Diet Drinks Help Weight Loss

No diet sodasThe meme that drinking
diet sodas causes weight gain
has been ricocheting around the
Internet for years. Generally, this claim has been based on
observational studies in which researchers find that fat people
tend to drink more diet drinks than do skinny people. This has
always seemed to me to be a case of post hoc
ergo propter hoc
, i.e., after this, therefore because of
this.

I know that I will annoy some epidemiologists, but a large
proportion of observational studies seem only slilghtly
more respectable
than casting horoscopes. Why? Because, even
with the best will in the world, it’s nearly impossible to
eliminate confounders so that a real causal relationship might be
revealed.

A new
randomized trial study
in the journal Obesity (and
funded by beverage companies) followed more than 300 people through
a weight loss program. The only difference is that half were asked
to drink at least 24 ounces of water per day and other half to
drink 24 ounces of non-nutritive sweetened (NNS) beverages per
day.

The program involves 12 weeks of losing weight followed by 9
months of weight maintenance. The study found that those consuming
diet drinks lost an average of 14.2 pounds whereas those drinking
water dropped an average of 10 pounds. The researchers chose 12
weeks as the length of the study because prior work shows that
weight loss slows considerably after six months in a treatment
program. (I know from personal experience that that is so.)

The study further notes:

Based on the design of this study we are unable to say, what is
the mechanism for the greater weight loss in the NNS group compared
to the water group. Weekly hunger scores were significantly lower
among the NNS group than the water group although the absolute
changes were small. While it is plausible that the NNS participants
were more likely to adhere to the dietary recommendations due to
less hunger than the Water group we cannot conclude this based on
this study. Some authors have suggested that use of NNS may
increase appetite for sweet foods and disrupt regulation of energy
balance. Weight loss results for the present study suggest that NNS
consumption did not increase energy intake from other foods
compared to water. This is consistent with other studies that have
not found increased consumption of sweet or high energy foods while
using NNS. Further studies will be needed to ascertain the
mechanism(s) that may be responsible for the weight loss
results.

Look, it may turn out that the observational studies suggesting
that drinking diet sodas make people fat are true, but I wouldn’t
bet on it. It has always seemed much more plausible that obese
people drink diet soda because they don’t want to get even fatter
by consuming the extra calories in sugar-sweetened drinks.
Sometimes interestingly counterintuitive claims are bunk. So diet
soda drinkers unite! You’ve nothing to lose but your excess
avoirdupois!

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Professor Fired Due to His Masterfully Crafted Beard

a man with a crazy beardDr. Paul Roof, a professor of sociology at
Charleston Southern University, was recently fired from the small
Christian school in South Carolina for having an amazing beard…or
as the university put it, because his likeness showed up on a beer
can.

The brewing company, ironically called Holy City Brewing, used a picture
that Roof submitted to a beard competition last fall as the design
for their questionably named suds, “Chucktown
Follicle Brown
.” 

Roof was called into the dean’s office last Wednesday. He said
in an
interview with Live 5 News
in Charleston, “We came to an
understanding, and there appeared to be no problems with the beer
ad or the beer can.” Two days later though, he was called into the
vice president’s office and fired. He told
The Raw News

“I was told that it was not representative of a Christian
environment, and for me a Christian environment entails two things:
looking out for other people and forgiveness of others who’ve
transgressed you.” 

It’s hard to see where Roof “transgressed” anyone at all. He
says that he wasn’t even aware that his picture was going to be
used on the can. “I’m not compensated for the image, I don’t
own the image, and the use of the image was a surprise to me.”

The loss of his job would perhaps be understandable if he was
handing out the new beer to his students or if he came to class
with eight of them in his belly, but it seems a bit excessive to
get fired just because this awe-inspiring picture showed up as the
design for a recreational beverage. After all, one of Jesus’ most
well-known miracles was turning water into wine—a feat that every
kid on Charleston Southern University’s campus probably aspires
to.

In the past few years, the
extent to which colleges have gone
to put a bubble around their
campus and shelter their students has been nothing short of
amazing, but this episode might just take the cake. Though the
university may not have shown him very much compassion or
forgiveness, he has received an outpouring of support on social
media. He told Live 5 News that he isn’t sure what it would take to
get his job back, and that he’s not even sure that he would want it
back.

