Tag Archive | NY Times

Recovering with Heart Medication

I was reminded of this 2012 interview where Aussie serve and volley throwback Pat Cash said of tennis, “It’s the perfect sport to take performance enhancing drugs, with the recovery, strengthening etc, but I think the lack of positive results shows that tennis is a clean sport.”

Cash may have been right for when he was playing, but today a whole slew of sports are finding that players are using questionable substances to help recover between exertions. According a TASS interview of the Latvian manufacturer Grindeks, Mildronate, a heart attack recovery medication which is marketed as Meldonium:

“is widely used in the clinical practice. … During increased physical activity, it restores the oxygen balance of tissue cells as well as it activates the metabolic processes that results in lower requirements of oxygen consumption for energy production, … Mildronate is widely recognized by health care professionals and patients, and this may include athletes as well.”

Mildronate was not approved by the US FDA, or in the European Union, but was widely available in Eastern Europe. After it was rumored to be used by a lot of Eastern European athletes, it was added to the World Anti-Doping Agency’s monitored list in 2015. The drug was banned by the WADA starting January 1, 2016.

Tennis player and model Maria Sharapova is the biggest name to have been caught, and claimed she had been using meldonium for ten years on the advice of her doctor. Although Grindeks was widely quoted that the normal course of treatment was 4 to 6 weeks, Sharapova clarified that she took the drug, “not every day,” but in low doses as recommended by her doctor, and that the full Grindeks quote was:

“Treatment course can be repeated twice or thrice a year. Only physicians can follow and evaluate patient’s health condition and state whether the patient should use meldonium for a longer period of time.”

Just this week champion breaststroke swimmer Yulia Efimova was suspended. Other Russians include cyclist Eduard Vorganov, figure skater Yekaterina Bobrova, skater Pavel Kulizhnikov, short-track skaters Semion Elistratov and Ekaterina Konstantinova, volleyball player Aleksandr Markin and biathlete Eduard Latypov, but almost 100 athletes in total have been caught using Meldonium.

According to the New York Times, “One such study, at last year’s European Games, suggested that nearly 500 of the 6,000 athletes competing were taking the drug. That study was also forwarded to WADA and its list committee.”

Even though she is very beautiful, I’ve never been a big fan of Sharapova and her shrieking, but I have been impressed in the last few years by her persistence in the face of getting hammered by Serena Williams. It is sad that her persistence may have been chemically enhanced.


Good Pieces, Bad Pieces

With Donald J Trump in a commanding position on the eve of Super Tuesday, everyone is trying to explain to everyone else how the hell this could be happening. FiveThirtyEight dropped a small admission in their discussion of whether the Republican party is realigning:

Presidential elections already suffer from the problem of small sample sizes — one reason a lot of people, certainly including us, shouldn’t have been so dismissive of Trump’s chances early on.

But small sample size hardly covers the widespread dismissal of Trump by nearly everyone but cartoonist/blogger Scott Adams. Newt Gingrich recently blamed the media for rabidly covering and energizing Trump’s campaign – which is certainly part of it. At Barbarikon, Ali Minai discusses, What Donald Trump is doing to the Republican Party …. and may yet do to the Democrats, and lays the Trump phenomenon at the feet of the party itself:

For more than three decades, the Republican Party has been turning a large part of their electorate into a population of zombies who respond reliably to specific dog whistles, conspiracy theories and false memes come every election season. These triggers play on religious zeal, nationalism, suspicion of government power, fear of anarchy, economic insecurity, social anxieties, xenophobia, residual racism, and a host of other powerful emotions that exist in all societies. The so-called Republican elites have learned to exploit these emotions with finesse to win elections while, in fact, serving the interests of their paymasters in lofty mansions and corporate boardrooms. This project, implemented through so-called conservative “think” tanks, talk radio and Fox News with financial support from a few choice billionaires, has been wildly successful. It has allowed the Republican Party to hold the White House for most of the last thirty six years, and to claw their way back to power in Congress after a long exile.

