Does the Mayan Calendar Predict the End of the World?

Does the Mayan Calendar Predict the End of the World?

By William Olkowski, PhD. 9.22.12

I heard the Spindrift broadcast, on Thursday 9:30 am to 10:00 on 91.9 FM, and found it lively, informative and knowledgeable.  I learned that the peak of Mayan civilization was about 910 AD, when Europe was in the midst of the dark ages.  This Mayan civilization ran from 850 BC to 1050 AD, a period of over 1000 years.  Comparatively, this was a good run by an isolated people living out of jungle ecosystems with only underground fresh water cisterns for drinking and crop irrigation.

The mythological end of the world is said to be near the end of December this year.  But as is commonly discovered with such prophecies this one is illusory.   In this case the prophecy is merely the end of their calendar records.  This so called prophecy is based on a speculative interpretation of one major surviving monument. The speculation is a an evidence stretcher due to several factors, particularly a hazy interpretation of one surviving monument.  This momument, like the whole group of structures was hidden by jungle overgrowth until the early 20th century.

The discovery of the amazing structures hidden by jungle overgrowth for a thousand years created a sensation at first and many people still are transfixed by so many great stone buildings and temples arising out of the jungle. The pyramid-like structures were rediscovered and restored by intrepid archaeologists and rugged adventurers.  New discoveries are still happening as more recovery and interpretive work is done.

Mayan monuments are called steles and were the focus of a long term decoding project by many scholars around the world. The monuments are limestone upright 4 x 6 feet structures which report on various dynasties, with records of battles, births and deaths of kings, and their families.  The glyphs displayed on these steels and buildings seemed to be Egyptian-like at first but were based on a novel language/symbol system which defied decoding for many decades.  They were finally decoded in the late 1900s. Most of the glyphs document various dynasties, roughly each about 400 years.

The written records of the civilization are largely lost due to one Spanish padre who took it upon himself to burn all 20,000 written codexes.  This is the sort of standard genocidal efforts made by the Catholic church and other conquerors on other civilizations around the world. Only three codexes survived. They were written on fig bark papers.  This catastrophe occurred during the brutal Spanish occupation in 1562.

The Mayans had two calendar systems one based on a 28 day cycle (moon), the other a 60 day cycle, the later believed is believed to  be modeled on the Venus annual circumnavigation of the sun.  An alternative explanation for the 60 day cycle is the period of maze development.

Jeanine Kitchel’s book  “Maya 2012 Revealed, Demystifying the Prophecy” promises to be a great read.  Kitchel informs us that the Mayans are still with us at 7 million strong spread out in a different Central American countries (Mexico, Guatemala, Belize, etc).  After the civilization crashed mysteriously the people scattered into the jungles where they carried on the same rituals and customs developed during their heyday.

The end date speculation is based on rather limited evidence, mostly from a broken Steele, the pieces of which were scattered in Europe andMexico. The paper and photo recreation of this steel is interpreted as announcing an end date because is reads something like: “God will descend after 13 periods (which was interpreted to mean the end of December this year); and then, there was to be a renewal.”


I like the idea of a renewal, it’s sort of promises a bright future for a world community.  This is something vitally needed today, but I hope not maintained by force of arms and bloody wasteful wars as our history so tragically documents. The Mayans are believed to have lost their cities about 1000 AD from a 200 year drought.

We in North America are now in a severe drought year (and trend) with large scale wildfires, dropping water levels and threatened farmers.  Drought and climate change is of vital interest today. Can we learn something from the Mayans? We don’t have a jungle to retreat into, however.  Lots of questions here that a 30 minute program cannot conceivably cover. Read the book for further details and maybe some guidance on survival.

Ice core data and other collaborating evidence shows that a long term drough sometimes lasting a 1,000 years or more occurred repeatedly in human history.  One of such long term drought almost snuffed out our species as it wandered North from Southern Africa.  Such a period can be triggered by climate change in as short 3 years.

end comment

Spindrift is hosted by Marika Davidek on 91.9 FM on the UC Santa Barbara campus (KCSB).  See the program announcement on the authors biographical notes and program description on the station website.


Book Review: Body Toxic

Book Review: Body Toxic, How the Hazardous Chemistry of Everyday Things Threatens our Health and Well Being.

by Nena Baker. 2008. Nort Point Press, N.Y.277 pp.

Reviewed by William Olkowski, PHD.

Two areas of this book are of critical import for human and environmental health: 1) regulation policy and 2) body contamination updates for those of us unfamiliar with existing toxicological research.

Part 1: Our Toxic Substances CONTROL (TSCA) Act Does not Control Anything

The biggest issue raised by this book is the need to reform the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA- pronounced ”Tos-ka”).  This has been known for many years but with the government run by business lobbyists who think regulations are always excessive no change will come soon unless more people get concerned and change the law.  This Act is just what the chemical industry wanted – what a laugh – there is little control in the toxic substances control act.  This is another case where we the people have lost control of our democracy.

This act has many aspects which demand change, most of which have been discussed for years.  For example in reports by the government watchdog agency GAO, the EPA itself, the National Academy of Sciences and the Office of Technology Assessment, none of which are rabid left wing liberals nor dreaded environmentalists, by the way.

Dose Response Testing and Other Mistakes

TSCA is based on only data submitted by the chemical producer, itself alone undermines the veracity of the Act.  From that data, dose response tests are extrapolated downward to estimate the lowest tolerable contamination level – the so called no effect level.  This assumes a linear response to the dose. This assumption, built into our regulatory systems, in effect says that there is a low dose below which no effects will occur.  This is a big false assumption, it turns out.  A better approach is “better safe than sorry” (see below).

The No Effect Level is an assumption that misses many low level effects.  Recent information using DNA detection systems shows that there is no dose without effect.  For example, with the worldwide contaminant herbicide atrazine, the no effect level for drinking water is set by the EPA at 3 ppb (3 parts per billion).  No tests actually specify this level, however, just the extrapolation.  But there is research to indicate that atrazine affects genes below this level. Since everyone in the US has this herbicide in their bodies it means that this is affecting everybody’s gene expression to some unknown degree.  And it has been so for decades.  Besides, long term effects are not tested per se.

The state of affairs in the US is that existing chemicals are considered safe until found guilty even if they are found in breast milk, in every human body, food chains around the world and even while toxicological evidence accumulates indicating dire health impacts.  If found below the tolerance level the assumption is that there is no threat to health.  Some toxicants, for example, exhibit non-linear responses. This sort of response was unknown and unexplored back in 1976.

More importantly all the 62,000 chemicals in existence when the 1976 TSCA act was passed were grandfathered in – given a blanket approval.  No hazard information nor health evaluation tests were required FOR THESE 62,000 CHEMICALS!!!  They were just approved.  This law was another legacy from the criminal-above-the-law Richard Nixon and his gang of GOP-CIA rejects and retreads.  Today more than 80,000 chemicals are registered with EPA.  These old 62,000 chemicals without hazard data now constitute 99% (by volume) of the chemicals used today. Unbelievable?!!!  Poisons are tolerable, right?  Note that combinations of poisons are not tested, but combinations of pesticide is the common situation in humans and the environment.

Redesign The US: Start with TSCA

Further, the EPA charged with administering this act cannot restrict a chemical unless the benefits of so doing are not more costly to business and society than the costs of pulling the chemical.  This means that if the chemical producer says it will cost too much, say $10 million to pull the chemical, and the savings are less, then nothing is done.  This occurs even when less toxic alternatives are available.  While the cancer estimates or other health impact costs are lower than the costs of pulling, there is no change.  Placing too low a cost estimate on tolerable cancer rates is what it turns out to be the critical factor.  How much should your cancer cost to treat?  Everything you have, right?

Since TSCA passed only really excessive bad actors have been pulled: PCBs, asbestos, dioxin, arguably the most toxic substance produced by humans, hexavalent chromium which should never have been registered in the first place and the ozone eating CFCs (chlorofluorcarbon refrigerants).  Finding out that the world is contaminated with a particular chemical and then acting is not logical as a regulatory process.  Regulation should prevent problems.  This means we need a new Toxic Substances Prevention and Control Act (TSPC). Toss TSCA, follow the example of Europe.

There’s worse.  Registrants are required to provide results of hazardous testing when they apply for registration.  No other tests are run by government during this time to validate or challenge these results.  That’s like the farmer asking the fox to prove he will not eat the chicken he has in his mouth.

For example, TSCA requires that chemical manufacturers report any problems with their products.  Great, the fox is going to tell the farmer that he is about to eat the chicken.  Does this sound like regulation or stimulation to lie?   When years later somebody discovers a big problem, like DDT and PCBs, it takes years of hearings to get rid of the stuff, and these are still in our bodies even though they are banned.  What is the industry response? “Wow, we didn’t know it was a carcinogen”.  And then the reported the chemical identity remains a confidential business secret.  The public be dammed.

Better Safe Than Sorry – A Superior Alternative in Effect in Europe

In contrast to our OBSOLETE TOSCA, the European Union has instituted a program called REACH, which stands for Registration, Evaluation, Authorization, and Restriction of Chemical Substances.  This far ranging and progressive change augers for innovations that will put the European Chemical Industry far ahead of its backward US competitors.  What the BOTTOM LINE primitives in the community who only call for lifting regulations don’t know, is that innovation is what is needed if we are ever going to come out of this toxic policy fog while also maintaining economic viability.  Few people know or understand these problems and it takes too much time and effort to educate oneself so, its business as usual.  One by one various toxicants rise up as health threats and a big fight between EPA, the chemical company responsible, and the public ensues, largely through the work of many non-profit environmental groups, and finally begrudging congressional action.  The projects takes years- to decades even career times so one has to persist for the years it takes to finally get some change.  Corporations are potentially immortal not like us who suffer death and disease, and they live forever and have the money for the lawyers.

If everybody in a community has to abide by the same regulations                               the playing field is leveled and innovations can be stimulated.  For examples of least toxic type products see the annual issue of the IPM (Integrated Pest Management) Practitioner, a publication we founded decades ago.  Each year over 200 companies are quizzed for their least toxic products according to the different pests they work against.  And least toxic innovations are what is needed to keep the pest control industry functioning into the future.

But maybe the chemical industry should just die.  After all, who needs most of their stuff, the PCB’s, the DDTs, the Teflon coated pots, plastic bags, the smelly stuff on popcorn bags that migrates into your body and stays there forever, the house dust that we breathe and eat that never decomposes, and the rest?  There is no doubt that chemical pesticides are overused whether you look in agriculture, urban, or medical categories. Certainly implementing real Integrated Pest Management programs rigorously could help reduce unnecessary use of the existing materials, but that has not been adequately embraced by voluntary efforts. The more they sell the more money they make.

In this case making the law specifying that any registrant for a chemical must show that it is harmless before registration can be granted would eliminate the kinds of problems that TSCA misses.  And this new European Law includes all the already existing chemicals.  This is in contrast to our 30 plus year old TSCA that tolerates a great number of possible threats to health for decades.

When the act was passed DDT was the biggest problem.  If DDT did not help win WWII by reducing mortality and morbidity from infections diseases maybe it would have not been so difficult to get it banned.  Even though DDT was found as a world wide contaminant in 1949 and banned in 1972, it and its metabolites still contaminate world food chains including virtually universal human body contamination.  And notice the decades between when it first was known as a worldwide contaminant and when it was banned.  It took decades and long hours of hearings to get it acknowledged as a BIG problem.  Approaching regulation one chemical at a time after it threatens our health is not effective regulation.

Did You Know That:

The chemical industry is the largest user of fossil fuels.  It uses 7% of US petroleum products and 12% ofUSnatural gas?

In 2004 the US Chemical Industry produced more than 138 billion pounds of seven bulk chemicals: ethylene, propylene, butylenes, benzene, toluene, xylenes and methane.  These are the starting chemicals for thousands of products.  That’s a lot of plastics.  And there was good life before plastics.

Today everyone on the planet including newborns carries persistent organic pollutants in their bodies.  Some samples indicate up to 200 substances.  One sample from a series of umbilical tissues indicates over 100 chemicals are found in the bodies of newborns.  Can you connect the dots?

The UN has a program to ban some of the so-called “dirty dozen”, mostly organochlorines, including DDT, PCBs, aldrin, chlordane, dieldrin, endrin, heptachlor, mirex, toxaphene, and hexachlorobenzene, dioxins, and furans.  If you want to make something toxic and long lasting just use chlorine somehow in its fabrication – that’s a chemists advice to me years ago.

A chemical plant blew up in India in 1984 which produced the raw material for various “cides”, called methyl isocyanate, releasing poison into the air, killing 3,000 people and seriously injuring 500,000 people.  We, in the US have 13,300 chemical plants scattered here and there.

