👓 U.S. Opposition to Breast-Feeding Resolution Stuns World Health Officials | New York Times

Read U.S. Opposition to Breast-Feeding Resolution Stuns World Health Officials by Andrew Jacobs (nytimes.com)
Trade sanctions. Withdrawal of military aid. The Trump administration used both to try to block a measure that was considered uncontroversial and embraced by countries around the world.

You know what I want for my birthday? Stupidity like that described in this article not to exist.

Nestle gave a half-assed response here. They can do far better. Now that their US headquarters has left Glendale, California for Virginia, I suspect their political stance will actually get worse on these issues.

A 2016 Lancet study found that universal breast-feeding would prevent 800,000 child deaths a year across the globe and yield $300 billion in savings from reduced health care costs and improved economic outcomes for those reared on breast milk.  

Pure corruption here. Protectionism to prop up profits of approximately 630 million versus major benefits and savings of 300 billion. Even if you look at the calculus of the entire industry of 70 billion it becomes a no brainer.

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🎧 Food Safety | Eat This Podcast

Listened to Food safety and industry concentration: How the back seat of a car is like a bag of leafy greens by Jeremy CherfasJeremy Cherfas from Eat This Podcast

In the previous episode, I talked to Phil Howard of Michigan State University about concentration in the food industry. Afterwards, I realised I had been so taken up with what he was telling me that I forgot to ask him one crucial question.

Is there any effect of concentration on public health or food safety?

It seems intuitively obvious that if you have long food chains, dependent on only a few producers, there is the potential for very widespread outbreaks. That is exactly what we are seeing in the current outbreaks of dangerous E. coli on romaine lettuce and Salmonella in eggs. But it is also possible that big industrial food producers both have the capital to invest in food safety and face stiffer penalties when things go wrong.

Are small producers and short food chains better? Marc Bellemare, at the University of Minnesota, has uncovered a strong correlation between some food-borne illnesses and the number of farmers’ markets relative to the population.

Phil thinks one answer is greater decentralization. There’s no good reason why all the winter lettuce and spinach in America should come from a tiny area around Yuma, Arizona. Marc says consumer education would help; we need to handle the food we buy with more attention to keeping it safe. Both solutions will take quite large changes in behaviour, by government and by ordinary people.

Right now, it probably isn’t possible to say with any certainty whether one system is inherently safer than the other. But even asking the question raises some interesting additional questions. If you have answers, or even suggestions, let me know.

Notes

  1. Phil Howard’s work on food-borne illness is on his website.
  2. Marc Bellemare’s work on farmers’ markets and food-borne illness has gone through a few iterations. He’ll email you a copy of the final paper if you ask.
  3. An episode early last year looked at aspects of food safety in developing countries. Spoiler: shorter food chains are safer there.
  4. Banner photo, norovirus. Cover photo, E. coli. Both public domain to the best of my knoweldge.
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🎧 ‘The Daily’: A Life-or-Death Crisis for Black Mothers | New York TImes

Listened to ‘The Daily’: A Life-or-Death Crisis for Black Mothers by Michael Barbaro from nytimes.com

Black mothers and infants in the United States are far more likely to die from pregnancy-related causes than their white counterparts. The disparity is tied intrinsically to the lived experience of being a black woman in America.

On today’s episode:

  • Linda Villarosa, a contributing writer for The New York Times Magazine.
  • Simone Landrum, a young mother in New Orleans.

Background reading:

The story in this episode is a superb and emotional follow-on of an excellent NPR/ProPublica story I read back in December. We need more stories like this.

I nearly had a panic attack while listening to this. The disparities in parts of America are so painful and distressing and we can, could, and should be doing more to improve them.

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🎧 Season 2 Episode 10 The Basement Tapes | Revisionist History

Listened to Season 2 Episode 10 The Basement Tapes by Malcolm GladwellMalcolm Gladwell from Revisionist History

A cardiologist in Minnesota searches through the basement of his childhood home for a missing box of data from a long-ago experiment. What he discovers changes our understanding of the modern American diet — but also teaches us something profound about what really matters when we honor our parents’ legacy.

