Category Archives: Uncategorized

RAND Report: “Journalism Has Gradually Shifted Away From Objective News And Offers More Opinion-Based Content”

U.S. Journalism Has Become More Subjective, RAND Corporation, May 2019

Bits:

U.S.-based journalism has gradually shifted away from objective news and offers more opinion-based content that appeals to emotion and relies heavily on argumentation and advocacy.

Researchers found that the changes occurred over a 28-year-period (1989 to 2017) as journalism expanded beyond traditional media, such as newspapers and broadcast networks, to newer media, such as 24-hour cable channels and digital outlets.

“Our research provides quantitative evidence for what we all can see in the media landscape: Journalism in the U.S. has become more subjective and consists less of the detailed event- or context-based reporting that used to characterize news coverage,” said Jennifer Kavanagh, a senior political scientist and lead author of the report, which is second in a series of research into the phenomenon of “Truth Decay,” the declining role of facts and analysis in civil discourse and its effect on American life.

The findings point to a gradual and subtle shift over time and between old and new media toward a more subjective form of journalism that is grounded in personal perspective.

Consider broadcast news. Before 2000, broadcast news segments were more likely to include relatively complex academic and precise language, as well as complex reasoning. After 2000, broadcast news becomes less pre-planned as on-air personalities and guests engaged in conversations about news.

The report is one in a series of RAND-funded reports into the triggers and consequences of Truth Decay. The first report, written by Kavanagh and RAND President and CEO Michael D. Rich, examined how Truth Decay is a set of four interrelated trends:

  • Increasing disagreement about facts
  • A blurring between opinion and fact
  • An increase in the relative volume of opinion and personal experience over fact
  • Declining trust in formerly respected sources of factual information.

Is that what we want? A conversation about news? I guess that’s what people want. It has actually become a conversation about other people’s conversations about news. I really miss fact-based news.

Vaccinated People Are Getting Sick. CDC, White House Say “Vaccinated People Don’t Get Sick”

Examples of the government (and media) promoting the vaccines as foolproof:

CDC Director: “Vaccinated people do not carry the virus, don’t get sick.” 30 March

President Biden: “You’re not gonna get COVID if you have these vaccinations.” 22 July

CDC and FDA: “People who are fully vaccinated are protected from severe disease and death, including from the variants currently circulating in the country such as Delta.”
Joint CDC And FDA Statement On Vaccine Boosters, 8 July

Even back in January these were being sold to us as 100% effective (though that was not consistent with vaccine trial data):
“The Moderna and Pfizer vaccines are “essentially 100 percent effective against serious disease,” Dr. Paul Offit, the director of the Vaccine Education Center at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, said.”
Underselling The Vaccine, New York Times, 18 January

__________
Examples of people getting sick:

Nearly 30 Fully Vaccinated Louisiana Residents Have Died With COVID-19, 8 July

79 Fully Vaccinated Massachusetts Residents Have Died From Breakthrough COVID-19 Infections, Data Shows, 14 July

All 100 cases of COVID on this aircraft carrier and cases on “several other warships” occurred in people who were fully vaccinated.
HMS Queen Elizabeth: COVID Outbreak On Navy Flagship, 14 July

In Scotland: “… from June onwards, new trends have emerged. More cases are now among people either partially or fully vaccinated, making up almost half of all new daily infections (13,432 of 33,152).”
Surge Goes On, 12 July

Cape Cod: “Town Manager Alex Morse told ABC News on Monday that the “vast majority” of the COVID-19 cases associated with the town’s outbreak are among vaccinated individuals.”
Cape Cod COVID-19 Cluster Grows To More Than 130 Infected, Prompting Renewed Mitigation Efforts, 21 July

Israel, one of the most vaccinated places on the planet, is experiencing a COVID surge. TrialSiteNews said:
“TrialSite delved into a recent data trove made available by the Israeli government and has found that a majority of those now vaccinated actually, according to the numbers, face as much risk testing positive for the Delta-driven SARS-CoV-2 infection as unvaccinated individuals. Meaning, at this point, the vaccine appears to have a negligible effect on an individual as to whether he/she catches the current strain. Moreover, the data indicates that the current vaccines used (Moderna, Pfizer-BioNTech, AstraZeneca) may have a decreasing effect on reduced hospitalizations and death if one does get infected with the Delta variant.”
COVID-19 Case Data in Israel: A Troubling Trend?, 16 July

