Psychedelic Drugs for PTSD, Depression, Addiction

First Medical Marijuana, Next Medical Psychedelics?

Western societies are marching toward a world where the use of psychedelic drugs in medicine will be commonplace. Some of the applications for these drugs are discussed below:

In March, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved esketamine [an isomer of ketamine]…, to treat depression—the first psychedelic ever to clear that bar. Meanwhile the FDA has granted “breakthrough therapy” status—a designation that enables fast-tracked research—to study MDMA (also called “ecstasy”) as a treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder and psilocybin as a treatment for major depression. __ https://blogs.scientificamerican.com/observations/psychedelic-medicine-is-coming-the-law-isnt-ready/

Psychedelic drugs that are being studied for possible medical use include LSD, psilocybin, DMT, MDMA (ecstasy), ketamine, and related drugs.

Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore is the foremost US research centre for the use of psychedelic drugs in medicine:

At the Center for Psychedelic and Consciousness Research, researchers will focus on how psychedelics affect behavior, mood, cognition, brain function, and biological markers of health. Upcoming studies will determine the effectiveness of psilocybin as a new therapy for opioid addiction, Alzheimer’s disease, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), post-treatment Lyme disease syndrome (formerly known as chronic Lyme disease), anorexia nervosa and alcohol use in people with major depression. The researchers hope to create precision medicine treatments tailored to the specific needs of individual patients. __ https://hopkinspsychedelic.org/

The Centre for Psychedelic Research at Imperial College London is likewise actively researching various ways of using psychedelic drugs in mainstream medical practise.

Led by Dr Robin Carhart-Harris, the Centre focuses on two main research themes: the use of psychedelics in mental health care; and as tools to probe the brain’s basis of consciousness. It will also investigate their potential for treating other conditions, including anorexia.

… Psychedelics are set to have a major impact on neuroscience and psychiatry in the coming years, and the Centre operates at the forefront of one of the most exciting areas in medical science. __ https://www.imperial.ac.uk/psychedelic-research-centre/about-us/

LSD: Has shown promise in the treatment of alcoholism and for treating the anxiety and pain of terminal illness.

MDMA (ecstasy): A pharmaceutically pure form of this often-adulterated-on-the-street drug has been recently shown effective in the treatment of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Ketamine: This dissociative anesthetic was shown to be effective treatment for combined PTSD and treatment-resistant depression.

Ketamine is now being studied as a treatment for alcohol addiction.

Psilocybin: Being studied for use in depression, alcoholism, PTSD, and symptoms of terminal illness.

DMT: This and closely related short-acting psychedelic drugs have the potential to be used inside a 60 to 90 minute therapeutic session. Psychedelic drugs are best used under supervision, and short-acting drugs of this type lend themselves to a conventional therapeutic setting — in the treatment of the same types of disorders as psilocybin.

These drugs are coming, sooner or later. They have shown more or less promise over the years, but have also shown that they deserve to be treated with caution.

Dangers and Opportunity

Clearly the greatest dangers of psychedelics are to the young and inexperienced — those who are most likely to seek them out. The human brain matures somewhere around the age of 25, in terms of cerebral myelination. Informed neuroscientists and mental health clinicians understand the dangers of adolescent use of psychedelic drugs and psychoactive street drugs of any kind.

To those with a lifetime of depression, bad habits, and bad memories, psychedelics offer a possible way out — or at least a possible way up. If psychedelics can assist the terminally ill to live with what is happening to them, there is a possibility that they can assist those who may regret being likely to live another few decades with similar issues.

Psychedelic drugs are powerful medicines, with a huge range of possible uses that have not been well thought out. We should take plenty of time to make sure we make wise policies to minimise the harm and steadily increase the benefit.

Needless to say, much of the human research with these drugs will happen below the public radar. At the Al Fin Institutes for Psychopharmacology, we do not take a stand regarding the legalisation of this type of drug for general use. For children and adolescents, we continue to recommend abstinence from marijuana and psychedelics, due to the dangers of profound disruption of development and maturation.

More — Interesting background article on psychedelic effects:

Recent studies have produced significant evidence for the therapeutic utility of psychedelic drugs in treating a wide range of mental health issues (Tupper et al., 2015; Lieberman and Shalev, 2016; Carhart-Harris and Goodwin, 2017), including anxiety and depression (Grob et al., 2011; Gasser et al., 2014; Carhart-Harris et al., 2016a, 2017a; Dos Santos et al., 2016; Griffiths et al., 2016; Ross et al., 2016), obsessive-compulsive disorder (Moreno et al., 2006), and addiction (Bogenschutz and Johnson, 2016) to alcohol (Bogenschutz et al., 2015) and tobacco (Johnson et al., 2014). In many clinical studies, ego-dissolution experience has correlated with positive clinical outcomes (Griffiths et al., 2008, 2016; Majić et al., 2015; Ross et al., 2016; Roseman et al., 2017).

Remarkably, as mentioned above, a single psychedelic experience can increase optimism for at least 2 weeks after the session (Carhart-Harris et al., 2016b) and can produce lasting changes in personality trait openness (MacLean et al., 2011; Lebedev et al., 2016). A study of regular (weekly) ayahuasca users showed improved cognitive functioning and increased positive personality traits compared with matched controls (Bouso et al., 2015). Interestingly, these outcomes may expand beyond sanctioned clinical use, as illicit users of classic psychedelic drugs within the general population self-report positive long-term benefits from their psychedelic experiences (Carhart-Harris and Nutt, 2010), are statistically less likely to evidence psychological distress and suicidality (Hendricks et al., 2015; Argento et al., 2017), and show an overall lower occurrence of mental health problems in general (Krebs and Johansen, 2013). __ https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5853825/

A large body of modern research on this topic goes back almost 70 years.

A Medical History of Psychedelic Drugs back to 3700 BC (PDF)

Erowid Library: Online Books on Psychoactive Drugs

Schaffer’s Online Psychedelic Library Books

Posted in Biomedicine, Human Brain | Tagged | Leave a comment

Three Years You May Want to Hibernate

Years 34, 60, and 78: When Bad Things Happen

Scientists working at Stanford University, Albert Einstein College of Medicine, and institutions in Germany and Italy, have determined that protein markers for human ageing change significantly during three years of a person’s life on average — age 34, age 60, and age 78. They detected these critical “shift points” by a close analysis of body proteins from over four thousand adult subjects ranging from age 18 to age 95. Out of almost 3,000 proteins tested, over 1,000 proteins varied in concentration with age. On average, significant shifts in levels of these “tell-tale” proteins occurred at the three ages mentioned — 34, 60, and 78.

We measured 2,925 plasma proteins from 4,331 young adults to nonagenarians and developed a novel bioinformatics approach which uncovered profound non-linear alterations in the human plasma proteome with age. Waves of changes in the proteome in the fourth, seventh, and eighth decades of life reflected distinct biological pathways, and revealed differential associations with the genome and proteome of age-related diseases and phenotypic traits. This new approach to the study of aging led to the identification of unexpected signatures and pathways of aging and disease and offers potential pathways for aging interventions.

… To determine whether the plasma proteome can predict chronological age and serve as a “proteomic clock,” we used 2,858 randomly selected subjects to fine-tune a predictive model that was tested on the remaining 1,473 subjects (Fig. 1f). We identified a sex-independent plasma proteomic clock consisting of 373 proteins (Supplementary Table 7). This clock was highly accurate in predicting chronological age in the discovery, validation and 4 small independent cohorts (r=0.93-0.97, Fig. 1g and Supplementary Fig. 3a-b).

Remarkably, subjects that were predicted younger than their chronologic age based on their plasma proteome performed better on cognitive and physical tests (Fig. 1h and Supplementary Table 8). While a reduced model comprising only 9 proteins predicted age with good accuracy (Supplementary Fig.3c and Supplementary Table 7), a combination of different sets of proteins may be required to model changes in a large set of clinical and functional parameters (Supplementary Fig.3d). __ Study in Nature

Monitoring a person’s total body proteins (proteome) would seem to provide a measure of “functional ageing.” By pointing out particular proteins that are causing significant problems, proteomic monitoring may also suggest potentially useful treatments.

Hormones Change with Ageing Too

We have known for a long time that different endocrine hormones change in blood concentration with ageing. Thymosin, DHEA, melatonin, estrogen, testosterone, growth hormone, and other hormones decrease after puberty and young adulthood. The thymus gland is the earliest endocrine gland to shrivel away, usually soon after puberty.

A recent small research study (the TRIIM trial) tested the effects of hormone replacement therapy with HGH, DHEA, and the diabetes drug metformin in males between 51 and 65 years of age, to see whether the thymus gland could be rejuvenated — thus improving immune regulation.

In the TRIIM trial, the scientists took blood samples from participants during the treatment period. Tests showed that blood-cell count was rejuvenated in each of the participants. The researchers also used magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to determine the composition of the thymus at the start and end of the study. They found that in seven participants, accumulated fat had been replaced with regenerated thymus tissue.
Rewinding the clock

Checking the effect of the drugs on the participants’ epigenetic clocks was an afterthought. The clinical study had finished when Fahy approached Horvath to conduct an analysis.

Horvath used four different epigenetic clocks to assess each patient’s biological age, and he found significant reversal for each trial participant in all of the tests. “This told me that the biological effect of the treatment was robust,” he says. What’s more, the effect persisted in the six participants who provided a final blood sample six months after stopping the trial, he says. __ https://www.nature.com/articles/d41586-019-02638-w

Study abstract

This suggests that hormone replacement therapy can potentially reverse some of the effects of “natural ageing.”

Chromosomes Change with Age

The male “Y” chromosome is often lost as men age, in certain tissues. This chromosome loss is associated with increased morbidity from different diseases, including cancers and heart disease.

Now a new study—the largest yet of this phenomenon—estimates that 20 percent of 205,011 men in a large genetic database called the UK Biobank have lost Y chromosomes from some detectable proportion of their blood. By age 70, 43.6 percent of men had the same issue. It’s unclear exactly why, but the authors think these losses might be the most glaring sign of something else going wrong inside the bodies of these men: They are allowing mutations of all kinds to accumulate, and these other mutations could be the underlying links to cancer and heart disease.

Mutations are, after all, spontaneously popping up in the human body all the time. Every cell division produces errors as small as miscopying one letter or as large as losing an entire chromosome. So over a lifetime, this can lead to what scientists call “clonal mosaicism”—in which a person’s body is a mosaic of distinct populations of cells, each with their accumulated mutations. This is true of everyone to some extent, but it becomes more relevant as you get older. “The more you age, the more errors have taken place in cell division,” says John R. B. Perry, a biologist at the University of Cambridge who led the recent study. __ https://www.theatlantic.com/science/archive/2019/12/men-lose-y-chromosomes-cells-they-age/603013/

Note the jump in number of men with missing Y chromosomes around the age of 70. Something is happening over time to cause proteins to change, hormones to decrease, and entire chromosomes to disappear. (In some women, an X chromosome is lost with age, in certain tissues.)

More on the study on proteome changes with ageing:

“We’ve known for a long time that measuring certain proteins in the blood can give you information about a person’s health status – lipoproteins for cardiovascular health, for example,” says neurologist Tony Wyss-Coray, from the Stanford Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center (ADRC).

“But it hasn’t been appreciated that so many different proteins’ levels – roughly a third of all the ones we looked at – change markedly with advancing age.”

The researchers were able to set up a system whereby the mix of 373 selected proteins in the blood could be used to accurately predict someone’s age, within around three years or so.

Interestingly, when the system failed by predicting an age that was too young, the subject was usually very healthy for their age.

Another finding from the study gives more evidence to something that’s been long suspected: men and women age differently. Of the 1,379 proteins that were found to change with age, 895 (nearly two-thirds) were significantly more predictive for one sex compared with the other.

These are still early findings – the researchers say any clinical applications could still be 5-10 years off – and it’s going to take a lot more work to figure out how all of these proteins are markers for ageing, and whether or not they actually contribute to it. __ https://www.sciencealert.com/our-bodies-age-in-three-separate-shifts-according-new-blood-tests

Ageing and Inflammation

Inflammation contributes to ageing in virtually all organs and tissues. Unfortunately, chronic inflammation tends to accompany ageing in almost everyone. Once the cycle of inflammatory decline begins, it tends to feed itself in a positive feedback manner — but at various rates depending upon the person.

Many proteins of inflammation occur in the body, and changing levels of such proteins are likely to be used as biomarkers of ageing in the future.

There are several possible factors that initiate and maintain a low-grade inflammatory response. These include aging, unbalanced diet, low level of sex hormones, and smoking. In contrast to young individuals, aged individuals have consistently elevated levels of inflammatory cytokines, especially interleukin-6 (IL-6) and tumor necrosis factor-α (TNF-α) (2), which may induce muscle atrophy and cancer through DNA damage. Visceral fat tissue from obese individuals can also produce both IL-6 and TNF-α, affecting systemic metabolism (3, 4). The accumulation of macrophages in visceral fat seems to be proportional to body mass index and appears to be a major source of low-grade persistent, systemic inflammation and insulin resistance in obese individuals (5, 6). __ Frontiers in Cardiovascular Medicine 22 Feb 2018 via Fight Aging

Anti-inflammatory substances — such as curcumin — are thought to reduce risk for degenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s Disease.

On Average, Men Die Younger than Women

We are finding clues to why men live shorter lives on average than women. The proteome study above provides some clues. Research on the loss of the Y chromosome also suggests reasons for the discrepancy. Differences in changing levels of endocrine hormones may also provide clues.

Unlike feminists, men do not want to level the playing field by making the opposite sex die younger. Strangely enough, most men would prefer for everyone to live longer and more satisfying lives.

Posted in Genetics and Gene Expression, Longevity, Sex Differences | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Surprising Survival Food: Acorns

Acorns are good food

Acorns can have a taste anywhere between hazel nuts and sunflower seeds, depending upon the type of oak and the growing conditions for a particular year.

Acorns have been tested and found to be possibly the best food for effectively controlling blood sugar levels. They have a low sugar content, but leave a sweetish aftertaste, making them very good in stews, as well as in breads of all types.

They are rich in complex carbohydrates, minerals, and vitamins while they are lower in fat than most other nuts. They are also a good source of fiber. __ https://www.backwoodshome.com/harvesting-the-wild-acorns/

But they are quite bitter just off the tree, and need to be leached in water to remove the tannins.

First Remove the Tannic Acid

Tannic Acid from Acorns

To use acorns as food, one must first remove the bitter tannic acid. After that, you can do many things with the acorns.

https://www.outdoorlife.com/blogs/survivalist/survival-skills-5-survival-uses-tannic-acid/

All oaks produce acorns, and all acorns are edible. But when it comes to learning how to eat acorns — especially processing them to remove the bitter tannins — there’s a bit of a trick to it.

Leaching can be done by soaking the shelled nuts in warm water for several hours, repeating as necessary until the bitter taste is removed. Alternatively, one can fill a clean sock or pillow case with acorns and suspend them in a running stream. A few days of “stream leaching” should be sufficient.

  • Gather ripe, fallen acorns
  • Separate acorn meat from the shells
  • Leach out the tannin
  • Remove leached acorns for drying or roasting
  • __ Source

A Few Ways to Eat Acorns

  1. Roasted acorns — One of the easiest ways to cook acorns is to roast them. Place the damp nut chunks on a baking sheet and sprinkle with fine salt. Toast them for 15-20 minutes at 375 degrees Fahrenheit in a pre-heated oven, or roll them around in a dry frying pan over the camp fire.
  2. Peanut brittle — For those with a sweet tooth, follow your favorite peanut brittle recipe, and substitute acorns for the peanuts. Use the same volume of acorns that the recipe asks for in peanuts, or add a few more acorns to make this snack a little more nutritious.
  3. Acorn bread — Dry your leached acorns a little bit. When they are halfway between wet and soft, and dry and rock-hard, run them through a blender, food processor, grain mill, or grind between two rocks. Dry the resulting acorn meal in a low temp oven for a few minutes, or air dry for a few hours. Then grind it again. This acorn flour can be used to bake breads or almost any other baked good.
  4. Acorn cookies — Using the flour described above, try your hand at cookies. You could follow any cookie recipe, swapping out the wheat flour for acorn flour. Since acorn flour is more crumbly than wheat flour, cookies are a natural fit for this wild food.
  5. Acorn coffee — You can roast a coffee substitute from acorns that is pleasant enough to drink. Place chunks of leached acorn on a cookie sheet and roast them in the oven at 400 degrees for about 30 minutes.
  6. __ https://www.popsci.com/story/diy/eat-acorns/

A quicker way of leaching tannin from acorns

Start by dumping your shelled acorns into a blender. Add water… Now start your blender and let it go until the acorns are ground to a pulp. The longer you let it go, the better this will work. A minute or two is probably good. In a survival scenario, you could accomplish the same thing with a rock. But until then, a blender is much faster and easier.

