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Sunday, December 18, 2016

The Real Problem of Fake News


I cannot believe this happened to me… AGAIN!
I allowed my buddy Jerry to talk me into going to a little hole-in-the-wall taco stand for lunch. The place has like four tables. The last time we went there, a couple weeks before the election, we were discussing the news. I said something like, ‘Trump is claiming the election is rigged. I wonder whether he’ll stick to that claim if he wins?’
Before Jerry could say anything, a rabid Trump supporter came over to the table and began telling me how Awesome Trump was, how He was going to Make America Great Again (she even spoke in capital letters). I asked her whether the recent news of Trump’s disgusting remarks about women had changed her opinion somewhat, and she reacted like I’d accused Trump of being an illegal alien. That recording was fake! It was just a Hillary plot to discredit her savior Trump, etc. At this point, Jerry and I both pointed out to her that we had no horse in this race – that we were completely apolitical, neutral, don’t care who wins, that we wouldn’t be voting for either candidate.
“Not voting is the same as voting for Hillary,” she said. I don’t get the math there – maybe it’s connected to how a Hillary win would prove voter fraud but a Trump win would prove he was on the side of the angels. We finally got ourselves disentangled from her – fortunately, most people get their tacos to go at that place, and hers were getting cold.
I swore I’d never go back. Today, Jerry insisted we go - he loves the food and the low prices. What could go wrong? The election is over, I now have a better understanding of the acoustics in the place. I went.
So Jerry brought up a mutual friend who is very bright but seems to have a blind spot where it comes to ‘secret knowledge’, conspiracy theories, etc. I said my problem with conspiracy theories was what they all have in common – the teller of the story claims to have acquired some insider knowledge that the majority of us don’t have. Where’d he get it?
“Like fake news,” I said.
“What’s that?”
“Oh, you know, like that story about what’s-her-name” (I purposely didn’t say Hillary, even though I was speaking quietly, just in case the ONLY OTHER person in the cafĂ© was a Trump supporter) "supposedly running a sex-ring out of the basement of a pizza parlor in Baltimore.”
“What?”
“Yeah. Totally fake story. But a guy believed it, went in and shot up the place. The FBI got involved, proved the story came from the computer of a high-level Trump supporter, who admitted he made it up.”
Before I could finish, I was interrupted by the ONLY OTHER patron in the place… you guessed it: Trump supporter. “Excuse me, I couldn’t help overhearing. Do you mind if I join your conversation?”
“Actually, I do mind…”
“That story was true! Just because you read something in the New York Times that says otherwise doesn’t make it not true! Stop being a sheeple! Hillary is running a pedophile sex ring in Washington, and they’re trying to cover it up!”
-To Jerry: “I am never eating here again, I don’t care how good their carne asada is.” –To the fat woman in the leopard print stretch pants: “You are NOT welcome in this conversation. I was talking with my friend here, NOT you. Please leave us alone.” Not that she was inclined to, but her tacos arrived.
Jerry, of course, finds all this hilarious.
Here’s why I find this serious enough to write about. In a conversation between Jesus and Pilate, Jesus said ‘Everyone who is on the side of Truth listens to me.’ Pilate sarcastically replied, “What is truth?”
2000 years ago, there was already a tendency to question the Truth – to at least doubt, to raise doubts as to whether absolute truth were even knowable.
We often hear praise for having an open mind, but what if your mind is so open that common sense completely falls out?
Jesus foretold that the Good News of the Kingdom would be preached in all he inhabited earth right before the end. (Matthew 24:14) If that is happening right now, it is reasonable that Satan will do anything to obscure it. Since he doesn’t have much of an imagination, he’s using the same old nugget – obfuscate the truth.
In the 1960s you could tell someone, for example, that when we die we return to dust, we become nothing, we exist only in God’s memory… there is no “soul” that flies off to somewhere else. To prove it, you simply cracked open your Bible (or theirs) to Ezekiel 18:4, Ecclesiastes 9:10, and John 11:11 and proved it to them. They had to choose between two, and ONLY two options: either change their beliefs to harmonize with the Bible, or live the rest of their life knowing their beliefs didn’t match that Bible. The Bible was considered the final authority. There used to be a bumper sticker that read, “The Bible says it, I believe it, and that settles it.” I loved talking to people who had that bumper sticker.
Today, though, for more and more people, the Bible doesn’t settle anything. Show them a scripture that directly contradicts their beliefs, and they are just as likely to reply, ‘Yes, but Jung said,’ or ‘modern science has proven,’ or ‘my preacher says’ or ‘I think…’
So someone can make up a completely false ‘news’ story about a sex ring operating out of a basement of a pizza parlor (the place has no basement, btw), and ten million people believe it. Two weeks later multiple respected national news agencies can report that he admitted to the FBI that he made the whole thing up; do all ten million people admit to themselves that they were duped? No. Some do. But there are still some, a few million or so, who believe the made-up story.
Jesus only said the preaching of the Good News had to be completed before the end comes. He didn’t say – but it makes sense – that the preaching of the Good News also must be completed before humanity completely loses its ability to tell the difference between Truth and lies.

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 Bill K. Underwood is a freelance columnist and author of several books, including two novels - The Minotaur Medallion, and the best-selling Resurrection Day. Both are available in paperback here

Thursday, December 15, 2016

You Must Know This Before Your Next Operation



A new study out Baylor College of Medicine in Houston shows that use of effective anti-bleeding drugs during surgery is up, but not up enough. Dr. Henry Huang says,

 “There is a growing body of literature to support the use of antifibrinolytics to decrease perioperative blood loss, so the hope was that utilization rate would come up, and it did so in our study. But nearly 30% of centers have still decided not to use antifibrinolytics despite the increasing evidence.”
Antifibrinolytics are drugs, such as TXA (tranexamic acid) that promote clotting.

As Dr. Huang reported at the 2016 World Congress of Anaesthesiologists, significant blood loss remains a perioperative concern for patients undergoing many types of surgery. So an important question before the Group was utilization rates of antifibrinolytics.

“Because there are a limited number of [a particular type of facial surgery] cases per year for each institute, it’s hard to use just one center’s data to study the surgical complications or anesthetic management outcomes,” Dr. Huang explained, “and one of the bigger fears of the procedure is bleeding.”
A broad study of TXA in 2012 called CRASH-2 looked at 20,000 patients (half given TXA, half a placebo). It proved beyond all doubt that doctors most common fears about TXA - that it would cause patients to "throw" a clot that would harm them - were absolutely groundless.

Hence, the 30% of operating teams that are not using TXA or something similar is a concern. What has prevented the adoption of what is essentially a miracle drug?

Of the centers that did not use antifibrinolytics, two factors were predominantly cited: surgeon preference and concerns about side effects.

Since CRASH-2 proved that the side effects were minimal, what's the remaining hold up? "Surgeon preference."

Really????

Take a card, write "TXA" on it in large letters, and keep it in your wallet. If you need surgery, pull it out. If your surgeon has a "preference" for blood transfusion instead of preventing blood loss, perhaps you should "prefer" another surgeon.

Note: This page does NOT use Google Adsense. All the sponsors were personally selected by me. Please continue to support this page by clicking on the ads. To see other products I endorse, click here. 
To return to the home page, click here

 Bill K. Underwood is a freelance columnist and author of several books, including two novels - The Minotaur Medallion, and the best-selling Resurrection Day. Both are available in paperback here

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

How did Moses feed 3 million people?


Here's a logistical problem for you: 

There's a meme that goes around from time to time about how Moses could have planned to take care of roughly three million people who left Egypt in one night. 

First, they had to be fed.

According to a quartermaster of the Army during the Civil war, men carried an eight day supply of food that weighed 24 pounds…three pounds per day. On that basis, Moses would have needed a minimum of 4,500 tons of food each day. How much food is that?

According to rail car manufacturer GATX, a typical freight car has a capacity of 143 tons. To transport 4,500 tons would require a train 32 cars long.

Every day. 

Since their food wasn't pemmican or k-rations or MREs they would also have needed firewood to cook the food.  This would take a minimum of 8,000 tons of wood - another 56 freight cars, just for one day.

One more not-so-minor detail: water.

GATX has a product called the TankTrain System.  According to their website,

“A string of interconnected tank cars with flexible hoses, the TankTrain System can quickly load and unload large volumes of liquid. At a rate of 3,000 gallons per minute, that's 1 1/2 hours to load a 5-car string. A 90-car train can load in less than five hours.”  

