Wednesday, February 26

Idlib: Erdogan blusters, Assad slogs on.

[Pundita Editorial Comment: sigh.]

"We’re the hosts there." Erdogan says Turkey won’t pull back from Syria’s sovereign territory, gives Assad ultimatum to retreat
26 Feb, 2020 11:28 / Updated 3 hours ago

Reiterating his usual rhetoric on Syria, the Turkish leader has ruled out withdrawal from Idlib, where his forces back rebels fighting the government. He also gave Damascus some time to retreat beyond Turkey’s observation posts.

“We will not step back in Idlib. We are not the guests in this realm, we are the hosts,” Recep Tayyip Erdogan told a meeting of his AK party on Wednesday. Vowing to bring “the regime’s attacks” to an end, Erdogan said Ankara is giving Damascus time to pull forces back from Turkish observation posts, but that time “is expiring at the end of the month.”

Erdogan said he'd tried to secure Donald Trump's support before gettig tough on Idlib, “but there is no support yet.” He said: “It seems that we will have another meeting this time.”

Situated in Syria’s northwest, Idlib is the last remaining bastion of anti-government rebels and Islamist militants, who have held grip over the province since as early as 2011.

Hostilities escalated dramatically in recent weeks as the Syrian military renewed its offensive in an effort to capture strategic towns in the province and unlock the M4 highway connecting Aleppo – once Syria’s second most populated city – to other parts of the country.

Damascus’ push prompted Turkish military to deploy thousands of soldiers and hundreds of tanks in order to reinforce their militant allies battling Bashar Assad, while also accusing Syrian troops of bombing civilians and shelling its soldiers.

Meanwhile, Ankara has demanded that Russia pressure Assad into bringing his operation in Idlib to a halt.

However, Moscow insists that the Syrian army is acting within its own territory and has every right to restore sovereignty and quell Islamist insurgency; it also insisted that Turkey failed to separate the 'moderate opposition' from the terrorists – a key provision under the 2018 Sochi accord, which set out several “de-escalation zones” across Idlib.



Tuesday, February 25

Melania in India

Casting rose petals in honor of Gandhi.


Monday, February 24

So how's your immune system holding up these days?

Quote from a Reuters report today headlined Battle against coronavirus turns to Italy; Wall Street falls on pandemic fears.  
"Liang Wannian of China's National Health Commission said while the rapid rise had been halted [in China], the situation was still grim. He said over 3,000 medical staff had become infected, most in Hubei province surrounding Wuhan, probably due to the lack of protective gear and fatigue."
I note that the World Health Organization's list for the public of Basic protective measures against the new coronavirus doesn't include avoiding fatigue. It's only in the section "How to cope with stress during 2019-nCoV outbreak" that WHO gets around to mentioning the need for enough sleep in the context of maintaining a "healthy lifestyle," including 'proper diet, sleep, exercise, and social contacts' to cope with the stress of worrying about 2019-nCoV.


Sunday, February 23

Fingers crossed

Only time to post this blurb from MoA today, posted at 14:19 UTC:
An hour ago the Russian air force bombed a convoy of Jihadis and Turkish soldiers near Jabal al Zawiyah. Syrian artillery fired on another Turkish convoy. There were Turkish casualties in both incidents. Erdogan can do nothing about it except to order his troops to retreat.

So here's hoping Turks will back off.  

More later tonight or tomorrow. 

Thursday, February 20

What if it's the other way around? Soy oil first, then heavy computer use?

The general view is that heavy use of computers contributes to emotional distancing, difficulty with establishing and maintaining personal relationships. But heavy use of something else may do the same. That would be soybean oil. 
A scientific study, published in January, found that soybean oil has profound negative effects on the hypothalamus of male mice. (The researchers didn't study female mice but are probably doing so as I write these words.) The hypothalamus regulates mood and behavior.

If you think, 'That's just mice," think twice. Mice make a good substitute for human subjects in such research.