Now pour the “acorn smoothie” into a cloth strainer bag. In a survival situation, you could use a clean sock. Now close the bag and hold it under running water in your sink. Massage the bag, allowing it to absorb water and then squeezing it back out. Do this until the water runoff is clear. Now squeeze out all the water you can, open the bag, and have a little pinch of the acorn meal. If it’s bitter, go back to massaging it under the water. Don’t be afraid to massage it a bit longer than you think it needs. Lingering tannins can throw the taste of your food off. The massaging process will probably take 3-7 minutes.

Removing the tannin is the crucial step when using acorns as food.

Uses for tannin leached from acorns:

  • Toothache — For tooth troubles, simply swish the bitter water back and forth in your mouth, holding it in there as long as you can. Repeat as need, but do not swallow, as this acidic water will give you an upset stomach.
  • Ingrown Nails — The easiest delivery method that I have used is a cotton ball strapped to the offending toe- or fingernail. Use a bit of gauze dressing or a band-aid to hold the cotton ball in the right spot, and drip tannic acid water on the cotton until it’s soaked. Leave it in place and keep it moist for 12 to 24 hours, and the problem should be gone
  • Rash Remedy — Soak a clean cloth in the dark brown water, and apply the wet cloth to rashes and any other inflamed skin ailment. Leave the cloth in place, and repeat this treatment as needed.
  • Hide Tanning — This use isn’t medicinal, but if you’re living off the land it’s very helpful. Crush a few handfuls of acorns, including shells. Boil them in a quart of water. Use this water, with either animal brains or egg yolks (no egg whites) to condition the hide for several hours. Then stretch the hide by hand until dry.
  • Diarrhea Relief — use tannin from blackberry roots for this purpose, in the form of a tea to be sipped.

To collect tannin:

You can use the first water you pour off when soaking acorns for food, or you can make a more concentrated concoction by boiling crushed acorns (shells and all) in a pot of water. The tannins that are released are highly soluble, and it only takes a handful of crushed acorns in one pint of water to make a small batch of this remarkable liquid.

Whole acorns can be kept over the winter in a cool, dry place. The natural tannin in whole acorns acts as a preservative. Alternatively leached acorn meat can be dried and kept cool, or frozen. The natural oils in acorns will limit the amount of time the meat will keep, once leached free of tannins.

Acorns are a food bonanza for squirrels, turkeys, deer, and other animals. But acorns have been eaten by humans for thousands of years — from North America to Asia to Europe.

In Sardinia acorn bread was still traditional until recently. The first reference to the acorn bread (Su Pan’ispeli), as Sardinian typical food, comes from Pliny the Elder (1st century A.D.). The La Draga lake-dwelling site from the Iberian Peninsula which was occupied at least twice between 5300 and 5000 BC by people of Carded Ware Culture was one that stored and ate acorns. The Mesolithic site of Mount Sandel, Northern Ireland has stored acorns. Acorns were staple in the British Isles. It seems the whole Atlantic area of Mesolithic Europe depended greatly on acorns. In some of the earliest central settlements in Greece, there are pits which may have been for storage of acorn. The lower classes continued to eat acorn bread into historic times in ancient Greece. In Tunisian, the word for oak means the “meal-bearing” tree. Neolithic sites in China show high amounts of acorn usage. The Japanese Jomon people ate acorns and horse chestnuts (also bitter) for over ten thousand years. Koreans still eat a acorn jelly and acorn noodles.

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Genetic Load, Deleterious Genes, Gene Therapy

Genetic Load

We are all mutants

We all know things about ourselves that we would like to change. But if we only knew more about our genes — good and bad — we would probably know a lot more things about ourselves we would want to change.

An average human newborn contains about 100 new mutations. Most of them will have neutral effect and of the rest, most will have a small deleterious effect.

Genetic Load Definition:

noun The relative difference between the theoretically most fit genotype within a population and the average genotype.

noun The aggregate of deleterious genes that are carried, mostly hidden, in the genomes of a population and may be transmitted to descendants.
Source

As a particular genetic line continues, it accumulates mutations — mostly with a neutral effect on fitness, but not all. Each person’s genome is thus uniquely good and bad.

Deleterious Genes

Deleterious genes tend to accumulate over time unless they are weeded out by natural selection. Some genes are more deleterious than others. Some “bad” genes will kill a child before one year of age, others will allow a person to live several decades — but in an impaired state.

Here is one definition of “a deleterious gene:”

A deleterious gene is one that virtually all reasonable individuals “would judge consistently to cause very premature death or serious health problems that drastically compromise the capacity” of afflicted individuals to carry out normal or near-normal life plans. __ https://sciencing.com/deleterious-genes-14053.html

Of course there are many truly deleterious genes which may not be harmful enough to exactly fit the definition above. The more we learn about the subtleties of polygenic inheritance and interaction, the clearer our concept of deleterious genes (and deleterious gene regulation) will grow.

Gene Therapy

Modern medicine has allowed a lot of people to survive and breed who would otherwise have died off. As a result of modern medicine, the pruning effect of natural selection on deleterious genes has not functioned as previously. This allows more deleterious genes to accumulate, and more genetic load to accrue.

Gene therapy may provide an antidote to some of these unintentional harms brought on by modern medicine.

What is gene therapy?

Gene therapy is an experimental technique that uses genes to treat or prevent disease. In the future, this technique may allow doctors to treat a disorder by inserting a gene into a patient’s cells instead of using drugs or surgery. Researchers are testing several approaches to gene therapy, including:

Replacing a mutated gene that causes disease with a healthy copy of the gene.

Inactivating, or “knocking out,” a mutated gene that is functioning improperly.

Introducing a new gene into the body to help fight a disease.

__ Source

Two obvious targets for future gene therapy include “genes of senescence” and “genes of senility.”

The use of gene therapy to turn back the clock on ageing is becoming a real prospect.

Exciting new ways of “editing the genome” are hitting modern labs. Scientists are learning to be more precise and effective in targeting specific genes in specific tissues. The technique known as prime editing in principle could correct up to 89% of known genetic variants associated with human diseases. More on prime editing

In a recent gene therapy study in mice published in PNAS, the authors observed:

“We observed a 58% increase in heart function in ascending aortic constriction ensuing heart failure, a 38% reduction in α-smooth muscle actin (αSMA) expression, a 75% reduction in renal medullary atrophy in mice subjected to unilateral ureteral obstruction, and a complete reversal of obesity and diabetes phenotypes in mice fed a constant high-fat diet,” the article’s authors wrote. “Crucially, we discovered that a single formulation combining two separate therapies into one was able to treat all four diseases.” __ quoted here

These effects reversed a number of ageing-related phenotypes in the mice. It is the intent of these scientists to learn how to combine multiple gene therapies into one treatment. They hope to be able to successfully treat both ageing and senility eventually, and are proceeding to studies in dogs.

Summary

We owe our existence to our genes, good and bad. Modern methods of medicine are unintentionally allowing more bad genes to accumulate, but we are learning how to counter these bad genes with more advanced forms of gene therapy. It is a race of mind against biology, with the human mind getting significant help from advanced computing technologies. Example

It goes without saying that if we can use gene therapy to mitigate and reverse the effects of ageing and disease, we might also use gene therapy to achieve “a better normal.” The possibility of raising the average levels of gene expression underlying health, intelligence, creativity, potential for the enjoyment of life, and many other aspects of human existence will be considered by many humans as time goes by. We should pay attention.

Posted in Biomedicine, Genetics and Gene Expression | Tagged , | 2 Comments

Very Cute; But Can they Think?

Only 9% of OECD Youth Can Interpret What They Read

They are cute. They have lots of self esteem. But they can’t read a complex narrative and interpret the ideas. They cannot “distinguish between fact and opinion.”

In the US, 13.5% of 15-year-olds can distinguish between fact and opinion when trying to interpret a complex reading task. In the UK, it’s just 11.5%.

Those results are both better than the OECD average of 9%, according to the latest results of PISA, or the Programme for International Student Assessment, an international test of math, science, and reading which is administered by the OECD every three years.

“The world continues to change but education systems have a hard time keeping up,” said Andreas Schleicher, head of the OECD’s education unit. __ qz.com

This is going to be a problem in the future, when far greater thinking demands will be placed upon citizens and workers.


Looking at the list of future skills needed in the expanding workplace of 2022, we see that critical thinking, analytical thinking, active learning, reasoning, and systems analysis and evaluation will all be expected as a matter of course.

Is it Already Too Late for These Happy Cuties?

If workplaces are forced to put 90% of workers — even college graduates — through extensive remedial training, their productivity is likely to suffer. But to be realistic, even with years of remedial training it is unlikely that much over half of today’s mal-educated youth will eventually be capable of what is to be required.

Here is the problem that was revealed from the latest results of the PISA (Programme for International Student Assessment) test:

There are six levels of reading proficiency, and students who scored at the fifth level or above are considered to be able to separate fact from opinion, “based on implicit cues pertaining to the content or source of the information,” according to the report. This is key to the process of “reflecting on content and form,” describing proficiency like this:

Readers can establish distinctions between content and purpose, and between fact and opinion as applied to complex or abstract statements. They can assess neutrality and bias based on explicit or implicit cues pertaining to both the content and/or source of the information. They can also draw conclusions regarding the reliability of the claims or conclusions offered in a piece of text.

__ https://qz.com/1759474/only-9-percent-of-15-year-olds-can-distinguish-between-fact-and-opinion/

Ideally, young children will learn to read independently and make their own judgments of what they have read by the age of 10. From that age forward, they should be capable of self-teaching and self-learning.

But judging by test scores, most conventionally educated children in the advanced western countries cannot achieve self-teaching and self-learning even at age 15. If similar tests were given at age 20, it is doubtful whether very much improvement would be seen. If these skills are not learned early, they will probably never be learned.

What this means is that today’s youth are vulnerable to being manipulated by shameless teachers, professors, journalists, and other content providers. They cannot think for themselves, nor can they judge reliable from unreliable claims or conclusions. This is not a good thing — unless you are a crusader looking for a loyal constituency of dupes.

You may say that every generation is skeptical of the next generation to come along, and in general that is true. Yet there are many reasons to believe that through education, popular media, and government/activist means, modern societies have been turned away from habits of rigorous thinking. A less rational and more emotional style of feely/touchy pseudo-thought has managed to twitter its way into the popular thought-stream.

Consider the possibilities and the problems this presents to someone who wants to get things done.

Hope for the best. Prepare for the worst. Remember that Dangerous Children © are meant as “backup assets” for society, in case things go south. They are trained to form islands of competence around which future competent and moral societies can form, in case of societal failure. You may be thinking that it would be best to take proactive measures before that happens, and you are right.

Consider your options.

More on the PISA test

When assessing the PISA scores of nations that are racially heterogeneous, it can be helpful to stratify the scores by race. This can give a more meaningful comparison, reducing the possible confounding effect of racial differences.


Countries participating in PISA

Posted in Education | Tagged | 1 Comment

Inside the “China Model”

The “China Model” of government is being promoted widely in political circles as an explanation for China’s economic rise over the past 40 years. US billionaire and presidential candidate Michael Bloomberg is among the latest to advocate this system. But these promoters of China are overlooking many problems that are baked into the Chinese situation. Here is one of them:

[The China Model] exhibits two main features:

  • The first is a highly skilled, technocratically efficient, and meritocratically recruited bureaucracy. This bureaucracy (which is clearly the primary beneficiary of the system) has as its main duty to realise high economic growth and implement policies that allow this goal to be achieved. Growth is ultimately needed for the legitimisation of continued bureaucratic and party rule.
  • The second feature is the absence of rule of law, rather than its unequivocal application. This, Milanovic argues, is necessary to ensure that the interests of businessmen (and the private sector in general) are never in a position to become primary drivers of government behaviour, which they would if a stable and consistent application of law was undertaken. Instead, the state retains authority and autonomy precisely because it can choose to apply the law to whomever and wherever it wishes.

To even semi-informed observers, it should be apparent that these two main features produce an inherent contradiction. How can you have a technocratic and meritocratic bureaucracy at the same time as the transient absence of rule of law?

this is precisely what leads to another defining trait of the Chinese system — rampant corruption. This is because any system that requires discretionary decision-making opens the door to malpractice. The problem with corruption, from the point of view of the leadership, is that, taken too far, it tends to undermine the integrity of bureaucracy and the ability to conduct economic policies that produce high growth.

Therefore, the system is always in a precarious equilibrium.

__ Source

It is not just the Chinese political system that is perpetually balanced on a sharp edge. The mood of the Chinese people has always been highly changeable, for thousands of years — subject to gambling on revolt and insurrection if the portents point in that direction.

Cold War with China has Been Ongoing for Decades

The west did not completely understand where China was heading when Deng allowed foreigners to begin investing and manufacturing inside China. China gave western companies and countries “an offer they could not refuse:” Higher profit margins. A place to send their pollution and their garbage. A way to outsource a host of worries about supply chains and costs. China gladly became “the world’s factory.”

Judging by the IEA graphic above, Chinese industrial consumption of fuel is more than three times US consumption. Some of that fuel goes to building infrastructure in-country, but a lot of it goes to building products for the outside world. This trade has made China’s party insiders very wealthy, although hundreds of millions of Chinese are still quite poor.

Yesterday we mentioned several ways that the communist Chinese have infiltrated the US economy, through markets, company ownership, university endowments, pension fund investments, etc. The economic aspect of the Chinese cold war is real.

China today poses a bigger economic challenge than the Soviet Union ever did. Historical estimates of gross domestic product show that at no point during the Cold War was the Soviet economy larger than 44 percent of the economy of the United States. __ Source

Australia and Japan Sharing Coping Strategies

Australia and Japan are both vulnerable to Chinese whims and ambitions of an economic and military nature. It is only natural that the two nations confer on strategies and tactics for dealing with the neighborhood bully.

Faced with isolation by Beijing after 2012, Shinzo Abe focused on India and Southeast Asia, setting a diplomatic pace with visits, investment and aid that has outstripped any other postwar Japanese leader. In the process, Abe has built up enormous personal capital in the region.

At the same time, Tokyo stepped up its engagement in the South China Sea, something that Beijing repeatedly warned it against doing. Again, Japan stood firm on asserting its presence in waterways it regards as vital to its national interest.

Abe has also worked hard to keep Donald Trump on side, putting pride to one side to make sure that he has the U.S. president’s ear at vital moments in the diplomatic calendar.

Australia under Morrison is pursuing a not dissimilar path, bulking up in its backyard in the Pacific, trying, albeit inconsistently, to buttress relations with Southeast Asia and attempting to keep Trump onside. __ https://asia.nikkei.com/Opinion/Japan-can-teach-Australia-how-to-carefully-handle-China

As discussed in previous postings, China would like to be able to treat the entire world the same way it treats the Uighurs, Tibetans, and domestic religious practitioners such as the Falun Gong.

Michael Bloomberg has no problem with China’s plans. With a President Bloomberg, the US would no longer be an obstacle to Beijing’s ambitions. Other presidential candidates such as Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, and Joe Biden, would be similarly inclined to submit to most key economic demands from the Communist Party of China, as long as they saw no obvious direct political cost to themselves. Since the US is the only significant obstacle to Chinese global supremacy, things would move quickly after the election of such a person to the US presidency in 2020. Between the new “China appeasement president” and the suddenly influential Washington DC branch of the CPC, no future opportunity for the election of an American exceptionalist US president such as Donald Trump would ever be allowed.

 

Sobering Parting Thought:

Before 2015, China, whose Confucian value system considers it important to keep the body ­intact after death, had no voluntary organ-transplant system. Yet hospitals perform some 60,000 to 90,000 transplant surgeries each year.

Chinese hospitals promise that they can deliver hearts, livers, kidneys and corneas of matching blood type and size in two weeks. The surgeries can be scheduled in advance, which suggests hospitals know exactly when the “donors” are going to die…

Although Israel and Taiwan both passed laws making it harder for their citizens to obtain transplants in China, most other democratic governments were reluctant to acknowledge this crime against humanity, perhaps ­because doing so would imply an obligation to act immediately.

