Wednesday, July 27, 2022

How Western civilization could collapse

People who study economic history tell us that big economic inequality has consistently lead to big economic recessions and depressions in the past.

I recommend reading the whole article at the following link:

By Rachel Nuwer
18 April 2017

The political economist Benjamin Friedman once compared modern Western society to a stable bicycle whose wheels are kept spinning by economic growth. Should that forward-propelling motion slow or cease, the pillars that define our society – democracy, individual liberties, social tolerance and more – would begin to teeter. Our world would become an increasingly ugly place, one defined by a scramble over limited resources and a rejection of anyone outside of our immediate group. Should we find no way to get the wheels back in motion, we’d eventually face total societal collapse.

Such collapses have occurred many times in human history, and no civilisation, no matter how seemingly great, is immune to the vulnerabilities that may lead a society to its end. Regardless of how well things are going in the present moment, the situation can always change.


While it’s impossible to predict the future with certainty, mathematics, science and history can provide hints about the prospects of Western societies for long-term continuation.

Safa Motesharrei, a systems scientist at the University of Maryland, uses computer models to gain a deeper understanding of the mechanisms that can lead to local or global sustainability or collapse. According to findings that Motesharrei and his colleagues published in 2014, there are two factors that matter: ecological strain and economic stratification. The ecological category is the more widely understood and recognised path to potential doom, especially in terms of depletion of natural resources such as groundwater, soil, fisheries and forests – all of which could be worsened by climate change.

That economic stratification may lead to collapse on its own, on the other hand, came as more of a surprise to Motesharrei and his colleagues. Under this scenario, elites push society toward instability and eventual collapse by hoarding huge quantities of wealth and resources, and leaving little or none for commoners who vastly outnumber them yet support them with labour. Eventually, the working population crashes because the portion of wealth allocated to them is not enough, followed by collapse of the elites due to the absence of labour. The inequalities we see today both within and between countries already point to such disparities. For example, the top 10% of global income earners are responsible for almost as much total greenhouse gas emissions as the bottom 90% combined. Similarly, about half the world’s population lives on less than $3 per day.

For both scenarios, the models define a carrying capacity – a total population level that a given environment’s resources can sustain over the long term. If the carrying capacity is overshot by too much, collapse becomes inevitable. That fate is avoidable, however. “If we make rational choices to reduce factors such as inequality, explosive population growth, the rate at which we deplete natural resources and the rate of pollution – all perfectly doable things – then we can avoid collapse and stabilise onto a sustainable trajectory,” Motesharrei said. “But we cannot wait forever to make those decisions.”

Unfortunately, some experts believe such tough decisions exceed our political and psychological capabilities. “The world will not rise to the occasion of solving the climate problem during this century, simply because it is more expensive in the short term to solve the problem than it is to just keep acting as usual,” says Jorgen Randers, a professor emeritus of climate strategy at the BI Norwegian Business School, and author of 2052: A Global Forecast for the Next Forty Years.

[I sadly agree. We aren't even dealing with antibiotic resistance in time, and we don't have a powerful business group working to block action on it, as has been happening with climate change.

While we are all in this together, the world’s poorest will feel the effects of collapse first. Indeed, some nations are already serving as canaries in the coal mine for the issues that may eventually pull apart more affluent ones. Syria, for example, enjoyed exceptionally high fertility rates for a time, which fueled rapid population growth. A severe drought in the late 2000s, likely made worse by human-induced climate change, combined with groundwater shortages to cripple agricultural production. That crisis left large numbers of people – especially young men – unemployed, discontent and desperate. Many flooded into urban centres, overwhelming limited resources and services there. Pre-existing ethnic tensions increased, creating fertile grounds for violence and conflict. On top of that, poor governance – including neoliberal policies that eliminated water subsidies in the middle of the drought – tipped the country into civil war in 2011 and sent it careening toward collapse.