Cancer is now the number 1 cause of death in the US.  Leading cancers include breast and prostate.

Pesticides are seldom found alone, but occur in combinations, none of which have been tested for effects.

Part 2: Examples of Serious Toxic Substances of Current Concern

This second aspect of importance in this paperback covers specific toxicants including:

1)  Atrazine: This herbicide affects sex development in frogs and amphibians by castration and feminization via aromatase induction, producing hermaphodism among other effects.  Atrazine is a worldwide contaminant which should have been banned decades ago.  60% of theUSpopulation is exposed daily via lawns and food, and its many metabolites were not considered when assessing exposure levels.  We don’t need lawns, for starters.  Atrazine was banned by Europeans in 2005.  76 million pounds are used each year in the US, mostly on corn, sorghum, and many other crops, plus lawns and golf courses.  Golf is the most toxic recreational activity, it turns out.

2)  Phthalates (“thal-ates): This is a family of plasticizers linked to reproductive and developmental toxicity.  The 27 countries ofEuropebanned dibutyl phthalate (DBP) and diethylhexyl phthalate (DEHP) from personal care products in 2004.  Our FDA, responsible for the safety of cosmetic products (over 22,500 products) has taken no action on the big three phthalates, including the widely used diethyl phthalate (DEP) in addition to DBP and DEHP.  The beauty industry includes toothpaste, deodorant, shampoo, hair color, moisturizer, perfume, lipstick, nail polish, and eye and face makeup – products used up to 20-25 times per day by average adults.  And baby care products are particularly bad with young people showing high levels of the 6 or so major phthalates in their bodies. Californialead the effort to remove these poisons from toys and other playthings.  Evidence has accumulated to show how these substances disrupt normal sex development, particularly in males, and both sexes in utero, at levels 100 times lower than the so called safe level set by EPA.  Senator Feinstein lead the charge at the federal level with the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act.  Now we need new laws that encompass all toxic substances.  Phthalates will still be with us for many more years as they break down slowly.

3)  Lead in candy and lipsticks: A battle royal is on-going as watchdog agencies pressure the FDA to do something besides clap for industry self management.  The massive 60 $billion Beauty Industry has responded with voluntary programs and the usual resistance.  One would think that such an industry would welcome a clean bill of health via a good regulatory system.  No, its business as usual: we are making money and piss on the consumer.

4)  Polybrominated diethyl ethers (PBDEs): This is another familiar problem caused by fire retardants widely incorporated in TVs and other electronic devices including computers, mattresses, upholstered furniture, insulation, car trim, carpet pads and drapes.  They leak out and contaminate the air so are inhaled via house dust in our homes among other places.  Cloths dryer lint is a major source.  Levels are rising rapidly and build up in fatty tissues.  Infants get the worse via breast milk but also from ingestion of house dust.  House cats, which show high proportions of feline hyperthyroidism, are our canaries.  This disease is associated most strongly with indoor cats, showing 20 times the levels found in humans.  Cats and humans are the only mammals that have a high incidence of hyperthyroid disease.  Toxicity data on human PBDE exposures does not exist but animal studies show developmental effects including brain, thyroid, and liver at levels found in humans.  A gradual loss of 1-3% in IQ is correlated with geometrical increases in body burdens.  This could be why our political systems are so dysfunctional-besides being managed by industrial ethics and their money via political campaigns for ignorant politicians.  U.S. tissue samples for PBDEs are 10 times higher than those found inEurope.  These substances are similar to the banned PCBs showing neurological damage in animal experiments.  If risk equals exposure times toxicity, even a mild toxicant can have catastrophic effects if it, like PBDEs, are virtually found in everyone.  Besides viable alternatives are available.  So it’s a matter of being safe rather than sorry.

5) Bisphenol-A:  This is the starting substance for polycarbonate plastic used for reusable food and beverage containers and a epoxy resin that lines most food cans.  It is also found in baby bottles, bicycle helmets, eyeglass lenses, water cooler jugs, and bullet-resistant barriers, reusable food storage containers, bottle caps, water supply lines, electrical equipment, and adhesives.  This chemical mimics the female hormone estrogen, leaches from these resins into foods.  Nearly all of us have this poison in our bodies at levels within the range predicted to be biologically active.  Animal studies show associated body burden levels with increases in breast and prostate cancers, increases in urogenital abnormalities in male babies, declines in semen quality in adult men, early onset of puberty in girls, metabolic disorders including type 2 diabetes and obesity and ADHD. Canada banned it in 2008.  This chemical also shows an inverted dose response curve making the usual method of setting lowest no effect levels inadequate.  Animal studies show effects at 200 times lower than the regulatory no effect level.  Boiling water placed in polycarbonate containers leaches at 50 times greater rates than room temperature liquids.  Latest studies indicate the Bisphenol-A may cause similar effects to the banned DES which caused such terrible birth and developmental effects passed to children and grandchildren before being banned.  These effects include endometriosis and uterine fibroids which are the leading causes of the 600,000 hysterectomies preformed in the US each year, and other effects including mental retardation, miscarriage, and congenital defects.  It has also been shown at low does to affect epigenetic programming altering expression of more than 200 genes involved with how the brain gets wired, how cells multiple and how metabolism is regulated.  Switch back to glass.

6)  Perfluorinated Chemicals (PFCs, PFOAs): One of the biggest uses of these long lived materials is in making nonstick Teflon coated cookware.  These substances are also found in paper products including one of the most toxic – popcorn bags used in microwave popping.  That’s only the tip of the iceberg.  Read about how the major producer of teflon, DuPont, reacts to the information that these substances migrate into foods from coated pots and pans and treated papers.  They paid the fines and settled many class action suits to protect their $1 billion in sales (out of $27 billion).  Poor DuPont.

Final comments:  When I read such a book I conclude that we need to redesign our civilization, including the need to change our regulatory systems, and protect our political systems from business bias and corporate influences.  Neither will be easy.  Does money constitute the primary status symbol, or are there other ways to address social status?  Can businesses also serve their communities rather than just milk them for money?  Does this challenge our way of life?  Yes it does.  But does business as usual produce the highest good for most people?  I don’t think so.  Could that be a criteria to judge our products and behaviors?  How about reducing pain and suffering?  That’s a goal I am sure the religious right and us lefties could agree on.  Now I have great reservations about our country and its path in the world.  These chemical tragedies are only one of the symptoms of a declining civilization which I am sorry to see go this way.  Of course these tragedies are being exposed by watchdog groups and many people, but not enough, publically supported scientists.  Science, properly conducted, without political bias, is our best guide.  Forget prayer to illusory persons, including relying on corporate person-hoods that can’t be placed in jails.  That’s a good place to start, getting the hogs out of the water, first, as Jim Hightower says.  They wont come voluntarily, they need to be pushed out.  Voting for proposition 37 (labelling genetically modified food) in the 2012 election in CA could be a good start.

Some sources of further information and political action

Pesticide Action Network (PAN):

Environmental Working Group (EWG)


Tags: TSCA, Toxic Substances Control Act, atrazine, DDT, PCBs, Chemical Regulation, European Union, REACH, EPA, FDA, Perfluorinated Chemicals, PFCs,  PFOAs, Biphenol-A, dirty dozen, CFCs, chlorofluorcarbons, refrigerant


Book Review: The Atheist Manifesto

The Case against Christianity, Judaism, and Islam, 2005, 2011, by Michel Onfray, translated French by Jeremy Leggatt. Arcade Publishing, N.Y. 246 pp.

By William Olkowski, Ph. D. -11/2012.

Wow, what a blast against religious thinking by a detailed examination of the history and writings of the Big Three monotheistic western religions: Judaism, Islam and Christianity.  Lest you forget, by the way, these three are still locked in their thousands-of-years fight for the human belief system.  We in the US even elected a theocrat, G. W. Bush whom we will be recovering from for decades, if ever.  Onfray clears away these centuries of indoctrination using the written records that survived the terror campaigns and book burnings promulgated to keep the religions pure.  Starting with the quote by Nietzsche (see below) the salvos by Onfray penetrate the fog created by these anti-life religious systems of Judaism, and its derivatives, Islam, and Christianity.  The quote below encapsulates Onfray’s blast using the written records mostly produced by those who gave their lives to expose these belief insanities including many “lapsed” theologians and priests who suffered death by torture.

“The concept of ‘God’ invented as a counter-concept of life – everything harmful, poisonous, slanderous, the whole hostility unto death against life synthesized in this concept in a gruesome unity!  The concept of the ‘beyond,’ the ‘true world’ invented in order to devaluate the only world there is – in order to retain no goal, no reason, and no task for our earthly reality!  The concept of the ‘soul’, the ‘spirit’ finally even ‘immortal soul,’ invented in order to despise the body, to make it sick – ‘holy’, to oppose with a ghastly levity everything that deserves to be taken seriously in life, the abode, the questions of nourishment, spiritual diet, treatment of the sick, cleanliness, and weather!  In place of health, the ‘salvation of the soul’ – that is a folie circulaire [manic-depressive insanity] between penitential convulsions and hysteria about redemption! The concept of ‘sin’ invented along with the torture instrument that belongs with it, the concept of ‘free will,’ in order to confuse the instinct, to make mistrust of the instincts second nature!”

— Nietzsche, Ecco Homo

I never knew Nietzsche was so clear headed as I always associated his beliefs with Nazism.  But the better association is with the Catholic Church as Onfray shows with his brief history of the collusion of Hitler with Pope Pius XII (fully documented in the bibliography).  And Onfray points out that the collusion continues with the churches unwillingness to acknowledge the error implicit in the Vatican’s support for Nazism.  Did you ever wonder why Hitler hated the Jews so much?  Well Hitler was a Christian, probably a catholic too.  Rather than follow the 6th commandment, though shall not kill, he elevated it to a catechism never to be forgotten.  And even though the Romans killed their hero, Jesus, the Christian mythology says it was the Jews who did it.  And that bubble is not the only one burst by this important book.

Onfray pulls no punches compared to Alfred Russell’s rather logical and gentle objections in “Why I am not a Christian”, for example.

Here’s another quote – this time from Onfray (p.125):

Mark, Matthew, Luke, and John did not knowingly deceive.  Neither did Paul.  They were deceived, for they said that what they believed was true and believed that what they said was true.  None of them had encountered Jesus physically, but all credited this fiction with a real existence, in no way symbolic or metaphorical.  Clearly they believed what they wrote.  Intellectual self-intoxication, ontological blindness.  All of them credited a fiction with reality.  By believing in the fable they told, they infused it with more and more substance, Proof of the existence of a truth is often reducible to the sum of errors repeated until they become received truth.

Does this ring true for modern times?  Consider the whole fiasco about Weapons of Mass Destruction, which justified G. W. Bush invading Iraq; our most wasteful, costly and longest war to date.  Repeating untruths enough times makes it true.  This is an example of performance utterances; a class of statements that perform an action rather then describe or report on it.

In the section (p. 83) summarizing religious hatred of science he points out the fallacy of believing that one book has all anyone ever needs to live the good life

Monotheism does not really like the rational work of scientists.  Clearly Islam embraces astronomy, algebra, mathematics, geometry, optics, but only to calculate the direction of Mecca more accurately by means of the stars, to establish religious calendars, to decree prayer hours.  Clearly Islam values geography, but only to facilitate the convergence on the Kaaba when pilgrims from all over the world flock to Mecca.  Clearly it prizes medicine, but only to avoid the impurity that mars one’s relation with Allah.  Clearly it esteems grammar, philosophy, and law, but only to enrich commentary on the Koran and the Hadith.  This religious instrumentalization of science subjects’ reason to domestic and theocratic uses.

These religions never learned from the Enlightenment.  They turned their back on learning preferring “mental night for the nurturing of their fables”.

My fear is that this religious filter can dominate our cultural future.

An example may help: My gift of a painting to my mother before she died explains many things about religious belief: I asked her if she liked the painting (of what I thought was a good representation of one of the beautiful desert scenes we were traveling in.  Here is what she said:

“Isn’t God wonderful (for creating such a beautiful place).  From the get go her and me were on opposite sides of this fence.  But this is the take home message: she never saw the painting.  She only saw God.  That’s a classic result of religious indoctrination: an obliteration of perception with an illusion.  Oh well, “she went to her reward”, but did live a good life.