China launches vicious ad hominem attacks against critics, to undermine our credibility. Numerous screenings of my film, and of documentaries on the subject, have been canceled on university campuses and elsewhere following phones calls from Chinese diplomats. __ Source

This is just a sophisticated form of cannibalism for wealthy elites both inside China and outside. You can get a person to say almost anything if you offer them a fresh heart, liver, or kidney that will keep them alive.

This is China today. A cult of cannibals, ruled by corrupt gang members. No wonder the people of Hong Kong are having second thoughts. And no wonder the unease is spreading to the mainland.

… with Hong Kong inspiring and igniting protests in Guangdong, you can bet word is getting out to all the interior of China.

It really is Beijing’s worst nightmare.

Posted in China | Tagged | 3 Comments

Selling the Rope to be Hanged By: Then and Now

This is a tale of two suicides — one averted in the 1980s, the other in progress with an uncertain fate. The subject of both suicides is the same: western civilisation. The means of both suicides is the same: selling a deadly adversary the rope with which to be hanged by. The first adversary was the Soviet Union, and that suicide was averted through clever economic countermeasures. The second adversary is China, where the suicide of the west is still in progress, with the final outcome uncertain.

The tale is told by a man who played a pivotal role in averting the first suicide, and who is asking for help in doing what is necessary to stop the second suicide.

Suicide of the West by Soviet Union: Averted!

In 1982, the Soviets had an empire stretching from Havana to Hanoi, but their hard currency revenue totaled only about $32 billion a year—roughly one-third the annual revenue of General Motors at the time. They were spending about $16 billion more annually than they were making, with the funding gap—the USSR’s life support—being financed by Western governments and banks.

[When President Reagan] learned that we in the West were financing [the USSR’s] brutal regime, he committed to slowing, and ultimately terminating, that flow of discretionary cash.

Our European allies had a completely different approach. Their belief in Ostpolitik, as the Germans called it, presupposed that commercial bridge-building would lead to geopolitical cooperation. If the West would offer financing and trade with the Soviets, peace and prosperity would result. Meanwhile, the Soviets were using the proceeds of Western loans, hard currency revenue streams, and technological support to build up their military, expand their empire, and engage in anti-Western activities.

The Reagan administration drew the line on a project called the Siberian Gas Pipeline, a 3,600-mile twin-strand pipeline that stretched from Siberia into the Western European gas grid. If completed, not only would it become the centerpiece of the Soviets’ hard currency earnings structure, but Western Europe would become dependent on the USSR for over 70 percent of its natural gas, weakening Western Europe’s ties to the U.S. and leaving the continent open to Kremlin extortion….

… At one point, despite the strain it placed on relations with our NATO allies, we closed the U.S. market entirely to companies that continued to supply the pipeline project over our objections. Four of the six affected companies went under within six months, and Europeans woke up to the fact that they could do business with us or the Soviets, but not both.

As a result of these efforts we capped Soviet gas deliveries to Western Europe at 30 percent of total supplies, delayed the first strand of the pipeline by years and killed the second strand, and eventually helped dry up the bulk of Western credits to the USSR. In a secret deal, we also persuaded the Saudis to pump an additional two million barrels of oil per day and decontrolled prices at the wellhead in this country, knocking oil prices down to about $10 a barrel—significant because for every dollar decrease in the price of a barrel, the Soviets lost some 500 million to one billion dollars. In short, the Soviet Union never recovered from these economic and financial blows. It defaulted on some $96 billion in Western hard currency debt shortly before the total collapse of the Soviet empire. __ Roger W. Robinson Jr.

The naive western Europeans were determined to help the USSR to succeed in becoming the energy lord of all of Europe. That would have made Europe the energy slave to a wealthy and powerful USSR. Instead, the US took an active hand and created conditions that led to the ultimate downfall of the USSR — and the liberation of Eastern and Central Europe from the bleak gray empire of death.

Suicide of the West by China: In Progress

The story with China today has certain similarities, but with one big difference: the U.S. has been playing the role of the naïve Europeans. Since adopting the Kissinger policy of engaging with China in the 1970s, our government has operated on the assumption that economic and financial relations with China would lead Beijing to liberalize politically. And since 2001, when we backed China’s entry into the World Trade Organization, the pace at which we have given China access to our best technology and capital and trade markets has accelerated. Yet China has shown no signs of embracing individual freedoms or the rule of law.

China has over 700 companies in our stock and bond markets or capital markets. It has about 86 companies listed on the New York Stock Exchange, about 62 in the NASDAQ, and over 500 in the murky, poorly regulated over-the-counter market. Among these companies are some egregious bad actors. Hikvision, for example, is responsible for facial recognition technology that identifies and monitors the movement of ethnic Uyghurs. It also produces the surveillance cameras placed atop the walls of Chinese concentration camps holding as many as two million Uyghurs in Xinjiang. Both its parent company and Hikvision itself are on the U.S. Commerce Department Entity List (what many describe as the “Blacklist”).

Do any of us have the financing of concentration camps in mind when we transfer money into our retirement and investment accounts?

The Chinese are estimated to have attracted nearly two trillion dollars of American investment in equities alone. We do not even know the extent of our real exposure to China, because it has dollar-denominated bonds issued elsewhere in the world that are ending up in Americans’ bond portfolios—our investment banks buy them overseas to utilize a loophole in our regulatory structure. But I can tell you that in the next 36 months, if nothing is done, our exposure will be two to three trillion dollars more than it is today. The Chinese are moving as fast as they can into the investment portfolios of the American people because they are in desperate need of our dollars.

… Astoundingly, Americans are even investing in China’s sovereign bonds—bonds issued directly by the Chinese government, with the proceeds to be used at its sole discretion. Remember Liberty Bonds during World War II? The U.S. sold Liberty Bonds to finance our war effort. Today Americans are buying Chinese sovereign bonds to finance our own potential destruction—anti-Liberty Bonds. The California State Teachers’ Retirement System, to cite just one example, owns Chinese sovereign bonds valued at over $4 million. The Prague Security Studies Institute is finding examples like this throughout our state public employee retirement systems.

Or look at university endowments. The University of Michigan has 44 percent of its $12.2 billion in assets in private equity and venture capital; of the venture capital portion, one-third of the investments are Chinese. This is not to single out or excoriate the University of Michigan. Its investment portfolio is quite typical of what we’re finding elsewhere.

… Even leaving aside China’s brutal repression of its own people, does anyone in America, Democrat or Republican, want to fund the production of weapons designed to kill American soldiers, sailors, and marines? Does any American want to underwrite the Chinese militarization of the South China Sea? Or finance U.S. sanctions violators, benefiting Iran and North Korea? Do Americans want to finance the destruction of their own liberty and the ruin of everything they hold dear? I think most Americans would react with outrage, if they knew the facts.

Next, it is urgent that Chinese bad actors be excluded from accessing U.S. capital markets—or at least be forced to disclose their malevolent past activities because of the material risks involved. To be candid, when it comes to China, there is a question whether one can even speak of good actors. Article 7 of the National Intelligence Law of China allows every commercial entity to be instantly weaponized—to commit espionage, technology theft, or whatever else is deemed to be in China’s national interest—by simple order of the government. That’s a matter of public record. In other words, for some fund managers who wish to eliminate bad actors from their portfolios, one solution is simply to eliminate Chinese enterprises.

… The good news is that we can win this economic and financial war. America dominates the global economic and financial domain—period. Our capital markets are roughly the size of the rest of the world’s combined, and we hold about 60 percent of the world’s liquidity. Wall Street might argue that if we safeguard our capital markets, China will just go to another international exchange, in which case our country will be the one hurt. The problem with that argument is that no other country has anywhere near the depth and volume of our markets. China’s need for dollars is so voracious that it would likely use up the volume of a Frankfurt or London in months, not years. There is nowhere else for a player the size of China to go. Just as in the early 1980s, when we had a monopoly on oil and gas equipment and technology for Arctic-like conditions, we have most of the world’s money today—and the leverage that goes with it. __ Roger W. Robinson Jr.

The US government and the US financial and investment communities are not taking the threat from China seriously. Neither do US universities or US corporations. They have been perfectly willing to sell China the rope with which to hang the US and all of western civilisation. But is that what an informed public would want to happen, if it knew?

The fact that most intelligent people do not know or understand the issues in the article above suggests that powerful interests inside western media companies, universities, and governments do not want the reading, thinking public to worry their little heads about such things.

Note: It goes without saying that Europe is following the same witless path with China that it took with the USSR. As in so many crises of the past, Europe is imperiling herself in a heedless manner, taking all of us ever closer to a situation where economic war will not suffice — where only more global wars of blood will settle the matter.

China does not allow its own imperial subjects even a small portion of the ordinary freedoms that westerners take for granted. Every aspect of a subject’s life is under scrutiny. Even an imperial subject’s internal organs are not considered his own, but rather the property of the state.

If China is ever successful at dominating the globe to the same degree as the US has dominated for half a century, it will extend the nightmare of China to the rest of the world. While that may give the more jejeune Europeans and supporters of Bernie Sanders something to cry about, it will give little satisfaction to those who might otherwise laugh at their naivety.

Posted in China, Europe, Russia | Tagged | Leave a comment

Not as Bad as Africa


Russian HIV incidence rates are not nearly as high as in sub Saharan Africa. But Russia accounts for roughly 2/3 of new HIV cases in Europe. Almost 1% of all Russians have HIV. And the numbers continue to grow.

Why Russian Healthcare is in Crisis

The Russian Federation has free and universal state healthcare, but in name only. Changes to Russian’s national healthcare system since the fall of the Soviet Union have attempted to provide Russians with an acceptable level of healthcare services. However, a continued lack of funds, a lack of medical and technical equipment and supplies and an outdated approach to medical training present major obstacles to alleviating the Russian healthcare crisis…

… Russia’s healthcare system is currently characterized by a neglect of primary care, an emphasis on treatment rather than prevention, overuse and misuse of doctors, underuse of nurses and inadequate access to medications.

These issues have contributed to a severe Russian healthcare crisis, affecting the health of the Russian population. Inequality in access to treatment has contributed to an epidemic of HIV and TB in Russia. __ https://www.borgenmagazine.com/russian-healthcare-crisis/

The system is simply not prepared to treat the problem — it will not even acknowledge the problem. In many places a substantial bribe is necessary just to be seen by a doctor. If the bribe is not high enough, you can forget about treatment — particularly any treatment that might possibly work.

HIV prevalence has been growing up to 10% per year recently in Russia. Estimates for total prevalence in Russia range between 1 million and 3 million cases. New cases are largely split between intravenous drug users and heterosexual spread. More Prisons are another breeding ground for the spread of diseases such as HIV, TB, Hepatitis Virus B and C, and others.

The ongoing health crisis in Russia presents a frightening picture of a nation’s leaders undermining its own citizens’ lives through neglect, corruption, and a quest for power. Russia is a wealthy country with vast resources at its disposal—an estimated 40% of the world’s natural resources—but these riches have limited benefit for its citizens’ health… Russia is widely regarded as one of the world’s superpowers, yet it suffers from HIV infection rates higher than most developing countries, and one of the highest rates of alcoholism in the world. Russia’s massive public health problems result from complex and deep-seated societal norms paired with a government that has demonstrated inadequate interest in fixing them. __ Yale Global Health Review

This is not the portrait of a superpower, but of a corrupt state that is teetering toward failure.

Eastern Europe and Central Asia.

An estimated 1.7 million people are living with HIV in this region, including 150,000 newly infected in 2018. New HIV infections in the region increased by 29% between 2010 and 2018. Most of the new infections in the region are among key populations, with 63% of infections occurring among people who inject drugs, gay men, and other men who have sex with men. __ https://www.kff.org/global-health-policy/fact-sheet/the-global-hivaids-epidemic/

Not as Bad as Africa

There are places in Africa where over half the women of child-bearing age are infected with HIV. For Russia, that number is no higher than 1% for most of the country. But many countries in sub Saharan Africa have admitted the problem, and allow foreign medical supplies into the country for distribution to infected people. This has slowed the incidence rate for new infections across many African nations. Russia has not been so lucky, since the system does not devote significant resources to the problem — and does not allow outside help to compensate for the corrupt neglect that is rampant inside the country’s civilian medical corps.

Despite all that, Russia is generally a civilised country. If the broken-down health care system allows prevalence rates to continue to rise, eventually Russians will demand changes. But will its mafia government pay any attention to ordinary people? It never has before.

Russia is in the midst of a massive, largely ignored public health crisis. Although considered a superpower due to its vast natural resources and military spending, Russia stands out for its overwhelmingly poor health as well. Many preexisting societal circumstances have contributed to the emergence of disease, but negligent and corrupt government actions have exacerbated problems, allowing them to become endemic. These missteps have already caused life expectancy in Russia to fall thirteen years below that of any other developed nation, and the consequences will only increase if Russia’s leaders continue to enact policies that ignore the best interests of its populace. __ https://yaleglobalhealthreview.com/2016/12/21/russia-the-sickness-of-a-nation/

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Europe in the Middle: “Gotta Serve Somebody”

Europe is excessively dependent upon outsiders for its defence, for its energy, for its technology, and increasingly for its workforce.

Without a change in direction, the “foundations of Europe’s society and its values will come under increasing strain, as relying on third countries means relying on their values,” according to the document, a copy of which was obtained by Bloomberg News. “Europe’s position and influence in global markets will be eroded, affecting European leadership and jeopardizing our technological sovereignty in key industrial strategic value chains.” __ Source

Europe is in the unenviable position of needing the patronage of a more powerful and dynamic political entity, just to keep it from fading into the night. The people of Europe deserve better than their governments are providing for them.

North America and China are in the best positions to maintain themselves in the near to intermediate futures. Europe, Russia, Japan, S. Korea, and Taiwan are melting away in a demographic collapse, and must have powerful allies to prevent an outside takeover.

The Chinese have gained access to leaders around the world by promising and delivering lucre to their businesses and personal interests. We have witnessed this behavior from Australia to Zimbabwe. It is the CCP’s modus operandi and must have succeeded beyond the boundaries of their imagination. It continues to do so. __ Source

China wants the nations of the world to pay homage as its tributaries. The US government on the other hand is growing less interested with the mundane affairs outside of North America and the Caribbean. Europe can expect to be courted by the Chinese — until the iron leash is fastened upon her neck. That is the way of the world. China wants to be served by Europe. The US is simply tired of all of Europe’s nonsense over the past century or so, having felt forced to save her far too many times from her own folly.

Europe is going to have to serve somebody, unless she changes her ways.

Gotta Serve Somebody

Might like to wear cotton, might like to wear silk

Might like to drink whiskey, might like to drink milk

You might like to eat caviar, you might like to eat bread

You may be sleeping on the floor, sleeping in a king-sized bed

But you’re gonna have to serve somebody, yes indeed

You’re gonna have to serve somebody

Well, it may be the devil or it may be the Lord

But you’re gonna have to serve somebody

__ Bob Dylan “Gotta Serve Somebody”

As of the first of January, 2020, China will demand the encryption keys from all financial entities operating inside its imperial territories. Depending upon the responses to this demand, further demands will be presented. It is a slippery slope, and too many European entities have passed the point of no return in their relationship with China.

With less and less to bring to the bargaining table, Europe is becoming the “weak man of the world.” She is filling her cities with aliens who hate her ways, betting her future on the kindness of strangers in a world where strangers are not kind. Unless Europe can grow some manhood suddenly, she risks becoming another tributary of China — either on her own or secondarily via her energy thralldom to Russia.

Putin’s Russia is already a tributary of China, but the bear can offer Europe to the dragon as a tasty morsel.

More:

Europe in fantasyland

Leaks from the CPC archives

Posted in China, Europe | Tagged | 3 Comments

Unbelievable Example of Self-Sabotage

China has pulled itself up significantly, by the “open sewer” definition. But now it is threatening to go backward.

Since the late 1970s, China has grown prosperous by allowing foreign investors and corporations to operate inside Chinese borders. Thanks to enormous foreign direct investment (FDI) and a massive transfer of outside technology to Chinese businesses, the country now claims the world’s second-largest economy and a significant level of international clout. But recently FDI has been dropping and more intelligent outside corporations are less willing to build facilities inside China — for fear of being “ripped off.” That fear is now more justified than ever.

Stabbed in the Throat by Her Own Hand

On January 1, China’s Cryptography Law becomes effective. The legislation follows the December 1 implementation of the Multi-Level Protection Scheme 2.0, issued under the authority of the 2016 Cybersecurity Law.

