Monday, July 17, 2023

The Twenty Worst Americans

"Thoughtful and Thought-provoking"

Reviewed in the United States on July 18, 2023


At first glance, David Balog’s The Twenty Worst Americans may seem to be a simple laundry list of villainy. But this is no tirade of personal grievances; nor is it a whining screed against those who think differently than the author.

Instead, Balog has called upon his background in history writing to present the citizens whose behavior he sees as particularly heinous (Harvey Weinstein, Paul Castellano), ignorant (Phyllis Schlafly, Eddie Cicotte, Betsy DeVos), vicious (Dan White, Rupert Murdoch) or simple grifters (Henry Ford, Charles Coughlin, James A. Baker and Donald Trump). There are twenty short essays in all. Each is easy to read, pleasantly brief, but never glib or lightweight. Balog has something to say and he says it plainly.

Balog calls upon an encyclopedic knowledge of history to make his points, which he does not hide behind manipulative propaganda. No, we know where the author stands and he is transparent in his views. What surprises us is his gentle tact while discussing subjects that could infuriate readers if presented by a lesser writer.

"All of which makes some of his choices that much more challenging.

Balog has personal knowledge of William Safire. As a fellow history writer, I have certainly read many of Safire’s books. Some are quite good. But his affairs—business and personal—seem to veer far from his written work. It is eye opening, and this begs the question that many of us must face sooner or later: at what point do we toss out the better work of creation because its creator was repulsive? We enjoy the distance of centuries between us and, say, a Caravaggio or Michelangelo. Those who are closer to our time strike us where we live.

There is much to take exception to, of course.

In just one example, I have published enough about the Roosevelts to have different views on FDR than Balog. This is as it should be. The moment we accept every word of any individual as inviolable, we start on the dangerous path that Balog decries in this book. Heated discussions are part of what make this kind of text interesting.

Balog occasionally digresses into information that is only tangentially related. This is when the author is at his best.

In my favorite example, in the chapter on Bill Maher, Balog provides eight fascinating pages on the physical and neurological aspects of gender, well supported by medical experts. As with his section on FDR, Balog demonstrates a rare talent for engendering discussion without badgering or patronizing.

I agree here, I disagree there; but by the time I was done, I had learned something and want to learn more. I can think of no higher compliment.
--David Bannon, author, historian

Table of contents

Author’s Note………………..


Chapter 1. Antonin Scalia – Supreme Court Justice Whose Personal Views Moved America Back to 1787…….

Chapter 2. Bill Maher – Quickly Moving from Progressive to Regressive……

Chapter 3. Elizabeth Holmes – Blood money and a Monumental Scam……

Chapter 4. Donald Trump – Enabling the Catastrophe of Covid-19……..

Chapter 5. Trump, The Early Years in New York City: Wilding Among the Powerful…..

Chapter 6. Rupert Murdoch – Power for Power’s Sake…….

Chapter 7. James A. Baker, III – Republican Fixer and Mastermind of Bush v Gore…….

Chapter 8. Phyllis Schlafly– Baking Cookies to Stop Equal Rights……

Chapter 9. Paul Castellano – Real-life Godfather…..

Chapter 10. Franklin D. Roosevelt – Allowed Incarceration Camps for Americans of Japanese Descent……….

Chapter 11. Betsy DeVos – The Education Secretary Clueless About Education…..

Chapter 12. Eddie Cicotte – Throwing Baseballs, Games and the National Pastime………

Chapter 13. Chief Justice Roger B. Taney – Author of the Worst Decision in Supreme Court History that Ignited the Civil War…….

Chapter 14. Herbert Hoover – The Great Humanitarian with Political Hands of Stone…….

Chapter 15. William Safire and the Death of Political Civility…….

Chapter 16. Walter O'Malley – Changed America's Pastime into a Cold Business…….

Chapter 17. Father Charles Coughlin – Pastor, Media King and Dangerous Anti-semite……

Chapter 18. Henry Ford – Pioneer of the Automobile and Hitler Ally……

Chapter 19. Harvey Weinstein – As a Movie, Rate Him X…….

