Total Pageviews

Friday, February 5, 2016

LIFE IN HEAVEN



For much of my life I've wondered about the reality of a Heaven.  Then, in time, the prospects of eternal life on Planet Earth began to make more sense, for the former is hardly a sure  thing and the latter could well someday be real.  More than six years ago I published in The Huffington Post an article entitled:




A year or so later, HuffPo had a poll, and 55% of their readers responded by saying, yes, there is an afterlife.  A CBS survey of the U.S. indicated that 75% thought there would be something after death, and 82% of them thought they would end up in Heaven.  This was nicely reinforced by a Roper/Cornell  poll last year showing the following:

I guess HuffPo readers are less religious than the average American.  What about this 1988 Gallup/Newsweek inquiry into the afterlife:

About what you would expect, but what are your chances of getting into Heaven?

You can better read the above details if you click on those graphics.  The fatal flaw to most of the above is that none of those polled had any kind of valid proof to back up their assertions.  The basis of their attitude was purely emotional.  To my surprise, though, only 51% of those polled worldwide believed in some form of afterlife, even more skeptical than HuffPo-ites.  Why are average Americans that different in "our" faith?

In 2013 I posted on:  WILL GOOGLE BE ABLE TO COMMERCIALIZE ETERNAL LIFE?    So why bother dreaming about an iffy Heaven when there is potential to live forever here on Earth?  The catch as best as I can determine, though, is that for a very long while only the super rich will be able to gain this option.

This posting began as a scientific discussion on eternal life, and somehow degenerated into how people feel.  I will continue with Part 2 in a couple of days on the latest experiments involving germline editing and DNA-changing technology, with a foray into the bioethics of human cloning.    Then, perhaps a Part 3 on your life as a clone, with some speculation on how science will be able to insert your memory into your next body.  To close, let me quote from my HuffPo mentioned at the top of this article:

Whether you believe or not, most of us have thought about death, and for many, "something" after our present life seems better than a dark eternal gloom forever. Hoping the Bible, Koran and virtually every religious publication are right, let us nevertheless speculate on the biological option, for there is a finite chance that they might all be wrong. I certainly haven't seen anything close to compelling proof.

-

Thursday, February 4, 2016

HOW DANGEROUS ARE MOSQUITOS?


Last month I had a posting that showed the following:



Humans are our second worst animal, murdering 475,000/year.  However, mosquitos are our #1 killer, causing more deaths than all the other animals put together, including us.  Some surprises:
  • Sharks  are responsible for only ten human deaths/year.  We kill up to 273,000,000 sharks/year.
  • Through a  freshwater snail, a parasitic flat worm, is said to kill 10,000 of us/year through a disease called schistosomiasis (also known, as bilharzia, snail fever and Katayama fever).  Worse, another source cites 200,000 deaths/year.  How can two sources be so different?  That is the nature of infotech today.  I haven't hiked recently in Hawaii, but I recall seeing warning signs for schistosomiasis.  They gotta still be there.
  • Dogs kill 25,000 people/year.  There is no movement to eliminate dogs as pets, although pit bulls and rottweilers are having a tough time.  Most dog-caused deaths outside of the USA are the result of rabies, and reports of up to 55,000/year have been reported.  Again, a large discrepancy.
  • While we are responsible for nearly half a million intentional homicides/year, even with the most guns/capita (no country is even close to us), the USA is nowhere near the top, and, in fact, we have only between a fifth to a tenth the murder rate of some countries in Central America.
Most of the mosquito kills are from Malaria, through a parasite carried by the female Anopheles, (right), which doesn't feed during the daytime.  It is estimated that 200 million people annually suffer from this disease, with most of the subsequent deaths occurring in Africa.  However, the good news is that fatalities have dropped by 42% over the past dozen years through better diagnosis, pesticides and bed nets.  Finally, the first malaria vaccine was approved for use last year.  So soon we can expect humans edging up to #1 as the animal most responsible for our deaths.

So what about Dengue and Zika?  Let me start with dengue, which according to one article says:

Dengue fever is ranked by the World Health Organization (WHO) as the most important mosquito-borne viral disease in the world - and the most rapidly spreading - with a 30-fold increase in global incidence over the past 50 years. - See more at: http://www.eliminatedengue.com/our-research/dengue-fever#sthash.nVqyAXXC.dpuf



The World Health Organization of the United Nations (Director Margaret Chan to the right) historically has done a lot of irrational things, but, surely, the above quote cannot be right, for, while malaria kills 475,000/year, dengue is only responsible for 25,000 deaths/year.  True,  though, that there are an estimated 390 million dengue infections/year, double of malaria, and that 30-fold increase over the past half a century cannot be discounted.  