Whether in the US, UK or elsewhere, the more dissatisfied and afraid people become, Homer-Dixon says, the more of a tendency they have to cling to their in-group identity – whether religious, racial or national. Denial, including of the emerging prospect of societal collapse itself, will be widespread, as will rejection of evidence-based fact. If people admit that problems exist at all, they will assign blame for those problems to everyone outside of their in-group, building up resentment. “You’re setting up the psychological and social prerequisites for mass violence,” Homer-Dixon says. When localised violence finally does break out, or another country or group decides to invade, collapse will be difficult to avoid.


On the other hand, Western societies may not meet with a violent, dramatic end. In some cases, civilisations simply fade out of existence – becoming the stuff of history not with a bang but a whimper.


Some of these forecasts and early warning signs should sound familiar, precisely because they are already underway. While Homer-Dixon is not surprised at the world’s recent turn of events – he predicted some of them in his 2006 book – he didn’t expect these developments to occur before the mid-2020s.

Western civilisation is not a lost cause, however. Using reason and science to guide decisions, paired with extraordinary leadership and exceptional goodwill, human society can progress to higher and higher levels of well-being and development, Homer-Dixon says. Even as we weather the coming stresses of climate change, population growth and dropping energy returns, we can maintain our societies and better them. But that requires resisting the very natural urge, when confronted with such overwhelming pressures, to become less cooperative, less generous and less open to reason. “The question is, how can we manage to preserve some kind of humane world as we make our way through these changes?” Homer-Dixon says.

Wednesday, July 20, 2022

A healthy lifestyle can offset a high genetic risk for stroke


 News Release 20-Jul-2022
A healthy lifestyle can offset a high genetic risk for stroke, according to new research by UTHealth Houston
Peer-Reviewed Publication
University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston


People who are genetically at higher risk for stroke can lower that risk by as much as 43% by adopting a healthy cardiovascular lifestyle, according to new research led by UTHealth Houston, which was published today in the Journal of the American Heart Association.

The study included 11,568 adults from ages 45 to 64 who were stroke-free at baseline and followed for a median of 28 years. The levels of cardiovascular health were based on the American Heart Association’s Life’s Simple 7 recommendations, which include stopping smoking, eating better, getting activity, losing weight, managing blood pressure, controlling cholesterol, and reducing blood sugar. The lifetime risk of stroke was computed according to what is called a stroke polygenic risk score, with people who had more genetic risk factors linked to the risk of stroke scoring higher.



Effective oxygen treatment is now available for millions suffering from long-term COVID-19 symptoms

 News Release 20-Jul-2022
Peer-Reviewed Publication
Tel-Aviv University

    Researchers from Tel Aviv University exposed patients with long-term COVID-19 symptoms to intensive Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy (HBOT) treatment, and found significant improvement in cognitive, neurological, and psychiatric functions.

    The treatments were accompanied by advanced MRI imaging of the patients' brains, identifying damage from the COVID-19 virus, and correlating the images with clinical findings, before and after HBOT treatment.


Long COVID, which affects up to 30% of patients infected by the COVID-19 virus, is characterized by a range of debilitating cognitive symptoms such as inability to concentrate, brain fog, forgetfulness and difficulty recalling words or thoughts - persisting for more than three months, and sometimes up to two years.


Grab a coffee before shopping? You may want to think twice


 News Release 20-Jul-2022
News from the Journal of Marketing
Peer-Reviewed Publication
American Marketing Association



The study finds that drinking a caffeinated beverage before shopping leads to more items purchased at the store and increased spending. Their studies also show that the effect of caffeine is stronger for “high hedonic” products such as scented candles, fragrances, d├ęcor items, and massagers and weaker for “low hedonic” products such as notebooks, kitchen utensils, and storage baskets.


Higher rates of preterm birth in women infected with COVID-19 in late pregnancy


 News Release 20-Jul-2022
Study also finds no difference in pregnancy loss between infected and non-infected women
Peer-Reviewed Publication


SARS-CoV-2 infection is associated with an increased risk of preterm birth, but only for women infected in their final trimester, according to research published in the open access journal PLOS ONE. The study of over 5,000 pregnant women is one of the first to look at pregnancy outcomes for COVID-19 patients by trimester.



