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Conservative Fear April 20, 2010

Posted by Jim Satterfield in Government, Health Care, Science & Society, The Obama Administration.
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Jason Arvak writes a post at The Moderate Voice entitled The Slide Down The Slippery Slope Begins. In it he argues that the concerns that conservatives professed about government interference in the tiny details of our private lives just might be justified because the FDA is thinking of proposing standards to reduce the amount of salt in processed foods. He ends his post with the line “But it is unclear why they are unwilling to allow the government into the bedroom but perfectly willing to shove it into our kitchen pantry.”. While he links to an article on the proposals in the Washington Post he does not mention why this proposal is being put forth. From the WP article:

Until now, the government has pushed the food industry to voluntarily reduce salt and tried to educate consumers about the dangers of excessive sodium. But in a study to be released Wednesday, an expert panel convened by the Institute of Medicine concludes that those measures have failed. The panel will recommend that the government take action, according to sources familiar with the findings.

He also doesn’t mention why this proposal is important. Back to the WP article with the emphasis being added by me.

A recent study by researchers at Columbia and Stanford universities and the University of California at San Francisco found that cutting salt intake by 3 grams a day could prevent tens of thousands of heart attacks, strokes and cases of heart disease.

Most salt eaten by Americans — 77 percent — comes from processed foods, making it difficult for consumers to limit salt to healthy levels, experts say.

“We can’t just rely on the individual to do something,” said Cheryl Anderson, an epidemiologist at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health who served on the Institute of Medicine committee. “Food manufacturers have to reduce the amount of sodium in foods.”

Is there some conspiracy to enter our kitchens and confiscate our table salt? No. Is it at all likely that this is going to happen? Once again, no. In fact, the industry, with the exception of the Salt Institute, is working with the government and has been for a while and both groups recognize the problems inherent in the attempts to reach this goal as this bit shows.

Above all, government officials and food industry executives say, a product with reduced salt must still taste good, or it will flop in the marketplace, as evidenced by several low-sodium products that had abysmal sales.

“Historically, consumers have found low-sodium products haven’t been of the quality that’s expected,” said Todd Abraham, senior vice president of research and nutrition for Kraft Foods. “We’re all trying to maintain the delicious quality of the product but one that consumers recognize as healthier.”

So while it may be something that conspiracy theorists will love to seize upon as a weapon against the evils of Obamacare I just don’t think it’s very good ammo for them.

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Obama’s New Plan for NASA – Some Different Sources April 18, 2010

Posted by Jim Satterfield in Politics, Science, Science & Society, Space Program.
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Whenever there is a major announcement by an American President concerning important government programs, pretty much all of the media jumps in with coverage. President Obama recently made some major changes in plans for NASA and the normal script was followed. But when it comes to some things maybe people who are a bit more interested in the subject and therefore hopefully more knowledgeable on the subject should be found. So here are some articles on the plan from lesser know outlets.

CNet

Space.com

A theoretical astrophysicist’s blog on ScienceBlogs

Bad Astronomy blog

My opinion is that a lot of what President Obama laid out are very good ideas. But I still think that doing some really original research on a new approach to returning to the moon would be a very good idea.

Yes, AGW has Consequences August 8, 2008

Posted by Jim Satterfield in Climate Change, Environment, Science, Science & Society.
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One of the things you’ll hear repeated all too often by those who deny the existence of AGW (Anthropogenic Global Warming), or “man-made” global warming is “Even if it is true, so what? What’s so bad about things being a little warmer?”. Well, here’s yet another bad thing about it. It just isn’t true that if the planet warms up a bit that it’s just going to give us warmer days in winter. Droughts. Floods. Storms. Extreme weather events will be more extreme and possibly more common. You’ll even see more snow in some places. That’s why the interior of Antarctica is seeing more snow and ice. But the coastal regions are another story entirely. It’s not all simple. It’s not all intuitive. But does have the potential to get really ugly in terms of how it will affect the human race.

Not Only Fiction, But Badly Mistaken Fiction February 2, 2008

Posted by Jim Satterfield in Media, Medical Research, Science & Society, Science & the Media.
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When I heard about ABC’s new show, Eli Stone, I thought it sounded like an interesting premise that could be fun to watch so I tuned in for the premier the other night. But as the New York Times notes today the case that attorney Stone finds himself switching sides on is a really bad example to use when it comes to representing the underdog as justice for the average person over the large corporation. It’s so bad I couldn’t bring myself to watch the whole show because they are pushing an idea that has been disproven multiple times. The case involves a woman convinced that the mercury in the preservative of the vaccine that her son received is responsible for his autism. This idea has been researched to death and not, as happens in some cases, purely by the manufacturer. Some of the most prestigious health care organizations in the world don’t agree with this belief. In fact, as the NYT piece points out, the rate of autism has continued to increase even as vaccine manufacturers have phased out the use of mercury in childhood vaccines. But the writers and producers of the show ignored facts, ignored logic and chose to fan the flames of finger pointing that has lost any connection to reality. I just don’t know if I can reward that kind of bad taste by ever watching their show.

Move Along. Nothing to see here. October 25, 2007

Posted by Jim Satterfield in Climate Change, Environment, Science, Science & Society, Science & the Media.
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Global warming brings spring earlier in the year. There are those in the world who say that this must surely be a blessing. Well, maybe not so much. As this article on CNN points out, an earlier spring means a longer fire season in the American west. You know, that place that’s burning right now? Don’t worry, though, folks, Bjorn Lomborg has reassured us that there are worries much more pressing than global warming.

Things That Shouldn’t Go Away October 6, 2007

Posted by Jim Satterfield in Does Not Compute, Education, Geek Stuff, Government, Science, Science & Society, Technology.
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The basis of this blog is in part the idea that things change and in many cases we’re better off adapting than trying to remain stuck in the past. Or to put it in another way if you base your plans and beliefs on the way things were instead of the way things are, odds are the plans aren’t going to work out very well.

But some things really shouldn’t go away completely and instead should at least exist even if some change is necessary. A new show on PBS, Wired Science, did a segment entitled Dangerous Science about how the ability for youngsters and adult amateurs to do hands on science is almost extinct. There’s no longer any such thing as a real chemistry set, many chemicals and materials that amateur scientists and tinkerers need will set off alarms in Homeland Security and even school labs are hesitant to let their students do real hands-on experiments that some timid administrators apparently feel might get them sued if anything goes wrong. Haven’t these people ever heard of a release form?

But if you’re one of those who occasionally feel the stirrings of a desire to find out things for yourself there does exist at least one resource, United Nuclear. Believe me, you owe it to yourself to at least browse around their site.

A Very Cool Contest August 12, 2007

Posted by Jim Satterfield in Environment, Futurist Spec, Geek Stuff, Science & Society, Technology.
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CNet news has an article on the Energy Department’s 2007 Solar Decathlon. It’s a really good idea and I’ve seen something of it before when a television special hosted by Tom Friedman went there. Of course the day Friedman and his crew visited it was cloudy and raining.

But there is another contest that I wish would get a lot more exposure and hopefully more ideas that would then be put into use. It is the Affordable Housing Development Competition, sponsored mainly by the Federal Home Loan Bank of Boston. Heck, until I thought to look for one because the thought that a contest such as this would be a good idea I didn’t even know it existed though I thought that surely somebody would be doing something similar.

Just think if we could merge the concepts from the two and begin producing some affordable housing that’s also energy efficient so the energy bills of the people who can’t afford huge bills could be minimized.