Killing data, killing people

For several years now, I’ve had the idea to create a book on treating the common cold. Initially, it was with the idea of navigating the “decongestants,” “expectorants,” and such, so people would be better able to the find the appropriate medicine for their symptoms.

Since the COVID-19 got named, that project has now come off the back burner and I’m expanding it to look at coronaviruses (Yes, the #2 cause of common cold is coronavirus–several different coronaviruses, in fact) in general.

My natural beginning is with web searches.

Interesting what I’ve found:

Chinese Doctors Begin Large Dose Vitamin C / Ascorbic Acid …

–ACCOUNT SUSPENDED
–That was back in March, when I still had several hours of internet access a day. Now my research (and my blogging, this should have been posted back in early April) has not only been slowed down, but restricted.
Due to the COVID-19 shutdown effectively closing all internet cafes (libraries and coffee shops), my internet time has been reduced to the charge of my laptop’s battery (about 90 minutes) and how long I can stand to sit on the concrete stoop of my library. Though somebody at the library realized how much the signal was getting used and took the lock off the outlet, and I used some of my stimulus check to get a used Surface (which is good for 3-4 hours), I can still only tolerate being hunched over my laptop (which has to be a true LAP top) in the cold/heat/sometimes rain for around two hours before I can’t sit it, anymore.
Since the weather’s gotten better and the parks have opened up, I’ve started using the wi-fi in the parks. At least I can sit at a picnic table instead of on bare concrete sticking of spitted chewing gum and stinking of dog. I’ve since discovered that access to several sites are blocked, ostensibly due to security certificate issues, but when I try to override, I’m directed to a Fortinet page that says these sites are “spam” and I need “administrator” privileges to override them.
Since I own (and therefore am administrator of) both my Dell laptop and my Surface, the “administrator” they must be referring to would be whoever at the Shawano County Parks Department manages the wi-fi signal. One of the sites is Stand for Health Freedom (which I’m attempting to sign a petition on), the other one (that I’ve encountered so far) is Green Medicine Info. Both of them are being FALSELY declared spam, and the fact that they are both critical of the CDC and other medical CRONYISM indicates that these blocks are politically-motivated First Amendment violations.
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Killing the patient to cure the disease

I’m scared.

Not of getting COVID-19, but of not being able to pay my bills for inability to get online. Over 70% of my income depends on being online almost daily, and while service providers have promise not to discontinue service for subscribers who can’t pay their bills, the thousands of us who depend on public-access wi-fi–libraries, coffee houses, and the like–as our ONLY means of getting online are in danger of getting cut off by the overly extreme restriction of 10 people in a business.

The previous 50-person limit would have crowded my local Domino’s (which recently moved to a new location with inside dining), but probably not have forced people within three feet of each other (aside from at the counter, though a lot of people might end up standing) in a local coffee shop. Yeah, it’s that big. And now our illustrious governor has taken Trump’s pulled-out-of-thin-air advice to limit businesses to 10 people. Heck, you can have 10 people in  a business with just employees. And like I said, it’s creating hardship for no reason in areas where the COVID-19 threat is low to non-existent. The threat of COVID-19 is highly variable across the U.S., and an appropriate response would logically be equally variable. Of course, who would accuse the Government of being logical?

This is a classic example of why the Federal government shouldn’t be making decisions that our founders gave to the state and local levels.

So far, I’m still able to use my city library (though people who don’t have their own devices are S.O.L., since they’ve shut down the public PC’s), but my laptop battery is too weak to even load my browser before dying–so if they decide to lock the doors, I can’t even camp out outside the building.

That $1,000 check Trump’s talking about? You know where that’s going to go? Well, if he’s planning to have them out at the end of April, that means they won’t be around in time to do anything about my April bills. So a good chunk of the check will go to the banks to pay all the NSF and “missed payment” fees I’ll be landing for want of being able to get online to earn the money to pay them and be able to schedule the payments! Some help!

And what’s so frustrating is that last I checked, there’s no COVID-19 within 80 miles of me! Other areas in northern Wisconsin are probably over 200 miles from a case! The Government is killing the patient in their effort to combat the disease!

