Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Will this finally squash the anti-salt crusaders?

The latest  research report, appearing in a top journal (Abstract below), shows that eating a lot of salt does NOT  lead to high blood pressure, heart disease or early death. The bad effect of salt was a great theory but, like many theories, it was an oversimplification and wrong. I have previously noted several  other recent research reports that exonerate salt so I hope that this is now the end of the nonsense

Dietary Sodium Content, Mortality, and Risk for Cardiovascular Events in Older Adults

The Health, Aging, and Body Composition (Health ABC) Study

Andreas P. Kalogeropoulos et al.


Additional information is needed about the role of dietary sodium on health outcomes in older adults.

To examine the association between dietary sodium intake and mortality, incident cardiovascular disease (CVD), and incident heart failure (HF) in older adults.

Design, Setting, and Participants
We analyzed 10-year follow-up data from 2642 older adults (age range, 71-80 years) participating in a community-based, prospective cohort study (inception between April 1, 1997, and July 31, 1998).

Dietary sodium intake at baseline was assessed by a food frequency questionnaire. We examined sodium intake as a continuous variable and as a categorical variable at the following levels: less than 1500 mg/d (291 participants [11.0%]), 1500 to 2300 mg/d (779 participants [29.5%]), and greater than 2300 mg/d (1572 participants [59.5%]).

Main Outcomes and Measures
Adjudicated death, incident CVD, and incident HF during 10 follow-up years. Analysis of incident CVD was restricted to 1981 participants without prevalent CVD at baseline.

The mean (SD) age of participants was 73.6 (2.9) years, 51.2% were female, 61.7% were of white race, and 38.3% were black. After 10 years, 881 participants had died, 572 had developed CVD, and 398 had developed HF. In adjusted Cox proportional hazards regression models, sodium intake was not associated with mortality (hazard ratio [HR] per 1 g, 1.03; 95% CI, 0.98-1.09; P?=?.27). Ten-year mortality was nonsignificantly lower in the group receiving 1500 to 2300 mg/d (30.7%) than in the group receiving less than 1500 mg/d (33.8%) and the group receiving greater than 2300 mg/d (35.2%) (P?=?.07). Sodium intake of greater than 2300 mg/d was associated with nonsignificantly higher mortality in adjusted models (HR vs 1500-2300 mg/d, 1.15; 95% CI, 0.99-1.35; P?=?.07). Indexing sodium intake for caloric intake and body mass index did not materially affect the results. Adjusted HRs for mortality were 1.20 (95% CI, 0.93-1.54; P?=?.16) per milligram per kilocalorie and 1.11 (95% CI, 0.96-1.28; P?=?.17) per 100 mg/kg/m2 of daily sodium intake. In adjusted models accounting for the competing risk for death, sodium intake was not associated with risk for CVD (subHR per 1 g, 1.03; 95% CI, 0.95-1.11; P?=?.47) or HF (subHR per 1 g, 1.00; 95% CI, 0.92-1.08; P?=?.92). No consistent interactions with sex, race, or hypertensive status were observed for any outcome.

Conclusions and Relevance
In older adults, food frequency questionnaire-assessed sodium intake was not associated with 10-year mortality, incident CVD, or incident HF, and consuming greater than 2300 mg/d of sodium was associated with nonsignificantly higher mortality in adjusted models.

JAMA Intern Med. Published online January 19, 2015. doi:10.1001/jamainternmed.2014.6278


Supreme Court hears Texas case that tests extent of civil rights doctrine

A sharply divided US Supreme Court on Wednesday took up a challenge to the Fair Housing Act (FHA) in an action that liberal critics say could gut the major civil rights provision.

At issue in a case from Dallas, Texas, is whether the housing law authorizes lawsuits over racially neutral measures that nonetheless disproportionately impact minority residents.

Liberals support the so-called disparate impact theory of civil rights enforcement, while conservatives warn that such an approach could lead to racial quotas in housing and other areas.