These 27 deaths in Tennessee “are among the state’s more than 1,000 “breakthrough” cases … cases in which fully vaccinated people have contracted the virus.”
27 Fully Vaccinated People Have Died In Tennessee, Health Department Says, 23 July

Even the CDC admits the vaccines aren’t working. Out of 25 fully vaccinated miners, 15 were infected within days:
“The low Ct of positive PCR for SARS-CoV-2 despite prior vaccination suggested that a complete vaccination scheme with BNT162b2 [Pfizer] vaccine was not sufficient to prevent symptomatic SARS-CoV-2 infection and its transmission.”
Breakthrough Infections Of SARS-CoV-2 Gamma Variant In Fully Vaccinated Gold Miners, 21 July

________
I’m not saying anything here about how effective the vaccines are. What I’m saying is that this administration, and the many media outlets that are catering to it, are not being truthful.

In addition to no longer trusting the President, his Press Secretary, the CDC and FDA, I also don’t trust the New York Times, The Atlantic, CNN, NPR, Washington Post, and others. They have been parroting the administration’s false message. They have failed to question the adequacy of the vaccine trials or the problems with the vaccines’ effectiveness and safety (side effects). They walk in lockstep, as if there was some meeting where everyone got on board, including Facebook, Twitter, Google, Reddit, and other social media sites. I’m not prone to conspiracy theories, I like data. But it’s getting difficult to find an outlet for news that isn’t deceitful.

Did You Know That Getting Just 500mg Of Calcium A Day Is Just Fine? I Didn’t.

Dark, leafy greens are high in calcium, e.g. a half cup of cooked collards provides about 175 mg (so does a cup of cooked white beans).
Photo source: Living Plate

If I want to know the RDA for a nutrient, I check the National Institutes of Health, Office of Dietary Supplements site. Good site. Here’s Calcium. Depending upon one’s age and sex, the RDA is between 1,000 and 1,300 mg a day.

That’s a lot! You’d almost have to eat several servings of dairy a day to meet that. Hm. But I’m familiar with the work the Institute of Medicine puts behind their nutrient requirements so I typically don’t question it.

Lately I was questioning it, the calcium. I had read of communities in poorer countries that do just fine on a few hundred mg a day. Then I saw this older review:

Calcium Requirements In Man: A Critical Review, Postgraduate Medical Journal, 1978

Many official bodies give advice on desirable intakes of calcium but no clear evidence of a calcium deficiency disease in otherwise normal people has ever been given. In Western countries the usual calcium intake is of the order of 800-1000 mg/day; in many developing countries figures of 300-500 mg/day are found. There is no evidence that people with such a low intake have any problems with bones or teeth. It seems likely that normal people can adapt to have a normal calcium balance on calcium intakes as low as 150-200 mg/day and that this adaptation is sufficient even in pregnancy and lactation.

Not enough to change my mind. But this was enough:

How Much Calcium Do You Really Need?, Harvard Medical School, 11 September, 2019

Dr. Walter Willett, chair of the Department of Nutrition at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health: “Essentially, I think that adults do not need 1,200 mg of calcium a day. The World Health Organization’s recommendation of 500 mg is probably about right.

How did we get to recommending double that more sensible 500 mg?

In the late 1970s, a couple of brief studies indicated that consuming 1,200 mg of calcium a day could preserve a postmenopausal woman’s calcium balance.

Based on those studies, in 1997 an Institute of Medicine panel raised the recommendation for calcium intake from 800 mg to 1,200 mg a day for women over 50. That wasn’t a sound decision, Dr. Willett says: “The recommendation was based on calcium balance studies that lasted just a few weeks. In fact, calcium balance is determined over the course of years.” Moreover, there wasn’t any evidence that consuming that much calcium actually prevented fractures. Nonetheless, the recommendation has been carried forward since then.

I’m tempted to see which entity sponsored those 1,200 mg/day studies. He goes on to describe studies that found:

  • Calcium and vitamin D supplements don’t prevent fractures.
  • High calcium intake—from either food or pills—doesn’t reduce hip fracture risk.
  • Calcium supplements increase risk of heart attack.
  • Calcium supplements increase risk of kidney stones.

Eating 500 mg/day of calcium is just fine, more than fine because it reduces risks for constipation, kidney stones, heart disease, and deficiencies of other nutrients that calcium competes with for absorption.