Hypertension elevates risk for more severe COVID-19 illness


 News Release 20-Jul-2022
Even after a booster, people with high blood pressure are more likely to require hospitalization for COVID-19
Peer-Reviewed Publication
Cedars-Sinai Medical Center


Hypertension more than doubles the risk of hospitalization related to Omicron infection, even in people who are fully vaccinated and boosted, according to a new study led by investigators in the Smidt Heart Institute at Cedars-Sinai. The findings are published in the journal Hypertension.

The risk is especially widespread given that nearly 1 out of every 2 adults in the U.S. have hypertension, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.



Overconfidence bolsters anti-scientific views


  News Release 20-Jul-2022
Overconfidence bolsters anti-scientific views, PSU study finds
Peer-Reviewed Publication
Portland State University

Historically, the scientific community has relied on educating the public in order to increase agreement with scientific consensus. New research from Portland State University suggests why this approach has seen only mixed results.

“Human opposition to scientific consensus is an extremely important topic. For many years, smart people thought that the way to bring people more in line with scientific consensus was to teach them the knowledge they lacked,” said Nick Light, a PSU assistant professor of marketing. “Unfortunately, educational interventions haven't worked very well.”

Light’s research titled “Knowledge overconfidence is associated with anti-consensus views on controversial scientific issues,” was published recently in Science Advances.

“Our research suggests that there may be a problem of overconfidence getting in the way of learning, because if people think they know a lot, they have minimal motivation to learn more,” Light said. “People with more extreme anti-scientific attitudes might first need to learn about their relative ignorance on the issues before being taught specifics of established scientific knowledge.”


Light said they found that in general, as people's attitudes on an issue get further from scientific consensus, their assessments of their own knowledge of that issue increases, but their actual knowledge decreases. Take COVID-19 vaccines, for example. The less an individual agrees with the COVID-19 vaccine, the more they believe they know about it, but their factual knowledge is more likely to be lower.


The degree to which attitudes on an issue are tied up with political or religious identities could affect whether this pattern exists for that issue, Light added.


Shifting focus from individual knowledge to the influence of experts is one possibility raised by  Light and his coauthors. The power of social norms despite personal views is also impactful. In Japan, for example, many people wore COVID-19 transmission-reducing masks not to mitigate personal risk, but to conform to a societal norm.

“People tend to do what they think their community expects them to do,” Light said. While blindly following the consensus isn’t generally recommended, if anti-consensus attitudes create dangerous situations for the community, “it is incumbent on society to try to change minds in favor of the scientific consensus.”

Feeding dogs raw meat associated with increased presence of antibiotic-resistant bacteria

 News Release 20-Jul-2022
Peer-Reviewed Publication
University of Bristol

New research has revealed an association between the feeding of raw meat to pet dogs and the presence of bacteria resistant to critically important antibiotics.

Two studies led by a team at the University of Bristol have found dogs who are fed on a diet of raw meat were more likely to excrete antibiotic-resistant bacteria Escherichia coli (E. coli) in their faeces. Previous research has shown that there is the potential for bacteria to be shared between dogs and their human owners through everyday interaction, leading the researchers to suggest that raw feeding is not the safest dietary choice, and that, if chosen, owners should take extra precautions when handling raw meat and be especially careful to clean up after their dog.


The environment a dog lives in also played a part in the potential for them excreting resistant bacteria. Raw feeding was a strong risk factor for dogs living in the countryside, while in city-dwelling dogs, risk factors were much more complicated, probably reflecting the variety of lifestyles and exposures among city dogs.


Better outcomes when police, ambulance and mental health services attend 111 mental health emergencies together, NZ study finds


 News Release 20-Jul-2022
Peer-Reviewed Publication
University of Otago


Having emergency services work together to attend mental health emergencies reduces the likelihood of the person in crisis ending up in hospital, a study from the University of Otago in New Zealand has found.