There’s a little bit of everything here.

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🎧 Season 2 Episode 9 McDonalds Broke My Heart | Revisionist History

Listened to Season 2 Episode 9 McDonalds Broke My Heart by Malcolm GladwellMalcolm Gladwell from Revisionist History

McDonald’s used to make the best fast food french fries in the world — until they changed their recipe in 1990. Revisionist History travels to the top food R&D lab in the country to discover what was lost, and why for the past generation we’ve been eating french fries that taste like cardboard.

I love the double entendre “broke my heart”! This does make me curious to try making my own beef tallow french fries.

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❤️ VioricaMarian1 tweet about afternoon classes

Liked a tweet by Viorica MarianViorica Marian (Twitter)

I wonder what a statistical analysis would do to improve peoples’ lives if registrars attempted to put the mass of classes in the middle of the day? Would educational outcomes improve along with peoples’ psyches? Many schedulers are trying to maximize based on the scarcity of classroom resources. What if they maximized on mental health and classroom performance? Is classroom scheduling potentially a valuable public health tool?

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📺 So Much for So Little (1949) | YouTube

Watched So Much for So Little (1949) by Chuck Jones from YouTube
So Much for So Little is a 1949 American short documentary film directed by Chuck Jones. It won an Academy Award in 1950 for Documentary Short Subject, tying with A Chance to Live. The cartoon states that, annually, 118,481 babies out of 2 million will die before reaching their first birthday. Thus, the cartoon shows John E. Jones, a baby that may add to this statistic if not given proper healthcare. The cartoon proceeds to show most of John's life, including his school years, marriage, later life (as a father), and his golden years, providing other helpful health information along the way. Before the cartoon ends, however, it returns to John as a baby, reminding the audience that John needs proper healthcare to survive. The cartoon then states that if every American paid just three cents a week, sufficient healthcare could be provided for John and babies everywhere.

There’s an awful lot of smoking in this PSA for public health! Welcome to 1949!

🎧 The Daily: Mental Health and Mass Shootings | The New York Times

Listened to Listen to ‘The Daily’: Mental Health and Mass Shootings by Michael Barbaro from nytimes.com
President Trump has focused on mental health, rather than weapons, after the mass shooting in Florida. But mental illness is rarely the cause of gun violence.

What a fantastic look at guns and the “mental health” issue.

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👓 Children aren’t starting puberty younger, medieval skeletons reveal | The Conversation

Read Children aren’t starting puberty younger, medieval skeletons reveal by Mary Lewis (The Conversation)
Children are entering puberty younger than before, according to recent studies, raising concerns that childhood obesity and hormone-contaminated water supplies may be to blame. However, our archaeological research suggests that there’s nothing to worry about. Children in medieval England entered puberty between ten and 12 years of age – the same as today.

Of course, naturally, this isn’t the publicly perceived story. There’s still some science missing from the overall arc of the story, but people who believe that chemicals in the environment and hormones in food are causing children to start puberty at younger ages should be questioning why they think this is the case.

If anything, perhaps better first world lives may be pressuring the age down a bit, but even then it sounds like there’s a lower limit. Evolutionary effects are also certainly at play as well.

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👓 Flu Vaccines and the Math of Herd Immunity | Quanta Magazine

Read Flu Vaccines and the Math of Herd Immunity by Patrick Honner (Quanta Magazine)
Simple math shows how widespread vaccination can disrupt the exponential spread of disease and prevent epidemics.

This is a very clear and lucid article with some very basic math that shows the value of vaccines. I highly recommend it to everyone.

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👓 Black Mothers Keep Dying After Giving Birth. Shalon Irving’s Story Explains Why | NRP

Read Black Mothers Keep Dying After Giving Birth. Shalon Irving's Story Explains Why (NPR.org)
Black women are three times more likely to die from complications of childbirth than white women in the U.S. Racism, and the stress it causes, can play a leading role in that disparity.

What a painful story…

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👓 Is Anybody Home at HUD? | ProPublica

Read Is Anybody Home at HUD? by Alec MacGillis (ProPublica)
A long-harbored conservative dream — the “dismantling of the administrative state” — is taking place under Secretary Ben Carson.

