November ’18 – NZ blogs sitemeter ranking

Image Credit: How to Start a Blog as a Home-Based Side Business

I notice a few regulars no longer allow public access to the site counters. This may happen accidentally when the blog format is altered. If your blog is unexpectedly missing or the numbers seem very low please check this out. After correcting send me the URL for your site meter and I can correct the information in the database.

Similarly, if your blog data in this list seems out of whack, please check your site meter. Usually, the problem is that for some reason your site meter is no longer working.

Sitemeter is no longer working so the total number of NZ blogs in this list has been drastically reduced. I recommend anyone with Sitemeter consider transferring to one of the other meters. See  NZ Blog Rankings FAQ.

This list is compiled automatically from the data in the various site meters used. If you feel the data in this list is wrong could you check to make sure the problem is not with your own site meter? I am of course happy to correct any mistakes that occur in the automatic transfer of data to this list but cannot be responsible for the site meters themselves. They do play up.

Every month I get queries from people wanting their own blog included. I encourage and am happy to respond to queries but have prepared a list of frequently asked questions (FAQs) people can check out. Have a look at NZ Blog Rankings FAQ. This is particularly helpful to those wondering how to set up sitemeters. Please note, the system is automatic and relies on blogs having sitemeters which allow public access to the stats.

Here are the rankings of New Zealand blogs with publicly available statistics for November 2018. Ranking is by visit numbers. I have listed the blogs in the table below, together with monthly visits and page view numbers. Meanwhile, I am still keen to hear of any other blogs with publicly available sitemeter or visitor stats that I have missed. Contact me if you know of any or wish help adding publicly available stats to your bog.

You can see data for previous months at Blog Ranks

Subscribe to NZ Blog Rankings Subscribe to NZ blog rankings by Email Find out how to get Subscription & email updates Continue reading

Advertisements

Media manipulation – the tail wags the dog

The Integrity Initiative logo. Don’t be fooled by the words”democracy”: and “disinformation” – they often come out of the mouths of scoundrels these days.

Recent exposure of a shady organisation, the Integrity Initiative, has exposed how media, “think tanks” and politicians are mobilised in campaigns to manipulate public opinion and achieve political objectives. leaked documents show how this is funded by states (in this case the UK) as well as private interests.

Set up in 2015 by The Institute for Statecraft, the Integrity Initiative Describes itself as:

“a network of people and organizations from across Europe dedicated to revealing and combating propaganda and disinformation.”

And it describes its purpose as:

“To counter Russian disinformation and malign influence, and associated weapons of “Hybrid warfare”, in Europe and North America by: expanding the knowledge base; harnessing existing expertise, and; establishing a network of networks of experts, opinion formers and policy makers, to educate national audiences in the threat and to help build national capacities to counter it.”

Don’t be fooled by the term “Russian disinformation.” This really means any information the NATO states want to keep hidden or information with a different spin to that preferred by the NATO establishment.

The documents show the mechanism the Integrity Initiative uses to influence public and political opinions. This uses “clusters” of journalists, politicians, the staff of “think tanks” and state bodies like the Ministry of Defence. And no doubt intelligence agents will be in there somewhere.

They say:

“Members of Integrity Initiative clusters actively engage with policy-makers, and the wider public in their own countries to show them the damage which can be done to their societies by disinformation.”

The most public part of this “engagement” will be media campaigns.

An example of how these “clusters” work

Leaked documents from this groups give an example of one of their successful campaigns – the reversal of the planned appointment of Pedro Baños as Director of National Security in Spain.

First – this from the Wikipedia entry for Pedro Baños (machine translation from Spanish):

“[He] started working as an analyst at the General Secretariat of the Army Staff in 1999 and in 2001, for three years, he was Head of Counterintelligence and Security of the European Army in Strasbourg . 3 From 2004 to 2010 he served as Professor of Strategy and International Relations at the Higher School of the Armed Forces. From 2010 to 2012 he was assigned to the Strategic Affairs and Security Division of the General Secretariat for Defense Policy, as head of the Geopolitical Analysis Area, and in 2012 he moved to stand-by working later as an analyst and autonomous lecturer.

He has worked at the European Parliament’s headquarters in Brussels as a military adviser and has participated in three missions in Bosnia-Herzegovina ( UNPROFOR , SFOR and EUFOR ).

In 2017 he published the book Así se domina el mundo. Unveiling the keys to world power , a dissemination work on geopolitics, denouncing the “hypocrisy” of international politics in which it considers that “there are no good or bad” and that each country “seeks its interests”. 4

On June 7, 2018 it was announced that it would assume the National Security Directorate of Spain with responsibility for the secrecy of the Government’s communications, the coordination of the National Security, Maritime Security and Cybersecurity councils, as well as the management of migratory crises and energetics 6 days later he transpired that finally the President of Government Pedro Sanchez opted by the General Miguel Angel Ballesteros for the position.”