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Gene Healy Says the White House Press Secretary Is the Government’s Most Nonessential Job

Back in January 2011, the Obama administration
looked to its new press secretary to “smooth over
relations” with reporters. “With Jay Carney at the podium,
Obama hopes to reset press relationship,” The
Hill
 reported at the time. Gene Healy says that over
three years and 10,000 dodged questions later, it’s clear
that scheme worked out about as well as the “reset” with
Vladimir Putin’s Russia. 

View this article.

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If You Want More Doctors, Maybe Depending on the Feds is a Bad Idea

The
fiasco
at the Veterans Health Administration is only the tip of
the iceberg; the United States is running out of doctors, and soon
we’ll all be begging for scraps of medical care, warns Marina Koren
of the National Journal.

The part about the physician shortage is probably true (though
it assumes that the shape of the health care industry, and who
provides care, is unchangeable). But that shortage is likely
inevitable in a country that has come to depend on Uncle Sugar to
foot the bill for graduate medical education
(GME)—residencies—which has become a bottleneck now that the
federal government is broke and in a lousy position to increase
spending on anything.

Writes
Koren
:

America is running out of doctors. The country will be 91,500
physicians short of what it needs to treat patients by 2020,
according to the Association of American Medical Colleges. By 2025,
it will be short 130,600.

Like at the Veterans Affairs Department, demand will be highest
for primary-care physicians, the kinds of doctors many people go to
first before they are referred to specialists.

While students are applying to and enrolling in medical schools
in record numbers, high interest does not necessarily mean more
doctors. The number of residences—crucial stages of medical
training—has not risen with the number of applicants, thanks to a
government-imposed cap. The Association of American Medical
Colleges has pushed Congress to change the law, predicting that
there won’t be enough residencies for young doctors by next
year.

Sure enough, the American Medical Association is
waging a campaign
to “SaveGME,” which just means that it’s
lobbying for more federal bucks to subsidize residencies. As it is,
the federal government places a cap on residency slots that it is
willing to subsidize through Medicare and Medicaid. That’s because
the current process is expensive with “the public investment per
physician in training comes to half a million dollars or more,
according to
HealthAffairs
. Health insurance companies also
subsidize residency slots with higher payments to teaching
hospitals, but the feds are the biggest source of funding for
GME.

Note that in terms of physician training, this is the
chokepoint. Medical schools are
opening all over the place
. But medical students pay for their
education, while residents are paid, so everybody wants Uncle Sugar
to pick up the tab.

But what if the feds did find some loose change in the already
well-probed seat cushions to expand residencies? Would that
necessarily alleviate the doctor shortage?

Not so much. The shortage is in primary care. Researchers

find that
“despite evidence tying access to primary care
physicians to improved community health outcomes and decreased
costs, medical student interest in primary care and, thus, medical
school output of primary care physicians, has been declining.”

The researchers propose all sorts of schemes for coordinating
care and cherrypicking potential students who would want to go into
primary care, without asking why students might not choose to enter
a field where they would seem to have guaranteed employment.

But medical students aren’t idiots. The realities of primary
care, according to Dr.
John Schuman
, are “fifteen-minute visits with patients on
multiple medications, oodles of paperwork that cause office docs to
run a gauntlet just to get through their day, and more
documentation and regulatory burdens than ever before.”

So new doctors make logical choices—many become subspecialists
working for hospitals where somebody else fields the
paperwork
and the paychecks are regular.

We have a shortage of primary care physicians largely caused by
a bankrupt government that we’ve become dependent on to subsidize
the education of primary care physicians. There just may be a
common thread here.

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Seattle Prepares for Robot Revolution by Setting $15 Minimum Wage

If conservatives are anti-science, socialists are anti-math.Our labor participation rate is
terrible
and our
economy shrank
by 1 percent in the first quarter of the year.
So it’s the perfect time to raise the minimum wage to a degree
unseen in America before, right?