The case has attracted significant attention, with friend-of-the-court briefs filed by various civil rights groups, 17 states, and 20 cities and counties. On the other side, briefs have been filed by a number of conservative groups and business associations, including insurance companies, banks, finance companies, and home builders.

The FHA prohibits anyone from refusing to sell, rent, or otherwise make unavailable a house or apartment to a person because of their race, religion, or national origin. There is no dispute about this aspect of the law.

After the FHA was enacted in 1968, federal courts and agencies began embracing a broader interpretation of the law's scope, concluding that, in addition to barring intentional discrimination, the statute also authorizes lawsuits when housing decisions disproportionately harm minority groups.

The case before the high court involves a lawsuit challenging decisions by the Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs in awarding tax credits for low-income housing in Dallas. The Housing Department sought to provide new affordable housing in areas where existing housing was blighted or nonexistent. It sought to do so under race-neutral criteria.

Despite that goal, not everyone was satisfied with the agency's performance. A Dallas-based group seeking to foster racial integration, the Inclusive Communities Project, sued the Housing Department because it said the agency had failed to provide adequate opportunities for low-income housing in Dallas' more affluent suburbs.

The suit cited a statistical analysis that showed the agency approved disproportionately more applications for housing in minority neighborhoods than in more affluent white suburbs.

This selection and allocation of low-income housing units in the Dallas area was the functional equivalent of intentional racial segregation, the group charged. Regardless of whether the housing decisions were based on race-neutral criteria, the end result was a perpetuation of racial segregation, the ICP said.

The question at the Supreme Court is whether the Fair Housing Act authorizes such lawsuits based on disparate impacts, or whether the FHA requires litigants to prove there was an intentional effort to engage in illegal discrimination.

The hour-long case was presented after an unusual outburst in the courtroom at the start of the high court session on Wednesday. At least five protesters shouted out various slogans, including, "One person, one vote" and "We are the 99 percent." Court security officers restrained them and quickly ushered them out of the courtroom.

The protests were apparently timed to coincide with the fifth anniversary of the high court's January 2010 decision in the Citizens United case. In that case, the court ruled 5 to 4 that corporations and labor unions have a First Amendment right to spend money on issue advertisements during election season.

The justices' questions during oral argument in the Texas case suggest that the court's more liberal members favor the broader interpretation of the FHA, including allowing disparate impact liability, while the court's more conservative members are troubled by the implications of allowing disparate impact claims.

At one point Chief Justice John Roberts asked US Solicitor General Donald Verrilli which of the actions of a housing authority would be considered good or bad in terms of a disparate impact on minorities: revitalizing housing in a low-income area or making low-income housing available to help integrate more affluent neighborhoods?

Mr. Verrilli acknowledged that there might be difficult questions in such cases. And he conceded several times that the underlying allegation in the Texas case might not be a valid disparate-impact claim.

"But which [one] counts [when] you are trying to see if there's a disparate impact on minorities?" the chief justice asked. One benefits integration, he said, while the other benefits housing opportunities in low-income areas.

Verrilli said it is not enough to show a statistical disparity. He said the plaintiff must also demonstrate that a particular practice is resulting in a disproportionate impact on minorities.

Chief Justice Roberts persisted. "You say you look at which provision is having the disparate impact, but I still don't understand which is the disparate impact."

Verrilli replied that there must an analysis of whether there is a valid justification for the disputed practice.

"You're saying you need the justification, but for what?" Roberts asked. "Which is the bad thing to do: not promote better housing in the low-income area or not promote housing integration?"

Verrilli said that either justification might be an acceptable reason to dismiss a lawsuit.

But that response prompted a question from Justice Anthony Kennedy: "Are you saying that in each case that the chief justice puts, there is initially a disparate impact?"

"That may be right," Verrilli told Justice Kennedy.

"That seems very odd to me," Kennedy said.

Several justices on the liberal side of the court offered a vigorous defense of the disparate impact approach.

"This has been the law of the United States uniformly . for 35 years," Justice Stephen Breyer said. "So why should this court suddenly come in and reverse an important law which seems to have worked out in a way that is helpful to many people?"