The news report Sanchez dismisses Pedro Baños as director of National Security and finally opts for General Ballesterosdescribes the event in the last sentence above.

Apparently, the decision reversal arose from a “barren polemic for his media profile and his opinions on international politics.” This polemic accused him of “having sympathy for the Russian President Vladimir Putin.”

See the problem? Because Pedro Baños recognised that in international relations “each country seeks its interests” he gets labeled as a supporter of Vladimir Putin and hence guilty of promoting Russian Disinformation.”

This documents from the Integrity Initiative reveals how this “barren polemic” was carried out:

Funding for the Integrity Initiative campaigns

This outfit claims private funding for the early years but is now funded by the UK government to the tune of over 2 million pounds per year. This is acknowledged by the outfit itself – a bit hard to deny as the leaked documents come largely from their funding applications.

The network revealed by cluster members

The leaked documents contain information for cluster groups in a number of European countries. I will just list one example here – the members of the UK cluster in its subgroups. The cluster is led by Keith Sargent – a member of The Institute for Statecraft according to his email address. (The leaked documents contain email address but I have not included them in the post as I hesitate to show personal information. However, readers can access the leaked document with these addresses here –392195849-UK-Cluster).

Office Core Team

This contains 15 staff and 3 fellows so gives some idea of the financial backing and size of the UK cluster.

I have provided names for members of the other clusters as readers will no doubt recognise some of these people.

UK General – Inner Core – Russia

William Browder
Mungo Melvin
Ben Nimmo
Ed Lucas
Anne Applebaum
Charles Dick
Euan Grant
Bobo Lo
John Lough
Vadim Kleiner
Drew Foxall
Vladimir Ashurkov
James Nixey
Craig Oliphant
James Sherr
Keir Giles
Kadri Liik
Igor Sutyagin
Andrew Wood
Peter Pomerantsev
Ian Bond
Nina Jancowicz

How many names do you recognise? William Bowder is a very active campaigner for Russian sanctions and promoter of the Magnitsky Act. Anne Applebaum can be relied on for frequent and rather naive anti-Russian media articles and books. Ben Nimmo works for the Atlantic Council in its Digital Forensic Research Lab and is well know for outing real live humans as automatic “Russian Bots.” The Digital Forensic Research Lab is contracted to work with Facebook to censor accounts and “fake news.”

UK General – Inner Core – Military & Defence

John Ardis
Rob Dover
Robert Hall
Dr David Ryall
Neil Logan Brown
Ahmed Dassu
Anonymous
Duncan Allen
Catherine Crozier
David Fields
Alex Finnen
Giles Harris
Charlie Hornick
Paul Kitching
Alan Parfitt
Andy Pryce
Arron Rahaman
Rob Sandford
Richard Slack
Nick Smith
Joanna Szostek
Nick Washer
Joe Green
Adrian Bradshaw
Jeremy Blackham
Andrew

The email addresses show a number of members of the Foreign Office and Ministry of Defence in this sub-cluster.

UK General – Outer Core – Russia

Roderick Collins
Julian Moore
Alexander Hoare
Graham Geale
James Wilson
Sir Adam Thompson
Alastair Aitken
Chris Bell
Robin Ashcroft
Alistair Wood
Orsyia Lutsevych
Ben Bradshaw
Baiba Braze
Nick Childs
Alzbeta Chmelarova
Zach Harkenrider
David Nicholas
Maya Parmar
Ellie Scarnell
Asta Skaigiryte
Gintaras Stonys
Ian Williams
Carl Miller
Clement Daudy
Gabriel Daudy
Lucy Stafford
Diane Allen
Alexandros Papaioannou
Paddy Nicoll

This list contains several members of parliament and staff of government departments. Baiba Braze’s email address is for the UK embassy in Latvia.

UK General – Outer Core – Military & Defence

Patrick Mileham
Agnes Josa
Steve Jermy
Steve Tatham
Primavera Quantrill
Lorna Fitzsimons

Agnes Josa’s email address is for the Government of Catalonia.

UK Journalists

Deborah Haynes
David Aaronovitch
Dominic Kennedy
Natalie Nougayrede
Bruce Jones
Neil Buckley
Jonathan Marcus

These journalists work for The Times, The BBC and the Financial Times.

Conclusion

It is naive to think that the frequent political campaigns we see arise spontaneously. These leaked documents provide one illustration of how such campaigns can be launched and coordinated. How they are facilitated by links between think tanks, military, and state departments, politicians and journalists. It is logical that these networks will also contain intelligence agents.