Chapter 20. Dan White – The Politician Who Killed Two Political Icons –,,,…

Thursday, November 24, 2022

Artificial light at night may increase risk of diabetes


New study reveals that exposure to outdoor artificial light at night is associated with an increased risk of diabetes

November 14, 2022
A new study finds that outdoor artificial light at night (LAN) is associated with impaired blood glucose control and an increased risk of diabetes, with more than 9 million cases of the disease in Chinese adults being attributed to LAN exposure.

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Exposure to artificial LAN at night is a ubiquitous environmental risk factor in modern societies. The intensity of urban light pollution has increased to the point that it not only affects residents of big cities, but also those in distant areas such as suburbs and forest parks that may be hundreds of kilometres from the light source. The authors note: "Despite over 80% of the world's population being exposed to light pollution at night, this problem has gained limited attention from scientists until recent years."

Earth's 24-hour day-night cycle has resulted in most organisms, including mammals, having an inbuilt circadian (roughly 24-hour) timing system which is adapted to the natural sequence of light and dark periods. Light pollution has been found to alter the circadian rhythm of insects, birds and other animals, resulting in premature death and loss of biodiversity.

Artificial LAN has also been implicated as a potential cause of metabolic dysregulation through altering the timing of food intake. Rats exposed to artificial LAN developed glucose intolerance, exhibiting elevated blood sugar and insulin. Another study found that mice exposed to nocturnal dim white light of minimal brightness for 4 weeks had increased body mass and reduced glucose tolerance compared to animals whose environment was completely dark at night, despite having roughly equivalent energy consumption and expenditure.

Associations have also been found between artificial LAN and health problems in humans. A study of night-shift workers found that those exposed to brighter LAN were more likely to have disrupted circadian rhythms, as well as a greater risk of coronary heart disease. Other research found that higher LAN exposure was associated with a 13% and 22% increase in the likelihood of being overweight and obese, respectively, while exposure to LAN in the bedroom was reported to be positively associated with the development of diabetes in elderly people.

The potential impact of outdoor artificial LAN was revealed by a study in South India which used satellite images to map light pollution and compared this with data on general health markers among adults across the region. With increasing LAN intensity, there were corresponding rises in average body mass index (BMI), systolic blood pressure and 'bad' (LDL) cholesterol levels in the exposed population.

Diabetes is a critical public health problem in China, and the onset and progression of the disease is largely governed by behavioural and environmental risk factors. The nation's rapid urbanisation and economic growth has resulted in a dramatic increase in urban lighting, and the number of people exposed to it. Those living in cities are prone to being shifted away from a natural 24-hour day-night cycle, to one of round-the-clock working and leisure time, often staying out late and being exposed to artificial LAN.

Learn about your brain in clear, jargon-free language.

Sunday, November 20, 2022

7-8 hours of sleep improves health


Credit: © Brian Jackson /

Less than five hours' sleep a night linked to higher risk of multiple diseases

October 19, 2022
University College London
Getting less than five hours of sleep in mid-to-late life could be linked to an increased risk of developing at least two chronic diseases, finds a new study.
Getting less than five hours of sleep in mid-to-late life could be linked to an increased risk of developing at least two chronic diseases, finds a new study led by UCL researchers.

The research, published in PLOS Medicine, analysed the impact of sleep duration on the health of more than 7,000 men and women at the ages of 50, 60 and 70, from the Whitehall II cohort study.

Researchers examined the relationship between how long each participant slept for, mortality and whether they had been diagnosed with two or more chronic diseases (multimorbidity) -- such as heart disease, cancer or diabetes -- over the course of 25 years.

People who reported getting five hours of sleep or less at age 50 were 20% more likely to have been diagnosed with a chronic disease and 40% more likely to be diagnosed with two or more chronic diseases over 25 years, compared to people who slept for up to seven hours.

Additionally, sleeping for five hours or less at the age of 50, 60, and 70 was linked to a 30% to 40% increased risk of multimorbidity when compared with those who slept for up to seven hours.

Researchers also found that sleep duration of five hours or less at age 50 was associated with 25% increased risk of mortality over the 25 years of follow-up -- which can mainly be explained by the fact that short sleep duration increases the risk of chronic disease(s) that in turn increase the risk of death.

