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The Latest Scientific Evidence Should Be the Death Blow to Artificial Sweeteners

September 29, 2014 in Blogs

By Ari LeVaux, AlterNet

Messing with the microbes in your digestive process is not the way to go.


Evidence continues to accumulate that sugar is a sweet road to obesity, diabetes, Alzheimer’s, and other maladies. As the dangers of sugar have unfolded there has been an increase in the production and consumption of sugar substitutes, five of which are currently FDA-approved. A recent study published in Nature adds to a growing set of concerns about these artificial sweeteners by presenting evidence that they, like sugar, can cause diabetes as well. The Israel-based research team presented evidence that artificial sweeteners cause this outcome by disrupting the balance of microbes that live in the body’s gut.

This isn’t the first study implicating sugar substitutes with metabolic issues. Research at Purdue University found that saccharin consumption can lead to weight gain in mice by interfering with their ability to control their appetites. Multiple studies have shown that some artificial sweeteners can mess with the body’s endocrine system, and lead to insulin resistance. Many links between the consumption of artificial sweeteners and type 2 diabetes have been uncovered as well, and studies have also shown that consumption of artificial sweeteners can change the way the body deals with food that contains actual calories.

The link between artificial sweeteners, gut bacteria and obesity has been charted as well, in a Duke University study that found that Splenda (sucralose) reduces the amount of ”good bacteria” in the intestines, increases the intestinal pH level, and leads to increased body weight.

The new Nature study moves this ball of research forward by demonstrating that several artificial sweeteners, not just sucralose, can mess with our gut bacteria, and that this disruption is directly responsible for glucose intolerance—at least in mice. The researchers added three different artificial sweeteners (AS)—saccharin, sucralose and aspartame—to the drinking water of mice. After 10 weeks, all three groups of artificial sweetener-consuming mice showed glucose intolerance. Saccharin showed the most pronounced effect.

As the Duke study had shown that sucralose causes changes in the gut microbiota in mice, the Israeli researchers used antibiotics to wipe out the microbes in the mice …read more

Source: ALTERNET

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Public Schooling: War without End

September 29, 2014 in Economics

By Neal McCluskey

Neal McCluskey

Students in Jefferson County, Colorado began walking out of school last week to protest a proposal to ensure that the Advanced Placement program’s history classes “promote citizenship, patriotism … (and) respect for authority.” Simultaneously, the nation has been observing “Banned Books Week,” intended to shine a spotlight on campaigns to remove controversial books from libraries, including at schools.

What do these things have in common? When you force diverse people to support a single system of schools, conflict is constant. People have to fight for teaching they want, or to defeat what they do not.

Jefferson County’s situation is actually just the most visible manifestation of a national tussle that has been going on for months. People who want their children to get a generally positive, fact-filled version of U.S. history have been fighting Advanced Placement changes that seem to focus on the negative and ignore major figures like Benjamin Franklin and Martin Luther King, Jr. On the flip side, many people fear history will be whitewashed — including, it seems, many Jefferson County students — if “traditionalists” have their way.

When you force diverse people to support a single system of schools, conflict is constant.”

Of course, conflicts over any curriculum are nothing new. There was a huge outcry in the 1990s over U.S. history standards commissioned by the federal government. Throughout the 1980s and 1990s the nation was embroiled in “culture wars” largely fought in and around class syllabi. And it has been almost 90 years since the famous Scopes “Monkey” Trial over the teaching of evolution.

Book “banning” is a symptom of the same disease: People have numerous, inherently subjective opinions about what is acceptable for children to read, so they fight over what books are in school libraries, or on class reading lists.

Of course, it violates basic American values to have government choose winners and losers among speakers, which is why the idea of banning a book is so hateful. But when districts choose to purchase one book and not another they are already picking winners and losers. And when they assign specific readings they are, in fact, imposing speech on children. Book “banners,” then, are often trying to protect their rights as much as are book defenders.

Thankfully, things don’t have to be this way. Diverse Americans should be able to access education consistent with their values rather than being forced to fight over what …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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“Why Managers Still Matter”

September 29, 2014 in Economics

By Peter G. Klein

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Some Austrians and libertarians think that managerial hierarchies, even within fully private companies, are inherently inefficient (or, worse, the indirect result of government intervention). I think this view is mistaken, for a variety of reasons (see these links for some discussion). There is nothing inherently inefficient (or illegitimate) about managerial authority. Decentralized forms of organization offer many advantages — effective use of Hayekian “tacit knowledge,” strong performance incentives, the development of esprit de corps — but there are drawbacks too. Under certain conditions, the appropriate use of managerial authority fosters better coordination, more timely responses, stronger incentive alignment, and better use of shared resources. (I need hardly mention that there is nothing “coercive” about voluntary agreements between employers and employees.)