Although this organisation and similar ones promote themselves as fighting “disinformation” readers would be naive to taker them at their word. They often promote disinformation or fake news themselves, or at least provide a spin on events and news promoting a state and ideologically approved narrative.

The mainstream media is clearly integrated into such networks – which should make readers think twice about the news this media presents. My advice is to always approach the media, all media, critically and intelligently. And to include alternative sources of information in one’s day-to-day reading.

Similar articles

Protection of teeth by fluoride confirmed – yet again

 

Fluoride protects teeth from the attack of acid and microbes. Figure from Faidt et al., (2018)

The protective role of fluoride in teeth has been confirmed, yet again. A new study nicely demonstrates how incorporation of even a small amount of fluoride into the surface layer of teeth protects them from the acid attack which leads to tooth decay.

Researchers measured the ablation, or loss of surface material from hydroxyapatite before fluoridation and after fluoridation. It showed a clear difference due to inhibition of ablation by fluoride.

The research findings are published in:

Faidt, T., Friedrichs, A., Grandthyll, S., Spengler, C., Jacobs, K., & Müller, F. (2018). Effect of fluoride treatment on the acid-resistance of hydroxyapatite. Langmuir

Measuring ablation

Samples were etched with a sodium acetate buffer at pH 4.5 which simulated the effect of an acid attack on teeth resulting from the formation of acid when sugars are microbiologically decomposed in the mouth. The degree of ablation was measured using atomic force microscopy (AFM). Part of the sample surface was coated with a gold layer to prevent acid attack and give a reference surface.

Fluoridated surfaces, submerged for five minutes in a sodium acetate buffer at ph 6.0 cotnaining 500 mg/L of sodim fluoride, were compared with unfluoridated surfaces.

Results

Interestingly, the AFM height images showed there were two different areas of the hydroxyapatite surface when it came to ablation – a fast etching area and a slow etching area. The authors attributed this to the different orientations of crystallites in the hydroxyapatite sample. The image below is for an unfluoridated sample

Ablation of  fluoridated samples was quite different – no ablation occurred until after 330 seconds – the image below is for a fluoridated sample

The paper summarises the results for the fluoridated and unfluoridated surfaces and the different ablation rates due to crystallite orientation in this figure:

The crystallites that etched slowly (Z2) in the unfluoridated sample did not etch at all in the fluoridated sample. The more rapidly etching crystallites (Z1) did etch in the fluoridated sample but only after a delay.

The authors concluded that some of the fluoride in the surface layer of the fluoridated samples could eventually be removed by soaking in the acid buffer – but only after a delay. This was confirmed by an analysis of the surface concentrations of Ca, P, O and F using X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy (XPS) – see below:

Thickness of the fluoridated surface layer

The authors recall:

“In a former study, we revealed that the thickness of the HAp layer that can be loaded with fluoride is in the range of only a few nanometers (24, 25), even if loaded under optimal conditions (25). “

So – a very thin layer. One that some anti-fluoridation commenters claimed insufficient to give any protection. As the authors say

” the question arose whether such a thin layer would actually be capable of protecting the surface against acid attacks. “

But, their results definitely show that this thin layer does offer protection. I am sure critics will quickly point to the fact that the experimental study showed the removal of some of the fluoride after about 400 seconds. But this removal should be seen in the light of the dynamic system in the oral cavity where the pH of saliva is changing, dropping due to sugar decomposition and then rising again. The presence of fluoride, together with phosphate and calcium in saliva also leads to repair of areas where acid attack has occurred.

Conclusions

This experimental work confirms the protective role of fluoride in saliva for existing teeth – despite the fact that the fluoridated layer may be extremely thin – of the order of a few nanometers. While some of the fluoride in the surface layers is eventually removed the presence of fluoride in saliva helps replenish these layers and repair areas of acid attack.

The authors conclude their results provide:

“evidence that already thin and low concentrated fluoridated layers have a large effect on the acid resistance of HAp [hydroxyapatite]”

They combine these finding with results from a previous study of theirs showing fluoridation reduced adhesion forces of bacteria on hydroxyapatite (HAp) to finally conclude:

“the caries-preventive effect of fluoride is an interplay of at least two mechanisms: a reduction of the solubility and a reduction of the bacterial adhesion force.”

Hence the figure at the top of this article.

Similar articles

 

 

And you thought Russiagate could not get sillier.

It’s true – clouds do have silver linings. If it weren’t for the mindless hysteria of the Russiagate mythology promoted in the USA and UK I would never have heard about this delightful children’s animated video series – Masha and the Bear.

