Recovered ‘coronavirus patients’ report health issues months later

pneumonia

© stockdevil_666/Deposit photos
Chest x-ray of a patient presenting with pneumonia. The x-ray shows alveolar infiltrate in the middle lobe of the right lung

Many recovered coronavirus patients who did not need to be hospitalized are still facing serious health problems months later, according to a study commissioned by the Longfonds. While 94 percent say they do not feel as healthy as they did before the viral infection, some 60 percent of this group said they still have breathing symptoms which make it difficult to take a walk, and nearly half are unable to exercise, Longfonds director Michael Rutgers said in a statement. “We find this really shocking.”

The Longfonds, treatment center CIRO, and Maastricht University surveyed 1,600 people who reported they had symptoms after recovering from the coronavirus. Rutgers said it was the first time that these patients have really come into the picture, as most were never treated in medical centers. Longfonds and CIRO said 91 percent of respondents were not hospitalized, and 43 percent were never formally tested for Covid-19, the respiratory disease caused by this SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus.

These recovered patients told researchers that they still suffer from symptoms like tightness in the chest, fatigue, headaches, or shortness of breath almost three months after recovering. 85 percent of participants said they were in good health before getting the coronavirus. Only six percent said that their health is back to what it was before their infection. The average age of those surveyed was 53.

These people really need to be seen, heard and helped,” Rutgers said. More than 1 in 5 received no follow up care, and were thoroughly dissatisfied by that. “It seems that we are dealing with an invisible group of patients who are in danger of falling through the cracks after coronavirus. We have to prevent that.”

“The health of corona patients who went through corona at home is shockingly bad,” Rutgers said “Until now, the focus was rightly on the people who ended up in the hospital or even on the ICU. But we should not forget this group of corona patients who were at home.”

Longfonds wanted more people to register with the Dutch-language platform Coronalongplein.nl, which it launched along with another pulmonary organization to provide information and advice to people struggling with the aftereffects of a Covid-19 infection. Through the site they can use their PGO personal health monitor questionnaire to determine the severity of their own symptoms.

“We are learning more and more about the course of the disease. The questions and complaints must guide the care, treatment and supervision of this new patient group. In addition, further research into the long-term consequences of coronavirus is needed,” Rutgers said.

SOTT FOCUS: Does Not Complying With Social Distancing Rules Mean You’re a Psychopath? The Answer is Obvious

cough sneeze

© Shutterstock
Bioterrorism?

Here’s another junk psychology paper to add to the heap. It follows a trend common in academia, but especially in the field of psychology. That trend is to come up with some dull and patently obvious hypothesis that anyone’s grandmother would already know to be true, design a “scientific study” to demonstrate it, then claim victory when your prediction is supported. You know the drill, something along the lines of “new study shows people don’t like it much when they’re punched in the face”, “…99% children choose cake over boiled vegetables every time”, “…loud noises startle babies”.

Not only are such studies idiotic to begin with; pop science blogs then either misrepresent the actual studies or hype the results in headlines way out of proportion. The result is a populace dumber than it was to begin with, despite the best intentions of “science educators” – otherwise known as mama’s and papa’s boys who just repeat in a dumbed-down form what they are told by actual scientists – who are themselves mama’s and papa’s boys with little actual insight or creativity.

PsyPost has a writeup of the paper in question under the title: Psychopathic traits linked to non-compliance with social distancing guidelines amid the coronavirus pandemic. Let’s take a look.

Rain Is Wet, and Psychopaths Don’t Follow Rules

The article begins:

New research provides some initial evidence that certain antagonistic personality traits are associated with ignoring preventative measures meant to halt the spread of the novel coronavirus SARS-CoV-2.

The study has been peer reviewed and accepted for publication in the journal Social Psychology and Personality Science. It is currently available on the PsyArXiv preprint website.

“On March 31, 2020, Dr. Deborah Birx, the coordinator of the U.S. government’s Coronavirus Task Force, said, ‘There’s no magic bullet. There’s no magic vaccine or therapy. It’s just behaviors. Each of our behaviors, translating into something that changes the course of this viral pandemic over the next 30 days.’ My experience as a psychological scientist as well as a practicing psychologist has convinced me that the importance of psychology and behavior in the prevention and management of a wide range of health problems is enormous,” said study author Pavel S. Blagov, an associate professor and director of the Personality Laboratory at Whitman College.

I mean Dr. Blagov no disrespect, but you don’t need to be a scientist, or a psychologist, to know this. We’re humans. Humans do things. It goes without saying that any problem – which by necessity involves humans doing things – will involve human psychology.

“This includes personality, or the study of important ways in which people differ. It was clear from reports in the media very early in the COVID-19 pandemic that some people were rejecting advice to socially distance and engage in increased hygiene. There can be many reasons for this, and I thought that personality may play at least a small role in it.”

And when it rains, the pavement gets wet.

“I knew that traits from the so-called Dark Triad (narcissism, Machiavellianism, and psychopathy) as well as the traits subsumed within psychopathy are linked to health risk behavior and health problems, and I expected them to be implicated in health behaviors during the pandemic. There is also prior research suggesting that people high on the Dark Triad traits may knowingly and even deliberately put other people’s health at risk, e.g., by engaging in risky sexual behavior and not telling their partner about having HIV or STIs,” Blagov told PsyPost.

“Early in the pandemic, and in subsequent months, there were numerous reports of individuals purposefully coughing, spitting, or even licking door handles in public, either as a way to intimidate others or as a way to rebel against the emerging new norms of social distancing and hygiene. I was curious whether the Dark Triad and psychopathy-related traits may help explain such behavior.”

The researcher used Amazon’s Mechanical Turk to survey 502 U.S. adults between March 20 and March 23, 2020. The online survey asked participants how often they complied with health recommendations on preventing the spread of the novel coronavirus, if they planned to do so, and how they would behave if they became infected. The survey also included several assessments of personality.

