Dynastic wealth and greed

When Cordelia Mellon Scaife was born in 1928 she was the world’s “richest baby”. Her grand-uncle, the industrialist-turned-U.S. treasury secretary Andrew Mellon, spent his lifetime squeezing workers and fighting to cut rich people’s taxes. But Mellon’s impact on American life didn’t end with his 1937 death. His heir Richard Mellon Scaife — Cordelia’s brother — …

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The back pain epidemic: Why popular treatments are making it worse

Chronic back pain is on the rise – in part because the way we treat it often does more harm than good. It’s time to think differently about our aches.  One in four adults are experiencing it right now, and 90 per cent of people having back pain at least once in their life. Nearly a …

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Optimism boosts longevity

People with optimistic outlooks tend to live longer than their more negative peers, researchers at Boston University School of Medicine have found. The study drew on data from two long-running studies of Americans aged over 60: one of 1,500 male war veterans, and one of 70,000 female nurses. At the start of both, the participants …

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Sit less, move more, live longer

“You don’t need to go to the gym to benefit from exercise: even activities such as walking slowly or washing dishes can significantly boost a person’s longevity, a study has found. Researchers from Norway looked at data on 36,000 people with an average age of 63 whose activity levels were monitored over six years. Any …

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Try having a conversation about Brexit!

In reply to my posting about winning arguments, Carmen, a regular reader ( thank you, Carmen!) makes the following point: “A pre-problem which I’ve experienced before even reaching a “how-to-win-the-argument” mode, is  establishing an agreement–stated or implied– to commit to a conversation. People are adept at giving their political viewpoints but at the same time …

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Study links sleep deprivation with cardiovascular disease

People who struggle with sleep might be at greater risk of developing cardiovascular problems, according to Prof Hugh Markus, of Cambridge University.  Those (including the author of this posting) who are genetically predisposed to insomnia have a greater risk of heart failure and coronary heart disease. I think I must have personally tried every drug …

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The British crisis: MPs discover they have spines

In 1689 the Act of Settlement decreed that sovereignty lay with the King in Parliament.  By the turn of the last century the King had become a figurehead and Parliament reigned supreme.  Supreme over the executive as well.  More recently the executive has grown in power.  Why is that?  Because Parliament has allowed it to …

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Apathy: a follow-on from yesterday’s posting

From the Daily Telegraph “These days, all of us are engaged in politics. Fanatically engaged. Furiously engaged. Twenty years ago, when I was in my teens, apathy was all the rage. In the newspapers, practically every political column was about the lack of interest in politics. Anxious MPs thought apathy was a bad thing. They …

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Should CERN build an even more expensive collider?

There is a problem with the current physics .  We have quantum theory for very small particles, relativity for the big stuff, and the Standard Model, which includes all the weird particles discovered by physicists all over the world.  All seem true individually, but relativity and quantum theory contradict one another and the Standard Model …

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The Britain we knew is gone forever

The following is based partly on an article in the Financial Times: On July 20th Martin Wolf, wrote in the Financial Times:  “No one knows what kind of Britain will emerge from the “Brexit earthquake”, but my increasingly clear conviction is that the outcome will be ugly and the damage long-term. “The UK that “the …

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Killing wild animals

The Trump administration last week reauthorised the use of controversial poison-filled traps to kill wild animals, such as coyotes and foxes, that prey on livestock, despite strong opposition from environmentalists. The spring-loaded devices, dubbed “cyanide bombs”, eject a capsule containing sodium cyanide. The Wildlife Services’ use of the traps, which last year killed 6,500 animals, …

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The return of federal executions

“Anyone who has witnessed the steady rise of Trump, with the thumbs-up, thumbs-down swagger of an omnipotent Roman emperor,” knew this day was coming.  Attorney General William Barr has just announced the end of the Justice Department’s unofficial, 16-year-long moratorium on executing federal prisoners. The department plans to put five inmates to death in December …

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The British political system is bankrupt (and in good company)

The Queen, who by tradition does not comment on politics, is quoted as saying that the political class is incapable of governing.  Amen to that. Robert Unger, a philosopher at Harvard, says that European politicians don’t know how to do anything apart from splitting the difference, and are incapable of facing up to fundamental problems.  This …

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Drug deaths in the US and some unintended consequences. No. 2

Well-intentioned policies can have unintended consequences. For example, while the rate of new opioid prescriptions has fallen in recent years, a large number of physicians have stopped initiating opioids altogether.  While that may sound like a good thing, it’s not clear whether this does more good or harm to patients in severe pain. This isn’t …

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