The rabid nature of the Republicans is also certainly part of it, but given that there is a parallel outsider movement among liberals, one would have to look for some effect they share in common. That would be the flailing, disappearing middle class that the media has been loath to mention. Yesterday on ABC’s This Week, Greta van Susteren, she of the rigid face, thought that ordinary folk of both parties were so fed up with establishment politics that they were going for Hail Mary candidates.

Leave it to David Brooks, though, who in The Governing Cancer of Our Time tries to explain away the outsiders as inexperienced, narcissistic voters that want everything but don’t want to work for it:

Over the past generation we have seen the rise of a group of people who are against politics. These groups — best exemplified by the Tea Party but not exclusive to the right — want to elect people who have no political experience. They want “outsiders.” They delegitimize compromise and deal-making. They’re willing to trample the customs and rules that give legitimacy to legislative decision-making if it helps them gain power.

Ultimately, they don’t recognize other people. They suffer from a form of political narcissism, in which they don’t accept the legitimacy of other interests and opinions. They don’t recognize restraints. They want total victories for themselves and their doctrine.

I have stopped reading Brooks, but one of my Facebook theatre friends, a local politician herself, posted this article as a great explanation – whereupon my head exploded. Young people aren’t against politics, they are against corporate ownership of politicians. Right-wingers aren’t against politics, they are against politics that sends their jobs overseas and brings in guest workers that will work for food. Once again Brooks has pandered to the wealthy and comfortable – at the expense of their children and employees.

Teflon, Diesels, Toxins, Cancer

I’m probably not the only one wondering whether some of these celebrities recently died in their late sixties because of smoking, using drugs, or just from being immersed in a sea of carcinogens like the rest of us. You might think the EPA protects us by labeling carcinogens, but they only test a small percentage of chemicals in use. For example, perfluorooctanoic acid, or PFOA, or C8, a key substance in Teflon, was not tested until one law firm brought a lawsuit on behalf of some farmers downstream of a dump site.

The Lawyer Who Became DuPont’s Worst Nightmare

‘‘Rob’s letter lifted the curtain on a whole new theater,’’ says Harry Deitzler, a plaintiff’s lawyer in West Virginia who works with Bilott. ‘‘Before that letter, corporations could rely upon the public misperception that if a chemical was dangerous, it was regulated.’’ Under the 1976 Toxic Substances Control Act, the E.P.A. can test chemicals only when it has been provided evidence of harm. This arrangement, which largely allows chemical companies to regulate themselves, is the reason that the E.P.A. has restricted only five chemicals, out of tens of thousands on the market, in the last 40 years.

… if you are a sentient being reading this article in 2016, you already have PFOA in your blood. It is in your parents’ blood, your children’s blood, your lover’s blood. How did it get there? Through the air, through your diet, through your use of nonstick cookware, through your umbilical cord. Or you might have drunk tainted water. …

Bertel Schmitt used to blog at The Truth About Cars (as did I), now blogs at the Daily Kanban, and in Forbes Magazine, writes: Dieselgate Now Officially An Industry-Wide Problem As Cancer Worries Mount

Nitric oxide NO, nitrogen dioxide NO2, and nitrous oxide N2O (as a group called NOx) are released by many forms of combustion. Over half of NOx is released by internal combustion engines, particularly diesels. Volkswagen’s falsifying of their emissions tests has brought renewed attention to NOx, a carcinogen that I breathe every time I bike behind a bus.

The driving force behind it is German lobby group Deutsche Umwelthilfe, which through its member Axel Friedrich, a former official of Germany’s EPA-equivalent Umweltbundesamt, is connected with the International Council on Clean Transportation (ICCT), the NGO that helped unravel Volkswagen’s dieselgate in America. For years, the group has tried to draw attention to the fact that NOx causes cancer, and that it is, according to the WHO, as dangerous as asbestos. Now, as Reuters writes, “the diesel scandal has heightened awareness of real-world NOx emissions by the broader auto industry,” and the message of the campaigners is beginning to resonate.

