Tuesday, October 28, 2014

The new Tesla and all that it portends...

Tesla seems to be revolutionizing not just the manufacturing ( check out the link: https://mail.google.com/mail/u/0/#search/sent%3A+tesla/14896d170df9d892?projector=1 ) but other aspects like the basic concept of a car itself.  The article is attached below. The re-conceptualization of the car can in itself be celebrated as the advance of technology, but the larger trends are disturbing:

Soon all the roads'll be driverless roads,
and all the cars'll move without wheels;
You need one, it will be at your door,
Punch where you want to go, and sleep!

They uplink themselves to the Cloud,
Part of the 'net of everything;
You get into one, punch whither bound,
put on your music, and go to sleep!

It knows every pothole on the road,
and where it's jammed, and where it's choked;
It knows the freeways and the side-roads,
Ignoring you, it talks to the Cloud!

No more traffic violations,
and no more mistakes that drivers make;
Driven to and fro by automations,
One more fun thing in life is dead!

We play our games more and more online,
to watchers who cheer us, reclined;
Befriend the ghosts residing inside
our Computers, linked to Cloud Nine!

Our work is more and more virtual,
So is play, love and friendships;
No need to walk, bend, sweat or lift,
From the day we're born, till we're no more!


OPINION Detroit's Stupid Plan to Kill Tesla

In watching the illicit attempts of dealers and U.S. auto companies to try to kill Tesla, I have to think they are all wrongheaded. I don't drive a Tesla, but this kind of thing makes me really mad because it is so incredibly stupid.

Tesla is as much an idea as it is a company -- and an idea that should be flowing through the car industry anyway, because the world is changing. The way we buy most things is changing, and firms that try to fight waves like this typically find themselves out of business. I don't think the U.S. government will bail out the auto industry a second time.

This is my not-too-subtle way of saying that the market will move to Tesla's model -- the question is whether U.S. car companies will ride this wave or be buried by it.

Change Is in the Air

All markets are in the process of changing, from how we pay for things -- which largely had shifted from cash to credit and debit cards and now is shifting again to near field communications services like Apple Pay -- to how we buy them, shifting from stores like Sears to online retailers like Amazon.

It certainly could be argued that banks should be leading the charge to a different and far-safer payment method rather than a technology company, and that catalog companies like Sears should have done the online thing right before Amazon figured it out, but folks just don't like to learn to do things differently. You can almost hear the old codger executive say, "If it was good enough for my pappy and grandpappy, it is good enough for me," a few months before a firm goes out of business.

We exist in a world of change, and successful companies either learn to change with the world, or they receive the pleasures of early retirement or unplanned unemployment, and the U.S. auto industry has just missed that direr outcome several times in the last decade. You'd think auto companies would learn, but apparently they don't want to.

The Tesla Model

Tesla isn't just about the car, which is cool -- it is as much about the model, which is based solidly on how Apple brings things to market. The reason Tesla can do this is that the car, while looking a lot like other cars, is very different underneath. It has few moving parts, being mostly solid state, and the keystone feature is a large screen tablet-like interface that sits between the seats.

Because it is solid state, it doesn't need service often -- and because it is modular, it often can be repaired easily in the field or, like a laptop or tablet, sent to a centralized service facility for repair. Rather than you driving to a dealer to wait in line and waste half a day, Tesla drives a loaner to you and then swaps it back. (It will sell you the loaner for a slight upcharge if you'd rather keep it).

Even updates don't require a trip to a service facility because, like wireless devices, the car is always connected and tied to a cloud service that handles that part. It isn't just different -- it is like most of the devices that currently are causing upheaval in the technology market. That means this is a trend in much the same way as moving from horses to cars, or gas to electricity.

The Tesla is a big electronic appliance. It is solid state and very reliable, and much of its value actually comes from the cloud services it is connected to and the apps it runs. If Apple were to make a car, it would be a Tesla.

As a result, its move to self-driving appears far more quickly than similar moves from other companies, and given that self-driving cars have to be connected not only to some kind of centralized service but also to each other, the overall solution looks more like something you'd see in a high-technology product than in a typical car.

The thing is, to compete, all cars will need to evolve to become more like Tesla's, and dealerships simply won't be needed unless the industry embraces and changes the model.

