Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Is milk bad for you?

EVERYTHING seems to be bad for you if you read enough in the health literature, but milk would seem pretty safe.  "New Scientist" has however just done a big article pointing out various doubts about milk.  They don't however have much in the way of actual scientific evidence against milk.  The one academic journal article they cite is below:

Milk intake and risk of mortality and fractures in women and men: cohort studies


Objective: To examine whether high milk consumption is associated with mortality and fractures in women and men.

Participants: Two large Swedish cohorts, one with 61 433 women (39-74 years at baseline 1987-90) and one with 45 339 men (45-79 years at baseline 1997), were administered food frequency questionnaires. The women responded to a second food frequency questionnaire in 1997.

Main outcome measure: Multivariable survival models were applied to determine the association between milk consumption and time to mortality or fracture.

Results: During a mean follow-up of 20.1 years, 15 541 women died and 17 252 had a fracture, of whom 4259 had a hip fracture. In the male cohort with a mean follow-up of 11.2 years, 10 112 men died and 5066 had a fracture, with 1166 hip fracture cases. In women the adjusted mortality hazard ratio for three or more glasses of milk a day compared with less than one glass a day was 1.93 (95% confidence interval 1.80 to 2.06). For every glass of milk, the adjusted hazard ratio of all cause mortality was 1.15 (1.13 to 1.17) in women and 1.03 (1.01 to 1.04) in men. For every glass of milk in women no reduction was observed in fracture risk with higher milk consumption for any fracture (1.02, 1.00 to 1.04) or for hip fracture (1.09, 1.05 to 1.13). The corresponding adjusted hazard ratios in men were 1.01 (0.99 to 1.03) and 1.03 (0.99 to 1.07). In subsamples of two additional cohorts, one in males and one in females, a positive association was seen between milk intake and both urine 8-iso-PGF2α (a biomarker of oxidative stress) and serum interleukin 6 (a main inflammatory biomarker).

Conclusions: High milk intake was associated with higher mortality in one cohort of women and in another cohort of men, and with higher fracture incidence in women. Given the observational study designs with the inherent possibility of residual confounding and reverse causation phenomena, a cautious interpretation of the results is recommended.


This is very weak evidence of anything, as the authors admit in their final sentence.  Let me spell it out:  The milk-consumption data is from a self-report questionnaire rather than any actual observations or  measurements -- and such data is notoriously subject to social desirability influences, among other distortions.  

There are two possibilities:  1). Sickly people drink a lot of milk in the belief that it is good for them; 2). Sickly people SAY they drink a lot of milk in the belief that they SHOULD do that.  Either way the sickliness probably came first, not the milk drinking.  So sickliness caused milk drinking rather than milk drinking caused sickliness.  It could go either way and we do not know which way. The study, in other words, did not advance our knowledge of the matter at all.  There is still no reason to think that milk is bad for you.


Trump as Rorschach Test

by Roger L Simon

Fox News owes Donald Trump a bazillion dollars.  He has single-handedly transformed their broadcast of the first Republican presidential debate on August 6 — normally a routine event almost a year and a half out from an election and of significant interest only to political junkies — into a coup de television equivalent to Caitlyn Jenner appearing nude on 60 Minutes.  Who wouldn’t want to watch?

Trump has become a kind of Rorschach test for all of us.  He certainly has for me.  I end up changing my opinion of him about every twenty minutes. (I don’t call this site “Diary of Mad Voter” for nothing.)  Like a Rorschach ink blot, sometimes he’s a monster hurtling toward me,  moments later a smiling pussycat with a wink.  (Well, not quite that.) Again, as with Rorschach tests, much of my reaction is really me projecting.  We project on The Donald, who is, after all, a prototypical American character ripped from the pages of Sinclair Lewis or Scott Fitzgerald, the Great Gatsby running for president. He is the object of our secret dreams, marrying ever younger while making billions and living as large as anyone could imagine.  Who will play him in the movie? (Bring back Jack Nicholson in a carrot top!)

Not only does he suck all the oxygen out of the room, he sucks it out of the galaxy.  He makes all the other candidates vanish. Only Walker and Bush are registering in the latest polls and they’re double-digits behind Donald.   Did you know John Kasich declared today?  (Who? What? Zzzz….) The real news of the day was Trump giving out Lindsey Graham’s personal cell phone number after Graham called him an idiot — or was it the other way around? With The Donald it doesn’t matter.  Hold on a moment and the opposite will happen.

What do I think of him now, at this very moment, typing this, subject to change as that is in the next thirty-eight seconds?  I say — bring it on!  Why not Donald?  We could do worse. Indeed, we have much worse. To say I’d prefer Donald to Madam Rodham doesn’t mean much (I’d prefer anyone in the phone book), but just imagining a Hillary-Trump head-to-head makes me giggle.  Has there ever been a spectacle like that in American politics?  Not during the television era.  My dream mano-a-mano (or should I say mana-a-mana?) would have been Hillary-Carly, but if I’m not going to get that, Hillary-Donald will more than suffice.  Indeed, it may prove to be the greatest reality show ever made and I wouldn’t bet against Donald winning. And I wouldn’t bet against him running as a third party candidate either should he not get the Republican nomination.

My greater concern is that he would get bored being president and go off to build a hotel in Macao.  But then, he wouldn’t be the first.  Obama seems bored half the time — and the other half of the time he’s playing golf.

So, it’s been thirty-eight seconds.  How do I stand on The Donald now?  Up?  Down?  Sideways? In between?  Hedging my bets?  Eeny-meeny-miny-moe?… Okay, yes.  He’s fine for now.  Tomorrow is, of course, another day.  And another scandal.