  • After all these “cybersecurity” rules are in place, no foreign company may encrypt data so that it cannot be read by the Chinese central government and the Communist Party of China. In other words, businesses will be required to turn over encryption keys.
  • Chinese officials will be permitted, under Chinese law, to share seized information with state enterprises. This means the enterprises will be able to use that information against their foreign competitors.

Together, these measures show Beijing’s absolute determination to seize from foreign companies all their communications, data, and other information stored in electronic form in China.

After all these “cybersecurity” rules are in place, no foreign company may encrypt data so that it cannot be read by the Chinese central government and the Communist Party of China. In other words, businesses will be required to turn over encryption keys.

Companies will also be prohibited from employing virtual private networks to keep data secret, and some believe they will no longer be allowed to use private servers.

Beijing’s system, once implemented, will be so invasive that Chinese authorities will no longer need to ask foreign businesses to turn over data. Chinese officials will simply be able to take that data on their own.

“Once data crosses the Chinese border on a network,” writes Steve Dickinson in the China Law Blog, “100 percent of that data will be 100 percent available to the Chinese government and the CCP.” __ Much more at: Gatestone Institute

If your bank operates inside China, what data will be at risk?

It is difficult to conceive how any well-managed European or Anglospheric corporation could justify continuing to do business inside Communist Party controlled China after such laws are enforced. They will no longer be legally entitled to keep any secrets of any sort from the Chinese Communist Party or from the state owned enterprises that compete with them. China requires a constant inflow of outside technology, intellectual property, and targeted capital investment to be taken seriously.

Since Donald Trump began demanding that China play by international trade rules, dozens of corporations have moved production facilities outside of mainland China. With the passage of these invasive new “cybersecurity” rules, China has made it infinitely easier for most of the rest of outside corporations to get out of the increasingly totalitarian prison-state.

In many ways, the Communist Party is making China as much of an open sewer as ever. Mao killed 60 million or so Chinese with his Great Leap “reforms.” Xi seems determined to go him several better. The Chinese people have never needed much encouragement to tear the country to shreds. Interesting times, Chairman Xi.

More:

There is another, darker way of looking at China’s new cybersecurity rules. It is possible that a large number of foreign corporations operating inside China will have no choice but to accede to Beijing’s demands if they want to keep “doing business.” At that point they will have become thralls and tributaries to Beijing in everything but name.

Around the world, China has bought corporate and political leaders with wealth it earned through theft, counterfeit, espionage, and a raft of other crimes. Among those who have been bought include a number of US politicians and businessmen on both sides of the aisle. These people would sell their wives, daughters, and mothers to China for a bit of power and dirty money. Selling anything else they could get their hands on would be no problem.

Xi’s China is a fundamental threat to the US and its allies, first, due to his objective of supplanting the US and the liberal international order it created — the order which allowed China to rise and incidentally made possible much of Bloomberg’s wealth. Second, because the West has not awakened to the threat, it allowed and continues to permit China access to its institutions, markets, finance, technology, universities, and even militaries. Third, China is building the infrastructure of the information age, shamelessly created in part due to its IP theft. __ https://spectator.us/michael-bloomberg-chinese-appeasement/

Recommended:

Poorly Made in China by Paul Midler

What’s Wrong with China?

The China Hustle

Posted in China | Tagged | 2 Comments

Trump Heavyweight Champ of Hong Kong

Hours after [US President Donald Trump] signed two bills to support human rights in Hong Kong, angering Chinese government officials, pro-democracy protesters in the beleaguered city held a “Thanksgiving Rally” Thursday night to commend him for taking the action.

… “Fight for freedom, stand with Hong Kong,” thousands of protestors chanted in a public square as they waved American flags and held up copies of the photo [of Trump as boxing champ]… The new laws mandate sanctions on Chinese and Hong Kong officials who carry out human rights abuses on the semiautonomous island, require an annual review of Hong Kong’s trade status and prohibit the export of specific nonlethal weapons to Hong Kong police.

Joshua Wong, a well-known pro-democracy activist who was among those who lobbied for the laws, told protesters Thursday their next goal is to get other Western leaders to follow in Trump’s footsteps in order to put pressure on the Chinese government to give in to their demands.

On the mainland, Chinese government officials were enraged by the new laws… __ https://nypost.com/2019/11/28/rocky-shock-for-china-makes-trump-hong-kong-hero/

China wants to overrun Hong Kong and anoint the land with blood. But this is not a good time for that — too many people happen to be looking that way right now. And China’s faltering economy needs Hong Kong as a financial inlet/outlet to the freer world. So chalk another humiliation for Xi and his chorus line.

Years ago, Al Fin told both Xi and Putin that they had each “pulled the trigger” on their ambitions much too soon. I suppose neither bloody-handed dictator could wait, the biological clock being what it is.

US Economy Still in Good Place

The Chinese trade war has depressed selected parts of the US economy temporarily — but for a good cause. Otherwise, the “Accidental Superpower” seems to be cruising.

Unemployment is at the lowest level since 1969. There were 2.3 million more full time, year-round workers this year than last. And those workers are earning more. Median earnings for full-time workers rose by more than 3 percent last year. Since 2009, average hourly earnings for all employees is up 5.6 percent, while real average weekly earnings rose by 6.9 percent. __ Michael Tanner Cato Institute

The US became the world’s largest economy around the year 1880, just 15 years after the end of a ruinous civil war and painful reconstruction period across half of the country. This meteoric economic growth occurred largely because the US government stayed out of the way of free trade and markets. There is a lesson there for political leaders capable of learning.

“We can be thankful that the economy is still in a good place with economic growth a little better, a rebound in business durable equipment expenditures, and a sharp decline in joblessness which together tell the story that recession is nowhere to be seen and should not be on anyone’s radar in 2020,” wrote Rupkey.

He said the jump in business spending should mean an improved trend in the fourth quarter. __ Patti Domm

The US is in the middle of a significant skills shortage across the industrial sectors. The ongoing skills shortage in construction is just one of the areas where labour shortages are retarding potential growth in the US economy.

Socialists are not fond of economic prosperity, so the US economic picture could change rapidly if a socialist cabal grabs control of the US economy somehow. $Trillions are at stake, so the motivation is certainly there — and thanks to a corrupt media and academia, tens of millions of voters are well indoctrinated.

Hope for the best, but prepare for the worst. Learn more about how to make yourselves and your households more Dangerous.

Posted in China, Donald Trump | Tagged | 2 Comments

Why Men Have to be Funnier than Women

Scientists Ask: Why Are Men Funnier than Women?

Simply by looking at the highest paid and best known comedians, we should all suspect that men are funnier than women. But even among the population of average men and women, men are funnier. Scientists have long wondered about this “humour-gap” and went looking for the answer:

Humor is a complex phenomenon that involves social, emotional, physiological, cognitive, cultural and evolutionary influences, to name a few. One important aspect is the ability to make others laugh. Humor production ability is a distinct cognitive ability that is largely uncorrelated with appreciation and enjoyment of humor. When looking at who is the funnier sex, we focus then on humor production ability…

A new study I conducted with Paul Silvia and Emily Nusbaum from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro put the stereotype to the test. We systematically reviewed all available studies that looked at sex differences in humor ability, and using the statistical tool called meta-analysis, we calculated the difference. __ https://www.psychologytoday.com/gb/blog/humor-sapiens/201910/are-men-really-funnier-women

The research came to the conclusion that men are funnier. But when you consider why men have to be funnier, it all makes sense.

Results based on random-effects model revealed that men’s humor output was rated as funnier than women’s, with a combined effect size d = 0.321. Results were robust across various moderators and study characteristics, and multiple tests indicated that publication bias is unlikely. Both evolutionary and cultural explanations were considered and discussed.

Women… express a desire for mates that will make them laugh, much more than men do, corroborating the prediction that men try to advertise their humor ability, and women are the appreciators of humor.

women who have humorous partners did report having more and stronger vaginal orgasms, compared to women who have less funny partners, while men’s sexual satisfaction was not related to women’s HPA

__ Journal of Research in Personality Feb. 2020 Greengross, Silvia, Nusbaum

The above study was a meta-analysis of 28 different studies looking at disparity between male and female humour production. Here is one of the ways of teasing out the differences:

In many of the studies they looked at, men and women were asked to write a funny caption to accompany a cartoon – and then independent judges rated their funniness without knowing their gender. __ BBC

I don’t care what your political biases are, you have to admit that men are highly motivated to at least try to be funny. “No funny, no honey!” The effect of laughing in a woman is a lot like the effect of alcohol, on a woman’s frontal lobes. There is a natural intoxication . . . Things start to loosen up … And for the mating mechanisms to be properly lubricated, a good deal of loosening up in the right dorsolateral prefrontal cortex is often called for.

University Humour

Even in the university classroom, male professors are rated as funnier than female professors:

Who’s funnier? Men, apparently. Male psychology professors, it seems, are particularly hilarious. Men are so funny, in fact, that even the most somber among them — that would be engineering professors — are funnier than most women, scoring 797 references per million words of text, a higher number than women in 16 other disciplines. __ Chronicle Higher Education

Perhaps male professors are playing up to their female students, subconsciously. That “funny bone” is difficult to turn off, apparently, at any age.

A Long Line of Funny Men

A facility with humour has to be placed alongside other proven aphrodisiacs that work on women, such as power, the appearance of wealth, alcohol, and other triggers of the dopamine reward-anticipation network of the brain.

Dopamine Signals
Neurophysiological activations of dopamine neurons following primary rewards and conditioned, reward-predicting stimuli, physically intense stimuli, risk, and primary and conditioned aversive stimuli. Horizontal bars indicate 500 ms in all panels. Data are from [4,9,10,26]. h-eog, horizontal electro-oculogram.
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2948345/

Most men are descended from a long line of “funny men.” It must be so, for their male ancestors to have been successful at mating.

Such things are rarely discussed in those famous “son and pop” conversations as boys grow into men. But perhaps they should be. Boys need to understand what they will be up against in the great evolutionary sweepstakes of life.

Posted in Cognition, Evolution, Sex Differences | Tagged , | 4 Comments

What Crawled Up Your @ss?

Something strange is crawling this way. Where it stops, nobody knows.

This robot moves like a worm, inching its way up the rectum and around the entire colon… It’s meant to serve as an alternative to traditional colonoscopy, an uncomfortable procedure in which a physician snakes a thin, flexible colonoscope through the large intestine to look for signs of colon cancer and other diseases. A small, controllable robot equipped with a camera and tools to collect tissue samples could do the same job, with less discomfort…

Several research groups have built prototypes of colonoscopy robots, each with their own ick factor. There are “legged” capsule robots and “treaded” capsule robots. This one, developed by the Rentschler Research Group at the University of Colorado, Boulder, falls in the “worm” robot category. It has three body sections that scrunch up and expand, propelling it along the intestine in a peristaltic motion. Each body section of the robot contains three shape memory alloy (SMA) springs, which compress and expand, and are cooled by forced air flow. It can move 15 centimeters in 6 minutes. ___ https://spectrum.ieee.org/the-human-os/robotics/medical-robots/a-colonoscopy-robot-and-other-weird-biomedical-tech-from-the-ieees-biggest-robotics-conference

At that rate, it might take all day to get the job done. Back to the drawing board, fellas.

A robot video extravaganza

Should We Build Factories in Space?

Some things can be better built in outer space than on a planetary surface.

What is it that justifies the expense of doing these things in low Earth orbit?” says William Wagner, director of the University of Pittsburgh’s McGowan Institute for Regenerative Medicine, which will conduct biomedical research on the International Space Station (ISS).

Here are some technologies that might merit the “made in space” label.

Fiber-optic Cable

Made from fluoride glass, a kind of fiber-optic cable called ZBLAN could have as little as one-tenth the signal loss of silica-based optical fibers.

But quality ZBLAN fibers are hard to make on Earth. As the molten glass is stretched into fibers as thin as fishing line and then cooled, tiny crystals sometimes form, which can weaken signals. Microgravity suppresses the formation of these crystals, so fibers made in space would carry more data over longer distances.

Organs

There are 120,000 people waiting for an organ transplant in the United States alone. “Most will never see one, there is such a shortage,” says Eugene Boland, chief scientist at Techshot, which wants to print human hearts in space.

… Printing hearts and other organs in microgravity could be done using pure bioinks. “The cylindrical shape extruded from the nozzle is maintained, so you can build a more fragile 3D structure that would allow cells in the gels to secrete their own matrix and strengthen up,” says Wagner. And the printed layers fuse together without forming the striations seen in constructs printed on the ground, Boland says.

Metal Alloys

Outer space is the perfect place to make metal alloys. Microgravity allows the metals and other elements to mix together more evenly.

… Making these alloys involves melting highly reactive magnesium with other elements such as calcium and zinc, keeping the melted materials in a vacuum for a long time so the elements mix evenly, and then cooling it all down.

On Earth, impurities settle to the bottom, and the upper layer oxidizes to form an unusable skin. Both have to be thrown out. Even the usable middle layer has pores and pockets of unmixed elements and must be further processed to make a quality material. None of these problems occur when alloys are manufactured in microgravity.

Meat

What Techshot and nScrypt want to do with human organs, Israeli food-tech startup Aleph Farms plans to do with meat. The two-year-old Rehovot-based company grows cultured beefsteaks that look and taste like the real thing. “While other companies use only muscle cell, we also grow connective tissue, blood vessels, and fat cells, which lets us make beefsteaks instead of patties,” says Yoav Reisler, external relations manager at the company.

In September, the company teamed up with Russian company 3D Bioprinting Solutions to create the first tiny piece of meat on the ISS. It isn’t a huge technical advance, but it could feed astronauts on long-term crewed missions, as well as future space settlers as they set up a permanent base.
___ https://spectrum.ieee.org/aerospace/space-flight/4-products-that-make-sense-to-manufacture-in-orbit

Other Miscellaneous topics of interest:

Urban Heat Island Effect

Temperature readings from ground stations in many regions have risen over the past century. A study of these surface stations in 2012 revealed that many stations were submitting aberrant readings due to urban build-up close to the temperature sensors. As errant readings make their way into the temperature record — and from there into climate models — an erroneous impression of climate reality can emerge into the public consciousness.

The urban heat island effect (UHI) has been denied by the climate orthodoxy, or declared irrelevant when the high priests are backed into a corner. The excerpt below is from a recent research article (h/t Judith Curry).

Urban encroachment may affect stations that were formerly in appropriate locations. Airport locations and general urbanization are the most important sources of problems with historical temperature records…

In a large city, air temperatures can be as much as 12°C higher than the nearby rural areas. Consequently, these higher urban temperatures increase energy demand, raise air pollution levels, and cause heat-related illnesses and even death…

As urban areas grow to megalopolis sizes, they may actually affect the local climate, instead of only being a perturbation of it. The causes of the UHI can be broadly divided into two classes, active and passive heat sources. Active heat sources include power generation and utilization, heat associated with transportation, air conditioning exhausts, industrial waste heat, fires, and others. Passive sources include impervious cover, pavements, building and housing surface structures, roofing materials, among others __ https://www.researchgate.net/publication/336708502_Current_Perspectives_to_Environment_and_Climate_Change_Vol_2

Climate has always been dynamic and chaotic. Multiple natural overlapping and interacting climate cycles affect the unfolding climate that we experience and record for further analysis. Ocean oscillations are important and are ultimately driven by the interaction of solar variation with terrestrial oceans and atmosphere. In fact, solar variation plus ocean oscillations explain far more climate variation than any greenhouse gas concentrations.

The first thing to note is that CO2 lags Temperature, and therefore cannot possibly be driving Temperature, another point that absolutely invalidates CO2-based global warming theory. Many scientists say that the lag is about 800 years, but a rigorous cross-functional statistical analysis (sliding the CO2 data back and forth relative to the Temperature data, looking for the highest degree of correlation) by Dr. Jeffry Glassman (Link) gives 1073 years as the delay. The lag is believed to be related to the time constant for ocean mixing of deep ocean water with the surface. As the temperature increases, and the oceans warm, CO2 is less soluble in water and it bubbles into the atmosphere increasing its concentration. __ https://climateilluminated.com/history/climate_history.html

Climate models are not science. When they are fed erroneous data and bad assumptions, they are worse than wrong. They are destructive to the human project and take humans backward and downward.

When Will Paul Krugman’s Reputation Recover?

A first-pass answer is never. Remember when just after the 2016 election, Krugman predicted that global markets would crash and never recover — just because Donald Trump had been elected US President? Here it is again to refresh your memory:

Paul Krugman: The Economic Fallout

By Paul Krugman
Comment
2016-11-09T00:42:44-05:00 12:42 AM ET

It really does now look like President Donald J. Trump, and markets are plunging. When might we expect them to recover?

