Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Stop Wasting Money on Vitamin and Mineral Supplements

      Numerous published reviews have appraised the role of vitamin and mineral supplements in primary or secondary prevention of chronic disease have consistently found null results or possible harms. With respect to multivitamins, the published studies indicate no substantial health benefit. Supplementing the diet of well-nourished adults with (most) mineral or vitamin supplements has no clear benefit and might even be harmful.
      Nevertheless, the use of multivitamin supplements increased among U.S. adults from 30% between 1988 to 1994 to 39% between 2003 to 2006, while overall use of dietary supplements increased from 42% to 53%.  Sales of multivitamins and other supplements have not been affected by major studies with null results, and the U.S. supplement industry continues to grow, reaching $28 billion in annual sales in 2010. 

Politician And Environmentalist Lies about Climate Change

      In Senator Cruz's opening statement in the Science Sub-Committee of Commerce Committee he emphasizes the need to stick to the science in considering policy.  As an example, he shows the wild exaggeration made by some politicians, such a past-senator and current Secretary of State John Kerry.
      Likewise, in his essay about the Sophistic Nature of the Defense of Global Warming Alarm, Dr. Lindzen, MIT Professor Emeritus warns of similar disingenuous reporting of statements made by the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).  Specifically,
  • The IPCC does not claim that the ‘science is settled'
  • The IPCC does not claim “that there is an urgent need to fight climate change by reducing emissions of carbon dioxide.
  • The IPCC does not claim that climate change is mostly due to human activities  

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Polar Bear Numbers Increased

Survey Results: Svalbard polar bear numbers increased 30% over last 11 years

Results of this fall’s Barents Sea population survey have been released by the Norwegian Polar Institute and they are phenomenal: despite several years with poor ice conditions, there are more bears now (~975) than there were in 2004 (~685) around Svalbard (a 30% increase) and the bears were in good condition.

Friday, December 18, 2015

Religious Freedom: What It Is and What It Is Not

      Religious freedom has traditionally been construed as an individual right to pray and worship as one sees fit. But Religious Right activists are working to change religious liberty into something else—a device to be used to control others and a vehicle to enlist government support to further fundamentalist dogma. In this talk, Rob Boston discusses why the Religious Right's view of religious freedom isn't really religious freedom at all and why, ultimately, changes in the American religious landscape will lead to a less dogmatic, more secular nation.

Real X-Files

Okay we'll try this one again.  The last time I transfer the "embed code" from the producers, it disappeared from their website and from our embed.  Their new embed code didn't work any better so we saved a the video to You Tube


This was featured again in Cause and Effect Newsletter, Issue #46December 18, 2015. Cause & Effect is the biweekly newsletter of the Center for Inquiry community.

Religious Freedom?

This one goes under the column, "In America you are free to have a religious belief as long as it is the same as mine." 
      Schools in Augusta County in central Virginia were temporarily closed due to outrage over a lesson in Arabic calligraphy. Riverheads High School teacher Cheryl LaPorte asked students to practice calligraphy by copying an Islamic statement of faith known as the shahada as shown below.
Have any idea what it means?  Neither did the students.  It may have not been the best choice of study material, but the lesson was hardly deserving of the response. 
      Eric Bond, Virginia Department of Education and Superintendent, LapOrte's lesson was consistent with state standards and didn't violate students' rights. They weren't asked to "translate it, recite it, or claim it as a belief." The County Sheriff reported an abundance of "profane" and "hateful" calls and emails as a response. It was the "tone and content" of this "fanatical Christian Terrorism" had the school district announce the Friday closure. 

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Yale Petitions to Repeal First Amendment

Yale fail: Ivy leaguers sign 'petition' to repeal First Amendment
Looking to understand just how controversial the debate over free speech on our college campuses really is, filmmaker and satirist Ami Horowitz recently traveled to Yale University, one of our nation’s most prestigious institutions of higher learning, to speak directly to students.
“I decided to take this campus free speech debate to its logical conclusion,” said Horowitz, who asked students if they’d sign a petition calling for an outright repeal of the First Amendment. “The result was this unbelievable display of total stupidity.”
In fact, Horowitz discovered a solid majority of the students asked willingly signed the petition, with several expressing their enthusiastic approval for his anti-First Amendment efforts.
{Emphasis above added by us}  
Watch the video to find out just how many supported the petition, and how willing many students were to sign away their more basic rights of free speech and expression.

And does ANYONE question why Trump has such supportThomas Jefferson knew an educated populace was critical to democracy.  So help us! 

Monday, December 14, 2015

The 2015 Paris Mirage

     The following Wall Street Journal has received wide coverage on the Internet.  It is strictly non-technical and a pragmatic opinion. The following article Paris Climate of Conformity, appeared December 13'th.  The emphasized in sections was added by us.