More Hatred

Among the hatreds fostered by the Big Three (and many other illusory belief systems) is hatred of women, of sex, and pleasure.  I remember a critical experience I had to endure upon entering and leaving our Polish Catholic Church in Lyndhurst, New Jersey.  Leaving was most difficult because we had to pass by a full-scale replica of Jesus dying (or more accurately dead) on the cross.  Gads, such a picture of the hero of our belief system.  Surely this speaks volumes about the goal of life – to give oneself up to torture.  Don’t worry there’s a reward for your avoidance of sin (an impossible activity, by-the-way); there’s a better life ahead after this life.  Of course the original sin is Knowledge, and this sin was derived from Eve who gave the apple to Adam and caused the expulsion by a crazy god.  So sin and woman are a big problem for these male dominated religions.

Onfray cites the daily prayer of Jewish men: “Praised be God that he has not created me a woman (from Talmud, Menahot 43b).  The Koran is similar: God prefers men to women (4:34), e.g., the prohibition on exposing the hair out of doors, use of the veil, or exposing bare arms and legs, no sexuality outside legitimate relatives with a member of the community, who may himself possess several spouses, prohibition of polyandry for women, and praise of chastity, prohibition on marrying a non Muslim, probation on wearing men’s clothing, no mingling of the sexes at the mosque, no question of shaking hands with a man unless wearing gloves, marriage mandatory with no tolerance for celibacy even in the name of religion, passion and love advised against in marriage, only celebrated in the interest of family, tribe and community, recommendation that the wife submit to all the sexual desire of the husband, who “plow his wife whenever likes, for she is his tillage – the metaphoric is Koranic, permission to beat one’s spouse on mere suspicion, the same ease of repudiation, the same existential minor status, the same legal inferiority, a woman’s courtroom testimony worth half that of a man, while a barren woman, a woman deflowered before marriage posses exactly the same value; none at all.

More Hatreds

And then there is praise of castration.  And there is more anti-pleasure to contemplate.  Jews for example, have to submit to circumcision, which certainly reduces the nervous sensation of the penis.  So do Muslims (but note that Muhammad was born circumcised!).  The legal definition of mutilation is an act of removing a healthy part of a non-consenting child on nonmedical grounds.  60% of Americans are circumcised, 20% Canadians, 15% Australians are circumcised – but on medical grounds

And then there are the commensurate tortures of females; Three types: 1) “gentle sunna” which means tradition or way of the Prophet – removal of the head of the clitoris, 2) moderate sunna, or clitoridectomy, or removal of the clitoris and all or parts of the labia minor, and 3) infibulation, or total removal of the clitoris, labia minor, and labia majora, followed by sewing together of the remaining tissue, often with thorns, leaving a matchstick caliber opening for urination and menstruation.  All of these mutilations are done without anesthesia, and constitute means to establishing community membership and identity, and preventing erotic inclinations from eroding energy better employed in celebration of God by sapping lust and facilitating mastery of desire.  By carving into the flesh it supports a hatred of desire, libido and life in the very place where life originates, thus supporting a victory of the death-fixated passions at the very spot where the life force is located.  This is a way to turn the life force against itself “for our own good”. “With the advent of Christianity the death fixation was ready to poison the whole planet”.

Concluding Remarks

Lest you think this whole book is full of such revelatory expulsions read the book for it also lays out the idea of Atheism as much more than rejection of religion.  It affirms reason and recommends fighting such silly, stupid, and dangerous beliefs from thousands of years ago.  There is no index but the last section is a detailed bibliography showing how deep the atheistic sources are even given the relentless terror campaigns, book burnings and lists of banned books, and deaths of critical scholars over the centuries.  The section on religious opposition to democracy should be mandatory reading instead of intelligent design.  How about that for a campaign: teaching the real history of religious persecution, but it’s not science.

Collapse, How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed

by Jared Diamond

575 pp.  Penguin Books. .2005.

Review by William Olkowski, Ph.D.

“A blueprint for disaster in any society is when the elite are capable of insulating themselves.”
– Jared Diamond, interviewed in “National Review”

This critically important book raises key issues about how societies choose to fail, or meet challenges.  Many will be shocked, as these cases are particularly relevant to the US today.  Failed leadership is one of the key factors in most collapses analyzed by Diamond.  It’s easier to look back and point out how the leadership may even have seen the collapse coming, but could not avert it.  Some countries or “civilizations” did avoid it.  Tokugawa Japan (1603-1867) did but it was a dictatorship.  Can a democracy avoid it?  Can our democracy avoid it?  Japan (and Germany) even recovered from their disastrous military dominance.  Can we?  Washington said it as a parting statement: avoid foreign entanglements.  We have not listened to one of our great founding fathers.  Hear him again in his farewell address:

(From Wikipedia):

Washington’s public political address warned against foreign influence in domestic affairs and American meddling in European affairs. He warned against bitter partisanship in domestic politics and called for men to move beyond partisanship and serve the common good. He warned against “permanent alliances with any portion of the foreign world”,[117] saying the United States must concentrate primarily on American interests. He counseled friendship and commerce with all nations, but warned against involvement in European wars and entering into long-term “entangling” alliances. The address quickly set American values regarding foreign affairs.[118]

More from Wikipedia’s review of Diamonds Book:

Diamond identifies five factors that contribute to collapse: climate change, hostile neighbors, collapse of essential trading partners, environmental problems, and failure to adapt to environmental issues.

He also lists 12 environmental problems facing mankind today. The first eight have historically contributed to the collapse of past societies:

1.   Deforestation and habitat destruction

2.   Soil problems (erosionsalinization, and soil fertility losses)

3.   Water management problems

4.   Overhunting

5.   Overfishing

6.   Effects of introduced species on native species

7.   Overpopulation

8.   Increased per-capita impact of people

Further, he says four new factors may contribute to the weakening and collapse of present and future societies:

1.   Anthropogenic climate change

2.   Buildup of toxins in the environment

3.   Energy shortages

4.   Full human utilization of the Earth’s photosynthetic capacity

Diamond also writes about cultural factors, such as the apparent reluctance of the Greenland Norse to eat fish.

Diamond says Easter Island provides the best historical example of a societal collapse in isolation

The root problem in all but one of Diamond’s factors leading to collapse is overpopulation relative to the practicable (as opposed to the ideal theoretical) carrying capacity of the environment. The one factor not related to overpopulation is the harmful effect of accidentally or intentionally introducing nonnative species to a region.

Diamond also states that “it would be absurd to claim that environmental damage must be a major factor in all collapses: the collapse of the Soviet Union is a modern counter-example, and the destruction of Carthage by Rome in 146 BC is an ancient one. It’s obviously true that military or economic factors alone may suffice” (p. 15).

End insert

There are many in the US that sense the impending disarray caused by our miserable environmental history, notwithstanding the conservation and environmental movement.  Our recent leadership, for example, continues to avoid overpopulation as a relevant issue.  Zero population growth as a goal is nonexistent in current affairs as is the religious indoctrination forbidding abortion on demand and family planning funds for foreign aid.  Overpopulation is a key aspect that is at the base of the problems faced by old, and now our civilization.  There are already too many people in the world and some stupid people are saying its ok, we can support twice as many as now.  We are now at 7 billion with no end in sight unless one puts on rosy ideological glasses.

Wikipedia’s review does the book justice but my take is that we in the US are in a state of decline more akin to the collapse of the Roman Empire.  Jared does not refer to the Roman Empire’s collapse, or the earlier Greek nor Egyptian collapses.  I wonder why as his views could be of consequence.

We have the largest military in the world by far, just like Rome (Western Roman Empire fell in 476) was dominant before its conversion to Christianity.  [Constantine I (sole ruler 324–337) became the first Christian emperor, and in 380 Theodosius I established Christianity as the official religion.

By the 5th century Christian hegemony had rapidly changed the Empire’s identity even as the Western provinces collapsed.[40]Those who practiced the traditional polytheistic religions were persecuted, as were Christians regarded as heretics by the authorities in power. Ex. Wikipedia]

We, like Rome, are in the midst of a religious ferment, but ours could destroy our democracy.  The Roman emperor converted to Christianity and then proceeded to terrorize the pagans just like he terrorized the Christians prior to conversion.  OK, a dictatorship can revolve on a personality, but the same can be said for a democracy when the elites are isolated behind their gated communities and don’t see the homeless and poor without work and without medical care.  And they don’t appreciate that sickness is contagious.  Providing universal health care is in their self-interest, but they don’t see it.

The super wealthy are the equivalent to a dictatorial personality.  They don’t care what happens just as long as they get their due.  There are exceptions, yes, but with domination of money in elections and lobbying by our “personhood” corporations who can’t go to jail or be sentenced to death for their atrocities we are in trouble.  And the religious right even elected a president who proceeded to create a Crusade as if the world was back in biblical times.  Gads!  We will be harvesting his returns for decades to come, if we survive the Christianity planned for the US.  To avoid this we need to be especially vigilant in separating church and state.  And then there are the military domination of politics, terrorism, overpopulation and exploitation of the life support systems.

Diamond should be proud of his work as it may prove to be pivotal in our future if we wake up from the capitalist created consumer society.

External links

Diamond’s page at the UCLA Department of Geography

UCLA Spotlight – Jared Diamond

Edge – Jared Diamond

Lectures and talks

Why societies collapse at TED, 2003

Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed at The Earth Institute at Columbia University, April 2007

The Evolution of Religions at the Center for Religion and Civic Culture, University of Southern California

PBS – Guns, Germs and Steel (with full transcripts)


Hammer Conversation with Jared Diamond and John Long, March 16 2010

Interview with Charlie Rose

Interview with New Books in History


Viruses, Plagues and History, Past Present and Future

2010.  Oldstone, M.B.A.  Oxford, 383 pp.

a book review by Wm Olkowski, PhD

Viral information is critical in today’s world of rapid transport.  The first epidemic of the 21st century was SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome), which originated in south China and jumped to Canada days after the first index case.  With SARS we were lucky.  But SARS demonstrates how viruses can move rapidly around the globe, threatening people who know virtually nothing about it, where it came from nor what to do about it.  This, with the potential to overwhelm all local medical services means potential catastrophe.

Viruses are big killers even if one leaves out HIV/AIDs, the biggest killer in the world today (in the U.S. 40,000 new cases per year, most infected people do not know they are infected).  Mandatory assays at ER’s around the country have been denied funding from insurance companies.  How short sighted.  A public supported health care system would not be so stupid, maybe.

Funny how disease gets a back burner, mostly to military activities, yet causes more harm than all the military destruction combined.  And the military gets the bulk of the money.  Yet, most people are unaware of how these diseases caused historical changes and raised current costs in pain and suffering as well as financial losses from disabled people and disease treatments.  An AIDS case detected early will stand to cost $600,000 over the lifetime remaining only for treatment, no cure (estimate based on $25k/yr for 25 years).

This book can update and educate about the biggest threats to humanity and civilization today, AIDS is covered in detail, including the one time controversy over its causal agent, now widely acknowledged to be a virus that jumped from monkeys to humans.  Such threats will remain with an increasing number of viruses as our population continues to push into new undeveloped areas and continues to eat bush meat, for example.

Recent advances in knowledge concerning viruses and past learnings from previous epidemics are covered.  But many don’t know that a consensus is developing that viruses are involved with about 20% of cancer cases.  Consider that about 25% of the known 600 viruses causing diseases in animals are cancer producers.  Makes you think, maybe.

With the current ignorant antivaccine popular push will come some consequences that nobody who is antivaccine is covering.  This antivaccine trend seems set up by the rather excessive demands on simultaneous vaccinations of preschool children as a prerequisite for kindergarten.  Too many vaccines at the same time maybe a problem but a more serious breakdown between scientists and the public is an even greater threat.  Without the science we have only prayer and we all know how well that works.  More involvement from the public is needed in scientific programs.

What Causes Disease?

The first part of the book is a brief overview of human history from the standpoint of our beliefs about causation and how science brought clarity and knowledge where god’s vengeance and terror were taught by religious authorities (with threats of death and torture).  Going over the steady but significant discoveries in disease causation starting in the late 1800s tells the story of science like no other.  There is an inserted 22-page summary of the important events and discoveries starting with Hippocrates in 400 BC going up to the planned eradication of polio by 2015.  This table of events presents the details of a worldwide process of medical research and investigation of great importance to humanity and represents some of the fruits of the enlightenment, now being eroded by ignorant religious teachers.

Will rationalism prevail today?  I have hopes but knowledge and education is what is needed and has always been needed.  But it has always been in limited supply.

Knowledge in Place of Fear?

Who knows?  But putting some attention on the facts could help displace fear.  Hey there’s a good slogan, Knowledge in Place of Fear. Reading how the world cooperated in four world-wide campaigns mostly based on vaccines has virtually eliminated smallpox, poliomyelitis, measles and yellow fever from the planet.  More remains to be done, however.  But all these remain in the background ready to flare up again, unfortunately.

