Friday, May 6, 2016

Musings: Friday Fringe

Since it's Friday, it seemed a good time to share a few of the things that entered my inbox, and consciousness, while attending a science writing workshop this week.

I was chatting with a woman whose daughter is a veterinarian in Idaho, and it seems people are now trying to scam vets to obtain animal medications that also get humans high. And when a pet owner shows up visibly packing a pistol, as is allowed under that state's concealed carry law, their requests come with a certain element of intimidation.

Junkies desperate for a fix, and others trying to ease the pain of an opioid withdrawal, have begun using the diarrhea drug Imodium — with sometimes deadly consequences. Yikes. What will it take for this nation to adopt a sane drug policy?

In his correspondence with friends, Charles Darwin predicted that the superstitious nonsense of his age would soon be a thing of the past. Yet here we are, 200 years later, and people are still eschewing science in favor of beliefs.

Speaking of Darwin, did you know there's a science rapper? His name is Baba Brinkman, and he raps about evolution, genes, climate change and much more.

While we're on the topic of climate change, here's a link to a Hawaii-specific video on the topic that I helped produce for the Cornell Alliance for Science.

Shifting gears, there has never been a reputable study showing a link between vaccines and autism. In fact, there's a tiny bit more autism in the non-vaccinated population, but it's statistically insignificant. 

If everybody in the U.S. took an aspirin right now, 500 people would die today from the effects. But aspirin are widely available and regularly consumed. Meanwhile, though there has never been a study that demonstrated harm from GMOs in 35 years of consumption, people are demanding labeling and outright bans.

Thirty percent of the compounds in breast milk can't even be digested by a baby, but instead go to feed the microbiome — the microorganisisms that live in our guts, mouths, skin and help us resist pathogens, build immunity, digest food and synthesize vitamins and minerals. These microbiome-building compounds are so important that they're now being added to infant formula.

Researchers are trying to figure out the cause of a chronic kidney disease that has sickened primarily poor farm workers in the tropics, including South Asia, Mexico and Central American. Construction workers have also been affected. Misuse of alcohol and over-the-counter pain relievers, pesticide exposure and high levels of silica in drinking water have all been named as possible culprits. Most recently, there's some thought it may be due to working in prolonged heat without sufficient hydration. This causes kidney-damaging uric acid crystals to form in the urine. In El Salvador sugar fields, they're offering workers more frequent rest and water breaks to see if that helps, as some laborers experience significant kidney function decline over the course of the harvest.

In the “gee, where's their sense of humor?” category, Farm News fired Iowa cattle farmer and freelance cartoonist Rick Friday after it got blow back for publishing his cartoon:
In the “gee, how original” category, Kauai House District candidate Fern Rosenstiel has unveiled her campaign slogan and tee-shirt:
But even though she invites you, on the front of her shirt, to “feel the Fern,” you'd best not try it. She's a tita and just might slap you upside the head.

And finally, here's a little parody of the “feel the Bern” generation:


Anonymous said...

I hope she slaps you over the head. All the shit you talk about people, it's only a matter of time before it happens.

John Kauai said...

WRT the fired cartoonist:

Larry Kershner, News Editor

More contacts can be found here:

John Kauai said...

WRT CKDu, it should be mentioned that there is a correlation between the use of glyphosate and CKDu in the presence of hard water. Glyphosate is a chelator which causes hard metals to possibly clog the internal workings of the Kidney.

Here's one link you may find interesting. There are many more, but it should also be noted that Sri Lanka has removed its ban on importing glyphosate.

Joan Conrow said...

It should also be mentioned that the reporter who covered the story described the study you link to as being printed in a "predatory" journal, or one where scientists pay to publish, and other scientists found it without merit. Of greater concern were cadmium and arsenic in fertilizers they use.

It should also be mentioned there's a correlation between the rise of autism and increased sales of organic food. Causation, not correlation, is the key.

nocanswim said...

Ah,yes, Mr. or Ms. hoping for violence Anonymous; I notice you DO read this blog, as do I. Please note, that you and I are not 'sympatico', as I very much appreciate the nuggets of science and other facts that Joan provides. Joan, I would like to hear more of Shaylene's Latest, as additional information falls your way.

Lboyd said...

I notice that all the explanations involving glyphosate involve a substantial time period existing in the environment. Sorta like a heavy metal. In fact glyphosate has a very short half life in the environment, less than 30 days. Which is why most of these explanations of harm are nonsense. To get long term effects you need heavy metal poisoning, like copper sulphate a pesticide used in organic farming.

John Kauai said...

Joan is absolutely correct about correlation and causation. I may be should have said it, but it seems that it has been said so often that I assume everyone knows that point by now.

As far as "the reporter" and his assessment of the journal, there are lots of other reporters who take the opposite position on the journal. Mostly, they appear to emphasize that the connection is an "hypothesis". At least it is finally recognized now that CKDu exists. When I first heard about it a few years ago, most of what I read claimed that the workers were at fault for a huge variety of reasons and that the diagnosis wasn't valid.

