Thursday, October 22, 2015

Breastfeeding and IQ

Breastfeeding is VERY politically correct these days.  Mothers who do not breastfeed can be harassed by other mothers over it.  Why?  Because breastfeeding is thought to be  "more natural" and hence better for the baby.  But better in what way? One claim is that is helps the child's IQ.  But the studies have not been very supportive of that. So the latest very extensive study is of great interest.  Abstract below:

Breastfeeding and IQ Growth from Toddlerhood through Adolescence

By Sophie von Stumm &  Robert Plomin

The benefits of breastfeeding for cognitive development continue to be hotly debated but are yet to be supported by conclusive empirical evidence.

We used here a latent growth curve modeling approach to test the association of breastfeeding with IQ growth trajectories, which allows differentiating the variance in the IQ starting point in early life from variance in IQ gains that occur later in childhood through adolescence. Breastfeeding (yes/ no) was modeled as a direct predictor of three IQ latent growth factors (i.e. intercept, slope and quadratic term) and adjusted for the covariates socioeconomic status, mother's age at birth and gestational stage. Data came from the Twins Early Development Study (TEDS), a prospective cohort study of twins born between
1996 and 1994 in the United Kingdom, who were assessed 9 times on IQ between age 2 and 16 years (N = 11,582).

Having been breastfed was associated with a small yet significant advantage in IQ at age 2 in girls (β = .07, CI 95% from 0.64 to 3.01; N = 3,035) but not in boys (β = .04, CI 95% from -0.14 to 2.41). Having been breastfeeding was neither associated with the other IQ growth factors in girls (slope: β = .02, CI 95% from -0.25 to 0.43; quadratic: β = .01, CI 95% from -0.02 to 0.02) nor in boys (slope: β = .02, CI 95% from -0.30 to 0.47; quadratic: β = -.01, CI 95% from -0.01 to 0.01).

Breastfeeding has little benefit for early life intelligence and cognitive growth from toddlerhood through adolescence.

Von Stumm S, Plomin R (2015). Breastfeeding and IQ Growth from Toddlerhood through Adolescence. PLoS ONE 10(9): e0138676. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0138676

The study is persuasive rather than conclusive.  I think IQ of the mother should have been controlled for.  I made the same criticism of a noted Brazilian study which did find some benefit from breastfeeding.

Another concern is that the measures of IQ used at different ages were not well correlated. They could obviously not be the same but correlations between them as low as .18 are a serious concern.

Overall, however, the general agreement of the studies on the matter leads me to agree that breastfeeding has no effect on IQ.  It may however have other benefits.

UPDATE:  Those .18 correlations in Table 1 are of course absolutely appalling so I have been thinking about that.  The simple thing to say is that the questions you ask a 4-year-old to assess his IQ and the questions you ask a 16-year old to assess his IQ are necessarily  very different -- so a high correlation is not to be expected.  There is however a conventional solution to that conundrum:  Use a spiral omnibus test -- where the questions start out very easy and gradually get harder.

The authors above, apparently, did not however have that luxury.  So their solution was a creative one which I rather admire.  They took the first eigenvector of the battery they did have and standardized that as IQ (mean 100; SD 15).

So what do we find from that?  It could be argued that they have for the first time made IQ tests that are valid for particular age groups.  And in that case what we see is that IQ is very variable  throughout the lifespan.  Being bright at 2 tells us little about  IQ at 16

And I think that is an important finding.  In particular it conforms to other findings that environment is important in early life but, as time goes by it is the genetic given that manifests itself.

Be that as it may, the measures of IQ used in the early years are clearly just not valid.  They do not correlate with well-accepted  measures from later life. Putting it more bluntly, trying to measure IQ at age 2 is just a no-go.  It fails.  It tells you  nothing.

In that case the slight effect seen at age 2 is a nonsense and not to be taken seriously.

And Table 1 in the article has another interesting implication.  It bears on the "Eleven Plus" exam used in England to filter access to Grammar (selective) schools. There was no IQ given for age 11 but there was for age 12.  And we see there that  the correlations for age 12 and up averaged around .6.  That is not ideal but, given changes in IQ throughout the early lifetime, is probably as good as can be expected. Those eigenvectors were not too bad as IQ measures!

This Top Justice Offical Is Wrong. American Culture Isn’t Racist, Discriminatory

Recently, the acting head of the U.S. Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division, Principal Deputy Attorney General Vanita Gupta, gave a very long speech for the “Community Policing Summit,” hosted by the U.S. Attorney’s office in New Jersey. The speech was a longer and more detailed version of remarks delivered repeatedly by Obama administration officials these days, so it is worth reading with some care.