The Russian Experience

All of these maladies could be eliminated from the planet if we could agree to do so.  But the lessons from our agreement with Russia concerning biowarfare must not be forgotten.  Russia said it was reducing its commitments in biowarfare yet was very busy building microbial agents for dissemination via rocket while we were disbanding our biowarfare research units.  While we were doing this good thing Russia had weaponized smallpox so cultures were ready to fly with the outbreak of war.  Weaponizing means creating high virulence and dispersal capabilities so only one viral colony (or bacterial colony) needs to be delivered to each metropolitan area.  I just wondered how really close we came to destroying ourselves.

And we are still tempting the fates, now with rogue nations who are probably developing microbial warfare capabilities with the residue from the now disbanded microbial research units in Russia.

The first part of the book also covers a short intro to virology and immunology.  Both are difficult subjects but are presented so someone without special training can follow the ideas.

Part two covers the big four: smallpox, measles, polio, and yellow fever.  Measles remains the biggest threat because new cases are introduced into previously vaccinated and protected populations.  So without threat of disease vaccination is abandoned.  Introducing a new agent into a population without protection can be devastating.  Measles is a different most serious disease for an adult.  Most people now are protected from previous vaccinations.  And these people are now not realizing they should continue getting vaccinated, especially as adult measles can kill and certainly maim.

All the other virus diseases are covered in the next 9 chapters: haemorrhagic fevers, Lassa Fever, Ebola, Hantavirus, SARS, West Nile Virus, HIV/AIDS, Mad Cow, and Influenza.  The last chapter talks about the future.

The Future

Close, constant and rigorous surveillance will be needed by all the countries of the world.  Disease knows no political barriers.  Viruses can be expected to jump from animal reservoirs to other wildlife (like West Nile Viruses killing North American birds) and to humans like influenza viruses that go from birds to pigs and to humans.  Yellow fever may be reintroduced to North America as measles does now periodically.  Climate warming and zone shifting will cause movement of vectors north.  Infections, however small, represent emergencies as the faster the response the smaller potential outbreak.  China delayed notice about SARS and all the contact cases from the only index case were found quickly and quarantined for treatment in Canada, mostly.  That was a close one.

The whole subject of slow viruses, i.e., mad cow, BSE, scrapie, CJD is another frightening threat.  Mad cow disease has been found in the US, for example, but only in one cow.  But unlike England and Europe we are not testing all beef being reared in the US because of the cost.  So just how bad the situation is in the US is unknown as nobody is looking.  There is no required surveillance.  England, where the most recent outbreaks were discover did the testing and killed thousands of infected cattle with great loss, but they contained the spread in humans.

Also, estimates place a 50-year incubation period on the mad cow infection, believed to be a miss folded infectious protein called a prion.  Younger people have been found with the prion but still the beef industry fights back.  Their attitude is prevention is too costly, wait for the disease, then sample and treat.  I eat grass fed organic beef, just in case.  I think it’s a matter of time before mad cow is acknowledged as being here in the US.  And since virology is still rather a young science one may expect some surprises yet from this frontier in public health.




Book Review: Cure Unknown, Inside the Lyme Epidemic


Book Review: Cure Unknown, Inside the Lyme Epidemic, by Pamela Weintraub. 2008.

St. Martin’s Press, N.Y. 408 pp.

By William Olkowski, PHD.

10.20.11, reposted 8.17.12

This book combines the personal story of the Weintraub family, many others and renegade doctors fighting for the infected patients vs. the medical establishment who were blinded by ignorance.  And it may still be the case as a check on the CDC and the NIH website will show.  Weintraub and her husband are journalists who moved into a Lyme disease enclave in ChapaquaNew Yorkto escape the city environment.  Their story of infection and the search for treatment and the story of thousands of others denied diagnosis and consequently treatment led her on a many year quest to find answers to this most unusual infectious disease complexes.  The blinded ignorance is described over and over again and refers to first a steady myopia by academic researchers and government officials, most notably the CDC, who is supposed to be protecting us from such maladies, but in essence repeatedly dropped the ball.  This is a most disturbing book undermines confidence in CDC, after all what else are they dropping from hubris.  But the story is complex.

We now know that Lyme disease with its many diverse symptoms can be caused by at least 3 and up to six pathogens all transmitted by ticks, including the first found, a spirochete called Borrelia burgdorferi.  And there may be more pathogens.  Another spirochete, Treponemia pallidum, the causal agent of syphilis, was virtually knocked out by early antibiotics, particularly penicillin.  If only the earlier experiences with syphilis were examined more closely by investigators things might have been different.  And then there is the European experience with different strains which does not seem to be part of this CDC nor US considerations.

And then there are the clinicians who learned that the infections could not be treated successfully with a few weeks of antibiotics as the medical establishment said.  These “renegades” were threatened with loss of license, brought before examination cabals and gave up treating patients from these threats.  This adds another layer of stupidity but tells much about the current health care system in theUS, dominated by private insurance companies trying to maximize profits to the disregard for patient experiences.  Repeatedly patients who knew something was wrong became highly frustrated by the inability to get real help from their medial professionals.   Patients who get long term antibiotic treatments, some of which improve the lives of patients even when they do not cure, are consigned to a life long disease and high expense.  For example, when denied a positive (usually blood test) diagnosis and subsequently treatment can spend up to $100,000 if they can find a doctor who is willing to go against the establishment.  No wonder the insurance companies wanted to believe that chronic lyme did not exist.

The movie “Under the Skin” covers this ground but like most such exposés leaves out much of the science leaving the viewer with a sad feeling of another tragedy among so many others.  Weintraub covers some recent science, including the great work mostly by veterinarians working with mice and other animals who show that the Borrelia spirochete can form cysts which are resistant to antibiotics and can hide in various tissues, particularly collagen based where they cannot be killed.   This cyst stage and the odd shapes it forms was missed by early researchers who stubbornly resisted searching and acknowledging patient experiences to find the long term cause and treatments.  Even today I don’t know the status of this situation as Weintraub’s book is now 4 years old already and possibly fast changing discoveries may provide some hope.  This of course, assumes that the medical establishment gets off its high horse and looks further to account for actual patient experiences rather than assume they know everything.

One of the heroes of this story is a doctor who successfully fought the ignorant medical establishment and retained his license, Joe Burrascano.  He has a website from which one can download his continually revised book on treatment.  The book is sizeable and now in its 16th revision as he updates it as he learns more.  His website should be explored as it contains many other resources for Lyme patients, especially the free documents:  Burrascano’s website is far superior to either the CDC or NIH websites covering the same disease.  Sometimes people never learn.  No wonder some hate Burrascano.

The arrogance of many doctors and researchers is certainly a barrier, but that can have a human face.  Insurance companies are just phone calls and premiums via phone and paper.  And still our representatives look to private sources for medical help.  Gads! My sympathies go out to those infected.


Too High to Fail, Book Review by Bill Maher


Cannabis and the New Green Economic Revolution

By Doug Fine

Illustrated. 319 pp.GothamBooks. $28.

Review by Bill Maher, 8.1.12

“Too High to Fail” is a good rebuttal to those who say stoners never accomplish anything — Doug Fine did.  Review by Bill Maher.

He has written a well-researched book that uses the clever tactic of making the moral case for ending marijuana prohibition by burying it inside the economic case. We’ve become a ruthless society, and almost everything (I’m looking at you, Environment and Health Care) has to be sold as “first, it’s good for business.” To his credit, Fine doesn’t do what so many of us do and scream, “Can’t we just stop jailing potheads because that would be the right thing?” Also to his credit, he never admits he’s one of them.

The “war on drugs” is America’s longest war. It has cost taxpayers $1 trillion in the last 40 years, Fine notes, and it has turned our nation into “the most highly incarcerated society in history.” In 2011, a global commission on drug policy (whose members included Paul Volcker, George P. Shultz and former presidents to Brazil, Colombia and Mexico) declared that “the global war on drugs has failed.” Sixty-­seven percent of Americans agree.  Antonin Scalia and Pat Robertson are now to the left of President Obama on pot.

In a way, the author of a polemic on marijuana policy suffers from the odd case of having too many facts on his side. To a person coming to this subject pot-­agnostic, it might seem as if the issue is being loaded. No, it is loaded. As Fine points out, the real addicts of the drug war are the law enforcement agencies that live off this senseless game of cops and robbers.

“Too High to Fail” takes the form of a fly-on-the-wall account of Northern California’s burgeoning legal cannabis industry. Fine, an investigative journalist, takes us to Mendocino County, where he follows one plant from seed to medical marijuana patient in the first county in the nation to decriminalize and regulate cannabis farming.

Fine fits in well in Mendocino. Bearded and driving his vegetable-oil-fueled truck, he looks and plays the part. But be warned: if you are indifferent to drug culture, you may roll your eyes at some of the stoner talk. When Fine says, describing a Mendocino grow house, “I felt like I was inside a Peter Tosh album cover photo,” even I wanted to tell him he was harshing my mellow.

Mendocino County is depicted here as a kind of democratic utopia where local law enforcement and cannabis farmers are on the same side. In 2008, the county passed a land-use ordinance called Chapter 9.31, which authorized growers to cultivate up to 99 cannabis plants (this has since been reduced to 25). Rather than turning the county into a police state, legalization made it safer. Revenues in the municipality increased, and cannabis farmers were treated as law-abiding citizens.

Fine calls Mendocino the state’s “progressive lab,” because it was essentially engaging in an act of civil disobedience. It may have been in accordance with California law, but ever since states (17 now, plus the District of Columbia) started legalizing medical marijuana, the federal government under a Democratic (Clinton), then a Republican (Bush) and now a Democratic administration has consistently resisted going along. Consequently, Fine observes, Mendocino has a kind of fifth season: helicopter season. “Helicopter noise is Mendocino County’s summer soundtrack,” he writes of the federal choppers circling overhead. “Something you just have to deal with in warm weather, like the summer before 10th grade when it was ‘Born in the U.S.A.’ ”

The most eye-opening and persuasive parts of the book explore the revenue and benefits to be had from cannabis without a single joint’s being lighted. Throughout human history, cultures from Mongolia to Peru have used the non-psychoactive cannabis plant for food, shelter, clothing and medicine. Early drafts of the Declaration of Independence were written on hemp paper, and the covered pioneer wagons that took America westward were made of cannabis fiber. In 1942, cannabis prohibition was suspended because of a shortage in industrial supply during the war, and the government actually encouraged farmers to grow it, using a propaganda film, “Hemp for Victory.”

The place industrial cannabis is not found yet, Fine points out, is in the above­ ground American economy, thanks to its listing as a Schedule I narcotic. The Drug Enforcement Administration’s official stance is that it has no medical value at all: “Smoked marijuana has not withstood the rigors of science — it is not medicine, and it is not safe.” O.K., Fine seems to say, but tell that to the doctors with evidence of its ability to shrink tumors and ease the effects of chemotherapy; or to the seniors of Orange County who depend on medical marijuana to treat their arthritis, and the doctor who uses it to treat his glaucoma; or to the 30-year-old Iraq war veteran with the shrapnel injuries who thanks God every day for this drug. It is prescription drugs that are now the leading cause of fatal drug overdoses — more than 26,000 each year. Also each year, over 23,000 Americans die of alcohol-related causes. None have died from cannabis alone.

As I said, the issue is loaded. And yet the side that has all the load never seems to win in America. The ending of “Too High to Fail” — spoiler alert — is a real bummer. Just as Fine was about to send the manuscript to his publisher in November 2011, the feds cracked down in Mendocino. The 9.31 program was essentially abandoned, and the local, participatory democracy Fine immersed himself in for a year was pushed back underground.

He should have seen it coming. Halfway through his adventure, Fine was pulled over by a state trooper when he left the friendly confines of Mendocino and crossed into Sonoma County— where it’s cool to get high on wine, but not on pot. Fine was doubtful that anyone in California actually used the old war-on-drugs tactics until this incident, but it was a reminder that some people are still in battle mode.

Relating how he was taken into custody, Fine describes something he calls “Panzer’s Paradox” — basically, the fact that “when it comes to distribution, there is no uniformity in cannabis legal interpretation now,” as William Panzer, a lawyer specializing in cannabis defense, says. (Panzer was an author of Proposition 215, the medical-marijuana act passed in California in 1996.) Fine boils down the difference between a cannabis-friendly county and an unfriendly one to “the career ambitions or personal cannabis views of the local D.A. and sheriff.”

He also paraphrases “The Art of War”: “If a war is ill conceived at its core, it can’t be won.”

Bill Maher is the host of “Real Time With Bill Maher” on HBO.

