BBC

Rather Quite Obvious, Now That You Mention It

A resident in Depew, New York, digs out after a massive lake-effect snowstorm blanketed the region. (Photo: Derek Gee/Buffalo News)

It is the sort of question you might be tempted to answer simply and bluntly, such as by saying, “Well, we’re Americans.”

At least two people have died from heart attacks while shovelling snow in Buffalo, New York. Every winter, about 100 people in the US die doing this. Why?

(BBC)

Turns out the answer appears to actually be medical:

A study looking at data from 1990 to 2006 by researchers at the US Nationwide Children’s Hospital recorded 1,647 fatalities from cardiac-related injuries associated with shovelling snow. In Canada, these deaths make the news every winter.

Cardiologist Barry Franklin, an expert in the hazardous effects of snow removal, believes the number of deaths could be double that. “I believe we lose hundreds of people each year because of this activity,” says Franklin, director of preventative cardiology and cardiac rehabilitation at William Beaumont Hospital, Michigan.

His team found that when healthy young men shovelled snow, their heart rate and blood pressure increased more than when they exercised on a treadmill. “Combine this with cold air, which causes arteries to constrict and decrease blood supply, you have a perfect storm for a heart attack,” he says.

Well, yeah, it would be medical anyway, even if the answer was, “He froze to death.” Then again, we cannot predict that such a notion would have any effect. After all, we’re Americans.

You know how it goes: Sure, it happens. But not to me.

And then one day you fall over, face-down in the snow. Such is the difference between knowledge and wisdom.

Just … you know, take care of yourselves. The only upside is that you won’t be around to hear your mates razzing you about it at the pub.

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British Broadcasting Company. “Why do so many people die shovelling snow?” BBC News Magazine Monitor. 19 November 2014.

Image credit: Derek Gee/Buffalo News

The Beeb on Ferguson, and Other Notes

Ferguson protests: How the shooting of a black unarmed teenager sparked days of unrest and made a nation look at itself.  (BBC)

As much as we might appreciate the sentiment offered by the BBC for its sentiment on the Ferguson outrage, I must unfortunately beg to differ: “. . . made a nation look at itself”? Right. Yeah, that’s exactly what happened. Right?

Okay, yeah, we know. Right. That’s not even funny. Still, though, we do appreciate the Beeb’s hopeful sentiment, despite how “un-American” introspection actually is. No, really, remember that we dope introspective kids up in order to make them knock it off.

Okay, look, the truth is that when we “look at ourselves”, what we actually do is not look in the mirror, but point fingers at one another and yell a whole lot. Well, unless you’re a cop; then you point ugly guns at people and yell a whole lot. But internationals need to understand, the current President of the United States isn’t allowed to express human emotions without the danger of a white-led race riot. Remember what happened last time, when he said what any parent might say of a tragedy, that Trayvon Martin could have been his son. And remember the howls about how racist that is. Obama may be many things, but an idiot is not on the list. While his right-flank detractors scream about the race-baiting of sending the Justice Department to look into what appears, prima facie to be a police-sponsored murder and attempted coverup, his left-flank detractors are angry because he’s not showing enough “black anger”α. Meanwhile, supporters of the accused killer remind that Officer Wilson is “innocent until proven guilty”, a right stolen from the late Michael Brown, and wag their fingers about “rule of law”, which in their opinion means a white cop can shoot whatever black person he wants, the department can try to lie about it, and there’s nothing suspicious to be seen in that.

Americans seem to think this is the better alternative. Apparently, we are supposed to be scared senseless of our own reflections.

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α As we noted last month:

In the shadow of what happened and is happening in Ferguson, I’ve noticed that even the days of the Trayvon Martin debacle are, apparently, forgotten in much of the press. Even the distinguished Marc Lamont Hill, disclaiming that he “didn’t have any unrealistic expectations for Obama”, seems to ignore history in order to complain that the president is somehow blind to “black anger”. In his CNN opinion piece, the Morehouse College professor seems to have forgotten the facts that (A) Mr. Obama is a politician, (B) Mr. Obama is a politician who holds an extraordinarily important and controversial office, and (C) the fact of Mr. Obama’s ethnic heritage effectively requires that he downplay “black anger”.