Test drives likely will ensure that some kind of storefront will be needed. I expect we'll evolve away from brand-only stores to multibrand stores, with manufacturers sharing a footprint to keep costs down in low-volume regions. However, there is no doubt in my mind that this is the future, because cars have to become more like the Tesla, and the Tesla car forces a very different sales and service model.

Tesla's Problem Is the US Car Industry's Problem

Tesla's problem isn't that its model doesn't work. It works very well, which is why we are up to our armpits in expensive Tesla cars where I live. The problem is that there is an impressive number of politicians who own dealerships, and they don't want to lose their businesses.

I get that, but using political power to lock out Tesla is not just wrongheaded -- it should be illegal. Change is coming, regardless. With the latest law being passed in Michigan, Tesla appears banned from the Detroit auto show, which is just nuts -- because, gee I don't know, it basically makes the whole U.S. auto industry look stupidly blind.

Improving on Tesla

Now the Tesla S is a modular car, and you could certainly see how a dealership model could be made to work at scale. You build the basic cars, but given they are modular, the dealer then modifies them to order, swapping in and out the components, and the software can be smart enough to automatically scan and enable anything the system has to be connected.

Buyers can come back for upgrades as needed. As a buyer, you'd never again have to regret not getting something up front, and dealers could have upgrade specials, bringing you back in regularly to buy more stuff. That would help even out their revenue stream and offset their loss of regular service revenue as cars become more solid state.

They even could use wraps to change the color of cars, which would be designed to be wrapped more easily. Want a different color? For a relatively low fee, you can get that, stripes, or even a picture of your puppy on the vehicle.

Rather than fighting Tesla while the auto industry gets buried in recalls, why not learn from it and create something better that embraces the dealer model? Rather than denying choice, provide a better one. The outcome should be far more survivable, because the market is moving there, whether we like it or not. Self-driving cars, which basically will be rolling supercomputers, will require this change.

Wrapping Up: Pivotal Moments

In every industry, there are pivotal moments when influential people decide to go one way or another, and the industry changes forever. I think the auto industry has reached the moment when it can decide either to embrace the future and become something better, or fight the future and be crushed by it. I'm afraid the industry is making the wrong choice, and I doubt it will get another government bailout.

You don't support Tesla just because you like the car, you support it because it represents the future of automobiles. If we want the auto industry to survive in the U.S., we need to be on that wagon -- not under it. 

Rob Enderle is a TechNewsWorld columnist and the principal analyst for the Enderle Group, a consultancy that focuses on personal technology products and trends. You can connect with him on Google+.


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Monday, October 13, 2014

The Myth of Cholesterol, and other matters

The disease called 'Diagnosis'

( Article by Dr. B M Hegde (may he live long) attached below after my comments)

Modern medicine is all about 'scientifically' looking for metrics - and you will find tons of them in the human body, from blood, to urine, to faeces, etc. Treat each one of them in isolation, forgetting that the body is a synergistic whole, and no one factor can be corrected without affecting something else; not to forget the effect body and mind have on each other. And once you have isolated each factor, it does not take much to generate a ton of data on what is 'normal' - in isolation, the 'normal' here is meaningless. Then what you do is define a range. Like blood cholesterol should be between so-and-so and so-and-so - this is derived based on the tons of data on hand. Arbitrarily cut-off the top and bottom 5% each, and define those as unhealthy. That gives you a percentage of the population who are by definition unhealthy based on cholesterol. Now make a person undergo 20 tests. By definition, he has a 5% chance of being unhealthy on each parameter - by the time 20 are done, you can calculate the odds of his remaining healthy. Once in a few years, the Association of Good Doctors will modify the 'normal' range to make sure more of us are 'unhealthy'. They will even invent diseases where there are none, or prescribe medical interventions where none were required so far.

It all starts with debunking what is good food. Good vegetables, good fruits, good food in general, are those that are natural, fresh, full of vitality, liable to spoil, and not inundated with chemicals. All this is violated by the 'food processing' and 'supermarket' industry which transports food over long distances and wants to not allow them to rot. And then you introduce some myths. You say that a few parameters like "calories", "vitamin B" etc.. are important, forgetting the many other things in food that are not measured, not measurable, or are subtle, and forgetting entirely about Nature wanted food to be. And then you say 'x calories are required'  or 'y vitamins' without considering the origin of the food itself. Even a rotting carcass has x calories and y vitamins but only vultures can digest it. Breast milk has a lot of cholesterol as Dr. Hegde points out below.