A version of this review appeared in print on August 5, 2012, on page BR11 of the Sunday Book Review with the headline: Reefer Madness.


A Real Liberal: Rocky Anderson Calls for Bush Impeachment

From Wikipedia

Rocky Anderson is running for President under the Justice Party.  Whatever that is.  But his call for impeachment is a favorite subject. Plus I feel the same as he does about the Democratic Party, except, except, I feel worlds of distance from the GOP.  I learned a tuff lesson with the Peace and Freedom Party back in the Vietnam war days. 3rd party liberal efforts are doomed to enhance the GOP prospects.  Nothing could be worse for this country than another greedy ignorant GOP jerk.  And Mitt baby fills that role to a Tea.

Its not so far fetched to start impeachment, certainly loss of his benefits as a past president. Its never too late to dump on Bush, and I will do so to my dying day.  Mark our drastic decline as a civilized society, whatever that is now, to him and his administration.  He was and will be the worst president in the history of our declining democracy.

Bill Olkowski

Call for impeachment of President George W. Bush

Interviewed by Wolf Blitzer on CNN after an anti-war rally marking the fourth anniversary of the invasion and initial occupation of Iraq, Anderson advocated the impeachment of President George Bush, saying:

“This president, by engaging in such incredible abuses of power, breaches of trust with both the Congress and the American people, and misleading us into this tragic and unbelievable war, the violation of treaties, other international law, our constitution, our own domestic laws, and then his role in heinous human rights abuses; I think all of that together calls for impeachment”.[124]

Anderson also did not spare criticism for the Democratic Party, saying:

“The fact that anybody would say that impeachment is off the table when we have a president who has been so egregious in his violations of our constitution, a president who asserts a unitary executive power, that is absolutely chilling.”[124]

In 2006, he expressed his view of the Democratic Party as follows:

“But what do I have to say about the Democratic Party? I’m ashamed, really, of how little leadership there has been. There has been just tremendous timidity on the part of the party, generally, although there have been a handful of exceptions. But, you know, we had one member of the United States Senate vote against the PATRIOT Act, the blank check that was given by Congress to this president, I think in total abrogation of the role of Congress under separation of powers and under the power to make war, to declare war. They gave that away to a president that didn’t have his facts straight and, I think, was manipulating the intelligence to sell this war.”[125]

Anderson researched, wrote, produced, and narrated a major multi-media piece on the Iraq invasion and occupation, as well as the case for impeachment.[126]

Book Review: Superbug, The Fatal Menace of MRSA

Superbug, The Fatal Menace of MRSA, by Mary McKenna. Free Press, N.Y. N.Y. 271 pp., 2010

Review by Wm Olkowski, PhD

What’s MRSA and Why is it Important?

Methicillin Resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) is a strain of the common bacteria we all carry on our skin and mucus membranes like those in the nose.  Normally this commensal causes no problem but sometimes an infection develops that becomes very serious, cannot be treated with the commonly used antibiotics (AB’s) and can cause a horrible death.

AB resistance occurs when an infection is challenged repeatedly with an antibiotic.  The AB kills off the susceptible bacteria leaving the resistant.  A mutation is believed to be involved in developing resistance.  As a result the species changes to one that cannot be killed by that AB.  It is said to be resistant.  There is now so much resistance to ABs a tragedy looms.  And that’s the theme for this book.

Some History

The first big AB was penicillin.  The AB methicillin was the next choice when people got resistant to penicillin.  It’s a related substance hence the similarity in spelling, but very different in structure from penicillin and that was why it worked for so long.  Penicillin was a wonder drug as it worked on a whole range of bacteria and saved millions of lives.  Its very success caused its downfall, as the more it was used the faster resistance developed. And it was overused, for example, people were given this and other ABs when viruses were the cause and ABs don’t kill viruses.

Methicillin (first used in 1960) worked for a while.  Then SA got resistant to it and these strains could not be controlled and an epidemic would ensue.   Hospital stays got more complicated, longer and some people would die of what first would appear to be minor infections.  Some of these deaths were horrible pus filled infections dissolving skin, muscles and bones.

As more doctors were unable to treat MRSA infections successfully the seriousness of this situation began to be appreciated.  McKenna was a reporter who investigated a hospital epidemic of MRSA and then worked with the Kaiser Family Foundation making observations in ERs as part of a media fellowship program.  In every city she found MRSA everywhere she looked.  The range of infections ran from minor skin infections to gaping pus filled wounds in bones and muscles, and pneumonias that would kill.  She started a blog, called “Superbug” for reporting on such cases and developing epidemics.  This book documents her discoveries and is instructive in many ways.

It’s not just a Hospital Infection

At first MRSA was considered only a hospital acquired infection, but later different strains were found not associated with hospitals.  In the early stages infections were noted in nurseries in hospitals, as new mothers would return after a few weeks with their infected babies, many of which died horrible deaths.  Thus was born MRSA hospital infection epidemics.  Even today MRSA is believed by many to be only a hospital infection.

Although MRSA strains from the community are very different from the hospital strains, the source of these community strains is unknown.  They may be hospital strains that have established somewhere in the community and then mutated to appear different to the immune system and that is a big threat as MRSA, with its large arsenal of toxins is a terrible way of death.

One of the most important lessons from this phenomenon is the need and importance of detection and hand washing.  Note that there is still no national surveillance system for reporting MRSA cases.  The Dutch and other European health systems had such a system in place decades ago and have not experienced the same sort of epidemics we in the US have.  The Dutch also cultured every hospital patient to detect MRSA strains upon entry to the hospital.  In cases where no obvious infection was present but the organism was detected each patient was treated to remove such “colonized patients”.  When every patient in the hospital is decolonized there is no epidemic.

Consequently each hospital afflicted with MRSA cases in our country had to go at detection and control with their own personnel and labs, a rather poor response to the suffering inflicted by this tragedy.  One wonders why people persist in insisting on keeping health care in an industry whose goal is profit.  Stupidities abound when ignorance masquerades as ideology.  Do you notice that those who insist on how bad government is segregate out the military, the largest and most error prone part of government from their view of our political systems defects?

McKenna examines programs run by hospitals to detect and treat patients and their ability to contain these local epidemics.  In one case she describes how a hospital put a nurse with sufficient authority to monitor compliance for hand washing by physicians and staff.  The nurse documented that in too many cases compliance was less than 50%.  Repeatedly the nurse found physicians going from patient to patient without washing their hands.

When compliance rose to 97% or more the epidemic was stopped and no further cases were noted.  Fortunately a simple nose swab and culture detects these strains.  But this costs a hospital not the insurance industry.  Such fragmentation is unbelievable, especially when one knows it’s such a terrible process of treatment and when it fails a horrible death.  So wash hands and make sure your doctor washes his/her hands before he touches you.

Next is a most amazing story of a cure.  Decades ago I read a great book called “Man Adapting” by the famous microbiologist Rene Dubois.  He proposed adding benign strains of SA to newborn babies so these inoculations would adapt and prevent infections by more damaging strains.  At that time such a suggestion was an advanced idea.  Now comes an example of just how such a procedure could work.

One of the hospitals tracking the source of the infective strain of MRSA traced it to a nursery where no baby had been found to be infected by a deadly MRSA strain then rampant in the hospital.  Then after swabbing all the hundreds of staff one nurse in the nursery was found with a benign strain, labeled as 502a.  Two investigators working to find useful treatments tried an experiment on a small family who had repeated MRSA infections and a few years of misery of unsuccessful but intermittent repeated infections.  Apparently their MRSA strain would hide and then reinfect.  So the two investigators set up an AB course to knock back the infection, treating with an AB mix for 12 days.  After that they inoculated the family with 502a and the colonization was successful, as no reinfections occurred.  But this experiment was never repeated as the two investigators separated and joined other institutions.

This story affirms an approach which Dubois suggested decades ago, but has never been adequately followed up.

So beware of hospital infections.  Before admission look into their infection control systems and check on compliance for hand washing.  It would help if hospitals were required to publish their infection rates and compliance with sanitation practices, but that seems just too much for a system running on profit.

Wishing MRSA on those who oppose a public healthcare system or even a public option would provide some incentive, albeit too late for prevention.  But the decision makers in our congress don’t have to worry as they have a publically supported health care system which they denied the rest of us, even as an option.

“When will we ever learn?”


Book Review: Riddled with Life by Marlene Zuk

Harcourt.  327 pp., 2007

Subtitle:  Friendly Worms, Ladybug Sex, and the parasites that make us who we are.

Review by Wm Olkowski, PhD

This is a most amazing book, for a combination of reasons.  It is well written, with synoptic summaries of many complex areas pertaining to our health and well being, e.g., evolution, immunology, sexual selection, nutrition, sexually transmitted diseases, disease dynamics, ethnology, and parasite treatment selection, among others.

Did you know that parasites all over the world change the behavior of their hosts so as to aid their own survival and transmission?  Seems logical, right? When one knows that most people in the world are or have been infected with the protozoan parasite, causal agent of Toxoplasmosis (Toxoplasma canis is a parasite of the family cat), the pause for thought about that fact could be significant.  Infections are acquired by breathing cat feces, most likely in changing cat litter.

Infection rates from toxoplasma surveys run from 20-80% of populations assayed.  If such large portions of people have been exposed to this protozoan and if parasites affect the behavior of their hosts we have a cryptic disease-causing organism right in our homes and it could be most severe as it requires an intermediate host, the cat flea.

Cats get the infection from mice and rats that get it from eating fecal matter.  The local sandboxes at playgrounds are good sources too.  T. canis can cause miscarriages, and probably damages the developing fetus.  Now there’s a pleasant thought.  What if these and other organisms are really good at hiding in our bodies causing troubles we cannot detect, nor treat?

Zuk speculates that such hidden parasites are worthy unappreciated threats and could be causes of other modern diseases.  After all, the discovery of how a bacterium, Helicobacter pylori, was the causal agent of stomach ulcers reversed the common belief that stomach ulcers were produced by stress.  Two Australian physicians got a noble prize for this discovery.  A month long course of antibiotic treatment eliminates the symptoms and the infection.   Could these sorts of infections/infestations explain so much stupid and erratic behavior hosts exhibit, including contributing to car accidents and criminal activity, like violent altercations?  Zuk suggests this may be the case, with other extrapolations from animals and even human studies showing higher car accident rates with people infected with Toxoplasmosis.

Alone, the presentation of new scientific findings about our closest “real relatives” on the tree of life is worth attention from all parasitologists, biologists, public health personnel, microbiologists and physicians, just to keep up with new findings.

But Zuk’s thesis is that since these sometimes killers can and have helped our species over the past thousands of years and generations, they may be helpful again now in understanding how we got to be who we are, and how we arrived at our genetic and phenotypical selves and what we could do about it.

Childhood Fevers – Better to Leave Them Untreated

Her discussion about fevers is exemplary for new information, and its consequences for health care and treatment selections.  For example, childhood fever is the most common reason parents bring children to hospital ERs, all for nothing, it turns out.  Also, such visits are the most common cause for visits to the ER overall.  Think of the economic cost and the pain and suffering one experiences in the ER, waiting, and waiting, for help in the midst of a crowd of really sick people.  Then, add in the costs of buying the aspirin, acetaminophen, ibuprofen, to treat such fevers, to say nothing about the side effects these drugs can have.

New information says that treating a childhood fever is useless.  This comes from a paper in the Bulletin of the World Health Organization that surveyed the use of fever reducing drugs and their efficacy in a number of countries.  This conclusion was based on large populations in double-blind placebo controlled studies.  They found that these drugs made no difference in outcome, neither in duration nor comfort level of the children.  Febrile seizures are also another example of misinformation.

Pathogenicity Is A Gradient

Our life as humans is riddled with many other organisms, particularly potential and actual pathogens like helminths, protozoa, bacteria, prions, insects, rickettsia, and viruses.   But more importantly what these species have done to our species needs further examination.  A pathogen in the strict sense is any organism that can cause disease.  Zuk presents a view of pathogens as being our partners in evolution, and through this appreciation she thinks we can learn a great deal about how to get along with them.

Maybe.  At least in a grand view not just focus on eliminating them.  As she demonstrates over and over we are still learning a great deal about most of these species.  {There aren’t any I would tolerate deliberately tolerate, however, maybe I would make an exception for good strains of probiotics, including Escherica coli, toxic strains of which invade at birth and can track along for a lifetime causing problems).

Zuk’s goal in presenting a great set of findings about poorly studied species of great medical importance.  I use that term in the sense that my grandmother stressed to me: “When you lose your health, you lose everything.” And these organisms can destroy bodies and lifetimes.