Texas Solicitor General Scott Keller said that the measure raised stark equal protection issues that could lead to the functional equivalent of a quota system in public housing.

In response to the chief justice's questions, Mr. Keller said a state housing agency could be held liable for disparate impacts under both scenarios.

"Here the department could have faced disparate impact liability if it was going to take tax credits and send them to lower-income neighborhoods or more affluent neighborhoods," he said.

Justice Sonia Sotomayor offered perhaps the most persistent and aggressive defense of the disparate impact approach.

She disputed suggestions by the Texas solicitor general that enforcement of such claims would inhibit development in blighted areas.

"If I'm right about the theory of disparate impact, and I can tell you I've studied it very carefully, its intent is to ensure that everyone who is renting or selling property or making it unavailable is doing so not on the basis of artificial, arbitrary, or unnecessary hurdles," she said.

The case is Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs v. The Inclusive Communities Project (13-1371).

A decision is expected by late June.



Oxfam, capitalism, and poverty

(Oxfam is a British charity octopus with a heavy Leftist lean)

After Thomas Piketty's "Capital in the 21st Century" told us about rising inequality, it's perhaps unsurprising that a new report from Oxfam tells us the global 1% will soon own half of all the world's wealth. But things are not quite as they seem.

Oxfam's figures look at net wealth, implying that Societe Generale rogue investment banker Jerome Kerviel is the world's poorest person, and Michael Jackson was afflicted by the direst poverty before he died.

Ivy League graduates about to start a job as an investment banker at Goldman Sachs are judged far poorer than rural Indian farmers with the tiniest amount of capital.

Seven point five per cent of the poorest tenth of the world live in the USA, the figures say, almost as many as live in India.

And the claim that 85 own as much as 3.5bn is even more misleading, since the bottom 2bn don't have nothing, but negative wealth-something like $500bn of it.

What's more the global 1% probably contains more Times readers than CEOs or oil sheikhs-you need own a house worth around œ530,000 to enter it.

All these facts skew Oxfam's figures to make them astonishingly misleading.

Better figures tell a completely different and far more optimistic story.

Global poverty has actually fallen enormously with the rise of global capitalism. The fraction of the world's population living on less than $2 a day (measured in constant dollars) has crashed from 69.6 per cent in 1981 to 43 per cent today.

Even if you take out India and China, where the most spectacular improvements have been made, and look only at Sub-Saharan Africa, the worst-off region, there have been improvements. From 1981-2006 8.6 percentage points fewer were living on under $1 a day and 4.9 percentage points fewer were living on under $2 a day.

In virtually every respect global poverty is falling and poor people are living longer, better lives. That is less sexy than Oxfam's claims, but at least it is true.



Tolstoy Exposes the State

Leo Tolstoy (1828–1910) is world-famous for having penned War and Peace, Anna Karenina, and other novels of nineteenth-century Russia, but the writer was also well-known in his day for criticizing government power and championing Christian libertarianism and pacifism. One of the best examples of his thinking on those topics is his often overlooked nonfiction book, The Kingdom of God Is Within You (1893), a work bursting with memorable insights. Although his economic reasoning is often flawed, Tolstoy has much to offer contemporary political thinkers, according to Independent Institute Senior Fellow Robert Higgs.

“He even makes an analyst such as [public choice theorist] James Buchanan, who often complained about people’s ‘romantic’ views of politics and the state, seem himself utterly romantic,” Higgs writes in the Winter 2015 issue of The Independent Review.

Here’s one of several quotable passages that Higgs found in the Russian writer’s unjustly neglected book: “Undisguised criminals and malefactors do less harm than those who live by legalized violence, disguised by hypocrisy.” Here’s another: “The good cannot seize power, nor retain it; to do this men must love power. And love of power is inconsistent with goodness; but quite consistent with the very opposite qualities—pride, cunning, cruelty.” More than a century later, Tolstoy’s insights about government power still sound fresh.



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