Frankly, I find it hard to care much, even though this is my specialty. The disaster for America and the world has so many aspects that the economic ramifications are way down my list of things to fear.

Still, I guess people want an answer: If the question is when markets will recover, a first-pass answer is never.

So we are very probably looking at a global recession, with no end in sight. I suppose we could get lucky somehow. But on economics, as on everything else, a terrible thing has just happened. __ NYT

We can all be thankful that Mr. Krugman’s candidate lost.

It has been a long time since Paul said much that was rational, of course. Sometimes we all need a reminder from the past to keep the man’s current ramblings in perspective. Those maniacal, shifty eyes? He started that decades ago, long before Trump’s election.

Since Mr. Krugman’s prediction of doom, US markets have set dozens of new highs.

Record oil production in the US Gulf of Mexico

Record levels of oil and gas production from both offshore and onshore oil fields continue to drive much of the US economic boom. China-dependent economies around the world, on the other hand, are beginning to sour. Particularly those economies that are gambling on grid-scale wind and solar energy.

A new report by consulting giant McKinsey finds that Germany’s Energiewende, or energy transition to renewables, poses a significant threat to the nation’s economy and energy supply.

One of Germany’s largest newspapers, Die Welt, summarized the findings of the McKinsey report in a single word: “disastrous.”

“Problems are manifesting in all three dimensions of the energy industry triangle: climate protection, the security of supply and economic efficiency,” writes McKinsey.

… But McKinsey issues its strongest warning when it comes to Germany’s increasingly insecure energy supply due to its heavy reliance on intermittent solar and wind. For three days in June 2019, the electricity grid came close to black-outs.

“Only short-term imports from neighboring countries were able to stabilize the grid,” the consultancy notes.

As a result of Germany’s energy supply shortage, the highest observed cost of short-term “balancing energy” skyrocketed from €64 in 2017 to €37,856 in 2019.

“It can be assumed that security of supply will continue to worsen in the future,” says McKinsey.

Renewables are causing similarly high price shocks in other parts of the world including Texas, Australia, and California. __ https://www.forbes.com/sites/michaelshellenberger/2019/09/05/renewables-threaten-german-economy-energy-supply-mckinsey-warns-in-new-report/#461a8558e482

Even doomers are beginning to comprehend that wind & solar are big trouble — the bigger the investment and commitment to the intermittent unreliables, the bigger the trouble.

Because wind and solar farms get a guaranteed price for 20 years, they have no need to innovate, do research, or please customers, who paid them 176 billion euros for electricity with a market value of just 5 billion euros from 2000-2016. This is money that taxpayers could have used to build bridges, energy efficient buildings, or renovate schools, which would create even more jobs than the wind and solar industry claims so they can tout themselves as good for society, perhaps they aren’t so great when you look at other ways and jobs that could have been created with all the subsidies (Vernunftkraft 2018). __ http://energyskeptic.com/2019/germanys-renewable-energy-program-energiewende-is-a-big-expensive-failure/

Posted in Biomedicine, Economics | Tagged | 2 Comments

US President Trump Winning Black and Hispanic Voters

Democrats Always Took These Votes For Granted

Donald Trump is appealing to people’s pocketbooks, and to their sense of order and tradition — something that US Democrats are disregarding.

Unemployment in America is at the lowest level in nearly 50 years. For African-Americans, for Hispanic-Americans, for Asian-Americans, for people with disabilities and for veterans, unemployment hit the lowest level ever recorded for each category during Mr. Trump’s tenure in office.

Overall, more than 6 million jobs have been created since President Trump’s election. The economy achieved the longest positive job-growth streak on record. And there are more job openings — nearly 7.4 million job openings for American workers — than there are people looking for work. __ https://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2019/oct/17/common-sense-conservative-reforms-work/

As the US population grows more heterogeneous, candidates must be able to attract multi-ethnic support in order to win a nation-wide office.

Amid a strong US economy and record numbers of jobs for black and hispanic workers, minority voters in the US are beginning to look approvingly toward the businessman-president. Over 30% of black voters are seeing Trump with approving eyes. The number of those among Hispanics who approve of Trump is roughly 30%, or perhaps a little higher.

Criminal Justice Reform

The topic of criminal justice reform is dear to the hearts of many members of minority communities. President Trump has scored a big win there.

Most people are not aware of the First Step Act, signed into law by President Trump in December of 2018. It is a major achievement in improving the criminal justice system, long overdue.

This law seeks to incentivize prison inmates to participate in training programs targeted at increasing opportunities once released. Participation can earn as many as 47 days per year knocked off their sentences. Inmates also earn lighter sentences while ensuring, after release, they will become a productive member of society.

We all want to see criminals pay their debts for committing crimes, particularly violent felonies. No argument there. But imposing extreme sentences on people who will spend 20 to 50 years behind bars does nothing to rehabilitate. Rather, it further reduces opportunities for ex-inmates to become productive citizens.

Some want to see criminals enter prison for decades. But we forget that most of those inmates will be coming out one day, with nothing but the clothes on their backs. Not everyone has family members or friends. Not all have support systems. Many are released without any source of income. __ https://eu.floridatoday.com/story/opinion/2019/06/21/donald-trumps-criminal-justice-reform-shows-results/1525081001/

Government Red Tape Needed Slashing

Trump has taken the road less traveled when it comes to government regulation. In government, laws and regulations tend to be passed and left in place long past any justifiable need for them. President Trump seems to be one of the few people in Washington DC to be aware of that corrupt travesty of government business as usual.

The Trump administration on Wednesday reported $23 billion in savings from 176 deregulatory actions in fiscal year 2018. Even more consequential, the administration has issued 65 percent fewer “significant” rules—those with costs that exceed $100 million a year—than the Obama administration, and 51 percent fewer than the Bush administration, after 22 months in office.

The regulatory accounting coincides with the release of the Unified Agenda of Regulatory and Deregulatory Actions, which outlines the rulemaking plans for federal agencies in the coming fiscal year.

In her introduction to the new agenda, Neomi Rao, administrator of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, said, “[I]n modern times, the expansion of the administrative state has placed undue burdens on the public, impeding economic growth, technological innovation, and consumer choice. … Our reform efforts emphasize the rule of law, respect for the Constitution’s separation of powers, and the limits of agency authority.”

The administration in fiscal year 2018 took 57 significant deregulatory actions compared to 14 significant regulatory actions, according to Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs data.

Trump has pledged to “massively” reduce regulation, and he has so far significantly slowed regulatory output.

Ten days after taking office, he issued Executive Order 13771, which requires agencies to offset the cost of any new significant regulation (or guidance) with at least two deregulatory actions. The executive order also established a regulatory budgeting system under which the Office of Management and Budget assigns to agencies a cap on the amount of “incremental costs” that will be allowed for the fiscal year.

__ https://www.heritage.org/government-regulation/commentary/heres-how-much-red-tape-trump-has-cut

Moving the Bureaucracy Out of Washington DC

One of the most startling and striking actions of President Trump is the displacement of a number of federal agency offices out of the nation’s capital, into the nation’s heartland. This dispersal is a thoughtful attempt to reduce the concentration — and thus the corruption — of government powers and government culture.

The article excerpted below looks at the case of the Bureau of Land Management, due to move to Grand Junction, Colorado, from Washington. Several other federal offices have been assigned to move to other locations, far from the DC swampland.

“While we hope all affected employees will be able to follow their positions to the new locations, we understand that the decision for most people has many factors,” the agency added. “We are committed to making sure that all employees have the information and resources they need to make the best decision and will continue to work with employees to ease the transition.”

… “An employee reassigned to a relocated position will remain at the grade and pay of his or her current position; however the respective locality pay will vary based on the location of the position,” the website says.

Locality pay in Washington boosts base salaries by nearly 30 percent. Locality pay in many other parts of the country increases pay by about 15 percent.

A question about whether employees can keep the locality pay that contributes to their current salary, the answer is a simple, “No, this is not an option.” __ https://thehill.com/policy/energy-environment/472074-relocated-blm-staff-face-salary-cuts

This is a good start toward draining the swamp. But more is needed.

US Democrats, on the other hand, seem only able to grow the size and corruption of government — and the deep state swamp.

So Who Will Win?

Donald Trump is giving minority voters better reasons to vote for him rather than for his opponents — and gives voters of all stripes reasons to avoid the hidebound insanity of the post-modern leftist political-academic-media industrial complex. And so the calculations for winners and losers in 2020 become clouded in mist for most forecasters.

… poverty rates for African-Americans and Hispanic-Americans have reached the lowest levels on record during this term. The policies of the Trump administration are working.

This year will be the first time that people will see a decrease in their health care premiums since Obamacare caused them to rise. Mr. Trump signed the “Right to Try” legislation into law that expands experimental treatments for people facing a terminal illness. And prescription drug prices have fallen for the first time in 46 years — saving Americans more than $26 billion.

Now, some want to turn over operations of our healthcare system to the federal government. That would likely lead to longer wait times, poor service, higher costs and other problems. And taxes will go up on the middle class under their plan. __ https://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2019/oct/17/common-sense-conservative-reforms-work/

Extremists who run the US Democratic Party want to turn everything over to the federal government — which they hope to control for the indefinite future. The deep state would benefit from such a turn of events, and the elitists behind the deep state would profit enormously. But the common people would suffer out of sight and largely unremarked by media and activist voices. Because, well, follow the money.

More: Is Trump following in FDR’s footprints?

Posted in Donald Trump, Economics, Politics | Tagged | 2 Comments

A New Way for China?

An Uncertain Future

Hong Kong embraces democracy, rejects Beijing. Worse: Communist party officials deluding themselves — this delusion could lead to civil war inside China.

The people of China must follow where the Communist Party of China leads them. Yet, if things get bad enough — if too many promises are broken — they may decide to stop following, and find their own way into the future.

Inflation, Skyscraper Curse, Property Bubble

A Dark Future

Chinese businesses are facing an increasingly dark future. For most western businesses at this time it is best to just cut their losses.

China’s economy is hurting right now. On the one hand, food prices are soaring. See China’s consumer prices rise at fastest clip in nearly 8 years, as pork prices continue to soar. On the other hand, exports are plunging. See China’s exports decline for third successive month in October. Reliable economic indicaters (as opposed to official government statistics) paint an economy in trouble. See China’s economy is in more trouble than markets think. See also China’s car sales drop for 16th consecutive month as October falls 4 per cent. The tariffs are not helping nor is the Chinese government’s crackdown on private businesses. On top of the economic issues, many Chinese companies have become both wary of and angry at the West, particularly the United States. This too makes things riskier for foreign companies… __ China recapitulates 1990s Russia

Prices are rising

In what is becoming a daily scene in markets, restaurants and office buildings across China, ordinary citizens cannot help but share their worries about the sharp rise in the cost of living, and discuss how to save money.

This trend comes in response to a new environment of rising prices and slower economic growth, which is leading to growing discontent among the public. __ https://www.msn.com/en-my/money/topstories/chinas-rising-prices-driven-by-pork-crisis-leaving-a-bad-taste-in-the-mouths-of-chinese-consumers-businesses/ar-BBXcFdG?

Skyscraper Boom Crashes

As China’s economic growth slumps to three-decade lows, credit for property developers has been turned off. FT also learned that construction of more than a dozen skyscrapers, some more than 900 feet tall, have been postponed or behind schedule in 2019.

“Demand for office space has weakened considerably due to the slowing economy,” said Cherry Hu, an analyst at Cushman & Wakefield in Wuhan. “The situation is not going to improve any time soon.”

__ https://www.zerohedge.com/markets/chinas-skyscraper-boom-halted-amid-developer-default

Ominous Property Bubble

… long-term, malinvested projects that seemed to be feasible will eventually become impossible to carry out. Resources pulled toward early stages of production will need to be liquidated, and the economy will inevitably suffer a predictable recession. __ https://seekingalpha.com/article/4307929-chinas-growing-real-estate-bubble

China Follows Japan’s Example

China is rapidly growing old as bad debt accumulates.

Population Demographics

China resembles Japan in what is arguably the most important long-term factor affecting debt and prices: population demographics.

Japan’s paradigm shifted when it’s workforce began to shrink, which was ~15 years before its overall population began shrinking, and China is in a very similar position today.

$250 Trillion in Global Debt: How Can That Be Paid back?

In light of population demographics, increasing needs of healthcare of retirees, and massively underfunded pensions I again ask, $250 Trillion in Global Debt: How Can That Be Paid back?

Population demographics alone show the futility of central bank efforts to cram more debt into a global financial system choking on debt. __ https://www.fxstreet.com/analysis/key-thought-of-the-day-china-today-is-like-japan-in-1989-201911241406

Since the financial reforms of Deng in the late 1970s, China has been on a wild economic ride. Thanks to a huge amount of overseas investment and technology transfer from the outside, China has maintained the appearance of an increasingly prosperous industrial and military power. But the investment has slowed, and the technology transfer is becoming more reluctant — as decades of Chinese theft, counterfeit, and piracy pile up. China’s roller coaster is beginning the inevitable decline.

China’s government can make things much worse if it chooses badly on Hong Kong:

Foreign companies will accelerate their exit from the Chinese market by moving to safer manufacturing countries, including the United States and India. The benefits of operating in other countries will make abandoning China so attractive that once they leave, they won’t return. These include safeguarding their intellectual property, full ownership, avoiding sweatshop, prison and child labor, stronger labor and environmental laws, less bribery and corruption, and higher quality control.

  • China’s international and business reputations will suffer greatly.
  • Foreign investments in China will slow or cease, at least for a few years.
  • Chinese companies will lose stock market value around the world, as happened following the imposition of tariffs by President Donald Trump on Chinese products.
  • Unemployment in China would rise with the loss of manufacturing and tourism, which will further contribute to a post-massacre recession or depression. The CCP should understand that 100 million unemployed Chinese would create the conditions for a revolution…
  • Countries that dispute China’s territorial claims, particularly in the “first” and “second island chains” surrounding and beyond the South China and East China seas, will dramatically increase their defenses and their activities to protect the freedom of the seas and airways in the region.
  • The Philippines may become a stronger U.S. ally against Chinese expansionism, and the United States will be better able to unite the region against China…
  • China’s “One Belt, One Road” initiative could be at risk from host countries, as anti-China feelings arise worldwide.
  • Chinese citizens will see their incomes fall as the economy drifts to recession and perhaps depression.

__ Source

Promises of rising wealth have been made to the Chinese people, but the economy is showing signs of difficulty — the promises are beginning to fall by the wayside. Over the long span of Chinese history, when the people are disappointed they begin looking for new places to shift their allegiance.

With all his opponents in jail and his fellow citizens either cowed into silence or awed by China’s wealth and power, Xi should be in a prime position to celebrate his nation’s birthday and bask in the glory of a successful plenum. But his actions and the society he and his minions are creating speak less to confidence than to a small-minded obsession with control. China shook the world because its people dared to dream big. Those dreams are being squeezed into the narrow Chinese dream of Xi Jinping.
__ Source by John Pomfret

The most accurate view of China today may come from fiction: the novel “China Dream” by Ma Jian. One must understand both the people and the incentives that they face. Neither task is easy.

Posted in China | Tagged | Leave a comment

Sweden Kills its Own Elderly to Make Way for Violent and Hapless Immigrants

Sweden: No Place for Old Men or Old Women

Sweden is importing violence, unemployment, and quasi-genocide. For ideological reasons, Sweden’s elite have opened the door to uneducated, unskilled immigrants from violent parts of the world. As a consequence, Sweden’s municipalities cannot afford to meet the obligations of Sweden’s social contract to its own elderly pensioners.

Unemployment in Sweden a Huge Inconvenience

Sweden is expanding its policy of importing unskilled, uneducated, inexperienced immigrants. Such a policy is not meant to benefit Swedes — especially not elderly or disabled Swedes.

  • Ystad municipality will no longer serve hot meals to the elderly and cleaning services will be limited to once every three weeks.
  • Motala municipality had said that it would lower the heat in buildings managed by the city, including old age homes, to save money. “We will take care of the elderly; they will not be freezing, they can have blankets,” the message went.

In Malmö, where unemployment is 13.7 %, almost double the national average, the municipality is looking at a deficit of 390 million kroner ($40.2 million). “This is something we share with many other municipalities. It is due to the demographic development, where fewer [people] have to provide for more,” the financial director of Malmö municipality, Anna Westerling, recently told the daily newspaper Sydsvenskan.

