Author Archives: kilroy100

 
 

WHATEVER TRUMP DOES DOESN’T MATTER (to his “base”). Is below an explanation?


 

Bobby Azarian Ph.D.

Mind In The Machine/Psychology Today, 9/30/19

Cognitive Impairments Can Promote Religious Fundamentalism (and political extremism?)

Scientists have found a link between religious fundamentalism and brain damage.

study published in the journal Neuropsychologia has revealed a connection between a functional impairment in the brain region known as the prefrontal cortex and an inclination toward religious fundamentalism. The findings suggest that brain damage to this particular area indirectly promotes religious fundamentalism by diminishing cognitive flexibility and openness—a psychology term that describes a personality trait that involves dimensions like curiosity, creativity, and open-mindedness.

Religious beliefs can typically be thought of as socially-transmitted mental representations that consist of supernatural events and entities assumed to be real. These kinds of religious beliefs differ from empirical beliefs, which are based on how the world appears to be and are updated as new evidence accumulates or when new theories with better predictive power emerge. On the other hand, religious beliefs are not usually updated in response to new evidence or scientific explanations and are therefore strongly associated with conservatism. They are generally fixed and rigid, which helps promote predictability and coherence to the rules of society among individuals within the group.

Religious fundamentalism refers to an ideology that emphasizes traditional religious texts and rituals and discourages progressive thinking about religion and social issues. Fundamentalist groups generally oppose anything that questions or challenges their beliefs or way of life. For this reason, they are often aggressive towards anyone who does not share their specific set of supernatural beliefs, and towards science, as these things are seen as existential threats to their entire worldview.

Since religious beliefs play a massive role in driving and influencing human behavior throughout the world, it is important to understand the phenomenon of religious fundamentalism from a psychological and neurological perspective.

To investigate the cognitive and neural systems involved in religious fundamentalism, a team of researchers—led by Jordan Grafman of Northwestern University—conducted a study that utilized data from Vietnam War veterans that had been gathered previously. The vets were specifically chosen because a large number of them had damage to brain areas suspected of playing a critical role in functions related to religious fundamentalism. CT scans were analyzed comparing 119 vets with brain trauma to 30 healthy vets with no damage, and a survey that assessed religious fundamentalism was administered. While the majority of participants were Christians of some kind, 32.5% did not specify a particular religion.

Based on previous research, the experimenters predicted that the prefrontal cortex would play a role in religious fundamentalism since this region is known to be associated with something called “cognitive flexibility.” This term refers to the brain’s ability to easily switch from thinking about one concept to another, and to think about multiple things simultaneously. Cognitive flexibility allows organisms to update beliefs in light of new evidence, and this trait likely emerged because of the obvious survival advantage such a skill provides. It is a crucial mental characteristic for adapting to new environments because it allows individuals to make more accurate predictions about the world under new and changing conditions.

reverse damage to prefrontal cortex

Brain imaging research has shown that a major neural region associated with cognitive flexibility is the prefrontal cortex—specifically two areas known as the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (dlPFC) and the ventromedial prefrontal cortex (vmPFC). Additionally, the vmPFC was of interest to the researchers because past studies have revealed its connection to fundamentalist-type beliefs.

For example, one study showed individuals with vmPFC lesions rated radical political statements as more moderate than people with normal brains, while another showed a direct connection between vmPFC damage and religious fundamentalism. For these reasons, in the present study, researchers looked at patients with lesions in both the vmPFC and the dlPFC, and searched for correlations between damage in these areas and responses to religious fundamentalism questionnaires.

According to Dr. Grafman and his team, since religious fundamentalism involves strict adherence to a rigid set of beliefs, cognitive flexibility and open-mindedness present a challenge for fundamentalists. As such, they predicted that participants with lesions to either the vmPFC or the dlPFC would score low on measures of cognitive flexibility and trait openness and high on measures of religious fundamentalism.

The results showed that, as expected, damage to the vmPFC and dlPFC was associated with religious fundamentalism. Further tests revealed that this increase in religious fundamentalism was caused by a reduction in cognitive flexibility and openness resulting from the prefrontal cortex impairment. Cognitive flexibility was assessed using a standard psychological card sorting test that involved categorizing cards with words and images according to rules. Openness was measured using a widely-used personality survey known as the NEO Personality Inventory. The data suggests that damage to the vmPFC indirectly promotes religious fundamentalism by suppressing both cognitive flexibility and openness.

These findings are important because they suggest that impaired functioning in the prefrontal cortex—whether from brain trauma, a psychological disorder, a drug or alcohol addiction, or simply a particular genetic profile—can make an individual susceptible to religious fundamentalism. And perhaps in other cases, extreme religious indoctrination harms the development or proper functioning of the prefrontal regions in a way that hinders cognitive flexibility and openness

The authors emphasize that cognitive flexibility and openness aren’t the only things that make brains vulnerable to religious fundamentalism. In fact, their analyses showed that these factors only accounted for a fifth of the variation in fundamentalism scores. Uncovering those additional causes, which could be anything from genetic predispositions to social influences, is a future research project that the researchers believe will occupy investigators for many decades to come, given how complex and widespread religious fundamentalism is and will likely continue to be for some time.

By investigating the cognitive and neural underpinnings of religious fundamentalism, we can better understand how the phenomenon is represented in the connectivity of the brain, which could allow us to someday inoculate against rigid or radical belief systems through various kinds of mental and cognitive exercises.

How “fundamentalism” in its various forms-political and ideological, is exploited:

“The receptivity of the masses is very limited, their intelligence is small, but their power of forgetting is enormous. In consequence of these facts, all effective propaganda must be limited to a very few points and must harp on these in slogans until the last member of the public understands what you want him to understand by your slogan.” ~ Adolf Hitler

“How fortunate for leaders that men do not think (also, What luck for rulers that men do not think).” ~ Adolf Hitler

 

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TRUMP AND WILHELM II


Former Foreign Secretary Lansdowne said, ‘It is inconceivable that they should provoke a European war, but the Emperor is becoming more irresponsible with every year that passes !
The ambassador in Paris wrote that the ‘Kaiser’s temperament was so excitable and so little to be relied on that it was impossible to say what further follies he might commit.’
Finally, Grey the British Foreign Secretary, informed the Lord of Admiralty that the fleet be ready ‘in case Germany sent France an ultimatum and the Cabinet decided that we must assist France.’
Though this crisis dissipated, Grey was ‘tired of the Emperor; he is like a battleship with steam up and the screws going, but with no rudder and you cannot tell what he will run into or what catastrophe he will cause.’
In all of the above incidents, foreign Politicians commented upon the Kaiser’s mental instabilities, and foreign relations further deteriorated.
           (note from Kilroy: we all know how this circus ended, with WWI and its child, WWII)

 

 

                WHAT TRUMP HAS IN COMMON WITH THE LAST GERMAN EMPEROR

President Donald Trump appears sui generis. Other troublesome populists, like Rodrigo Duterte of the Philippines, hold power. But no other nation of great influence is governed by someone so little rooted in reality and so much dominated by personality.

However, the president has a historical soul mate who ruled a century ago. The similarities are striking, though their lives obviously differed in important ways. One wonders: was the German Empire’s Kaiser Wilhelm II reincarnated as President Trump?

Wilhelm II was born in 1859 in the house of Hohenzollern. A grandson of British queen Alexandrina Victoria, he grew up in a life of wealth and privilege, though he suffered from a withered left arm as a result of a birth injury. This may well have contributed to his psychological need for affirmation, a subject that Thomas Mann deftly explored in his novel Royal Highness.

He took power in 1888 after the death of his grandfather and father. Wilhelm rejected the liberal views of his parents (his mother was British and unpopular among German conservative circles) and favored traditional autocracy. Also, he was determined to rule as well as reign. In contrast, his grandfather, Kaiser Wilhelm I, had mostly left governing to the famed “Iron Chancellor” Otto von Bismarck.

No other nation of great influence is governed by someone so little rooted in reality and so much dominated by personality.

Still, Wilhelm II was no dictator. Germany had a strong constitutional order and an elected Reichstag with a broader franchise than Great Britain. However, the cabinet answered to the kaiser, not the parliament. In that sense, Imperial Germany looked a lot like modern-day America, where the president is both head of state and government, and thereby manages the executive branch, in contrast to Westminster parliamentary rule.

The German Empire was not a superpower, but it was a rising great power. It possessed the world’s second-largest economy, had surpassed Great Britain in industrial strength and enjoyed a substantially larger population than France. The German army was the world’s best army. Kaiser Wilhelm’s attempt to match British naval strength failed, but the potent Kriegsmarine could not be ignored by London. Berlin also acquired a small network of overseas colonies.

The kaiser was particularly interested in international affairs. He dismissed Bismarck in 1890 and embarked upon what he termed the “New Course.” Bismarck was no liberal peacenik, but once he unified Germany and consolidated the empire’s gains, he sought stability. He was uninterested in colonies, opposed a naval race with Great Britain, and sought to keep France and Russia apart. Had his policies remained in place, World War I almost certainly would not have erupted in August 1914. Bismarck famously observed that the Balkans were not worth the bones of a single Pomeranian grenadier. He was right.

Kaiser Wilhelm was aggressive, thoughtless and extraordinarily maladroit. He earned a lengthy litany of criticisms. The Economist recently observed that he “grew up to be emotionally needy, bombastic, choleric, hyperactive and hypersensitive. His personality combined with the militaristic authoritarian culture of the Prussian court to create a monarch who was extraordinarily ill-suited to lead the most powerful country in Europe.”

Historian Thomas Nipperdey called the kaiser “gifted,” but also “superficial, hasty, restless, unable to relax, without any deeper level of serious, without any desire for hard work or drive to see things through to the end, without any sense of sobriety, for balance and boundaries, or even for reality and real problems, uncontrollable and scarcely capable of learning from experience, desperate for applause and success.”

