Dosing your kids with antibiotics, early and often, linked to childhood obesity

Children exposed repeatedly to antibiotics in their first 2 years of life were more likely to be obese later in childhood…

Children with four or more courses of antibiotics were 11% more likely than others to become obese, according to Charles Bailey, MD, PhD, of the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, and colleagues.

But the effect was restricted to broad-spectrum drugs, suggesting that narrower antibiotic selection might modify the risk, Bailey and colleagues reported online in JAMA Pediatrics.

Because obesity is multifactorial, the authors argued, cutting its prevalence means “identifying and managing multiple risk factors whose individual effects may be small but modifiable.”

In 2011, the Institute of Medicine identified several such factors, including the mother’s pre-pregnancy body mass index, physical activity, and sleep duration. But one “emerging factor,” Bailey and colleagues noted, was the role played by microbial populations in the intestine, which can be affected by antibiotics…

They looked at recorded antibiotic prescriptions in the first 2 years of life and used Cox proportional hazards models to look for associations with obesity in the following 3 years…

Some 69% of the children in the cohort had at least one exposure to antibiotics before 24 months, with an average of 2.3 episodes per child, the investigators found…

Children who were given antibiotics were similar at the time of exposure in terms of weight-for-length to children who did not get the drugs.

But cumulative exposure to antibiotics was associated with later obesity…The effect was greater for broad-spectrum antibiotics…

Getting broad-spectrum drugs early was also associated with obesity, Bailey and colleagues found.

I don’t care what the rationale may be. Whether parents unreasonably demand antibiotics – and doctors cave in. Just like “social promotion” in some school systems for children with failing grades. Or whether your family GP is getting spiffs from some pharmaceutical corporation detailer.

The appropriate response to studies like this is to halt overmedication. Further studies are always needed to confirm or counter; but, meanwhile, let’s try to err on the side of healthier kids, eh?

Bush, government spies, Obama — you have only yourselves to blame for Apple’s spy-proof iPhone

If the government wants to listen in on your phone calls, it can. That’s the crux of the Communications Assistance for Law Enforcement Act, enacted in 1994: It requires wireless carriers to keep the possibility open of wiretapping their networks. In 2005, the act was expanded to include VoIP and broadband providers.

But Calea has never been expanded from phone networks to phones themselves, and now phone makers—first Apple (AAPL), then Android—are releasing handsets with encryption that makes it impossible for the handset maker to retrieve data from the phone, warrant or no. The government is not happy. “What concerns me about this is companies marketing something expressly to allow people to place themselves beyond the law,” FBI director James Comey said last week. But there’s not much he or other branches of law enforcement can do to stop it, absent some help from Congress…

The lawmakers may not be as accommodating as they once were. Revelations about National Security Agency spying have made sanctioned surveillance into a political hot potato: The FBI’s recent push for further technological backdoors in Internet communications seems to have died last year. “Something happened,” recounted Christopher Soghoian of the ACLU at the hacker conference Defcon this summer. “Calea 2, which is the D.C. nickname for this backdoor proposal, for now is dead. It is dead in the water; no politician wants to touch that kind of surveillance for now. So thank you very much, Edward Snowden.”

If the public reaction to Snowden and Operation Prism killed political momentum to expand government power, it also pushed companies such as Apple to develop stronger encryption security in the first place. Assurances that the legal system alone is sufficient to protect privacy seem less credible than they have in the past, and Silicon Valley doesn’t want its reputation to suffer by appearing not to stand up for its users. If government officials are unhappy about this latest turn of events, they have only themselves to blame.

That portion of Congress not entirely consumed with theocracy, bigotry, the John Wayne theory of history – remains governed by cowardice. Fence-sitters and papier mache liberals have always been easy targets for the arrogant superpatriot brigade to tip over like a drunken heifer. Today, maybe not so easy.

Both the nutball Right and please-please-reelect-me Left know their base is pissed off about the NSA, the track record of the last two presidents and their lack of defense on the playing field of constitutional protections for the 98%. Minority caucuses, bona fide peaceniks, the few legitimate progressives in Congress know from decades of assault from every quarter that they haven’t any rights. So, it looks possible for a spell that technology and principles might prevail over political opportunism.

Life on Eigg


Click to enlargeReuters/Paul Hackett

The Island of Eigg, located about ten miles off the Scottish mainland, is made somewhat famous by its rich and varied wildlife, beautiful scenery and its residents’ attempts to become self sufficient.

It has the first completely wind, water and sun-powered electricity grid in the world, according to the Isle of Eigg Heritage Trust.