The ignorance about these organisms is widespread, their biology and control is poorly understood and difficult to diagnose by medical professionals, and mostly overlooked by everybody else.

Inventory the Parasites of the World

This is an example one of the ideas Zuk sprinkles here and there through out the book.  This one is dear to me as I started evaluating this idea back in graduate school.  I found out that this process was already on going.  Now we have the tree of life web project ( by E.O. Wilson.  The objective is to document all the life forms on the planet, making it a sort of wikiLife project.  This maybe just the time for this sort of thing because it relies on volunteers, mostly.

Book Review: Cure Unknown, Inside the Lyme Epidemic, by Pamela Weintraub

St. Martin’s Press, N.Y. 408 pp., 2008

Review by Wm Olkowski, PhD

This book combines the personal story of the Weintraub family, many others and renegade doctors fighting for the infected patients vs. the medical establishment who were blinded by ignorance.  And it may still be the case as a check on the CDC and the NIH website will show.  Weintraub and her husband are journalists who moved into a Lyme disease enclave in Chapaqua New York to escape the city environment.  Their story of infection and the search for treatment and the story of thousands of others denied diagnosis and consequently treatment led her on a many year quest to find answers to this most unusual infectious disease complexes.  The blinded ignorance is described over and over again and refers to first a steady myopia by academic researchers and government officials, most notably the CDC, who is supposed to be protecting us from such maladies, but in essence repeatedly dropped the ball.  This is a most disturbing book undermines confidence in CDC, after all what else are they dropping from hubris.  But the story is complex.

We now know that Lyme disease with its many diverse symptoms can be caused by at least 3 and up to six pathogens all transmitted by ticks, including the first found, a spirochete called Borrelia burgdorferi.  And there may be more pathogens.  Another spirochete, Treponemia pallidum, the causal agent of syphilis, was virtually knocked out by early antibiotics, particularly penicillin.  If only the earlier experiences with syphilis were examined more closely by investigators, things might have been different.  And then there is the European experience with different strains, which does not seem to be part of this CDC nor US considerations.

And then there are the clinicians who learned that the infections could not be treated successfully with a few weeks of antibiotics as the medical establishment said.  These “renegades” were threatened with loss of license, brought before examination cabals and gave up treating patients from these threats.  This adds another layer of stupidity but tells much about the current health care system in the US, dominated by private insurance companies trying to maximize profits to the disregard for patient experiences.  Repeatedly patients who knew something was wrong became highly frustrated by the inability to get real help from their medial professionals.   Patients who get long term antibiotic treatments, some of which improve the lives of patients even when they do not cure, are consigned to a life long disease and high expense.  For example, when denied a positive (usually blood test) diagnosis and subsequently treatment can spend up to $100,000 if they can find a doctor who is willing to go against the establishment.  No wonder the insurance companies wanted to believe that chronic lime did not exist.

The movie “Under the Skin” covers this ground but like most such exposés leaves out much of the science leaving the viewer with a sad feeling of another tragedy among so many others.  Weintraub covers some recent science, including the great work mostly by veterinarians working with mice and other animals who show that the Borrelia spirochete can form cysts which are resistant to antibiotics and can hide in various tissues, particularly collagen based where they cannot be killed.   This cyst stage, and the odd shapes it forms, was missed by early researchers who stubbornly resisted searching and acknowledging patient experiences, in order to find the long-term cause and treatments.  Even today I don’t know the status of this situation as Weintraub’s book is now four years old already, and possibly fast changing discoveries may provide some hope.  This of course, assumes that the medical establishment gets off its high horse and looks further to account for actual patient experiences rather than assume they know everything.

One of the heroes of this story is a doctor who successfully fought the ignorant medical establishment and retained his license, Joe Burrascano.  He has a website from which one can download his continually revised book on treatment.  The book is sizeable and now in its 16th revision as he updates it as he learns more.  His website should be explored as it contains many other resources for Lyme patients, especially the free documents:  Burrascano’s website is far superior to either the CDC or NIH websites covering the same disease.  Sometimes people never learn.  No wonder some hate Burrascano.

The arrogance of many doctors and researchers is certainly a barrier, but that can have a human face.  Insurance companies are just phone calls and premiums via phone and paper.  And still our representatives look to private sources for medical help.  Gads! My sympathies go out to those infected.

Book Review: The Hidden Story of Cancer by R. Scott Peskin and A. Habib

2009, 626 pp., Pinnacle Press

Review by Wm Olkowski, PhD

This is a proposed preventative program based on scientific papers in a relatively novel format that convinces me that “cancer” can be prevented, and if not too far along treated successfully outside conventional medicine.  I am already leaning that way so what’s new?  Well, this book presents some of the scientific background papers and their studied consequences that could convince you too.  And it shows that the war on cancer has failed.  This could be a prophetic argument one expects before a paradigm shift occurs.  I got my copy from Dr. Mathis our personal MD but I won’t give it back.  I must digest it further.

Causes of Cancer – Not Genetic, Not Toxicants, Not Microbes Peskin and Habib say the cause of cancer is low oxygen to the cells, which triggers cancerous growth.  It is not due to an invader, like a virus or other microbe, and not due to genetics, and not to toxins, although all of these could make things worse.  This low oxygen cause was discovered many decades ago and was forgotten, probably because it was written in German (by Dr. Otto Warburg, M.D., Ph.D., a Nobel prize winner) and awaited translation in recent times.  Cancer is produced when the oxygen level of the cell drops by 35%.  Then the cell tries to survive by switching to a fermentation process compared to a respiration process to produce energy.  The cells that don’t die from this oxygen drop turn cancerous and depend upon a fermentation system to generate energy. These can exist on 20% of the normal cells’ oxygen and subsequent energy production. This later process is also called anaerobic glycolysis.  This is therefore a primitive defense mechanism to aid in cell survival.  The trouble is that these surviving cells have no way to differentiate into tissues, but remain an undifferentiated mass we call a tumor.

What causes low oxygen is not directly explained but one assumes it to be due to dietary factors – particularly faulty fats (hydrogenated, = transfats), and improper ratios between essential fats in the diet.

Once a cancer starts and the immune system fails to eliminate these cells we get tumors, but in each case there is an unknown lag time until detection, if ever.  Cancer is not due to the many secondary sources commonly indicated such as genetic or developmental mutations, microbes or toxicants (smoking, pesticides, air pollution, etc), but a physiological syndrome, which lowers the oxygen to the cells, a sort of starvation.  This does not mean these secondary causes have no influence, but to solve the cancer problem one must work on the cause and these authors say that is why the “War on Cancer” has failed.  There is no cure for cancer and even the purported life extension from traditional treatments does only add a few years at best.  Thus the choices are poor for someone diagnosed with a cancer that is growing and spreading.  The basic question is: Is it worthwhile to treat the cancer or tolerate it and what does the cost/benefit equation look like?  Costs for people who have medical insurance are really about what the treatments are like and whether they are tolerable.  These questions are not discussed.

Pesticides and Cancer? My own favorite cause was pesticide toxicants, but this is challenged by these authors.  Secondary sources do not help but they are not the cause.  They may stimulate a cancerous process already set in motion, however.  This physiological cause can be treated with the proper supplements (essential fatty acids and 6 minerals, and low carbohydrate, high protein diets).  This is not a cure but a preventative strategy.  Once a cell turns cancerous it must be killed, ideally by our immune system.  The following is their argument summarized: 1) medicine has a long history of denial, obfuscation, wrongness and obstinacy in the face of evidence, and this cancer story is another one; 2) There is no support for many of the cancer recommendations from the professional medical community and even for many of the cherished recommendations by national bodies, and certainly most physicians, and 3) the cause is known to be a lack of oxygen to cells which can be treated preventatively and curatively with supplements (depending upon the stage.  A late stage cancer is difficult at best to treat successfully enough to improve quality and quantity of life).

The cause was discovered years ago by a famous physiologist (a Nobel prize winner), who wrote in German.  Now his work has been translated into English.  At the time of his discovery there were no good ways to treat cancers, and even now there are no cures, nor easy and cheap ways to treat the maladies under the cancer label. The authors certainly make a convincing, strong case, but without clinical studies of their recommendation, their mostly-prevention strategy is easy to implement.

The War on Cancer How we love that term, “war”.  The war on cancer, now on-going for over 30 years, has been a colossal waste – in lives, money and materials.  [Add this war to the wars in Iraq and the war on drugs.]  All cancer rates are going up, costs of treatment are skyrocketing, no cures are evidenced, and early detection does not significantly extend life expectancies beyond what was observed in 1973.  Compared to 1900 we have now only increased life expectancy of adults moderately (5-10 years) overall.  The major change in life expectancy between 1900 and now is due to increasing the survival of the young, certainly not due to cancer treatments, where 2-5 yrs. at most are gained by surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy – all with their problems and stresses.

To begin to support their argument the authors cite the following mistakes made by conventional medicine in the past (and even now). {This is a good starter list so I abstract it here with an addition or two.] Note also that corrections eventually occurred but with a variable lag time.

Conventional Medicine has Been Wrong Before – Repeatedly. Some Case Histories.

  1. Ulcers are caused by bacteria, easily and effectively treated.  Acidic secretions do not cause them.  The cause was found in 1983 but the information was rejected as being a preposterous hypothesis.  It took 19 years before Marshall and associates were awarded a Nobel Prize for their discovery and proof.  In the mean time a great deal of suffering and unsuccessful diet recommendations failed.
  2. Penicillin use was delayed for decades after discovery.  Discovered in 1928 it languished until WWII.  Alexander Fleming finally got the Nobel (with two others) in 1945, a delay of 27 years during which untold numbers died.
  3. Washing Hands before surgery.  Discovered in 1848 by the Dr. Sammelweise, a Vienna Physician who was fired from his Obstetrical clinic for going against the zeitgeist.  Doctors would go from autopsy to childbirth and give infections to healthy mothers who died from childbed fever.  Sammelweise was hounded out of the profession for his evidenced supported beliefs and practices.  It took another 25 years to get doctors to wash before surgery.  The delay costs are just hard to fathom. [For a dramatization of these types of experiences see the BBC series called Bramwell, and the movie Wives and Daughters, and the books by Ann Perry.]  There were neither anesthetics nor antiseptics in the 1800’s.  Morphine was available back in the 1800’s however.
  4. Vaccine delays.  Jenner’s first reports of the use of the smallpox vaccine he tested was rejected by the Royal Society of London, the US equivalent now is the National Academy of Sciences.  This delay caused unknown amount of pain and suffering.
  5. Fruits and vegetables are good for you and prevent cancer.  Right? No!! Maybe? There is no solid scientific evidence to support this recommendation.  In fact one of the basic medical texts (Basic Medical Biochemistry, by Marks and Marks 1995, states that many people don’t like vegetables and prefer fruit, but about 50% can’t use the fruit sugar (fructose) over 50 grams per serving.  That’s about 2 pieces of fruit or 16 grapes.  And note that high fructose corn syrup so evident in fruit juices is now being exposed as a metabolic poison.  Fruits have been selected for high sugar content so beware recommendations for too much fruit.
  6. Fiber prevents colon cancer.  NO!! Fiber turns out to be a fiction after 25 years of recommendations.  And further, it makes colon cancer worse by irritating the colon.  Those who eat the most fiber get the most cancer (see N. Eng. J. of Medicine 340, no. 3).
  7. Regular Mammograms are essential.  Wrong!  In addition to the many false positives it takes 8 years for a tumor to grow until it can be detected by a mammogram.  Taking the mammogram actually helps spread the cancerous tissue; this is known from 1928.  This is caused by the tight and sometimes painful compression of the breasts required to take the x-ray.  Although the fact that this ineffective procedure is a profit-driven technology posing risks compounded by unreliability, just never got to the popular press.  The authors go into greater details, which any women worried about breast cancer should read.  The detected cancers will remain quiescent until the patient dies from another cause.  Meanwhile the patient lives with the idea of cancer in their bodies.  Early detection may only raise the stress level.  And these cancers do not need to be treated, many of which have been discovered from the emphasis on early detection.
  8. Heart Attacks and Cholesterol.  75% of patients have normal levels of LDL and HDL cholesterol yet physicians continue to proscribe cholesterol-lowering medications, even in the face of evidence that these medications cause more problems then they help.  Statins are a good example.  My wife was forced to take statins (2 of them) after her stroke, which seems really stupid when one knows that muscle weakness is both a major consequence of stroke and that the major side effect of statin use is muscle weakness.  Statins are now the number one medicine proscribed in the world (26 million prescriptions is a lot of money).  If the majority of the patients who are proscribed a medicine to lower cholesterol don’t need it to prevent heart attacks why are they being used?  [See the book by Taubes, Good Calories, Bad Calories for a detailed well studied refutation of the low fat hypothesis.]
  9. Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT). The use of biochemically foreign hormones has led to no benefit to post menopausal women but increases risks of heart problems, stroke, breast cancer, and thromboembolic events.  Large-scale studies show these problems but bioidentical hormones are different.  [This controversy is still on-going even though bioidentical hormones do not show this pattern, nor should they.  But studies of bioidentical hormones are not available, nor any comparisons.  One can only argue that since the bioidenticals mimic the natural hormones and they do not cause cancer, the compounded “naturals” should not compared to the synthetic hormones, the molecular structures of which have been changed for patent purposes.  So one should add to this list of failures t the use of patented sex hormones (not the bioidentical formulations). ] See the book Sex, Lies and Menopause.
  10. Hemoglobin has now been discovered to carry nitric oxide to the surprise of everyone concerned.  This was one of the most studied molecules in history.  The transport of nitric oxide was discovered in 1996.  This is an example of a new major discovery in a subfield where all seemed already resolved.   It is an example, both of how little we really know about the body and how science can increase awareness, sometimes in surprising ways, seldom anticipated.  A little humility can go along way to dispel the know it all attitude of many doctors.
  11. The discovery of Essential Fatty Acids having anticancer effects was known in 1929.  This is another example of forgotten science, rediscovered significantly adding to what is known.  The use of EFA’ is discussed further below.
  12. Older diuretics are superior to other modern blood pressure medicines.  To support this conclusion the authors cite an 8 years study of over 42,000 patients from 600 centers in the US showing that older diuretics are more effective in lowering BPs and heart attacks than the newer drugs (ACE inhibitors, and calcium channel blockers).  The citation is not provided but I think it’s the ALLHAT study (see Houston, Handbook of Hypertension for an update on conventional treatments).
  13. Avoid Nitrates in Prepared Foods?  Nitrate is a preservative in hot dogs and many other prepared meats.  Nitrates have long believed to be linked to stomach cancer from mice and rat studies.  Human studies have never provided any causal link.  In contrast newer information indicates nitrates as being beneficial.
  14. Fish Oil is worthless or at worst dangerous.  The authors cite specific papers going back into the early 1990s showing no effect and even deleterious effects on the immune system, and brain.
  15. [The low fat hypothesis.  Eat low fat usually means eating high carbohydrates since protein is too costly and after reducing fats what is left is carbohydrates, which are the cheapest items in the diet. The authors do not directly mention this aspect but this is probably the worst case of current medical recommendations being false and dangerous.]  For a thorough exploration of this hypothesis see Taubes the investigative reporter who wrote the expose on the low fat hypothesis Good Calories, Bad Calories, see review on my blog).