That sounds an awful lot like the current occupant of the White House.

Kaiser Wilhelm insisted on gaining Germany “a place in the sun” by fair means or foul. Although he was nothing like Adolf Hitler in power or intention, he managed to offend ally and adversary alike. There was no Twitter then, but in 1895 the kaiser dispatched an encouraging telegram to the Boers, who were resisting British troops in the Transvaal. This won neither him nor Germany any friends or plaudits across the English Channel.

In 1900 German soldiers joined an international expedition to suppress the anti-Western “Boxer Rebellion” in China. He told them: “Just as a thousand years ago the Huns under their King Attila made a name for themselves, one that even today makes them seem mighty in history and legend, may the name German be affirmed by you in such a way in China that no Chinese will ever again dare to look cross-eyed at a German.” The term “Hun” was put to propaganda use against Germany during World War I.

Five years later, he inflamed tensions with France by visiting Morocco and backing the kingdom’s independence against Paris. His conduct also offended friendly states and lost Berlin support at the international conference called to defuse the crisis. In 1908, Kaiser Wilhelm gave an indiscreet, boastful, condescending interview in the Daily Telegraph, a leading British paper. During the interview, he called the British “mad” and said the German navy targeted Japan. So hostile was the reaction at home, as well as overseas, that the chastened monarch tempered his future foreign ventures.

During the European crisis after the June 28, 1914, assassination of Austria-Hungary’s Archduke Franz Ferdinand, the heir to that empire’s throne, Wilhelm pushed for an aggressive response before unsuccessfully attempting to halt the rush to war with the famous “Willy-Nicky” telegram to his cousin, Russian Tsar Nicholas II. Kaiser Wilhelm was gradually sidelined during the war and forced to abdicate by the Reichswehr after Germany sought an armistice in late 1918. Erich Ludendorff and Paul von Hindenburg ran the show. Kaiser Wilhelm lived out his life in exile in the Netherlands and died under Nazi occupation in 1941.

In both personality and lack of discretion, the Kaiser and the Donald seem to have a lot in common. Thankfully, history never fully repeats itself, but the two remind us of the truth of abolitionist Wendell Phillips’ observation that “eternal vigilance is the price of liberty.”

America has a more powerful legislature, an active opposition and a better developed civil society than imperial Germany-all of which should help hold President Trump in check if his more dubious personality traits lead to trouble. Nevertheless, the presidency has amassed extraordinary authority. Congressional Republicans so far have been largely pusillanimous and understandable popular anger against institutions, such as the media, undercut their influence.

One need not look to history to recognize that the next four years are likely to prove challenging. But President Trump’s closest historical model suggests the urgency of preparing an effective, nonpartisan opposition. Surely, this is a time to be vigilant in the defense of freedom.

Doug Bandow is a Senior Fellow at the Cato Institute and a former Special Assistant to President Ronald Reagan.

 

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Another “Great Dying” event pending?


‘Great Dying’: Biggest ever mass extinction triggered by global warming leaving animals unable to breathe

Study highlights potential for similar event resulting from man-made climate change, scientists say

Extreme global warming that left ocean animals unable to breathe triggered Earth’s biggest ever mass extinction, according to new research.

Around 95 per cent of marine species and 70 per cent of life on land was wiped out in the event often referred to as “The Great Dying”, which struck 252 million years ago

Previous studies have linked it with a series of massive volcanic eruptions in Siberia that filled the atmosphere with greenhouse gases.

But precisely what made the oceans so inhospitable to life has remained an unanswered question until now.

The new study, reported in the journal Science, suggests as temperatures soared the warmer water could not hold enough oxygen for most marine creatures to survive.

Lessons from the Great Dying have major implications for the fate of today’s warming world, say the US scientists.

If greenhouse gas emissions continue unchecked, ocean warming could reach 20 per cent of the level experienced in the late Permian by 2100, they point out.

By the year 2300 it could reach between 35 and 50 per cent of the Great Dying extreme.

“This study highlights the potential for a mass extinction arising from a similar mechanism under anthropogenic [human caused] climate change,” said lead researcher Justin Penn, a doctoral student at the University of Washington.

Before the Siberian eruptions created a greenhouse-gas planet, the Earth’s oceans had temperatures and oxygen levels similar to those present today.

In a series of computer simulations, the scientists raised greenhouse gases to match conditions during the Great Dying, causing surface ocean temperatures to increase by around 10C.

The model triggered dramatic changes in the oceans, which lost around 80 per cent of their oxygen.

Roughly half the ocean floor, mostly at deeper depths, became completely devoid of the life-sustaining gas.

The researchers studied published data on 61 modern marine species including crustaceans, fish, shellfish, corals and sharks, to see how well they could tolerate such conditions.

These findings were incorporated into the model to produce an extinction “map”.

“Very few marine organisms stayed in the same habitats they were living in – it was either flee or perish,” said co-author Dr Curtis Deutsch, also from the University of Washington.

The simulation showed the hardest hit species were those found far from the tropics and most sensitive to oxygen loss.

Data from the fossil record confirmed a similar extinction pattern was seen during The Great Dying.

Tropical species already adapted to warm, low-oxygen conditions were better able to find a new home elsewhere. But no such escape route existed for those adapted to cold, oxygen-rich environments.

Previously, experts were undecided about whether lack of oxygen, heat stress, high acidity or poisoning chemicals wiped out life in the oceans at the end of the Permian period.

“This is the first time that we have made a mechanistic prediction about what caused the extinction that can be directly tested with the fossil record, which then allows us to make predictions about the causes of extinction in the future,” said Mr Penn.

Experts think the Earth is currently going through the sixth mass extinction in its history, an event triggered by humans.

Over-exploitation of the planet’s resources, pollution and climate changes as a result of spiking greenhouse gas emissions have all caused an increase in species extinctions in recent years.

A new book: The Uninhabitable Earth, by David Wallace Wells, has a few points to share on the subject. A sample, text or audio, offers an introduction. (click below)

https://www.penguinrandomhouse.com/books/586541/the-uninhabitable-earth-by-david-wallace-wells/9780525576709/

Missing from the above are measures to slow or at least survive, for some, the apocalyptic future described. The impression given by some authors is that humanity will not rise to the challenge. Are they right? I suppose future generations will find out.                                                                    Kilroy

 

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THE “GREAT DYING” IN THE AMERICAS AFTER 1492, AND ITS EARTH SYSTEM IMPACTS.


The “germs” part of GUNS, GERMS AND STEEL (the PBS series and book by Professor Jared Diamond)

4 December 2018

 

Alexander Koch a, *, Chris Brierley a, Mark M. Maslin a, Simon L. Lewis a, b

a Geography, University College London, London, WC1E6BT, United Kingdom
b School of Geography, University of Leeds, Leeds, LS29JT, United Kingdom

Abs t r a c t
Human impacts prior to the Industrial Revolution are not well constrained. We investigate whether the
decline in global atmospheric CO2 concentration by 7e10 ppm in the late 1500s and early 1600s which
globally lowered surface air temperatures by 0.15+C, were generated by natural forcing or were a result of
the large-scale depopulation of the Americas after European arrival, subsequent land use change and
secondary succession. We quantitatively review the evidence for (i) the pre-Columbian population size,
(ii) their per capita land use, (iii) the post-1492 population loss, (iv) the resulting carbon uptake of the
abandoned anthropogenic landscapes, and then compare these to potential natural drivers of global
carbon declines of 7e10 ppm. From 119 published regional population estimates we calculate a

           pre-1492 CE population of 60.5 million

(interquartile range, IQR 44.8e78.2 million), utilizing 1.04 ha land per
capita (IQR 0.98e1.11).

European epidemics removed 90% (IQR 87e92%) of the indigenous population over the next century.

This resulted in secondary succession of 55.8 Mha (IQR 39.0e78.4 Mha) of
abandoned land, sequestering 7.4 Pg C (IQR 4.9e10.8 Pg C), equivalent to a decline in atmospheric CO2 of
3.5 ppm (IQR 2.3e5.1 ppm CO2). Accounting for carbon cycle feedbacks plus LUC outside the Americas
gives a total 5 ppm CO2 additional uptake into the land surface in the 1500s compared to the 1400s, 47
e67% of the atmospheric CO2 decline. Furthermore, we show that the global carbon budget of the 1500s
cannot be balanced until large-scale vegetation regeneration in the Americas is included.

Global climate change graph

YELLOW BOX IS THE “GREAT DYING” TIMESPAN, BLACK IS “CARBON UPTAKE” due to reforestation, BLUE and GREY are ice cores showing atmospheric CO2 levels

 

THE GREAT DYING OF THE INDIGENOUS PEOPLES OF THE AMERICAS RESULTED IN A HUMAN-DRIVEN GLOBAL IMPACT ON THE EARTH SYSTEM IN THE TWO CENTURIES PRIOR TO THE INDUSTRIAL REVOLUTION.

 

Amerindians in North America

Once, North America was full of Amerindian nations, populations of people ancestrally indigenous to the continent. Researchers estimate population numbers in the millions prior to the arrival of Europeans, but today Amerindians make up only about 1% of the total population. So, what happened? Well, the arrival of Europeans introduced many new things to North America. Some of those things were invisible bacteria and viruses that caused pandemic-level outbreaks amongst Amerindian populations. Now, off the bat it should be acknowledged that diseases did not single-handedly destroy Amerindian civilizations. However, when coupled with slavery, oppression and forced dietary/social changes that came from colonialism, these diseases did have an absolutely lethal impact. One of the most notorious of these diseases was smallpox, a vicious virus that even today cannot be treated except to manage its symptoms and prevent its spread. Of all the colonial empires to touch Amerindian nations, smallpox may have been the most aggressive.

