Blog dedicated primarily to randomly selected news items; comments reflecting personal perceptions

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Empathy Awry

Baby Charlie Gard wears starred pyjamas and holds a monkey plush toy as he sleeps in the hospital attached to life support.
Photo: The case became a flashpoint for debates on the role of the state and the rights of children. (GoFundMe: Charlies Fight)

"Charlie did have a real chance of getting better. ... Now we will never know what would have happened if he got treatment."
"Mummy and Daddy love you so much Charlie, we always have and we always will and we are so sorry that we couldn't save you."
"We had the chance but we weren't allowed to give you that chance."
"Sweet dreams baby. Sleep tight, our beautiful little boy."
"Our beautiful little boy has gone, we are so proud of you Charlie."
Connie Yates, Chris Gard 

Chris Gard and Connie Yates, the parents of critically ill infant Charlie Gard, arrive at a court session in London. Jonathan Brady/AP 
A first child, a lovely little boy, discovered at two months of age to be afflicted with a serious illness. His parents, British citizens, had been referred with him to the Great Ormond Street Hospital. This is no ordinary hospital, it is an institution known globally for its advanced paediatric care and always has been, for the two centuries of its existence. The tiny boy was instantly admitted, where paediatric specialists hastened to apply the most proven of modern paediatric practices to save his life.

No single doctor, but a medical team of experts assigned themselves to do what they could for this infant. He was placed on a ventilator to breathe for him and unlike most situations of this type tiny Charlie demonstrated "no spontaneous respiratory efforts"; in other words where the respirator breathing on his behalf would influence other babies in similar distress to respond by making an autonomic effort to help themselves breathe, he could not.

The baby was submitted to a round of tests to determine the full depth and extent of his malady. That included advanced genetic testing, the result of which was a diagnosis of a very rare mitochondrial DNA depletion syndrome which meant that Charlie would die of a certainty in the near future, and his deteriorating condition lent credence to that expectation based on test results. Soon not only could he not breathe on his own he was unable to open his eyelids as well, due to muscular weakness.

He experienced hearing loss and became unresponsive to any type of stimuli that would normally elicit a response. Charlie's parents were continually apprised of his situation, the results of the tests and his deteriorating condition. He began to experience intractable seizures so that ventilation long-term presented as inhumane for the pain he would be suffering. He could be kept alive through ventilation-enabled breathing, but his pain would only intensify.

The hospital's ethics committee was in agreement that Charlie be given palliative care.

His parents, for reasons best known to themselves spurned all the readings of test results heralding his imminent death. The advice given them with their baby's best interests topmost in mind was rejected by them. They believed, they stated emphatically, that their infant son would rally, he would somehow manage to overcome his body breakdown and become healthy and they would take him home and raise him as they planned to. Because he was a 'fighter'.

This pathological transfixion in the faith of their own reasoning in polarized contrast to all the test results, the diagnoses, their child's steady decline, and the professional advice of the entire hospital staff led Chris Gard and Connie Yates to publicize their conflict with the hospital, charging them with defying the baby's best interests and denying their request that he be treated elsewhere. Their constant public appearances and their pleas succeeded in extracting wide news coverage and compassion at home and abroad.

Their coercive manipulation of peoples' sympathies with their heartfelt pleas to save their son, and appeals through a GoFundMe online campaign to raise funds to enable the parents to pay for their then-11-month-old infant to be flown to the United States to undergo treatment there, succeeded in raising over 1.3 million pounds ($2.14 million). The medical staff looking after the child objected, reasoning there was no treatment that could help save his life; rather it would increase his suffering.

The parents' intransigent objections that they knew their baby could recover with expert care given him elsewhere than at Great Ormond Street Hospital, but that the hospital and the doctors there were foiling the parents' efforts to save their child, exposed both the hospital and the medical team to hostile abuse by a public indignant over the purported treatment of the parents by the hospital they accused, in essence, of doing nothing to prevent Charlie's death.