Nicolai Foss and I have an article in the current edition of the MIT Sloan Management Review, “Why Managers Still Matter,” arguing that managerial authority still plays an important and valuable role, even in our knowledge-based, networked, Wikipedia-style, peer-to-peer economy. (The piece is firewalled but you can read it with free registration.) We write:

“Wikifying” the modern business has become a call to arms for some management scholars and pundits. As Tim Kastelle, a leading scholar on innovation management at the University of Queensland Business School in Australia, wrote: “It’s time to start reimagining management. Making everyone a chief is a good place to start.”

Companies, some of which operate in very traditional market sectors, have been crowing for years about their systems for “managing without managers” and how market forces and well-designed incentives can help decentralize management and motivate employees to take the initiative. . . .

From our perspective, the view that executive authority is increasingly passé is wrong. Indeed, we have found that it is essential in situations where (1) decisions are time-sensitive; (2) key knowledge is concentrated within the management team; and (3) there is need for internal coordination. . . . Such conditions are hallmarks of our networked, knowledge-intensive and hypercompetitive economy.

The article builds on earlier writings such as Nicolai’s “Misesian Ownership and Coasian Authority in Hayekian Settings” (QJAE, 2001), my Capitalist and the Entrepreneur (2010, e.g., pp. 20-21), and our “Original and Derived Judgment” (Organization Studies, 2007). As we point out, all forms of organization have benefits and costs, and most firms feature a blend of “market” and “hierarchy,” the exact mix varying with firm and market conditions. A vigorous embrace of free-market …read more

Source: MISES INSTITUTE

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Lena Dunham's Tell-All New Book Should Be Telling So Much More

September 29, 2014 in Blogs

By Jessica Valenti, The Guardian

Dunham knows how to shock people and make them cringe, but she could actually say something important.


In the first season of HBO’s Girls, Lena Dunham’s character, Hannah, tells her friend Marnie, “Any mean thing someone is going to think of to say about me, I’ve already said to me, about me, probably in the last half-hour.”

This is a familiar feeling to those of us who developed a sense of humor as a pre-empt against cruelty, and it’s a device that has made Girls a huge success and Dunham a media darling. But in a memoir meant to be an advice book to young women, the writer-director’s trademark funny self-deprecation has the unfortunate side effect of nullifying the idea that she has something important to say.

Not That Kind of Girl: A Young Woman Tells You What She’s “Learned”, Dunham’s much-anticipated (and hotly-debated) debut book, is funny, smart and cringe-inducing in a good way. But when Dunham describes her post-college life as a time when “nothing was a tragedy, and everything was a joke”, it’s less an observation than the unintentional theme of the whole book.

Even the title, with “learned” in scare quotes, is a noncommittal wink of sorts: Don’t worry, I don’t really have anything to teach you. But given Dunham’s talent, ambition and success, I don’t buy the coy deflection.

The setup for Not That Kind of Girl is almost entirely about the importance of women’s voices; Dunham writes in the introduction about the “forces conspiring to tell women that our concerns are petty, our opinions aren’t needed, that we lack the gravitas necessary for our stories to matter.”

But if women’s stories matter, why doesn’t Lena Dunham think that her stories matter, too?

Yes, this uber-successful 28-year-old has put pen to paper and laid bare her most embarrassing, personal and heartfelt moments in a collection of essays, email exchanges and listicles; that in itself should indicate that she believes her voice is important. Indeed, when women’s memoirs are seen as “over-sharing” but men’s are “brave”, Dunham’s willingness to say it all is refreshing. But as Dunham admits in a chapter that addresses …read more

Source: ALTERNET

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The Incremental Adoption of Electronic Currencies

September 29, 2014 in Economics

By Peter G. Klein

Bitcoin-coins

Electronic currencies are typically viewed as “disruptive” innovations that will upset the existing structure of the banking industry (and even the economy and society at large), rather than “sustaining” innovations that generate incremental changes within the existing structure (here I’m borrowing Clayton Christensen’s famous terms). But people sometimes forget that technologies such as Bitcoin are both currencies and payments systems, and in the latter capacity they are integrated into the existing network of payment providers. As Charlotte Bowyer puts it, “the ‘Bitcoin revolution’ (if it is to happen at all) could be less explosive, more incremental, and far more reliant on existing processes than many might believe.” Bowyer argues that existing financial institutions and payments systems and Bitcoin are at least partly complements, not substitutes.

It . . . looks like Bitcoin’s success will be increasingly related to its integration with established payment, merchant and finance companies such as PayPal, Amazon, Apple and Visa. Bitcoin is a disruptive technology with the capacity to bring about huge changes, even within the confines of today’s regulated industries. However, these changes look likely to come with the help and blessing of today’s commercial giants, rather than by a process of immediate disintermediation.