Science writer Peter Andrews, who has a degree in genetics,  outlined the horrifying discovery of the researchers in a January article for RT:
But what is really shocking about the [Univ. of California - Riverside team's] latest findings is the effect soybean oil seems to have on the brain.
From Alzheimer’s to autism
The study is published in Endocrinology, a scientific journal, and it shows that when soybean oil is fed to mice it has major impact on their hypothalamus, an area of the brain crucial for regulating mood and behaviour.
More worryingly, it even affected over 100 of the mice’s genes, including one for controlling oxytocin, the love and bonding [empathy] hormone. Soybean-fed mice showed lower levels of oxytocin in the hypothalamus. 
Other genes affected had to do with metabolic and hormone pathways, including the insulin pathway, synonymous with diabetes. There was also upregulation of genes associated with anxiety, depression, and schizophrenia.
Considering the evidence, the authors believe that soybean oil could increase the risk of Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease, and autism.

However, there is no concrete proof yet that soybean oil causes these conditions, since this research was conducted on male mice only. But mice are used as a model organism for human health for a reason, as a mammal species they have similar tissues and genetics to us, and it is reasonable to provisionally project some of the authors’ health warnings onto humans.
This team of researchers has been studying soybean oil for several years; it was the team that found the oil induces obesity and diabetes in mice. In the wake of that bombshell discovery, you may trust food engineers were flogged by soybean lobbyists to find some way to reduce said harmful effects -- and they did.

And so the soybean industry was saved.  

Now the other shoe has dropped. To return to Andrews' article:
Is the GM version better?
There is a genetically engineered form of soybean oil that has a lower linoleic acid (LA) content, and this form is healthier for the heart. The authors also fed mice this form to see whether the results would be any better, but the low-LA form had a similarly detrimental effect on the mice’s brains.
There's more about the findings in Andrews' article and the many other articles that were published for the general public in the wake of the study's January 17 publication, and of course in the published study, but that's the gist.

It's not only autism, per se, that would come into question; there is a range of autistic-type disorders including Asperger's in what's called Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). Put another way, many Americans exhibit traits that suggest they suffer from ASD even if they're not autistic. The traits dovetail with the emotional problems found in many if not most heavy computer users.

But does the difficulty in establishing personal relationships come initially from the heavy computer use, or was it always easier for the ASD types to communicate with people via a machine intermediary?

The scientists are still a way from understanding the effect of soybean oil on mice brains, let alone human ones; however, that didn't stop Poonamjot Deol, the lead author of the January 17 study, from issuing a strong warning:

“If there’s one message I want people to take away, it’s this: reduce consumption of soybean oil."

But how, Dr Deol? For at least a generation Americans have been raised on the stuff -- many, from birth in infant formulas and baby food. Soybean oil isn't only used for cooking; it's now in so many processed food products it's easier to ask what processed ingestible it's not in than where it can be found.  The other day I saw the oil listed as an ingredient in a reputable brand of melatonin pills -- OTC pills to aid sleep.

Soybean oil is incredibly cheap; it became the staple oil additive for restaurants, bakeries, fast food franchises, and food service providers of all kinds -- think hospital meals, school lunches, prison meals, military meals, food programs for the elderly and homeless. Or just read labels in grocery stores to realize it's ubiquitous in the American diet.

Workarounds?  What about switching to other oils? Coconut oil was used as a control in the study and it didn't effect the hypothalamus.  But substituting coconut oil on the huge scale demanded by the food industries might not be doable. However, the researchers might find other oils that together with coconut oil could save day. And food engineers might be able to pull another rabbit out of the hat.  

But we are here now, with large numbers of Americans who don't get enough sleep and consume in large quantities a vegetable oil that is likely very bad for their brains.

So, a nation of sleepwalkers who don't have much empathy for each other when they have to come face to face. I'd call that a perfect storm.


From "Yanxi Palace" guide to surviving office politics

No joke, there really is such a guide -- more than one, as a matter of fact. Just one of the reasons The Story of Yanxi Palace annoyed the powers that be in Beijing. That too, is no joke. The series was banned from rebroadcast on Chinese television.

Here's what was going on in the above scene in Episode 2. Start at the 2:51 minute mark.