Given the most charitable interpretation, the speech presumes a moral equivalence between the police and those arrested by them. On a less charitable reading, it displays hostility to law enforcement and makes a wrongheaded assumption that Americans and American culture are racist and discriminatory. More broadly, it accepts the progressive line that institutional racism is to blame for the ills in America’s inner cities and ignores entirely the possibility of a culture that encourages individuals to act irresponsibly.

If personnel are policy, then perhaps we should not be surprised. Gupta is a former director of the ACLU’s Center for Justice, which focuses on stopping not only the death penalty, but all of the supposed systemic problems in the American criminal justice system. (In fact, ours is one of the fairest systems in the world, particularly in its due-process protections for defendants. But we digress.) As the acting head of the Civil Rights Division, Gupta no doubt felt she was being even-handed by saying some nice things about the police in a speech that proceeds to repeat baseless charges against them.

Gupta spends far more time attacking the police than defending them, and even her defense sometimes damns with faint praise. It is hard to read the speech without concluding that the police are failing either because they are well-meaning but incompetent or because they are not well-meaning at all. In either event, she certainly leaves the impression that critics of the criminal justice system are basically correct in asserting that the police have been historically discriminatory and that the whole system remains rigged against people of color. Because, after all, at least according to Gupta, the “science” shows that “we all hold biases we aren’t aware of,” and we have to identify and correct the “explicit and implicit bias” of police officers.

The speech begins by listing a half-dozen individuals killed by the police and noting what’s called “the sobering public reactions” in Ferguson, New York City, Baltimore, and elsewhere. She recounts the charges made against the police, and what the police say in their own defense, and then concludes, “There is truth in both of these perspectives.”

That is certainly not what her own division said about the shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson. Gupta’s summation is deaf, dumb, and blind moral equivalence with a vengeance. It was clear that the witnesses who originally stated that Brown had surrendered with his hands up in response to an unprovoked attack by Officer Darren Wilson had fabricated their testimony. In fact, Wilson was attacked by Brown after robbing a convenience store, and the shooting was entirely justified. So there was no “truth” in what was driving the Ferguson protesters; their perspective was completely wrong, based on false information that generated a mob mentality and mob violence.

The myth that there is “systemic inequality” and “structural barriers to opportunity” is part of the false, fashionably progressive claim that America is an inherently racist nation. But Gupta says nothing about that or how former attorney general Eric Holder and other supposed leaders of the black community such as Al Sharpton inflamed public opinion in Ferguson, assuming from the very start, without any evidence, that the police officer was at fault.

Then Gupta justifies the mistrust of the police as a result of America’s racist past and “criminal justice policies over the last few decades, and the concentrated impact they have had on poor and minority communities.” This has resulted “in mass incarceration, particularly of people of color accused of low-level crimes.” Yet she refuses to acknowledge the fact that the reason so many “people of color” are in jail is not because of discrimination or an unfair criminal-justice system; it is because, unfortunately, black Americans commit crimes, particularly violent crimes, at far greater rates than do whites, Asians, and Hispanics.

This is a tragic situation that must be attributed in large measure to the widespread absence of two-parent black families and black male role models, not racism or an inherently discriminatory criminal justice system. And while she may think that drug dealing is a “low-level” crime that does not deserve incarceration, we doubt that law-abiding citizens of inner-city neighborhoods would agree. They are the ones who have had to endure—and watch their children endure—the violence, criminality, destruction of property, and degradation of their communities caused by unchecked drug dealing.

Next she launches into a long discussion of how the Civil Rights Division is “rebuilding police-community trust” by “holding individual officers accountable for criminal misconduct.” What’s more, she boasts that the administration has “opened 22 investigations of law-enforcement agencies across the country” and prosecuted 350 law enforcement officers. She then proceeds to detail the results of these investigations.

One example is the investigation into the practices of the Ferguson Police Department—an investigation that, according to Peter Kirsanow, a member of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, was as a whole “so replete with conclusions unsupported by fact, so lacking in basic methodological rigor,” that it “is an embarrassment.” She doesn’t mention her division’s attempted prosecution of five New Orleans police officers, in which a federal judge ordered new trials because of the “grotesque” misconduct of federal prosecutors, including that of a Civil Rights Division lawyer (who was not terminated and still works in the division).

To quote former attorney general Michael B. Mukasey’s important Hillsdale College speech from last summer:

    State and local jurisdictions do not have the resources or the political will to fight the federal government. As a result, more than 20 cities are now operating under consent decrees secured by the Justice Department, with court-appointed monitors imposing restrictive standards on police officers who now think twice before they stop suspects or make arrests. The results are predictable. Shootings are on the rise in New York, as are quality-of-life crimes that create a sense of public disorder and social deterioration. Seattle is also a good example: a federal lawsuit and a court-appointed monitor followed on the heels of a publicized incident, and now homicides are up 25 percent, car theft is up 44 percent, and aggravated assault is up 14 percent.

