Read me

Between vet appointments for incontinent dogs (if only I could teach her Kegel exercises) and doctor’s appointment for sick kids, just not enough time to blog today.  A few recent links that are really good, but that I realized I’ll otherwise never get to:

1) Slate piece on the fraudlent Republican claims about voter fraud.

2) Powerful, first-person account of a nurse with end-stage cancer and how the medical establishment is just set up to treat, treat, treat, no matter what.

3) Really interesting story of a Fairfax County, VA (where I grew up) teacher that the County has been trying to remove for incompetence.  She may be a little behind the times, but surely there are much worse teachers out there skating by.  I was also bothered by how much her evaluation was about using technology.  Using a smartboard is not some great pedagogical advance.

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Photo of the day

Saw this first photo of Alan Taylor’s latest Afghanistan set and thought it would be hard to beat.  It was, but this is really an amazing set of photos:

Dust lights up the rotors of a CH-47 Chinook helicopter as paratroopers with 3rd Squadron, 73rd Cavalry Regiment load for an air assault mission near Combat Outpost Ab Band in Ghazni province, Afghanistan, on May 23, 2012. Small sand particles striking titanium/nickel abrasion strips on the rotors causes a visible corona at night. In 2009, photographer Michael Yon dubbed this phenomenon the “Kopp-Etchells effect“, to honor Cpl. Benjamin Kopp, and Cpl. Joseph Etchells, recently fallen American and British soldiers. (U.S. Army/Sgt. Mike MacLeod)

Breastfeeding myths (or not)

The Post’s latest 5 myths series was on breastfeeding.  Often, they really stretch things to end up with five myths, but in this case the author even starts out myth 4, ‘most American women breastfeed their babies” with, “Statistically, this is true.”  Hmmmm.  Seems to me you’ve already lost the “myth” bit there.  I found myth #2  interesting because it shows the difficulty in doing research on something like breastfeeding’s health benefits when there are so many other co-variates:

2. Formula is just as healthy as breast milk.

Infant-care experts made this claim throughout the 20th century. Some midcentury doctors even touted alternatives — made of cow’s milk whey or soy, along with oils, vitamins and minerals — as more nutritious than breast milk.It is not a coincidence that these alternatives are known as “formula,” a term that connotes scientific sophistication.

We now know that breast milk, with its unique balance of proteins, fats, vitamins and carbohydrates, confers a range of health benefits, including lessening the chances of ear infections, asthma, gastrointestinal ailments, diabetes, allergies, obesity and sudden infant death syndrome. But it is not clear that breast-feeding makes a substantial difference for children in developed countries. (There is no doubt about its advantages in places that lack access to clean water and adequate health care.)

Since scientists can’t assign women to randomized groups of breast-feeders and formula-feeders, they are forced to work backward from data, making it difficult to firmly establish whether breast-feeding improves a child’s health. For example, mothers who breast-feed are also more likely to adopt other wholesome behaviors: They eat less junk food, they’re less likely to smoke, and they see doctors. So studies have trouble determining whether children who were breast-fed are less likely to be obese because they received breast milk — or because their mothers cooked healthier foods.  [emphasis mine]

Now, I’m pretty sure that statistical control, regression models, etc., can tell us with some confidence that there are real health benefits to breast feeding, but this final paragraph certainly makes a good point.  Also, breast feeding mothers are more likely to come from higher socio-economic backgrounds which surely correlates with all sorts of good health benefits.  In the anecdotal category (i.e., worthless for conclusions but still fun to share), the latter two of my four children breastfed significantly longer and definitely had the healthier infancies than the first two.

And, as you know, I’m a big fan of all learning about bacteria and I recently heard about some research that found that breast milk actually contains an ingredient not actually digestible by humans, but rather my the bacteria that colonize our gut.  Thus, it is providing the ideal medium for the healthy bacteria that make our digestion work well.

Priorities

This bit from yesterday’s N&O story about the NC Legislature pretty much says it all:

But one of the juiciest pieces of the agreement drew little scrutiny or debate: a tax break for owners of businesses that will cost $336 million a year, one of the largest tax cuts in a decade.

Tillis and Berger, both Republicans, heralded the tax break as a “$50,000 exemption for small businesses – the backbone of North Carolina’s struggling economy.” But the exemption is not just for small businesses. There is no cap on the size of the business that can claim the exemption.

So the break will go to roughly 460,000 business owners of all sorts, including equity partners in law firms, doctors and dentists with thriving practices, even lobbyists who patrol the legislature. It also includes some state lawmakers who are business owners.

Annual revenue from that $336 million tax break would roughly equal the salaries and benefits of the 6,400 employees who lost their jobs last year to help balance the $20 billion state budget. Roughly 900 of those employees are teachers who were let go as the statewide school population increased by approximately 10,750 students.  [emphasis mine]
Probably could not ask for a clearer display of Republican priorities in action.  Who needs education when a bunch of rich lawyers and doctors (as the article points out) needed tax breaks?!
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