Japan Today

Skeptical comments

Posted in: Why is free time still so elusive? See in context

Reality check.

Workweek: According to the US BLS, the average weekly workweek for all employees on US private nonfarm payrolls, was last 34.1 hours. Down from 34.3 the month before, and down from 34.5 YoY.

Productivity. Back to the US BLS, where we find that productivity of non-farm workers, as a measure of output of goods and services per hour worked, increased to 111.76 points in the fourth quarter of 2023. Up from 110.88 points the previous quarter. Productivity in the United States averaged 61.16 points from 1950 until 2023, reaching an all time high of 111.76 points in the fourth quarter of 2023 from a record low of 24.95 points in the first quarter of 1950.

Why the bumps? Reuters told us last year that, according to economists polled, the government revised the data when it revised the methodology. Which it has done a number of times since the metric was first recorded in 1947 (it’s good to be in statistical power, isn’t it . . . especially approaching an election).

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Posted in: Strong suit See in context

Thank you for the photo. Always glad to see a spotlight on historical and traditional items of cultural importance.

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Posted in: AI plays cupid as Japanese authorities try to boost marriage rate See in context

I seem to remember readings last year, that Japanese young people are waiting to marry and start families, primarily due to uncertainty in the economy.

If indeed true, I have some doubts that a couple of AI-inspired nudges towards sailing on some electronic Love Boat ('Love . . . exciting and new . . . ') will quite overcome their understandable anxiety towards a stable financial and occupational future.

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Posted in: Global health research suffers from a power imbalance See in context

Want to save time? These two paragraphs pretty much summarize this long opinion editorial.

Hierarchical relationships, especially those between people from the Global North and Global South, are not mutually beneficial or fair. Based on our personal experiences and research as public health researchers, statisticians and social scientists, we believe that cultural humility and equitable partnerships are key to effective global health projects.

> Mentorship environments characterized by humility and co-learning can help researchers break free from historical power imbalances. This includes acknowledging and valuing the unique perspectives and experiences of scholars from local regions.

So some finger-pointing at Global North's colonial mindset.


I've read recent reports and studies over problems faced in Global South healthcare systems . . . from practitioners in-country, themselves; and not from a university think tank. I have found five of them.

Want to know what they say the problems are?

First: Abandonment; once trained or semi-trained, they leave for other countries. Due to more pay and more opportunities.

Second: A shortage of basic supplies, largely due to theft. (Hard to put it any way other than bluntly). Equipment is there at the end of shift one day, and is missing the beginning of the next one. And local police show little interest in finding it.

Third: Increased work loads and burnout, due to medicos leaving the country once trained (see above).

Fourth: Government-imposed restrictions on trained personnel - with their families - leaving the country (see above). So government demands guarrantees that you will return, including requiring some substantial capital as a guarantee of returning.

Fifth: Prescribed minimum health benefits for the general population, for many countries, is extremely ill-defined in law and regulation (intentionally, so many say), creating huge grey areas of non-eligibility for services, based on criteria that sometimes literally changes hour-by-hour. Along with growing pressure to enroll in a pay-as-you-go politicized parallel healthcare system.

Sixth: Lop-sided deployment of the workforce in terms of geographical location. You can have a critical health provider shortage in one regional city, while the regional city next to it is swarming with personnel of all types (many will tell you that the regional politics is to blame).

Seventh: The central government is not stable, so their supervision of healthcare suffers from maladministration, is sporadic, and is very unstable.

Eighth: Corruption and wasteful expenditures. Biggest reason cited overall. Hard to develop any systems of quality and dependability, when resources are constantly funneled off to support a corrupt government that needs money to stay in power. But also local hospitals and clinics must pay armed factions money for ‘protection,’ so ‘nothing bad happens to them.’

Ninth: Sudden inflows of refugees from war-torn countries or regions . Just about the time health administrators start to see light at the end of the tunnel, there comes tens or hundreds of thousands of people escaping regional tribal conflict or battles where government troops are suppressing local uprisings.

There is more, but these are the problems-in-common going on now around Global South.

Now . . . what is Global North supposed to do to cure all of this?

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Posted in: Is Japan the sick man of Asia? See in context

Misery [index] would then be defined as an amalgam of high inflation, low growth and weak currency rates. You would not be able to trade or eat it but the "INGRAC" could be calculated for most national economies and adequate comparisons would then follow.

