Why are crazy and dangerous fads so appealing to some?

On The Daily Show, Desi Lydic explores the ‘raw water’ fad.

This is a classic ‘first world’ issue. Many millions of people around the world suffer terribly from the lack of easy availability of clean water and yet people in the US, fortunate to have water freely and plentifully available at the turn of a faucet, are willing to spend good money to spurn this luxury and buy water from springs in which all manner of disease-causing parasites may lurk. I was already astounded that people actually buy bottled water but this takes that absurdity to a whole new level.

It seems like all you have to do is throw around words like ‘natural’ to make people think it is better and words like ‘probiotics’ to make them think you have science on your side. And a big bonus is if you wear robes and act like some mystic guru because we all know that such people have access to divine truths, right?

You can read more about the raw water fad where you will learn that Mukhande Singh’s birth name is Christopher Sanborn.

The cowardly Alex Jones held in contempt for skipping depositions

The conspiracy theorist who created such acute distress for the families of those killed in the Sandy Hook massacre by spreading the lie that it was a hoax and thus inspired his rabid followers to persecute those families and make their lives a living hell, talks very tough. But it turns out that he is, like all bullies, a coward. He has been sued by the families and been ordered by the judge to attend a legal deposition and be questioned under oath but he did not show up, citing vague medical reasons, even though he was appearing on his show that same week. Jones is clearly trying to avoid a legal reckoning for his reckless and hateful instigation against the families. He has offered a settlement to the people suing him but they have refused, demanding that he appear in court.
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When did Earth begin to become oxygen rich?

When the Earth first formed into a solid sphere with an atmosphere, that atmosphere was deficient in oxygen. The question of when and how the planet became oxygen rich is an interesting and important one and recent research challenges some old ideas about the earliest appearance of oxygen.

The “Great Oxygenation Event” that infused the gas into our atmosphere is commonly thought to have occurred around 2.4 billion years ago, when a rise in cyanobacteria released a huge amount of oxygen through photosynthesis. But it’s been difficult to get any more precise in terms of dating the first appearance of this life-giving gas; after all, how are scientists supposed to detect such a small quantity of oxygen from so long ago?
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A little logic puzzle

Here is a little puzzle to think about.

The monk Gaito lives at the bottom of a hill just outside the ancient town of Huroko. One day, the monk leaves his home at 6:00am and makes his way up the hill along the narrow path that winds its way to the peak. The monk walks all day, occasionally stopping to rest and meditate, sometimes even retracing his steps for short distances, and arrives at the peak at 10:00pm. After spending the night fasting at the top, the monk starts the return journey at 6:00am the next morning and goes down the same narrow winding path, once again stopping occasionally or retracing his steps at various points along the way for contemplation. The monk returns to his home at the base of the hill at 10:00pm.
When you consider the monk’s two journeys, is it guaranteed that there will be at least one point along the path where the monk will be located at the same time during the day for both trips?

You can put your solutions and reasons in the comments.

Taking stock of the pandemic

On March 11, 2020, the World Health Organization declared Covid-19 to be a global pandemic. In the two years since then, we have passed one grim milestone after another. As of yesterday, there have been 483 million cases worldwide or 6.1% of the total population of 7.9 billion. There have been a total of 6.2 million deaths.

When one looks at the per capita death rates, apart from Peru (which has the highest rate), Brazil, and Chile, the rest of the top 20 countries for cases are in Europe or the US. In fact, the highest ranking country outside Europe and the Americas is at #35 with Tunisia. A similar pattern holds for infection rates.
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The awful Madeline Albright is dead

The first woman to occupy the position of US Secretary of State, that occurred during Bill Clinton’s presidency, died last week and there were many tributes to her for this achievement. While breaking down gender and other barriers is always a good thing, the fact is that Albright’s record was awful, though she fitted in perfectly with the Clintons’ neoliberal, so-called ‘liberal interventionist’, warmongering policies. Glossed over was her infamous comment in 1996 that the estimated deaths of 500,000 Iraqi children due to the cruel sanctions imposed by the US on that country was “worth it”. Here is the clip of her saying it, so casually and cold-bloodedly, that I will never forget it.

Jon Schwarz gives her the send-off that she really deserves by describing all that was wrong with her.
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Pandemic lessons from Hong Kong

The covid-19 pandemic is going to be a rich source of data for how to deal with any future pandemics. The prevalence and degree of severity of the disease has varied widely across the globe, as have the ways in which various countries responded to it, and this has given rise to so-called ‘natural experiments’, those in which one can isolate and study the effects of individual factors without having to actually do experiments.

One of the firmest lessons is the importance of vaccinations for everyone but especially the need to vaccinate those segments of the population that are most likely to suffer adverse effects and death. In the case of covid-19, it was the elderly and the immunocompromised who were most at risk.

But there is also the question of how far to go with trying to isolate regions in order to keep the virus out of the country. The countries that practiced severe lockdowns and strict border controls (such as China, New Zealand, and Hong Kong) were initially able to keep the numbers extremely low while many other countries were suffering badly, but now the situation seems to be reversed in that the previously affected countries are seeing a decline while those initially low case number countries are seeing a spike.
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Second Republican governor vetoes ban on transgender sports

The bans on transgender athletes being proposed by Republican state legislatures are so cruel and unnecessary that even some Republican governors are taking a stand against them. Utah governor Spencer Cox has just joined fellow Republican governor Eric Holcomb of Indiana in vetoing such legislation. In doing so, he offered some heart-warming words. (All boldfacing is mine.)
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Wars and war crimes

War crimes follow wars as surely as night follows day.

When you look at the list of things that constitute war crimes according the Geneva Conventions and the Nuremberg Tribunals, you will immediately see that any sustained conflict inevitably leads to actions, such as “Atrocities or offences against persons or property, constituting violations of the laws or customs of war”, “the wanton destruction of cities, towns or villages” or “devastation not justified by military necessity”, that fall into the category of war crimes. So when the US declares that Russian troops have committed war crimes during its invasion of Ukraine, they are undoubtedly right. One major crime is “planning, preparation, initiation or waging of a war of aggression.”

But what is infuriating is the revolting hypocrisy demonstrated by all the righteous indignation by the US and its allies about Russian war crimes when the long and ugly and incontrovertible history of war crimes by the US is ignored by the US political class and that mainstream media. After all, the US has so many times in the past been involved in the “planning, preparation, initiation or waging of a war of aggression”, Iraq being merely one of the most recent.

I was trying to formulate a post about this but Chris Hedges pretty much said it all.
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Covid-19 fatigue

I am one of the fortunate ones in that I was able to get vaccinated and boosted and since I am retired, during the worst of the pandemic I could spend most of my time at home and thus could easily practice social distancing. I also wore masks whenever I was in any indoor facility with other people. But while it was not onerous, I too have started to feel weary of taking these precautions and was hopeful that the rapid decline in cases in the recent past signaled the transition from a pandemic phase to an endemic phase that would enable us to let down our guard and just take the kinds of precautions we are used to with other familiar airborne contagions like the flu and cold, where we stay at home when we have symptoms and avoid contact with people who are exhibiting symptoms.

But now we hear reports of a delta-omicron hybrid and a BA.2 version of the omicron variant causing a slight uptick in cases in Europe and the UK, which in the past have been leading indicators of what would happen in the US after about two or three weeks. 45% of the US population has been infected with omicron and thus have some immunity to that BA.2 version of it but that still leaves a large number at risk.
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