Tuesday, January 29, 2019

ANS -- As a furloughed scientist, I thought it worthwhile to use my PhD skills to look at evidence for the president’s claims of a national security crisis & whether his desire for a wall is an adequate justification for a government #shutdown that has cut off pay for 800,000 Americans.

In case you need some statistics when you are arguing with someone about the border wall, this lays out the arguments, has graphs, and also references.  Not that facts changes anyone's mind....

4 days ago23 tweets, 5 min read  Read on Twitter
As a furloughed scientist, I thought it worthwhile to use my PhD skills to look at evidence for the president's claims of a national security crisis & whether his desire for a wall is an adequate justification for a government #shutdown that has cut off pay for 800,000 Americans.
What every American should be asking themselves right now is this: what is the evidence that our border is so unsafe that it constitutes a crisis and the need to #BuildTheWall? Evidence that would be needed to support such a claim are that...
(A) there has been a dramatic increase in people crossing our border over time, (B) there is an increase in crime with an increase in immigration, and immigrants commit more crimes than those within our borders, and/or (C) current strategies for border security are ineffective.
So what do the data show?
There is absolutely no evidence for (A). In fact, the opposite is supported – unauthorized immigration rates actually slowed down between 2010 and 2016, when it fell to its lowest level in decades (1). Overall, the population of unauthorized immigrants shrank by 13%...
between 2007 and 2016 in the U.S. As of January 2015, there were an estimated 10.7 to 12 million illegal immigrants living in the United States (1, 2). That's 3.3% to 3.7% of the total U.S. population, which was 328,337,383 on this very day in 2015.
For perspective, the current unemployment rate for people 16 years of age and over is 3.9% (3), greater than the number of illegal immigrants residing in our country. (Side bar: how is *this* not a national crisis?)
In looking at the data for total apprehensions of illegal aliens across multiple years by our border patrol, these numbers have also declined (4). Because I'm a scientist and love data, I acquired the raw data and made you a graph so you could see the trends for yourself.
So to conclude, there is no evidence for (A). What about (B)?
Studies on the subject have found no immigrant-crime link. NONE. This revelation comes from a study that attempted to correlate undocumented immigration and violent crime in all 50 states and DC using multiple data sources at the state level from 1990-2014.
Their robust analyses reveal the opposite relationship: increases in the undocumented immigrant population are generally associated with significantly *lower* rates of violence (5). Other studies reveal that illegal immigrants have *lower* conviction and arrest rates...
relative to native-born Americans in the U.S. In my home state of #Texas alone, a study of 2015 data found that the homicide rate for illegal immigrants was 16% *below* that of native-born Americans; for all criminal convictions,...
illegal and legal immigrants had criminal conviction rates 50% and 66% *below* that of native-born Americans, respectively (6). Together these findings undermine statements that undocumented immigrants are criminals and/or are bringing crime into the United States.
In looking at statistics from the U.S. Border and Customs Protection, two things are clear: an increase in funding (7) & an increase in staffing agents (8) over time is correlated with reduced rates of apprehension of illegal aliens. I made you more figures so you could see this.
So if you are concerned about keeping these numbers low, these observations suggest continuing to fund this agency and maintaining a steady number of agents on the ground may be an effective way to do so.
An alternative explanation is that there are fewer people crossing our border over time (which is supported by the aforementioned studies above). Regardless, these results do not support (C) and instead suggest that the border security strategies currently in place are effective.
In sum, there is NO EVIDENCE that there is a border crisis that requires building a wall. The number of immigrants coming into the US are decreasing, and they are not causing any upticks in crime. A wall is an unnecessary feature and would be a total waste of taxpayer money.

