for any new ideas, any new ways of viewing the world, any new ideas of personal identity. All of these human attributes have been taken care of and explained within a systematic and comprehensive world-view of their particular ideology. It provides such individuals, who see no need to explore the wide and deep world of thought, a level of comfort and meaning that might otherwise not easily be attained through sustained inquiry and interpretation. Totalitarianism always point to a future world—a paradise if you will—where everyone would think alike in harmony and peace.

I sense that totalitarian thinking will always be with us, as long as there are both leaders willing to seize the minds of willing acolytes and followers willing to give consent to stop being curious, thoughtful and inquisitive and explore the wider world. Totalitarian thinking generally operates by providing simple answers to complex human problems, and thus its appeal. For the followers who subscribes to the prevailing idea, it results in a loss of identity, which also leads to defensive (and sometimes offensive) measures, most notably the need to vociferously and often aggressively defend such ideas, given that the follower’s individual identity has become subsumed within the particular ideology that defines him or her.

In other words, there is no longer a real highly defined personal identity, but a collective mind operating within the many individuals who have adopted a totalitarian ideology. Cognitive dissonance comes into play, quite easily , which quickly throws out any rational idea that challenges the totalitarian ideology. This is because the ideology is so powerful and so entrenched that any counter view is seen as false, and a threat to the individual identity, be what it is.

An article, by Iwona-Baricka Tylek of Jagiellonian University in Krakow, Poland, says the following about the appeal of such ideologies:
Totalitarianism offers a special kind of unity which is enclosed in its ideology. First of all it formulates strict criteria of affinities that need to be reinforced within the society. The group–the society–is yet to be made, and it means that every individual must turn into citizen on terms proposed by the authorities.
So, the individual becomes a member of a group that has set ways of thinking and answers to all such questions.

In an article (“The Concept of Power”), by Pat Duffy Hutcheon, based on an interview with noted 20th century political philosophizer Hannah Arendt, we can find her defining concept of the ways and means of totalitarian thinking:
The defining characteristic of totalitarianism, according to Arendt, is the use of terror as the chief means of maintaining control. She explained that this is where such systems differ completely from mere authoritarian despotisms or typical closed institutions such as the army. All competing social and family ties must be destroyed, so "purges are conducted in such a way as to threaten with the same fate the defendant and ... all his connections." #14 Terror within a totalitarian state or organization takes the form of dominating human beings from within. Not only must one avoid expressing dissenting thoughts; merely possessing such thoughts is the ultimate crime. The spouse who overhears one's sleeping murmurs will feel compelled to inform in order to ensure personal safety -- or salvation, as the case may be.
Arendt explained that in its early stages the totalitarian regime establishes a volunteer espionage network and begins to ferret out those who have been known to oppose its ascendancy. The second stage involves the definition of the "objective" or "necessary" enemy -- one who, according to the governing ideology, might be expected to oppose the regime. And the identification of the "possible" crime -- what that person might have planned to do. After all these are disposed of the terror becomes purely arbitrary. In the case of governments, the concentration camp plays an indispensable role in the final stage.
In other words, dissent is never allowed, since it would question the prevailing regime and all of its ideas and goals; small wonder, then, that any and all dissenters are considered enemies of the state. In theocratic states, where religion is the dominant ideology, dissenters have no less power to question. In places where religion is not the state religion, as is the case in many western democracies, particular extremist fundamentalist religious groups within Christianity, Islam and Judaism discourage questions and dissent from the prevailing traditional narrative; and dissenters, like those living in political totalitarian regimes are ostracized but not killed for their dissent.

Even so, the message is similar that dissent in any form is unwelcome and a threat to group unity and religious social cohesion. The end result of totalitarianism, in all forms, is that it destroys the individual and thus robs society of new, unexplored ideas.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Bruce Springsteen: Dancing In The Dark

In this musical video clip, Bruce Springsteen performs “Dancing in the Dark,” from the 1984 album Born in the USA, before an appreciative crowd in Barcelona, Spain, in 2002. I went to a Springsteen concert in 1977; and he puts on a great show, a consummate performer who gives and gives. It shows that he loves what he does.

You sit around getting older there's a joke here somewhere and it's on me/ I'll shake this world off my shoulders come on baby the laughs on me 

Dancing in the Dark
by Bruce Springsteen

I get up in the evening, and I ain't got nothing to say
I come home in the moring, I go to bed feeling the same way
I ain't nothing but tired, man I'm just tired and bored with myself
Hey there baby, I could use just a little help
You can't start a fire, you can't start a fire without a spark
This gun's for hire even if we're just dancing in the dark

Message just keep getting clearer, radio's on and I'm moving round the place
I check my look in the mirror wanna change my clothes my hair my face
Man I ain't getting nowhere I'm just livin in a dump like this
There's something happening somewhere baby I just know that there is


You sit around getting older there's a joke here somewhere and it's on me
I'll shake this world off my shoulders come on baby the laughs on me
Stay on the streets of this town and they'll be carving you up alright
They say you got to stay hungry hey baby I'm just about starving tonight
I'm dying for some action I'm sick of sitting 'round here trying to write
This book
I need a love reaction come on baby give me just one look

