Annals of DDT: When they sprayed DDT from airplanes to stop polio

August 10, 2018

March of Dimes Foundation photo:

March of Dimes Foundation photo: “Nurses tended to polio patients in iron lung respirators at the Robert B. Green Memorial Hospital polio ward in San Antonio in 1950. It was a common scene throughout the polio crisis that swept Texas.” From the San Antonio Express-News article on the history of polio in the city.

It didn’t work.

In a desperate move to stop polio epidemics, after World War II but before the Salk polio vaccine was available, some American towns authorized aerial spraying of DDT over their cities.

Of course, DDT doesn’t stop viruses, and polio is a virus. Polio virus is not spread by a vector, an insect or other creature which might have been stopped by DDT, as mosquitoes spread malaria parasites and West Nile virus.

Aerial spraying of DDT against polio did not one thing.

A podcast from the Science History Institute discussed these misdirected events recently, and someone there did a sharp, short video to explain the issue.

YouTube explanation:

An animation drawn from episode 207 of Distillations podcast, DDT: The Britney Spears of Chemicals.

The podcast is a short 15 minutes, and fun, “Distillations.”

Americans have had a long, complicated relationship with the pesticide DDT, or dichloro-diphenyl-trichloroethane, if you want to get fancy. First we loved it, then we hated it, then we realized it might not be as bad as we thought. But we’ll never restore it to its former glory. And couldn’t you say the same about America’s once-favorite pop star?

We had a hunch that the usual narrative about DDT’s rise and fall left a few things out, so we talked to historian and CHF fellow Elena Conis. She has been discovering little-known pieces of this story one dusty letter at a time.

But first our associate producer Rigoberto Hernandez checks out some of CHF’s own DDT cans—that’s right, we have a DDT collection—and talks to the retired exterminator who donated them.

I bring it up here because in recent weeks there’s been a little surge on Twitter, and probably on Facebook and other places, in people claiming DDT causes polio, or causes symptoms so close to polio that physicians could never tell the difference. A lot of anti-vaccine advocates pile on, claiming that this would prove that the polio vaccine doesn’t work.

That’s all quite hooey-licious, off course. Polio’s paralysis of muscles in almost no way resembles acute DDT poisoning, which causes muscle misfiring instead of paralysis. As with almost every other disease, acute DDT poisoning can cause nausea; but DDT poisoning either kills its victim rather quickly, or goes away after a couple of weeks.

Polio doesn’t do that.

In the podcast, you’ll hear the common story of kids running behind DDT fogging trucks, because people thought DDT was harmless. In the concentrations in the DDT fogs, it would be almost impossible to ingest the 4 ounces or so of DDT required to get acute poisoning.

In any case, it’s one more odd facet of a long story of human relations to DDT and diseases. It’s worth a listen for history’s sake. But in this case, it’s entertaining, too. You’ll hear stories of people who opposed government actions to spray DDT, and who thought the government was too lax in its regulation and use of DDT.

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San Antonio Express-News file photo.

San Antonio Express-News file photo. “A young boy gets polio vaccine in this undated photo.”

Tip of the old scrub brush to Science History Institute (@SciHistoryOrg on Twitter).

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Democratic Party pushes civil rights in the modern era — don’t be hoaxed

August 8, 2018

How Congress voted on the Civil Rights Act of 1964, broken down by party and with a few more details; chart by Kevin M. Kruse; from Kruse's Twitter account.

How Congress voted on the Civil Rights Act of 1964, broken down by party and with a few more details; chart by Kevin M. Kruse; from Kruse’s Twitter account.

Not sure if everybody got their Bogus History from Dinesh D’Souza, but a lot of people have the same wrong ideas about what party supported civil rights in the post-World War II era. These crappy distortions of history are showing up on Facebook and all over Twitter. Worse, people believe them.