Lead author, Dr Severine Sabia (UCL Institute of Epidemiology & Health, and Inserm, Université Paris Cité) said: "Multimorbidity is on the rise in high income countries and more than half of older adults now have at least two chronic diseases. This is proving to be a major challenge for public health, as multimorbidity is associated with high healthcare service use, hospitalisations and disability.

"As people get older, their sleep habits and sleep structure change. However, it is recommended to sleep for 7 to 8 hours a night -- as sleep durations above or below this have previously been associated with individual chronic diseases.

"Our findings show that short sleep duration is also associated with multimorbidity.

"To ensure a better night's sleep, it is important to promote good sleep hygiene, such as making sure the bedroom is quiet, dark and a comfortable temperature before sleeping. It's also advised to remove electronic devices and avoid large meals before bedtime. Physical activity and exposure to light during the day might also promote good sleep."

As part of the study, researchers also assessed whether sleeping for a long duration, of nine hours or more, affected health outcomes. There was no clear association between long sleep durations at age 50 and multimorbidity in healthy people.

Sunday, June 19, 2022

Baseball Makes Progress on LGBTQ Support--Mostly N.Y. Mets for once beat the Yankees with a successful LGBTQ Pride Night.

"Remember the turtle," a boss once said to me. I had to ask him to explain. "We're like turtles," he replied. "The turtle can't move forward without sticking its head out of its shell."

Pride Nights have been Major League Baseball's slow motion effort to move forward in support of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender rights. The first event was held 16 years ago by the Tampa Bay Rays. In 2022 two of baseball's thirty professional teams are not hosting Pride Nights. Sadly, the iconic New York Yankees being one.

The Yankees crosstown rivals, the Mets, however, just held their largest and most successful Pride Night, their sixth annual event. Members of the gay community were pleased with the full support of the team's management for a program that was well organized and supported by comments of several players and their manager, Buck Showalter. One player, Mark Canha, tweeted that he welcomed "his beautiful LGBTQ fans" to the Mets Pride Night. Oakland A's celebrated Glenn Burke Pride Night.

Elsewhere, the Los Angeles Dodgers and the San Francisco Giants jointly celebrated a Pride Night at in the same game in San Francisco. The Dodgers previously held their pride night in Los Angeles, in which they honored the legacy of Glenn Burke, the first openly gay major league player. The Oakland Athletics honored Burke, as well. The team honored their alumnus by naming their event in his memory. The online magazine, The Athletic, reported during the week that one major league free agent, pitcher Liam Hendriks, based off-season signing decision at least partly on whether a prospective team was planning to hold a Pride Night.

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All did not go well, however, in Tampa Bay. Five of the team's players refused to participate, citing religious objections, and declined to wear rainbow colored caps and arm patches. Symbolically, they ripped the patches off their uniforms and wore the team's traditional cap. Ironically, two of the five players, all pitchers, participated in the evening's game and were responsible for the team's loss.

Saturday, June 4, 2022

Trump, the Times "scandal monger," and me.


They laughed at us.

William Safire, the self-described "scandal monger" of Trump's early years and my boss.

In major ways, William Safire was the godfather of today's right wing, backstabbing Republican party. Along with Roy Cohn, Safire was an early an avid supporter of Donald Trump. Safire help Trump's sister get an undeserving Federal judgeship. Introduced him early to Richard Nixon, for whom Safire had worked as speech writer (ever hear of the "nattering nabobs of negativism?"). Taught him to dominate by intimidation.

Safire undoubtedly taught Trump never to apologize, never to take responsibility. And run things as an autocrat. Employ nepotism and cronyism. And be mean.

How Trump learned his political lessons early and other topics on democracy.


And I had a front-row seat for 12 years as an editor to Safire at the Dana Foundation in New York City. The Foundation was at 745 5th Avenue. Trump Tower was right next door at 725 5th.

On a hunch, years after I left Dana, I asked a high-up former employee if Safire had a close relationship with Trump. "Oh yes, absolutely." she said.

At the New York Times, where Safire wrote his political column, he was known as the creator of "hatchet journalism." Find a person, usually a Democrat, and go after him or her, and put the fear of God in them. People such as Hillary Clinton (remember "She's a congenital liar?").

If the facts didn't hold up, hold your tongue, find a new target and move on. In the style of today's Fox News. Safire called himself, with only a touch of irony, "the vituperative right-wing scandalmonger." He did all he could to polarize the political parties into deep and lasting ideological corners.