The co-response team, made up of police, ambulance and mental health staff, was evaluated from March 2020 to March 2021 in the capital city, Wellington. This is the first time a multi-agency team responding to emergency 111 calls has been trialled in New Zealand.


Europe's mightiest river is drying up amid a record heatwave, causing shipping issues and deepening the continent's energy woes


An example of how climate disruption is contributing to inflation, in this case by increasing shipment costs and reducing supplies.


The River Rhine, one of Europe's most important rivers which is used to transport cargo including chemicals, grains, and coal across the continent, is drying up amid record-breaking summer heatwaves.

Germany's Federal Institute of Hydrology has warned that rivers in Central Europe are at "unusually low" levels and are continuing to fall.


Southwest Germany news outlet SWR reported that the low level of water is limiting shipping on the Rhine south of Duisburg and Cologne and that for days, freight ships haven't been able to travel fully-loaded.

A representative for Germany's Federal Institute of Hydrology told Bloomberg that if the level at Kaub dips down to 40 centimeters (15.7 inches), it's uneconomical for vessels carrying commodities to sail past it given how little cargo they'd be able to carry.

The low water levels already impacting energy supplies. The supply of coal to two power stations in Germany – one in Mannheim and another in Karlsruhe – has been "affected" by low water levels in the Rhine since July 13, according to the EEX exchange.


 Low water levels on the Rhine having an economic impact has not been uncommon in recent years, with a lack of water in the river attributed in 2019 to causing a short-lived recession in Germany at the tail end of 2018.

Pantheon Macroeconomics said in January 2019 that low river levels effectively amount to a "supply shock in German manufacturing," by lowering the availability of key goods needed for the sector.

Monday, July 11, 2022

How to be a little less judgmental


A good article


By Allie Volpe@allieevolpe Jul 6, 2022, 9:00am EDT 

Humans need to value nature as well as profits to survive, UN report finds


It seems to me that this should be self-evident.

Phoebe Weston
Mon 11 Jul 2022 08.00 EDT

Taking into account all the benefits nature provides to humans and redefining what it means to have a “good quality of life” is key to living sustainably on Earth, a four-year assessment by 82 leading scientists has found.

A market-based focus on short-term profits and economic growth means the wider benefits of nature have been ignored, which has led to bad decisions that have reduced people’s wellbeing and contributed to climate and nature crises, according to a UN report. To achieve sustainable development, qualitative approaches need to be incorporated into decision making.

This means properly valuing the spiritual, cultural and emotional values that nature brings to humans, according to the report by the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (Ipbes). The assessment includes more than 13,000 references, including scientific papers, and indigenous and local sources of information. It was done in collaboration with experts in social science, economics and humanities.


The review highlights four general perspectives that should be taken into account; “living from nature” which refers to its ability to provide us with our needs like food and material goods; “living with nature”, which is the right of non-human life to thrive; “living in nature” which refers to people’s right to a sense of place and identity, and finally, “living as nature”, which treats the world as a spiritual part of being human.


‘Disturbing’: weedkiller ingredient tied to cancer found in 80% of US urine samples


Carey Gillam
Sat 9 Jul 2022 05.30 EDT

This story is co-published with The New Lede, a journalism project of the Environmental Working Group

More than 80% of urine samples drawn from children and adults in a US health study contained a weedkilling chemical linked to cancer, a finding scientists have called “disturbing” and “concerning”.

The report by a unit of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found that out of 2,310 urine samples, taken from a group of Americans intended to be representative of the US population, 1,885 were laced with detectable traces of glyphosate. This is the active ingredient in herbicides sold around the world, including the widely used Roundup brand. Almost a third of the participants were children ranging from six to 18.


