Friday, 31 October 2014

Pope Francis says evolution is real

Pope Francis declares evolution and Big Bang theory are real and God is not 'a magician with a magic wand'

Thursday, 30 October 2014

Avaaz petition against pipelines

Dear friends,

Harper’s government is tearing up Canada to serve the interests of Big Oil. But a new bill gives us a chance to stop the slow destruction of Canada's environment. Click now to tell our MPs to vote for the people they serve and choose people over pipelines:

Our pipeline-loving government is tearing up the country to pump dirty tar from the heart of Alberta all around the world. We elect our politicians to represent us, not Big Oil -- and now we have a real chance to finally make them stand for people over pipelines.

Harper’s latest project would ram an 1,177 km oil pipeline from Alberta straight through the heart of BC’s Great Bear Rainforest, to be sent overseas for refining. But a new bill in Parliament would ban the dangerous mega-tankers needed to do it, sinking this reckless plan before it sets sail -- and we know exactly how to get it passed.

When 50,000 people sign on, we’ll run a massive ad campaign in western ridings that face the greatest risk -- and that might hold the key to the next Canadian election. The message to these MPs will be clear: people over pipelines. Vote for the people you serve, or you will lose your job.

13 Conservative votes are needed to pass the bill and stop Harper’s slow destruction of Canada’s environment. And with the people of BC and Alberta standing up against pipeline politics, insiders say that this issue might turn the next election, leaving western Tory MPs between a rock and a hard place -- and giving us the chance to have them vote for the bill or explain why they’re putting the party and the oil barons ahead of the people that elected them. 

Enbridge insists that their Northern Gateway pipeline will be safe, but their pipes have spilled over 800 times in the last decade alone. And with Harper’s approval, the BC coast is about to see 220 monstrous tankers weave their way through a minefield of islands and inlets every year. Pipelines leak and tankers crash and when they do, they catastrophically and irreversibly destroy the environment -- and put us all at risk. 

Click now to take back our voice, and tell our politicians it’s time they represent us, not mega-rich foreign oil interests: it’s people over pipelines:

This won’t be easy -- Harper stopped listening to Canadians a long time ago. But with their jobs on the line, these MPs could change course and rescue their people, our country, and our planet from ecological destruction. Our movement has never been stronger - let’s take action.

With hope,

Danny, Emma, Ari, Ricken, Melanie and the whole Avaaz team

NDP Bill Would Ban Tankers off BC's North Coast (The Tyee) 

5 things to know about today’s Northern Gateway oil pipeline decision (Toronto Star)  

Enbridge staff ignored warnings in Kalamazoo River spill (CBC)