Trump and Nativism

By birth rates alone, Muslims are bringing a huge change to the culture of Europe, just as Africans, Hispanics and even Asians have and will to the United States. Many Europeans and Americans don’t want to allow their white heritage to be swallowed up in a darker-skinned future. They dismiss tolerance and multiculturalism as wrong-headed PC – political correctness. They characterize the newcomers as evil partially because they see them that way, and partially because that sounds better than admitting they want to continue the domination of the lighter-skinned.

In response to the widely-reported New Year’s Eve assaults on women in Cologne, Germany, an anti-immigration group called Pegida demonstrated against Muslims in the streets, as shown in a video on LiveLeak. While more liberal citizens wore or waved Refugees Welcome shirts with a silhouette logo of three running children, the protestors carried a banner with silhouettes of three armed adult refugees chasing down a woman, reading Rapefugees Not Welcome. Other signs read Multikultur Stoppen, Kriminelle Auslander Raus and Merkel, sind Ihre UNTATEN VOLKES WILLE?, which roughly translates to “Merkel, are their misdeeds the people’s will?” According to sources, Angela Merkel did say, “Surveys are not my scale,” which has been interpreted by anti-immigrants to, “the people’s will is not my concern.” Merkel has pledged to support deportation of criminal immigrants.

In response some counter-protestors held a sign reading, Massengrab Mittlemeer, or Mass Grave Mediterranean, and a very warmly-dressed woman stood over a sign reading, “Hey Rassist! Du bist so widerlicht! Die Welt konnte so schon sein OHNE DICH!” which roughly translates to, “Hey racist! The world would be fine without you!”

On LiveLeak, sympathetic commenters posted pictures advising Rape is Just Muslims Being Muslims, and German People First. But others countered, “I’m glad the police smashed these idiots. This doesn’t mean I support the sex offenders who groped those women (they should be smashed too). But that doesn’t mean I have suddenly developed sympathy and common cause with Nazis.”

The protestors don’t consider themselves Nazis, or even racists, though their protests do often attract neo-Nazis and youths wearing Lonsdale shirts with only the NSDA showing. They also reject when the German press calls them Wutbürger or Frustbürger meaning, enraged citizen or frustrated citizen because those terms apply to frustration over the bad economy as well. They might not balk at being called, Neue Rechte (New Right) or JungKonservative or Nationalrevolutionäre. Pegida stands for Patriotische Europäer gegen die Islamisierung des Abendlandes, or Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamisation of the Occident. Local names vary. In Bonn, it is Bogida, in Cologne, Kögida; in Berlin, Bärgida.

Anti-Islamists don’t often talk to the Lügenpresse, or liar press, but reportedly they want strict immigration controls, immediate deportation of criminal immigrants and for law-abiding immigrants to assimilate by speaking German – even at home.

Those three demands should not be unfamiliar to anyone in the US, particularly anyone who has listened to Donald J Trump’s campaign speeches. The surprisingly resilient presidential candidate has tapped into a similar vein of nativist and anti-immigrant fervor in America.

In The Atlantic, David Frum wrote a cover story, The Great Republican Revolt, in which he put forth the idea that working class Republicans were tired of supporting GOP elites that offered lip service to workers, but really supported immigration that drove down wages. Frum’s idea was echoed, but also criticized in innumerable articles. He responded to critiques by noting:

Ethnic and racial resentment are always with us. The Donald Trump candidacy is like nothing American politics has seen since 1945. Not even George Wallace’s two runs for the presidency can compare: When Wallace sought a major-party nomination in 1972 (the Democratic nomination, as it happened), he first carefully cleaned up his platform and his rhetoric, disavowing his past support for school segregation. Trump has become more inflammatory as he has campaigned, and has only risen in the polls as a result. What’s changed?


The United States—and other developed countries too—are becoming rapidly more ethnically diverse at the same time as they are becoming more economically insecure.

