Myopia

April 24th, 2015

myopia

A couple of interesting articles about the increasing incidence of myopia in children.

Myopia isn’t an infectious disease, but it has reached nearly epidemic proportions in parts of Asia. In Taiwan, for example, the percentage of 7-year-old children suffering from nearsightedness increased from 5.8 percent in 1983 to 21 percent in 2000. An incredible 81 percent of Taiwanese 15-year-olds are myopic.

The first thought is that this is an Asian genetic thing. It isn’t.

In 2008 orthoptics professor Kathryn Rose found that only 3.3 percent of 6- and 7-year-olds of Chinese descent living in Sydney, Australia, suffered myopia, compared with 29.1 percent of those living in Singapore. The usual suspects, reading and time in front of an electronic screen, couldn’t account for the discrepancy. The Australian cohort read a few more books and spent slightly more time in front of the computer, but the Singaporean children watched a little more television. On the whole, the differences were small and probably canceled each other out. The most glaring difference between the groups was that the Australian kids spent 13.75 hours per week outdoors compared with a rather sad 3.05 hours for the children in Singapore.

This week the Wall Street Journal had more. There are some attempts to deal with the natural light effect.

Children in this small southern Chinese city sit and recite their vocabulary words in an experimental cube of a classroom built with translucent walls and ceilings. Sunlight lights up the room from all directions.

The goal of this unusual learning space: to test whether natural, bright light can help prevent nearsightedness, a problem for growing numbers of children, especially in Asia.

The schools have tried to get Chinese parents to send the kids outdoors more but it doesn’t seem to work.

And it isn’t limited to Asians.

In the U.S., the rate of nearsightedness in people 12 to 54 years old increased by nearly two-thirds between studies nearly three decades apart ending in 2004, to an estimated 41.6%, according to a National Eye Institute study.

But Asians with their focus on education are the most effected.

A full 80% of 4,798 Beijing teenagers tested as nearsighted in a study published in the journal PLOS One in March. Similar numbers plague teens in Singapore and Taiwan. In one 2012 survey in Seoul, nearly all of the 24,000 teenage males surveyed were nearsighted.

So, what to do ?

Though glasses can correct vision in most myopic children, many aren’t getting them. Sometimes this is because parents don’t know their children need glasses or don’t understand how important they are for education. Other times, cultural beliefs lead parents to discourage their children from wearing them, according to Nathan Congdon, professor at Queen’s University Belfast and senior adviser to Orbis International, a nonprofit focused on preventing blindness. Many parents believe glasses weaken the eyes—they don’t.

Getting kids to spend even small amounts of time outdoors makes a difference.

Why myopia rates have soared isn’t entirely clear, but one factor that keeps cropping up in research is how much time children spend outdoors. The longer they’re outside, the less likely they are to become nearsighted, according to more than a dozen studies in various countries world-wide.

One preliminary study of 2,000 children under review for publication showed a 23% reduction in myopia in the group of Chinese children who spent an additional 40 minutes more outside each day, according to Ian Morgan, one of the researchers involved in the study and a retired professor at Australian National University in Canberra. (He still conducts research with Sun Yat-sen University in the Chinese city of Guangzhou.)

That is a very significant effect of small changes in behavior. Now the researchers are trying something new.

Dr. Morgan, Dr. Congdon and a team from Sun Yat-sen are now testing, as reported recently in the science magazine Nature, a so-called bright-light classroom made of translucent plastic walls in Yangjiang to see if the children can focus and sit comfortably in the classroom. So far it appears the answer is yes.

In 2007, Donald Mutti and his colleagues at the Ohio State University College of Optometry in Columbus reported the results of a study that tracked more than 500 eight- and nine-year-olds in California who started out with healthy vision6. The team examined how the children spent their days, and “sort of as an afterthought at the time, we asked about sports and outdoorsy stuff”, says Mutti.

It was a good thing they did. After five years, one in five of the children had developed myopia, and the only environmental factor that was strongly associated with risk was time spent outdoors6. “We thought it was an odd finding,” recalls Mutti, “but it just kept coming up as we did the analyses.” A year later, Rose and her colleagues arrived at much the same conclusion in Australia7. After studying more than 4,000 children at Sydney primary and secondary schools for three years, they found that children who spent less time outside were at greater risk of developing myopia.

What is the mechanism ? Maybe it is this.

