Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Speedlinking 12/20/06

This morning's image is from Live Science:

~ Low LDL Cholesterol Levels Linked to Parkinson's Disease. This is a troubling outcome. Does that mean that being healthy --my LDL is lower than my HDL -- will cause Parkinson's? At least all that coffee I drink should protect me a bit.
~ Nerve damage hints at diabetes cure -- faulty nerves in the pancreas may cause type-I diabetes.
~ Vitamin D may cut multiple sclerosis risk, study finds.
~ Osteoarthritis may respond to acupuncture. "Patients with chronic pain related to osteoarthritis experience "marked clinical improvement" with acupuncture plus routine care, German researchers have shown."
~ Sugary Sweet Drinks Bring on Chronic Disease Later in Life. Duh?!
~ Sex does the body good -- "Having regular and enthusiastic sex, by contrast, confers a host of measurable physiological advantages, be you male or female." Sucks to be single when news like this comes out.
~ Firm designs nasal spray to fight obesity -- "Dieters may find some welcome assistance from a new nasal spray that could help resist the appetizing aromas of cinnamon bun stands, pizza parlors or tempting bakeries."
~ Olive oil may hinder cancer process -- love those healthy fats!

~ Mind Matters: Kids Who Lack Compassion -- "Studies of children indicate that people may be inherently prejudiced against those less fortunate. Bah, humbug, indeed."
~ Training Hones Older Folks' Memory Skills.
~ ‘Use-it-or-lose-it’ brain theory put to the test -- "Brief sessions of brain exercise can have long-lasting benefits for elderly people, helping them stay mentally fit for at least five years, one of the most rigorous tests of the “use-it-or-lose-it” theory suggests."
~ How the Brain Makes Decisions. "Researchers at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center have found that the brain controls an individual's preference for immediate or delayed rewards."
~ Intimacy -- "Focusing too much on your relationship can actually contribute to its breakdown." Been there, done that.
~ A Place for Consciousness -- New issue of Psyche seeks to locate consciousness in fresh meat -- you know, the brain.
~ In Memory-Bank ‘Dialogue,’ the Brain Is Talking to Itself. "New recordings of electrical activity in the brain may explain a major part of its function, including how it consolidates daily memories, why it needs to dream and how it constructs models of the world to guide behavior."
~ How Extreme Meditators Can Influence Their Body.
~ How to Overcome a Confidence Crisis.

~ Bill seeks to ban trans fats from Massachusetts. Cool.
~ Even grandma had premarital sex, survey finds -- "More than nine out of 10 Americans, men and women alike, have had premarital sex, according to a new study. The high rates extend even to women born in the 1940s, challenging perceptions that people were more chaste in the past."
~ Episcopalians Against Equality -- "The founders of the Episcopal Church believed that all men were created equal. Monday's defectors decided that they were not."
~ Swamped by Muslims from Glenn Greenwald.
~ Bush: 'We do need to increase our troops' -- So when is the draft going to be instituted to get those soldiers they want to send to their deaths?
~ The Hollow Army by James Fallows at the Atlantic. "The U.S. military is stretched to the breaking point—and one more crisis could break it."

~ The Top Ten Myths About Evolution.
~ The Week in Sustainable Mobility.
~ Competition vs. Sustainability.
~ Field Report: Al Gore's Climate Project.
~ Dozens of New Species in Borneo -- cool.
~ Top Ten Animal Stories of 2006 From National Geographic News -- "Troves of new species, a dolphin showing some "leg," India's first new bird in 50 years—and a warning that seafood will be gone by 2048. It's been an up-and-down year for animal lovers."
~ Top 10 climate stories of 2006: Part II.

~ From Joe at Until: The pope and Islam, a clash of holons.
~ From Tim Boucher: Gods & Collective Experiences -- Not strictly integral, but good.
~ The Loving Integral Embrace of Lies and Truth -- Robert Godwin explains his version of integralism.


MD said...

"Bill seeks to ban trans fats from Massachusetts. Cool."

Cool that adults aren't allowed to choose for themselves what to eat?

I like this response by John Stossel:

"The food prohibitionists don't understand that there are ways to influence people's behavior without resorting to coercion -- remember, coercion is the essence of government. The public fuss about harm from trans fats has already induced many food makers to remove them. It's suddenly become a competitive advantage to boast that your products are trans-fat-free. Such voluntary action is the best way to move toward healthier food.

Why isn't that good enough for the prohibitionists? Why must they enlist the iron hand of government? "

Why, indeed.

william harryman said...

Most adults are not capable of making wise choices even when they know the stuff causes cancer, heart disease, and diabetes. And it's my tax dollars and your tax dollars that pay for their diseases and medical care. If the people who ate this crap paid for the ill effects on their health out of their own pocket, I'd say more power to 'em -- let's clean up the gene pool a bit. But that isn't how it works.

The bottom line is that there is no good reason to use trans fats, and dozens of reasons not to use them. There are many alternatives available that still preserve shelf life and/or flavor, so there is no good argument to use this stuff in our foods.

[I feel the same way about smoking. That crap should be illegal.]

Maybe I'm a food-nazi, but I see the downside of these things every day in my job. I'm on the front lines and I'm fighting an uphill battle. There are enough things to deal with already -- why not remove the most harmful stuff from the equation, especially when it isn't in any way necessary.


MD said...

But why ought other people not have the choice you make, about trans-fats?

Of course there's a good reason -- for some people, it adds taste they like.