Your neighborhood scientist born and raised two hours away from the US Southern Border in Texas who is now on day 59 without pay.
Here are my sources: 
(1) "Estimates of the Unauthorized Immigrant Population Residing in the United States: January 2015" from the Office of Immigration Statistics, the US Department of Homeland Security 
(2) "Facts on U.S. Immigrants, 2016" from the Pew Research Center
(3) "Labor Force Statistics from the Current Population Survey" from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the US Department of Labor
(4) "U.S. Border Patrol Monthly Apprehensions (FY 2000 – FY 2017)" from the Stats and Summaries page of the U.S. Customs and Border Protection
(5) Light, Michael T. and T. Y. Miller (2018). Does undocumented immigration increase violent crime? Criminology 56(2): 370-401.
(6) Nowrasteh, A (2018). "Criminal Immigrants in Texas: Illegal Immigrant Conviction and Arrest Rates for Homicide, Sex Crimes, Larceny, and Other Crimes." Immigration Research and Policy Brief No. 4, Cato Institute.
(7) "The Cost of Immigration Enforcement and Border Security" from the American Immigration Council. January 2017.
(8) "U.S. Border Patrol Fiscal Year Staffing Statistics (FY 1992 – FY 2017)" from the Stats and Summaries page of the U.S. Customs and Border Protection
This is fairly short and is about people's mindset about inequality.  One of its points is that we are socially segregated into economic levels so we don't see a lot of people much richer or poorer than us on a daily basis -- this makes us think we are in the middle, no matter how rich or poor we are.  

How the right tricked people into supporting rampant inequality

An LSE study has traced how we have come to swallow the meritocracy myth. This narrative needs to change

Food bank in Glasgow
 'Talk to people using food banks and too often you hear people absorbing the blame. 'I should have tried harder at school,' is a frequent refrain.' Photograph: Murdo Macleod for the Guardian

Why don't people rebel? The wonder of decades of rising inequality across the west is how placidly people put up with it. UK wages are still below 2008 levels, and a growing sector of jobs are nasty: non-unionised, achingly hard, with workers treated worse, the boot on the employer's foot despite low unemployment. You might call Brexit a kind of protest, but that can be overdone. The vote was swung largely by comfortable older Tory voters in the shires, led – or misled – by privileged ideologues.

Those on the progressive left have been perplexed that rising social injustice hasn't led to much sign of the oppressed rising up, either at the ballot box or through more physical acts of protest. New research out on Wednesdaysuggests some explanations – though these will be of precious little comfort. Looking at surveys across 23 western countries since the 1980s, Dr Jonathan Mijs of the London School of Economics International Inequalities Institute monitors how, as countries become less equal, attitudes of the majority shift in the wrong direction.

People come to believe more strongly that their country is a meritocracy where hard work and talent take people to the top. They are less likely to think structural inequalities help or hinder people's rises. The US, home of the American dream – the myth that everyone has an equal chance to rise from log cabin to White House – is the most unequal, yet 95% now firmly believe in meritocracy. The UK, Australia and New Zealand are not far behind, sharing this anglophone disease, a societal "body dysmorphia": other European countries are less inclined to justify inequality, though the movement has been in that direction. This is the neoliberal triumph over hearts and minds.

The meritocracy myth comes with other tropes, especially placing the blame on the poor, with decreasing social empathy. Believing people sink through their own fault is the necessary adjunct for proving that the mega-wealthy got there by merit alone.


In Britain, where inequality shot through the roof in the mid-80s and has stayed there ever since, we have seen how despising inequality's losers has been deliberately fostered by governments. The Public and Commercial Services Union, representing jobcentre staff, published a pamphlet this week outlining the decline in support for social security, and those who receive it. Remember the sheer spite of Peter Lilley, Tory social security secretary, in 1992 singing to his party conference a Mikado pastiche of a "little list" of people to be despised: "young ladies who get pregnant just to jump the housing queue" and "benefits offenders" making "bogus claims". From then on the rightwing press and Benefits Street mockery set the tone of public contempt for anyone in need. Iain Duncan Smith used to send out juicy examples of benefits cheats to selected rightwing newspapers, without the context of government figures showing fraud at just 1.1% of the benefits budget. In 2013, Ipsos Mori found that the public thought £24 in every £100was fraudulently claimed.