Sheppard co-authored a 2019 analysis that found glyphosate exposure increases the risk of non-Hodgkin lymphoma [a kind of cancer], and also co-authored a 2019 scientific paper that reviewed 19 studies documenting glyphosate in human urine.

Both the amount and prevalence of glyphosate found in human urine has been rising steadily since the 1990s when Monsanto Co. introduced genetically engineered crops designed to be sprayed directly with Roundup, according to research published in 2017 by University of California San Diego School of Medicine researchers.


More than 200 million pounds of glyphosate are used annually by US farmers on their fields. The weedkiller is sprayed directly over genetically engineered crops such as corn and soybeans, and also over non-genetically engineered crops such as wheat and oats as a desiccant to dry crops out prior to harvest. Many farmers also use it on fields before the growing season, including spinach growers and almond producers. It is considered the most widely used herbicide in history.

Residues of glyphosate have been documented in an array of popular foods made with crops sprayed with glyphosate, including baby food. The primary route of exposure for children is through the diet.


“Children are more heavily exposed to pesticides than adults because pound-for-pound they drink more water, eat more food and breathe more air,” Landrigan said. “Also, children have many years of future life when they can develop diseases with long incubation periods such as cancer. This is particularly a concern with the herbicide, glyphosate.”


Thursday, July 07, 2022

Women 32% more likely to die after operation by male surgeon, study reveals


Denis Campbell Health policy editor
Tue 4 Jan 2022 09.00 EST 

Women who are operated on by a male surgeon are much more likely to die, experience complications and be readmitted to hospital than when a woman performs the procedure, research reveals.

Women are 15% more liable to suffer a bad outcome, and 32% more likely to die, when a man rather than a woman carries out the surgery, according to a study of 1.3 million patients.


The findings have been published in the medical journal JAMA Surgery.


“On a macro level the results are troubling. When a female surgeon operates, patient outcomes are generally better, particularly for women, even after adjusting for differences in chronic health status, age and other factors, when undergoing the same procedures.


They found that men who had an operation had similar outcomes regardless of whether their surgeon was male or female (an exception being significantly decreased mortality for men, 13%, when the surgeon was female). However, women experienced better outcomes if the procedure had been performed by a female surgeon compared with a male surgeon. There were no gender differences in how surgery went for either men or women operated on by a female surgeon.


Sunday, July 03, 2022

More crime on the way


July 3, 2022


Ending abortions will lead to more crime, because it will lead to more poverty.

Two former White House aides say top Secret Service official defending Trump on Jan. 6 has history of lying


Josh Meyer
Ledyard King

Two former Trump White House aides are accusing a top Secret Service official and key defender of the then-president's actions during the Jan. 6 Capitol insurrection of being a political loyalist with a history of lying.

Former aides Olivia Troye and Alyssa Farah Griffin have criticized the Secret Service official, Anthony Ornato, amid reports he is disputing that an angry Donald Trump grabbed the steering wheel of his presidential SUV limousine and lunged at a Secret Service agent in the front seat that day.



Saturday, July 02, 2022

Don't be fooled again. Made a correction 7/2/2022


July 2, 2022

Stealth republicans are trying to discourage people from voting for Democrats this fall because they couldn't wave a magic wand and prevent the supreme court and republican state governments from actions damaging to us and the world.  They did this successfully in 2010, when Obama wasn't able to solve all problems in less than two years in office.  This allowed republicans to gain power in Congress so they were able to block the Obama's nomination of Merrick Garland to the supreme court.  It also allowed republicans to win power in a bunch of states, so that when redistricting occurred, they were able to gerrymander several states so that even when a majority of voters in the state voted for Democrats, republicans won a majority of seats in the state legislators.  And when a majority of voters voted for Democrats for the U.S. House of Representatives, a majority of republicans won.  So then Trump, who lost the popular vote, was able to pack the court with conservatives who do not represent most voters.

When we don't vote for people unless we think they are perfect and can easily solve our problems in a snap, we are allowing those who are more interested in power than in absolute good to win power.