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A pandemic is no excuse to let the facts out

I admit, I’m trying to make a buck out of the crisis (Before you get you’re pitchforks out, let me tell you: my annual income is about $1,200. A hundred sales of a $0.99 e-shook would be a huge shift in my monthly revenue.) I’ve been gathering data to make a “shook” (small book) about coronavirus, with a significant section devoted to Covid-19. Naturally, I’m checking a lot of sites for info. I’ve got about a dozen so far, and will probably have 30-40 by the time I finish my little shook.

And just as naturally, I’m stumbling onto sites, like the highly-misnamed “Factcheck.org,” which is basically parroting the CDC line, which doesn’t do anything without Big Pharma’s A-OK.

Factcheck’s so-called “fact checking” consists of three pages from two sources: Two are “informative” pages from the CDC, which has a reputation for destroying evidence that anything other than a Big Pharma product can actually cure anything. The other is a university article about a study that looked at people taking 200mg/day in Antarctica to ward off the common cold.

My grade-school teachers wouldn’t take that level of “fact-checking” for a weekly assignment!

In other words, this “Factcheck” author checked exactly ZERO accounts of vitamin C actually being used against Covid-19.  The recommended daily allowance of vitamin C is 60-95 mg per day. Compared to that, the 200 mg taken in the Antarctica study could be called “high dose.” But doctors using vitamin C to treat severe infection are using doses around 3,000 mg per day–or higher. That’s 15 times what the university study is calling “high dose”!

This just goes to show how spin doctors can get radically different results, simply by changing the definition of what they’re looking at. The “experts” that conclude vitamin is marginal to useless are using an arbitrary and useless definition of “high dose.”

So if you’re going to frantically buy anything for this pandemic, stock up on vitamin C.

 

(P.S. Part of the reason dosages are so high is that oral supplements vary widely in how much vitamin C actually makes it into your system. Which is why hospital treatment protocols use intravenous vitamin C. Which the FDA has been cracking down on as an “unapproved drug.”)

REAL sources:

An Important Update on IV Vitamin C

An Important Update on IV Vitamin C

Vitamin C Works for Sepsis. Will It Work for Coronavirus?
https://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2020/02/24/iv-vitamin-c.aspx

Vitamin C Protects Against Coronavirus

Vitamin C for Coronavirus

Vitamin C for Coronavirus

Dosages and Treatments for Coronavirus Infections

Dosages and Treatments for Coronavirus Infections

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On Macmillan’s pending embargo on new ebook titles for libraries

Libraries are up in arms over Macmillan’s pending embargo on new ebook titles for libraries. Macmillan proposes restricting the number of copies of ebook titles available to libraries for the first eight weeks of their release.

This is reminiscent of what happened in the movie industry. I used to work in a sub-run movie theater. Most of the money gets made in the first few weeks of release. (In the first week, 95% of the ticket price goes to Hollywood. By the time sub-runs get the movies, that drops to 35-50%, depending on title.) As more and more streaming services became available, the window of “in theaters only” before titles became “available on DVD” got smaller and smaller. It’s not the $12/ticket first-runs that got squeezed; it was the mid-runs and sub-runs selling $5 and $2 tickets that lost out, because once people can watch a movie at home, they won’t fill a cinema anymore.

I’d have to guess a similar thing happens on book releases. Most of a book’s income depends on what happens in the first few months of its release. In a low-library ebook scenario, that meant a bigger hardcover press run (lower per-book cost/price), probably a paperback press run (another price level for the mid-range buyers), and plenty of “previously read” for the cheapskates to buy. Having thousands of library borrowers who probably only intend to read the book once (i.e. NEVER become buyers) leads to a smaller press run (higher retail prices), probably no paperback run, and higher prices on anything that makes it to resale.