      Paris has provided nothing that will have any impact on the climate.  The commitments are nothing more than an unenforceable mirage with no way to confirm any of the emission reductions.  The goals are so far in the future that none of those making them will be around to champion the effort. Policy makers naively assume that enough money can create technological advances on schedule.  For example, fusion power is just a decade away, as it has been for the last half century.

Friday, December 11, 2015

Sore Looser Law - New Republican Party Tactic

      As sure as the sun rises in the east, the Republican Party is headed for disaster in the 2016 Presidential Election.  Any attempt to treat Trump unfairly (as Trump interprets the action), regardless of his general incompetence, will have him bolting and running as an Independent.  Most likely, he'll drag enough Republicans to almost guarantee Clinton a win.  So do the Republican have any options?  Its called the Sore Loser Law.

      Sore Loser laws block someone who runs and loses in a party primary from running in the general election as the candidate of another party, and/or as an independent.  According to an article by Emory law professor Michael Kang, 47 states have some form of a sore loser law on the books, but most of them don't actually apply to presidential elections.  However, Ohio and Michigan have laws that do apply and according to Ohio Secretary of State — Jon Husted — Trump has already disqualified himself from running as a third-party or independent candidate there. Nevertheless, an attempt to apply this would end in court.


Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Protecting Medical Identity

Although it is difficult to protect against sloppy practices by Insurance companies and medical provides, one should follow the good practices listed below:

It is prudent to take preventive measures that should decrease the chance of being victimized:
  • Safeguard your health plan membership card like it is a credit card
  • Insist that your healthcare providers check your ID when they request your health plan card and request they do the same for all their patients. By verifying your credentials, healthcare providers can ensure that imposters are not able to seek treatment, buy prescription drugs, or make false claims for medical services using your benefits.
  • Monitor inaccuracies in your "Explanation of Benefits" statements from your health plan and report any discrepancies.
  • Beware of "free" services, especially if you are asked to provide your insurance ID number.
  • Regularly review your medical records to ensure accurate treatment data, and pay close attention when a healthcare provider reviews your medical history with you.
  • Acquire free annual credit reports to check for fraudulent medical debts and other inaccuracies.

Polar Bear Facts

One of the "facts" reported in the soon to be released movie Climate Hustle is that the polar bear population has increased from 5,000 in 1960 to 25,000 in recent counts.  This certainly came as a surprise to hear this comment.  It is certainly not the message that we have been hearing and seeing on the popular media.  Since we have tried to be careful not to swallow so-called facts from either side of the Climate Change debate, we decided to do a little quick research.  Our first stop was Polar Bear International.  What did they say?
One of the most frequent myths we hear about polar bears is that their numbers are increasing and have, in fact, more than doubled over the past thirty years. Tales about how many polar bears there used to be (with claims as low as 5,000 in the 1960s) are undocumented, but cited over and over again. Yet no one I know can come up with a legitimate source for these numbers.*
Nevertheless, the organization concedes no matter how poor the early counts were, polar bear populations have been increasing.  But, they plead to ignore this evidence and follow the unsubstantiated opinion.
But the most important point is that whatever happened in the past is really irrelevant. Polar bear habitat is disappearing due to global warming. Even the most careful on-the-ground management doesn't matter if polar bears don't have the required habitat.  
Next we decided to check the Canadian Geographic Organization
Consider Mitch Taylor’s story. He spent more than two decades as a polar bear researcher and manager for the Nunavut government and has published around 50 peer-reviewed papers. That should garner widespread respect. But Taylor has been highly vocal about his belief that polar bears are mostly doing fine, that cub mortality varies from year to year and that the much ballyhooed predictions of extinction by 2050 are “a joke.” He also alleges that a lot of the “exaggerated decline” is just a way to keep certain scientists well funded and to transfer control of the polar bear issue from territorial to federal hands. In response, Taylor’s critics disinvited him from meetings of polar bear specialists that he’d been attending since 1978. They also like to point out that he’s a signatory of the Manhattan Declaration, which questions the very existence of climate change. But amidst all the heated charges and countercharges, it’s hard to argue the fact that few people know polar bears the way Taylor does. And while it might be inconvenient for current political posturing, there’s no denying that certain subpopulations of polar bears are managing to survive, even thrive. 

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

The Hangman Has Taken His Tole

As sure as the Hangman, the Republicans have doomed their chances in 2016 thanks to their timidity regarding Donald Trump.  At this time, if he is nominated by the Republican Party, he has no chance of winning the Presidency.  When the Republicans find their "spine", it will be too late. Trump will bolt and drag the degenerates of his thinking who almost universally vote Republican. He has never been a surprise.  What has been the surprise is the cowardice of Republicans to disavow his message of hate.

