Vitamin D And Fish Oil Supplements Mostly Disappoint In Long-Awaited Research Results

Taking fish oil supplements to prevent cardiovascular disease and cancer may not be effective. Cathy Scola/Getty Images hide caption

toggle caption

Cathy Scola/Getty Images

Taking fish oil supplements to prevent cardiovascular disease and cancer may not be effective.

Cathy Scola/Getty Images

Many people routinely take nutritional supplements such as vitamin D and fish oil in the hopes of staving off major killers like cancer and heart disease.

But the evidence about the possible benefits of the supplements has been mixed.

Now, long-awaited government-funded research has produced some of the clearest evidence yet about the usefulness of taking the supplements. And the results — published in two papers — are mostly disappointing.

“Both trials were negative,” says Dr. Lawrence Fine, chief of the clinical application and prevention branch of the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, a part of the National Institutes of Health, which funded the studies.

“Overall, they showed that neither fish oil nor vitamin D actually lowered the incidence of heart disease or cancer,” Fine says.

The results were presented at the American Heart Association Scientific Sessions in Chicago and released online Saturday by the New England Journal of Medicine. One paper focused on vitamin D supplementation and the other focused on fish oil.

The trials involved nearly 26,000 healthy adults age 50 and older with no history of cancer or heart disease who took part in the VITAL research project. Twenty percent of the participants were African-American.

Some of the participants took either 1 gram of fish oil — which contains omega-3 fatty acids — plus 2,000 international units of vitamin D daily. Others consumed the same dose of vitamin D plus a placebo, while others ingested the same dose of fish oil plus a placebo. The last group took two placebos. After more than five years, researchers were unable to find any overall benefit.

While the overall results were disappointing, there appeared to be a beneficial effect when it came to one aspect of heart disease and fish oil: heart attacks.

A secondary analysis showed taking fish oil lowered the risk of heart attack by about 28 percent, which is a “statistically significant” finding, says Dr. JoAnn Manson, who is chief of the division of preventive medicine at the Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston. She led the research.

Those who appeared to benefit the most were people who didn’t ordinarily eat much fish in their day-to-day diet, as well as African Americans, Manson says.

African-Americans in the study experienced a 77 percent lower risk of heart attack when compared to placebo, which is a “dramatic reduction,” Manson says. Further research is needed to confirm these findings, she adds, but, “in the meantime it would be reasonable for African Americans to talk with their health care providers about whether they may be candidates for taking fish oil supplements.”

In an editorial also published in the New England Journal of Medicine, authors Dr. John F. Keaney and Dr. Clifford J. Rosen, take issue with some of the analysis in the study and write that the positive findings about heart attack and African Americans and individuals who don’t eat much fish need to be interpreted with caution.

There were no serious side effects, such as bleeding, high blood calcium levels or gastrointestinal symptoms found with either supplement.

Manson and her colleagues plan to further analyze their data and look for possible links between vitamin D, fish oil and cognitive function, autoimmune disease, respiratory infections and depression. Earlier research suggests the supplements may have some benefit for these conditions.

In the meantime, NIH official Lawrence Fine says, don’t throw out your fish oil and vitamin D.

“At this point, if one is thinking about supplementation, either omega-3s or vitamin D, talking to your physician or healthcare provider is the next step,” Fine says.

Fine and Manson stressed that vitamin D and the omega-3 fatty acids found in fish oil are important nutrients, but the best way to get them is as part of a well-balanced diet. That includes eating fatty fish like sardines, tuna and salmon, and vitamin-D fortified cereals, milk, and orange juice.

Another study presented at the same meeting examined whether a substance derived from a component of fish oil, known as icosapent ethyl, might reduce adverse events among people who already have cardiovascular risk factors, such as hardening of the arteries, diabetes, or high blood fats known as triglycerides.

Overall, that study found there was a 25 percent risk reduction for patients taking the extract. These patients were less likely to die from heart disease, have a heart attack or stroke, be hospitalized for chest pain or need procedures such as angioplasty, stenting or bypass surgery, researchers reported.

“We are reporting a remarkable degree of risk reduction,” says Dr. Deepak Bhatt, who headed the study and is a cardiologist at Brigham and Women’s Hospital.

The study, which was also a randomized clinical trial, tracked participants for an average of five years. The volunteers took icosapent ethyl, which is sold under the brand name Vascepa and was developed by the Amarin Corporation, which funded Bhatt’s research.

The product is available by prescription only for patients with high triglycerides. But the company is expected to apply for FDA approval within the next year to expand treatment to include all high-risk cardiovascular patients.