That works out to a capacity of 900,000 gallons.  To provide enough water for two gallons per person, about six million gallons per day - which would be the bare minimum for drinking and bathing - would have required seven 90-car trains! 

Six million gallons - that's the daily output of The Water Department of Iowa City, Iowa. And they have only 62,000 customers.

But wait: The Israelites would have needed far more than that…they must have had millions of thirsty animals traveling with them. Figure three times as much water at the very least. That is not the kind of flow of water you get from a spigot, or even from a fire hydrant. That is the equivalent of a good-sized trout-fishing stream, such as the Frying Pan river in Colorado.



What about getting across the Red Sea in one night?

Let’s assume that people standing, ready to march, can be spaced 3 feet apart. If the red sea only opened to a narrow path, so that they had to walk two abreast, the line would have been about 850 miles long. At 3 miles an hour, with no stumbling or any confusion at all, it would have required nearly 12 days and nights for all to pass through.

To pass through in less than 8 hours we need to multiply our files… if they walked 100 abreast, spaced at 3 feet horizontally and vertically, a 300 foot opening would have allowed them all to pass a given point in about 6 hours; seems sufficient, but it’s not. They weren’t simply passing a point, they all had to cross several miles of the seabed of the gulf of Suez, along with their animals.  The book Insight on the Scriptures says:

‘The channel may have been a kilometer or more in width. Though in fairly close marching formation, such a group, along with what wagons they had, their baggage, and their cattle, even when rather closely ranked, would occupy an area of perhaps 3 square miles or more. It appears, therefore, that the sea-opening allowed the Israelites to cross on a fairly wide front. If there was about a 1 mile front, then the depth of the Israelite column would probably be about 3 miles or more. If it was about a 1.5 mile front, the depth might be about 2 miles or more. It would take such a column several hours to get into the seabed and travel across it. While they did not go in panic, but maintained their battle formation, they would no doubt move with considerable haste.’

To put that in perspective, look at this picture of the Pope's visit to Copacabana Beach. This crowd is estimated to be about 400,000.



Crossing the Jordan 40 years later would have required a similarly gargantuan operation.

Another problem: Camping space.  At Little Big Horn, 10,000 Sioux made a camp that took up a little over half of one square mile.  At that rate, the three million in the Israelite encampment would have spread out over nearly 150 square miles! But estimates of camp size have been made by many commentators, are unreliable, and vary widely. My wife and I live in a humble 700 square foot two-bedroom home that is sufficient for us, but would be crowded by one more person, at least by today’s standards. Imagine a small three-bedroom home of 1000 square feet with ten people in it. But even if we use that figure – 100 square feet per person – three million people would take up over 55 square miles! If you cram people into half that space, not forgetting space for pathways, animals, and the tabernacle, they could - possibly - have fit into a square mobile city approximately six miles by six miles.

And they moved camp 40 times during the next 40 years.

Moses had been raised in the upper echelons of Egyptian society. His education was the best available at that time. He would have been familiar with the logistical problems of organizing large numbers of people. We can assume, for example, that he grew up listening to discussions of the problems of getting 10,000 employees to show up for work on a pyramid each day, provide them all with tools, a noon meal and enough water to prevent heatstroke. But did his training prepare him for the task of moving an entire nation? 

Absolutely not! Quite the opposite, in fact. All his training would have told him that such a task was physically impossible. This is why Paul said, "By faith he left Egypt." (Hebrews 11:27)

Now, if you believe the Bible, do you think God has any problem taking care of all your needs?

Note: This page does NOT use Google Adsense. All the sponsors were personally selected by me. Please continue to support this page by clicking on the ads. To see other products I endorse, click here. 
To return to the home page, click here

 Bill K. Underwood is a freelance columnist and author of several books, including two novels - The Minotaur Medallion, and the best-selling Resurrection Day. Both are available in paperback here

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

The problem with Christmas, Easter, and the Cross




Note: This page does NOT use Google Adsense. All the sponsors were personally selected by me. Please continue to support this page by clicking on the ads. To see other products I endorse, click here. 
To return to the home page, click here

 Bill K. Underwood is a freelance columnist and author of several books, including two novels - The Minotaur Medallion, and the best-selling Resurrection Day. Both are available in paperback here