Politically, the mystery is how politicians have got away with making things more unfair once the lid blew off top earning in the 80s. Now there's less chance of owning a home, fewer savings, more debt and public services deteriorating. Cedric Brown, the first fatcat shocker to catch the public eye, who was rewarded in 1995 for privatising British Gas with a salary of £475,000 (47 times that of his average employee), and a £600,000 incentive deal, comes from more innocent days. Many FTSE 100 CEOs now earn £4m.

Yet riots are extraordinarily rare – the French have always done it: it's in their founding revolutionary DNA, and it helps to keep them less unequal than the anglophones. Fear of revolution in the cold war years kept unions strong and boardrooms wary of excess: the mid-70s, famed for union militancy, were the most equal years in British history.

This research suggests that as countries get more unequal, people live in greater social isolation, locked within a narrow income group. Their friends and family share the same incomes, are segregated by neighbourhood and marry similar partners. Children mix less in socially segregated schools. People no longer see over the high social fences, so they don't know how the other half lives, Mijs finds.

Ignorant of the facts, everyone wrongly places themselves on the income scale closer to the middle. Both rich and poor delude themselves that they are ordinary. But telling people the facts doesn't change their attitudes: increasingly they cling to a moral belief that people rise by merit, sinking for lack of it. Spend time talking to people using food banks or in Citizens Advice offices knocked down by benefit sanctions, and too often you hear people absorbing the blame. "I should have tried harder at school," is a frequent refrain, as if no other forces were at play. Talk to the mega-rich – I once conducted focus groups of earners up to £10m – and they are wilfully ignorant about their super-privilege, unshakable in believing their superior merit.


The right captured the story, the emotions, the moral framing: social democrats need to seize it back with a narrative of immorality that is more compelling. The British Social Attitudes survey suggests a swing back towards empathy with the swelling numbers of poor people – including more than 4 million children. But still inheritance tax remains the most reviled of all taxes. The right forever tries to prove poor people are more stupid by nature than the rich, but Professor Steve Jones, a celebrated geneticist, when asked about the heritability of intelligence, replies deftly that the most important heritable trait, by miles, is wealth.

 Polly Toynbee is a Guardian columnist

Monday, January 21, 2019

ANS -- There is Mounting Evidence that Herpes Leads to Alzheimer's

This is interesting, as something like 95% of kids have had cold sores/herpes virus.  they are saying that if you have the virus and also a specific gene, add stress and it may give you Alzheimer's.  So far is't a correlation, not a cause, but it would be nice if they could prevent Alzheimer's with an anti-viral.  

(Credit: Getty Images)

There is mounting evidence that herpes leads to Alzheimer's

The same virus that causes cold sores appears to create lasting damage in the brain - a discovery that could suggest exciting new treatments for dementia.

More than 30 million people worldwide suffer from Alzheimer's disease – the most common form of dementia. Unfortunately, there is no cure, only drugs to ease the symptoms.

However, my own research suggests a way to treat the disease. I have found the strongest evidence yet that the herpes virus is a cause of Alzheimer's, suggesting that effective and safe antiviral drugs might be able to treat the disease. We might even be able to vaccinate our children against it.

The virus implicated in Alzheimer's disease, herpes simplex virus type 1 (HSV1), is better known for causing cold sores. It infects most people in infancy and then remains dormant in the peripheral nervous system (the part of the nervous system that isn't the brain and the spinal cord). Occasionally, if a person is stressed, the virus becomes activated and, in some people, it causes cold sores.

HSV1 enters the brains of elderly people as their immune system declines with age

We discovered in 1991 that in many elderly people HSV1 is also present in the brain. And in 1997 we showed that it confers a strong risk of Alzheimer's disease when present in the brain of people who have a specific gene known as APOE4.