For instance, Bitcoin is much more than the new PayPal, for it’s simultaneously both a currency and a payment processor. Despite this, Bitcoin’s price rallied significantly after a long period  of decline following the PayPal announcement. Whilst the Bitcoin protocol has absolutely no need for an Apple Pay or a debit card to transmit it (in fact Bitcoin was developed to render such third parties obsolete), there’s no denying that it would also work wonders for user adoption. As the Bitcoin ecosystem grows and seeks increasing legitimacy, integration with established companies is a very realistic route to long-term success. In addition these companies have much to gain from embracing Bitcoin early, rather than risk competing with it later.

…read more

Source: MISES INSTITUTE

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The Ten Commandments of Ebola – Where the Choices Can Be Life or Death

September 29, 2014 in Blogs

By Andrew Nikiforuk, The Tyee

An alarming new protocol in Liberian slums speak volumes about the evolving epidemic.


In the slums of Monrovia, where the Ebola virus has spun out of control, health authorities have now provided citizens with a new version of the 10 commandments.

The alarming protocol speaks volumes about the deadly pace of an evolving epidemic that has unsettled West Africa, and will have global implications if the virus reaches the urban slums of India or China.

Given that barely 18 per cent of infected patients ever make it to a hospital, most Liberians now struggle or die with the disease at home. The sick die in pools of shit, vomit and blood.

The commandments reflect the elemental nature of transmission: the deadly virus is spread by contact with bodily fluids, everything from blood to semen. The hemorrhagic virus kills more than half of its victims.

To date, the epidemic and fear has changed all patterns of living. Schools and businesses are closed, and people stay at home. Citizens don’t shake hands, ride buses or join crowds. Armed robberies have increased and hunger has become another epidemic stalking the region.

Each morning the Red Cross Dead Body Management Team, looking like men from Mars, prays “for guidance, protection, and for God to make Ebola go away.”

U.S. researchers now estimate that the virus could infect more than a million people by January, 2015 if there are no effective ways to contain it.

To date, health authorities conservatively estimate more than 6,000 have been infected and more than 3,000 have died. But the epidemic is now growing exponentially.

The 10 Commandments of Ebola can be found on signs posted in poor communities such as West Point in Monrovia. The commandments have a medieval tone:

1. Thou shalt not HIDE ANY SICK person even family member or friend;

2. Thou shalt not SHAKE HAND or TOUCH someone with high fever who is very sick;

3. Thou shalt not TOUCH DEAD BODY even if it is your family member or friend who has died;

4. Thou shalt not PUT MAT DOWN for dead people not even your family member;

5. Thou …read more

Source: ALTERNET

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Government “Security” Dictated by Prank-Calling Sadist in Walmart Shooting

September 29, 2014 in Economics

By Ryan McMaken

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The shooting death of John Crawford in an Ohio Walmart store well illustrates the difference between private security and monopoly government security which is the final judge of its own actions, and which enjoys essentially limitless access to cash via the taxpayer.

The basic facts are these: Crawford picked up a BB gun (which is not in any way a “firearm”).  The BB “gun” is store merchandise and is sold in the store by Walmart. Crawford walked around the store holding the non-firearm in a non-threatening manner while talking to the mother of  his children on the phone. In response to a phone call from another shopper, police stormed the store, guns drawn, and shot Crawford dead on sight with no warning. Another woman, a 37-year old mother Angela Williams also died of a heart attack in the ensuring police-caused chaos.

We  now know that the person who called the police, Ronald Ritchie, lied to the 911 operator when he said that Crawford was pointing the BB “gun” at people and that he was trying to load bullets into it. Ritchie lied when he said that Crawford was pointing the gun at children. And just as an illustration of Ritchie’s reliability, we also know that Ritchie lied about being “an ex-marine.” Nonetheless, police officers and dispatchers unquestioningly deferred to Ritchie, and based their entire response on Ritchie’s claims.

So, we apparently live under a system of public-sector policing in which a phone call from a single “witness” can trigger an aggressive police response based on no evidence, no intelligence gathering, and no regard whatsoever for whether or not the person calling into 911 is to be regarded as a credible source or just a lying man-child.

This isn’t the first example of this sort of thing, of course. We know that police engage in SWAT raids and other forms of police violence based on nothing more than a single phone call from a single witness with not even the most cursory investigation into whether or not the “tip” is based any anything other than boredom, spite, racism, or simply sadism . If anyone has an enemy, he need only call the police and report that the target of one’s ire is selling drugs out of one’s home or that he’s some sort of “terrorist.” Police with then descend on the “perp” with assault weapons drawn and smash up the person’s home. …read more

Source: MISES INSTITUTE

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Racism Is So Insidious, Even Black People Underestimate It

September 29, 2014 in Blogs

By Kali Holloway, The Guardian

The ultimate white privilege: Knowing when a white person is a jerk to you, it's just because they're a jerk.