“The study took place before health behaviors related to the pandemic had become extremely politicized in the U.S., and when people were still learning about the rapidly evolving situation,” Blagov noted.

Most of the participants, the researcher found, were complying with health recommendations from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and the World Health Organization.

“It was encouraging to find that people who participated in my study generally reported engaging in social distancing and hygiene, planning to continue to engage in these measures, and being willing to do what was necessary to protect the health of loved ones, acquaintances, and strangers,” Blagov said.

Again, I am fairly certain that my grandmothers would be able to tell me as much (and neither received a PhD). But they’d be able to tell it with a bit more insight than your average psychologist, and with less verbiage: most people follow the rules – whether or not the rules make any sense. They wouldn’t be surprised by the following either:

But some participants reported not heeding the advice, which the researchers found was linked to several personality traits.

Blagov found that lower levels of agreeableness and conscientiousness were associated with a reduced likelihood of endorsing health recommendations related to social distancing and hygiene. In other words, people who were less sympathetic/cooperative and people who were less responsible/organized were less likely to engage in preventative measures.

In addition, people who scored higher on the psychopathic subtraits of meanness and disinhibition tended to show less interest in social distancing and hygiene. Meanness and disinhibition also predicted the endorsement of behavior that puts others at risk of infection, such as touching or sneezing on high-use surfaces in public. Disinhibition reflects poor impulse control, while meanness describes the lack of regard for others.

“People scoring high on these traits tended to claim that, if they had COVID-19, they might knowingly or deliberately expose others to it,” Blagov told PsyPost.

“One potential implication from this research is that there may be a minority of people with particular personality styles (on the narcissism and psychopathy spectrum) that have a disproportionate impact on the pandemic by failing to protect themselves and others.”

Grandma wisdom: irresponsible people behave irresponsibly. Cold-hearted people behave cold-heartedly. Psychology is perhaps the only scientific field designed to show that adjectives mean what they say they mean. But let’s look at this a bit more closely.

It may be offensive to some, but most people are sheep. They believe what others tell them – especially if it comes from people with authority, and to the degree that other people also believe. As long as what they are told is truthful, little harm is done. But truth is not so easy to come by. People are often mistaken, and others lie. That’s why we’ve been eating margarine instead of butter for decades, to bring up just one example.

If the authorities say X is bad for you (whether or not it actually is), and you must do Y to prevent it (whether or not it actually will), most people will follow suit. A small minority will not. One part of that minority will not simply because they are psychopaths, and psychopaths have no regard other people’s rules. As one insightful psychologist put it:

[Psychopaths] think that customs and principles of decency are a foreign convention invented and imposed by someone else (‘probably by priests’), silly, onerous, sometimes even ridiculous. … Natural human reactions – which often fail to elicit interest to normal people because they are considered self- evident – strike the psychopath as strange, interesting, and even comical. (Andrew Lobaczewski, Political Ponerology, pp. 87, 88)

So naturally, if people are told that there is a potentially deadly virus going around, psychopaths will not care. Just as they’ll probably sleep with multiple partners even if they have an STD, they will probably even get a little pleasure out of breaking “social distancing” norms and sneezing in people’s faces. In fact, they might even pretend to have the virus just to freak people out and terrorize them. Anyone who was once a child playing on a playground knows there are people like this.

But here’s what’s not so obvious: all of this says nothing at all about the rule in question. The simplicity with which Blagov’s results are related is deceptive. And as usual with pop psychology articles, the caveats come last:

Like all research, the study includes some caveats.

“The study’s limitations included its use of a non-random, non-probability sample of only U.S. adults; abbreviated trait measures; and newly developed, previously untested health-behavior measures. A likely unintended effect of this may be underestimating the strength of trait-behavior correlations. The results do not mean that viral disease is spread only by irresponsible or inconsiderate people. The correlations were often small, and the scientific definitions of traits are not everyday judgments about character,” Blagov explained.

In other words, something else you could have learned from grandma: people have different reasons for not following rules. (I doubt the authors of this paper would accuse any significant portion of the BLM protesters of being psychopathic, for instance.) Not all people who break rules are evil, because not all rules are worth following. If a relatively normal person thinks a rule is worth following (whether it is or not), they will follow it, and pat themselves on the shoulder for doing the right thing. A psychopath won’t care. If a relatively normal person thinks a rule isn’t worth following (whether it is or not), they will not follow it – if they have enough character to break out of the mental prison of herd instinct. For instance, here are two iconic images of the latter:

Rosa Parks

Rosa Parks breaking a previous form of ‘social distancing’

nazi salute refusal

© wikipedia, CC BY-SA
People giving a Nazi salute, with an unidentified person (possibly August Landmesser or Gustav Wegert) refusing to do so.

The not-so-hidden assumption in the above article is that social distancing is necessary, and that it works, both of which are open questions as far as I’m concerned. Since many people are skeptical about the severity of this alleged global pandemic (which compared to something like the Black Death or even the Spanish flu is barely a blip on the radar), chances are there are many who will not “heed the advice” of medical authorities for just that reason. Not because they’re irresponsible or mean, but because they think for themselves. It’s possible to think social distancing is nonsense without intentionally sneezing on people.

Cheap Science Can Be Dangerous

In the grand scheme of things, this paper is insignificant. Except for its use in casual conversation by people who wish to appear well-informed to their close acquaintances, it will be forgotten. But it does point to a real danger – one that I think vastly outweighs the presumed danger of the virus in question. Psychology and psychiatry have a history of being used and abused by tyrannical nutjobs. In such a scenario, it is not a far leap from “some people who disagree with coerced social distancing are psychopaths” to “watch out for people who question the official narrative, they’re probably psychopaths”. In fact, that’s the kind of misdirection psychopaths are expert at.