Every fourth municipality and every third region, according to a report by the Swedish Association of Local Authorities and Regions (SKL), had a budget deficit in 2018. At least 110 municipalities expect to run a deficit this year. (There are 290 municipalities and 21 regions in Sweden.) __ Gatestone Institute

Sweden can no longer take care of its elderly. So more of them will be without enough heat, without enough food, without enough of the right medicines . . . just so Sweden can take care of its growing flood of violent new immigrants.

Why would the Swedish government — with the full support of Sweden’s elite class including its media — flood the nation with people who cannot fit into society? If they cannot contribute to an abundant and expansive Swedish future, but instead contribute high rates of violence, poverty, and hardship — why are they being brought in?

“The industries have a very limited need for people without experience and education.” — Johanna Odö, municipal councilor; Aftonbladet, October 3, 2019.

According to Eurostat, unemployment there was 7.4% in August, whereas the EU average for August was 6.2 %. This leaves Sweden, on Eurostat’s unemployment ranking of countries, at number 24 out of 28. According to the daily newspaper Expressen, one of the main reasons for Sweden’s high unemployment happens to be the large number of immigrants that the country has taken in.

As late as February 2019, Sweden’s Minister of Justice and Migration, Morgan Johansson, mocked those who worried that migration would lead to mass unemployment: “Do you remember when the doomsayers were squawking that migration would lead to mass unemployment?,” he tweeted. “Now: unemployment continues to fall among foreign-born and young people. For domestic-born it is at a record low”.

He cannot mock anyone now. In 2013, Social Democratic leader Stefan Löfven, who has been prime minister since 2014, said he would ensure that by 2020, Sweden would have the lowest unemployment in the EU. That is evidently not about to happen.

The disproportionately large influx of people who do not have the educational or language skills to work in the Swedish economy was never likely to help bring about the lowest unemployment in the EU. As previously reported by Gatestone, the small Swedish city of Filipstad exemplifies a place where the influx of non-Western migrants, some of them illiterate, with little or no education, has meant that the unemployment rate in that group is at 80%: they depend for their livelihoods on the municipality’s social welfare program. __ Gatestone

Swedish Crime Rates Soar

Crime rates inside immigrant haven Sweden are soaring. And now Swedish criminals are crossing the border into Denmark, making Danish crime rates soar as well. Danish authorities are being forced to institute border controls to prevent violent criminals from crossing over from Sweden.

Once, violent crime was rare in Sweden. Now there are no-go zones across the country where even government employees need a police escort before entering. Much of this violence is related to ethnic gangs and cartels that have entered Sweden along with the new immigrants. But some of it emerges from anti-Swedish racism that is manifest by violent newcomers. Rapes, beatings, murders, have now become far more commonplace in a place that was once a happy tourist haven.

Sweden’s Government is to Blame

None of this could have happened without the ruling class’ headlong rush into a “reconstructing Sweden” mentality. Postmodern thinking across many nations of Europe dictates the need to destroy thousands of years of tradition and evolution of national character. Instead, the countries of Europe have been packed with outsiders who cannot speak the language, do not want to understand the customs of the natives, have no respect for or courtesy toward the instincts and habits that made Europe prosperous and orderly.

If there are people whose support should be cut off, it is the elites and governing classes that have engineered this growing calamity of violence and suffering. The first step would be to separate them completely from any financial support from the taxpayers they are fleecing and killing. The second step should be considered very carefully.

Posted in Demographics, Europe | Tagged | 3 Comments

A Sugar Miracle and Other Stories


Imagine being able to eat all the ice cream and cookies you wanted without having to worry about your blood sugar or dental decay! The problem is not with sugar per se, but with the type of sugar being used. Substitute a healthier type of sugar in place of sucrose, and what was once a dream might become a reality.

Imagine a sugar that has only 38 percent of the calories of traditional table sugar, is safe for diabetics, and will not cause cavities. Now add that this dream sweetener is not an artificial substitute but a real sugar found in nature and it tastes like, well, sugar. You’d probably want to use that in your next cup of coffee, right?

This sugar is called tagatose. The FDA has approved it as a food additive, and there have been no reports to date of the problems that many sugar substitutes have—such as a metallic taste, or worse, links to cancer… __ https://phys.org/news/2019-11-bacteria-low-calorie-sugar.html

A natural sugar that is safe for diabetics and doesn’t cause dental decay sounds like a miracle sugar for a modern age. With only 38% of the calories of sucrose, the sugar tagatose may even help mitigate the obesity epidemic! But what is the catch? Up until now, tagatose has been far too expensive to make in commercial quantities, costing roughly 10X as much as sucrose for equivalent quantities.

But Tufts University scientists have discovered a way to use a form of Lactobacillus bacteria as a bioreactor, to manufacture the miracle sugar tagatose at much higher yields for improved economics of production. As costs come down, the miracle sugar becomes more accessible for everyone.

In a recent publication in Nature Communications, Assistant Professor Nikhil Nair and postdoctoral fellow Josef Bober, both from the School of Engineering, came up with an innovative way to produce the sugar using bacteria as tiny bioreactors that encapsulate the enzymes and reactants. __ https://phys.org/news/2019-11-bacteria-low-calorie-sugar.html

Tagatose as treatment for diabetes and obesity — From the Journal of Endocrinology, Diabetes, and Obesity:

Treatment success, as measured by the reduction of HbA1c, was greatest for the 7.5 g D-tagatose dose group, although the difference between the treatments was not statistically significant. For fasting glucose, only the 7.5 g dosage group exhibited reductions from baseline at the 3- and 6-month time points. Mean body weights reduced in a dose-response fashion, with the 5.0 g and the 7.5 g D-tagatose doses providing the greatest reductions. D-tagatose at dosages of 2.5 g, 5.0 g, and 7.5 g TID for six months were well tolerated by this subject population. D-tagatose at 5.0 g TID was the minimal dose required to reduce HbA1c. D-tagatose at 7.5 g TID provided the greatest effect in most measured efficacy parameters.

Note that there is nothing new about tagatose itself. What is new is the prospect of the inexpensive mass production of a healthy sugar which itself may eventually be used as therapy for diabetes and obesity — and which does not promote tooth decay. This is a different approach to one of the natural pleasures of life, an approach which should perhaps be pursued for some of the other natural pleasures which may have been erroneously viewed as perpetually harmful.

Other Stories

Under a leftist government, Mexico is deteriorating rapidly. Nancy Pelosi could help if only she would.

Speaker Pelosi has just made clear – just today – that USMCA, the free trade deal with Mexico and Canada which will boost our economy, won’t be signed this year.

_ Devin Nunes

Market doomers made to look like hilarious fools

Artificial Intelligence still stinks

China is facing a widening range of problems

China may not be the formidable force that it once seemed to be. Its economy is not the powerhouse that it was as recently as five years ago; it suffers from the consequences of its now discarded one-child policy; riots take place regularly throughout the country; and it has a restive Muslim population that increasingly is being relegated to concentration camps. All of the foregoing forebodes trouble, not only for President Xi, but for the Communist Party, and perhaps for China itself.

US House of Representatives impeachment hearings are backfiring on Democratic Party politicians and on the news media. The longer this spectacle continues, the bigger the democrats’ problems may become.

Representative Devin Nunes sums up the situation perfectly in his closing statement at the hearings:

I have stressed in these hearings that the whistleblower complaint was merely a pretext for Donald Trump’s political opponents to do what they’ve been trying to do since he was elected – oust the President from office. A brief timeline will illustrate the wide range of extraordinary attacks his administration has faced. __ Source

Nunes proceeds to devastate the democrats’ entire case, using a timeline obtained from publicly available information.

President Trump asks for a prolonged impeachment trial at the US Senate next year. In order to bring the entire sordid affair into the cleansing light, Trump wants a lot of time to call witnesses — lots of witnesses that the democrats do not want talking. Can the democrats “Epstein” them all? Not likely.

How China lost its trade war clout.

Hong Kong Dilemma

Iran is in a pickle

The Ukraine scandal timeline Democrats and their media allies don’t want America to see

A peak behind the curtain of power

Lt. Col. Vindman can’t handle the truth.

Posted in food, geopolitics | Tagged | Leave a comment

Can Rapamycin Help You Live to 200?

The mTOR pathway is switched on when lots of nutrients are present and it stimulates growth and reproduction. If you impair the pathway, or make it less efficient, an organism will prepare for a situation with less nutrients, and begin to conserve and remodel tissue, says Selman. In this way, it is similar to the impact of calorie deficits in lab animals, pressing cells into a ‘repair, maintenance, rebuild’ mode. ‘Rapamycin inhibits a particular complex in the mTOR pathway. If you feed mice rapamycin, you extend their lifespan quite significantly,’ Selman explains. Low doses of rapamycin tunes down mTOR in mice and lengthens their lifespan. __ Can We Live Forever?

Rapamycin is an antifungal drug used most often to minimise organ rejection in organ transplant patients, and to coat prosthetic implants such as stents, to minimise rejection. Rapamycin is an allosteric inhibitor of mammalian TOR complex 1 (mTORC1), a regulator of cell growth and proliferation.

Can Aging Be Reversed by Rapamycin and Other Drugs?


The Slideshare presentation above was first spotted at Nextbigfuture. The presentation looks at research on a number of available prescription drugs that may lead to incremental life extension for some humans. Rapamycin is one particular drug that is receiving significant attention from scientists with an interest in gerontology. Metformin is another drug that shows some promise for life extension.

For significant ageing reversal, several different gene expression networks would have to be influenced. Many of these crucial networks have either not been defined, or are otherwise less than perfectly understood.

mTORC1 integrates multiple signals from growth factors, oxygen, energy levels and nutrients such as amino acids to promote cell growth and proliferation by activation of anabolic processes such as protein, lipid and nucleotide synthesis, stimulation of energy metabolism such as glycolysis and glutaminolysis, and inhibition of catabolic process such as autophagy.
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3972801/

Rapamycin for Life Extension is Available From Some Physicians in US

NYC physician Alan S. Green was recently interviewed about his use of rapamycin in his practise of anti-ageing medicine.

Alan S. Green, M.D. understood the potential of rapamycin and began, and continues, to take it himself. He began to use rapamycin as the basis of his medical practice, and has so far treated hundreds of patients with it. I first interviewed Dr. Green a couple of years ago (here), and I’m pleased now to present an updated interview to discuss his experience with over two years of practicing anti-aging medicine using rapamycin.

Dr. Alan S. Green: My first anti-aging patient drove from Ontario, Canada to my NYC office on 4/22/17. Your first interview which posted on 6/5/17 was of huge importance in increasing patient awareness. The second patient was seen on 6/16/17. At that point in time, the only person in the public domain who had taken weekly rapamycin for a year or more was me.

Now approximately 2 years later, this office has seen over 360 patients. In my opinion, the results have been spectacular. No patient has died and nobody has had a serious complication. It is still my opinion that rapamycin is the greatest new drug since the dawn of the age of antibiotics some ninety years ago.

Documentation of the long-term results, which I expect to be that very many patients live to 105 in good health with a lowered incidence of cancer, heart disease and Alzheimer’s disease, should be available in 30 years. However, the short-term results are excellent. Weekly rapamycin is a safe drug. Good to excellent results are frequently apparent within months. Subjectively, many patients note an improvement in function of their brain and heart. They feel better, think better, have more energy and get less tired with moderate or strenuous physical activity. Weight control is much easier. Insulin sensitivity, I consider the best indicator of good metabolic health, usually improves. __ https://roguehealthandfitness.com/rapamycin-anti-aging-medicine-an-update-with-alan-s-green-m-d/

The comments section below the interview linked above contains one or two very interesting comments pertinent to the human use of rapamycin for anti-ageing.

Here is a longer list of US physicians who are practising anti-ageing medicine with the intent to reverse ageing.

Effects of rapamycin in various diseases. A growing body of evidence has demonstrated that although limited, rapamycin or rapalogs are beneficial for treating various diseases including cancer, diabetes, tuberous sclerosis complex, lymphangioleiomyomatosis, neurodegenerative diseases and aging. FDA-approved cases are described.
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3972801/

Can Rapamycin Help You to Live to 200?

Not by itself, and probably not when combined with any other known drugs at this time. The use of drugs such as metformin and rapamycin may provide marginal (perhaps as much as 5-10 years) improvement in longevity for some lucky candidates. But the treatments are not without risk themselves. Be fully informed and walk cautiously, if you are considering this approach. Commercial anti-ageing has always been a haven for scammers.

Genuine age-reversal would require broad spectrum chemotherapy plus genetic alteration plus heavy-duty system cleaning and stem cell therapies. New forms of in situ organ tissue rejuvenation or partial organ transplants will be developed and utilised, with the likelihood of synthetic organ prosthetic implants — including endocrine replacement implants. The combined therapies would require several weeks at the start, and would be life-threatening — requiring the equivalent of intensive care hospitalisation for most of that time. The estimated cost for such a thing, if it were available, is roughly US $10 million (2019 dollars) for initial therapy plus testing… and a substantial yearly maintenance fee. Later, as risks and efficacies become better defined, the costs might come down closer to the six digit range. Insurances would not cover such things, so come with cash in hand.

In terms of therapeutic targets, anti-ageing medicine has come a long way in the past ten years. But having a target is just a beginning, not an accomplishment. With improved focus and growing experience, every year should bring new biochemical and gene targets — and perhaps some new therapeutic agents that are safer and more effective than the ones available now.

Old School Life Extension: Suspended Animation

The Cryonics Institute and the Alcor Foundation are two institutions that have offered cryonic suspended animation to customers at death. This is done in the explicit hope that future science will allow customers to be revived sometime years from now, largely whole and rejuvenated. Clearly such an approach is not ready for prime time, but for many people it seems the best chance for an afterlife.

A form of “lite suspended animation” which is finding its way into US hospitals, is Emergency Preservation and Resuscitation (EPR). EPR is a very short-term, last gasp attempt to resuscitate a dying patient when all other methods have failed. It involves using whole body replacement of blood by ice-cold saline (or other more complex iv solutions). This stops the heart and essentially quiets all brain activity. It also minimises metabolic activity in other, less active organs.

EPR is only good for ten minutes or so, and from the outset it is likely to fail due to the selection process itself: It is only used when chances for survival are extremely low.

EPR grew directly from a procedure that has been used for several decades in open heart surgery: cardioplegia.

Cardioplegic solutions provide myocardial protection via a combination of three overlapping mechanisms:

induction of chemical cardiac arrest,

myocardial hypothermia, and

additional protection provided by measures such as the addition of acid–base buffers, energy substrates, or oxygenated blood to the cardioplegia infusion. _ More

While the heart is stopped, the patient’s blood circulation is sent through a “heart-lung” machine and is carefully monitored to prevent extracorporeal clotting.

Even this very basic long-utilised form of “suspended animation” requires careful balancing to maximise the chances for successful resuscitation.

Practical Life Extension

Eat healthy and regular meals ample for your nutritional needs. Exercise daily. Sleep regularly, at least 7 hours nightly on average. Avoid unnecessary and unproductive stress — but learn to deal with unexpected stress as it occurs. Take a daily well balanced multi-vitamin that dissolves well in water (test it yourself against other brands), avoiding excess iron. Set short, intermediate, and long-term goals of a positive nature — and plot your path toward them using a method such as Jordan Peterson’s “self-authoring.”

Beyond that you must do your own research and make decisions for yourself. There is a delicate balance between wise supplementation and “making very expensive urine.” Be your own authority and your own doctor, because in this field the best medical authorities are themselves just “winging it.” Use medical people for their value as well-read reference sources and sounding boards. By tuning in to the right frequencies you can often hear things that may lead you to rich veins of ore. But always beware of things that sound too good to be true.

More:

The Fight Aging! website can help you keep updated on the research. That site has been on the blogroll of most of the Al Fin blogs for over a decade. Consult the fightaging.org blogroll for a long list of anti-ageing related websites and other resources.

Macrolide antibiotics seem to be unconventional senolytics

Posted in Longevity | Tagged | 2 Comments

Fearful China in Trade War With Largest Customer

In China, people at the highest levels are beginning to fear. China’s victory lap around the One Belt One Road was meant to carry it in triumph across the entire occupied globe. But Hong Kong happened. Xinjiang is taking too long to pacify. Taiwan tightened up. And somebody leaked sensitive papers on Chinese plans of oppression.

