Translate

Monday, September 21

Wasting food is a custom in modern China. Changing the custom won't be painless.

From Xi Declares War on Food Waste, and China Races to Tighten Its Belt; The New York Times, published August 21, updated September 17:
[...]
Mr. Xi’s “clean plate” campaign strikes at the heart of dining culture in China. Custom dictates that ordering extra dishes and leaving food behind are ways to demonstrate generosity toward one’s relatives, clients, business partners and important guests.

Such habits have contributed to an estimated 17 million to 18 million tons of food being discarded annually, an amount that could feed 30 million to 50 million people for a year, according to a study by the Chinese Academy of Science and the World Wildlife Fund.

Mr. Xi’s call is as much a warning against the dangers of profligacy as it is a reflection of the generational shift in values that has emerged as living standards rise.

[...]

Many among the country’s younger generation, such as Samantha Pan, a 21-year-old student in Guangzhou, embrace being free from having to worry about saving food for a rainy day, and hold little regard for the state’s moral exhortations.

“This type of initiative is very boring and useless,” Ms. Pan said in a telephone interview. “I am entitled to order as much food as I want. If I just happen to love wasting food, it’s still my freedom.”

[...] 

As we can see from Ms Pan's ringing defense of her freedom to waste food, not all of China is racing to tighten its belt. Yet China is now facing severe food insecurity, as detailed by the updated Times report and one from The Hill, Another famine coming? China struggles to meet basic food demands.

As with so many other kinds of crises that have arisen in this young century, the only viable course of action is for individuals to change their thinking. 

Change or die; that's what the crystal ball is telling me. 

********




  

 

 

Tuesday, September 8

Should India stay with the Shanghai Cooperation Organization?

 Well, here is my opinion of Beijing:


"Bite by bite, China has been eating away at Indian borderlands." The quote is from an Indian security expert published today in The New York Times report, Shots Fired Along India-China Border for First Time in Years.  Brahma Chellaney is right as far as it goes but the Chinese haven't only been taking bites from the 'borderlands.'  For years they got so little pushback from the China-huggers bought-off Indians in Delhi they moved ever more openly into Ladakh. They went so far that finally Delhi woke up and took action. Then the Chinese got nasty. And here we are today.  

The Chinese have shown their true colors so many times during the past 20 years that any government is a fool to join a security organization with "Shanghai" in the name -- unless it's so desperate for Chinese financial aid it's willing to endure being shanghaied by smiling backstabbers. India doesn't and shouldn't need to endure being stabbed in the back.  

As to whether India should be turning to the United States for help in dealing with the Chinese, well, here is my opinion of Washington:


Substitute "land" for "lady" in the lyrics, and there is America, the British Empire wannabe, to a T.  These days you have to be crazy to join any American 'coalition of the willing' 

********

Wednesday, September 2

Human response to Covid virus

Farmer in Amazon fighting
 forest fire with sprinkler can
 
Photo : CARL DE SOUZA/AFP

Photo at Sputnik's This week in pictures, August 15-21.  

********


Monday, August 24

I can tell you in one sentence what's wrong with America. But then you'd have to understand the sentence.

What's wrong is that when statistical data interpretation rules societies, disaster results. That's the truth, the whole truth about what's wrong with today's USA; everything else is blither spewed by superficial thinkers.

The fastest way to understand what I've told you is to gather your attention and plow through a lengthy, tortured article by Gwynn Guilford,who spent six years in China researching their economy and trying to explain it for hedge funds. In her 2018 writing for Quartz, The epic mistake about manufacturing that’s cost Americans millions of jobsshe sets out to explain the thinking that led a majority of economists to misinterpret the statistics they used to interpret the American manufacturing sector. To call what they did a mistake, even an epic one, hardly conveys the disaster that resulted.

Here are a few passages from the writing:

... Manufacturers’ embrace of automation was supposedly a good thing. Sure, some factory workers lost their jobs. But increased productivity boosted living standards, and as manufacturing work vanished, new jobs in construction and other services took its place. This was more of a shift than a loss, explained Bradford DeLong, economics professor at the University of California, Berkeley.

So when Trump won the presidential election, the true-blue data believers dismissed his victory as the triumph of rhetoric over fact. His supporters had succumbed to a nativist tale with cartoon villains like “cheating China” and a shadowy cabal of Rust Belt-razing “globalists.”

But it turns out that Trump’s story of US manufacturing decline was much closer to being right than the story of technological progress being spun in Washington, New York, and Cambridge.