The leading hypothesis is that light stimulates the release of dopamine in the retina, and this neurotransmitter in turn blocks the elongation of the eye during development. The best evidence for the ‘light–dopamine’ hypothesis comes — again — from chicks. In 2010, Ashby and Schaeffel showed that injecting a dopamine-inhibiting drug called spiperone into chicks’ eyes could abolish the protective effect of bright light11.

Retinal dopamine is normally produced on a diurnal cycle — ramping up during the day — and it tells the eye to switch from rod-based, nighttime vision to cone-based, daytime vision. Researchers now suspect that under dim (typically indoor) lighting, the cycle is disrupted, with consequences for eye growth. “If our system does not get a strong enough diurnal rhythm, things go out of control,” says Ashby, who is now at the University of Canberra. “The system starts to get a bit noisy and noisy means that it just grows in its own irregular fashion.”

Another possible treatment is the use of atropine drops in the eye.

Atropine, a drug used for decades to dilate the pupils, appears to slow the progression of myopia once it has started, according to several randomized, controlled trials. But used daily at the typical concentration of 1%, there are side effects, most notably sensitivity to light, as well as difficulty focusing on up-close images.

In recent years, studies in Singapore and Taiwan found that a lower dose of atropine reduces myopia progression by 50% to 60% in children without those side effects, says Donald Tan, professor of ophthalmology at the Singapore National Eye Centre. He has spearheaded many of the studies. Large-scale trials on low-dose atropine are expected to start soon in Japan and in Europe, he says.

More than a century ago, Henry Edward Juler, a renowned British eye surgeon, offered similar advice. In 1904, he wrote in A Handbook of Ophthalmic Science and Practice that when “the myopia had become stationary, change of air — a sea voyage if possible — should be prescribed”.

The Hillary Clinton bribery story.

April 23rd, 2015

Today, the New York Times ran a huge story about how Hillary Clinton and Bill took large contributions to their personal “Foundation” to sell US security assets to the Russians.

The article, in January 2013, detailed how the Russian atomic energy agency, Rosatom, had taken over a Canadian company with uranium-mining stakes stretching from Central Asia to the American West. The deal made Rosatom one of the world’s largest uranium producers and brought Mr. Putin closer to his goal of controlling much of the global uranium supply chain.

But the untold story behind that story is one that involves not just the Russian president, but also a former American president and a woman who would like to be the next one.

At the heart of the tale are several men, leaders of the Canadian mining industry, who have been major donors to the charitable endeavors of former President Bill Clinton and his family. Members of that group built, financed and eventually sold off to the Russians a company that would become known as Uranium One.

Today, Hugh Hewitt interviewed Mitt Romney on this story and Romney stated the obvious.

What’s your reaction to this story?

MR: You know, I’ve got to tell you, I was stunned by it. I mean, it looks like bribery. I mean, there is every appearance that Hillary Clinton was bribed to grease the sale of, what, 20% of America’s uranium production to Russia, and then it was covered up by lying about a meeting at her home with the principals, and by erasing emails. And you know, I presume we might know for sure whether there was or was not bribery if she hadn’t wiped out thousands of emails. But this is a very, very serious series of facts, and it looks like bribery.

Now we know why the e-mails were deleted.

As the Russians gradually assumed control of Uranium One in three separate transactions from 2009 to 2013, Canadian records show, a flow of cash made its way to the Clinton Foundation. Uranium One’s chairman used his family foundation to make four donations totaling $2.35 million. Those contributions were not publicly disclosed by the Clintons, despite an agreement Mrs. Clinton had struck with the Obama White House to publicly identify all donors. Other people with ties to the company made donations as well.

And shortly after the Russians announced their intention to acquire a majority stake in Uranium One, Mr. Clinton received $500,000 for a Moscow speech from a Russian investment bank with links to the Kremlin that was promoting Uranium One stock.

I looked at Huffington Post for reaction for the left and they have a story about Republicans and lobbyists.

About the Hillary story ?

ZERO !!!!

A new time line from Ricochet on the Hillary scandal.

Hillary Clinton’s family’s charities are refiling at least five annual tax returns after a Reuters review found errors in how they reported donations from governments, and said they may audit other Clinton Foundation returns in case of other errors…

For three years in a row beginning in 2010, the Clinton Foundation reported to the IRS that it received zero in funds from foreign and U.S. governments, a dramatic fall-off from the tens of millions of dollars in foreign government contributions reported in preceding years.

Must have been an oversight.

The Doolittle raid on Tokyo.

April 19th, 2015

200px-Lt._General_James_Doolittle,_head_and_shoulders

Today is the 73rd anniversary of the Doolittle raid on Tokyo.

