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Member since: Tue Nov 9, 2004, 11:55 PM
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The Blue Dot Tour: It’s About All Of Us

Source: David Suzuki

The “blue marble” photo from Apollo 17, the last manned lunar mission, catalyzed the global environmental movement. Now, as people around the world compete for air, water and land — not just with each other, but with corporations bent on profit at any cost — we need a resurgence in action to care for our small blue planet.

That’s why I’m about to embark on what will likely be my last national tour. From September 24 to November 9, I’m crossing the country, from St. John’s, Newfoundland, to Victoria, B.C., with 20 stops along the way. The plan is to work with Canadians from all walks of life to protect the people and places we love. It’s the most important thing I’ve ever done.

And it’s going to be fun! Because they care deeply about our country and the planet, many friends are joining me along the way, including Feist, Neil Young, the Barenaked Ladies, Margaret Atwood, Kinnie Starr, Raine Maida, Grimes, Danny Michel, Stephen Lewis, Bruce Cockburn, Robert Bateman, Shane Koyczan and many more.

The goal of the Blue Dot Tour is to work with community leaders and groups, local governments, First Nations, musicians, writers, legal experts and — we hope — you on local, regional and national initiatives to ensure all Canadians have access to clean water, fresh air and healthy food. Ultimately, we’d like to see the right to a healthy environment enshrined in the Canadian Constitution’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms.


Read more: http://desmogblog.com/2014/07/30/blue-dot-tour-it-s-about-all-us

Nassim Nicholas Taleb: longer & near final version of the Precautionary Principle


Nassim Nicholas Taleb
July 24 at 2:22pm ·

Our longer & near final version of the Precautionary Principle. The web is great. We posted our paper and kept improving it just from indirectly answering criticism on twitter by integrating them in the text, and naming BS ones and erroneous reasoning "fallacies" (antifragility). Calling something a fallacy (such as the potato fallacy, or the Russian roulette fallacy) saves time and eliminates sophistry. The best is the "carpenter fallacy" which addresses the insults by biologists.

We are not adding the math appendix as it intimidates people and might cause them to stop attacking our paper .


Hypertension: empirical evidence and implications in 2014


Nassim Nicholas Taleb
July 22 at 6:48am ·

Friends, recall that the draft of this paper on hypertension and overmedication by Spyros Makridakis was put for discussion here last year. It looks like the paper benefited from our comments on nonlinearity of ailment to treatment.

Hypertension: empirical evidence and implications in 2014 -- Makridakis and DiNicolantonio 1 (1)...

High blood pressure (HBP) or hypertension (HTN) is one of the leading causes of cardiovascular (CV) morbidity and mortality throughout the world. Despite this fact, there is widespread agreement that the treatment of HBP, over the last half century, has been a great achievement. However, after the r…


The paper is free to view or download at http://openheart.bmj.com/content/1/1/e000048.full

Some excerpts:

Key messages

  • There are significant conflicts in the conclusions of hypertension studies that cannot be explained statistically as these studies are based on large sample sizes. The reasons for the conflicts are due to the methodological, epistemological and statistical deficiencies of the hypertension studies. These reasons must be accepted and remedied in order to improve the scientific standing of medicine.

  • It is uncertain if treating otherwise healthy mild hypertensive patients with antihypertensive therapy will reduce morbidity and mortality.

  • The current evidence in the literature does not support the blood pressure goals set by the JNC-8 guidelines.



In his widely cited paper Ioannidis states “There is increasing concern that in modern (medical) research, false findings may be the majority or even the vast majority of published research claims.” What are the reasons for such an extraordinary statement that renders medical research practically useless, as it makes impossible to separate the false from the true findings? We believe that the reasons have a lot to do with the epistemological, methodological and statistical concerns reported in this paper. Popper's theory advocates ‘falsifiability’ as the criterion distinguishing science from non-science. According to Popper even one single study whose results are contrary to the accepted theory is enough to falsify it. Given the extent of falsification in HTN studies findings would need to be applied with extreme care.