Introduction of Smallpox

Smallpox found its way into the Americas basically in tandem with the first major colonial expeditions. The Spanish started setting up colonies in the Caribbean in the late 15th century, and by the first decade of the 16th century the region was already experiencing widespread mortality amongst Amerindian populations. Now, the obvious question here is why smallpox affected Amerindians so harshly. Smallpox as a disease first transferred to humans around 10,000 BCE. It appeared first in agricultural societies as humans were exposed to diseases carried by animals, and spread across Africa and Europe. But, over thousands of years they built up immunities. This doesn’t mean they were completely safe; a smallpox outbreak in Rome is believed to have killed roughly 7 million people in 108 CE. However, when smallpox appeared in the Caribbean, it encountered a people with absolutely no previous exposure, and therefore no genetic immunities to the disease.

 

Europeans landing in the Caribbean unknowingly introduced new diseases
Columbus

The people of the Caribbean, called the Taíno, were the first to really have to deal with smallpox, and they were entirely wiped out. When Europeans first arrived in the Caribbean, they often enslaved the Taíno and forced them into hard labor. Exhaustion and starvation weakened their immune systems, reducing the little ability they had to fight off new diseases like smallpox. Of the many populations to be decimated by smallpox, the Taíno are amongst the only ones considered to have experienced nearly a 100% mortality rate. In fact, it was because the Taíno had all succumbed to the disease that Europeans started importing new slaves from Africa. This actually made the smallpox problem worse, as African slaves unknowingly carried new strains of the disease.

Impact on European Colonialism

Smallpox ended up being one of the most dramatic factors in the colonial wars that would emerge between Amerindians and European empires across the next several centuries. When Hernán Cortés and the Spanish Conquistadores took on the Aztec Empire, many parts of that empire had already been ravaged by smallpox. Since the virus passes from person-to-person and can hide within a host for almost two weeks before that person shows any symptoms, smallpox worked its way into the continental Americas long before the Europeans got there. In fact, the Aztec capital of Tenochtitlán was ravaged by smallpox while the Spanish weren’t in the city, and the Aztec emperor himself was killed.

The disease likely reached Tenochtitlan when Cortés returned from the coast in June 1520, and by September it had killed perhaps half of the city’s 250,000 residents, including Montezuma’s successor, Cuitláhuac.

The loss of warriors and political disunity caused by the disease was part of the reasons the Aztec Empire fell.

 

Smallpox depicted in Aztec illustrations
Aztec smallpox art

This trend would continue across the Americas. When European traders first made it to what is now Oregon and Washington, they noted that there were already members of the tribal nations there who were sick with smallpox. Researchers estimate that a smallpox outbreak in a community who has never seen the disease before can impact their population for 100 to 150 years. Those who survive are still carriers of the disease, and with each generation the virus can reappear, wreaking havoc.

In 1517 the Spanish conquistadors, led by Hernán Cortés, arrived in Tenochtitlan, the capital of the Aztec Empire. The ruler of the Aztecs, Motecuhzoma II, made the Spanish welcome and things were friendly between the Spanish and the Aztecs initially.

 

Tenochtitlan before Cortes–250,000 people, compulsory public education for all

1024px-LastDaysofTenochtitlanB

CORTES’ SOLDIERS ENCOUNTERING THE SMALLPOX VICTIMS OF TENOCHTITLAN

 

Two years later the conquistadors began their conquest of Mexico, and by August 1521 Tenochtitlan had been destroyed. The Spanish colony of New Spain was established and the Aztec Empire had ended. The reasons for this rapid and dramatic destruction of such a mighty Empire were multi-factorial. The superior weaponry and more sophisticated military tactics of the Spanish, the religious beliefs of the Aztecs, and the long history of ritual sacrifice and persecution of the other peoples living in Mexico all played essential roles. There are a large number of detailed resources available on this subject, and I highly recommend the History on Fire podcast series by Daniele Bolleli if you are interested in the topic.

In addition to these factors, smallpox undoubtedly played a huge part in the fall of the Aztec Empire. When Cortés and his army began their campaign against the Aztecs in 1519, over 30 million people were living in Mexico. One hundred years later, after a series of smallpox epidemics had decimated the local population, it is estimated only around 1.5-3 million natives had survived.

Native Americans Helped the Europeans when they Suffered Disease

Updated on May 9, 2013

Native Americans became exposed to many new diseases when the Europeans arrived in North America. Native American communities were isolated from disease until the arrival of the Europeans. The Europeans had built up immunity to many diseases while living in the Old World. Native Americans had never been exposed to these diseases before and their traditional cures did not work. The transmission of the diseases caused more devastation in the New World than the Black Death had done in Europe. Hundreds of thousands of Natives died from these diseases. Well established trade routes helped spread the diseases very quickly. Diseases that the Europeans brought over were smallpox, measles, malaria, yellow fever, influenza, chicken pox, and many others. Diseases that were spread to the Europeans from the Natives were syphilis, polio, hepatitis, and encephalitis.

Christopher Columbus

Christopher Columbus and his crew landed in Hispaniola, an island in the Caribbean Sea, in the year 1492, and by the year 1600 most of the Natives were dead from disease. The reason they died so quickly is because the Europeans brought over livestock with them. The Natives were hunters and gatherers. The Europeans lived in tight settlements with their livestock, which helped diseases spread faster. Cattle pass measles, tuberculosis, and smallpox to people. Pigs pass influenza and pertussis to people. Chickens pass malaria to people. The Natives did not have these animals until the Europeans arrived, and did not have the antibodies to fight the diseases as well as the Europeans had. Trading with one another helped spread the diseases quickly. Alfred Crosby writes about some of these diseases in his article The Columbian Exchange, Smallpox was the worst and the most spectacular of the infectious diseases mowing down the Native Americans. The first recorded pandemic of that disease in British North America detonated among the Algonquin of Massachusetts in the early 1630s: William Bradford of Plymouth Plantation wrote that the victims “fell down so generally of this disease as they were in the end not able to help one another, no not to make a fire nor fetch a little water to drink, nor any to bury the dead.” European explorers encountered distinctively American illnesses such as Chagas Disease, but these did not have much effect on Old World populations. Venereal syphilis has also been called American, but that accusation is far from proven. Even if we add all the Old World deaths blamed on American diseases together, including those ascribed to syphilis, the total is insignificant compared to Native American losses to smallpox alone.”

Syphilis

The Europeans not only brought disease to the New World, but also brought disease with them back to the Old World. European sailors on their way back to Europe brought syphilis with them. “The origin of venereal syphilis is referred to as the “Columbian hypothesis”, it asserts that the disease causing agent Treponema pallidum originated in the New World and was spread in 1493 by Christopher Columbus and his crew, who acquired it from the Natives of Hispaniola through sexual contact. Upon return to Spain, some of these men joined the military campaign of Charles VIII of France and laid siege to Naples in 1495. Encamped soldiers exposed the local populations of prostitutes, which amplified disease transmission. Infected and disbanding mercenaries then spread the disease throughout Europe when they returned home. Within five years of its arrival, the disease was an epidemic in Europe. Syphilis reached Hungary and Russia by 1497; Africa, the Middle East and India by 1498; China by 1505; Australia by 1515; and Japan by 1569.” The most common remedies for syphilis were mercury and guaiacum.

Native Americans

The Native Americans did help the Europeans when they suffered disease. One example is when the French explorer Jacques Cartier and his crew were trapped in the St. Lawrence River near Montreal. The ships were frozen in the ice from November to March during the winter of 1535 to 1536. As a result, disease broke out on the ships and twenty-five men died. (The disease is what we now call scurvy.) The local Natives saw the Frenchmen’s plight and showed them how to take bark and leaves of a certain tree (either white pine or hemlock) boil them down and drink it every other day. Native American healers, many of them women, knew where to find natural plant remedies. Europeans would have rather received natural healing then the alternative European healing, such as purging and bleeding. Natives would treat wounds with crushed bark of Chionanthus; use Spirea as a purgative like ipecac; apply the pulverized roots and leaves of Dracontium (skunk or polecat-weed) after attacks of asthma; use a decoction of Aralia spinosa to treat rheumatic pains; apply the bark of witch hazel to tumors and inflammations and make a poultice from the inside bark as a remedy for burning eyes; relieve coughs with a decoction of Adiantum; and use the resin from the buds of the tacamahac tree for various illnesses. They also used bayberry roots for toothaches and petroleum to relieve rheumatism and aches and pains.

Europeans

The Europeans also helped the Native Americans when they were suffering. Traditional Native healing practices, such as fasting, taking sweat baths, and plunging into an icy river, did not help them fight the diseases, but made it worse. The Europeans had sought the aid of the Natives for cures for snakebites and other ailments, now the Natives were seeking help from the Europeans. The Huron Natives accepted Baptism from Jesuit priests in hopes that they would be healed. The Europeans had some medical knowledge and supplies and helped them the best they could. Alvar Nunez Cabeza de Vaca writes in Relacions how he helped cure Natives of illnesses. “We remained with the Avavares Indians for eight months, according to our reckoning of the moons. During that time they came for us from many places and said that verily we were children of the sun. Until then Dorantes and the negro had not made any cures, but we found ourselves so pressed by the Indians coming from all sides, that all of us had to become medicine men. I was the most daring and reckless of all in undertaking cures. We never treated anyone that did not afterwards say he was well, and they had such confidence in our skill as to believe that none of them would die as long as we were among them.” In his writings, Cabeza de Vaca tells that the only thing that they did for the Indians was to pray for them. “Every one of the patients offered him his bow and arrows, which he accepted, and by sunset he made the sign of the cross over each of the sick, recommending them to God, Our Lord, and we all prayed to Him as well as we could to restore them to health.”

