Category Archives: rePosts

Diets and Bias

I’ve been doing the Atkins Diet for more than a year now and the result is consistent with that of the claims and the book. I follow the diet I shed the pounds, while having normal blood sugar levels and cholesterol levels.

from here:

Gary Taubes, “Good Calories, Bad Calories”

Gary Taubes, a correspondent for Science magazine, contributed to the Atkins Diet craze with his New York Times article several years ago, “What If It’s All Been a Big Fat Lie?.” He then spent the past several years expanding on that article, and the result Good Calories, Bad Calories, a book of some 600 pages (nearly 70 of which are the bibliography).

Taubes has several overarching themes; he contends, for example, that eating refined carbohydrates is what makes you obese, and that refined carbohydrates contribute to many of what used to be called “diseases of civilization” (such as heart disease, which seems to have been less common in traditional cultures that ate less processed food, including Northern cultures that ate almost exclusively meat).  (These arguments are still controversial, although new evidence continues to support them.)

The most important theme, however, suffuses the entire book: bias in scientific inquiry.

Most of the chapters are headed by bias-related quotations, such as this from a 1921 book on philosophy of science: “In reality, those who repudiate a theory that they had once proposed, or a theory that they had accepted enthusiastically and with which they had identified themselves, are very rare.  The great majority of them shut their ears so as not to hear the crying facts, and shut their eyes so as not to see the glaring facts, in order to remain faithful to their theories in spite of all and everything.” Or this quotation from a 1950 Fields Medal winner: “The thing is, it’s very dangerous to have a fixed idea. A person with a fixed idea will always find some way of convincing himself in the end that he is right.”

Why is Taubes so interested in bias?  For several decades, it has been the conventional wisdom that dietary fat (and especially saturated fat) contributes to obesity, heart disease, and cancer.  Judging from Taubes’ exhaustive research — indeed, I’d be surprised if any other book examined bias within a particular scientific field in such detail — the conventional wisdom was based on unreliable and slender evidence that, once established and institutionalized in government funding, set a pattern of confirmation bias by which further research was judged (or ignored).  To take several examples (the book is full of many more):

  • Researcher Ancel Keys is perhaps the most important figure behind the origins of the dietary fat hypothesis.  Two of his most famous studies found a strong correlation between diet and heart disease in a handful of countries, but he cherry-picked the countries to analyze, omitting countries that would have undermined or even eliminated the correlation entirely. (pp. 18, 31-33).
  • Dietary researchers tended to ignore — or refused to allow publication of — studies showing that diet, cholesterol, and heart disease were not even correlated (pp. 27, 35), or even that low cholesterol raises other risks of death (in several studies, people with low cholesterol and/or people who ate low-fat diets were more likely to die of cancer, see pp. 37, 54, 71, 81).  As for cholesterol-lowering diets (which may include lots of polyunsaturated fat, and hence are different from low-fat diets per se), dietary researchers tended to rely on one positive result from a Helsinki study, while ignoring a politically incorrect result from a clinical trial in Minnesota (in which 269 mental patients assigned to a cholesterol-lowering diet died, compared to 206 in the control group). The Minnesota result wasn’t even published for 16 years; Taubes asked the researcher why, and got the response: “We were just disappointed in the way it came out.”  (pp. 37-38).
  • Similarly, in 1961, a conference of the Association of American Physicians included a presentation showing that in comparing heart disease patients in New Haven to a healthy population, the diseased patients were much more likely to have high triglycerides than high cholesterol, thus implicating high carbohydrate diets (which elevate triglycerides).  One of the researchers told Taubes, “It just about brought the house down.  People were so angry; they said they didn’t believe it.”  Despite this result, later studies funded by the National Institutes of Health would completely ignore triglycerides, focusing only on cholesterol levels. (pp. 157-60).

Taubes closes the book with these scathing words:

The institutionalized vigilance, “this unending exchange of critical judgment,” is nowhere to be found in the study of nutrition, chronic disease, and obesity, and it hasn’t been for decades.  For this reason, it is difficult to use the term “scientists” to describe those individuals who work in these disciplines, and, indeed, I have actively avoided doing so in this book.  It’s simply debatable, at best, whether what these individuals have practiced for the past fifty years, and whether the culture they have created, as a result, can reasonably be described as science.

Here are some informative interviews with Taubes:

PBS.

MIT.

The Borzoi Reader.

The Telegraph. Notably, Taubes admits in this interview that he himself might be biased: “What are the chances of writing an article that says the entire medical establishment is wrong, and them going, ‘Good point, thank you, Gary. Can we give you an award?’ When people challenge the establishment, 99.9 per cent of the time they are wrong. If I was writing about me, I’d begin from the assumption that I am both wrong and a quack.”

Alienation For OFW Coming Home

from here

Study: OFWs feel alienated, dissatisfied when they return to RP

MANILA, Philippines – Overseas Filipino workers (OFW) who had been exposed to societies that adequately provide for the needs of their people return home feeling alienated and dissatisfied with the Philippines.

This was the result of a two-year research project titled “Democratization through Migration” by the Arnold Bergstraesser-Institute (ABI) based in Freiburg, Germany.

