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    Lightbulb From futurist Stephan A. Schwartz - Trends That Will Affect Your Future …

    At times of great stress, when your relationship is changing, or your job is disappearing, or you are faced with a fateful choice, it can be extraordinarily helpful to get even a glimpse of what lies in your future.

    From my favorite futurists~ Stephan A. Schwartz

    Trends That Will Affect Your Future … Mr South Whidbey, Globalization, and the Worship of Profit

    By the time we get there it is already a raucous party. The elderly Freeland Hall on Whidbey island, off the coast of Seattle, with its walls and ceiling made of short strips of ancient pine boards, vibrates with the noise. Two hundred fifty people have packed themselves in tonight to eat a simple box dinner on folding tables and watch six men make fools of themselves. One of them will be voted Mr South Whidbey. The voting is done by buying votes, in the form of business card–sized bits of paper, for $1 a card. There is much encouragement to buy as many cards as possible.

    As I sit there eating my chicken salad, men in odd outfits—one wears a kind of apron upon which is airbrushed a nude female form with a fig leaf, another is got up as Abe Lincoln—circulate with cardboard beer six-pack carriers. Where the beer would be there are paper cups with the names of the contestants, who are also wearing improbable outfits and who range in age from one man in his early 30s wearing a kilt and sporting a chain saw—sort of like one of the Village People seen by someone on a bad drug trip—to an octogenarian dressed as a 1920s Parisian boulevardier. The evening is a parody of any beauty pageant. There are dumb questions for the contestant interview, a runway promenade, and a talent segment. It is all uniformly awful, and so self-consciously so that it calls forth from the audience cheers, hoots, and laughter. As the evening progresses, we vote by placing the little cards in the cup labeled with the name of our favorite.

    I have just moved to Whidbey and am here at the party with my partner Ronlyn, and neither of us is very clear why; it is largely at the urging of my physician friend, Rick Ingrasci, the man wearing the nude apron. We know no one at our table, and to make conversation I introduce myself to a modest, plainly dressed, middle-aged woman across from me, asking her what it's all about. She explains the purpose of the evening is to raise money for Friends of Friends, a local philanthropy. When I ask her what Friends of Friends is, she tells me it is a community-supported fund offering financial help to our fellow south islanders with medically related bills they cannot afford to pay. The man next to her introduces himself and tells me that it all started in 1997 “and so far has helped about a thousand people with $400,000 in medical expenses.” The woman to my right joins the conversation by telling me she would probably be dead had it not been for Friends of Friends, since “I have no health insurance, and could not have obtained the treatments I desperately needed if they hadn't helped me.” The woman across from me nods in agreement and says, “I would have lost all my teeth except for Friends of Friends.”

    As the octogenarian carries the day, an obvious favorite—how can you not vote for an 80-year-old man wearing a beret and smoking jacket willing to sing old Maurice Chevalier songs in public—I am moved by the community spirit the Mr South Whidbey Pageant represents and heartened by yet another example of the interlocking safety network my new community has created to help itself. And at the same time I am outraged that any of this should be necessary.

    Whenever I confront the illness profit industry's impact on American society, I always imagine I am speaking with my sister, Susan, who has lived most of her life in Europe and is now in France. As I sit there while several men in trench coats and large black witches hats, blowing kazoos, march the hall's length, this particular imaginary conversation plays out with me explaining that little communities such as the villages of South Whidbey have to band together so that the weak, the poor, and the afflicted amongst them can have the basic healthcare that every other industrial nation in the world provides as a matter of course. I imagine my sister's face as she hears about the pleasant woman sitting across from me who almost became one of the 122 people who die daily in America—more than die monthly in the active war zones of Iraq and Afghanistan—because they have no health insurance.

    Viewed from another perspective, I realize, Mr South Whidbey represents a powerful trend shaping our future—and not a happy one. It is the response of a caring small community to a massive failure on the part of the larger society. If we had national healthcare, the nice woman sitting to my right eating the last of her salad would never have faced the abyss of involuntary death because she lacked the insurance to open the door to a continued future. She wouldn't have needed $10,000 to pay for a procedure that in most countries would be considered a right. What must that be like to wake up each morning lying in your bed and knowing that without some drug or medical procedure you are doomed?

    What if instead of giving $10,000 to the woman because she didn't have health insurance, this collective effort, and thousands of other efforts like it in other communities around the country, were focused on something else? How about local preparation for climate change, or to assist local businesses to navigate the “Green Transition” that is occurring as the world moves out of the “Age of Petroleum?” Not that such efforts do not exist, of course they do. But the many programs like Mr South Whidbey support not preparation for the future, but assuage an immediate unnecessary present day failure. Of necessity they compete for time, energy, and money, of which local communities like the villages of South Whidbey have only so much. Suppose Mr South Whidbey gave that $10,000 as a loan to local government to build charging stations for electric cars that local people drive, so they could recharge when they went shopping in the village? If you collected a modest fee like a parking meter, and the city paid the loans back over time, the whole business might even be self-financing. Everybody would benefit, if simply with cleaner air.

    One of America's great defining characteristics is this capacity for coming together in volunteer local effort. “About 61.8 million people, or 26.4% of the population, volunteered through or for an organization at least once between September 2007 and September 2008,” the Bureau of Labor Statistics of the U.S. Department of Labor reported.1 If you have ever lived in another country you realize how rare this is.

    Another of our strengths is the deep commitment of the American people to philanthropy. We commit 1.7% of our gross national product to this purpose—nearly $300 billion a year.2 The next most philanthropic nation is Great Britain at .73%—less than half as much—and it falls off precipitously from there.2

    And the generosity of spirit that is such an American hallmark can be found at every level of the culture. About 65% of households with incomes less than $100,000 give to charity.1 Even the poor give. Their share of the nearly $300 billion offered up is just as green.3 In 2007, as individuals and families, we spent nearly $25 billion a month serving what we felt was good and life-affirming as we understood it.

    This squandering of volunteer action, and philanthropic purpose because the failure to have universal healthcare requires local programs such as Friend of Friends, is a consequence of the “Illness Profit” model. Along with people working sick, or having simple inexpensive medical problems become complex and expensive because they were not treated, these social failures constitute a kind of friction, or a tax. One that in a global world makes us less competitive and less prepared for climate change. I suddenly have images from Katrina in my mind. Once again, like New Orleans and FEMA, are we going to ignore the warnings and be less prepared than we could be if other considerations were not draining off our time, passion, and resources?

    Why is this happening? I think this is one of the great questions that our public conversation should focus on. Barbara Tuchman's 1984 best seller, March of Folly,4 Jared Diamond's 2005 book, Collapse,5 and Naomi Klein's 2007 book, Shock Doctrine,6 all spell out how powerful societies can, and have, destroyed themselves. Almost always it results from an obsessive commitment to something that proves again and again that it is destructive, yet that society continues to focus on it in spite of the evidence. The Easter Islanders kept cutting down their trees, even as they were punished by nature for the destruction of their ecosystem. I always wonder what the last man—cutting down the last tree—thought.

    In our case, the culprit seems to be that profit has become our only bedrock value. Because this is our default consideration, we have chosen to develop a model of healthcare that reflects that value. As a result we have millions, literally millions, of people who cannot make their full contribution to our society's success, either because they cannot contribute at all or are contributing in varying degrees of diminished capacity. But this is just one manifestation of our obsession. Here are a few others.

    When profit is the most important consideration, then social programs like prenatal care, having no immediate payoff, get severely cut even though we know that if a mother does not get a proper diet between the 19th and 23rd week of pregnancy, her fetus' brain will not develop properly and her child will become an unacknowledged handicapped person for their entire lives, in a way that can never be repaired. When short-term profit is the only consideration, then long-term education, particularly of the poor, never really becomes a social priority. And when privatized profit-making prisons become the rice bowl for communities left destitute because of earlier outsourcing, it becomes important to keep a steady flow of the poor into those institutions as the justification for their existence and the mechanism for tapping the public till.

    People are beginning to gather up their coats and I am left with this: in a world that is globalizing, the future and national security of a nation are directly correlated with its ability to field as many brains—literally neurons—and as many fully committed hearts working on behalf of societal success as it can. When profit is the only priority governing the social infrastructure, our recent history shows it sabotages this success.


    Whidbey island, off the coast of Seattle

    original article here;
    http://www.explorejournal.com/articl...368-1/fulltext

    The SchwartzReport tracks emerging trends that will affect the world, particularly the United States. For EXPLORE it focuses on matters of health in the broadest sense of that term, including medical issues, changes in the biosphere, technology, and policy considerations, all of which will shape our culture and our lives.
    http://www.schwartzreport.net/
    Last edited by giovonni; 25th October 2014 at 04:03.

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    Lightbulb Re: From futurist Stephan A. Schwartz ~ Trends That Will Affect Your Future …

    Continuing to look into the ~ Trends That Will Affect Your Future …


    Pot smoking legal for thousands at Cow Palace


    DALY CITY -- People have been toking up in the Cow Palace parking lot for more than 50 years.

    This was the first time it was legal.

    The International Cannabis and Hemp Expo, the first trade show in the United States to allow on-site pot smoking, attracted an estimated 15,000 enthusiasts to Daly City over the weekend. They talked bud, sold products ranging from a $500 water bong to a $19,500 mobile grow house, and discussed how efforts to legalize marijuana would impact their livelihoods.

    "We're exercising our rights as patients to peacefully gather," said Bob Katzman, chief operating officer of the expo, as he stood near the designated puffing area. "We're here to talk about changing some of the existing laws, but we're not here to break the law."

    Katzman said it took organizers four years to negotiate a permit with a venue that would allow marijuana consumption. It wasn't possible, he said, until a "massive change in the political climate."

    That climate is set to be tested in November, when an initiative that would legalize marijuana is to be decided by California voters. Now, marijuana is available only to those with a medicinal use card.

    Such cards were easy to attain at the exposition.

    For $99 - cash only - attendees such as Shawna Spencer of San Jose received a temporary "recommendation" from doctors that allowed her to smoke at the event. Spencer, who said she suffers from bipolar disorder, said she had waited for more than an hour.

    "It's worth the wait because I need it," Spencer said.

    Dr. Daniel Susott said he expected to sign off on 1,600 people by the end of the weekend. He said a portion of the fees would go to charity.

    "We're making history today," he said as his visitors complained of chronic pain, depression and insomnia, among other ailments. "We're operating within the guidelines of Prop. 215 and helping people get the medical marijuana they need."

    If marijuana becomes legal, Susott expects that his patients will self-prescribe.

    "People will start growing their own medicine in their homes," he said. "And the big pharma companies aren't going to like it."

    For those concerned with the conspicuous equipment needed to grow plants inside the home, Tim Ellis of Orange County had the solution: An 18-foot trailer that can yield up to 6 pounds of pot every two months. The Grow n' Mobile starts at $19,500.

    Ellis, a father of two, said he had the family grower in mind - a person who desires to cultivate outside the house, but in a secure location.

    Showing off every detail of his invention, Ellis said he rigged the trailer's hitch so thieves would need a blowtorch to hook the trailer to their own truck. Fumes are routed through a charcoal filter. And the roof has an infrared shield to thwart weed-hunting helicopters.

    "Can't steal it, can't smell it, can't find it," Ellis said, offering his sales pitch. "Built by a grower for a grower. Grow mobile!"

    The event hosted a panel discussion Saturday on how legalization would impact large California growers. A contingent from Humboldt County argued against the ballot initiative, complaining it could devastate a key local industry.

    "Radical" Russ Belville, the outreach coordinator for the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, said that if California's initiative passed, he expected home-growers to enter the market and drive prices down.

    But he was unsympathetic to the group from Humboldt County.

    "To that end, I would say, 'Tough,' " Belville said. "We should have to put people in prison so you can continue to make a living?"

    original story here;
    http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/articl...BA2A1D0OB2.DTL


    more on this subject matter here;
    http://www.tokeofthetown.com/2010/03/

    note; i am neutral in regards to this subject matter, i believe each individual should be legally allowed to chose what's best in concerns to their own personal health care issues.
    giovonni
    Last edited by giovonni; 20th April 2010 at 17:56.

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    Lightbulb Re: From futurist Stephan A. Schwartz ~ Trends That Will Affect Your Future …

    At times of great stress, when your relationship is changing, or your job is disappearing, or you are faced with a fateful choice, it can be extraordinarily helpful to get even a glimpse of what lies in your future.

    From my favorite futurists~ Stephan A. Schwartz

    Trends That Will Affect Your Future … Nonlocal Linkage and the Social Dimension

    Do you sense the schism occurring in the United States? Not the red and blue of politics, although that comes into it. Something deeper, a shift that is producing two very different reactions. Can you feel the ground moving? The zeitgeist of one population is grounded in fear, resentment, anger, and a sense of loss. It is theologically conservative, politically rigid, and exclusionist. The other population holds a sober realization that great change is coming, but also the sense that it offers at least the putative opportunity to create a more stable life-affirming culture. It is theologically and politically accommodating, and inclusionist.

    We all have a vested interest in this schism and the struggle it has produced, not only because through our choices we are its source, but because we will live with the consequences of the decisions made over the next few years. What is particularly concerning is the obsession amongst the population driven by fear with willful ignorance. Yet it cannot be denied that this is an essential attribute of its world view. Only by denying a fact-based world can this perspective be maintained. Most of human history can be seen as a striving for deeper understanding. Science is the highest manifestation of this impulse, perhaps because it is the most objective manifestation. Yet now in the 21st century, we see its antipode emerge—a deep denial of science and the fact-based view of the world. Science, from this perspective, is just another political position, competing in the marketplace of ideas as a political theory.

    In 2005, the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press and Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life carried out a poll involving 2,000 adults, which gives us some real data on what willful ignorance means. They reported 42% of the public believed that “humans and other living things had existed in their present form since the beginning of time,” and that this rose to 70% amongst white evangelical Protestants and decreased to 32% in mainline Protestant churches, and—surprising to some, perhaps—to 31% amongst white Catholics.1 By 2006, the creationist position was affirmed by 55% of Americans.1 Think for a moment about what this means: more than half of America has discarded much of the hard won knowledge of the past 500 years—essentially, the age of modern science and medicine. Astrophysics. Gone. Astronomy. Gone. Paleontology. Gone. Geology. Gone. Biology. Mostly gone. Genetics. Gone. The general laws of physics such as the speed of light found to be defective. It is impossible to believe that the Earth is 10,000 years old, that God manufactured it in six days, and that dinosaurs and humans once coinhabited the planet, and accept that any of those disciplines has anything valid to say. What many would think of as the crown jewels of the human intellect—part of what makes it possible to be optimistic about humanity—are of little or no interest. Because, from the view on this side of the schism, these scientific disciplines cannot be valid. The Creation Museum in Petersburg, Kentucky, with its dioramas of dinosaurs and people happily coexisting, is the creationist statement of reality.

    And as the consort of this self-imposed ignorance, there is a strong premillennial dispensationalist apocalyptic element. End of the world movements in American society are nothing new, but this is the first time in my lifetime significant numbers of the political elite actively entertain the idea of end-times or believe the world is less than 10,000 years old. People are always crying up the end of the world, but you don't expect to see your senator or president espousing such views, or public policy written and enacted on the basis of an information-free values perspective.

    The possibilities of climate change do not permit this indulgence. Yet the ever-intensifying split in our society becomes more intense every year, and all middle ground disappears. We need to understand why this fear is so powerful that it trumps even self-preservation. From what does this fear arise, and why is it so powerful? The answers are usually couched in political or religious terms, but they are never satisfying.

    I want to suggest another factor. To really understand why half of our population is invested in something which, to the other half, seems almost bizarre, I think we have to talk sensibly about the nonlocal, that aspect of consciousness that experimental evidence shows to be in a domain in which space and time have very different meanings. There are literally thousands of papers published in peer-reviewed journals—even though it sometimes took bitter scholarly struggle to make that publication happen—to build this case. I encourage anyone who would like to go into greater detail to visit the “papers” section of my personal website http://www.stephanaschwartz.com/home.htm for bibliographies on Remote Viewing, Therapeutic Intention, and Meditation. There are other research bibliographies one could present as well. I advance this social model because it has been repeatedly demonstrated from various perspectives in a variety of disciplines as reported in these papers.

    I want to get past the usual circular debate of skeptic and proponent call and response because it is clouding something very important: the social implications of nonlocal linkage. It is here we must go to understand the genesis of our schism.

    Here following, I think, is what can reasonably be said.

    The Interdependent Interconnected Nonlocal Consciousness Model
    Here following is what I think can reasonably be said of the Interdependent Interconnected Nonlocal Consciousness Model based on the experimental data: (1) Only certain aspects of the mind are the result of physiologic processes. (2) Consciousness is causal, and physical reality is its manifestation. (3) All consciousnesses, regardless of their physical manifestations, are part of a network of life which they both inform and influence, and are informed and influenced by—there is a passage back and forth between the individual local and the collective nonlocal. (4) Some aspects of consciousness are not limited by space time.

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    Default Re: From futurist Stephan A. Schwartz ~ Trends That Will Affect Your Future …

    This post, Giovanni merits a bump.
    Are futurists only tapping in beyond reality? Maybe. We have such power, such imagination, such knowledge stored in our being and we live in such a lazy world that allows life to just swim by and we observe. Ok for the Zens but not ok for those primed to make a difference by waking up the sleepy heads.

    Just a side note on your cannibus post. I just read from Fritz Springmeier's online book on Mind Control ( he has many ) that one type of drug is NOT used by handlers and programmers of Mind Control and that is Marijuana. I find that extraordinary since they use every other kind of drug, the list is so long and devastating. The reason for not using weed was because they could NOT control the victims. How is that possible? From my son's perspective on the experience years ago was that it made his brain sleepy and dull and fogged and useless. Any comments?

