Wednesday Reads: New Year 2014

477fb761096e907d8ce9b32bc4540dc4Good Morning

Ah, another damn year has gone by, 2014 has to be a hellalot better than 2013, it has to be!

If you missed New Years Worldwide, there are plenty of pictures here:

Photos: Bringing in 2014 –

Now for a few links, did you see the latest on the booze front:  Moderate alcohol consumption ‘boosts immune system’

The study researchers, led by Ilhem Messaoudi of the School of Medicine at the University of California, Riverside, say their research may help lead to a better understanding of how the immune system works, and how to improve its ability to respond to vaccines and infections.

To reach their findings, the researchers trained 12 monkeys (rhesus macaques) to consume alcohol freely.

That has to be a beginning of a joke, at the very least.

Prior to this, the monkeys were vaccinated against smallpox. One group of the monkeys was then allowed access to either 4% alcohol, while the other group had access to sugar water. All monkeys also had access to normal water and food.

The monkeys were then monitored for a 14-month period and were vaccinated again 7 months into the experiment.

9ab8c288922fd7d4c833c67007bcbe5fDuring this time, the investigators found that the monkeys’ voluntary alcohol intake varied, just as it does in humans. This led the investigators to divide them into two groups.

You had some monkeys that were “heavy drinkers” and some that were “moderate drinkers.” (I really can’t help but get images of those little monkeys dressed up like little people, and acting like the comical drunk in silent movies.)

Anyway, the study showed:

The monkeys classed as heavy drinkers showed diminished responses to the vaccine, compared with the monkeys that consumed sugar water. But the investigators were surprised to find that the monkeys deemed as moderate drinkers demonstrated an enhanced vaccine response.

Not sure if 12 monkeys is enough of a group of “individuals” to quantify the experiment…but my husband is a “heavy drinker” and he never gets sick. According to him, it is because of his alcohol and tobacco use that colds and disease do not take hold in his body…maybe he is on to something?

d939c7a32cdf8cd9113643e629cd9932And since we are on the topic of experiments on animals: Animal-Rights Activists Bully Dying Italian Girl – The Daily Beast

When 25-year-old veterinary student Caterina Simonsen posted an update on a Facebook page supporting the use of animals in medical research before Christmas, she was trying to say how lucky she felt to be alive.  The Padua native suffers from four rare genetic pulmonary diseases that require her to use breathing tubes and experimental medication to thin the mucus in her lungs in order to breathe.  Her extreme illness makes her quickly immune to treatments, and, as a result, she has been a human guinea pig in a host of medical trials as doctors search for ways to help her live longer.  At 18, her doctors told her she couldn’t be cured, but this year, she had survived another birthday and simply wanted to say thanks.  “I am 25 thanks to genuine research that includes experiments on animals.  Without research, I would have been dead at nine. You have gifted me a future.”

Simonsen’s comments, on the heels of a hotly contested national telethon in Italy soliciting money for medical research, triggered a flurry of hate comments from animal-rights extremists.  “You could die tomorrow, I wouldn’t sacrifice my goldfish for you,” a poster named Giovanna wrote on the Facebook page “A Favore Della Sperimentazione Animale” (In Favor of Animal Experimentation). Another wrote, “If you had died as a child, no one would have given a damn.”  In all, Simonsen received 30 death threats and 500 cruel insults, which are being investigated by local police.

You should see what some of the people wrote to this woman, hateful disgusting stuff. But it may be that some of those asshole may get their wish because Giovanna is in the hospital again with a lung infection that the doctors say is stress induced, read more at the link.

I hate to start the new year with a shit news filled post…so I will just post the rest of the depressing links in dump format:

Iowa voter fraud investigation possibly financed by misused funds |

255b4578507d0045ac0f22f9144f00a7Iowa’s Secretary of State has been warned by the State Auditor’s Office that funds used for a voter fraud investigation may need to be repaid.

According to a report by the Des Moines Register, in July of 2012 Iowa’s Secretary of State Matt Schultz launched an investigation with the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation (DCI) to look into cases of alleged voter fraud.

Schultz reportedly used Help America Vote Act funds for the investigation, which may have violated how the HAVA funds are supposed to be used.

Can you hear the laughter from my house? All that money to catch 5 people(or some ridiculously low number like that…), three of which turned themselves in…only to find out that the money they used was “misused funds” from their “Help America Vote Act” funds.

In other crime news: Can hidden information in photographs be used to spot criminals? –

Pupil images

A new study concludes that people are very good at recognizing the faces of familiar people reflected in the pupils of portrait subjects. (Courtesy of Rob Jenkins, Christie Kerr, PLOS One / December 26, 2013)


ca863546d5fd02a5075b6d33d76e3d73Gunman went bowling before Arapahoe High School shooting, police say – That is an update on the shooting in Colorado.

When the Mentally Ill Own Guns – An op/ed from the New York Times.

Reverse Nazi salute, all the rage in Europe, is now coming to America -This is scary…go to the link to see the pictures.

We need to talk about TED | Benjamin Bratton –An op/ed on those TED Talks…

In our culture, talking about the future is sometimes a polite way of saying things about the present that would otherwise be rude or risky.

But have you ever wondered why so little of the future promised in TED talks actually happens? So much potential and enthusiasm, and so little actual change. Are the ideas wrong? Or is the idea about what ideas can do all by themselves wrong?

Of course I have to bring you something medieval for new years…what about a medieval baby, in the making? Bet some GOP folks would believe it works this way…

British Library, Harley 4425, f. 140 ‘Nature forging a baby’. Guillaume de Lorris and Jean de Meun, Roman de la Rose. Bruges, c.1490-c.1500.

British Library, Harley 4425, f. 140 ‘Nature forging a baby’. Guillaume de Lorris and Jean de Meun, Roman de la Rose. Bruges, c.1490-c.1500.

Another medieval history link on Iceland: Beauty and brutality: Iceland’s literary landscapes

Yup, that is drawn by Dr.

Yup, that is drawn by Dr.Seuss

And one on Germany: Cheating and Cheaters in German Romance and Epic, 1180 – 1225

A picture of “What If?” here in America: The 124 states of America

What would the U.S. look like if all of the secession movements in U.S. history had succeeded?  Well, Mansfield University geography professor Andrew Shears built a map to answer that question. (It covers secession movements through the end of 2011.)  His 124 states of America is below. Click the map to enlarge it.

Map courtesy of Andrew Shears

Map courtesy of Andrew Shears

It is missing some of the more recent movements out in Colorado…California…Idaho…Texas, etc.

Hey…for you Movie Buffs…Critics Poll: What Was the Worst Movie of 2013? — Vulture

5d1a5b81e8061518cde8818e889c8778A year in movies is often split between stunning works of art and jaw-droppingly awful films. For example: 12 Years a Slave hit theaters on the same day as Sylvester Stallone and Arnold Schwarzenegger’s wait-this-actually-happened? team-up Escape Plan. So as Vulture celebrates the finest films of 2013 (you can see critic David Edelstein’s top ten here), so must we celebrate the worst. Welcome to the seventh edition of our annual worst-movies roundup, as voted on by critics, where soon-to-be-forgotten misfires earn a last turn in the spotlight.