Tuesday, February 18

The Empress gives Wei Ying Luo a teaching about forbearance

One of the almost uncountable lessons from The Story of Yanxi Palace. (The series is 70 episodes.) It's something of a plot spoiler to show this part, but not in the grand sweep of the story's events. Here the emperor's wife gives a teaching to Wei Ying Luo, her favorite servant, who is hell-bent for justice to be served on two of the most powerful persons in the Forbidden City -- the emperor's brother, Hong Zhou, and the brother's mother, the Concubine Dowager Yu. 

Ying Luo is the empress's favorite for good reason; in short order her quick wits and courage foiled plots against the empress and others in the Forbidden City who didn't deserve a ghastly end. In doing so she's gotten into so much hot water that at one point when she's brought before the emperor he snaps, "You again."

Yes. But the empress's challenge is to keep Ying Luo alive -- and for this, Ying Luo must learn to control her temper and practice forbearance.  

A couple notes:

> The woman who is upset at learning Wei Ying Luo has been sent to the dowager's palace is the empress.  

> As to the hand that's referenced by the dowager -- a bloody severed hand was placed in the ice chest that the dowager received, and she blames Ying Luo, who as much admits she did it.

You can start at the 25 minute mark, which provides a few minutes of background to the empress's conversation with Ying Luo, which ends at the 39:17 mark:

A return to The Tale of Sathya Sai Baba and the Two Rascals

"Now here we arrive at the part in my tales about Sai Baba where I ponder whether I should provide you with my analysis of the incident's social, religious and spiritual implications, or just tell the story. [tossing a coin] Ah. I see you were lucky this time."
-- Pundita, from The Tale of Sathya Sai Baba and The Two Rascals, published April 2016

A few days ago a Sai Baba devotee, Himanshu, ignored my poke at myself and wrote that he would be interested in my analysis of the tale.

My interpretation, so many decades after the man I call Ravi told me the story, is that Sai Baba wanted Ravi to understand that even the most powerful must sometimes make concessions to human frailties and by so doing, bind their power in order to accomplish something.



Thursday, February 13

"Victorious Tweets did not help, Turkish-led forces got clobbered by evening."

SouthFront's newfound sense of humor sometimes goes a little overboard when they try too hard to mix humor with straight-up war reporting-- but I'm thankful for the laugh moments they provide in this seemingly interminable nightmare called the Syrian War. The above quote is from their February 12 report, SYRIAN ARMY GIVES TURKEY FLICK ON NOSE IN NAYRAB, SECURES ENTIRE ALEPPO-DAMASCUS HIGHWAY, which delivers some great news. 

I can only pray SouthFront's estimate is correct regarding how NATO bosses will respond to Erdogan's trademark combination of whining and threats.  ( "... the most likely concrete move by the “allies” will be to slap Turkey on the back and advice to send more Turkish troops to die on behalf of al-Qaeda-linked Idlib groups.")   

Below is the entire report. (For more detail on the Battle of Saraqib, see SouthFront's February 6, SYRIAN ARMY LIBERATED SARAQIB AND TURKISH OBSERVATION POSTS FROM MILITANTS)

[February 12]

For the first time in about 8 years of the war, Syrian government forces have established control of the entire M5 highway, which runs from the border with Jordan through Damascus, Homs and Hama to Aleppo.

During the first half of February 12th, the Syrian Army and Iranian-backed militias recaptured the Rashidin 4 district from Hayat Tahrir al-Sham and other foreign-backed al-Qaeda enthusiasts in western Aleppo. By the end of the day, pro-government troops had taken control of Khan Asal and entered the villages of Abu Shalim, Wadi Shuha andWadi Al-Kabeer. 

The Syrians also attacked “moderate beheaders” in Kafr Nuran, but were not able to break their defenses there. The interesting fact is that on February 10 army positions in the nearby area of Kafr Halab became a target of at least two suicide bombing attacks. Apparently regular suicide bombings conducted by members of Idlib groups are a strong signal of their democratic ideology.

Hayat Tahrir al-Sham and its comrades complain that the ‘Assad regime’ successes in western Aleppo were the result of dirty tricks, such as the massive usage of artillery, air power, heavy military equipment and unexpected manoeuvres.

