Sunday, September 24, 2017

Walter Williams: The Welfare State's Legacy

Walter E. Williams is a professor of economics at George Mason University.  Here is his column.

WW is on target.
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That the problems of today’s black Americans are a result of a legacy of slavery, racial discrimination and poverty has achieved an axiomatic status, thought to be self-evident and beyond question. This is what academics and the civil rights establishment have taught. But as with so much of what’s claimed by leftists, there is little evidence to support it.

The No. 1 problem among blacks is the effects stemming from a very weak family structure. Children from fatherless homes are likelier to drop out of high school, die by suicide, have behavioral disorders, join gangs, commit crimes and end up in prison. They are also likelier to live in poverty-stricken households. But is the weak black family a legacy of slavery? In 1960, just 22 percent of black children were raised in single-parent families. Fifty years later, more than 70 percent of black children were raised in single-parent families. Here’s my question: Was the increase in single-parent black families after 1960 a legacy of slavery, or might it be a legacy of the welfare state ushered in by the War on Poverty?

According to the 1938 Encyclopaedia of the Social Sciences, that year 11 percent of black children were born to unwed mothers. Today about 75 percent of black children are born to unwed mothers. Is that supposed to be a delayed response to the legacy of slavery? The bottom line is that the black family was stronger the first 100 years after slavery than during what will be the second 100 years.

At one time, almost all black families were poor, regardless of whether one or both parents were present. Today roughly 30 percent of blacks are poor. However, two-parent black families are rarely poor. Only 8 percent of black married-couple families live in poverty. Among black families in which both the husband and wife work full time, the poverty rate is under 5 percent. Poverty in black families headed by single women is 37 percent. The undeniable truth is that neither slavery nor Jim Crow nor the harshest racism has decimated the black family the way the welfare state has.

The black family structure is not the only retrogression suffered by blacks in the age of racial enlightenment. In every census from 1890 to 1954, blacks were either just as active as or more so than whites in the labor market. During that earlier period, black teen unemployment was roughly equal to or less than white teen unemployment. As early as 1900, the duration of black unemployment was 15 percent shorter than that of whites; today it’s about 30 percent longer. Would anyone suggest that during earlier periods, there was less racial discrimination? What goes a long way toward an explanation of yesteryear and today are the various labor laws and regulations promoted by liberals and their union allies that cut off the bottom rungs of the economic ladder and encourage racial discrimination.

Labor unions have a long history of discrimination against blacks. Frederick Douglass wrote about this in his 1874 essay titled “The Folly, Tyranny, and Wickedness of Labor Unions,” and Booker T. Washington did so in his 1913 essay titled “The Negro and the Labor Unions.” To the detriment of their constituents, most of today’s black politicians give unquestioning support to labor laws pushed by unions and white liberal organizations.

Then there’s education. Many black 12th-graders deal with scientific problems at the level of whites in the sixth grade. They write and do math about as well as white seventh- and eighth-graders. All of this means that an employer hiring or a college admitting the typical black high school graduate is in effect hiring or admitting an eighth-grader. Thus, one should not be surprised by the outcomes.

The most damage done to black Americans is inflicted by those politicians, civil rights leaders and academics who assert that every problem confronting blacks is a result of a legacy of slavery and discrimination. That’s a vision that guarantees perpetuity for the problems.

Power from the sea

From the Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology.

So, where does the energy come from, ultimately?

Perhaps this idea is more reliable than wind power or solar, since ocean currents and waves may be more stable.
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Professor Tsumoru Shintake at the Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology Graduate University (OIST) yearns for a clean future, one that is affordable and powered by sustainable energy. Originally from the high-energy accelerator field, in 2012 he decided to seek new energy resources -- wind and solar were being explored in depth, but he moved toward the sea instead.

That year, Professor Shintake and the Quantum Wave Microscopy Unit at OIST began a project titled "Sea Horse," aiming to harness energy from the Kuroshio ocean current that flows from the eastern coast of Taiwan and around the southern parts of Japan. This project uses submerged turbines anchored to the sea floor through mooring cables that convert the kinetic energy of sustained natural currents in the Kuroshio into usable electricity, which is then delivered by cables to the land. The initial phase of the project was successful, and the Unit is now searching for industry partners to continue into the next phase. But the OIST researchers also desired an ocean energy source that was cheaper and easier to maintain.