In an attempt to be even-handed, Gupta talks about the importance of “officer safety and wellness.” She acknowledges and condemns the recent assassinations of police officers. And she says the police are asked to do too much, often “lack adequate policy guidance, supervision and even equipment,” and are sometimes “unfairly blamed for decisions made far above their rank, or even by local officials outside of the policy department.”

Gupta says the feds want to “make sure officers have the tools and specialized training to do their jobs consistent with community values,” to deal well “with the mentally ill and others in crisis, as well as to ensure respectful interactions with LGBTI [sic] persons, immigrants with language barriers and other vulnerable populations.” She concludes, “Critically, we also owe it to provide [the police] with the professional support to cope with the stress and trauma they encounter on the job.”

That is certainly not something the Civil Rights Division can provide. Both of the authors of this piece are veterans of the division, and we can attest that the militantly liberal ideologies and backgrounds of the attorneys who now work there—like Vanita Gupta—are well-known in the law enforcement community. None of the lawyers who work with law enforcement agencies and police officers and conduct the investigations into their supposed misconduct have any experience in law enforcement—including Vanita Gupta.

All, however, are “progressive” lawyers with little patience for, and more often overt hostility to, law enforcement. As was pointed out in an exposé several years ago, almost all of the division’s lawyers come from left-wing advocacy groups such as the ACLU:

    While there were numerous lawyers hired who worked as public defenders or for advocacy organizations for criminals and prisoners, not a single lawyer was hired with experience as a prosecutor or in law enforcement in a Section which has as one its main jobs investigating the practices of local police. Do local jurisdictions really think they will get a fair, nonpartisan, objective hearing from the lawyers in this Section?

Toward the end of the speech, Gupta ties up a few loose ends. Here’s one:

    We cannot have a conversation about policing in isolation of broader systemic inequality. Many of the problems in our criminal justice system reflect structural barriers to opportunity. The elevated conversation gives us an opportunity to connect these dots and address inequalities in housing, education, access to transportation, good jobs, and more. These things are undeniably related.

This is not an “elevated” conversation. The myth that there is “systemic inequality” and “structural barriers to opportunity” is part of the false, fashionably progressive claim that America is an inherently racist nation, permanently scarred by past racism. It’s not that conservatives are in denial about past racism; it’s that liberals are in denial about the last 50 years of progress. The racism we still saw in the 1950s and early 1960s has not only become illegal, but also become culturally unacceptable.

American society is not perfect—no society ever will be—but there are no racist “structural barriers” that prevent any Americans, no matter their color or ethnicity, from getting an education and making the most of their opportunities—if they are willing to work hard and not see themselves as “victims” who can’t get ahead. Of course, using and dealing drugs and committing violent crimes are huge barriers to success. For a high-ranking federal official to give a speech that repeatedly excuses law-breaking and discounts personal responsibility and opportunity is, in itself, irresponsible.

Here are the last of Gupta’s loose ends:

    If we would take the time to listen—really listen—and understand why most protesters take to the streets, why police officers risk their lives every day, we would find that, while perspectives may differ, people’s aspirations—and their values—tend to be very similar. We all want safer streets. We all want stronger communities. We all believe in justice.

We find it hard to imagine that, for example, the Black Lives Matter protesters in St. Louis—chanting “pigs in a blanket, fry ’em like bacon” right after two New York police officers were assassinated—have the same “aspirations” and “values” as law-enforcement officers who risk their lives every day. Or that the protesters in Ferguson and Baltimore, who looted and burned local shops and drugstores; shot civilians who resisted them; and threw beer bottles, rocks, and other objects at law enforcement officers trying to maintain the peace, have the same desire for safer streets, stronger communities, and justice as the rest of America.


Australia: Even an exemplary Muslim can be a wife-basher

Though some of the prior praise of him may well have been a form of "affirmative action".  The Left are all on about wife-bashing at the moment but they also heart Muslims -- so I expect great silence from them over this.  If, on the other hand,  he had been an Anglo ....

Rugby league legend Hazem El Masri has been charged over an alleged domestic violence assault on his new wife. 

A NSW police spokeswoman said the former Bulldogs winger, 39, was charged with assault occasioning actual bodily harm and common assault on Monday evening.

The charges relate to an incident with his 25-year-old wife around 7:30pm at his south-western Sydney home, police said.