I’ll close with another excerpt from Andrew Lobaczewski, on the dangers of the misuse of psychology for political purposes:

A normal person’s actions and reactions, his ideas and moral criteria, all too often strike abnormal individuals as abnormal. For if a person with some psychological deviations considers himself normal, which is of course significantly easier if he possesses authority, then he would consider a normal person different and therefore abnormal, whether in reality or as a result of conversive thinking. That explains why such people’s government shall always have the tendency to treat any dissidents as “mentally abnormal”.

Operations such as driving a normal person into psychological illness and the use of psychiatric institutions for this purpose take place in many countries in which such institutions exist. …

Any person rebelling internally against a governmental system, which shall always strike him as foreign and difficult to understand, and who is unable to hide this well enough, shall thus easily be designated by the representatives of said government as “mentally abnormal”, someone who should submit to psychiatric treatment. A scientifically and morally degenerate psychiatrist becomes a tool easily used for this purpose. (Political Ponerology, pp. 179, 180)

Lockdown catastrophe: The need for resilient food systems

farming digging potatoes

Agroecology and encouraging small, local producers is the way forward, but will Big Ag let that happen?

There is no doubt that, contingent on World Bank aid to be given to poorer countries in the wake of coronavirus lockdowns, agrifood conglomerates will aim to further expand their influence.

It’s a sector which demands the entrenchment of capitalist agriculture via deregulation and the corporate control of seeds, land, fertilisers, water, pesticides, food processing and retail – domination of the entire chain from seed to plate.

These firms have been integral to the consolidation of a global food regime that has emerged in recent decades based on chemical- and proprietary-input-dependent agriculture which incurs massive social, environmental and health costs picked up by taxpayers. As if to pour oil on the fire, the food crisis that could follow in the wake of the various lockdowns may serve to further strengthen the prevailing system.

We are already seeing food shortages in the making. In India, for instance, supply chains have been disrupted, farm input systems for the supply of seeds and fertilisers have almost collapsed in some places and crops are not being harvested. Moreover, cultivation has been adversely affected prior to the monsoon and farm incomes are drying up. Farmers closer to major urban centres are faring a bit better due to shorter supply chains.

Veteran rural reporter P Sainath has urged India’s farmers to move away from planting cash crops and to start cultivating food crops, saying that you cannot eat cotton. It’s a good point. According to a report that appear on the ruralindiaonline website, in a region of southern Odisha, farmers have been pushed towards a reliance on (illegal) expensive genetically modified herbicide tolerant cotton seeds and have replaced their traditional food crops. Farmers used to sow mixed plots of heirloom seeds, which had been saved from family harvests the previous year and would yield a basket of food crops. They are now dependent on seed vendors, chemical inputs and a volatile international market to make a living and are no longer food secure.

But what is happening in India is a microcosm of global trends. Reliance on commodity monocropping for international markets, long global supply chains and dependency on external inputs for cultivation make the food system vulnerable to shocks, whether resulting from public health scares, oil price spikes (the global food system is heavily fossil-fuel dependent) or conflict. An increasing number of countries are recognising the need to respond by becoming more food self-sufficient, preferably by securing control over their own food and reducing supply chains.

Various coronavirus lockdowns have disrupted many transport and production activities, exposing the weaknesses of our current food system. While one part of the world (the richer countries) experiences surplus food but crop destruction due to farm labour shortages, millions of people elsewhere could face hunger due to rising food prices – or a lack of food availability altogether.

If the current situation tells us anything, it is that structural solutions are needed to reorganise food production, not further strengthen the status quo. In 2014, UN special rapporteur Olivier De Schutter’s report concluded that by applying agroecological principles to democratically controlled agricultural systems we can help to put an end to food crises and poverty challenges. He argued that agroecological approaches could tackle food needs in critical regions and could double food production in 10 years.

The 2009 IAASTD peer-reviewed report, produced by 400 scientists and supported by 60 countries, recommended agroecology to maintain and increase the productivity of global agriculture. And the recent UN FAO High Level Panel of Experts concluded that agroecology provides greatly improved food security and nutritional, gender, environmental and yield benefits compared to industrial agriculture.

Agroecology is based on traditional knowledge and modern agricultural research, utilising elements of contemporary ecology, soil biology and the biological control of pests. This system combines sound ecological management by using on-farm renewable resources and privileging endogenous solutions to manage pests and disease without the use of agrochemicals and corporate seeds. It outperforms the prevailing industrial food system in terms of diversity of food output, nutrition per acre, soil health, water table stability and climate resilience.

Writer and academic Raj Patel outlines some of the basic practices of agroecology by saying that nitrogen-fixing beans are grown instead of inorganic fertilizer; flowers are used to attract beneficial insects to manage pests; weeds are crowded out with more intensive planting. The result is a sophisticated polyculture — that is, it produces many crops simultaneously, instead of just one.

Much has been written about agroecology, its successes and the challenges it faces, not least in the 2017 Fertile Ground: Scaling agroecology from the ground up. Agroecology can offer concrete, practical solutions to many of the world’s problems. In doing so, it challenges – and offers alternatives to – the prevailing moribund doctrinaire economics of a neoliberalism that drives a failing system chemical-intensive industrial agriculture.

For instance, by creating securely paid labour-intensive agricultural work, it can also address the interrelated links between labour offshoring by rich countries and the removal of rural populations elsewhere who end up in sweat shops to carry out the outsourced jobs: the two-pronged process of neoliberal globalisation that has hollowed out the economies of the US and UK and which is displacing existing indigenous food production systems and undermining the rural infrastructure in places like India.

The Declaration of the International Forum for Agroecology by Nyeleni in 2015 argued for building grass-root local food systems that create new rural-urban links, based on genuine agroecological food production. It added that agroecology requires local producers and communities to challenge and transform structures of power in society, not least by putting the control of seeds, biodiversity, land and territories, waters, knowledge, culture and the commons in the hands of those who feed the world.