Why Indiana Democrats are flailing and how they might find a road back

CLOSE

Democratic Sen. Joe Donnelly concedes to his Republican opponent Mike Braun on election night at the Hyatt Regency in Indianapolis, Nov. 6, 2018. Jenna Watson, jenna.watson@indystar.com

Ever since a young Democrat named Evan Bayh shocked the Indiana political establishment in 1988 by winning the governorship, the path forward for Democrats in this red state has been clear: unite moderates and progressives.

For the next 25 years, Bayh and other moderate Democrats walked a political tightrope to win gubernatorial and Senate races even as Republicans controlled most statewide offices, legislative and Congressional seats. 

Political pundits say their successes made Indiana appear a lighter color of red than it is. The problem Democrats face now is that road map has stopped leading to victory. 

John Gregg ran as a moderate but lost the governorship in 2012 and 2016. Bayh himself, who once seemed untouchable, lost a Senate race in 2016. And now Joe Donnelly has lost his Senate seat on a message of bipartisanship. 

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It has left Democrats looking for answers. Can they still win a statewide race in Indiana? Or is the state too deeply red as national politics drive us more toward hyper partisanship? What’s the path forward?

“I’ve always thought it must be easy to be a Republican in Indiana, like running down hill,” Bayh told IndyStar, “But the only way for us to be successful is to unite the progressives and the moderates, show you have a plan for economic growth, growing jobs and wages, that you are for a strong national defense, but that you are fiscally conservative and won’t waste tax dollars.”

He paused. “I keep going back to, what’s the alternative?”

In last week’s election where moderate Democrats made significant gains in the Midwestern sister states of Kansas, Illinois, Michigan and Wisconsin, Donnelly lost his seat in Indiana on his own message of moderation by about 8 percentage points. 

Elsewhere, successful Democrats won by reaching affluent suburban voters, especially women, who were concerned by the tone of President Donald Trump’s administration. The reality of the demographics in Indiana, though, is this is largely a rural state without as many urban, much less suburban, voters. 

And Trump is popular here. 

Donnelly ran on a platform of working with the president. But the state’s Republican voters came out in large margins for GOP businessman Mike Braun, for whom Trump campaigned hard. Also, Donnelly’s message against the “radical left” didn’t do much to energize the state’s few Democratic strongholds and drive the base to the polls. 

“Here is poor Joe Donnelly,” said Robert Dion, a political science professor at the University of Evansville, “who Republicans are rejecting because he’s a Democrat and some Democrats are rejecting because he’s being too friendly to the Republicans. In World War I, they would call that no man’s land.” 

No man’s land is not an enviable place to be as the 2020 presidential and gubernatorial election looms. So what’s next for Indiana’s Democrats?

The disintegration of a Democrat coalition 

In 1988, Bayh stitched together an unlikely coalition of voters in rural southern counties, urban areas like Indianapolis and the steel towns along Lake Michigan to win the governorship for Democrats for the first time in two decades. 

Republicans thought Bayh’s success was a fluke, the result of a charismatic young man with a positive message and a well-thought-of father. But then Frank O’Bannon followed the same path to victory and Democrats held onto the office for 16 years. Bayh went on to win a Senate seat in 1998 and again in 2004.  

“The only way for a Democrat to win here is to unite progressives and the vast majority of moderates, otherwise the math just doesn’t work,” Bayh said. “But back then people tended to vote more on the individual and split their ticket more.”

This decade, Bayh’s coalition has fallen apart. The southern Indiana voters — more conservative on social issues — were the first to slip away, aligning more with Republicans. 

Dion said southern counties were filled with hard-core conservative Democrats, voters who were anti-abortion and pro-gun rights, but also sided with labor. But as generations changed, manufacturing declined and Christian voters began aligning more strongly with Republican values, those votes have slipped away from Democrats. 

Fewer southern counties voted for Gregg in 2012 than had voted for Bayh and O’Bannon. By 2016, Republicans won nearly all of southern Indiana. 

This year, they did win it all. 

“It’s been a slow unfolding realignment of the parties,” Dion said, “and finally those conservative voters just jumped and said they’re voting for Republicans from here on out.” 

Gregg, the former Indiana House speaker and a Democrat from Sandborn in Knox County, thought he could appeal to his fellow southerners.

“I did find it interesting that counties that normally the Democrats won, even I had won a number of times, now are going in the upper 50s (percent) and even 60s (percent) for Republicans,” Gregg said. “But I’m not ready to give up on those voters yet.” 

The political landscape got worse for Democrats in 2016 when blue collar workers found inspiration in Trump. The president carried two of the three steel counties along Lake Michigan and lowered the Democrats’ margin of victory in the third one, Lake County.

That year, Democrats knew Hillary Clinton wouldn’t carry the state, but thought Gregg and Bayh could win close races. Instead, as voters in northwest and southern Indiana slipped away, they lost. 

Gregg thinks Democrats may appeal to suburban voters in time. Donnelly made progress in Republican-dominated Hamilton County, the most affluent in the state, with 44 percent of the vote, but substantially lost the other six Indy metro counties. 

