Monday, August 30

Latest AP summary of current conditions in New Orleans after Ida exits

No evidence yet of feared catastrophic flooding in New Orleans and at this it looks as if the levees held for the most part, especially the federally built one. Only one fatality recorded as yet, although officials warn the count could rise.

The rest is is wall-to-wall bad news. 

Hurricane Ida traps Louisianans, leaves the grid a shambles ( 

AP report filed 25 minutes ago.  


Sunday, August 29

Edward Snowden explains what Apple is up to

... "Apple’s proposal to make their phones inform on and betray their owners marks the dawn of a dark future, one to be written in the blood of the political opposition of a hundred countries that will exploit this system to the hilt. See, the day after this system goes live, it will no longer matter whether or not Apple ever enables end-to-end encryption, because our iPhones will be reporting their contents before our keys are even used." ...

Quote from - 

Looks like the only solution is to stop using the iPhone. If the government orders people to use iPhones or makes life impossible for other 'smartphone' companies, this would be a problem.   


Massive wildfire keeps inching toward Lake Tahoe

 Lake Tahoe threatened by massive fire, more ordered to flee (

AP posted the report an hour ago.

Ida UPDATED 8:25 PM ET, 10:50 PM ET

Update 11:50 PM

All of New Orleans without power after Hurricane Ida leaves 'catastrophic transmission damage' | Hurricane Center |

Another report, maybe from AP, said there has been flooding in New Orleans, although how much and where was unclear.  We'll know more in the morning. 

Update 8:25 PM

Storm downgraded to Cat 3 about 50 minutes ago.  Still very dangerous storm that has already done tremendous damage across a wide swath. From this CNN report updated 8:09 PM the storm will make its closest pass to New Orleans within the next two hours.

Live updates: Hurricane Ida path, Louisiana landfall and news coverage (



At 11:55 a.m. CDT Sunday, the eye of Hurricane Ida plowed into the coast of Louisiana over Port Fourchon. It was rated as a powerful Category 4 storm with maximum sustained winds of 150 mph, just 7 mph shy of Category 5 status. Howeverwinds gusts were estimated to be over 180 mph in the worst part of the monstrous storm. The worst of the storm is far from over despite landfall with dangerous, tornado-like winds and substantial rainfall expected.

Live reports -- lots more information in their earlier reports

 LIVE: Ida nears Cat 5 strength as it bears down on Louisiana Coast | AccuWeather

Friday, August 13

"It’s hard to see cause and effect when we’re chasing dopamine"

Many thanks to Dr Lembke and the Wall Street Journal for publishing this critically important information. As the author makes clear, this is not just about video gaming addiction.  This is about a world of hurt we're blindly and needlessly inflicting on ourselves. Below, her entire essay for WSJ.    

Digital Addictions Are Drowning Us in Dopamine

Rising rates of depression and anxiety in wealthy countries like the U.S. may be a result of our brains getting hooked on the neurotransmitter associated with pleasure.

By Anna Lembke

Over the course of my career as a psychiatrist, I have seen more and more patients who suffer from depression and anxiety, including otherwise healthy young people with loving families, elite education and relative wealth. Their problem isn’t trauma, social dislocation or poverty. It’s too much dopamine, a chemical produced in the brain that functions as a neurotransmitter, associated with feelings of pleasure and reward.

When we do something we enjoy—like playing videogames, for my patient—the brain releases a little bit of dopamine and we feel good. But one of the most important discoveries in the field of neuroscience in the past 75 years is that pleasure and pain are processed in the same parts of the brain and that the brain tries hard to keep them in balance. Whenever it tips in one direction it will try hard to restore the balance, which neuroscientists call homeostasis, by tipping in the other.

As soon as dopamine is released, the brain adapts to it by reducing or “downregulating” the number of dopamine receptors that are stimulated. This causes the brain to level out by tipping to the side of pain, which is why pleasure is usually followed by a feeling of hangover or comedown. If we can wait long enough, that feeling passes and neutrality is restored. But there’s a natural tendency to counteract it by going back to the source of pleasure for another dose.