    Peace
    When you realize where you come from, you naturally become tolerant, disinterested, amused, kindhearted as a grandparent, dignified as a king. -- I Ching

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    Red face Re: From futurist Stephan A. Schwartz ~ Trends That Will Affect Your Future …

    Quote Posted by bettye198 (here)
    This post, Giovanni merits a bump.
    Are futurists only tapping in beyond reality? Maybe. We have such power, such imagination, such knowledge stored in our being and we live in such a lazy world that allows life to just swim by and we observe. Ok for the Zens but not ok for those primed to make a difference by waking up the sleepy heads.

    Just a side note on your cannibus post. I just read from Fritz Springmeier's online book on Mind Control ( he has many ) that one type of drug is NOT used by handlers and programmers of Mind Control and that is Marijuana. I find that extraordinary since they use every other kind of drug, the list is so long and devastating. The reason for not using weed was because they could NOT control the victims. How is that possible? From my son's perspective on the experience years ago was that it made his brain Any comments?

    Peace

    Ciao amico mio bella italiana
    i sense your probing old gio

    well i'm sure some futurist possibly might have smoked some in the past ( maybe even a few practioners of zen), but usually from my experiences` its pretty much left me~ as your enlightened son says "sleepy and dull and fogged and useless" but usually quite Happy!

    Between you and me~ i believe a lot of the past and present hemp issues have to do with (economics), pressure's from way back in the early years of U.S. history~ when cotton was King and hemp was not~ Old George Washington grew quite a bit of it for his own usage (cloths-ropes) etc...

    The government (handlers) obviously are quite aware of that hemp (pot) is useless in terms of any kind of "Control" substance (giggle-giggle)

    tanto amore per te<>gio

    post-note; need to emphasis that smoking any substance whether it be tobacco pot etc.. is harmful to ones heart. unless directed by a qualified medical person (physician) for medical purposes~ its best not to use or abuse these substances.
    Last edited by giovonni; 21st April 2010 at 18:33.

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    Lightbulb Re: From futurist Stephan A. Schwartz ~ Trends That Will Affect Your Future …

    The Lost Symbol Sparks Nationwide Interest in the Noetic Sciences

    Bonnie J. Horrigan

    Life can change rapidly; we all know that. But sometimes it changes in ways we aren't expecting, which is exactly what happened at the Institute of Noetic Sciences (IONS) in October 2009. They did not know they were in the book.

    Since the release of Dan Brown's newest novel, The Lost Symbol, visits to the IONS Web site have increased 10-fold; new members are signing up every day, calls are flooding in from across the country, and journalists from Dateline NBC, the Discovery Channel, NPR, and other media outlets are clamoring for interviews. Why? Because IONS and its research are prominently featured in the novel, and now people want to know more—a lot more—about the role of intention and consciousness in the world.

    Brown's novel, which sold two million copies of the English language edition in its first two weeks of release, employs noetic science to untangle the web of clues that resolve a plot conflict between good and evil. It wasn't until the day of its release that IONS staff discovered they were featured. Marilyn Mandala Schlitz, PhD, CEO, of the Institute of Noetic Sciences, received an email from Brown. It basically said that he was a big fan of IONS, and although he had hoped to give them a heads up, he wasn't able to do so because of the security around the book. But he hoped they were enjoying the attention.

    They are. “We are immensely grateful to Mr. Brown for catapulting the little-known field of Noetic Sciences into mainstream conversation surrounding his book,” said Dr Schlitz, who shares similarities with the book's heroine, Katherine Solomon. Before becoming the CEO for IONS, Schiltz spent several decades pioneering clinical and field-based research in the area of human consciousness, transformation, and healing.

    “Based on my research over three decades, I am convinced that consciousness matters,” said Schlitz. “Through our individual and collective explorations, through the bridging of objective science and ancient wisdom traditions, we can find creative new solutions to age-old problems besetting humanity—fostering personal and social healing and transformation.”

    The Institute of Noetic Sciences, which was founded in the early 70s by Apollo 14 astronaut Edgar Mitchell, is a nonprofit membership organization that conducts and sponsors leading-edge research into the potentials and powers of consciousness—including perceptions, beliefs, attention, intention, and intuition. Sitting in the cramped cabin of the space capsule on his return trip from the moon, Mitchell saw planet Earth floating freely in the vastness of space and was engulfed by a profound sense of universal connectedness. In Mitchell's own words: “The presence of divinity became almost palpable, and I knew that life in the universe was not just an accident based on random processes.”

    Researchers at IONS have been applying the lens of science to the multidisciplinary study of consciousness for nearly 40 years. The word noetic comes from the ancient Greek nous, for which there is no exact equivalent in English. It refers to “inner knowing,” a kind of intuitive consciousness—direct and immediate access to knowledge beyond what is available to our normal senses and the power of reason.

    EXPLORE Coeditor-in-Chief, Dean Radin, PhD, is the senior scientist at IONS. “My interest in consciousness was originally motivated out of an intuitive sense that the mind is far more mysterious and powerful than we know,” said Radin, who was brought on as an EXPLORE editor specifically because of his expertise in this field. “Through education and experience I've also come to appreciate that these experiences are also responsible for most of the greatest inventions, artistic and scientific achievements, creative insights, and religious epiphanies throughout history. Understanding this realm of human experience thus offers more than mere academic interest—it touches upon the very best that the human intellect and spirit have to offer.”

    The Lost Symbol mentions studies on the effects of individual and collective intention, intuition, gut feelings, and presentiments—all areas that IONS has been studying intensively for years. For a list of IONS published studies, please go to: http://www.noetic.org/publications/journal_pubs.cfm.

    To field the overwhelming number of requests by The Lost Symbol readers for information about noetic sciences, IONS launched a multipart teleseminar series on the subject in October 2009, which ran weekly through December 2009. The series was filmed on location in Washington, DC, where Brown's novel takes readers on a tour of the symbols and legends of ancient wisdoms and spiritual traditions hidden among the country's national monuments. Dr Schlitz guided listeners on a similar tour, offering a broader understanding of the noetic sciences and what science now knows about the mysteries of consciousness. “In January 2010 we will begin a new, live phone interview series in the form of a class that will take people deeper into the latest noetic research and implications,” explained Schlitz.

    For more information about IONS, please visit http://www.noetic.org.

    original article from explore journal here;
    http://www.explorejournal.com/articl.../fulltext#sec1

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    Question Re: From futurist Stephan A. Schwartz ~ Trends That Will Affect Your Future …

    I do not agree with many of Robert Bryce's conclusions, because the facts he uses to define these issues are highly selective, and very partial. That said, he raises a countervailing view about which one should be cognizant. Ignorant Greens are little different from Creationists. Both are willfully ignorant.
    Stephen A. Schwartz

    i concur~ giovonni

    Five myths about green energy
    By Robert Bryce
    Sunday, April 25, 2010

    Robert Bryce is a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute. His fourth book, "Power Hungry: The Myths of 'Green' Energy and the Real Fuels of the Future,"

    Americans are being inundated with claims about renewable and alternative energy. Advocates for these technologies say that if we jettison fossil fuels, we'll breathe easier, stop global warming and revolutionize our economy. Yes, "green" energy has great emotional and political appeal. But before we wrap all our hopes -- and subsidies -- in it, let's take a hard look at some common misconceptions about what "green" means.

    1. Solar and wind power are the greenest of them all.


    Unfortunately, solar and wind technologies require huge amounts of land to deliver relatively small amounts of energy, disrupting natural habitats. Even an aging natural gas well producing 60,000 cubic feet per day generates more than 20 times the watts per square meter of a wind turbine. A nuclear power plant cranks out about 56 watts per square meter, eight times as much as is derived from solar photovoltaic installations. The real estate that wind and solar energy demand led the Nature Conservancy to issue a report last year critical of "energy sprawl," including tens of thousands of miles of high-voltage transmission lines needed to carry electricity from wind and solar installations to distant cities.

    Nor does wind energy substantially reduce CO2 emissions. Since the wind doesn't always blow, utilities must use gas- or coal-fired generators to offset wind's unreliability. The result is minimal -- or no -- carbon dioxide reduction.

    Denmark, the poster child for wind energy boosters, more than doubled its production of wind energy between 1999 and 2007. Yet data from Energinet.dk, the operator of Denmark's natural gas and electricity grids, show that carbon dioxide emissions from electricity generation in 2007 were at about the same level as they were back in 1990, before the country began its frenzied construction of turbines. Denmark has done a good job of keeping its overall carbon dioxide emissions flat, but that is in large part because of near-zero population growth and exorbitant energy taxes, not wind energy. And through 2017, the Danes foresee no decrease in carbon dioxide emissions from electricity generation.

    2. Going green will reduce our dependence on imports from unsavory regimes.


    In the new green economy, batteries are not included. Neither are many of the "rare earth" elements that are essential ingredients in most alternative energy technologies. Instead of relying on the diversity of the global oil market -- about 20 countries each produce at least 1 million barrels of crude per day -- the United States will be increasingly reliant on just one supplier, China, for elements known as lanthanides. Lanthanum, neodymium, dysprosium and other rare earth elements are used in products from high-capacity batteries and hybrid-electric vehicles to wind turbines and oil refinery catalysts.

    China controls between 95 and 100 percent of the global market in these elements. And the Chinese government is reducing its exports of lanthanides to ensure an adequate supply for its domestic manufacturers. Politicians love to demonize oil-exporting countries such as Saudi Arabia and Iran, but adopting the technologies needed to drastically cut U.S. oil consumption will dramatically increase America's dependence on China.

    3. A green American economy will create green American jobs.


    In a global market, American wind turbine manufacturers face the same problem as American shoe manufacturers: high domestic labor costs. If U.S. companies want to make turbines, they will have to compete with China, which not only controls the market for neodymium, a critical ingredient in turbine magnets, but has access to very cheap employees.

    The Chinese have also signaled their willingness to lose money on solar panels in order to gain market share. China's share of the world's solar module business has grown from about 7 percent in 2005 to about 25 percent in 2009.

    Meanwhile, the very concept of a green job is not well defined. Is a job still green if it's created not by the market, but by subsidy or mandate? Consider the claims being made by the subsidy-dependent corn ethanol industry. Growth Energy, an industry lobby group, says increasing the percentage of ethanol blended into the U.S. gasoline supply would create 136,000 jobs. But an analysis by the Environmental Working Group found that no more than 27,000 jobs would be created, and each one could cost taxpayers as much as $446,000 per year. Sure, the government can create more green jobs. But at what cost?

    4. Electric cars will substantially reduce demand for oil.


    Nissan and Tesla are just two of the manufacturers that are increasing production of all-electric cars. But in the electric car's century-long history, failure tailgates failure. In 1911, the New York Times declared that the electric car "has long been recognized as the ideal" because it "is cleaner and quieter" and "much more economical" than its gasoline-fueled cousins. But the same unreliability of electric car batteries that flummoxed Thomas Edison persists today.

    Those who believe that Detroit unplugged the electric car are mistaken. Electric cars haven't been sidelined by a cabal to sell internal combustion engines or a lack of political will, but by physics and math. Gasoline contains about 80 times as much energy, by weight, as the best lithium-ion battery. Sure, the electric motor is more efficient than the internal combustion engine, but can we depend on batteries that are notoriously finicky, short-lived and take hours to recharge? Speaking of recharging, last June, the Government Accountability Office reported that about 40 percent of consumers do not have access to an outlet near their vehicle at home. The electric car is the next big thing -- and it always will be.

    5. The United States lags behind other rich countries in going green.


    Over the past three decades, the United States has improved its energy efficiency as much as or more than other developed countries. According to data from the Energy Information Administration, average per capita energy consumption in the United States fell by 2.5 percent from 1980 through 2006. That reduction was greater than in any other developed country except Switzerland and Denmark, and the United States achieved it without participating in the Kyoto Protocol or creating an emissions trading system like the one employed in Europe. EIA data also show that the United States has been among the best at reducing the amount of carbon dioxide emitted per $1 of GDP and the amount of energy consumed per $1 of GDP.

    America's move toward a more service-based economy that is less dependent on heavy industry and manufacturing is driving this improvement. In addition, the proliferation of computer chips in everything from automobiles to programmable thermostats is wringing more useful work out of each unit of energy consumed. The United States will continue going green by simply allowing engineers and entrepreneurs to do what they do best: make products that are faster, cheaper and more efficient than the ones they made the year before.


    original article here;
    http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn...042302220.html

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    Lightbulb Re: From futurist Stephan A. Schwartz ~ Trends That Will Affect Your Future …

    Bad Economy Delays 'Adulthood'

    By Jeanna Bryner

    A 22-year-old today might have much more in common with his or her grandfather or even great-grandfather than his own parents, a new study suggests. The reason: Young Americans, like their counterparts in the early 1900s, are taking their time leaving home and becoming full-fledged adults.

    The researchers say it comes down to economics, as young people today are more financially insecure and take home lower wages. The result: greater burden on parents, of course.

    The result can be more than close quarters for burgeoning personalities and bodies. We're in the middle of a recession (though experts argue on whether we're truly in or out of the financial dive), which is already putting pressures on middle-class families, say the researchers, Richard Settersten, a professor of human development and family sciences at Oregon State University, and Barbara Ray, president of Hired Pen, Inc.

    The longer path to adulthood strains families as well as institutions that have traditionally supported young Americans in making that transition — residential colleges and universities, community colleges, the military, and national service programs.

    "Only by continuing or increasing investments in young people after the age of 18 can policymakers implement the supports needed to make the road to adulthood less draining for families and less perilous for young people," Settersten said.

    Possibly even more disconcerting is their finding that unlike 1910, today's young adults are being supported financially by their parents, instead of helping to support their parents as they might have in the early 20th century.

    Their research, which includes decade-long work by Settersten as part of the MacArthur Research Network on Transitions to Adulthood, is detailed in the journal Transition to Adulthood.

    Generation basics

    The mid-1900s, considered the baby boom, is often used as a comparison for judging young people today. But Settersten and Ray suggest that generation is an anomaly. Supporting this idea, past research has shown differences between the GenX-ers (born between 1965 and 1981) and baby boomers, such as differences in work attitude.

    In the post-World War II baby boom, high-paying industrial jobs were plentiful, and a prosperous economy meant workers with little education could find secure employment with decent wages and benefits. The researchers found that since then, downward trends in wages and economic opportunities have been directly linked to young people staying at home longer, returning home later, and postponing or even forgoing marriage and children.

    That same delay described young people in the early decades of the 1900s who were slow to leave their family homes and start families. Becoming an adult then, as now, was a gradual process characterized by "semi-autonomy," with young people waiting until they were self-sufficient to set up their own households, marry and have children.

    "Having an income that's adequate to support oneself and a family — or at least the ability to earn one — has always been a precursor to living independently and taking on adult roles, such as marrying and settling down," Settersten said.

    Highlights from the research

    •In 2005, even before the current recession, roughly three in 10 white men (up to age 34) with a high school degree were not in school, in the military or at work. More than half of young black men were not in school, in the military or at work.
    •Even those with an education weren't as likely as their counterparts in the 1960s and 1970s to get a good-paying job. Young men (25-34 years old) with a high school degree or less earned about $4,000 less in 2002 than in 1975 (with earnings adjusted for inflation). Men with some college education earned about $3,500 a year less in 2002 than in 1975.
    •Every age group, except those with graduate-level college education, had greater amounts of people earning below poverty level in 2002 than in 1975.
    •In 1969, only about 10 percent of men in their early 30s had wages that were below poverty level. By 2004, that proportion had more than doubled.
    Parents shoulder burden

    Though the researchers found similarities between today's young adults and their grandparents, there were also differences. For instance, young people today don't contribute to the household as they once did. Instead, parents shoulder the burden of launching their children into adulthood.

    "Parents are now being called on to provide financial and other kinds of assistance to their young adult children," Ray said. "A century ago, the opposite was true. Then, young adults often helped their parents when they went to work and especially if they still lived together."

    They found parents spend some 10 percent of their annual income to help their adult children, regardless of their income level. "And that's a whole lot of money for some kids to get — and for many parents to give, or to afford," Settersten said.

    Despite today's "adults" staying with mom and dad longer, they do venture out and spend years living independently from parents during early adulthood, Settersten noted. And the percentages of people who have never married and who are intentionally childless are also higher now than at any other time in American history.

    "Today, the young adult years are filled up with many different kinds of living arrangements, some of which more often involve parents," he said. "But what is perhaps more significant is the fact that these arrangements don't as often involve spouses.

    original article link;
    http://www.livescience.com/culture/e...ns-100427.html

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    Lightbulb Re: From futurist Stephan A. Schwartz ~ Trends That Will Affect Your Future …

    Limitless, Cheap Chips Made Out of DNA Could Replace Silicon


    A Single Waffle Structure Nanotechnology never looked so delicious.
    Chris Dwyer, Duke University



    Silicon chips are on the way out, at least if Duke University engineer Chris Dwyer has his way. The professor of electrical and computer engineering says a single grad student using the unique properties of DNA to coax circuits into assembling themselves could produce more logic circuits in a single day than the entire global silicon chip industry could produce in a month.

    Indeed, DNA is perfectly suited to such pre-programming and self-assembly. Dwyer's recent research has shown that by creating and mixing customized snippets of DNA and other molecules, he can create billions of identical, waffle-like structures that can be turned into logic circuits using light rather than electricity as a signaling medium.