Those that would try to do this, would come across the BIG elephant in the room, early on.

I speak to the high inflation part of this comment. And how difficult - nay impossible - it is to calculate, in markets where the shrink-ray is in full use.

Shrink-ray? Commonly known as Shrinkflation. Where manufacturers voluntarily use – and merchants agree upon - products in commerce being diminished, while asserting smaller price increases. You actually get less of a product by volume, weight, etc. while paying about what you did before shrinkage happened (or maybe a little more).

Cleaver? It is certainly a gift to politicians, as shrinkflation does NOT show up on monthly/quarterly/ annual inflation rates. How could it, when there simply is no objective and fair methodology to compare volume and value per item, per cost, over time. Except to ask consumers about what is going on with their cart-full of groceries, and how it affects their family budget. If you do this, it should eventually show up as a measure pf consumer confidence, but it takes time.

Oh, and “weak currency rates?” considering how much currency manipulation happens, on a global scale, this metric should probably come out of any proposed misery meter.

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Posted in: Top diplomats from U.S., China hold 'constructive' talks on issues dividing them See in context

Is it possible? Just possible? That enough nations around the globe have finally awaken themselves to see the substantial risks involved with doing business in China? Enough for China to actually WANT to do something about their all-so-terrible global reputation?

That enough countries are finally taking steps to mitigate exposure risks - inherent by doing business with China - and eliminating those risks by decoupling and de-risking from ties? For national security purposes, naturally, BUT also what dependency on China REALLY means to business? A recognition of the ugly face of unapologetic tactics used by the Party towards using any ties for soft political control and gain? That being tied to China for materials and manufacturing almost always means having to say you are sorry to your customers, for the inexcusable abuses of the environment, the treatment of women and children in the workplace, and civilian civil liberties and human rights marching into extinction? That having a business presence in China means you must agree to give up any concept of intellectual property interests in your brand, your processes, and your products?

Dare we hope? That finally China wants to grow up, grow away from guilt of being red of tooth and claw, and play nice and fairly with the rest of the business world?

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Posted in: The slowly evolving truth about heart disease and women See in context

Here is a link to Dr. Wenger's latest article in Circulation. Entitled The Feminine Face of Heart Disease 2024, 12 Feb 2024. [No conflicts declared, but there a note that the opinions expressed in the article are not necessarily those of the editors or of the American Heart Association].


Here is the invitation, if you chose to read the article: Do you think that she is right? Both with her conclusions and also her challenges and opportunities? How about her admitted advocacy over the need for cultural shifts toawrds public policy and legislative interventions?

And, at least for me, do you think that doctors of one gender, being - or believing themselves - incapable of understanding and effectively treating the other gender, at least when it comes to CVD? Personal experience?

Many thanks.

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Posted in: Number of American workers hitting picket lines more than doubled last year See in context

These numbers show that unionization rates didn't keep pace with overall hiring. Experts note organizing gains have continued to be offset by nonunion job growth, as well as losses in more heavily unionized sectors.

Well, like it or not, we should acknowledge that many of the new hires in the US were those arriving across the border. Into low / lower paid jobs that historically have not been union jobs. If a large magic wand was waved across the land, and suddenly these jobs were automatically made to be union represented jobs, then the above numbers would certainly rise. But they are not, so it cannot.

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Posted in: Kim's powerful sister says N Korea, Japan can open 'new future' See in context

I think Kim Yo Jong is quite attractive in a kind of James Bond villain way.

A kind of face one would ordinarily look for, just before they turned on a conveyor belt feeding into a laser cutter? Yeah, that's pretty much her.

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Posted in: Kim's powerful sister says N Korea, Japan can open 'new future' See in context

What a coincidence. I had read an analysis earlier today, pretty much coming out and saying that Mr. Kishida has served up potential talks with NorK’s Fat Boy as a largely unapologetic move to save the image of his premiership. And that it has been Kishida – not Twisted Sister, as this story implies – that has been pusing with an intensity rarely seen these days for the talks. One noted professor, Dr. Tosh Minohara, Chair of the Research Institute for Indo-Pacific Affairs, went as far to say that Mr Kishida needs this diversion domestically for Japan to overlook some altogether unpleasant domestic realities; some of those of which show him having one of the lowest approval ratings among major world leaders. Some attitude aggregators suggest that Japanese would have to go back 75 years to find political sentiment on the level of Mr. Kishida.