Yet Turkish artillery support and military equipment did not help them regain the initiative near Saraqib, in eastern Idlib. Idlib groups announced a major advance there on February 11 and attacked the village of Naryab. A supposed MANPAD missile launched from the area of Turkish positions in Qaminas shot down a Syrian military helicopter killing all on board. 

The Turkish Defense Ministry announced that Naryab had been cleared of ‘Assad forces’ and claimed that 51 ‘regime fighters’ had been ‘neutralized’, and that 2 tanks, a gun position and a weapon depot belonging to the Syrian military had been destroyed in Idlib clashes. However, victorious tweets did not help and Turkish-led forces got clobbered by the evening. The Syrians restored full control over the town. According to pro-government sources, up to 40 militants were killed there. Several airstrikes also hit joint positions of Turkish troops and Idlib militants near Qaminas. The damage and casualties caused by these strikes remains unclear.

At the same time, the city of Idlib itself appeared to be a target of several airstrikes. According to reports, 6 civilians were killed. Over the past years, Idlib rebels have learned to successfully place their military positions, weapon depots and HQs in close proximity to civilian infrastructure.

The US and other NATO members that broke a few lances with Turkey over its operations against Kurdish groups in northern Syria, its participation in the Astana format, the S-400 deal and other cooperation projects with Iran and Russia, are now hurrying to show their ‘decisive support’ for the Erdogan government.

The NATO secretary general condemned ‘Assad attacks’ on Turkish troops. Mike Pompeo said that the US would stand by its “NATO ally Turkey” and announced that Jim Jeffrey was going to Ankara “to coordinate steps to respond to this destabilizing attack.” In response, the Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar asked NATO allies for “concrete” moves to stop the ‘Assad aggression’. The only issue is that the most likely concrete move by the “allies” will be to slap Turkey on the back and give advice to send more Turkish troops to die on behalf of al-Qaeda-linked Idlib groups.


A reminder that we're not omniscient

Austan Goolsbee's article today for the New York Times up-ends the widely accepted explanation as to why so many malls in the USA are closing for lack of business. His analysis, titled Never Mind the Internet. Here's What's Killing Malls, is absolutely stunning, the more so because it's not grounded in math or arcane economic theories. It relies on common sense and close study of factors other than e-commerce that got short attention for years because 'everyone,' including this writer, had accepted the explanation that e-commerce was chiefly responsible for the large number of mall retailers going out of business.

His analysis is also a humbling lesson. Omniscience is not given to humans, but we constantly overlook this in our determination to identify a new situation as quickly as we can.

Goolsbee is a professor of economics at the University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business, so I think this is an instance where an economist is really earning his salary. 


Eight GOP senators join with Democrats to pass Iran War Powers Resolution

Trump can't veto the resolution but neither is he compelled to obey it. So the vote isn't saying much but it's a start.

US Senate Passes Iran War Powers Resolution Limiting Trump's Executive Authority
February 13, 2020

The US Senate has passed its own version of a resolution previously passed by the House seeking to limit US President Donald Trump's ability to unilaterally make war against Iran via the 1973 War Powers Act.

The nonbinding resolution enjoyed bipartisan support, winning the votes of all 47 Democrats as well as eight Republicans who agreed that Trump should have been forced to seek the approval of federal lawmakers before ordering the January 3 airstrike that killed Iranian Maj. Gen. Qasem Soleimani in Baghdad.
“The last thing this country should do is rush into or blunder into another war in the Middle East. And no matter who our president is, no president is smart enough to, on their own, make that kind of a decision without deliberation,” Sen. Tim Kaine (D-VA), who introduced the resolution, told Politico on Wednesday. “The logic of the idea just gets more and more persuasive the more time that elapses after 9/11.”
Like the House bill that passed last month, the Senate resolution is nonbinding, meaning Trump cannot veto it, but neither is he legally compelled to obey it. This is the second attempt on which the two legislative houses have united to try and rein in Trump's warmaking power; the first was last year's attempt to bar US support for the Saudi-led coalition's war in Yemen, which Trump vetoed.
The War Powers Act of 1973 was implemented in the closing days of the Vietnam War in an effort to block future presidents from unilaterally taking the US into a major conflict, as US President Lyndon B. Johnson did in 1964. While the law recognizes that the president has the power to deploy US forces into combat without a formal declaration of war, it requires them to give Congress at least 48 hours notice and establishes a 60-day time limit. Military operations beyond that scope require congressional authorization.

