Tuesday, July 20


Not sure. Watching, waiting for signs.  One thing is certain.   

"Whatever comes out of these gates, we've got a better chance of survival if we work together. Do you understand?  We stay together, we survive."


Wednesday, June 9

Staggering food waste: "What we pay for perfection is the really quick destruction of our planet."

 A great documentary from Russia's RT on food waste. Although everyone knows there is food (and water!) wasted all along the food chain, the numbers quoted in the documentary are an eye-opener.  The only criticism I have is that at least at the beginning various speakers harp on the evils of capitalism and the profit motive, but the rest is so interesting I'll forgive these idealists for bringing in what I think is a useless  argument -- particularly because these are not lecturers; they are doing something, in immediate, hands-on fashion, to combat food waste:


Tuesday, June 8

Governments are actually planning themselves into obsolescence

Meet the new Britain. Same as the old Britain:
Britain has been “living out a foreign policy of a world that has gone,” one of [Boris Johnson's] closest advisers said. Beijing and Moscow have shown us the limits of the rules-based order. Britain can no longer afford to be a “status quo power” naively trying to resurrect a defunct system. “The world is moving faster,” the adviser said, “and therefore we have got to get our shit together and move faster with it.”

To do so, Johnson insists, Britain must be independent, united, and nimble.

Sounds good. But just how do independence, unity, and nimbleness translate into action? 

(His foreign secretary, Dominic Raab, told me that instead of “some big cumbersome whale,” the country needed to be “a more agile dolphin.”) The prime minister has already indicated what this might look like:  imposing human-rights sanctions on Russia, using the presidency of the G7 to turn the group into a wider alliance of democracies, and trying to join the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

If that's that their idea of nimble, unifying, and independent thinking, God help the British. Yet to change one's entire way of thinking is extremely hard. In lieu they create 'narratives' that sound nimble, etc.  This in the hope that if they repeat the new narratives enough, it will somehow translate into real change.

But the British government does recognize that a chasm now exists between between the ways things are today and the old political narratives the government has constructed about it. To return to Tom McTague's profile of Boris Johnson for The Atlantic (The Minister of Chaos):

[Boris Johnson] also believes that the global zeitgeist has radically changed since the 2008 financial crisis, and therefore so too must Britain’s foreign policy. This is not an ephemeral, insubstantial thing: Voters will not accept a laissez-faire attitude toward free trade, deindustrialization, or the rise of China any longer. Whether voters’ demands on these issues are reasonable or constructive is beside the point—they are reality.

Yet all such issues ignore that the traditional form of central government, which has been in place for centuries, is crumbling.

The only glue holding central government administrations and their copycat regional governments together in certain parts of the world is authoritarian policies -- and in the more 'liberal' parts of the world, government policies that can only be described as sneaky. 

Both strategies are an attempt to keep the system of government going because a truly different system is unimaginable, a kind of black hole into which we'll disappear. 

The future in many respects is indeed unimaginable, but the key to responding to the present is to understand that governments are becoming obsolete because they became synonymous with overarching planning. 

In general changes happened slowly enough in earlier times that governments could develop plans for entire swaths of society. In recent times, changes happen so fast that often by the time broad-scale plans are finalized and implemented, the situations they were meant to address have changed so greatly the plans are obsolete.  

This has left governments attempting to stuff situations that no longer exist into plans that no longer work.

How to deal with the problem?  On paper the solution is two-fold:  reduce overarching planning, and accompany every plan with a detailed de-planning strategy.  

The sticking point is that many people earn their living being planners at one stage or another of planning for governments. Reducing government planning also means  reducing a work force.  

So the change would have to start with simply addressing the government planning problem -- making it an issue. Get people to understand that the more extensive, costly, and permanent a plan, the harder it is to undo or revise it in the face of changed conditions. And emphasizing that applied sciences and technologies and many other factors are forcing fast and extensive changes in entire societies.   

Secondly, don't make the mistake in reverse; that is, don't say, "We have to stop government planning."  That wouldn't happen anyway. What can work is to pinpoint areas where less government planning makes overwhelming sense, and work toward reducing planning in those areas.


Thursday, June 3

Michael Yon still reporting from Darién Gap for John Batchelor's audience

June 2Upriver and into the Darién Gap with Congressman Tom Tiffany. Michael Yon,; The John Batchelor Show. (Audioboom podcast.) 

For background I'm republishing my April 20 post, With Michael Yon at the edge of the Darien Gap

Michael Yon


Michael Yon is reporting for the New John Batchelor Show on the many thousands of people from scores of countries struggling through the Darien Gap in a desperate effort to get to the United States.  Here's part one of his report, and here's part 2.  