The virus can become active in the brain, perhaps repeatedly, and this probably causes cumulative damage. The likelihood of developing Alzheimer's disease is 12 times greater for APOE4 carriers who have HSV1 in the brain than for those with neither factor.

Later, we and others found that HSV1 infection of cell cultures causes beta-amyloid and abnormal tau proteins to accumulate. An accumulation of these proteins in the brain is characteristic of Alzheimer's disease.

(Credit: Getty Images)

Times of stress may reactivate the herpes virus, and this may eventually lead to long-term brain damage (Credit: Getty Images)


We believe that HSV1 is a major contributory factor for Alzheimer's disease and that it enters the brains of elderly people as their immune system declines with age. It then establishes a latent (dormant) infection, from which it is reactivated by events such as stress, a reduced immune system and brain inflammation induced by infection by other microbes.

Reactivation leads to direct viral damage in infected cells and to viral-induced inflammation. We suggest that repeated activation causes cumulative damage, leading eventually to Alzheimer's disease in people with the APOE4 gene.

Presumably, in APOE4 carriers, Alzheimer's disease develops in the brain because of greater HSV1-induced formation of toxic products, or less repair of damage.

New treatments?

The data suggest that antiviral agents might be used for treating Alzheimer's disease. The main antiviral agents, which are safe, prevent new viruses from forming, thereby limiting viral damage.

In an earlier study, we found that the anti-herpes antiviral drug, acyclovir, blocks HSV1 DNA replication, and reduces levels of beta-amyloid and tau caused by HSV1 infection of cell cultures.

It's important to note that all studies, including our own, only show an association between the herpes virus and Alzheimer's – they don't prove that the virus is an actual cause. Probably the only way to prove that a microbe is a cause of a disease is to show that an occurrence of the disease is greatly reduced either by targeting the microbe with a specific anti-microbial agent or by specific vaccination against the microbe.

Excitingly, successful prevention of Alzheimer's disease by use of specific anti-herpes agents has now been demonstrated in a large-scale population study in Taiwan. Hopefully, information in other countries, if available, will yield similar results.


Ruth Itzhaki is Professor Emeritus of Molecular Neurobiology at University of Manchester. This article originally appeared on The Conversation, and is republished under a Creative Commons licence. 

Sunday, January 20, 2019

ANS -- The 'Alt-Right' Has Created Alt-Christianity

This talks about what religion offers, and what the "Alt-Right" offers.  It's pretty short.  

KKK members watch as anti-KKK groups chanted against them.
KKK members watch as anti-KKK groups chanted against them.
Michael S. Williamson—The Washington Post/Getty Images
August 25, 2017

McLaren is a pastor, best-selling author, speaker, activist, networker and Auburn Senior Fellow; his most recent book is The Great Spiritual Migration.

When I was in Charlottesville as part of a clergy delegation to protest the Unite the Right rally, I got to look into the faces of "out" Nazis and white supremacists for the first time in my 61 years. And they looked scarily normal. They're the guys arranging stock at the local big box store or the desk jockeys in a cubicle farm. Decent. Clean cut. Surprisingly young. And white. No doubt I looked into these faces before — on the street, in a restaurant, in church — but I didn't know it because they weren't carrying Nazi and Confederate flags, semi-automatic rifles and shields.

What would possess these young white men (and a few women) to chant hateful anti-Semitic and racist slogans, to shout homophobic, xenophobic and misogynistic slurs, to speak of putting Jews in ovens and driving people of color off of "their" soil (land stolen by their immigrant ancestors from the Native Peoples)?

That's the question many of us are asking.

After returning home from the Charlottesville protest, I came across an interview with Christian Piccolini, a former white supremacist. As a teenager, Piccolini was recruited and radicalized by an extremist group. "There are so many marginalized young people, so many disenfranchised young people today with not a lot to believe in, with not a lot of hope, so they tend to search for very simple black-and-white answers," he explained. Savvy extremists ready to dispense those easy answers have no shortage of potential recruits, easily accessible through the Internet.