Wednesday, February 12

Erdogan wants NATO to fight his battle in Idlib for him

"Live Updates: Russia Blames Idlib Escalation on Turkey’s Failure to Live Up to Commitments on Syria;" Sputnik, February 12.



Annoy Google: Donate to SouthFront

I wish Google and YouTube would stop picking on SouthFront. For crying out loud, SouthFront is the most informative website for daily English language reports on the Syrian War. But that's just the problem.  

Well, at least SouthFront isn't suffering in silence.  


"US Senate Advances War Powers Resolution to Limit US Military Action in Iran"

WASHINGTON (Sputnik - February 13) - The US Senate has advanced a war powers resolution to limit the ability of a US president to send military assets into harm's way without congressional authorization, a nod at preventing President Donald Trump from escalating the ongoing conflict in the Middle East, particularly in Iran.
The Senate on Wednesday advanced the war powers resolution with a 51-45 vote, setting the stage for a final vote expected on Thursday.
Eight Republican senators broke away from the GOP party line to vote in favor of the resolution to prevent a US president from initiating foreign wars without Congressional approval.
The measure requires that any military action, including that with Iran, must be explicitly authorized by a declaration of war or a specific authorization for use of military force, and only at the hands of the US Congress.
Earlier on Wednesday, Trump urged the Senate to not support the resolution, suggesting that by doing so, it would show "weakness" and send a "bad signal."
In early January, the US House of Representatives adopted a war powers resolution specifically to limit the Trump administration's authorization to conduct military actions against Iran without Congressional approval.
The adoption followed an escalation of tensions between the US and Iran prompted by the extrajudicial killing of top Iranian General Qasem Soleimani near Baghdad’s international airport by the US and subsequent retaliation from Iran, firing ballistic missiles at two bases in Iraq that currently host US forces.
In response, the Trump administration announced additional sanctions on Iran, designating eight senior Iranian officials involved in the attack and 17 Iranian iron and steel companies.

Something's not quite stacking

"Nearly 1 in 3 American workers run out of money before payday—even those earning over $100,000;" CNBC, February 12

"More than 1 in 3 consumers fear they will max out a credit card;" CNBC, February 10

"New High of 90% of Americans Satisfied With Personal Life;" Gallup, February 6

Plus: "U.S. Household Debt Exceeds $14 Trillion for the First Time:" Bloomberg, February 11

I guess that last isn't enough to plunge Americans into the doldrums but that first situation is.  Can you be happy and terribly depressed at the same time? Maybe the Gallup pollsters should broaden their questions or deepen them or something.  
******** *********

Just keep it up: Washington's Ricochet Policy

"‘Alienate countries around the world’: Washington pushes ahead with plan to punish ‘currency manipulation’;" RT, February 4
"The ‘Hybrid War’ of Economic San
ctions;" Alastair Crooke, Consortium News, April 2016

"It is impossible to know which effort will ruin more lives at the end of the day or lead to greater loss of life. Economic warfare has become increasingly refined & ubiquitous. The US effort is entirely legal & earns Western compliance, if not approval;" Joshua Landis, Twitter, February 8

 "America’s aggressive use of sanctions endangers the dollar’s reign: Its rivals and allies are both looking at other options:"
 The Economist, January 18


Tuesday, February 11

The list to keep with you while grocery shopping

See the website for brief background information about vitamins and minerals.

