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217. Kamala Harris Wins Debate

8 Oct

Kamla Harris did a terrific job and won the Vice-President debate on October 7, 2020. She had good affect, clear speech, and mostly answered questions appropriately. She interrupted very little and followed the debate rules. When Pence interrupted during her allotted time, she would politely say something like, “I am speaking now.”

On the other hand, Pence was a boring speaker and had great difficulty with the rules. He often ran well over his time limit and ignored the pleas of the moderator. Like Trump, he often interrupted when he heard something he did not like. He totally ignored a question on transfer of power if Biden is elected. What would he do if Trump did not leave office? On the other hand, Pence interrupted frequently and kept speaking after his time was up. I am sure Trump was proud of him because he is the perfect yes-man. He avoided answering a question of about transfer of power if Biden is elected. Trump indicated that if he loses the vote count, he will cause a lot of trouble by raising legal complaints, and who knows what else. He is against mail-in ballots even though everyone in the White House votes that way and it is common in many states.

Although Kamala’s answers were very good, I felt, at several points, that she overlooked some powerful arguments. Below are a list of these factors, which are more like supplemental info than a criticism.

There was a lot of discussion on covid-19. Perhaps the clearest error that Trump made was to discourage the use of masks. He actually ridiculed Biden for wearing a large face mask. Except for one or two brief instances, he ridiculed masks for the entire period when the virus was active: from March to present (October). She could also have mentioned that Trumps lack of a mask on many occasions set a bad example.

Regarding trade policies, one serious Trump failure is with US soy farmers. They were very dependent on China for soy sales and China terminated these sales. Farmers were devastated and Trump had to provide them with large subsidies, paid for from our taxes.

She could have mentioned that Trump successes in unemployment numbers and market upward trends were just continuations of the eight years of the Obama Presidency. Obama started with a very poor economy and made a remarkable recovery over his eight years.

Re global warming, Pence noted that the number of hurricanes stayed pretty much the same, but she could have said that the strength of them has steadily increased with the warmer waters, and destruction has worsened.

There is a tendency for Republicans to blame Biden for problems during the Obama administration. The simple fact is that Vice Presidents have little effect on major policies, which are controlled mostly by Congress and somewhat by the President at that time.

I don’t think that Kamila explicitly stated that there is NO Republican health insurance plan, that is documented in any way and available for examination. This is a continuing and important point.

There is a lot more that could have been said about Trumps anti-science attitudes. He has replaced directly or indirectly many skilled scientists in many areas of government, and has influenced the alteration of their reports to match his political goals.

The nature of protestors could have been made more explicit. Actual protestors tend to be non-violent. When there are demonstrations, certain anarchists from all over the country, may join in and use the opportunity to commit violent crimes. They, in fact, have a negative effect on the goals of those trying to demonstrate.

Trump policy has always been non-cooperative. There is much conflict because he attacks, even the mildest of critics, with vicious name calling and invalid accusations.

These are the thoughts that I had during the debate. Kamalas performance was excellent, and to cover every applicable argument would be impossible for anyone. Although, in the past, I have had some negative feelings about her, I am very happy to say that now my feelings about her are very positive. During the debate, Kamala Harris was very likable, and appropriately controlled — a great choice for Veep.

216. Covid-19 and Outdoor Infection

4 Oct

About four days ago,  Trump had a White-House Rose Garden event introducing his Supreme Court nominee. This was attended by many top administration officials and other prominent people. Shortly afterwards, several attendees tested positive for the virus, including the President and his wife. Where they were infected, is still uncertain, but it could have been in the Rose Garden. Note, it is often assumed that because an event is held outside, it is safe.

However, just being OUTSIDE is not always SAFE. On the average, it is a little better than indoor events. But if people are close together and there is no wind, then virus droplets can spread dangerously. Even with distancing, if a small wind is in the right direction, DROPLETS COULD MOVE A FEW YARDS and cause infection. The basic rule is always: distancing PLUS wearing a good mask. To make good decisions, you must imagine people spewing out droplets, and where they might end up given the wind conditions. Trump was a good distance from his Rose Garden audience, but a mass of virus droplets could travel towards him if a small wind was blowing in his direction.

Officials concerned with impressions and election results, cannot be trusted to make good safety decisions. It is just a matter of common sense, and the rule, that if you are near others, anywhere, then good protective masks are needed. And those wearing masks, for greatest safety, should have masks that are protective for themselves, as well as for others. The President needs to encourage masks and not make fun of others that are following established safety rules. It also would be of great benefit, if our government developed inexpensive masks that protect the wearer, and distributed them in some way at low or no cost.

209. Immune System, Vit. C, and Viruses (With References)

26 May

Please see my previous Blog 208, for additional information and references.

.                          BASIC PHYSIOLOGICAL ARGUMENTS 

Most of the following logic is accepted by medical scientists, but in practice, is often ignored. The immune system is a host defense that protects against disease. The immune system is enhanced by good nutrition, and other health factors. Vitamin C, other vitamins, and some other nutrients provide this good nutrition. Variations in response to virus attacks are likely due to variations in immune systems. Many MD’s believe that vitamin supplements are not needed because they assume everyone has a healthy diet. Clearly, this is not true.  Exploring the use of Vit. C and other supplements for covid-19 should be encouraged.  

Here are some reasons why use of vitamins may be ignored Early studies used small doses of vitamins and they were ineffective. As a consequence many leaders discouraged vitamin supplements and tended to ignore further work. Many physicians prefer  prescription drugs because they can be better controlled, and were developed using rigorous experiments and established safety methods.

Experiments using the most rigorous scientific methods are almost impossible to do, in the area of vitamin effectiveness. For example, Vit C is most effective when the first “cold symptoms” are noticed, and several grams are taken immediately. The timing is somewhat vague and the reliability of patient compliance and reporting is questionable. Further, drug companies would not support this work and most researchers would not be interested. Federal support is controlled by medical experts and most of them would not be interested.

Often argued is that higher doses of Vit C and other vitamins are not absorbed by the body and are eliminated. This is not a good argument because the vitamins could be serving as catalysts (not consumened in chemical reactions). Vit C could have a positive effect on pH. Large concentrations of vitamins might be required to get enough into certain narrow end organs.

Another thought is that vitamin supplements are not necessary because a healthy diet contains all the necessary vitamins a person needs. Just saying this does not make it so — it takes a lot of experimentation to actualy prove this. A healthy diet might prevent some major diseases like scurvy, but the world has evolved a great many other disorders. Even more important, many, perhaps most people do not have a really “healthy diet,” and eat a lot of doughnuts, candy bars, sausages, white bread, lots of cheeseburgers — and very few vegetables.

To summarize, every profession has certain preferences that appeal to its members for a variety of reasons, some of which are valid and some maybe not.

                                           MY PROPOSALS

1. The CDC, AMA, or NIH, etc could publish some dietary information and encourage people to greatly improve their nutrition.
2. There could be some simple experiments such as the following. Randomly assign (blind) patients admitted to a hospital to an experimental (Vit C) and control group (placebo). As soon as they are admitted give them 3.0 grams of Vit C with lots of water. Then, every moring and night, prescribe 2 to 3 grams of Vit C (placebo for the control group). Record date of release, use of equipment like ventilaters, temperature, etc. Do this for a total of 100 or more patients and compare the groups. This is not ideal, but if there are significant effects, this could encourage wider application.
3. Researchers could apply for gov grants for more extensive rigorous studies.
4. Encourage private physicians to prescribe Vit C and other health factors and
record informally procedures and results. These could be published.
5. Eventhough there are no rigorous studies, physicians could still advise the use of nutritional factors, including Vit C. Most of the things we do in life are not “proven.” We simply gather all of the “relevant” facts, study them, and make a final decision. In this case, there is little if any risk. Good food and vitamins are very well established and safe. The major side effect is better health. The cost is comparatively small.

                        REFERENCES (with some summaries)

Listings below are by professional journal, newspaper, or Internet address, followed by brief quotations and/or relevant facts. (PMC = PubMed Central).

ROLE OF THE IMMUNE SYSTEM AND HEALTH

The immune system is a host defense system that protects against disease. It has amazing protective functions implemented by tiny particles: indentifying, killing, remembering, and creating new attackers.

http://www.nytimes.com/2020/05/04/opinion/coronavirus-sweden-herd-immunity.html
Dr. Bremmer, Mr. Kupchan and Mr. Rosenstein are international political risk analysts. Re the virus: “The American people are far less healthy than Swedes.”
In other words, health is very important, yet our medical profession ignores this.
“Diabetes and hypertension, are two of the most-risky underlying conditions.”
Every type of disorder & age is correlated with infection risk, but instead, a third factor, a persons health, may be the underlying cause.

http://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/how-to-boost-your-immune-system.
Advised: eat a lot of vegs /fruits, don’t smoke, sleep well, lower stress, drink less alcohol.  As we age, our immune response capability becomes reduced, “people who live in poverty and are malnourished are more vulnerable to infectious diseases”

http://www.nytimes.com/2020/03/10/well/live/can-i-boost-my-immune-system.html
A healthful diet and exercise are important to maintaining a strong immune system.

www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6723551/ 2019
Childs, Calder, and Miles:  “Diet and Immune Function”
Adequate and appropriate nutrition is required for all cells to function optimally and this includes the cells in the immune system. Vitamin A and zinc regulate cell division and so are essential for a successful proliferative response within the immune system. Undernutrition is well understood to impair immune function.

VITAMIN C AND THE IMMUNE SYSTEM www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5707683/    Carr and Maggini
Vitamin C contributes to immune defense by supporting various cellular functions of both the innate and adaptive immune system.”

Mayo Clinic site: “Vitamin C (ascorbic acid) is a vitamin your body needs to form blood vessels, cartilage, muscle and collagen in bones. Vitamin C is also vital to your body’s healing process.” Large doses of vitamin C are “unlikely to be harmful.”

www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7172861/ Boretti and Banik, Title: “Intravenous Vit C for reduction of cytokines storm in acute respiratory distress syndrome” Vit C was reported to have clinical activity against numerous other viruses including poliovirus, Venezuelan equine encephalitis, human lymphotropic virus type 1 (HTLV-1), human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) and rabies virus in addition to demonstrating activity against influenza and herpes virus. (Refs listed.)

health.clevelandclinic.org/strengthen-your-immune-system-with-simple-strategies/
There are immune boosting foods: whole unprocessed foods are best.
“Vitamin C is known to boost immunity”
In one study, subjects increased ingestion of foods rich in vit. C “every day for a month.” They “had significant decrease in the severity and duration of upper respiratory infection symptoms”  Best diet: colorful fruits and vegetables. Also, lower stress, sleep well, and exercise.

WebMD: Vitamin C is required for the proper development and function of many parts of the body. It also plays an important role in maintaining proper immune function.

health.clevelandclinic.org/3-vitamins-best-boosting-immunity/
Three vitamins best; C, B6, E. Also hydrate (drink water)
“Vitamin C is one of the biggest immune system boosters of all.”

Nutrients. 2019 Apr; 11(4): 708  Harri Hemila.  Vitamin C Can Shorten the Length of Stay in the ICU: A Meta-Analysis.

American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Vol 72, Issue 1, Jul 2000, pg 139
“These data suggest that men with low serum ascorbate concentrations may have an increased risk of mortality, probably because of an increased risk of dying from cancer.” The way Vit C may function in improving health, is discussed in detail.
(For non-scientists: “serum ascorbate” is Vit C in the blood.)

VITAMIN C AND VIRUSES (Summary, please see my Blog 208 for more details)

Book: Linus Pauling “Vitamin C and the Common Cold” 1970. Pauling won two Nobel prizes. References to scientific studies are listed and a method for viruses is presented.

Nutrients. 2017 Apr; 9(4): 339 H.Hemila “Vitamin C and Infections” (a review)
Vit C halved the number of colds in physically active people. Vit C shortened the duration of colds, in several studies (most used higher doses, such as 6 to 8 grams). Vit C prevented pneumonia in three controlled studies

Nutrients. 2017 Nov; 9(11): 1211. Carr and Maggini, “Vit C and Immune Function” Vit C appears able to both prevent and treat respiratory and systemic infections.

Med Sci Monit. 2014; 20: 725–732. Mikirova and Hunninghake.
Title: “Effect of high dose vitamin C on Epstein-Barr viral infection”
“High dose intravenous vitamin C therapy has a positive effect on disease duration”

WebMD   Vit C “is one of the safest and most effective nutrients.”
Quoting Mark Moyad, MD of University of Michigan:
“There is good evidence for taking vitamin C for colds and flu.” “It can reduce the risk of developing further complications such as pneumonia and lung infections.”

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7172861/ Boretti and Banik (see above)

SAFETY OF VITAMIN C

Drugs.Com has a long list of severe side-effects for Aspirin, which are much worse than those for Vit C.
Almost any substance will lead to reported side-effects, some of which are not actually valid. Vit C is natural, necessary for life, and safe for almost everyone.  Note: Take Vit C with plenty of water, and divide and space out large doses.

Example from WebMd
“In some people, vitamin C might cause nausea, vomiting, heartburn, stomach cramps, headache, and other side effects.”
“In people who have had a kidney stone, amounts greater than 1000 mg daily greatly increase the risk of kidney stone recurrence.” A reference for this was not given, and there are few if any such cases reported.

My conclusion:  Everything you ingest has a danger at some level and for some people. For example, in a hazing incident, someone was forced to drink a lot of water, and died from it. For 50 years, I have been taking large (several gram) doses of Vit C on occassions when I detected cold symptoms, and have never had any significant side-effects. The danger of covid-19 is ultimately lethal, while the danger of Vit C is in almost all cases, trivial. I have also studied the literature on Vit C for 50 years and have never seen an objective report of a serious side-effect, only unsupported dogma.

                              OTHER INFORMATION

For virus information from CDC:
http://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/summary.html

http://www.healthline.com/health-news/how-antibody-testing-can-help-us-fight-covid-19
It can take several days for the body to produce antibodies to a virus.

For more articles, search: “Vitamin C and viruses” or “Vitamin C and flu”

The Global Health Security and Biodefense Unit was established by
President Obama in 2015 to deal effectively with viruses, such as covid-19.
A future president abolished this unit. Some members just left, and some were transfered to other organizations

 

 

 

 

 

 

208. Vitamin C may help with Covid-19, Revised

6 Apr

Most of the decisions we make in life are not based on hard scientific evidence. Examples are new employment, marriage, buying a house, and making investments. A wise person gathers relevant facts, studies them and moves forward. Vitamin C (VC) has not been scientifically proven effective for Covid-19, but it is worth trying for the reasons below. Like many other medical questions, a rigorous study of VC and the virus would be very difficult and very expensive. Drug companies and many MD’s would not be interested. 

Scientific studies show that it does have a positive effect on the cold and other viruses. VC is found in many foods and is safe in large quantities (spaced out and with plenty of water). It is worth trying, because even if it does not cure Covid-19, it can improve your general health. A win, win. Nothing to lose and so much to gain. VC is known to have a variety of important health functions, including healing. Most negative studies were done with low VC doses, under two grams per day. The medical  profession says that good general health is valuable in the fight against coronavirus,  and VC improves health. For best results, in addition to VC, one should take other supplements and have a very healthy diet with a variety of vegetables. It is best to have VC from 1000mg (1 gram) pills and not citrus fruits as it is only present is small amounts. The best plant source is kale.

Below are eight sources of information: scientific studies from PubMed, reliable web sites, such as the Mayo clinic, and Paulings book. I have pulled out the most relevant positive information (and ignored some negatives).

I also want to include my own experience with VC, over a period of 52 years. Briefly, before taking VC I got many colds; but after taking regular daily doses of several grams per day, I almost never got sick. I followed Paulings rules for colds. A general rule for most medicines is to spread large doses out over the day and always take with large  amounts of water. I take a total of about 5 grams every day, spaced out. At the very first sign of a cold I take an additional 3-4 grams every hour or two, as needed. After an initial virus suppression, a complete “cure” may take three or four more days of larger VC doses.  The dose could be adjusted for body weight.  (This is not medical advice and physicians should be consulted if symptoms are serious or prolonged.)

Mayo Clinic:   “Vitamin C (ascorbic acid) is a vitamin your body needs to form blood vessels, cartilage, muscle and collagen in bones. Vitamin C is also vital to your body’s healing process.” Large doses of vitamin C are “unlikely to be harmful.”

Linus PaulingVitamin C and the Common Cold” 1970. Pauling won two Nobel prizes. The book contains many scientific references and specific cold fighting procedures. There are older studies cited that show some evidence for a relationship between VC and colds. Most early studies were done with low doses, which could account for some negative findings.

Nutrients. 2017 Apr; 9(4): 339 H.HemilaVitamin C and Infections”
There are positive and negative findings. I present the most encouraging results.
VC “halved the number of colds in physically active people.” “Regularly administered vitamin C has shortened the duration of colds.” “Three controlled trials found that vitamin C prevented pneumonia.” Two studies using up to 6 to 8 grams of VC showed decreased cold duration. 148 animal studies “indicated that vitamin C may alleviate or prevent infections caused by bacteria, viruses, and protozoa.” “Negative findings of some therapeutic common-cold studies might be explained by low VC doses.

Nutrients. 2019 Apr; 11(4): 708 Hemila and Chalker        Title:
Vitamin C Can Shorten the Length of Stay in the ICU”
Used 1 to 3 grams per day and VC “shortened the duration of mechanical ventilation by 18.2%

Nutrients. 2017 Nov; 9(11): 1211. Carr and Maggini,       Title:                                “Vitamin C and Immune Function”
“Supplementation with VC appears to be able to both prevent and treat respiratory and systemic infections.” “Vitamin C is an essential micronutrient for humans.” “It is a potent antioxidant and a cofactor” for many enzymes.

Med Sci Monit. 2014; 20: 725–732. Mikirova and Hunninghake    Title:  “Effect of high dose vitamin C on Epstein-Barr viral infection”  “Our data provide evidence that high dose intravenous vitamin C therapy has a positive effect on disease duration and reduction of viral antibody levels.”

Antioxidants (Basel). 2019 Aug; 8(8): 247. Macan et. al.
Title:   “Therapeutic Perspective of Vitamin C and Its Derivatives”
VC “could be beneficial for medicinal chemists … in the search for more potent candidates imparted with potent … antiviral activities”

WebMD:   Selected phrases.
VC “is one of the safest and most effective nutrients.” It may “help prevent more serious complications” of the common cold. “VC may include protection against immune system deficiencies, cardiovascular disease, prenatal health problems, eye disease, and even skin wrinkling.”
“Vitamin C has received a great deal of attention, and with good reason. Higher blood levels of vitamin C may be the ideal nutrition marker for overall health,” says study researcher Mark Moyad, MD, MPH, of the University of Michigan. “The more we study Vitamin C, the better our understanding of how diverse it is in protecting our health. “There is good evidence for taking vitamin C for colds and flu” “It can reduce the risk of developing further complications such as pneumonia and lung infections.”

207. We Don’t Need a King Trump

25 Mar

0KingTrumpTrump has actually expressed his admiration for dictators, such as those controlling Russia, N. Korea, and Turkey. In an exchange with Joe Scarborough, when told that Putin “kills journalists that don’t agree with him”, he replied that “our country does plenty of killing, too.”

I am seriously concerned that Trump supporters really do not understand why he is a great danger to the US and must not continue as President. Here is a partial list of his worst abuses.

In January of 2020 he disregarded intelligence agencies and highly regarded epidemiologists and ignored the clear dangers of Covid19. This delayed our understanding and actions regarding the disease and probably caused thousands of unnecessary deaths. Testing for the virus was definitely delayed by Trump and his administration. He downplayed the virus so that it would not affect his precious stock market, which helps with his future election. He could have begun working on associated supplies, like protective masks and gloves and equipment like ventilators. He terminated a special White-House group dealing with epidemics. He blamed Obama for having ineffective procedures, when he had three years to correct them.

He left the Paris Climate Accord and ignored the dangers of climate change. He should have worked on our own climate efforts and on supporting valuable research programs. Ultimately, millions of people will die from the resulting hurricanes, fires, floods, droughts, and possible wars.

He withdrew from the Iran Nuclear Deal, which included several major nations, and was preventing Iran from developing nuclear weapons. The deal was working, according those most familiar with it. Now we have no deal, worse relations with Iran, and more potential dangers.

He failed in his dealing with North Korea. He boosted world respect for them and they continue to develop dangerous nuclear missiles. Expressing his “love” for Kim made him look foolish.

He has lost world respect for the US Presidency because of his childish and rude behavior. By breaking several existing international deals, other nations do not trust him. There is also less trust because what he says is often different from staff statements.

Knowledgeable people throughout the world cannot believe what he says because he makes obvious mistakes and lies. Fact-checkers have counted over 16000 “false or misleading claims” during his three years in office. To show that this count is plausible, one can simply read his speeches and note how the “truth” varies from time to time. For example, he made up a story about why he fired FBI Comey, and then three days later gave an entirely different reason. Another lie is the “do-nothing” Democrat congressmen, that, in fact, created hundreds of bills, which were not acted on by the real “do-nothing” Republicans.

He supported Russia in several ways. In one situation he believed what Putin said, instead of what his intelligence agencies stated. He significantly delayed the imposition of Russian sanctions approved by US Congress. His impeachment was based on an action that favored Russia.

He undermined the FBI, intelligence agencies, and other governmental offices, like the Attorney General. He promoted actions that benefited him instead of our country. His A.G. Barr, a yes-man lied in his description of the Mueller Report.

He appointed many Federal Judges that are radically conservative and in many cases, without appropriate qualifications.

He supported tax changes that primarily support already rich people and corporations, while ordinary people got very little and nothing permanent. His financial policies have greatly increased our national debt.

He made a deal with Turkey, which resulted in the deaths and loss of homes for thousands of Kurds. Kurdish soldiers helped the US fight and destroy the Islamic State. This action has led to further distrust of the US in international matters.

Trump was impeached because he pressured Ukraine to help him with his 2020 election. This was harmful to our ally Ukraine in their fight against Russia, and the delay of needed military support was a major setback for them. This increased global distrust of the US.

He hollowed out many US government agencies, such as the State Department. We lost many valuable experts that helped with vital decision making. Trump said he could make the best decisions on his own (with Tweets, of course). Most of his staff and cabinet were chosen on the basis of loyalty and subservience, rather than competence and experience. Many had to resign and many were fired for calling him “moron” or simply disagreeing.

Many immigrants at our Southern US border suffered because of poorly thought-out policies. Disorganization caused children to be separated from parents in a way making reuniting them very difficult, and still is incomplete. In many cases, Trump has rushed to implement policies without considering the negative effects.

Some of his trade policies were OK, but trade deals with China were a disaster for many farmers and others in the US. Some of our farmers were paid by our government for their losses. The total is more than $20-billion per year. Many losses to others are not compensated at all. In January of 2020 he signed an initial trade agreement with China, that includes many uncertainties. As usual, many people have to suffer to satisfy Trumps ego.

Trump has damaged ObamaCare and tried to abolish it without the promised Republican replacement plan. US citizens were saved by one vote, that of Republican John McCain. Trump has falsely claimed that he was preserving the “pre-existing conditions” feature. It seems that McCain is the last Repub with the guts and patriotism to stand up to Trump.

A vote for Trump is support for a government in which all of the above will continue and likely get worse. The tyranny of Trump must be terminated.

206. Coping with Virus Fears

17 Mar

The rapid spread of Covid-19 virus has triggered fears in many people, and fear can be dibilitating.  I watch a lot of news programs, and I am disappointed to see the promotion of ineffective stress-reduction programs. In my earlier days I was a licensed PhD clinical psychologist, and I am going to briefly present ideas here (not medical advice), which may be of help. There is a general value to learning the control emotions and limiting fears. Here are some important ideas, which are just an introduction to this topic.

Stress, anxiety, and fears have a basic physiological factor, which evolved for survival. The main organ controlling this is a branch of the autonomic nervous system. It is also known as the “fight-or-flight” system, which prepares us for a vigorous defense. This system involves higher heart rate, muscle tension, blood flow changes, sweating, etc.

Fight-or-flight changes are activated by real danger, or simply by fears. Many will notice this activation and identify it as anxiety or stress. It leads to “worry.” Once triggered, the activation (anxiety) can last for hours or days beyond the original stimulus. The activation itself can be stressful and can lead to even more of these changes. (Technically, this is a positive feedback loop, i.e. feedback causes something to increase.) The end result of increased activation can be a panic attack.

Stress and anxiety must first be treated by normalizing this defensive system. Relaxing the body will cause the brain to relax. Starting therapy by working with fearful  thoughts is not effective, because they will always occur when the fight-or-flight system is activated. The procedures involve relaxing many muscles and breathing peacefully.

A “relaxation tape” or therapist can provide instructions for this process. Once a method is learned, it can be implemented in just a few seconds. Also important is awareness (feedback) of muscle tension and blood flow changes. Many people live much of their adult life, unaware of excessive, energy draining, activation. If a therapist is used, very effective “cognitive” discussions can be added later. Also a part of the process is learning to breathe peacefully: generally, regularly, slowly, and deeply.

If a person is presented with relevant measurements (scientific facts) he/she can learn more quickly. When scientific, medical instruments are used, the therapy method is called “biofeedback.” The feedback could be heart rate, hand temperature, a measure of sweating, or blood pressure, usually presented with a changing sound. For example, hand temperature will rise as one relaxes. A transducer and some electronics can convert this temperature into a sound. As temperature rises, the pitch can rise and the patient gets helpful information.

Having taped instructions for the relaxation process is a good way to start. You can go to the Internet and do this search: “muscle relaxation tapes.” Here is a good one:
.                 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=86HUcX8ZtAk
After using the tape a number of times, the relaxation procedure can be shortened. Eventually, a “brief relaxation response” can be developed, which takes only 10 to 15 seconds and can be done almost anywhere. Note that these behavioral methods provide an actual, direct cure, while many other methods provide something temporary, which must be used indefinitely. As you learn the relaxation methods, much of the process becomes automatic and less attention is needed. Take whatever actions are required for the virus, and deal with any associated fears in this enjoyable way. Entering a state of peacefulness is a remarkable experience.

 

204. GMO’s Evoke Unwarranted Fears

25 Feb

GMO-Picture-CornI write blogs, tweets, and other comments on a variety of subjects. Studying the critics of these pieces suggests to me, that many people don’t understand and/or distrust science in general. My position is that the work of scientists provides numerous benefits for all citizens, including better foods, electronics, transportation, health care, pet care, climate-change info, etc. Scientific information and discovery for many is also exciting and interesting and helps us to understand the world around us.

My current scientific topic is Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO) foods. Genetic modifications involve the manipulation of DNA molecules in the laboratory. The  manipulations lead to relatively permanent changes, including: enhanced plant growth, plants that better survive insect and disease attacks, plants that require less water, and will grow in unhealthy soil, and other improvements.

Given all the potential and existing benefits, GMO foods should be carefully studied and regulated. Certified products will provide extensive nourishment for an ever increasing Earth population. Also, global warming can reduce crop yields due to fires, droughts and other weather anomalies. It is extremely important to have the best plants available as demand increases. It will be of particular benefit to farmers in developing countries that are struggling to survive. Crop plants modified to do well in unusual soil conditions, in somewhat salty water, and in partial droughts, will be of great benefit.

Here are a few facts: Even now, GMO crops are widely used as livestock feed without any adverse reports. If they were poison, surely they would have made our hamburgers toxic, but this has not happened. Note also, that modifying plant DNA by “breeding,” is common and has occurred for ages.  In my previous blog, I discussed seaweed as a potential major food source, and also for its absorption of the greenhouse gas CO2. Genetic improvements of seaweed could be of great benefit.

An advantage of GMO as a way to modify, is that the modifications are known and can be evaluated for safety. Many natural modifications are unknown. Nature, in some cases, does produce toxic plants. There is always a tendency to want natural products, and I am the same way. Yet for many years we have modified plants through breeding, developed medicines that are not natural, and we all eat food that undergoes many “processes.” We need to move forward, in a safe way, with valuable innovations.