A major publishing house’s printing presses, warehouses, and workers needed to pack and ship books are all there. And costing money. But there isn’t as much money to pay for them all if thousands of people are reading a few dozen ebooks, is there? And that’s the whole point: people think an ebook is just a digital file, so it shouldn’t cost much to the consumer. People expect that, since there’s no cost of paper or printing, that ebooks should be cheaper than hardcopy, even though an ebook needs to be researched, written, formatted, and edited just as much as a print book (It takes me almost as much time to convert my print books to ebook as it does to write them in the first place).

Not only is the ebook expected to be cheaper than the hardcopy, but it’s SO much easier for one ebook to satisfy hundreds of people for less than the income earned from a single hard copy that satisfies one person.

Amazon expects you to price your ebooks under $10–even if there’s no way you could produce a hardcopy for less than $20. This means that–even if you’re getting 70% royalties on your ebook, you may be earning less money than the 10% royalties on your hardcopy title.

Speaking as an author, that’s a smaller royalty check for me. On the one hand, libraries get your book out in front of people. If they like you enough, and are way down on the hold list, they may get tired of waiting and buy your book outright. So libraries can help an author. But on the other hand, if there’s too many books available, they NEVER buy. That really hurts an author.

Don’t believe me? Just look at Amazon. Since the introduction of Kindle Unlimited (essentially a library by subscription), author incomes have DROPPED 42%. Book sales are mirroring household incomes: the best-sellers (rich) are making more money, while the mid-listers (middle and working class) are making less money. I published my first title in 2014 and had it up to about $100 a month. Now, I’ve got eight titles making a total of less than $40/month (some of which had more than $500 in research costs). Easy lending of books leads to an unwillingness to pay for content–and publishers respond by squeezing the author–smaller royalties, smaller or non-existent advance. On top of that, they used to market the mid-lists; now, thanks to revenue lost (mostly thanks to Amazon’s mandatory discount off MSRP and the aforementioned Kindle Unlimited), non-best-sellers are almost entirely the author’s dime to promote.

You know the old joke about not being able to get a loan unless you can prove you don’t need one? Well, that’s what getting a traditional publisher has become.

 

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What happens when a mass “shooter” doesn’t have a gun?

Anti-gun activists often look to Japan when soapboxing about the virtues of extremely restrictive gun laws.

And it’s true Japan doesn’t suffer from mass shootings. The homogeneous, law-abiding culture, however, has its own vulnerabilities, such as the mass poisoning that happened several years ago, when thieves convinced most of a company to consume poison by posing as medical personnel and claiming the victims had been exposed to a toxin and needed to take an oral “antidote” that they’d brought (there’s that “law-abiding culture” for you).

Only in Japan.

But today, Japan is so international, they’ve just had an animation studio attacked by a mass shooter–

Oh, right. No guns. Kyoto Animation has been attacked by a mass arsonist. The term doesn’t even properly convey what happened, because “mass arsonist” implies someone who started a lot of fires, but this is clearly the same mentality and basic method one sees in “mass shootings,” only the weapon in this case was (not gun) fire. Even the term “arsonist” brings to mind someone who usually does his dirty deed and slips away before his fire-baby starts killing its victims. This arsonist, whose beef against Kyoto Animation is still unclear, barged into the building guns blazing– I mean, ran through the front door screaming, “You die!,” sprayed a flammable liquid (apparently gasoline) around the place, and lit it up. Since this happened close to the main entrance, the roughly 70 occupants trying to dodge the (not gun) fire and get out of the three-story building were forced to find unfamiliar routes out of the building.  (At least a shooter has to stop sooner or later to reload; fire just keeps going on its own.)

Thirty-three didn’t make it.

Plenty of others have lots of burns that will be slow and painful to heal and likely leave ugly scars behind.

Personally, I’d rather have been shot.

 

 

Source:

https://frontpage.pch.com/article/175932/suspected-arson-hits-japan-animation-studio-dozens-injured/featured?ref=topstories

 

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Warning: Wood, apple cores, banana peels not “biodegradable”

There are certain advantages to having a lot of old emails hanging around in your inbox. If something happens and gets corrected soon after, it’s an ignorable “blip” in the grand scheme of things. If there’s no correction, then you know you might have something significant.