It would mean that what ends up in our food and how it is grown is determined by the public good and not powerful private interests driven by commercial gain and the compulsion to subjugate farmers, consumers and entire regions to their global supply chains and questionable products (whether unhealthy food or proprietary pesticides and seeds). For consumers, the public good includes more diverse diets leading to better nutrition and enhanced immunity when faced with any future pandemic.

As Florence Tartanac, senior officer at Nutrition and Food Systems Division of the UN FAO, sated in April 2018:

[…]agroecological markets bring an increase in the availability of more diverse food, especially of local varieties, that are linked to traditional diets. Therefore, consumers’ awareness should be increased on the importance of diet diversification and its effects on physical and mental health as well as on the positive impacts of sustainable, local and traditional consumption on the social, economic and environmental compartments.

She made these comments during the second FAO international symposium ‘Scaling up Agroecology to Achieve the Sustainable Development Goals’. And it’s a valid point seeing that the modern diet has become less diverse and is driving a major public health crisis in many countries.

Across the world, decentralised, regional and local community-owned food systems based on short(er) food supply chains that can cope with future shocks are now needed more than ever. But there are major obstacles given the power of agrifood concerns whose business models are based on global chains with all the devastating consequences it entails.

However, the report Towards a Food Revolution: Food Hubs and Cooperatives in the US and Italy offers some pointers for creating sustainable support systems for small food producers and food distribution. Moreover, the last few months have underscored the advantages of shorter supply chains, alternative food models and community supported agriculture. As Natasha Soares of Better Food Traders says:

It’s about diversity of supply; supermarkets have a stranglehold on the food retail business, but in order to have a resilient food supply we need to source our food from local, sustainable farmers.

But are governments ready to listen? Even if they are, many could have their hands tied.

Following the devastation caused by coronavirus-related lockdowns, World Bank Group President David Malpass has stated that poorer countries will be ‘helped’ to get back on their feet – on the condition that further neoliberal reforms and the undermining of public services are implemented and become further embedded.

He says that countries will need to implement structural reforms to help shorten the time to recovery and create confidence that the recovery can be strong:

For those countries that have excessive regulations, subsidies, licensing regimes, trade protection or litigiousness as obstacles, we will work with them to foster markets, choice and faster growth prospects during the recovery.

In the face of economic crisis and stagnation at home, this seems like an ideal opportunity for Western capital to further open up and loot economies abroad.

In effect, the coronavirus provides cover for the entrenchment of dependency and dispossession. Global conglomerates will be able to hollow out the remnants of nation state sovereignty.

In the meantime, the UK government at least seems to be content in supporting the status quo. BASF, the world’s largest chemicals company, makes agricultural, industrial and automotive products at its eight UK plants. It has received £1 billion in ‘coronavirus support’ funding (’emergency loans’). This is by far the biggest payout so far agreed under the UK scheme. And Bayer shareholders voted to pay £2.75 billion in dividends just weeks before the firm received £600m as part of the British government’s emergency loan scheme which according to the Unearthed website comes without conditions.

Given that the UK imports almost half its food, maybe such money would be better spent by funding and developing a national network of producer-consumer food hubs in every town/city.

SOTT FOCUS: Objective:Health – Face Masks: Virtue Signalling Our Obedience to the New Normal

O:H header

Part of the “New Normal” that’s being promoted on every channel of the mainstream media is the wearing of face masks to… stop the spread of coronavirus? Are we still doing this?

A good part of the issue is the mountains of evidence that masks don’t actually prevent viral transmission and that they appear to cause harm to the wearer. Combine that with the fact that the WHO doesn’t recommend them and even Lockdown in Chief Anthony Fauci has said they’re simply ‘symbolic’ and you’ve got a recipe for crazy making. Why are they still making people wear these stupid things?

Join us on this episode of Objective:Health and as we ‘unmask’ the issues around masks.

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MIT study: 24-hour fasting regenerates stem cells, doubles metabolism

fasting

Chances are you’re probably thinking about food right now in some capacity. Maybe it’s close to dinner and you’re wondering what you are going to eat. Maybe you had a really good lunch and are fondly reminiscing about your BLT, or whatnot. Or maybe, just maybe, you’re thinking about not eating food for a while.

If you’re thinking about the latter, researchers at MIT have discovered that fasting for 24 hours flips a metabolic switch in mice, causing their guts to enhance their intestinal stem cells. Intestinal stem cells are what powers the intestine, and as people age this powerhouse starts to slow down. Ever wonder why you put on more weight as you get older? Thank your gut flora, including these cells.

The researchers found that fasting for just one day caused intestinal cell regeneration to double. While the trial has yet to be performed on humans, the biology behind these stem cells isn’t wildly different to ours at all.

So, even though a 24 hour fast might make you hangry (hungry + angry, duh), it looks like it will undoubtedly speed up your metabolism. These cells regenerate on their own roughly every 4 days, so while it isn’t our place at all to tell you how to diet much less tell you that fasting will work for everybody, the science is in. And celebrities like Jimmy Kimmel and Benedict Cumberbatch have kept the pounds off over the years thanks to intermittent short fasts. One of the most popular of these diets is the 5-2 diet, which allows 5 days of eating normally and 2 days of severe caloric restrictions of 600 calories or less on the fasting days.

Those with diabetes or metabolic diseases should definitely consult a doctor before jumping in the deep and attempting a somewhat extreme diet. It’s not for everyone, but the results achieved by the fasting appear to mimic cell autophagy, or “cellular cleaning” of damaged cells.

Not bad for just withholding, eh?

Historical court case: The fluoride cover up will soon be exposed

Fluoride Cover Up

A historical trial weighing the risks of water fluoridation is set to begin in San Francisco on Monday June 8.

For the last four years, attorneys with the Fluoride Action Network have been fighting a legal battle against the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency over whether water fluoridation violates the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA). A recent ruling by the judge in the case has now set the stage for a federal trial which will include three international experts in neurotoxicity testifying on the dangers of water fluoridation.

