American Elephants

Don’t Overdo It With the Hygiene! A Little Dirt May Be a Good Thing. by The Elephant's Child

It has long been known that farm kids are not nearly as apt to have allergies or asthma as urban children.  Allergies and autoimmune diseases were virtually unknown in the United States before the turn of the last century, but they began to emerge as modern sanitation, decontaminated water, food refrigeration and antibiotics became more widespread.  Now, we are preoccupied with hand sanitizers, disinfectant wipes of all kinds,  anti-microbial products, and air cleaners.

Just when we figure out what caused all those plagues and epidemics, have we gone too far in the other direction?  Are we way too fussy about hygiene?

In the new movie “Babies”, on a small family farm in Mongolia, a rooster struts around  Bayar’s bed, and a goat drinks from his bathwater.  Ponijao, a child in a nomadic family in Namibia, drinks from muddy streams, chews on dry bones, and uses her many siblings’ body parts as toys.  The child pictured above is from Rwanda.

Mari, who is growing up in a high-rise in Tokyo, and Hattie, whose parents live a “green” lifestyle in San Francisco have all the modern conveniences and sanitation.  Yet the upscale urban toddlers are at higher risk for some health problems — not only allergies and asthma, but autoimmune diseases like Type 1 diabetes, multiple sclerosis and inflammatory bowel disease — than children in the developing nations. Yet statistically, they are healthier. These diseases are rare in Africa and rural Asia.

Some 42 out of 1,000 children in Namibia, and 41 out of 1,000 in Mongolia die before their 5th birthday, compared with 8 in 1,000 in the U.S. and 4 in Japan. (the U.S. statistics may be off because we treat all babies born alive at any birth-weight as living babies, which most countries do not).

According to the “hygiene hypothesis” proposed in 1989, exposure to a variety of bacteria, viruses and parasitic worms early in life helps prime a child’s immune system.  Without such early instruction, the immune system may overreact with allergies to foods, pollens and pet dander or turn on the body’s own tissue with auto-immune diseases.

“The vast majority of microbes are harmless.  There are only a few dozen that can cause lethal infection”, says Thomas McDade of the Laboratory for Human Biology at Northwestern U.  Exposure to immune-stimulating germs may possibly lower the risk of heart disease. There are dangers, though, in muddy water and animal feces.  Nearly 70% of the 8,8 million deaths of children under age 5 were caused by infectious diseases — pneumonia, diarrhea and malaria. (Malaria may throw the statistics off, since it is preventable with DDT spraying of huts — blocked by the EPA and World Health Organization).

Clinical trials are under way in the U.S. and Europe testing Trichuris Suis Ova — a species of pig whipworm —as a treatment for peanut allergies, ulcerative colitis, Crohn’s disease and MS.   A study is being planned to test it with asthma, and with adults who have autism — which some researchers believe could be related to immunological function. Treatments for any of these diseases would be wonderful.

Be vigilant about wound care.  Wash your hands with soap and water.  There’s nothing wrong with playing in the dirt, but drinking river water probably isn’t a good idea.  In other words, relax and use your common sense, and try to get over the “ick” factor.

There Were Humpty-Backed Camels, and Chimpanzees, Green Alligators, and …Long-Range Ballistic Missiles? by American Elephant
May 18, 2010, 6:32 pm
Filed under: Africa, News, Politics, Terrorism | Tags: , , ,

Mass-murderer, Zimbabwean Dictator Robert Mugabe, is making overtures toward Kim Jong Il, who has absolutely nothing whatsoever of  value to give in return except nuclear and missile technology, and the left is outraged over animal welfare!???

We are doomed!

Kind of makes you feel like building an ark of your own.

You May Be Able to Eat a Hamburger With a Guilt-Free Conscience! by The Elephant's Child
May 18, 2010, 4:50 pm
Filed under: Freedom, Health Care, Junk Science | Tags: , ,

In history, city population was limited by the  ability of surrounding farms to provide enough food.  Farmers had to plan their plantings to have enough to get themselves through the winter.  What a far cry from the bounty of our supermarkets today, when there are no real seasons for fruits and vegetables, for summer vegetables come from the Southern hemisphere  in our winter, and strawberries seem to be a year around fruit — if a little on the hard and flavorless side.

With such plenitude we have arrived at a very strange relationship with our food.  The European Union devised rules and regulations governing the length and curvature of a banana, the acceptable size of a potato, and farmers were obliged to write the name and address of the hen on each egg.  The EU has relaxed their most stringent regulations, but that they ever were thought reasonable and logical speaks volumes.

Now most stores have special sections for ‘organic’ produce, and cartons throughout the store proclaim that their ingredients are natural, healthy, organic, there is no rBST, low fat, non-fat, low salt, Vitamin C or D added,  and the box is made from recycled fiber, and that’s just the   product label.  On the back you will find the nutritional chart required by Congress.  New regulations may require the nutritional chart to be on the front of the package, not the back. Once again you have a glimpse of the extent to which Congressional elites think the rest of us are far too stupid to turn the box around and read the back — if we want to.  We are still allowed to be uninterested.

It seemed to me that companies could just turn their products around, but then they wouldn’t have room for their logo, required net weight and all the ‘natural, healthy etc. claims. Do pause for a moment of gratitude to food producers who have to struggle  with all the inanities from Congress and still produce food that you will mostly take some pleasure in consuming.

There have been constant food “scares,” many of them derived from the work of the Center for Science in the Public Interest, the chief nanny of the food police. Remember “Frankenfood,” or genetically engineered food? Vegetarians have become aggressive in demanding that everyone else become vegetarian as well.  My grocery has a section for “vegetarian food” that simulates all the food the rest of enjoy, made out of tofu and soy beans and who knows what else.  (Tells you something about their love of vegetables when they want them to come in the size and shape and taste of a hot dog).