An AVO has been lodged for the protection of his wife Douah El-Cherif for the next 28 days. He must not approach or contact her by any means, the order said.

Mr El Masri, who won the premiership in 2004 with the Bulldogs, was granted conditional bail and will appear at Bankstown Local Court on Thursday.

He split from his previous wife of 14 years, Arwa, in 2014 and has since remarried. He and Arwa had three children together.

El Masri, who was sometimes known as 'El Magic', retired from rugby league in 2009 with a reputation for being one of the game's most prolific goalkickers.

He grew up in Tripoli during the Lebanese civil war and moved to Australia at age 11 and was widely regarded as a positive role model for youth in Sydney's west.

Since his retirement, he has worked in the community service sector and spent time as an ambassador for the White Ribbon Foundation, a movement to stop violence against women.

A 2006 Fairfax profile described him as 'league's pin-up boy for good behaviour' and the 'best role model the game has'.'

In an interview with Australian Story, Nine commentator Ray Warren described him as 'one of the real gentlemen of the code'. 'In 41 years of sports commentating, I've seen a lot of footballers come and go. 'But I have no doubt Hazem El Masri will leave a lasting impression on rugby league, as he will on Australia. He's the man we call 'El Magic'.'

A Bulldogs club award for Player of the Year is named in El Masri's honour. 


British PM vows to root out Islamic extremists infiltrating the NHS, civil service and the country's education system


David Cameron last night launched a major inquiry into whether Islamist extremists have infiltrated the UK’s public sector.

The Prime Minister acted amid concerns of ‘entryism’ by fanatics into the NHS, the civil service, local authorities and the country’s education system following the Trojan Horse plot in Birmingham.

This saw Islamist hardliners attempt to take over a number of schools and radicalise children.

The inquiry was revealed during the launch of the Government’s updated counter-extremism strategy.

Mr Cameron said politicians could no longer ‘put our kid gloves on’ and hope the threat posed by extremists would go away.

As the Mail revealed yesterday, the document also contained plans to treat Islamist fanatics in the same way as paedophiles by automatically banning them from working with children.

And parents will be able to apply to have the passports of under-18s taken away if they fear they are planning to travel to Syria or Iraq to engage in jihad.

Discussing the risk of extremism in the public sector, the strategy says: ‘We will carry out a full review to ensure all institutions are safeguarded from the risk posed by entryism.

‘This will report in 2016 and look across the public sector, including schools, further and higher education colleges, local authorities, the NHS and the civil service.

'The review will clearly set out the risk posed and advise on measures to guard against entryism, for example by improving governance, inspection and whistle-blowing.

‘It will engage charities and businesses to help them identify and tackle entryist behaviour.’ Mr Cameron also announced a review into the application of sharia law in the UK and vowed to toughen the rules around gaining British citizenship.

In an article on Facebook, the Prime Minister said it was time for the Muslim ‘silent majority’ to stand up and tackle Islamist extremism in their communities.

He added: ‘The fight against Islamist extremism is, I believe, one of the great struggles of our generation.

‘In responding to this poisonous ideology, we face a choice. Do we close our eyes, put our kid gloves on and just hope that our values will somehow endure?

‘Or do we get out there and make the case for those values, defend them with all that we’ve got and resolve to win the battle of ideas all over again?’ He went on to say: ‘In the past, I believe that governments made the wrong choice.

‘Whether in the face of Islamist or neo-Nazi extremism, we were too tolerant of intolerance, too afraid to cause offence. We seemed to lack the strength and resolve to stand up.’

Yesterday Dr Shuja Shafi, secretary general of the Muslim Council of Britain, attacked the plans – claiming they would ‘reinforce perceptions that all aspects of Muslim life must undergo a compliance test to prove our loyalty to this country’.

Dr Shafi also said he detected ‘McCarthyist undertones’ in the idea of putting people suspected of extremist views on blacklists and banning them from working in the public sector.



Political correctness is most pervasive in universities and colleges but I rarely report the  incidents concerned here as I have a separate blog for educational matters.

American "liberals" often deny being Leftists and say that they are very different from the Communist rulers of  other countries.  The only real difference, however, is how much power they have.  In America, their power is limited by democracy.  To see what they WOULD be like with more power, look at where they ARE already  very powerful: in America's educational system -- particularly in the universities and colleges.  They show there the same respect for free-speech and political diversity that Stalin did:  None.  So look to the colleges to see  what the whole country would be like if "liberals" had their way.  It would be a dictatorship.

For more postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, GREENIE WATCH,   EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS and  DISSECTING LEFTISM.   My Home Pages are here or   here or   here.  Email me (John Ray) here


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