IMBALANCE IN THE SPIRIT WORLD

 

Native American cultures saw illness as a sign of imbalance in the spirit world. They did not believe that disease was spread person to person. Staying in harmony with others through rituals was very important for a good mind in the natural and spirit world. Illnesses could be caused by violated taboos, witchcraft, or unfulfilled dreams, but could be cured by rituals. Some tribes believe that there are three kinds of diseases. Some are natural and can be cured with natural remedies. Some are caused by the soul of the sick person and are cured by giving what the soul desires. And then some are caused by a spell that a sorcerer has cast upon the person and is cured by drawing out the spell that is making the person sick.

Interestingly, the Europeans thought that the illnesses that were killing the Native Americans were a divine act of God. “According to John Winthrop, God was killing Indians and their supporters to ensure “our title to this place.” And as the “instruments of Providence, divinely appointed to claim the New World from its ‘godless’ peoples,” the colonists felt it was their duty to destroy the “godless savage.” In the words of Captain John Underhill, “We had sufficient light from the word of God for our proceedings” — he refers to the massacre of five hundred Pequot men, women, and children at a village along the Mystic River.”

Helped Modern Medicine

The diseases that affected early American people are very extensive. The treatments varied depending on what part of the country and what culture lived there. As you can see in my research, there are many differences on who helped who and what treatment they received. The Native Americans were natural healers and the Europeans used advanced medical technology. The two groups did not always get along and work together, but when they did it was very advantageous for all involved. The Natives specialized in ways that the Europeans did not, and vice versa. The diseases helped modern medicine and doctors gain more knowledge as time went on.

 

THE “LITTLE ICE AGE”

Hence, the carbon uptake that is thought to have occurred
following the arrival of epidemics in the Americas may have
reduced atmospheric CO2 levels and led to a decline in radiative
forcing that may then have contributed to the coldest part of the
Little Ice Age

Though scientists don’t agree on what caused the Little Ice Age, most agree the climate cooled from the 15th century to the middle of the 19th century, with the greatest intensity between 1550 and 1700. Some scientists peg the coldest period even more narrowly, between 1645 and 1715. During that period the average winter temperatures in North America fell two degrees Celsius.

The NASA Earth Observatory blames diminished solar activity for the Little Ice Age, though scientists offer competing theories.

Historians, on the other hand, agree that the Little Ice Age altered the course of history. It froze rivers and canals in Northern Europe, wiped out cereal production in Iceland and caused famine in France, Norway and Sweden. Colder winters meant denser wood, which contributed to the superior tone of the Stradivarius violin.

little-ice-age-great-snowThe Little Ice Age brought cool summers and bitterly cold winters to New England.  During the Great Snow of 1717, for example, a series of snowstorms buried houses and got search parties lost looking for them.

The Cold Friday of 1810 also belonged to the Little Ice Age. People died in their homes when the temperature suddenly plummeted more than 60 degrees in less than a day. Years later, Henry David Thoreau’s mother remembered how dishes froze as fast as they were washed – right next to the fire

In conclusion, a pre-industrial event such as the “Great Dying”, which was thought to trigger both the reduction in CO2 and increase in carboniferous plant residues captured in ice cores inverts the usual understanding of global climate change due to human activities which, when you think about it, provides unique confirmation of the hypothesis.

 

 

 

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GUN ORCHESTRAS from MEXICO


How about a new approach to gaining control of the lethal weapons trade. “Swords to Plowshares” moving on to “AR15s to guitars”.  Or, instead of tracer bullets sprayed on concert goers (remember Las Vegas) recycled weapons on stage backing up the soloists. 

enhanced-buzz-orig-10472-1379526518-12

Pedro Reyes with guitar and harp built of gun parts.

A new use for the 700+ guns arriving in Mexico daily (via the drug trade return trips) from the U.S. Finally, paraphrasing the NRA mantra:”Guns don’t kill people”, etc., these guns actually don’t kill–(unless you are a music critic).

Pedro’s “raw material” for this project involved some 6700 seized guns, about 10 days worth of guns arriving in Mexico–that authorities know about–.  What about the Rumsfeld quote re: “known unknowns”?

(click on the following links for various sound adventures)

http://www.blog.pedroreyes.net/?p=151    https://www.emdash.net/pedro-reyes/

Supposing that we in the U.S. managed to walk back from our suicidal gun worship, what kind of music we could make with the toxic residue before it found its way into smelting furnaces to make, say, new infrastructure for American cities.

Crazy idea, of course. Ever hopeful, Kilroy

 

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PANDEMICS?


Pandemics, Personnel, and Politics: How the Trump Administration is Leaving Us Vulnerable to the Next Outbreak

          Thanks to Global Biodefense.com

pandemic picture

Bill Gates warning of future pandemics killing 30 millions in 2018 essay

“The next epidemic could originate on the computer screen of a terrorist intent on using genetic engineering to create a synthetic version of the smallpox virus or a super contagious and deadly strain of the flu.Whether it occurs by a quirk of nature or at the hand of a terrorist, epidemiologists say a fast-moving airborne pathogen could kill more than 30 million people in less than a year—and they say there is a reasonable probability the world will experience such an outbreak in the next 10 to 15 years,” Gates said.
     (quote from an article by Gates in the New England Journal of Medicine, 2018)

Despite this heightened risk of a global pandemic, the Trump Administration has dragged its feet in appointing senior officials to key Federal agencies responsible for preparing and responding to a pandemic or bioterrorist attack. These agencies are also subject to steep budget cuts under Trump’s budget for Fiscal Year 2018. The delays in installing senior leaders at these agencies and pending budget cuts puts U.S. and global health security at risk.

The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), National Institutes of Health (NIH), and US Agency for International Development (USAID) ) are four crucial agencies responsible for preparing for the next pandemic. Within HHS, Trump has yet to nominate anyone to fill the position of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response (ASPR), who is responsible for building Federal emergency medical operational capabilities, developing medical countermeasures, and providing grants to strengthen the capabilities of hospitals to cope with medical disasters. The CDC, which is tasked with detecting and containing disease outbreaks in the United States and provides grants to state and local health departments to help them prepare for public health emergencies, has played a vital role in responding to major outbreaks at home and abroad. While the agency is currently being led by acting director Dr. Ann Schuchat, a well-respected, 30-year veteran of the agency, her ability to mobilize the resources needed to respond to a pandemic or other health crisis may be stymied by her interim status. Although President Trump wisely asked Francis Collins to stay on as director of NIH, he has also proposed cutting the biomedical research agency’s budget by $5.8 billion, or about 18%. In the event of a pandemic, the NIH will play a crucial role in characterizing the pathogen responsible for the outbreak and supporting research to develop diagnostics, vaccines, and therapeutics to contain the outbreak. And yet Trump’s budget eliminates the NIH’s Fogarty International Center which supports international health research. Finally, the Trump Administration has failed to nominated anyone to fill any of the 11 Senate-confirmed posts at USAID, which plays a key role in helping developing countries improve their public health systems to detect and respond to emerging infectious disease threats.  USAID, together with the State Department, is also poised to take a 31% budget reduction under Trump’s proposed budget. USAID’s $72 million Global Health Security fund is slated for elimination, which would dramatically affect the ability of the U.S. to work with international partners to combat the spread of infectious diseases like H7N9. The only positive element of the budget related to health security is Trump’s proposal to create a Federal Emergency Response Fund to enable more rapid responses to public health emergencies. Although the size of the fund has not yet been disclosed, given the Trump Administration’s stated priorities the funds will likely come from other parts of the health security budget.

These funding cuts combined with numerous vacancies in influential positions in agencies responsible for health security is a dangerous combination. Having confident, informed leaders running these organizations with sufficient resources is necessary to ensure that these agencies can effectively produce vaccines and diagnostics and implement preventative measures to control an outbreak of H7N9 or another strain with pandemic potential.  If a major influenza pandemic were to occur, no wall would be high enough to stop the virus from entering the United States. The best defense against pandemics and other disease threats are Federal, state, and local health agencies and international partners with strong leadership and the necessary resources to fund vital surveillance, preparedness, response, and research activities   Mother Nature doesn’t play politics; Trump shouldn’t play politics with global health security.

Gregory D. Koblentz is an Associate Professor and Director of the Biodefense Graduate Program at the Schar School of Policy and Government at George Mason University. Nathaniel M. Morra is a graduate student in the Biodefense Program at George Mason.

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ANOTHER MURDER OF THE RIGHTEOUS


No statue commemorates the life and career of Spencer Perceval, the only British Prime Minister to be assassinated.

Though his (mentally tortured) assassin cared nothing about Perceval’s role in launching the end of the slave trade throughout the British Empire, this British politician certainly belongs alongside Abraham Lincoln, author of the Emancipation Proclamation, and Czar Alexander II (who ended serfdom, a form of slavery, throughout the Russian Empire), both of whom were victims of assassination by political fanatics.

The Forgotten Prime Minister

Spencer Perceval is the only British Prime Minister ever to be assassinated. He deserves to be remembered for much more than that.

On the 11th May 1812, Spencer Perceval, the Prime Minister of Great Britain, entered the House of Commons. He was on his way to attend an inquiry into a set of Orders of Council he had issued. Perceval was, at the time, the leader of the most powerful democracy on Earth, one whose empire was already beginning to spread across the globe, despite the loss of the American colonies and repeated wars with France. Despite this, he was surprisingly approachable, rarely accompanied by any kind of guard. This was very much the case that afternoon and as Perceval walked through the lobby he passed through a large crowd of petitioners and civil servants, something that he had done many times before without incident.

That day, however, was different. In the crowd of petitioners was John Bellingham. Bellingham was a failed merchant from Liverpool, burdened by debt. This had led, in part, to a period of imprisonment in Russia, from which he had returned just a month before. In the time since he had become convinced that his imprisonment was somehow the government’s fault and that Perceval in particular was to blame.

As the Prime Minister moved through the crowd Bellingham stepped out in front of him. Before anyone could react, Bellingham pulled a pistol from his pocket and fired a single shot from close range into Perceval’s chest.

The wounded Prime Minister collapsed to the ground and confusion and fear rippled through the crowd. Bellingham calmly walked over to a nearby bench and sat down. Seconds later he was restrained by Isaac Gascoigne, Member of Parliament (MP) for Liverpool. Bellingham made no effort to resist. Meanwhile bystanders carried Perceval into a nearby office. His pulse was weak and fading and he was placed on a table. A doctor was frantically sought, but it was too late. The shot had taken Perceval in the heart and the wound was fatal. Mere minutes after the shot had been fired he was dead.

In that moment Spencer Perceval became (and remains) the only British Prime Minister ever to be assassinated.

The forgotten man

History has not been kind to Spencer Perceval. Not because it has judged him harshly, but because it has forgotten really to judge him at all. For most people, if they know the name, it is as the answer to a pub quiz question about his unique death.

A short man (even by the standards of the time), Perceval was blessed with boyish features well into later life. He was born into a well-connected family, but as the second son of his father’s second marriage his prospects (and finances) were not great. As a result, Perceval was largely forced to look to his own resources. He trained as a lawyer and swiftly began to make a name for himself as he embarked on both a legal and a political career.

Perceval’s harmless exterior concealed a fiercely conservative outlook and an almost fanatical commitment to his beliefs. This was a major contributor to his increasing reputation, but it ensured he made many enemies along the way. As a lawyer he participated in the successful prosecution of the publisher of Thomas Paine’s Rights of Man in 1792. His reputation as a fierce opponent of social change grew further.

In 1796 Perceval became the MP for Northampton. He soon began ruthlessly and doggedly attacking the liberal cause in Parliament, becoming a key conservative attack dog for Prime Minister William Pitt the Younger. So much so that when opposition MP George Tierney, challenged the Prime Minister to a duel in 1798, it was Perceval that Pitt suggested should succeed him in office if he lost. Luckily the need did not arise. Pitt and Tierney did indeed duel, firing pistols at twelve paces, but Tierney’s first shot missed and Pitt elected to fire into the air.

A country on the verge of great change

Perceval’s conservatism and extreme anti-liberal stance came at a time when Britain (and indeed the world) faced enormous social upheaval. France was in a state of revolution and the call for reform at home was increasing day by day. Abolitionism — the quest to end slavery — had also begun to make some headway in Britain, although its supporters knew they faced an up-hill battle to bring it to pass.

Slavery stood at the heart of British conservatism. It was a trade that earned enormous wealth for the country, particularly in ports such as Liverpool which played a crucial role in the world slave trade. Manufactured goods would be loaded there onto ships bound for Africa, where they were traded for slaves. The slaves would then be taken by those same ships to America, where they (or at least those that survived the journey) would be traded for goods such as sugar, coffee or tobacco. These would be brought back to Liverpool, where enormous profits would be made and this horrific triangular trade would begin again.

Abolutionists faced a situation similar to that faced by those battling the Tobacco industry over lung cancer, or energy companies over environmental issues, today. They may have had the moral high ground but slavery’s supporters had the money, and they could call on many powerful, political supporters on both sides of the benches in Parliament.

In this environment you could be forgiven for thinking that Spencer Perceval, Pitt the Younger’s conservative attack dog, would be at the heart of the fight to preserve this shameful institution. Remarkably, the truth was the exact opposite.

Refusing to look away

William Wilberforce, one of the prime architects of abolition, was a man who firmly believed that the practice of slavery could never survive the exposure of what it truly involved. Once a person knew what was involved then they faced a stark moral choice.

“You may choose to look the other way,” Wilberforce once explained, “but you can never say again that you did not know.”

In the early 1800s Perceval was one of several politicians on whom Wilberforce and his supporters tested this theory. On the MP for Northampton, it worked. Having seen the horrible reality of the trade, Perceval became convinced that it had no place in modern society. Whatever his feelings on reform or liberalism in general, he soon became convinced that slavery was an absolute wrong. As a man for whom convictions were more important than politics, he soon became determined to do what he could to bring it to an end, regardless of the conflicts this might cause him within his own political party.

Finding a loop-hole

By the time he converted Perceval to the cause, Wilberforce had been trying, and failing, to get Parliament to ban the slave trade for over ten years. The brutal truth was the votes weren’t there. Plenty of politicians privately professed their opposition to slavery, but few would commit to its end publicly for fear of angering the wealthy and powerful pro-slavery lobby. That reluctance extended to Pitt the Younger himself. The Prime Minister told Wilberforce that he was personally against the trade, but that his hands were tied. He would not publicly support the cause or trigger a vote for fear of alienating his support or losing in Parliament.

The abolitionists knew that what they needed was some kind of win — anything that would put the first crack into the legal and political armour that surrounded the institution of slavery. In the end it was Perceval, determined to do the right thing despite the overwhelming pressure to do nothing, who finally found a way to strike that first blow.

In 1805 Britain was locked in conflict with France, and this had resulted in the occupation of Dutch Guiana. Ever the lawyer, Perceval quickly spotted an unexpected opportunity. The occupation had been carried out under Crown rather than Parliamentary authority. It was a subtle difference, but an important one as it meant that the way in which it was governed was subtly different to the rest of British territory. Most importantly, Perceval spotted, it meant that with a bit of legal hand-waving, a ban on the import of slaves to the new colony could go into the Orders-in-Council being enacted to prevent neutral countries from trading with France. And of course, Perceval quietly pointed out to Pitt, thanks to the vagaries of the British Parliamentary system Orders-in-Council didn’t need Parliamentary approval.

It was a masterful piece of political manouevring. Perceval had recognised that Wiberforce’s head-on approach could only take things so far. Certainly it had worked on Perceval himself, but the MP for Northampton knew that Pitt would never stand in front of the House of Commons and publicly commit to a cause which many of his friends and supporters still fervently opposed. So rather than try and force Pitt to do so, Perceval had simply engineered a way round it. Very quickly, the Prime Minister agreed to make the change.

The Dutch Guianan ban represented a key victory for the abolitionist cause. At a stroke, a trade that had consumed 6,000 human lives a year in Guiana had been ended, It also set a huge precedent. It opened a crack in slavery’s legal armour that could never be closed. Perceval remained determined to widen it further.

Seeing things through

In 1807 Parliament finally passed the Slave Trade Act. As the name implies, the Act banned the practice of the slave trade throughout the entirety of the British Empire and also committed Great Britain to press other European nations to do the same.

The passing of the Act represented a public triumph for the abolitionist cause and for Wilberforce himself, but neither Wilberforce nor Perceval believed that it represented the end of the fight. Its opponents were not beaten by its passing, and remained determined to use their power to weaken its impact. Over the next few years, some of the most tumultuous in British Parliamentary history, Perceval worked hard to ensure that the ideals of the Act became the reality. When the government Pitt had formed fell as the Bill was passing through Parliament, it was Perceval that carefully shepherded it through the change of government. Later, during his own tenure as Prime Minister, Perceval worked hard to give it teeth. This would ultimately lead to the founding of the West Africa Squadron, the Royal Navy’s first dedicated anti-slavery force, backed up by the full legal and political force of Perceval’s government.

Ultimately, by the time of his assassination, Perceval had done more than almost any man in Britain to ensure that not only would the slave trade be banned, but that the ban would not be a paper tiger. He was determined to ensure it would have a real impact both in Britain and anywhere British power projected.

Making enemies

Perceval’s strange combination of anti-liberalism and reform to be found Perceval ensured that he was never short of enemies. His arch-conservatism earned him the vitriol of liberals, whilst at the same time his commitment to eradicating the slave trade provoked the same reaction among many on his own side of the political fence.

In 1806 he even added the Prince Regent (yes that one) to his ever-growing list of enemies. The Prince‘s marriage to his wife, Charlotte was an unhappy one. Their marriage had been arranged against his will, and within a year of their nuptuals they were already living separately. When rumours began to circulate that the Princess might have had an affair, George stoked the flames and organised an investigation into her behaviour through his political connections.

Appalled at the smear campaign being enacted against Charlotte, Perceval became a key player in her defence. He wrote what became known infamously as “The Book” (which you can read here). It was a brutal, legal takedown of the Prince’s case, one that Perceval told the future George IV he would publish if the Prince didn’t back down and allow Charlotte to resume her public life. Brow-beaten and blackmailed, the Prince did so, although not before bombarding Perceval with what one observer described as “the most offensive personal abuse, and an oath that cannot be recited.”

An un-expected Prime Minister

To many Perceval’s ascension to the position of Prime Minister in 1809 seemed doomed to failure. Certainly it could not have happened at any other time. Although, as Chancellor of the Exchequer, he was a senior figure in the government, he arguably only really got the job because George Canning and Lord Castlereagh, the two leading political lights of the day, were locked a personal political rivalry that ruined their own chances of taking the top job (they too had been caught duelling). Both men initially refused to serve under Perceval. Various other Tory politicians refused to serve in his government as well, believing that the increasing economic hardships at home and the conflict with France abroad would make it unpopular and likely to fall. In the end, Perceval was unable even to find anyone willing to take on the office of Chancellor was forced to shoulder both roles.

Despite this inauspicious start, somehow Perceval made it work. Over the next two years his personality seemed to hold everything together — even his enemies in Parliament respected him, if not his politics — and perhaps most crucially few doubted his personal integrity. As a politician he was practically unique at the time — not only because he refused to treat politics as an opportunity to make money from the public purse (and gave much of what he could spare to charity) but also because he had married for love.

The family man

Perceval’s marriage to Jane Wilson had taken place while he was a poor junior lawyer, and though her father approved of his character he disapproved of Perceval’s poverty. The two lovers were forced to elope in order to seal their marriage, living for several years in a small flat above a carpet shop. A devoted husband, Perceval never took a mistress, something which caused much confusion amongst his political peers. So too did the fact that he adored his children. The couple had thirteen, twelve of whom survived into adulthood and Perceval delighted not only in helping raise them, but also in playing games with them.

“He was beloved without sensation of fear,” wrote one bemused contemporary on seeing Perceval with his children, “and never so happy as when playing in the midst of them.”

The stable statesman

Perceval’s integrity and talent for holding things together turned out to be exactly what the times required. Alongside ensuring that the Slavery Act was enforced he also worked hard to prosecute the war against Napoleon’s France in the face of successive defeats.

After the disastrous Walcheren campaign in the Netherlands and setbacks on the Iberian Peninsular, Perceval came under enormous pressure to withdraw all British troops from the continent. The small British force in Portugal under Sir Arthur Wellesley, however, continued to cling on. Napoleon had dismissed Wellesley as a “Sepoy General,” a derogatory reference to the fact that his experience had, until the Peninsular, largely come from fighting in India. It was a view that some in the upper echelons of British politics and the military shared and they began to advocate the army — or at least Wellesey’s — removal.

Perceval’s support for the General and his army, however, was unwavering. This gave Wellesley the time to prove his detractors wrong. By the end of the war with France, Wellesley’s victory over both the French and his detractors was complete, and as Viscount (later Duke of) Wellington he rightly cemented his place in the pantheon of great generals, and ultimately beat Napoleon himself at Waterloo.

Perceval’s commitment to prosecuting the war would have consequences beyond the battlefield though and beyond his own life. It brought economic hardship at home, to the point where in some cities — including London itself — news of his assassination was greeted with cheers. His refusal as Prime Minister to lessen the trade restrictions on neutral powers would also help set Britain and the United States on a path to war — the War of 1812, in which the White House would burn.

By 1812, however, there were few in Parliament — on either bench — who would dispute that Perceval was the right man for the Premiership. His cabinet colleagues referred to his as the ‘Supreme Commander’. As a politician he was at the height of his power when Bellingham’s bullet struck, and he was almost universally mourned by his peers after his death.

More than a piece of trivia

Given his unique place in history, it is perhaps inevitable that whenever the anniversary of Perceval’s death comes about, such coverage as there is nearly always focuses only on his assassination. Do spare a thought though for the man behind the pub quiz question.

Even the Prince Regent had come to begrudgingly respect him, and on realising that Perceval’s early death had robbed his wife and children of their sole source of income. Immediately requested that Parliament vote them a lump sum and an annuity for life.

Lord Castlereagh, once Perceval’s opponent but by then his Foreign Secretary, was unable to finish reading the Regent’s request in Parliament. Breaking down with emotion, he was forced to sit down and let others finish the reading.

“In most faces,” wrote one Parliamentary observer, “there was an agony of tears.”

Parliament wanted to bury Perceval in Westminster Abbey, but his widow Jane refused. He would not have wanted it, she insisted. He was buried in a quiet, private ceremony by his family in St Lukes, Charlton. Perceval’s journey into anonymity had begun.

That anonymity is unfair. There is no doubting that he was a man of contrasts. He was a conservative attack dog, a staunch anti-reformist and a blackmailer. He was also a loving husband and father, a man of integrity and an abolitionist. Indeed after Perceval’s death, William Wilberforce said that the abolitionist movement owed more to Perceval than it ever did to him.

In fact, possibly the least interesting thing Perceval ever did was get assassinated.

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CO2 is an excellent fire extinguisher. Meteors and asteroids are supposed to burn up in our atmosphere–unless it contains high levels of CO2. An example from our geologic past explained below.


30kg-co2-wheeled
Marine fire extinguisher, 30 KG CO2

The contraction of the thermosphere will reduce atmospheric drag on satellites and may have adverse consequences for the already unstable orbital debris environment, because it will slow the rate at which debris ( asteroids and meteorites) burn up in the atmosphere. Reference: Naval Research Laboratory (2012) report following.

Confronting Climate Change: Critical Issues for New Zealand, Wellington:
Victoria University Press, 2006.

Chapter 6

(author), Peter Barrett:

The most recent period of the Earth’s history, the Cenozoic era, began 65 million years ago with a bang: a
meteorite impact that ended the rule of the dinosaurs, but disturbed only briefly the super-warm climate of
the times. However, for the past 50 million years, the Earth has been cooling and it is now becoming clear
that this long-term cooling trend may be  reversing in the last few decades (IPCC, 2001). In this chapter,
I outline the evidence for this view, which is becoming widely accepted by those who study the Earth’s
climate system and its past history.
Although geologists have been learning about the Earth’s history for hundreds of years, a real understanding
has developed merely in the last four decades through deep-sea drilling and analytical chemistry. Thousands
of cores have been extracted from the seabed, and analysed by tens of thousands of scientists in hundreds of
laboratories. They have increased our understanding of many aspects of the Earth’s history, but I intend to
focus on just two: the Earth’s surface temperature, and carbon dioxide (CO2) levels in the atmosphere.

 Until 65 million years ago, when dinosaurs still roamed the Earth, the planet’s geography was somewhat
different from now in several respects. The Atlantic Ocean was much narrower to both the north and south,
Australia was still joined to Antarctica, and New Zealand was under the sea off the coast of Australia.
However, the Earth’s temperature was very different. This was a warmer planet by between 6°C and 10°C,
and CO2 levels were between two and eight times higher than pre-industrial values (Bice et al. 2006). It was
what scientists now call a ‘greenhouse world’. Life on Earth was severely challenged on that day 65 million
years ago when a meteorite 10 km wide hit the Yucatan Peninsula, leaving a 200 km crater and sending
many cubic kilometres of shattered debris and dust into the stratosphere. As a consequence, not only the
dinosaurs but around sixty percent of all species on Earth died out. There was undoubtedly a major impact on
the Earth’s climate for decades or even longer. Cooling effects from the dust of the explosion gave way to
warming as the dust settled out, and increased CO2 from the fires that followed.

 

About The Chicxulub Crater (left by the meteorite referred to above)

The Chicxulub crater on the Yucatan peninsula is believed to be the most likely site of the asteroid impact responsible for the demise of the dinosaurs.

Dinosaur death due to meteor strike

The crater measures between 180 and 240 kilometres across, indicating an impactor of colossal size, the biggest impact confirmed on Earth.

The collision at Chicxulub sent vaporized rocks, cracked mineral grains and molten rock flying around the world.

The Chicxulub crater represents the most recent major impact on the Earth, and despite its geologically young age, it is already an extremely well- hidden structure that has taken teams of geologists and geophysicists many years to unravel.

In fact it is so hidden, that nowadays the crater is not noticeable when walking across it, as the crater is merely 3-4 meters deep. At the time of the impact though, the crater probably was over 900 meters deep.

Chicxulub location


Chicxulub Impact – location map

Discovery

The crater was just recently discovered. In 1978, geophysicists Glen Penfield and Antonio Camargo worked for the Mexican state oil company Pemex, as part of an aerial magnetic survey of the Gulf of Mexico, just north of the Yucatan Peninsula. Their job was to use geophysical data to study possible locations to extract oil. During their investigation, they found a big symmetrical underground arc that measured around 70 kilometers.

Pemex map

But this wasn’t the first map Pemex had of that area. Another Pemex contractor, Robert Baltosser made similar discoveries earlier, but was forbid to publish them because of Pemex corporate policy. Consulting the maps made by Baltosser, Penfield found another arc on the peninsula itself. Comparing the two maps, he found that the two arcs formed a circle 180 km in diameter, with its central point near the town of Chicxulub , in the Yucatan. Based on this data, he was sure that the site was a spot of some cataclysmic event in geological history.

Although Pemex forbid them to publish certain data, Penfield and Camargo presented their findings in 1981 at a conference of the Society of Exploration Geophysicists (SEG). At that moment his report attracted little attention because although they had lots of geophysical data, they had no rock samples, or any other physical evidence of the collision.

Concomitantly, American physicist, Luis Walter Alvarez published a paper in which he theorized that the Earth was stuck by a foreign object around the Cretaceous–Paleogene boundary (K-T boundary). After data about the Chicxulub crater was gathered, it was linked to Alvarez’s theory, providing support for it.

Environmental and geological effects of the impact

It is believed that after the impact, some of the biggest tsunamis in Earth’s history were formed.

The emission of dust and particles could have covered the entire surface of the Earth for several years, possibly a decade, making life difficult for many terrestrial animals.

For some years after the impact, sunlight would have been prevented to reach the surface of the Earth, cooling it down abruptly.

1-howdoesaninv

Besides the cooling effect, plants wouldn’t have been able to develop, causing devastating effects for the entire food chain.

There are also speculations that the vaporized material might have blown away part of Earth’s atmosphere or that the impact would have resulted worldwide forest fires, but these speculations need to be challenged.

Chicxulub crater Yutacan


Chicxulub Crater Yutacan

Chicxulub inner crater at the same scale as the Los Angeles - San Diego area


Chicxulub inner crater at the same scale as the Los Angeles – San Diego area

Scientists detect carbon dioxide accumulation at the edge of space (Update)

Scientists detect carbon dioxide accumulation at the edge of space
ACE satellite observing the sun through Earth’s atmosphere. Credit: ACE website, University of Waterloo

(Phys.org)—A team of scientists from the Naval Research Laboratory, Old Dominion University, and the University of Waterloo reports the first direct evidence that emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2) caused by human activity are propagating upward to the highest regions of the atmosphere. The observed CO2 increase is expected to gradually result in a cooler, more contracted upper atmosphere and a consequent reduction in the atmospheric drag experienced by satellites. The team published its findings in Nature Geoscience on November 11, 2012.