This isn’t the first silver lining I have come across. The mainstream media have now and then offered up lists of automated “Russian bots,” “Russian trolls,  social media accounts promoting “Russian propaganda,” and alternative media sources the mainstream media want us to steer clear of. These lists have given me, and others, media sources and social media accounts which often give information and news of a far higher quality than that promoted by the mainstream media.

In one of these lusts I even came across an amazing Ukrainian pianist, Valentina Lisitsa, who was described as an automated “Russian bot” by the Atlantic Council’s Digital Forensic Research Lab. (The Digital Forensic Research Lab is currently helping Facebook remove “fake” and “inauthentic” accounts – so no wonder there are problems.)

Valentina Lisitsa plays a Rachmaninoff Prelude. She had been identified as n automated “Russian bot” by the Atlantic Council’s Digital Forensic Research Lab.

But now the mainstream media has brought Masha and the Bear to my attention (see UK Times: Children’s show is propaganda for Putin, say critics and The Daily Mail: Is Masha and the Bear a Putin stooge? Critics claim cartoon with 4.18m subscribers is made by Kremlin to subvert children). Apparently the child video series is simply another of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s plots to spread discord in the West! Specifically by subverting our children! And not just our children – also our adults, according to The Times:

“A spoiled girl and a bear, which certainly symbolizes Russia, penetrate into the immature children’s mind and influence it, while adults obviously fall under the influence of ‘Russian propaganda channels’,”

The authors of these articles found quotable sources in countries bordering the Russian Federation to “prove” their point. They even found an intelligence expert from The University of Buckingham, Professor Anthony Glees, to give “expert” academic backing to their story.

Russia has a deserved reputation for high-quality animations so it is not surprising this series is very popular. It has received more than 30 billion views on YouTube (see How a goofy Russian cartoon bear is conquering the world‘MASHA AND THE BEAR’ TAKES ON THE WORLD and  ‘MASHA AND THE BEAR’ RISES TO THE TOP)

Judging from comments on these articles claiming the child videos are “Putinesque,” readers are laughing. Many comments are from parents whose children regularly watch and love Masha and the Bear.  One commenter attempted to start a rumour that Masha was sighted in Salisbury earlier this year. Another wondered if his son would develop the habit of riding bare-chested on his teddy bear.

Problem is that one should really be concerned when supposedly “reputable” news media publish this sort of rubbish. Perhaps even more concerned that a reputable academic, expert on intelligence and security matters and advisor to governments is promoting this sort of hysteria.

Oh well. At least I have discovered Masha and the Bear and I am looking forward to using these videos in my future babysitting tasks.

Similar articles

Trump and the media – codependents wallowing in the mud

Now, this is what “doctoring” really looks like!

This whole Trump-Acosta issue got me thinking of an old warning: Don’t fight with pigs – you only end up getting dirty and the pig enjoys it anyway.

That certainly seems the case with Trump. He thrives on these conflicts – and truth be told it probably doesn’t harm his rating in any way. His supporters see these fights as him standing up to a biased press and doing a great job.

But, here’s the thing. Ever since the media and Trump got into a childish debate last year over the size of the crowds and TV audience for his inauguration I have thought that both sides were acting badly. The president was being unpresidential and the media unprofessional. The “alternative facts” story was played dishonestly – by both sides.

I think Trump loves such controversies and thinks they bring him support. And he is probably right. But what the hell are the media thinking?

In the end, the media should be reporting the news. Media personalities should stop thinking they are politicians and that it is their role to get into political debates. It isn’t.

Opponents of Trump may enjoy such confrontations but in the end, they just discredit the media.

If the media stuck with reporting the facts and opinions of the politicians they question, readers and viewers could make up their own minds. That is what being an adult is about – we don’t need the media to predigest our news or attack politician’s statements. We are not really interested in the biased opinions of the media personalities. Those media personalities may enjoy their grandstanding and minute of fame but this does not help the reader or viewer. In many cases it just turns them away from the mainstream media.

I can’t help feeling that both sides  Trump and the mainstream media are enjoying these fights.  But that just means both sides are getting dirty and both sides are failing at their jobs.

No wonder people are looking for alternatives – alternative politicians and alternative media.

Similar articles

 

Julian Assange’s mother appeals for her son’s freedom

Despite many appeals for the freedom of incarcerated journalists throughout the world, our media remains largely silent about Julian Assange who has effectively been imprisoned in the London  Embassy of Ecuador for over 6 years and faces the possibility of draconian legal action if he is ever extradited to the US.

His current plight is extreme and this appears to have resulted from US pressure on Ecuador to break down Assange’s mental and physical health to the state where he will surrender to extradition.