Here is a good, easy-to-read source of GMO facts by Kurzgesagt:                                                  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7TmcXYp8xu4

202. Deaths and Traffic Lights.

2 Feb

There is an old saying going back decades: A corner only gets a traffic light, when there is a traffic death there. When I think about what is currently happening in our world, this saying comes to mind. In order for certain good things to happen, we need the impetus of a disaster. Many do not address issues, unless they perceive some sort of major risk.  We could say that the enemy of good government is complacency. 

.                        Complacency Leads to Dictatorships

The first application that comes to mind is the 2016 election of Donald Trump. Under past presidents, Republican or Democrat, people were not really alarmed. Of course, there were criticisms and complaints, but generally, most of us went about our business not particularly concerned. After a long period of questionable actions, concern really mounted. In the 2018 elections, Democrats finally became alarmed and massive numbers voted.  In fact the surge also led to an impeachment. Now, we clearly see the need for a “traffic light on the corner.” And, after a little hesitation, I will state that the President’s behavior has been so egregious for years, that even if you think the articles of impeachment are a little weak, they are still justified. I am sure that if the founding fathers were presented with our current facts, they would agree with his removal from office.

For many people, there is a complacency about climate-change. They might even believe the science, but in their narrow world they don’t feel the danger. It’s another variation of the traffic-light dilemma. No traffic light because my life is OK.

The traffic-light principle could also be applied to the errant evolution of the Republican party. It appears that after Trump was nominated, the Party was able to eliminate more responsible and intelligent members, and attract more transactional and financially desperate folks. The Repubs and Dems ignored the dangers and the errant drift was not prevented because there was no dramatic “death,” just a slow almost invisible decline. After the firing of Comey, the problems were more visible and a Special Councel, Mueller, was appointed.

I want to point out that the “traffic-light” effect is very common.  In one of the subdivisions I lived in, a minority faction was elected because the majority of residents, really did not care much. They were only concerned after the minority group did some inappropriate and expensive things for themselves.

I think if you look around the world, you can see how this traffic-light principle has had its effects. In many nations, there is an acceptance of government for a long time, and change (often bloody) only occurs at some breaking point. I think many of the “Arab Spring” nations went through such a transition.  In Russia, the initial effects of Putin’s leadership were beneficial. And so the population just did not get very alarmed about Putin’s gradual transition to autocracy. Hopefully, some day they will be able to put in the “traffic light.”

 

 

 

191. Voters: Don’t let Trump Mislead you Again

15 Nov

It pains me to think that many voters have believed the false promises of Donald Trump, and in 2016 voted for him. Here is a list of his lies and distortions of facts that must be considered.

Trump said that when he took office, there would be a new Republican health care system that would replace ObamaCare. There was no Republican system and he and Republicans were going to abolish ObamaCare without a replacement. Fortunately, John McCain, by his one vote, saved us from a disaster.

Trump mislead voters about the wall for our Southern border. He did not say the truth, that a wall could only be built if the Congress approved it, and he did not say that Mexico was not likely to pay for it. He lied when he said it was the best plan for that immigration problem.

Trump told voters that he was so rich that he would never need to accept money from donors. A few months later, he started to do just that. He actually was not that rich and had to borrow money to survive. American banks did not trust him, but he managed to get loans from a foreign bank.

Trump said he would drain the swamp, but instead he swam in it. He hired billionaires from Wall Street. Most of his staff  and appointees were hired on the basis of loyalty, rather than expert knowledge and experience. He and his staff supported big business rather than the ordinary people that voted for him. His policies have produced a massive national debt, partially due to major permanent tax reductions for millionaires. He gave the middle class small temporary reductions. Also swampy is Trump’s profits from businesses he illegally promotes through his presidency. He even wanted (for a while) to have an international meeting at one of his golf clubs, Doral.

He promised to abolish regulations, but did not tell you that regulations are mostly for the safety of ordinary people, while rich manufacturers, of course benefit. There is a long history in the US of  toxins produced during manufacturing, that have killed many people.

Trump promised improved trade policies. What he did was poorly planned and damaged farming and other businesses both here and abroad. The final effect was small successes and major failures. He did not consider that every tariff he imposed could be matched by a foreign tariff. He lied that tariffs are paid by the foreign countries. A US tariff is paid by US importers and usually results in higher US prices.

Perhaps most serious of all, is that he mislead you on the dangers of global warming. Aberrant weather patterns due to climate change are already causing floods, fires, and farming problems. These dangers will soon become more widespread and will lead to major population migrations. Desperate people will likely cause wars and increased crimes.