“What had been a part of that Democratic base” Gregg said, “the blue collar worker, labor union worker and rural person, is switching to become a Republican quicker than some of the suburban voters have become Democrats.”

A tough loss for Donnelly, Democrats 

Donnelly’s resounding loss in nearly every corner of the state shocked Gregg. He doesn’t think any Senate candidate has campaigned as hard as Donnelly in decades. Donnelly, he said, made a point to come home frequently and hit every county. 

“I thought that would pay dividends,” Gregg said. 

When Donnelly won in 2012, he benefited from outside factors: he ran a campaign against a far-right candidate who took out a beloved Republican moderate in the primary, and who had a political gaffe in the final days before the election.

Poltical pundits say Donnelly may have swung too far to the right, praising Trumps’ border wall and criticizing the “radical left” in campaign ads. His campaign most likely thought the number of moderates Donnelly could win over would outweigh the number of left-wing Democrats he would lose.

Kip Tew, a former Indiana Democratic Party chairman who ran Obama’s 2008 Indiana campaign, said Donnelly did little to excite African Americans and those in the left wing of the party, a coalition that helped propel Democrats to victory elsewhere in the country.

“When he ran the ads he ran on (supporting) the wall and picking a fight with the liberal base, it had an effect,” Tew said. “And I was worried the whole time, that the effect would be our base didn’t come out.” 

Andy Downs, political scientist at Purdue University Fort Wayne, said Donnelly’s formula was wrong and the result was a lower-than-expected turnout from his base throughout Indiana. 

“Every election is winnable, but Democrats have to ask themselves if the model that was so successful for them in the ‘80s and ‘90s is still the right model today,” Downs said.

It wasn’t just Donnelly’s loss that proved the Democrats have a problem in Indiana: they didn’t come close to winning any of the seven U.S. House seats in Indiana the Republicans control, they haven’t been able to break the supermajorities in both chambers of the Statehouse, and they no longer hold any statewide elected offices. 

As the states prepare to redistrict following the 2020 census, Democrats only have one more election to gain enough seats to hold a majority in the Statehouse to avoid gerrymandering in the Republicans’ favor.

Democrats would have to win 18 seats in the House or 16 seats in the Senate in the next election in order to take over control of either chamber. Without an unexpected blue wave in Indiana in 2020, the odds don’t look good. 

Indiana GOP Chairman Kyle Hupfer said Hoosiers are voting for Republicans because they’ve built a trustworthy brand and showed sustained success at governing. 

“That brand is something that we take very seriously,” he said, “and I think it’s the cornerstone of our success right now. It’s why we believe it will be difficult in the future (for Democrats) so long as we continue to deliver results and keep Indiana on the right track.” 

A few hopeful signs in state legislature  

Tuesday wasn’t all bad news for Indiana Democrats.

They picked up three seats in the Indiana House and flipped their first seat in the Indiana Senate in about 30 years. 

Those are in areas where Democrats traditionally have been competitive though. The House seats are in West Lafayette and Northwest Indiana and the Senate seat includes a large chunk of Marion County and portions of Carmel. 

Progressives celebrated when J.D. Ford defeated conservative firebrand Mike Delph for an Indiana Senate seat. 

Ford’s win was a major success for the Indiana Young Democrats, a longtime organization that has recently rebooted, growing to 300 members in 21 counties. 

Spokeswoman Heather Katrina said the organization supported both Ford and another winning House candidate, Chris Chyung, who became the only Asian American in the state legislature in defeating Rep. Harold Slager in Lake County. 

Katrina also cited county-level candidates who won in typically conservative areas: Ilana Stonebraker on Tippecanoe County Council and Allyson Claybourn on the Newburgh Town Council near Evansville.

“For us, it’s really been about building that base from the ground up and focusing on supporting young candidates,” Katrina said. “We are focused on helping establish county chapters and helping them build out.” 

Democrats assess the losses 

The Indiana Democratic Party isn’t making major organizational changes, but they will look at the data and reevaluate where they are spending resources, state chairman John Zody said.

Zody’s term expires in two more years and he plans to keep his job despite the party’s recent struggles.

“As long as I feel like I can still make a difference and make some gains, (and) I continue to tell people what our positive message is, I’ll stay,” Zody said.

He said the party will keep talking about its core values: push back on cuts to early and public education funding, protect access to affordable healthcare, ensure Hoosiers are equally protected under the law and fight partisan gerrymandering.

Zody argued Democrats are on the right track and will continue to slowly make improvements. This year they had more first-time, millennial and female candidates than ever before. It’s imperative to continue building that bench, he said.

That’ll continue as the party switches focus to municipal races in 2019, an area they’ve continued to do well in, given the losses in other elections. 