Thanks to a painstaking analysis by a handful of economists, it’s become clear that the data that underpin the dominant narrative—or more precisely, the way most economists interpreted the data—were way off-base. Foreign competition, not automation, was behind the stunning loss in factory jobs. And that means America’s manufacturing sector is in far worse shape than the media, politicians, and even most academics realize.

Here I'll skip over several paragraphs to get to this part:

In other words, the method statisticians use to account for these advances can make it seem like US firms are producing and selling more computers than they actually are. And when the computers data are aggregated with the other subsectors, the adjustment makes it seem like the whole of American manufacturing is churning out more goods than it actually is.
Misreading the manufacturing statistics

It’s this adjustment that is the crux of economists’ misinterpretation of the health of manufacturing. There’s nothing wrong with accounting for product quality. But most economists and policymakers have failed to take into account how adjusting for quality improvements in a relatively small subsector skews the manufacturing output data.

[...]

Later in the writing Guilford observes:

Two decades of ill-founded policymaking radically restructured the US economy, and reshuffled the social order too. The America that resulted is more unequal and more polarized than it’s been in decades, if not nearly a century.
In effect, US policymakers put diplomacy before industrial development at home, offering the massive American consumer market as a carrot to encourage other countries to open up their economies to multinational investment. Then, thanks to the popular narrative that automation was responsible for job losses in manufacturing, American leaders tended to dismiss the threat of foreign competition to a thriving manufacturing industry and minimize its importance to the overall health of the US economy.

[...] 

Guilford stays away from the larger inference, but the tortured tale she unravels speaks for itself. We -- the American society as a whole, not only economists -- have reached a stage where we are simply overwhelmed by our attempts to interpret the shifting and changing statistics we wring from masses of collected data.  

We are in over our heads. The awful state of American society reflects this.     

********

Sunday, August 23

Japanese scream jar



Soundproof jar you can scream into to let off stress.  From a list of 101 products only available in Japan. I also like the soundproof karaoke machine, which lets you sing into a funnel microphone without anyone else hearing you.   

I've only looked at 20 products so far but there are probably more can't-live-without Japanese inventions on the list.   

Product descriptions with pix, year of invention, and price in USD at Investing.com.  

********

 

Thursday, August 20

Has Dr Ron Paul been branded a Russian agent yet?

 

Dr Ron Paul turned 85 years old today. He is a great American, a very loyal American, but by a curious logic just about every loyal American you can name these days who advises against mindless U.S. wars and meddling has been labeled a Russian agent. Such is the state of America's defense/foreign policy establishment and the media, here and abroad, that backs up the establishment.

Protesting the label is no use; there is no defense against the accusation. Whether you know it or not, you're a Russian influence agent even if you aren't on the Kremlin's payroll if you argue against, say, American actions in Syria, which Dr Paul most certainly has done. And God Forbid if you've ever been interviewed by Russia's RT, which Dr Paul has. Any American who speaks to RT or writes an opinion column for them is ipso facto a Russian influence agent. You might not think you work for the Russians but that just goes to show how much they have duped you.  

From Wikipedia's article about Dr Paul (not to be confused with his son, U.S. Senator Rand Paul):

Ronald Ernest Paul (born August 20, 1935) is an American author, physician, retired politician, and presidential candidate who served as the U.S. Representative for Texas's 22nd congressional district from 1976 to 1977 and again from 1979 to 1985, and for Texas's 14th congressional district from 1997 to 2013. On three occasions, he sought the presidency of the United States: as the Libertarian Party nominee in 1988 and as a candidate in the Republican primaries of 2008 and 2012. A self-described "constitutionalist", Paul is a critic of the federal government's fiscal policies, especially the existence of the Federal Reserve and the tax policy, as well as the military–industrial complex, the war on drugs, and the war on terror. He has also been a vocal critic of mass surveillance policies such as the USA PATRIOT Act and the NSA surveillance programs. He was the first chairman of the conservative PAC Citizens for a Sound Economy, a free-market group focused on limited government, and has been characterized as the "intellectual godfather" of the Tea Party movement, a fiscally conservative political movement that is largely against most matters of interventionism. 
Paul served as a flight surgeon in the U.S. Air Force from 1963 to 1968, and worked as an obstetrician-gynecologist from the 1960s to the 1980s. [...]