This year, Vulture polled film critics on the year’s most torturous moviegoing experiences (some publications submitted collective ballots). Those responses, combined with a number of notable worst-of lists published elsewhere, added up to 42 lists, which were tallied to produce the final ranking of the ten worst films of 2013. It was a tight race, with critically maligned mainstream disasters (Gangster Squad, R.I.P.D.,The Hangover Part III) rubbing shoulders with polarizing auteurist efforts (Paul Schrader’s The Canyons, Terrence Malick’s To the Wonder) just outside the bottom tier. Below, see the official ten worst of the worst for 2013, then peruse all of the individual critic ballots.

Fortunately I did not see any of the shit on that list. Did you?

Which brings me to another list for you this morning: The Year’s Very Worst Words Are So “Problematic”

Language is wonderful and language is alive, but language is also a form of psychological assault—especially when everybody suddenly starts using awful new terms and phrases just because everyone else is doing it, on Twitter. We are not so naive as to think we can “ban” this or that word, because “ban” is one of the words we would ban, if words could be banned. They cannot. 19c31e52520d40bf09ad247ae96b4fd0Thanks to 2013, we’re stuck with this bunch of linguistic garbage.


bless your heart
Antiquated southernism for “fuck you,” often heard in open-plan offices where people are uncomfortable saying “fuck you.”

Yeah…that is one that is getting too much play from those northerners if you ask me…just leave it to the southern fuckwads, and just say it like it is.

just sayin’
Shorthand for “I have completed my bigoted statement.” See also: #sorrynotsorry.

Actually, one word I am fucking tired of is DUCK…funny that it does rhyme with FUCK?

Alright, that is it for the link “dump.” And…now we will end with a story about what kind of things gets “dropped” for the New Year:  Pickles, Possums, Peeps: The Things We Drop to Ring in the New Year

Why do we celebrate the New Year … by dropping things?

It started with ships. Maritime vessels, back before they could turn to more precise forms of time measurement, relied on “time balls”: spheres that were dropped from masts and other shipboard poles at precise intervals to help insure that their chronometers were aligned with Greenwich Mean Time. In 1906, those time balls lent themselves to another kind of time: Times Square. New York City had just banned fireworks displays, and Adolph Ochs, the owner of The New York Times, wanted to give the throngs of people who would gather around his building another kind of show.

The Times Square ball drops to ring in 2013. (Countdown Entertainment via NYCGo)

Ochs, as the Los Angeles Times reports, called on the paper’s chief electrician, Walter Palmer, to come up with another source of the spectacular. Palmer borrowed the maritime tradition and combined it with something that would work on land: electricity. And the Times Square Ball Drop was born.

Since then, the “dropping things” tradition has been modified by cities across the country, in ways both wondrous and weird. Plenty, still, drop their own balls—smaller versions of New York City’s. Many others, however, drop food (cheese, fruit, Peeps). Some drop animals (cows, fish, possums, goats). One (Seaside Heights, New Jersey) has dropped a person.

Below, re-categorized from Wikipedia’s amazingly extensive, state-by-state list, are some of the objects that people have chosen to ring in the New Year. They reflect regional pride, municipal quirk, economic diversity … and the rich weirdness that makes America what it is. Happy New Year, everyone.

I think I will now drop my fat ass into bed, since I am writing this post at 3:14 in the morning on January 1, 2014!


Happy New Year’s Day Y’all…

And, Bless Your Hearts….hee-hee.


Tonight on Frontline — League of Denial: The NFL’s Concussion Crisis

The long anticipated Frontline documentary “League of Denial” will be shown on PBS tonight from 9-11PM. A book with the same title by Mark Fainaru-Wada and Steve Fainaru was released this morning. I hope you’ll watch it either on TV or on-line. The show examines the problems of concussions and traumatic brain injury (TBI) in professional football.

The NFL is not at all happy about the program. In fact, as I reported recently, ESPN was originally a partner with Frontline on the documentary; but after the trailer (produced and edited by my talented brother, John MacGibbon) was released, ESPN abruptly pulled out of the projectmost likely because of pressure from the League.

You can watch the trailer here.

There is lots of coverage of relevant topics at the Frontline site. Here’s a recent story on the doctor who made the connection between football and TBI: The Autopsy That Changed Football

Growing up in Nigeria, Dr. Bennet Omalu knew next to nothing about American football. He didn’t watch the games, he didn’t know the teams, and he certainly didn’t know the name Mike Webster.

That changed in 2002 when Omalu was assigned to perform an autopsy on the legendary Steelers center. Webster had died at 50, but to Omalu, he looked far older. Football had taken a punishing toll on his body. It was Omalu’s job to measure the damage.

As a neuropathologist, Omalu was especially interested in the brain. Inside Mike Webster’s brain, he’d make a startling discovery: a disease never previously identified in football players. The condition, known as chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or CTE, was the first hard evidence that playing football could cause permanent brain damage. Players with CTE have battled depression, memory loss, and in some cases dementia.

“I had to make sure the slides were Mike Webster’s slides,” Omalu told FRONTLINE. “I looked again. I saw changes that shouldn’t be in a 50-year-old man’s brains, and also changes that shouldn’t be in a brain that looked normal.”

Omalu published his findings, believing NFL officials would want to know more. They didn’t. In public, league doctors assailed his research. Omalu’s conclusions confused the medical literature, they argued. In a rare move, they demanded a retraction.

You can use this as an open thread or a live blog to comment on the documentary. I plan to watch it tonight, and I hope you’ll join me.

Independence Day Reads

4th of July and NSA

Good Morning!!

So Egyptians staged a whole lot of protests and with the help of the army, overthrew the president they elected about a year ago. From the Boston Globe: Egypt’s army ousts Morsi, who calls it a ‘coup’

CAIRO (AP) — Egypt’s first democratically elected president was overthrown by the military Wednesday, ousted after just one year in office by the same kind of Arab Spring uprising that brought the Islamist leader to power.

The armed forces announced they would install a temporary civilian government to replace Islamist President Mohammed Morsi, who denounced the action as a ‘‘full coup’’ by the generals. They also suspended the Islamist-drafted constitution and called for new elections.

Millions of anti-Morsi protesters around the country erupted in celebrations after the televised announcement by the army chief. Fireworks burst over crowds in Cairo’s Tahrir Square, where men and women danced, shouting, ‘‘God is great’’ and ‘‘Long live Egypt.’’

That sure sounds like coup. The army overthrows an elected leader and appoints a new one, while suspending the constitution. What else would you call it? And then there’s this:

The army took control of state media and blacked out TV stations operated by the Muslim Brotherhood. The head of the Brotherhood’s political wing was arrested.