All of this is framed by a primordial fear. Before Mao’s victory, regional conflicts tore China apart and allowed the Japanese to seize major parts of the country. Regional conflicts in the future are the single biggest threat that China does not want to face again. The Chinese are suppressing the threat in Xinjiang, and now maybe in Hong Kong. But China does not want to have to suppress regional threats. Xi, however, is doing just that and he also came in suppressing political threats with the purges. Between that and mishandling the Americans, many nerves are being touched. I would bet that the leak came from the Central Committee, and that Xi has enemies.__ GF

Perhaps Xi has failed to crush the Tuanpei sufficiently. Perhaps another of the princelings feels emboldened by Xi’s ineptness in pacifying Xinjiang, suppressing the Hong Kong rebellion, or in cowing Taiwan sufficiently. Perhaps the CPC is infiltrated by spies of Germany or France, trying to weaken the Chinese so as to obtain better trade terms. 😉

Xi’s incompetence is manifest. The major task of the Chinese president is to handle the American president, and Barack Obama, George W. Bush and Bill Clinton were handled. He failed to bring Donald Trump under control with promises of future meetings and postponed studies. As a result, China is in a trade war with its largest customer. In addition, quite apart from the trade issue, the Chinese financial system is unstable and growth is slowing. Now, Hong Kong is out of control, and the global talk is of Chinese concentration camps. This is not what was expected from Xi.

The Central Committee is the ultimate arbiter of what China does, particularly if the president weakens and loses his way. There must be some in the Central Committee who remember Xi’s inauguration and have concluded that China’s evolution has not gone the way they expected and Xi promised. Geopolitical Futures

We are living in interesting time, and Mr. Xi is beginning to discover this. Mr. Trump would like to help, but he is distracted by petty whining children with names like Schiff, Omar, Pelosi, and Maddow. These must be frequently spanked and that takes much of his time.

China isn’t well prepared to fight a trade war with America. For a couple of reasons. One of them is that its economy is slowing, as it faces the “middle income trap,” and the Lewis turning point.

The income trap is a situation where a country’s growth rate slows down as it reaches middle income. The Lewis point is a situation where the “reserve army” of labor shrinks, pushing wages and eroding the country’s competitive advantage in labor intensive industries. Chinese labor becomes expensive vis-à-vis India, Vietnam, and Indonesia. And that places additional pressure on the country’s growth.

Meanwhile, China has yet to develop a robust domestic consumer market that will accommodate its growing production capacity. __ Forbes

Those who pay attention understand that this so-called trade war is merely an appeal by President Trump for China to reform its ways of doing business. But since long evolution has “baked in” the Chinese character that underlies China’s ways of doing business, nothing significant is likely to be changed by the use of outside persuasion — at least not in the very short term.

All of Nobel Prizes in science awarded to Chinese were won by scientists who had done their main research in the west. The overseas Chinese phenomenon is significant in that “divergent evolution” is taking place before our very eyes. If the “Chinese character” and ways of doing business are going to change, they are likely to change via divergent evolution — fast and slow.

Background Reading:

PDF review of “Poorly Made in China” by Paul Midler

https://strategypage.com/qnd/china/articles/20191114.aspx

‘You can never be China’s friend’: Spengler

https://www.theepochtimes.com/tuvalu-rejects-china-offer-to-build-islands-retains-ties-with-taiwan_3152494.html

The Pressure on China

The Chinese Govt Is Scanning Churchgoers’ Faces, Fingers

Posted in China | Tagged | Leave a comment

The End of Babies, and Other Misc.

Around the developed world, economic pressures are suppressing birth rates and rates of new family formation. In the US, student loan debt plays a large role. In China and Russia, general economic conditions are harsh. In Europe, a dark malaise of intangible fear hangs over much of the continent.

[Ms. Yuan and others were quick] to note China’s harsh economic conditions, a factor that rarely, if ever, came up in Denmark. She cited, for instance, the high cost of urban living. “Everything is super expensive,” she said, and quality of life, especially in big cities, “is extremely low.”

The factors suppressing fertility in China are present throughout the country: In rural areas, where 41 percent of its nearly 1.4 billion citizens still live, there is little enthusiasm for second children, and policymakers can seemingly do even less about it. In Xuanwei Prefecture, after the central government announced in 2013 that couples in which one spouse was an only child could apply for permission to have a second baby, just 36 people sought such approval in the first three months — in a region of around 1.25 million people. “Local family planning officials blamed economic pressure on young couples for the low take-up,” the authors of a study on China and fertility wrote. ___ https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2019/11/16/opinion/sunday/capitalism-children.html via PO

As countries grow older and their populations die away, their economies will crumble. What if they hold an economy, and no one shows up? That may be the future of the developed world.

In Japan, senior citizens are being forced to work well into their 70s. South Korea is wealthy, but it is losing 600,000 people a year to demographic factors. Russia is melting before our eyes. Iran is losing population at the same time its government is losing respect from its own people. Iran’s “revolutionary” future is dim.

A Hopeful Sign?

Brian Wang says we will soon be able to live 200 years or longer, so perhaps that will ease the impact from fewer babies being born to more advanced populations. But what about places such as sub Saharan Africa or Pakistan, where populations are exploding with new arrivals whose long-term prospects are dismal? Signs are mixed.

New evidence that the brains of women seem to be “rejuvenated” by pregnancy, may encourage some women to have babies — who might otherwise have abstained for various other reasons.

Other Stories

Chinese science is rife with fraud

Fossil fuels hold their ground

Campaign Slogan for US 2020 Election: Communists killed 100 million in the 20th century. Let’s give them another chance!

Impeachment Theatre Opens Window Into Workings of Deep State Swamp

US House of Representatives’ Impeachment Theatre losing respect: “No There, There”

Is it Really OK to be White? How an innocuous assertion becomes the stuff of “white supremacy” in the age of idiocracy.

The world is much too interesting to make grand predictions based on linear extrapolation. Everything you think you know, just ain’t so. It isn’t getting any easier. Hope for the best, prepare for the worst. It is never too late to have a Dangerous Childhood © .

Posted in Demographics | Tagged | 3 Comments

Perils of “Crisis Thinking”

In a genuine disaster, most people’s brains fail them. Here is a list of ways in which the “crisis thinking” of most people leads them astray:

1. Freezing

Though it looks passive from the outside, when we’re paralysed with fear the brain is actively putting on the brakes. As adrenaline surges through the body and our muscles tense, the primitive “little brain” at the base of our necks sends a signal to keep us rooted to the spot.

2. Inability to Think

In a disaster, the speed at which we think through our options goes from bad to worse. The brain’s first port of call is to flood with the “feel good” hormone dopamine. This may seem counter-intuitive, but though it’s usually associated with reward pathways, dopamine also plays a crucial role in preparing the body to face danger. It triggers the release of more hormones, including adrenaline and the stress chemical cortisol. And this is where it gets messy.

This cocktail of hormones shuts down the prefrontal cortex, which sits behind the forehead and is responsible for higher functions such as working memory. Just when we need our wits the most, we become forgetful and prone to making bad decisions.

3. Tunnel Vision

Intriguingly, this tunnel vision is also seen in those who have permanently damaged their prefrontal cortex, suggesting that the brain’s stress response switching off this region might be to blame for inflexible thinking in moments of crisis.

4. Staying Stuck in Routine

“The number of people who have been killed going back to get their wallet from their house, or checking if they’ve left the oven on…” says James Goff, a specialist in disaster and emergency management at the University of Hawaii.

5. Denial

“Invariably over 50% of the population do it, they go down to the sea to watch the tsunami,” says Goff. He has photographs of people watching the Indian Ocean tsunami on Boxing Day in 2004, taken by a person who was racing to get to high ground.

According to Robinson, denial usually happens for two reasons; either because they fail to interpret the situation as dangerous, or because they simply don’t want to. The latter is extremely common in the event of a wildfire, since often evacuating your home means consigning it to ruin.

__ BBC

Al Fin has been in a few life or death emergencies. He remembers the cocktail of “feel-good” chemicals having been delivered to his bloodstream almost every time. But the result of those chemicals was usually an intensification of the feeling of “presence,” and an enhanced ability to act calmly. Of course, the next emergency Al Fin stumbles into may be the one where he does everything wrong. That person who acts perfectly in an emergency may as well be someone else even if it is you, if Mr. Fin’s recollections are anything to judge by.

The best advice seems to be to make yourselves very Dangerous indeed. That is how life is, whether we are paying attention or not — dangerous. Best to be aware, and to make yourself prepared for whatever may be.

Note:

When people like Sully Sullenberger act in an exemplary manner during a crisis, it is because their training was impeccable and because their brains react well to the crisis experience. Their brain reaction times are fast, they home in on the salient facts and track the changing situation more quickly than most others would. They select among the best action options at lightning speed.

These are the people you want at the controls — not the people who have never done an honest day’s work in their lives, and who live in fear of taking responsibility or making a meaningful public decision. In other words, not college professors, not most journalists, not most politicians, not most bureaucrats, diplomats, or activists.

But you want these special people at the right controls — the places they were over-trained to occupy, at the peak of their training. Such are the pilots, surgeons, business decision-makers, rescue workers, combat point-men, construction workers, deep-rock miners, rescue workers, fire fighters, and other potential heroes who you want to be in the right place at the right time. And they are not necessarily all men.

What is the best training for kids to meet the crisis situations of tomorrow? Teach them to climb rocks, paddle rapids, sail boats in all conditions, find the calmness inside themselves, camp in snow caves they build themselves, ski and snow shoe cross country using map and compass, and to learn basic rescue, lifesaving, and first aid. If they learn to make these things second nature as kids, they are more likely to remember the basics if and when a crisis erupts.

Posted in Cognition, Competence | Tagged | Leave a comment

“Artificial Intelligence” in Psychiatry

We have come a long way since Joseph Weizenbaum’s 1966 program ELIZA began psychoanalysing students and staff of MIT. ELIZA was a “knee-jerk” therapist, which asked repetitive questions based almost entirely on the students’ comments to it. Follow the link above to experiment with ELIZA yourself. You may feel better after, if only from laughing.


These days we have “machine learning” and “deep learning” programs that are capable of predicting the onset of psychoses or suicide attempts to roughly 85% accuracy. Other programs can identify “emotional distress” in college students and can actually communicate with students in a therapeutic manner. The following excerpt comes from an article in the August 2019 issue of Current Psychiatry titled “Artificial Intelligence in Psychiatry”:

[Researchers may] categorize AI into 2 types: general or “strong” AI, and narrow or “weak” AI. Strong AI is defined as computers that can think on a level at least equal to humans and are able to experience emotions and even consciousness.7 Weak AI includes adding “thinking-like” features to computers to make them more useful tools. Almost all AI technologies available today are considered to be weak AI.

… In a prospective study, researchers at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital used a machine-learning algorithm to evaluate 379 patients who were categorized into 3 groups: suicidal, mentally ill but not suicidal, or controls. All participants complelted a standardized behavioral rating scale and participated in a semi-structured interview. Based on the participants’ linguistic and acoustic characteristics, the algorithm was able to classify them into the 3 groups with 85% accuracy…

… A similar study looked at 34 at-risk youth in an attempt to predict who would develop psychosis based on speech pattern analysis. The participants underwent baseline interviews and were assessed quarterly for 2.5 years. The algorithm was able to predict who would develop psychosis with 100% accuracy.

… A project at the University of Southern California called Simsensei/Multisense uses software to track real-time behavior descriptors such as facial expression, body postures, and acoustic features that can help identify psychological distress. This software is combined with a virtual human platform that communicates with the patient as a therapist would. __ Artificial Intelligence in Psychiatry

Psychiatrists are Not Worried… Yet

Most psychiatrists believe that they cannot be replaced by machines. But some are concerned that lower level therapists may be replaced — to the detriment of patient care.

About 50% of psychiatrists in a recent survey believe that artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning will significantly transform the way they work, but only 4% think that future autonomous technology will replace them.

… Among the salient findings of the survey:
• Only 4% of psychiatrists felt that future technology would make their jobs obsolete
• Only 17% believed technology is likely to replace a human’s role in providing empathetic care
• More women (48%) psychiatrists than men (35%) were uncertain that the benefits of AI and machine learning would outweigh the risks
• More US psychiatrists (46%) than those in other countries (32%) were uncertain that the benefits of future autonomous technology would outweigh the risks

The majority of psychiatrists also indicated that future technology would be unlikely to replace physicians for complex tasks such as a mental status examination (67%), assessing the risk of violence (58%), and determining the need for hospitalization (55%).

There were only two tasks that the majority felt technology would likely replace:
• Providing patient documentation, such as updating medical records (75%)
• Synthesizing patient information to reach diagnoses (54%)
…__ https://www.psychiatrictimes.com/technology/what-psychiatrists-think-about-artificial-intelligence

The question of whether “AI” will replace most skilled human experts is still an open one for many professions, including psychiatry. But we can be sure that computer scientists and their collaborators will continue trying to develop advanced computing platforms that are capable of doing all that and more.

…therapists base their diagnosis and treatment plan largely on listening to a patient talk—an age-old method that can be subjective and unreliable, notes paper co-author Brita Elvevåg, a cognitive neuroscientist at the University of Tromsø, Norway.

“Humans are not perfect. They can get distracted and sometimes miss out on subtle speech cues and warning signs,” Elvevåg says. “Unfortunately, there is no [objective test] for mental health.”

… Elvevåg and Foltz teamed up to develop machine learning technology able to detect day-to-day changes in speech that hint at mental health decline.

For instance, sentences that don’t follow a logical pattern can be a critical symptom in schizophrenia. Shifts in tone or pace can hint at mania or depression. And memory loss can be a sign of both cognitive and mental health problems.

“Language is a critical pathway to detecting patient mental states,” says Foltz. “Using mobile devices and AI, we are able to track patients daily and monitor these subtle changes.”

… In one recent study, the team asked human clinicians to listen to and assess speech samples of 225 participants—half with severe psychiatric issues; half healthy volunteers—in rural Louisiana and Northern Norway. They then compared those results to those of the machine learning system.

“We found that the computer’s AI models can be at least as accurate as clinicians,” says Foltz. __ https://medicalxpress.com/news/2019-11-artificial-intelligence-psychiatry.html

Psychiatrist in a Smart Phone?

The idea of carrying our personal psychoanalyst/psychotherapist in our pockets or purses may seem unlikely at this time. But already there are apps for anxiety, addiction, insomnia, and other problems of the mind. As smartphones get smarter and advanced computing platforms become more mobile, you can count on some amazing mind-benders coming along soon.

There might be as many as 1,000 smartphone-based ‘biomarkers’ for depression, said Dr. Thomas Insel, former head of the National Institute of Mental Health and now a leader in the smartphone psychiatry movement. At the moment, researchers are testing experimental apps that use artificial intelligence to try to predict depressive episodes or potential self-harm. Another tool called EARS (Effortless Assessment of Risk States) also uses smartphone data to identify people in psychological distress and may someday help flag individuals at risk of suicide.

… many smartphone-based applications have been developed in recent years that are able to proactively check on patients, be ready to listen and chat anytime, anywhere, and recommend activities that improve the users’ wellbeing. No matter whether it’s 3 a.m., the chatbot is ready to listen to any trouble and no one has to wait until the next appointment with the therapist. Moreover, these applications are usually more affordable than therapy itself, thus also those people could get some help who could otherwise not get any counselling at all. __ https://medicalfuturist.com/artificial-intelligence-in-mental-health-care/

Word of Caution

Some of us remember the days of the Soviet Union, when psychiatry was used by authorities as a bludgeon against political dissidents and free thinkers. Soviet “mental hospitals” were full of persons whose only mental weakness was the inability to conform completely to the whims of the nomenklatura apparatchiks.

In modern Communist Party China, the Social Credit System is poised to take Orwell’s 1984 (and the Soviet Union) into the 21st century — using advanced tools of “artificial intelligence.”

A low social credit score will exclude you from well-paid jobs, make it impossible for you to get a house or a car loan or even book a hotel room. The government will slow down your internet connection, ban your children from attending private schools and even post your profile on a public blacklist for all to see.

… There are reports that those whose social credit score falls too low are preemptively arrested and sent to re-education camps. Not because they have actually committed a crime, but because they are likely to.

China’s already formidable police state has been upgraded using big data, machine learning, face recognition technology and artificial intelligence into a fearsome cyborg of state control. __ https://nypost.com/2019/05/18/chinas-new-social-credit-system-turns-orwells-1984-into-reality/

There is no question whether China’s communist party government will enlist “artificial psychiatry” into its grand crusade to perfect purity of thought and action. Of course it will, once it has tools that work as prescribed — and that can be integrated into the autonomous system.