There is a tendency to respond to racialized tragedies with a sudden effort at self-reflection – an attempt to quantify our collective attitudes on race for clues as to why, yet again, we must somehow make sense of the senseless killing of a black teenager. Of the numerous recent polls that measure American perceptions of race, nearly all arrive at the same conclusion: overwhelmingly, white Americans not only believe that race is far less a factor than reported in incidents of police violence against young African-American men but that, in essence, black people are pretty much making this whole racism thing up.

And yet quantitative studies tell a vastly different story. Researchers consistently find that people of color are more likely to be stopped and frisked; that white Americans are more likely to use illegal drugs, but black Americans are more likely to be jailed for drug use; that black men aresentenced to longer prison terms than their white peers for the same crimes and, even more incredibly, that the more stereotypically “black looking” a defendant is, the more likely he is to be sentenced to death. White Americans support harsh criminal penalties not despite but becausethey believe black offenders will be disproportionately affected.

Then there are the consistent and, in some cases, admitted, political dog whistles to race in immigration debates, and racism against Hispanics that serves as a barrier to assimilation. Perhaps most alarmingly, anti-black and anti-Hispanic sentiments have increased in recent years.

That racism is so rampant might seem unfathomable to most white Americans, but the evidence is undeniable. The devastating consequences of racial bias are frequently underestimated even by white people who consider themselves allies – and often in the face of irrefutable proof. For many white Americans, exemption from systemic racism renders it invisible, and the sheer enormity of America’s “race problem” further stretches the boundaries of white imaginations. But racism is not just far more common than white Americans think, it is so pervasive – so unimaginably insidious – that people …read more

Source: ALTERNET

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Cuomo Administration Asks U.S. Department of Justice to Allow New York to Acquire Medical Marijuana From Other U.S. States for Critically Ill Children

September 29, 2014 in PERSONAL LIBERTY

By drosenfeld

Patients, Families, and Advocates Thank Cuomo For Federal Request, But Urge Additional State Action to Save Lives of Critically Ill Patients

Patients Call on Governor to Create State-Based Emergency Access Program

New York — Friday, the Cuomo Administration sent a letter to Deputy Attorney General Cole following up on an earlier letter to U.S. Attorney General Holder sent on August 13, 2014. Both letters asked the Department of Justice (DOJ) to extend a narrow, time-limited exception to federal law to allow the importation of certain strains of medical marijuana from other states for use by children in New York with severe forms of epilepsy.

September 29, 2014

Drug Policy Alliance

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Source: DRUG POLICY

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Paul Krugman Reveals How the Super Rich Conceal Their Wealth and Perpetuate Staggering Inequality

September 29, 2014 in Blogs

By Janet Allon, AlterNet

Most Americans have no idea how insanely unequal things have become.


At first glance, Paul Krugman's column in Monday's New York Times seems a bit counterintuitive. Entitled “The Invisible Rich,” which is a play on a famous essay in the New Yorker fifty years ago, “Our Invisible Poor”, Krugman column makes a strong case that most Americans have no idea just how rarefied the existence of the tippy top of the elite .001 percent is.  And that's just how the elite likes it.

Shows that give viewers the opportunity to ogle “Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous” and celebrity cribs don't really get to the heart of the matter. Rich celebrities are not as representative of the multi-billionaire class as one might think. Here's Krugman's evidence and argument that vast swaths of America have an out-dated conception of how much the greediest corporate chieftains make:

… a survey asking people in various countries how much they thought top executives of major companies make relative to unskilled workers. In the United States the median respondent believed that chief executives make about 30 times as much as their employees, which was roughly true in the 1960s — but since then the gap has soared, so that today chief executives earn something like 300 times as much as ordinary workers.

So Americans have no idea how much the Masters of the Universe are paid, a finding very much in line with evidence that Americans vastly underestimate the concentration of wealth at the top.

Is this just a reflection of the innumeracy of hoi polloi? No — the supposedly well informed often seem comparably out of touch. Until the Occupy movement turned the “1 percent” into a catchphrase, it was all too common to hear prominent pundits and politicians speak about inequality as if it were mainly about college graduates versus the less educated, or the top fifth of the population versus the bottom 80 percent.

And now that everyone's gotten used to the notion of the 1 percent, Krugman shows how all the money and spoils of the current system have flowed through …read more

Source: ALTERNET