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Posted in: Recession has struck some of world's top economies, but U.S. keeps defying expectations See in context

As some of the world’s biggest economies stumble into recession, the United States keeps chugging along.

Ironic, this story, appearing on the very same day that:

Retail sales MoM dived .8 percent (biggest decrease in retail sales since March last year);

Four-week jobless claims average grew 218.5K;

Retail sales increased an anemic 0.6% YoY in January, the lowest annual gain since the fall of May 2020;

Industrial production pointed down 0.1 percent MoM after recording no change in December. While manufacturing output fell by 0.5 percent, and 0.9 percent YoY;

Capacity utilization rate fell to 78.5 percent the lowest since September 2021, and 1.1 percentage points below its long-run average.

Chugging? More like putter, putter, cough, stall, putt, putt.

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Posted in: Researchers start to find clues on the trail of long COVID See in context

The below-cited study will likely interest mostly diagnosticians, from GP towards immuniologists and neurologists. Presented with patients suffering with symptoms more alligned with myalgic encephalomyelitis/chronic fatigue syndrome (ME/CFS) inside long COVID. These researchers position that “chronic manifestations of illness may result from an altered host response to infection or inability to resolve inflammation, as is being reported in Long COVID.” Showing their data that suggests that “Long COVID and ME/CFS may be due to an aberrant response to an immunological trigger-like infection, resulting in a dysregulated immune system with CD8 T-cell dysfunction reminiscent of some aspects of T-cell clonal exhaustion, a phenomenon associated with oxidative stress.” This paper also includes some intriguing case histories.

Released two weeks ago and published online in Brain, Behavior & Immunity. (I really need to clean out my to-read folder more often).


This is only the beginning of our research into immune dysregulation and its role in the immunopathogenesis of ME/CFS and Long COVID. In our ongoing research there appears to be evidence of other compensatory immune mechanisms for control of persistent pathogens in these patient populations. At present, we have demonstrated the utility of a CD8 T-cell functional assay for IFNγ and TNFα production following stimulation with a generic T-cell stimulus as a first logical and clinically feasible step in assessing CD8 T-cell dysfunction for diagnosis and tracking of responses to therapy. With further research we hope to be able to identify treatment-responsive subsets of patients, predict outcome and severity and be better able to understand the pathogenesis of ME/CFS and Long COVID and the mechanism of action of this nebulized antioxidant, anti-pathogen, and potentially immunomodulatoryagent in treatment of these disabling disorders.

[No conflicts declared].


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Posted in: American allies worry U.S. is growing less dependable, whether Trump or Biden wins See in context

The Telegraph published an interesting piece by David Frost, entitled, The EU isn’t about to collapse. It’s worse than that. Written from a post-Brexit UK point of view, granted. But some interesting insights. A sample:

For as long as they are in the EU, Europe’s great nation states are incomplete democracies. So it’s hardly surprising there are so many political problems. People’s concerns will find an outlet somewhere – in national parliaments if they can, on the streets if they can’t . . .The whole point of the EU is managed politics and it is supremely good at it. The powerful court and the vastly increased budget are the carrot and stick. One day the Commission turns the heat on Hungary and Viktor Orban backs off challenging Brussels. The next day it concedes to protesting farmers in the other direction and drops some environmental rules. Somehow the show keeps on the road.

One is reminded irresistibly of the Austro-Hungarian empire in its declining years, far less than the sum of its parts, preoccupied by its own baroque internal rules, and more of a hindrance than a help to its allies. It’s far from good that things are like this in Europe; but thank goodness we are, for now, out of the EU’s grasp.


I could imagine that there are some who will disagree. But the discussion should be a good one.

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Posted in: As cancer treatment advances, patients and doctors push back against drugs' harsh side effects See in context

Trends towards announcing that cancer cures exist / almost exist / kind-of-exist surface occasionally, especially at budget time. Mostly because the advances in novel treatment compounds and radiation therapies (e.g. Proton therapy) have been so pronounced. And research for further advances is also pronounced.

