Wednesday, July 10, 2024

Microplastics in Bloodstream Increase Stroke Risk 4.5-Fold: Study

"The study SUGGESTED". Opinion masquerading as fact

The issue of microplastic pollution in the environment is gaining increasing societal attention. Research indicates that once microplastics enter the human body, they can increase the risk of heart attacks, strokes, or even death. What kind of everyday behaviors raise the risk of ingesting microplastics?

Lin Xiaoxu, a U.S. virology expert with a doctorate in microbiology, explained what microplastics and nanoplastics are on New Tang Dynasty TV’s “Health 1+1” program and how to reduce exposure to them.

Plastic is a crucial product in industrial production and is deeply intertwined with daily life. When plastic products break down, they become microplastics or even smaller nanoplastics. Microplastics are plastic pieces smaller than 5 millimeters, while nanoplastics measure below 1 micron (1,000 nanometers).

Sources of Microplastics

Mr. Lin explained that everyday plastic products release microplastics. Synthetic textiles shed fiber fragments, and worn-out tires produce plastic-containing dust. Even seemingly smooth plastic water bottles can shed microplastics during washing.

In nature, sunlight and ultraviolet radiation continuously degrade plastics into smaller particles. Textiles, hygiene products, bottles, bags, particles emitted from factories, tire dust, fishing nets, and more all contribute to microplastic pollution. Humans and other animals ingest some of these particles, while others accumulate and break down in oceans and soils. Marine organisms like shellfish, small fish, and shrimp, especially those near coastlines, are particularly prone to ingesting microplastics.

Mr. Lin emphasized that the main sources of microplastics are industrial waste and wastewater discharge, which can cause significant environmental damage if not adequately treated.

Therefore, before wastewater is released from factories, it must undergo processes like screening, sand removal, sedimentation, biological reactions, chlorination, ultraviolet treatment, membrane technology, etc., to remove over 90 percent of microplastics. However, complete elimination is not achievable. Natural environments may take thousands to tens of thousands of years to fully degrade microplastics.

Health Hazards of Microplastics

Potential Harm of Microplastics to Cardiovascular and Brain Health

“If you ingest something toxic, people usually say to wash it out quickly, but microplastics are very tiny particles that adhere to the surface of the stomach. It’s not guaranteed that washing out will remove them; the body needs to slowly eliminate them, increasing the burden on the body,” Mr. Lin noted.

Studies have found that after exposure to ultraviolet light and microbial degradation in the natural environment, microplastics become more adsorbent, forming complexes with various environmental pollutants on their surfaces, making them more toxic to organisms.

Microplastics, which serve as carriers for heavy metals and pathogens, exhibit various toxicities upon entering the body. Most microplastics ingested through food are excreted via feces, but a small portion can remain in the intestines for days, causing intestinal damage, inflammation, and disruption of gut microbiota. Over time, microplastics can be absorbed into intestinal cells and enter the bloodstream, damaging organs and systems throughout the body. Organs like the liver and kidneys and bodily systems such as the immune, reproductive, and nervous systems are particularly affected. Additionally, excessive inhalation of microplastics can cause respiratory tissue damage and disease.

In March, a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine found that most carotid artery plaques contained microplastics. The study included 257 patients aged 18 to 75 with asymptomatic carotid stenosis. Following plaque removal from the arteries, researchers detected polyethylene in 150 patients (58.4 percent) and polyvinyl chloride in 31 patients (12.1 percent) of removed carotid artery plaques.

Macrophages within the plaques contained visible foreign particles, some with jagged edges and chlorine content. * The study suggested * that patients with detected microplastics had over 4.5 times higher risk of heart attacks, strokes, or death compared to those without microplastics.

We Need Rational Patriotism

As we observe Independence Day, you will see patriotic displays everywhere. U.S. flags, red, white, and blue clothing, patriotic décor, and calls to appreciate our freedoms will greet us in the news, in stores and restaurants, and even in our workplaces.

Some 67% of U.S. adults report being “proud” or “extremely proud” to be an American. U.S. citizens across generations report high levels of patriotism, as do immigrants.

Unfortunately, for many, patriotism is blind. Children in forty-seven states are taught to pledge allegiance to the flag every morning in school. Do they know what they are reciting or why? We’re conditioned to place our hands over our hearts for the national anthem, to stand for the flag, and so on without giving it any thought.

Nowhere is blind patriotism more apparent than in the realm of U.S. military and foreign policy. A majority of Americans say they trust the military. We are conditioned to thank members or veterans of the armed forces for their service regardless of how long they were in the military, whether they volunteered or were conscripted (as men were until 1973), what function they performed, and despite the fact that such platitudes make many veterans uncomfortable.

Failure to do these things is a grave offense. It’s even worse to question or criticize military policy.

What if one declined to thank a 30-year-old veteran for his time in the military, having familiarized oneself with the ample evidence that the Global War on Terror has done nothing to make us safer but instead has made us less safe and less free? What if instead one said, “Thanks, but no thanks,” considering that that the veteran willingly had enlisted and engaged in operations that eroded liberty and safety at home and abroad.