I just wish our media could be more open-minded and direct some of their concern Assange’s way. And I wish all this rubbish about Latin America’s Troika of Terror and Axis of Evil would stop. Or perhaps our media should be more honest, recognise the evil done to those countries by the USA and apply some of this derogatory terminology to the USA itself.

After all, with the recent resounding UN General Assembly condemnation of the long-standing US sanctions against Cuba perhaps there is more justification to reverse this labeling and define the US (and it only allies in the UN vote – Ukraine and Israel) as “Rogue States.”

Similar articles

October ’18 – NZ blogs sitemeter ranking

Image credit: Blogging Jokes

I notice a few regulars no longer allow public access to the site counters. This may happen accidentally when the blog format is altered. If your blog is unexpectedly missing or the numbers seem very low please check this out. After correcting send me the URL for your site meter and I can correct the information in the database.

Similarly, if your blog data in this list seems out of whack, please check your site meter. Usually, the problem is that for some reason your site meter is no longer working.

Sitemeter is no longer working so the total number of NZ blogs in this list has been drastically reduced. I recommend anyone with Sitemeter consider transferring to one of the other meters. See  NZ Blog Rankings FAQ.

This list is compiled automatically from the data in the various site meters used. If you feel the data in this list is wrong could you check to make sure the problem is not with your own site meter? I am of course happy to correct any mistakes that occur in the automatic transfer of data to this list but cannot be responsible for the site meters themselves. They do play up.

Every month I get queries from people wanting their own blog included. I encourage and am happy to respond to queries but have prepared a list of frequently asked questions (FAQs) people can check out. Have a look at NZ Blog Rankings FAQ. This is particularly helpful to those wondering how to set up sitemeters. Please note, the system is automatic and relies on blogs having sitemeters which allow public access to the stats.

Here are the rankings of New Zealand blogs with publicly available statistics for October 2018. Ranking is by visit numbers. I have listed the blogs in the table below, together with monthly visits and page view numbers. Meanwhile, I am still keen to hear of any other blogs with publicly available sitemeter or visitor stats that I have missed. Contact me if you know of any or wish help adding publicly available stats to your bog.

You can see data for previous months at Blog Ranks

Subscribe to NZ Blog Rankings Subscribe to NZ blog rankings by Email Find out how to get Subscription & email updates Continue reading

Nuclear dangers if INF treaty abandoned could be worse than in the 1980s

Gorbachev and Reagan sign the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF) in 1987. Source: Wikipedia.

The 1980s were an eventful time in New Zealand. Older readers may remember the Springbok tour, the behaviour of Mr Muldoon, the National Party Prime minister in the early 80s, the snap election (over a proposed nuclear-free bill), the election of Labour in 1984, the French terrorist bombing of a ship in Auckland harbour, the local terrorist bombing of the Wellington trade union centre and murder of its caretaker Ernie Abbott, and New Zealand’s proud international stance opposing nuclear weapons.

An exciting time, but a very worrying time. Even in New Zealand, we were concerned about the nuclear arms race, and particularly the buildup of intermediate-range nuclear missiles in Europe. These were extremely dangerous as they significantly shortened any warning time of a nuclear attack to mere minutes and produced a trigger-happy situation. “Use them or lose them” became a real military strategy – and this raised the potential of a worldwide nuclear conflagration.

So the signing of the Intermediate Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF Treaty) in 1987 was very welcome. This treaty banned the deployment of such destabilising weapons in Europe and European politicians have rightly described it as a foundation of European security ever since.

Now the US is threatening to pull out of this treaty. It clearly wants to develop and deploy these class of weapons again. The Russian Federation has replied with a pledge to respond with their own weapons development. Europeans are concerned, but seemingly not US politicians.

Perhaps because the immediate threat from this class of weapons is local (even though their use would most probably trigger a worldwide nuclear conflict). The US is not immediately threatened by such missiles close to their borders like European countries are.

But isn’t this very short-sighted? After all, abandonment of this treaty could encourage the Russian Federation to set up bases for these weapons closer to the US and to buildup deployment of nuclear-armed submarines close to the US coast. This would be the only way for Russians to achieve real parity with the USA with these weapons.

Remember the Cuban missile crisis? The US responded with appropriate fear to the threat of a Soviet missile base in Cub in 1992. They were so concerned that the world watched in horror during October 1962 as their response threatened world war. One would think with that history they should understand how Europeans, including Russians, view the current US stance.

But the current situation is more dangerous

The INF treaty has prevented any reoccurrence of situations like the Cuban missile crisis. But, I think the abandonment of the INF treaty could lead to a situation more dangerous than we saw in the 1980s. For two reasons:

1: These missiles will be stationed even closer to dangerous international borders. Previously the Soviet Union had the buffer territory of the Warsaw Pact countries, eastern Europe. Now the Russian Federation has no buffer. (As a telling Twitter comment said: “It’s really a bit much for Russia to set up a country for themselves on NATO’s very doorstep!”). These missiles could be based right on their border. And correspondingly, Russian missiles could be based on the borders of neighbouring NATO countries.

