Saturday, April 14, 2012

An undemocratic decision gives Egyptian democracy a little more breating room for now

The New York Times is reporting that three of the leading candidates and seven others running for the presidency of Egypt have been ruled out by Egypt's election authorities and cannot appear on the ballots of their countrymen. This decision was not expected.

Election authorities eliminated three of the leading presidential candidates in one broad stroke on Saturday night in an unexpected decision that once again threw into disarray the contest to shape the future of Egypt after the ouster of Hosni Mubarak.

The ruling struck down the three most controversial candidates: Khairat el-Shater, the leading strategist of the Muslim Brotherhood; Hazem Salah Abu Ismail, an ultraconservative Islamist; and Omar Suleiman, Mr. Mubarak’s former vice president and intelligence chief.

Mr. Shater was ruled ineligible because of a criminal conviction at a political trial under Mr. Mubarak, the authoritarian president who ruled Egypt for nearly 30 years. Mr. Abu Ismail was disqualified because his mother was an American citizen, a violation of current Egyptian law. Elections authorities said Mr. Suleiman did not meet the signature requirement to qualify for the ballot. Of the 30,000 notarized signatures he submitted last weekend, 22,000 lacked adequate authentication or failed to meet other requirements, they said.

While these decisions appear to be based on flimsy grounds--other than for Mr. Suleiman--it is likely the case that this seemingly undemocratic decision makes it more likely that the winner will rule as a democrat.

The extreme Islamists certainly cannot be trusted to rule democratically. And a lackey for Mr. Mubarak likely would have tried to return Egypt to the status quo ante.

Yet this mass ouster from the ballot exposes the obvious: The Egyptian people who will decide who their next president is are probably not ready for democracy. When extreme Islamists and others who think fundamentalist religion belongs above all other considerations in state policy are so popular that they can win a majority of the seats in parliament and whose candidates can win the presidency, it makes clear to me that Egyptian democracy is in for a rocky ride. Ordinary Egyptians are too ignorant, too poorly educated and too poor to understand what their country really needs.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Evidence does not support the theory that the earth warmed up without rising CO2

New evidence that rising levels of carbon dioxide caused the global warming of 20,000 years ago that ended the last ice age will not change the minds of anyone who is a committed global warming skeptic.

I have come to believe that global warming skeptics are themselves exactly what they falsely accuse the 99.99% of climate scientists who agree with the consensus view of man-generated global warming theory: That is, the skeptics are driven by ideology, not science.

What the skeptics I have spoken with, read of, or heard speak all seem to think is that the thousands of climate scientists who study global warming and who in the main agree on global warming's causes and effects are driven by a radical left-wing ideology which is anti-business, anti-automobile and radically anti-modernity. The skeptics think that the climate scientists are cooking the numbers in order to shut down the coal and oil industries, to make driving a car impossibly expensive and to reverse the economic progress of the last 50 or more years just so that the environment will be purified.

That is why the evidence does not matter: It makes no difference what scientific studies find. The skeptics do not believe that these studies are science at all. The skeptics have covered their ears and closed their eyes. They are like religious zealots: They accept it as a matter of faith that the scientists are not scientists.

Yet every counter theory that the skeptics have come up with has in short order been found to be wrong. The Christian Science Monitor reports another of these:

Rising levels of carbon dioxide drove much of the global warming that thawed Earth at the end of the last ice age. That's the conclusion a team of scientists has drawn in a new study examining the factors that closed the door on the last ice age, which ended about 20,000 years ago.

The result stands in contrast to previous studies that showed temperatures rising ahead of increases in atmospheric CO2 levels. This has led some skeptics of human-triggered global warming to argue that if warming temperatures came first, CO2 wasn't an important factor then and so can't be as significant a factor today as most climate scientists calculate it to be.

The problem with the skeptics' theory is that it was based on data all from one place on earth. Global research shows that carbon dioxide levels rose before the temperatures rose:

The measurements from the previous studies were taken from ice cores extracted from thick glaciers in Antarctica. The new work supplements that data with temperature evidence from 80 locations around the globe. The results show that while temperature increases around Antarctica appear to have led increases in atmospheric CO2, the picture globally was the opposite – CO2 increases paved the way for temperature increases.