There was a time in this country, roughly before Nixon and Safire, where we did have a bipartisan government, one where Democrats and Republicans could work together and did. Roughly about the time he's to arrive in Washington, that all began to change. It took someone like Trump to drive Americans on the right to such extremism that it threatens the core of our Democracy.

Now our great democracy, as Lincoln called it the "last best hope of Earth," literally stands on the brink of destruction. I saw the beginning of the end and I think you might want to hear what are I witnessed. Take a look at my new book, Say No to Fascism or Say Farewell to Lincoln’s Last Best Hope of Earth. Start reading it for free by clicking this link.

How Trump learned his political lessons early and other topics on democracy. CLICK HERE!

Wednesday, May 11, 2022

Close the blinds during sleep to protect your health

Even moderate light exposure during sleep harms heart health and increases insulin resistance

Bedroom with full moon | Credit: © Brilliant Eye /


Exposure to even moderate ambient lighting during nighttime sleep, compared to sleeping in a dimly lit room, harms your cardiovascular function during sleep and increases your insulin resistance the following morning, reports a new study. Just a single night of exposure to moderate room lighting during sleep can impair glucose and cardiovascular regulation, which are risk factors for heart disease, diabetes and metabolic syndrome.

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Close the blinds, draw the curtains and turn off all the lights before bed. Exposure to even moderate ambient lighting during nighttime sleep, compared to sleeping in a dimly lit room, harms your cardiovascular function during sleep and increases your insulin resistance the following morning, reports a new Northwestern Medicine study

"The results from this study demonstrate that just a single night of exposure to moderate room lighting during sleep can impair glucose and cardiovascular regulation, which are risk factors for heart disease, diabetes and metabolic syndrome," said senior study author Dr. Phyllis Zee, chief of sleep medicine at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine and a Northwestern Medicine physician. "It's important for people to avoid or minimize the amount of light exposure during sleep."

There is already evidence that light exposure during daytime increases heart rate via activation of the sympathetic nervous system, which kicks your heart into high gear and heightens alertness to meet the challenges of the day.

"Our results indicate that a similar effect is also present when exposure to light occurs during nighttime sleep," Zee said.

Heart rate increases in light room, and body can't rest properly

"We showed your heart rate increases when you sleep in a moderately lit room," said Dr. Daniela Grimaldi, a co-first author and research assistant professor of neurology at Northwestern. "Even though you are asleep, your autonomic nervous system is activated. That's bad. Usually, your heart rate together with other cardiovascular parameters are lower at night and higher during the day."

There are sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems to regulate our physiology during the day and night. Sympathetic takes charge during the day and parasympathetic is supposed to at night, when it conveys restoration to the entire body.

How nighttime light during sleep can lead to diabetes and obesity

Investigators found insulin resistance occurred the morning after people slept in a light room. Insulin resistance is when cells in your muscles, fat and liver don't respond well to insulin and can't use glucose from your blood for energy. To make up for it, your pancreas makes more insulin. Over time, your blood sugar goes up.

An earlier study published in JAMA Internal Medicine looked at a large population of healthy people who had exposure to light during sleep. They were more overweight and obese, Zee said.

"Now we are showing a mechanism that might be fundamental to explain why this happens," Zee said. "We show it's affecting your ability to regulate glucose."

The participants in the study weren't aware of the biological changes in their bodies at night.

Learn about your brain in clear, jargon-free language.

"But the brain senses it," Grimaldi said. "It acts like the brain of somebody whose sleep is light and fragmented. The sleep physiology is not resting the way it's supposed to."

Exposure to artificial light at night during sleep is common

Exposure to artificial light at night during sleep is common, either from indoor light emitting devices or from sources outside the home, particularly in large urban areas. A significant proportion of individuals (up to 40%) sleep with a bedside lamp on or with a light on in the bedroom and/or keep the television on.

Light and its relationship to health is double edged.

"In addition to sleep, nutrition and exercise, light exposure during the daytime is an important factor for health, but during the night we show that even modest intensity of light can impair measures of heart and endocrine health," Zee said.