By appealing to peoples' raw emotions through the spectacle of a grieving, outraged father and mother of a helpless and desperately ill child, this couple portrayed themselves as courageous fighters for justice to be enabled to save their baby. They were prepared to take on medical science and defeat reality through the force of their faith in what they believed. In the process they became celebrity figures, respected and supported in their battle with reality by a pope and an American president.

No one but they, and perhaps not even they, will ever know the agenda that drove them to unreasoning blame and vituperation; of, in the final analysis, causing their baby to suffer beyond endurance because they insisted on proving they were right and were prepared to fight a battle that could never be won. They attained a supportive audience, and they played for it.

Head stuff to people who became addicted to fame born out of human compassion, where they gained recognition for their suffering and their baby continued to suffer because of their addiction.

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Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Coming to an Airline Near You....

"I never would have thought I'd still be flying at 65 [years of age, post-retirement]."
"The jets I used to fly were highly automated. But now, with the propeller planes, I can enjoy a freer, more visual kind of flying. It means getting back to the basics as a pilot."
"When you're young, you can pull an all-nighter. But I read the textbooks [to attain a new commercial flying license] in half-hour chunks. At my age, you have to manage your time."
"I have at least three years left, maybe five [before mandatory retirement at age 70]. As long as I have my health, I want to make the most of them."
Shigekazu Miyazaki, Nagasaki, Japan

"If places like Germany and the United States are raising the age where people can collect pensions to 67, there's no reason Japan shouldn't go to 70."
"We're reaching a point where a 40-year career is just half the average life span, and having people become inactive too early is unsustainable."
Atsushi Seike, expert, labour economics, Keio University, Tokyo, Japan

Airline pilots appear to be in short supply world-wide. Partially this is a factor of new airlines opening in heavily populated parts of the world where, as for example in China, the middle-class is exploding and with disposable income people are becoming more invested in tourism, flying to and seeing other parts of the world they live in, near and abroad. Airline pilots are in high demand, as a result.

Mr. Miyazaki at age 65, retiring from four decades at All Nippon Airways, the largest airline in Japan where 65 is the top for employment, was given an offer of employment that he felt he just couldn't turn down. And which took him right back to doing what he most enjoyed in life; flying. The new airline for which he has become an employee doesn't recognize an age ceiling of 65; he was hired for his experience and his ability by Oriental Air Bridge, flying between Nagasaki to a group of remote islands.

Mr. Miyazaki is quite happy that his work life has been extended. At the same time he is reminded of his age when he realizes how difficult it is for his elder brain to function as it once did as for example, studying for a new license to enable him to fly the Dash 8s the new airline uses. The 39-seat propeller aircraft has an instrument-crammed dashboard, nothing whatever like the jets he was accustomed to flying during his commercial flying career.

His co-pilots are young enough to be his grandsons. And while he's enjoying the new challenge and the opportunity to go on piloting aircraft through the skies over Japan, the transition has been demanding of him. So that he admits to having felt "a little uneasy" with the need to study to enable him to pass the tests to acquire his new pilot's license. It took him eight months to complete the study-test-license process. So he knows his brain has slowed down, its cells grown a little whiter than grey.

True, Japan has the distinction of being known as having the world's longest life expectancy. And because of the pride Japan takes in its 'homogeneity' (read resistance to immigration from other parts of the world), plus its low birth rate, it suffers a general shortage of workers as the population fails to grow other than among its aged population. Over half of Japanese men over 65 years of age perform paid employment of some kind.

Unemployment stands at an enviable 2.8 percent; enviable if there were enough younger workers to fuel Japanese production. Adequate staff to fill the need of employers is difficult to come by even while retirees draining the pension system, alarms government sufficiently to raise the benefit age from 65 to 67, something other nations' economies are persuading them to turn to as well.