The best foods for vitamins and minerals
How to ensure you get the right vitamins and minerals in the right amounts
Updated February 6, 2019
Harvard Medical School

Here are some of the best foods for vitamins and minerals from the Harvard Medical School Special Heath Report, Making Sense of Vitamins and Minerals: Choosing the foods and nutrients you need to stay healthy:

Vitamin Sources

Water soluble:
B-1: ham, soymilk, watermelon, acorn squash
B-2: milk, yogurt, cheese, whole and enriched grains and cereals.
B-3: meat, poultry, fish, fortified and whole grains, mushrooms, potatoes
B-5: chicken, whole grains, broccoli, avocados, mushrooms
B-6: meat, fish, poultry, legumes, tofu and other soy products, bananas
B-7: Whole grains, eggs, soybeans, fish
B-9: Fortified grains and cereals, asparagus, spinach, broccoli, legumes (black-eyed peas and chickpeas), orange juice
B-12: Meat, poultry, fish, milk, cheese, fortified soymilk and cereals
Vitamin C: Citrus fruit, potatoes, broccoli, bell peppers, spinach, strawberries, tomatoes, Brussels sprouts
Fat soluble:
Vitamin A: beef, liver, eggs, shrimp, fish, fortified milk, sweet potatoes, carrots, pumpkins, spinach, mangoes
Vitamin D: Fortified milk and cereals, fatty fish
Vitamin E: vegetables oils, leafy green vegetables, whole grains, nuts
Vitamin K: Cabbage, eggs, milk, spinach, broccoli, kale


Calcium: yogurt, cheese, milk, salmon, leafy green vegetables
Chloride: salt
Magnesium: Spinach, broccoli, legumes, seeds, whole-wheat bread
Potassium: meat, milk, fruits, vegetables, grains, legumes
Sodium: salt, soy sauce, vegetables
Chromium: meat, poultry, fish, nuts, cheese
Copper: shellfish, nuts, seeds, whole-grain products, beans, prunes
Fluoride: fish, teas
Iodine: Iodized salt, seafood
Iron: red meat, poultry, eggs, fruits, green vegetables, fortified bread
Manganese: nuts, legumes, whole grains, tea
Selenium: Organ meat, seafood, walnuts
Zinc: meat, shellfish, legumes, whole grains
– By Matthew Solan
Executive Editor, Harvard Men's Health Watch

Thursday, February 6

They can't face what they did in Syria. So they built a wall of lies.

I see SouthFront is developing a sense of humor. When facing this many lies, just about all one can do is laugh. From their February 4 report, headlined ASSAD IS DESTROYING LAST SEEDLINGS OF IDLIB DEMOCRACY:
The bloody Assad regime is threatening the last seedlings of democracy planted by Mr. al-Julani and his foreign backers in the Syrian province of Idlib.
On February 3, regime forces attacked peaceful al-Qaeda activists in the villages of Nay-rab, Tor-naba, and cut off the M4 highway west of Saraqib.
Idlib and Saraqib are well-known strongholds of tolerance and diversity, where vetted members of Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, the Turkistan Islamic Party, Horas Ad-Din and similar non-governmental humanitarian organizations operate.
The report goes on in that vein, and the more you know about the situation in Syria and the machinations of the country's occupiers, the funnier it is.



Wednesday, February 5

Yes, there's a go to sleep light bulb

A light bulb that emits less blue light

From Business Insider's helpful May 2019 article
7 smart buys that protect your eyes from harmful blue light — from computer glasses to screen protectors
Lighting Science Goodnight Sleep Bulb, available on Amazon for $15.99

Many light bulbs emit a crisp, cool form of light due to the blue light wavelength. Lighting Science uses a soft, warm light that emits more of a soothing glow instead. It's still strong enough to light the entire room, but it illuminates with 95% less blue light than your average light bulb.
The Lighting Science Goodnight Sleep Bulb only needs to be used in the room that you spend the last 90 minutes before bed in. The lack of blue light allows your body to naturally produce melatonin so can you fall asleep faster and easier. These light bulbs have an average lifespan of 22.8 years.
An Amazon user who gave this product a 4 out of 5 stars says, "I was skeptical that this would work but now I am a believer. The soft light allows me to read and then fall asleep quickly, sometimes forgetting to turn light off!"
There are now quite a number of such light bulbs (See Amazon), indicating the public's growing awareness of the importance of lighting to mental and physical health.  