It’s like Groundhog Day. A year from now will the whole thing happen all over again?

Morsi Dud by Jeff Darcy

From BBC News: Egypt swears in Mansour as interim leader after Morsi ousted

The top judge of Egypt’s Constitutional Court, Adly Mahmud Mansour, has been sworn in as interim leader, a day after the army ousted President Mohammed Morsi and put him under house arrest.

Mr Mansour said fresh elections were “the only way” forward, but gave no indication of when they would be held.

Mr Morsi, Egypt’s first freely elected leader, is under house arrest after what he says was a military coup.

The army said he had “failed to meet the demands of the people”.

So it’s as if the Pentagon overthrew President Obama and installed Chief Justice Roberts as temporary president, while at the same time suspending the Constitution and shutting down the media.

The Dark Side of Egyptian “Revolution”

There’s also another similarity to the previous Egyptian “revolution” an outbreak of sexual assaults and gang rapes targeting women in public. From Human Rights Watch:

Egyptian officials and political leaders across the spectrum should condemn and take immediate steps to address the horrific levels of sexual violence against women in Tahrir Square. Egyptian anti-sexual harassment groups confirmed that mobs sexually assaulted and in some cases raped at least 91 women in Tahrir Square, over four days of protests beginning on June 30, 2013, amid a climate of impunity.

“The rampant sexual attacks during the Tahrir Square protests highlight the failure of the government and all political parties to face up to the violence that women in Egypt experience on a daily basis in public spaces,” said Joe Stork, deputy Middle East director at Human Rights Watch. “These are serious crimes that are holding women back from participating fully in the public life of Egypt at a critical point in the country’s development.”

The Egyptian group Operation Anti-Sexual Harassment/Assault, which runs a hotline for victims of sexual assault and seeks to intervene to stop attacks, has received scores of reports of attacks on women in Tahrir Square over the past three days. The group confirmed 46 attacks on June 30, 17 on July 1, and 23 on July 2. The group’s volunteers intervened to protect and evacuate women in 31 cases of sexual assault. Four of the women needed medical assistance, including two who were evacuated by ambulance. The women’s rights group Nazra for Feminist Studies had confirmed another five attacks on June 28.

One woman required surgery after being raped with a “sharp object,” volunteers with the group said. In other cases, women were beaten with metal chains, sticks, and chairs, and attacked with knives. In some cases they were assaulted for as long as 45 minutes before they were able to escape.

Please go read the rest at Human Rights Watch.

At CNN, writer Nina Burleigh puts the sexual violence in Egypt in the historical context of male efforts to control women’s access to the public sphere.

Last week, a 22-year-old Dutch journalist was gang-raped in Tahrir Square and had to undergo surgery for severe injuries. The assault reminds us yet again of an often overlooked aspect of the Egyptian revolution.

When Egyptians overthrew their dictator in 2011, one of the first celebratory acts in Tahrir Square included the gang beating and sexual assault of American journalist Lara Logan, who, like the Dutch journalist, landed in the hospital.

The Logan rape has always been portrayed as another unfortunate byproduct of mob violence. In fact, it was much more than that. It was a warning shot fired by men whose political beliefs are founded on a common pillar: Women must stay out of the public square.

One of the hallmarks of revolutionary victory in Tahrir Square has always been rape and sexual harassment. Mobs of men routinely set upon women, isolating, stripping and groping. No one is ever arrested or held accountable, and elected officials shrug their shoulders and blame the victims….

Egyptian women are the primary victims of sexual violence, and ultimately they are the intended recipients of the message: Stay home, your input in government and politics is not wanted.

Read the rest of Burleigh’s analysis at CNN.

In other news,

Bolivian officials laughing hysterically at the media for buying their tall tale

Bolivian officials laughing hysterically at the media for buying their tall tale

We learned yesterday afternoon that the claims that Bolivian president Evo Morales’ plane was refused permission to fly over France, Italy, and Spain were totally false and that no one forced his plane to land in Austria. See this article at The Atlantic for a complete debunking of the story.

But many so-called progressives are still pushing the false narrative that President Obama somehow was responsible. I was surprised to see Taylor Marsh hyping it this morning, and there has been no correction to Kevin Drum’s nasty claim that Obama behaved like “a Chicago thug.” That was originally in Drum’s headline until commenters told him he was pushing a Tea Party meme and he moved the accusation to the end of his post.

Marsh is also claiming we didn’t know about the extent of NSA spying a year ago. Really? If you agree with her, you might want to check out this detailed article on the NSA spying programs in the Wall Street Journal–dated March 10, 2008. And of course that wasn’t the first time the corporate media covered the story either. All the progs claiming utter shock and awe over Snowden’s revelations should be ashamed of themselves.

I don’t want to completely depress you, so let’s turn to some non-political news. I found a couple interesting science stories on Google this morning.

Here’s some exciting news out of Boston (NYT): After Marrow Transplants, 2 More Patients Appear H.I.V.-Free Without Drugs.

Two H.I.V.-infected patients in Boston who had bone-marrow transplants for blood cancers have apparently been virus-free for weeks since their antiretroviral drugs were stopped, researchers at an international AIDS conference announced Wednesday.

The patients’ success echoes that of Timothy Ray Brown, the famous “Berlin patient,” who has shown no signs of resurgent virus in the five years since he got a bone-marrow transplant from a donor with a rare mutation conferring resistance to H.I.V.

The Boston cases, like Mr. Brown’s, are of no practical use to the 34 million people in the world who have H.I.V. but neither blood cancer nor access to premier cancer-treatment hospitals.

But AIDS experts still find the Boston cases exciting because they are another step in the long and so-far-fruitless search for a cure. They offer encouragement to ambitious future projects to genetically re-engineer infected patients’ cells to be infection-resistant. At least two teams are already experimenting with variants on this idea, said Dr. Steven G. Deeks, an AIDS researcher at the University of California, San Francisco.

It’s real progress, even though the treatment won’t be widely available for a long time.

From BBC News:  Active brain ‘keeps dementia at bay’

A lifetime of mental challenges leads to slower cognitive decline after factoring out dementia’s impact on the brain, US researchers say.

The study, published in Neurology, adds weight to the idea that dementia onset can be delayed by lifestyle factors….

In a US study, 294 people over the age of 55 were given tests that measured memory and thinking, every year for about six years until their deaths.

They also answered a questionnaire about whether they read books, wrote letters and took part in other activities linked to mental stimulation during childhood, adolescence, middle age, and in later life.

After death, their brains were examined for evidence of the physical signs of dementia, such as brain lesions and plaques.

The study found that after factoring out the impact of those signs, those who had a record of keeping the brain busy had a rate of cognitive decline estimated at 15% slower than those who did not.

That’s some impressive empirical evidence for something many of us have long suspected. So maybe we are helping keep our brains young through our obsession with reading and arguing about politics on the internet!

