Ryan’s diet of whoppers

Anyone familiar with this column knows that I prefer the progressive vision over the conservative one. But I believe it’s not possible for the nation to set a course without a vigorous, honest debate — and I know there can be no such contest of ideas without agreement on factual truth.

Vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan‘s speech Wednesday night was another demonstration that he and presidential nominee Mitt Romney have no apparent respect for the truth. Romney’s pollster, Neil Newhouse, boasted this week that “we’re not going to let our campaign be dictated by fact-checkers.” I’ll say.

Ryan built his career on a reputation for wonkish immersion in the details and willingness to tell uncomfortable truths. But in his address to the convention he lied and dissembled so shamelessly that I thought I detected a whiff of desperation in the air. Or maybe it was just ambition.

The whopper with which those pesky fact-checkers are having a field day is Ryan’s attempt to blame President Obama for the shutdown of a huge General Motors plant in Ryan’s hometown of Janesville, Wis. Ryan’s point of reference was a visit Obama made to the plant during the 2008 campaign.

“A lot of guys I went to high school with worked at that GM plant,” Ryan said. “Right there at that plant, candidate Obama said: ‘I believe that if our government is there to support you … this plant will be here for another hundred years.’ That’s what he said in 2008. Well, as it turned out, that plant didn’t last another year. It is locked up and empty to this day. And that’s how it is in so many towns today, where the recovery that was promised is nowhere in sight.”

In other words, Obama promised to help those workers by keeping the plant open but failed to deliver. This is a bald-faced lie.

As Glenn Kessler, author of The Washington Post‘s Fact-Checker column, has noted, Obama visited the Janesville plant in February of 2008. GM announced the plant’s shutdown in June 2008 — five months before Obama was elected and seven months before he took office. Ryan should be blaming George W. Bush, not Barack Obama.

And technically, the plant isn’t even closed. It’s on “standby,” according to GM, and can be reactivated if the demand for production rises sufficiently.

Ryan was careful with his words. He didn’t specify who was president when the plant was ordered to cease production. He described it as “locked up and empty,” rather than “closed.” But by any reasonable standard, Ryan was being deceptive. He wanted his listeners to believe something that simply is not true.

Another supremely dishonest moment was Ryan’s criticism of how Obama dealt with the Simpson-Bowles debt panel: “He created a bipartisan debt commission. They came back with an urgent report. He thanked them, sent them on their way, and then did exactly nothing.”

Low-calorie diet may not help you live longer, if you’re a monkey

Low-calorie diet: If you’re a rhesus monkey, a low-calorie diet may not help you live longer, reports a new study that overturns previous findings.

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Sharon BegleyReuters /
August 31, 2012

Locally grown broccoli from a partnership between Farm to School and Healthy School Meals is served in a salad to students at Marston Middle School in San Diego, California, in this 2011 photo.

Mike Blake/Reuters


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The longevity diet’s premise is seductively simple: cutting your calorie intake well below your usual diet will add years to your life.

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New research published on Wednesday, however, shows the extreme, emaciating diet doesn’t increase lifespan in rhesus monkeys, the closest human relatives to try it in a rigorous, long-running study. While caveats remain, outside experts regarded the findings as definitive, particularly when combined with those from a similar study.

“If there’s a way to manipulate the human diet to let us live longer, we haven’t figured it out yet and it may not exist,” said biologist Steven Austad of the University of Texas Health Science Center’s Barshop Institute for Longevity and Aging Studies, who wrote an analysis of the study in Nature.

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Since 1934, research has shown that lab rats, mice, yeast, fruit flies and round worms fed 10 percent to 40 percent fewer calories than their free-eating peers lived some 30 percent longer. In some studies, they lived twice as long.

Such findings have spawned a growing community of believers who seek better health and longer life in calorie-restricted (CR)diets, as promised in the 2005 book “The Longevity Diet,” including 5,000 members of the CR Society International. The research has also prompted companies like Procter Gamble and Nu Skin Enterprises to develop drugs to mimic the effects of calorie restriction.

The new study, from the National Institute on Aging, part of the U.S. National Institutes of Health, suggests a surprising disconnect between health and lifespan. It found that most of the 57 calorie-restricted monkeys had healthier hearts and immune systems and lower rates of diabetes, cancer or other ills than the 64 control monkeys. But there was no longevity pay-off.

“You can argue that the calorie-restricted animals are healthier,” said Austad. “They have better cholesterol profiles, less muscle loss, less disease. But it didn’t translate into greater longevity. What we learn from this is you can un-link health and longevity.”

The NIA study, launched in 1987, is one of two investigating whether eating just 70 percent of the calories in a standard lab diet extends life in a long-lived primate. The Wisconsin National Primate Research Center’s study, begun in 1989, also uses rhesus monkeys, whose physiology, genetics and median lifespan (27 years) are closer to humans than are the rodents in earlier calorie-restriction research.


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