This is where the vigor of the ocean's waves at the shoreline comes into play. "Particularly in Japan, if you go around the beach you'll find many tetrapods," Professor Shintake explains. Tetrapods are concrete structures shaped somewhat like pyramids that are often placed along a coastline to weaken the force of incoming waves and protect the shore from erosion. Similarly, wave breakers are walls built in front of beaches for the same purpose. "Surprisingly, 30% of the seashore in mainland Japan is covered with tetrapods and wave breakers." Replacing these with "intelligent" tetrapods and wave breakers, Shintake explains, with turbines attached to or near them, would both generate energy as well as help to protect the coasts.

"Using just 1% of the seashore of mainland Japan can [generate] about 10 gigawats [of energy], which is equivalent to 10 nuclear power plants," Professor Shintake explains. "That's huge."

In order to tackle this idea, the OIST researchers launched The Wave Energy Converter (WEC) project in 2013. It involves placing turbines at key locations near the shoreline, such as nearby tetrapods or among coral reefs, to generate energy. Each location allows the turbines to be exposed to ideal wave conditions that allow them not only to generate clean and renewable energy, but also to help protect the coasts from erosion while being affordable for those with limited funding and infrastructure.

The turbines themselves are built to withstand the forces thrust upon them during harsh wave conditions as well as extreme weather, such as a typhoon. The blade design and materials are inspired by dolphin fins -- they are flexible, and thus able to release stress rather than remain rigid and risk breakage. The supporting structure is also flexible, "like a flower," Professor Shintake explains. "The stem of a flower bends back against the wind," and so, too, do the turbines bend along their anchoring axes. They are also built to be safe for surrounding marine life -- the blades rotate at a carefully calculated speed that allows creatures caught among them to escape.

Now, Professor Shintake and the Unit researchers have completed the first steps of this project and are preparing to install the turbines -- half-scale models, with 0.35-meter diameter turbines -- for their first commercial experiment. The project includes installing two WEC turbines that will power LEDs for a demonstration.

"I'm imagining the planet two hundred years later," Professor Shintake says. "I hope these [turbines] will be working hard quietly, and nicely, on each beach on which they have been installed."

Unique gene therapy prevents, reverses multiple sclerosis in animal model

A University of Florida item.
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Multiple sclerosis can be inhibited or reversed using a novel gene therapy technique that stops the disease's immune response in mouse models, University of Florida Health researchers have found.

By combining a brain-protein gene and an existing medication, the researchers were able to prevent the mouse version of multiple sclerosis. Likewise, the treatments produced near-complete remission in the animal models. The findings, which researchers said have significant potential for treating multiple sclerosis and other autoimmune disorders, are published in the journal Molecular Therapy.
Multiple sclerosis affects about 2.3 million people worldwide and is the most common neurological disease in young adults. The incurable disorder starts when the immune system attacks the myelin sheath surrounding nerve fibers, making them misfire and leading to problems with muscle weakness, vision, speech and muscle coordination.

The researchers used a harmless virus, known as an adeno-associated virus, to deliver a gene responsible for a brain protein into the livers of the mouse models. The virus sparked production of so-called regulatory T cells, which suppress the immune system attack that defines multiple sclerosis. The gene was targeted to the liver because it has the ability to induce immune tolerance.

"Using a clinically tested gene therapy platform, we are able to induce very specific regulatory cells that target the self-reactive cells that are responsible for causing multiple sclerosis," said Brad E. Hoffman, Ph.D., an assistant professor in the departments of pediatrics and neuroscience at the University of Florida College of Medicine.

The protein, myelin oligodendrocyte glycoprotein, was found to be effective in preventing and reversing muscular dystrophy on its own. A group of five mouse models that received the gene therapy did not develop experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis, which is the mouse equivalent of multiple sclerosis in humans. In another experiment, all but one mouse model showed a significant reversal of the disease eight days after a single gene therapy treatment.