I’ll end with a recommendation that you listen to this NPR story on the history of “The Star Spangled Banner” and how it became our national anthem. It’s only about 8 minutes long. Or you can just read the article. I thought it was really interesting.

Now it’s your turn. What stories are you following today? If you’re headed out for barbeques and family gatherings instead of surfing the net, have a wonderful time and drop in for a minute if you can.


Monday Reads

Josep Balounek CoffeeGood Morning!

Well it’s my turn for a sinus infection I guess!  I’ve been trying to fight it with sleep and the usual but it just got the better of me yesterday.   Let me share a few quick links with you.

This one is a little out there but according to Michael Douglas, the HPV virus gave him his cancer.  He believes oral sex was the root cause.

The cause of Douglas’s cancer had long been assumed to be related to his tobacco habit, coupled with enthusiastic boozing. In 1992, he was hospitalised for an addiction which some at the time claimed to be sex. Douglas himself denied this and said he was in rehab for alcohol abuse. He has also spoken of recreational drug use.

HPV, the sexually transmitted virus best known as a cause of cervical and anal cancer and genital warts, is thought to be responsible for an increasing proportion of oral cancers.

Some suggest that changes in sexual behaviour – a rise in oral sex in particular – are responsible. Such changes might be cultural, but could also be linked to fears about the safety of penetrative sex in the wake of the Aids epidemic.

Mahesh Kumar, a consultant head and neck surgeon in London, confirmed that the last decade has seen a dramatic rise in this form of cancer, particularly among younger sufferers. Recent studies of 1,316 patients with oral cancer found that 57% of them were HPV-16 positive.

“It has been established beyond reasonable doubt that the HPV type 16 is the causative agent in oropharyngeal cancer,” said Kumar, who also testified to increased recovery rates among this kind of cancer sufferer. This would help explain why Douglas was given an 80% chance of survival, despite the advanced stage of his illness.

But Kumar expressed scepticism that Douglas’s cancer was caused solely by HPV, and surprise at Douglas’s assertion that cunnilingus could also help cure the condition. “Maybe he thinks that more exposure to the virus will boost his immune system. But medically, that just doesn’t make sense.”

So, anyway, something to read more on if that’s the case.

A new Republican Woman politician has stepped into the role played by Sarah Palin and Michelle Bachman. It’s called let’s sell out women! Congresswoman Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) opposes Pay Equity Laws saying that women ‘Don’t want the decisions made in Washington’. 

Blackburn’s comments came during a round table on Meet the Press. The panel was discussing women’s increasing roles as the primary breadwinners in American families, and women’s general rise in the corporate and political arenas. After she asserted that companies — and her own Republican Party — had to do a better job of incorporating females into the workplace, former White House adviser David Axelrod asked Blackburn whether paycheck fairness laws would bolster women’s chances of achieving success. She responded by saying that Washington should stay out of the matter:

AXELROD: How about pay equity laws to ensure that women are treated fairly in the workplace?

BLACKBURN: I think that more important than that is making certain that women are recognized by those companies. You know, I’ve always said that I didn’t want to be given a job because I was a female, I wanted it because I was the most well-qualified person for the job. And making certain that companies are going to move forward in that vein — that is what women want. They don’t want the decisions made in Washington. They want to be able to have the power and the control and the ability to make those decisions for themselves.

But as the panel pointed out immediately before the exchange, companies are already “recognizing” and hiring more and more women. Women are now the primary breadwinners for 40 percent of all American families — a four-fold increase from 50 years ago.

The problem is that many of those women aren’t placed on equal footing with their male counterparts once they’re hired. Contrary to Blackburn’s insinuation, paycheck and workplace equity legislation isn’t about affirmative action — it’s about making sure that employers don’t discriminate against their workers on the basis of gender. Women in full-time, year-round jobs only make 77 cents for every dollar a man makes for the same level of work.

After all, who wants civil rights and liberty?vintage_cafe_posters_D285

I’ve often thought that basic idea of ‘state’s rights’ and of the right wing’s extreme distrust in the government was hooked historically to maintaining the institution of slavery in the south.  Guess I am not the only one.

Over the last several decades, the Right also built an imposing vertically integrated media machine that meshes the written word in newspapers, magazines and books with the spoken (or shouted) word on TV and talk radio. This giant echo chamber, resonating with sophisticated propaganda including revisionist (or neo-Confederate) history, has convinced millions of poorly informed Americans that the framers of the Constitution hated a strong central government and were all for “states’ rights” – when nearly the opposite was true as Madison, Washington and Hamilton rejected the Articles of Confederation and drafted the Constitution to enhance federal power.

Further, the Right’s hijacking of Revolutionary War symbols, like yellow “Don’t Tread on Me” flags, confuses the Tea Party rank-and-file by equating the founding era’s resistance against an overseas monarchy to today’s hatred of an elected U.S. government.

Amid this muck of muddled history, the biggest secret withheld from the American people is that today’s Right is actually promoting a set of anti-government positions that originally arose to justify and protect the South’s institution of slavery. The calls of “liberty” then covered the cries of suffering from human bondage, just as today’s shouts of outrage reflect resentment over the first African-American president.

Senator Bernie Saunders has written an excellent piece in the UK Guardian saying that we can not except the status quo as the “new normal.” The worsening gap income inequality and wealth should not be acceptable.

The front pages of American newspapers are filled with stories about how the US economy is recovering. There is some truth to that. Since President George W Bush left office in 2009, significant progress has been made in moving our economy out of the abyss of the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression of the 1930s. But in the midst of this slow recovery, we must not accept a “new normal”.

We must not be content with an economic reality in which the middle class of this country continues to disappear, poverty is near an all-time high and the gap between the very rich and everyone else grows wider and wider.

The good news is that instead of losing more than 700,000 jobs a month as we were five years ago, we’ve been gaining almost 200,000 jobs a month since January. The bad news is that, in addition to those job numbers being much too low, nearly 60% of the jobs gained since the “recovery” are low-wage jobs that pay less than $14 an hour, while most of the jobs lost during the recession were decent-paying middle-class jobs.

The good news is that the official unemployment rate has gone down from 10% in October of 2009 to 7.5% in April. The bad news is that 20 million Americans still are looking for work and the real unemployment rate – counting those who have given up looking for work and those working part time when they need full time jobs – is 13.9% The very bad news is that youth and minority unemployment is far higher than that and, with the decline in factory jobs, income for poorly educated men has shrunk by nearly two-thirds over the past four decades.

I know this is a little short, but I hope you’ll understand.  I just don’t to seem to have much energy.  So, what’s on your reading and blogging list today?

Wednesday Morning Quick Reads

192810427766537540_wArSGRAR_cGood Morning

I am not up for much lately, so here goes a quick news round-up. Surprises out of swamp, as Obama picks a girl to head the Secret Service…Secret Service Gets First Female Director

President Obama on Tuesday appointed Julia A. Pierson, a longtime Secret Service agent, as the first woman to head the agency best known for protecting the president, vice president and their families.