What is the Darien Gap? It's a hellhole for people traversing it. From an article at Dangerous Roads:

... The Darien Gap is a region of southern Panama that borders Colombia and is the only overland route into South America. ... It consists of a large watershed, forest and mountains. It’s possible to cross it. However to all intents and purposes at the time of this writing ... it is strictly off limits for the vast majority of travelers.
The barrier of the gap is partly natural due the dense rainforest that covers the region and over more recent years the significant safety concerns from guerilla activity have further reinforced this.
The gap is 50km wide, stretching from the Atlantic to the Pacific, and 96km long. Known as a drug smuggling corridor between the two countries, it’s rarely seen by outsiders. It’s a lawless wilderness teeming with everything from deadly snakes to antigovernment guerrillas. Tens of thousands of migrants a year risk their lives to cross it. ...

The Gap also represents a break in the Pan-American Highway -- a lethal break. Dangerous Roads notes that the few people who successfully make it on their own through the Gap are Special Forces types driving off-road vehicles. Even for the most experienced it's tough going. (See the photo at Dangerous Roads of two men with the Trans-Darien Expedition trying to push their off-road vehicle across the terrain). 

The migrants who attempt the same journey are not Special Forces types and they travel on foot. They put their lives in the hands of guides who work for criminal gangs. Many of the migrants are murdered or die from the horrific rigors of the journey through the Gap.


Two million so-called migrants at U.S. border by end of this year

Two million migrants --including 200,000 unaccompanied children and 1.1 million single males -- encountered at the border by the end of the year; Pacific Watch with Jeff Bliss, The John Batchelor Show, April 3 (Audiboom podcast)


Deviant globalization with a vengeance: Transnational crime cartels with weaponized drones

The drones are purchased legally in the United States.

For background on deviant (or black) globalization, see my 2008 post, Nils Gilman on black globalization, the world as it is today, and how it got that way

My take: The U.S. needs to pay less attention to Russia, more to Mexico. The U.S. also needs to pay less attention to the Middle East, more to Latin America. The U.S. also needs to designate the Mexican cartels as terrorist organizations. The U.S. needs to all these things right away -- and the Biden administration needs to tell the Get Russia crowd to sit down and shut up.

See also: Mexican Cartels use China's Tik Tok to recruit US-based human traffickers; John Batchelor Show with Jeff Bliss, April 2, Audioboom podcast.  

Drug cartels attack enemies and spread terror with weaponized drones in US, Mexico
By Karol Suárez
Wed, June 2, 2021, 3:20 PM
Louisville Courier Journal/USA Today Network
via Yahoo! News

LOUISVILLE, Ky. – It began as a routine operation: Mexican police were clearing blockades placed by organized crime groups in El Aguaje, a western Mexico town that has become a battleground for drug cartels.

Suddenly, authorities said, a drone flew over, dropping a gunpowder bomb and wounding two members of the Michoacán state police force in the arms and legs.

The attack in April underscored an emerging danger in the international fight against illegal drugs – weaponized drones.

The bloody and powerful Jalisco New Generation Cartel, or CJNG, and its rival Cárteles Unidos have upgraded their arsenals, using drones to bomb enemies, posing a growing threat to Mexican and U.S. citizens and allowing more drugs to flow into the USA.

Drones are part of the cartels' larger strategy to arm themselves like rogue militaries.

"I've been a strong advocate of designating the Mexican cartels as terrorist groups because they're acting like terrorist groups. They're equipped like terrorist groups. They're distributing record levels of poisonous drugs in America," said Derek Maltz, a former agent in charge of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration’s Special Operations Division.

"They're going to use the latest and greatest technology" to defeat adversaries in Mexico, go after police and fight for territory that gives them better routes to funnel drugs into the USA, he said.

n an exclusive interview with The Courier Journal, part of the USA TODAY Network, one rookie drone operator with Cárteles Unidos, who did not want to give his name, given the cartel’s criminal activities, said his organization has about 100 drones. Cartel members receive training on their use, he said, from a man nicknamed "Lord of the Skies."

“He's been training us since last year,” the cartel member said. “We have many drone models. They're not too sophisticated but can carry a considerable amount of explosives."

He said the drones “come legally from the U.S.” through “groups in Michoacán that support us and have legit money to buy the drones."

The man said Cárteles Unidos deploys drones to keep watch over territory and attack CJNG. He said neither his organization nor CJNG uses drones for trafficking drugs because it's not worth the money or effort; drones are an inefficient way to carry the large volume of drugs CJNG exports to the USA.

CJNG – which is known for kidnappings, torture and murders in Mexico and the USA – is blamed for the spread of fentanyl, one of America's deadliest illicit drugs.

CJNG and other Mexican cartels make fentanyl in clandestine laboratories and produce and traffic “the overwhelming majority of the heroin available in the United States,” according to the DEA’s 2020 National Drug Threat Assessment.

Mexican Secretary of Defense Luis Cresencio Sandoval blamed CJNG for the drone attack against police in April and said the person who used the drone was arrested.