He promised at times to become more “presidential” but, in fact, he still calls people names, has a ridiculous, large turnover in staff, and governs by whims expressed in tweets. He is more interested in personal winning than in the success of our country. Trump is in favor of torture (Pres. Ronald Reagan opposed this) and cares little for human suffering.

Maybe the real issue for many Trump supporters is that they like his policy of rejecting Mexicans, Muslims, and others. They will have to weigh these policies against all the harms that Trumps other policies will cause.  Also note that achievements touted by Trump, such as a rising stock market and low unemployment, were continuations of  remarkable eight-year trends established by President Obama.

 

 

 

 

 

 

189. Disturbing Thoughts Can be Prevented

5 Nov

I recently read some discussions of ways to eliminate disturbing thoughts. I have treated a number of patients with this problem and have some of my own ideas that could be of help with this problem.

A disturbing thought may begin with something observed in a movie, in real life, or with something heard or read. It is immediately made worse if it induces a reaction.

Here are some examples of such thoughts. I worked with a commercial pilot that was required to sit in the cockpit and do nothing but monitor instruments and watch the skies for other airplanes. His thoughts turned to all sorts of problems like his investments and affording education for his children. It is torture to have to sit and do “nothing” for long periods of time. For some, listening to music helps. Another patient was a nanny that had thoughts of killing the children that she cared for. A man tended to think about all the “silly” things he said to his girlfriends, causing them to reject him. It is pretty normal to have some such thoughts.

Understanding anxiety is the key to dealing with disturbing thoughts. . This is a set of conditions that prepare the body for dealing with attacks; generally running away or fighting. To support these vigorous actions, there is an increase in heart ate, blood pressure, some muscles tense, faster breathing, sweating, etc., all changes necessary to support increased activity. Sometimes this activation occurs when there is no threat, and it can last for days or much longer. When this “fight or flight” preparation is excessive, inappropriate, and lasts for a long time, it is called anxiety. Often there is a circular process that prolongs this reaction. Fearful thoughts stimulate the physical anxiety and the feeling of anxiety leads to fearful thoughts.

It is also helpful here to define thought It is assumed to be some type of brain activity that involves words, feelings, and/or images. Scientists know a little about certain simple thoughts, but complex thinking is not yet understood. Brain actions closely associated with sensations or movements have been studied and are fairly well understood. Some thoughts appear to have a trial-and-error function that precedes difficult decisions. For example, you want to ask your boss for a raise. Your brain will try out different words and approaches and note what “feels” best.

Here are some therapy ideas and methods:
1. Do not fight these thoughts. Allow them to pass through your mind. Accept the fact that certain thoughts may occur for a long time, but usually will gradually have less effect.
2. If bothered by a specific phrase, and other methods don’t work, try repeating the words many times, until they are meaningless. This may take many repetitions.
3. Do a “brief relaxation response” (see below) every time the disturbing thought occurs. This way, the thought will be associated calmness instead of stress.
4. Associate the thought with something pleasant or funny. For example, if you keep thinking about a mistake you made, then associate that with something good that you did.
5. Some people can accomplish these actions by themselves, but many others will need the help of a therapist.

Some people are helped by simply talking about a problem with a therapist. Others will need some physical training like “progressive muscle relaxation” or biofeedback. These physical methods will improve emotional control and will diminish anxiety. A generally healthy method, which can also help with anxiety or stress, is to stretch the major skeletal muscles. Stretching muscles tends to relax  them and will also prevent injuries.

A fully licensed Ph.D. behavior therapist is recommended for the best therapy. Psychoanalysis is generally not effective for the problems discussed above. Methods like yoga or meditation include some procedures that are helpful, but include other aspects that may not help. It is best to find a therapist that has precisely what you need, rather than using more “mystical” methods which will be less effective. For very serious cases and medication, a psychiatrist might be required. If possible, it is best to start with a Ph.D psychologist instead of psychiatric drugs.

The “brief relaxation response” mentioned above, consists of the following. The goal is to relax all major muscles of the body, and to try and make breathing as  peaceful as possible. Muscles can be relaxed by (1) tensing and loosening, (2) stretching them, and/or (3) by shaking (example: let your arms hang down very loosely and then shake them). Many patients benefit from relaxation tapes with instructions, that are available on the Internet (search “muscle relaxation tapes”). Here is a good example:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1nZEdqcGVzo    

You can also find relaxing music. My version of a brief relaxation response takes about 10 to 20 seconds after training. Begin by inhaling slowly and deeply. Then, exhale slowly and as you do this, let your whole body go limp. The “limp” part requires some practice, with or without a therapist. You can add a quick neck or scalp massage, and be sure to check tension in the back and calf muscles.

Here is a possible program. Start by working a lot with a relaxation tape to develop skills. Use the “brief relaxation response” frequently during a day and before going to sleep. Try any or all of the methods to deal with your disturbing thoughts.