Case in point: I just learned from an old email subscription  that substances such as wood, banana peels, apple cores, and paper are not biodegradable. How do I know? Because they do not meet the definition of “biodegradable” that the Federal Trade Commission applies to plastics.

Back in 2015, the FTC went after ECM Biofilms for claiming their additive made plastics “biodegradable.”

Initially, ECM claimed the additive would cause plastics to break down “in timeframes that would be similar to things like wood or pieces of sticks.” But when consumers clamored for a specific time, ECM began saying “nine months to five years” in 2009.

When challenged by the FTC, ECM brought out 19 studies showing plastics degraded faster with their additive, including one where plastic biodegraded 49.28% over 900 days (traditional plastic biodegraded just 0.12%). Sounds “biodegradable” to me.

The FTC countered with 13 tests that showed no acceleration in degradation. And a survey that showed a “significant minority” expected that “biodegradable” meant a thing would “fully decompose” within five years–a standard of proof that is impossible even for materials that are understood to be “intrinsically biodegradable,” such as wood, paper, and food waste.

Believe it or not, this is actually a “relaxed” standard compared to the FTC’s 2013 definition:

Biodegradable

To claim a product is “biodegradable,” a company should have proof the product will completely break down and return to nature within a year. Landfills shut out sunlight, air, and moisture, so even paper and food could take decades to decompose. Most plastics won’t biodegrade even outside of a landfill.

So, despite an FTC administrative law judge ruling that the additive worked, the full FTC commission decided that claiming “biodegradable” on something that takes more than five years to “fully decompose” (even in landfills where “intrinsically biodegradable” materials may take considerably more than five years) is false advertising.

I searched for a few other related articles, finding a few (government website) guides about what was and wasn’t green, a few “green” websites pointing out that putting these additives in plastics render them “non-recyclable” (so double-whammy), and even an old (2009) blog entry from when the FTC first started seriously looking into claims, where (judging from the comments) the “environmentally conscious” readers bit on the FTC rhetoric–hook, line, and sinker.

In the years since that ruling, I have found nothing to indicate that more sensible heads have prevailed. Keep in mind, many “recyclable” plastics, even when put in recycling containers, end up in landfills for one reason or another (but that’s a subject for another blog), where they break down just as slowly as any other non-recyclable. The end result is that this ruling is creating more waste by setting arbitrary and impossibly high standards for “biodegradable” plastics while simultaneously discouraging real solutions to our growing plastic waste issue.

So next time you peel an orange, or a banana, or shuck some sweet corn from the farmer’s market for dinner, remember: the packaging is not biodegradable. The FTC said so.

Read more:

“Green” Claim Check

Ban New Green Products?

FTC Bans “Biodegradable” On Products

How the FTC Dealt with One Firm’s Questionable Biodegradable Plastic Claims

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Concert photographer gets banned for reporting unauthorized use of image

Recently concert photographer J. Salmeron was banned from any and all performances of Arch Enemy after requesting compensation (actually, he asked them to make a charitable donation) from a company for an image he took of Alissa White-Gluz, the lead singer of Arch Enemy, during the FortaRock metal festival in the Netherlands. Instead of responding directly, the company referred his request to the band manager, Angela Gossow, who told him that the company–being the sponsor–had the right to use any photographer’s work without compensation (beyond the exposure his work was getting, which he should be happy for), and that all promoters, labels, and booking agents would be informed that he was persona non grata.

Unfortunately, there’s plenty of precedent for this. As copyright law gets more-encompassing and longer-lasting, the power falls more and more into whatever corporation is backing the most commercially-viable iteration of the intellectual property. in this case, the IP of the band is overriding the “derivative work” of the photographer photographing the band.

I’ve seen firsthand how IP-bullyish the music industry is. While I was in college, I worked at an arena that occasionally hosted music concerts (fortunately, I hadn’t gotten into photography back then, and nothing “interesting” happened with the IP of my image during the event). One such concert was recording for a video and had posted signs on the doors saying that “by purchasing a ticket” and “entering the premises” people were licensing their images in perpetuity and without compensation. Now I don’t see a problem with taping crowds as crowds, but the phrasing of the “release” was so broad that if anything “unusual” had happened, the band management would have owned that, too–lock, stock and barrel. The other problem with it? I hadn’t purchased a ticket; I was an employee, so technically, I hadn’t “agreed” to release my image to them. Nothing in my employee info said I was signing away any image rights (I’m sure arenas the world over are adding tiny little clauses to their employment contracts to cover that, now.)