Resolution of Absurd Climate Positions

Climate Change Will Not Be Dangerous for a Long Time:
Slower warming than predicted 
gives the world time to develop better energy technologies
  By Matt Ridley Scientific American , November 27, 2015
The climate change debate has been polarized into a simple dichotomy. Either global warming is “real, man-made and dangerous,” as Pres. Barack Obama thinks, or it’s a “hoax,” as Oklahoma Sen. James Inhofe thinks. But there is a third possibility: that it is real, man-made and not dangerous, at least not for a long time. This “lukewarm” option has been boosted by recent climate research, and if it is right, current policies may do more harm than good.

The Dismal Data Security of the Medical Industry

    According to Baseline (12./8/15) the average price tag for the most desirable data includes most valued personal data passwords ($75.80), health records ($59.80), Social Security numbers ($55.70), and payment details ($36.60).  The most impacted industry for identity theft is healthcare at 29.8%.
    Also 90% of hospitals and clinics lose their patients' data at  http://money.cnn.com/2014/08/20/technology/security/hospitals-data/ 
    We reported on this blog about the dismal security practices of the medical industry.
    One month ago we received a plain text e-mail from Blue Cross Blue Shield of Tennessee that listed the Social Security numbers of all our 200 employees.

Most Valuable Data

The average price tag for the most desirable data includes most valued personal data passwords ($75.80), health records ($59.80), Social Security numbers ($55.70) and payment details ($36.60).
- See more at: http://www.baselinemag.com/security/slideshows/data-breaches-myth-vs.-reality.html?utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=BL_NL_BB_20151208_STR1L1&dni=290055298&rni=29507635#sthash.FfZrYgrM.dpuf

Most Valuable Data

The average price tag for the most desirable data includes most valued personal data passwords ($75.80), health records ($59.80), Social Security numbers ($55.70) and payment details ($36.60).
- See more at: http://www.baselinemag.com/security/slideshows/data-breaches-myth-vs.-reality.html?utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=BL_NL_BB_20151208_STR1L1&dni=290055298&rni=29507635#sthash.FfZrYgrM.dpuf

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Loss of Intellectual Integrity

     It’s that time of the year again, when charitable organizations and the like solicit for financial support.  That includes the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry.  I am more than inclined to send them a big check similar to what my wife sends to her church, but no matter how much I support the mission of the organization, I am forced to decline.
     Likewise articles in their magazine and related publications, such as eSkeptic, unintentionally reinforce that decision, when I find I am weakening in my resolve.  My problem is the hypocrisy I find in the position these organizations have taken on Climate Change and the continued highly biased and one-sided opinion pieces that both the Committee and the Skeptic Organization publish.
     Many people with a sincere interest in the facts associated with Climate Change search for the opportunity for a credible debate on this topic.  These organizations could provide the platform, if their official positions were not so blatantly one-sided.  This is not the same as the oft voiced comment by Creationist to “teach the controversy,” where it is an argument of faith verses evidence.  Both sides of the Climate Debate have credible and distinguished scientists.
    To make matters even worse there has been a movement within these organizations to discredit those that challenge some of the extreme positions of global warming from being referred to as Climate Skeptics, as if these organizations had ownership of that identification.
     This week in eSkeptic  http://www.skeptic.com/eskeptic/15-12-02/  the book review,  Advocatus Diaboli—the Devil’s Advocate by David Priess reminded me of the problem I have with the organization.
     The review opens with the statement
Recognize your assumptions. Question them regularly. Don’t fall prey to mirror-imaging and related mindsets. Avoid cherry-picking to support your preferred hypothesis. Value evidence over belief. Skeptics in diverse fields ranging from the hard sciences to intelligence analysis know these maxims well. But plenty of research has made it clear that only exceptional effort keeps us all from falling prey to the same troublesome mental traits; it’s just plain hard to move beyond mere recognition of critical thinking best practices to actually practicing them best.
The article goes on to discuss experiences in the Catholic Church for the establishment of sainthood.
The book starts by describing the roots of the red team concept in the Roman Catholic Church’s “Devil’s Advocacy” method for vetting the qualifications of potential saints. . . It was thought, would ensure that objectivity served as a brake on rapid rushes to sainthood. . . But it raises the question: Why didn’t the process of challenging superstitions lead to the debunking of all attempts at sainthood?
This mild brake on the system for “confirming” miracles eventually proved too annoying for the faithful. . . .Pope John Paul II in 1983 got rid of the position altogether . . . beatifications and canonizations skyrocketed.
And here is the key sentence summarizing the result of this failure to challenge
 The integrity associated with the process and outcome was negated.