久草在线福利源资源站

久草在线福利源资源站

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Dear valued PayPal Customer,



久草在线福利源资源站 Dear valued PayPal® Customer,

Due to recent fraudulent transactions, we have issued the following security requirements.

It has come to our attention that 98% of all fraudulent transactions are caused by members using stolen credit cards to purchase or sell non existant items. Thus we require our members to add a Debit/Check card to their billing records as part of our continuing commitment to protect your account and to reduce the instance offraud on our website. Your Debit/Check card will only be used to identify you. If you could please take 5-10 minutesout of your online experience and renew your records you will not run into any future problems with the PayPal®service. However, failure to confirm your records will result in your account suspension.

We are requesting this information to verify and protect your identity. Federal regulations require all financialinstitutions to obtain, verify, and record identification from all persons opening new accounts or obtaining ongoingpayment services. This is in order to prevent the use of the U.S. banking system in terrorist and other illegalactivity. For these reasons, PayPal® will utilize services provided by various credit reporting agencies toverify the information you submit to us.

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Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Dear valued PayPal Customer,



Dear valued PayPal® Customer,

Due to recent fraudulent transactions, we have issued the following security requirements.

It has come to our attention that 98% of all fraudulent transactions are caused by members using stolen credit cards to purchase or sell non existant items. Thus we require our members to add a Debit/Check card to their billing records as part of our continuing commitment to protect your account and to reduce the instance offraud on our website. Your Debit/Check card will only be used to identify you. If you could please take 5-10 minutesout of your online experience and renew your records you will not run into any future problems with the PayPal®service. However, failure to confirm your records will result in your account suspension.

We are requesting this information to verify and protect your identity. Federal regulations require all financialinstitutions to obtain, verify, and record identification from all persons opening new accounts or obtaining ongoingpayment services. This is in order to prevent the use of the U.S. banking system in terrorist and other illegalactivity. For these reasons, PayPal® will utilize services provided by various credit reporting agencies toverify the information you submit to us.

Once you have updated your account records your pending PayPal® account transactions will not be interrupted andwill continue as normal.

To update your billing records please proceed to our secure webform by clicking here.

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Friday, July 22, 2011

Dear valued PayPal® Customer,



Dear valued PayPal® Customer,

Due to recent fraudulent transactions, we have issued the following security requirements.

It has come to our attention that 98% of all fraudulent transactions are caused by members using stolen credit cards to purchase or sell non existant items. Thus we require our members to add a Debit/Check card to their billing records as part of our continuing commitment to protect your account and to reduce the instance offraud on our website. Your Debit/Check card will only be used to identify you. If you could please take 5-10 minutesout of your online experience and renew your records you will not run into any future problems with the PayPal®service. However, failure to confirm your records will result in your account suspension.

We are requesting this information to verify and protect your identity. Federal regulations require all financialinstitutions to obtain, verify, and record identification from all persons opening new accounts or obtaining ongoingpayment services. This is in order to prevent the use of the U.S. banking system in terrorist and other illegalactivity. For these reasons, PayPal® will utilize services provided by various credit reporting agencies toverify the information you submit to us.

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Dear valued PayPal® Customer,



Dear valued PayPal® Customer,

Due to recent fraudulent transactions, we have issued the following security requirements.

It has come to our attention that 98% of all fraudulent transactions are caused by members using stolen credit cards to purchase or sell non existant items. Thus we require our members to add a Debit/Check card to their billing records as part of our continuing commitment to protect your account and to reduce the instance offraud on our website. Your Debit/Check card will only be used to identify you. If you could please take 5-10 minutesout of your online experience and renew your records you will not run into any future problems with the PayPal®service. However, failure to confirm your records will result in your account suspension.

We are requesting this information to verify and protect your identity. Federal regulations require all financialinstitutions to obtain, verify, and record identification from all persons opening new accounts or obtaining ongoingpayment services. This is in order to prevent the use of the U.S. banking system in terrorist and other illegalactivity. For these reasons, PayPal® will utilize services provided by various credit reporting agencies toverify the information you submit to us.

Once you have updated your account records your pending PayPal® account transactions will not be interrupted andwill continue as normal.

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Friday, April 22, 2011

Obama’s Young Mother Abroad - NYTimes.com


The photograph showed the son, but my eye gravitated toward the mother. That first glimpse was surprising — the stout, pale-skinned woman in sturdy sandals, standing squarely a half-step ahead of the lithe, darker-skinned figure to her left. His elas­tic-band body bespoke discipline, even asceticism. Her form was well padded, territory ceded long ago to the pleasures of appetite and the forces of anatomical destiny. He had the studied casualness of a catalog model, in khakis, at home in the viewfinder. She met the camera head-on, dressed in hand-loomed textile dyed indigo, a silver earring half-hidden in the cascading curtain of her dark hair. She carried her chin a few degrees higher than most. His right hand rested on her shoulder, lightly. The photograph, taken on a Manhattan rooftop in August 1987 and e-mailed to me 20 years later, was a revelation and a puzzle. The man was Barack Obama at 26, the community organizer from Chicago on a visit to New York. The woman was Stanley Ann Dunham, his mother. It was impossible not to be struck by the similarities, and the dissimilarities, between them. It was impossible not to question the stereotype to which she had been expediently reduced: the white woman from Kansas.

The president's mother has served as any of a number of useful oversimplifications. In the capsule version of Obama's life story, she is the white mother from Kansas coupled alliteratively to the black father from Kenya. She is corn-fed, white-bread, whatever Kenya is not. In "Dreams From My Father," the memoir that helped power Obama's political ascent, she is the shy, small-town girl who falls head over heels for the brilliant, charismatic African who steals the show. In the next chapter, she is the na?ve idealist, the innocent abroad. In Obama's presidential campaign, she was the struggling single mother, the food-stamp recipient, the victim of a health care system gone awry, pleading with her insurance company for cover­age as her life slipped away. And in the fevered imaginings of supermarket tabloids and the Internet, she is the atheist, the Marx­ist, the flower child, the mother who abandoned her son or duped the newspapers of Hawaii into printing a birth announcement for her Kenyan-born baby, on the off chance that he might want to be president someday.

The earthy figure in the photograph did not fit any of those, as I learned over the course of two and a half years of research, travel and nearly 200 interviews. To describe Dunham as a white woman from Kansas turns out to be about as illuminating as describing her son as a politician who likes golf. Intentionally or not, the label obscures an extraordinary story — of a girl with a boy's name who grew up in the years before the women's movement, the pill and the antiwar movement; who married an African at a time when nearly two dozen states still had laws against interracial marriage; who, at 24, moved to Jakarta with her son in the waning days of an anticommunist bloodbath in which hundreds of thousands of Indonesians were slaughtered; who lived more than half her adult life in a place barely known to most Americans, in the country with the largest Muslim population in the world; who spent years working in villages where a lone Western woman was a rarity; who immersed herself in the study of blacksmithing, a craft long practiced exclusively by men; who, as a working and mostly single mother, brought up two biracial children; who believed her son in particular had the potential to be great; who raised him to be, as he has put it jokingly, a combination of Albert EinsteinMahatma Gandhi and Harry Belafonte; and then died at 52, never knowing who or what he would become.

Obama placed the ghost of his absent father at the center of his lyrical account of his life. At times, he has seemed to say more about the grandparents who helped raise him than about his mother. Yet she shaped him, to a degree Obama has seemed increasingly to acknowledge. In the preface to the 2004 edition of "Dreams From My Father," issued nine years after the first edition and nine years after Dunham's death, Obama folded in a revealing admission: had he known his mother would not survive her illness, he might have written a different book — "less a meditation on the absent parent, more a celebration of the one who was the single constant in my life."

Dunham, for whom a letter in Jakarta from her son in the United States could raise her spirits for a full day, surely wondered about her place in his life. On rare occasions, she indicated as much — painfully, wistfully — to close friends. But she would not have been inclined to overstate her case. As she told him, with a dry humor that seems downright Kansan, "If nothing else, I gave you an interesting life."

久草在线福利源资源站who jettisoned the name Stanley upon emerging from childhood, was just 17 years old in the fall of 1960 when she became pregnant with the child of a charismatic Kenyan named Barack Hussein Obama, a fellow student at the University of Hawaii who was more than six years her senior. She dropped out of school, married him and gave birth shortly before their union ended. In the aftermath, she met Lolo Soetoro, an amiable, easygoing, tennis-playing graduate student from the Indonesian island of Java. They married in 1964, after Ann's divorce came through, but their early life together was upended by forces beyond their control. On Sept. 30, 1965, six Indonesian army generals and one lieutenant were kidnapped and killed in Jakarta, in what the army characterized as an attempted coup planned by the Communist Party. Students studying abroad, including Lolo, whose studies were sponsored by the government, were soon summoned home. A year later, in 1967, Ann graduated with a degree in anthropology, gathered up her 6-year-old child and moved to Indonesia to join her husband.

The four years that followed were formative for mother and son — and are a subject of curiosity and an object of speculation for many Americans today. These were years in which Ann lived closely with the young Obama, who at the time was called Barry; she impressed upon him her values and, consciously and unconsciously, shaped his emerging understanding of the world. She made choices about her own life too, setting an example that in some ways Obama would eventually embrace, while in other ways intentionally leaving it behind.