A copy of the recent study was furnished to GMANews.TV on Monday by OFW group Kapisanan ng mga Kamag-anak ng Migranteng Manggagawang Pilipino.

According to the study, many returning OFWs who had experienced better living conditions abroad expect more from the Philippines.

ABI researchers Christl Kessler and Stefan Rother said the study revealed OFWs’ “strong discontent with the democratic processes in the Philippines, despite a general defense of democratic rights and freedom.”

The two said that “a feeling of neglect and discrimination for poor and uneducated citizens was felt by the respondents, having the mindset that the Philippine political system was exclusively serving the interests of the elite.”

The study also showed that “an active OFW civil society independent of the political system of the destination” can have a positive effect on the migrants’ sense of action and usefulness.

Questionnaires were used in ABI’s interviews with 1,000 migrants who were just about to leave the Philippines and 1,000 OFWs returning from Japan, Taiwan, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Qatar, and Hong Kong.

ABI presented the study last week at the University of the Philippines in Diliman, Quezon City in cooperation with the Social Weather Stations, and the Political Science Department of UP-Diliman.

The study was financed by the Foundation for Population, Migration and Environment. – KIMBERLY JANE T. TAN, GMANews.TV

Can’t seem to find an online copy of the study.  Based on my own experiences these feels right but I’d really like to see the data they gathered.

640000 Filipinos Left The Country The First Half of 2008

DOLE: Jobs available in RP but more Pinoys leaving

MANILA, Philippines – Labor and Employment Secretary Marianito Roque on Friday maintained that jobs are available in the Philippine despite the increase in the number of Filipinos who were deployed outside the country in the first six months of 2008.

His remarks came the same day that it was learned that 640,000 Filipinos left the country from January to June this year.

The data came from the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) which said that the said figure was 33 percent higher compared to 479,725 Pinoys deployed abroad during the same period in 2007.

The said increase is much higher compared to the normal three percent deployment growth every year, according to Roque.

But the increase on the number of overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) doesn’t mean that jobs opportunity lack here in the Philippines.

“Overseas employment is only an option…well higher pay and better employment terms and conditions,” explained by Roque.

Roque made the remarks when interviewed by GMA news. The report was aired over 24 Oras.

The possibility of more Filipinos to leave the Philippines in the coming days will surely happen after the labor department announced that are more job opportunity available for professional and skilled workers in European countries like France, Finland, Australia and Canada.

Roque said the Phillippines is about to seal a memorandum of understanding with France to allow the entry of Filipino nurses, IT professionals and engineers.

Finland, meanwhile, is in need of nurses, Roque added.

In Southern Australia, there are 30,000 job vacancies for professional and skilled workers.

Three provinces in Canada are looking for engineers, nurses, welders, trailer drivers and bartenders.

But Roque said one of the requirements in the European countries is for foreign workers is to learn their language.

“Requirements nila yun otherwise hindi kayo magkakaintindihan… Sa Finland willing sila na magpadala ng teachers dito (to teach Pinoy of their language),” Roque said. – Fidel Jimenez, GMANews.TV

My only quirk with this piece is where in Europe is Australia and Canada???  Borrowing Brad Delong’s words.

Why Oh Why Can’t We Have A Better Press Corps.

PS: I think that I would have enjoyed if more If I knew , How many return each year?? or at least between the stated period.

Unskilled OFW Remittance

from GMA news:

if the video doesn’t work try this link:

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For the latest Philippine news stories and videos, visit GMANews.TV

according to the NSO although the remittance from unskilled workers are only a third of skilled workers the sheer number of unskilled Filipino OFW’s make up for this and makes them the larger group in terms of total remittance amounting to around 17.6 billion peros (roughly 400 million dollars or 259 million euros thanks google).

The sad thing is anecdotally people are not really changing their lives long term. This is probably because the families here or back home rarely have enough schooling or are financially astute enough to handle the remittances that they get.

Add this to the fact that people from my country somewhat believe that work abroad is easier than back home. I remember my friends telling me how people coming back home have neighbors who wait in line to get gifts.

I think some things can be done to improve this, hope I can get something started.

Riz Khan Interview About Liberian Women Combatants

I especially like the question on what one of the women whose family was killed and was raped by a soldier would do if she faced that very same man. She said that life must go on and that doing anything would not bring her family back. The kicker is that she said she sees the man day and night because that man is involved with an NGO. Wow!

Grit And Vision

Nice advice from AT&T CEO.

from this interview.

Stephenson says his former boss taught him a lot about the importance of standing firm on a vision and taking the long-term view. It’s a mindset and a business approach that continues, he says.

Sounding a lot like his former boss, Stephenson says it takes grit, a steady vision and, at times, a strong stomach to grab opportunity by the throat. That’s true, he says, whether the goal is a new partnership or a big global acquisition.

“If you’re not pushing forward hard, nothing happens,” Stephenson says. “You don’t do that by making little incremental moves. You’ve got to make big moves.” Considering his words, he quickly adds, “You’ve just got to be right more than you’re wrong.”