“Democrats have won statewide here before. We will do it again. It just doesn’t happen overnight,” Zody said. “I’m not going to sugarcoat anything or make excuses, but I do believe elections are cyclical, the pendulum does swing.”

Looking to the suburbs for a way forward

Some Democrats think the future of the party is a progressive message for suburban voters. 

“We are more competitive in the suburbs than we have ever been,” Tew said, “and I think we have to find candidates that will appeal to college-educated women, because that’s where the future of the party is.”

Tew pointed to Democrats such as Evansville Rep. Ryan Hatfield and Gary Sen. Eddie Melton as potential younger candidates who could excite a base and have a bright future in Indiana politics.

South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg, a 36-year-old gay veteran who has built a national profile, is another candidate political scientists say could build up the Democratic party. However, he likely has his eyes on national office.

Buttigieg thinks the path forward will be different than the traditional Indiana Democratic strategy. He cited an AP poll that found the only age group that voted as a majority for Republicans Tuesday was 65 and older. 

He also pointed to Obama, who was able to unite voters in 2008 on a message of hope, which coupled with a recession gave a presidential Democratic candidate a historic win in Indiana. Still, he said, there’s lessons to be learned about how Democrats can reach more types of voters. 

Buttigieg suggested a laser-sharp focus on the issues, saying Democrats can make progress on criminal justice reform, health care and the economy while explaining their goals on taxes and regulations. 

“We have to find issues that cut across some of the typical lines,” he said. “I strongly believe we should contest every county in every part of the state.”

Former Lt. Gov. candidate Christina Hale, 44, whose name has been thrown around as a potential 2020 gubernatorial candidate, said Democrats need to modernize their campaigns and reach voters where they are consuming media, much like she said Trump has.

“We have to be poised to communicate with people in the ways that are convenient and comfortable to them and that’s changing every day,” she said. “And that pace of change is only going to accelerate so we better be ready.” 

She said Democrats also have to continue to build solid ground games in counties throughout Indiana. 

Democrats in Hamilton County, for instance, contested Republicans for multiple offices this year despite the GOP’s decades-long domination of county elections. Volunteers built a ground game by knocking on doors and Democrats think those votes could pay off in future state elections. 

“I think what happens is sometimes we forget to consider the mechanics of elections,” Hale said, “and we think about the policy and the branding and the messaging. Much of it comes down to active county organizations as the boots on the ground doing the things that need to get done to get people excited.” 

Hale said Democrats missed an opportunity to capitalize on the fight for equality after Republicans thrust Indiana in the national spotlight by passing the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which some believe will allow businesses to discriminate against gay and transgender customers. 

“We had one of the most passionate state campaigns to support equality for everyone after RFRA,” she said. “The world was looking at Indiana and what was happening in our statehouse and it was jam packed with activists, but they did not show up at the ballot box.” 

She thinks there’s opportunity to run on equality for LGBT Hoosiers, to update the state’s aging water infrastructure, to find solutions for the state’s relatively high infant mortality rate and maternal mortality rate. She said Indiana needs high speed rail to link major cities within the state to metro hubs on its borders, like Chicago. 

It’s been a long time since a candidate asked Hoosiers to look at the horizon and think of what the state could become, she said.

“We need to bring some ambition back to Indiana,” she said. “I think there is an opportunity to build a collaborative administration that is about getting things done, being a good steward of tax dollars and doing the right things for the right reasons.”

Call IndyStar reporter Chris Sikich at 317-444-6036. Follow him on Twitter: @ChrisSikich.

Call IndyStar reporter Kaitlin Lange at 317-432-9270. Follow her on Twitter: @kaitlin_lange.

Read or Share this story: https://www.indystar.com/story/news/politics/2018/11/11/indiana-democrats-flailing-after-midterm-election-results-and-how-they-might-start-winning/1929499002/

Age is just a number? 69-year-old Dutchman asks court to make him 49

UTRECHT, Netherlands —

Self-styled positivity guru Emile Ratelband thinks age is just a number. And his is a number the Dutchman wants changed.

The 69-year-old TV personality has asked a court in the Netherlands to approve his request for a new birthday that officially would make him 49.

Ratelband says his legal appeal is consistent with other forms of personal transformation that are gaining acceptance and government recognition in the Netherlands and around the world.

“With this freedom of choice, choice of name, freeness of gender, I want to have my own age. I want to control myself,” he said Thursday.

Ratelband says he wants to avoid age discrimination in society especially on dating websites.

“So when I ask for a mortgage, for example, they say it’s impossible,” he told The Associated Press. “If I go on Tinder, then I get women from 68, 69 when women are there.”

How about just being economical with the truth about his age?

“I don’t want to lie,” he said. “I want to be myself, so don’t force me to lie.”