Annual rendezvous were held for many years but General Doolittle died in 1993.

Doolittle’s most important contribution to aeronautical technology was the development of instrument flying. He was the first to recognize that true operational freedom in the air could not be achieved unless pilots developed the ability to control and navigate aircraft in flight, from takeoff run to landing rollout, regardless of the range of vision from the cockpit. Doolittle was the first to envision that a pilot could be trained to use instruments to fly through fog, clouds, precipitation of all forms, darkness, or any other impediment to visibility; and in spite of the pilot’s own possibly convoluted motion sense inputs. Even at this early stage, the ability to control aircraft was getting beyond the motion sense capability of the pilot. That is, as aircraft became faster and more maneuverable, pilots could become seriously disoriented without visual cues from outside the cockpit, because aircraft could move in ways that pilots’ senses could not accurately decipher.

He was a great pioneer and air racer. He lived to the age of 96 and died in Pebble Beach, California in 1993.

L1/Japan, Tokyo Raid/1942/pho 12

His crew.

Survivors continued to meet and there are five surviving Doolittle Raiders.

There were 80 raiders of whom 56 survived the war.

There was one physician, Dr. Thomas R. White, on the raid. He flew as a Gunner in order to go on the raid. He was one of the three raiders to receive the the Silver Star for Gallantry in the line of duty for saving the life of Lieutenant Ted Lawson by amputating his leg shortly after the bail out and donated some of his own blood by transfusion.

L1/Japan, Tokyo Raid/1942/pho 57

He is one of these crew members.

The last reunion was held on November 13, 2013.

And now there are two.

20150419_inq_doolittle19-a

Vale brave men.

The end of the X 47B program.

April 15th, 2015

x 47b

I have previously posted on this program. Now it seems to be coming to an end. I suspect budget priorities are the reason.

There are no plans to extend the testing for its Unmanned Carrier Air Vehicle demonstrator (UCAS-D) program after this month’s planned autonomous aerial refueling (AAR) tests, Naval Air Systems Command officials said on Tuesday.

Following the end of the testing contract the service plans to donate the two Northrop Grumman X-47B unmanned aerial vehicles — Salty Dog 501 and Salty 502 — to a museum or resign them to the Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Group (AMARG) at Davis Monthan Air Force Base, Ariz. — the Pentagon’s so-called aircraft “boneyard,” said Capt. B.V. Duarte, program manager of NAVAIR’s PMA-268 that oversees UCAS-D and the Navy’s planned Unmanned Carrier Launched Surveillance and Strike (UCLASS) programs.

The airframes have many more hours of service life so the reasons may be Obama’s budget priorities.

Last month, Senate Armed Services Committee chair Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) issued a strongly worded letter to Secretary of Defense Ash Carter on the UCLASS program and encouraged Carter to keep flying the UCAS-D airframes.

“Our nation has made a sizeable investment in this demonstration program to date, and both air vehicles have consumed only a small fraction of their approved flying hours,” wrote McCain.
Following the test program “there will be no unmanned air vehicles operating from carrier decks for several years. I think this would be a lost learning opportunity in what promises to be a critical area for sustaining the long-term operational and strategic relevance of the aircraft carrier.”

It will probably take a new president to get this program back on track. Or a serious attack on the US.

Those whom the gods would destroy…

April 11th, 2015

Does Barack Obama know what he is doing ? There is room for doubt. In foreign affairs he seems to be over his head. In domestic policy, he seems to be accomplishing what he wants to do. Hugh Hewitt asked former Vice President Dick Cheney his opinion.

Cheney said, “I vacillate between the various theories I’ve heard. If you had somebody who, as president — who wanted to take America down. Who wanted to fundamentally weaken our position in the world, reduce our capacity to influence events. Turn our back on our allies and encourage our enemies, it would look exactly like what Barack Obama is doing. I think his actions are constituted in my mind are those of the worst president we’ve ever had.”

Cheney has been involved in American government since Ford was president and knows a thing or two. What to make of Obama ?

The military correspondent of the Times of Israel has learned a few things since he supported Obama in 2008. Obama benefited from many people who saw him as a symbol and ignored his background and opaque record.

I noted, Bush, with his love of Zion, had been a disaster, inadvertently empowering Iran. Obama, with his cool detachment, was just what we needed.

Lastly, I encouraged her [his sister] to vote Democrat, now, before her Alex P. Keaton-like eldest got the right to vote and cancelled her out.