If we keep up this pattern for hours every day, over weeks or months, the brain’s set-point for pleasure changes. Now we need to keep playing games, not to feel pleasure but just to feel normal. As soon as we stop, we experience the universal symptoms of withdrawal from any addictive substance: anxiety, irritability, insomnia, dysphoria and mental preoccupation with using, otherwise known as craving.

Our brains evolved this fine-tuned balance over millions of years in which pleasures were scarce and dangers ever-present. The problem today is that we no longer live in that world. Instead, we now live in a world of overwhelming abundance. The quantity, variety and potency of highly reinforcing drugs and behaviors has never been greater.

In addition to addictive substances like sugar and opioids, there is also a whole new class of electronic addictions that didn’t exist until about 20 years ago: texting, tweeting, surfing the web, online shopping and gambling. These digital products are engineered to be addictive, using flashing lights, celebratory sounds and “likes” to promise ever-greater rewards just a click away.

Yet despite increased access to all of these feel-good drugs, we’re more miserable than ever before. Rates of depression, anxiety, physical pain and suicide are increasing all over the world, especially in rich nations. 

According to the World Happiness Report, which ranks 156 countries by how happy their citizens perceive themselves to be, Americans reported being less happy in 2018 than they were in 2008. Other wealthy countries saw similar decreases in self-reported happiness scores, including Belgium, Canada, Denmark, France, Japan, New Zealand and Italy. The Global Burden of Disease study found that the number of new cases of depression worldwide increased 50% between 1990 and 2017, with the highest increases in regions with the highest income, especially North America.

It’s hard to see cause and effect when we’re chasing dopamine. It’s only after we’ve taken a break from our drug of choice that we’re able to see the true impact of our consumption on our lives. That’s why I asked my patient to give up videogames for a month, enough time to allow his brain to reset its dopamine balance. It wasn’t easy, but he was motivated by the counterintuitive idea that abstaining from the thing that made him feel good in the short-term might actually make him feel better in the long-term.

To his surprise, he did feel better than he had in years, with less anxiety and less depression. He was even able to return to playing videogames without negative effects, by strictly limiting his playing time to no more than two days a week, for two hours a day. That way he left enough time in between sessions for the brain’s dopamine balance to be restored.

He avoided videogames that were too potent, the ones that he couldn’t stop playing once he started. He designated one laptop for gaming and a different one for school, to keep gaming and classwork physically separated. Finally, he committed to playing only with friends, never with strangers, so that gaming strengthened his social connections. Human connection itself is a potent and adaptive source of dopamine.

Not everyone plays videogames, but just about all of us have a digital drug of choice, and it probably involves using a smartphone—the equivalent of the hypodermic needle for a wired generation. Reducing phone use is notoriously difficult, because at first it causes the brain’s pleasure-pain balance to tilt to the side of pain, making us feel restless and cranky. But if we can keep it up long enough, the benefits of a healthier dopamine balance are worth it. Our minds are less preoccupied with craving, we are more able to be present in the moment, and life’s little unexpected joys are rewarding again.



Wednesday, August 4

Information that can save your life UPDATED

I've updated the post to correct link problems with the articles I reference, and also revised the post to show updated remarks about kale and juicing.  


This post is to share links (and my comments) to online articles about some important health issues. Although the articles report on scientific research they are written for the public.  I think I've already published here a number of the reports, going back years. But we could all stand for a review.  All the websites I link to are 'safe.'  

Most of the articles relate to research about sleep. It turns out the body has a red line where sleep is concerned. But because we don't immediately drop dead when we cross the  line, we've assumed that we could get away with chronic loss of sleep. The scientists have been learning that instead of killing us outright the body finds workarounds to keep going that over time are devastating to mental and physical health. Just how devastating is a horror story, well told in the articles I'm sharing.

 If you read nothing else on the list, I hope you'll read the first one -- or listen to it; there's a video. What the sleep expert has to say will get you in the ballpark fast:

(What is "enough" sleep?  A minimum of seven hours.)  

