Category Archives: Holocausts

Why are we fat? Republicans, Democrats disagree


If the recent elections have taught us anything, it’s that Democrats and Republicans are so deeply divided that one might reasonably argue that the system has broken down, with folks of great wealth fueling the divisions for their own ends.

So how deeply divided are the two parties?

Well, they can’t even agree on what makes folks fat.

It’s that old nature/nurture divide that lurks beneath so much of political divisiveness, with the Republicans arguing that Calvinism, with its doctrine of predestination, rules at the bathroom scales, while Democrats argue that it’s something fueled by the environment.

From the University of Kansas:

People’s political leanings and their own weight shape opinions on obesity-related public policies, according to a new study by two University of Kansas researchers.

Actually, Republicans — no matter how much they weigh —  believe eating and lifestyle habits cause obesity, the research found.

But among Democrats there is more of a dividing line, said Mark Joslyn, professor of political science. Those who identify themselves as overweight are more likely to believe genetic factors cause obesity.

“Self-reported overweight people were significantly more likely to believe obesity is caused by genetics than normal weight people,” Joslyn said. “The belief that obesity is due to genetics tends to remove blame. Obesity is not a choice, some would argue, but rather people are simply genetically wired to be obese. In this way, overweight people are motivated to believe in the genetics-obesity link. We found normal weight people were not so motivated.”

Joslyn and Don Haider-Markel, chair and professor of the Department of Political Science, published their findings [$36 to read] recently in the journal American Politics Research.

The research could have important implications for policymakers, especially at the local and state levels that tend to focus on public health interventions, either through appealing to healthy lifestyles by constructing biking and walking paths to encourage exercise or by passing stricter regulations on food and drinks, such as demanding publication of calorie counts and levying taxes on soft drinks.

Former New York City Mayor — and billionaire — Michael Bloomberg has donated millions of dollars to fund pro-soda tax initiatives in major cities. Berkeley, California, and Philadelphia are among those that have passed them in recent years. Obesity rates have risen recently in the United States, as the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported in 2015 that 71 percent of adults were overweight and more than 17 percent of youths were obese.

Still, most Americans oppose bans on large-size drinks and higher soda taxes, Joslyn said, which is likely a disparity between the perception of the problem and support for government intervention. Those who have argued against soda taxes, for example, often refer to a “nanny state,” blaming government intervention when they perceive personal choice is causing the problem.

For policymakers, as obesity rates continue to climb and the debate surrounding how to make people healthier continues, the genetic attribution as a cause may continue to rise as well, which could influence people’s opposition to certain practices.

“To the extent that genetic attributions increase in popularity, stronger opposition to discriminatory hiring practices by weight can be expected,” Joslyn said.

Also, it’s likely the issue remains politicized because most Republicans are inclined to support individual blame for obesity and not supportive of government regulations.

Finally, while the soda taxes have gained much attention, most government action recently does seem to be directed toward changing people’s individual behavior, such as developing public spaces to encourage fitness and ways to discourage unhealthy eating habits, like publication of calorie counts.

“If obesity persists in the face of such initiatives, blame and discrimination of obese people is likely to continue,” Joslyn said. “On the other hand, if governments treat obesity similar to diseases that afflict the population, as circumstances beyond the control of individuals, then individual blame and discrimination may diminish.”

Program notes

The genome dynamically interacts with the environment as chemical switches that regulate gene expression receive cues from stress, diet, behavior, toxins and other factors. Epigenetics is the study of these reactions and the factors that influence them.

So what’s it all about?

From Scientific American:

In a study published in late 2011 in Nature, Stanford University geneticist Anne Brunet and colleagues described a series of experiments that caused nematodes raised under the same environmental conditions to experience dramatically different lifespans. Some individuals were exceptionally long-lived, and their descendants, through three generations, also enjoyed long lives. Clearly, the longevity advantage was inherited. And yet, the worms, both short- and long-lived, were genetically identical.

This type of finding—an inherited difference that cannot be explained by variations in genes themselves—has become increasingly common, in part because scientists now know that genes are not the only authors of inheritance. There are ghostwriters, too. At first glance, these scribes seem quite ordinary—methyl, acetyl, and phosphoryl groups, clinging to proteins associated with DNA, or sometimes even to DNA itself, looking like freeloaders at best. Their form is far from the elegant tendrils of DNA that make up genes, and they are fleeting, in a sense, erasable, very unlike genes, which have been passed down through generations for millions of years. But they do lurk, and silently, they exert their power, modifying DNA and controlling genes, influencing the chaos of nucleic and amino acids. And it is for this reason that many scientists consider the discovery of these entities in the late 20th century as a turning point in our understanding of heredity, as possibly one of the greatest revolutions in modern biology—the rise of epigenetics.