 

The team of Dr. John Emmert, Dr. Michael Stevens, and Dr. Douglas Drob from NRL’s Space Science Division; Dr. Peter Bernath from Old Dominion University; and Dr. Chris Boone from the University of Waterloo in Canada studied eight years of CO2 measurements made by the Atmospheric Chemistry Experiment (ACE), a scientific satellite mission funded primarily by the Canadian Space Agency. ACE determines vertical profiles of CO2 and many other atmospheric gases by measuring how the atmosphere absorbs sunlight at different wavelengths as the Sun rises and sets relative to the spacecraft.

Scientists detect carbon dioxide accumulation at the edge of space

 

CO2 concentration at 100 km altitude (~62 mi) measured by ACE (blue circles) and predicted by a model of the chemistry and physics of the global upper atmosphere (green crosses). The purple line shows the linear trend of the ACE data. Credit: U.S. Naval Research Laboratory

CO2 occurs naturally throughout Earth’s atmosphere and is the primary radiative cooling agent in the energy balance of the mesosphere (~50-90 km altitude) and thermosphere (>90 km). The same properties of CO2 that cause it to trap heat in the troposphere (<15 km) make it an efficient cooler at higher altitudes. The difference is that at high altitudes, the density of CO2 is too thin to recapture the infrared radiation (heat) that it emits. “In the upper atmosphere,” explains Emmert, “thermal energy is transferred via collisions from other atmospheric constituents to CO2, which then emits the energy as heat that escapes to outer space.”

The enhanced cooling produced by the increasing CO2 should result in a more contracted thermosphere, where many satellites, including the International Space Station, operate. The contraction of the thermosphere will reduce atmospheric drag on satellites and may have adverse consequences for the already unstable orbital debris environment, because it will slow the rate at which debris ( asteroids and meteorites) burn up in the atmosphere.

It has been expected that anthropogenic CO2 increases are propagating upward throughout the entire atmosphere. Before the study of ACE data, CO2 trends had been measured only up to 35 km altitude, although indirect evidence from satellite drag studies indicates that the thermosphere is indeed slowly contracting. The scientists estimate that the concentration of carbon near 100 km altitude is increasing at a rate of 23.5 ± 6.3 parts per million (ppm) per decade, which is about 10 ppm/decade faster than predicted by upper atmospheric model simulations. In comparison, tropospheric CO2 concentrations are increasing at a rate of about 20 ppm/decade (the current concentration of CO2 near the ground is ~390 ppm). The authors speculate that the larger than expected upper atmospheric trend may be caused by changes in upper atmospheric circulation and mixing.


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Rising carbon dioxide levels increase risks to satellites


More information: Nature Geoscience paper: DOI: 10.1038/ngeo1626

Journal information: Nature Geoscience  Nature
Provided by Naval Research Laboratory
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“Pro-Life” and Racism linked


The Racist Origins of ‘Pro-Life’ Abortion Movement They Never Talk About, by Wagatwe Wanjuki, July 10, 2018

Fundamentalist Christians and [the KKK] are pretty close, fighting for God and country. Someday we may all be in the trenches together in the fight against the slaughter of unborn children. — John Burt, 1994 New York Times interview
Reversing Roe v. Wade goes against the will of the people. A recent Quinnipiac poll shows that a clear majority support the Supreme Court ruling ensuring a patient’s access to abortion care. That, of course, won’t stop opponents to the measure from ruling by minority; it’s exactly what the so-called “pro-lifers” want.
Rule by minority has increasingly become the Republican’s modus operandi; gerrymandering, voter suppression, and congressional loopholes show they are not shy about staying in power by any means necessary. Now we’re seeing what’s possible when a man like Donald Trump embraces it as the leader of the power. Trump has not hesitated to embrace white nationalists and give racists power—just look at Steve Bannon, Stephen Miller, and Jeff Sessions—which is exactly why it’s prime time for Roe v. Wade to come up on the chopping block.
It’s no coincidence that the biggest national threat to abortion rights since Roe is happening under such a racist government. Have you ever wondered why the “pro-life” movement is so … white? Or perhaps you’ve noticed that they seem incapable of not being racist whenever they pretend to care about Black people to further their extreme agenda.
You’re not alone. It turns out that the pro-life movement has been very good about hiding its racist origins. That’s not just because white people tend to be uncomfortable and avoidant when talking about race. It’s because it also exposes the true goal of the movement, which makes their initially confusing hypocrisy incredibly clear.

Abortion restrictions have always been political—and about race

Abortion provider  Ann Lohman (a.k.a. Madame Restell) based on a photograph, 1888. From Recollections of a New York City Chief of Police by George W. Walling.
Madame Restell, née Ann Lohman
During much of the 19th century, abortion was unregulated and business was booming. The industry was doing so well that one famous provider, Madame Restell, invested in one of New York City’s first luxury apartment buildings with her husband. The white, middle-class women who could afford abortions were having more control of their bodies and thus having fewer children. This was all happening while the United States was also getting more Catholic and Jewish immigrants.
The fears of white women increasingly turning away from doing their “duty” to bear children coupled with xenophobia compelled powerful white men to spring into action. Under the guise of wanting to require a medical license to perform abortions, the American Medical Association (AMA) ran a successful campaign to ban abortion care and put the decision to make exceptions completely in their hands. How did they succeed? They appealed to the racist little hearts of Anglo-Saxon politicians.
Back then, “pro-life” racism wasn’t as subtle. The authors of “Abortion, Race, and Gender in Nineteenth-Century America” in the American Sociological Review wrote that “physicians argued that middle-class, Anglo-Saxon married women were those obtaining abortions, and that their use of abortion to curtail childbearing threatened the Anglo-Saxon race.” Take this excerpt from a book by Dr. Augustus K. Gardner from 1870, for example:
Infanticide is no new crime. Savages have existed in all times, and abortions and destruction of children at and subsequent to birth have been practiced among all barbarous nations of antiquity … The savages of past ages were not better than the women who commit such infamous murders to-day, to avoid the cares, the expense or the duty of nursing and tending a child.
Here we see how framing abortion as murder came from racist propaganda. Dr. Gardner talked about barbaric peoples—Indians, Greeks, and Chinese, for example—that supposedly partook in infanticide. He uses this in an attempt to shame women from seeking abortions, calling them no better than these “savages.” Political anti-abortion rhetoric began with this message: abortion is for other people. Non-white people.
Yet even back then, there was no consensus among conservatives or Christians about abortion’s morality. However, the disproportionate amount of power that rich white men had in the country—as doctors and politicians—allowed this minority to execute its will on the people (sound familiar?).

The truth about conservative hate of Margaret Sanger—and contraception

Margaret Sanger. http://www.loc.gov/pictures/item/2016879604/
Margaret Sanger
While the 19th century racists succeeded in getting a nationwide abortion ban, that pesky desire from women for autonomy kept rearing its head. It’s almost as if you keep oppressing people, they will eventually want more rights—no matter how hard you try!
No wonder they hated Margaret Sanger, the founder of Planned Parenthood. She published a feminist magazine in 1914  that advocated for reproductive freedom—exactly what racist white men didn’t want embraced by women. The smears and attacks against her continue today as conservatives try to paint her as the racist. The truth is that she was a proponent of eugenics, but was staunchly against its use for racist means. At the Jewish Woman’s Archive, Open Society Institute fellow Ellen Chasler explains:
She distinguished between individual applications of eugenic principles and cultural ones and spoke out against immigration prohibitions that promoted ethnic or racial stereotypes with a biological rationale. She saw birth control as an instrument of social justice, not of social control.”
In fact, Sanger worked with activists of color like W.E.B. Du Boisand Japanese feminist Shizue Kato—people conservatives today would undoubtedly disparage. Dr. Martin Luther King even once said, “There is a striking kinship between our [civil rights] movement and Margaret Sanger’s early efforts in “Family Planning—A Special and Urgent Concern.”
While there’s no excuse for Sanger’s support of the eugenics movement, it does show that the fact was distorted by a white racist movement that undoubtedly has people who would agree with her eugenic statements today.
Even in Sanger’s time, white supremacists still couldn’t agree on whether to support birth control or not. Some saw it as a possible means to keep “undesirables” from reproducing, while other had fears that Anglo-Saxon white women would embrace it too much and significantly lower their birth rate.

Tools of white supremacy: from school segregation to abortion

Abortion became a political tool of racist white evangelicals as a response to the Black civil rights movement of the 1960’s. Displeased with forced school integration and other signs of Black people being treated like human beings, the founders of the modern anti-choice movement sought to find an issue to mobilize the conservative base. With enough grassroots support, white evangelical leaders could get people who’d Make America Explicitly Racist again in power and protect its white people as they saw fit.
Washington, UNITED STATES:  Reverend Dr. Jerry Falwell, founder and chancellor of Liberty University, speaks during a Christians United For Israel(CUFI) news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, 19 July 2006. CUFI is a new association of 3,000 Christians urging Congress and the public to strengthen defense of Israel.            AFP PHOTO/Jim WATSON  (Photo credit should read JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images)
Jerry Falwell speaks at a Christians United For Israel news conference.
One of these leaders is preacher Jerry Falwell, the founder of Liberty University: he hated Dr. King and all this civil rights expansion. In response to Brown v. Board of Education, he created private, white-only Christian schools to try and preserve segregation. It worked for a while, but the government started cracking down on the schools explicitly made just for white children.
In hopes of reversing this wave, evangelicals had thrown their weight behind President Jimmy Carter, a Democrat and fellow evangelical Christian, for the 1976 election. Unfortunately for Falwell and friends, Carter wasn’t also a racist. Under Carter’s watch, the crackdown on white schools continued.
Activist Paul Weyrich had long suggested using abortion as their political issue. Now that school segregation had failed, leaders like Falwell and Focus on the Family’s Dr. James Dobson agreed to join forces to usher in a new era in white supremacist political activism: the pro-life movement.
While Roe v. Wade was already years old, they tested using the “pro-life” political stance as a way to get candidates who’d do their racist bidding in office during the midterm elections—and it worked. They won three Senate seats and a governorship thanks, in part, to low turnout from Democrats and high energy from the white evangelicals. They found a winning issue and took it to the national stage next.