Making for some cancers, a possibility of recurrence after a number of years to be low enough so that risk of death becomes similar to that for the general population.

But this can be somewhat misleading for patients and their families.

Your oncologist can help. There are appropriate ways to use the word “cured” in aclinical and communicative setting, that highlights a positive potential impact of the word on patients, while opening an important discussion towards less-than-optimal likely outcomes

Altogether a delicate matter.

If any of this applies to you or a loved one, I wish you all the best for a best possible outcome.

Some resource materials:

Understanding Cancer Prognosis, NIH/NCI, https://www.cancer.gov/about-cancer/diagnosis-staging/prognosis. (June 17, 2019).

Remission, cancer-free, no evidence of disease: What’s the difference? MD Anderson, https://www.mdanderson.org/cancerwise/remission--cancer-free--no-evidence-of-disease--what-is-the-difference-when-talking-about-cancer-treatment-effectiveness-and-results.h00-159460845.html, (May 12, 2021).

Potential for Cure by Stage across the Cancer Spectrum in the United States, February 06 2024, Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention, https://aacrjournals.org/cebp/article/33/2/206/733924/Potential-for-Cure-by-Stage-across-the-Cancer . (Please note both the Author Disclosures and Acknowledgments sections for conflicts information).

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Posted in: Verbal gaffe or sign of trouble? Mixing up names like Biden and Trump have done is pretty common See in context

Or the miss may be phonetic, as the names of France’s current president, Emmanuel Macron, and former President Francois Mitterrand both begin with “M.” Mitterrand died in 1996.

For any who did not catch this particular one, the gaffe went like this:

Hello, Nevada! (Applause.) Hello, hello, hello. What a great crowd.

You know, right - right after I was elected, I went to what they call a G7 meeting, all the NATO leaders. And it was in - it was in the south of England. And I sat down and I said, "America is back."

And Mitterrand, from Germany - I mean, from France looked at me and said - said, "You know, what - why - how long you back for?" [Laughter.] And I looked at him, and the - and the Chancellor of Germany said, "What would you say, Mr. President, if you picked up the paper tomorrow in the London Times, and London Times said, 'A thousand people break through the House of Commons, break down the doors, two Bobbies are killed in order to stop the election of the Prime Minister.' What would you say?"

Source: CSPAN.

Back in college, the department I was enrolled in at the time, used to monitor media trends towards identifiable reporting and publishing bias. With that background somewhat in mind, I waited about 34 hours and then searched domestic and international wires over this specific item. And was not too surprised to find it only inside eight domestic venues and about twenty internationally. The former mostly along party lines, while the world's media showed up particularly in France (no surprise) but not in Germany (a little surprised).

The latest gaffe, by comparison, seems to have attracted wide and across party lines, likely due to it happening alongside of the release of the special counsel's report. But it also prompted some articles, like this one, offering to explain it to the public.

More election year fun and surprises await an already fatigued and weary voting public. As far as media balance? Much room for improvement.

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Posted in: Anger, sadness, boredom, anxiety – emotions that feel bad can be useful See in context

Boredom appears to occur when someone’s current situation is not causing any other emotional response . . . researchers think that the benefit of boredom in situations where people are not responding emotionally is that it prompts making a change. If nothing in your current situation is worth responding to, the aversive experience of boredom can motivate you to seek new situations or change the way you’re thinking.

Compare and contrast, if you wish, recent research showing that school students are actually very bored during exams. The main causes cited were being both underchallenged and overchallenged during an exam. But also that test boredom was way higher when the exam itself had no personal relevance for the students. But that in most cases, a high level of test boredom had a marked negative effect on exam results.

They didn’t stop there. They also validated abundance hypothesis, wherein boredom deteriorates exam performance if students are overchallenged, because all mental resources would have to be allocated to completing the tasks; and that boredom as a result of being underchallenged, that resources are available in abundance for processing the tasks anyway.

Conclusion? Provides more evidence to the body of work showing generally that boredom has not only a detrimental effect on learning and performance but also on mental and physical health.

Educators, parents, and students should be informed about these findings, especially in light of the empirically unfounded but frequently communicated argument that boredom in school has its good sides. Boredom, especially related to tests, is often viewed as a nonexistent or “silent” emotion. Our research has shown that it is anything but “silent” [FNs omitted].