Marjolein van den Brink, who specializes in human rights and gender issues at Utrecht University’s law school, said age discrimination is a problem but is different than the issues involved in reassigning gender.

“It’s quite clear that elderly people have a much smaller chance of getting a job than younger people,” she said. “But that’s just one element and it’s only something that happens to you once you reach the age of 40, 45, 50, depending a bit on your job.”

“Whereas gender is something that follows you from birth to grave, and it determines nearly everything and not just in the labor market but everywhere,” she said.

In rare cases, even race has also become more fluid.

In Britain, theater director Anthony Ekundayo Lennon has attracted attention in part because despite being the son of white Irish parents, he looks like a mixed-race man. He has also written and told journalists that he thinks of himself as black.

He says he was racially abused as a teenager because of his appearance, and when he started an acting career, he found it easier to pursue non-white parts. He also took an African middle name.

Now some black artists are complaining because Lennon was recently given a paid traineeship in a program designed to give more black people a chance for careers in the arts.

His case resembles in some ways that of Rachel Dolezal, a white woman in the United States who identified herself as black after she was raised by religious parents who had adopted four black children. She was working for the NAACP when her ruse was uncovered in 2015.

Ratelband, the Dutch TV personality, says the Dutch government could benefit if it were to accept his age demand. He said he’d be happy to forfeit his monthly pension of around 1,200 euros ($1,370) a concession he estimates would save nearly 300,000 euros ($343,000) over the 20 years he wants shaved off his age.

The court in the central city of Arnhem is expected to issue a ruling in about four weeks.

Ratelband, who makes a living urging people and businesses to be positive, denies that the age request is a publicity stunt. He claims he is seeking a personal positive effect.

“Now I’m an old man. I have to save my money to give to my kids so that they can live,” said the father of seven. “But If I have that age again, I have hope again. I’m new again. The whole future is there for me again.”

(Copyright ©2018 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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Vitamin D And Fish Oil Supplements Disappoint In Long-Awaited Study Results

Taking fish oil supplements to prevent cardiovascular disease and cancer may not be effective. Cathy Scola/Getty Images hide caption

toggle caption

Cathy Scola/Getty Images

Taking fish oil supplements to prevent cardiovascular disease and cancer may not be effective.

Cathy Scola/Getty Images

Many people routinely take nutritional supplements such as vitamin D and fish oil in the hopes of staving off major killers like cancer and heart disease.

But the evidence about the possible benefits of the supplements has been mixed.

Now, long-awaited government-funded research has produced some of the clearest evidence yet about the usefulness of taking the supplements. And the results — published in two papers — are disappointing.

“Both trials were negative,” says Dr. Lawrence Fine, chief of the clinical application and prevention branch of the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, a part of the National Institutes of Health, which funded the studies.

“Overall, they showed that neither fish oil nor vitamin D actually lowered the incidence of heart disease or cancer,” Fine says.

The results were presented at the American Heart Association Scientific Sessions in Chicago and released online Saturday by the New England Journal of Medicine. One paper focused on vitamin D supplementation and the other focused on fish oil.

The trials involved nearly 26,000 healthy adults age 50 and older with no history of cancer or heart disease who took part in the VITAL research project. Twenty percent of the participants were African-American.

Some of the participants took either 1 gram of fish oil — which contains omega-3 fatty acids — plus 2,000 international units of vitamin D daily. Others consumed the same dose of vitamin D plus a placebo, while others ingested the same dose of fish oil plus a placebo. The last group took two placebos. After more than five years, researchers were unable to find any overall benefit.

While the overall results were disappointing, there appeared to be a beneficial effect when it came to one aspect of heart disease and fish oil: heart attacks.

Taking fish oil lowered the risk of heart attack by about 28 percent, which is a “statistically significant” finding, says Dr. JoAnn Manson, who is chief of the division of preventive medicine at the Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston. She led the research.

Those who appeared to benefit the most were people who didn’t ordinarily eat much fish in their day-to-day diet, as well as African Americans, Manson says.

African-Americans in the study experienced a 77 percent lower risk of heart attack when compared to placebo, which is a “dramatic reduction,” Manson says. Further research is needed to confirm these findings, she adds, but, “in the meantime it would be reasonable for African Americans to talk with their health care providers about whether they may be candidates for taking fish oil supplements.”

In an editorial also published in the New England Journal of Medicine, authors Dr. John F. Keaney and Dr. Clifford J. Rosen, take issue with some of the analysis in the study and write that the positive findings about heart attack and African Americans and individuals who don’t eat much fish need to be interpreted with caution.

There were no serious side effects, such as bleeding, high blood calcium levels or gastrointestinal symptoms found with either supplement.

Manson and her colleagues plan to further analyze their data and look for possible links between vitamin D, fish oil and cognitive function, autoimmune disease, respiratory infections and depression. Earlier research suggests the supplements may have some benefit for these conditions.