When Mr. Miyazaki flew for All Nippon Airline as captain of Boeing 767s mostly to southeast Asia, his salary was generous at several hundred thousand annually, with an excellent pension Oriental Air Bridge, a tiny airline, can afford to compensate him with roughly a third of his former salary. But it is not the salary that has any measure of importance to this man; it is the opportunity to continue flying; compensation is secondary; he has a new lease on extending his professional career.

He emphasizes that to qualify for his new flying license he underwent physical testing that was more rigorously extensive than what a younger candidate would face inclusive of MRIs, electrocardiograms, treadmill tests for stamina. He managed to pass to achieve his prized license. At the present time under federal regulations he can continue flying commercially until reaching age 67; even so government is considering raising the maximum age to 70.

One can only wonder what airline passengers think, what goes through their minds when a pilot the age of their grandfathers clambers into the cockpit to ferry them to remote places, and perhaps whether they will reach their destination. Mr. Miyazaki is having a great old time, and he may have many more healthy and active years to live, but the profession of an airline pilot is one upon which many paying passengers depend on the assumption that the man in command of the vessel is hale as well as experienced in the air, that his reaction time is not age-impaired.
Image result for japan, older commercial airline pilots
The rise of budget airlines in Asia is said to be one reason why Japan raised the maximum age limit for pilots of commercial airliners to 67 from 65.    Travel Pulse

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Monday, August 14, 2017

Eat Well, Exercise, Sleep Well, Enjoy Life!

"My secret of life is to wake up every morning with something to do."
"Some people I feel are old because they allow themselves to get old. When people ask me how I'm able to do what I can do, I say I never did quit trying."
Warren Berger, 95, Chattanooga, Tennessee, national high-jump record, 94 - 99 age bracket

"Individuals in favourable cardiovascular health at younger ages not only live a longer life, but live a healthier life and a greater proportion of life free of morbidity."
Chicago-based study

"My research looks at why no one wants to be old. They want to set themselves apart from this negatively viewed age group. They just want to distance themselves from stereotypes; 'I'm not like the stereotype. I'm different'."
"Adults who believe age is just a umber showed better memory performance, but adults who believed aging is set in stone and fixed had a decrease in memory performance and a stronger stress reaction."
Dr. David Weiss, assistant professor, sociomedical sciences, psychology, Columbia Ageing Center, Columbia University, New York

"One of the most unique and novel aspects of this study [published last year in the Journal of Applied Physiology]. is the exceptional participants."
"These are individuals in their 80s and 90s who actively compete in world masters track and field championships. We have seven world champions. These individuals are the crème de la crème of aging."
"Therefore, identifying opportunities to intervene and delay the loss of [nerve and muscle fibres] motor units in old age [through exercise] is of critical importance."
"Exercise is definitely an important contributor to functional performance. Staying active, even later in life, can help reduce muscle loss."
Dr.  Geoffrey A. Power, professor, Department of Human Health and Nutritional Sciences, University of Guelph

Exercising octogenarians
Glenn Bradd, who will turn 87 later this month, shows his six-pack after working out at the Bloomington-Normal YMCA. (The Pantagraph/Steve Smedley) 
Setting the stage at an early age when most people barely think of themselves into an elderly future is like paying a monthly insurance fee. Anyone who looks ahead to consider what their health might be like, how long they may live and how much quality their lives might hold, should consider how best to be healthy while they're young. The American Heart Association has created a formula, the contents of which will not be new to anyone. The guide of seven issues that all add up to healthful living is simple enough. 
  1. Manage blood pressure because when it stays within a healthy range the strain on heart, arteries and kidneys is reduced.
  2. Control cholesterol because high cholesterol contributes to clogging your arteries with plaque buildup, in turn leading to heart disease and stroke.
  3. Reduce blood pressure since over time high levels of blood sugar may damage heart, kidneys, eyes and nerves.
  4. Get active for, as anyone knows, daily physical activity is an assist in managing blood pressure, blood sugar and stress, increasing quality of life and longevity.
  5. Eat better because following a heart healthy diet improves opportunities for feeling and staying healthy throughout your life.
  6. Lose weight because when you lose extra fat and unnecessary pounds you also reduce the burden on heart, lungs, blood vessels and skeleton.
  7. Stop smoking for the simple and unalterable reason that smokers are at higher risk of developing cardiovascular disease (and lung cancer). 
According to Statistics Canada, one in four Canadians will be over 65 years of age by the year 2031. The Life's Simple 7 guidelines represent the seven lifestyle habits meant to keep your heart healthy and to reduce the risk of other types of chronic illness -- and for the present and the future, the requirement for both short- and long-term medical care and hospital stays.