Aguililla, the municipality containing El Aguaje where the attack occurred, has become a strategic hub for the production of methamphetamine. It’s the birthplace of Nemesio Oseguera Cervantes, also known as "El Mencho," suspected of being the most powerful drug lord in Mexico and leader of CJNG.

Shortly after the attack, The Associated Press reported, Papal Nuncio Monsignor Franco Coppola visited Aguililla, offering a Mass for residents and walking through the streets with an image of Christ "to symbolically reclaim roadways where dozens of bodies – some decapitated – have been left in recent months."

The drone attack in El Aguaje was one of many in the past few years. CJNG has been blamed for many attacks in Tepalcatepec in the Michoacán state and one in Baja California, a Mexican state bordering the USA where the cartel targeted the house of Public Security Secretary Gerardo Manuel Sosa Olachea.

During a briefing in Mexico City, Sandoval said such attacks are concerning but “haven’t been as effective” as the cartels would like. He said the drones they use can’t carry enough explosives to seriously harm a person or destroy a building.

Authorities are concerned cartels could get hold of more deadly devices. They worry cartels may step up efforts to smuggle drugs across the border with drones; they say some use this tactic to bring marijuana and other drugs into the USA.

In the academic journal International Studies Perspective in 2018, researchers cited an expert who said cartels use drones to look for Border Patrol agents and inform drug smugglers of their positions.

As drones proliferate among cartels, public safety officials in Mexico try to curb their use. The office of Mexico's attorney general has launched several investigations into terrorism by organized crime and seized drones and C-4 explosives, which are commonly used in drone attacks.

Experts in Mexico and the USA worry more militarized cartels will mean more casualties in both countries, a more difficult battle for law enforcement and more drugs on American streets.

Last month, government officials from both nations held talks at Mexico City's Foreign Ministry to discuss a new joint security policy. A statement released by the Foreign Ministry said, “Mexico and the United States reaffirm the commitment to work together against transnational organized crime.”

The ministry said the two countries’ priorities include reducing arms, narcotics trafficking and violence caused by organized crime; addressing addiction as a public health problem; and attacking the finances of criminal organizations that operate in the two countries.

Judging by history, none of this will be easy.

Over the years, various strategies against organized crime have been implemented in Mexico with no success. The so-called war on drugs led to tens of thousands of deaths. Cartels grew stronger and better able to fuel America’s drug epidemic.

And that epidemic kept taking more lives.

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 81,000 people died from drug overdoses in the USA in the 12-month period ending May 2020 – the highest number of overdose deaths ever recorded in 12 months.

“They're killing our citizens as we've never seen in the history of the country," Maltz said.

Follow Karol Suárez on Twitter: @karolsuarez_

This article originally appeared on Louisville Courier Journal: Mexican drug cartels use drones to spread fear across border


A new plant-based Covid vaccine with no adverse side effects.

I saw the news report the day it was published but I've been holding off mentioning it, just in case any bad news about the vaccine trickled out. Not so far.   

As to when the vaccine will be available, it's still in the Phase Three clinical trials, which started in March and include up to 30,000 volunteers, but it's already been fast-tracked by the FDA for distribution in the USA.  And given that GSK is a big pharma firm, I don't think there will be manufacturing/
distribution problems.

So if it doesn't crash and burn in the last of the trials, which seems unlikely at  this stage, we could get the vaccine here in the USA by the fall, or even end of the summer.  I assume it would be the same in Canada.  As for the rest of the world -- this is GlaxoSmithKline under discussion. And I note some test volunteers are in Brazil. 

It doesn't seem two shots are necessary, although don't hold me to that because the report below and the Guardian one I linked to above don't specifically say, but it is "refrigerator stable."  Good for distribution in countries that don't have the freezer capacities. 

Meanwhile, the Covid pandemic is getting worse, not better. 

By Rupert Steiner
Market Watch

Trial participants have 10 times more antibodies in their systems than patients recovering from COVID-19

Pharmaceutical giant GlaxoSmithKline GSK, +0.15% and Canadian vaccine maker Medicago have reported promising results from a Phase 2 clinical trial of their COVID-19 vaccine candidate.

In a joint statement posted on Tuesday, the companies say the study shows trial participants have 10 times more antibodies in their systems than patients recovering from COVID-19. They reported that there were no severe adverse reactions among trial participants.

It will be good news for GSK, which has been overshadowed by vaccine progress made by rivals, and it may relieve pressure on Chief Executive Emma Walmsley after Elliott Management, an activist investor, took a recent stake in the business.

This COVID-19 collaboration involves Medicago providing the plant-derived vaccine candidate, which is tested in combination with GSK’s pandemic adjuvant, a substance intended to increases of [increase or] otherwise affect an immune response to a vaccine. It is different because most proteins for vaccines are grown in the cells of insects, while Medicago’s protein is grown in plants.