Piccoloni's words seem equally relevant in Afghanistan or Syria, Virginia, Ohio or Arizona.

I suppose that's part of the shock of Charlottesville: while Islamophobic Americans were developing conspiracy theories about Sharia law coming in from the outside, our own brand of violent extremism was brewing in our basements.

Piccolini warns, "What people need to understand is that since Sept. 11, more Americans have been killed on U.S. soil by white supremacists than by any other foreign or domestic group combined by a factor of two. Yet we don't really talk about that, nor do we even call these instances, of the shooting at Charleston, S.C., or what happened at Oak Creek, Wis., at the Sikh temple or even what happened in Charlottesville this weekend — as terrorism."


The draw is "not necessarily because of the ideology. I think that the ideology is simply a vehicle to be violent," Piccolini explains. "I believe that people become radicalized, or extremist, because they're searching for three very fundamental human needs: identity, community and a sense of purpose."

When a disenchanted or disaffected young person who feels alienated and alone goes online, Piccolini explains, they're able to find purveyors of that community, identity and purpose they seek.

Sadly, Piccolini's analysis aligns with the Nazi historian Richard J. Evans' description of young men in 1920s Germany, as Jim Friedrich noted this week:

In examining the rise of Nazism in the 1920s, [Evans] saw desperate and resentful young men being attracted to extremism and violence "irrespective of ideology." They weren't looking for ideas, but meaning… a pick-me-up to restore a sense of personal significance. "Violence was like a drug for such men… Often, they had only the haziest notion of what they were fighting for." … Hostility to the enemy de jour — Communists, Jews, whomever — was the core of their commitment. As one young Stormtrooper later reflected on the bonding effect of collective violence, it was all "too wonderful and perhaps too hard to write about."

White nationalist and "alt-right" leader Richard Spencer seems to understand this desire for meaning, personal significance and "bonding effect" described by both Evans and Piccolini. Famous for his Nazi salute and exclamation of "Hail Trump!" after Trump's election, Spencer has gushed about the torch-lit march in Charlottesville in religious terms: "I love the torches. It's spectacular; it's theatrical and mystical and magical and religious, even."

In a December 2016 conversation, journalist Graeme Wood, a former high school classmate of Spencer's, was surprised when Spencer started talking to him about religion, not defending Christianity but "he longed for something as robust and binding as Christianity had once been in the West, before churches surrendered their power to folk-singing liberals and televangelists."

Piccolini, Evans and Spencer himself are telling us something we need to understand: White nationalism isn't simply an extremist political ideology. It is an alt-religious movement that provides its adherents with its own twisted version of what all religions supply to adherents: identity, a personal sense of who I am; community, a social sense of where I belong; and purpose, a spiritual sense of why my life matters. If faith communities don't provide these healthy, life-giving human needs, then death-dealing alt-religions will fill the gap.

So as traditional Christian institutions shrink, stagnate and struggle, Spencer and his white-supremacist allies, feeling supported by Donald Trump, are creating a violent alt-Christianity, as their counterparts in the Middle East have created an alt-Islam. They are supplying their followers with alt-liturgies, alt-mysticism, and alt-magic and are willing to smash, burn, destroy and kill for it, as they idolize their vision of "America" as a white "ethno-state," an absolutized, divinized race and nation.

In Charlottesville, I saw Nazi flags on American soil and alt religious fervor in the faces of American Nazis and white nationalists. The message I will bring to faith leaders around our nation is both urgent and clear: Aristotle was right. Nature indeed abhors a vacuum. If we don't provide emerging generations with genuine identity, community and purpose through robust and vibrant spiritual communities, somebody else will do so. If good religion slumbers and stagnates, bad religion is the alternative.

Contact us at editors@time.com.