Ms. Pierson, the chief of staff to Mark J. Sullivan, who retired as director last month, will take over at a time when the Secret Service is still recovering from a prostitution scandal last year that held it up to public ridicule, generated Congressional hearings and cost a number of agents their jobs.

The appointment represented a milestone for law enforcement, putting a woman at the top of an agency with a storied past and a Hollywood-fueled image of Clint Eastwood-style men with sunglasses and earpieces stoically guarding the commander in chief at home and abroad. Mr. Obama has also installed women as directors of the Marshals Service and Drug Enforcement Administration, but the Secret Service has a unique visibility.

Of course Pierson is highly qualified.

With 30 years of experience in the Secret Service, Ms. Pierson, 53, boasts a résumé much like those of her predecessors, including a stint on the first President George Bush’s protective detail. But the timing of her selection inevitably means that Washington will be watching closely to see how or if she changes a male-driven culture that came under harsh scrutiny when agents were caught employing prostitutes in Colombia before Mr. Obama arrived for a visit.

“During the Colombia prostitution scandal, the Secret Service lost the trust of many Americans and failed to live up to the high expectations placed on it,” Senator Charles E. Grassley, Republican of Iowa. “Ms. Pierson has a lot of work ahead of her to create a culture that respects the important job the agency is tasked with. I hope she succeeds in restoring lost credibility in the Secret Service.”

In a statement, Mr. Obama said Ms. Pierson “exemplified the spirit and dedication” of the agency but made no mention of the scandal.

Now we wait for the Senate to confirm…

This next article is on sleep, or should I say little bit of sleep.  Can you train yourself to get by on less sleep?

Margaret Thatcher did it. So did Salvador Dali. They survived the day with only a few hours of sleep. The question is whether you can force yourself to do the same.

We waste a third of our lives sleeping – or that’s how some people see it. When there doesn’t seem to be enough hours in the day, you yearn to be like the former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, who was said to get by on just four hours sleep a night, or the artist Salvador Dali who wasted as little time as possible slumbering.

There is a quite a range in the number of hours we like to sleep. As Jim Horne writes in Sleepfaring, 80% of us manage between six and nine hours a night; the other 20% sleep more or less than this. But how easy is it to change your regular schedule? If you force yourself to get out of bed a couple of hours early every day will your body eventually become accustomed to it? Sadly not.

There is plenty of evidence that a lack of sleep has an adverse effect. We do not simply adjust to it – in the short-term it reduces our concentration, and if it’s extreme it makes us confused and distressed, and turns us into such poor drivers that it’s the equivalent of being drunk. The long-term effects are even more worrying. Repeatedly getting less sleep than you need over the course of decades is associated with an increased risk of obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure and cardiovascular disease.

But what about those people who do happily appear to manage on fewer hours than the rest of us?  Why does it not seem to make them ill?

All that article makes me think of that episode of Seinfeld, where Kramer only sleeps 20 minutes every 3 hours…

“My brain is mossy Jerry, mossy…”

I’ve got two more links for you, hellish ideas and torturous settlements.

The Worst Idea In The History Of Cable News: An Anderson Cooper-Kathy Griffin Series on CNN | Mediaite- Oh yeah, this is a bad combination…I think I would rather do my nails in a Cuisinart than watch those too together again…ugh. Their partnership while covering the New York New Years Eve celebration was horrifying. I am not the only one who thinks this is a bad idea…from Joe Concha:

So it’s safe to say that I remember where I was ten minutes ago at 8:10 PM EST when I heard the apocalyptic (unconfirmed) report that CNN, C-N-N, actually filmed a pilot today starring Anderson Cooper and Kathy Griffin at Time Warner Studios in New York, according to

My reaction caused paint chips to fall off my ceiling:


It’s one thing to put the Cooper and Griffin together on New Year’s Eve: Most folks watching that night are already overserved, likely older (See: Not out, but struggling to stay awake until midnight and watching a cable news network’s coverage of the ball dropping in Times Square in the process). Some tune to CNN because somewhere in the back of their brain, they recall reading about Griffin doing something provocative, something wild in the past, like dropping a completely-planned F-bomb or performing an oral rendition on her openly gay co-host (not that there’s anything wrong with that). So they tune in to witness the now-contrived bit, perhaps for no other reason but lack of a better idea.

Older? I don’t know about that, viewers were either drunk or strung out tired, probably from too little sleep due to following the whacked out theory Kramer had in that video up top.

I don’t know if a show with Cooper and Griffin falls under the definition of torture…but the ride this guy took at Disneyland sure as hell sounds like torture to me…It’s A Small World ride breaks down, forces disabled man to listen to that song for 30 minutes

For one man at Disneyland, it was less a world of laughter than world of tears.

Disneyland has paid disabled man Jose Martinez $8,000. Their crime? Not evacuating him from It’s A Small World after the ride broke down in 2009, leaving him listening to that song for half an hour.

The song couldn’t be shut off. Most adults are ready to strangle someone after going through the ride at regular speed. Like the song says, “It’s a world of hopes, it’s a world of fears,” and this sounds like it belongs on most of our top fear lists.

Martinez’s lawyer, David Geffen (no relation?), says that Martinez was the only passenger not evacuated when the ride broke down in 2009, according to the Associated Press. Geffen also says that Disneyland staff failed to call the fire department to help free Martinez.

Martinez uses a wheelchair, as well as suffering from panic attacks and high blood pressure, Geffen says, according to the AP. He also had to use the restroom for much of the time — all while being surrounded by water. Those oceans must have started to seem pretty wide.

Martinez wasn’t medically stabilized for three hours, Geffen said, according to the AP. Geffen said that half of the award was for pain and suffering, while the other half is for violating disability laws.

Ooof, that makes me think of a couple of other funny video clips…

This version of It’s a Duff World from the Simpsons:


In the episode entitled “Selma’s Choice“, Bart and Lisa Simpson travel with their aunt Selma to Duff Gardens, a parody of the Busch Gardens amusement park, but also containing elements of Disneyland. In the gift shop, Bart spots “beer goggles“, spectacles that mimic what drunks see: they make Aunt Selma appear young, feminine, and beautiful to Bart – and also, somehow, alter her voice. Later, they see the mascots of Duff Beer, the Seven Duffs.

In the same episode, there is also a direct parody of the “It’s a Small World” attraction at Disney parks. In the cartoon, the boats float on a brown liquid as animatronic children sing “Duff beer for me, Duff beer for you, I’ll have a Duff, You have one, too,” over and over again. Lisa drinks the liquid in the ride on a dare from Bart, and she freaks out from its hallucinogenic properties.