Heart disease, according to the Heart Research Institute, burdens the Canadian economy to the tune of $20.9-billion annually and with 33,600 lives lost yearly by heart disease, represents Canada's number one killer. A recently published study based in Chicago examined the medical history of 25,804 men and women following them from middle age until age 54 to determine whether longer life came with good health.

The study concluded the risk of ignoring the Simple 7 recommendations in early adulthood and middle age  has its consequences up to 43 years on by earlier onsets of chronic disease on an average of four to five years, compared to people who had recognized the value of living a heart-healthy lifestyle. These same people benefited as well with a life of 3.9 years longer duration than those who paid no attention to two or more of the Simple 7 points.

Ditching a sedentary lifestyle for exercise such as just moving oneself about, going out for walks, swimming, or hiking, bicycling, attending fitness classes, all have a place in a healthy lifestyle, just as a diet emphasizing whole grains, fruits and vegetables, and fewer processed food choices all help to control cholesterol, blood sugar in balance, and keep excess weight gains at bay.
Still from video -- Today

Carl Reiner, 95 year old writer, comedian, director, creator of the 1960s hit sitcom The Dick Van Dyke Show and 91-year-old Mel Brooks enjoy a close relationship based on their show business backgrounds. Reiner's 22nd book -- Too Busy to Die -- recently published, represents one of five books he has had published since turning age 90 and he is planning two additional books.

Advice sex therapist, 89-year-old Ruth Westheimer is busy, out of the house six nights a week visiting with friends and family, and serving on several boards. Her advice? "Do as many things that are enjoyable ... as possible -- participating in activities at a senior centre, going to the theatre and movies and not just sitting home and saying, 'I'm too old to be out there'." And, she says: "I'm very busy. I'm teaching at Columbia. I'm coming out in 2018 with three new books." Beat that.

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Sunday, August 13, 2017

Fleecing The Sheep and Laughing All The Way To The Bank

"He's probably an artist who's in more demand today than any other."
"He's so good that he controls everything. He controls when galleries make shows, he controls who they sell a painting to -- he's on top."
Alberto Mugrabi, mesmerized 'art' collector

"Artists whose work is in great demand are in charge."
"They can call the shots and Mark figured that out pretty early."
"Who says he can't [break with tradition and sell directly out of his studio rather than through an agent]? It's an unwritten rule, but he's breaking the rules." 
Ann Philbin, director, Hammer Museum, Los Angeles

"He's the most important artist of his generation."
"I have bought works out of his studio; I've also bought works privately."
"I bought a sculpture of his for the Museum of Modern Art. He tries to sell them to people who are collectors rather than investors."
David Geffen, media mogul, owner of six paintings by Grotjahn

"There was always a conscious conversation about the importance of placing pictures in museums and in great collections."
"It becomes a pretty precise methodology."
"Artists like Mark -- they run their own show, as they should. They're the ones who've taken all this risk and stared into that void."
Timothy Blum, founder, Blum & Poe
Mark Grotjahn Credit Monica Almeida/The New York Times  The artist proudly stands before a sculpture of his that sold at auction for $16.8-million
Leonardo da Vinci, could he but foresee a time in the future when unscrupulous pretenders to art would successfully manipulate greedy acquisitors to believe that faux art reflects talent and original vision, would never have believed that intelligent human beings could stoop so low as to scrape the barrel of credulity and do it willingly, besides. Creating an atmosphere and a culture where the recognition of non-objective art bespeaks the genius of the few, and the challenge is to the viewer to admit that though the work is not visually or aesthetic leasing, it is original.