And she did (I think, maybe). She even wrote to me about the beauty of that cold January day in 2009 when he was sworn into office.

He was encouraging his sister to vote for Obama with the usual arguments made by intelligent people who believed Obama would be a good president. I never bought that argument. I knew the story of where he came from.

Then, reality began to creep in.

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A Preview of Coming Attractions.

April 5th, 2015

alton-nolen-mugshot

A significant number of Somali immigrants’ children have traveled to the middle east as jihadis.

ISIS has been luring thousands of Westerners to the battlefields of Syria and Iraq. The number of Americans who have traveled to Syria is still relatively small — in the neighborhood of 150 people — and a thin slice of that group, perhaps as many as two dozen Americans, are thought to have joined ISIS.

In the discussions at the White House this week, one city has focused minds: Minneapolis-St Paul. It had been ground zero for terrorist recruiters in the past, and is fast becoming the center of ISIS’ recruitment effort in the United States.

This is a growing problem with the emergence of “lone wolf” attacks by jihadis.

The young man pictured above is one of many young black men, many recruited in prison, who have committed these actions.

Over the weekend, the FBI announced that it would treat Islamist Alton Nolan’s alleged beheading of Colleen Hufford, 54, as a case of workplace violence. That despite the fact that Nolan’s Facebook page contains a picture of Nolan giving the ISIS salute, multiple pictures of Osama Bin Laden, a screenshot of the 9/11 attack on the World Trade Center, and a quote reading, “I will instill terror into the hearts of the unbelievers: smile ye above their necks and smite all their fingertips off them.”

Then, of course, we have another example of “workplace violence” courtesy of Major Hassan.

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H8ters

March 31st, 2015

Crysta-OConnor-Memories-Pizza

The new war on religious people (of whom I am not one) takes on a new urgency as Huffington Post detects a new threat to the republic.

Pence and his state have faced significant national backlash since he signed RFRA last week. The governors of Connecticut and Washington have imposed bans on state-funded travel to Indiana, and several events scheduled to be held in the state have been canceled. Organizers of Gen Con, which has been called the largest gaming convention in the country, are considering moving the gathering from Indiana as well.

Nearby cities like Chicago are capitalizing on the controversy, with Mayor Rahm Emanuel (D) trying to lure Indiana-based businesses into his city.

UPDATE: 1:52 p.m. — White House press secretary Josh Earnest responded to Pence’s comments Tuesday, saying the Indiana law has backfired because it goes against most people’s values.

No, it is against the left’s values. The institutional left. The hysteria extends beyond the usual left and may involve a few weak willed Republicans like those who pressured Arizona governor Jan Brewer to veto a similar bill a year or so ago. Fortunately, Arizona has a new and presumably more firm governor.

Narrowly speaking, that is, the left’s hatred of RFRA is about preserving the authority of the cake police—government agencies determined to coerce bakeries, photo studios, florists and other small businesses to participate in same-sex weddings even if the owners have eccentric conscientious objections.

Whether Indiana’s RFRA would protect such objectors is an open question: The law only sets forth the standard by which state judges would adjudicate their claims. Further, as the Human Rights Campaign, a gay-rights group, notes, the Hoosier State has no state laws prohibiting private entities from discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation. (It does have same-sex marriage, pursuant to a federal court ruling.) There are also no such antidiscrimination laws at the federal level. Thus under current law, only certain cities and counties in Indiana even have a cake police.

The “cake police” are, of course a term of art from James Taranto to describe the opportunistic left who enforce the gay rights agenda on unsuspecting Christians.

“As Michael Paulson noted in a recent story in The Times, judges have been hearing complaints about a florist or baker or photographer refusing to serve customers having same-sex weddings. They’ve been siding so far with the gay couples.” That is, the judges have been rejecting small-business men’s conscientious objections and compelling them to do business with gay-wedding planners. Bruni approves.

Without harboring animus toward gays or sharing the eccentric baker’s social and religious views, one may reasonably ask: If a baker is uncomfortable baking a cake for you, why call the cake police? Why not just find another baker who’s happy to have your business?

This, of course, is far too simple.

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Drill, Baby, Drill.

March 25th, 2015

yemen-anti-houthi_3242589b

It looks like the battle for Saudi Arabia has begun and, if it follows the pattern of other Obama wars, it will be soon lost, or so Richard Fernandez believes.

Even the New York Times sees it.

President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi fled Yemen by sea Wednesday as Shiite rebels and their allies moved on his last refuge in the south, captured its airport and put a bounty on his head, officials said.