Dr. Thomas Breuer, chief medical officer of GSK’s vaccine division, said: “We are delighted to see that the results suggest a very strong immune response. Medicago’s COVID-19 vaccine candidate combined with GSK’s pandemic adjuvant was also well tolerated, reinforcing its potential benefits. We now look forward to the outcome of the ongoing Phase 3 trial of this refrigerator-stable vaccine candidate as the next step forward in our contribution to the global response to the pandemic.”

Phase 3 of the trial started in March, involving volunteers in Canada, the U.S., the U.K. and Brazil, with additional sites expected to be added in the coming weeks. The vaccine candidate has received fast-track designation by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, and Health Canada has initiated a review of Medicago’s COVID-19 rolling submission.

Read: Austria to phase out AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine

Meanwhile, Austria’s health minister, Wolfgang Mückstein, said in a in a television interview that the country would phase out use of AstraZeneca’s AZN, -0.27% COVID-19 vaccine. He told Puls 24 that the reason was delivery issues, and some citizens were worried about using this vaccine because of reports of rare side effects.



Tuesday, May 18

Naomi Campbell, at 50, gives birth

It was a surprise pregnancy -- her first pregnancy. Mother and baby, a girl, seem to be in good health. The pregnancy was kept secret until Naomi made the birth announcement today  -- not surprising given she is very private about her personal life. 

On May 3, I published a post about Naomi's incredible nutritional regimen to protect the immune system.  She released the information, which was quite detailed, as a public service last year because of the Covid pandemic.  

I didn't know until just now, when I looked up her page at Wikipedia, that Naomi had been a cocaine and alcohol addict for five years. She also smoked cigarettes, which she also gave up.

She certainly got herself straightened out, and the nutritional regimen would have been a big help.

In any case, a healthy birth when the mother is at an age when many females have already gone into menopause is really something.  

All the best to Naomi and baby. 


Tuesday, May 11

"WHO elevates Indian coronavirus strain to 'variant of concern' "

[Pundita Note: The following Fox News report, headlined above, missed a key point about the WHO decision but RT noticed: WHO is designating the Indian strain as one of global concern.  Meanwhile, the UK had already upped the variant to one of "concern."  Today India’s seven-day average case count for Covid-19 reached a record high of 390,995.  Wakey, wakey, WHO.  Wakey, wakey, Fox News]

By Kayla Rivis
May 10, 2021
Fox News

A top official at the World Health Organization on Monday announced the agency is elevating a coronavirus variant first identified in India from a 'variant to interest,' to a 'variant to concern,' citing early studies suggesting increased transmissibility.

Dr. Maria Van Kerkhove, WHO's COVID-19 technical lead, said during a press conference that the B.1.617 variant appeared to spread more readily in preliminary studies released ahead of peer review. But there are still many unknowns around the impact on diagnostics, therapeutics, and vaccines, she noted.

Kerkhove said the agency needs much more information around the variant and its three sublineages, such as neutralization and any increased severity, through targeted sequencing. This information could help scientists understand the degree to which the variant is circulating in India and other countries.

Additional information is expected to be released Tuesday, she said.

Kerkhove urged the already-established public health measures like distancing, hand hygiene, mask use, avoiding crowded spaces and improving ventilation to prevent against infection from all strains of the virus.

While the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention currently lists the Indian variant and its sublineages as a "variant of interest," U.K. health officials have already moved to classify the Indian virus variant as a "variant of concern" in the country following an uptick in cases and "evidence of community transmission."

Public Health England cited evidence suggesting the variant is "at least as transmissible" as the U.K. B.1.1.7 variant, which is believed to spread 50% more easily than the ancestral strain.

"There is currently insufficient evidence to indicate that any of the variants recently detected in India cause more severe disease or render the vaccines currently deployed any less effective," PHE wrote in a statement posted Friday. "PHE is carrying out laboratory testing, in collaboration with academic and international partners to better understand the impact of the mutations on the behaviour of the virus."


"America's STD rate hits record high for 6th year in a row"

An editor at RT screwed up; a news report, published today and headlined above is datelined April 15. I've never seen that mistake happen before, and I check RT reports at least twice a day, every day. Anyhow, the report is about very disturbing news -- and one part of it is that the Covid pandemic has overwhelmed STD screening services in the USA. That's probably the case all over the world where the pandemic has hit hard. 

I doubt the crushing backlogs are limited to STD screening. It looks to me that a secondary major health crisis is emerging as  Covid has hogged medical/testing resources, across the board. 

Not only non-Covid resources are collateral damage. In the desperate war against Covid, doctors have gone berserk with antibiotics. Very, very dangerous ramifications. See the RT report I link to at the end of their April 11 one.  

All this noted, the April 11 report details that the STD crisis in America emerged years before Covid appeared.    

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has released a grim new report confirming that sexually transmitted disease rates have hit a record high for the sixth straight year.