Reaction times will be even shorter than in the 1980s and nuclear strategy would become even more trigger happy.

2: The international climate is more tense than in the 1980s, and specifically the USA-Russian Federation relationship more problematic.

In the 1980s there were clear ideological and political differences but the situation was recognised by both sides and there seemed to be respect for each other. A recognition that the other side had their own legitimate interests which should be taken into account.  Negotiations were possible – and indeed fruitful when it came to controlling nuclear arms.

Today there seems to be no respect. Negotiations seem impossible. Indeed, the US president gets accused of treachery if he so much as talks with the Russian president. Despite the lack of obvious ideological and political divisions, the anti-Russian hysteria in the US is much greater than the anti-Soviet fears during the 1980s.

That in itself creates an extra danger. It inhibits the necessary contacts and negotiations at a time when such contact and negotiation have become extremely important.

Negotiations and contact the key

Of course, the very success and importance of the INF treaty do not mean it has no problems or that it should not be reviewed or renegotiated. After all, it is over 30 years old. Other countries now have such nuclear weapons and are deploying them. Israel, India, Pakistan and China for example.

Pakistani Intermediate-range ballistic missile. Image sourceMissile deterrence: Pakistan tests nuclear-capable ballistic missile.

The US itself may have intentions of deploying these sort of weapons in Asia (not covered by the INF treaty) as well as along the Russian border in Europe. Deployments in Asia and the Middle East bring a new set of problems and this is an argument for renegotiation of the existing treaty or new negotiations on new treaties involving Asia and Middle Eastern countries.

Difficult I know, but a hell of a lot safer than another intermediate-range nuclear arms race and deployment.

The US claims that the Russian Federation has violated the INF treaty with the development of new weapons. The Russian Federation has made similar claims about the US. While President Trump appeared to use this claim to justify their abandonment of the treaty this is disingenuous.

Like all such treaties, the INF contains provisions for inspection and investigation of complaints. Charges of treaty violations are simply political garbage if not accompanied by formally invoking the complaint and investigation procedures. In fact, I think when complaints like this are made and the formal procedures not followed we can be sure the claims are false.

However, the answer to all these problems is surely maintaining contact, using the existing treaty negotiation processes and embarking on any new negotiations where required. All this is infinitely preferable to the alternative of launching the world into a new dangerous and very destabilizing nuclear arms race.

Is Trump the problem?

Well, the guy is a buffoon, even if a legitimately elected buffoon, and makes unexpected and stupid decisions. But I think in this case he is simply following the record and policies of ultra-conservatives in the US and UK who really seem to be pulling his strings on such matters.

The USA has a record of withdrawing from important treaties predating Trump. The USA pulled out of the anti-ballistic missile treaty in 1992. There have been ongoing problems with US cooperation in the Open Skies Inspection Treaty which helps monitor adherence to treaties like the INF.

Trump is guilty of a lot of things – but I believe it wrong to blame him for the current US political hysteria which inhibits contact between the US and the Russian Federation and the negotiation or renegotiation of important agreements.

US anti-Russian hysteria is dangerous – for the world as well as the USA

It is easy to pass off the anti-Russian hysteria in the US as simply an US foible. Nothing for us to worry about it. Just a way fo a defeated presidential candidate to explain her failures.

The anti-Russia hysteria is out of control and dangerous. Image Source: AMID ‘RUSSIAGATE’ HYSTERIA, WHAT ARE THE FACTS?

But the hysteria is real. No matter there is no evidence to support the charges made against Russia this hysteria has developed its own legs. It has penetrated into the organs of state and severely limits the ability of top state officials to carry out their responsibilities at the international level. Specifically to carry out their responsibilities in their relations with the Russian Federation.

And that affects us all. Yes, there has been a political overflow so that this anti-Russian hysteria has even infected many of our politicians and media people in New Zealand. Relatively easily as it has built on a long-standing anti-communist and anti-soviet base. (In fact, I sometimes find current critics of the Russian Federation referring to that country as the Soviet Union, or describing it as a communist country).

More concerning for me is that this hysteria is making the world a more dangerous place. It inhibits the ability of major powers to cooperate in solving outstanding international problems like the war in Syria. And such US-Russian cooperation is vital to solving these problems.

The hysteria is also making the collapse of treaties like the INF treaty much more likely. It is making it harder to renegotiate these treaties or to negotiate new ones. That is destabilising.