Its origins, needless to say, in the minds of flim-flam entrepreneurs who have recognized the cupidity and stupidity of a segment of the population that will believe anything that 'experts' in the field of art curation convincingly inform them. While beauty may be in the eye of the beholder, so is a natural inclination to recognize what it truly is. And nothing that this man produces, just like the 'art' produced by so many of his contemporaries in 'modern art' represents beauty or the originality of vision accomplished through a master's hand.

Create it, and they will come is his obvious mantra. But not without having first carefully set the stage. To convince the willingly gullible that what this man has produced (like, for example, Jackson Pollock) represents an authentic work of art, unequalled in bold design and execution by any of his contemporaries and as such a rare opportunity to acquire a colossal work of art whose value, both aesthetic and financial, can only increase in an art-hungry world.
"Untitled (Orange Butterfly Blue MG03) #1"  in his “Butterfly” series, 2003. Credit Douglas M. Parker

The gullible include art dealers whose discerning eye and bumph antennae distinguish them somewhat from enthusiastic art collectors only in that they instinctively know that any artist in their stable who gains the confidence of the art world and those who can afford the absurdly exorbitant prices to claim the prestige of ownership of such artistic nonentities as this respond to his clever pretense, inspiring their confidence and willingness to part with their expendable wealth.

Public and private art galleries succumb just as do those who style themselves connoisseurs of art; they have the academic papers to prove their studies resulted in moving to the head of the class. The prestigious vote of confidence in an artist such as this that results from his splendid art works being acquired to hang on the walls or grace the marble flooring of acclaimed galleries such as the Whitney Museum of American Art, the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, let alone New York's Museum of Modern Art and the Guggenheim Museum 'prove' the value of this execrable work.
Works in Mark Grotjahn's studio headed to the Nasher Sculpture Center. Credit Monica Almeida/The New York Times
The now-49-year-old Mr. Grotjahn has managed skilfully to influence the value of his works to an  unusual extent. Perhaps it was the psychological trauma he suffered when at an early show one painting only sold -- and for a miserly $1,750 -- that drove him to 'take charge' of his career in such a masterful manner as to create a legend about himself drawn from his own ego and masterfully parlayed into a general acknowledgement that his supremely gifted talent simply cannot be overlooked.

To those of a skeptical bent who fail to credit his 'art' with a simulacrum of rare artistic brilliance, they must understand the sad depth of their philistine ignorance.

That experience appeared to have soured  him indelibly with the convention that an artist was meant by unwritten rule to be faithful to a one-dealership representation. He has chosen instead to use the services of a number of recognized dealerships, all of whom boast well-heeled clients. And nor does he neglect the impact it can have on collectors to deal directly with the artist himself, a rare privilege he generously grants on occasion to various clients, even permitting them the privilege of buying art directly out of his studio, an unheard-of practise.

He had at one time himself, after earning his Master of Fine Arts degree from the University of California, operated an art gallery in Hollywood. He is intimately acquainted with the trade from both perspectives. The coincidental Hollywood conception of life in America, raucous, uninhibited, violent, sexy, criminal, addicted and wealthy, is a fitting metaphor for the claims that what this heralded artist produces represents the pinnacle of creative art.
"Untitled (Circus No. 1 Face 44.18)" in his “Circus” series, 2012. Credit Douglas M. Parker

Artists producing work of actual merit reflecting their special abilities in the creation of realistic renditions of landscapes, portraiture, allegorical and historical paintings whose artistic expertise speaks to the core of the aesthetic bestowed upon most discriminating viewers must wince if and when they become aware of such shameless charlatans perverting the very substance of art and authenticity in its production. It is this corruption of the beauty and meaning of art that speaks to the degeneration of its recognition and appreciation of its rightful place in our aesthetic.