So instead of relying on our senses of sight, smell and taste to guide us, we read the labels. Which tell us that milk, after being pasteurized, homogenized, pulverized, denatured, fat-removed, is still good for health because the labels say so. Or that Coke is good, because it says 'Coke Zero'. If we ate foods only with zero calories, we would be dead in a very short time. And we do not rely on our hunger any more to guide us on how much to eat. We count calories! If you stop to think about it for a minute, you will realize how foolish this is.

And then the food industry puts together a bunch of chemicals, whose remote origins lay in food, and convinces us that it is good to eat. The labels, based on all the metrics, of course prove that this is so. 

The food industry is succeeding in making all of us unhealthy. And then the medical industry takes over. Their tests prove that we are unhealthy, even if are not, and they start shoving medicines into us, which we willingly consume. In fact, if you don't consume those medicines, or don't visit those doctors who prescribe them, you may not get insurance coverage. And insurance coverage is important since we all know how expensive medicine is. Why we need the medicine in the first place is because we are unhealthy; why we are 'unhealthy' is (a) because the 'tests' say so and (b) the food we eat is what the food lobby tells us is good for us. Since the whole 'system' is conspiring to keep us in this vicious loop, we need a lot of courage to start questioning the basics - and even more courage to follow in our own lives the inevitable conclusions that will follow.

And we continue to eat breakfast cereal from a packet, drink colas, ignore the simple laws of diet and good food, gorge on junk food, sacrifice our lives for our jobs, go to the doctors for regular medical check-ups, consume the inevitable statins that follow, and feel generally miserable; in order to take us out of the vague feeling of malaise, we turn back to the comforting arms of junk foods and medicines...  Come to think of it, it would be quite funny, if it were not so tragic...

(Dr. B M Hegde's article attached)

Reminiscent of Medici and charlatans of medieval times, sickness merchants today actually go out hunting for patients through 'free' checkup camps. As a result, doctors are made to believe that a healthy person is one who has not yet been thoroughly examined!

The title is from the German book "The Disease Inventors" by Jörg Blech, original in German, translated by my friend, Herbert Nehrlich, a family physician in Hobart, Tasmania, Australia, especially for my use. The contents of this chapter are drawn heavily from that translation. Like the "free" check up camps in India there were traveling healers roaming the countryside in Germany. They also do not ask for any payment like their Indian counter parts. They used to come in their vehicles stopping in public squares or church yards. They lure people into their vans and examine them thoroughly only to release many of them as patients! "The gleaming bone-white Osteoporosis Research Mobile went on its maiden voyage in the summer of 2002, from Hamburg to Erfurt, through much of Germany. Women over 60 were urged to have a thorough preventive check-up done, with bone density measurement included. With this method, the aim is to find and identify those female citizens who suffer from age-related deterioration of the bone structure: the so-called Osteoporosis. This search for sick women is not entirely devoid of self-interest. It is sponsored by a foundation and by 14  pharmaceutical companies and makers of medical equipment and products.

"Men were not spared, either. Workers from Pfizer criss-crossed the country, visiting about 30 cities in their blue-white truck. "The Healthy Man" is displayed on the truck in large letters. The truck's platform can be extended so that the space on the ground floor is tripled in size. Inside are five examination cubicles as well as an "information bar". There, the assessment of visitors and passers-by is done inside of 10 minutes. Medically trained personnel measure cholesterol, blood sugar, blood pressure and weight. "If the man doesn't come in for his check-up then the check-up must visit the man", so says Pfizer. In the vicinity of a large golf tournament, for example, 6297 normal men were processed through the diagnostic vehicle. And, see the result: half of the men showed increased blood pressure and in 44 % the blood tests were outside of normal limits."