That’s what Seattle has done. Yesterday the Seattle City Council

unanimously voted
to raise the city’s minimum wage to $15 over
the next seven years. Labor activists are actually considering
forcing a public vote to speed up the process so that it hits the
new minimum in three years. The city recently elected its first Socialist
council member, Kshama Sawant
, so perhaps the move shouldn’t
have come as a surprise. The City Council dulled the edge of the
new minimum a bit by allowing for a lower training wage for
teenagers and disabled workers. This prompted outrage from Sawant
and labor supporters, who I guess want to drive teens and the
disabled out of the job market entirely.

Franchise owners are planning a lawsuit because the law counts
them as big businesses and only gives them three years to phase in
the increase. From
The Seattle Times
:

Local franchisee David Jones, who owns two Subway stores in
Seattle, puts his cost of a $15 minimum at $125,000 annually. He
pays the stores’ 18 employees $10.50 an hour, on average; he
figures he’ll have to raise sandwich prices by a dollar or more to
maintain profits.

“I’m going to increase prices and work hard to provide the best
service possible so that I don’t lose sales,” he said, noting that
his nonfranchise competitors will have four more years to phase in
the increase. “The playing field is not even.”

Seattle is at about the middle of the pack in metropolitan area
unemployment rates
—4.8 percent in April. There’s also already
some information about how a $15 minimum wage may affect the area.
Voters set a minimum wage for jobs at hotels and parking garages
serving the Seattle-Tacoma International Airport to $15 last fall.
The change went into effect with the new year. The Seattle
Times
looked at some of the impact in February. While
acknowledging that it’s still too soon to truly evaluate the
consequences,
noted some price increases and “casualties”
:

The 215-room Clarion Hotel closed its full-service restaurant in
December, laying off 15 people, said general manager Perry Wall.
The hotel also let go a night desk clerk and maintenance employee
and is considering a 10 percent increase in room rates for the
spring travel season, Wall said.

He estimates that without a reduction in head count, the hotel’s
annual payroll costs would have increased $300,000. It still
employs about 30 people for jobs Wall describes as more in-demand
than ever.

“I just think unskilled workers are going to have a harder time
finding jobs,” he said. “You’re going to have people from as far
away as Bellevue or Tacoma wanting these jobs, and they’re going to
come with skills and experience. For $15 an hour, they’ll go that
extra distance.”

Blog
United Liberty
tracked down some interesting comments
from workers at the blog for
Northwest Asian Weekly
. They found a couple of workers
who were affected by the new wages. Things didn’t quite turn out as
planned:

“Are you happy with the $15 wage?” I asked the full-time
cleaning lady.

“It sounds good, but it’s not good,” the woman said.

“Why?” I asked.

“I lost my 401k, health insurance, paid holiday, and vacation,”
she responded. “No more free food,” she added.

The hotel used to feed her. Now, she has to bring her own food.
Also, no overtime, she said. She used to work extra hours and
received overtime pay.

What else? I asked.

“I have to pay for parking,” she said.

Several business leaders in Seattle’s Asian community submitted
a commentary to the weekly warning about the terrible impact of the
wage increase on immigrants and minority-owned small businesses.

Read it here
.

And here’s a chart showing how many adults between the ages of
18 and 34 who are living with their parents. Anybody remember how
they used to make such a big deal of this number when Gen-Xers were
first entering the job market? Take a look at
the difference now
:

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Read Reason’s Complete June 2014 Issue

June 2014Our entire June
2014 issue is now available online. Don’t miss: Scott Shackford on
the gamer congressman; Emily Ekins on gamers against government
meddling; Jesse Walker on the history of game panics; Ron Bailey on
the moral case for designer babies; Matt Welch on when the left
turns against free speech. Plus our complete “Citings” and “Briefly
Noted” sections, the Artifact, and much more.

Click here to read
Reason‘s complete June 2014 issue.

Also, find all of the issue’s gaming content (plus video and
other online-only extras) at Video Game Nation.

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Rand Paul’s Unlikely Enthusiasts Now Include Nat Hentoff and Ana Marie Cox

|||One of the big
questions about the presidential aspirations of the
libertarian-leaning Republican Sen. Rand Paul (Ky.) is whether,
when faced with the chance of electing the first female president,
non-Republicans would really pull the lever for the author of the
Life
Begins at Conception Act
.