"Untitled (African, Gated Front and Back Mask M34.b)" is a 2014 bronze based on a cardboard box and tubes. Credit Monica Almeida/The New York Times

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Saturday, August 12, 2017

Analyzing Forensic Clues for Burial Sites

"It's a way of taking in a lot of data, organizing it and analyzing it for spatial patterns."
"If nothing else, it's going to help people search more efficiently for missing persons."
"It's a huge problem [searching for dead remains lost in countries in conflict]. It's bigger than we realize."
"Ideally, you'd like to say, this is a very kind of human behaviour [how and where soldiers, terrorists or secret police dispose of the dead] and we see a lot of consistencies. That way you can take a lot of information from other countries and make reliable predictions about a country you've not been to."
Derek Congram, forensic anthropologist, researcher, University of Toronto
Canadian forensic anthropologist Derek Congram tests soil during work for the U.S. Defence Department locating remains of missing soldiers in Vietnam.          Handout

An ordinarily little-thought-of problem resulting from civil wars, attempts at genocide, tyrannical governments, is that all too often tens of thousands of people disappear never to be seen again, victims whose bodies have been concealed, shut away from public discovery as a way of shielding their murderers from justice. Derek Congram, a forensics anthropologist based in Toronto, has developed a computer system he hopes will aid the search for victims of war and others.

Families want to know the ultimate disposal of their loved ones. Governments that succeeded those who destroyed peoples' lives look for accountability demanded by their populations. Justice can often not be seen to be served when no proof exists that people have been slaughtered, their bodies buried in mass graves, hidden and awaiting gruesome discovery, from Spain to Rwanda to the Congo, let alone Syria and Iraq.

This man's work leading to the production of his computer-based program that seeks the geographic locations of bodies, was published recently in the journal Forensic Science International, and the attention it attracted led a large U.S. Defense Department program to consult with him in the effort to discover the whereabouts of still-missing GIs from foreign war zones.

Mr. Congram is on the cusp of leaving his work in research at the University of Toronto to take up work as a forensic coordinator for the Red Cross in South America where political violence is not unknown. Colombia awaits his attention as it recovers from a civil war where thousands of civilians were killed. In Spain the search continues for the estimated 115,000 people murdered after being taken from their homes half a century earlier.

In the United States the search for its missing soldiers rings up a price tag of $200-million annually. Developing countries where conflict or genocide has occurred represents a vast field of unmarked mass graves crying out for discovery and identification. A UN investigation in Bosnia and Rwanda went forward to solve the location of those who died in mass slaughters.

The Saddam Hussein Iraq years produced countless unsolved murders, among the 20 countries where Mr. Congram has been involved in a U.S. Justice Department project in the past. His new search system is set to analyze known data surrounding the disappeared, to develop an algorithm to predict their possible locations with inputs when possible, including information about such bodies already previously recovered.

Distance of the burial site from where people went missing, and the area under control by the killers are all added to the data base resulting in a map that identifies possible "hot zones" where such remains might be revealed to be buried. Five known civil-war burial locations in Spain became part of a test of the new program. Three of the locations were proven to be within the hot zones identified by the software, with the remaining two located a short distance off.

His work, which comprised his doctoral thesis, led to three years working with the U.S. Defense team to discover the whereabouts of soldiers' graves who were killed in Southeast Asia and Korea in the hopes that the mapping could make the search more efficient when and if they gain access to territory as yet closed off to entry.