The importance of this research is that we know that we are in the middle of a period of where atmospheric CO2 has increased by 34 percent. Earth history suggests that severe global warming will come over the next few hundred years as a consequence:

The results also hold notes of caution for today, notes Jeremy Shakun, a climate researcher at Harvard University in Cambridge, Mass. He notes that during the 10,000 years from the end of the last ice age to the beginning of the current “interglacial” climate, atmospheric CO2 concentrations rose 40 percent, from 180 molecules per million in the atmosphere to 260 parts per million. During the past 100 years, concentrations have risen 34 percent, from 292 ppm to 392 ppm – and continue to rise. “Clearly, it's not a small amount,” says Dr. Shakun, referring to the increases during the past century. “Rising CO2 at the end of the last ice age had a huge effect on global climate. We've raised it as much in the last century.”

Other than morons who have no scientific education, no skeptics doubt the method by which modern climate scientists measure ancient levels of carbon dioxide:

The international team, led by Shakun and Oregon State University paleoclimatologist Peter Clark, based its work on the chemical makeup of air samples contained in bubbles trapped in ice cores. Ice records from Antarctica go back some 800,000 years. But the researchers also drew temperature information from 80 locations around the globe, spanning northern and southern hemispheres. Sources to track temperature changes over time ranged from microfossils in deep-ocean sediments to pollen trapped in sediments in freshwater lakes.

So why did carbon dioxide levels rise 20,000 years ago?

The team's results show that the initial trigger for warming to end the last ice age was a periodic change in the angle of Earth's tilt and in the orientation of its axis. This brought more sunlight to warm northern latitudes. As mile-thick ice sheets covering vast areas of the northern hemisphere's continents began to melt, fresh water poured into the oceans, particularly into the North Atlantic, changing mechanisms that governed the climate.

Sea levels rose five to 10 meters within a few hundred years, and the Atlantic's deep-ocean “conveyor belt” slowed. Typically, the conveyor pulls warm surface water north from the tropics to cool, sink, and move south along the bottom as colder water. But the added fresh water from melting ice sheets slowed the conveyor, cooling the north and warming the southern ocean, which reaches Antarctica.

The warmer waters in the southern ocean reduced the extent of sea ice around the continent, leaving more surface water exposed to exchange gases with the atmosphere. Changing wind patterns from the warming increased the pace at which CO2-rich water deep in the ocean welled up and vented CO2 into the atmosphere.

In essence, where today's CO2 comes from vast reservoirs of carbon stored underground as coal, oil, and natural gas, or as methane trapped in polar permafrost, the reservoir of carbon CO2 introduced during the end of the ice age initially came from stores deep in the ocean.

An interesting note at the end of the Christian Science Monitor's story regards the first attempt, back in 1896, was made to connect CO2 rise and global warming:

Climate scientists' historical attempts to understand the processes that ended past ice ages have laid the groundwork for the current understanding of how CO2 influences the climate. As far back as 1896, Swedish physicist Svante Arrhenius published a paper in the Philosophical Magazine and Journal of Science that he hoped would help solve the climate riddle ice ages presented. The 38-page paper included painstakingly handwritten calculations – arguably the first global climate model – that estimated the climate's sensitivity to changes in CO2 levels. Remarkably, he reached a figure comparable to the one scientists today see as the most-likely value.

I wonder who the Man of the Year is?

Who knew that each Assembly district in California gets to name its own Woman of the Year?

The Dana Point Times is reporting that 73rd District Assemblywoman Diane Harkey has named Terry Rifkin (no known relation) as Harkey's district's 2012 Woman of the Year:

"It is an honor for me to be able to recognize an outstanding woman in the 73rd district every year. Terry Rifkin serves as an example to everyone on what a true volunteer is,” said Harkey. “The number of unpaid hours Terry devotes to our troops and her community is a testament to how one person can improve the lives of untold numbers of people.”