A whopping 2.5 million Americans had either chlamydia, gonorrhea or syphilis infections in 2019, according to the latest available data. Preliminary 2020 data indicates the trend continued last year as well.

Racial and ethnic minorities, gay and bisexual men, and the country’s youth were the hardest hit, according to the CDC data.

Black people had STD rates of between five and eight times higher than white people, while the rate of STDs among hispanics was one to two times higher than white people.

Gonorrhea rates were 42 times higher than average among heterosexual men in some areas of the US, while gay and bisexual men accounted for nearly half of the primary and secondary syphilis infections.

Chlamydia cases jumped 61% and gonorrhoea cases spiked 42% among young people aged 15 to 24, while syphilis infections among newborn babies quadrupled between 2015 and 2019.

"Less than 20 years ago, gonorrhea rates in the U.S. were at historic lows, syphilis was close to elimination, and advances in chlamydia diagnostics made it easier to detect infections," said researcher Dr. Raul Romaguera, acting director for CDC's Division of STD Prevention, noting an almost 30% increase in these STDs between 2015 and 2019.

Romaguera added that historical gains made in thwarting the spread of STDs have "unraveled” in recent years.

To add insult to injury, or infection as the case may be, experts fear STDs may spike due to a lack of testing as a result of the coronavirus.

With staff redeployed to tackle the pandemic, STD screening services are now under-resourced, meaning infections will likely go unchecked, especially given that patients are often asymptomatic at least initially.

Untreated infections can lead to increased risk of pelvic inflammatory pain, chronic pain, infertility and severe complications with future pregnancies, among other potentially disastrous consequences.

"These new data should create a sense of urgency and mobilize the resources needed, so that future reports can tell a different story," Romaguera said, adding that, "we must rise to the challenge now."


See also:


Wednesday, May 5

What is hip music?

It's associated with jazz, but it's indescribable. You know it when you hear it, that's all. Here, soaring across the decades, "Pounding at my heart" from Ryuichi Sakamoto's 1994 Sweet Revenge tour, the essence of hip:


Monday, May 3

Is Naomi Campbell's urine the best Covid-19 vaccine?

April 11, 2020:

The remark in the title of this post harks to a comment from viewer Tress Braga at supermodel Naomi Campbell's YouTube video My Personal Vitamin & Supplement Routine. The video, posted on March 20, has already garnered close to 500,00 views and 3,184 comments, several of those quite critical. But Naomi, who is 49 years old and clearly in great health despite a high-stress globetrotting job, is intent on persuading that it's possible to strengthen the immune system with natural supplements to better defend against the Covid-19 virus. In this quest she can't be faulted. However, while her urine may not be the best Covid vaccine, I think without question it would be the most expensive.    

You'll appreciate the humor in Braga's remark when you get a load of what Naomi takes for breakfast. Another viewer, Natalie P (who at some point replaced her name with a screen name) undertook the task of listing for YouTube viewers the ingredients Naomi reels off as she plugs stuff into a blender. (Natalie might have missed one, if the powder shown in the video and labeled "insulin" was used.)  She also copied down the supplements Naomi said she takes in addition to the breakfast shake.

I'd never heard of three of the supplements on the list (EHB, NAC, Humacel). Same for some of the food powders. 

I have a few cautions and questions about Naomi's choices, which might have been compiled with the help of a nutritional consultant, but first here are the lists:
Morning shake recipe:
1 cup almond milk 1 tbsp cacao powder 1 tbsp matcha powder 1 tbsp baobab powder 1 tbsp collagen powder 1 tbsp artichoke powder 1 tbsp moringa powder 1 tbsp greens protein powder 1 tbsp vitamin C 2 tbsp pomegranate liquid 1/2 banana Ice Then blend!
Vitamins and supplements: Goldenseal drops into smoothie Elderberry syrup Zinc EHB (2 a day) [Pundita Note: EHB stands for Echinacosides, Hydrastine, Berberine; here's one formula.from Integrative Therapeutics, available at Amazon] Vitamin C liquid Papaya seeds NAC (N-Acetyl-L-Cysteine) Vitamin D (50,000 IU a week) Vitamin B12 chewable Black seed Probiotics Multivitamin Humacel Pine Bark Extract Oregano Oil (carry it always) Turmeric Lavender Oil Pills (calming effect) Only natural supplements!

April 12, 2021

All right. Here we are a year later; Naomi is now 50 years old, doesn't seem to have contracted Covid, and when last I checked was on a grueling photo shoot in Kenya. Like the great football player Tom Brady, staying at the top of her profession demands almost superhuman stamina, which doesn't leave room for being incapacitated by illness. So Naomi Campbell's nutritional regimen makes sense for her. Does it make sense for the rest of us?