When discussing reporters, perhaps Mandela's quote applies, "Where you stand depends on where you sit.” Or perhaps Upton Sinclair is better, "It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends upon his not understanding it."

So, to try to be a bit more "fair", this article purports to totally destroy the glyphosate/CKDu link.

in the mean time, I ran across this on craigslist this morning. Perhaps it is a way of implementing the ARU proposals. :-)

Joan Conrow said...

Actually, John, the reporter was a she and not a he and I hardly think the pay of NPR and National Geo reporters is based on taking a certain point of view. It's about being objective and able to identify junk science. But nice attempt to besmirch.

And yes, you really do need to point out the flaws in taking hypotheses and correlations as scientific proof because many either do not understand the difference, or choose to downplay or ignore it to support their own biases.

Anonymous said...

There is no sensible way to deal with prescription drug addiction other than to outlaw the opiates in the first place.

John Kauai said...


There is no link to the story you are talking about. No NPR story that I can see anyway. Could be wrong. Haven't found it. (There is a link to Science Magazine but it doesn't mention NPR)

Anyway, just because someone works for NPR supposedly means they are impartial is hardly adequate evidence. PBS has been shown to avoid stories on GMOs because of the ads from Monsanto. (Yes, I admit, PBS is not NPR, but I don't see the difference.)

I leave it up to those who choose to follow up on the story to make up their own minds. That people want to read into these stories whatever to support their own biases is hardly my problem. (or perhaps more correctly, that they are too lazy to follow up.) I posted the link to the ijerph paper which at the very top says "hypothesis". Is your objection perhaps because the link I used was from MPDI?

I don't know, is there a group that we can reference that will tell us the motivations of the publishers like the SPLC's list of "hate groups"?

That you demand I qualify everything I post should then equally apply to you, but I surely don't make that demand. It would be difficult to accomplish and probably boring to the reader.

I find your articles very informative, provocative and well written and so I enjoy them. That I point to articles that you believe counter your beliefs doesn't mean I believe those articles are proof you are wrong. They are just different.

If the goal here is to control public opinion, then I see your point. If the goal is to inform, then I'm missing it. I'd rather believe your readers have the intelligence to look into it themselves. But then I have a fairly high opinion of the common man. (in spite of the proof that most are idiots. [that's a joke, OK? Call me Larry Wilmore, who did a great job at the White House Correspondents Dinner last week. I've not laughed so hard in a long, long time. Especially at the discomfort of the audience.])

FWIW: Democracy Now has a great story today about the "Bernie Bros" that pretty much parallels the point I'm trying to make.
Quite interesting:

In any case, I do not want to leave any doubt that I appreciate your blog even when I may not explicitly subscribe to the thesis you are promoting.

Anonymous said...

Hi John. Welcome to Kauai. Now please go away. Thx bye.

Anonymous said...

You can have your cake and eat it too.
So the Lege passes a bill to help organic farmers. This is a good thing, if it ONLY covers the certification process.
Kauai with some of the highest food prices in the US and as Joan correctly pointed out, even Costco is 86ing non-organics for the more expensive organics.
It is all consumer driven. I don't believe in organics, but I buy them anyway. Some sort of throw back to the macro-biotic Tamari Shoyu and brown rice Zen thing from the weeks in Kalalau in the 60s, I guess. Kauai still gots lots of us old Hippie Surfers.
Da Hoos of course gets quoted in the GI. Amazing how the GI and Da hoos have this synergistic relationship. The GI must actually be a wingnut of the Fistee Party.

Help regular farmers. By the way, there ain't no science that proves organics are better than non-organics.
Being a susceptible consumer eating these organics, my next decision must be to join the Fistees. But could any of the good readers out there explain to me how Da Hoos gets in the GI so often? Is the GI a Fistee? And if Da Hoos lies, do all Fistees lie? (a throwback reference to the obtuse snippet on correlations and hypotheses dealybobs the other day in Joan's outstanding blog)
Love the rain, it is non-gmo and organic.
Also 11:54, well said.

Anonymous said...

6:50, I had the same questions this morning and wondered about the GI always quoting Hooser. Really, our newspaper was ripe for a take over ,it was super easy, now we can all read about the trevails of Gary on a regular basis.

Anonymous said...

Hey...yeah why is the garden island newspaper always quoting hooser to benefit him?

Yet they misquote everyone else?

One's got to wonder are they ka noodling????

Anonymous said...

Fern has a chance. Never undersetimate the stupidity of voters.

Anonymous said...

They quoting Hooser cause he speaks English and he returns their phone calls. Moron and moron brag about not returning their phone calls. So who do you think they will quote?

Anonymous said...

From listening to Hooser for all these years, one can say he is a fraud like Yukimura, Chock, Melvin Rapozo, KipuKai, Kagawa, Kaneshiro, and their leader Bernard Carvalho Jr (don't call him Mayor because he ain't qualified).

Anonymous said...

Re 11:54 pm....... Touché

@3:54 pm If you paint your house blue or green it's totally up to you. Please spare us the drama.