Right now, everyone is trying to figure out why Trump is succeeding. Even Nate Silver and the number wizards at FiveThirtyEight – who a few months ago seemed certain Trump would fade without endorsements – are hedging their predictions. In Three Theories of Donald Trump’s Rise, Silver makes the populist revolt Theory 1, but puts more credence in Theory 2: a power vacuum in the GOP, or Theory 3: Trump riding a media bubble. Before that, FiveThirtyEight chatted amongst themselves, asking, Is The GOP Establishment Blowing Its Anti-Trump Campaign?

There is certainly a power split between the Tea Party and the establishment GOP, which makes Theory 2 just a variant of Theory 1. As for Theory 3, Trump is certainly riding a media bubble, which is to me the most interesting facet of his campaign. The mainstream media serve a wealthy elite, and are trying to squelch non-traditional candidate Bernie Sanders by ignoring him, and are doing a pretty good job of it. But they can’t ignore Trump. Even though it is clear enough that no mainstream media talking head really wants non-traditional candidate Trump as President, their business model is to present the presidential campaign as entertainment. Trump is famous enough and colorful enough that they can’t not cover his outrageous stage antics. And they never anticipated that Trump’s base would dismiss all criticisms as wrong-headed political correctness (see Pegida above). Talking heads are desperately trying to point out that the Donald lusts after his own daughter, and that his latest wife was an immigrant pinup model … but his supporters aren’t listening to that noise.

Trump has what they call machismo in Spanish-speaking countries. His tough image trumps his faults. A recent NY Times OpEd, Obnoxiousness is the New Charisma, notes that both Trump and Cruz understand that, “at this crazy, cynical juncture, there’s a band of voters so distrustful of the usual etiquette that they think valor lies in viciousness, integrity in insult. They’re determined to rebel and want the opposite of what they usually get, along with permission to be their smallest, worst selves.”

It may well be that self-interested Nativism will overwhelm what remains of the good intentions of anti-discrimination legislation of the last century, and Donald Trump has cannily positioned himself to lead that movement.

Update 20160112: TalkingPointsMemo just posted Meet The White Supremacists Who See Trump As Their ‘Great White Hope’

William Daniel Johnson has a vision for America.

… Johnson made waves as a young attorney after he was revealed to be the author behind a pseudonymously published book that advocated repealing the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments. “Amendment to the Constitution,” published in 1985 under the pen name James O. Pace, laid out Johnson’s proposal that “No person shall be a citizen of the United States unless he is a non-Hispanic white of the European race…Only citizens shall have the right and privilege to reside permanently in the United States.”


I ran across a brief interview with avowed libertarian entrepreneur Peter Thiel in MIT Technology Review titled, Technology Stalled in 1970:

The way some pessimists put it is that all the low-hanging fruit has been picked. I would argue that there was never any low-hanging fruit; it was always of intermediate height and the question was, were people reaching for it or not? I’m frustrated because I think technology is progressing slowly, but I’m optimistic because I think it could be going a lot better.

Apparently Thiel has a new book out. I was reminded me of all the flak I got when I blogged about Joseph Tainter’s suggestion that innovation is not characteristic of human history and that we have reached an innovation trough. (For Tainter’s talk on innovation, see the last several minutes of youtubes Part Three and all of Parts Four and Five.)
I news-googled Thiel and found a recent NY Times article about a debate between him and anthropologist and anarchist David Graeber:

… as it happens, the event was conceived less as a cage match than as a friendly meeting of contrarian minds, both of whom happen to think — in seeming contrast to most people in the world — that our supposed age of dizzying innovation is actually an era of technological and intellectual stagnation.

“I find it interesting that Peter and I agree very strongly about 20 percent of everything, and probably disagree just as strongly on the other 80 percent,” Mr Graeber said in an interview before the debate. “But the stuff we do agree on is the stuff no one else agrees with us about.” …

Once upon a time, [Graeber] said, when people imagined the future, they imagined flying cars, teleportation devices and robots who would free them from the need to work. But strangely, none of these things came to pass.