I can't say I agree with every one of his political positions because I'm not familiar with every one of them, but I hope that the above is enough to convey why I admire Dr Paul. 

So, from one Russian dupe to another (since the start of the Russian intervention in Syria I've probably quoted RT more than any other blogger) happy birthday, sir, and I pray for your long life and good health.

http://ronpaulinstitute.org/

********

Tuesday, August 11

Guess what? Our bones think and network. That's not all the news about bones.

“The idea that bone is just a simple organ that’s separated from everything else as a mineralised tissue and doesn’t communicate – that’s changed.”

I stumbled across the following article while researching calcium supplements. The discoveries written about have been around for some time but this is the first I'm learning about them.  All I can say is wow, and thank The Guardian and the reporter, a health journalist and former neuroscientist. And ponder that sometimes a failed experiment leads to a vast leap in knowledge.

Does the key to anti-ageing lie in our bones?
By David Cox
July 4, 2020
The Guardian

Osteocalcin, a hormone produced in the bones, could one day provide treatments for age-related issues such as muscle and memory loss

GĂ©rard Karsenty was a young scientist trying to make a name for himself in the early 1990s when he first stumbled upon a finding that would go on to transform our understanding of bone, and the role it plays in our body.

Karsenty had become interested in osteocalcin, one of the most abundant proteins in bone. He suspected that it played a crucial role in bone remodelling – the process by which our bones continuously remove and create new tissue – which enables us to grow during childhood and adolescence, and also recover from injuries.

Intending to study this, he conducted a genetic knockout experiment, removing the gene responsible for osteocalcin from mice. However to his dismay, his mutant mice did not appear to have any obvious bone defects at all. “For him, it was initially a total failure,” says Mathieu Ferron, a former colleague of Karsenty who now heads a research lab studying bone biology at IRCM in Montreal. “In those days it was super-expensive to do modification in the mouse genome.”

But then Karsenty noticed something unexpected. While their bones had developed normally, the mice appeared to be both noticeably fat and cognitively impaired.

“Mice that don’t have osteocalcin have increased circulating glucose, and they tend to look a bit stupid,” says Ferron. “It may sound silly to say this, but they don’t learn very well, they appear kind of depressed. But it took Karsenty and his team some time to understand how a protein in bone could be affecting these functions. They were initially a bit surprised and terrified as it didn’t really make any sense to them.”

Almost 15 years later, Karsenty would publish the first of a series of landmark papers that would revolutionise our perspective on bone and the skeleton in general. We used to view our skeleton as primarily a mechanical structure whose main role is to serve as a scaffold for the rest of the body. But our bones are very much live organs, which we now believe play a role in regulating a whole range of vital bodily processes ranging from memory to appetite, muscle health, fertility, metabolism and many others.

“The idea that bone is just a simple organ that’s separated from everything else as a mineralised tissue, and that doesn’t communicate – that’s changed,” says Thomas Clemens, professor of orthopaedic surgery at the Johns Hopkins Center for Musculoskeletal Research. “Karsenty has ushered in the idea that bone is involved in communicating with other tissues in the body that wasn’t really understood or investigated before."

We now know that bones communicate by participating in a network of signals to other organs through producing their own hormones, proteins that circulate in the blood. Karsenty’s mice eventually led him to realise that osteocalcin was in fact one such hormone, and understanding its links to regulating so many of these functions could have future implications in terms of public health interventions.

“The idea that bone could produce a hormone affecting metabolism or even your liver initially came as a bit of a shock,” says Ferron. “People did not expect that. But other scientists have since replicated the results, and even discovered new hormones also produced by bones. It’s opened up a completely new field in bone research.”

Reversing age-related decline


As we age, all of us inevitably lose bone. Research shows that humans reach peak bone mass in their 20s; from then onwards, it is a slow decline that can eventually lead to frailty and diseases such as osteoporosis in old age.

Over the past decade, new findings have suggested that this reduction in bone mass may also be linked to the weakening of muscles – referred to in medical terms as sarcopenia – as well as the memory and cognitive problems that many of us experience as we grow older. This appears to be connected to the levels of osteocalcin in the blood, through its role as a “master regulator”, influencing many other hormonal processes in the body.

“Osteocalcin acts in muscle to increase the ability to produce ATP, the fuel that allows us to exercise,” says Karsenty. “In the brain, it regulates the secretion of most neurotransmitters that are needed to have memory. The circulating levels of osteocalcin declines in humans around mid-life, which is roughly the time when these physiological functions, such as memory and the ability to exercise, begin to decline.”