It seems to me that the production and deployment of new intermediate nuclear missiles are very dangerous because it is destabilising. it will lead to a new “use them or lose them” military strategy and encourage trigger happiness. I can only hope that wiser heads will manage the situation until the US political hysteria disappears and sanity can be returned to international relations.

Similar articles

 

 

Fluoridation and ADHD: A new round of statistical straw clutching

“To clutch at straws – the act of reaching for a solution no matter how irrational or inconsequential.” Source: Advanced Vocabulary for English Language Learners

Anti-fluoridation activists are promoting a number of new scientific papers they argue support their campaigns. But one has only to critically read these papers to see they are clutching at straws. Their promotion relies on an unsophisticated understanding of statistics and confirmation bias.

I will look at one paper here – that of Bashash et al., (2018) which reports an association between maternal prenatal urinary fluoride and prevalence of child ADHD.

The paper is:

Bashash, M., Marchand, M., Hu, H., Till, C., Martinez-Mier, E. A., Sanchez, B. N., … Téllez-Rojo, M. M. (2018). Prenatal fluoride exposure and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) symptoms in children at 6–12 years of age in Mexico City. Environment International, 121(August), 658–666.

I discussed an earlier paper  by these authors – Bashash et al., (2016) which reported an association between maternal neonatal IQ fluoride and child IQ – (also heavily promoted by anti-fluoride activists) in a number of articles:

Promotion of the new paper by anti-fluoride activists suffers from the same problems I pointed out for their promotion of the earlier paper. In particular it ignores the fact that the reported relationships (between maternal neonatal urinary fluoride and cognitive measure for children in Bashash et al., 2016, and prevalence of child  attention deficit hyperactivity disorder – ADHD – in Bashash et al., 2018) were very weak and explain only a very small amount of the variation. This raises the possibility that the reported weak relationships would disappear if significant risk-modifying factors were included in the statistical analyses.

Bashash, et al., (2018)

Whereas the earlier paper considered measures of cognitive deficits in the children the current paper considers various measurements related to ADHD prevalence among the children. These include parent rating scales (CRS-R). Three were ADHD-related scales from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) (Inattention Index, Hyperactivity-Impulsive Index and Total Index [inattentive and hyperactivity-impulse behaviours combined]). They also include several other indexes related to ADHD.

A number of computer-assisted indexes (CPT-II) were also determined.

Most indices were not significantly associated with maternal prenatal urinary fluoride. However, the authors reported statistically significant (p<0.05) relationships for indices of Cognitive Problems + Inattention, ADHD Index, DSM Inattention and DSM ADHD Total.

The data and the relationships were provided in graphical form – see figure below – taken from their Figure 2:

There is obviously a wide scatter of data points indicating that the observed relationships, although statistically significant, explain only a small part of the variation in the indices.

So, just how good are the relationships reported by Bashash et al., (2018) in explaining the variation in these ADHD-related indices? I checked this out by digitally extracting the data from the figures and using linear regression analysis.

Index

% Variance explained

Cognitive problems + Inattention 2.9%
ADHD Index 3.1%
DSM Inattention 3.6%
DSM ADHD Total 3.2%

In fact, these relationships are extremely weak – explaining only a few per cent of the observed variation in the ADHD related indices. This repeats the situation for the cognition-related indices reported on the Bashash et al., (2016) paper (see Maternal urinary fluoride/IQ study – an update).

The fact these relationships were so weak has two consequences:

  1. Drawing any conclusions that maternal neonatal fluoride intake influences child ADHD prevalence is not justified. There are obviously much more important factors involved that have not been considered in the statistical analysis.
  2. Inclusion of relevant risk-modifying factors in the statistical analysis will possibly remove any statistical significance of the relationship with maternal urinary fluoride.

Credible risk-modifying factors not considered

Bashash et al., (2108) do list a number of possible confounding factors they considered. These did not markedly influence their results. however, other important factors were not included.

Nutrition is an important factor. Malin et al., (2108) reported a signficant effect of nutrition on cognitive indices for a subsample of the mother-child pairs in this study (see A more convincing take on prenatal maternal dietary effects on child IQ).

Their statistical analyses show that nutrition could explain over 11% of the variation in child cognitive indices indicating that nutrition should have been included as a possible risk-modifying factor in the statistical analyses of Bashash et al., (2016) and Bashash et al., (2018). I can appreciate that nutrition data was not available for all the mother-child pairs considered in the Bashash et al., papers. However, I look forward to a new statistical analysis of the subset used by Malin et al., (2108) which includes prenatal maternal urinary fluoride as a risk-modifying factor and tests for relationships with child ADHD prevalence.

Could the reported weak relationship disappear?

Possibly. After all, it is very weak.