The Fluoride Action Network (FAN) is set to argue that water fluoridation violates the TSCA provisions which prohibit the “particular use” of a chemical which has been found to present an unreasonable risk to the general public. Under section 21 of the TSCA citizens are allowed to petition the EPA to regulate or ban individual chemicals.

The FAN began their legal battle in November 2016 when they joined with five organizations and five individuals to present a Citizens’ Petition under Section 21 of TSCA to the EPA. The Citizens’ Petition calls on the EPA to prohibit the addition of fluoridation chemicals to U.S. water based on the growing body of evidence showing that fluoride is a neurotoxin at doses currently used in communities around the United States.

The plaintiffs in the case include: FAN, Moms Against Fluoridation, Food & Water Watch, the American Academy of Environmental Medicine, the International Academy of Oral Medicine and Toxicology and the Organic Consumers Association.

The plaintiffs’ have presented studies to the court detailing the evidence of neurotoxic harm as part of their Proposed Findings of Fact. Dr. Paul Connett, PhD, director of FAN, points to a number of recent studies detailing the affect of fluoridation on IQ levels.

“As of 2020 there have been 72 fluoride-IQ studies, of which 64 found a lower IQ among children with higher fluoride exposure,” Connett stated. “Many of the earlier studies were in places with elevated natural fluoride levels. There is now very strong evidence that fluoride damages both the fetal and infant brain at the levels used in artificially fluoridated areas.”

While the court will allow FAN to present evidence related to the harms caused by water fluoridation, the court has stated that the EPA cannot present information related to the purported benefits of fluoridation. The move was seen as a victory for FAN and opponents of fluoridation. The EPA also attempted to exclude three experts from speaking at the trial. However, the court over ruled the agency and will allow the expert testimony. Experts include Dr. Philippe Grandjean of Harvard and the University of Southern Denmark, Dr. Howard Hu of the University of Washington, and Dr. Bruce Lanphear of Simon Fraser University in British Columbia.

The trial is set to begin on June 8th via Zoom. I will be reporting on the trial for The Last American Vagabond. Stay tuned for daily video reports and articles.

What is Fluoride?

water test tubes

The substances added to municipal water supplies known by the name “fluoride” are actually a combination of unpurified byproducts of phosphate mining. In the United States thousands of tons of fluorosilicic acid is recovered from phosphoric acid plants and then used for water fluoridation. During this process the fluoride ion is created.

This process of taking waste from the phosphate industry and putting it into drinking water has long been criticized for its effects on human health and the environment. It is well known that water fluoridation has led to dental fluorosis for millions of children. This discoloring of the teeth was called “cosmetically objectionable” by the Centers for Disease Control.

Beyond the cosmetic effect there have been several studies indicating overwhelming health issues related to fluoride, especially for children. Another study found a connection between exposure to water fluoridated at relatively low concentrations and a reduced IQ among children.

As recent as September 2017 the journal Environmental Health Perspectives published the study “Prenatal Fluoride Exposure and Cognitive Outcomes in Children at 4 and 6-12 Years of Age in Mexico,” examining the results of prenatal exposure to fluoride and the potential health concerns. The researchers called the study “one of the first and largest longitudinal epidemiological studies to exist that either address the association of early life exposure to fluoride to childhood intelligence or study the association of fluoride and cognition using individual biomarker of fluoride exposure.” The study was funded in part by the U.S. National Institutes of Health.

The researchers found that higher prenatal fluoride exposure was associated with lower scores on tests for cognitive function at age four, and between ages six and twelve. The researchers acknowledge that their results are “somewhat consistent” with past ecological studies which indicate children living in areas of high fluoride exposure have lower IQ scores than those in low-exposure areas.

A study published in the journal General Dentistry warns that infants are at risk of dental fluorosis due to overexposure from fluoride in commercially available infant foods. The researchers analyzed 360 different samples of 20 different foods ranging from fruits and vegetables, chicken, turkey, beef, and vegetarian dinners. Chicken products had the highest concentrations of fluoride, followed by turkey. The New York State Coalition Opposed to Fluoridation (NYSCOF) reports that the fluoride levels were due to pesticides, fertilizers, soil, groundwater, and/or fluoridated water. The high levels found in the chicken and turkey can be attributed to “fluoride-saturated bone dust” involved in the process of mechanically separating the meat.

Another study published in Environmental Health found a potential connection between fluoride exposure and the prevalence of adult attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) in children. The researchers studied data on ADHD among children age four to seventeen collected in 2003, 2007 and 2011 as part of the National Survey of Children’s Health, as well as state water fluoridation data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) collected between 1992 and 2008 . It is the first study to analyze the relationship between exposure to fluoridated water and ADHD prevalence.

The team discovered that children living in areas with a majority of the population receiving fluoridated water from public water systems “tended to have a greater proportion of children and adolescents diagnosed with ADHD. ” The researchers concluded that:

“this study has empirically demonstrated an association between more widespread exposure to fluoridated water and increased ADHD prevalence in U.S. children and adolescents, even after controlling for socioeconomic status (SES). The findings suggest that fluoridated water may be an environmental risk factor for ADHD.”

In addition to these studies related to fluoride and children, dozens of other studies have indicated a variety of health problems. A recent study published in the Journal of Analytical Chemistry indicates that fluoride ions found in fluoridated water and toothpaste may lead to an increase in Urinary Stone Disease (USD). The study was conducted by chemists from Russia and Australia, led by Pavel Nesterenko at the University of Tasmania. The team studied 20 urinary stones from patients at a Russian hospital and discovered fluoride ions in 80% of the stones. This could be due to high levels of fluoride in patients’ urine, possibly from drinking water containing fluorides and ingesting fluoride toothpaste.