The jury’s still out on that, and may well always be, but it’s
at least interesting that the senator is getting positive notices
from unusual quarters. Most recently there’s Ana Marie Cox, in a
Guardian
piece
titled “Ted Cruz’s Tea Party allegiance only makes the
case for Rand Paul stronger: There are two Republicans who can take
down Hillary Clinton, and Rand Paul isn’t much of a Republican. If
the GOP wants to survive, it might be to time to ride the
libertarian wave.” Sample:

The key indicator for the Cruz-Paul matchup, at this ultra-early
stage, is found in state
head-to-head polls against Clinton
: in the most recent polls
from Iowa and North Carolina, Paul is the GOP nominee who comes the
closest to besting Clinton – beating not just Cruz but Christie and
Jeb Bush, too. In New Hampshire and Colorado, he’s the only
Republican that can beat her. […]

Cruz’s considerable ego flourishes in the spotlight, while Paul
has a cagier – and more wonkily sedate – approach to grandstanding.
Search the internet for wacky
Rand Paul quotes
. He puts his most right-wing proposals in
deceptively simple language: framing the elimination of Social
Security, for instance, as “I think the average American is smart
enough to make their own investments.” His other gaffes are in
support of libertarian ideas that sound weird only in the context
of being a Republican in 2014: “I think torture is always wrong,”
for instance, or saying he would have voted against invading Iraq.
[…]

Paul’s libertarianism is unapologetic; where he’s strayed from
GOP orthodoxy, it’s largely in the direction that the American
public is going – and not just his call for National Security
Administration oversight (supported by
59% of Americans). On marriage equality (also supported by 59% of
Americans), Paul told his party that they need to “agree
to disagree
“. In contrast, Cruz has introduced
a bill
 that would invalidate the federal benefits of
same-sex marriages if the couple moves to a marriage-restricted
state – and he asked listeners to “pray” that marriage equality
rulings be reversed.

But it’s not just about bending with the popular will. Paul has
staked out positions outside the GOP orthodoxy that are also on the
periphery of the average voter’s radar. He at least admits that
the Republican mania for voter ID laws is counter-productive:
“Republicans need to be aware that there is a group of voters that
I’m trying to court and that we should be trying to court who do
see it as something directed towards them.” Both Paul and Cruz
advocate drug sentencing reform, but Paul backs up that gesture
with the belief that felons’ voting rights should be
reinstated. 

There are to-be-sures to be sure; read the whole
thing
here
(hat tip: David
Boaz
).

Less surprising but more explicitly enthusiastic is a two-part
(so far) endorsement last month from the venerable
civil-libertarian journalist Nat Hentoff. From “My
Pro-Constitution Choice for President
“:

For me, Paul made real a fantasy I’d long held: that someone
running for the presidency, as he clearly is, would focus
insistently on what it means under our Constitution to be an
American – with basic individual rights and liberties no government
has the authority to suspend or erase.

In “The
Distinctive Core of Sen. Rand Paul
,” Hentoff works through his
hesitations about Paul’s approach toward foreign policy and The
Civil Rights Act, then concludes:

As of now, from what I know of all the candidates for the
presidency across the political spectrum, that advice for
regenerating the Constitution defines Rand Paul.

Hentoff’s archive (which includes more recent Paul-related
material) here. Reason
on “The
Most Interesting Man in the Senate
” here.

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Belief in Creationism Doesn’t Necessarily Mean You Don’t Understand How Science Works

Jesus on a dinosaurDan Kahan over at the
invaluable Yale Cultural Cognition Project has conducted an
interesting poll of 2,000 Americans inquiring into what they

know and believe about creationism and evolutionary biology
.
Based on his results, Kahan concludes that “belief” in evolution is
more of a measure of who people are and not what
they know
.

Specifically, Kahan contrasts the responses to versions of
survey questions about the origin of human beings as asked by the
National Science Foundation (NSF) and the General Social Science
(GSS) survey. The NSF asks: “Human beings, as we know them today,
developed from earlier species of animals. True or false? 55
percent selected true.