Here is a bit clip of the ride…Duff beer world:

And then this episode from Family Guy: The Courtship of Stewie’s Father, where Peter takes Stewie…

…to Walt Disney World Resort in Florida. Excited at the prospect of visiting Disney World, Stewie forgives Peter, although pretending to be annoyed. When the pair arrive, Peter inadvertently loses Stewie, who is captured by Disney World employees and forced to sing at the Tiny World ride, complying to do so after learning that the alternative is to be in a Christmas movie with Tim Allen.

And lastly, this episode of South Park, Big Gay Al’s Big Gay Boat Ride.


You can see the full episode here, Big Gay Al’s Big Gay Boat Ride (Season 1, Episode 4) – Full Episode Player – South Park Studios, or you can watch the song clip here: Big Gay Boat Ride – Video Clips – South Park Studios

Y’all enjoy your day, and please have a Duff Beer for me…will ya?

Sunday Reads: Typing an Artform?


Good Morning!

Well, after having a good evening, watching a couple of Italian films last night, Life is Beautiful and Miracle on Madonna Street, I have a few links for you this morning.

The New York Post has an article about the battles being fought in Africa: A Trail of Bullet Casings Leads From Africa’s Wars to Iran

The first clues appeared in Kenya, Uganda and what is now South Sudan. A British arms researcher surveying ammunition used by government forces and civilian militias in 2006 found Kalashnikov rifle cartridges he had not seen before. The ammunition bore no factory code, suggesting that its manufacturer hoped to avoid detection.

Within two years other researchers were finding identical cartridges circulating through the ethnic violence in Darfur. Similar ammunition then turned up in 2009 in a stadium in Conakry, Guinea, where soldiers had fired on antigovernment protesters, killing more than 150.

For six years, a group of independent arms-trafficking researchers worked to pin down the source of the mystery cartridges. Exchanging information from four continents, they concluded that someone had been quietly funneling rifle and machine-gun ammunition into regions of protracted conflict, and had managed to elude exposure for years. Their only goal was to solve the mystery, not implicate any specific nation.

When the investigators’ breakthrough came, it carried a surprise. The manufacturer was not one of Africa’s usual suspects. It was Iran.

Read the rest at the link, it is a long article.

In other news, this time out of Brazil: Fast New Test Could Find Leprosy Before Damage Is Lasting

A simple, fast and inexpensive new test for leprosy offers hope that, even in the poorest countries, victims can be found and cured before they become permanently disabled or disfigured like the shunned lepers of yore.

American researchers developed the test, and Brazil’s drug-regulatory agency registered it last month. A Brazilian diagnostics company, OrangeLife, will manufacture it on the understanding that the price will be $1 or less.

“This will bring leprosy management out of the Dark Ages,” said Dr. William Levis, who has treated leprosy patients at a Bellevue Hospital outpatient clinic for 30 years.


Even more important, he said, it is expected to detect infections as much as a year before symptoms appear. And the earlier treatment begins, the better the outcome. Leprosy is caused by a bacterium, Mycobacterium leprae, related to the one that causes tuberculosis, but reproducing so slowly that symptoms often take seven years to appear.

This new test requires just a drop of blood and the results are given after only ten minutes.

The disease has historically been hard to diagnose, despite the popular, but inaccurate, image of fingers and toes dropping off victims. As the bacteria kill nerves, muscles atrophy and those digits curl into claws. After disuse and repeated injuries, the body reacts protectively by absorbing the bone calcium in the bones, shrinking the digits.

For centuries, some observant doctors have noticed early signs: the numb skin patches, missing eyebrows, drooping earlobes, bulging neck nerves, the flat “lion face” caused by nasal cartilage dissolving.

Since nothing could be done for them before the age of antibiotics, victims lost the use of their hands and had to beg. Some also went blind as the blinking muscles degenerated and their eyes dried out. In the Middle Ages, some towns banned lepers, while others required them to ring bells to warn of their approach. Religious charities created “leper colonies.”

And they still exist, even in the United States. A few elderly residents have chosen to stay on in Carville, La., and Kalaupapa, Hawaii, despite having been cured. Several thousand live at one in northeast Brazil, said John S. Spencer, a leprosy researcher at Colorado State University who has worked there. “People say things like ‘People outside won’t understand what’s wrong with my face,’ ” he said.

Nowadays, he said, most patients are cured before their faces are severely disfigured. Still, he said, he had read a survey in which health experts asked Brazilians whether they would rather have the human immunodeficiency virus or leprosy. Most chose H.I.V. — even though leprosy does not kill, can be cured, and does not make a victim risky to have sex with. “The stigma is that strong,” he said.

Wow.  Dr Lewis says he hopes the Brazilian test becomes available in the US so he can test the families of his patients. It takes many antibiotics given over 6 months to a year to cure the disease…these new test provide doctors with more time to could help diagnosis leprosy before permanent nerve damage is done.

I guess my PAD is getting the best of me, I just don’t have the energy to give you more than these…and instead of posting links to more of the same news, give a look at some of the artsy reads below.

With the Academy Awards later tonight, I have two links about film and films.

Two films on Israeli occupation in Oscar race

Hollywood is getting ready to hand out the industry’s most prestigious film awards: the Oscars.

Among the contenders for best documentary is a film directed by an Israeli, and another by a Palestinian.

Both the Israeli The Gatekeepers and Palestinian 5 Broken Cameras tell the same story, but from two quite different perspectives.

Video at the link, and…

For more of Al Jazeera’s extended interviews with Dror Moreh, the director of The Gatekeepers, and Emad Burnat, director of 5 Broken Cameras, click here. Q&A: Dror Moreh and Emad Burnat

Film is finished – this could be its last Oscars

Digital is taking over Hollywood, but celluloid’s fans intend to fight on

They are some of the most powerful people in one of the most powerful entertainment industries in the world. And when Hollywood’s grandest gather at tonight’s Oscars there will be no end of smiles and handshakes. But they are also fans, and like all fans, they are given to apparently arcane squabbles. The latest is whether films should be shot on, well, film.

Some of the most successful directors, such as James Cameron and George Lucas, are so obsessed with having the best special effects that they have spent millions embracing computer-generated imagery and abandoned 35mm film. Others, such as Quentin Tarantino and Christopher Nolan, are wedded to traditional celluloid, which is becoming the film equivalent of the vinyl record.

Epics such as Les Misérables and Lincoln – both shot on 35mm – and digital creations such as Life of Pi have all made millions at the box office. While film buffs may talk about the “feel” of film, with all its subtleties, the reality is that pixilated perfection is winning – the whirring of 35mm film projectors silenced by the hum of digital machines.

Just take a look at the films nominated for best picture:

Although many love a sharp, digital picture with high definition, others prefer something a bit less “real”. The split among directors is highlighted in the nominations for Best Picture. Beasts of the Southern Wild, Django Unchained, Les Miserables, Silver Linings Playbook and Lincoln were shot on film. While Argo, Amour, Life of Pi and Zero Dark Thirty were shot on digital. As was The Hobbit nominated in three technical Oscar categories.