Meanwhile, outside of the Chicom-controlled sector, we still have some time to prepare for what seems almost certain to come along eventually, from our own “well-intentioned” overlords (currently lording over the US House of Representatives). Be aware and be Dangerous. Begin to make provisions. It is never too late to have a Dangerous Childhood © .

Posted in Knowledge, Machine Intelligence | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

A Chinese Tragedy

“Distrust saps the foundation of things.” R.H. Graves _ h/t

The Chinese, as individuals, have no friends. China, as a country, all the less so._ Source


Nobody Trusts China

Certainly overseas Chinese in Hong Kong do not trust China, after long observation. But neither do mainland Chinese trust each other. Westerners who try to do business in China are quickly losing trust in Chinese “partners.

Children everywhere are told “Don’t trust strangers.” In China a lack of trust toward others is fully justified, if one looks closely at the long history of Chinese social culture. And as China’s economy dips yet lower, the trust problem is not likely to be solved any time soon.

Trust among people in China dipped to a record low with less than half of respondents to a recent survey feeling that “most people can be trusted” while only about 30 percent trusted strangers.

… The study, conducted by the Institute of Sociology under the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, was based on a survey that asked more than 1,900 randomly selected residents in seven cities including Beijing and Shanghai about their opinions on trust. __ Source

In China, one is in constant danger of being reported to authorities for any behavioral anomaly from the prescribed norm:

Individuals can earn points, for example, for reporting those who violate the new restrictions on religious practice, such as Christians who illegally meet to pray in private homes, or the Muslim Uyghurs and Kazakhs in China’s far west whom they spot praying in public, fasting during Ramadan or just growing a beard.

Of course, as the state progresses ever closer toward its goal of monitoring all of the activities of its citizens 24 hours a day, seven days a week, society itself becomes a virtual prison. __ https://nypost.com/2019/05/18/chinas-new-social-credit-system-turns-orwells-1984-into-reality/

Prisons are the exemplification of “low-trust” environments. That is China.

There is little trust toward China from Xinjiang, Tibet, or Taiwan either. Religious practitioners inside China — those who are still alive with their organs intact — tend not to trust most institutions in China — or strangers. Their lives depend upon staying suspicious toward those outside their tiny inner circle. China’s neighbors don’t trust China — it’s hard enough holding onto their territory without being suckers with the world’s biggest territorial thief.

Russia Doesn’t Trust China

China has stolen a significant amount of military technology from Russia. So when these Chinese clones crash and burn, Russians tend to chuckle a bit.

Remember that Russian carrier-based jet that China copied without permission? Those airplanes are crashing, and Russia doesn’t seem too broken up about it.

Though Russia and China are now friends, even holding joint exercises, Russia’s Sputnik News recently trotted out an article titled “Chinese Navy Short on Carrier-Based Fighters, Only Has Problem-Ridden J-15.”

The J-15 is an unlicensed copy of Russia’s Su-33 carrier jet, which is a 1980s derivative of the Su-27K land-based fighter. China had acquired a T-10K-3, an Su-33 prototype, from Ukraine and then reverse-engineered it. __ https://news.yahoo.com/china-stole-russias-jet-fighter-203000780.html

Russia’s problem with China’s thieving is a perpetual one, and is not limited to aircraft.

Nobody Trusts China

After being ripped off repeatedly by Chinese kleptomaniacs, a growing number of western manufacturers are moving operations and supply chains out of China.

60 percent of Japanese companies operating in China have been transferred or in the process of transferring out of China to other countries, while the remaining 40 percent are planning how to withdraw their funds, according to a recent report by Kyodo News, a Japanese news agency based in Tokyo.

… Taiwan factories in China that manufacture shoes for Nike, Adidas, Under Armour and other brands have moved their production lines to Southeast Asia and India, according to a Sept.16 report by Japanese financial newspaper Nihon Keizai Shimbun.

… It has become less advantageous to set up factories in China. Over the past decade or so, China’s average manufacturing wages have tripled. Taxes, including social security, energy prices and exchange rates have increased. The soaring costs have weakened China’s competitive advantage as the “world’s factory.” __ Source

Even “normally trusting” American companies have started an exodus from China to other locations less likely to steal technology and other intellectual property.

It is difficult to say whether the unique Chinese relationship with superstition, or whether the high prevalence of gambling addiction among the Chinese, may play a role in the “shifty” nature of Chinese loyalties or allegiances — at least in the world of business. What may appear to be a sign of low character to westerners may simply be a manifestation of something much deeper and more integral to a statistical portion of the Chinese “behavioural phenotype.”

Another significant role is the emphasis and high regard Asian cultures place on superstition, numerology, and the notion of “luck” compared to Western culture. As a result, winning or losing carries a much heavier sense of identification as it can be perceived as a reflection on self. “Asians also promote themes of good fortune, are superstitious, and feel that fate is predetermined by the ancestors, i.e., a person who is ‘lucky’ in gambling is considered to be blessed from the gods.” (Dr. Tim Fong)

China is not the only low-trust nation to be experiencing financial problems and growing unrest. In fact the growing media scandal is that this global unrest goes largely unremarked.

Yet the growing unrest and hardship in China stand to have a more significant effect on world affairs than riots in Lebanon or Venezuela. China is “the world’s factory,” and when China stops importing raw materials and high technology manufacturing machinery, its trading partners quickly begin hurting.

“The Chinese Tragedy” is not so much that no one inside or outside of China trusts the dragon — within written history Chinese culture has never produced societies of overwhelmingly “trusting or trustworthy” populations in the western sense of the word. It is simply that everyone has been pretending for so long that they could indeed trust China. This pretense has left both China and the world in a very precarious situation, as shifting economic sands rub the world’s nose in the sad reality.

We certainly live in Interesting Times. It would not hurt for readers to ramp up their “Dangerous Factor,” and to make provisions for a somewhat uncertain future.

Posted in China | Tagged | 1 Comment

Green Activists and Politicians are Forcing People into Poverty


Compare electricity prices with renewable energy penetration for European countries. What might you conclude?

Activists and politicians are always pushing energy policies that drive up the cost of energy. This is not a problem for the wealthy, but for lower income households these policies can mean the difference between a balanced budget or being driven into bad credit and permanent poverty.

Countries and states/provinces with the highest penetration of green energy are also the places where household energy costs tend to be highest and most burdensome. Researchers are beginning to home in on some of the unfortunate effects of these “well intentioned” policies.

Bohr and Anna McCreery with Elevate Energy, an economic development agency in Chicago, analyzed household income and energy expenditures of thousands of American households across two decades. They paid special attention to households classified as “energy burdened”—those spending 10% or more of their income on heating and electricity.?

“When comparing households living beneath the poverty line, those that were energy burdened were about twice as likely to remain in poverty two years later,” Bohr said. “This pattern repeated when comparing households living above the poverty line—energy-burdened households had double the odds of transitioning into poverty within two years.” ___ https://phys.org/news/2019-11-steep-energy-bills-families-poverty.html

Activists and politicians are pushing people into permanent poverty in the name of unproven ideology supported mainly by ginned up models.

Green Energy Wastes Lives

Here is the employment picture for different energy sectors, along with job productivity. The abysmally low productivity for green energy demonstrates one reason why wind & solar tend to drive up electric power costs for households — and drive low income people into deep, permanent poverty.

Figure 3. Energy industry productivity expressed as tons of oil equivalent (TOE) per job. Employment numbers are from the 2019 U.S. Energy and Employment Report, MTOE are from BP’s 2019 Statistical Review of World Energy.
https://wattsupwiththat.com/2019/11/18/whats-green-fake-and-employs-ten-times-as-many-people-as-the-fossil-fuel-industry/

Intermittent forms of low-density, low-quality energy such as wind & solar, cannot provide energy on demand, when it is needed in a life or death critical manner. Green energy is not dispatchable power, it is not baseload power, it is not peaking power. Green energy is no power at all in practical terms — it is pure ideology and pure destruction on power grids, household budgets, and national economies, over time.

All In the Name of Unproven Computer Models

The honest climate scientists will admit:

“Climate forecasting is simply impossible, if only because future changes in solar energy output are unknowable. As to the impacts of human-caused CO2, they can’t be judged “with the knowledge and technology we currently possess.”

The IPCC in its third report (2001) conceded

In climate research and modelling, we should recognize that we are dealing with a coupled non-linear chaotic system, and therefore that the long-term prediction of future climate states is not possible. (Chapter 14, Section 14.2.2.2. )]

The public is left in the dark and at the mercy of unscrupulous people in government, academia, media, and activist organisations — all with their special interests and motivations that are less than pristine.

And because of this ideologically driven horror, parents must choose between buying food or keeping the house warm enough to prevent pipes from freezing. They must choose between paying utility bills on time or ruining their credit rating so as to make other necessary payments for food, medicines, clothing, repair bills, or for fuel to get to work.

This level of wanton corruption can achieve nothing good. Collect the facts and make sure to inform everyone you know.

More: The problem is worsening rapidly in Germany

Posted in Energy, Wind | Tagged , | 1 Comment

Drowning in the Shallows of Distraction?

The following article is adapted and re-published from The Dangerous Child blog.

Choosing Between Shallow Distraction and Deep Work

Deep Work is the ability to focus intensely on a problem for hours at a time, bringing all of your cognitive skills to the task — and shutting out almost everything else for that time. This is how difficult concepts and skills are learned. This is how ideas are turned into research papers, books, and inventive products and working systems.

Deep work is the ability to focus without distraction on a cognitively demanding task. It’s a skill that allows you to quickly master complicated information and produce better results in less time…. deep work is like a super power in our increasingly competitive twenty-first century economy. And yet, most people have lost the ability to go deep—spending their days instead in a frantic blur of e-mail and social media, not even realizing there’s a better way. __ Cal Newport

Deep Work is the opposite of groupthink, and the opposite of busy work. It is the opposite of distraction and the polar opposite of “social media.” It is where the prolific producers of important new work spend much of their time, and it is where the consistently best students get their secret powers.

Over 300 years ago, the mathematician and philosopher Blaise Pascal said, “All men’s miseries derive from not being able to sit in a quiet room alone.”

In an intriguing 2014 psychology experiment published in Science, college students often chose to administer electric shocks to themselves rather than to sit quietly with their own thoughts.

Adults will watch movies or TV, we will start an argument, we run to social media, we take stimulants or anxiolytics, we go out to eat and drink too much, we play games, pursue empty relationships, and drive ourselves to the end of distraction just to avoid “being bored” or too much alone.

Dangerous Children cannot afford to fritter away their time in those ways. They have things to do, skills to learn, and provisions to make. You cannot pack the work of a Dangerous Child into 18 early years while distracting yourself in “the shallows.”

The Seductive Appeal of The Shallows

The Shallows is the almost inescapable miasma of the internet, social media, and the constant distracting connection to the largely trivial outside world. After being immersed in the shallows long enough, it becomes more difficult for a person to concentrate deeply.

Over the last few years I’ve had the uncomfortable feeling that someone, or something, has been tinkering with my brain, remapping the neural circuitry, reprogramming the memory. My mind isn’t going . . . but it’s changing. I’m not thinking the way I used to think… I used to find it easy to immerse myself in a book or a lengthy article… Now my concentration starts to drift after a page or two. I get fidgety, lose the thread, start looking for something else to do… The deep reading that used to come naturally has become a struggle. __ Nicholas Carr in The Shallows

Nicholas Carr is simply describing in himself what is also happening to a large number of other mind workers who have adapted to making their way in the new hyper-connected world of distraction he calls “the shallows.”

It Did Not Start With the Internet or Social Media

This need for constant distraction from deep and difficult focused work is not something new. Throughout history few people ever mastered the solitary task of thinking deeply and bringing complex and beautiful new objects and ideas into the world. Not like da Vinci, Michelangelo, Einstein, von Neumann, or Newton.

But in times past — before radio, TV, movies, and other popular entertainments — there were far fewer distractions from “thoughtful solitude.” And with the coming of the internet and ubiquitous all-the-time communication, time alone to focus and think deeply can be almost impossible to come by.

Why do we throw away our time on superficial distractions?

… it’s not necessarily that we are addicted to a TV set because there is something uniquely satisfying about it, just like we are not addicted to most stimulants because the benefits outweigh the downsides. Rather, what we are really addicted to is a state of not-being-bored.

Almost anything else that controls our life in an unhealthy way finds its root in our realization that we dread the nothingness of nothing. We can’t imagine just being rather than doing. And therefore, we look for entertainment, we seek company, and if those fail, we chase even higher highs.

We ignore the fact that never facing this nothingness is the same as never facing ourselves. And never facing ourselves is why we feel lonely and anxious… __ https://medium.com/personal-growth/the-most-important-skill-nobody-taught-you-9b162377ab77

Most people were never taught any better — either verbally or by example.

We dread the silence of our very existence so we choose aimless distraction… Coming to such a realization can be life-changing. __ Ali Mese

Perhaps reading books such as Deep Work and The Shallows can be life-changing. Learning to devote more of our time to deep focus and deep work — while avoiding as many shallow distractions as possible — can certainly be life-changing for many.

But at what stage in a person’s life should he learn deep focus and deep work? We see how easily the internet and social media have taken over the mainstream media, much of academia, much of government, corporate culture, and many other social institutions — including large numbers of families. Once a person is “truly hooked,” it is not necessarily easy to pull himself back in order to learn to intensely focus on deep work.

If you watch most very small children, they seem to have been born knowing how to focus deeply. How else could children learn to walk, talk, ride bicycles, negotiate to get their way, and do all the other tasks of young humans, so effortlessly?

It is best to keep young children away from “The Shallows” for several years so that they can develop their powers of intense focus for learning ideas and skills, and for creating new concepts and things. Each family will need to work out its own rules and policies, but it is best to work them out before the child is old enough to develop a strong preference.

If a human cannot focus for long periods of time, is he still a human? Perhaps. But he is certainly no Dangerous Child.

Most modern denizens of the shallows do not read anymore. They skim, scroll down, skip in staccato fashion from hyperlink to hyperlink — and miss any nuance in the material they were “reading.” When bored they jump on social media to text or message an acquaintance to discuss “feelings” about yet more of the shallow distractions that make up much of their lives.

Dangerous Children must pack a lot of learning and skill-building into a short eighteen years. Their lives are not filled up by TV, video games, social media, movies, and pulp fiction. They learn to teach and guide themselves through the unique curriculum that fits their talents and proclivities.

By the age of 18, a Dangerous Child has mastered three ways to support himself financially, can speak three non-native languages, has enough academic credits to finish a college degree in a couple of years, is comfortable starting new businesses or organising expeditions, and has the skills to move over most any terrain or through most any neighborhood. And they know how to think for themselves — something sadly lacking among modern college student cohorts.

Intense solitude can be used for many purposes, depending upon a person’s age and current state of existence. Albert Einstein preferred to spend his time alone solving hard problems. That approach worked for him over his lifetime. When he ran out of problems to solve from outside sources, he invented new difficult problems to solve. These problems took a lot of time and deep work.

If humanity is to move forward to an expansive and abundant future, it will need a large number of people devoted to high levels of intensely productive work, based largely on solitude. Networking will be important at certain stages of refining and extending disruptive new ideas and systems. But distraction at too early a stage will kill them before they can be born.

Shallow immersion in group-mind is the road to obsolescence. The self-discipline of deep work is the path to self-mastery and a closer approach to relevance.

More: Bruce Charlton’s free online ebook: Addicted to Distraction

… this book diagnoses the fundamental problem of the modern world as addiction to the distractions of the Mass Media.
The Media just grows and grows, and progressively takes-over control of all the functionally useful social systems from politics to religion, from education to the arts.
Yet the Mass Media is a system like no other – it has no function of its own, so it can just keep growing. It has no positive aim for society, and regards all knowledge just a matter of opinion. Therefore the Mass Media subverts all that is useful, and everything that gives meaning and purpose to life.
Since the Media works like a drug, the first step is withdrawal, and a ‘detox’ programme. Having escaped addiction, we may become free of the lies and lunacies of life in the Media bubble, and return to the realities of direct personal knowledge, actual experience and common sense.

Podcast interview with Scott H. Young (author of “Ultralearning“) on the topic of quickly learning hard skills.

Update: This is a child’s brain on e-screens

The study, published in JAMA Pediatrics, shows that children who have more screen time have lower structural integrity of white matter tracts in parts of the brain that support language and other emergent literacy skills. These skills include imagery and executive function — the process involving mental control and self-regulation. These children also have lower scores on language and literacy measures.

Posted in Cognition, Dangerous Child, Internet, Media | Tagged | 1 Comment