Journal of Ed Psych, August 2023 (Peer Reviewed; no conflicts disclosed). https://psycnet.apa.org/fulltext/2023-95297-001.html .

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Posted in: Chinese consumer prices suffer quickest drop in 14 years See in context

@ Desert Tortoise: Good analysis, times 3.

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Posted in: Unless the patient's life is in danger, abusive language and violence are grounds for refusing medical treatment. If more medical personnel quit over 'patient harassment,' it'll affect hospital management and may impact local medical care. See in context

Odd, this coming from the bar association. That aside, most international practitioners I've encountered and discussed medical ethical issues with, are very aware of their ethical obligations to their patients and to the public. And the options available to them and their staff.

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Posted in: Japan repeatedly spots Chinese coast guard and warships near disputed waters See in context

Perhaps put some loudspeakers to some continuously-running and loudly-playing Taylor Swift albums, strapped to a remote drone, programmed to float towards the Mainland. Maybe a couple of autographed posters, as well, along with a couple of tickets to her next concert? Depending on when the last time those Chinese crews got any shoreleave, plus their overall opinion over modern western music, maybe they will follow the drone back home? Maybe defect en mass, bowing to the overwhelming sensational superior western culture? Or maybe scuttle their vessel completely and swim for their very lives? Worth a try.

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Posted in: Chinese consumer prices suffer quickest drop in 14 years See in context

Multiple analyst sources has given voice recently to substantial deflationary pressures going on right now on the Mainland.

Consumer and producer prices falling like a rock, at the same time authorities are curbing almost all short selling, and directing all state funds to make huge Chinese ETF purchases? And their securities regulator promising to prevent any future abnormal (over 1.5) market fluctuations?

One analyst I read equals the recent Mainland bad news to the bottom of their barrels starting to finally give out, with the economy leaking all over the place . . . while they are using mops and buckets to clean up the mess when instead they should be taking to their canoes (without paddles, of course).

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Posted in: U.S. regulator declares AI-voice robocalls illegal See in context

Computer-generated voice messages inside robocalls has been in use for some time now. I remember getting a few, but I cannot remember any of them impersonating a specific live / dead individual someone. Most are pretty ridiculous in quality (robbie-the-robot kind of stuff), but I remember a couple being really close to a reasonable actual human voice. And one last year had a reasonable voice interface.

Now AI??? Never pays anymore to answer your phone anymore, does it?

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Posted in: Special counsel: Biden 'willfully' disclosed classified materials, but no criminal charges warranted See in context

The report is available, with photos, at https://www.justice.gov/storage/report-from-special-counsel-robert-k-hur-february-2024.pdf. A 388 page PDF. Quite a few redactions, plus the quality of the pics (and the report itself) isn’t all that great (wonder why), so good luck reading what’s in most of the pictures. With thanks to the Washington Examiner and their article on this at https://www.washingtonexaminer.com/news/justice/2845741/mangled-box-in-biden-garage-held-classified-documents/ .

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Posted in: Is Japan’s custom of slurping noodles irritating, and why do people do it? See in context

Isn't the Internet a wondrous thing? It wasn't too many years ago that someone could slurp up a steaming bowl of delicious miso soup in a small neighborhood noodle shop, without giving one thought to being judged by the never-blinking Internet presence. Now? We await our every move in public to be instantly polled, studied and critiqued.

What will it be next week? Four out of ten SMs think that Japanese families are holding their hashi (chopsticks) wrong while eating Udon in public. The horror!

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Posted in: It’s essential this year for the momentum of wage hikes to steadily spread to prompt structural wage increases at small and midsize companies. See in context

How about it, Japan?

Seen evidence of "momentum of wage hikes" yet so far this spring?

I ask, since noting with concern yesterday that December's inflation-adjusted real wages actually contracted for a 21st consecutive month. While average cash earnings reportedly came in at a disappointing one percent YoY from December 2023.

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Posted in: EU agrees on first law combatting violence against women See in context

Did they finally settle on a definition of "woman" or "women?" I understand that it was a speed bump during previous negotiations. I'll look later, but I'm willing to guess that they decided to leave the question unanswered. Either that, or something like, '*if they say they are, then they are*.'