The crappy claim is that Democrats are the party of racism and support for the Ku Klux Klan. Historically, that was once so; but it has not been so since 1948 as the two main parties in the U.S. switched positions, with Democrats taking on civil rights as a key cause for Democratic constituencies, and the Republican Party retreating from Abraham Lincoln’s work in the Civil War and immediate aftermath, and instead welcoming in racists fleeing the Democratic Party.

Think Strom Thurmond, vs. Mike Mansfield and Lyndon Johnson.

Kevin Kruse corrected D’Souza in a series of Tweets, and you ought to read them and follow the notes. Kruse is good, and better, he is armed with accurate information.

This is solid history, delivered by Kruse in a medium difficult for careful explanations longer than a bumper sticker.

Mr. Kruse made a key point early in the thread.

First of all, the central point in the original tweet stands. If you have to go back to the 1860s or even the 1960s to claim the “party of civil rights” mantle — while ignoring legislative votes and executive actions taken in *this* decade — you’re clearly grasping at straws.

Anyone who reads newspapers would know that. Alas, one of the campaigns of conservatives over the past 40 years has been to kill off newspapers. They’ve been way too successful at it.

I’ll include mostly the Tweets for the rest of this post.

It’s a big tell. See my earlier posts on the 7 Warning Signs of Bogus History.

You can view the entire thread in one unroll, which I find difficult to translate to this blog platform — but you may find it easier to disseminate:

 

 

 


August 2018: Mark your calendars to fly the flag

July 31, 2018

From Harper's Magazine:

From Harper’s Magazine: “Raising the American flag over Fort Santiago, Manila, on the evening of August 13, 1898.” From Harper’s Pictorial History of the War with Spain, Vol. II, published by Harper and Brothers in 1899.

August in the U.S. is a lazy, often hot, summer month.  It’s a month for vacation, picnicking, local baseball games, camping, cookouts and beach vacations.  It’s not a big month for events to fly the U.S. flag.

Except, perhaps, in Olympics years, when the U.S. flag is often flown a lot, in distant locations. About 50 percent of photographs of the U.S. flag flying in August features an American Olympic athlete. 2018 is not an Olympics year.

Only one event calls for nation-wide flag-flying in August, National Aviation Day on August 19.  This event is not specified in the Flag Code, but in a separate provision in the same chapter U.S. Code.  Three states celebrate statehood, Colorado, Hawaii and Missouri. Will the president issue a proclamation to fly the flag for National Aviation Day?

Put these dates on your calendar to fly the flag in August:

  • August 1, Colorado statehood (1876, 38th state)
  • August 10, Missouri statehood (1821, 24th state)
  • August 19, National Aviation Day, 36 USC 1 § 118
  • August 21, Hawaii statehood (1959, 50th state)

If Texans want to fly their flags for the children’s returning to school on August 15, no one will complain.

You may fly your U.S. flag any day. These are just the suggested days in law.

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“The President Sang Amazing Grace”

July 21, 2018

President Obama singing "Amazing Grace" in Charleston, South Carolina. This may be a wire service photo, but credit was stripped off.

President Obama singing “Amazing Grace” in Charleston, South Carolina, June 26, 2015. This may be a wire service photo, but credit was stripped off.

Joan Baez says she’s made her last album, maybe will stop touring soon.

But she’s still speaking out for good, for equality, for civil rights, against violence.

Here’s a sharp animated video made for a song Baez released this year, “The President Sang Amazing Grace.” We once had a president who would do that. Atlantic Magazine highlights a few outstanding films, and this is one.

Details from YouTube’s listing:

“I was driving when I heard ‘The President Sang Amazing Grace,’” Joan Baez told The Atlantic, “and I had to pull over to make sure I heard whose song it was because I knew I had to sing it.” The 77-year-old folk legend included the song in her final album, Whistle Down The Wind, released in early March. Originally written and performed by Zoe Mulford following the 2015 mass shooting in a historic black church in Charleston, South Carolina, Baez’s rendition of “The President Sang Amazing Grace” has been animated in a powerful new video. Read more: https://www.theatlantic.com/video/ind… “The President Sang Amazing Grace” is performed by Joan Baez, written by Zoe Mulford, and animated in this video by Jeff Scher. It is part of The Atlantic Selects, an online showcase of short documentaries from independent creators, curated by The Atlantic.