“What happened to the second half of the 20th century?” Mr. Graeber asked. His answer is that it was deliberately short-circuited by a “ruling-class freak-out,” as “all this space-age stuff was seen as a threat to social control.” …

[Thiel] didn’t blame any ruling-class freakout, [but] did see a loss of nerve and sclerotic bureaucracies. He cited the anarchist slogan “Act as if you are already free,” and praised initiatives like SpaceX, the private space technology company started by his fellow PayPal founder, Elon Musk. “We’re not going to get to Mars by having endless debates,” he said. “We’re going to get to Mars by trying to get to Mars.”

I have a copy of Graeber’s Debt: The First 5000 Years floating around my apartment, and I guess I should read it.


In a New York Times OpEd, They Don’t Make ’Em Like They Used To – Inferior Products and Labor Drive Modern Construction, Henry Petroski rants about materials and workers:

Workmanship has declined in parallel. There continue to be expert craftsmen — carpenters, roofers, painters — who work with precision and pride, but they are increasingly being pushed out by cheaper labor with inferior skills (which is, of course, why the labor is cheaper). …

As an architect, I see good and bad work all the time. I have swum in old pools with playful, elegant ceramic tile curbs that I know I could never hope to have duplicated today. I have taken measurements in old buildings with tight brick joints and expertly-mitred woodwork the sort of which I never see when I do punch lists today. I have been to project meetings where an electrical subcontractor objected to the difficulty of the work – running utility outlets in a furniture store – by claiming to be installers, not designers.

As pointed out in the Times comments section, many great old buildings survive and many shoddy old buildings don’t. But that argument only works if there are great new buildings with excellent craftsmanship. Even the most costly of today’s buildings should probably be called assemblages or installs because to a great extent, builders do a lot more assembling and installing today than cutting, molding, fitting and building.

This is not the fault of homeowners, but of the industries whose practices favor the use of inferior products and labor that drive modern construction: the developers, lenders, builders and Realtors who, to make quick money, have created a stock of domestic and commercial infrastructure that is a waste of resources and will not last.

As pointed out in the Times comment section, cheapskate homeowners are just as complicit as anyone else. But as also pointed out, homeowners have less and less money to spend on quality work. Petroski goes on:

I can’t help but think that this experience, multiplied by those of millions of homeowners, affects how we as a country view our public infrastructure. We have seen short-term fixes and shoddy workmanship at home, and we see our bridges and roads the same way.

I’m running across that hyphenated word, short-term, in more and more articles. We have short-term energy policy, politics, and attention spans, but long-term climate, water, healthcare and employment problems that we are hoping will just go away. Unfortunately it may be our infrastructure that just goes away.

The First Casualty

Last night I was surprised to see at the top of the front page of the New York Times, Russia Economy Worsens Even Before Sanctions Hit:

While the annexation of Crimea has rocketed President Vladimir V. Putin’s approval rating to more than 80 percent, it has also contributed to a sobering downturn in Russia’s economy, which was in trouble even before the West imposed sanctions. With inflation rising, growth stagnating, the ruble and stock market plunging, and billions in capital fleeing the country for safety, the economy is teetering on the edge of recession, as the country’s minister of economic development acknowledged on Wednesday.

From a textbook perspective, the deep-rooted ills in Russia’s economy have been clear for years: The decade-long skyrocketing in energy prices that buoyed Mr. Putin’s popularity has flatlined, exposing the country’s dangerous over-reliance on revenues from oil and natural gas. Efforts to diversify into manufacturing, high technology and other sectors have failed, and officials have been unable, or unwilling, to stop the rampant, corrosive corruption that scares off foreign investors.

But yesterday I had also seen that The Automatic Earth reposted a graph from Tyler Durden, at ZeroHedge. In truth neither TAE or ZH are known for posting good news, but even recognizing that the two curves have been pushed together, this chart seems to report the opposite of what the Grey Lady is claiming:

I find another chart from ZeroHedge even more telling:

The bottom chart is not about Russia, but apparently we’re supposed to believe that our sanctions are hurting Russia worse than business as usual is hurting us.