The GSS asks: “According to the theory of evolution, human
beings, as we know them today, developed from earlier species of
animals. True or false? 81 percent selected true. Kahan
observes:

By adding the introductory clause, “According to the theory of
evolution,” the GSS question
disentangles (“unconfounds” in psychology-speak) the
“science knowledge” component and the “identity expressive”
components of the item.

In other words, the NSF question comes off as asking people
about their religious beliefs, not their understanding of what
science says. Evidently many religious Americans can understand the
scientists’ explanation for how evolutionary biology works while
still believing in the special divine creation of Adam and Eve.
[

In any case, the new results of the
Values and Beliefs poll
by Gallup were just reported. Since
1982, Gallup folks have every so often asked:

Which of the following statements come closest to your views on
the origin and development of human beings? (1) Human beings have
developed over millions of years from less advanced forms of life,
but God guided the process; (2) Human beings have developed over
millions of years from less advanced forms of life, but God had not
part in this process; (3) God created human beings pretty much in
their present form at one time within the last 10,000 years or
so.

In this latest iteration, 42 percent of Americans believe that
humans were created by God in their present form within the last
10,000 years; 31 percent believe that a Celestial hand helped guide
the process of evolution; and 19 percent believe that humans
evolved without Divine intervention.

The Gallup poll researchers further observe:

Sixty-four percent of those who are very familiar with the
theory of evolution choose one of the two evolutionary explanations
for the origin of humans, compared with 28% among the smaller group
of Americans who report being not too or not at all familiar with
it. The majority [57 percent] of those not familiar with evolution
choose the creationist viewpoint.

These relationships do not necessarily prove that if Americans
were to learn more about evolution they would be more likely to
believe in it. Those with less education are most likely to espouse
the creationist view and to be least familiar with evolution, but
it’s not clear that gaining more education per se would shift their
perspectives. Many religious Americans accept creationism mostly on
the basis of their religious convictions. Whether their beliefs
would change if they became more familiar with evolution is an open
question.

Kahan’s point is that it is possible for people to understand
the workings of evolutionary biology without changing their
religious beliefs.

Nevertheless, and with due respect, I can’t quite bring myself
to think that such a position is an example of F. Scott
Fitzgerald’s observation:

The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two
opposed ideas in the mind at the same time, and still retain the
ability to function.

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A.M. Links: Obama Seeks $1 Billion to ‘Reassure’ Eastern Europe, Seattle Hikes Minimum Wage, NRA Calls Open Carry Protests ‘Scary’

  • Seattle’s city council unanimously
    approved
    a minimum wage hike to $15—more than double the
    federal minimum wage of $7.25. 
  • Oliver Stone will
    direct
     a movie about Edward Snowden, because of course he
    will. 
  • President Obama is
    seeking up to $1 billion
    to support increased U.S. military
    presence in Eastern Europe, calling it the “European Reassurance
    Initiative” (don’t worry, Europe, we’re from the government
    and…
  • Signs you may be on the wrong gun rights track: the
    National Rifle Association calls
    your efforts “downright weird”
    and “scary.” Looking at you, Open Carry Texas… 
  • Chemist Alexander “Sasha” Shulgin, known as the “Godfather of
    Ecstasy” for introducing MDMA to psychologists in the
    1970s, has
    died
    .   

  • Bitcoin is
    no longer the very worst investment you could have
    made in 2014 (the honor now goes to iron ore and the Argentine
    peso). 

Follow us on Facebook and Twitter,
and don’t forget to
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up
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Shikha Dalmia On Obama’s Phony College Rating Plan

Student DebtUniversity presidents are
deeply disturbed that not only is President Obama not backing off
from his proposal to create a federal scorecard to rate colleges,
but one of his deputies actually said that this was no more
difficult than “rating a blender.” Educating young minds is a such
a lofty thing, you know, that comparing it to selling kitchen
appliances  isn’t just vulgar—it’s blasphemous.

But, notes Reason Foundation Senior Analyst Shikha Dalmia, the
tears of university presidents are the only good thing that’ll come
out of the proposed scorecard. So enjoy them while you can. Because
once they’ve dried their eyes, they’ll start seeing all kinds of
opportunities for shaking down taxpayers.

View this article.

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