You can't start a fire, sittin' 'round cryin' over a broken heart
This gun's for hire even if we're just dancing in the dark

You can't start a fire, worryin' about your little world falling apart
This gun's for hire even if we're just dancing in the dark

Even if we're just dancing in the dark
Even if we're just dancing in the dark
Even if we're just dancing in the dark

Cocooning In The Age Of Social Media

Modern Living

In the 1980s, during uncertain economic times, similar to what we are witnessing today, many people hunkered down with movies that they put in their newly bought VCRs (Some like me were using Betamax technology) and cocooned. If you didn't a job, or are not economically wealthy, there is little incentive to go out and spend money that you don’t have.

Yes, there are credit cards, freely given by banks, often at obscene rates of interest, to increase the already high profit margins of the financial institutions, who as a group don’t add any profit to society. Anyways, using credit cards without any means to pay the charges often leads to other financial problems. I for one no longer have or use any credit cards, nor do I ever intend to get one.

Back to the main point. Now, 30 years later, in the age of social media, we are once again faced with high unemployment and low wages; now, a worldwide problem, notably in the industrialized west. Tens of millions of individuals—many highly educated and intelligent, many under the age of thirty, face the bleak prospects of ever finding a job, let alone a meaningful one with acceptable pay.

As for older highly intelligent and educated persons such as myself (I’m 55), the prospects are even dimmer. The New Economy and the Disposable Economy has deemed me as too old and unworthy of being considered for any employment. At least that's what the HR consultants and economists have told corporations. Such is their combined “wisdom.” Ageism is thriving in The New Economy.

So, what are many of these unemployed individuals doing; cocooning in front of their desktops, laptops, IPads, mobile phones and getting on social-media sites voicing their opinions, arguing, debating and discussing the important issues of the day. It’s cocooning with other like-minded individuals around the globe with the aim of making a difference—not only a political difference, which is badly needed, but also a social, and economic changes.

This is good; to disseminate a message of hope and optimism in the face of economic excesses and inequalities. It’s not about sitting back in front of the TV being entertained, but about getting involved in our society in a very real and caring way, So, yes, this generation is highly involved and energized. I look forward to great things occurring in the next few years, as the ideas generated on social-media sites will catch the imagination of millions, tens of millions, if not hundreds of millions of highly informed individuals world-wide.

It’s actually exiting times that we now living in; and the inter-connectedness brought about by the Net is making all his happen.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Mom's Right: Dress Warm In Winter To Avoid Colds

Human Viruses

Fighting The Common Cold: A Second World War II poster from the Office for Emergency Management's War Production Board in the United States offers some some good advice about reducing the threat of the getting a cold.
Photo Credit: Office for Emergency Management's War Production Board
Source: Wikipedia

An article, by Beth Mole,  in Nature News confirms what many mothers have been saying for years, namely, that cold winter temperatures create better conditions to humans catching the common cold, or from more specifically, rhinoviruses.

Mole writes:
A team from Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut, found that low temperatures dampen natural defences against rhinoviruses, the leading causes of seasonal colds, in mice and in human airway cells. “What we show here is a temperature-dependent interaction between the host and the virus,” says team leader Ellen Foxman, who presented the data on 19 May at a conference of the American Society for Microbiology.
Colds are most common in winter, and researchers have known for decades that many rhinoviruses thrive in low temperatures: they replicate better in the upper respiratory tract than in the warmer environment of the lungs. But efforts to link the viruses’ apparent temperature preference to seasonal fluctuations in the incidence of colds have produced mixed results.
In 2005, for example, researchers at Cardiff University, UK, dunked healthy people’s feet into icy water to show that exposure to cold could cause an upper-respiratory infection1. But they could not explain why that was the case. Other studies have found no connection between temperature and rates of infection2.
 Cold versus warm
In an attempt to solve the cold conundrum, Foxman and her colleagues studied mice susceptible to a mouse-specific rhinovirus. They discovered that at warmer temperatures, animals infected with the rhinovirus produced a burst of antiviral immune signals, which activated natural defenses that fought off the virus. But at cooler temperatures, the mice produced fewer antiviral signals and the infection could persist.
The researchers then grew human airway cells in the lab under both cold and warm conditions and infected them with a different rhinovirus that thrives in people. They found that warm infected cells were more likely than cold ones to undergo programmed cell death—cell suicide brought on by immune responses aimed at limiting the spread of infections.
Foxman says that the data suggest that these temperature-dependent immune reactions help to explain rhinoviruses' success at lower temperatures, and explain why winter is the season for colds. As temperatures drop outside, humans breathe in colder air that chills their upper airways just enough to allow rhinoviruses to flourish, she says.
That mothers were right is an interesting finding; that science can show why is even more interesting. This shows that it is always important to dress warm in cold weather, paying particular attention to the upper body. Mom will be proud of you.

You can read the rest of the article at [Nature News]