The problem is that urinary fluoride data could simply be a proxy for a more important risk-modifying factor. That is, urinary fluoride could be related to other risk modifying factors (eg. nutrition) so that the relationship with urinary fluoride could disappear when these other factors are included.

I illustrated this for a earlier reported relationship of child ADHD prevalence with extent of fluoridation in US states (see Perrott 2017 – Fluoridation and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder – a critique of Malin and Till (2015)). In  that case the relationship was much better than those reported by Bashash et al., (2016) and Bashash et al., (2018) – explaining 24%, 22% and 31% of the variance in ADHD prevalence for the years 2003, 2007 and 2011 respectively. The relationships are illustrated in their figure:

Relationships between water fluoridation (%) and child ADHD prevalence for 20013 (red triangles), 2007 (blue diamonds) and 2011 (purple circles). Malin & Till (2105)

Yet, when other risk-modifying factors (particularly mean state elevation) not considered by Malin & Till (2015) were included in the regression analyses there was no statistically significant influence from fluoridation prevalence. In this case fluoridation prevalence was related to altitude and was simply acting as a proxy for altitude in the Malin & Till (2015) regression.

Conclusion

As the authors admit, this study:

“was not initially designed to study fluoride exposure and so we are missing some aspects of fluoride exposure assessments (e.g., detailed assessments of diet, water, etc.).”

However, they do say these “are now underway” so I look forward with interest to the publication of a more complete statistical analysis in the future.

There are other problems with the data (for example the paucity and nature of the urinary fluoride measurements) and these are the sort of issues inevitably confronting researchers wishing to explore existing data rather than design experimental protocols at the beginning.

Readers should therefore always be hesitant in their interpretations of the results and the credibility or faith that they put on the conclusions of such studies. The attitude should be: “that is interesting – now let’s design an experiment to test these hypothetical conclusions.”

The problem is confirmation bias – the willingness to give more credibility to the findings than is warranted. Scientists are only human and easily succumb to such biases in interpreting their own work. But this is even more true of political activists.

The reported relationships are weak. Important risk-modifying factors were probably not included in the statistical analyses. The observed relationships may simply mean that urinary fluoride is acting as a proxy for a more important risk-modifying factor (like nutrition) and the weak relationship may disappear when these are considered.

So scientific assessment of this study will be extremely hesitant – interpreting it, at best, as indicating need for more work and better designed research protocols.

But, of course, political activists will lap it up. It confirms their biases. Political activist organisations like the Fluoride Action Network are heavily promoting this paper – as they did with the earlier Bashash et al., (2016) paper.

But they are simply clutching at straws – as they often are when using science (or more correctly  misrepresenting and distorting the science) to support their political demands.

Similar articles

 

 

September ’18 – NZ blogs sitemeter ranking

A view of the Montserrat Monastery, Catalonia, from above. Views from the mountaintop were amazing

Apologies for the delay this month. But my excuse is excellent – a Wine, Tapas and Walking Tour in Spain. I have come back both exhausted and refreshed, but with a better understanding of Spanish wine.

I notice a few regulars no longer allow public access to the site counters. This may happen accidentally when the blog format is altered. If your blog is unexpectedly missing or the numbers seem very low please check this out. After correcting send me the URL for your site meter and I can correct the information in the database.

Similarly, if your blog data in this list seems out of whack, please check your site meter. Usually, the problem is that for some reason your site meter is no longer working.

Sitemeter is no longer working so the total number of NZ blogs in this list has been drastically reduced. I recommend anyone with Sitemeter consider transferring to one of the other meters. See  NZ Blog Rankings FAQ.

This list is compiled automatically from the data in the various site meters used. If you feel the data in this list is wrong could you check to make sure the problem is not with your own site meter? I am of course happy to correct any mistakes that occur in the automatic transfer of data to this list but cannot be responsible for the site meters themselves. They do play up.

Every month I get queries from people wanting their own blog included. I encourage and am happy to respond to queries but have prepared a list of frequently asked questions (FAQs) people can check out. Have a look at NZ Blog Rankings FAQ. This is particularly helpful to those wondering how to set up sitemeters. Please note, the system is automatic and relies on blogs having sitemeters which allow public access to the stats.

Here are the rankings of New Zealand blogs with publicly available statistics for September 2018. Ranking is by visit numbers. I have listed the blogs in the table below, together with monthly visits and page view numbers. Meanwhile, I am still keen to hear of any other blogs with publicly available sitemeter or visitor stats that I have missed. Contact me if you know of any or wish help adding publicly available stats to your bog.

You can see data for previous months at Blog Ranks

Subscribe to NZ Blog Rankings Subscribe to NZ blog rankings by Email Find out how to get Subscription & email updates Continue reading