In the meantime, NIH official Lawrence Fine says, don’t throw out your fish oil and vitamin D.

“At this point, if one is thinking about supplementation, either omega-3s or vitamin D, talking to your physician or healthcare provider is the next step,” Fine says.

Fine and Manson stressed that vitamin D and the omega-3 fatty acids found in fish oil are important nutrients, but the best way to get them is as part of a well-balanced diet. That includes eating fatty fish like sardines, tuna and salmon, and vitamin-D fortified cereals, milk, and orange juice.

Another study presented at the same meeting examined whether a substance derived from a component of fish oil, known as icosapent ethyl, might reduce adverse events among people who already have cardiovascular risk factors, such as hardening of the arteries, diabetes, or high blood fats known as triglycerides.

Overall, that study found there was a 25 percent risk reduction for patients taking the extract. These patients were less likely to die from heart disease, have a heart attack or stroke, be hospitalized for chest pain or need procedures such as angioplasty, stenting or bypass surgery, researchers reported.

“We are reporting a remarkable degree of risk reduction,” says Dr. Deepak Bhatt, who headed the study and is a cardiologist at Brigham and Women’s Hospital.

The study, which was also a randomized clinical trial, tracked participants for an average of five years. The volunteers took icosapent ethyl, which is sold under the brand name Vascepa and was developed by the Amarin Corporation, which funded Bhatt’s research.

The product is available by prescription only for patients with high triglycerides. But the company is expected to apply for FDA approval within the next year to expand treatment to include all high-risk cardiovascular patients.

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U of L suffers “major decline” in African American faculty

By Joseph Lyell —

At a recent U of L trustees’ committee meeting, the vice provost for diversity and international affairs described a “major decline of African-American faculty in 2018.”

Between 2013-17, 38 African-American faculty left the university. Mordean Taylor-Archer told the academic and student affairs committee 19 black faculty have left since Jan. 1 (University spokesperson John Karman later corrected Taylor-Archer’s figure to 17.). Of these, most resigned, and 12 were tenure-track.

Since 2013, the most African-American faculty the university had lost was 10 in 2014.

President Neeli Bendapudi said the administration is waiting for data from human resources and the office of institutional research to inform an action plan. These departments are tracking down the former faculty members to administer surveys about what triggered their departures.

“Sometimes it’s promotions, sometimes it’s dual-careers, so we don’t know. But you will see a report out on that in January,” Bendapudi said.

University spokesperson John Karman said the university conducts a faculty census every year on Nov. 1. Last year’s results showed 117 black faculty members were employed at the university (note: faculty who report more than one option for race/ethnicity are not included in this figure). At the end of September, 14.5 percent had left.

According to the preliminary data, the university employs 1,777 full-time faculty in total. This year, 134 faculty members have left the university, and 13 percent of those are black.

A 2017-18 study by the National Center for Educational Statistics found that the national average percentage of black faculty at post-secondary institutions is 6 percent.

As a result of the departures, U of L’s percentage of black faculty is now just under the national average.

For reference, according to the US Census Bureau, 8.4 percent of Kentuckians, and 22.9 percent of Louisville residents are black.

Department of Pan-African studies chair Ricky Jones said he has long warned administrators that the university was “bleeding” black faculty, but nothing was done.
“I think for awhile there was no acknowledgement at the university that there was actually a problem, so it got worse,” Jones said.

Jones said he was confident in Bendapudi’s stance as a newcomer to tackle the issue, but other administrators have known about it and failed to act until now.

“President Bendapudi, she’ll pay attention to it. But all the people downstream, have been here. Why have they done nothing?” he asked.

From conversations with exiting faculty, the office of diversity and international affairs anecdotally identified the following race-related reasons given for why some left:

Experienced racist or discriminitory behavior and nothing was done, and

Being viewed as not qualified or hired for affirmative action reasons.

Taylor-Archer said the issue of black faculty attrition will be addressed in part with the campus climate action plan. The plan recommends more accountability, a zero-tolerance policy for racist or discriminatory behavior and mandatory university-wide diversity and implicit bias training.

Last year’s campus climate survey results were published in January without an executive summary and no plans for third-party analysis. This data revealed much about faculty’s attitude towards the university’s workplace climate, but did not separate answers by race or ethnicity.

Taylor-Archer also said the university is also developing a leadership program for faculty of color to improve retention.

File Photo / The Louisville Cardinal

First African-American player drafted dies at 92

Wally Triplett, an NFL pioneer and Detroit Lions legend who was the first African-American player to be drafted and play in the league, passed away Thursday morning. He was 92.

“Wally is one of the true trailblazers in American sports history,” the Lions said in a statement. “He resides among the great men who helped reshape the game as they faced the challenges of segregation and discrimination.