    The process works by adding light-sensitive molecules called chromophores to the structures. These chromophores absorb light, exciting the electrons within. That energy is passed to a different nearby chromophore, which uses the energy to emit light of a different wavelength. The difference in wavelength is easily differentiated from the original light; in computing terms, it's the difference between a one or a zero. Presto: a logic gate.

    Rather than running computers and electrical circuits on electricity, light-sensitive DNA switches could be used to move signals through a device at much higher speeds. Furthermore, the waffle structures are cheap and can be made quickly in virtually limitless quantities, driving down the cost of computing power. Once you figure out how you wish to code the DNA snippets, you can synthesize them easily and repeatedly; from there you can create everything from a single logic gate to larger, more complex circuits.

    A shift from silicon-based semiconductor chips would be a sea-change for sure, but semiconductors are reaching a technological ceiling and if the economics of DNA-based chips are really as attractive as they seem, change might be inevitable. DNA is already smart enough to be the foundation of life on Earth: why not the foundation of computing as well?

    original article here;

    http://www.popsci.com/technology/art...ssing-backbone
    Last edited by giovonni; 14th May 2010 at 09:51.

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    Exclamation Re: From futurist Stephan A. Schwartz ~ Trends That Will Affect Your Future …

    China drought highlights future climate threats


    The drought in Yunnan province has left millions without water.

    Yunnan's worst drought for many years has been exacerbated by destruction of forest cover and a history of poor water management.

    Jane Qi ~ Beijing

    Born into a farming family in south Yunnan province, China, Zhu Youyong's life has always been tied to the soil. At the age of 54, however, Zhu — now president of Yunnan Agricultural University in Kunming — says he "has never seen such severe drought in Yunnan".

    Since last September, the province has had 60% less rainfall than normal. According to the Ministry of Civil Affairs, 8.1 million people — 18% of Yunnan's population — are short of drinking water, and US$2.5-billion worth of crops are expected to fail.

    Scientists in China say that the crisis marks one of the strongest case studies so far of how climate change and poor environmental practice can combine to create a disaster. They are now scrambling to pin down exactly what caused the drought, and whether similar events are likely to hit the region more often in the future.

    Meanwhile, with most of the province's winter crops ruined, local farmers need immediate help. Zhu has been going from county to county to persuade farmers to grow different crops together in the same field, rather than as a monoculture. Intercropping can boost yields by up to 30%, and could help to avoid food shortages in the region later this year1. This summer, 80% of the farmland in Yunnan — a staggering 2.9 million hectares — will use the technique. But success will depend on a break in the weather. "If it still doesn't rain in late May, the consequences will be unthinkable," says Zhu.
    Dry spell

    It is not news that China is seriously short of water, but its southwestern region — including the Yunnan, Guizhou, Guangxi and Sichuan provinces and Chongqing municipality — usually sees ample precipitation. This year, however, the rains did not come, and people there want to know why.

    "Yunnan does experience droughts every few decades," says Xu Jianchu, an ecologist at the Kunming Institute of Botany, an institute of the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS). But the severity of this year's drought is unusual. Some say it is the worst in over a century. Xu is a contributor to a report on climate change in Yunnan and its myriad impacts2. Sponsored by CAS and the China Meteorological Administration, the report shows that Yunnan has got warmer and drier in the past half-century. Since 1960, the number of rainy days has decreased, whereas the number of extreme events, such as torrential rains and droughts, has increased.

    Some suggest that this year's drought in Yunnan might be caused by the El Niño/Southern Oscillation (ENSO), an atmospheric circulation system that originates in the western Pacific Ocean and brings rainfall to Southeast Asia. During El Niño years the wind from the Pacific weakens, leading to droughts in the region.

    "We've had a moderately strong El Niño event since October," says Dan Bebber, a climate researcher at the Earthwatch Institute in Oxford, UK, a non-profit environmental group. Although Yunnan is not directly under the influence of ENSO, "there is a statistical relationship between El Niño and the monsoon system in southwestern China through mechanisms that are unclear", he says.

    Indeed, the CAS report suggests that in previous strong El Niño years, the rainy season in Yunnan, which spans May to October, was delayed, with less rain in the summer and more rain in the autumn. But climate models are divided on how climate change will affect ENSO, with some showing increasing intensity and others decreasing intensity, says Bebber.

    Climate change is not the only factor affecting the drought. Deforestation in mountainous Yunnan is also being blamed. "Natural forests are a key regulator of climate and hydrological processes," says Xu, who is also China's representative at the World Agroforestry Centre, an international think tank headquartered in Nairobi, Kenya.

    The forest's thick litter layer of organic materials can absorb up to seven times its own weight in water, says Liu Wenyao, an ecologist at the Xishuangbanna Tropical Botanical Garden (XTBG), a research institute of CAS in Menglun in southwestern Yunnan. Natural forests also have an extensive network of roots that keep the ground moist, and the canopy can trap water vapour, creating a dense fog that keeps the myriad plant species alive during dry seasons.

    But in Xishuangbanna prefecture, renowned for the natural splendour of its tropical rainforests, forest clearance between 1976 and 2003 shrank the primary-forest cover to 3.6% of its 1976 value3. The rainforest has been replaced by rubber trees — known as 'water pumps' by locals because of their insatiable thirst — which now cover 20% of the prefecture's land.

    In the Ailao mountains north of Xishuangbanna, where it is too cold to grow rubber trees, plantations of fast-growing but thirsty eucalyptus are replacing primary forest to feed the paper industry. In other parts of Yunnan, logging, mining, quarrying and increasing human settlement have cleared huge areas of forest. The results are an increase in soil erosion, landslides and flash floods.

    "Such large-scale deforestation removes the valuable ecological services natural forests provide," says Liu. "The impact of deforestation on hydrological processes becomes particularly acute during prolonged droughts." The region could also be plagued by other natural hazards: with drought the risk of forest fire increases, whereas wetter monsoon seasons could see more floods wreaking havoc.

    Many scientists are now worried that severe droughts, such as Yunnan's, will become more common across southeast Asia. In addition to the effect on humans, "the impact on biodiversity could be huge," says Jennifer Baltzer, an ecologist at Mount Allison University in Sackville, New Brunswick, Canada.

    As existing plant species struggle to cope with the drought and die, they are replaced by hardier plants. Zhu Hua, an ecologist at XTBG, and his colleagues have already noted a 10% increase in the abundance of liana species over the past few decades in southwestern Yunnan's tropical forests4. Cao Kunfang, also an XTBG ecologist, says that lianas have a deep root system that allows them to absorb water deep in the soil5. They can also minimize evaporation by closing the minute stomatal pores in their leaves. But without a large trunk, lianas are poor at absorbing carbon dioxide — and even worse once their stomata close. "Having more lianas in tropical forests could compromise their function as a carbon sink," says Cao.
    Last-minute scramble

    As government officials scramble to deal with the emergency in Yunnan, the province's water management is being scrutinized. Most of its reservoirs were built more than 50 years ago, and half are either disused or do not function properly. Many of Yunnan's natural lakes are severely polluted and unusable, says Ma Jun, director of the Institute of Public and Environmental Affairs, a non-governmental organization in Beijing. Xu says that the region has not enough small-scale infrastructure — ponds, small reservoirs and canals — to distribute clean water to the hardest-hit areas. "There is an urgent need to develop an effective hydrological network in the province," he says.

    In recent years the region has instead focused on building huge reservoirs and hydropower stations, Xu says, because of the economic and political capital that such projects offer. Overall, the central government has been reactive, tackling droughts when they come rather than preparing for the worst, adds Yu Chaoqing, a hydrologist at the Beijing-based China Institute of Water Resources and Hydropower Research, part of the government's Ministry of Water Resources.

    Throughout southwestern China, where 2,000 drought-relief workers are drilling wells around the clock, the location of groundwater remains elusive because few geological surveys have been done. "It's a last-minute scramble because only 10% of the drought-ridden region has been surveyed," says Hao Aibing, a geologist at the China Geological Survey in Beijing, who is helping to locate groundwater in Yunnan, Guizhou and Guangxi provinces. "Even if we get live water wells, the water quality remains an issue," he says. "We just know so little about the groundwater in the region."

    Researchers are adamant that lessons must be learned from this year's drought in Yunnan. "Extreme weather events are likely to happen more frequently in the future," says Xu, referring to the findings of the CAS report. "I hope we will be better prepared when the next natural disaster strikes."


    original story here;

    http://www.nature.com/news/2010/1005...l/465142a.html

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    Question Re: From futurist Stephan A. Schwartz ~ Trends That Will Affect Your Future …

    Can an Aspirin a Day Do More Harm Than Good?
    Experts are re-evaluating who should swallow a daily dose



    Some 43 million Americans do it every day: take a tiny aspirin to help prevent heart attacks and strokes. In fact, doctors have been routinely recommending the practice to older adults for years. But recently, experts have been questioning the aspirin-a-day regimen, concerned that this everyday miracle drug can pose serious risks, including bleeding in the brain and stomach.

    The aspirin-a-day controversy erupted publicly in March when a 10-year study of nearly 30,000 adults ages 50 to 75 without known heart disease found that a daily aspirin didn’t offer any discernible protection. The group taking aspirin had cardiovascular disease at the same rate as those taking a placebo. Moreover, the study—published in the Journal of the American Medical Association—reported that taking a daily aspirin (100 mg) almost doubled the risk of dangerous internal bleeding.

    And last year the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force—a panel of medical experts—issued new guidelines for patients, recommending only those at risk for heart attacks or strokes should take a daily aspirin. Risk factors include having high blood pressure, high cholesterol and diabetes, as well as being overweight.

    The panel also recommended that people over 80 not take aspirin at all because of bleeding risk.

    For the first time, the panel also broke down its advice by gender, recommending against daily aspirin use in women under 55 and men under 45.

    Is it right for you?

    So, should you take a daily aspirin or not? The answer is not quite as simple as doctors previously thought. Aspirin, they say, can still be a lifesaving drug, but it’s not for everyone.

    For reasons researchers don’t fully understand, aspirin seems to provide different benefits for men and women.

    In men, aspirin can prevent heart attacks but seems to have no effect on strokes, says Michael LeFevre, M.D., a member of the task force that wrote the new guidelines and a professor of family medicine at the University of Missouri. Conversely, he says, aspirin appears to help women avoid strokes but not heart attacks.

    The new recommendations suggest that aspirin will be most beneficial to:

    * men between 45 and 79 who have a high risk for heart attacks;

    * women between 55 and 79 who are at high risk for strokes.

    Drawbacks

    Aspirin, which has been around for more than 100 years, is a cheap, easy, effective way to control pain and inflammation. In 1989, when a major study revealed that a small dose could reduce the risk of stroke and heart attack by preventing blood clots, doctors began recommending that their older patients take a low dose of aspirin, 81 mg, every day.

    “Aspirin is a lifesaving medicine in patients with established cardiovascular disease,” says Jeffrey Berger, M.D., a cardiologist at New York University who has studied the use of aspirin. But, he warns, it does come with some real drawbacks.

    Aspirin has been linked with chronic ringing in the ears (tinnitus), and earlier this year scientists reported that people who took aspirin regularly were more likely to suffer from hearing loss.

    Dangerous bleeding

    The drug’s ability to prevent blood clots is also a double-edged sword. The body’s ability to stop bleeding is what prevents a small cut, for instance, from causing uncontrollable bleeding. While aspirin might keep clots from blocking blood flow to our hearts and brains, it also makes it more likely that we might develop serious internal bleeds, particularly in the stomach. “That’s not a trivial side effect,” says LeFevre. “We’re talking about people who get hospitalized” and may end up in the intensive care unit, he adds.

    Some patients are more likely to suffer these complications than others; a recent review of the research reveals that men are twice as likely to experience bleeds as women, and the risk also increases with age. Researchers estimate the risk of internal bleeding for those who take aspirin is two to four times greater than for those who don’t take aspirin at all, depending on factors such as age and overall health.

    Even though people are more likely to bleed as they get older, researchers don’t think aspirin causes the risk of bleeding to build up over time. “In fact, it’s likely that if one is to bleed, their risk of bleeding is seen early on,” Berger says.

    Taking ibuprofen and naproxen—common pain relievers such as Advil and Aleve—also can make bleeding more likely. Unfortunately, this kind of severe bleeding doesn’t usually come with obvious warning signs, but sudden gastrointestinal pain can be a tip-off. The bleeding is often caused by inflammation of the stomach lining or an aspirin-induced ulcer and can result in vomiting blood or blood in the stool.

    The traditional point of view, LeFevre says, was: “Aspirin is a pretty benign thing. Why doesn’t everybody take one? Aspirin, as it turns out, is not harmless.”

    Strokes vs. heart attacks

    Many of the risk factors for heart attacks and strokes—including age, diabetes and smoking—overlap, but there are slight differences. High total cholesterol and high levels of LDL or “bad” cholesterol, for instance, are important predictors of heart attacks.

    The most important risk factors for strokes include high blood pressure, certain kinds of irregular heartbeats (known as atrial fibrillation) and a condition known as left ventricular hypertrophy in which some of the heart muscle thickens.

    Experts agree that women who have already had strokes and men who have already had heart attacks should absolutely be taking aspirin. “You have to make sure that people with a history of heart attack or stroke do not stop their aspirin, because it could be a deadly mistake,” says NYU’s Berger.

    Clearly, the benefits of aspirin have to be weighed against the possibility of bleeding, and that’s a conversation that experts say every patient needs to have with his or her doctor.

    “This decision has to be made one person at a time,” LeFevre says. “There is no one blanket recommendation for everybody.”

    By: Emily Anthes | Source: AARP Bulletin
    original link here;

    http://bulletin.aarp.org/yourhealth/...TRL-51410-F1-1

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    Question Re: From futurist Stephan A. Schwartz ~ Trends That Will Affect Your Future …

    Burger & Fries Worsen Asthma, Study Suggests
    By Rachael Rettner, LiveScience Staff Writer

    A burger and fries are not only bad for the waistline, they might also exacerbate asthma, a new study suggests.

    Patients with asthma who ate a high-fat meal had increased inflammation in their airways soon afterward, and did not respond as well to treatment as those who ate a low-fat meal, the researchers found.

    The results provide more evidence that environmental factors, such as diet, can influence the development of asthma, which has increased dramatically in recent years in westernized countries where high-fat diets are common. In 2007, about 34.1 million Americans had asthma, according to the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology. From 1980 through 1994, the prevalence of asthma increased 75 percent.

    While the results are preliminary, they suggest cutting down on fat might be one way to help control asthma.

    "If these results can be confirmed by further research, this suggests that strategies aimed at reducing dietary fat intake may be useful in managing asthma," study researcher Lisa Wood, of the University of Newcastle, told LiveScience in an e-mail.

    The results will be presented at this year's American Thoracic Society's International Conference, held May 14-19 in New Orleans.

    Asthma is a condition in which inflammation in the airways can lead to breathlessness, wheezing and coughing. Symptoms can be triggered by a variety of irritants, including air pollution, smoke and allergens, such as pollen and animal dander.

    Previous studies have shown eating fatty foods can trigger the immune system, leading to an increase in cells in the blood that are responsible for inflammation. But no one had specifically looked at the effect of a fatty diet on asthma.

    Wood and her colleagues had 40 asthmatic patients eat either a high-fat meal, consisting of burgers and hash browns, or a low-fat meal of yogurt. The high-fat meal was 1,000 calories (52 percent of calories from fat), and the low-fat meal was 200 calories (13 percent from fat).

    Analysis of sputum samples revealed that those who had eaten the burger meal had an increased number of immune cells called neutrophils in their airways. Neutrophils play a role in triggering inflammation.

    The high-fat diet patients also showed less improvement in their lung function in response to the asthma medication Ventolin (generically known as albuterol) three to four hours after the meal.

    The researchers aren't sure why the drug didn't work as well after the high-fat meal and plan further studies to tease out an answer. It could be the fatty acids interfere with the drug in some way, the researchers say.

    original story link here;
    http://www.livescience.com/health/fa...ma-100516.html


    *Bonus link~ Top 7 Biggest Diet Myths
    http://www.livescience.com/health/7-...hs-100430.html

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    Exclamation Re: From futurist Stephan A. Schwartz ~ Trends That Will Affect Your Future …

    Oceans’ fish could disappear in 40 years: UN




    By Agence France-Presse
    Monday, May 17th, 2010 -- 1:43 pm

    The world faces the nightmare possibility of fishless oceans by 2050 without fundamental restructuring of the fishing industry, UN experts said Monday.

    "If the various estimates we have received... come true, then we are in the situation where 40 years down the line we, effectively, are out of fish," Pavan Sukhdev, head of the UN Environment Program's green economy initiative, told journalists in New York.

    A Green Economy report due later this year by UNEP and outside experts argues this disaster can be avoided if subsidies to fishing fleets are slashed and fish are given protected zones -- ultimately resulting in a thriving industry.

    The report, which was opened to preview Monday, also assesses how surging global demand in other key areas including energy and fresh water can be met while preventing ecological destruction around the planet.

    UNEP director Achim Steiner said the world was "drawing down to the very capital" on which it relies.

    However, "our institutions, our governments are perfectly capable of changing course, as we have seen with the extraordinary uptake of interest. Around, I think it is almost 30 countries now have engaged with us directly, and there are many others revising the policies on the green economy," he said.

    Collapse of fish stocks is not only an environmental matter.

    One billion people, mostly from poorer countries, rely on fish as their main animal protein source, according to the UN.

    The Green Economy report estimates there are 35 million people fishing around the world on 20 million boats. About 170 million jobs depend directly or indirectly on the sector, bringing the total web of people financially linked to 520 million.