A licensed clinical social worker, Rifkin has been in private practice as a licensed psychotherapist since 1981. She is also an active member of the National Association of Social Workers and the Society for Clinical Social Work.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Sugar is killing us

If every American would stop eating products with sugar added, I suspect our health bills would fall by about 75 percent in the United States.

After experiencing some symptoms which are associated with diabetes--dry mouth, numb feet and toes, tingling hands and erratic vision--I stopped consuming all products with sugar in them about six weeks ago. I have never felt better. In three weeks, all my symptoms disappeared.

I had been suffering from severe dry mouth problems for 18 months. And then after 10 days without eating any sugar, the problem disappeared. Even with bifocals, I could no longer see clearly up close or far away. After three weeks without sugar, my vision returned to normal. For a few weeks, my extremities were tingling and numb. My toes felt like they were getting no blood. My hands ached. After 2 weeks without sugar, my hands and feet and toes are all back to normal.

It's regularly reported how fat Americans are. A small part of the reason for that is eating too many fatty foods. A much bigger reason is eating too much sugar. According to a recent 60 Minutes report by Dr. Sanjay Gupta, "sugar - more than any other substance - is linked to obesity, type-2 diabetes, hypertension and heart disease."

CBS News has a story online which addresses the toxic nature of excess sugar consumption and the fact that at no time in the history of humanity have more people been consuming more sugar.

The amount of sugar consumed by Americans today is unprecedented, and is contributing to heart disease and high blood pressure, a dietitian said on "CBS This Morning."

Cynthia Sass, a nutritionist and registered dietitian, was on the broadcast to discuss a "60 Minutes" report by Dr. Sanjay Gupta which explored studies indicating that sugar - more than any other substance - is linked to obesity, type-2 diabetes, hypertension and heart disease.

Sass explained that the average American today consumes 22 teaspoons of sugar a day. "In a year's time it's about 17 four-lb. bags of sugar per person per year," she told Charlie Rose. "We need to change our habits."

Scientists now believe that sugar is a toxic substance.

When asked why sugar may be considered toxic, Sass compared one's blood to a glass of water: "Now think about pouring sugar into that water. The more sugar that's there, the thicker and more syrupy that water gets.

"When that's happening in your body - in your blood - your heart has to work harder to pump that thicker fluid through your system," Sass said. "It puts stress on the heart. It puts stress on the arteries. It Increases blood pressure. It attacks the kidneys, the liver. So it's really the amount that we have that's really causing these problems."

Although sweet fruits have sugar (fructose), they are not unhealthy to eat. What scientists are talking about when calling sugar toxic, is added sugar, added honey, added high fructose corn syrup which don't naturally exist in foods.

Sass said the source of sugar is also an important consideration. "The sugar that's healthy is the kind that comes from Mother Nature - the sugar that's in fruit, that's in yogurt, that's naturally occurring," she said. "So when you think about blueberries, a cup of blueberries, that has about 7 grams of fructose, but it's bundled with antioxidants, vitamins, minerals, fiber."

A can of soda, by comparison, has about 25 grams of fructose - about three times more - with no nutrients.

A public policy question worth asking is this: What, if anything, should be done about America's massive overconsumption of sugary foods?

I think we need to do something. I would start with these three ideas:

1. Place a 1 cent per gram tax on added sugar. That can of soda with 25 grams of added sugar would be taxed at 25 cents. A box of Kellogg's Honey Smacks, which has 15 grams of added sugar per serving and 9 servings per box, would be taxed at $1.35 (9 x 15). A 2,270 gram bag of sugar (5 pounds) would be taxed at $22.70. Foods with naturally occurring sugars, such as fruit, would not be taxed;

2. Educate the public on the toxicity of sugar. Take most of the money raised from the sugar tax and use it to let people realize what sugar does to their health. Any leftover money should be spent buying nutritious foods for school children; and

3. Require a prominent warning label. All processed foods with more than 5 grams of added sugar per serving need to say in large script: "The sugar in this product is toxic to your health."