A study published in the BMJ’s Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health confirmed fluoride’s negative effect on the thyroid gland and a possible connection to depression, weight gain, and other negative health effects. Researchers with the University of Kent in England examined thyroid activity for those in areas with fluoridated water and those without. The team examined 95 percent of the English population in 2012 and 2013 and found that high rates of underactive thyroid were 30% more likely in areas with high fluoride concentration. An underactive thyroid can lead to depression, weight gain, fatigue and aching muscles.

banned water flouridation

Turns out brain scans aren’t as useful as scientists thought

brain scans

© Annchen Knodt
Brain scans showing MRI mapping for 3 tasks across 2 different days. Warm colors show the consistency of activation levels across a group of people. Cool colors represent how poorly unique patterns of activity can be reliably measured.

Hundreds of published studies over the last decade have claimed it’s possible to predict an individual’s patterns of thoughts and feelings by scanning their brain in an MRI machine as they perform some mental tasks.

But a new analysis by some of the researchers who have done the most work in this area finds that those measurements are highly suspect when it comes to drawing conclusions about any individual person’s brain.

Watching the brain through a functional MRI machine (fMRI) is still great for finding the general brain structures involved in a given task across a group of people, said Ahmad Hariri, a professor of psychology and neuroscience at Duke University who led the reanalysis.

“Scanning 50 people is going to accurately reveal what parts of the brain, on average, are more active during a mental task, like counting or remembering names,” Hariri said

Functional MRI measures blood flow as a proxy for brain activity. It shows where blood is being sent in the brain, presumably because neurons in that area are more active during a mental task.

The problem is that the level of activity for any given person probably won’t be the same twice, and a measure that changes every time it is collected cannot be applied to predict anyone’s future mental health or behavior.

Hariri and his colleagues reexamined 56 published papers based on fMRI data to gauge their reliability across 90 experiments. Hariri said the researchers recognized that “the correlation between one scan and a second is not even fair, it’s poor.”

They also examined data from the brain-scanning Human Connectome Project — “Our field’s Bible at the moment,” Hariri called it — and looked at test/retest results for 45 individuals. For six out of seven measures of brain function, the correlation between tests taken about four months apart with the same person was weak. The seventh measure studied, language processing, was only a fair correlation, not good or excellent.

Finally they looked at data they collected through the Dunedin Multidisciplinary Health and Development Study in New Zealand, in which 20 individuals were put through task-based fMRI twice, two or three months apart. Again, they found poor correlation from one test to the next in an individual.

The bottom line is that task-based fMRI in its current form can’t tell you what an individual’s brain activation will look like from one test to the next, Hariri said. The new analysis, appears June 3 in Psychological Science

“This is more relevant to my work than just about anyone else’s!” Hariri said, his voice rising. “This is my fault. I’m going to throw myself under the bus. This whole sub-branch of fMRI could go extinct if we can’t address this critical limitation.

Hariri has been using fMRI data as part of a long-term study of 1,300 undergraduate Duke students. By combining brain scans, genetic testing and psychological assessments, Hariri is searching for biomarkers of individual differences in the way people process thoughts and emotions, such as why one person comes away from a traumatic event with PTSD or depression and another does not.

“We can’t continue with the same old ‘hot spot’ research,” Hariri said. “We could scan the same 1,300 undergrads again and we wouldn’t see the same patterns for each of them.”

One possible solution to the reliability problem, using existing technology, would be to collect data for a full hour or longer in the scanner, not just five minutes. Hariri also said developing new tasks from the ground up with the explicit purpose of reliably measuring individual differences in brain activity is another strategy. In the meanwhile, Hariri and his team have shifted their focus to MRI measures of brain structure, which are highly reliable.

“It’s not as if we haven’t known these issues of reliability, but this paper brings them together more sharply,” said Russell Poldrack, the Albert Ray Lang Professor of Psychology at Stanford University, who had a 15-year-old fMRI paper among those that were reanalyzed.

“This is a good wakeup call, and it’s a marker of Ahmad’s integrity that he’s taking this on,” said Poldrack, who was not involved in the meta-analysis but said he has had suspicions about fMRI reliability for a few years now.

Connectivity mapping – seeing how areas of the brain are connected to address a task more than just what areas are active – is going to be the way forward, Poldrack predicted. Hariri agreed that identifying patterns of activity throughout the brain rather than in one or two areas may improve reliability.

In the meantime, the sociology behind a dramatic debunking of a scientific tool is going to be interesting to watch, Hariri and Poldrack both said.

“There’s three things you can do,” Poldrack said. “You can just up and quit, you can stick your head in the sand (and act as if nothing has changed), or you can dig in and try to solve the problems.”

This analysis was supported by the U.S. National Science Foundation. The Dunedin Study is supported by the U.S. National Institute on Aging (R01AG049789, R01AG032282) and the UK Medical Research Council (P005918), the New Zealand Health Research Council and the New Zealand Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE). The Human Connectome Project is supported by 16 centers of the U.S. National Institutes of Health via the Blueprint for Neuroscience Research.

CITATION: “What is the Test-Retest Reliability of Common Task-fMRI Measure? New Empirical Evidence and a Meta-Analysis,” Maxwell L. Elliott, Annchen R. Knodt, David Ireland, Meriwether L. Morris, Richie Poulton, Sandhya Ramrakha, Maria L. Sison, Terrie E. Moffitt, Avshalom Caspi, Ahmad R. Hariri. Psychological Science, June 3, 2020. DOI: 10.1177/0956797620916786

Mouthwash may mess with beneficial bacteria and blood pressure

mouthwash

In ads on TV, it all looks so simple. People use mouthwash, it instantly neutralises all the nasty bacteria hiding in their mouths, and – just like that – their dental hygiene is assured.

But what’s really going on when you rinse a cap-load of antibacterial chemicals around your mouth? What does that to your body, and to other kinds of microorganisms that may actually be beneficial to health?

As a study showed last year, the downstream effects can be surprising, and far-reaching too, affecting much more than just your dental wellbeing.

In an experiment led by scientists from the UK and Spain, researchers found that the simple act of using mouthwash after exercising can reduce one of the benefits of exercise: lowering blood pressure.