Medicine can be extremely useful when treating major CHD, strokes or traumas from car accidents. The same is true with the use of antibiotics to cure infectious diseases and most of vaccinations. But in many other cases, the harm from treatment can exceed the benefits, producing iatrogenics as with Galen's ‘medicine’, bloodletting and tonsillectomy and all the way to the widespread utilisation of preventive breast and prostate cancer tests. According to Taleb iatrogenics, concerned with costs and benefits, is linked to small and visible benefits coupled with large, delayed and hidden non-linear costs and this may well be the case with the treatment of HTN. Are the benefits from such treatment greater than the monetary costs and especially the negative side effects, including a life-long dependence on medical drugs? This is a critical question that must be answered by objective, scientific evidence.

There is a lot that can be done to deal with medicine's problems and avoid iatrogenics. First, patients must be provided with the truth in an objective and balanced way. <snip>

HBP is a symptom, possibly like fever, and apart from a few cases, it is not known what is causing it. Could it be that there are beneficial reasons for HBP? For instance, <snip>


Ioannidis concludes that “false findings may be the majority or even the vast majority of published research claims” are not alone in raising serious concerns about recommendations to enter into a hypertension therapy. A recent Economist editorial argues that ‘science has changed the world but now it needs to change itself’ to end ‘flawed’ research and the risks of ‘shoddy’ conclusions. Finally, a new book by Gøtzsche shows the undue influence of pharma firms in recommending therapy and drugs and the potential dangers of such drugs that often exceed their assumed benefits.


FAA Proposes Changes to Risk Assessment for Commercial Launches, Reentries


FAA Proposes Changes to Risk Assessment for Commercial Launches, Reentries
Posted by Doug Messier on July 29, 2014

The FAA has proposed changing the way it calculates collective risk limits for commercial launches and reentries. A brief summary is reproduced below. For more information, visit the entry in the Federal Register.

Notice Of Proposed Rulemaking


The FAA proposes to amend the collective risk limits for commercial launches and reentries. Under this proposal, the FAA would separate its expected-number-of-casualties (E c) limits for launches and reentries. For commercial launches, the FAA proposes to aggregate the E c posed by the following hazards: Impacting inert and explosive debris, toxic release, and far field blast overpressure. The FAA proposes to limit the aggregate E c for these three hazards to 1 × 10 − 4. For commercial reentries, the FAA proposes to aggregate the E c posed by debris and toxic release, and set that E c under an aggregate limit of 1 × 10 − 4. Under the FAA’s proposal, the aggregate E c limit for both launch and reentry would be expressed using only one significant digit.

The FAA also proposes to clarify the regulatory requirements concerning hazard areas for ships and aircraft. The proposed rule would require a launch operator to establish a hazard area where the probability of impact does not exceed: 0.000001 (1 × 10 − 6) for an aircraft; and 0.00001 (1 × 10 − 5) for a water-borne-vessel.

Demonizing Putin vs. Behaving Responsibly - by Martin Hellman


Demonizing Putin vs. Behaving Responsibly
Posted on July 28, 2014 by Nuclear Risk

After presenting evidence that all sides bear some of the responsibility for the loss of 298 lives on Malaysian Air Flight 17, my recent Huffington Post article concludes, “Even without the above evidence, common sense alone would question the overly simplified narrative we have been fed in which the carnage in Ukraine is all Putin’s fault. Wars bring out the worst on all sides, and to be effective in preventing future tragedies such as MH17, we need to stop blaming others and start taking responsibility for our own mistakes.”

One of the most egregious forms of blame is to paint the other side as being in league with the devil, and Saturday’s edition of my local paper, the San Jose Mercury News, did precisely that when it picked up a Mike Luckovich political cartoon showing the devil holding a black box marked PUTIN’S SOUL, and saying, “I retrieved the black box” – a clear reference to MH17. A web search on images of Putin as devil turns up a number of related caricatures.

Comparing Putin to Hitler as Hillary Clinton did in March, similarly feeds our basest emotions and prevents us from responding rationally – which is at the heart of our behaving responsibly, both linguistically and logically.

Demonizing others feeds a false sense of moral superiority typical of irresponsible adolescents. If we want to behave maturely, responsibly, and effectively we need to do what I suggest in the Huffington Post article:

Putin is far from blameless, but we have no control over his actions and complete control over our own. So, to be effective we need to search in the dark recesses of our own nation’s soul, rather than cast stones at others.