Hoffman said he was also encouraged by the treatment's longevity. After seven months, the mouse models that were treated with gene therapy showed no signs of disease, compared with a group of untreated mouse models that had neurological problems after 14 days.

When the protein was combined with rapamycin -- a drug used to coat heart stents and prevent organ transplant rejection -- its effectiveness was further improved, the researchers found. The drug was chosen because it allows helpful regulatory T-cells to proliferate while blocking undesirable effector T-cells, Hoffman said.

Among the mouse models that were given rapamycin and the gene therapy, 71 percent and 80 percent went into near-complete remission after having hind-limb paralysis. That, Hoffman said, shows the combination can be especially effective at stopping rapidly progressing paralysis.

While researchers have established how gene therapy stimulates regulatory T cells in the liver, Hoffman said little else is known about the detailed mechanics of how that process works.

Before the therapy can be tested in humans during a clinical trial, further research involving other preclinical models will be needed, Hoffman said. Researchers also need to target the full suite of proteins that are implicated in multiple sclerosis, he added.

Still, Hoffman said he is extremely optimistic that the gene therapy can be effective in humans. "If we can provide long-term remission for people and a long-term quality of life, that is a very promising outcome," he said.

Saturday, September 23, 2017

Matt Ridley on Climate Policies

Here is a post by Matt Ridley on his blog.  It provides worthwhile information and perspective - not that you will hear about them from the media and climate alarmists.
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Here is a simple fact about the world today:

• climate change is doing more good than harm.

Here is another fact:

• climate change policy is doing more harm than good.

These are both well-established facts, supported by a great deal of data, as I will demonstrate. Do these facts surprise you? It’s certainly not the impression most politicians, scientists or journalists give. Yet the well-informed ones would not deny it if pressed. They would merely insist, instead, that this position will reverse later in the 21st century and that by then climate change, unchecked, will be doing more harm than climate policy. The eventual ends will begin to justify the painful means.

They may be right; we will see. But, today, we are deliberately causing suffering in partly futile efforts to stop something that is currently doing more good than harm, mostly to poor people.

And that should give us pause, at the very least. Is it right to ask today’s poorest people – on whom the pain of climate policies fall most heavily – to make sacrifices for the sake of tomorrow’s probably much richer people? Yet even to ask this question is to run a gauntlet of abuse from people, mostly paid by taxpayers, who accuse you of moral failings.

On no other topic that I write about do I get such vitriol and bitter criticism of my morality. When I made the argument on television once that climate change policy was hurting the poor, a prominent and wealthy left-wing commentator replied, ‘But what about my grandchildren?’ I am genuinely baffled as to why is it considered virtuous to cause pain to poor people today, and reward rich people, for the sake of the rich people’s perhaps-even-richer grandchildren.

Eugenicists and population control advocates, incidentally, have made the same argument; we must harden our hearts and do painful things today for the sake of posterity.

During the great Irish famine, Charles Trevelyan, the Assistant Secretary to the Treasury in London, who had been a pupil of Malthus, called starvation an ‘effective mechanism for reducing surplus population’, adding: ‘Supreme Wisdom has educed permanent good out of transient evil.’

In 1912 Leonard Darwin, son of Charles, argued, ‘if wide-spread eugenic reforms are not adopted during the next hundred years or so, our Western Civilization is inevitably destined to such a slow and gradual decay as that which has been experienced in the past by every great ancient civilization’.

The ecologist Paul Ehrlich is an unabashed advocate of coercion to achieve population control, having said that to achieve it ‘the operation will demand many apparently brutal and heartless decisions. The pain may be intense.’ He called this ‘coercion in a good cause’.

California’s forced sterilisation programs in the 1920s, Germany’s mass murders in the 1940s, India’s semi-compulsory sterilisations in the 1960s, and China’s one-child policy in the 1980s all justified huge suffering on the grounds that they would benefit future generations. Yet the demographic transition showed that the best way to reduce population growth is to be kind, not cruel; once babies survive, people plan smaller families.