And there’s red meat!  I know so many ( I started to say people) women who would loftily say “Oh we don’t eat red meat! From today’s Wall Street Journal:

A new study from the Harvard School of Public Health suggests that the heart risk long associated with red meat comes mostly from processed varieties such as bacon, sausage, hot dogs and cold cuts — and not from steak, hamburgers and other non-processed cuts.

The finding is surprising because both types of red meat are high in saturated fat, a substance believed to be partly responsible for the increased risk of heart disease. But the new study raises the possibility that when it comes to meat, at least, the real bad actor may be salt. Processed meats generally have about four times the amount of salt than unprocessed meats.

The article is quick to point out that the study is far from definitive.  It is, however, a reminder of constantly changing scientific ideas about what is good for you, and what isn’t.  But the notion abroad is that if we can just find the perfect diet, the right foods,  the perfect combination of foods, grown in just the right way then we won’t get cancer, or heart disease or any of those other noxious diseases that kill us off before we have the chance to die of very old age.

ObamaCare seems to be predicated on a government forcing its citizens to eat just the right diet and get just the right amount of exercise so that you will be healthy and not cost the government any money, or to have to courtesy to die early and save the government all those high end-of-life expenses.  And if you don’t, the government won’t pay for those high expenses anyway.  As Nancy Pelosi said, “We have to pass the bill so we can find out what’s in it.”  We are beginning to find out, and it isn’t pretty.

It Was 30 Years Ago Today! by American Elephant
May 18, 2010, 3:49 pm
Filed under: Environment, History, News, Science/Technology | Tags: , , , ,

[Ed. note: the following was originally posted 2 years ago on this infamous day]

Chances are, if you’re not from Washington or Oregon, the date May 18th has little meaning to you. Heck, even around here many don’t think of it unless someone reminds them. But I remember — every year. It’s one of the only world events I remember from back then — I was only ten after all; but the eruption of Mt. St. Helens on May 18, 1980 was just the kind of event that little boys remember forever.

We were very fortunate, the mountain exploded northwards, but the winds carried the ash-cloud away to the southeast. I remember being somewhat disappointed that the ash wasn’t turning day to night for us like it was for all the people on the television. In fact, we didn’t seem to get any ash-fall at all, much to my chagrin; while people on the other side of the mountain were measuring it in inches, like snow.

So much excitement! …and so little pay off.

About the most exciting thing I personally experienced was standing on my father’s roof to see the enormous plume looking fairly small and unimpressive so many miles away. I’m not sure if we heard the explosion or not. They say people heard it as far as 700 miles away, and we were certainly much closer than that. I think we did — but that could just be my memory playing tricks on me.

So close, and yet so far. But I still remember it every year.

Where were you?

Update: Michael Rubin at the Corner links to an excellent photo montage on the eruption and the aftermath.

The Gulf Oil Spill: Outrageous Speculation and Political Games. by The Elephant's Child

President Obama is appointing another commission, this time to investigate the Deepwater Horizon Oil Rig disaster.  Everyone is anxious to attach blame.  This was a catastrophic accident, and it is not known just what failed, what human error there was, what mistakes were made, nor what was just a blowout by natural forces.

The experts from the oil companies aren’t sure at all just what happened.  In case no one has noticed, they are working at breakneck speed to stop the spill, with all the engineering and scientific genius they can summon up.  While they try one solution, they are busy planning what to do if that solution doesn’t work.  It’s a heroic effort, and they are investing tremendous resources in it.

I’m troubled by the rush to blame.  President Obama was stung by accusations that he was not on top of the disaster for 9 days after the explosion, and he has hastened to show just how involved the administration was in a blow by blow account. But the country observed his many public appearances during that time, when he made no mention of the accident at all.

He was quick to summon CEOs of all the industries involved, and raged indignantly about their attempts to point fingers at each other — while his entire speech was about placing the blame on everyone but himself.  He did manage the usual blame for Bush.  (He really needs to give up on that). The blame-shifting is not just un-presidential, but childish.

Nobody really knows yet just what happened.  Nobody seems to remember that eleven people lost their lives.  Michael Economides, editor in chief of The Energy Tribune, points out:

To be certain, the oil industry did not need this catastrophe and the cleanup will be long, arduous and expensive. It happened at a time of acrimonious debate over the future of oil and all fossil fuels. For some people, including key members of the Obama Administration and certainly many of his supporters, global climate change and other real or imagined dangers can be blamed squarely on oil. For the Left, the Gulf of Mexico disaster was a self-fulfilling prophecy, and from some of their statements one can glean an almost bizarre and macabre satisfaction. For them, the bigger the disaster the more it justifies their inherent position that oil is bad. To them it makes no difference how unrealistic or expensive alternative energy sources may be. Wind and solar, which to almost all knowledgeable people cannot even remotely replace a tiny portion of oil and gas anytime soon, if ever, are preferable to the prospect of a blowout and leaking well.

The predictable threat of shutting down all offshore drilling came next, and some environmentalists have called for a permanent ban on all offshore oil. Considering that the US already imports two-thirds of its 20 million barrels per day of oil use and that about half of US domestic oil production comes from offshore fields, such a policy would have a devastating impact on US oil supply. Imports would have to fill the gap. (Of course, for radical environmentalists the US should stop using any oil, period, no matter what the dire consequences may be.)

It is an important article, not long, and very worth your time.  As Mr. Economides says:

Properly handled by the industry and credible experts, it may educate the American public – who, during the past few years, have become bigger and bigger victims of ideologically driven misinformation – on the realities of energy production.

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