"The Osteoporosis Mobile and the Pfizer Truck seem like messengers for a medical profession that wants to permeate all of society. Reminiscent of Medici and charlatans of medieval times, sickness merchants today actually go out hunting for patients. The fact that they apparently find sick people everywhere affirms the nature of the situation. While it is true that Germans today are quite alert and long-lived, as never before in their history they do not fit into the norms of modern medicine. The medical risk factors have been deliberately set so that everyone can potentially be sick." And it works like this:

A laboratory test is performed on a large number of healthy people, for example on blood donors, military recruits or sport students. The next step is the calculation of the average of all the measured results. The 95 % in the middle are then arbitrarily declared  Normal Value  and the 5 %  outside of this –up or down-  are declared  "conspicuous ", even though  all subjects were healthy people. It follows that one can label all of mankind as ill: If always 5 % of a population shows an abnormal lab value then every subsequent testing raises the number of "suspects". After 20 measurements only 36 % of the subjects will be regarded as healthy. And, after 100 procedures this number shrinks to less than 1 %. Doctors deduced from this a malicious result: A healthy person is one who has not yet been thoroughly examined!

Some risk factors, however, were set from the outset in such a way that not 5 % but large segments of the population are instantly affected. Take cholesterol, where several years ago in Germany the margins were determined so that people with 'normal' values were in the minority and those with abnormal values were in the majority. How can this be?  A large study of 100,000 Bavarians resulted in an average cholesterol value of 260 mg/dl. The "National Cholesterol Initiative", a private interest group of 13 medical professors, nevertheless recommended in 1990 an upper limit of 200 and was able to have this accepted. The doctors of this "Cholesterol Initiative" represent lobbying groups, among them the industry-friendly "German League against Blood Pressure" as well as the "Lipid League" and the "German Society for Lab Medicine". In a "strategic paper" they demanded an aggressive expansion of the diagnosis. "Every doctor ought to know the cholesterol values of his patients".

Through the dedication of financially interested medics, the majority of the German population has been declared risk patients. In the 30 – 39 year age group, according to the arbitrary upper limit, 68 % of men and 56 % of women displayed abnormally high cholesterol. In the 50 – 59 year age group this rises to 84 % for the men and 93 % for the women. The absurd consequences of such margin limits: The patients alleged to be at risk feel healthy and fit.  The Viennese satirist Karl Kraus is right: "The DIAGNOSIS is one of the most common diseases".   Pre-occupation with cholesterol values is widespread,   promoted and encouraged vigorously by certain doctors and institutions because of the immense profits that can be earned.

One example, the National Association of Practicing Cardiologists, together with margarine manufacturer BECEL and pharmaceutical company PFIZER, as well as ROCHE DIAGNOSTICS regularly undertake "Health Initiatives" which are designed to persuade many people to have their cholesterol tested. In a brochure, available to anyone visiting a pharmacy, it states: "Starting at age 30, everyone ought to know his cholesterol level and have it re-tested every 2 years." The motto is: An increased cholesterol level is one of the most important risk factors for heart and circulatory diseases. The "New Pharmacy Journal" designates cholesterol as the "TIME BOMB" for your health. Yet, this wax-like substance is an essential part of life; it is needed in large amounts by the brain, which consists of 10 – 20% cholesterol (dry substance). Most cells of the organism can manufacture cholesterol if it is lacking in the food, which is fortunate as without this devilish molecule the cells would be doomed. However, many people become fearful of facing an early fatal heart attack at the mere mention of the word cholesterol. It spoils the breakfast egg for many and causes concern at the thought of buttering their bread rolls and having a piece of sausage. Driven by a guilty conscience, over one million people have had their cholesterol tested in 2001 as part of a "Health Initiative". Not unexpectedly, over half of the ones tested showed values above the arbitrarily set figure of 200. The participating doctors and companies of this "Health Initiative" reap direct profits: ROCHE DIAGNOSTICS manufactures instruments for cholesterol testing. Cardiologists get new patients who are immediately told to stop eating butter – which in turn helps BECEL, the margarine manufacturer.

PFIZER then sells cholesterol-lowering medicines – its world-wide sales are in the billions of Eurodollars. It is rare that a medical campaign which puts the label "PATIENT" on the vast majority of the population has been carried out with such force and marketing investment expenditure. A committee of the American Heart Association demands that regular cholesterol testing of 5-year old children be carried out. As soon as the child starts on solid food, doctors urge the parents to give their offspring only cholesterol-poor foods. Blood pressure would need to be checked from the 3rd birthday on. Actually, such early tests permit no conclusions as to future health of the tested children. "The screening of children, including of those  25 % whose families have been  identified as  having a high incidence of raised cholesterol levels and early heart disease, is a waste of money which probably does more harm than good", says Thomas B. Newman, epidemiologist at the University of California, San Francisco.