The island’s climatic conditions allow it to generate power from hydroelectric generators, wind turbines and photovoltaic panels.

Between 85 and 95 percent of the energy it consumes comes from renewable resources, according to locals.

Before the switch to renewables, the island relied on diesel generators for power. Locals described them as noisy, inconsistent and said there used to be a lot of scrambling around in the dark.

Conditions only improved on the island when the community took control over its assets in a 1997 buyout.

With the financial support of various trusts, a milestone was reached in 2008, when Eigg Electric provided 24-hour power for the first time.

Click through to the article. There is a delightful slide show illustrating the changes built by the islanders.

It speaks well of the advocacy for crofters having the right to buyout their land, townships and [sometimes] whole islands – so that beautiful, historically-important garden spots like Eigg now have the independence and support to rebuild their island into energy self-sufficiency. The Community Land Unit was for many the seed planted which grew into a new and proper life for places like Eigg.

Strictly on a personal note, I believe Brian Wilson, former Labour MP and Minister deserves credit for the groundwork for ventures like this one. The West Highland Free Press established a baseline for economic and cultural freedom unmatched by UK Establishment politicians. His persona is strong-willed enough to offend as many folk as he pleases; so, I defer to folks’ personal experiences.

Thanks, Mike — great minds and etc.

World Wildlife Fund – and Pangasius

06 August 2014 – ASC certified GODACO farm, in Vietnam, opened its doors to fish buyers this week to demonstrate how environmentally and socially responsible pangasius [.pdf] is produced.

The EU co-funded ‘Establishing a Sustainable Pangasius Supply Chain in Vietnam (SUPA)’ project’s partners: World Wide Fund For Nature (WWF), Vietnam Association of Seafood Exporters and Producers (VASEP) and Vietnam Cleaner Production Centre (VNCPC), along with the Aquaculture Stewardship Council (ASC), joined together to host a tour of the farm and processing facility followed by a Pangasius Forum discussion during the Vietfish Fair in Ho Chi Minh City.

This pleases me on a couple of levels. I grew up subsistence fishing along the southern New England coast. We fished to eat. Simple as that. I credit my dear mother for having been inventive enough to keep us from going stark raving mad – eating whatever species was running for three months – five times a week.

But, I’m pleased to see a nation – where the United States got partway to genocide through carpet bombing and Agent Orange and napalm – is stepping further into independent economic self-sustaining commerce. I know damned well there are a lot of Vietnamese mothers figuring out how to make Asian Catfish taste different one more time this week – because it’s affordable. And I sympathize. And I also appreciate the effort of the World Wildlife Fund to develop Mekong aquaculture into environmentally friendly farming.

Thanks, Mike

Effects of East Anglian breast screening on climate change

A newly appreciated problem — climate change, for example — can spur people to consider all sorts of possible remedies. This study appears to have been done in that spirit:

The authors, at the University of East Anglia and at Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital, explain:

Health services contribute significantly to carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions and, while services in the UK are beginning to address this, the focus has been on reducing energy consumption rather than road transport, a major component of emissions. We aimed to compare the distances travelled by patients attending mobile breast screening clinics compared to the distance they would need to travel if screening services were centralized….

The availability of mobile breast screening clinics for the 60,675 women who underwent screening over a three-year cycle led to a return journey distance savings of 1,429,908 km. Taking into account the CO2 emissions of the tractor unit used for moving the mobile clinics around, this equates to approximately 75 tonnes of CO2 saved in any one year.

Gotta love unintended consequences when they turn out positive.

Which American state would you like to see secede?

…There’s always some idle secession chatter in the freedom-and-independence-loving United States, too. A new poll shows one in four Americans support “the idea of your state peacefully withdrawing from the United States of America and the federal government.”

But could it ever be more than a rhetorical phenomenon in the States? It seems unlikely, given that those who benefit most from union are those most interested in secession…

Secession got more support from Republicans than Democrats, more from right- than left-leaning independents, more from younger than older people, more from lower- than higher-income brackets, more from high school than college grads…. Of the people who said they identified with the Tea Party, supporters of secession were actually in the majority, with 53 percent.

In other words, it’s recipients of government largess who want to get out. It’s net donors to the government who want to stay. To wit, only one in five residents of the wealthy New England states supports secession, separatist-lusty Vermont included, versus one in three residents of the poorer southwest, where the urge is more pronounced…

None of that should surprise you. Survey polls like this also need to factor in a blowhard index?