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Posted in: Border security and Ukraine aid collapses despite Biden's plea for Congress to 'show some spine' See in context

Well, it took awhile, but I got through this beast of a bill. $118 Billion? (Reminder: the national debt now stands at a whopping $34.15 Trillion, and growing by leaps every day).

Beast? Well, yeah, in that it combined too many issues together. An impressive 370 PDF pages. And it would lay a labyrinth over border and immigration control issues that Androgenus would have appreciated in ancient times. And lots and lots of money, going every which-way, to do actually less over the situation, that would actually cure something.

It should have been stand-alones contingent on over-all passage of all of the stand-alones. You know the type of thing: In the event B, C, and D bills are not enacted, A shall not be enacted into law, either.

Personally, I get rather sick of these huge emergency omni bills, going from unveiling-to-first-vote in only a hand-full of days (three business days counts).

Late word was they intend to bring it to the floor tomorrow anyway, despite the kind of opposition they forsaw, anyway. Amazing.

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Posted in: Eating disorders are lethal mental health conditions: Tips to help reduce self-harm See in context

There are several methods being explored to assess and train the body's ability to improve interoceptive accuracy (IA).

This article speaks well to attempts to understand high and low sensitivity to IA over eating disorders. In furtherance of research showing evidence that patients with anorexia show hypo-sensitivity / and patients with bulimia nervosa show hypersensitivity to cues of hunger.



An altogether worthy thing.

Adding to work demonstrating some benefits of interoceptive feedback - such as heartbeat perception - to help reduce adverse symptoms associated with various emotion-triggered conditions and disorders.


And since Interoception involves perception of information arising from any point within the body, involving signaling from the body to the brain involving hormonal, immune, and autonomic nervous pathways, Interoception has been acknowledged to be potentially associated with various emotional experiences and somatic symptoms.


But there is more. Potentially, that is.

Promising potential in understanding and eventually alleviating chronic pain.


Promising potential in identifying those pathways responsible for inflammation in the body; and someday opening fresh treatment of chronic inflammatory conditions such as Crohn's disease, psoriasis, and other autoimmune conditions.


Much more work needs to be done in most of this. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6129986/ .

But is it right for you, in the hear and now? While I am aware of several noted neurological institutes that offer interoceptive therapeutic programs, you would be well advised to first check with a trusted physician, for more information and some referal information, to determine if it is appropriate to your situation.

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Posted in: From throwing soup to suing governments, there’s strategy to climate activism’s seeming chaos See in context

While it is hard to get into the mind of judges and juries, research shows that in cases such as workers’ and women’s rights struggles, radical and anti-government protests can have an impact on them.

Much depends on the jurisdiction, naturally. If one strays into the world of juries, those at the bar know the reception that this kind of conduct would likely result in, by location and demographic. Some I can think of are extremely affectionate towards this type of - in the author's own word - "madness." While others are quite adverse. Protestors seem to know this, and much of what they do happens more in the former location. They may be soup-or-glue-covered, but they are not dumb.

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Posted in: Miracle cures: Online conspiracy theories creating new age of unproven medical treatments See in context

The Food and Drug Administration maintains an online database of unproven or harmful treatments that it has identified

Here is a link to the FDA's site: https://www.fda.gov/consumers/health-fraud-scams/health-fraud-product-database .

Odd, that the site says that the list is current only up to 11/14/2023. Also odd that there are only 42 entries for all of CY 2023. Still, it may be a starting point reference for consumers.

A topic that comes up frequently in oncology, and those who suffer advanced stage disease seeking cures, is what is called stem cell tourism. More specifically, those seeking treatments that lie outside of regulatory frameworks in the US, Europe or Australia. On the subject of unproven on unregulated therapies - cell and gene-based therapies - the European Consortium for Communicating Gene and Cell Therapy Information (EuroGCT) has some useful information in English located at:



And the International Society for Cell & Gene Therapy has an interesting recent paper over all of this, at:


If this applies to your situation, I wish you all the best.

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Posted in: Taylor Swift could make it from Tokyo to Super Bowl. Parking her private jet could be tricky See in context

Maybe hand her a parachute? All the while she can sing to her fandom and the odd football fan, 'You Need To Calm Downnnnnn . . . '

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