Posts Tagged ‘nyt’

Bob Herbert’s vision of the class war … and mine

The NYTIMES columnist Bob Herbert had an article in this morning’s online edition entitled 

Winning the Class War

Reading this against the background of just having finished Tolstoy’s “War and Peace” was fascinating. Herbert describes an American system anno 2010 that is remarkably similar to Russian system anno 1810, in the sense that wealth and power are to a higher and higher degree inherited. Americans anno 2010 don’t call themselved “Count” and “Prince”, and they no longer feel obliged to take care of and provide for their serfs. Those are the main differences.

Of course I’m exaggerating. Read more…


The Long-Overdue Death of an Economic Theory

Four Deformations of the Apocalypse

By DAVID STOCKMAN, Published: July 31, 2010

This article hit the top of the “most popular” list in the New York Times Online this morning, and it’s easy to see why: Finally a compact and easy-to-understand overview of what’s gone wrong with the American economy.

Stockman points out four ideas that have worked together, in a kind of synergy, to undermine our position. Together, they have created a false impression of prosperity that has enticed us to go further and further down the garden path into economic la-la land.

Sixty years ago, the people who lived in our house had to start laundry day by harnessing the horse and hitching it up to the wagon. Then they’d have to drive their laundry down to the river, stoke up the wood-fired boiler on the beach, do their laundry by hand, rinse it in the river, drive home, unhitch the horse and feed it, and then hang up the laundry to dry. That’s the kind of effort it took to create modern, civilized society.

One of our problems today is that other people are still willing to work just as hard, for similar rewards. For a while, they’ve been content to be our servants, supplying us with almost everything we’ve wanted while we ran through our capital. It’s going to be really interesting to see what happens in a generation or two, when they’ve saved some of what we’ve squandered, and invested enough of it in improved local infrastructure and education.


Reflections on the War in Afghanistan

View Is Bleaker Than Official Portrayal of War in Afghanistan

This article in the NYTIMES online by C. J. Chivers, Carlotta Gall, Andrew W. Lehren, Mark Mazzetti, Jane Perlez, and Eric Schmitt, with contributions from Jacob Harris and Alan McLean takes as its starting point the recent publication, through Wikileaks, of thousands of classified documents about the ongoing military operations in Afghanistan.

The article is unpleasant reading. It details, in example after example, how difficult it is to stabilize a country that doesn’t seem to have any interest in stabilizing itself.

My reflections:

1) This is not about Afghanistan, but about every single nation in the world that is falling apart because it can’t feed its population at a living standard they’re willing to accept. While Islam is certainly adding flavour to the problem, the underlying problem is that people are fighting for control over resources. Afghanistan is too hot and too dry, and its population is too hungry. We either have to feed them or fight them.

Read more…

The Human Microbiome

How Microbes Defend and Define Us

This article from the New York Times, by Carl Zimmer, should be obligatory reading for anybody who wants to characterize bacteriae as either good or bad.

Some quotes:

“Dr. Khoruts mixed a small sample of her husband’s stool with saline solution and delivered it into her colon. Writing in the Journal of Clinical Gastroenterology last month, Dr. Khoruts and his colleagues reported that her diarrhea vanished in a day. Her Clostridium difficile infection disappeared as well and has not returned since. ”

“In the mouth alone, Dr. Relman estimates, there are between 500 and 1,000 species. “It hasn’t reached a plateau yet: the more people you look at, the more species you get,” he said. The mouth in turn is divided up into smaller ecosystems, like the tongue, the gums, the teeth. Each tooth—and even each side of each tooth—has a different combination of species. ” Read more…

The Dangers of Sitting

The Men Who Stare at Screens

This article in the NYTIMES by Gretchen Reynolds brought the insight that sitting too much involves dangers that can not be undone by bouts of exercise.

I’m SO glad I never got a TV.


Categories: Health Tags: , ,

Do Toxins Cause Autism?

Do Toxins Cause Autism?

Nicholas D. Kristof asked this question in the New York Times the other day.

Here’s the answer I sent him:

Dear Mr. Kristof,

Thank you for bringing up the autism/toxicity question. You are closer to the truth than you may have imagined. An example that you didn’t mention, is the Somalis: They have one of the highest autism rates in the world – but not at home. It’s only after they come to America.

The problem is huge. Its financial implications are already crushing the families who are raising these children. In the future it will be just as crushing for America. These children are not going to pay any taxes, they’re going to need a lot of care, and they’re not going to die young. In that perspective, one autistic child can equal at least 25 retiring baby-boomers for the long-term financial health of our societies.

This is a problem that hits 5 times more boys than girls. By a lucky coincidence, it takes 5 (female) caregivers to look after my son round the clock. That’s six people out of the productive workforce for 1 case of autism, not counting me … and I’m TIRED.

We’re starting to look at autism rates of 1%, up from 0,05% when my son was diagnosed.

This is a tsunami story. The wave is already out there. It’s gainging force. New children are being added to it every day. Its first tendrils have already started creeping up the beach, towards health bueraucrats that are sitting with their heads in the sand, thinking that as long as parents are taking care of the children, they somehow don’t count in the national equation. What are they going to do when the full force of the wave hits? Divert 5% of the national workforce to take care of the 1% that have been sacrificed on the altar of cheap products and scientific shortcuts?

