August 20, 2015

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This is mostly a non-political day, but The Economist’s obit for Robert Conquest should be noted.

THE intellectual history of the West in the 20th century was dominated by arguments over totalitarianism: its causes, effects—and possible justification. Even after flag-waving supporters of the Soviet Union had dwindled to irrelevance, the conviction that communism was a good idea poorly executed persisted in certain quarters. Others still thought the communist threat overstated, or drew equivalences between crimes committed in the name of socialism and those of Western anti-communism. The position that communism was a monstrously evil system responsible for unprecedented atrocities was held by only a minority of scholars. Robert Conquest, who died on August 3rd, was one of the most eloquent and implacable members of that camp. To the chagrin of his opponents, he turned out to be right.

He did not start out as a scourge of the left. He emerged from a brainy ancient British school as an ardent socialist and a crack shot, and fought for the Republican side in the Spanish civil war (albeit for one day, firing a single round). While at Oxford he joined the Communist Party. But he soon left, disgusted by a party hack who claimed that Britain’s bourgeois leaders could never declare war on Hitler.

Witnessing the lies and terror of the Soviet takeover in Bulgaria in 1947 showed him what Stalinism was like in practice. …




The New York Times reports wolves are making a resurgence in Sweden. Funny thing, the Swedes are not fighting their government as much as the European Union.

Electric fences surround his sheep, two large dogs stand guard and a neighbor monitors the adjacent forest from a security camera.

Sometimes, said Ulf Ekholm, the proximity of wolves leaves farmers in this region of Sweden, called Varmland, feeling as if they are under siege. He even has a nickname for this lush and seemingly idyllic corner of Scandinavian countryside: Predatorland.

Long after dying out here, the wolf is back — and its presence is provoking a bitter dispute, bringing with it the threat of legal action against Sweden from the European Union.

Mr. Ekholm’s farmhouse, in the village of Olmhult, is on the front line of this battle, a conflict between tradition and conservation, and one that pits farmers and hunters against environmentalists and European officials.

Once hunted remorselessly, the wolf is now a protected species, and its return has provoked unease across Europe, from Finland to France.

In Sweden, the wolf population is still relatively small — about 415, according to the government, which compensates farmers for losses from wolf attacks and subsidizes protective fencing. But farmers argue that the compensation does not cover their full costs or make up for the anxiety and disruption to their lives. Hunters, meanwhile, say that wolves are killing the same kinds of animals that they like to pursue, harming hunting traditions while scaring people who live in the countryside. …

… The issue is important enough to have featured in a TV debate among Swedish leadership contenders before last year’s elections. When Sweden went ahead this year with its most recent cull, of 44 wolves, it received the latest in a series of warning letters from the European Commission, the executive body of the European Union. …




From Discovery we learn of a 7,000 year-old case of leukemia. What environmental hazard will the left say caused that? 

German researchers have discovered what might be the earliest case of leukemia in a 7,000-year-old skeleton, they announced at the first European conference on evolutionary medicine.

Belonging to a female individual who died at 30-40 years, the skeleton was excavated in 1982 among other 72 burials at an early Neolithic site near Stuttgart-Mühlhausen in south western Germany. …

… According to the researchers, the resorption of central spongy bone is significantly higher compared to specimens of the same age group from the same site and to recent human samples of the adult age class.

“Our results strongly suggests leukemia in its initial stages, affecting the hematopoietic stem cells in bone marrow,” Scherf said.

The locally restricted destruction of the sternum and humerus’s bone tissue ruled out other diseases such as osteoporosis, hyperparathyroidism and bone tumor.

“A virus associated with a special type of leukemia (T-cell leukemia) was previously found in Andean mummies. But this case is probably the earliest known appearance of leukemia in an archeological case,” Scherf told Discovery News. …



Three years into its roving around Mars, Curiosity has sent some stunning pictures. They are big files so we only have one. Follow the link for more. Scientific American has the story.

It’s been three years since NASA’s Curiosity rover, carrying the Mars Science Laboratory, made its bold skycrane-assisted landing on the surface of Mars.

Since then the rover has progressed across a wealth of varied and fascinating terrain. …




Just because we’re trying to be non-political today doesn’t mean we can’t enjoy David Harsanyi’s “Short History of Government’s Terrible Dietary Advice.” After all, stupidity in government is not a monopoly of the Dems. Bush the W is responsible for the idiot ethanol mandates. In the early ’90′s Pickerhead was in Moscow on a trade mission of sorts. Lynn Martin, who was Labor Sec for the older Bush was along and in one address was extolling the virtues of her efforts in the Labor Department. Half the attending group, that would be the 100 Americans, laughed. But not as much as we laughed when some Russian said what his country needed was lots of MBA’s. That had us in the aisles.

In the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, the federal government’s advice manual for citizens, we are warned that “not eating breakfast has been associated with excess body weight.” But when researchers from Columbia University decided to test this notion, they found nothing of the sort: “In overweight individuals, skipping breakfast daily for 4 weeks leads to a reduction in body weight,” the study’s authors note. Other researchers did the same and came to similar conclusions. How many parents and overweight Americans took this advice as gospel when they could have been losing weight by skipping buttermilk pancake breakfasts?

We already know government recommendations regarding health are often driven by a bunch Chicken Littles. The leading organ of American scaremongering, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, or CDC, has gotten so much wrong over the years. There was the outrageous contention that 400,00 Americans were dropping dead from obesity every year (they weren’t). And then there were all the over-the-top warnings about the alleged risks of second-hand smoke (they don’t really exist).

Earlier this year, the bureaucrats behind the government dietary guidelines finally admitted there was “no appreciable relationship” between dietary cholesterol and blood cholesterol. After years of warning Americans that high-cholesterol foods would kill them—eggs, shrimp, and so on—the U.S. Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee will no longer list cholesterol among its “nutrients of concern” for overconsumption. Now, some scientists argue that the state’s obsession with scaring citizens about fat may actually have made our health worse. …

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