And on what grounds does your argument end? Lots of things are bad for us. Including caffeine in excess. Lots of things have risks, including driving. I'm drinking coffee right now, with lots of sugar. And this weekend, my family will hit the road, driving to Wisconsin. By your argument, these things should be illegal (after all, health care costs go to deal with injuries from car accidents, too).

Don't you see how arbitrary this is? And how there is nothing to stop legistation run amok, outlawing all sorts of things currently bad for you but entirely legal?

MD said...

And why not, as the Stossel article I linked to suggest, allow market forces (already far down the road on this issue) to go its way. People know about trans-fats. It is not like there is a derth of knowledge about what it is, what is does bad for the body, etc.


william harryman said...

The other things you mention do not fall into the same class. There is NO amount of trans fat that is safe for the body. You can't say there no is no amount of driving that does not kill. You can't say there is no amount of coffee that does not cause problems (in fact, there actually is no harmful amount of coffee unless you have high blood pressure or serious heart disease).

Likewise, you can say there is no amount of smoking that is safe.

Personally, I draw the line when a substance has NO benefit and causes a great deal of harm. The taste issue is a red herring -- there are many ways to make the food taste the same without using trans fats -- the real issue is the slight increase in cost that they fear will drive people away from their products.

And Stossel is part of the problem, not the solution. He shills for the corporations who want advocacy groups to leave them alone. Market forces aren't why companies are revising their recipes -- it's because the FDA is forcing them to label foods that contain trans fats and because several cities (NY is the first) are moving to ban the stuff. The legal moves have attracted far more attention than the FDA labeling requirement.

And still, there are the economic reasons to ban trans fats that I mentioned before.

I have yet to see one solid argument for why these chemicals should remain in the food chain.


MD said...

The point is that there is no justification for government to be involved in what people can and cannot eat. In spirit and princple, it is the same argument why the government has no business banning, for example, mary jane.

In other words, this is nanny state government, and it is government exercising power that it should not have (even if one agrees with the result ).

that's the fine point in all this. It isn't about whether or not trans-fat are good for you. It is an issue of government being too big, infringing too much on the public sphere.

Personally, I draw the line when a substance has NO benefit and causes a great deal of harm.

So why must this line be the line for everyone?

And where is your evidence that Stossel is this "shill"? Last I heard, he was a reporter for ABC News, on the 20/20 show.

And why attack his character? His points are perfectly valid.

And, are you sure you are right about the trans-fats?

"It's probably also worth noting that despite all of the dire warnings about our increased intake of trans-fats over the last 20 years, heart disease in America has been in swift decline -- and life expectancy has been up -- over that very period. Indeed, national health statistics show that in the era of fast food and obesity, death rates from heart disease had declined from 492.7 per 100,000 in 1970 to 321.8 by 1990, a 33% drop. The spread of transfat and Starbucks didn't change that trend, with the death rate dropping nearly another 30%, to 232.2, by 2003. So, if they're killing us, they're not doing a very good job."

william harryman said...

Posting a quote from the conservative Cato Institute is not going to carry much weight with me. Especially because I know in detail what happens in the body when we ingest trans fats. Besides, the Cato argument is about death rates, not diabetes, cancer, and heart disease rates. It could just as easily be argued that death rates have fallen due to better medicine, which is more likely to be the case.

As for Stossel:
Action Alert: Will ABC Balance Stossel's Election Year Axe-Grinding?" (7/30/04)
Extra!: The Stossel Treatment: Selective editing and other unethical tactics (March/April 2003) By Rachel Coen
Extra!: Give Us a Break: The world according to John Stossel (March/April 2003) By Peter Hart
Action Alert: Stossel Tampers with the Facts (7/17/01)
Action Alert: Stossel Fabricated Data on Organics, Researchers Say (8/1/00)

There are many more examples at the FAIR website.

I understand the libertarian viewpoint -- I used to hold it. But it seems to me that we must put some limits on behavior in order to have a livable society. Or, if we are going to allow trans fats and tobacco to be legal, then anyone who gets ill as a result of their use should not be covered by medicare/medicaid or any other form of public assistance. I do not want to pay for another person's stupidity any more than you want limits placed on your behavior because other people have no common sense or self control.

Switching gears here, since the topic is now form and substance of government. The same people who demand smaller government when it comes to putting limits on corporate attempts to make money from poison (and that is what trans fats and tobacco are), have no problem at all legislating scientific research, sexual behavior, and who I can marry. Why is that?

You say weed should be legal (and I agree), but should we then also legalize crack and heroin? If not, why not?

Government has to govern to a certain degree. The question of where we draw the line is certainly complicated. It's my sense that the consensus has been to do the most good for the most people with the smallest government possible. Making poisonous substances illegal seems to fit with that agenda.


MD said...


All I can say is a society with restrictions upon what people can eat, enjoy in private, or do is the opposite of livable, if you ask me.

Labels on food is fine. People yelling in the streets "trans fat is poison!" is fine. People offering informed views, or even arguing till their heads turn blue is fine. All that is what a free society ought manifest.

Government intrusion in petty affairs is not.

As far as the "medicare/medicaid or any other form of public assistance", that is a reasonable point. To mitigate its slippery slope (into regulation of more and more activities that bring harm, and thus bring medical bills) I believe that all should be eliminated, in toto, in favor of monthly grants to every American 21 years of age and older, not in jail. This is the Charles Murray plan, which requires all purchase medical coverage, and would also end corporate welfare.

It is the most integral proposal out there to fix much of what ails America.