This report is a good overview of the topic:

 Harvard Health Letter
Blue light has a dark side
What is blue light? The effect blue light has on your sleep and more.
Updated: August 13, 2018
Published: May, 2012
Harvard Medical School

Although it is environmentally friendly, blue light can affect your sleep and potentially cause disease. Until the advent of artificial lighting, the sun was the major source of lighting, and people spent their evenings in (relative) darkness. Now, in much of the world, evenings are illuminated, and we take our easy access to all those lumens pretty much for granted.
But we may be paying a price for basking in all that light. At night, light throws the body's biological clock—the circadian rhythm—out of whack. Sleep suffers. Worse, research shows that it may contribute to the causation of cancer, diabetes, heart disease, and obesity.

What is blue light?

Not all colors of light have the same effect. Blue wavelengths—which are beneficial during daylight hours because they boost attention, reaction times, and mood—seem to be the most disruptive at night. And the proliferation of electronics with screens, as well as energy-efficient lighting, is increasing our exposure to blue wavelengths, especially after sundown.

Light and sleep

Everyone has slightly different circadian rhythms, but the average length is 24 and one-quarter hours. The circadian rhythm of people who stay up late is slightly longer, while the rhythms of earlier birds fall short of 24 hours. Dr. Charles Czeisler of Harvard Medical School showed, in 1981, that daylight keeps a person's internal clock aligned with the environment.

Is nighttime light exposure bad?

Some studies suggest a link between exposure to light at night, such as working the night shift, to some types of cancer, diabetes, heart disease, and obesity. That's not proof that nighttime light exposure causes these conditions; nor is it clear why it could be bad for us. But we do know that exposure to light suppresses the secretion of melatonin, a hormone that influences circadian rhythms, and there's some experimental evidence (it's very preliminary) that lower melatonin levels might explain the association with cancer.
A Harvard study shed a little bit of light on the possible connection to diabetes and possibly obesity. The researchers put 10 people on a schedule that gradually shifted the timing of their circadian rhythms. Their blood sugar levels increased, throwing them into a prediabetic state, and levels of leptin, a hormone that leaves people feeling full after a meal, went down.
Even dim light can interfere with a person's circadian rhythm and melatonin secretion. A mere eight lux—a level of brightness exceeded by most table lamps and about twice that of a night light—has an effect, notes Stephen Lockley, a Harvard sleep researcher. Light at night is part of the reason so many people don't get enough sleep, says Lockley, and researchers have linked short sleep to increased risk for depression, as well as diabetes and cardiovascular problems.

Effects of blue light and sleep

While light of any kind can suppress the secretion of melatonin, blue light at night does so more powerfully. Harvard researchers and their colleagues conducted an experiment comparing the effects of 6.5 hours of exposure to blue light to exposure to green light of comparable brightness. The blue light suppressed melatonin for about twice as long as the green light and shifted circadian rhythms by twice as much (3 hours vs. 1.5 hours).
In another study of blue light, researchers at the University of Toronto compared the melatonin levels of people exposed to bright indoor light who were wearing blue-light–blocking goggles to people exposed to regular dim light without wearing goggles. The fact that the levels of the hormone were about the same in the two groups strengthens the hypothesis that blue light is a potent suppressor of melatonin. It also suggests that shift workers and night owls could perhaps protect themselves if they wore eyewear that blocks blue light. Inexpensive sunglasses with orange-tinted lenses block blue light, but they also block other colors, so they're not suitable for use indoors at night. Glasses that block out only blue light can cost up to $80.

LED blue light exposure

If blue light does have adverse health effects, then environmental concerns, and the quest for energy-efficient lighting, could be at odds with personal health. Those curlicue compact fluorescent lightbulbs and LED lights are much more energy-efficient than the old-fashioned incandescent lightbulbs we grew up with. But they also tend to produce more blue light.
The physics of fluorescent lights can't be changed, but coatings inside the bulbs can be so they produce a warmer, less blue light. LED lights are more efficient than fluorescent lights, but they also produce a fair amount of light in the blue spectrum. Richard Hansler, a light researcher at John Carroll University in Cleveland, notes that ordinary incandescent lights also produce some blue light, although less than most fluorescent lightbulbs.
Protect yourself from blue light at night
  • Use dim red lights for night lights. Red light has the least power to shift circadian rhythm and suppress melatonin.
  • Avoid looking at bright screens beginning two to three hours before bed.
  • If you work a night shift or use a lot of electronic devices at night, consider wearing blue-blocking glasses or installing an app that filters the blue/green wavelength at night.
  • Expose yourself to lots of bright light during the day, which will boost your ability to sleep at night, as well as your mood and alertness during daylight.