We’re also looking at a Semmelweiss story. You write in your article that “… fears that vaccinations cause autism — a theory that has now been discredited…” I suggest you study this further.

* Our health authorities have spent enormous amounts of energy on discrediting people who reported what they saw, and asked a question that had to be asked.

* Our authorities have so far only managed to camouflage the problem, with poorly designed statistical studies (unless the point of the studies was not to investigate, but to discredit).

* Meanwhile, other scientists have repeatedly replicated the original findings, and the question is still open: Can we add autism to the list of possible side effects of these vaccines?

* However, the witch-hunt against the scientists who asked the question first, is making everybody else a little jittery about repeating it in public.

All vaccines are not safe for everybody. That’s why we have compensation systems. By pretending that they are safer than they are, i.e. that autism is the one side effect that vaccines can’t possibly have, even in sensitive individuals with a high toxic load, our health authorities have exposed that their reactions are based on a belief system rather than science. Most people don’t see this yet. When they do, we’re going to need other people in charge who can restore the confidence in the vaccine schedule that it deserves, with proper scientific backing, instead of the present mess.

Another part of this tragedy, now that I’m at it, is that autism can actually be treated if we start early enough, and take into account what we already understand about the underlying pathologies. The chief difference between my son (lifetime need for round-the-clock care) and my stepson (getting good grades in high school, socially integrated and on track to becoming a good taxpayer) is not the diagnosis nor the symptoms nor the treatment they received, but the fact that my stepson received that treatment at 21 months, while my son was 8 years old.

Solving the autism problem will be expensive, because it will involve retiring some products that are cheap and otherwise useful. Not solving it, and not using what we know about treatments, already amounts to a national disaster.

Thank you for your help!
Jorgen Klaveness

A Summary of This Morning’s Reading

Grandmothers and Global Growth

On how artificial intelligence is poised to reach “escape velocity” and have the same kind of transformational effect on the world economy as has had the emergence of China and India.

My reflection: The best part of this is that it might make top-level university education more affordable for everybody. The worst is a question the author doesn’t even ask: Such a leap in productivity will involve losses as well as gains. Who will lose, and who will gain? What if this reinforces the present trend, where low-skilled workers lose more and more of their opportunities? What’s going to happen to the cohesion of our societies? Aren’t they already fragmented to the point where large blocks of the inner-city populations are feeling worse than useless?


Old Age, From Youth’s Narrow Prism
On how old age isn’t what young people think.

My reflection: All the more reason to keep going for those walks together.

Want a Better Listener? Protect Those Ears

On preventing hearing loss in children – and how important it is to start when they’re young.

My reflection: The article isn’t that important, but it illustrates something: There’s a big change going on here. In my parents’ generation, and the one before, safety margins were thin. Knowing how dangerous life was, people they gave their children less freedom. Today we actually have a much better starting-point for steering our children in the right directions, but our culture has changed, and children are given much wider latitude for self-destructive behaviour.

Human Culture, an Evolutionary Force
On how human culture affects evolutionary changes in human beings. The article focuses on how closeness to dairy animals cause the emergence of genes for handling lactose.

My reflection: This slots nicely in with Nicholas Kristof’s article from a few days ago, so I sent the author this letter:

Thank you for “Human Culture, an Evolutionary Force”. Since you’re interested in the subject, I’d like to point to one more important example: The general rise in the toxic load around us.

Nicholas Kristof pointed out a few days ago, in an excellent article, how this rise may be the driving force behind the current autism epidemic. (The incidence of autism has gone up by a factor of 20 in the last 25 years). Mr. Kristof is absolutely correct in this. An example he didn’t mention is the Somalis: Somali immigrants have one of the highest autism rates in the USA, while autism is virtually unknown in Somalia. It’s the change in the environment that does it.

The implication for your subject is: Autistic individuals don’t reproduce. They may live just as long as other people, but they are not desirable mates, and they wouldn’t be good at caring for their offspring.

So, what’s going on right now is that we’re chopping off an entire branch of the human genetic tree: We’re in the process of eliminating the genetic material that can’t handle the modern toxic load.

Yours sincerely
Jørgen Klaveness
Autism Dad / Attorney / Fitness Entrepreneur

The Hard and the Soft

David Brooks draws a line from Norway’s recent success in the Winter Olympics, back to a wartime survival story. His conclusion is that “There is also an interesting form of social capital on display. It’s a mixture of softness and hardness. Baalsrud was kept alive thanks to a serial outpouring of love and nurturing. At the same time, he and his rescuers displayed an unbelievable level of hardheaded toughness and resilience. That’s a cultural cocktail bound to produce achievement in many spheres“.

My reflection: David Brooks is probably jumping to conclusions, but I was still deeply touched by his story, deeply grateful that I was born here, and worried that today’s affluence is going to destroy the spirit that he describes. Every improvement in the human condition will also produce a hidden loss.