"Those with diabetes, [and/or] frequent sleep problems were 87% more likely to die in the following 9 years."

I'd ignore the "six hour" minimum mentioned as "universally accepted" in the above report. The six hours is probably based on old research. Again, seven hours is the minimum. See Here’s What Happens When You Don’t Get Enough Sleep (And How Much You Really Need a Night) – Cleveland Clinic for a list of how much sleep is needed for each age group.    

The first article on the list explains why I'm including the one on early-onset dementia.

Of course they're stressed if they don't get enough sleep. I don't recall that the article mentions the age of the study participants but from the type of people in the study, I'd guess most if not all were in their early 20s.  From this article and others, it's looking as if early-onset dementia is an even bigger problem in the United States than the research on dementia shows at this time.   

"Cassia can contain relatively high concentrations of coumarin, a plant compound that can damage the liver. "

Please take special note of the advice in the article about research in general into spices and herbs for health benefits. 

I recall the story of the woman who'd heard a little nutmeg was good for health so she decided that more would even better for her.  She almost died. 

Spices and herbs and essential oils, no matter how 'natural,' must be taken with caution if they're used for therapeutic reasons. The article on cinnamon pounds home the point. Whether natural or made in a lab, they're all chemicals. 

Naomi Campbell, the supermodel, takes lavender pills for anxiety. But she would have the money to hire a nutritionist/herbalist to advise her.  

Speaking of overdosing on a good thing:  

"Four-and-a-half cups of chopped kale – the amount in 8 ounces of juice for a “cleanse” – can be lethal if your kidneys are weak."

The above sentence was deleted from the updated (2021) version of the article, which had been on the internet for years.  The article now reads, under point #3 ("You Can Damage Your Kidneys for those who have Kidney Disease") 
Fruits and vegetables are naturally wealthy causes of potassium, which is generally a good factor – the mineral plays a vital role in bloodstream pressure regulation, based on the American Heart Association. Your kidneys perform the important job of excreting excess potassium. For those who have chronic kidney disease (CKD), that function doesn’t act as well, and potassium can take shape in your bloodstream. As a result, you’ll need to limit your potassium intake, as a lot of mineral may cause harmful negative effects, including an irregular heartbeat or cardiac arrest, based on the National Kidney Foundation (NKF).
So the updated edited version is scaled back from those with "weak" kidneys to those with chronic kidney disease.    

This said, it's important to pay attention to your kidneys' needs. Here is a 2016 list from the National Kidney Foundation: 10 Common Habits That May Harm Your Kidneys | National Kidney Foundation. Sedentary people might want to take special note of Point 10
Sitting for long periods of time has now been linked to the development of kidney disease. Although researchers don’t know yet why or how sedentary time or physical activity directly impact kidney health, it is known that greater physical activity is associated with  improved blood pressure and glucose metabolism, both important factors in kidney health. 
And the takeaway from the article about juicing remains the same: Best to eat fruits and vegetables instead of drinking them.

It was news to me that there are 'good' bacteria in the mouth along with bad bacteria. So I wish the dentist who wrote the article had focused first on just getting across that the mouth has good bacteria. Even so, I found the article an important read, and a very surprising one. 

The big question is whether the 'good' mouth bacteria are killed by antibacterial preparations that kill bad bacteria.  Clearly the dentist who wrote the article thinks the answer is yes, and warns to stop using antibacterial mouthwashes. I assume his advice would also apply to antibacterial toothpaste and dental floss coated with antibacterial preparations. 

I note the maker of Listerine mouthwash has published an article that mentions there is both good and bad mouth bacteria -- but doesn't address whether its product kills good bacteria along with the bad stuff. (I've misplaced the link to the article.)

Anyhow, I learned from the dentist's article that protecting the good mouth bacteria is very important to health for a number of reasons that he details. I wish the dental and medical professions, as a whole, would emphasize this. No dentist or doctor ever told me that I have mouth bacteria I shouldn't kill. 

That's enough articles for now. More on the way soon.