Is Diet Soda Making Us Fat? Ctd

Sep 22 2014 @ 8:00pm

The latest in artificial sweetener scares:

Artificial sweeteners might be triggering higher blood-sugar levels in some people and contributing to the problems they were designed to combat, such as diabetes and obesity, according to new findings published Wednesday in the journal Nature. Although the precise reasons behind the blood-sugar changes remain uncertain, researchers suspect that artificial sweeteners could be disrupting the microbiome, a vast and enigmatic ecosystem of bacteria in our guts.

Svati Kirsten Naruta reminds us that the “news” isn’t really new at all:

There have been a lot of major news stories about the science behind artificially sweetened products. But I didn’t see a single one this week that acknowledged the ones written earlier this year, or in 2008, or 2005. More often than not, each individual story gives the impression that the latest science is either totally new or surprisingly compelling.

Read On

Drawing on his recent book, Tocqueville in Arabia: Dilemmas in a Democratic Age, Joshua Mitchell applies the French thinker’s insights about the emergence of democracy to today’s Middle East:

Alexis de Tocqueville long ago wrote that the democratic age is upon us. By this he meant that the “links” to family and tribe that held us fast in the aristocratic age were breaking apart before our eyes. dish_Alexis_de_tocqueville_croppedThe political consequence of this social de-linkage, however, was not necessarily benign democratic governance. Indeed, he worried that attempts would be made to refortify the old links, to reaffirm roles at the moment when delinked persons were emerging. What we today often identify as “Islamic Fundamentalism” is just such an attempt to re-fortify the old links, to re-enchant the world. Herein lays the dilemma of the Middle East. Caught in the matrix of the political and social arrangements of the twentieth century that defy credulity, drawn and at the same time repulsed by the fugitive freedom they see on Western shores but only dimly understand, nascent citizens more than occasionally dream of returning to an enchanted world for which an imagined Islam provides a ready guide.

Under these wildly unstable conditions, U.S. foreign policy-makers should take the long view. Democratic governance will not arrive soon in the Middle East. If it does at all, it will emerge only when families and tribes become much less important than they now are. Citizens and entrepreneurs―the building blocks of democratic governance and of market commerce―do not spring up spontaneously out of societies where families and tribes still retain their hold on the imagination. The slow process by which that changes, moreover, cannot easily be accelerated by U.S. foreign policy.

In the meantime, in the interludes of peace, diplomatic and cultural outreach and, above all, higher education initiatives intended to help the younger generation understand and thrive in the disenchanted world it will inherit offer perhaps the most constructive ways to engage the region.

(Image of Tocqueville by Théodore Chassériau via Wikimedia Commons)

Face Of The Day

Sep 22 2014 @ 7:12pm

This fucking cat:


The Los Angeles Feline Film Festival at the Memorial Coliseum takes place on September 21, 2014. The annual event featuring celebrity cats and feline films raises money for local cat sanctuaries and rescue organizations. By Mark Ralston/AFP/Getty Images.

A Classic Conundrum

Sep 22 2014 @ 6:44pm

What makes a piece of literature a classic? For Saket Suryesh, the work must be introspective:

We, as readers, are able to find our own feelings in such words despite the distances between us and the time and space they were originally composed in because those emotions are universal. The world which surrounds these feelings may change, but the emotions themselves do not. Consider, from Heart of Darkness, the lines: “She carried her sorrowful head as though she were proud of that sorrow, as though she would say, I — I alone know how to mourn for him as he deserves.” Simple words but an ache rises from the heart of even the modern reader, for who wouldn’t want to be loved thus?