Wednesday, 29 October 2014

BMJ Editorial Milk and Mortality


Milk and mortality

BMJ 2014349 doi: (Published 28 October 2014)Cite this as: BMJ 2014;349:g6205
  1. C Mary Schooling, professor
    Author affiliations
Genetic studies could help us interpret a biologically plausible but preliminary association
Clinical guidelines are increasingly based on experimental evidence from trials. Few randomized controlled trials give the effect of diet or nutrients on major health outcomes. Dietary guidelines or recommendations tend to be based on observations from prospective cohort studies, possibly describing the eating habits of people who happen to live longer for a multitude of reasons rather than the effects of a particular diet or nutrient.
Dietary guidelines may also be designed to provide recommended intakes of specific nutrients, sometimes based on the lowest level of evidence (that is, opinion) and reflecting the assumption that normal intakes in Europe or North America represent those that are optimal.1 As such, it is hardly surprising that dietary guidelines are not always confirmed by experimental evidence from trials, such as the harmful effects of saturated fats2 or the benefits of calcium.3 In a linked paper (doi:10.1136/bmj.g6015),4 Michaëlsson and colleagues question the role of milk, an item that often features in dietary guidelines.5 Based on observational evidence, Michaëlsson and colleagues raise the possibility that milk could increase the risk of particularly hip fractures among women and cardiovascular and overall mortality in both sexes.
In dietary guidelines, dairy products, including full or specifically low fat milk, are recommended as sources of protein and calcium for bone health, and in some diets as prevention against hypertension.6 The prospective observational evidence available, mainly from cohort studies in Western countries, does not consistently show higher milk intake to be associated with lower risk of hip fracture, cardiovascular mortality, or death.7 8 Diet is difficult to assess precisely, potentially obscuring any differences. Widespread use of low fat milk is relatively recent so less evidence about its role is available. Michaëlsson and colleagues did not distinguish between low fat and full fat milk. Yet concerns about the role of milk have existed for decades, with specifically lactose, for which milk is the main dietary source, previously hypothesized as a cause of ischemic heart disease.9 Countries, mainly in Europe and North America, with higher rates of lactase persistence (the ability to digest milk after early childhood) and hence higher milk consumption also have higher rates of hip fracture9 10 and ischemic heart disease.9
Ecological studies do not provide strong evidence for a hypothesis, but these observations require some explanation. Low milk consumption in countries with low rates of fracture and ischemic heart disease might be correlated with a protective factor, such as physical activity, or milk may act together with other unidentified factors.
Dietary guidelines do not clearly distinguish between milk and other dairy products.5 Michaëlsson and colleagues are suggesting a signal of harm specifically from milk, but not from fermented dairy products with a low lactose content (including yogurt and cheese), where associations were in the other direction. The authors found that people who consume milk are similar to those who consume yogurt or cheese, making it less likely that the findings are the spurious result of other differences correlated with milk intake, such as alcohol consumption. Confounding would be even less likely if consumers of fermented milk products and consumers of milk had similar risks of death from a cause unrelated to dairy consumption, such as accidents. Future researchers should explore this possibility. Michaëlsson and colleagues found stronger associations of milk with risk in women than in men, perhaps due to differences in study design between male and female cohorts, or perhaps as a result of residual confounding.
Michaëlsson and colleagues suggest that milk is harmful because a metabolite of lactose, D-galactose, mimics aging through inflammation and oxidative stress in animal models. The authors show that milk, but not fermented dairy products, is positively associated with a biomarker of oxidative stress (8-iso-PGF2α), but they could not test whether the positive associations of milk with hip fracture, cardiovascular mortality, and death were specifically mediated by D-galactose. D-galactose relates to bone metabolism in animals11; evidence concerning the cardiovascular effects of D-galactose is limited.
Lactase persistence has evolved independently several times and shows signs of preferential selection,12 indicating that lactase persistence may promote survival to adulthood or fertility but not necessarily longevity. Inability to process D-galactose, galactosemia, is associated with reproductive abnormalities,13 suggesting that D-galactose or its metabolities could have reproductive effects. However, a theory stands or falls according to how its predictions withstand testing and not according to the plausibility of its mechanism. Tests in humans to confirm or refute the role of milk and D-galactose or its metabolites in early survival, fertility, and longevity are not available.
Michaëlsson and colleagues raise a fascinating possibility, about the potential harms of milk with an interesting inner mechanism involving D-galactose, which is consistent with ecological evidence9 10 and animal studies.11 Their findings should be interpreted cautiously though because the authors rely on observational not experimental evidence, potentially reflecting correlation not causation.
As milk features in many dietary guidelines5 and both hip fractures and cardiovascular disease are relatively common among older people, improving the evidence base for dietary recommendations could have substantial benefits for everyone. Comparing the health of adults with and without genetic lactase persistence in a setting where milk intake is discretionary and reflects only lactase persistence might be the most expeditious way forward, although randomized controlled trials, if feasible and ethical, would be most convincing.
As milk consumption may rise globally with economic development and increasing consumption of animal source foods, the role of milk in mortality needs to be established definitively now.


Cite this as: BMJ 2014;349:g6205


  • Research, doi:10.1136/bmj.g6015
  • Competing interests: I have read and understood the BMJ policy on declaration of interests and declare the following interests: none.
  • Provenance and peer review: Commissioned; not externally peer reviewed.