How racism brought Republicans and white evangelicals together

3/15/1983 President Reagan Meeting with Jerry Falwell in Oval Office
President Reagan and Jerry Falwell in the Oval Office.
Evangelical leaders tried to influence Carter to seek a constitutional amendment to overturn Roe v. Wade. He refused, so they looked to the other party. The Republican Party’s sexism dovetailed nicely with racist anti-abortion policies and support for such an amendment was made a part of the party’s platform. And thus, the GOP officially adopted the language proposed by the power-hungry white evangelicals and officially became the “pro-life” party with candidate Ronald Reagan as the leader.
Reagan was a good bet. He had name recognition with his acting career before entering politics. And, like Falwell and friends, Reagan lamented the advancement of the civil rights for Black people. Reagan had no problem catering to racists, pushing the “welfare queen” myth and calling the Voting Rights Act “humiliating to the South.” Oh, and he was endorsed by the KKK—twice.
At first glance, Reagan seemed to be the least likely ally for the anti-choice movement. When he was California’s governor, he signed the country’s least restrictive abortion access bill in the country. Carter had a documented history of being anti-abortion, both in his personal and political life. However, it’s Carter’s refusal to bend to the political will of the powerful white evangelical men that was seen as the biggest liability.
Reagan’s landslide win solidified the religious right’s political strength. Falwell, Dobson, and Weyrich had succeeded in making their racist political goals viable enough to get millions to vote for their preferred candidate who’d get rid of abortion and keep the brown and Black people from taking over. Since then, the political power of white evangelicals in the United States has only gotten stronger.

Today’s political mess in perspective

There’s a reason why the pro-life advocates and #alllivesmatter crowd has been silent at best about the mistreatment of children at the border at the hands of the administration. They’re not the members of a human rights movement; it’s just what they say to convince clueless white people. The pro-life movement is white nationalist campaign that will use any messaging or backward logic necessary to achieve their genocidal goals.
This puts white evangelicals’ nearly unwavering support of Trump into perspective. They put up with his very un-Christian behavior because he’s a very effective vessel for their racist political goals. It is increasingly clear that the goal of the pro-life leaders is to dominate our politics; they don’t want true democracy. Instead, a few white men want to exploit the system as much as possible until they can once again live in a country where women don’t control their bodies, immigration doesn’t happen, and people of color are not truly citizens.

 

Thoughts from Greg Metcalf, an excerpt from  MY FREE SENTENCES, WordPress

(if Roe vs. Wade is overturned) We would return to the days of women getting risky procedures from unqualified doctors in horrid conditions. Some of them would die. We’d have an increase of babies from women whose own judgment was that they weren’t prepared to have a child and care for it. In many cases, this would be financial, and we would simultaneously have a hypocritical extremist GOP government pulling back on programs to help the poor, a reduction in the SNAPs program, cuts to Medicaid, fewer opportunities for aid in childcare. Suicide rates among women would go up.

Sanctimoniously, some on the far right, Mike Pence, and others, would blame these problems on the women, falling back on their dogma that they shouldn’t have been having sex. What about rape? We couldn’t make an exception for rape cases, at least not one that would mean much, because rape statistics are clear. Rape is rarely proven in a court of law, not because it doesn’t occur, it’s just difficult to prove beyond a reasonable doubt, the legal standard. Would we create a lower standard of proof that would allow for rape exceptions? Where would we draw THAT line to prevent women from abusing the new system of law that is abusing them?

HISTORY MATTERS–is “Pro-Life” really “Pro-Death” in disguise?

In 1936, before legal abortions, a group of experts determined that there were about 681,600 illegal abortions resulting in the death of 8,179 women in that year alone. American hospitals have kept a list of devices and toxic fluids that have been used to abort fetuses. This is only a partial list: coat hangers, curtain rods, garden hoses, glass cocktail stirrers, telephone wires, nut picks, knitting needles, chopsticks, bicycle pumps, phonograph needles, Lysol, bleach, glycerine, kerosene, vinegar, and potassium permanganate corrosive tablets. Women have also tried swallowing massive doses of castor oil, quinine, and turpentine. Do we really want to go back to amateur hour in the clinic?

Below is an example of the medieval “Chastity Belt”, another alternative?

chastidy_belt

From China, liquid mercury was ingested to produce an abortion, with certain after effects documented.

birth control_liquid_mercury

Mother-Depositing-Her-Child-at-the-_002

Mother, without resources to feed her child, placing it in a “Depository” in mid-19th century Paris. Though such children were spared untended lives on the street, later they were “rented out” to mines and factories to repay their keep.

Sarah B. Hrdy, professor emerita of anthropology at the University of California, Davis, and the author of “Mother Nature: Maternal Instincts and How They Shape the Human Species,” wrote that the issues touched on in the abortion debate run deep:

Nature provides myriad examples of species where males attempt to control who females mate with and when. Among primates, male coercion of females has evolved many times and is expressed in many different ways.

Over the course of human history, Hrdy continued,

some of these ancient impulses have become enshrined in patriarchal ideologies. This helps explain why the most extreme efforts to curtail female reproductive autonomy today are primarily funded by groups linked to Catholic, Orthodox Jewish, Islamic and other belief systems with deep patriarchal roots.

If, as Hrdy argues, anti-abortion legislation is part of the male “attempt to control who females mate with and when,” why are roughly equal numbers of men and women opposed to abortion? Her answer:

From Ancient Greece, Ching dynasty China, Victorian England to the American South, the trick has been to convince women that conforming to patriarchal ideals, being chaste, or modest, veiling one’s face, whatever, are in her interests in terms of her security, marriageability, and especially in the interest of her children, particularly sons. When the social status of their families and especially that of their offspring, depends on their “virtue,” women have an obvious stake in complying as well as in advertising their compliance. Supporting the “right” political candidates can be just one more way of doing that.

        Deprived of her “virtue”, unwed mother and child abandoned to their fate, revealed as spring melted the mound of snow–their final resting place in 1840s England.

Lost-Path--The-Makins-Collection-Br_002

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GERM WARFARE IN THE AGE OF TRUMP


Measles

Measles virus, (Rubeola), like its cousin German Measles, (Rubella) can cause pregnancy complications, swelling of the brain, pneumonia. Extremely contagious.

BY MARK LYNAS

AUGUST 24, 2018 (Thanks to Cornell University Alliance for Science)

new study showing that Russian-linked trolls and social media bots have been heavily promoting misinformation on vaccines shows just how far Putin’s government is prepared to go in its worldwide effort to sow mistrust and division.

The study follows rapidly on the heels of earlier reports that Russian-owned media sites had been among the most prominent proponents of anti-GMO stories and memes, again aiming to undermine scientific consensus and public trust in academic institutions.

Both anti-vaccine and anti-GMO groups appeal to prejudices against modern science and conspiracy thinking to spread fear and misinformation. Like the tobacco lobby of old, doubt itself is their product.

Anti-vaccine myths have already led to a resurgence in preventable diseases such as measles, and increased numbers of child deaths in many countries. Many anti-GMO groups and anti-vaxxers are closely linked, such as US Right to Know (USRTK), which is funded by the Organic Consumers Association – whose anti-vaccine campaign in Minnesota has been linked with renewed disease outbreaks there in immigrant communities.

Perhaps the most prominent anti-vaccination advocate in the United State is Robert F. Kennedy Jr., who also advocates against GMOs. Indeed, he led the case against glyphosate (widely seen as a proxy for the war on GMOs) which led to the recent judgment against Monsanto in a California court.

The Russian government is clearly determined to spread anti-scientific memes and conspiracy theories in order to help its objective of sowing distrust of “Western” science and democratic systems. But why would Putin support these anti-science campaigns?

Russia’s strategy is utterly cynical as well as being unabashedly authoritarian. Putin knows that people are not inclined to believe his untruths – so his main aim is to undermine the whole concept of truth more broadly.

The rationale goes as follows: “No, you can’t believe me. But you can’t believe anyone – everyone lies!” The idea is to undermine trust throughout democratic societies in order to justify resurgent authoritarianism in Russia and elsewhere.

Unfortunately, this misinformation seems to go with the populist tide of the times. Populist movements of both far left and far right have been supported by Russia, and often tend to spout anti-scientific views.

Italy’s new populist, anti-immigrant government has backed away from mandatory vaccination of children, while Russia itself has made great play of being “GMO-free”and banning genetically modified crops and products throughout the country.

Populists often rage against “elites” and dismiss the idea of expertise in preference for “man on the street” common wisdom. This is fertile ground for anti-science campaigns, because scientific consensus depends on the informed views of experts.

President Trump, Vladimir Putin’s number one fan, has staked his whole approach on using notions of “fake news” and attacks on the freedom of the press in order to justify his own constant lies and distortions.

Trump has also tweeted misinformed notions about vaccines causing autism, and – along with much of the Republican party – denies the reality of human-caused climate change, on the basis of a conspiracy theory that global warming is a “hoax” invented by China.

All these memes depend on the cavalier dismissal of scientific evidence on the basis that it is the view of “intellectual elites” and therefore of no value. This wider cultural and political climate is perhaps why Russia’s efforts to sow further discord and mistrust seem to have been so successful.

So what can the pro-science community do? Speaking up and getting out on the streets is important, as the March for Science has shown. But in my view it is equally important to bear the wider context in mind: the fight against misinformation on vaccines, GMOs and climate change is part of a wider battle for truth and for democracy — battles that we cannot afford to lose.

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