The departure of the close U.S. ally and the imminent fall of the southern port of Aden pushed Yemen further toward a violent collapse. It also threatened to turn the impoverished but strategic country into another proxy battle between the Middle East’s Sunni powers and Shiite-led Iran.

Saudi Arabia and its Gulf allies believe the Shiite rebels, known as Houthis, are tools for Iran to seize control of Yemen and say they intend to stop the takeover. The Houthis deny they are backed by Iran.

The stakes are very high for Europe, especially.

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A Tribute to Lee Kwan Yew

March 24th, 2015

Thomas Sowell has a fine tribute to the leader of Singapore who died yesterday.

It is not often that the leader of a small city-state — in this case, Singapore — gets an international reputation. But no one deserved it more than Lee Kuan Yew, the founder of Singapore as an independent country in 1959, and its prime minister from 1959 to 1990. With his death, he leaves behind a legacy valuable not only to Singapore but to the world.

Born in Singapore in 1923, when it was a British colony, Lee Kuan Yew studied at Cambridge University after World War II, and was much impressed by the orderly, law-abiding England of that day. It was a great contrast with the poverty-stricken and crime-ridden Singapore of that era.

Today Singapore has a per capita Gross Domestic Product more than 50 percent higher than that of the United Kingdom and a crime rate a small fraction of that in England. A 2010 study showed more patents and patent applications from the small city-state of Singapore than from Russia. Few places in the world can match Singapore for cleanliness and orderliness.

Mr Lee had an impressive life story, himself.

Lee graduated from Fitzwilliam College, Cambridge University, with a double starred-first-class honours in law. In 1950, he became a barrister of the Middle Temple and practised law until 1959. He co-founded and was the first secretary-general of the People’s Action Party (PAP), leading it to eight consecutive victories. He campaigned for merger with Malaysia, a move deemed crucial to persuading Britain to relinquish its colonial rule in 1963; but racial strife and political tensions led to Singapore’s separation from the Federation two years later. Leading a newly independent Singapore from 1965, with overwhelming parliamentary control, Lee oversaw the nation’s transformation from a relatively underdeveloped colonial outpost with no natural resources into an Asian Tiger economy. In the process, he forged a widely admired system of meritocratic, clean, self-reliant and efficient government and civil service, much of which is now taught at the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy.

He was a great man and his legacy is being maintained in spite of faint praise from the NY Times.

Pragmatic even about death and averse to a cult of personality, Mr. Lee, who died Monday at age 91, said the house would cost too much to maintain and would become a shambles when “people trudge through.”

There was no wrecking ball on Mr. Lee’s quiet street on Tuesday, and the official memorial does not begin until the public viewing of his coffin in Parliament on Wednesday.

But Singaporeans are asking the same questions about the larger house that Lee Kuan Yew built — modern Singapore and the vaunted “Singapore model.” Will it survive him, or has the sleek Asian financial hub outgrown his father-knows-best style of government?

Among members of the country’s increasingly assertive and demanding electorate, there are calls for a new social contract, a more consultative government and participatory rule-making.

They may be ready for democracy now but there was no question about it then.

The Obama strategy.

March 22nd, 2015

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Many of us on the right have considered Obama to be feckless and uninterested in foreign policy. That seems to have been a mistake. He has strategy but it involves an alliance with Iran.

A lengthy essay by Michael Doran, a senior fellow at the Hudson Institute, and a former deputy assistant secretary of defense and a former senior director of the National Security Council, explains the strategy. He also explains why the Obama Administration is so determined to keep it a secret from the American public and, more importantly, the Congress.

How eager is the president to see Iran break through its isolation and become a very successful regional power? Very eager. A year ago, Benjamin Rhodes, deputy national-security adviser for strategic communication and a key member of the president’s inner circle, shared some good news with a friendly group of Democratic-party activists. The November 2013 nuclear agreement between Tehran and the “P5+1”—the five permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany—represented, he said, not only “the best opportunity we’ve had to resolve the Iranian [nuclear] issue,” but “probably the biggest thing President Obama will do in his second term on foreign policy.” For the administration, Rhodes emphasized, “this is healthcare . . . , just to put it in context.” Unaware that he was being recorded, he then confided to his guests that Obama was planning to keep Congress in the dark and out of the picture: “We’re already kind of thinking through, how do we structure a deal so we don’t necessarily require legislative action right away.”

Things seem to be moving in the direction that Obama wishes but they are also increasing the danger of a disaster in foreign policy.

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