A Perspective on the Scientific Process The authors build their case about cancer prevention and treatment by carefully and interestingly providing scientific documents along with their interpretation.  This is a very useful format for presenting science-based protocols for treatment and prevention.  A few of the quotes they use I have collected below, high lighting the authors comments are so useful in understanding where these authors are coming from.

“We are suffering from a wealth of information, but a poverty of understanding what that information means.” B. Peskin.

This refers to the long discussions these authors provide about the extensive current research, which supports their statements.  Clearly doctors are behind in accessing the research, sometimes many decades.  The general physician has little time to read the literature, even if they could sort through the maze of statistics and conclusions.  And why read up on recent work when the drug companies send reps to educate the doctors.  Also, a lack of critical thinking skills is widespread in the industry.  And the use of elaborate statistical procedures adds to the confusion, as do the interpretations of combining studies in “meta-analyses” with different time periods and treatment protocols.  And then there are the insurance companies, which add or remove drugs from their lists without much input from patients and their doctors.

“The definition of madness is to do the same thing and expect a different outcome.”     Einstein.

This refers to the war on cancer, which is a dismal failure, yet continues sucking up great amounts of money, time and equipment.  And the madness continues.

“Discovery consists of seeing what everyone has seen and thinking what nobody else has thought”  Szent-Gyorgyi (discoverer of vitamin C).

This refers to the discoverer of the cause of cancer, by Dr. Otto Warburg, who discovered the cause, but because he was so far ahead of his time, nobody paid attention.  And then there would be a fight to introduce something new, which seems to always be resisted.

“A new scientific truth does not triumph by convincing its opponents and making them see the light, but rather because its opponent eventually die, and a new generation grows up that is familiar with it.”  Max Plank (Nobel Prize winner in physics)

This last quote is particularly relevant to this book as the common knowledge that eating lots of fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and a minimum of red meat and fat is today’s unsupported zeitgeist.  There is no scientific support for this regime.  [A case in point: today we are waiting for the low-fat people to die.]  See the book reviews by Taubes and Bernstein (in my blog archive, WO).

The Treatment Program The program recommended by these authors has three parts, 1) Use of a proper ratio of parental Essential Fatty Acids (EFAs), 2) supplementation with chelated minerals, and 3) a high protein, high fat low carbohydrate diet.

2) Supplementation with Essential Fatty Acids (EFA’s) from parent sources, not from derivatives.

Use of EFA’s (The word “essential” means the body cannot make them, and must get them in the diet):  The two EFA’s needed by the body are linoleic acid (LA) and alpha-linoleic acid (ALA).  The main sources are meats, seeds, but less so from seafood. Although these parent EFA’s are widely distributed in plant oils, the amounts are so small that one needs to eat an impossible number of plants to get an adequate amount. The human body has a limited ability to convert ALA into the longer-chain n-3 fatty acids eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), which can also be obtained from fish, (but in low levels).  (From Wikipedia, essential fatty acids, 6/2011).

Further, buying supplements that are labeled as DHA or EPA commonly means they are not “parent” sources, being somewhat processed (labels can be confusing).  The best source is parent, but if the best is not possible, take the derivative supplements but these need to be in the proper proportion and not too old.  The optimal ratio between the two EFA’s is within the range of 1 to 1 (expressed as 1:1) up to 2:1 parent Omega-6 to parent Omega 3.  A deficiency in these two EFA’s is what produces the oxygen shortage and cancers.  Store these oils in the frig and be sure to buy the smallest bottles which are opaque to exclude sunlight which degrades oils.

Biochemistry Background These fatty acids (AL, ALA) form the bulk of the fat portion of the cell wall, which is about half fat and half protein.  The body is composed if about 100 trillion cells.  This is the main membrane across which all nutrients in the body must pass to get into the cell where the energy and structural molecules are made.  This membrane has no carbohydrate structural components.  The fat component is divided into saturated and unsaturated fatty acids.  [Polyunsaturated fatty acids are also called PUFA’s].  The saturated fat protects the highly reactive unsaturated fats in the membrane.  The PUFA’s in the proper ratio absorb oxygen from the blood stream like a magnet.  Low oxygen causes cancerous reproduction of the cell. The gas (O2) diffuses readily thru the hydrophobic (fat) membrane portion, but not through a transfat or saturated fat part.  Inside the cell these fats are also incorporated into the mitochondrial membrane, which also becomes dysfunctional.  The mitochondria are the energy producers of the cell, which is the basic source for the body’s energy.  Membrane dysfunction leads to oxygen depletion, which leads to cancer, which kills you slowly and miserably.  Gross fatigue is a major symptom of cancer.

Avoid any derivatives but get these EFAs from foods unless you cannot get adequate amounts on a daily basis.  With the right ratio of EFA’s 1:1 to 2:1 omega 6 to omega 3 EFAs. Food sources of EFA’s are primarily meats, less so from seeds and even less so in seafood.

1) Supplementation with chelated minerals (Cu, Fe, Se, Mg, Mn, Zn)(chelation means being attached to an amino acid which aids in absorption), and

2) High protein low carbohydrate diets (and no processed foods) with the proper ratio between parent EFAs.

Some Final Thoughts I continue to look into this book for further clarifications and I have started the regime they describe, as it is very close to what we were already doing with some minor changes. We already eat only grass fed meats (beef, buffalo, and lamb).

I went to the health food stores and studied their oils and found that there are only two oils I could use to meet the proper ratios: hemp oil and flax oil.  So I bought both and alternate them one day using hemp oil, the next day flax oil in our coffee and sour cream mixtures (as of 7-10-11).  This store is very busy so the restocking rates are favorable.  Both oils come in opaque containers, one in glass, which minimizes foreign substance ingestions.  The best foods come in glass, avoid plastics whenever possible so as to not take in the plasticizers.

Next I searched for a good supplement or more to get a steady supply of chelated minerals, but there was no single product at the local health food stores and chelated sources were not obvious, except for magnesium (Mg).  So now this regime hangs up temporarily until I find such sources for the reminder of the minerals.  Meanwhile I am added a mineral mix to our drinking water, and using a liquid multivitamin mix in our coffee and sour cream mixes.  I have ordered a product via the web called Mineral 650 from “pure encapsulations” which has a good range of minerals, but in low doses more like what one can get from a good multivitamin.  And we frequently use nuts in our munchie diet while watching loads of absorbing movies (see blog for recent list).

We eat little fruit because of the sugars they contain as we eat very little carbos (=sugar) in all forms and no food that quickly converts to sugars (like grains, pastas. bread, etc).  This is because of preventing type II diabetes (see Dr. Bernstein’s Diabetic Solution, reviewed on my blog).  So this new regime is no discomfort, little change and these authors confirms again my belief that sugars and bad fats are at the basis of reduced and painful death processes.

If these authors are wrong, I risk little since shifting to parent EFA’s from my previous EPA-DHA supplements in pill form is not risky.  Besides I like the idea of using hemp and flax oils, and they are easy to mix at low doses even though the taste is strange to our palettes.

Book Review: Survival of the Sickest, by Sharon Moalem,2007

Harper/Collins Publishers. 267 pp.

Review by Wm Olkowski, PhD

This is a hard book to categorize since it intertwines genetics, medicine, microbiology and parasitology, evolution of our microbial symbionts, and pathogens and epigenetics. This most informative volume covers some common human diseases showing how our earlier survival was dependent upon genetic changes now expressed as diseases such as: hemochromatosis, diabetes, high cholesterol, favism, autoimmune diseases, and aging. For example, people with a predisposition to high blood sugar are now classified as diabetics. But at one time this predisposition to high blood sugar helped pregnant mothers keep their developing fetus alive during famines. The fetus is most sensitive to glucose during brain development; a shortage would mean miscarriage or birth defects. Along the way through the book you get an update on your genetic education while learning the latest about diseases like bubonic plague, diabetes, heart disease, malaria, as well as probiotics and common symbionts and various genetic problems. The chapters are like bite-sized lectures. But there is much more. For instance, check out the water birthing primates and jumping genes.

Book Review: The Origin of Humankind, by Richard Leaky

1994, 171 pp. Perseus Book Group

Review by Wm Olkowski, PhD

When I saw this book among the list produced by E.R. Hamilton Book Sellers I knew it would be good because I knew the name of Leakey as being a family of archeologists who had made pioneering discoveries of fossil humans.  This small, inexpensive book (ca. $5.) is special because it explains how archeologists think about their discoveries of skeletons, tools, drawings, etc. and what they tell us about the history and development of Homo sapiens.  Leaky has the great ability to tell the story without losing the interest of the reader, even though the subject is complex.  His enthusiasm for his subject is contagious.

One of the great things about this book is opposite the credit page – a diagram that synopsizes the main events in the origin story starting in Africa at 10 to 5 million years back.  I wish I had this drawing when reading the books by Fagan about early human archeology, e.g., Cro-Magnon).  Between 10-5 mya was a time when we became bipedal.  Bipedalism was a response to the change in Africa that went from almost total forest to savannah.  Bipedalism means a greater home range as a two-legged animal can run faster and longer than a four-legged animal.  This was a necessary step in leaving Africa.

The synoptic diagram covers up to the current time, which is labeled as the “technological revolution”.  The evidence as we progress through the different species and toolmakers is presented to the reader for examination.  The story starts as what maybe the earliest known fossil primate/Homo sp?, called Australopithecus afarensis, on the line to H. sapiens.  (But see the book “The Link”, which carries the story much further back to about 70 million years ago.)  Leakey’s story is about how we became who we are, particularly as toolmakers, artists and organisms that speak, and evolve social civilizations.

Even though this book is over 15 years old, Leakey’s presentation brings a clarity because it has maps, diagrams of skulls and skeletons for comparisons, family trees, photographs of tools, special bones with the signs of butchery, but above all, his clarity of thought.  He is presenting scientific ideas the reader can judge for himself or herself, based on the evidence, which Leaky presents.