Shake of the old scrub brush to Joan Baez on Twitter (@JoanCBaez).


Your tax dollars at work, NASA incredible Moon division: Full rotation

July 19, 2018

NASA posted this back in 2013 — but a lot of people missed it. It’s an animation of the Moon’s full rotation, showing all sides of the Moon lighted by the Sun. Film images come from the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO).

Watching this video we can think of all sorts of oddities about the Moon that maybe we didn’t get answers to in our high school astronomy class, or Astronomy 101 at State U: Why do we see only one side of the Moon from Earth? Doesn’t that mean the Moon doesn’t rotate? And shouldn’t Pink Floyd have called the album, “Far Side of the Moon?”

When NASA ran the 24-second version of the video at the Astronomy Picture of the Day (APOD) site on September 16, 2013, NASA thoughtfully provided more information that you ever wanted:

Explanation: No one, presently, sees the Moon rotate like this. That’s because the Earth’s moon is tidally locked to the Earth, showing us only one side. Given modern digital technology, however, combined with many detailed images returned by the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO), a high resolution virtual Moon rotation movie has now been composed. The above time-lapse video starts with the standard Earth view of the Moon. Quickly, though, Mare Orientale, a large crater with a dark center that is difficult to see from the Earth, rotates into view just below the equator. From an entire lunar month condensed into 24 seconds, the video clearly shows that the Earth side of the Moon contains an abundance of dark lunar maria, while the lunar far side is dominated by bright lunar highlands. Two new missions are scheduled to begin exploring the Moon within the year, the first of which is NASA’s Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer (LADEE). LADEE, which launched just over a week ago, is scheduled to begin orbiting the Moon in October and will explore the thin and unusual atmosphere of the Moon. In a few months, the Chinese Chang’e 3 is scheduled to launch, a mission that includes a soft lander that will dispatch a robotic rover.

Tip of the old scrub brush to World and Science on Twitter (@WorldandScience).

A detailed still of the Moon, again from NASA:

Details of the Moon, from NASA's fact sheet comparing the Moon and Earth.

Details of the Moon, from NASA’s fact sheet comparing the Moon and Earth.


July 2018: When do we fly the flag?

July 19, 2018

Caption from NASA: The American flag heralded the launch of Apollo 11, the first Lunar landing mission, on July 16, 1969. The massive Saturn V rocket lifted off from NASA's Kennedy Space Center with astronauts Neil A. Armstrong, Michael Collins, and Edwin

Caption from NASA: The American flag heralded the launch of Apollo 11, the first Lunar landing mission, on July 16, 1969. The massive Saturn V rocket lifted off from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center with astronauts Neil A. Armstrong, Michael Collins, and Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin at 9:32 a.m. EDT. Four days later, on July 20, Armstrong and Aldrin landed on the Moon’s surface while Collins orbited overhead in the Command Module. Armstrong and Aldrin gathered samples of lunar material and deployed scientific experiments that transmitted data about the lunar environment. Image Credit: NASA

[Yes, we’re running late with this post for July. Apologies. You can always check the list of all dates, or last year’s post.]

July 4. Surely everyone knows to fly the flag on Independence Day, the anniversary of the Declaration of Independence.*

In the month of the grand patriotic celebration, what other dates do we fly the U.S. flag? July 4 is the only date designated in the Flag Code for all Americans to fly the flag.  Three states joined the union in July, days on which citizens of those states should show the colors, New York, Idaho and Wyoming.

Plus, there is one date many veterans think we should still fly the flag, Korean War Veterans Armistice Day on July 27.  Oddly, the law designating that date urges flying the flag only until 2003, the 50th anniversary of the still-standing truce in that war.  But the law still exists.  What’s a patriot to do?