Tuesday, February 4

What the brain thinks of the 10000 Lux wake-up light bulb:


This light, as promoted by Dr Oz and Shark Tank and a host of physicians battling SAD (seasonal affective disorder),  is advertised as full spectrum but the companies that make the 10,000 Lux light bulb admit it does not emit UV light. This means it's not actually full spectrum.  So how do they get away with calling it full spectrum? One company, which has the gall to call itself Circadian Optics, explains that the bulb does not contain "unwanted" UV light. 

So if it's unwanted it's not actually part of the light spectrum; right?  

Then some wonder why I titled this series "What use is it to reason with sleepwalkers?"  We're at Part 3 by the way. 

As to those who rave in the Amazon comment section about how the bulb wakes them up, of course you're going to feel woke -- dare I use the term -- if you have a 10,000 Lux light shining on your face but this does virtually nothing to rev up the body's factory when it receives full-spectrum light. So important is full spectrum light to the human organism that it can be considered the master key to mental and physical health and the energy we need for the workday.     

There is one company I know about that sells a full spectrum wake-up light bulb, which is nicknamed Joyous Light. That it is. It's a wonderful invention.

As advertised at Amazon: 

ALZO 15W Joyous Light Full Spectrum CFL Light Bulb 5500K, 750 Lumens, 120V, Pack of 4, Daylight White Light.

I suspect that the most the 10,000 Lux competitors can say against the Joyous Light it is to insert complaints about quality control at Amazon's comment section (My box of lights arrived crushed. The lights didn't work I want a refund. Etc.)  My box didn't arrive crushed and the light bulbs work fine. I use one in the kitchen in a table lamp with the lamp shade removed and with the overhead fluorescent on; the effect is a room flooded with gentle sunlight. (There are larger size Joyous Lights for sale but the small one works fine for my purposes.)   

The bulb isn't a complete substitute for at least two hours of early-morning sunlight but it is a godsend for people who can't manage to get outside in the morning for that long. So at $23 for a box of four, it's the best investment that sunlight-deprived people can make.  

Oh wait, I see it's currently unavailable at Amazon; I hope that means it's sold out there. Well, you can order directly from the company

Good afternoon.


Monday, February 3

At the bottom of the madness, electric lights; Part 2, What use is it to reason with sleepwalkers?

Scientists from a wide range of disciplines are fitting together the vast jigsaw puzzle of the collective angst that has assailed modern societies in the past century. If I'm a few minutes ahead of the scientists it's because I don't have their constraints; I'm free to leap over the many slow steps that researchers must take before venturing a generalization. 

Enough research findings had piled up during the past quarter century to point to severe disruptions in the human Circadian Cycle. But these were considered to be due to individual factors such sleep disorders, long work hours, jet lag, psychological stress, nighttime pursuits, physical illnesses and so on.

How could so many people from so many eras and cultures and lifestyles experience the very same disruptions? 

It had to be something that if not simple was at least ubiquitous; i.e., the same across a wide range of human experiences.

The discovery of physical harm from extensive exposure to intense blue light emitted by computer screens has been a big piece in the jigsaw puzzle when fitted with other puzzle pieces, such as recent discoveries about the crucial importance of adequate sunlight for human health. 

I think scientists are close to acknowledging that it's not only the amount of sunlight that's important, it's also the quality of light and the time of exposure to the light. 

All this, and more I haven't detailed here, points to the light spectrum in electric lights that has caused the largest  disruptions in the Circadian Cycle. From there, a host of physical and mental illnesses was inevitable. 

The irony is staggering.