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Friday, August 11, 2017

Ancient Primitive Funerary Rites

"[The] zig-zagging incisions were undoubtedly engraving marks, produced with no utilitarian purpose but purely for artistic or symbolic representation."
Researchers, Natural History Museum, University College London, Britain
Bones with markings 
Bones with markings  Credit: Natural History Museum
"The engraved motif on the Gough's Cave bone is similar to engravings observed in other Magdalenian [later cultures of the Upper Paleolithic age] European sites."
"However, what is exceptional in this case is the choice of human bone and the cannibalistic context in which it was produced."
"The sequence of modifications performed on this bone suggests that the engraving was a purposeful component of the cannibalistic practice, rich in symbolistic connotations."
"Although in previous analyses we have been able to suggest that cannibalism at Gough's Cave was practised as a symbolic ritual, this study provides the strongest evidence for this yet."
Silvia Bello, Calleva researcher, Natural History Museum, London
A prehistoric forearm bone appears to have been disarticulated, filleted, chewed, and then engraved with a zig-zag design before being broken to extract bone marrow, said scientists from Britain's Natural History Museum.
A prehistoric forearm bone appears to have been disarticulated, filleted, chewed, and then engraved with a zig-zag design before being broken to extract bone marrow, said scientists from Britain's Natural History Museum. (Trustees of the Natural History Museum via Reuters)

When survival hangs in the balance, desperate people in our modern age resort to the unthinkable; with sadness and distaste but obeying nature's endowed irresistible urge to continue existing, they will make the decision to carve away the flesh of their companions who have died. These are castaways whose ships have met with disaster awaiting rescue, or survivors of plane crashes, or explorers of centuries past who turned to the desperate mode of survival through cannibalism. There are few who would fault them.

In some primitive societies it was part of the mourning ritual on the death of a loved one to wish to retain their spirit within the living, and to do this it was thought that eating their vital organs represented the ritualized manoeuvre that would ensure that the dead one's spirit was not lost, living on within the corpus and spirit of others. In other societies cannibalism was practised for other reasons, the taste of human flesh acquired a religious connotation, perhaps tinged with symbolically vanquishing an enemy, in death as in life.

So it should hardly be surprising to discover, as British paleontologists recently affirmed through their published research in the journal PLOS ONE, that some 15,000 years ago, unearthed ancient bones show evidence of having been cannibalized. That early cave dwellers ate their dead relatives, perhaps ritualistically; filleting their flesh and cracking their bones to extract the marrow, then scribbling markings on the bones, perhaps leaving a message relating to the departed.

Cheddar Gorge in Somerset 
Cheddar Gorge in Somerset  Credit: Joe Daniel Price
Hundreds of incised marks discovered on human and animal bones out of Gough's Cave were being studied by researchers in the field. The field happened to be in the Mendip Hills of Somerset, at Cheddar Gorge, a natural geological site of great beauty complete with limestone cliffs and vast rocky chambers. The discovery lends itself to the opinion that it represents the first Paleolithic age -- dating from 2.5 million years ago to around 12,000 BC -- evidence of ritualized cannibalism.

At Gough's Cave, an impressive cavern at Cheddar Gorge, researchers discovered one human bone that had been disarticulated, filleted, chewed and finally a zigzag design was tooled onto it -- and then it was cracked to extract the bone marrow. The marks appear not to have been produced through the process of butchery, evidently. The speculation is that they may represent details of the dceased's life, perhaps alternately memorializing the manner in which death arrived.

People are seen inside Gough's Cave in April 1934. Discovered in the 1880's, Gough's Cave in Somerset, southern England, was excavated over several decades ending in 1992. (Harry Todd/Fox Photos/Getty Images)

Frequent excavations at Gough's Cave have unearthed evidence that humans had lived there for thousands of years, with human bones discovered in the cave, along with the remains of butchered mammals. Scientists from the Natural History Museum and University College in London found ample bones with carefully incised patterns marked on them to understand that the patterns are not random cuts but deliberate patterning for some obviously important purpose in mourning the dead.

Descendants of the early humans who lived in that far-off early era are known through DNA analysis of "Cheddar Man" the earliest complete human skeleton dating to 7150 B.C. to be living today in the area.