I was just thinking yesterday, HUD has been awfully quiet. What has Ben Carson been up to?

The answer is appallingly painful, but seemingly par for the course, for the current administration.

While certainly having a particular point of view, this article is well reported with some great history/background, and specific examples. Sadly, it appears that the people Trump specifically said he was out to help are going to get the shaft even worse than I would have expected.

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👓 Lyme Disease’s Worst Enemy? It Might Be Foxes | New York Times

Read Lyme Disease’s Worst Enemy? It Might Be Foxes by Amy Harmon (New York Times)
New data suggests the rise of Lyme and other tick-borne diseases may be tied to a scarcity of traditional mouse predators.

This is really news? Researchers and abatement people seriously haven’t tried or studied this prior to now?

🔖 Evidence for a limit to human lifespan | Nature Research

Bookmarked Evidence for a limit to human lifespan (nature.com)
Driven by technological progress, human life expectancy has increased greatly since the nineteenth century. Demographic evidence has revealed an ongoing reduction in old-age mortality and a rise of the maximum age at death, which may gradually extend human longevity. Together with observations that lifespan in various animal species is flexible and can be increased by genetic or pharmaceutical intervention, these results have led to suggestions that longevity may not be subject to strict, species-specific genetic constraints. Here, by analysing global demographic data, we show that improvements in survival with age tend to decline after age 100, and that the age at death of the world’s oldest person has not increased since the 1990s. Our results strongly suggest that the maximum lifespan of humans is fixed and subject to natural constraints.
[1]
X. Dong, B. Milholland, and J. Vijg, “Evidence for a limit to human lifespan.,” Nature, vol. 538, no. 7624, pp. 257–259, Oct. 2016. [PubMed]
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Network Science by Albert-László Barabási

Bookmarked Network Science by Albert-László BarabásiAlbert-László Barabási (Cambridge University Press)

I ran across a link to this textbook by way of a standing Google alert, and was excited to check it out. I was immediately disappointed to think that I would have to wait another month and change for the physical textbook to be released, but made my pre-order directly. Then with a bit of digging around, I realized that individual chapters are available immediately to quench my thirst until the physical text is printed next month.

The power of network science, the beauty of network visualization.

Network Science, a textbook for network science, is freely available under the Creative Commons licence. Follow its development on Facebook, Twitter or by signing up to our mailing list, so that we can notify you of new chapters and developments.

The book is the result of a collaboration between a number of individuals, shaping everything, from content (Albert-László Barabási), to visualizations and interactive tools (Gabriele Musella, Mauro Martino, Nicole Samay, Kim Albrecht), simulations and data analysis (Márton Pósfai). The printed version of the book will be published by Cambridge University Press in 2016. In the coming months the website will be expanded with an interactive version of the text, datasets, and slides to teach the material.

Book Contents

Personal Introduction
1. Introduction
2. Graph Theory
3. Random Networks
4. The Scale-Free Property
5. The Barabási-Albert Model
6. Evolving Networks
7. Degree Correlations
8. Network Robustness
9. Communities
10. Spreading Phenomena
Usage & Acknowledgements
About

Albert-László Barabási
on Network Science (book website)

Networks are everywhere, from the Internet, to social networks, and the genetic networks that determine our biological existence. Illustrated throughout in full colour, this pioneering textbook, spanning a wide range of topics from physics to computer science, engineering, economics and the social sciences, introduces network science to an interdisciplinary audience. From the origins of the six degrees of separation to explaining why networks are robust to random failures, the author explores how viruses like Ebola and H1N1 spread, and why it is that our friends have more friends than we do. Using numerous real-world examples, this innovatively designed text includes clear delineation between undergraduate and graduate level material. The mathematical formulas and derivations are included within Advanced Topics sections, enabling use at a range of levels. Extensive online resources, including films and software for network analysis, make this a multifaceted companion for anyone with an interest in network science.

Source: Cambridge University Press

The textbook is available for purchase in September 2016 from Cambridge University Press. Pre-order now on Amazon.com.

If you’re not already doing so, you should follow Barabási on Twitter.

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