Martin Hellman

John Oliver on Nuclear Weapons - highly recommended by Martin Hellman


John Oliver on Nuclear Weapons
Posted on July 28, 2014 by Nuclear Risk

As the movie Dr. Strangelove shows, comedy may be the best way to break through society’s reluctance to face the risks posed by nuclear weapons. In that tradition, I highly recommend John Oliver’s recent comedy routine about nuclear weapons (15 minute video). Well done, John!! Please share this with friends. If enough of us do that, who knows what could happen? Maybe we’d even come to our senses?

Martin Hellman

The video is posted in the video forum: http://www.democraticunderground.com/1017206153

Last Week Tonight with John Oliver: Nuclear Weapons (HBO)

Last Week Tonight with John Oliver: Nuclear Weapons (HBO)

Published on Jul 27, 2014

America has over 4,800 nuclear weapons, and we don’t take terrific care of them.

It’s terrifying, basically.

Sylvan Esso: 'Coffee,' Live On Soundcheck

Sylvan Esso: 'Coffee,' Live On Soundcheck
Published on May 8, 2014

Hear the entire session and interview: http://soundcheck.wnyc.org/story/sylvan-esso-in-studio/

The best collaborations bring a push and pull that forces each member out of their comfort zones, and charts new territory they may not have ventured by themselves. Case in point: Sylvan Esso, the new project from singer Amelia Meath, of the mostly a cappella Vermont folk trio Mountain Man, and Nick Sanborn, of the North Carolina rock band Megafaun. Unlike those more guitar-based, acoustic-leaning groups, Sylvan Esso takes a stylistic leap, veering a hard left toward minimal electronic music and taut synth pop. And with their superb self-titled record, Meath and Sanborn perfectly encapsulate that creative spirit of collaboration, equally showcasing their individual talents, and creating a synthesis of their group's respective sounds in a new way.

With tracks like "Play It Right," and the album's best single, "Coffee," Sylvan Esso best demonstrates its alluring and spare sound: Meath singing amid Sanborn's woozy hooks, chiming synth sequences and laptop beats.

Watch Sylvan Esso perform "Coffee" live in the Soundcheck studio.

U.S. plans widespread seismic testing of seafloor

Source: Associated Press

The U.S. government is planning to use sound blasting to conduct research on the ocean floor along most of the East Coast, using technology similar to that which led to a court battle by environmentalists in New Jersey.

The U.S. Geological Survey plans to map the outer limits of the continental shelf and study underwater landslides that would help predict where and when tsunamis might occur. But environmentalists say it could cause the same type of marine life damage they fought unsuccessfully to prevent this month off New Jersey.

“New Jersey’s marine life, fisheries and coastal economy can’t get a break,” said Cindy Zipf, executive director of Clean Ocean Action, which led the battle to block a sound blasting research plan.

Although it involves the same basic technology, the new plan is much wider-ranging. It would begin near the U.S.-Canadian offshore border and extend as far south as Florida.


Read more: http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2014/07/27/world/science-health-world/u-s-plans-widespread-seismic-testing-seafloor/

Promises of easier nuclear power plant construction fall short in new round of building


Promises of easier nuclear power plant construction fall short in new round of building

Prefabricated sections costly, difficult to make

By Ray Henry
Associated Press
Saturday, July 26, 2014

WAYNESBORO, Ga. — The U.S. nuclear industry has started building its first new plants in decades using prefabricated Lego-like blocks meant to save time and money and revive the once promising energy source.

So far, it’s not working.

Quality and cost problems have cropped up again, raising questions about whether nuclear power will ever be able to compete with other electricity sources. The first two reactors built after a 16-year lull, Southern Co.’s Vogtle plant in Waynesboro, Ga., and SCANA Corp.’s VC Summer plant in South Carolina, are being assembled in large modules. Large chunks of the modules are built off-site in an effort to improve quality and avoid the chronic cost overruns that all but killed the nuclear industry when the first wave of plants was being built in the 1960s and 1970s.

Analysts say engineers created designs that were hard or impossible to make, according to interviews and regulatory filings reviewed by The Associated Press.


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