The study tested the effect of sleeping with 100 lux (moderate light) compared to 3 lux (dim light) in participants over a single night. The investigators discovered that moderate light exposure caused the body to go into a higher alert state. In this state, the heart rate increases as well as the force with which the heart contracts and the rate of how fast the blood is conducted to your blood vessels for oxygenated blood flow.

"These findings are important particularly for those living in modern societies where exposure to indoor and outdoor nighttime light is increasingly widespread," Zee said.

Zee's top tips for reducing light during sleep

(1) Don't turn lights on. If you need to have a light on (which older adults may want for safety), make it a dim light that is closer to the floor.

(2) Color is important. Amber or a red/orange light is less stimulating for the brain. Don't use white or blue light and keep it far away from the sleeping person.

(3) Blackout shades or eye masks are good if you can't control the outdoor light. Move your bed so the outdoor light isn't shining on your face.

Is my room too light?

"If you're able to see things really well, it's probably too light," Zee said.

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Materials provided by Northwestern University. Original written by Marla Paul. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.

Monday, May 9, 2022

Social media break improves mental health


Social media break improves mental health, study suggests


May 6, 2022


University of Bath


Results of a new study which asked participants to take a week-long break from TikTok, Instagram, Twitter and Facebook find positive effects for wellbeing, depression and anxiety.




Asking people to stop using social media for just one week could lead to significant improvements in their wellbeing, depression and anxiety and could, in the future, be recommended as a way to help people manage their mental health say the authors of a new study.

The study, carried out by a team of researchers at the University of Bath (UK), studied the mental health effects of a week-long social media break. For some participants in the study, this meant freeing-up around nine hours of their week which would otherwise have been spent scrolling Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and TikTok.

Learn about your brain in clear, jargon-free language.


Their results -- published today (Friday 6 May 2022) in the US journal Cyberpsychology, Behaviour and Social Networking -- suggest that just one week off social media improved individuals' overall level of well-being, as well as reduced symptoms of depression and anxiety.

For the study, the researchers randomly allocated 154 individuals aged 18 to 72 who used social media every day into either an intervention group, where they were asked to stop using all social media for one-week or a control group, where they could continue scrolling as normal. At the beginning of the study, baseline scores for anxiety, depression and wellbeing were taken.

Participants reported spending an average of 8 hours per week on social media at the start of the study. One week later, the participants who were asked to take the one-week break had significant improvements in wellbeing, depression, and anxiety than those who continued to use social media, suggesting a short-term benefit.

Participants asked to take a one-week break reported using social media for an average of 21 minutes compared to an average of seven hours for those in the control group. Screen usage stats were provided to check that individuals had adhered to the break.

Lead researcher from Bath's Department for Health, Dr Jeff Lambert explains: "Scrolling social media is so ubiquitous that many of us do it almost without thinking from the moment we wake up to when we close our eyes at night.

"We know that social media usage is huge and that there are increasing concerns about its mental health effects, so with this study, we wanted to see whether simply asking people to take a week's break could yield mental health benefits.

"Many of our participants reported positive effects from being off social media with improved mood and less anxiety overall. This suggests that even just a small break can have an impact.

"Of course, social media is a part of life and for many people, it's an indispensable part of who they are and how they interact with others. But if you are spending hours each week scrolling and you feel it is negatively impacting you, it could be worth cutting down on your usage to see if it helps."

The team now want to build on the study to see whether taking a short break can help different populations (e.g., younger people or people with physical and mental health conditions). The team also want to follow people up for longer than one week, to see if the benefits last over time. If so, in the future, they speculate that this could form part of the suite of clinical options used to help manage mental health.


Learn about your brain in clear, jargon-free language.

Over the past 15 years, social media has revolutionized how we communicate, underscored by the huge growth the main platforms have observed. In the UK the number of adults using social media increased from 45% in 2011 to 71% in 2021. Among 16 to 44-year-olds, as many as 97% of us use social media and scrolling is the most frequent online activity we perform.

Feeling 'low' and losing pleasure are core characteristics of depression, whereas anxiety is characterised by excessive and out of control worry. Wellbeing refers to an individual's level of positive affect, life satisfaction and sense of purpose. According to the Mind, one in six of us experience a common mental health problem like anxiety and depression in any given week.

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Materials provided by University of Bath. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.