    According to the UN, 30 percent of fish stocks have already collapsed, meaning they yield less than 10 percent of their former potential, while virtually all fisheries risk running out of commercially viable catches by 2050.

    The main scourge, the UNEP report says, are government subsidies encouraging ever bigger fishing fleets chasing ever fewer fish -- with little attempt to allow the fish populations to recover.

    Fishing fleet capacity is "50 to 60 percent" higher than it should be, Sukhdev said.

    "What is scarce here is fish," he said, calling for an increase in the stock of fish, not the stock of fishing capacity."

    Creating marine preservation areas to allow female fish to grow to full size, thereby hugely increasing their fertility, is one vital solution, the report says.

    Another is restructuring the fishing fleets to favor smaller boats that -- once fish stocks recover -- would be able to land bigger catches.

    "We believe solutions are on hand, but we believe political will and clear economics are required," Sukhdev said.

    original story here;
    http://rawstory.com/rs/2010/0517/oce...pear-40-years/
    Last edited by giovonni; 31st May 2010 at 20:41.

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    Lightbulb Re: From futurist Stephan A. Schwartz ~ Trends That Will Affect Your Future …

    From The Explore Journal
    Volume 6, Issue 3, Pages 135-142 (May 2010)


    Trends That Will Affect Your Future … The Denier Movements Critique Evolution, Climate Change, and Nonlocal Consciousness

    Stephan A. Schwartz

    In our culture right now we have several “denier” movements actively engaged in trying to impede the free development of science: the creationists, the climate change deniers, and the consciousness deniers—those who cannot, or will not, consider consciousness as anything other than materialist processes. For all their lack of substance, these movements are powerful forces in the culture, with substantial detrimental effects.

    Creationism, on its face, seems medieval and absurd, but The Pew Research organization, which has tracked the creationist question for many years, reports that 55% of Americans believe the world was created within the last 10,000 years, with all the species pretty much as they are today.1 As appalling as that is, I want to point out, in the context of this essay, that it is getting worse. Creationists are winning the hearts and minds of the American public.


    Consider the 2005 poll by the Harris organization, shown in Table 1.2
    Table 1.

    Do Man and Apes Have Common Ancestry?


    Do You Believe Apes and Man Have a Common Ancestry or Not?

    Do You Believe Apes and Man Have a Common Ancestry or Not?

    Yes, apes and man do have a common ancestry. July 1996- 51% ~ June 2005- 46%
    No, apes and man do not have a common ancestry. July 1996- 43% ~ June 2005- 47%
    Not sure/decline to answer. July 1996- 5% ~ June 2005- 7%


    Taken from The Harris Poll.2 Base: all adults. Percentages may not add up exactly to 100% due to rounding.

    Climate change deniers have seriously impeded the development of rational policies to deal with what the best science tells us is happening with our climate, a distortion that may prove to have fatal consequences.

    Consciousness deniers are materialists who conceive of all aspects of consciousness as entirely a construct of physiological processes, in spite of hundreds of studies demonstrating this conclusion is not justified. This, just as creationists, in the face of hundreds of studies, demand that evolution be considered no more than an unproven theory, or climate deniers see extreme snow storms as proof climate change is a myth. As a result of these denier efforts, research in all three areas has been made more difficult, and this has had both unfortunate scientific and social implications.

    The denier disruptions created in evolutionary and climate research are well known. The impact of consciousness deniers is less known or understood. But here is one consideration: progress in understanding the nature of consciousness, particularly that aspect—the nonlocal—that has not been explained by physiology but is addressed by nonlocality and quantum processes, has a very direct social consequence. The nonlocal aspect of consciousness may very well account for the insight of genius, for religious epiphany, as well as for the experiences known as psi. In an age when the acquisition and analysis of information as well as fostering of innovation that produces breakthroughs will be critical determinants of societal success, learning how individuals make intuitive leaps that change the game is no small matter. More profoundly, these studies, the collective product of multiple disciplines, are beginning to describe how consciousness and matter interact. Collectively they are defining a new paradigm.

    The three denier movements—creationists, climate change, and consciousness—all share certain commonalities. Deniers from all these movements always make a point of defining themselves as skeptics, so we should begin by noting that skeptic comes from the Greek root skepsis, meaning inquiry and doubt. Yet any objective analysis of these movements makes it clear that their hallmarks are a lack of interest in further inquiry, and an absence of doubt concerning their own positions. So if deniers are not skeptics what are they?

    I believe they represent examples of classic defense positions concerning a cherished paradigm, slowly moving into crisis, just as described by the physicist and philosopher of science Thomas Kuhn.3 With creationists, it is the inerrancy of the Bible and the presentation in Genesis of the creation of the world. For climate deniers, it is the conviction that human intervention is not the source of massive climate change. For consciousness deniers, it is a materialist perspective.

    In this essay, although I draw comparisons amongst the denier movements, I particularly focus on the consciousness deniers, because their attacks and the disruptive friction they produce have a particularly deleterious effect on many of the lines of research covered in these pages.

    If one follows the threads of consciousness-denier criticism over the past century, it is notable that, although in the early years attacks mostly centered on methodology, after an exchange of comments between denier psychologist Ray Hyman and statistician Jessica Utts that line of criticism largely ceased. Why did this happen? In 1995, the United States Congress commissioned the American Institutes for Research (AIR), a Washington, DC–based not-for-profit think tank with a long history of work in human performance and close government ties, to assess the reality of remote viewing in research the US government had previously funded. Remote viewing is a protocol for obtaining objectively verifiable information that can only be obtained through accessing nonlocal awareness, the aspect of consciousness outside of space/time.

    To make the assessment, AIR selected nationally recognized statistics professor Jessica Utts of the University of California, Davis, and well-known skeptic, Professor Ray Hyman, a psychology professor on the faculty of the University of Oregon and a fellow of the Committee for the Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal (now the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry). Both had previously written on this topic and were notably sophisticated in the issues involved. Utts had already addressed the question Congress was asking in a 1991 paper published in the journal Statistical Science.4

    Hyman and Utts were each asked by AIR to produce an independent report by a fixed date. Utts complied and submitted her report by the deadline. Hyman did not. As a result, he was able to see her report before writing his own, and the approach he chose to take, when he did write, was largely a commentary on her analysis. To compensate for this inequity, AIR allowed Utts to write a response that was incorporated into the final document submitted to the Congress. It is in this unplanned form of exchange that the essence of the two positions is revealed. Utts' initial statement is remarkable for its clarity. She wrote:

    Using the standards applied to any other area of science, it is concluded that psychic functioning has been well established. The statistical results of the studies examined are far beyond what is expected by chance. Arguments that these results could be due to methodological flaws in the experiments are soundly refuted. Effects of similar magnitude have been replicated at a number of laboratories across the world. Such consistency cannot be readily explained by claims of flaws or fraud.

    The magnitude of psychic functioning exhibited appears to be in the range between what social scientists call a small and medium effect. That means that it is reliable enough to be replicated in properly conducted experiments, with sufficient trials to achieve the long-run statistical results needed for replicability.5

    Hyman, responding to Utts' report, wrote:

    I want to state that we agree on many … points. We both agree that the experiments (being assessed) were free of the methodological weaknesses that plagued the early…research. We also agree that the…experiments appear to be free of the more obvious and better known flaws that can invalidate the results of parapsychological investigations. We agree that the effect sizes reported…are too large and consistent to be dismissed as statistical flukes.6

    This is important because what Hyman is conceding is that the way in which the kinds of laboratory experiments described in this paper are conducted, and the way in which they are analyzed, is no longer a matter for dispute. Nonlocal perception cannot be explained away as some artifact resulting from how the data were collected or evaluated.

    Nor is this research vulnerable to criticisms based on blindness and randomness. No other field of science is so obsessed with the gold standard issues of blindness and randomness.

    English biologist Rupert Sheldrake conducted a survey of leading journals published between October 1996 and April 1998 (Table 2). The papers these journals had published were broken into three categories: “(1) not applicable: papers that did not involve experimental investigations, for example, theoretical or review articles; (2) blind or double-blind methodologies used; and (3) blind or double-blind methodologies not used.”7 The reader may find the results surprising. As can be seen in Table 2, parapsychology as a percentage of published papers overwhelmingly utilizes this protocol more than any other discipline.


    Table 2.

    Blind Methodologies Used By Various Disciplinesa


    Area of Science

    Number of Papers

    Number with Blind Methodologies and as % of Total (0.00%)

    Physical science disciplines 237 0
    Biological science disciplines 914 7(0.8%)
    Medical science disciplines 227 55(24.2%)
    Psychological and animal behavior disciplines 143 7(4.9%)
    Parapsychology 27 23(85.2%)



    From Sheldrake. 7 Numbers of papers reviewed and the number involving blind or double-blind methodologies in a range of scientific journals. Only papers reporting experimental results were included in this survey; theoretical papers and review articles were excluded. All publications appeared in 1996-8 unless otherwise indicated.

    Five years later, in 2004, Caroline Watt and Marleen Nagtegaal, working at Edinburgh University, restudied the use of the double-blind protocol in the various disciplines of science and reported that in the ensuing years little had changed.8

    With the Utts/Hyman exchange, and the work by Sheldrake, and Watt and Nagtegaal on record, the deniers have been denied the line of attack that parapsychological methods are typically faulty. Their focus now is centered on replication rates—it works but not as well as we demand it should—and the fact that a single paradigm-achieving theory has not emerged. To anyone familiar with Kuhn, of course, consciousness research is evolving just as it should, and equally predictably, the deniers are mounting increasingly implausible paradigm defenses just as the Kuhn's model predicts.3

    What the deniers do not acknowledge is that paradigms do change and that it is theories, and the experiments that test them, that create paradigms. Further, they do not recognize that no one discipline can create a new paradigm, only many disciplines reaching a consensus can do that. This is the process now going on and, in this context, consciousness researchers such as parapsychologists are simply early-adapters as science, in its many manifestations, finally grapples seriously with consciousness and nonlocality—a quest deniers refuse to join.

    How ironic it is then that Kuhn, whose mind conceived the paradigm concept in science—and paradigm is the core of all denier arguments—fully, if somewhat uncomfortably, recognized the nonlocal. In his classic book, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, he wrote:

    No ordinary sense of the term ‘interpretation’ fits these flashes of intuition through which a new paradigm is born. Though such intuitions depend upon the experience, both anomalous and congruent, gained with the old paradigm, they are not logically or piecemeal linked to particular items of that experience as an interpretation would be [emphasis added].3(pp122,123)

    Comparing this with the statements made by people upon whom history confers the title genius, prophet, or seer reveals that Kuhn echoes their words almost exactly.

    As Einstein explained it, “I feel certain I am right while not knowing the reason.”9 Einstein's assistant Banesh Hoffman, himself a major physicist, observed, “When excited discussions failed to break the deadlock [of a problem], Einstein would quietly say in his quaint English, ‘I will have a little tink.’”10 As Hoffman and Leopold Infeld, Einstein's other major assistant (also a major physicist) looked on in silence, Einstein would pace the room, coiling and uncoiling his signature hair around a finger as he walked, his sockless ankles winking into view as his pants flapped. “There was a dreamy faraway, yet inward look on his face,” Hoffman said, but, “No sign of stress. No outward indication of intense concentration.”10 Neither assistant felt he could say a word. After a few minutes, Einstein would suddenly come back to normal consciousness, “a smile on his face and an answer to the problem on his lips.” Hoffman said the ideas “seemed to come from left field, to be quite extraordinary.”10

    Brahms described his moments of creative breakthroughs this way:

    … in this exalted state I see clearly what is obscure in my ordinary moods; then I feel capable of drawing inspiration from above as Beethoven did…. Those vibrations assume the form of distinct mental images…. Straightaway the ideas flow in upon me…and not only do I see distinct themes in the mind's eye, but they are clothed in the right forms, harmonies, and orchestration. Measure by measure the finished product is revealed to me when I am in those rare inspired moods…11

    Mozart and Copland also seem to have had similar experiences.11 In Mozart's case, the connection was so clear and strong the pages of his compositions show few alterations; they look like finished transcriptions.

    Remote viewers say of their experiences: “I kind of space out,” or “It's sort of like focusing my mind at some middle distance.” They describe the moment itself by saying, “It came in a flash,” or “It was like a hologram…. Images are all there…as if it were a hologram hanging in my mind.”12

    Poincaré described his work on a mathematical problem in the same vein: “One day, as I was crossing the street, the solution of the difficulty which had brought me to a standstill came to me all at once.”13

    Consider also one of history's most renowned psychics, Edgar Cayce, describing what he was doing. Speaking from his self-induced trance state in 1923, in response to a question about the process and source of his nonlocal ability:

    The information as given or obtained from this body is gathered from the sources from which the suggestion may derive its information. In this state the conscious mind becomes subjugated to the subconscious, superconscious or soul mind; and may and does communicate with like minds, and the subconscious or soul force becomes universal. From any subconscious mind information may be obtained, either from this plane or from the impressions as left by the individuals that have gone on before, as we see a mirror reflecting direct that which is before it…Through the forces of the soul, through the mind of others as presented, or that have gone on before; through the subjugation of the physical forces in this manner, the body obtains the information.14

    How is it that the great geniuses of history in both science and the arts, as well as ordinary remote viewers, and one of history's great clairvoyants have reported similar experiences in the process of attaining insight, and yet consciousness deniers feel this is not an appropriate area for scientific inquiry? Inasmuch as our history is largely defined by the breakthroughs resulting from such insights, surely understanding the processes involved should be of primary importance.

    Because they are not data based, all three denier movements have a certain antique quality about them. Each speaks about the field it attempts to debunk from a position far behind the cutting edge of the science being attacked. This antiqueness is a sure sign that denier arguments are based on attitude, not data. Deniers all display what can only be called willful ignorance. In the case of the creationists, this is easy to see since, to maintain it, they basically have to discard geology, paleontology, anthropology, chemistry, astrophysics, astronomy (among other disciplines), and the rest of modern science—except perhaps for medicine—to hold their position.

    Climate change deniers simply will not deal with the mass of data collected showing not only that climate change is real, but that human activity—not natural cycles—is the dynamic driving it. This creates severe political problems for the democracies where endless debate becomes a weapon. Nobel Laureate economist Paul Krugman has described the denier's behavior in the debate leading up to the passage by the U.S. Congress of the Waxman-Markey climate-change bill:

    If you watched the debate…you didn't see people who've thought hard about a crucial issue, and are trying to do the right thing. What you saw, instead, were people who show no sign of being interested in the truth. They don't like the political and policy implications of climate change, so they've decided not to believe in it—and they'll grab any argument, no matter how disreputable, that feeds their denial.15

    Notably, corporations which live in the continuing glare of profit and loss, in its way a more stringent standard even than scientific protocol, have no time for such unworldly bias. As I write this essay in January 2010, at the United Nations Investor Summit on Climate Risk, 450 of the world's largest investors have issued a statement calling on the United States and other governments to “act now to catalyze development of a low-carbon economy and to attract the vast amount of private capital necessary for such transformation.”16

    The US, European, and Australian investor groups, who together represent $13 trillion in assets, have called for “a price on carbon emissions” and “well-designed carbon markets” to provide “a cost-effective way of achieving emissions reductions.'”16

    In consciousness deniers, willful ignorance can similarly be seen. They speak about a parapsychology that has not existed in decades, if it ever did, and even more revealingly they ignore all the other areas of research where work is going on that is essentially parapsychological under another name. Therapeutic intention research, such as immunologist Leonard Leibovici's study on remote retroactive intercessory prayer,17 or the near-death experience studies of cardiologist Pim Van Lommel et al,18, 19 are two examples. One wonders if they are even known to the denier community? This is not really a rhetorical question. At a conference in Vancouver, British Columbia, when asked directly in open session whether he was familiar with the remote viewing literature, I recall well-known psychologist and denier Richard Wiseman, recognizing he was about to be asked a specific question about this line of research, confessed he had not read it, and did not know where it was to be found.20

    The denier commentaries do not seem to apprehend that some of the largest, most important, and best-funded research studying consciousness and nonlocality have been done in disciplines other than parapsychology—Leibovici and van Lommel being only two examples. Let me cite a few more lines of inquiry to give a sense of how far behind the times the consciousness denier community actually is. And let me point out that all of this could be discovered in half an hour by a college sophomore searching a freely available, recognized index such as PubMed.