But intriguingly in recent years, Karsenty has conducted a series of experiments in which he has shown that by increasing the levels of osteocalcin in older mice through injections, you can actually reverse many of these age-related ailments.

“Osteocalcin seems to be able to reverse manifestations of ageing in the brain and in muscle,” he says. “What is remarkable is that if you give osteocalcin to old mice, you restore memory and you restore the ability to exercise to the levels seen in a young mouse. That makes it potentially extremely attractive from a medical point of view."

Scientists have also found that for humans, one way of naturally maintaining the levels of this hormone in the blood, even as we age, is through exercise, something that makes intuitive sense, as physical activity has long been known to have anti-ageing properties. Ferron is hoping that these findings can be used to support public health messages regarding the importance of staying active through middle age and later life.

“If you exercise regularly, then it stimulates your bone to make more osteocalcin, and that will have these beneficial effects on muscle and brain,” he says. “From epidemiological studies, we know that people who are very active tend to have less of a cognitive decline with age than sedentary people. With time, maybe people will be more aware of this connection, and think of their bone health as being just as important as other aspects of staying healthy.”

Ongoing research in this area also suggests that exercising more during the teenage years and early adulthood can continue to have a protective effect on bone and other aspects of health much later in life.

“I think this could reinforce the message that it’s important for people to be active during adolescence and early adult years,” Ferron says. “This means they reach a higher peak bone mass, which will protect them from age-related problems linked to osteocalcin decline.”

Utilising bone hormones to develop new drugs

Osteocalcin is not the only bone hormone to have caught the attention of scientists, however. At the Mayo Clinic, Sundeep Khosla has been studying a hormone called DPP4, which is made by cells on the outer layers of bone, called osteoclasts, and appears to play a role in how bone regulates blood sugar.

Khosla is particularly interested in this hormone because the drug denosumab – which is clinically prescribed to osteoporosis patients to try and slow down the rate of bone loss – seems to have a positive effect on DPP4 as well. In a study of osteoporosis patients taking denosumab published earlier this year, he noticed that those also suffering from diabetes experienced an improvement in their symptoms.

“This shows that maybe this drug can treat both osteoporosis and diabetes at the same time,” says Khosla. “We’re now looking to follow up on these observations and test this through a randomised control trial."

However, osteocalcin, with its potential to prevent many aspects of age-related decline, remains the major topic of interest in bone research. Given that so many people ignore public health guidelines regarding exercise – in 2017, the British Heart Foundation reported that around 20 million adults in the UK are insufficiently active – Karsenty is working on a means of artificially increasing the levels of osteocalcin in the blood and has even filed a patent on using it to treat cognitive disorders.

“This is not easy, but what we are hoping to do is to deliver osteocalcin perhaps through developing a molecule which regulates osteocalcin,” he says. “We’re exploring various ways of doing this, but the idea would be eventually to have something which could be used to treat age-related diseases such as sarcopenia and memory decline. This is really going to profit the elderly the most, but anyone with a decline in muscle function, because of a hip fracture or another condition, could also benefit from this treatment.

Ferron says that such a treatment would differ from current medications designed to improve bone health in osteoporosis, as they only work by blocking bone loss. A drug targeting osteocalcin would aim to achieve wider health benefits through stimulating bone gain.

However, there are still plenty of hurdles to overcome. For example, simply injecting a form of osteocalcin is unlikely to be sufficient to achieve a therapeutic benefit in humans.

“Treatments like that tend to be more costly and more difficult as protein injections don’t have a very long half life,” says Ferron. “My lab is developing a stabilised form of osteocalcin so it can stay longer in the body, but the best solution would be to have some sort of small pharmacological molecules that could be put in a pill to target the receptor of osteocalcin to stimulate its activity. So that’s the idea I see for the future.”

But Karsenty’s findings have also led scientists to ponder a somewhat profound question: how did bones develop the ability to produce hormones such as osteocalcin in the first place?

The scientist himself believes that the answer lies deep in our evolutionary past. “I think that evolution has invented osteocalcin as a survival hormone,” he says. “Because to escape predators, you need your bones to be able to signal to your muscles to run, which is mediated by osteocalcin. To survive, you also need to remember where to find food or where a predator was an hour ago, and such memory processes are regulated by osteocalcin. More and more, we think that it evolved as a hormone to help animals escape danger.”

[END REPORT]

*********