And let me be clear: “Black anger” would appear to be wholly appropriate; the question is whether Dr. Hill prefers quick gratification or real progress. Right or wrong, the fact is that justice for Americans with dark skin is still a long time coming; the trend is to respond to “black anger” by punishing black people. Dr. Hill’s desire for a cheap quickie apparently takes precedent over real progress.

Or does that seem harsh?

Even so, it is at least somewhat accurate. That is to say that while politicians might rush to empathize with victims of crime and other tragedy, a black president saying the same thing about a dead teenager that a lot of us might say in other situations about, say, a white teenager who died, became a controversy about racism—how dare a black president sympathize with the challenges facing the black community!

British Broadcasting Corporation. “Ferguson Protests”. 2 September 2014.

Hill, Marc Lamont. “Obama, can’t you see black anger in Ferguson?”. CNN. 15 August 2014.

The Latest Poop From Puti-Toots

Emperor Puti-Toots the Last looks bored upon his throne.

It is important enough to not allow that John Sweeney’s report for BBC Panorama should pass unnoticed or unmentioned. Then again, neither is it such bad news that we should panic.

Three eyewitnesses, all civilians, separately told Panorama that they saw a missile-launcher in rebel-held territory a few hours before the Boeing jet was hit.

One eyewitness saw the missile-launcher roll off a low-loader at Snezhnoye, around ten miles from the crash site, at around 13:30 local time (10:30 GMT).

“We just saw it being offloaded and when the BUK started its engine the exhaust smoke filled the whole town square,” he said.

The eyewitness told the BBC that the crew struck him as Russian soldiers: “Well-disciplined, unlike the rebels, and not wearing the standard Ukrainian camouflage uniform sported by government and rebel troops alike.”

“They had pure Russian accents. They say the letter ‘g’ differently to us,” he said.

In eastern Ukraine, most people speak Russian but the BUK crew did not speak Russian with a local accent.

Sweeney also reports that the testimony has been corroborated by a second witness “who added that an officer in a military jeep escorting the BUK spoke with a Muscovite accent.”

It seems beyond question that Vladimir Putin wants a war; a really, really big war. What remains unanswered, though, is why.

Meanwhile, there really is no point in panicking. Indeed, mere daily fretting might be overkill. This isn’t the sort of thing, like bad groundwater or poor nuclear safety, that the politicians can overlook. And, plus, wars are spectacular, whereas bringing nuclear plant safety up to par isn’t; it’s the nuclear accidents that are spectacular. That is to say, war will come or else it won’t, and if Putin intends to light up the sky, it would seem reasonable to suggest that he won’t give much immediate warning. In the question of why, it seems more and more evident that Vladimir Putin has simply lost his mind. At this point, expecting the ordinary geopolitical jousting would be the extraordinary expectation.

But the line of the day goes to Mikhail Khordokovsky, the former oligarch and present staunch foe of the Putin regime, who asserted:

“The prospect of democratic change of power in Russia does not exist anymore. There will be more blood in the future.”

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Sweeney, John. “MH17 disaster: Russians ‘controlled BUK missile system'”. BBC. 8 September 2014.

Worth a Chuckle (No, It’s Not)

Thank you, Chris Hayes:

Oh, @HuffPostHill "POTUS' bus tour is underway, prompting us to ask whether the no-number-two rule applies to the leader of the free world."

Indeed, the MSNBC host brings to mind an old Simpsons episode:

    Wally: I’m sorry, the guys made kind of a mess in your bathroom.

    Driver: What bathroom?

At any rate, it’s a bit more cheerful than Mark Mardell’s assessment for the BBC.