“Wally’s legacy also reaches beyond breaking color barriers, having served in the United States Army during the Korean War. We fondly reflect on his great achievements and send our heartfelt condolences to the Triplett family.”

Triplett was a running back and return specialist for the Lions from 1949-50 after being selected by Detroit in the 19th round of the 1949 NFL Draft. His 80-yard TD run in his rookie season set the team record for the longest run from scrimmage. A year later, he tallied an NFL record 294 kickoff return yards, a mark that stood for 44 years and still ranks third all-time. His 73.5-yard average per return for the game is still a record.

His NFL career was interrupted two weeks later as he began service in the Korean War. He would play two more seasons afterward with the Chicago Cardinals from 1952-53.

Triplett was a three-year letterman at Penn State, where he was the first African-American to ever start for the Nittany Lions.

Dutchman, 69, seeks age change to 49

Age Change Netherlands Man

Self-styled Dutch positivity guru Emile Ratelband answers questions during an interview in Utrecht, Netherlands, Thursday, Nov. 8, 2018. For Ratelband age really is just a number. In a legal battle that is stretching the debate about just how far a person can go in changing his or her identity, the sixty-nine-year-old television personality has asked a Dutch court to officially change his biological date of birth to make him 49. (AP Photo/Peter Dejong)

UTRECHT, Netherlands — Self-styled positivity guru Emile Ratelband thinks age is just a number. And his is a number the Dutchman wants changed.

The 69-year-old TV personality has asked a court in the Netherlands to approve his request for a new birthday that officially would make him 49.

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Ratelband says his legal appeal is consistent with other forms of personal transformation that are gaining acceptance and government recognition in the Netherlands and around the world.

“With this free(dom) of choice, choice of name, freeness of gender, I want to have my own age. I want to control myself,” he said Thursday.

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Ratelband says he wants to avoid age discrimination in society — especially on dating websites.

“So when I ask for a mortgage, for example, they say it’s impossible,” he told The Associated Press. “If I go on Tinder, then I get women from 68, 69 when women are there.”

How about just being economical with the truth about his age?

“I don’t want to lie,” he said. “I want to be myself, so don’t force me to lie.”

Marjolein van den Brink, who specializes in human rights and gender issues at Utrecht University’s law school, said age discrimination is a problem but is different than the issues involved in reassigning gender.

“It’s quite clear that elderly people have a much smaller chance of getting a job than younger people,” she said. “But that’s just one element and it’s only something that happens to you once you reach the age of 40, 45, 50, depending a bit on your job.

“Whereas gender is something that follows you from birth to grave, and it determines nearly everything — and not just in the labor market but everywhere,” she said.

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In rare cases, even race has also become more fluid.

In Britain, theater director Anthony Ekundayo Lennon has attracted attention in part because despite being the son of white Irish parents, he looks like a mixed-race man. He has also written and told journalists that he thinks of himself as black.

He says he was racially abused as a teenager because of his appearance, and when he started an acting career, he found it easier to pursue non-white parts. He also took an African middle name.

Now some black artists are complaining because Lennon was recently given a paid traineeship in a program designed to give more black people a chance for careers in the arts.

His case resembles in some ways that of Rachel Dolezal, a white woman in the United States who identified herself as black after she was raised by religious parents who had adopted four black children. She was working for the NAACP when her ruse was uncovered in 2015.

Ratelband, the Dutch TV personality, says the Dutch government could benefit if it were to accept his age demand. He said he’d be happy to forfeit his monthly pension of around 1,200 euros ($1,370) — a concession he estimates would save nearly 300,000 euros ($343,000) over the 20 years he wants shaved off his age.

The court in the central city of Arnhem is expected to issue a ruling in about four weeks.

Ratelband, who makes a living urging people and businesses to be positive, denies that the age request is a publicity stunt. He claims he is seeking a personal positive effect.

“Now I’m an old man. I have to save my money to give to my kids so that they can live,” said the father of seven. “But If I have that age again, I have hope again. I’m new again. The whole future is there for me again.”  /muf

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Trailblazing African-American RB Wally Triplett dies at 92


Trailblazing African-American RB Wally Triplett dies at 92

DETROIT (AP) Wally Triplett, the trailblazing running back who was one of the first African-Americans drafted by an NFL team, has died. He was 92.



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The Detroit Lions and Penn State announced Triplett’s death Thursday. Triplett was the third African-American selected in the 1949 draft, but he was the first of those draftees to play in a regular-season game. He played in 24 games for the Lions and Chicago Cardinals.

Triplett was also the first African-American to start for Penn State, and in 1948, he and teammate Dennie Hoggard became the first African-Americans to play in the Cotton Bowl.

Triplett played in 18 games for the Lions from 1949-50. After serving two years during the Korean War, he returned to play for the Cardinals.