Jen Psaki, Biden’s Press Secretary, Lied About The Vaccines Being Approved

Biden’s Press Secretary said this about the vaccines:

“…even though many of them [the mRNA vaccines] are approved and have gone through the gold standard of the FDA approval process.”
Press Briefing by Press Secretary Jen Psaki, 16 July 2021

She knows the vaccines aren’t approved:

The Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine has not been approved or licensed by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), but has been authorized for emergency use by FDA under an Emergency Use Authorization (EUA).
Pfizer website

The Moderna COVID‑19 Vaccine has not been approved or licensed by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), but has been authorized for emergency use by FDA, under an Emergency Use Authorization (EUA), to prevent Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID‑19) for use in individuals 18 years of age and older. There is no FDA-approved vaccine to prevent COVID‑19.
Moderna website

In fact, the FDA isn’t even going to be considering approval until NEXT YEAR:
U.S. FDA Sets January Target To Decide On Approval Of Pfizer’s Covid-19 Shot

Lying erodes trust.

“Different Things Can Be Inseparable” – Alan Watts

I’ve often thought, and said, that you can’t have a front without a back. If you try to erase the front – scrub, scrub, scrub – until the front is gone then you no longer have a back. If somethings exists, it must embody opposing aspects. It must. I was surprised to hear this described almost exactly as I think it, by Alan Watts:

In its application to our environment, he said:

“If you describe carefully the behavior of any organism you cannot do so without at the same time describing the behavior of the environment.

The organism is not the puppet of environment, being pushed around by it, nor on the other hand is the environment the puppet of the organism.”

They are one.

New Study: Whole Grains Are Healthful

Reconstruction of Neanderthal mealtime, from Neanderthals Carb Loaded, Helping Grow Their Big Brains, Science, 10 May 2021.
Whole grains, healthful then, healthful now.

This is a follow-up from last Thursday’s post about our early human and Neanderthal ancestors who ate a starch-rich diet, “so much starch that it dramatically altered the composition of their oral microbiomes.” It also grew the size of their brains. It upends our notion that Neanderthals ate mostly animal food. That pivotal study found that they, and their ancestors (and ours), were cooking grains 600,000 years ago!

Anyway, back to this study:

Whole- And Refined-Grain Consumption And Longitudinal Changes In Cardiometabolic Risk Factors In The Framingham Offspring Cohort, The Journal of Nutrition, 13 July 2021

It found that replacing refined grains (RG) with whole grains (WG) was linked to smaller increases in waist size, blood glucose, and blood pressure as participants aged.

Refined grains included refined cold ready-to-eat breakfast cereal (defined as containing <25% whole grains by weight), cooked breakfast cereal (not oatmeal), white bread, English muffins, bagels, muffins, biscuits, white rice, pasta, pancakes, waffles, crackers, and pizza.

Whole grains included foods made from barley, brown rice, brown rice flour, buckwheat groats, bulgur, cornmeal, corn flour, millet, oats, oat flour, rye, rye flour, and whole wheat flour.

Mechanisms:

  • WG is high in dietary fiber, which can have a satiating effect, and soluble fiber, in particular, may have a beneficial effect on blood lipids. Evidence from randomized controlled trials has demonstrated the cholesterol-lowering effect of beta-glucan found in whole grain oats.
  • The slower digestion and absorption of WG may result in a reduction in postprandial glucose and insulin response, which may, in turn, favor the oxidation and lipolysis of fat rather than its storage. In contrast, evidence from clinical studies supports that diets rich in highly digestible carbohydrates, indicative of greater refined grain or low fiber intake, can alter lipoprotein secretion and clearance, leading to higher fasting triglyceride concentrations.
  • Fermentation of dietary fiber by the microbiota present in the colon produces short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs), which are involved in lipid metabolism and satiety and glucose metabolism.
  • Other nutritional attributes of WG, such as magnesium, potassium, selenium, and zinc, as well as antioxidants and polyphenols, may contribute to lowering blood pressure and improving glucose and insulin metabolism.

The starch-rich diet our ancestors ate had to be less refined. No?  And it benefited them. They did cook though, which is a type of food processing. Imagine the fiber in that diet!