Not that this problem is unique to the music industry. (What’s the difference between a “poem” and a “song lyric”? Two lines of a copyrighted poem in your work is usually “fair use”; two lines of a copyrighted song lyric in your work is always “intellectual property theft.”)

And the situation is getting worse, not better. Used to be, if it was part of a cityscape, it was fair game for photographers. Now, you need permissions to photograph certain buildings if they’re “recognizable,” even if they’re only incidental to the composition. Same goes for cars: it’s one thing to “not look at” a corporate emblem, but a few years ago Ford declared that images showing the “C-scoop” of its Mustangs could not be used without specific release. The more pervasive corporate branding gets, the more their 800-lb gorilla lawyers abuse the protections of copyright.

What we need is some court to recognize a clear definition of “public place” and stop all these IP squatters from eating their cake and having it, too.

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Reduce the National Debt in 5 Simple Steps

A few years ago, I read an article about the nation’s $18T debt. It’s bigger now, of course. That article had a call for what to do about it. I replied to it, and my suggestions haven’t changed. And since we’re in the middle of tax season, I thought I’d put this out for the rest of the world.

Step 1: GET THE MIDDLEMEN (i.e. HEALTH INSURERS AND GOVERNMENT) OUT OF HEALTH CARE. (Trump WANTS a single-payer health care system). The more middlemen, the greater the cost to the consumer. Since the 1970’s, the number of physicians has remained relatively constant, while the number of administrators has grown almost in lock-step with the cost of healthcare. The so-called “Affordable” Care Act created new levels of administration, causing even more money that is ostensibly directed at medical services to be directed toward administrative costs, instead. Cut the bureaucracy, cut the cost of health care.

Step 2: CLEAN HOUSE IN THE LAW BOOKS.

There are hundreds of laws on the books whose primary effect is to create costly red tape while either having very little effect on actions they’re supposedly controlling or else intruding in individual actions that our founders never meant government to have control of. Get rid of them, and money that was spent in paying lawyers to split hairs over what exactly hundreds of laws do or don’t require can now be invested in the economy–which will mean more sales tax revenue for States (see Step 4).

Step 3: Overhaul the IRS. If you have to pay someone hundreds of dollars to do your taxes for you, they’re too complex. If nothing else, we’ll save money (and trees) on compiling instructions. (Despite the IRS no longer printing many forms themselves, there are still many people who need the instructions printed out for them–like my ex-professional tax preparer, completely-internet-illiterate mother)

Step 4: Cut welfare and SSI. With all the savings from Steps 1-3, fewer people will need it in the first place, and those who do need help will be better supported by community programs that can now afford to operate under the reduced tax burdens created by Steps 1-3. In fact, there’s a lot of Federal programs that would be better handled as State programs–as in Step 1, we save money by eliminating the middlemen who gather taxes from the States into the Federal coffers, and then redistribute them back to the States.

Step 5: Have a national lottery. Those who want to pay in to the Government for a chance to get rich can. Those who don’t, aren’t obligated to. Again, less taxes for the rest o us to pay.

Of course, there’s a reason that I said “5 simple steps” and not “5 easy steps.” Most of these actions would give power back to the people, and that’s one thing that will have a bureaucracy circling the wagons in no time. Too many people in power are too happy with the status quo. Which is why we continue to go deeper into debt.

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Authors Guild’s 2018 Author Income Survey Shows 42% Decline in Authors’ Incomes Since Kindle Debut: A Response

https://www.authorsguild.org/industry-advocacy/authors-guild-survey-shows-drastic-42-percent-decline-in-authors-earnings-in-last-decade/

Several factors have been mentioned in causing this, most of them coming back to Amazon, Google, and Facebook (especially Amazon) working to reduce their distribution costs and secure profits for themselves at the expense of devaluing the publications themselves. Self-published authors are peanuts at the mercy of an elephant, while traditional publishing houses swallow the additional costs by cutting down on advances and royalties for their authors.