But it takes a lot more than grit to make it as a new country — and generally, the poorer, smaller, and less-diversified the state, the worse it would fare after independence. Secession itself would also be extremely costly, though how costly would depend on whether the United States acceded to the plan (not likely) and how much it wanted to antagonize New Kansas or Free Texas or what have you. Would it forgive said state’s debts? Would it implement airspace restrictions, travel restrictions, sanctions, or even a full embargo? Might it bar a new country from the global payments system?

But let’s say we’re in a heartless, rationalist thunderdome-type situation. In that case, who deserves to get kicked out?

The article wanders through West Virginia, Wyoming, Hawaii, Alaska, Texas, Kansas and Vermont as states we’d miss the least.

I love when Annie Lowrey gets down to the real losers we wouldn’t pay to stay: Ohio and Florida. Both states trying their best to screw everyone with the wrong color, unacceptable sex, too old to care about education and too poor to be registered to vote.

And especially calling Florida America’s lunatic dongle really warms my looney geek-heart the most.

Thanks, Helen

Everyone in America loves guns — even two-year-olds

Screen Shot 2014-09-28 at 6.43.02 PM

A family road trip comes to a frightening end when their two-year-old daughter finds a gun in the back of the car they had rented.

The Davie, Fla. family had just returned home from Cocoa Beach when the gun was found.

The gun — which was still loaded — was found underneath the seat of the Toyota Avalon the family had rented from Enterprise Rent-A-Car.

The girl’s father, Louis Venuto said, “She knew something was wrong. She knew she was doing something wrong. So I didn’t hear her for a second because she always makes little noises and whatnot, so I quickly look back to make sure she’s OK, and she kinda was like, ‘Look what I found.’ I just reached around, and I grabbed it.”

Venuto also said, “She could have easily pulled the trigger is what I’m try to say,” he also added, “She rough houses with my 65-pound dog in there and to pull that trigger would have been nothing to do.”

Davie police were called. They took the gun away and are investigating who it belongs to.

Enterprise said they are also investigating the situation.

Yup, everyone will make certain that gun is returned to its rightful owner.

One more $1-billion-a-year right-wing conspiracy with God on their side


Elena Scotti/The Daily Beast

Have you heard of the $1,750-per-person “Gathering,” which started Thursday in Orlando, Florida?

Probably not. But if you’re female, gay, non-Christian, or otherwise interested in the separation of church and state, your life has been affected by it.

The Gathering is a conference of hard-right Christian organizations and, perhaps more important, funders. Most of them are not household names, at least if your household isn’t evangelical. But that’s the point: The Gathering is a hub of Christian Right organizing, and the people in attendance have led the campaigns to privatize public schools, redefine “religious liberty” (as in the Hobby Lobby case), fight same-sex marriage, fight evolution, and, well, you know the rest. They’re probably behind that, too…

To be sure, untangling webs of funders, organizations, and campaigns can often feel like conspiracy-mongering. Your brain begins to resemble one of those bulletin boards from A Beautiful Mind or Se7en, full of paranoid-seeming Post-Its and strings. Bruce Wilson has been untangling these webs for years, and sometimes it shows…

But often he’s dead on. And beneath the hyperbole, The Gathering is as close to a “vast right-wing conspiracy” as you’re likely to find. So with this year’s conference about to get under way, Wilson gave The Daily Beast an exclusive interview over email—heavily redacted here—about this shadowy, powerful network of hard-right funders.

Let’s start with the basics. What is The Gathering?

The Gathering is an annual event at which many of the wealthiest conservative to hard-right evangelical philanthropists in America—representatives of the families DeVos, Coors, Prince, Green, Maclellan, Ahmanson, Friess, plus top leaders of the National Christian Foundation—meet with evangelical innovators with fresh ideas on how to evangelize the globe. The Gathering promotes “family values” agenda: opposition to gay rights and reproductive rights, for example, and also a global vision that involves the eventual eradication of all competing belief systems that might compete with The Gathering’s hard-right version of Christianity. Last year, for example, The Gathering 2013 brought together key funders, litigants, and plaintiffs of the Hobby Lobby case, including three generations of the Green family.

RTFA for a long, deliberate, detailed, fact-filled description of how religious bigots organize much of the funding for their assorted hatreds. For a religion which purports to be founded on loving your neighbor, the sects fighting for theocracy in America require lots of individual ghettoes to separate out all the people, cultures and freedoms they don’t believe in loving.

Then, hypocrisy ain’t exactly a weak suit among American fundamentalists.

Thanks, Mike