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World War I African-American veteran inspired grandson, now Army Reserve deputy chief, to serve

Maj. Gen. A.C. Roper, deputy chief of the Army Reserve, speaks with fellow Army Reserve Soldiers participating in the World War I Centennial Commemoration at the Meuse-Argonne American Cemetery located in Romagne-sous-Montfaucon, France, Sept. 23, 2018. The ceremony was held to honor the 14,246 U.S. service members buried there who gave their lives during the Muese-Argonne Offensive 100 years ago.
1 / 2 Show Caption + Hide Caption – Maj. Gen. A.C. Roper, deputy chief of the Army Reserve, speaks with fellow Army Reserve Soldiers participating in the World War I Centennial Commemoration at the Meuse-Argonne American Cemetery located in Romagne-sous-Montfaucon, France, Sept. 23, 2018. The ceremony was held to honor the 14,246 U.S. service members buried there who gave their lives during the Muese-Argonne Offensive 100 years ago. (Photo Credit: U.S. Army photo by Sgt. 1st Class Corey Beal) VIEW ORIGINAL
Cpl William Roper, who fought in the Meuse-Argonne Offensive of 1918 while assigned to Company F, 366th Infantry Regiment, 92nd Infantry Division, poses in his World War I uniform.
2 / 2 Show Caption + Hide Caption – Cpl William Roper, who fought in the Meuse-Argonne Offensive of 1918 while assigned to Company F, 366th Infantry Regiment, 92nd Infantry Division, poses in his World War I uniform. (Photo Credit: Courtesy of Maj. Gen. A.C. Roper) VIEW ORIGINAL

WASHINGTON — The impetus to serve in the military quite often comes through family connections and conversations.

Such was the case for Maj. Gen. A.C. Roper, who said he was deeply influenced to join the Army because of his grandfather’s service.

The story begins on Oct. 29, 1917, the day his grandfather, William Roper, was inducted into the Army at age 23.

America had entered World War I six months earlier, but of course the war wasn’t called that yet, the general said, showing a copy of his grandfather’s induction notice which read “to serve for the period of the emergency.”

Pvt. Roper was assigned to Company F, 366th Infantry Regiment, 92nd Infantry Division and eventually attained the rank of corporal.

It was a segregated unit, Roper said, meaning it was entirely composed of African-American Soldiers, including their commanders.

Roper doesn’t have many details about his grandfather’s service because he said his grandfather never spoke about it.

DOUBLE JEOPARDY

Roper, however was able to track down his grandfather’s honorable discharge, dated April 29, 1919. William’s discharge stated that he was gassed by the Germans Sept. 1, 1918 and a second time on Nov. 11, 1918, the day the war ended.

The general’s cousin, who is interested in their family’s history, discovered that Cpl. Roper had fought in the largest battle of the war for American forces at Meuse-Argonne, France.

The general, who today is deputy chief of the Army Reserve, visited the battlefield in September with a group of Soldiers.

Roper said they hiked the battlefield and saw the well-preserved trench lines and machine-gun emplacements and artifacts of the war, as well as a nearby cemetery where more than 14,000 American service members who fought and died are buried.

Thoughts of the battle and what it must have been like flooded his head during the visit, he said. “It was personally very moving reflecting on their movement to contact, knowing that thousands of American Soldiers never made it home.

“They were sent to fight for our freedom, knowing that their cause was much bigger than themselves and the outcome would affect generations to come,” he continued.

In particular, African-American Soldiers were fighting for freedom they themselves didn’t experience at home because of segregation, he said, particularly in Alabama, where his grandfather grew up.

“But they marched on anyway, knowing this experiment of democracy would eventually right itself, which it did,” he added.

After Roper was commissioned a second lieutenant in the Army, he met with his grandfather, who beamed with pride at his grandson’s continuation of family service.

Shortly after that, his grandfather died. “He was just a great man, a humble servant. He didn’t talk much about himself, but there was a bearing and a presence that he had.”

DOUBLE IRONY

It is ironic, Roper said, that his grandfather came under chemical attack twice on the fields of battle in France, and that Roper himself graduated from the Chemical Officer Basic and Advanced Course and became a chemical officer.

The other irony is that his grandfather served in the National Army, which was the forerunner to the Army Reserve, which Roper serves in today.

As a child growing up in Birmingham, Alabama, Roper said he always looked forward to visiting his grandfather’s farm in nearby Prattville, where his grandfather kept hunting hounds and had a fishing boat.

Soldiers in the Reserve usually have another career outside of the Army. Roper, who is now 55, recently retired as chief of police in Birmingham, where he worked on the force for 33 years.

Besides his grandfather having an influence on his joining the Army, Roper said the other big influencer was his uncle, a career Army veteran who served in the Korean and Vietnam wars in Special Forces.