My argument is not to be confused with the claim that climate change is not happening. Of course it is. Nor with the claim that it is all natural; I think it is highly likely that the increase in concentration of carbon dioxide (CO2) over the past half century from an average of about 0.03% to an average of 0.04% of the atmosphere, small though it is, has had a warming effect. I am a card-carrying member of the overwhelming consensus that climate change is real and partly man-made. I also concede that climate change probably does already cause some harm in some places. The point is rather that the harm is currently smaller than the good it is doing, through longer growing seasons, milder winters, slightly higher rainfall, and faster growth rates of crops and forests because of CO2 fertilisation. And that net good stands in stark contrast to the net harm caused by climate change policy.

The biggest way in which CO2 emissions do good is through global greening. Ranga Myneni and colleagues (Zaichun et al. 2016) recently published evidence derived from satellite data showing that 25 to 50% of the vegetated parts of the planet has grown greener and just 4% browner, and that 70% of the greening can be attributed to an increased level of CO2. The overall increase in green vegetation, which has occurred in all kinds of habitats – from the tropics to the Arctic, from deserts to farmland – is now estimated to be 14% during the last 30 years. This startling fact is confirmed by multiple other lines of evidence: tree growth rates; free-air concentration experiments in which the CO2 level is enhanced over crops and natural habitats; increases in the amplitude of the CO2 changes in the Northern Hemisphere each year; and so on.

Dr Zaichun Zhu from Peking University, the lead author of the Myneni paper (2016), described these results as follows: ‘The greening over the past 33 years reported in this study is equivalent to adding a green continent about two times the size of mainland USA (18 million km2), and has the ability to fundamentally change the cycling of water and carbon in the climate system.’

Now just imagine if Zhu and Myneni had discovered the opposite: a 14% reduction in overall plant productivity over 30 years with browning in 37% of pixels and greening in only 4%. Most politicians, scientists, and journalists would have been screaming about it from the rooftops as an example of the harm caused by climate change. Behold the inherent bias towards suppressing good news that has plagued all debates about the environment for the past half century, and which has systematically misled the public. As I have consistently argued for years, the failure of doomsday predictions again and again is highly relevant data in this debate. But it is routinely ignored.

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Hurricane Irma at our apartment

We stayed in our apartment during Hurricane Irma.

We enjoyed the show.  We were in a concrete building with impact resistant windows and shutters, except that one small impact resistant window was unshuttered.

The worst part was the lack of A/C after the hurricane.  It took over a week to get electricity back.

Here are a couple of videos.  Keep in mind that all the water you see, except for the obvious channel with pylons, is normally dry land.  For example, the "lake" behind the boat is normally land and the first view is down our street.


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Wednesday, August 30, 2017

The Public Safety Pretext: Liberal Leaders and Writers Seek To Protect The Public From Free Speech

Here is a column by Jonathan Turley, Shapiro Professor of Public Interest Law at George Washington University.

JT is on target.
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Many in the United States appear to be losing faith (and patience) with free speech. Various Democratic leaders and commentators have called for limits on free speech to target “alt-right” groups, from declaring them terrorists to denying them the right to demonstrate in public. This week, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) offered a mixed metaphor as a substitute for our bright line rule protecting speech.

Pelosi demanded that the National Park Service deny a permit for the conservative “Patriot Prayer” event in San Francisco. In an interview, she said, “The Constitution does not say that a person can yell ‘wolf’ in a crowded theater. If you are endangering people, then you don’t have a constitutional right to do that.” In point of fact, there is nothing unlawful about yelling “wolf” in a crowded theater. Wolf attacks in movie theaters are not particularly common and unlikely to cause panic. Most urban audiences would assume it was a misplaced reference to a Kevin Costner film.

Pelosi appeared to confuse the quote of Oliver Wendell Holmes in the Supreme Court decision in Schenck v. United States, which said, “The most stringent protection of free speech would not protect a man in falsely shouting fire in a theatre and causing a panic.” Pelosi also appears unaware that Schenck, which is viewed as one of the court’s most troubling rulings, was effectively overturned in 1969 in Brandenburg v. Ohio.

Ironically, Schenck is a case that should deeply offend most people. Charles Schenck and Elizabeth Baer were convicted under the Espionage Act of 1917 for simply opposing conscription. The two socialists called on their fellow citizens not to “submit to intimidation” and to “assert your rights.” They argued, “If you do not assert and support your rights, you are helping to deny or disparage rights which it is the solemn duty of all citizens and residents of the United States to retain,” and described military “involuntary servitude.”