Patriots may watch to see whether the president issues a proclamation for the date.

From Pinterest:

From Pinterest: “Riders in the patriotic horse group Americanas from Rexburg, Idaho, participate in the 163rd annual Days of ‘47 KSL 5 Parade Tuesday July 24, 2012 [in Salt Lake City, Utah]. (Chris Detrick | The Salt Lake Tribune)”

Generally we don’t note state holidays or state-designated flag-flying events, such as Utah’s Pioneer Day, July 24, which marks the day in 1847 that the Mormon pioneers in the party of Brigham Young exited what is now Emigration Canyon into the Salt Lake Valley. But it’s a big day in Utah, where I spent a number of years and still have family. And I still have memories, not all pleasant, of that five-mile march for the Days of ’47 Parade, in that wool, long-sleeved uniform and hat, carrying the Sousaphone. Pardon my partisan exception. Utahns will fly their flags on July 24.

  • Idaho statehood, July 3 (1890, 43rd state)
  • Independence Day, July 4
  • Wyoming statehood, July 10 (1890, 44th state)
  • New York statehood, July 26 (1788, 11th state)
  • National Korean War Veterans Armistice Day, July 27 (flags fly at half-staff, if you are continuing the commemoration which was designated in law only until 2003)

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* July 4? But didn’t John Adams say it should be July 2?  And, yes, the staff at Millard Fillmore’s Bathtub sadly noted that, at most July 4 parades, it appears no one salutes the U.S. flag as it passes, as the Flag Code recommends. MFB’s been fighting flag etiquette ignorance since 2006. It’s taking much, much longer than we wished.

The U.S. flag on Mars - No manned missions to Mars occurred, yet, so there is no flag planted on Mars. But the Mars Rover, Curiosity, has a U.S. flag medallion affixed to a rocker arm.  From NASA: This view of the American flag medallion on NASA's Mars rover Curiosity was taken by the rover's Mars Hand Lens Imager (MAHLI) during the 44th Martian day, or sol, of Curiosity's work on Mars (Sept. 19, 2012). The flag is one of four

The U.S. flag on Mars – No manned missions to Mars occurred, yet, so there is no flag planted on Mars. But the Mars Rover, Curiosity, has a U.S. flag medallion affixed to a rocker arm. From NASA: This view of the American flag medallion on NASA’s Mars rover Curiosity was taken by the rover’s Mars Hand Lens Imager (MAHLI) during the 44th Martian day, or sol, of Curiosity’s work on Mars (Sept. 19, 2012). The flag is one of four “mobility logos” placed on the rover’s mobility rocker arms.

This is an encore post.

Yes, this is an encore post. Defeating ignorance takes patience and perseverance.

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On July 10, 1850, Millard Fillmore ascended to the presidency

July 10, 2018

The popular hero of the Mexican-American War, Zachary Taylor, died on July 9. For the second time, a vice president was sworn in to replace the elected president.

Millard Fillmore was that vice president.

Millard Fillmore, in 1873, 20 years after he left the presidency. Portrait by C. M. Bell. From the Library of Congress.

Millard Fillmore, in 1873, 20 years after he left the presidency. Portrait by C. M. Bell. From the Library of Congress.

Fillmore ended the run of presidents by Whig Party members, the last Whig. He served out the term of Taylor, but despite trying, never succeeded in winning election on his own.

Most people including historians know little about Fillmore, except his unsavory role in signing the Fugitive Slave Act, and thereby pushing the nation closer to civil war. The hoax on Fillmore’s allegedly introducing a plumbed bathtub to the White House, by H. L. Mencken in 1917, stained Fillmore’s reputation and chased out most information about good things he had done, such as opening Japan to trade.

There are morals about hoaxes and fake news in Fillmore’s story. Those morals are much lost to history now.

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The author and a bronze likeness of Fillmore meet on a street in Rapid City, South Dakota, August 2016

The author and a bronze likeness of Fillmore meet on a street in Rapid City, South Dakota, August 2016


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