If these recommendations were to be taken seriously, breast milk could not be given to babies, as it is a veritable cholesterol bomb. The reality however shows that breast-fed babies do rather well in their development, which isn't a miracle - the bounty of cholesterol from the mother's milk is used for construction of nerve cells and the brain. The general impression that the public campaign clearly gives is that the cholesterol theory is an established fact. This is incorrect. Many physicians are very doubtful about cholesterol's alleged bad-guy role in the drama Heart Attack.  As early as in 1990, when the dubious upper limit of 200 was announced in Germany, cardiologist Herald Klepzig of the German Heart Foundation in Frankfurt distanced himself from this. Surrounded by cholesterol hysteria he said: "We would be happy if we could point to a single medical controlled study that shows that lives are saved through reduction of cholesterol. However, it is not difficult to find ten studies that show that a reduction of fat actually is correlated with increased mortality."

And Paul Rosch, president of the AMERICAN INSTITUTE OF STRESS and medical professor at New York Medical College comments: "The brain-washing of the public has been so successful that many people believe 'the lower the cholesterol values the longer the life span' , nothing could be further from the truth!" Indeed, the label of the 'evil cholesterol' is not supported by proof, only by circumstantial evidence – and of those, many are unable to stand up to scrutiny. In 1953 the researcher Ancel Keys of the University of Minnesota published an article which eventually became the foundation myth of the cholesterol theory. In his paper he shows a diagram that suggests a clear relationship between fat consumption and mortality from coronary heart disease in six countries. "The curve shows that there is hardly any doubt that there is a correlation between fat content of the food intake and the risk to die of coronary heart disease." (Comments from LANCET).

Impressive though the curve is, it has a flaw: Keys considered data from six countries only, even though data from 22 regions were available. And, when these are examined the correlation between high fat consumption and heart death disappears. Says Swedish physician Uffe Ravnskov "Had Keys included all countries nothing would have come of the curve"."   For example, mortality from heart disease was three times higher in the U.S. A than in Norway, although fat consumption in both countries was roughly identical." Critics like Ravnskov do not deny that there is a correlation between blood fats and coronary heart disease. Considering that 0.2 % of a population suffers from familial hypercholesterolaemia. People with this inherited illness do not have sufficient numbers of cholesterol receptors. Thus the cholesterol can barely be transported out of the blood into the cells. The result: Raised blood cholesterol. Levels are between 350 – 1000 mg/dl. The affected people have an increased risk of dying earlier than others, from heart infarct because they often suffer from a severe form of arteriosclerosis. Post mortems on people who had familial hypercholesterolaemia have shown that the cholesterol does not only get deposited in the blood vessels but everywhere in the body. "Many organs are practically impregnated with cholesterol", says Ravnskov. Therefore, it is a mistake to extrapolate this relationship between cholesterol and arteriosclerosis to people with normal cholesterol levels.

When the physician urges "risk patients" to switch to low cholesterol foods the consequences for old people can be potentially dangerous. The nutrition of old people is "already compromised through dentures, constipation, lack of appetite and food intolerance to many foods', says U.S physician Bernard Lown, a well-known heart specialist who, as a member of "International Physicians For The Prevention Of Nuclear War" received the 1985 Nobel Peace Prize. He was my Chief at Harvard. As a doctor, Lown witnessed how a very old female patient lost weight rapidly and became emaciated because of her attempts to lower her cholesterol levels. Lown stopped the dangerous nonsense. "I recommended that she ignore all doctor's advice eat whatever she fancied. Within six months she regained her lost weight as well as her vitality and spirit." The devilish cholesterol –we need it from cradle to grave.

This in short is the essence of the whole book. There is another chapter on how blood pressure became a disease but I could not get it translated. That shows how the disease high blood pressure was born out of the necessity to sell more drugs on long term basis to net billions of dollars of profit! Since this book is difficult to get for the common reader, I thought I better give the gist in the form of a chapter in this book. I am grateful to my friend, Herbert, for translating it to me so willingly. Herbert is a great humanist and an excellent doctor and a great writer. His ancestors came originally from Germany.

Further Reading:
* Jorg Blech. Disease Inventors.  German 1999