Today we view such statements as core protected speech, but Holmes said that opposing a draft was like “falsely shouting fire in a theatre and causing a panic” and creating a “clear and present danger that they will bring about the substantive evils that Congress has a right to prevent.” Consider that for a second. Merely opposing a war and conscription was deemed to be causing a “panic” and a “substantive evil” that the government must prevent.

Pelosi’s garbled use of Schenck is telling. It is not those speaking but those who want to silence speech that are a “clear and present danger” to our system. Just as the Wilson administration was furious with those who opposed the war, Pelosi is furious with those who oppose her values. By simply declaring their speech as inciteful, Pelosi wants the government to stop them from speaking on public grounds.

Of course, she ignores that many would view liberal groups as inciteful and “evil.” Many conservatives have objected to the violence at Black Lives Matter and Antifa protests. Indeed, many liberal groups now oppose the same type of military interventions by the Trump administration that Schenck opposed in the Wilson administration.

Pelosi’s “schencking” of free speech places her on the wrong side of history but nevertheless with a growing group of speech-phobic liberals. Among the chorus of people criticizing free speech as a weapon of the right are two professors who wrote recent columns in the Washington Post and New York Times.

In a column in the Washington Post, Skidmore College Professor Jennifer Delton decried how “provocateurs seek to bait liberal institutions by weaponizing the concept of free speech.” She warned that free speech is facilitating rather the deterring these groups and that “quoting Voltaire is not going to preserve anyone’s liberties — least of all those populations most vulnerable to vicious racist, misogynist and anti-Semitic attacks.”

Delton encouraged people to move beyond free speech inhibitions and, chillingly, that liberals have previously denied free speech to different groups: “American liberals were forced to sidestep First Amendment absolutism to combat a political foe… when New Deal liberals purged U.S. communists from American political life.” While Delton stops short of calling for purges of anyone deemed “alt-right,” she suggested that, given “the threat posed by the actions of alt-right provocateurs,” past censorship and criminalization of speech “may bear revisiting.”

In an editorial in the New York Times, K-Sue Park, a housing attorney and the Critical Race Studies fellow at the UCLA School of Law, rails against “color-blind” approaches which “support hate-based causes” and insists that such “colorblind logic [has] never secured real freedom or even safety for all.” She calls for an end to this broad protection of free speech as based on “a misguided theory that all radical views are equal” and that ‘it fuels right-wing free-speech hypocrisy.”

These voices advocate content-based discrimination of speech, long anathema in our country. It is part of a trend sweeping across the West with crackdowns on any speech deemed intimidating or inciteful or hateful. Pelosi would bar the right of conservatives to speak on the basis that their event might pose a threat to public safety, particularly given counter-demonstrators drawn to such events. Thus, free speech depends not only on what you are saying but how it will be received by others. The rally was canceled by the organizers out of concern over counter demonstrators, but Pelosi believes that the group should not have been given the choice.

We do not need the First Amendment to protect against popular speech. Pelosi and others seek to convince a free people to surrender a core freedom by focusing on how free speech is being used by unpopular groups. They might just succeed in bringing about a new era of censorship. Voices calling for speech limits play to the fears of a society that can come to view free speech as an abstraction or even an irritation. The truly sad part is that they use free speech to convince others to diminish it.

Racial Lies and Racism

Here is a column by Walter Williams who holds a bachelor's degree in economics from California State University (1965) and a master's degree (1967) and doctorate (1972) in economics from the University of California at Los Angeles.

WW is on target.
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Earlier this month, The New York Times ran an article titled "U.S. Rights Unit Shifts to Study Antiwhite Bias" on its front page. The article says that President Donald Trump's Justice Department's civil rights division is going to investigate and sue universities whose affirmative action admissions policies discriminate against white applicants. This is an out-and-out lie. The truth is that the U.S. departments of Justice and Education plan to investigate racial bias in admissions at Harvard and other elite institutions where Asian-Americans are held to far higher standards than other applicants. This type of practice was used during the first half of the 20th century to limit the number of Jews at Harvard and other Ivy League schools.

Drs. Thomas Espenshade and Alexandria Radford documented discrimination against Asians in their 2009 award-winning book, "No Longer Separate, Not Yet Equal: Race and Class in Elite College Admission and Campus Life." Their research demonstrated that, when controlling for other variables, Asian students faced considerable odds against their admission. To be admitted to elite colleges, Asians needed SAT scores 140 points higher than whites, 270 points higher than Hispanics and 450 points higher than blacks. An Asian applicant with an SAT score of 1500 (out of a possible 1600 on the old SAT) had the same chance of being admitted as a white student with a 1360 score, a Latino with a 1230 and a black student with a 1050 score. Another way of looking at it is that among applicants who had the highest SAT scores (within the 1400-1600 range), 77 percent of blacks were admitted, 48 percent of Hispanics, 40 percent of whites and only 30 percent of Asians.

The case of Austin Jia is typical of what happens to Asian students. In 2015, Jia graduated from high school and had a nearly perfect score of 2340 out of 2400 possible points on the new SAT. His GPA was 4.42, and he had taken 11 Advanced Placement courses in high school. He had been on his school's debate team, been the tennis team's captain and played the violin in the all-state orchestra. His applications for admission were rejected at Harvard, Princeton and Columbia universities, as well as at the University of Pennsylvania. Jia said that his rejection was particularly disturbing when certain classmates who had lower scores but were not Asian-American like him were admitted to those Ivy League schools.

California universities present an interesting case. At one time, they also discriminated against Asians in admissions, but now it's a different story. As of 2008, Asians made up 40 percent of the students enrolled at UCLA and 43 percent at the University of California, Berkeley. Last school year, 42 percent of students at Caltech were Asian. You might ask what accounts for the high numbers. It turns out that in 1996, Proposition 209 (also known as the California Civil Rights Initiative) was approved by California voters. The measure amended the state constitution to prohibit state governmental institutions from considering race, sex or ethnicity in the areas of public employment, public contracting and public education.

The experience of California, where racially discriminatory admissions policy has been reduced, suggests that if Ivy League universities were prohibited from using race as a factor in admissions, the Asian-American admissions rate would rise while the percentages of white, black and Hispanic students would fall. Diversity-crazed college administrators would throw a hissy fit. By the way, diversity-crazed administrators are willing accomplices in the nearly total lack of racial diversity on their basketball teams. It's not unusual to watch games in which there's not a single white, Hispanic or Asian player.

Harvard law professor Alan Dershowitz says, "The idea of discriminating against Asians in order to make room for other minorities doesn't seem right as a matter of principle." Dershowitz is absolutely right, but he goes astray when he argues that investigating discrimination against whites raises a different set of questions. He says, "Generically, whites have not been the subject of historic discrimination." Dershowitz's vision fails to see people as humans, because what human is deserving of racial discrimination?

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Impeach Trump?

Those who would impeach Trump despite that he has done nothing that merits it according to our Founding Documents are to be feared far more than Trump.  They are, perhaps, the most dangerous extremist group - due to their number and political influence.  If the Country is remade in their image, enabling those in power to interpret the law however they wish to convict their political opponents, we are lost.

Here is an article by Jonathan Turley, the Shapiro Professor of Public Interest Law at George Washington University.

JT is on target.
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From Congress to newsrooms to social media, a type of impeachment fever has taken hold. Various proposals have been put forward for removing Donald Trump from office, with reasons ranging from alleged “collusion” with Russians to the president’s response to Charlottesville. One poll shows support for impeachment at as much as 40 percent. Newsweek ran a headline proclaiming, “Trump Is Just Six Senate Votes Away From Impeachment,” and Slate has a running feature called “Today’s Impeach-O-Meter.”While such talk may be therapeutic for those still suffering post-election stress disorder, it is a dangerous course that could fundamentally alter our constitutional and political systems. Even if one were to agree with the litany of complaints against Trump, the only thing worse than Trump continuing in office would be his removal from it.

Five year old girl flying a biplane

Here is a link to a video showing a five year old girl flying aerobatics in a biplane.