Particularly egregious is Amazon’s willingness to allow third-party vendors to list “new” and “nearly new” books at prices below what they will allow original publishers (including self-published authors) to list them at. This is creating a race-to-the-bottom push in publishing that will have the next great “American” novel being written in India, or Nigeria. Truly American authors will be restricted to celebrities who can sell half a million copies on their name alone, and independently-wealthy dilettantes who only write as a hobby.

An often-made suggestion to deal with this is charging royalties on secondhand books.

I don’t agree in charging a royalty on resale. That’s a whole new can of worms that will enable lawyers to take a vise grip on books, just as they have done with music. Not to mention it won’t solve the problem of Amazon allowing third-party vendors to underbid the original publisher.

What I would like to see is a limitation on copyrights–copyrights are SUPPOSED to enable the CREATOR to enjoy a monopoly on their work, but how does a creator benefit from royalties earned after her death? Either royalties end up with heirs she’s never met, much less determined whether to bequeath her royalties to them, or in the hands of some corporate entity, which is either reaping the royalties (if it’s a cash cow) or forcing it out of the market (in order to clear its list for what may be the next cash cow). Either way, the royalties end up beneffitting someone who hand NOTHING to do with the creation, which is what copyright law is intended to reward. Patent doesn’t last NEAR that long, and the average patent takes longer to develop (time and money) and “publish” than the average book! There’s a lot of good material published in the mid-20th Century that’s going to be lost to time because copyright law allows publishers to suppress it until it’s completely forgotten.

Lawyers are already becoming a problem for authors by defending publishers who slap copyright labels on what should be public domain–if it had ever been copyrightable in the first place. (For example: A fact is not copyrightable, therefore a string of facts that forms a description of a game is not copyrightable, yet the NFL fines “Unauthorized pictures, descriptions, or accounts” of their games with impunity.)

Oh, and about “destroying bookstore returns”: The problem with that one is the cost of returns. That’s why a lot of mass-market paperbacks have these statements about “if you bought this book without a cover”–to save postage, bookstores just rip the front cover off the book and send it back as proof of “unsold and destroyed” while shipping the rest of it off to overstock dollar-store distributors.

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Looking for the Keys Where the Light’s Good.

There’s this old joke about a guy looking for his keys under a streetlamp:

A passerby comes along and offers to help. After several minutes of fruitless looking, the passerby asks where the guy lost his keys.

“In that alley” (or “my apartment,” in some versions.)

“Then why are you looking here?” the passerby asks.

“The light’s better here.”

 

This is, unfortunately, the ways the Government often deals with danger. Take cadmium, for example.  If you’re an artist, you know cadmium as the pigment responsible for a range of colors from warm red to yellow. Though there might conceivably be a teensy-tiny risk to the artist, once the painting’s done it’s pretty much sealed off and harmless to everyone.

What you might not know is that it could also be in your jewelry box. Recent tests on jewelry sold in common discount retailers (Ross, Papaya, and the like) found some of them were up to 100% cadmium. The common factor isn’t the price point, but the source: “made in China.” (Is anyone surprised?)*

Cadmium’s also been found in drinking water and food, though how it’s getting there isn’t quite so straightforward.

California (naturally) has been slapping warning labels on cadmium-pigmented paints for a few years, now. And many manufacturers are proudly proclaiming their paints as “cadmium-free.” It looks like we may be heading toward an outright ban on cadmium-pigmented paints. (Whether enough die-hard fans of cadmium will carve out an exception for artist-grade paints, as they did with lead, remains to be seen.)

Whether this will have any effect on the increasing levels of cadmium in our bodies is dubious, at best.

But that’s where the light is better.

 

*Source: Dr. Mark Stengler <HouseCalls@newmarkethealth.com> [Warning] The ONE holiday gift you should NEVER give

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