To many people, such a statement would be unconscionable. The very thought is taboo in many circles and would lead to the person being labeled “un-American” and “unpatriotic.”

Both of us have been sharply criticized for our skeptical work on U.S. foreign policy. After reading or hearing us speak, people have suggested we move to another country or be forced into military service. We’ve received emails and phone calls expressing outrage.

We submit, however, that the person who says “No thanks” to the veteran, like the person who openly criticizes U.S. officials and their policies, has a better claim to the “patriot” label than the people sending us angry emails or blithely thanking every veteran.

Just before World War I, writer Randolph Bourne distinguished country, state, and government. For Bourne, “country” referred to the nonpolitical aspects of a place and its people—things like language, culture, and ideals. “State” represented the group acting as a “repository of force.” “Government” denoted the mechanisms by which the state carried out its activities.

People have come to conflate these three things. State and government have become synonymous with country. This could lead them into blind patriotism by making it seem impossible to love one’s country while being skeptical of and even appalled by the state’s and government’s actions.

Our Founders understood the need to rationally question the government and the state, especially in warmaking. As James Madison noted, “Of all the enemies to public liberty, war is perhaps the most to be dreaded, because it comprises and develops the germ of every other.” He also said, “No nation could preserve its freedom in the midst of continual warfare.” Having studied the seen and unseen costs of U.S. foreign policy, we are well aware that many state actions not only fail to guard the liberties we hold so dear but actively erode them.

So, this coming holiday, as we prepare to celebrate our independence and our freedoms, let’s also embrace a healthy skepticism. We need a rational, not blind, patriotism. Our most cherished liberties depend on it.


A Different Perspective from Governor Newsom on California’s ‘State of the State’

Last week, California governor Gavin Newsom presented his State of the State address. It opened with a warning, juxtaposing the fascist threat of Hitler in 1939 that would ultimately start World War II with forces “threatening the very foundation of California’s success.” The themes of “darkness,” “chaos,” “fear,” and “destruction” created by the “poisonous populism of the right” appear throughout his address.

But where are these forces in California? With Democratic supermajorities in both state legislative houses, with Democrats elected in all eight state executive offices (governor, lieutenant governor, attorney general, school superintendent, insurance commissioner, secretary of state, treasurer, and state controller), and with Republicans representing only 24 percent of registered voters, California is perhaps the most politically liberal state in the country.

In terms of issues affecting the state, illegal migration is important for Californians, with 62 percent of registered California voters agreeing that the border is not sufficiently secure to prevent illegal entry, compared to 30 percent who viewed border protection as adequate.

The Pew Research Center estimated there were 1.85 million unauthorized immigrants living in California in 2021. The number may be higher now, as San Diego has become the most popular spot for illegal entry into the United States, with 37,370 encounters there with US Border Control in April alone.

Governor Newsom praised the state’s efforts at the border and criticized US Senate and House Republicans for not supporting a proposal by the Biden administration that would have increased funding for Immigration Control and Enforcement (ICE): “Unfortunately, California has largely had to go at this alone because Republicans in Congress, when presented with an opportunity to assist border states, have turned their backs. They’ve chosen inertia, politics, and pure political pandering.”

While criticizing national Republicans, Newsom did not mention that California is one of only 11 sanctuary states in the country and the only on the southern border. Nor did he refer to his 2019 inaugural address, when he stated that California would be a “sanctuary to all who seek it” or the fact that California’s Department of Justice shut down ICE access to California’s major crime data network because ICE would not agree to refrain from using information from the network to enforce immigration laws.

California’s sanctuary status is particularly problematic now because it provides cover for drug dealers, including fentanyl dealers, who almost exclusively arrive here from Honduras. One dealer stated the reason they come to California, and San Francisco in particular, is “because they don’t deport. . . . Many look for San Francisco because it’s a sanctuary city. You go to jail and you come out.”

Fentanyl is a significant problem within California, as its low cost has made it the opioid of choice among many users. Because of fentanyl’s potency (a teaspoon of pure fentanyl powder can kill over 2,500 people), it now accounts for the vast majority of opioid overdose deaths. Before California passed its sanctuary state law in 2017, there were around 200 fentanyl deaths annually, but fentanyl deaths have increased to about 11,000 per year in more recent data.

Fentanyl dealers in California can earn up to $350,000 per year, and these earnings are often repatriated to dealers’ families in Honduras, which is undergoing a construction boom in new housing, including gated mansions featuring the logos of the Golden State Warriors and San Francisco 49ers. California has confiscated a substantial amount of fentanyl, but removing California’s sanctuary protection would decrease the amount entering the state by reducing the attractiveness of California as a destination for illegal migration and criminal activity.

Newsom pushed back against the common claim that California’s economy is lagging and that taxes are high. “Here’s the truth Republicans never tell you: California is not a high-tax state,” he said, referencing how much the lowest earners in California are taxed compared to those in some other states. But many of the California earners he was referencing are near or below California’s poverty line, an income level where people naturally pay little in income taxes.