In any case, I have now and then posted on the overreaction of the media and our governments.  Here, a quote of seven years ago from The Huffington Post:

  The truth is that the truly dangerous virus is not the swine flu, but the medium itself. The pandemic is this resultant overreaction.

In any case, should Hawaii be concerned?  Sure, but consider that we have had 250 dengue cases with no deaths, while the world stands at 25,000 deaths and 390,000,000 cases.  On a comparative scale, what we are suffering from here is less that trivial.  I wouldn't want to get dengue, so should Governor David Ige declare a state of emergency.?  I think not, but we will find out tomorrow what the masses feel, for the Star Advertiser's Big Q question today is:  Is it time for Hawaii to declare a state emergency over the dengue outbreak, spread by mosquitos?  You can still vote!**

I would not be surprised if I again am in the minority, BUT HOW MANY RESPONDING TO THIS QUESTION KNOW THAT WE ONLY HAVE 250 DENGUE CASES WITH NO DEATHS, WHILE THE WORLD SUFFERS FROM 390 MILLION CASES AND 25,000 DEATHS/YEAR?  For some reason that befuddles me, I have yet to ever see on the local TV news or read in the newspapers about these statistics.  Either the media are irresponsibly ignorant or are being purposely deceptive.  I do regularly observe on television Hawaii State Senator Josh Green (right), a medical doctor who graduated from Penn State, anguishing about the lack of State government resources being applied to this problem to protect his constituency.  But, it doesn't hurt his cause one bit by seeming to be responsible.

The Zika virus is spread by the same Aedes mosquitoes causing dengue, such as the A. aegypti (left).  This is a daytime-feeding mosquito, and, yes, only females get you.  Keep in mind that mosquitos generally only remain near the ground, and will not venture above the first floor if there is no tree around.  They are, though, found at tops of trees and can be wind blown to higher floors.   I must get stung several times/year just around 15 Craigside, but I have yet to see one on my 12th floor.  Mosquitos like me.

As has been the case for many of these "new" diseases, the origin, only since the 1950's, was Africa, Uganda's Zika forest.  Migration occurred eastward, through Asia, French Polynesia, Easter Island, Mexico, Central America and now at the hotbed, Brazil.  The virus itself is related to dengue, yellow fever, Japanese encephalitis and West Nile.  Transmission, apparently can also be by unprotected sexual intercourse and monkeys.   The usual flu-like symptoms, with no known deaths.  The danger is that pregnant females can transfer the virus to their fetus, causing microcephaly, where newborns suffer from neurological defects such as impaired intellectual development, including deaths.  The symptom is obvious:  reduced head size.   


Brazil has confirmed more than 3,500 microcephaly cases just over the past four months.  You've now got to wonder if dengue also might be responsible for heretofore unsuspected inherited deficiencies.  And, what about malaria?

Now, 24 countries apparently are infected with the Zika virus, 30 in the U.S., one in Honolulu.  Four million world-wide cases are predicted for 2016.  A vaccine is expected, but this will take several years.

**  As suspected, The Big Q results of:

Is it time for Hawaii to declare a state of emergency over the dengue outbreak, spread by mosquitos:

  • 59%  Yes; fear dengue, Zika viruses
  • 35%  Concerned, but not yet
  • 6%    Unconcerned; it's contained.
But, that's not all, for Richard Borecca, on his op-ed piece of 5 February 16 sided with Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard, who called out the state administration for not being aggressive enough, saying an emergency proclamation from the governor was long overdue.

-

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

A FEW THINGS YOU SHOULD KNOW ABOUT THE COMING CHINESE NEW YEAR

Our year is 2016, where the Year Zero was when Jesus Christ was born.    Well, actually, there was no Year Zero.  Jesus was probably born around 5-6 BC, and almost certainly not on December 25.

The Chinese New Year is the first day of the new moon between January 21 and February 20, and in case you did not know, the moon is new when it is almost perfectly black.    February 8 will be Chinese New Year, and, depending on the scholar, this will be the Year 4714 or 4713 or 4653, the year of the Fire Monkey, characterizing ambition and adventurousness, but with irritability.  If you're somewhat superstitious, here are some things you should know:


You also need really good eyes, but can also click on it to enlarge.  

The big celebration is New Year's Eve, February 7, when families gather for their reunion dinner, followed by fireworks at midnight.  Red envelopes containing money are given during the eve:

Interestingly enough, mostly only couples and older people really need to give money.  If you are single, you don't have this obligation, unless you're doing well.  Grown children, of course, must honor their parents, who end up benefitting the most.


Chinese New Year occurs during a 40-day cycle called the Spring Festival, this year from January 24 to March 3.  It is estimated that 320 million Chinese will be traveling by train during this period, so the smartest thing is to avoid this mode of travel during that interval.  But if you must, reserve your tickets early, travel lightly, watch your luggage, wear warm clothes (many stations, and even trains, are not heated) and ONLY take official taxies or buses to your hotel. 

I might add that China has more bullet train tracks than the rest of the world combined.  They enhanced foreign designs, and now their indigenous trains have speeds up to 240 MPH.  The nonstop Beijing-Shanghai high-speed railway system was supposed to travel at 204 MPH, dropping the travel time from 10 hours to 4, but with stops and slower speeds, the quickest time is just under 5 hours.

Thus, planning for the future:  
2015February 19 (sheep)

2016February 8 (monkey)

2017January 28  (rooster)

2018February 16  (dog)

2019February 5  (pig)

2020January 25  (rat)











I made an exploratory visit to Honolulu's Chinatown yesterday, mostly to have lunch at Lucky Belly, but also to find some Chinese  brown wine, the kind you warm and add a li hing mum (left).  At one time I could afford Moutai, a clear vodka-like potion made from sorghum and ranging in ethanol from 40% to 94%.  Today, I read where it costs for more than $200 for a regular-size bottle.  However, I see prices not much more than $50 on the internet.  To the right is Moutai Yingbin Chiew at $56.  Here is my photo travelogue:



By the way, immediately above, a giant bamboo shoot, and above that, abalones.  Tough enough just walking back uphill to 15 Craigside.  Try carrying three bottles of Chinese wine in a plastic bag that was shredding apart.

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

WAS THE PARIS CLIMATE CHANGE AGREEMENT THE WORLD'S GREATEST DIPLOMATIC SUCCESS?

It has now been nearly two months since 195 world leaders agreed in principle to what then was hailed as the world's greatest diplomatic success at COP (Conference of the Parties) 21 (COP 1 occurred in Berlin in 1995 and COP 22 will be held in Marrakech, Morocco from November 7-18 later this year), the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Paris.  If nothing else, you've got to give some credit to France, for the 13 November 2015 terrorist attack in Paris had killed 130, with another 368 injured, throwing the city into turmoil.
  • Many had experienced the despair of Copenhagen 2009 (COP 15).  
  • Cancun for COP 16 could not even commit to a second period of the Kyoto Protocol, but there was a call for a $100 billion/year Green Climate Fund to help poor countries, something the U.S. Congress houses would have laughed out of their chambers. 
  • COP 17 in Durban was declared a success, but they actually did nothing.  
  • Russia, Belarus and Ukraine objected at COP 18 in Doha.
  • Nothing happened at COP 19 in Warsaw.
  • Nothing happened at COP 20 in Lima.
Thus, at COP 21 50,000 delegates awaited word Sunday night, 13 December 2015, 16 hours after the official close, not certain if anything was to come from their deliberations, when at 7:16 PM French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius (second from the right, flanked by Secretary General Kim and President Hollande), announced the Paris agreement.  While hardly perfect, it was said that an important step was reached on a deal where the human race had joined in a common cause.  A bit wordy, but, heck, that was better than the chaos of Copenhagen.  This was said to be the largest gathering ever of world leaders on an environmental matter, including Barack Obama, Vladimir Putin, Xi Jinping, Narendra Modi and all European leaders.

Mind you:
But who are they?  New Internationalist from the UK tends to be pro-peace, anti-poverty, for women's rights, and, curiously enough, with Libertarian socialist-learning proclivities.  Breitbart is a Reagan conservative with Libertarian sympathies.  The American Spectator is a conservative publication.

Fortune indicated COP21 was a substantial success.  But they were quoting U.S. Secretary of Energy Ernest Moniz.  More so, how real can control be when China says its coal use will not peak until 2030 and India will up ramp coal use by a factor of three over the next 15 years, and is opposed to phasing out coal by 2100.  The year 2100 is 84 years from now.

The New York Times tried to describe details of the agreement.  Science reported:
  • Major countries vowed to double clean energy R&D.
  • That $100 billion/year fund to help the poor countries might take until 2025 to reach any kind of reality.
  • Enhanced Transparency...whatever that means.
  • Loss and Damage:  those vulnerable countries were recognized, without any provision for compensation.
  • For binding agreement 55 countries representing at least 55% of carbon emissions will need to formally ratify the treaty by April of 2017.  If India and China continue to increase coal use, and the U.S. Congress remains Republican-controlled, you can forget any real agreement.  The U.S. Senate has yet to approve the Law of the Sea Treaty (which was my responsibility when I worked in the U.S. Senate more than a third of a century ago), but now and then signs off on innocuous fish   matters.
In any case, here are some graphics on what has to happen:
(Click on it to read the details.)  I am not optimistic.


Let me close with two more bits of info:
For something so obviously serious, if that Paris climate change agreement was the world's greatest diplomatic success, the world is in deep trouble.


-