Gough's Cave in Cheddar Gorge 
Gough's Cave in Cheddar Gorge

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Thursday, August 10, 2017

Health and Wealth

"Socioeconomic disparities in health are growing, also in access to healthy diets."
"We cannot be keeping on saying that the Mediterranean diet is good for health if we are not able to guarantee an equal access to it."
Giovanni de Gaetano, lead researcher, Istituto de Ricovero e Cura a Caratere Scientifico

"Given a comparable adherence to this eating pattern, the study has shown that the reduction in cardiovascular risk is observed only in people with a higher educational level and/or greater household income."
"No actual benefits were observed for the less advantaged groups."
IRCCS Neuromed study

"Adhering optimally to a Mediterranean diet is not enough."
"Other factors beyond quantity and frequency of Mediterranean food appear to influence future health outcomes; one of them may be quality of foods."
Marialaura Bonaccio, study co-author
A Mediterranean diet has been linked to a reduction in cardiovascular risk. However, the health benefits are observed only in people with higher educational level and/or greater household income. No actual benefits were observed for the less advantaged groups.  Credit: © golubovy / Fotolia

Aspirants to good health and longevity, bring your academic intelligence quotient and your bank account to the table with you when you exercise your options to eat healthily to achieve a desired outcome, protecting yourself against a failing heart, stroke, diabetes and all the ills of steadily diminishing health that accompany these harbingers of an early death. That appears to be the conclusion of a group of Italian researchers studying the effect of the Mediterranean Diet, famously touted for its health benefits.

The main conclusion of the study, published in the International Journal of Epidemiology was affirmative, that being loyal to the Mediterranean Diet clearly has its remarkable benefits in better health outcomes. That was the good news. The bad news was that the researchers appear to believe that their study clearly demonstrated that without an advanced education and the advantages inherent in having ample disposable income, adherence to the Mediterranean Diet will never be realized in improved health conditions.

Famously featuring plant-based foods such as vegetables, legumes, nuts, whole grains and fruit, with olive oil the most desirable of fats to be healthily chosen, red wine is thrown in as a special bonus, and there, in a nutshell as it were, you have the Mediterranean diet. Fish is a good addition. Herbs and spices used with distinction complements the chosen foods yet salt is used sparingly to good effect. Red meat, well, acceptable on rare occasions, never to be overdone.
Mediterranean diet linked to lower risk of heart attack, stroke

Following the Mediterranean Diet has been previously demonstrated to reduce the risk of heart disease, making that diet one of distinction and an extremely wise choice for those who prefer surviving longer and healthily to enjoy the wonders of life and all that nature bestows upon her creatures. This particular team of researchers from Istituto de Ricovero e Cura a Carattere Scientifico (IRCCS) devoted themselves to a finer understanding of the link between this diet and health outcomes.

To that end, they undertook a study sample of over 18,000 southern Italians between the ages of 35 and up, up, up. Among other items they discovered was that cardiovascular benefits were not equal among all the people who followed the Mediterranean diet. And likely it's well to remember that this diet is not a fad diet, it represents the eating habits of people for whom the food identified as being within the diet is plentiful and ordinarily available among the Italian population. Owing to custom and cuisine-of-choice, as well as cultural norms.

Even so people with low socioeconomic status were seen to have little cardiovascular benefit from the diet, and the study accounts for the disparity between those of low socioeconomic status and those from an elevated status enjoying those vaunted benefits as a disparity resulting from "different intakes of antioxidants and polyphenols, fatty acids, micronutrients, dietary antioxidant capacity, dietary diversity, organic vegetables and whole grain bread consumption."

Hedging their bets, however, the study authors concede that further investigation is required before anything approaching an absolute link between socioeconomic status and food choices can be made with confidence.
Cameron Whitman/Stocksy

"The cardiovascular benefits associated with the Mediterranean diet in a general population are well known --  Yet for the first time our study has revealed that the socioeconomic position is able to modulate the health advantages linked to Mediterranean diet. In other words, a person from low socioeconomic status who struggles to follow a Mediterranean model, is unlikely to get the same advantages of a person with higher income, despite the fact that they both similarly adhere to the same healthy diet."
Marialaura Bonaccio, researcher at the Department of Epidemiology and Prevention and first author of the study
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