That was my question last year. So I decided to wait and see how the Covid pandemic unfolded before discussing Naomi's recommendations.  Given the severity of the pandemic during the past year, the expense of Naomi's nutritional regimen starts to look like a bargain if it can indeed greatly strengthen the immune system.  The bottom line, however, is that many people would not be able to afford the regimen.  

Just one of the supplements on the list, Humacel, costs $49.95 for a bottle of 60. But if the manufacturer isn't blowing smoke or simply wrong, Humacel (and I suppose similar preparations) could be a powerful aid for the immune system. Go to the Humacel website and read the product description.

I wouldn't attempt to add up the cost of just the breakfast ingredients, and I note that the list doesn't say what type of vitamin supplement Naomi takes, but the 'natural' brands can run into serious money.

It's all a judgment call; deciding which ingredients and supplements are best for you, and pruning ones that you think you can do without. 

Another concern:  While I've never used it, I do have a caution about pine bark extract. Years ago I'd heard such great things about it that I was on the verge of purchasing it when I decided to redouble my research into the extract, given its expense. I found one source, which unfortunately I've misplaced, that claimed pine bark extract blocks the body's ability to absorb Vitamin C.  

It's possible the source is wrong, or that the blocking effect is temporary, so that if one takes Vitamin C a few hours after the extract, it's no problem. But until I come across more scientific research about the extract and its effect on C, I wouldn't take it.  

I also raise an eyebrow about lavender oil pills. As herbalists always caution, essential oils are very powerful, and so they can have powerful negative effects if used in excess or in the wrong way. Naomi uses the pills against anxiety. There are plenty of supplements that can calm without fooling around blindfolded in territory that only professional herbalists should trod. 

From all I have learned over the years, my belief is that essential oils should not be used on a routine basis unless under the supervision of a licensed herbalist, and preferably one with a medical degree and/or degree in biochemistry. 

As to taking a 50,000 IU pill of Vitamin D once a week -- I wouldn't do it. Maybe Naomi knows more than I do in this regard. All I know is that the daily recommended dose for D was increased to 5,000/day a few years ago, and you'd have to factor in all daily nutritional sources (e.g., multivitamin) to be sure you're not taking too much. 
I think that even with 'natural' supplements, it's wise to look carefully before leaping. I take several supplements, and I am willing to play guinea pig. But I try to learn as much as I can, as a layperson, about a supplement before I take it.

Another point is reactions to ingredients. I'll assume that Naomi's regimen was worked out over a period of years, during which she added ingredients one or a few at a time. But the large number of combined ingredients in the morning shake would make it impossible for a person new to the ingredients to know which one could be causing a bad reaction.  So the best course would be to proceed slowly with the ingredients, gradually building the shake.

All right. I may have a few more comments later but right now I invite you to watch the video and ponder the list.


Thursday, April 29

There could be a problem with mRNA Covid vaccines

From an April 22 article published at Medical Life Sciences  that's headlined, Striking difference identified between mRNA vaccination vs. SARS-CoV-2 infection immune responses:

A team of scientists from the United States has recently compared the immune response elicited by natural severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) infection and coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) vaccination. Their findings reveal that, unlike vaccination, natural SARS-CoV-2 infection is associated with a robust interferon response together with an induction of cytotoxic gene expression in peripheral blood lymphocytes. The study is currently available on the medRxiv* preprint server.

The article is directed at scientists specializing in the areas of research under discussion and therefore much of it is incomprehensible to this lay reader. Furthermore, the study is not yet peer reviewed and therefore can't be considered conclusive.  But this part of the article is reasonably understandable:

By specifically analyzing the B cell clonal expansion, the scientists indicated that the increased interferon response during SARS-CoV-2 infection might have induced the differentiation of plasma cells in COVID-19 patients. In contrast, the vaccine seemed to trigger the expansion of circulating memory B cells.

Furthermore, they observed enrichment of activated T cells and natural killer cells with a high level of cytotoxic effector functions in COVID-19 patients. However, they could not detect such an immune signature in vaccinated individuals.

The significance?

The study findings identify a notable difference between the immune responses induced by natural SARS-CoV-2 infection and vaccination. While the vaccine-induced immune response is mainly associated with viral clearance and protective immunity, an immune reaction to SARS-CoV-2 significantly increases the risk of heightened inflammation and immunopathology.

The findings square with the claim by Covid vaccine developers that their vaccines, while not necessarily giving full immunity to the Covid virus, can be very effective at protecting against the worst symptoms of the disease. I think the implication of the claim is that the vaccines ward off the infamous "cytokine storm," which is actually the killer in many if not most Covid cases. 

If I understand the study's significance correctly, I have a question:  Could the vaccines, by bypassing the immune system's response to the virus, weaken the immune system's natural defenses if the vaccines are repeatedly administered, as with annual booster shots?

I assume that would be a very hard question for scientists to answer off the top of their heads. And testing for side effects of vaccines probably wouldn't be broad enough to suggest an answer.  