When you exercise, your blood vessels open in response to the production of nitric oxide, which increases the diameter of blood vessels. This process is called vasodilation, and it increases blood flow circulation to active muscles.

For a long time, researchers thought this only happened during exercise, but in more recent years, evidence has shown that circulation stays high (meaning blood pressure is lowered) even after exercise – thanks to how bacteria interact with a compound called nitrate, which forms when nitric oxide degrades.

“Research over the last decade has shown that nitrate can be absorbed in the salivary glands and excreted with saliva in the mouth,” explains physiology specialist Raul Bescos from Plymouth University.

“Some species of bacteria in the mouth can use nitrate and convert into nitrite – a very important molecule that can enhance the production of nitric oxide in the body.”

Once nitrite is produced and swallowed with saliva, it becomes absorbed into blood circulation and reduces back to nitric oxide, which keeps blood vessels wide and lowers blood pressure.

But according to this small study, it looks like this biological mechanism can be significantly interrupted if anti-bacterial mouthwash gets added into the post-exercise mix.

In an experiment, 23 healthy adults ran on a treadmill for 30 minutes. After the workout, the participants were asked to rinse their mouth with either an antibacterial mouthwash or a mint-flavoured placebo.

These mouth rinses occurred immediately after the exercise, and also at 30, 60, and 90 minutes after.

The participants also had their blood pressure taken during the experiment, immediately after the exercise, and during their rest period.

The results showed that at one hour after the treadmill session, average reduction in systolic blood pressure in the placebo group was -5.2 mmHg (millimetres of mercury).

The reduction in the mouthwash-using group was much lower, showing an average of -2.0 mmHg at the same point in time, suggesting the use of the antibacterial mouthwash (0.2 percent chlorhexidine) had lowered the systolic blood pressure reduction by over 60 percent.

At the end of the monitoring window, two hours after the treadmill session, the mouthwash group showed no sign of blood pressure reduction stemming from the exercise, whereas the placebo group still showed a significant reduction compared to their pre-exercise values.

“This is the first evidence showing that the nitrate-reducing activity of oral bacteria is a key mechanism to induce the acute cardiovascular response to exercise during the recovery period in healthy individuals,” the authors explained in their paper.

While it’s only a small study, it serves as an important reminder of how not all bacteria are necessarily bad for us – and that ingesting antibacterial chemicals that indiscriminately terminate mouth-dwelling microbes could hamper important biological processes necessary for good health.

“These findings show that nitrite synthesis by oral bacteria is hugely important in kick-starting how our bodies react to exercise over the first period of recovery, promoting lower blood pressure and greater muscle oxygenation,” said one of the team, nutritionist Craig Cutler.

“In effect, it’s like oral bacteria are the ‘key’ to opening up the blood vessels. If they are removed, nitrite can’t be produced and the vessels remain in their current state.”

The findings have been reported in Free Radical Biology and Medicine.

SOTT FOCUS: Archbishop Breaks Ranks to Support Trump: ‘Covid-19 Emergency And Riots an Infernal Deception by Children of Darkness’

Life Site News editor’s note: Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò has released this powerful letter today to President Trump warning him that the current crises over the coronavirus pandemic and the George Floyd riots are a part of the eternal spiritual struggle between the forces of good and evil. He encourages the president to continue the fight on behalf of the “children of light.” Read the letter in PDF form here.

archbishop vigano trump letter

June 7, 2020

Holy Trinity Sunday

Mr. President,

In recent months we have been witnessing the formation of two opposing sides that I would call Biblical: the children of light and the children of darkness. The children of light constitute the most conspicuous part of humanity, while the children of darkness represent an absolute minority. And yet the former are the object of a sort of discrimination which places them in a situation of moral inferiority with respect to their adversaries, who often hold strategic positions in government, in politics, in the economy and in the media. In an apparently inexplicable way, the good are held hostage by the wicked and by those who help them either out of self-interest or fearfulness.

These two sides, which have a Biblical nature, follow the clear separation between the offspring of the Woman and the offspring of the Serpent. On the one hand there are those who, although they have a thousand defects and weaknesses, are motivated by the desire to do good, to be honest, to raise a family, to engage in work, to give prosperity to their homeland, to help the needy, and, in obedience to the Law of God, to merit the Kingdom of Heaven. On the other hand, there are those who serve themselves, who do not hold any moral principles, who want to demolish the family and the nation, exploit workers to make themselves unduly wealthy, foment internal divisions and wars, and accumulate power and money: for them the fallacious illusion of temporal well-being will one day – if they do not repent – yield to the terrible fate that awaits them, far from God, in eternal damnation.

In society, Mr. President, these two opposing realities co-exist as eternal enemies, just as God and Satan are eternal enemies. And it appears that the children of darkness – whom we may easily identify with the deep state which you wisely oppose and which is fiercely waging war against you in these days – have decided to show their cards, so to speak, by now revealing their plans. They seem to be so certain of already having everything under control that they have laid aside that circumspection that until now had at least partially concealed their true intentions. The investigations already under way will reveal the true responsibility of those who managed the Covid emergency not only in the area of health care but also in politics, the economy, and the media. We will probably find that in this colossal operation of social engineering there are people who have decided the fate of humanity, arrogating to themselves the right to act against the will of citizens and their representatives in the governments of nations.

We will also discover that the riots in these days were provoked by those who, seeing that the virus is inevitably fading and that the social alarm of the pandemic is waning, necessarily have had to provoke civil disturbances, because they would be followed by repression which, although legitimate, could be condemned as an unjustified aggression against the population. The same thing is also happening in Europe, in perfect synchrony. It is quite clear that the use of street protests is instrumental to the purposes of those who would like to see someone elected in the upcoming presidential elections who embodies the goals of the deep state and who expresses those goals faithfully and with conviction. It will not be surprising if, in a few months, we learn once again that hidden behind these acts of vandalism and violence there are those who hope to profit from the dissolution of the social order so as to build a world without freedom: Solve et Coagula, as the Masonic adage teaches.