    First, this from a paper by three leading physicists who have explored the issue of consciousness, in the context of physics. Because of its unequivocal clarity, I quote the entire statement:

    Neuropsychological research on the neural basis of behavior generally posits that brain mechanisms will ultimately suffice to explain all psychologically described phenomena. This assumption stems from the idea that the brain is made up entirely of material particles and fields, and that all causal mechanisms relevant to neuroscience can therefore be formulated solely in terms of properties of these elements. Thus, terms having intrinsic mentalistic and/or experiential content (eg, ‘feeling,’ ‘knowing’ and ‘effort’) are not included as primary causal factors. This theoretical restriction is motivated primarily by ideas about the natural world that have been known to be fundamentally incorrect for more than three-quarters of a century [emphasis added]. Contemporary basic physical theory differs profoundly from classic physics on the important matter of how the consciousness of human agents enters into the structure of empirical phenomena. The new principles contradict the older idea that local mechanical processes alone can account for the structure of all observed empirical data. Contemporary physical theory brings directly and irreducibly into the overall causal structure certain psychologically described choices made by human agents about how they will act. This key development in basic physical theory is applicable to neuroscience, and it provides neuroscientists and psychologists with an alternative conceptual framework for describing neural processes. Indeed, owing to certain structural features of ion channels critical to synaptic function, contemporary physical theory must in principle be used when analyzing human brain dynamics. The new framework, unlike its classic physics-based predecessor, is erected directly upon, and is compatible with, the prevailing principles of physics. It is able to represent more adequately than classic concepts the neuroplastic mechanisms relevant to the growing number of empirical studies of the capacity of directed attention and mental effort to systematically alter brain function.21

    Second, let me cite a report by Frecska and Luna of the National Institute for Psychiatry and Neurology in Budapest, in which they present a neuro-ontological interpretation of spiritual experiences:

    The prevailing neuroscientific paradigm considers information processing within the central nervous system as occurring through hierarchically organized and interconnected neural networks. The hierarchy of neural networks doesn't end at the neuroaxonal level; it incorporates subcellular mechanisms as well. When the size of the hierarchical components reaches the nanometer range and the number of elements exceeds that of the neuroaxonal system, an interface emerges for a possible transition between neurochemical and quantum physical events. ‘Signal nonlocality,’ accessed by means of quantum entanglement is an essential feature of the quantum physical domain. The presented interface may imply that some manifestations of altered states of consciousness, unconscious/conscious shifts have quantum origin with significant psychosomatic implications.22

    Nowhere in any of the denier commentaries is there any recognition of this work. Clearly there is a whole world beyond arguing whether nonlocality is real or a statistical artifact or a magic trick. But one would not know it from reading contemporary parapsychological criticism, just as one would know nothing of modern paleontology reading a creationist tract, or fully comprehend the acidification of the world ocean reading climate change denier literature.

    Another hallmark of denier criticism is that nothing ever really changes and, depending on the audience, issues long settled will emerge from their crypts to distort and confuse once again. Remember the exchange between Hyman and Utts? Well here is an example of what I mean. Almost five years after his exchange with Jessica Utts, Professor Hyman, in July 2002, was interviewed by a reporter from the Austin American-Statesman.

    Presumably on the assumption that a reporter in Texas was unlikely to know that a government white paper like the AIR report even existed, Hyman said, “The issue is, what kind of evidence do they have? I didn't see any science at all, any evidence they got anything right other than pure guesswork.”23

    Even if remote viewing worked, Hyman stated, it would be too erratic to rely on. “People who believe it admit that only 15% of what Remote Viewers tell you is true, which means 85% is wrong,” he remarked, although he did not mention the origin of this statistic, and it directly contradicts the published research, about which since he participated in the AIR evaluation must be undoubted. He concluded, “You don't know which is which, so it's of no practical use.” If remote viewing could be demonstrated, “It would overturn almost everything we know in science.”23

    How does one reconcile Hyman's words in 1995 with his interview in 2002? The answer, of course, is one cannot. It is worth noting that the “15% of what Remote Viewers tell you is true” is utterly fanciful, and could not produce the statistical outcomes that are part of the published AIR record. Moreover, it directly contradicts what has been reported in the peer-reviewed literature for almost four decades. I will cite here only one such report—not from one of my papers—showing what the most casual research in the peer-reviewed remote viewing literature will quickly yield.

    In their initial 1976 paper on their research at SRI International, physicists Hal Puthoff and Russell Targ reported, “Using Edington's method for combining the probabilities from independent experiments, the probability of observing these six experimental outcomes by chance alone is 7.8 × 10−9, one tailed.”24

    When one sees comments such as Hyman's, it becomes clear that to deniers a preconceived conclusion is far more important than actual data. As George Orwell said in his novel 1984, “And if the facts say otherwise, then the facts must be altered. Thus history is continuously rewritten.”25

    This leads to a final point, a very sad one that only rarely turns up in the scholarly community, where a conscious and purposeful commitment to integrity is a basic part of science. There is a propensity in denier movements, all of whose members ostensibly ground their arguments in science, to behave in ways that are demonstrably unscientific and, even on occasion, of dubious ethicality.

    In climate change, where there are vast sums at risk, the frauds are biggest and most complex, carefully filtered through a network of denier institutes and think tanks. One brief account will serve as representative. Mitchell Anderson, a Vancouver-based researcher and writer and former staff scientist at Sierra Legal Defense Fund, describes the backstory behind the climate denier Skeptic's Handbook created by the Heartland Institute, which was formed and funded by oil interests, including $676,000 from ExxonMobil.26 In a typical denier move to manipulate media and policy, they sent 150,000 copies of the Handbook across the United States, including to 850 journalists, 26,000 schools, and 19,000 “leaders and politicians.” The Handbook coaches “skeptics” to keep from being pinned down by the evidence demonstrating climate change.26

    Anderson noted, “It is also interesting that this latest product of the denial machine is washing over the nation less than a month after the U.S. government released their Climate Change Literacy brochure—cosigned by 13 federal agencies and 24 educational and scientific partners.” Membership in the supposed climate change conspiracy now includes what deniers term “eco-freaks”—which includes such government agencies as the U.S. Department of Defense, the U.S. Department of the Interior and the U.S. Forest Service.26

    Exactly these same techniques of widespread distribution of false or highly distorted information are employed by the other denier movements. Creationists, using the political power they wield, in 2006 pressured the Bush administration to direct the Grand Canyon National Park that it was not to provide an official estimate of the geologic age of the canyon. “In order to avoid offending religious fundamentalists, our National Park Service is under orders to suspend its belief in geology,” said Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility Executive Director Jeff Ruch. “It is disconcerting that the official position of a national park as to the geologic age of the Grand Canyon is ‘no comment’ ”27

    Consciousness deniers similarly maintain an active media-influencing program. Because it is both representative and reveals a state of mind, I want to draw attention to one particular example. To do that I rely on the published words of principal players in these events: a nationally prominent astronomer; highly regarded professors of psychology and sociology, and the professor of philosophy and founder of the organized American expression of the consciousness denier movement. This record exists because all but the philosopher became so appalled by what they saw that they not only resigned, they put their views quite deliberately on record in the public press.

    Since this story is an integral part of the founding of the Committee for the Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal (CSICOP), now morphed into the Committee for Scientific Inquiry (CSI), and still the principal consciousness-denier group in the United States, it is instructive to consider it. In my opinion it is probably the clearest story in the record illustrating the difference between deniers and genuine skeptics.

    The story has an almost Greek tragedy mythopoetic quality, in which a group of scientists, some quite prominent in their fields, are presented with the most fundamental choice a scientist can face: do I go with the data, or with my prejudice? Some rose to the challenge, some did not. It is a cautionary tale that I will go into only to the point of illustrating the relevant denier-skeptic issues. However, I strongly encourage any reader interested in better understanding the psychology of denier movements to go to the Web sites listed in my references, where the original papers are located online, and to pursue what is to be found there.

    In brief, here is the narrative. In the September-October 1975 issue of The Humanist, as well as a book by philosopher Paul Kurtz' private press, Prometheus, a statement, “Objections to Astrology” was published.28 The statement was signed by 186 scientists, a group which included 18 Nobel Laureates. One who lent his name was Astronomer Dennis Rawlins, already famous for debunking the claims of polar explorers Richard Byrd and Robert Peary while demonstrating that Ronald Amundsen was the first man to reach both poles.

    Also published in the journal was a paper by science writer Lawrence Jerome that included an attack on French psychologist and statistician Michel Gauquelin and his then wife and research partner, Francoise.28 It was a curious attack; the Gauquelins had their own problems with astrology; indeed, they would go on to dismiss, on the basis of their research data, many claims of Western astrology—a position they would make explicit in Kurtz' journal The Humanist. But, exactly because they were being good scientists, the Gauquelins also reported identifying small but significant relationships between some planetary positions at the time of an individual’s birth and later performance excellence, most notably the position of Mars in a natal chart and later athletic prowess. It wasn't a big effect but, to the committee, it was intolerable. So, since in many ways they agreed, the committee—in the person of Jerome—chose as the grounds for their attack the Gauquelins' statistics.29, 30

    It soon became clear that Michel Gauquelin was the better statistician and the denier case collapsed. Undeterred, the group went on for round two. What happened next Rawlins describes as a comedy of incompetence, bombast, and a commitment to denialism so powerful it overturned good sense and ethics, until the deniers were thoroughly tarred by their unscientific disdain for experimental evidence and integrity.29, 30

    After furious public exchanges, Rawlins, a skeptic not a denier, publicly resigned or was expelled from the group, and shortly thereafter he put the entire sorry tale in the record via a paper entitled, “sTARBABY,” a play on Joel Chandler Harris' late 19th century Uncle Remus stories, where Br'er Rabbit, the Loki-like adventurer character around whom many of the stories are built, attacks a tar baby and, each time he hits him, he becomes more and more mired in the tar.29, 30 He would not be alone, and in the resignations of several others of the committee we have defined, for us, the difference between skeptics and deniers.

    The person who saw this distinction most clearly was the sociologist Marcello Truzzi, who acted on his beliefs by first resigning from the committee and, then, publishing a new journal, The Zetetic Scholar (zetetic from the Greek zētētikos, from zētēo, to seek to proceed by inquiry), in which he decried what he called “pseudo-skeptisms.” Truzzi wrote:

    The current evidence strongly indicates that (a) a Mars Correlation was validly found by the Gauquelins, (b) a correlation was found in several replications by the Gauquelins using different samples, (c) a similar correlation was found in replications conducted by Kurtz-Zelen-Abe11 (KZA) (Committee members—SAS) In regard to a) and b) the key question concerns the validity of the Gaugelin's data. It has repeatedly been incorrectly stated that there is no way to check this data. Not only have the Gauquelins published all their data (so computations can easily be checked), they have kept all original records from the birth registries, and these have been made available to any serious researchers. In fact, the Gauquelins have urged critics to check this data.31

    Truzzi's reasons for resigning state clearly the problem with denier movements:

    Originally I was invited to be a co-chairman of Committee for the Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal by Paul Kurtz. I helped to write the bylaws and edited their journal. I found myself attacked by the Committee members and board, who considered me to be too soft on the paranormalists. My position was not to treat protoscientists as adversaries, but to look to the best of them and ask them for their best scientific evidence. I found that the Committee was much more interested in attacking the most publicly visible claimants such as the National Enquirer. The major interest of the Committee was not inquiry but to serve as an advocacy body, a public relations group for scientific orthodoxy. The Committee has made many mistakes. My main objection to the Committee, and the reason I chose to leave it, was that it was taking the public position that it represented the scientific community, serving as gatekeepers on maverick claims, whereas I felt they were simply unqualified to act as judge and jury when they were simply lawyers.32

    New Zealand psychologist Richard Kammann, the third person to resign, would write in his exegetic essay of the whole Gaugelin affair, “When the whole record is examined over five years, there is almost no instance in which merit wins out over self-serving bias.”33 The one clear exception was providing Rawlins a carte blanche space in The Skeptical Inquirer, and even this was undermined by a flurry of simultaneous misstatements.28, 29 Kammann wrote:

    The bottom line is that an apology is owed the Gauquelins for the mistreatment of their data, and the aspersions cast on their authenticity. I don't wish to convey that I'm a believer, because I also have skeptical reservations about the Mars effect. What makes this claim suspect is the scientific perversity of the proposition that the location of Mars in the sky at the time a person is born has some effect on that person's athletic performance 30 or 40 years later.33

    More than a decade later, Suitbert Ertel,34 a German researcher of the next generation, uninvolved with the bitter fight that had gone before, meticulously went back through this entire chapter of denierism, including a subsequent denier round in Paris, and confirmed by a variety of independent statistical analyses both Kammann's and Truzzi's assessment. Perhaps even more important was the graceless acknowledgement of Paul Kurtz who had begun it all: “‘It is time, to submit, to move to other more productive topics. This controversy is not an isolated event. The “sTarbaby incident” has been followed by numerous subsequent incidents off alleged falsification and distortion amongst consciousness deniers.’”35

    The Gauquelin controversy continues even as further confirmations come in. Fuzeau-Braesch reported data on twins that could be interpreted to support the Gaugelins' data.36 Rupert Sheldrake,37 Roger Nelson,38 and Jim Lippard,39 all of whom have been subjected to denier attacks, have created Web sites listing the relevant documents and transcripts of these and other such events. The reader is invited to go through these archives and reach their own conclusions. Because all three denier movements are essentially political-cultural special interests exercising common strategies they are exploring convergence. New York Times science writer Leslie Kauffman noted: “Critics of the teaching of evolution in the nation's classrooms are gaining ground in some states by linking the issue to global warming, arguing that dissenting views on both scientific subjects should be taught in public schools.

    In Kentucky, a bill recently introduced in the Legislature would encourage teachers to discuss ‘the advantages and disadvantages of scientific theories,’ including “evolution, the origins of life, global warming and human cloning.”40

    Environmental journalist, Bryan Nelson in a piece he entitled, Creationists Seek To Stop The Teaching Of Global Warming explained the rationale: “...linking the global warming debate with these other issues, (Creationism) strengthens their legal argument. Courts have ruled that singling out evolution for criticism violates the separation of church and state, so going after global warming gives them a broader agenda and thus opens a legal loophole. Second, by riding the coattails of rising public doubt about climate science, creationists hope to legitimize their stance against the scientific establishment in general.”41

    Exactly where consciousness deniers will come down in this open alignment is not yet clear. In social terms it is the least important. Consciousness denial is the most parochial of these movements, because its field of argument is limited to a part of science. There is no monied constituency or theological infrastructure to back consciousness denial, and the robust sale of popular books on consciousness subjects makes it clear where the populace stands.

    All of this matters more than might at first be apparent. Stop and think about this for a moment: the truth about our species and our planet, the processes of our planet's climate, and the nature of our consciousness are the essence of our search to understand who we are and what it means to be a human being. These three denier movements all, in one way or another, impede the quest for this knowledge. Like pranksters putting up false direction signs, they waste precious resources and time. Worse, they poison the atmosphere of the inquiries. They serve not truth but bias.


    original journal article here;
    http://www.explorejournal.com/articl...0039X/fulltext

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    Lightbulb Re: From futurist Stephan A. Schwartz ~ Trends That Will Affect Your Future …

    'Artificial life' breakthrough announced by scientists



    Researchers in the US have developed the first synthetic living cell. Their work, which many scientists have called a landmark study, is a key step towards the design and creation of new living things. BBC News examines the issues raised by this controversial breakthrough.
    Have these scientists created synthetic life?

    They are calling this a synthetic living cell. But they did use an existing cell as a template and as a recipient for their home-made DNA. Strictly speaking, it is only the genome - the DNA in the cell - that is entirely synthetic.

    This bacterial cell, the researchers say, is the first life form to be entirely controlled by synthetic DNA.

    The researchers also employed "nature's tools" to build their new chromosome (the package of DNA that contains all of the genetic material the cell needs to live and function).

    They chemically constructed blocks of DNA then inserted them into yeast cells, which assembled the blocks into a complete bacterial chromosome.
    What will the scientists do with these synthetic bacteria?

    These particular cells are just copies of existing or "wild type" bacteria. But they show that making a living cell with a synthetic chromosome is possible. Dr Craig Venter and his colleagues hope to use this technology to design new bacteria from scratch - cells that could carry out useful functions.

    He and his colleagues are already collaborating with pharmaceutical and fuel companies to design and develop chromosomes for bacteria that would produce useful fuels or even new vaccines.

    They say they hope eventually to "build" bacteria that absorb carbon dioxide and therefore help repair damage to the environment.
    Could they use this same technique to make more complex synthetic organisms - like plants or animals?

    Theoretically, yes. But the current aim is to design and build bacterial cells.

    They are an ideal first candidate because they could potentially produce substances that we want. Dr Venter believes such tailor-made bacteria could "create a new industrial revolution".

    And, in genetic terms, bacteria are very simple organisms.

    They typically have a single, circular chromosome of DNA. On the other hand, every single cell in the human body contains 23 pairs of much larger, linear chromosomes. So bacteria have much less information in their genomes and it has been possible to sequence and copy all of this information.

    Dr Venter says that extending the technique to higher organisms, such as plants, might be possible, but it will take scientists many years to work out how to build such large and complex genomes.
    Are there ethical concerns about making new life?

    Some critics have accused Dr Venter and his colleagues of "playing God" and believe that it should not be a role for humans to design new life.

    There are also concerns about the safety of this new technology.

    Professor Julian Savulescu, from the Oxford Uehiro Centre for Practical Ethics at the University of Oxford says the potential of this science is "in the far future, but real and significant: dealing with pollution, new energy sources, new forms of communication".

    "But the risks are also unparalleled," he continues. "We need new standards of safety evaluation for this kind of radical research and protections from military or terrorist misuse and abuse.

    These could be used in the future to make the most powerful bioweapons imaginable. The challenge is to eat the fruit without the worm."

    Dr Venter stresses that he and his colleagues have been addressing these ethical and safety issues since they began their first experiments in the field of synthetic biology.

    "We asked for an extensive ethical review of the approach," he explained.

    "In 2003, when we made the first synthetic virus, it underwent extensive ethical review that went all the way up to the level of the White House.

    "And there have been extensive reviews including from the National Academy of Sciences, which has done a comprehensive report on this new field.

    "We think these are important issues and we urge continued discussion that we want to take part in."

    note~ for more click below for BBC link page ~
    illustrating graph how a synthetic cell was created ~
    plus a short video by Craig Venter defending the synthetic living cell;

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/science_a...t/10134341.stm
    Last edited by giovonni; 22nd May 2010 at 05:41.

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    Exclamation Re: From futurist Stephan A. Schwartz ~ Trends That Will Affect Your Future …

    Why Are American Doctors Mutilating Girls?

    by Ayaan Hirsi Ali

    A new proposal by the American Academy of Pediatrics would have doctors assisting families in the ritual of female circumcision, but activist and Nomad author Ayaan Hirsi Ali says they’d just be complicit in perpetuating a grave injustice.