However, there is a way to come at the question without  spending years at a lab bench. That would be to ask if there are ways other than the mRNA vaccine to tamp down the Covid-related cytokine storms, but which don't bypass or supplant any of the immune system's defenses. Some scientists are already asking pretty much the same question. 

Take a look at this April 13 report from The Jerusalem Post:

Can a cup of yogurt 'cure' your case of COVID-19?

Pre-clinical research by Israeli scientists, published in Microbiome, indicates that Kefir could be used to treat cytokine storms caused by coronavirus.

Can a cup of probiotic yogurt help save the lives of people with COVID-19?

Researchers from Ben-Gurion University of the Negev say they have identified molecules in kefir that are effective at treating various inflammatory conditions, including “cytokine storms” caused by COVID-19.

Kefir, which is similar to yogurt but thinner in consistency, is a fermented drink made by inoculating cow’s or goat’s milk with microorganism mixtures, such as yeast and bacteria. A cytokine storm is when the body’s immune system goes into overdrive and attacks itself – one of the leading causes of death in COVID-19 patients.

The research was conducted by PhD student Orit Malka and Prof. Raz Jelinek, vice president and dean for research and development at BGU. It was recently published in the peer-reviewed journal Microbiome.

Several years before the coronavirus pandemic, Malka noticed that yogurt had a therapeutic effect and began studying it in Jelinek’s lab, Jelinek told The Jerusalem Post. They identified molecules in the yogurt that had dramatic antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties.

“One of the main reasons people die of COVID is the cytokine storm,” Jelinek said. “Cytokines are immune molecules that are designed to help the body fight invaders like viruses. But in certain circumstances, and scientists don’t know exactly why, the body goes into a sort of overdrive and secretes many cytokines – so many that it kills you. That is what happens during COVID.”

“We knew that we had found these molecules in yogurt with anti-inflammatory properties,” he said. “So, when COVID started, we said, Let’s see if these molecules can help against cytokine storms.”

Jelinek and Malka induced cytokine storms in mice. Then they watched what happened.

The mice that had the storm and were not treated died. But the mice that were treated with the molecules they found in the yogurt had a complete recovery. The molecules not only eliminated the cytokine storm, they also restored balance to the immune system.

“This was really remarkable,” Jelinek said.

The scientists said they also administered the molecules to the mice via their mouths; they were placed in water and entered the mice’s digestive systems just like a normal drink.

During the pandemic, Jelinek and Malka had hoped they could administer these molecules to patients who were in critical condition. But regulatory hurdles delayed the process, and they did not succeed, Jelinek said. Now, their next step is to conduct clinical trials with other cytokine storms.

“Cytokine storms don’t only happen with COVID,” Jelinek said. “This is a very bad condition with really very few treatments against it.”

The researchers are about to make a start-up company under the BGN Technologies umbrella for further development and commercialization of the technology. The company should formally be launched within the next few weeks, and then they will raise funds to conduct clinical experiments, Jelinek said. Hopefully, trials will begin within a few months, he said.

Prof. Eran Segal, a computational biologist for the Weizmann Institute of Science who has published extensively on the subject of probiotics, said that "I am a strong believer in the concept of probiotics when given for the right indications and after proper research and showing some benefits."

On the other hand, he said, "a lot of probiotics that are given, don't do anything."

"The potential is huge," he added. "I think it is still in the early days."

The path from the lab to the table is likely to be long, Jelinek admitted. Even though the molecules come from yogurt that people could eat every day, they would be considered a drug and will have to undergo the full scrutiny of any new medicine before receiving approval, Jelinek said.

As such, the company will likely take the molecules in another direction at the same time – as a food additive, probiotic or supplement – to speed up the approval process, he said.

Jelinek said he and Malka did other experiments with the kefir, and they were also able to demonstrate that the molecules have the potential to combat pathogenic bacteria. Specifically, they showed that the molecules were able to significantly reduce virulence of the causative agent of cholera, he said.

“This is the first demonstration that virulence of human pathogenic bacteria can be mitigated by molecules secreted in probiotic milk products, such as yogurt or kefir,” Jelinek said. “I don’t think there were any molecular mechanisms that people knew for sure would have a therapeutic effect. Now we know.”



Wednesday, April 28

Human nature vs the need to adapt to climate change

Recently economist Terry Anderson sat down with John Batchelor to talk about themes in a book of essays he edited, Adapt and Be Adept: Market Responses to Climate Change.  

The book is indispensable for businesspeople under the gun of changes in weather patterns that are threatening to destroy their companies and entire industries. But the tales Terry recounts, by turns funny, sad, and exasperating, lay out the shrewd ways that people found to profit from climate policies they knew were useless at stopping climate change. 

Now that the new received wisdom is that it's not possible to stop the climate from changing, the tack is to urge everyone to find ways to adapt to climate change. 