Although it may seem disconcerting, the opposing alignments I have described are also found in religious circles. There are faithful Shepherds who care for the flock of Christ, but there are also mercenary infidels who seek to scatter the flock and hand the sheep over to be devoured by ravenous wolves. It is not surprising that these mercenaries are allies of the children of darkness and hate the children of light: just as there is a deep state, there is also a deep church that betrays its duties and forswears its proper commitments before God. Thus the Invisible Enemy, whom good rulers fight against in public affairs, is also fought against by good shepherds in the ecclesiastical sphere. It is a spiritual battle, which I spoke about in my recent Appeal which was published on May 8.

For the first time, the United States has in you a President who courageously defends the right to life, who is not ashamed to denounce the persecution of Christians throughout the world, who speaks of Jesus Christ and the right of citizens to freedom of worship. Your participation in the March for Life, and more recently your proclamation of the month of April as National Child Abuse Prevention Month, are actions that confirm which side you wish to fight on. And I dare to believe that both of us are on the same side in this battle, albeit with different weapons.

For this reason, I believe that the attack to which you were subjected after your visit to the National Shrine of Saint John Paul II is part of the orchestrated media narrative which seeks not to fight racism and bring social order, but to aggravate dispositions; not to bring justice, but to legitimize violence and crime; not to serve the truth, but to favor one political faction. And it is disconcerting that there are Bishops – such as those whom I recently denounced – who, by their words, prove that they are aligned on the opposing side. They are subservient to the deep state, to globalism, to aligned thought, to the New World Order which they invoke ever more frequently in the name of a universal brotherhood which has nothing Christian about it, but which evokes the Masonic ideals of those want to dominate the world by driving God out of the courts, out of schools, out of families, and perhaps even out of churches.

The American people are mature and have now understood how much the mainstream media does not want to spread the truth but seeks to silence and distort it, spreading the lie that is useful for the purposes of their masters. However, it is important that the good – who are the majority – wake up from their sluggishness and do not accept being deceived by a minority of dishonest people with unavowable purposes. It is necessary that the good, the children of light, come together and make their voices heard. What more effective way is there to do this, Mr. President, than by prayer, asking the Lord to protect you, the United States, and all of humanity from this enormous attack of the Enemy? Before the power of prayer, the deceptions of the children of darkness will collapse, their plots will be revealed, their betrayal will be shown, their frightening power will end in nothing, brought to light and exposed for what it is: an infernal deception.

Mr. President, my prayer is constantly turned to the beloved American nation, where I had the privilege and honor of being sent by Pope Benedict XVI as Apostolic Nuncio. In this dramatic and decisive hour for all of humanity, I am praying for you and also for all those who are at your side in the government of the United States. I trust that the American people are united with me and you in prayer to Almighty God.

United against the Invisible Enemy of all humanity, I bless you and the First Lady, the beloved American nation, and all men and women of good will.

Carlo Maria Viganò

Titular Archbishop of Ulpiana

Former Apostolic Nuncio to the United States of America

‘Genetic switch’ link between anxiety and alcohol abuse identified

whiskey

© CC0 Public Domain

New research from the University of Aberdeen and the University of Edinburgh has identified how sections of DNA might contribute to the risk of alcohol abuse in men.

Published in Molecular Psychiatry, the study found a section of DNA that switches on key genes in parts of the brain that control alcohol intake and mood.

Identified for the first time, these sections of DNA may act as future drug targets for the development of precision medicines to treat alcohol abuse and anxiety in men.

Dr. Alasdair MacKenzie who led the study at the University of Aberdeen explains: “Alcohol abuse kills millions of people around the world each year and can account for up to 8% of all male deaths. On top of this, there is evidence that the lockdown has contributed to increased anxiety and alcohol intake.

“Given the link between anxiety and alcohol abuse this increase is not really surprising. However, the questions remain; does anxiety lead to increased alcohol intake or does alcohol induce anxiety? Or, could there be a common mechanism driving both anxiety and alcohol intake?”

The team from both universities attempted to answer these questions by exploring human DNA to find genetic mechanisms that could contribute to the relationship between anxiety and alcohol.

Dr. MacKenzie explains “We know that the human genome contains gene sequences which encode the proteins that make up our cells. However, what we don’t know is how these genes are turned on in the correct cells at the correct times to produce a healthy human body.

“The most up-to date research shows that the majority of changes in our DNA associated with disease might occur within enigmatic “enhancers” or “switch” areas that control where and when these genes should be switched on and off and this is where we have focused our efforts to answer these questions”

Once Aberdeen had identified this ‘switch’ section of DNA, Prof Andrew McIntosh and Dr. Toni-Kim Clarke from Edinburgh University, found that changes within the switch were linked to alcohol abuse in men who also suffered anxiety.

Dr. MacKenzie continued “This exciting and unexpected link prompted us to use CRISPR genome editing in mice to delete this switch from the mouse DNA.

“We then allowed the mice access to a choice of water or an alcohol mix. Ordinary mice drunk mostly from the bottle with alcohol. Surprisingly, the mice without the switch largely avoided the alcohol.”

Dr. Andrew McEwan who also worked on the project in Aberdeen added: “What was particularly interesting was that, the male mice without the switch showed less signs of anxiety compared to the normal male mice who tended to hide.” So the results of our mouse tests mirrored the results found in humans.

Dr. MacKenzie added: “This is the first time that a switch has been identified that has been linked to behaviors with such a major impact on human health. We believe that our unique approach provides a template for understanding the role of genetic switches in the development of other complex psychiatric diseases whose causes have so far evaded scrutiny.”

More information: Andrew R. McEwan et al. CRISPR disruption and UK Biobank analysis of a highly conserved polymorphic enhancer suggests a role in male anxiety and ethanol intake, Molecular Psychiatry (2020). DOI: 10.1038/s41380-020-0707-7 Journal information: Molecular Psychiatry