In contrast, the Tax Foundation, a nonpartisan research organization that is the standard source for analysis in taxation and public spending, identifies California as a very-high-tax state. With the top of the list representing the lowest taxation, they rank California 49th for state income taxes, 46th for state and local taxes, and 48th for overall state tax climate. They also report that California has the highest tax collections per person among all states. California collects $7,200 per person per year in state tax revenue, about 65% higher than the national average of $4,374.

Regarding California’s economic growth, Newsom stated that 16 percent of national job creation in May occurred in California. But examining California’s job growth over the longer term presents a more pessimistic picture. Between February 2020, just before the pandemic struck, and May 2024, the number of US jobs grew by over 6.2 million, while California lost about 402,000 jobs. In contrast, Texas and Florida, two states whose policies are frequently criticized by Newsom, added about 1.1 million and 700,000 jobs, respectively.

Newsom stated that “you shouldn’t have to be a CEO to live a decent life—and in California, you don’t have to be.” But living a decent life in California requires significantly higher household income than in most other states, particularly given California’s housing costs. While Newsom praised many new laws he signed during his tenure to expand housing supply, he did not reference his major 2018 campaign promise of a “Marshall Plan” for housing, with a goal of creating 3.5 million new units by 2025—about five times more than the number that have been built since he took office.

Since Newsom’s inauguration, housing permits have not increased but in fact are below the level that prevailed before he took office. This record is likely even worse than it appears, because in 2023, about 20 percent of new California homes were accessory dwelling units, which are very small homes (averaging around 600 square feet) providing space for one person, maybe two if they get along really well.

Because housing remains scarce, only 17 percent of Californians could afford the state’s median-priced home—$814,280 during the first quarter of 2024—compared to 37 percent affordability at the national level. And California’s affordability statistic is even worse today, as the median-priced home increased to $908,040 in May. Maybe you don’t need to be a CEO to lead a decent life in California, but CEO status clearly helps when it comes to buying a California home.

Newsom argued that the state is fiscally responsible, stating, “In California, you don’t have to be profligate to be progressive. We understand how to balance budgets while protecting working families, children, and the most vulnerable people in this state.” But it is difficult to believe in California’s fiscal responsibility when the state budget rose 63 percent between 2019 and 2024, despite a population loss of about 500,000. Or when a budget emergency was declared so that around $12 billion could be drawn from the state’s rainy-day fund to help balance the 2024–25 and 2025–26 budgets.

Regarding education, Newsom stated that California K–12 education policy reforms are “transformative” and the “most significant in our nation.” I hope he is right, because California K–12 schools have been underperforming for years, with only 25–30 percent of students reaching federal proficiency standards in math and language arts and 25 percent of them chronically absent.

California remains an extraordinary state, but it faces many significant challenges. These challenges are not threats from the political right; rather, they are policy-related problems that have increased the cost of living and reduced the quality of life, particularly for middle- and low-income households. These problems can be fixed, but only if they are recognized as such by the state’s political leadership.


Australian supermarket chain rediscovers patriotism

Woolworths will put Australian flags back on shelves, just months after the supermarket giant chose not to stock Australia Day merchandise.

Woolworths revealed it will make Aussie flags available to customers ahead of the Paris Olympics and Paralympics.

“With the 2024 Paris Olympic Games beginning later this month, and as a proud Australian retailer, we are pleased once again to be the official Fresh Food Partner of the Australian Olympic & Paralympic teams,” Woolworths said in a statement to staff.

“Given the Australian flag is the official flag of the Australian Olympic Committee and of our team competing in Paris, a locally made handheld Australian flag, made from long lasting materials such as timber and polyester, will also be available for customers to purchase across our Supermarkets and selected Metro stores.”

Woolworths went on to announce flags will now be regularly available for customers, with the supermarket deciding to bring the item in “all year round”.

“Once available in store the locally made handheld flag will be available to purchase all year round from the general merchandise section and also online,” the statement said.

“Locally made handheld Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander flags will be available for purchase later this year.”

The move comes six months after Woolworths dumped all Australia Day merchandise from stores across the nation, sparking outrage from customers.

In the statement sent to stores across the country, Woolworths said it acknowledges it “disappointed many” when it chose not to sell Australia Day merchandise in January.

“We have listened and accepted that, as a proud Australian retailer, that many in the community expected us to offer customers the choice of purchasing the nation’s flag when shopping with us,” the statement read.

At the time, a Woolworths Group spokesperson said a “gradual decline” in demand for the merchandise over the years and a “broader discussion” about the January 26 date and “what it means” to different parts of the community.

Woolworths has also revealed it will be releasing a limited edition range of “Green and Gold” bakery products as part of the store’s Olympics festivities.

The range will include yellow doughnuts with green sprinkles, green and gold cupcakes and a “smash cake”.

For every product purchase in the new bakery range, $1 will go towards supporting Paralympics Australia.




No comments: