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Diet soda, strokes and heart attacks

It’s also a risk factor for pancreatic cancer. Sorry!

Back in 1990, the National Institutes of Health began funding a long-term study of stroke and cardiovascular risk factors among of urban adults. Known as the Northern Manhattan Study and housed at Columbia University, the project enrolled thousands of people from the community and subjected them to medical testing while recording their food-consumption habits.

Among its results, a surprising one has emerged (recently published paper available here): people who drink at least one diet soda a day are 43 percent more likely to experience a “vascular event”—i.e., strokes and heart attacks—than people who drink none.

Now, it’s important to understand that studies like this one establish correlation, not causation. It’s possible that the heart trouble experienced by diet soda drinkers comes from some other behavior they share that has nothing to do with diet soda.

But crucially, this study accounted for factors like weight, diabetes, high blood pressure, and intake of calories, cholesterol, and sodium, study author and University of Miami epidemiologist Hannah Gardener told me in a phone conversation. In other words, non-overweight diet soda drinkers showed significantly more risk of heart attack than non-overweight people who don’t drink diet soda.

The Manhattan results comes on the heels of other highly suggestive research showing an association between diet-soda consumption and type 2 (adult onset) diabetes and metabolic syndrome, a condition characterized by abdominal obesity, high blood pressure, and other factors.

March photo a day challenge

Here’s my fruit:

More news from the Department of Duh

It’s astounding that they’re actually saying what the rest of us already know:

WASHINGTON — For more than a decade, questions have lingered about the possible role of the Saudi government in the attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, even as the royal kingdom has made itself a crucial counterterrorism partner in the eyes of American diplomats.

Now, in sworn statements that seem likely to reignite the debate, two former senators who were privy to top secret information on the Saudis’ activities say they believe that the Saudi government might have played a direct role in the terrorist attacks.

“I am convinced that there was a direct line between at least some of the terrorists who carried out the September 11th attacks and the government of Saudi Arabia,” former Senator Bob Graham, Democrat of Florida, said in an affidavit filed as part of a lawsuit brought against the Saudi government and dozens of institutions in the country by families of Sept. 11 victims and others. Mr. Graham led a joint 2002 Congressional inquiry into the attacks.

His former Senate colleague, Bob Kerrey of Nebraska, a Democrat who served on the separate 9/11 Commission, said in a sworn affidavit of his own in the case that “significant questions remain unanswered” about the role of Saudi institutions. “Evidence relating to the plausible involvement of possible Saudi government agents in the September 11th attacks has never been fully pursued,” Mr. Kerrey said.

Their affidavits, which were filed on Friday and have not previously been disclosed, are part of a multibillion-dollar lawsuit that has wound its way through federal courts since 2002. An appellate court, reversing an earlier decision, said in November that foreign nations were not immune to lawsuits under certain terrorism claims, clearing the way for parts of the Saudi case to be reheard in United States District Court in Manhattan.

Freedom of speech

This is so damned depressing.

Two of my favorites……

Bye bye, free speech

Just kidding! I’m sure this would never be used against the enemies of the status quo:

Japanese scientists with the National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology claimed this week that they have developed a novel new weapon by combining two specialized technologies in such a way that they are now capable of rendering someone unable to speak.

While it’s not technically a weapon, their “portable speech-jamming gun” could certainly be used as one, especially against political leaders or others who speak to large audiences for a living.

Combining a directional microphone and a directional speaker, the “Speechjammer” records and quickly plays back whatever words someone is uttering, making it very difficult for the speaker to focus on what words come next. The effect is called “artificial stuttering.”

Because the directional amplifier can only be heard by the person it is pointing at, the gun’s effect is like hearing a recording of one’s own voice echoing inside one’s skull. Researchers said their device can be used from approximately 34 meters away, but there are other directional amplification technologies that go further.

The original use for directional audio projection, however, came from the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), which created the first “sonic projector” as a means of inserting messages into an enemy’s brain or hiding secret communications.

The new G.I. Bill

Useful piece in the Times this week about how some colleges are adapting to an influx of veterans (and in some cases, not trying to adapt at all). It makes a big difference in whether the vet is going to succeed:

“There are some great colleges and universities that deserve an A+,” said Mr. Garcia, a former Marine. “But there are some colleges and universities that perform varying unscrupulous practices, and they deserve an F.” An area needing immediate improvement, according to Mr. Garcia, is career counseling. As of January, 9.1 percent of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans were unemployed, higher than the national rate of 8.3 percent.

Clearly, some schools deserve high marks for looking out for student-veterans. Columbia University, which banned the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps in 1969 and allowed it back only in 2011, now ships out admissions staff members to military bases to recruit students.

And what a difference a war makes at the University of California, Berkeley. Rocked by violent antiwar protests during the Vietnam era, the school currently promotes its “military friendly” designation from G.I. Jobs magazine on its Web site for veterans.

Still, Gene van den Bosch, who founded the Arizona Veterans’ Education Foundation, frets that some schools pay student-veterans little more than lip service. “Perhaps some colleges are trying to maximize a public relations benefit and portray themselves as being military- or veteran-friendly,” Mr. van den Bosch said. “And yet when you investigate and say, ‘Define that,’ it turns out it may be in many cases, ‘We have somebody who’s going to help them process their G.I. Bill checks.’ ”

If you (or someone you know) is related to or knows an Iraq vet, pass this article along.


Hah! My friends make fun of me for insisting that pogo sticks would be good in earthquakes. Same damn principle!

A Japanese company called Air Danshin Systems can make houses fly. Not all the time, and not for particularly long. But when it counts — during an earthquake — the company’s technology canlevitate a house more than an inch off its foundation. That means that while the earth shakes, the house stays safe.

Here’s how it works: an alarm registers an earthquake and turns on the system, which blasts compressed air between the house and its foundation. The air suspends the house for those endless seconds that the earth is quaking. And then the house settles back onto the earthquake-resistant and presumably still-intact foundation.

Kerrey on

What Charlie Pierce said.

The Jeb scenario playing out?

Journalist Russ Baker, publisher of WhoWhatWhy.com and author of “Family of Secrets: The Bush Dynasty, America’s Invisible Government, and the Hidden History of the Last Fifty Years,” (an utterly chilling book, by the way) thinks the Bush clan is working behind the scenes to install Jeb next.

Baker is no whack job, although you’d think so from the reactions to his current topics. He seems to be avoided by the same establishment media types who used to hire him and praise his work, but also has his supporters, including James C. Moore (author of “Bush’s Brain” and Bill Moyers). He’s always worth a listen:

In 1990, when George H.W. was president, Jeb got him to release the convicted terrorist Orlando Bosch, who had participated in more than 30 terrorist acts (among other things, Bosch was implicated in the bombing of a Cubana plane that resulted in the deaths of 73 civilians). In 1998, with heavy help from the Cuban community, Jeb was elected governor, and thus emerged in a prime position to help his elder brother, George W., prevail in the 2000 Florida election fiasco, and thereby become president. As governor, Jeb nominated Raoul Cantero, the grandson of the Cuban dictator Batista, to the Florida supreme court, though he was lacking in experience—Cantero had been the terrorist Bosch’s spokesman and attorney.

In the aftermath of September 11, while the George W. Bush administration was pushing the colored panic light like crazy, and targeting terrorist suspects of all kinds and levels of probable guilt and innocence, it consented to the release of Cuban exiles convicted of terrorist offenses. Jeb advocated for these releases as well.


Jeb has been carefully laying a scenario in which he could indeed run — and could be very well received. He’s traveled the country extensively as a kind of elder statesman. And recently he criticized the GOP presidential candidates’ behavior:

“I watch these debates and.. it’s a little troubling sometimes when people are appealing to people’s fears and emotion rather than trying to get them to look over the horizon for a broader perspective and that’s kind of where we are…I think it changes when we get to the general election. I hope.”
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