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March 2013

Stress--once again

This HND piece takes another look at stress, which we focused on about three years ago. This time we cite a key paper from 1991. Although it was published in the prestigious New England Journal of Medicine, it never got the attention it deserved.

With a provocative title like "Psychological Stress and Susceptibility to the Common Cold," you'd think ii would have caused more of a stir. That paper--and subsequent work from Sheldon Cohen, Ph.D., of Carnegie-Mellon University--showed that psychological stress was associated in a dose-response manner with an increased risk of acute infectious respiratory illness, and this risk was attributable to increased rates of infection rather than to an increased frequency of symptoms after infection.

Of course, the effect of stress on illness was recognized decades earlier, by Sir William Osler, considered the father of modern medicine.

The point here is that stress can be an important risk factor for many diseases. After all, chronic stress is hypertensive, hyperglycemic, and induces weight gain--all three of which are nasty health-killing factors. According to the work of Cohen and others, that's only the tip of the iceberg.

Read the complete article.

The explosion of video in health care

This HND piece examines the vital importance that "moving pictures" of all sorts have on health care. While it certainly helps providers, the biggest impact is--and will continue to be--on patient education.

Also included are plenty of good links, and some precepts on how one can evaluate the accuracy and utility of the constant stream of scientific—especially health-related—information.

Read the complete article.

Listen to me on NPR's Faith Middleton Show: Is Science Broken?

About a month ago, I was on NPR's popular Faith Middleton Show. What initially promoted interest was a piece I did some years ago debunking the radon hysteria.

The producers decided that a more compelling topic would be the reliability of Science, and what factors might be distorting it.

Joining me in the discussion, which rapidly turned into a debate, was Ira Flatow of Science Friday--a big cheerleader, it would seem, for the current miserable status quo of science.

Although Ira had his share of misguided and uninformed remarks, one especially puzzled me. A good deal of the show was taken up with the radon meme. At some point he asks me why I keep mentioning the (incorrect and fully discredited) linear no threshold model.

Considering that the entire low-level radiation scare, including radon, is based on NLT, this would be a bit like having a show on antibiotics, and asking me why I keep talking about bacteria.

Is Science Broken? I think it is, but why not listen, and judge for yourself.

A Look At HIX: Health Insurance Exchanges

This HND piece gives you a peek under the hood of one of the most important portions of Obamacare. As I keep telling anyone who will listen, the main problem with Obamacare is that it was put together by people who don't know anything about how health care is delivered in the real world, and think that the solution to every problem is more bureaucracy.

Actually, it's even worse than that. They also believe that physicians, nurses, and the rest of the "providers" aren't nearly as important as their infernal systems. Heck, these exchanges are based on the absurd notion of managed competition. But, managed competition only works if there are ALREADY in place perfectly functioning health networks.

Thus, in its most ideal sense, managed competition only works in situations where it is not needed. Just one of the many problems with this mess.

The concept of defined contribution (DC) health plans, as opposed to defined benefits are explored, as well. Some people tout DC as "the answer," and it the wrong question.

Read the complete article.

From Paul Driessen: Our real man-made climate crisis

The crisis is due not to climate change, but to actions taken in the name of preventing change

In his first address as Secretary of State, John Kerry said we must safeguard "the most sacred trust" we owe to our children and grandchildren: "an environment not ravaged by rising seas, deadly superstorms, devastating droughts, and the other hallmarks of a dramatically changing climate."

Even the IPCC and British Meteorological Office now recognize that average global temperatures haven’t budged in almost 17 years. Little evidence suggests that sea level rise, storms, droughts, polar ice or other weather and climate events and trends display any statistically significant difference from what Earth and mankind have experienced over the last 100-plus years.

However, we do face imminent manmade climate disasters. Global warming is the greatest moral issue of our time. We must do all we can to prevent looming climate catastrophes.

But those cataclysms have nothing to do with alleged human contributions to planetary climate systems that have always been chaotic, unpredictable and often disastrous: ice ages, little ice ages, dust bowls, droughts and monster storms that ravaged and sometimes even toppled cities and civilizations.

Our real climate crisis is our responses to Mr. Kerry’s illusory crises. It takes four closely related forms.

Influence peddling. Over the past three years, the Tides Foundation and Tides Center alone poured $335 million into environmentalist climate campaigns, and $1 billion into green lobbies at large, notes Undue Influence author Ron Arnold. Major US donors gave $199 million to Canadian environmental groups just for anti-oil sands and Keystone pipeline battles during the last twelve years, analysts Vivian Krause and Brian Seasholes estimate; the Tides Foundation poured $10 million into these battles during 2009-2012.

All told, US foundations alone have "invested" over $797 million in environmentalist climate campaigns since 2000! And over $19.3 billion in "environmental" efforts since 1995, Arnold calculates! Add to that the tens of billions that environmental activist groups, universities and other organizations have received from individual donors, corporations and government agencies to promote "manmade climate disaster" theories – and pretty soon you’re talking real money.

Moreover, that’s just US cash. It doesn’t include EU, UN and other climate cataclysm contributions. Nor does it include US or global spending on wind, solar, biofuel and other "renewable" energy schemes. That this money has caused widespread pernicious and corrupting effects should surprise no one.