Yet what's clear from Terry's crash course is that human nature is most adept at doing what it wants to do for as long as possible. There's a good reason for this. Human societies reflect the "If it ain't broke don't fix it" rule, which works out to defending the status quo.  The business of being adaptable is okay for childless couples, adventurers, and CEOs desperate to keep their companies profitable, but the majority need and demand stability for child-raising and communities made up of families. 

Donald Trump won his first presidential campaign by in effect promising Americans that he would return their society to a stable way of life. Joe Biden won the White House by projecting a very stable personality and by promising that he and not Trump would restore stability to the USA.   

So is the question for the policy experts that Terry quotes how to be adaptable in ways that don't signal vast disruptions in society?  

I think the first question is whether it's true that climate change can't be stopped. When you cut the question into manageable bites, the answer is that it is demonstrably possible to stop and even reverse weather patterns that carbon emissions modelers  insist on terming "climate."  It's not possible to persuade those people to re-think their models, but it's been shown time and again that relatively small changes can produce big changes in the weather. An example I once quoted is that major loss of forest in one part of the USA  produced more rain in another part of the country -- and in direct, cause-and-effect fashion.

So the idea is to first sort out what can and should be changed, and aim adaptability at what can show quick changes. Once people see with their own eyes the success they have with small actions that don't disrupt society, they build up enthusiasm for making more changes.

Well, this is a big discussion, and a good launching point is Terry Anderson's talk on John Batchelor's radio show at CBS Audio Network. (Podcast) But the key is small changes taken by many people. Sweeping policies implemented in the wrong direction are what got us into this "climate" mess in the first place.  


Monday, April 26

Given that low oxygen is a symptom of low iron, here's the third thing Indian doctors should do

The first two things are administering the antioxidant vitamins E and C, as I explained in this post. While waiting for the oxygen tanks to show up, those two vitamins and in particular E should be given in massive doses to Covid sufferers who are having trouble breathing. 

Yet given that low oxygen is a red flag that a person can be chronically low in iron, the doctors should next give iron intravenously and do so immediately. They can test later for iron levels but in an emergency situation, just go ahead and plug iron into the Covid patient who is having trouble breathing.  

How much iron?  I don't know about IV administration but if I recall 45 mg is the 'safe' daily limit for oral ingestion of iron, although fairly recent research has shown that iron is better absorbed if it's taken every other day, not daily.      

All this said, I don't know how fast IV iron can raise the oxygen level, but I do know that the oxygen-saving action of E is virtually immediate, and with somewhat less assurance I think it's about the same for powdered Vitamin C.  So the beauty of E and C is that patients don't have to be admitted to the hospital before they can be treated with the vitamins. It can be done in the ambulance or while the person is lying on the ground outside the hospital waiting for a bed.  

As I noted in an earlier post, the only problem with E is that unlike C, it won't be absorbed unless it's administered along with some fat. Any kind of fat -- including butter, ghee, vegetable oil, or fatty cheese or fish, meat, etc.  This presents an obstacle for ambulance and ER personnel who'd be able to administer E even before the person is admitted to the hospital. 

The workaround I suggested was piercing E gel caps and squeezing the oil into vegetable oil, then pouring the oil down the person's throat if he's too sick to be spoon fed the stuff. There could be better solutions but that's the one I came up with on the fly.  

Now.  I want to show you a list of seven symptoms. Each symptom description is accompanied by a brief explainer but I'm omitting that. 

Covid Symptoms: Facing difficulty in breathing? These 7 symptoms indicate that your oxygen levels are down:

1. Breathlessness

2. High fever

3. Frequent coughing

4. High blood pressure

5. Restlessness

6. Chest pain

7. Confusion

If the short-tempered ones yell, 'Is this Covid or low oxygen they're talking about?'

The author is talking about both

In other words, people who are chronically low in iron would be particularly vulnerable to the deadliest aspect of the Covid virus.  So I find it a tragic irony that the author of the above list is an Indian writing for an Indian publication, and on April 23 -- as Indian Covid patients were suffocating while waiting for oxygen. But he doesn't make the connection, and obviously neither have doctors all around the world who've been treating Covid. 

Those doctors, and the public health agencies they listen to, are chasing a virus when they should first and foremost target the most deadly symptom of Covid, which is low oxygen. Vitamins E and C are stopgap measures; they don't cure low oxygen, but iron can. There are reasons other than low iron that can be responsible for the condition, but given the circumstances with the Indian Covid patients who have breathing difficulties, chronic low iron should be the first suspect.   

Here is an plain-English explainer from the top-flight Cleveland Clinic about the difference between hypoxia and hypoxemia along with a discussion of treatments for them. Note that the clinic's list includes a few symptoms not on the above one, but those can also indicate Covid infection.  

See also: What to expect from an iron infusion