David O Russell, director of Silver Linings Playbook, said: “Maybe I’m old-fashioned, maybe I’m superstitious, maybe I’m romantic – I love film and it has a magic quality, it has a warmth. I may use digital cameras in a pinch because they are small and fast but I like film for its humaneness.” He is one of a number of directors determined to continue shooting on 35mm. Another is Nolan, who made the Dark Knight trilogy: “I am now constantly asked to justify why I want to shoot a film on film,” he said. Nolan likens digital to an “amazing” cookie until you realise “this is some horrible chemical crap that’s giving you this bad illusion that fools you at first.”

You can read more about what actors, cinematographers and directors think about digital vs film at the link up top.  I tend to agree with the folks who love film…and think that digital sucks.

Another archaic form of technology that gets lost in this day in age is the typewriter. Take this woman’s use of the typewriter:

Keira Rathbone’s Incredible Typewriter Art

As romantic as the idea of working on a typewriter now seems, in reality they’re rather clunky and temperamental things. Writing with one would probably take us an age – and if we made a mistake? Well, forget it.

So imagine trying to draw with one.

London based artist Keira Rathbone, originally from Dorset, does exactly that; clustering together marks made by letters, numbers and symbols, to make brilliant, one-off images.

Keira Rathbone Makes Art At The Stroke Of A Key (PHOTOS)

The English artist clusters letters, numbers and symbols from a typewriter keyboard to composite images; from portraits of friends and celebrities to landscapes and still life. A closer look at what looks like a sketch of Wimborne Minster, a church in East Dorset, England, reveals swirls of ampersands and the ticks of quotations marks.


Watch the video below to see the artist at work, and click through the slideshow to see examples of her typewriter art. Visit for more examples of her work.


Be sure to take a look at the pictures, Rathone’s art is impressive…

Another obsolete form of technology is shown below…Keypunch Orchestra: 1937 | Shorpy Historical Photo Archive


June 1937. “Baltimore, Maryland. For every Social Security account number issued an ’employee master card’ is made in the Social Security board records office. Testifying data, given on the application blank form SS-5, is transferred to this master card in the form of upended quadrangular holes, punched by key punch machines, which have a keyboard like a typewriter. Each key struck by an operator causes a hole to be punched in the card. The position of a hole determines the letter or number other machines will reproduce from the master card. From this master card is made an actuarial card, to be used later for statistical purposes. The master card also is used in other machines which sort them numerically, according to account numbers, alphabetically according to the name code, translate the holes into numbers and letters, and print the data on individual ledger sheets, indexes, registry of accounts and other uses. The photograph above shows records office workers punching master cards on key punch machines.” Whew. Longest caption ever? Harris & Ewing Collection glass negative.

That is all I have for you this morning. Hope you all enjoy your Sunday, see ya later on tonight…should be quite a show.

So what are you all reading and blogging about today?

Tuesday Reads: A Mixed Bag of Odds and Ends


I thought I’d go light on politics in today’s post. I’ve got a collection of interesting links on varied topics. I hope you’ll find something to your taste.

I’ll begin with some true crime stories.

LA County’s Chief Medical Examiner Dr. Lakshmanan Sathyavagiswaran has completed a review of actress Natalie Wood’s autopsy report and has concluded that she was very likely assaulted before her death and was probably unconscious when she went into the water, indicating that her death is now considered “suspicious.” CBS News reports:

The Los Angeles Coroner’s Office released a new report (pdf) Monday. Sources tell CBS News the review of the original coroner’s report in 1981 raises questions about every major finding that led investigators to originally conclude Natalie Wood’s death an accident. Sources say the report concludes that the bruising on the actress’ wrists, knees, and ankles could be more consistent with injuries from an assault than they were from struggling to climb back on a boat.

Wood died on November 28, 1981, when according to her husband, actor Robert Wagner, she fell off their yacht, the 60-foot-long Splendour, possibly while trying to re-tie a dinghy that had been banging against the side of the boat, disturbing her sleep.

Her body was found hours later floating in the waters off Catalina Island.

Wood’s death was ruled an accidental drowning. But in 2011, Los Angeles Sheriff’s detectives re-opened the case after the skipper of the boat, Dennis Davern, co-authored a book in which he gave a very different account of what happened that night. Davern said, “I believe Robert Wagner was with her right up until the moment she was in the water.”

According to Davern, Wagner asked him not to tell investigators what had happened, but years later he regrets contributing to a “cover-up.”

Robert Wagner and Natalie Wood

Robert Wagner and Natalie Wood

However, according to CNN the county Sheriff says that Wagner is not a suspect. CNN provides two alternative descriptions of the events leading up to Wood’s disappearance from the yacht.

Davern offered a previously unreported account of how Wood’s death was reported, saying that Wagner waited hours to call the Coast Guard after Wood went missing off Catalina Island following an argument between the couple….

Wood and Wagner married in 1957, divorced in 1962, then remarried in 1972. They invited Wood’s “Brainstorm” co-star, Christopher Walken, to join them on the Thanksgiving weekend sail that preceded her death….

After Wagner then argued with Walken and broke a wine bottle, Wood left in disgust and went to her stateroom, Davern told CNN. Walken also retired to a guest room, Davern added, and Wagner followed his wife to their room. A few minutes later, Davern said, he could hear the couple fighting.

Embarrassed, Davern said, he turned up the volume on his stereo. At one point, Davern recalled, he glanced out of the pilot house window and saw Wagner and Wood on the yacht’s aft deck. “They’d moved their fight outside … you could tell from their animated gestures they were still arguing,” he said.

A short time later, Wagner, appearing to be distraught, told Davern he couldn’t find Wood. Davern searched the boat but couldn’t find her. He noticed the rubber dinghy also was missing.

Wagner claims that Wood went to her room and he didn’t follow her, but sat on deck having drinks with Walken before noticing that his wife was missing.

I’m sure you remember the story of the 10-year-old boy who shot his Neo-Nazi father, Jeff Hall, after years of abuse. I’ve written a couple of posts about it. Well, today the boy was “found responsible” for the death.

Neo-Nazi leader Jeff Hall and friends

Neo-Nazi leader Jeff Hall and friends

A Riverside County judge on Monday found a 12-year-old boy guilty of second-degree murder in the shooting and killing of his father, neo-Nazi activist Jeffrey Hall, as he slept on the family’s living room couch.

He also was found guilty of a weapons charge, with the judge determining he knew right from wrong.

This kid was 10 years old! Children that young simply cannot understand the consequences of their actions in the same sense as adults can. Yet he was found guilty of second degree murder.

Public Defender Matthew Hardy focused on the boy’s abusive home life, where gunplay and neo-Nazi gatherings were commonplace. Witnesses testified that Hall beat his son repeatedly, often in drunken or drug-addled rages.