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Image of the day: A poster at the Holocaust Museum


On Monday Sarah Rose tweeted this image of a poster she’d seen on sale at a notable location, accompanied by these words: “In the US Holocaust Museum. I’m shook.”

blog-fascism-orig

Since then, as of this writing, it’s been retweeted 190,823 times and attracted a flurry of online interest, and for reasons needing no explanation.

We traced it’s origins to a Spring 2003 op-ed in Free Inquiry — a magazine we once subscribed to — written by Laurence W. Britt, a former executive for Allied Chemical, Mobil, and Xerox Corp., based on his study of common characteristics of the authoritarian regimes of Nazi Germany, Fascist Italy, Gen. Francisco Franco’s Spain, Portugal under António de Oliveira Salazar, Greece under the military junta headed by Col. Georgios Papadopoulos, Chile under the military regime of Gen. Augusto Pinochet, and Indonesia under Maj. Gen. Suharto.

In his article, Britt writes:

German and Italian fascism form the historical models that define this twisted political worldview. Although they no longer exist, this worldview and the characteristics of these models have been imitated by protofascist1 regimes at various times in the twentieth century. Both the original German and Italian models and the later protofascist regimes show remarkably similar characteristics. Although many scholars question any direct connection among these regimes, few can dispute their visual similarities.

Beyond the visual, even a cursory study of these fascist and protofascist regimes reveals the absolutely striking convergence of their modus operandi. This, of course, is not a revelation to the informed political observer, but it is sometimes useful in the interests of perspective to restate obvious facts and in so doing shed needed light on current circumstances.

Chomsky warns: Trump may incinerate us all


Either through nuclear war or global warming, the election of President Littlefingers present the gravest threat of the 21st Century, warns America’s foremost intellectual and dissident.

From teleSUR English:

Prominent U.S. intellectual Noam Chomsky warned Monday about the possibility of a nuclear war and the further risks linked to global warming as a result of a Donald Trump presidency, during a speech for the 20th anniversary of Democracy Now!.

Commenting on the concrete implications of the Republican candidate’s win, Chomsky said that the Iran nuclear deal could be reversed.

“Other countries who are parties to the deal might well continue,” he said. “That means ignoring U.S. sanctions. That will extend U.S. isolation, even from Europe.”

“Brexit may assist with (U.S. isolation) because Britain was the voice of the United States in NATO, the harshest voice,” he added.

“The threats and dangers are very real,” he said. Namely, the positions that Trump has taken in regards to climate change and the Iran deal pose a threat to the future of the country and the world.”

“The threats that we now face are the most severe that have ever arisen in human history,” he added. “They are literal threats to survival: nuclear war, environmental catastrophe.”

“They became more urgent on Nov. 8, for the reasons you know and that I mentioned. They have to be faced directly, and soon if the human experiment is not to prove to be a disastrous failure,” he warned.

Quote of the day II: Chomsky on GOP climate denial


It’s the perfect follow to our previous post.

From an extensive interview by C.J. Polychroniou of Truthout on the import of Donald Trump’s election to the presidency, and the control of both houses of Congress by the GOP, “which has become the most dangerous organization in world history”:

During the Republican primaries, every candidate denied that what is happening is happening — with the exception of the sensible moderates, like Jeb Bush, who said it’s all uncertain, but we don’t have to do anything because we’re producing more natural gas, thanks to fracking. Or John Kasich, who agreed that global warming is taking place, but added that “we are going to burn [coal] in Ohio and we are not going to apologize for it.”

The winning candidate, now the president-elect, calls for rapid increase in use of fossil fuels, including coal; dismantling of regulations; rejection of help to developing countries that are seeking to move to sustainable energy; and in general, racing to the cliff as fast as possible.

Trump has already taken steps to dismantle the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) by placing in charge of the EPA transition a notorious (and proud) climate change denier, Myron Ebell. Trump’s top adviser on energy, billionaire oil executive Harold Hamm, announced his expectations, which were predictable: dismantling regulations, tax cuts for the industry (and the wealthy and corporate sector generally), more fossil fuel production, lifting Obama’s temporary block on the Dakota Access pipeline. The market reacted quickly. Shares in energy corporations boomed, including the world’s largest coal miner, Peabody Energy, which had filed for bankruptcy, but after Trump’s victory, registered a 50 percent gain.

The effects of Republican denialism had already been felt. There had been hopes that the COP21 Paris agreement would lead to a verifiable treaty, but any such thoughts were abandoned because the Republican Congress would not accept any binding commitments, so what emerged was a voluntary agreement, evidently much weaker.