Maybe The Delta Variant Isn’t Something To Worry About After All

The Twitter account @boriquagato was recently banned. The holder regularly posted about COVID-19. He moved to Substack where he posted the following about the SARS-CoV-2 Delta variant. (SARS-CoV-2 is the virus that causes COVID-19. It stands for Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome CoronaVirus 2.)

delta, delta, delta (variant), el gato malo, 14 June 2021

He said:

The delta variant looks somewhat more contagious and dramatically less dangerous.

That a virus would take this course (more contagious, less virulent) is expected:

this is entirely in keeping with basic biological and epidemiological prediction and expectation. a virus is not some evil foe seeking to maximize harm, it’s a set of biological instructions trying to self-replicate. harming hosts is maladaptive. the evolutionary gradient of a virus as it becomes endemic is to be more contagious and less harmful. ideally, it would pose no harm or, as many bacteria have managed, to become outright beneficial.

He backed up his claim with this chart. Delta has high case numbers but a relatively low case fatality rate (CFR, last column, 0.1%):

Here’s a newer chart I found. Says the same thing. Delta looks to be more contagious and less virulent than the other variants.

This is UK data. Both of these charts can be found at the UK government site:
Research and analysis, Investigation of SARS-CoV-2 variants of concern: technical briefings

The CFRs for the Delta variant, from above, are between 0.1-0.2%. For comparison, seasonal flu has a case fatality rate of 0.1%

Delta, at least in the UK, is on its way to becoming the dominant variant, which isn’t a bad thing:

it’s what makes a pandemic end. you cannot eradicate a virus. covid zero is a ridiculous and impossible task. but having the virus shift to a variant that spreads faster and poses so little risk is the next best thing.

you WANT delta to be all over the place. you want it to be the one that goes endemic. if, indeed, it winds up to be far lower risk than flu, then this is well and truly over.

Where do vaccines fit in this? I’ve seen UK data that shows the fatality rate in vaccinated people is higher than in unvaccinated people. But good data is hard to come by right now.

There’s a lot more to understand, but for me this was a bit of good news.

New Study: Humans Evolved To Eat Starch

Reconstruction of Neanderthal woman from Wikipedia. The study below “surprisingly showed the oral microbiomes of Neanderthals and today’s humans were almost indistinguishable” and starch-rich.

Turns Out Developing A Taste For Carbs Wasn’t A Bad Thing, Harvard University Gazette, 10 May 2021

The Evolution And Changing Ecology Of The African Hominid Oral Microbiome, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 18 May 2021

Excerpts:

A new study looking at the evolutionary history of the human oral microbiome shows that Neanderthals and ancient humans adapted to eating starch-rich foods as far back as 100,000 years ago, which is much earlier than previously thought.

The findings suggest such foods became important in the human diet well before the introduction of farming and even before the evolution of modern humans. And while these early humans probably didn’t realize it, the benefits of bringing the foods into their diet likely helped pave the way for the expansion of the human brain because of the glucose in starch, which is the brain’s main fuel source.

“We think we’re seeing evidence of a really ancient behavior that might have been part of encephalization — or the growth of the human brain,” said Harvard Professor Christina Warinner, Ph.D. ’10. “It’s evidence of a new food source that early humans were able to tap into in the form of roots, starchy vegetables, and seeds.”

The biggest surprise from the study was the presence of particular strains of oral bacteria that are specially adapted to break down starch. These strains, which are members of the genus Streptococcus, have a unique ability to capture starch-digesting enzymes from human saliva, which they then use to feed themselves. The genetic machinery the bacteria uses to do this is only active when starch is part of the regular diet.

Both the Neanderthals and the ancient humans that scientists studied had these starch-adapted strains in their dental plaque while most of the primates, who feast almost exclusively on non-starchy plant parts, like fruits, stems, and leaves, had almost no streptococci that could break down starch.

The findings also push back on the idea that Neanderthals were top carnivores, given that the “brain requires glucose as a nutrient source and meat alone is not a sufficient source,” Warinner said.

Richard W. Wrangham, Ruth B. Moore Professor of Biological Anthropology and one of the paper’s co-authors: “These new data make every sense to me, reinforcing the newer view about Neanderthals that their diets were more sapiens-like than once thought, [meaning] starch-rich and cooked.”

Paleo Diet followers attempt to adhere to a diet our ancestors ate, thus “Paleo.” Do you think they will welcome this discovery?