What seems so odd is that so many people today do not know this story and seem to work hard to avoid learning about where they came from.  Will further evolution of humans lead to a variety of humans who do not think rationally; and then a new species of irrationals? Or has that always been the case?  But as more and more humans learn more and more will this mounting irrationality finally stop?  Maybe it’s not just the amount of learning but the type of learning.  Let’s hope the latter is the case as we are now in a race to catch up to an environment we have created that threatens our existence.  Big changes ahead no matter what future awaits.

Book Review: Dr. Bernstein’s Diabetes Solution, newly revised and updated

The Complete Guide to Achieving Normal Blood Sugars,  R. K. Bernstein, MD.  2007

Review by Wm Olkowski, PhD

This was the clincher for me to go to a low carbo diet.  The heart attack helped, but after reading Taubes I knew the low fat hypothesis was the wrong way for me.  Like alcoholics, we were addicted to sugars from added sucrose in our coffee and teas, fructose from honey, sucrose in candy bars, etc, and glucose from pasta, potatoes, rice and other grain products of all sorts.  We were following the USDA pyramid with some added sugars we excused, because of our high activity levels. We resolved more than three times to clean our diet and our bodies from sugars of all sorts, starting with our storage closet in the kitchen.  I kept finding more hidden jars of jams, jellies, preserves etc.  Just like an alcoholic hides a bottle as insurance, we did the same with our sugar sources.  Start reading the labels and try, just try to eat fewer than 10 grams of sugars from the foods you normally eat.  Fewer sugar calories will not kill you, but chronic ingestion of sugars (from any source) will lead to diabetes, a slow painful and debilitating death.  Diabetes is a precursor to many other maladies, certainly cardiovascular problems like stroke and heart disease.

That’s my conclusion now, but reading Dr. Bernstein’s story just gave me the clinical data I needed.  Bernstein was born with Diabetes I, with a poorly functioning pancreas that normally leads to death in youth.  His history starts back when insulin was first discovered and needed to be injected in large amounts.  This lead to lumps wherever it was injected.  He used this old system to make his way through college, gaining an engineering degree.  After graduation he got a job with a medical device company, which had just received early models of the glucose meter. This excited him to learn to use these devices to manage his own diabetes, which is a most interesting story, particularly if you are a diabetic now.  He describes his methods in detail.  And they go against the American Diabetes Association (ADA) recommendations.

However, the next part of the story is even more interesting.  Although he had managed his own diabetes with the new device, he could not interest MDs.  They didn’t believe patients could or should have a role to play in managing their conditions.  He became so frustrated he went back to school and got an MD degree and now is a highly respected practitioner, specializing in diabetes.  This story reinforces a view of a most power-holding, fossilized, money grubbing, medical profession (except for pioneers like Bernstein).

His approach to managing type II diabetes is to minimize eating glucose-containing foods.  Then, at the worst, one has only to use insulin as a supplement, if at all.  This goes against ADA and AMA advice.  His chapter on carbohydrates alone is worth the cost of the book, as few other health food books go to this depth.  But there is much more in this book, so that I reread it periodically and always find new stuff about supplements and exercise, for example.

List of Good Movies

by Bill Olkowski

We have a long list of previous great movies – mostly comedies, but I can’t find it right now.  But since Helga got part of her vision back about 6-8 months ago, we have started to again screen movies for hours on any one day.

There is no life without theater. But it has to be compelling and funny.  Most of what we have selected to look at on Netflix (regular and instant) does not make it past 15 minutes.  And to even start looking we have already screened out 80-95 percent of what is available.

We select mostly from comedies, British movies and actors, dramas that are not dark or about the break up of marriages or other catastrophes, including people dying.  Its not reality we seek, we have too much already.  We see lots of nature films, and a series or two made for TV (but no laugh tracks, which we find insulting).  And all the war documentaries, I have already seen or don’t wish to visit again, we skip.  We skip all political movies, fantasy or reality.  We are now on virtually a permanent vacation from the news.  We search for realistic fantasy for adults that has depictions of transformation, growth (significant), love in all its manifestations, great photography, good stories, well done with great actors.  No animation stories, no ghosts, etc., no junk science, or science fiction, no robots, aliens or monsters, human or otherwise.

Why are the studio types persisting in using death and dying as a feature or theme?  Are we so bereft of grief counseling that we need to relive someone else’s tragedies.  It’s a cheap device to illicit emotions, add that to your disgust list about current films.  So what follows is a recent, sanitized list.  The one movie that stands out even in such a highly selected group is Woody Allen’s “Whatever Works”.  It’s the best thing he has done, even better than “Deconstructing Harry”. This includes his recent movie: “You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger”, which is fun but not full of fun, like “Whatever Works”, which also has a strong social-political-psychological conclusion.

But subjectivism (is that a new word?), is widespread among one’s friends and never more so than in relation to movies.  So here is the latest top 10 (or so): How many do you agree with as being good?  How many can you add?

  1. I’ll Take You There – girl gets guy, or vice versa, seemed wild at first then cleared up and finally concluded with an “aha”.  I would select the girl who would take a bullet for me, wouldn’t you? Forget the other(s).  Or is it really the other way round and one can watch how it is done.
  2. The Golden Boys – the acting makes the story run and run, a beauty.  So that’s the way David Carridine and Rip Torn aged.  It’s easier on the men, at least on the exterior.  I didn’t see Mariel Hemingway beneath her glasses and outfit at first, but after a few scenes she shines out.  Retired sea captains want a wife, so they advertise and Mariel shows up, wow!!!  Will she select the right one? Why?  I like it when the romantic plot tells why the couples like each other, and stop pretending it’s so mysterious, its not all pheromones.
  3. Groundhog Day – still gets us after seeing it many many times.  The best thing Bill Murray has ever done.  Never see Andie McDowell anymore, what happened?
  4. Humboldt County – a male transformational drama, set in the context of raising MJ for profit or livelihood, that is the question.  The kid says it succinctly, “its better than beer”).  But alas the federales come when the growing place is beyond enough for a year for a family.  The sad thing is that MJ is illegal.  It’s the temperance movement repeated,  leading to armed criminals and police conflict.
  5. Gosford Park – Another repeat from our earlier list, but as a story and period recreation a great one.  The British class structure is there, as is the sorry place of female servitude in both upper and lower classes.  Another Altman gem.
  6. Dean Spanley – a weird story told well, but touching non-the-less, with good actors, but based on truly a theatrical device, or on an unrealized and undeveloped human ability?
  7. Outsourced – a cross-cultural bit (India-US, corporate world), but strong, and a love story.
  8. Who am I This Time? – a sweet sweet story with two great actors, the young Christopher Walken and Susan Sarandon.  And fun too.  Just saw it.
  9. The Extra Man – unusual lifestyles all interesting.  Watching Kevin Klein’s antics is always worth the view.
  10. Passions All Spent – an adult movie without any pornography.  For the older set. Finally, a real story with some passion for life’s true moments.
  11. Lovely Still – a tearjerker we stumbled into and it held our attention.  But watch out.
  12. Trixie – one long series of malaprops, in which Emily Watson tries to use, with expected results, all the fun over a murder mystery and unrequited love story. Emily is the private eye.  Listen carefully and the malaprops start right at the beginning.
  13. Great documentary: Engineering Rome, first disc shows how the Roman army crossed the Danube by building a wooden bridge from locally timbered logs, in something like five days, then after a brief romp in German territory, crosses over and pulls the bridge down.  A clear demonstration of power, without loosing a single soldier.
  14. Series: Downton Abbey is a Brit-recreation of the way it was, always great stuff.  Nothing still beats the Gilmore Girls, by the way.
  15. Great Nature Series – all narrated by David Attenborough, are the best, but there are many (see also Planet Earth).  The skeletal and muscular animations of animals in action are wonderful new additions to the naturalist toolkit, as are night vision cameras, and light weight aerial camera work.  The worldviews of different ecosystems and special wildlife are terrific, but alas no decent discussion of what natural controls and the balance of nature really mean.  The documentary “Evolution” disc 1 is a historical recreation mix with commentary, an unusual way to present a story.  The “Journey of Man” tells the recent human evolution story based on sciences of genetics, anthropology and archeology, a must see.
  16. Colombo – never saw it before but found the 7-season series light fun.  Motive, Means and Opportunity are the keys to all the stories.
  17. Bogie – as a documentary and historical recreation is marvelous, but too bad he had to die of smoking.  Lot’s I did not know about his wife. The only other biopic, that is better, is Chaplin, with a virtuoso performance by Robert Downey.
  18. We started Ken Burns’ series on the West but gave up half way.  The reoccurring theme of how we fucked over the native populations makes me sick to be a human and a US citizen.  How can one cover up the tragedies with bullshit.  We don’t criticize Ken Burns at all, after all he is telling the truth.  It’s just us.
  19. Also,  The Human Family Tree.

Book Review: The Snoring Bird by Bernd Heinrich, 2007

Review by Wm Olkowski, PhD, 2.28.11

Subtitle: My Family’s Journey Through A Century of Biology.

We got our introduction to Bernd Heinrich from another of his books: “The Mind of Raven”.  That raven book shows how a scientist thinks and performs the work of gathering evidence, so I thought this new book was worth a read.  This has turned out to be a surprising gem.  His task with the “Mind of the Raven” was to ask why a group of ravens shared a carcass, as this would be an example of altruism since the members of the sharing flock were not all related.  But that book only whetted my appetite for more about ravens and this naturalist-entomologist.  So when I saw this book with the odd title and his name I thought, hey why not.  After all, he is an entomologist and a contemporary, since he was at UC, Berkeley’s Entomology Dept. around the time when I was there.

His academic and personal career is covered in this biographical work in a most pleasing and illuminating way.  He grew up on an estate in Northwest Poland, then part of Germany. His parents told him stories about their life there that painted a Shangri-la type of existence.  His father was a naturalist from the old school,l when collecting and taxonomy was king.  He specialized in Ichneumonids, the largest family of the Hymenoptera, which are all parasitoids.  His father’s single-minded pursuit of ichneumonids took him and his family all over the world.  He would finance his trips by collecting and preparing museum specimens of birds and rodents for different museums in Europe and the US.  Then he would also collect his favorites, the ichneumonids, for himself.

When I visited the famous ichneumonid specialist Henry Townes, before his death, he told me about an uneducated man who could identify thousands of specimens to species by sight.  He must have been talking about Gerd, Bernd’s father, a most unusual, self-taught man.  This book is a historical reconstruction of that time, based on correspondence translated from German, of Bernd’s early days and his experiences with his father’s adventures.  One of the adventures was the collection of the Snoring Bird in the Celebes, a project that took two years of jungle searching.

The Heinrich family was forced to leave their estate, with food and cyanide pills, as the murderous rapping Russian Army was gobbling up much territory to satisfy Stalin’s greedy quest for power.  The story (with maps and photos) of their escape via horse drawn wagon, car, train and airplane, reads like an action-adventure story, with close escapes due to kindness and chance.  For example, in their escape to the West an America officer befriended them and told them to leave, giving them a car.  They did not understand why he would warn them. “Just trust me and leave”.  It turned out that the American knew about the deal Roosevelt and Stalin cut carving up Poland, Germany and Eastern Europe.  He warned them so they would not be trapped in the Eastern Sector.  At another point they were held up by British sentries guarding a bridge crossing the Elbe-Trave canal, the boundary between the American and British sectors.  One of the sentries was an ethnic pole who told them (they also spoke Polish) that the British were preventing refugees fleeing the Russians from crossing.  Eventually the sentries let them cross, while a few hours later it was closed to the hoards fleeing the frightful Red Army.  If not for these men the Heinrich family would have been German instead of American. The stories he tells are full of the chance coincidences of life’s randomness and how it played a major part in their lives.

The relationship between the father and son was strained by the father’s stern demeanor and his obsession with ichneumonids.  Bernd describes many such interactions, along with a great childhood of being in the woods of Germany, many tropical areas, and Maine, where the family still maintained the farm they bought, after years of struggling, picking apples and other odd jobs, including collecting museum specimens.  His father was an important naturalist in a closing age of naturalist collectors (e.g., Darwin for example).  Bernd’s education was different, and when he turned to biology he describes how he was pulled away from the naturalists’ view to the molecular zeitgeist prevalent at the time when we were in graduate school.  This is changing again, but not in a significant way.  One hopes that new identification tools and techniques would develop enough so a naturalist could actually work on larger chunks of the web of life.

Gerd Heinrich’s large ichneumonid collection resides mostly in European museums, and his thousands of bird and rodent specimens are also found in US museums.  He saved some of his Polish collections by burying them in metal boxes as he was leaving before the Russians.  Wow!!