Did Obama Just Provoke a Constitutional Crisis?

Don't underestimate the threat to our rule of law that he just created by bringing the Iran deal to the UN without Congressional approval

President Obama’s decision to submit the Iranian nuclear deal to the United Nation Security Council before Congress has had their 60 days to review it could be as problematic for Congress as making a judgment on the deal itself.

Congress felt its responsibilities were already being usurped when they learned the Iranian deal would be treated as an agreement rather than a treaty. In response to widespread protest, the White House had to permit the agreement to be submitted to both houses of Congress for approval. Yet fearing that a negative vote — certain in the House — would occur, the administration decided to go to the UN immediately. This makes any congressional veto useless; the provisions of the agreement almost impossible to turn back.

Yesterday, the UN Security Council unanimously passed a resolution endorsing the Iranian deal. The 15-0 vote, the Times of Israel reports, “clears one of the largest hurdles for the landmark pact, which will now go before the U.S. Congress where it may face an uphill battle for confirmation.”

Only after it was a done deal did U.S. Ambassador to the UN Samantha Power choose to raise the issue of Iran’s continuing human rights violations. These were studiously avoided during the negotiations, when the U.S. had leverage.

Now, like bringing the deal to Congress, this is all for show.

This brings to mind an episode from the 20th century, when an American president similarly sought to force Congress to accept a mechanism for guiding foreign policy that would be determined not by the United States, but by the international community. After World War I, another “progressive,” President Woodrow Wilson, sought to limit America’s sovereignty when he insisted that the Treaty of Versailles incorporate the creation of a League of Nations. The victorious powers at the Versailles Peace Conference then merged the League Covenant and the terms of peace in one single package.

When he brought the treaty home for Congress’s approval, which was needed because it was a treaty, Wilson insisted that the heart of it was Article X of the League’s Covenant — which he had helped to draft. Article X, he insisted, would put an end to aggression and to war. It read as follows:

The members of the League undertake to respect and preserve as against external aggression the territorial integrity and existing political independence of all Members of the League. In case any such aggression or in case of any threat or danger of such aggression the Council shall advise upon the means by which this obligation shall be fulfilled.

Instead of the approval he expected, he faced resistance. In March of 1919, Wilson met with members of both the House Foreign Affairs Committee and the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, where he was asked whether joining the League under the terms of Article X would infringe upon American sovereignty. It suggested that if a League member nation was attacked, America would be obligated to defend it, even though it would not be in the national interest to do so. Senate Republican leader Henry Cabot Lodge of Massachusetts pointed out that the United States had no obligation to preserve the territorial integrity of another nation unless it was authorized by Congress.

Wilson was also attacked by radical isolationists like Sen. William Borah of Idaho, who argued that the League was not revolutionary enough, and was a mechanism for imperialist European powers to control the fate of the world.

Much to Wilson’s shock and consternation, when the Senate voted, American membership was defeated because of unity between the conservatives and isolationists, both of whom — for different reasons — did not sanction American membership in the newly created world organization. Although Lodge had created “reservations,” especially in regard to Article X, which if Wilson had accepted would have led to a vote for U.S. membership, he refused –he demanded acceptance of Article X as it was.

The Senate vote in November 1919 was 39 for and 55 against on acceptance of the treaty with reservations. A second vote, on acceptance of the treaty without any reservations, was 38 for and 52 against. A third vote in March 1920 was held, and the treaty was rejected 49 to 35, hence not receiving the two-thirds majority that was necessary for ratification.

President Barack Obama’s action is not exactly analogous to what Woodrow Wilson faced because he was presenting a treaty, but even so, Congress is not taking it lying down. On July 17, House whip Steny H. Hoyer and Sen. Ben Cardin wrote a letter to President Obama urging that the Security Council vote be delayed until after Congress has reviewed the agreement. Secretary of State John Kerry has fueled congressional anger, as Walter Russell Mead pointed out, by boasting:

[B]y having the Iran deal incorporated in a UN Security Council resolution, President Obama could tie the hands of future presidents, legally obligating them to abide by the Council’s resolution.

Thus, Cardin told the press:

Acting on it at this stage is a confusing message to an independent review by Congress over these next 60 days. So I think it would be far better to have that vote after the 60-day review, assuming that the agreement is not effectively rejected by Congress.

President Obama and Secretary Kerry did what they wanted, ignoring the two senators’ bi-partisan letter.  They went to the UN for the favorable vote they knew it would get.

The visible ignoring of the will of Congress, whose voice represents the people, will be resented by both Congress and constituents at home. As Walter Russell Mead puts it:

“There is precious little doubt that the Founders would have considered this a threat to the system of checks and balances they wrote into the Constitution.”

He believes President Obama may be creating a very real constitutional crisis. After all, he has set the precedent for the future, in which any president could act in a similar manner by getting UN approval rather than going to the Congress and by calling any foreign policy deal an agreement rather than a treaty.

If Obama was smart, he would have restrained from rushing to submit the agreement to the UN. By going to the UN, he will be giving recalcitrant members of Congress more of an incentive to turn it down altogether



For more blog postings from me, see  TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, GREENIE WATCH,  POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, and Paralipomena (Occasionally updated) and Coral reef compendium. (Updated as news items come in).  GUN WATCH is now mainly put together by Dean Weingarten. I also put up occasional updates on my Personal blog and each day I gather together my most substantial current writings on A WESTERN HEART.

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