Monday, October 29, 2018


In George Orwell's dystopian novel, Nineteen Eighty-Four, a mandatory part of daily life for all citizens is the Two Minutes Hate. Everyone must gather before one of the ubiquitous telescreens to watch a propaganda film designed to stir up their fear and focus their hate on the odious figure of Emmanuel Goldstein, the supposed arch-enemy of the state, and on whatever nation Oceania currently happens to be at war against.

Orwell describes the finely honed propaganda and the intoxication of the crowd as so overpowering that joining in was inescapable:

 Two Minutes Hate--Scene from 1984
Credit: Devin Foley

He writes:

"A hideous ecstasy of fear and vindictiveness, a desire to kill, to torture, to smash faces in with a sledge hammer, seemed to flow through the whole group of people like an electric current, turning one even against one's will into a grimacing, screaming lunatic."

You can view a dramatization of the Two Minutes Hate from the British movie 1984 at this URL. "Shout out his name," the narrator commands, and the enraged crowd roars, "Goldstein! Goldstein! Goldstein!"

Of course, supporters of President Trump will deny any similarity. But watch Trump work the crowd into a frenzy about Hillary Clinton at his rallies here, or against Dianne Feinstein at this URL. Trump ever so smugly denigrates these supposed "enemies," and the excited and enraged crowd roars, "Lock her up! Lock her up. Lock her up." It's fascinating--and frightening--to watch Trump then step away from the microphone and turn his back on the chanting crowd, as if to say, "This hatred isn't my doing."

Credit Washington Examiner

I'll give Trump credit--he's a master of this dark art of stoking fears and focusing hatred wherever he wants. Orwell described the rage stirred up by the daily Two Minutes Hate as an emotion that could be switched from one object to another like the flame of a blowtorch. So it seems with Trump and his tribe.

And it works; stoking the desire to kill in at least some of his followers, not yet with a sledge hammer to the face, but with mail bombs and an AR-15. The intense hatred Orwell described is eerily similar to the feelings expressed by one of Trump's rally-goers who, as reported in the Guardian, told his liberal sister, whom he claims to love, "If there is a civil war in this country and you were on the wrong side, I would have no problem shooting you in the face."

"She has to know," he went on, "how passionate I am about our president."


10/29/18: For an extremely clear and thoughtful assessment of Trump's role in inciting violent acts such as the bombs recently mailed to leading Democrats and progressives and the synagogue attack in Pittsburgh, please click through to this Washington Post perspective.

Saturday, October 06, 2018


W know that breastfeeding provides multiple health benefits for babies and their mothers, but until now nobody had looked into the long-term economic benefits of breastfeeding. It turns out they're pretty significant--50 years down the line, the family income of adults who were breastfed is 10 percent higher than their non-breastfed peers.

Based on his research, Mark McGovern, an economist at Queen's University in Belfast, Northern Ireland, concludes, " . . . breastfeeding may also have a significant economic impact throughout the life course."

Breastfeeding has multiple benefits to babies and mothers
Credit: Pixabay

McGovern and his colleagues drew their data from a massive long-term study that followed more than 17,000 children born in England, Scotland and Wales during one week in 1958.  As detailed in a report published by Queen's University, 50 years later the average household income of adults who had been breastfed was 10 percent higher than adults born at the same time who had not been breastfed. This result was significant even when other factors, such as parents' education or income were taken into account.

McGovern mentions three factors that he thinks may account for this difference--breast milk has substances in it that boost brain development, breastfed infants develop higher intelligence, and breastfed babies are healthier across the board. "Breastfeeding is associated with improvements in health, and health is in turn associated with earning capacity."

As an economist, McGovern is struck by the global economic benefits that would come from increased encouragement of and support for breastfeeding. But individual mothers deciding whether to breastfeed or not can add the possibility of life-long economic benefits to the physical and psychological benefits of nursing.


We all know that exercise boosts physical fitness, but more and more research is showing that it also boosts mental fitness. The latest evidence appears in an article in MIT's Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience, showing that six weeks of aerobic exercise boosted performance on a challenging memory task. Although the subjects in this study were 95 healthy young adults, the researchers expect to see similar results as they research the benefits of exercise for older adults. They hope to show that exercise can ward off age-related memory loss and even the ravages of dementia.

“At the other end of our lifespan, as we reach our senior years," says researcher Jennifer Heisz, at McMaster University, in Ontario, Canada, "we might expect to see even greater benefits in individuals with memory impairment brought on by conditions such as dementia.”

 Aerobic exercise--credit Wikipedia

The kind of exercise that produced these results is called interval training--short bouts of intense exercise followed by a short rest period, repeated over 20 minutes. The physical results were impressive--improved cardiovascular fitness, and an increase in brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) a protein that helps brain cells to survive and thrive. But the mental benefits were equally important--a significant boost to high-interference memory, which lets us recall the correct word, name or event when there are many similar possibilities.

A growing body of research with mice and other animals also homes in on BDNF as a key player in translating physical exercise into better brain functioning. Remarkably, there are hints that this effect changes the expression of DNA in reproductive cells and can pass on cognitive benefits to offspring. You can read an excellent summary in TheScientist by clicking here.

So, if you remember to exercise, exercise will help you remember!


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