    The American Academy of Pediatrics recently put forward a proposal on female genital mutilation. They would like that American doctors be given permission to perform a ceremonial pinprick or “nick” on girls born into communities that practice female genital mutilation.

    Female circumcision is a custom in many African and Asian countries whereby the genitals of a girl child are cut. There are roughly four procedures. First there is the ritual pinprick. This is what Pediatrics refers to as the “nick” option. To give you an idea of what that means, visualize a preteen girl held down by adults. Her clitoris is tweaked so that the circumcizer can hold it between her forefinger and her thumb. Then she takes a needle and pierces it using enough force for it to go into the peak of the clitoris. As soon as it bleeds, the parents and others attending the ceremony cheer, the girl is comforted and the celebrations follow.

    The majority of girls are subjected to FGM to ensure their virginity and to curb their libido to guarantee sexual fidelity after marriage. Think of it as a genital burqa, designed to control female sexuality.

    There is a more sinister meaning to the word “nick” if you consider the fact that in some cases it means to cut off the peak of the clitoris. Proponents compare “nicking” to the ritual of boy circumcision. But in the case of the boys, it is the foreskin that is all or partly removed and not a part of the penis head. In the case of the girls, the clitoris is actually mutilated.

    Then there is the second method whereby a substantial part of the clitoris is removed and the opening of the vagina is sewn together (infibulation). The third variation adds to this the removal of the inner labia.

    Finally, there is a procedure whereby as much of the clitoris as possible is removed along with the inner and outer labia. Then the inner walls of the vagina are scraped until they bleed and are then bound with pins or thorns. The tissue on either side grows together, forming a thick scar. Two small openings roughly equal to the diameter of a matchstick are left for urination and menstruation respectively.

    Often these operations are done without anesthesia and with tools such as sharp rocks, razor blades, knives or scissors depending on the location, family income, and education. It is thus more accurate—as does the World Health Organization—to speak of female genital mutilation (FGM) instead of the obscure and positive-sounding “circumcision.”

    According to the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, more than 130 million women and girls worldwide have undergone some form of female genital cutting. Some immigrant parents from countries like Egypt, Sudan, Somalia, and others in Europe and the United States, where FGM is common, continue this practice in the West even though they know that it is criminal. Some of them sneak their daughters out of the country during the long school summer vacation so that they can be subjected to any one of these forms of FGM.

    Congressman Joseph Crowley (D-NY) recently introduced a bill to toughen federal laws by making it a crime to take a girl overseas to be circumcised. He argued, rightly, that FGM serves no medical purpose and is rightfully banned in the U.S.

    While the American Academy of Pediatrics agrees that FGM serves no medical purpose, it argues that the current federal law has had the unintended consequence of driving some families to take their daughters to other countries to undergo mutilation. The pediatricians say that “it might be more effective if federal and state laws enabled pediatricians to reach out to families by offering a ritual nick as a possible compromise to avoid greater harm.”

    But is this plausible? I fear not.

    I am familiar with this debate in two ways. First, I come from a culture where virtually every woman has undergone genital cutting. I was 5 years old when mine were cut and sewn. Second, while serving as a member of parliament in the Netherlands, I was assigned the portfolio for the emancipation and integration of immigrant women. One of my missions was to combat practices such as FGM.

    To understand this problem, we need to begin with parental motives. The “nicking” option is regarded as a necessary cleansing ritual. The clitoris is considered to be an impure part of the girl-child and bleeding it is believed to make her pure and free of evil spirits.

    But the majority of girls are subjected to FGM to ensure their virginity—hence the sewing up of the opening of the vagina—and to curb their libido to guarantee sexual fidelity after marriage—hence the effective removal of the clitoris and scraping of the labia. Think of it as a genital burqa, designed to control female sexuality.

    When the motive for FGM is to ensure chastity before marriage and to curb female libido, then the nick option is not sufficient.

    Moreover, the nick option does not address the main problem in Western liberal democracies where FGM is outlawed, which is that it can almost never be detected, so that few perpetrators are brought to justice. Even if we were to consider tolerating it in its most limited form, how could we tell that parents who want to ensure that their daughter will be a virgin on her wedding night will not have her (legally) nicked and then a few months later (illegally) infibulated? I applaud the compassion for children that inspires the pediatricians’ proposal, but they need to eliminate this risk for little girls.

    Legislation is only a first step and even with that there is no uniformity. Some states have passed bills that define FGM in all its manifestations and punish it. Some states have none, but place FGM under existing laws of child abuse. So Rep. Crowley’s next move should be to push for uniform enforcement of his bill.

    But even once the legislative flaws are fixed, there remains the really difficult question of detection.

    For the law to have any meaningful effect in eradicating FGM in the U.S., we need to work out a way of knowing when a girl has been mutilated. As a legislator in the Netherlands, this was for me the thorniest issue. In the United States, where civil liberties are even more jealously guarded, the thorns are likely to be sharper still.


    Ayaan Hirsi Ali was born in Mogadishu, Somalia, and escaped an arranged marriage by immigrating to the Netherlands in 1992. She served as a member of the Dutch parliament from 2003 to 2006 and is a research fellow at the American Enterprise Institute. Her autobiography, Infidel, was a 2007 New York Times bestseller.

    original story here;
    http://www.thedailybeast.com/blogs-a...-mutilation/2/

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    Exclamation Re: From futurist Stephan A. Schwartz ~ Trends That Will Affect Your Future …





    The Plastic Panic

    How worried should we be about everyday chemicals?
    by Jerome Groopman


    Bisphenol A, commonly known as BPA, may be among the world’s most vilified chemicals. The compound, used in manufacturing polycarbonate plastic and epoxy resins, is found in plastic goggles, face shields, and helmets; baby bottles; protective coatings inside metal food containers; and composites and sealants used in dentistry. As animal studies began to show links between the chemical and breast and prostate cancer, early-onset puberty, and polycystic ovary syndrome, consumer groups pressured manufacturers of reusable plastic containers, like Nalgene, to remove BPA from their products. Warnings went out to avoid microwaving plasticware or putting it in the dishwasher. On May 6th, the President’s Cancer Panel issued a report deploring the rising number of carcinogens released into the environment—including BPA—and calling for much more stringent regulation and wider awareness of their dangers. The panel advised President Obama “to use the power of your office to remove the carcinogens and other toxins from our food, water, and air that needlessly increase health care costs, cripple our Nation’s productivity, and devastate American lives.” Dr. LaSalle Leffall, Jr., the chairman of the panel, said in a statement, “The increasing number of known or suspected environmental carcinogens compels us to action, even though we may currently lack irrefutable proof of harm.”

    The narrative seems to follow a familiar path. In the nineteen-sixties, several animal studies suggested that cyclamates, a class of artificial sweetener, caused chromosomal abnormalities and cancer. Some three-quarters of Americans were estimated to consume the sweeteners. In 1969, cyclamates were banned. Later research found that there was little evidence that these substances caused cancer in humans. In the nineteen-eighties, studies suggesting a cancer risk from Alar, a chemical used to regulate the color and ripening of apples, caused a minor panic among parents and a media uproar. In that case, the cancer risk was shown to have been overstated, but still present, and the substance remains classified a “probable human carcinogen.” Lead, too, was for years thought to be safe in small doses, until further study demonstrated that, particularly for children, even slight exposure could result in intellectual delays, hearing loss, and hyperactivity.

    There is an inherent uncertainty in determining which substances are safe and which are not, and when their risks outweigh their benefits. Toxicity studies are difficult, because BPA and other, similar chemicals can have multiple effects on the body. Moreover, we are exposed to scores of them in a lifetime, and their effects in combination or in sequence might be very different from what they would be in isolation. In traditional toxicology, a single chemical is tested in one cell or animal to assess its harmful effects. In studying environmental hazards, one needs to test mixtures of many chemicals, across ranges of doses, at different points in time, and at different ages, from conception to childhood to old age. Given so many variables, it is difficult to determine how harmful these chemicals might be, or if they are harmful at all, or what anyone can do to avoid their effects. In the case of BPA and other chemicals of its sort, though, their increasing prevalence and a number of human studies that associate them with developmental issues have become too worrisome to ignore. The challenge now is to decide a course of action before there is any certainty about what is truly dangerous and what is not.

    In 1980, Frederica Perera, a professor at Columbia’s Mailman School of Public Health and a highly regarded investigator of the effects of environmental hazards, was studying how certain chemicals in cigarette smoke might cause cancer. Dissatisfied with the research at the time, which measured toxic substances outside the body and then made inferences about their effects, she began using sophisticated molecular techniques to measure compounds called polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, or PAH—which are plentiful in tobacco smoke—in the body. Perera found that after entering the lungs the compounds pass into the bloodstream and damage blood cells, binding to their DNA. She hoped to compare the damaged blood cells from smokers with healthy cells, and decided to seek out those she imagined would be uncontaminated by foreign substances. “I thought that the most perfect pristine blood would come from the umbilical cord of a newborn,” Perera said.

    But when she analyzed her samples Perera discovered PAH attached to some of the DNA in blood taken from umbilical cords, too. “I was pretty shocked,” she said. “I realized that we did not know very much about what was happening during this early stage of development.”

    Perera’s finding that chemicals like PAH, which can also be a component of air pollution, are passed from mother to child during pregnancy has now been replicated for more than two hundred compounds. These include PCBs, chemical coolants that were banned in the United States in 1979 but have persisted in the food chain; BPA and phthalates, used to make plastics more pliable, which leach out of containers and mix with their contents; pesticides used on crops and on insects in the home; and some flame retardants, which are often applied to upholstery, curtains, and other household items.

    Fetuses and newborns lack functional enzymes in the liver and other organs that break down such chemicals, and animal studies in the past several decades have shown that these chemicals can disrupt hormones and brain development. Some scientists believe that they may promote chronic diseases seen in adulthood such as diabetes, atherosclerosis, and cancer. There is some evidence that they may have what are called epigenetic effects as well, altering gene expression in cells, including those which give rise to eggs and sperm, and allowing toxic effects to be passed on to future generations.

    In 1998, Perera initiated a program at Columbia to investigate short- and long-term effects of environmental chemicals on children, and she now oversees one of the largest and longest-standing studies of a cohort of mothers and newborns in the United States. More than seven hundred mother-child pairs have been recruited from Washington Heights, Harlem, and the South Bronx; Perera is also studying pregnant women in Kraków, Poland, and two cities in China, and, since September 11, 2001, a group of three hundred and twenty-nine mothers and newborns from the downtown hospitals near the World Trade Center. In all, some two thousand mother-child pairs have been studied, many for at least a decade.

    This March, I visited Columbia’s Center for Children’s Environmental Health, where Perera is the director, and met with a woman I’ll call Renee Martin in an office overlooking the George Washington Bridge. Martin was born in Harlem, attended a community college in Queens, and then moved to 155th Street and Broadway, where she is raising her five children. She entered the study eleven years ago, when she was pregnant with her first child. “I was asthmatic growing up,” Martin said. “And I was concerned about triggers of asthma in the environment. So when they asked me to be in the study I thought it would be a good way to get information that might tell me something about my own health and the health of my child.” She showed me a small black backpack containing a metal box with a long plastic tube. During her pregnancy, Martin would drape the tube over her shoulder, close to her chin, and a vacuum inside the device would suck in a sample of air. A filter trapped particles and vapors of ambient chemicals, like pesticides, phthalates, and PAH. “I walked around pregnant with this hose next to my mouth, but, living in New York, people hardly notice,” she said with a laugh.

    The Columbia team also developed a comprehensive profile of Martin’s potential proximity to chemicals, including an environmental map that charted her apartment’s distance from gas stations, dry cleaners, fast-food restaurants, supermarkets, and major roadways. They took urine samples and, at delivery, blood samples from her and from the umbilical cord, along with samples from the placenta. Nearly a hundred per cent of the mothers in the study were found to have BPA and phthalates in their urine. Urine and blood samples are taken as the babies grow older, as well as samples of their exhaled breath. “We have a treasure trove of biological material,” Perera said. The researchers track the children’s weight and sexual development, and assess I.Q., visual spatial ability, attention, memory, and behavior. Brain imaging, using an M.R.I., is performed on selected children.

    Martin was still breast-feeding her two-year-old daughter. “I bottle-fed my first child,” she told me. “But when you learn what can come out of plastic bottles and all the benefits of breast-feeding—my other children were nursed.” The Columbia group regularly convenes the families to hear results and discuss ways to reduce their exposure to potential environmental hazards. At one meeting, Martin found out that some widely used pesticides could result in impaired learning and behavior. “I told the landlord to stop spraying in the apartment” to combat a roach infestation, she said. On the advice of the Columbia researchers, Martin asked him to seal the cracks in the walls that were allowing cockroaches to enter, and Martin’s family meticulously swept up crumbs. This approach has now become the New York City Department of Health’s official recommendation for pest control. “You don’t need to be out in the country and have compost,” Martin said. “This has made me into an urban environmentalist.”

    In 2001, using data from animal studies, the E.P.A. banned the sale of the pesticide chlorpyrifos (sold under the name Dursban) for residential and indoor use. Many agricultural uses are still permitted, and farming communities continue to be exposed to the insecticide. Residues on food may affect those who live in urban areas as well. In 2004, the Columbia group published results in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives showing that significant exposure during the prenatal period to chlorpyrifos was associated with an average hundred-and-fifty-gram reduction in birth weight—about the same effect as if the mother had smoked all through pregnancy. Those most highly exposed to the insecticide were twice as likely to be born below the tenth percentile in size for gestational age. The researchers found that children born after 2001 had much lower exposure levels—indicating that the ban was largely effective.

    For those children who were exposed to the pesticide in the womb, the effects have seemed to persist. The children with the greatest exposure were starting to fall off the developmental curve and displayed signs of attention-deficit problems by the time they were three. By seven, they showed significant deficits in working memory, which is strongly tied to problem-solving, I.Q., and reading comprehension. Another study, published this month in Pediatrics, using a random cross-section of American children, showed that an elevated level of a particular pesticide residue nearly doubled the likelihood that a child would have A.D.H.D.

    “The size of this deficit is educationally meaningful in the early preschool years,” Virginia Rauh, the leader of Columbia’s research, said. “Such a decline can push whole groups of children into the developmentally delayed category.”

    First used in Germany, in the nineteen-thirties, bisphenol A has a chemical structure similar to that of estrogen, but was considered too weak to be developed into a contraceptive pill. Recent animal studies have shown that, even at very low levels, BPA can cause changes that may lead to cancer in the prostate gland and in breast tissue. It is also linked to disruption in brain chemistry and, in female rodents, accelerated puberty. Japanese scientists found that high levels of BPA were associated with polycystic ovary syndrome, a leading cause of impaired fertility.

    Phthalates are also ubiquitous in cosmetics, shampoos, and other personal-care products. They may have effects on older children and adults as well as on neonates. A study at Massachusetts General Hospital found an association of high levels of certain phthalates with lower sperm concentrations and impaired sperm motility; young girls in Puerto Rico who had developed breasts prematurely were more likely to have high levels of phthalates in their blood. Immigrant children in Belgium who exhibited precocious puberty also showed greater exposure to the pesticide DDT, which has estrogenlike effects and has been banned in the U.S., but is still used in Africa to help control malaria.

    Long-term studies have provided the most compelling evidence that chemicals once considered safe may cause health problems in communities with consistent exposure over many years. Researchers from SUNY Albany, including Lawrence Schell, a biomedical anthropologist, have worked over the past two decades with Native Americans on the Mohawk reservation that borders the St. Lawrence River, once a major shipping thoroughfare, just east of Massena, New York. General Motors built a foundry nearby that made automobile parts, Alcoa had two manufacturing plants for aluminum, and the area was contaminated with PCBs, which were used in the three plants. Several Mohawk girls experienced signs of early puberty, which coincided with higher levels of PCBs in their blood.

    The Albany researchers also observed that increased levels of PCBs correlated with altered levels of thyroid hormone and lower long-term memory functioning. Similar results have been found in an area of Slovakia near heavy industry. “Folks have complained about reproductive problems,” Schell said, of the residents of the Mohawk reservation. “They talked a lot about rheumatoid arthritis, about lupus, about polycystic ovary syndrome. And, you know, you hear these things and you wonder how much of it is just a heightened sensitivity, but, when you see elevated antibodies that are often a sign of autoimmune disease of one kind or another, it could be the beginning of discovering a biological basis for their complaints about these diseases.”

    Beginning in 2003, Antonia Calafat, a chemist at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and Russ Hauser, of the Harvard School of Public Health, set out to evaluate the exposure of premature infants to certain environmental contaminants. The researchers hypothesized that infants treated in the most intensive ways—intravenous feedings and delivery of oxygen by respirators—would receive the most exposure, since chemicals like phthalates and BPA can leach from plastic tubing. They studied forty-one infants from two Boston-area intensive-care units for BPA. Calafat told me, “We saw ten times the amounts of BPA in the neonates that we are seeing in the general population.” In several children, the levels of BPA were more than a hundred times as high as in healthy Americans.

    Calafat, who came to the United States from Spain on a Fulbright scholarship, developed highly accurate tests to detect BPA, phthalates, and other compounds in body fluids like blood and urine. This advance, she explained, “means that you are not simply doing an exposure assessment based on the concentration of the chemicals in the food or in the air or in the soil. You are actually measuring the concentrations in the body.” With this technology, she can study each individual as if he or she were a single ecosystem. Her studies at the Centers for Disease Control show that 92.6 per cent of Americans aged six and older have detectable levels of BPA in their bodies; the levels in children between six and eleven years of age are twice as high as those in older Americans.

    Critics such as Elizabeth Whelan, of the American Council on Science and Health, a consumer-education group in New York (Whelan says that about a third of its two-million-dollar annual budget comes from industry), think that the case against BPA and phthalates has more in common with those against cyclamates and Alar than with the one against lead. “The fears are irrational,” she said. “People fear what they can’t see and don’t understand. Some environmental activists emotionally manipulate parents, making them feel that the ones they love the most, their children, are in danger.” Whelan argues that the public should focus on proven health issues, such as the dangers of cigarettes and obesity and the need for bicycle helmets and other protective equipment. As for chemicals in plastics, Whelan says, “What the country needs is a national psychiatrist.”

    To illustrate what Whelan says is a misguided focus on manufactured chemicals, her organization has constructed a dinner menu “filled with natural foods, and you can find a carcinogen or an endocrine-disrupting chemical in every course”—for instance, tofu and soy products are filled with plant-based estrogens that could affect hormonal balance. “Just because you find something in the urine doesn’t mean that it’s a hazard,” Whelan says. “Our understanding of risks and benefits is distorted. BPA helps protect food products from spoiling and causing botulism. Flame retardants save lives, so we don’t burn up on our couch.”

    Several studies also contradict the conclusion that these chemicals have deleterious effects. The journal Toxicological Sciences recently featured a study from the E.P.A. scientist Earl Gray, a widely respected researcher, which indicated that BPA had no effect on puberty in rats. A study of military conscripts in Sweden found no connection between phthalates and depressed sperm counts, and a recent survey of newborns in New York failed to turn up an increase in a male genital malformation which might be expected if the effects from BPA seen in rodents were comparable to effects in humans. Richard Sharpe, a professor at the University of Edinburgh, and an internationally recognized pioneer on the effects of chemicals in the environment on endocrine disruption, recently wrote in Toxicological Sciences, “Fundamental, repetitive work on bisphenol A has sucked in tens, probably hundreds of millions of dollars from government bodies and industry, which, at a time when research money is thin on the ground, looks increasingly like an investment with a nil return.”

    With epidemiological studies, like those at Columbia, in which scientists observe people as they live, without a control group, the real-life nature of the project can make it difficult to distinguish between correlation and causation. Unknown factors in the environment or unreported habits might escape the notice of the researchers. Moreover, even sophisticated statistical analysis can sometimes yield specious results.

    Dr. John Ioannides, an epidemiologist at the University of Ioannina, in Greece, has noted that four of the six most frequently cited epidemiological studies published in leading medical journals between 1990 and 2003 were later refuted. Demonstrating the malleability of data, Peter Austin, a medical statistician at the Institute for Clinical Evaluative Sciences, in Toronto, has retrospectively analyzed medical records of the more than ten million residents of Ontario. He showed that Sagittarians are thirty-eight per cent more likely to fracture an arm than people of other astrological signs, and Leos are fifteen per cent more likely to suffer a gastrointestinal hemorrhage. (Pisces were more prone to heart failure.)

    To help strengthen epidemiological analysis, Sir Austin Bradford Hill, a British medical statistician, set out certain criteria in 1965 that indicate cause and effect. Researchers must be sure that exposure to the suspected cause precedes the development of a disease; that there is a high degree of correlation between the two; that findings are replicated in different studies in various settings; that a biological explanation exists that makes the association plausible; and that increased exposure makes development of the disease more likely.

    When epidemiological studies fulfill most of these criteria, they can be convincing, as when studies demonstrated a link between cigarettes and lung cancer. But, in an evolving field, dealing with chemicals that are part of daily life, the lack of long-term clinical data has made firm conclusions elusive. John Vandenbergh, a biologist who found that exposure to certain chemicals like BPA could accelerate the onset of puberty in mice, served on an expert panel that advised the National Toxicology Program, a part of the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, on the risks of exposure to BPA. In 2007, the panel reviewed more than three hundred scientific publications and concluded that “there is some concern” about exposure of fetuses and young children to BPA, given the research from Vandenbergh’s laboratory and others.

    Vandenbergh is cognizant of the difficulty of extrapolating data from rodents and lower animals to humans. “Why can’t we just figure this out?” he said. “Well, one of the problems is that we would have to take half of the kids in the kindergarten and give them BPA and the other half not. Or expose half of the pregnant women to BPA in the doctor’s office and the other half not. And then we have to wait thirty to fifty years to see what effects this has on their development, and whether they get more prostate cancer or breast cancer. You have to wait at least until puberty to see if there is an effect on sexual maturation. Ethically, you are not going to go and feed people something if you think it harmful, and, second, you have this incredible time span to deal with.”

    The inadequacy of the current regulatory system contributes greatly to the atmosphere of uncertainty. The Toxic Substances Control Act, passed in 1976, does not require manufacturers to show that chemicals used in their products are safe before they go on the market; rather, the responsibility is placed on federal agencies, as well as on researchers in universities outside the government. The burden of proof is so onerous that bans on toxic chemicals can take years to achieve, and the government is often constrained from sharing information on specific products with the public, because manufacturers claim that such information is confidential. Several agencies split responsibility for oversight, with little coördination: the Food and Drug Administration supervises cosmetics, food, and medications, the Environmental Protection Agency regulates pesticides, and the Consumer Product Safety Commission oversees children’s toys and other merchandise. The European Union, in contrast, now requires manufacturers to prove that their compounds are safe before they are sold.

    According to the E.P.A., some eighty-two thousand chemicals are registered for use in commerce in the United States, with about seven hundred new chemicals introduced each year. In 1998, the E.P.A. found that, among chemicals produced in quantities of more than a million pounds per year, only seven per cent had undergone the full slate of basic toxicity studies. There is no requirement to label most consumer products for their chemical contents, and no consistent regulation throughout the country. Although the F.D.A. initially concluded that BPA was safe, some states, including Massachusetts and Connecticut, either have banned it or are considering a ban. (In January, the F.D.A. announced that it would conduct further testing.)

    There has been some movement toward stricter controls: in July, 2008, Congress passed the Product Safety Improvement Act, which banned six phthalates from children’s toys. But so far removal from other products has been voluntary. The President’s Cancer Panel report advised people to reduce exposure with strategies that echo some of what the mothers in Frederica Perera’s study have learned: choose products made with minimal toxic substances, avoid using plastic containers to store liquids, and choose produce grown without pesticides or chemical fertilizers and meat free of antibiotics and hormones.

    Mike Walls, the vice-president of regulatory affairs at the American Chemistry Council, a trade association that represents manufacturers of industrial chemicals, agrees that new laws are needed to regulate such chemicals. “Science has advanced since 1976, when the last legislation was enacted,” he said. But Walls notes that some eight hundred thousand people are employed in the companies that the A.C.C. represents, and that their products are found in ninety-six per cent of all American manufactured goods. “The United States is the clear leader in chemistry,” Walls said. “We have three times as many new applications for novel compounds as any other country in the world. We want to make good societal decisions but avoid regulations that will increase the burden on industry and stifle innovation.”

    Academic researchers have found that the enormous financial stakes—the production of BPA is a six-billion-dollar-a-year industry—have prompted extra scrutiny of their results. In 2007, according to a recent article in Nature, a majority of non-industry-supported studies initially deemed sound by the National Toxicology Program on the safety of BPA were dismissed as unsuitable after a representative of the A.C.C. drafted a memo critiquing their methods; experimental protocols often differ from one university lab to another. Researchers are now attempting to create a single standard protocol, and a bill introduced by Representative Louise Slaughter, of New York, would fund a centralized research facility at the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences.

    Other legislation aims to completely overhaul the 1976 law. “It’s clear that the current system doesn’t work at all,” Ben Dunham, a staffer in the office of Senator Frank Lautenberg, of New Jersey, who crafted the bill now before the Senate, told me. Henry Waxman, of California, and Bobby Rush, of Illinois, have released a companion discussion draft in the House. Lautenberg’s bill seeks to allow the E.P.A. to act quickly on chemicals that it considers dangerous; to give new power to the E.P.A. to establish safety criteria in chemical compounds; to create a database identifying chemicals in industrial products; and to set specific deadlines for approving or banning compounds. The bill also seeks to limit the number of animals used for research. (Millions of animals are estimated to be required to perform the testing mandated under the E.U. law.) How much data would be needed to either restrict use of a chemical or mandate an outright ban is still unclear. Lautenberg’s bill resisted the call of environmental groups to ban certain compounds like BPA immediately.

    Dr. Gina Solomon, of the Natural Resources Defense Council, said that the Lautenberg bill is “an excellent first step,” but noted several “gaps” in the bill: “There is what people call lack of a hammer, meaning no meaningful penalty for missing a deadline in evaluating a chemical if E.P.A. gets bogged down, and we know from history that it can be easily bogged down.” The language setting a standard for safety is too vague, she added. “You could imagine industry driving a truck through this loophole.”

    Linda Birnbaum, the director of the N.I.E.H.S. and its National Toxicology Program, helps assess chemicals for the federal government and, if Slaughter’s bill passes, could become responsible for much of the research surrounding these safety issues. Birnbaum’s branch of the National Institutes of Health is working with the National Human Genome Research Institute and the E.P.A. to test thousands of compounds, singly and in combination, to assess their potential toxicity. Part of the difficulty, she points out, is that “what is normal for me may not be normal for you. We all have our own balance of different hormones in our different systems.” When it comes to development and achievement, incremental differences—such as the drop of five to ten I.Q. points, or a lower birth weight—are significant. “We’re all past the point of looking for missing arms and legs,” Birnbaum said.

    “I know of very little science where you will ever get hundred-per-cent certainty,” Birnbaum says. “Science is constantly evolving, constantly learning new things, and at times decisions have to be made in the presence of a lot of information, but maybe not certainty. The problem is we don’t always want to wait ten or twelve or twenty years to identify something that may be a problem.”

    Perera, who is keenly aware of the potential pitfalls of epidemiological research, told me that her team employs rigorous statistical methods to avoid falsely suggesting that one chemical or another is responsible for any given result. And she objects to the characterization of her research as fear-mongering. “Our findings in children increasingly show real deleterious effects that can occur short-term and potentially for the rest of the child’s life,” Perera said. In January, the Columbia group published data from the mothers and infants it studied following September 11th. Cord-blood samples saved at the time of birth had been analyzed for the presence of flame retardants. Each year, the children were assessed for mental and motor development. As a point of reference, low-level lead poisoning results in an average loss of four to five I.Q. points. Those children in Columbia’s group with the highest levels of flame retardant in their blood at birth had, by the age of two, I.Q. scores nearly seven points lower than normal.

    How do we go forward? Flame retardants surely serve a purpose, just as BPA and phthalates have made for better and stronger plastics. Still, while the evidence of these chemicals’ health consequences may be far from conclusive, safer alternatives need to be sought. More important, policymakers must create a better system for making decisions about when to ban these types of substances, and must invest in the research that will inform those decisions. There’s no guarantee that we’ll always be right, but protecting those at the greatest risk shouldn’t be deferred. ♦

    From the New Yorker magazine
    original story link here;

    http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2..._fact_groopman

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    Lightbulb Re: From futurist Stephan A. Schwartz ~ Trends That Will Affect Your Future …

    I Feel Your Pain, Unless You're From a Different Race

    By Charles Q. Choi, LiveScience Contributor

    posted: 27 May 2010




    Normally when you see or imagine someone else in pain, your brain experiences a twinge of pain as well. Not so when race and bias come into play, scientists now find.

    Intriguingly, people respond with empathy when pain is inflicted on others who don't fit into any preconceived racial category, such as those who appear to have violet-colored skin.

    "This is quite important because it suggests that humans tend to empathize by default unless prejudice is at play," said researcher Salvatore Maria Aglioti, a cognitive and social neuroscientist at the Sapienza University of Rome in Italy.

    Scientists asked volunteers in Italy of Italian and African descent to watch short films showing either needles penetrating a person's hand or a Q-tip gently touching the same spot. At the same time, they measured brain and nervous system activity.

    When the volunteers saw the hands get poked, the brain and nervous system activity revealed the same spot on each volunteer's own hands reacted involuntarily when the person in the film was of the same race. Those of a different race did not provoke the same response.

    However, when both white and black volunteers saw violet-colored hands get jabbed, they responded empathetically. This suggests that people normally automatically feel the pain of others, and the lack of empathy that volunteers showed for people of other races was learned and not innate.

    "This default reactivity of human beings implies empathy with the pain of strangers," said researcher Alessio Avenanti of the University of Bologna in Italy. "However, racial bias may suppress this empathic reactivity, leading to a dehumanized perception of others' experience."

    It could make evolutionary sense that we feel less empathy for people who are different than us. "In case of war or even a friendly competition like a football game, it could be adaptive to feel less empathy for people we consider our opponents," said social neuroscientist Joan Chiao at Northwestern University in Evanston, Ill., who did not take part in this research.

    Then again, "it also makes evolutionary sense for us to feel the pain of others, as it might cue that there is danger close by," Chiao noted. "Also, without feeling the pain of others, it could be harder to motivate altruistic behaviors, especially if such behaviors come at a cost."

    Essentially, for the stranger in pain, in order to elicit help, he or she would need to actually get the stranger to feel empathy.

    While the ability for culture to regulate empathy could be helpful, "when you feel prejudices that are not adaptive, that are not rooted in reality, that shows that there can be a darker side to empathy regulation," Chiao added.

    These new findings could suggest one could help deal with racial prejudice with methods designed to restore empathy for others, the researchers said.

    "One can reduce empathy, but one can also promote it, learning positive associations with another group," Chiao said.

    The scientists detailed their findings online May 27 in the journal Current Biology.

    original post site link;
    http://www.livescience.com/culture/r...hy-100527.html

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    Default Re: From futurist Stephan A. Schwartz ~ Trends That Will Affect Your Future …

    New Breed of Specialist Steps In for Family Doctor

    PHILADELPHIA — By the time Djigui Keita left the hospital for home, his follow-up appointment had been scheduled. Emergency health insurance was arranged until he could apply for public assistance. He knew about changes in his medication — his doctor had found less expensive brands at local pharmacy chains. And Mr. Keita, 35, who had passed out from dehydration, was cautioned to carry spare water bottles in the taxi he drove for a living.



    The hourlong briefing the home-bound patient received here at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania was orchestrated by a hospitalist, a member of America’s fastest-growing medical specialty. Over a decade, this breed of physician-administrator has increasingly taken over the care of the hospitalized patient from overburdened family doctors with less and less time to make hospital rounds — or, as in Mr. Keita’s case, when there is no family doctor at all.

    Because hospitalists are on top of everything that happens to a patient — from entry through treatment and discharge — they are largely credited with reducing the length of hospital stays by anywhere from 17 to 30 percent, and reducing costs by 13 to 20 percent, according to studies in The Journal of the American Medical Association. As their numbers have grown, from 800 in the 1990s to 30,000 today, medical experts have come to see hospitalists as potential leaders in the transition to the Obama administration’s health care reforms, to be phased in by 2014.

    Under the new legislation, hospitals will be penalized for readmissions, medical errors and inefficient operating systems. Avoidable readmissions are the costliest mistakes for the government and the taxpayer, and they now occur for one in five patients, gobbling $17.4 billion of Medicare’s current $102.6 billion budget.

    Dr. Subha Airan-Javia, Mr. Keita’s hospitalist, splits her time between clinical care and designing computer programs to contain costs and manage staff workflow. The discharge process she walked Mr. Keita and his wife through can work well, or badly, with very different results. Do it safely and the patient gets better. Do it wrong, and he’s back on the hospital doorstep — with a second set of bills.

    “Where we were headed was not a mystery to anyone immersed in health care,” said P. J. Brennan, the chief medical officer for the University of Pennsylvania’s hospitals. “We were getting paid to have people in the hospital and the part of that which was waste was under the gun. These young doctors, coming into a highly dysfunctional environment, had an affinity for working on processes and redesigning systems.”

    But hospitalists are not a panacea. Some have made mistakes when they sent their short-term charges home, failing to pass along necessary information to the regular doctor and family. Another concern is that patients will balk at an unfamiliar doctor at the scariest of times.

    Carol Levine, in charge of family caregiving at the United Hospital Fund of New York, remains skeptical that hospitalists will completely smooth the process. “The patient,” she said, “is still expecting a doctor-doctor, when ‘Wait a minute I don’t know you’ is going to take care of them.”

    The hospitalist appeared in the early 1990s, before the primary care situation was the crisis it is now. Today’s private internist may carry a roster of more than 2,000 patients, older and sicker than ever before, and the workload is expected to increase 29 percent by 2025. To keep tabs on hospitalized patients, the doctor generally races in, white coat flying, at 7 a.m., when the patient is asleep and the family is not there. (Physicians also earn 40 percent less for time spent with a hospitalized patient than one in the office, according to a report in the journal Health Affairs. )

    Mort Miller, 84, of Chicago, was hospitalized eight years ago for a broken hip. He already had congestive heart failure and diabetes and was on dialysis. He died after four weeks.

    His son, Joseph, said that he did not once communicate with the family doctor. “He rounded in the morning when I wasn’t there and never returned my phone calls,” Mr. Miller said. “I guess he didn’t have time.”

    Mr. Miller left his business to help run the hospitalists’ professional group, the Society of Hospital Medicine, a career change inspired by his father’s experience.

    The most compelling argument in favor of hospitalists, who are now in 5,000 institutions, from academic giants like the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania to small community hospitals to innovators like the Mayo and Cleveland Clinics — is that they are there all the time. Another is that they are more comfortable than their predecessors with technology and cost-cutting decision-making. One day in April, Dr. Airan-Javia was in and out of the rooms of a dozen patients, toggling between clinical work and designing a computer system for the safe handoff of patients between residents whose hours are now limited by law.

    Bad discharges generally result from hurried instructions to patients and families and little thought to where they are headed. One such situation was the centerpiece of a class taught for doctors at Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York. The patient, an elderly woman in the hospital for scoliosis, a spinal condition, was discharged by a hospitalist on a Friday night, with a prescription for a narcotic pain reliever that her pharmacy, as it turned out, did not stock. No one explained how her new medication differed from the old, or gave her a contact number for help. Without medication, by Tuesday, her ankles swollen and her breathing irregular, the woman was back in the hospital.

    In 2008, the hospitalists’ organization decided to invent better discharge systems rather than respond defensively to criticism, not unlike the simple operating room checklist, made famous by the physician and author Atul Gawande, which reduced accidents and deaths.

    In 65 participating hospitals around the country, the Society of Hospital Medicine identifies patients at high risk for readmission, provides staff mentoring, and designs user-friendly discharge forms listing follow-up appointments, potential signs of trouble and phone numbers for the hospital team. Peer-reviewed research on the reforms in the system is expected in a year or two.

    Even experts who were initially skeptical agree that the hospitalists’ skill set is timely. They are young and thus not entrenched in the current order. They enjoy working in teams, when older doctors tend to be hierarchical. And, like Dr. Airan-Javia, who has a 16-month-old baby, they appreciate the regular hours and a paycheck of, say, $190,000 — higher by $30,000 than community-based peers.

    Dr. Airan-Javia says she made an inspired career choice. Forty percent of her time is spent on the floor, treating diseases and helping patients and families though complex life events, like deciding when it is time to suspend medical care and let life end. Sixty percent of the time she is designing systems to improve workflow and advising the hospital’s chief medical officer. At meetings with her fellow hospitalists, phrases seldom spoken by most doctors, like “cost-effective delivery of care,” and “preventable adverse events,” flow off everyone’s tongue: The language of health care reform.

    “The tools have never been better,” she said, “for finally getting all of this right."

    more on this story;
    http://www.nytimes.com/2010/05/27/us...me&ref=general

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    Question Re: From futurist Stephan A. Schwartz ~ Trends That Will Affect Your Future …

    mmmmm...

    Artificial lifeforms
    Genesis redux

    A new form of life has been created in a laboratory, and the era of synthetic biology is dawning



    IN THE end there was no castle, no thunderstorm and definitely no hunchbacked cackling lab assistant. Nevertheless, Craig Venter, Hamilton Smith and their colleagues have done for real what Mary Shelley merely imagined. On May 20th, in the pages of Science, they announced that they had created a living creature.

    Like Shelley’s protagonist, Dr Venter and Dr Smith needed some spare parts from dead bodies to make their creature work. Unlike Victor Frankenstein, though, they needed no extra spark of Promethean lightning to give the creature its living essence. Instead they made that essence, a piece of DNA that carries about 1,000 genes, from off-the-shelf laboratory chemicals. The result is the first creature since the beginning of creatures that has no ancestor. What it is, and how it lives, depends entirely on a design put together by scientists of the J. Craig Venter Institute and held on the institute’s computers in Rockville, Maryland, and San Diego, California. When the first of these artificial creatures showed that it could reproduce on its own, the age of artificial life began.

    The announcement is momentous. It is not unexpected. Dr Venter’s ambition to create a living organism from close to scratch began 15 years ago, and it has been public knowledge for a decade. After so much time, there is a temptation for those in the field to say “show us something we didn’t know.” Synthetic DNA is, after all, routinely incorporated into living things by academics, by biotech companies, even by schoolchildren. Dr Venter—a consummate showman—and the self-effacing Dr Smith (uncharacteristically in the foreground in the picture of the two above) have merely done it on a grand scale.
    Craig’s parts list

    But if it is a stunt, it is a well conceived one. It demonstrates more forcefully than anything else to date that life’s essence is information. Heretofore that information has been passed from one living thing to another. Now it does not have to be. Non-living matter can be brought to life with no need for lightning, a vital essence or a god. And this new power will allow the large-scale manipulation of living organisms. Hitherto, genetic modification has been the work of apprentices and journeymen. This new step is, in the true and original sense of the word, a masterpiece. It is the demonstration that the practitioner has mastered his art.

    The journey to mastery has been a long one. Originally, not wishing to set himself a more difficult task than necessary, Dr Venter found the smallest living thing he could and set about making it smaller still. His chosen bug was Mycoplasma genitalium, a creature that lives in genital tracts. With just 485 genes, it is the tiniest known free-living bacterium. He then knocked out the bacterium’s genes one by one to see which it could live without, in the hope of making a yet smaller organism he could then use as a model for synthesis.

    This was something of a dead-end. Though there turned out to be 100 genes M. genitalium can do without, at least in the cushy conditions of a laboratory, it could not do without all of them at once. And finding which smaller genomes worked best took a lot of time, because M. genitalium grows rather slowly.

    On top of that, the reason for wanting a very small genome started to fade away. DNA synthesis techniques were getting better and better, a fact reflected in their ever decreasing price (see chart). So Dr Venter changed tack, and decided to go with a lightly modified version of the entire M. genitalium genome.

    Around the same time, in 2003, he synthesised the genome of a virus, Phi-X174, which has a mere 11 genes. It was not the first artificial virus; a team at the State University of New York, in Stony Brook, had made a copy of the polio virus the previous year. But theirs was a feeble thing, only just capable of reproducing. Dr Venter’s was the real McCoy: when he put the viral DNA into host cells they started to spit out new viruses just as self-destructively as cells infected with the natural Phi-X174.



    The idea behind the efforts to make an artificial bacterium was, in essence, to treat a large synthetic genome as a giant version of Phi-X174 and use it to hijack a cell which had had all its DNA removed. The difference was that this time the result would not be a cell that produced more viruses, but a cell that produced more cells. By the time the hijacked cell had undergone a few divisions, all trace of its previous self would have been erased; its several-times-great-granddaughters would have transformed themselves into the new species.

    Synthesising the genome proved reasonably easy. It was divided in “cassettes” about 1,000 base pairs long (a base pair being one of the genetic “letters” of which DNA is composed). These were put together by normal chemistry. The team then enlisted the help of yeast cells to link the cassettes in the correct order to produce the finished genomes.

    At this point it was necessary to prepare the cadavers, which proved rather trickier. It wasn’t just a matter of taking a bacterium closely related to M. genitalium and scooping out its DNA. Bacteria have defences against viruses in the form of chemicals called restriction enzymes, which chop up foreign DNA. These enzymes (discovered in the 1970s by Dr Smith, in work that won him a Nobel prize) would lurk in the DNA-free cadaver and cut up the synthetic genome before it was able to do its stuff. So the last step on the winding road was the creation of a bacterial strain without any restriction-enzyme genes, and thus without restriction enzymes, so that the team could have a purified reaction vessel in which the new genome could do its thing.

    Or almost the last step. M. genitalium still had a slow-growth problem, so the team swapped bugs, lighting on its cousin, Mycoplasma mycoides. This has twice as much DNA, but that no longer mattered. To make the new bacterium recognisably different Dr Venter and his colleagues deleted 14 genes they thought unnecessary from M. mycoides, and added some DNA designed from scratch in a process Dr Venter refers to as “watermarking”.

    This was an opportunity for some fun. The watermark, Dr Venter says, includes a cipher which contains the URL of a website and three quotations, if you can work out how to decode it. The plaintext part of the watermark brands the bug as Dr Venter’s own, encoding its serial number as JCVI-syn1.0. (A plan to refer to the result as Mycoplasma laboratorium and have it recognised as a completely new species seems to have been abandoned for the moment.)

    The watermarking is not just a fancy signature. It means that if, despite precautions, the Frankenbug does get out, its entirely harmless presence would be detectible in any given sample by straightforward DNA amplification technology of the sort used in genetic fingerprinting. It might also trap thieves. Dr Venter has offered his invention for patenting—an action that is sure to be controversial—and the watermark will thus stake out what he hopes will become the property of his firm, Synthetic Genomics.

    Once the finished genome was inserted into the genome-free bacteria, the work regressed to the sort of microbiology that would have been familiar to the science’s 19th-century pioneers. The fluid with the bacteria in it was dotted on to agar plates. Spots showed up on the agar as individual bacteria grew and multiplied. As a check, the researchers sequenced the DNA from some of the flourishing spots (a Mycoplasma genome is the sort of thing a modern sequencing set-up can knock off before its morning coffee). The colonies did, indeed, have the synthetic genomes. The masterpiece was alive.
    Radicalism and ribosomes

    Other journeymen, though, are hot on Dr Venter’s heels. And some have different ideas on how to go about the problem of making life, concentrating on things which Dr Venter’s hack-a-cadaver approach allows him to gloss over.

    A minimal genome is one thing. At Harvard Medical School, Jack Szostak is working on a minimal cell, the components of which might be quite unlike those of any modern life form. Dr Szostak is interested in the origin of life, and wants to develop something analogous to what he imagines life’s earliest days were like: a reaction vessel in which a self-sustaining cycle of chemical reactions can reproduce itself.

    In a modern cell, such as a bacterium, instructions from the DNA are transcribed into a related molecule called RNA. The RNA messenger molecules relay them to structures known as ribosomes that read them and make proteins accordingly. The whole process also involves a lot of proteins called enzymes to act as catalysts to the reactions.

    Many biologists—and Dr Szostak is one of them—think that life had a simpler early stage in which the varied tasks now carried out by DNA, RNA and proteins were all achieved by RNA alone. Even today, RNA molecules are not only messengers; they are also fetchers and carriers of amino acids, the building blocks of proteins. And they can catalyse reactions, as proteins do, too. In principle, then, RNA could act as both a cell’s genetic material and its self-assembly mechanism.

    If this idea is true, it should be possible to make a cell using just a membrane to hold things in place, some RNA, ingredients for more RNA, and an energy source. This comes in the form of an energy-rich molecule, ATP, which is what modern cells use to move energy from where it is generated to where it is used. Dr Szostak has already made a range of “ribozymes”, as catalytic pieces of RNA are known in the trade, and some of them are ATP-powered. He does not, yet, have a system that is capable of replicating itself. But that is his goal.


    Meet the new bug: JCVI-syn1.0

    If this idea is true, it should be possible to make a cell using just a membrane to hold things in place, some RNA, ingredients for more RNA, and an energy source. This comes in the form of an energy-rich molecule, ATP, which is what modern cells use to move energy from where it is generated to where it is used. Dr Szostak has already made a range of “ribozymes”, as catalytic pieces of RNA are known in the trade, and some of them are ATP-powered. He does not, yet, have a system that is capable of replicating itself. But that is his goal.

    Dr Szostak’s cell, if it does come to pass, will be quite different from the protein- and DNA-based life familiar to biologists. It would in some ways be a greater achievement than Dr Venter’s, in that it would create something truly from scratch; but it would be of less practical importance, since that something would be very primitive compared even with a bacterium.

    George Church, a colleague of Dr Szostak’s at Harvard, dreams instead of making something intensely practical that Dr Venter has left out: a ribosome. The Venter shortcut—booting up a bacterial cadaver—means that the new-minted bug has to rely on ribosomes from its dead host to make the proteins its genome describes. It has the genes with which to make its own ribosomes, though, and as time goes by it will do so, diluting out the legacy that got it started. Dr Venter calculates that once JCVI-syn1.0 has undergone 30 divisions, all trace of the original cell will have disappeared. But that does not address the point that the new cells have relied on the output of genes from the old one to get going in the first place.

    Dr Church is working on making ribosomes—complex contraptions with dozens of protein and RNA components—from scratch. He has managed to synthesise all the RNA components in such a way that, when they are mixed with natural ribosome proteins, they form working ribosomes. Making the proteins from scratch is more difficult, because their shape is crucial to their function, so it is not clear whether he will bother to do so.

    Although he is interested in chalking up firsts, Dr Church focuses mainly on making tools. Artificial ribosomes, he thinks, could be specially crafted to add new capabilities to biotechnology—higher-than-natural protein productivity, for example. And that, for all the brouhaha which rightly accompanies the passage from journeyman to master, is the ultimate point: practical control over what life can be made to do.

    Another avowedly practical approach is that taken by Drew Endy, a researcher at Stanford University. Dr Endy wants to make the way that cells process genetic information more like the way that familiar computers do. Just as computers are built from electronic components that (at least in the days before integrated circuits and silicon chips) could be ordered from a catalogue by engineers and enthusiasts alike, so Dr Endy is trying to build up a catalogue of components he calls biobricks that, when linked together, will form useful biological “circuits”. Synthetic biologists will be able to order stretches of DNA that encode biobricks and link them together to do their bidding.

    Dr Endy’s approach is intriguing. His plan to “reimplement” life shows an engineer’s desire to replace biology’s unruly heritage—kludge built on kludge for billions of years—with something designed to be fit for a physicist’s practical purpose. Whether it will work remains to be seen. But a less thoroughgoing approach to modular design underlies the next stage of Dr Venter’s plans, too.
    The constant gardener

    Biotechnology can sometimes resemble that rather older interaction with nature, gardening. It relies quite heavily on pruning and grafting. Gene-by-gene biotechnology constantly comes up against the problem that living organisms like to plough their own furrow, regardless of what their human “masters” might desire. The pruning part of biotechnology involves eliminating proclivities that might be useful to a wild organism, but drain its energy and metabolic effort away from the task at hand. The grafting part is adding new characteristics from elsewhere to the well-trained root stock.

    Dr Venter wants to get back to his original idea of creating a minimal genome in a peculiarly complete and rational act of pruning in order to be able to do a much more thorough job than has been previously possible of grafting in new stock. It is this ambition that makes his work something more than just a breathtaking novelty, positioning it as a milestone on the road from the craft of biotechnology, which manipulates genes one at a time, to the industry of synthetic biology, which aims to make wholesale changes to living things.

    In this, Dr Venter seems to be going with the grain of nature, as wise gardeners do. Over the past decade it has become clear that bacteria are already well disposed to the idea of interchangeable parts. Each member of a bacterial species, or group of species, has a subset of genes (numbering hundreds, or a few thousand) drawn from a pool containing many thousands. Comparing lots of different but related bacteria can thus reveal a “core competence” similar in concept to a minimal genome. In seeking to build useful bacteria (ones that can, say, produce particular drugs in quantity) Dr Venter’s thoroughgoing root-and-graft approach may be tidying up a strategy that has been used for 4 billion years, perhaps even returning it to its basics.

    He does not plan to stick to bacteria, though. The other challenge, besides the minimal genome, is to repeat the trick with single-celled algae.

    The step from single-celled bacteria to single-celled algae may sound like a short one. But algae are on the other side of the great dividing line of life, that between creatures with a simple, single genome which is just a big loop of DNA sitting in the cell and those with genomes that are for the most part sequestered in a nucleus set aside for them, and cut up into multiple chromosomes. This second group includes animals, plants, fungi and algae. With no disrespect towards bacteria, which are remarkably innovative and spectacularly durable, the creatures that have taken the nuclear route are much more interesting—not least because Homo sapiens is himself one of them.


    Bring on the empty algae

    Algae, though, are interesting for other reasons. Many people—including Dr Venter—want to use them to produce biofuels. They would turn carbon dioxide from the atmosphere (or, better, from power-station exhaust) into petrol or diesel by photosynthesis. At the moment, the microbes which make biofuels almost all do so through fermentation. The photosynthesis is done by plants such as sugar cane and the sugar is transformed into fuel by engineered bugs of one sort or another. Using algae would cut out the middleman.
    The life to come

    All of this activity, however, relies on one thing: that the price of synthesising DNA continues to fall. In a way analogous to Gordon Moore’s famous law about the improvement of computers, both the price of sequencing DNA and the price of making it have plummeted over the past decade. The former means that the world’s databases are filling up with genes from every part of the tree of life. The latter means those genes can be cut and pasted together with greater and greater ease.

    If synthetic biology is to take off as a technology, that is not merely good, it is essential. There will be a lot of trial and error in the process of creating new, useful organisms. Evolution by artificial selection is likely to prove almost as wasteful as the kind by natural selection. But there are those that worry about the proliferation of gene synthesis. Noting the propensity of computer-hackers to turn out what have been dubbed, by analogy, software viruses, they worry that hackers of the future may turn to synthetic biology and turn out real viruses.

    It is a risk, no doubt. But almost all technologies can be used for ill as well as good. Approaches that can create pathogens to order can create vaccines, too—and it is not too rose-tinted to think that the will to do good, often harnessed to the desire to make money, will attract many more people than the dark side will. They could create new crops, new fuels, new ways of investigating diseases and new drugs to treat them. They might do other, wilder things as well.

    A more recent piece of science fiction than Shelley’s, Michael Crichton’s “Jurassic Park”, conceived of the resurrection of dinosaurs. No DNA survives that would allow that to be done directly. But the ability to make genomes, coupled to a far greater understanding of how they lead to the structures of complex organisms, could one day allow simulacra of such creatures to be made by synthetic biology.

    In any case, though dinosaurs have left no usable DNA, other more recently departed creatures have been more generous. Imagine, say, allying synthetic biology with the genome of Neanderthal man that was described earlier this year. There is much excitement at the idea of comparing this with the DNA of modern humans, in the hope of finding the essential differences between the two. How much more exciting, instead, to create a Neanderthal and ask him.

    And if that seems too morally fraught, may we interest you in a mammoth?

    The Economist ~story link here;http://www.economist.com/displayStor...ry_id=16163006
    Last edited by giovonni; 30th May 2010 at 18:52.

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