Effects may soon become even more vividly apparent than they already are. In Bangladesh alone, tens of millions are expected to have to flee from low-lying plains in coming years because of sea level rise and more severe weather, creating a migrant crisis that will make today’s pale in significance. With considerable justice, Bangladesh’s leading climate scientist says that “These migrants should have the right to move to the countries from which all these greenhouse gases are coming. Millions should be able to go to the United States.” And to the other rich countries that have grown wealthy while bringing about a new geological era, the Anthropocene, marked by radical human transformation of the environment. These catastrophic consequences can only increase, not just in Bangladesh, but in all of South Asia as temperatures, already intolerable for the poor, inexorably rise and the Himalayan glaciers melt, threatening the entire water supply. Already in India, some 300 million people are reported to lack adequate drinking water. And the effects will reach far beyond.

It is hard to find words to capture the fact that humans are facing the most important question in their history — whether organized human life will survive in anything like the form we know — and are answering it by accelerating the race to disaster.

France admits role in the second, Roma Holocaust


While the systematic slaughter of Europe’s Jews is well known, far less attention has been given to the simultaneous holocaust of the Roma and Sinti peoples [pejoratively known as Gypsies] of Europe, a tragedy known by its victims as the Porajmos, the Devouring [previously].

The racist eugenics of the Adolf Hitler and his SS called for the elimination of all “non-Aryan peoples, but especially those considered inherently criminal subhumans — that is, Europe’s Jews and migratory peoples.

The slaughter was carried out with the enthusiastic participation of the governments of German-occupied lands, and while most of those countries have acknowledged their role in the massacre of Jews, their participation in the Porajmos is either unacknowledged to quickly passed over.

Now, finally, one of the principal abettors of the murder of the Sinti and Roma has stepped forward.

From TheLocal.fr:

President Francois Hollande on Saturday acknowledged that France bore “broad responsibility” for the internment of thousands of Roma by the World War II Vichy regime and in the early months of the post-war government.

“The day has come, and this truth must be told,” Hollande said in the first presidential visit to the main internment camp for Roma, located in Montreuil-Bellay, central France.

“The (French) Republic acknowledges the suffering of travelling people who were interned and admits that it bears broad responsibility,” Hollande said.

Roma, also known as gypsies, were brutally persecuted in the Holocaust, paralleling the systematic murder of Jews. Estimates of how many died vary widely, between 220,000 and half a million.

Philippine president likens himself to Adolf Hitler


Rodrigo Duterte, the Philippine president who has launched a vigilante massacre of drug dealers [previously], raised the stakes today in his deadly campaign, likening himself to history’s most-loathed murderer.

And it’s not just drug sellers he hopes to massacre; it’s their customers as well.

From the Guardian:

Rodrigo Duterte, the Philippines president, appears to have compared himself to Hitler, saying he would be “happy to slaughter” millions of drug addicts in his bloody war on crime.

During a press conference in his home city of Davao, the former prosecutor told reporters that he had been compared to a “cousin of Hitler” by his critics.

“If Germany had Hitler, the Philippines would have…,” he said, pausing and pointing to himself.

“Hitler massacred three million Jews … there’s three million drug addicts. There are. I’d be happy to slaughter them.”

>snip<

Duterte has spent his first three months in office running a campaign to kill all involved in the rampant drugs trade, including alleged addicts, causing outrage from rights groups and foreign governments.

More than 3,500 alleged drug dealers and addicts have been killed, about a third of them in police operations but the majority by armed vigilante militias. Duterte has publicly encouraged civilians to kill addicts and said he will not prosecute police for extrajudicial executions.

“You know my victims. I would like (them) to be all criminals to finish the problem of my country and save the next generation from perdition,” he said during the press conference early on Friday.

And an Israeli soldier gets another cold reception


From BBC News, criticism proves incompatible t0 the ruler of The Only Democracy In The Middle East™ [for the comments in question, see this previous post]:

Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu has issued a stern public rebuke to the military deputy chief of staff.

Maj-Gen Yair Golan said on the eve of Thursday’s annual Holocaust Day that he detected trends in Israeli society suggestive of “nauseating processes” that occurred in 1930s Nazi Germany.

Mr Netanyahu said the comments were outrageous, cheapened the Holocaust and caused harm to Israel.

snip<

Netanyahu said Gen Golan’s remarks were “utterly mistaken and unacceptable to me”.

“The comparison drawn in the words of the deputy chief of staff regarding events which characterised Nazi Germany 80 years ago is outrageous,” he said.

“They do injustice to Israeli society and cause a belittling of the Holocaust.”