Eric Williams, though, refuses to accept that a classic work can exist outside of time and space. He argues, “‘The Classics’ are a fluid and dynamic category, changing with times and tastes and history, and not something transmitted to us across the aesthetic ether”:

Read On

Doves prefer Clinton to Paul:

Paul Clinton

Larison analyzes the survey:

Doves clearly prefer Clinton despite the fact that a few more respondents (correctly) perceive her to be a hawk. However, Clinton also seems to benefit from the fact that 30% of respondents inexplicably perceive her as a dove, and only 27% perceive Paul that way. For all of the attention paid to Paul’s foreign policy views in political media over the last few years, his position is not very well-known or clear to the public at large, since 24% identify him as a hawk and 49% aren’t sure what to call him. Oddly enough, that might be just what Paul wants, since it gives him room to move back and forth between hawkish and dovish stances.

If public opinion or his conscience are guiding him toward military confrontation with ISIS, and if his better judgment guides him away from the available alliances on the ground, he is rapidly backing himself into the trap of Clintonian foreign policy. That means airstrikes and harassment, carried out indefinitely.

Read On

Boys Forced To The Altar

Sep 22 2014 @ 5:42pm

Nina Strochlic considers the sad fate of the child grooms in the developing world:

Read On

The View From Your Window

Sep 22 2014 @ 5:12pm

Palm Beach-Aruba-12pm

Palm Beach, Aruba, 12 pm

Forget Footnotes

Sep 22 2014 @ 4:51pm

Tim Parks has an axe to grind over the academic staple:

[I]t’s time to admit that the Internet has changed the way we do scholarship and will go on changing it. There is so much inertia in the academic world, so much affection for fussy old ways. People love getting all the brackets and commas and abbreviations just so. Perhaps it gives them a feeling of accomplishment. Professors torment students over the tiniest details of bibliographical information, when anyone wishing to check can simply put the author name and title in any Internet search engine. A doctoral student hands in a brilliant essay and the professor complains that the translator’s name has not been mentioned in a quotation from a recent French novel, though of course since the book is recent there is only one translation of the novel and in any event anyone checking the cited edition will find the translator’s name in the book.

There is, in short, an absolutely false, energy-consuming, nit-picking attachment to an outdated procedure that now has much more to do with the sad psychology of academe than with the need to guarantee that the research is serious. By all means, on those occasions where a book exists only in paper and where no details about it are available online, then let us use the traditional footnote. Otherwise, why not wipe the slate clean, start again, and find the simplest possible protocol for ensuring that a reader can check a quotation. Doing so we would probably free up three or four days a year in every academic’s life. A little more time to glean quotes from Barthes, Borges, and Derrida…

Mental Health Break

Sep 22 2014 @ 4:20pm

Clear eyes, full hearts …

“Uber For My Uterus”

Sep 22 2014 @ 4:00pm

That’s what Kat Stoeffel calls a new program from Planned Parenthood. Marcotte explains:

Now, patients in Minnesota and Washington will be able to talk to a nurse online and even get their birth control medication mailed to them at home in an unmarked package. In October, the program will be expanded to STI consultation, and even mail-order medications for chlamydia. There’s even a phone app!

“The service is expected to be especially appealing to clients living in rural areas who don’t have ready access to a clinic,” writes Dan Browning at the Minneapolis Star Tribune. But it’s not just access that’s likely appealing to those people. The Planned Parenthood website highlights that the service is “discreet.” This is great for those who would rather not be seen going into a family planning clinic or picking up a package with the iconic round birth control pill dispenser at the pharmacy. Discretion can also be critical for young people living at home who don’t want their parents to know that they’re sexually active. (For STI services, the promise of discretion is likely an even bigger draw.)

Tara Culp-Ressler cites an example:

Right now, since women need to visit a doctor’s office in person to obtain a prescription for birth control, they can end up in a tight spot if they can’t get an appointment in time, especially if they live in a rural area. [Sarah Stoesz, the president and CEO of Planned Parenthood in MN, ND, and SD] told the Tribune that the first woman to take advantage of Planned Parenthood Care ran out of birth control pills and couldn’t see her regular physician soon enough; fortunately, she discovered this new option online.