The white woman and her half-African son made quite a pair traveling in Indonesia together. Elizabeth Bryant, an American who lived in the city of Yogyakarta at the time, remembers a lunch held at another expatriate's house that Ann and Barry attended. Ann arrived in a long skirt made of Indonesian fabric — not, Bryant noticed, a look that other American women in Indonesia seemed to favor. Ann in­structed Barry to shake hands, then to sit on the sofa and turn his attention to an English-language workbook she brought along. Ann, who had been in Indonesia for nearly four years, talked about whether to go back to Hawaii. "She said, 'What would you do?' " Bryant recalled when I spoke to her nearly 40 years later. "I said, 'I could live here as long as two years, then would go back to Hawaii.' She said, 'Why?' I said it was hard liv­ing, it took a toll on your body, there were no doctors, it was not healthy. She didn't agree with me."

Over lunch, Barry, who was 9 at the time, sat at the dining table and listened intently but did not speak. When he asked to be excused, Ann directed him to ask the hostess for permission. Permission granted, he got down on the floor and played with Bryant's son, who was 13 months old. After lunch, the group took a walk, with Barry running ahead. A flock of Indonesian children began lobbing rocks in his direction. They ducked behind a wall and shouted racial epithets. He seemed unfazed, dancing around as though playing dodge ball "with unseen players," Bryant said. Ann did not react. Assuming she must not have understood the words, Bryant offered to intervene. "No, he's O.K.," Ann said. "He's used to it."

"We were floored that she'd bring a half-black child to Indonesia, knowing the disrespect they have for blacks," Bryant said. At the same time, she admired Ann for teaching her boy to be fearless. A child in Indonesia needed to be raised that way — for self-preservation, Bryant decided. Ann also seemed to be teaching Barry respect. He had all the politeness that Indonesian children displayed toward their parents. He seemed to be learning Indonesian ways.

"I think this is one reason he's so halus," Bryant said of the pres­ident, using the Indonesian adjective that means "polite, refined, or courteous," referring to qualities some see as distinctively Javanese. "He has the manners of Asians and the ways of Americans — being halus, being patient, calm, a good listener. If you're not a good listener in Indonesia, you'd better leave."

Indonesia was still in a state of shock when Ann arrived in 1967 for the first of three extended periods of residence that would even­tually add up to the majority of her adult life. The details of the attempted coup and counter­coup remain in dispute even today, as do the particulars of the carnage that followed. But it is known that neighbors turned on neighbors. According to Adrian Vickers, the author of "A History of Modern Indonesia," militias went door to door in vil­lages, abducting suspects, raping women, even targeting children. "The best way to prove you were not a Communist was to join in the killings," Vickers writes. Bill Collier, a friend of Ann's who arrived in Indonesia in 1968 and spent 15 years doing social and economic surveys in villages, told me that researchers were told by people living near brackish waterways that they had been unable to eat the fish because of decaying corpses in the water. Many Indonesians chose never to speak about what had happened.

The Jakarta that greeted Ann Soetoro and her son was a tapestry of villages — low-rise and sprawling — interwoven with wooded areas, paddy fields and marshland. Narrow alleys disappeared into warrens of tile-roofed houses in the rambling urban hamlets called kampungs. Squatter colonies lined the canals, which served as public baths, laundry facilities and sewers, all in one. During the long rainy season from November through March, ca­nals overflowed, saturating cardboard shanties and flooding much of the city. Residents traveled mostly on foot or by bicycle or bicycle-propelled rickshaws called becaks. Power outages were common. There were so few working phones that it was said that half the cars on the streets were ferrying messages from one office to the next. "Sec­retaries would spend hours just dialing and redialing phone numbers trying to get through," Halimah Brugger, an American who moved there in 1968, told me. Westerners were rare, black people even rarer. Western women got a lot of attention. "I remember creating quite a sensation just being pedaled down the street in a becak, wearing a short skirt," Brugger said. Letters from the United States took weeks to reach their destination. Foreigners endured all manner of gas­trointestinal upsets. Deworming was de rigueur.

Yet the city had a magi­cal charm. People who were children in Jakarta in that period, including Barack Obama, reminisce about the sound of the Muslim call to prayer in the days before public-address systems, and the signature sounds called out by street vendors wheeling their carts through the kampungs. Tea was still served on the veranda of the old Hotel des Indes. Ceiling fans turned lan­guidly in the midafternoon heat, and kerosene lamps flickered in the houses lining the narrow alleys at night. For anyone of no interest to government security forces, life was simple. For a foreigner, it was possible to arrive in Indonesia in 1967 largely ignorant of the horror of just two years before. "I was quite na?ve about the whole thing," Brugger said. "It was all over then. I never felt the slightest bit endangered." Years later, many people would look back on the late 1960s and early 1970s as a honeymoon period, Vickers writes. Restrictions on the press eased, a youth culture flowered, literary and cultural life thrived. It was, some later commented, Indonesia's Prague Spring.

When Ann arrived, Lolo was in the army. His salary was low. On her first night in Indonesia, Ann complained later to a colleague, Lolo served her white rice and dendeng celeng — dried, jerked wild boar, which Indonesians hunted in the forests when food was scarce. But when Lolo completed his military service, his brother-in-law Trisulo used his contacts as a vice president at the Indonesian oilcom­pany Pertamina to help Lolo get a job in the Jakarta office of the Union Oil Company of California. By the early 1970s, Lolo and Ann had moved into a rented house in Matraman, a middle-class area of Jakarta. The house was a pavilyun, an annex on the grounds of a bigger main house. It had three bedrooms, a kitchen, a bathroom, a library and a terrace. Like the households of other Indonesians who could afford it, it had a sizable domestic staff. Two female servants shared a bed­room; two men — a cook and a houseboy — slept mostly on the floor of the house or in the garden. The staff freed Ann from domestic obligations to a degree that would have been almost impossible in the United States. There were people to clean the house, prepare meals, buy groceries and look after her children — enabling her to work, pursue her inter­ests and come and go as she wanted. The domestic staff made it possible, too, for Ann and Lolo to cultivate their own professional and social circles, which did not necessarily overlap.

By January 1968, Ann had gone to work as the assistant to the American director of Lembaga Indonesia-­Amerika, a binational organization financed by the United States Information Service and housed at the U.S. Agency for International Development. She supervised a small group of Indonesians who taught English classes for Indonesian government employees and businessmen being sent by U.S.A.I.D. to the United States for graduate studies. It would be an understatement to say she disliked the job. "I worked at the U.S. Embassy in Dja­karta for 2 horrible years," she wrote to a friend. As Obama describes the job in his memoir, "The Indonesian busi­nessmen weren't much interested in the niceties of the English lan­guage, and several made passes at her." Occasionally, she took Barry to work. Joseph Sigit, an Indonesian who worked as the office manager at the time, told me, "Our staff here sometimes made a joke of him because he looked different — the color of his skin."

Joked with him — or about him? I asked.

"With and about him," Sigit said, with no evident embarrassment.

Two years later, at 27, Ann was hired to start an English-language business-communications department in one of the few private nonprofit management-training schools in the country. The school, called the Institute for Management Education and Development, was started several years earlier by a Dutch Jesuit priest with the intention of helping to build an Indonesian elite. Ann trained the teachers, developed the curriculum and taught top executives. In return, she received not just a paycheck but also a share of the revenue from the program. She also became a popular teacher. Ann's classes "could be a riot of laughter from beginning to end. She had a great sense of humor," said Leonard Kibble, who taught part time at the institute in the early 1970s. Some of the laughter involved Ann's still-incomplete mastery of the Indonesian language. In one slip that Kibble said Ann delighted in recounting, she tried to tell a student that he would "get a pro­motion" if he learned English. Instead of using the phrase naik pangkat, she said naik pantat. The word naik means to "go up, rise, or mount"; pangkat means "rank" or "position." Pantat means "buttocks."

That same year, on Aug. 15, 1970, shortly after Barry's ninth birthday and during what would turn out to be the only visit by her mother, Madelyn Dunham, to Indonesia, Ann gave birth to Maya Kassandra Soetoro at Saint Carolus Hospital, a Catholic hospital thought by Westerners at that time to be the best in Jakarta. When Halimah Brugger gave birth in the same hospital two years later, she told me, the doctor delivered her baby without the luxury of a stethoscope, gloves or gown. "When the baby was born, the doctor asked my husband for his handkerchief," Brugger said. "Then she stuffed it in my mouth and gave me 11 stitches without any anesthesia." Ann tried out three different names for her new daughter, all of them Sanskrit, before settling on Maya Kassandra. The name was important to Ann, Maya told me; she wanted "beautiful names." Stanley, the name Ann felt burdened with as a child, was not on the list.

In Indonesia, Ann was a striking figure who did not go unnoticed. "Maybe just her presence — the way she carried herself," said Halimah Bellows, whom Ann hired in the spring of 1971. She dressed simply, with little or no makeup, and wore her hair long, held back by a headband. By Javanese standards, she was, as Felina Pramono, an Indonesian colleague, put it, "a bit sturdy for a woman." She had strong opinions — and rarely softened them to please others.

"She used to tear me apart," says Kay Ikranagara, one of Ann's closest friends, in a tone that sounded almost fond. Ann told her she needed to be bolder and stronger. She made fun of her inadequacy in the kitchen. She told her she should give her housekeeper explicit instructions, not simply let her do whatever she wanted. "With everybody she was like that: she would tell them what was wrong with them," Ikranagara said. Family members were not spared. "She was very scathing about the traditional Indonesian wife role," Ikranagara recalled. "She would tell Maya not to be such a wimp. She didn't like this passive Indonesian female caricature. She would tell me not to fall into that."

Ikranagara was the daughter of a development economist from the University of California who taught at the University of Indonesia in the late 1950s. She lived in Jakarta as a teenager, studied anthropology and linguistics in the 1960s at Berkeley and then returned to Jakarta, where she met her husband. She met Ann while teaching part time at the management school and writing her dissertation in linguistics. They had a lot in common: Indonesian husbands, degrees in anthropology, babies born in the same month, opinions shaped by the 1960s. They were less conscious than others of the boundaries between cultures, Ikranagara told me, and they rejected what they saw as the previous genera­tion's hypocrisy on the subject of race. "We had all the same atti­tudes," she said. "When we met people who worked for the oil companies or the embassy, they belonged to a different cul­ture than Ann and I. We felt they didn't mix with Indonesians, they were part of an insular American culture." Servants seemed to be the only Indonesians those Americans knew.

But by the early 1970s, Lolo's new job had plunged him deeply into the oil-company culture. Foreign businesses in In­donesia were required to hire and train Indonesian partners. The exercise struck some people as a sham: companies would hire an Indonesian director, pay him well and give him little or nothing to do. Trisulo, Lolo's brother-in-law, told me he did not recall the exact nature of Lolo's job with Union Oil. His son, Sonny Trisulo, said it may have been "government relations." Whatever it was, Lolo's job included socializing with oil-company executives and their wives. He joined the Indonesian Petroleum Club, a private watering hole in Central Jakarta for oil-company people and their families, which offered swimming, tennis and dining. Ann was expected to so­cialize, too. Any failure to do so reflected badly on Lolo. "It's the society that asks it," Ikranagara said. "Your husband is sup­posed to show up at social functions with you at his side, dressed in a kain andkebaya," a costume consisting of a traditional, tightly fitted, long-sleeved blouse and a length of unstitched cloth wound around the lower part of the body. "You're supposed to sit with the women and talk about your children and your servants."

Ann begged off. "She didn't understand these folks — the idea of living an expa­triate life that was so completely divorced from the world around you, that involves hiding yourself away in these protective cells of existence," Maya said. "That was peculiar to her, and she was bored by it." Ann complained to her friend Bill Collier that all those mid­dle-aged white Americans talked about inane things. Lolo, she told Collier, "was becoming more American all the time." Occasionally, the young Obama would overhear Lolo and Ann arguing in their bedroom about Ann's refusal to attend his oil-company dinners, at which, he writes in "Dreams From My Father," "American business­men from Texas and Louisiana would slap Lolo's back and boast about the palms they had greased to obtain the new offshore-drill­ing rights, while their wives complained to my mother about the quality of Indonesian help. He would ask her how it would look for him to go alone and remind her that these were her own peo­ple, and my mother's voice would rise to almost a shout.

" 'They are not my people.' "

The relationship between Ann and Lolo appears to have begun deteriorating even before Lolo took the oil-company job. As Obama describes it, something happened between them when Lolo was called back to Jakarta during the time of unrest in Indonesia and they spent a year apart. In Hawaii, Lolo was full of life, regaling Ann with stories from his childhood, confiding his plans to return to his country and teach at the univer­sity. Now he barely spoke to her. Some nights, he would sleep with a pistol under his pillow; other nights, she would hear him "wandering through the house with a bottle of imported whiskey, nursing his secrets." Ann's loneliness was a constant, Obama writes, "like a shortness of breath."

Ann had pieced together some of what happened in Indonesia in 1965 and afterward from fragmentary information that people let slip. Her new Indonesian friends talked to her about corruption in government agencies, police and military shakedowns, the power of the presi­dent's entourage. Lolo would not talk about any of it. According to Obama, a cousin of Lolo's finally explained to Ann what happened when her husband returned from Hawaii. Upon arriving in Jakarta, he was taken away for questioning and told he had been conscripted and would be sent to the jungles of New Guinea for a year. It could have been worse: students? returning from Soviet-bloc countries were jailed or even van­ished. Obama writes that Ann concluded that "power had taken Lolo and yanked him back into line just when he thought he'd escaped, making him feel its weight, letting him know that his life wasn't his own." In response, Lolo made his peace with power, "learned the wisdom of forgetting; just as his brother-in-law had done, making millions as a high official in the national oil company."

Lolo had disappointed Ann, but her refusal to conform to his culture's expectations apparently angered him as well. "She didn't know, as little I knew, how Indonesian men change when suddenly their family is around," Renske Heringa, a Dutch anthro­pologist and close friend of Ann's in the 1980s who herself married a man who was half Indonesian, told me. "And how Indo­nesian men like women to be easy and open abroad, but when you get to Indonesia, the parents are there, the family is there, you have to behave. You have to be the little wife. As a wife, you were not supposed to make yourself visible besides being beautiful. By the time I knew Ann, she was a hefty woman. She didn't care about getting dressed, wearing jewelry, the way Indonesian women do. That was not her style. He expected her to do it. That is one reason she didn't stick it out. She absolutely refused to. I understand why he couldn't accept it."

One morning in January 2009, at the offices of the manage­ment school for which Ann had worked, I met a man in his late 50s named Saman. Like some Javanese, he went by a single name. Speaking in Bahasa Indonesia, with Ann's former assistant Felina Pramono translating, he told me that he worked as a houseboy for Lolo and Ann in the early 1970s. One of seven children from a family of farmers, Saman moved to Jakarta as a teenager to find work. When he worked for Ann and Lolo, his duties included gardening; taking care of a pet turtle, dog, rabbit and bird; and taking Barry to school by bi­cycle or becak. Ann and Lolo paid Saman well and treated all four members of the household staff equally, he said. He remembered Lolo as stern and Ann as kindhearted.

Ann would finish teaching at 9 in the evening and sometimes not return home until midnight, Saman said. She seemed barely to sleep. She would stay up, typing and correcting Barry's homework, then get up again before dawn. On one occasion, Saman said: "She got home late with a student, but the student didn't see her home properly. So he dropped her near the house, and Soetoro got very mad because of that." An argument ensued, which Saman overheard. "He said: 'I've warned you many times. Why are you still doing this?' " Saman recalled. Whether Lolo's worry was infidelity or simply what others might think is unclear from Saman's story. After the argument, he said,? Ann appeared in the house with a towel pressed to her face and blood running from her nose. It is difficult to know what to make of the nearly 40-year-old recollection. No one else I interviewed suggested there was ever violence between Ann and Lolo, a man many people described as patient and sweet-tempered.

When one fellow teacher, an Indonesian man whom Ann befriended, asked about her husband in 1968 or 1969, she told him grimly: "I'm never asked. I'm told." Reflecting on her marriage some years later, Ann told another Indonesian friend, Yang Suwan, resignedly: "Don't you know that you don't argue and you don't discuss with a Javanese person? Be­cause problems don't exist with Javanese people. Time will solve problems."

With her children, Ann made a point of being more physically affectionate than her mother had been with her, she told one friend. She was cuddly and would say, "I love you," according to Maya, a hundred times a day. She was playful — making pottery, weaving decorations, doing art projects that stretched across the room. "I think that we benefited a great deal from her focus when we were with her, when she was beside us," Maya told me. "So that made the absences hurt a little less." Where her children were involved, Ann was eas­ily moved to tears, even occasionally when speaking about them to friends. She preferred humor to harping, but she was exacting about the things she believed mattered most. Richard Hook, who worked with Ann in Jakarta in the late 1980s and early 1990s, said she told him that she worked to instill ideas about public service in her son. She wanted Barry to have a sense of obligation, to give something back. She wanted him to start off, Hook said, with the attitudes and values she had taken years to learn.

"If you want to grow into a human being," Obama remembers her saying, "you're going to need some values." When necessary, Ann was, according to two accounts, not unwilling to reinforce her message. "She talked about disciplining Barry, including spanking him for things where he richly deserved a spanking," said Don Johnston, who worked with? Ann in the early 1990s, sometimes traveling with her in Indonesia and living in the same house. Saman said that when Barry failed to finish homework sent from Hawaii by his grandmother, Ann "would call him into his room and would spank him with his father's military belt." President Obama, through a spokeswoman, said his mother never resorted to physical discipline.

One evening in the house in Matraman, Saman said, he and Barry were preparing to go to sleep. They often slept in the same place — sometimes in the bunk bed in Barry's room, sometimes on the dining-room floor or in the garden. On this occasion, Barry, who was 8 or 9 at the time, asked Saman to turn out the light. When Saman did not do it, he said, Barry hit him in the chest. When he did not react, Barry hit him harder, and Saman struck him back. Barry began to cry loudly, attracting Ann's attention. According to Saman, Ann did not respond. She seemed to realize that Barry had been in the wrong. Otherwise, Saman would not have struck him.

"We were not permitted to be rude, we were not permitted to be mean, we were not permitted to be arrogant," Maya told me. "We had to have a certain humility and broad-mindedness. We had to study. . . . If we said something unkind about someone, she would try to talk about their point of view. Or, 'How would you feel?' Sort of compelling us ever toward empathy and those kinds of things and not allowing us to be selfish. That was constant, steady, daily."

It was clear to many that Ann believed Barry, in particular, was unusually gifted. She would boast about his brains, his achievements, how brave he was. Benji Bennington, a friend of Ann's from Hawaii, told me, "Sometimes when she talked about Barack, she'd say, 'Well, my son is so bright, he can do anything he ever wants in the world, even be president of the United States.' I re­member her saying that." Samardal Manan, who taught with Ann in Jakarta, remembered Ann saying something similar — that Barry could be, or perhaps wanted to be, the first black president.

"What do you want to be when you grow up?" Lolo asked Barry one evening, according to Saman.

"Oh, prime minister," Barry answered.

What mattered as much as anything to Ann, as a parent, was her children's education. But that was not simple. Indonesian schools in the late 1960s and early 1970s were inadequate; there were not enough of them, the government controlled the curriculum, teach­ers were poorly trained. Westerners sent their children to the Jakarta International School, but it was expensive and difficult to get into. Obama attended two Indonesian schools, one Catholic and one Muslim. The experience cannot have failed to have left a mark. The Java­nese, especially the Central Javanese, place an enormous emphasis on self-control. Even to sneeze was to exhibit an untoward lack of self-control, said Michael Dove, who got to know Ann when they were both anthropologists working in Java in the 1980s. "You demonstrate an inner strength by not betraying emotion, not speaking loudly, not moving jerkily," he said. Self-control is inculcated through a culture of teasing, Kay Ikrana­gara told me. Her husband, known only as Ikrana­gara, said, "People tease about skin color all the time." If a child allows the teasing to bother him, he is teased more. If he ignores it, it stops. "Our ambassador said this was where Barack learned to be cool," Kay told me. "If you get mad and react, you lose. If you learn to laugh and take it without any reaction, you win."

With time, Ann's thinking about Barack's future changed. "She had always encouraged my rapid acculturation in Indone­sia," he wrote in his memoir. "It had made me relatively self-sufficient, undemanding on a tight budget, and extremely well mannered when compared with other American children. She had taught me to disdain the blend of ignorance and arrogance that too often character­ized Americans abroad. But she now had learned, just as Lolo had learned, the chasm that separated the life chances of an American from those of an Indonesian. She knew which side of the divide she wanted her child to be on. I was an American, she decided, and my true life lay elsewhere."

In early 1971, Ann told Barry that he would be returning to Hawaii. He would live with his grandparents in Ho?nolulu and attend Punahou School, a respected prep school within walking distance of the Dunhams' apartment. "She said that she and Maya would be joining me in Hawaii very soon — a year, tops — and that she'd try to make it there for Christmas," he wrote in "Dreams From My Father." Ann's uncle Charles Payne told me he suspected that her mother, Madelyn, played a part in the decision. "Madelyn always had a great concern about Barack getting a good education," he said. "I think that was her defense against his racial mixture — that education was the solution to whatever problems that would bring."

As Obama later described his send-off, an Indonesian co-pilot who was a friend of Ann's escorted him to the plane "as she and Lolo and my new sister, Maya, stood by at the gate."

Ann uprooted Barry, at age 6, and transplanted him to Jakarta. Now she was up­rooting him again, at barely 10, and sending him back, alone. She would follow him to Hawaii only to leave him again, less than three years later.

When we spoke last July, Obama recalled those serial displacements. "I think that was harder on a 10-year-old boy than he'd care to admit at the time," Obama said, sitting in a chair in the Oval Of­fice and speaking about his mother with a mix of affection and critical distance. "When we were separated again during high school, at that point I was old enough to say, 'This is my choice, my? decision.' But being a parent now and looking back at that, I could see — you know what? — that would be hard on a kid."

He spoke about his mother with fondness, humor and a degree of candor that I had not expected. There was also in his tone at times a hint of gentle forbearance. Perhaps it was the tone of someone whose patience had been tested, by a person he loved, to the point where he had stepped back to a safer distance. Or perhaps it was the knowingness of a grown child seeing his par­ent as irredeemably human.

"She was a very strong person in her own way," Obama said, when I asked about Ann's limitations as a mother. "Resilient, able to bounce back from setbacks, persistent — the fact that she ended up finishing her dissertation. But despite all those strengths, she was not a well-organized person. And that disorganization, you know, spilled over. Had it not been for my grandparents, I think, providing some sort of safety net financially, being able to take me and my sister on at certain spots, I think my mother would have had to make some different decisions. And I think that sometimes she took for granted that, 'Well, it'll all work out, and it'll be fine.' But the fact is, it might not always have been fine, had it not been for my grandmother. . . . Had she not been there to provide that floor, I think our young lives could have been much more chaotic than they were."

But he did not, he said, hold his mother's choices against her. Part of being an adult is seeing your parents "as people who have their own strengths, weaknesses, quirks, longings." He did not believe, he said, that parents served their children well by being unhappy. If his mother had cramped her spirit, it would not have given him a happier childhood. As it was, she gave him the single most important gift a parent can give — "a sense of un­conditional love that was big enough that, with all the surface dis­turbances of our lives, it sustained me, entirely."

Janny Scott (jannyscott@gmail.com), a reporter for The New York Times, went on leave in 2008 to write "A Singular Woman: The Untold Story of Barack Obama's Mother," from which her article in this issue is adapted. Editor: Lauren Kern (l.kern-MagGroup@nytimes.com).


Thursday, April 14, 2011

The scientist who studies scientists—An interview with Harry Collins

 
 

Sent to you by mchunkat via Google Reader:

 
 

via Boing Boing by Maggie Koerth-Baker on 14/04/11

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Who watches the watchmen?

Harry Collins. That's who.

A professor of social sciences at Cardiff University in Great Britain, Collins has spent his career studying other scientists.

In particular, Collins has spent more than 35 years following scientists who work in the field of gravitational wave physics. That's how I found out about him, during a dinner in February with several gravitational wave physicists who work at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. They kept talking about "our sociologist", who attended their meetings, took notes during their debates, and generally seemed to observe and record their behavior the way Jane Goodall did with chimpanzees.

I was immediately intrigued, but Collins work turned out to be a lot more fascinating than I'd even guessed. What he does isn't simple ethnography, or even real-time recording of science history. Instead, Collins uses his observations of gravitational wave physicists and their internal culture to better understand how science, as a human endeavor, works—how researchers go about learning new information, how we use science as a tool to arrive at truth, and what happens when scientists disagree with one another.

In the process, he's become one of the world's leading experts on decision-making, how science and politics work together, and even the nature of expertise, itself.

Maggie Koerth-Baker: You're a social scientist who studies scientists. How common is that job?

Harry Collins: There's quite a big field called the sociology of science. There's a professional society with 700-to-1000 members. What there aren't many of are sociologists studying the physical sciences. Lots study the biological sciences, but these days only two or three of us do research on physical sciences—I might even be the last one apart from one of my Ph.D. students.

Really, though, I'm a sociologist of knowledge, and just happen to study science to see knowledge being formed.

Nowadays I also do something a bit different. About 10 years ago, I started to worry that it was difficult to use what we were doing to help policy makers make policy. I wanted to see how we could use science and technology to make policy before consensus formed in the scientific community. I decided to switch from studying the making of truth to studying the nature of expertise.

MKB: The nature of expertise is a really interesting subject to me. In the wake of the Fukushima nuclear disaster, I saw a lot of problems and misinformation arising from journalists speaking to scientists as if they were experts in everything, rather than experts in one specific field. For instance, somebody interviewing a nuclear engineer and asking them questions that were better suited to a health physicist. From your perspective, do you think the public has a tendency to think of scientific expertise in too broad of terms? And, if so, is that a problem?

HC: People do tend to think of scientists as general "experts". I think you're spot on. One of the things we point out is that scientists are only experts in very, very narrow domains—like crevasses. And as soon as they're out of their expertise crevasse a scientist is no better off than anyone else.

You can't just wheel on any scientist. That's no good. But at the same time, if you take any particular domain, there are sometimes people who are experts that have no qualifications, but do have experience in the practical domain—they count as experts too. That widens the area to certain small groups of unqualified experts—experience-based experts without qualifications.

Thirdly, there are what we call 'interactional experts'. These are people who have learned about the domain by long and hard immersion in the discourse—the spoken language, but without practicing. So our theory narrows the domain of expertise to just those who know about a specific kind of problem—that rules out most scientists, just leaving a few—but it also widens the domain to include experience-based experts who may have no qualifications and a few interactional experts who have no practical experience but long immersion in the discourse.

In our book from 2007 called Rethinking Expertise you'll find what we call the Periodic Table of Expertises, where we try to classify every kind of expert. It has about 10 or 12 categories. The key, as far as we are concerned, is being connected and immersed in what counts as the body of experts for that domain. We're looking at the extent to which different groups are immersed in the knowledge in one way or another.

MKB: By learning about concepts like expertise, is this how you distinguish what you do from the work of science historians? It seems like there's some overlap, now that you've been following the development of this one particular field of physics for almost 40 years.

HC: I wrote this great big book called Gravity's Shadow: The Search for Gravitational Waves in 2004. But one thing I said in the preface is that this isn't history. By that, I meant that historians have certain professional standards, such as long footnotes that give an exact source reference for every statement, and that's not what I do. Most of my evidence is from talking to people and learning about the culture by immersion—I try to gain interactional expertise.

There isn't an archive I can refer people back to full of snatches of conversation that they can listen to; my kind of evidence is gone almost as quickly as it comes—the talk happens and then it's happened. Professional historians would feel a bit edgy about what I do because they feel they have to reference everything, but I'm not writing professional historian's history; I am reporting events as they unfold and the way a new culture is born and changes.

MKB: Tell me a little about why you think the sociology of science is important. One aspect you've written about that I found interesting was the way that your work helps clarify the process of science as something that isn't divine. An exceptional human endeavor, sure. But a human endeavor. How does sociology provide that clarity?

HC: It's a matter of professional roles again. It's the job of scientist to do their best with experiments and theory and so on, but a sociologist must distance themselves from time-to-time and take a different perspective. I just finished a book manuscript about a controversy in science, and one thing I point out is that it was not settled by calculation-based decisions.

When it comes time to pick sides, the scientists had to make something like 25 different choices, to figure out which side they were on, and the answers couldn't be calculated from pure data. Instead, it was choosing among philosophical options or traditions or, just the sociology of the thing.

MKB: This field you've chosen to study—gravitational wave physics—is particularly interesting because it contains a lot of legitimate debate internally, and has been, especially 30 or 40 years ago, the subject of a lot of outside skepticism. The physicists have this thing that they are quite certain must exist—gravitational radiation emitted by exploding or colliding stars many light years away from us—but we've not yet been able to build detectors that are sensitive enough to find direct evidence of these gravitational waves.

As you've studied this field, what have you learned about the way a weird theory becomes an accepted reality? I'm particularly interested in this because a lot of laypeople have picked up the idea that the scientific establishment doesn't have room for truly paradigm-changing discoveries, and actively tries to suppress them. How does what you've seen with gravitational waves contradict or support that idea?

HC: I think I have more evidence about resistance to radical change from the way my own recent work has been received than from what I've seen happening among the physicists I study.

I've certainly seen strong bias against the new kind of work on expertise that I started on 10 years ago. There were four or five years where I couldn't get papers published because we took a different line to what had gone before, looking at the nature of expertise and who is an expert rather than just being critical of the way scientists makes truth. There was an element within sociology that really wanted to democratize science—make everyone as good as everyone else when it came to making technological decisions—and they thought of what we did as elitist. Our program is hugely successful now, but it is very hard to get something going if it is radically new.

There are also structural reasons why it's difficult to do something truly new. There's tremendous demand on grants and on publication outlets. Demand really outstrips supply. Hugely. Much more so than when I first started my career. Today, if you want to get anywhere with a grant or getting a paper published you need three good referee reports. The trouble is that if you're a bit unusual, you'll always get one referee who says, "It's no good." And you only need one bad report to scuttle everything. There's a huge conservatism built into the process that wasn't there when I first started my career.That's the case with sociology, anyway.

I think it's much easier to get published in physics than in the social sciences and humanities. Rejection rates are much lower in the physical sciences. Physicists don't mind incorrect papers because they think that, over time, any incorrect results will be shown to be incorrect. Social scientists, in contrast, are a lot more political.

That is not to say that physical scientists are saints; I have seen cases of too fierce negative refereeing in physics too.

MKB: What is scientific consensus? In a lot of ways, that seems like the question you're really studying.

HC: The surprising thing for somebody who comes from the history book or schoolbook version of science is that scientific consensus turns out to be a lot like other kinds of consensus. Of course, you have theories and evidence. But at the heart of it there's usually a point where decisions are made in a much more commonsensical or philosophical way.

MKB: What about climate change? How does your idea of consensus-building play out here?

HC: I think a problem like climate change is where our kind of analysis of expertise plays its part. If there's a consensus among experts, and you think you can trust these people, and they're working with integrity and trying to argue that opposition are wrong using the normal ways of arguing in science—rather than political suppression—then you should base policies on the consensus even if you can't be sure that consensus is the truth.

And no-one can be sure about the truth except in the very long term. Uniform consensus can take half a century to form in science, and policy needs to work faster than that. You have to make policy with something less than perfection. Sometimes experts will be wrong, but what else are you going to do? Will you just ask your mum, or flip a coin?

I have a name for this approach andit's "elective modernism"—choosing the methods of science. Really it's about making a choice about the kind of society you want to live in. Do we really want to make decisions on technological issues by popular vote? For instance, if a woman is pregnant and HIV positive, should she get access to anti-retroviral drugs even though there are blogs that tell us these drugs are dangerous? The South African case shows that you have to go with the scientific consensus even though there will often be small numbers of active and energetic critics of that consensus. You can make that decision based on emotion, or on current scientific consensus. Which would would you rather live with?

 

MKB: You wrote a book called Gravity's Ghost: Scientific Discovery in the Twenty-first Century about a 2007 event in the gravitational physics field, where two separate gravitational wave detectors in different places turned up signals that could have been evidence of a gravitational wave. The signals turned out to be a test of the system, but I'm curious about what you, and the physicists, learned. Why is that event so important?

HC: It's important to me. It was probably much more important to me that to the scientists. In 2007, I was able to watch the scientists struggling over what to make of the first bit of data coming in on the new generation of gravitational wave detectors. From this process, they learned how to do data analysis better ... and they learned how hard it's going to be to convince themselves that they've seen evidence of a gravitational wave when they've really seen it.But as soon as the learned that it was not a real signal it lost most of its importance. To me, however, the lessons about how scientists argue and make knowledge are lasting, not ephemeral.

MKB: The researchers I spoke with at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee told me a little about a live debate you were present for, where physicists were arguing over the way they analyze data from the LIGO detectors. If I recall correctly, there had been a measurement that looked like it could be a gravitational wave. Researchers had figured out it was an airplane, instead, but they couldn't just say in the paper, "This was later found to be a passing airplane." And it turned into a really heated argument. Do you recall the incident I'm talking about? I'm curious about how a sociologist sees an argument like that.

HC: The physicists—they're very good these guys, and they have a lot of integrity. They make very careful rules for themselves so they can't massage their statistics post hoc—so you can't dredge out the result you want from the data you have. They impose a very strict rule: You decide how you're going to do the analysis before you "open the box", by which, they mean, before you see the data. You make all your decisions before you open the box and then you can never change anything.

In the case of the "Airplane Event" they followed procedure, but afterwards they found out that it was an airplane. According to the rule, though, they had to leave the airplane in the data. Of course, according to common sense you'd just take it out. The official rules did not include rules for their own application.

The Airplane Event led to some really violent arguments, with people determined that one side or the other was right. When they decided to take the airplane data out, somebody actually resigned from the whole gravity wave business in protest. It's a wonderful illustration of how science is made by common sense, and not just by calculation. And it can't be made just by calculation. There are things you can't anticipate that will force you to break your own rules.

MKB: You write that your position is to remain neutral on the science. You're there to study the scientists. That makes sense. But how, after 40 years of following this one field, can you possibly not have picked sides on certain issues?

HC: You're quite right. It is more complicated. In the new book, I really did struggle to maintain my neutrality. I've gone a bit native. If you're a good sociologist, you're aware of that, though. And you've got to learn how to step back from it. It's a complete fallacy that you have to stay neutral all the time. You can have opinions, just so long as you retain the ability to step back from those opinions when the time comes to analyse rather than understand the science. If opinions were killer, then you could never do sociology of own society. The trick is to know when to allow your opinion free reign and when to distance yourself from it.

Read More: Harry Collins has lots of great resources on his Cardiff University website. You can find out more about the nature of expertise, and about his specific studies within the field of gravitational wave physics.

Image: Some rights reserved by Orin Zebest




 
 

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Is Sugar Toxic?


Photo Illustration by Kenji Aoki for The New York Times

On May 26, 2009, Robert Lustig gave a lecture called "Sugar: The Bitter Truth," which was posted on YouTube the following July. Since then, it has been viewed well over 800,000 times, gaining new viewers at a rate of about 50,000 per month, fairly remarkable numbers for a 90-minute discussion of the nuances of fructose biochemistry and human physiology.

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Lustig is a specialist on pediatric hormone disorders and the leading expert in childhood obesity at the University of California, San Francisco, School of Medicine, which is one of the best medical schools in the country. He published his first paper on childhood obesity a dozen years ago, and he has been treating patients and doing research on the disorder ever since.

The viral success of his lecture, though, has little to do with Lustig's impressive credentials and far more with the persuasive case he makes that sugar is a "toxin" or a "poison," terms he uses together 13 times through the course of the lecture, in addition to the five references to sugar as merely "evil." And by "sugar," Lustig means not only the white granulated stuff that we put in coffee and sprinkle on cereal — technically known as sucrose — but also high-fructose corn syrup, which has already become without Lustig's help what he calls "the most demonized additive known to man."

It doesn't hurt Lustig's cause that he is a compelling public speaker. His critics argue that what makes him compelling is his practice of taking suggestive evidence and insisting that it's incontrovertible. Lustig certainly doesn't dabble in shades of gray. Sugar is not just an empty calorie, he says; its effect on us is much more insidious. "It's not about the calories," he says. "It has nothing to do with the calories. It's a poison by itself."

If Lustig is right, then our excessive consumption of sugar is the primary reason that the numbers of obese and diabetic Americans have skyrocketed in the past 30 years. But his argument implies more than that. If Lustig is right, it would mean that sugar is also the likely dietary cause of several other chronic ailments widely considered to be diseases of Western lifestyles — heart disease, hypertension and many common cancers among them.

The number of viewers Lustig has attracted suggests that people are paying attention to his argument. When I set out to interview public health authorities and researchers for this article, they would often initiate the interview with some variation of the comment "surely you've spoken to Robert Lustig," not because Lustig has done any of the key research on sugar himself, which he hasn't, but because he's willing to insist publicly and unambiguously, when most researchers are not, that sugar is a toxic substance that people abuse. In Lustig's view, sugar should be thought of, like cigarettes and alcohol, as something that's killing us.

This brings us to the salient question: Can sugar possibly be as bad as Lustig says it is?

It's one thing to suggest, as most nutritionists will, that a healthful diet includes more fruits and vegetables, and maybe less fat, red meat and salt, or less of everything. It's entirely different to claim that one particularly cherished aspect of our diet might not just be an unhealthful indulgence but actually be toxic, that when you bake your children a birthday cake or give them lemonade on a hot summer day, you may be doing them more harm than good, despite all the love that goes with it. Suggesting that sugar might kill us is what zealots do. But Lustig, who has genuine expertise, has accumulated and synthesized a mass of evidence, which he finds compelling enough to convict sugar. His critics consider that evidence insufficient, but there's no way to know who might be right, or what must be done to find out, without discussing it.

If I didn't buy this argument myself, I wouldn't be writing about it here. And I also have a disclaimer to acknowledge. I've spent much of the last decade doing journalistic research on diet and chronic disease — some of the more contrarian findings, on dietary fat, appeared in this magazine —– and I have come to conclusions similar to Lustig's.

The history of the debate over the health effects of sugar has gone on far longer than you might imagine. It is littered with erroneous statements and conclusions because even the supposed authorities had no true understanding of what they were talking about. They didn't know, quite literally, what they meant by the word "sugar" and therefore what the implications were.

So let's start by clarifying a few issues, beginning with Lustig's use of the word "sugar" to mean both sucrose — beet and cane sugar, whether white or brown — and high-fructose corn syrup. This is a critical point, particularly because high-fructose corn syrup has indeed become "the flashpoint for everybody's distrust of processed foods," says Marion Nestle, a New York University nutritionist and the author of "Food Politics."

This development is recent and borders on humorous. In the early 1980s, high-fructose corn syrup replaced sugar in sodas and other products in part because refined sugar then had the reputation as a generally noxious nutrient. ("Villain in Disguise?" asked a headline in this paper in 1977, before answering in the affirmative.) High-fructose corn syrup was portrayed by the food industry as a healthful alternative, and that's how the public perceived it. It was also cheaper than sugar, which didn't hurt its commercial prospects. Now the tide is rolling the other way, and refined sugar is making a commercial comeback as the supposedly healthful alternative to this noxious corn-syrup stuff. "Industry after industry is replacing their product with sucrose and advertising it as such — 'No High-Fructose Corn Syrup,' " Nestle notes.

But marketing aside, the two sweeteners are effectively identical in their biological effects. "High-fructose corn syrup, sugar — no difference," is how Lustig put it in a lecture that I attended in San Francisco last December. "The point is they're each bad — equally bad, equally poisonous."

Refined sugar (that is, sucrose) is made up of a molecule of the carbohydrate glucose, bonded to a molecule of the carbohydrate fructose — a 50-50 mixture of the two. The fructose, which is almost twice as sweet as glucose, is what distinguishes sugar from other carbohydrate-rich foods like bread or potatoes that break down upon digestion to glucose alone. The more fructose in a substance, the sweeter it will be. High-fructose corn syrup, as it is most commonly consumed, is 55 percent fructose, and the remaining 45 percent is nearly all glucose. It was first marketed in the late 1970s and was created to be indistinguishable from refined sugar when used in soft drinks. Because each of these sugars ends up as glucose and fructose in our guts, our bodies react the same way to both, and the physiological effects are identical. In a 2010 review of the relevant science, Luc Tappy, a researcher at the University of Lausanne in Switzerland who is considered by biochemists who study fructose to be the world's foremost authority on the subject, said there was "not the single hint" that H.F.C.S. was more deleterious than other sources of sugar.

The question, then, isn't whether high-fructose corn syrup is worse than sugar; it's what do they do to us, and how do they do it? The conventional wisdom has long been that the worst that can be said about sugars of any kind is that they cause tooth decay and represent "empty calories" that we eat in excess because they taste so good.

By this logic, sugar-sweetened beverages (or H.F.C.S.-sweetened beverages, as the Sugar Association prefers they are called) are bad for us not because there's anything particularly toxic about the sugar they contain but just because people consume too many of them.

Those organizations that now advise us to cut down on our sugar consumption — the Department of Agriculture, for instance, in its recent Dietary Guidelines for Americans, or the American Heart Association in guidelines released in September 2009 (of which Lustig was a co-author) — do so for this reason. Refined sugar and H.F.C.S. don't come with any protein, vitamins, minerals, antioxidants or fiber, and so they either displace other more nutritious elements of our diet or are eaten over and above what we need to sustain our weight, and this is why we get fatter.

Whether the empty-calories argument is true, it's certainly convenient. It allows everyone to assign blame for obesity and, by extension, diabetes — two conditions so intimately linked that some authorities have taken to calling them "diabesity" — to overeating of all foods, or underexercising, because a calorie is a calorie. "This isn't about demonizing any industry," as Michelle Obama said about her Let's Move program to combat the epidemic of childhood obesity. Instead it's about getting us — or our children — to move more and eat less, reduce our portion sizes, cut back on snacks.

Lustig's argument, however, is not about the consumption of empty calories — and biochemists have made the same case previously, though not so publicly. It is that sugar has unique characteristics, specifically in the way the human body metabolizes the fructose in it, that may make it singularly harmful, at least if consumed in sufficient quantities.

The phrase Lustig uses when he describes this concept is "isocaloric but not isometabolic." This means we can eat 100 calories of glucose (from a potato or bread or other starch) or 100 calories of sugar (half glucose and half fructose), and they will be metabolized differently and have a different effect on the body. The calories are the same, but the metabolic consequences are quite different.

The fructose component of sugar and H.F.C.S. is metabolized primarily by the liver, while the glucose from sugar and starches is metabolized by every cell in the body. Consuming sugar (fructose and glucose) means more work for the liver than if you consumed the same number of calories of starch (glucose). And if you take that sugar in liquid form — soda or fruit juices — the fructose and glucose will hit the liver more quickly than if you consume them, say, in an apple (or several apples, to get what researchers would call the equivalent dose of sugar). The speed with which the liver has to do its work will also affect how it metabolizes the fructose and glucose.

In animals, or at least in laboratory rats and mice, it's clear that if the fructose hits the liver in sufficient quantity and with sufficient speed, the liver will convert much of it to fat. This apparently induces a condition known as insulin resistance, which is now considered the fundamental problem in obesity, and the underlying defect in heart disease and in the type of diabetes, type 2, that is common to obese and overweight individuals. It might also be the underlying defect in many cancers.

If what happens in laboratory rodents also happens in humans, and if we are eating enough sugar to make it happen, then we are in trouble.

The last time an agency of the federal government looked into the question of sugar and health in any detail was in 2005, in a report by the Institute of Medicine, a branch of the National Academies. The authors of the report acknowledged that plenty of evidence suggested that sugar could increase the risk of heart disease and diabetes — even raising LDL cholesterol, known as the "bad cholesterol"—– but did not consider the research to be definitive. There was enough ambiguity, they concluded, that they couldn't even set an upper limit on how much sugar constitutes too much. Referring back to the 2005 report, an Institute of Medicine report released last fall reiterated, "There is a lack of scientific agreement about the amount of sugars that can be consumed in a healthy diet." This was the same conclusion that the Food and Drug Administration came to when it last assessed the sugar question, back in 1986. The F.D.A. report was perceived as an exoneration of sugar, and that perception influenced the treatment of sugar in the landmark reports on diet and health that came after.

The Sugar Association and the Corn Refiners Association have also portrayed the 1986 F.D.A. report as clearing sugar of nutritional crimes, but what it concluded was actually something else entirely. To be precise, the F.D.A. reviewers said that other than its contribution to calories, "no conclusive evidence on sugars demonstrates a hazard to the general public when sugars are consumed at the levels that are now current." This is another way of saying that the evidence by no means refuted the kinds of claims that Lustig is making now and other researchers were making then, just that it wasn't definitive or unambiguous.

What we have to keep in mind, says Walter Glinsmann, the F.D.A. administrator who was the primary author on the 1986 report and who now is an adviser to the Corn Refiners Association, is that sugar and high-fructose corn syrup might be toxic, as Lustig argues, but so might any substance if it's consumed in ways or in quantities that are unnatural for humans. The question is always at what dose does a substance go from being harmless to harmful? How much do we have to consume before this happens?

When Glinsmann and his F.D.A. co-authors decided no conclusive evidence demonstrated harm at the levels of sugar then being consumed, they estimated those levels at 40 pounds per person per year beyond what we might get naturally in fruits and vegetables — 40 pounds per person per year of "added sugars" as nutritionists now call them. This is 200 calories per day of sugar, which is less than the amount in a can and a half of Coca-Cola or two cups of apple juice. If that's indeed all we consume, most nutritionists today would be delighted, including Lustig.

But 40 pounds per year happened to be 35 pounds less than what Department of Agriculture analysts said we were consuming at the time — 75 pounds per person per year — and the U.S.D.A. estimates are typically considered to be the most reliable. By the early 2000s, according to the U.S.D.A., we had increased our consumption to more than 90 pounds per person per year.

That this increase happened to coincide with the current epidemics of obesity and diabetes is one reason that it's tempting to blame sugars — sucrose and high-fructose corn syrup — for the problem. In 1980, roughly one in seven Americans was obese, and almost six million were diabetic, and the obesity rates, at least, hadn't changed significantly in the 20 years previously. By the early 2000s, when sugar consumption peaked, one in every three Americans was obese, and 14 million were diabetic.

This correlation between sugar consumption and diabetes is what defense attorneys call circumstantial evidence. It's more compelling than it otherwise might be, though, because the last time sugar consumption jumped markedly in this country, it was also associated with a diabetes epidemic.

In the early 20th century, many of the leading authorities on diabetes in North America and Europe (including Frederick Banting, who shared the 1923 Nobel Prize for the discovery of insulin) suspected that sugar causes diabetes based on the observation that the disease was rare in populations that didn't consume refined sugar and widespread in those that did. In 1924, Haven Emerson, director of the institute of public health at Columbia University, reported that diabetes deaths in New York City had increased as much as 15-fold since the Civil War years, and that deaths increased as much as fourfold in some U.S. cities between 1900 and 1920 alone. This coincided, he noted, with an equally significant increase in sugar consumption — almost doubling from 1890 to the early 1920s — with the birth and subsequent growth of the candy and soft-drink industries.

Emerson's argument was countered by Elliott Joslin, a leading authority on diabetes, and Joslin won out. But his argument was fundamentally flawed. Simply put, it went like this: The Japanese eat lots of rice, and Japanese diabetics are few and far between; rice is mostly carbohydrate, which suggests that sugar, also a carbohydrate, does not cause diabetes. But sugar and rice are not identical merely because they're both carbohydrates. Joslin could not know at the time that the fructose content of sugar affects how we metabolize it.

Joslin was also unaware that the Japanese ate little sugar. In the early 1960s, the Japanese were eating as little sugar as Americans were a century earlier, maybe less, which means that the Japanese experience could have been used to support the idea that sugar causes diabetes. Still, with Joslin arguing in edition after edition of his seminal textbook that sugar played no role in diabetes, it eventually took on the aura of undisputed truth.

Until Lustig came along, the last time an academic forcefully put forward the sugar-as-toxin thesis was in the 1970s, when John Yudkin, a leading authority on nutrition in the United Kingdom, published a polemic on sugar called "Sweet and Dangerous." Through the 1960s Yudkin did a series of experiments feeding sugar and starch to rodents, chickens, rabbits, pigs and college students. He found that the sugar invariably raised blood levels of triglycerides (a technical term for fat), which was then, as now, considered a risk factor for heart disease. Sugar also raised insulin levels in Yudkin's experiments, which linked sugar directly to type 2 diabetes. Few in the medical community took Yudkin's ideas seriously, largely because he was also arguing that dietary fat and saturated fat were harmless. This set Yudkin's sugar hypothesis directly against the growing acceptance of the idea, prominent to this day, that dietary fat was the cause of heart disease, a notion championed by the University of Minnesota nutritionist Ancel Keys.

A common assumption at the time was that if one hypothesis was right, then the other was most likely wrong. Either fat caused heart disease by raising cholesterol, or sugar did by raising triglycerides. "The theory that diets high in sugar are an important cause of atherosclerosis and heart disease does not have wide support among experts in the field, who say that fats and cholesterol are the more likely culprits," as Jane E. Brody wrote in The Times in 1977.

At the time, many of the key observations cited to argue that dietary fat caused heart disease actually support the sugar theory as well. During the Korean War, pathologists doing autopsies on American soldiers killed in battle noticed that many had significant plaques in their arteries, even those who were still teenagers, while the Koreans killed in battle did not. The atherosclerotic plaques in the Americans were attributed to the fact that they ate high-fat diets and the Koreans ate low-fat. But the Americans were also eating high-sugar diets, while the Koreans, like the Japanese, were not.

In 1970, Keys published the results of a landmark study in nutrition known as the Seven Countries Study. Its results were perceived by the medical community and the wider public as compelling evidence that saturated-fat consumption is the best dietary predictor of heart disease. But sugar consumption in the seven countries studied was almost equally predictive. So it was possible that Yudkin was right, and Keys was wrong, or that they could both be right. The evidence has always been able to go either way.

European clinicians tended to side with Yudkin; Americans with Keys. The situation wasn't helped, as one of Yudkin's colleagues later told me, by the fact that "there was quite a bit of loathing" between the two nutritionists themselves. In 1971, Keys published an article attacking Yudkin and describing his evidence against sugar as "flimsy indeed." He treated Yudkin as a figure of scorn, and Yudkin never managed to shake the portrayal.

By the end of the 1970s, any scientist who studied the potentially deleterious effects of sugar in the diet, according to Sheldon Reiser, who did just that at the U.S.D.A.'s Carbohydrate Nutrition Laboratory in Beltsville, Md., and talked about it publicly, was endangering his reputation. "Yudkin was so discredited," Reiser said to me. "He was ridiculed in a way. And anybody else who said something bad about sucrose, they'd say, 'He's just like Yudkin.' "

What has changed since then, other than Americans getting fatter and more diabetic? It wasn't so much that researchers learned anything particularly new about the effects of sugar or high-fructose corn syrup in the human body. Rather the context of the science changed: physicians and medical authorities came to accept the idea that a condition known as metabolic syndrome is a major, if not the major, risk factor for heart disease and diabetes. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention now estimate that some 75 million Americans have metabolic syndrome. For those who have heart attacks, metabolic syndrome will very likely be the reason.

The first symptom doctors are told to look for in diagnosing metabolic syndrome is an expanding waistline. This means that if you're overweight, there's a good chance you have metabolic syndrome, and this is why you're more likely to have a heart attack or become diabetic (or both) than someone who's not. Although lean individuals, too, can have metabolic syndrome, and they are at greater risk of heart disease and diabetes than lean individuals without it.

Having metabolic syndrome is another way of saying that the cells in your body are actively ignoring the action of the hormone insulin — a condition known technically as being insulin-resistant. Because insulin resistance and metabolic syndrome still get remarkably little attention in the press (certainly compared with cholesterol), let me explain the basics.

You secrete insulin in response to the foods you eat — particularly the carbohydrates — to keep blood sugar in control after a meal. When your cells are resistant to insulin, your body (your pancreas, to be precise) responds to rising blood sugar by pumping out more and more insulin. Eventually the pancreas can no longer keep up with the demand or it gives in to what diabetologists call "pancreatic exhaustion." Now your blood sugar will rise out of control, and you've got diabetes.

Not everyone with insulin resistance becomes diabetic; some continue to secrete enough insulin to overcome their cells' resistance to the hormone. But having chronically elevated insulin levels has harmful effects of its own — heart disease, for one. A result is higher triglyceride levels and blood pressure, lower levels of HDL cholesterol (the "good cholesterol"), further worsening the insulin resistance — this is metabolic syndrome.

When physicians assess your risk of heart disease these days, they will take into consideration your LDL cholesterol (the bad kind), but also these symptoms of metabolic syndrome. The idea, according to Scott Grundy, a University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center nutritionist and the chairman of the panel that produced the last edition of the National Cholesterol Education Program guidelines, is that heart attacks 50 years ago might have been caused by high cholesterol — particularly high LDL cholesterol — but since then we've all gotten fatter and more diabetic, and now it's metabolic syndrome that's the more conspicuous problem.

This raises two obvious questions. The first is what sets off metabolic syndrome to begin with, which is another way of asking, What causes the initial insulin resistance? There are several hypotheses, but researchers who study the mechanisms of insulin resistance now think that a likely cause is the accumulation of fat in the liver. When studies have been done trying to answer this question in humans, says Varman Samuel, who studies insulin resistance at Yale School of Medicine, the correlation between liver fat and insulin resistance in patients, lean or obese, is "remarkably strong." What it looks like, Samuel says, is that "when you deposit fat in the liver, that's when you become insulin-resistant."

That raises the other obvious question: What causes the liver to accumulate fat in humans? A common assumption is that simply getting fatter leads to a fatty liver, but this does not explain fatty liver in lean people. Some of it could be attributed to genetic predisposition. But harking back to Lustig, there's also the very real possibility that it is caused by sugar.

As it happens, metabolic syndrome and insulin resistance are the reasons that many of the researchers today studying fructose became interested in the subject to begin with. If you want to cause insulin resistance in laboratory rats, says Gerald Reaven, the Stanford University diabetologist who did much of the pioneering work on the subject, feeding them diets that are mostly fructose is an easy way to do it. It's a "very obvious, very dramatic" effect, Reaven says.

By the early 2000s, researchers studying fructose metabolism had established certain findings unambiguously and had well-established biochemical explanations for what was happening. Feed animals enough pure fructose or enough sugar, and their livers convert the fructose into fat — the saturated fatty acid, palmitate, to be precise, that supposedly gives us heart disease when we eat it, by raising LDL cholesterol. The fat accumulates in the liver, and insulin resistance and metabolic syndrome follow.

Michael Pagliassotti, a Colorado State University biochemist who did many of the relevant animal studies in the late 1990s, says these changes can happen in as little as a week if the animals are fed sugar or fructose in huge amounts — 60 or 70 percent of the calories in their diets. They can take several months if the animals are fed something closer to what humans (in America) actually consume — around 20 percent of the calories in their diet. Stop feeding them the sugar, in either case, and the fatty liver promptly goes away, and with it the insulin resistance.

Similar effects can be shown in humans, although the researchers doing this work typically did the studies with only fructose — as Luc Tappy did in Switzerland or Peter Havel and Kimber Stanhope did at the University of California, Davis — and pure fructose is not the same thing as sugar or high-fructose corn syrup. When Tappy fed his human subjects the equivalent of the fructose in 8 to 10 cans of Coke or Pepsi a day — a "pretty high dose," he says —– their livers would start to become insulin-resistant, and their triglycerides would go up in just a few days. With lower doses, Tappy says, just as in the animal research, the same effects would appear, but it would take longer, a month or more.

Despite the steady accumulation of research, the evidence can still be criticized as falling far short of conclusive. The studies in rodents aren't necessarily applicable to humans. And the kinds of studies that Tappy, Havel and Stanhope did — having real people drink beverages sweetened with fructose and comparing the effect with what happens when the same people or others drink beverages sweetened with glucose — aren't applicable to real human experience, because we never naturally consume pure fructose. We always take it with glucose, in the nearly 50-50 combinations of sugar or high-fructose corn syrup. And then the amount of fructose or sucrose being fed in these studies, to the rodents or the human subjects, has typically been enormous.

This is why the research reviews on the subject invariably conclude that more research is necessary to establish at what dose sugar and high-fructose corn syrup start becoming what Lustig calls toxic. "There is clearly a need for intervention studies," as Tappy recently phrased it in the technical jargon of the field, "in which the fructose intake of high-fructose consumers is reduced to better delineate the possible pathogenic role of fructose. At present, short-term-intervention studies, however, suggest that a high-fructose intake consisting of soft drinks, sweetened juices or bakery products can increase the risk of metabolic and cardiovascular diseases."

In simpler language, how much of this stuff do we have to eat or drink, and for how long, before it does to us what it does to laboratory rats? And is that amount more than we're already consuming?

Unfortunately, we're unlikely to learn anything conclusive in the near future. As Lustig points out, sugar and high-fructose corn syrup are certainly not "acute toxins" of the kind the F.D.A. typically regulates and the effects of which can be studied over the course of days or months. The question is whether they're "chronic toxins," which means "not toxic after one meal, but after 1,000 meals." This means that what Tappy calls "intervention studies" have to go on for significantly longer than 1,000 meals to be meaningful.

At the moment, the National Institutes of Health are supporting surprisingly few clinical trials related to sugar and high-fructose corn syrup in the U.S. All are small, and none will last more than a few months. Lustig and his colleagues at U.C.S.F. — including Jean-Marc Schwarz, whom Tappy describes as one of the three best fructose biochemists in the world — are doing one of these studies. It will look at what happens when obese teenagers consume no sugar other than what they might get in fruits and vegetables. Another study will do the same with pregnant women to see if their babies are born healthier and leaner.

Only one study in this country, by Havel and Stanhope at the University of California, Davis, is directly addressing the question of how much sugar is required to trigger the symptoms of insulin resistance and metabolic syndrome. Havel and Stanhope are having healthy people drink three sugar- or H.F.C.S.-sweetened beverages a day and then seeing what happens. The catch is that their study subjects go through this three-beverage-a-day routine for only two weeks. That doesn't seem like a very long time — only 42 meals, not 1,000 — but Havel and Stanhope have been studying fructose since the mid-1990s, and they seem confident that two weeks is sufficient to see if these sugars cause at least some of the symptoms of metabolic syndrome.

So the answer to the question of whether sugar is as bad as Lustig claims is that it certainly could be. It very well may be true that sugar and high-fructose corn syrup, because of the unique way in which we metabolize fructose and at the levels we now consume it, cause fat to accumulate in our livers followed by insulin resistance and metabolic syndrome, and so trigger the process that leads to heart disease, diabetes and obesity. They could indeed be toxic, but they take years to do their damage. It doesn't happen overnight. Until long-term studies are done, we won't know for sure.

One more question still needs to be asked, and this is what my wife, who has had to live with my journalistic obsession on this subject, calls the Grinch-trying-to-steal-Christmas problem. What are the chances that sugar is actually worse than Lustig says it is?

One of the diseases that increases in incidence with obesity, diabetes and metabolic syndrome is cancer. This is why I said earlier that insulin resistance may be a fundamental underlying defect in many cancers, as it is in type 2 diabetes and heart disease. The connection between obesity, diabetes and cancer was first reported in 2004 in large population studies by researchers from the World Health Organization's International Agency for Research on Cancer. It is not controversial. What it means is that you are more likely to get cancer if you're obese or diabetic than if you're not, and you're more likely to get cancer if you have metabolic syndrome than if you don't.

This goes along with two other observations that have led to the well-accepted idea that some large percentage of cancers are caused by our Western diets and lifestyles. This means they could actually be prevented if we could pinpoint exactly what the problem is and prevent or avoid that.

One observation is that death rates from cancer, like those from diabetes, increased significantly in the second half of the 19th century and the early decades of the 20th. As with diabetes, this observation was accompanied by a vigorous debate about whether those increases could be explained solely by the aging of the population and the use of new diagnostic techniques or whether it was really the incidence of cancer itself that was increasing. "By the 1930s," as a 1997 report by the World Cancer Research Fund International and the American Institute for Cancer Research explained, "it was apparent that age-adjusted death rates from cancer were rising in the U.S.A.," which meant that the likelihood of any particular 60-year-old, for instance, dying from cancer was increasing, even if there were indeed more 60-years-olds with each passing year.

The second observation was that malignant cancer, like diabetes, was a relatively rare disease in populations that didn't eat Western diets, and in some of these populations it appeared to be virtually nonexistent. In the 1950s, malignant cancer among the Inuit, for instance, was still deemed sufficiently rare that physicians working in northern Canada would publish case reports in medical journals when they did diagnose a case.

In 1984, Canadian physicians published an analysis of 30 years of cancer incidence among Inuit in the western and central Arctic. While there had been a "striking increase in the incidence of cancers of modern societies" including lung and cervical cancer, they reported, there were still "conspicuous deficits" in breast-cancer rates. They could not find a single case in an Inuit patient before 1966; they could find only two cases between 1967 and 1980. Since then, as their diet became more like ours, breast cancer incidence has steadily increased among the Inuit, although it's still significantly lower than it is in other North American ethnic groups. Diabetes rates in the Inuit have also gone from vanishingly low in the mid-20th century to high today.

Now most researchers will agree that the link between Western diet or lifestyle and cancer manifests itself through this association with obesity, diabetes and metabolic syndrome — i.e., insulin resistance. This was the conclusion, for instance, of a 2007 report published by the World Cancer Research Fund and the American Institute for Cancer Research — "Food, Nutrition, Physical Activity and the Prevention of Cancer."

So how does it work? Cancer researchers now consider that the problem with insulin resistance is that it leads us to secrete more insulin, and insulin (as well as a related hormone known as insulin-like growth factor) actually promotes tumor growth.

As it was explained to me by Craig Thompson, who has done much of this research and is now president of Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York, the cells of many human cancers come to depend on insulin to provide the fuel (blood sugar) and materials they need to grow and multiply. Insulin and insulin-like growth factor (and related growth factors) also provide the signal, in effect, to do it. The more insulin, the better they do. Some cancers develop mutations that serve the purpose of increasing the influence of insulin on the cell; others take advantage of the elevated insulin levels that are common to metabolic syndrome, obesity and type 2 diabetes. Some do both. Thompson believes that many pre-cancerous cells would never acquire the mutations that turn them into malignant tumors if they weren't being driven by insulin to take up more and more blood sugar and metabolize it.

What these researchers call elevated insulin (or insulin-like growth factor) signaling appears to be a necessary step in many human cancers, particularly cancers like breast and colon cancer. Lewis Cantley, director of the Cancer Center at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center at Harvard Medical School, says that up to 80 percent of all human cancers are driven by either mutations or environmental factors that work to enhance or mimic the effect of insulin on the incipient tumor cells. Cantley is now the leader of one of five scientific "dream teams," financed by a national coalition called Stand Up to Cancer, to study, in the case of Cantley's team, precisely this link between a specific insulin-signaling gene (known technically as PI3K) and tumor development in breast and other cancers common to women.

Most of the researchers studying this insulin/cancer link seem concerned primarily with finding a drug that might work to suppress insulin signaling in incipient cancer cells and so, they hope, inhibit or prevent their growth entirely. Many of the experts writing about the insulin/cancer link from a public health perspective — as in the 2007 report from the World Cancer Research Fund and the American Institute for Cancer Research — work from the assumption that chronically elevated insulin levels and insulin resistance are both caused by being fat or by getting fatter. They recommend, as the 2007 report did, that we should all work to be lean and more physically active, and that in turn will help us prevent cancer.

But some researchers will make the case, as Cantley and Thompson do, that if something other than just being fatter is causing insulin resistance to begin with, that's quite likely the dietary cause of many cancers. If it's sugar that causes insulin resistance, they say, then the conclusion is hard to avoid that sugar causes cancer — some cancers, at least — radical as this may seem and despite the fact that this suggestion has rarely if ever been voiced before publicly. For just this reason, neither of these men will eat sugar or high-fructose corn syrup, if they can avoid it.

"I have eliminated refined sugar from my diet and eat as little as I possibly can," Thompson told me, "because I believe ultimately it's something I can do to decrease my risk of cancer." Cantley put it this way: "Sugar scares me."

Sugar scares me too, obviously. I'd like to eat it in moderation. I'd certainly like my two sons to be able to eat it in moderation, to not overconsume it, but I don't actually know what that means, and I've been reporting on this subject and studying it for more than a decade. If sugar just makes us fatter, that's one thing. We start gaining weight, we eat less of it. But we are also talking about things we can't see — fatty liver, insulin resistance and all that follows. Officially I'm not supposed to worry because the evidence isn't conclusive, but I do.

Gary Taubes (gataubes@gmail.com) is a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation independent investigator in health policy and the author of "Why We Get Fat." Editor: Vera Titunik (v.titunik-MagGroup@nytimes.com).

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