Politicized science, markets and ethics. The corrupting cash has feathered careers, supported entire departments, companies and industries, and sullied our political, economic and ethical systems. It has taken countless billions out of productive sectors of our economy, and given it to politically connected, politically correct institutions that promote climate alarmism and renewable energy (and which use some of this crony capitalist taxpayer and consumer cash to help reelect their political sponsors).

Toe the line – pocket the cash, bask in the limelight. Question the dogma – get vilified, harassed and even dismissed from university or state climatologist positions for threatening the grants pipeline.

The system has replaced honest, robust, evidence-based, peer-reviewed science with pseudo-science based on activism, computer models, doctored data, "pal reviews," press releases and other chicanery that resulted in Climategate, IPCC exposés, and growing outrage. Practitioners of these dark sciences almost never debate climate disaster deniers or skeptics; climate millionaire Al Gore won’t even take questions that he has not preapproved; and colleges have become centers for "socially responsible investing" campaigns  based on climate chaos, "sustainable development" and anti-hydrocarbon ideologies. 

Increasingly powerful, well-funded, unelected and unaccountable activist groups and bureaucracies use manmade global warming claims to impose regulations that bypass legislatures and ignore job and economic considerations. They employ sweetheart lawsuits that let activists and agencies agree to legally binding agreements that leave out the parties who will actually be impacted by the court decisions.

The green behemoth wields increasing power over nearly every aspect of our lives and liberties, with no accountability for screw-ups or even deliberate harm to large segments of our population. All in the name of controlling Earth’s temperature and preventing climate change

Climate eco-imperialism impoverishes and kills. Climate alarmism and pseudo science have justified all manner of regulations, carbon trading, carbon taxes, renewable energy programs and other initiatives that increase the cost of everything we make, grow, ship, eat, heat, cool, wear and do – and thus impair job creation, economic growth, living standards, health, welfare and ecological values.

Excessive EPA rules have closed numerous coal-fired power plants, and the agency plans to regulate most of the US hydrocarbon-based economy by restricting carbon dioxide emissions from vehicles, generating plants, cement kilns, factories, malls, hospitals and other "significant" sources. Were it not for the hydraulic fracturing revolution that has made natural gas and gas-fired generation abundant and cheap, US electricity prices would be skyrocketing – just as they have in Britain and Germany.

EU papers carry almost daily articles about fuel poverty, potential blackouts, outsourcing, job losses, economic malaise and despair, and deforestation for fire wood in those and other European countries, due to their focus on climate alarmism and "green" energy. California electricity prices are already highest in USA, thanks to its EU-style programs. The alarms are misplaced, the programs do nothing to reduce Chinese, Indian or global emissions, and renewable energy is hardly eco-friendly or sustainable.

Wind energy requires perpetual subsidies and "backup" fossil fuel power plants that actually produce 80% of the electricity attributed to wind, and blankets wildlife habitats with turbines and transmission lines that kill millions of birds and bats every year. In fact, industrial wind facilities remain viable only because they are exempted from many environmental review, wildlife and bird protection laws that are enforced with heavy penalties for all other industries. Solar smothers habitats with glossy panels, and biofuels divert crops and cropland to replace fuels that we have in abundance but refuse to develop.

Now climate activists and EPA want to regulate fracking for gas that was once their preferred option.

By far the worst climate crisis, however, is eco-imperialism perpetrated against African and other poor nations. When their country was building a new power plant that would burn natural gas that previously was wasted through "flaring," President Obama told Ghanaians they should use their "bountiful" wind, solar, geothermal and biofuels energy, instead of fossil fuels that threaten us with dangerous global warming. Meanwhile, his Administration refused to support loans for South Africa’s critically needed, state-of-the-art Medupi coal-fired power plant, which the Center for American Progress, Friends of the Earth, Sierra Club and other radical groups stridently opposed.

The actions ignored both the livelihoods and living standards that electricity has brought the world, and the millions of deaths from lung infections and intestinal diseases that these power plants would prevent.

Ready-made excuse for incompetence. Hurricane / Superstorm Sandy proved how "dangerous manmade climate change" can give politicians a handy excuse for ill-considered development decisions that increase storm and flood risk, failure to prepare their communities for inevitable severe weather events, misleading storm warnings, and slow or incompetent responses in their aftermath. Blaming carbon dioxide emissions and rising seas is always easier than manning up and shouldering the blame for Bloombergian failures. Citing IPCC computer forecasts of nastier storms and flooded coastlines likewise gives insurers a convenient excuse for hiking insurance rates.

When the conversation next turns to climate change, discussing the real climate crisis – and the true meaning of environmental justice – could open a few eyes.


Paul Driessen is senior policy advisor for the Committee For A Constructive Tomorrow ( and author of Eco-Imperialism: Green power - Black death.

What about the providers?

This HND piece examines the tragic--and quite purposeful--devaluation of the healing arts. It's no accident that physicians became "providers," and that the universe of providers itself became parsed out into mid-level and lower designations.

All of this, allegedly, is to save money. Clearly, though, it's not working since the US still spends way more for health care, to produce worse results, than any other first world country. How come no one seems to care about saving money on, say, athletes--who are catered to and subsidized for their entire lives?

These days, the docs are saddled with huge debt, and emerge into a health care system where the compensation has dropped drastically. If they're lucky, they'll pay off their debts in around ten years. Run the numbers, and they'd be better off learning a construction trade.

Read the complete article.