Social workers responded to the Hall household more than 20 times. At the time of the shooting, the boy was a dependent of the court, an effort designed in part to shield him from further abuse, Hardy said.

Clinical psychologist Anna Salter, a mental health expert called by the prosecution, testified that the boy’s birth mother used heroin, LSD and other drugs while she was pregnant, which she called
“devastating” to the boy’s development. The boy also has an extensive history of violence dating to when he was 3. In school, he once tried to strangle a teacher with a telephone cord, she said.

The judge acknowledged that years of abuse and exposure to hate-filled Neo-Nazi philosophy had led to the child killing his father. Yet at the same time the judge used the child’s exposure to violence and hate to claim that this boy was mentally more mature than other 10-year-olds.

The youngster, who was 10 when he put a gun to his sleeping father’s head and pulled the trigger, was charged as a juvenile. He could be held in juvenile detention until he is 23.

The boy’s father, Jeffrey Hall, was a West Coast leader for the neo-Nazi organization known as the National Socialist Movement. He was asleep on a couch in the early morning hours of May 1, 2011, when his son crept downstairs with Hall’s .357 magnum revolver and shot his father point-blank in the head.

The judge said Hall’s attempts to indoctrinate his son into the hate group corrupted the thought process of a disturbed boy who already had displayed violent tendencies.

“It’s clear that this minor knows more than the average child about guns, hate and violence,’’ Leonard said.

Still, she added, “this is not a naive little boy unaware of the ways of the world.’’

It’s outrageous. Putting a 12-year-old boy in a facility with older boys who are already hardened criminals will erase any chance this boy has for a decent future.

One more crime story…another person is claiming to know where Jimmy Hoffa is buried.

An aging mobster who was once a high-ranking member of Detroit’s La Cosa Nostra organized crime family reportedly knows where labor union leader Jimmy Hoffa is buried.

NBC 4 New York reports that Tony Zerilli, 85, said Hoffa was buried in a field in suburban Detroit, about 20 miles north of the restaurant where he was last seen in July 1975.
“All this speculation about where he is and he’s not,” Zerilli told the station. “They say he was in a meat grinder. It’s all baloney.”

Zerilli said Hoffa’s final resting place is in a field in Michigan’s northern Oakland County. He was buried in a shallow grave and the plan was to move the body at another time, but Hoffa’s remains were never moved from the first spot where they were buried, he said.

I suppose the police will have to go dig up the field and try to find poor old Jimmy Hoffa’s bones…

Since I’ve been struggling with a horrible cold plus a case of norovirus, I decided to check out the health news. I’ll bet you didn’t know that a bad cough will last around 18 days no matter what you do to treat it. According to Mark Ebell, associate professor at the University of Georgia College of Public Health, recently did a study to compare public attitudes with actual facts about viral illnesses.

A new study shows that although most people think a cough ought to last no more than a week or so, the duration of the most annoying symptom of winter illness is about 18 days — and could be more than three weeks.

Taking antibiotics in the interim is not only ineffective, it could also prompt dangerous side effects — and contribute to the country’s growing problem with bugs becoming resistant to the drugs used to treat them.


“A lot of times patients will come to me and they’ve been coughing for four or five days and they’re not getting any better, so they ask for an antibiotic,” he said. “After eight or nine days, they’re still not feeling better, so they ask for an even stronger antibiotic. Then they’ll say, ‘The only thing that really works for me is this really strong antibiotic.’”

The trouble is, antibiotics aren’t actually the solution for most of the 3 million outpatient cases in the U.S. each year in which cough is the chief complaint, or for the more than 4.5 million outpatient cases diagnosed as acute bronchitis or bronchiolitis. More than 90 percent of such cases are viral, not bacterial, which means they won’t respond to the drugs most folks request, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

I love berries, so I found this story interesting: Berries Ward Off MI in Women. MI stands for Myocardial infarction, basically a heart attack.

Young and middle-age women whose diet included high levels of anthocyanins — the flavonoids present in red and blue fruits such as strawberries and blueberries — had a significantly reduced risk for myocardial infarction (MI), a large prospective study found.

Women whose anthocyanin intake was in the highest quintile had a 32% decrease in risk of MI during 18 years of follow-up (HR 0.68, 95% CI 0.49 to 0.96, P=0.03), according to Eric B. Rimm, ScD, of Harvard University, and colleagues.

And in a food-based analysis, women who consumed more than three servings of strawberries or blueberries each week showed a trend towards a lower MI risk, with a 34% decrease (HR 0.66, 95% CI 0.40 to 1.08, P=0.09) compared with women who rarely included these fruits in their diet, the researchers reported online in Circulation.

“Growing evidence supports the beneficial effects of dietary flavonoids on endothelial function and blood pressure, suggesting that flavonoids might be more likely than other dietary factors to lower the risk of [coronary heart disease] in predominantly young women,” they observed.

For years, researchers didn’t bother to study heart disease in women; but in recent years it has become clear that women and men differ in how heart attacks are experienced. Perhaps what we need to do for prevention differs from men too.

Here’s a science story that Dakinikat may find interesting in relation to her fascination with ancient graves and burial rites: DNA Test Sheds Light on Mystery Deaths.

A new DNA test can restore at least part of the identity of long-dead people who left no trace of their image, scientists reported on Monday.

The technique has revealed the hair and eye colours of unknown individuals slaughtered as sub-humans by the Nazis and of a mystery woman buried alongside monks in a mediaeval crypt, they said.

“This system can be used to solve historical controversies where colour photographs or other records are missing,” said Wojciech Branicki from Poland’s Institute of Forensic Research in Krakow.

Here’s one example:

Reporting in the journal Investigative Genetics, the researchers first tested it on a tooth taken from the remains of General Wladyslaw Sikorski, who led Poland’s government-in-exile in Britain in World War II before dying in a plane crash in 1943.

Sikorski’s body was disinterred from a cemetery in Newark, England, in 1993 for reburial in pomp in Krakow, but was exhumed once more in 2008 for further examination to sound out a theory that he had been poisoned, shot or strangled.

Analysis of the genetic code from the tooth gave a 99-percent likelihood that Sikorski had blue eyes, and an 85-percent likelihood that he had blond hair.

Both tallied with contemporary descriptions of Sikorski and with paintings of him made many years after his death (no colour photographs of him are known to exist).

I’m running out of space, but I have a few political reads for you that I’ll post link dump style.

Allyssa Rosenberg at The New Republic: FX is Feminism for Men. Seriously, take a look at this one!

Politico: Biden: W.H. readies 19 executive actions on guns

Alternet: Noam Chomsky Slams America’s Selfish Ayn Randian Elites – Chomsky explains how elites’ obsession with short-term personal gain threatens humanity.

Alternet: 10 Awful Crimes That Get You Less Prison Time Than What Aaron Swartz Faced

Bloomberg: Geithner Says Debt Limit Steps May Run Out by Mid-February

Those are my offerings for today. What’s on your reading and blogging list?