Archive for June 27th, 2008
It’s been fairly well established that calorie restriction can extend one’s lifespan. (Here’s an account of one guy’s eventually abandoned effort, and here’s a site that promotes the practice.) Indeed, fasting one day a week or a month is often seen as providing benefits, possibly through promoting apoptosis that removes iffy cells. Now we may be seeing the mechanism responsible:
Researchers at UT Southwestern Medical Center have determined that starvation blocks the effects of growth hormone via a mechanism that may have implications in treating diabetes and extending life span. “It’s been well-established that growth is blunted during starvation. But our work shows that this is not just from running out of energy. It’s much more sophisticated than that,” said Dr. Steven Kliewer, professor of molecular biology and senior author of a study available online and appearing in today’s issue of the journal Cell Metabolism.
Using genetically altered mice, the researchers found that during fasting, the actions of growth hormone are blocked by a fat-burning hormone called FGF21.
“It’s something that we hadn’t anticipated,” said Dr. Kliewer.
Growth hormone has many functions in the growth and reproduction of cells, such as controlling the length of developing arm and leg bones in children.
Growth hormone has several other functions, however, even in adults. It promotes the breakdown of fats, stimulates creation of protein and increases levels of IGF-1 (insulin-like growth factor-1), a hormone that promotes growth. Too much growth hormone can cause insulin resistance, resulting in diabetes, and lead to other disorders.
The Telegraph offers a list of the best summer reading for 2008.
Via Notebookism (and do read the post at the link), this little video:
Very good comment, worthy of promotion:
Author : Brian Barker
E-mail : firstname.lastname@example.org
If the England soccer manager does not speak the international language of English, how can it be so easy to learn?
Total nonsense? That it why, I think, Esperanto deserves a look in.
Can I ask you to consider http://www.lernu.net
What’s amazing is that, if you started studying Esperanto today, you would be able to carry on a conversation by the end of August, assuming you studied daily. AND it’s an interesting language, to boot, with an original literature as well as many texts in translation.
From Jane Hamsher at Firedoglake.com (and that entire post is worth reading):
… It’s also interesting to note that the tools created to help organize Obama supporters against his opponents are now being used to organize themselves to communicate with him. There’s a new group on “MyBarackObama.com” called “Senator Obama — Please Vote Against FISA.”
Stop by and tell the Senator that you’ll be voting for him in November and hoping that in the meantime, he does the right thing.
According to a recent Public Health Services Report entitled “FoodNet estimate of the burden of illness caused by nontyphoidal Salmonella infections in the United States“, for every confirmed case of Salmonella, there are 38.6 (on average) … that went undocumented.
After estimating the number of culture-confirmed infections in the United States, we extrapolated, using “multipliers” of surveillance artifacts …to estimate the total number of Salmonella infections. Using this method, we estimated that there were 38.6 cases of Salmonella infection for each culture-confirmed case. Using a similar method, Chalker and Blaser  calculated a multiplier of 39 to estimate the total number of cases of salmonellosis in the United States, including asymptomatic infections. Mead et al.  used a multiplier of 38 that was based on preliminary FoodNet data.
To put this into context of the latest outbreak, Reuters is stating that there are currently 756 confirmed cases of salmonella. If the above report is to be believed, then the true number of cases is over 29,000.
Ever wonder how politicians got stereotyped as disingenuous preachers who can’t live up to the standards they create for others? Take this little example:
A group of Senate Republicans proposed a constitutional amendment this week — called the Marriage Protection Amendment — that would define marriage as consisting “only of the union of a man and a woman.”
And whose name sticks out like a sore thumb among the sponsors of this crucial piece of policymaking? That would be Idaho Sen. Larry Craig — he who was arrested last summer in a public airport bathroom on disorderly conduct charges after he was found allegedly trolling for gay sex.
(Actually, there are two sore thumbs in the bunch. Another sponsor is Louisiana Sen. David Vitter, who was entangled in a prostitution scandal last year. Vitter was never charged with any wrongdoing, but admitted to “a very serious sin in my past for which I am, of course, completely responsible.”)
If this amendment had been in place, of course, neither episode would have happened.
When the major American tobacco companies signed the 1998 Master Settlement Agreement with the 46 states who sued to recover the costs of treating sick smokers, the companies agreed to nominal advertising restrictions and making massive yearly payouts to the states into the future. After the ink dried on the agreement, people thought that was the end of it. Far from it. Lawyers who made money on the settlement began donating heavily to the Democratic party, which opposes the corporate-organized “tort reform movement” that works to block such suits in the future. The massive lawsuit, subsequent settlement and increased donations to the Democratic party (particularly in the South) sparked a vicious, under-the-radar war between southern Democrats, the Republican party and its corporate allies. The investigative news site, Raw Story, exposes the serious repercussions the tobacco settlement has had on the integrity of U.S. elections, particularly in the Southern U.S., as the Republican party and its allied corporate interests seek to cut off Democratic donations and exact retribution on lawyers and public officials involved in bringing or supporting the original lawsuit.
Source: Raw Story, June 24, 2008
In the Washington Independent, Matthew Blake has this report of a terrible moral and ethical failure:
In the late 1950′s, the federal government began investigating reports that radiation from uranium ore mines in the Navajo Nation was causing lung cancer deaths. A mere 49 or so years later, the federal government has released its first comprehensive study of the problem. This week the EPA sent to the House oversight committee, the report “Addressing Uranium Contamination In the Navajo Nation.”
The New Mexico Independent examines the report and the federal government’s huge task in cleaning abandoned mining sites and purifying contaminated groundwater. EPA, though, appears to still be in the “assessing” phase of the myriad health problems. Coordination amongst EPA, the Dept. of Energy, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission and the Indian Health Service doesn’t seem well defined.
Renewed attention to the decades-old problem stems from a Los Angeles Times blockbuster series, Blighted Homeland, that reported how Navajo cancer mortality rates have doubled since the mining started.
Between 1944 and 1986, the federal government hired private contractors to mine four million tons of uranium ore in the Navajo Nation, which spans parts of Arizona, New Mexico and Utah. The uranium helped build the atomic bombs dropped on Japan and supplied weapons stockpiles in the arms race with the Soviet Union. But when the arms race slowed the mining sites were abandoned– without being cleaned up. Left behind were piles of radioactive waste and cancer-causing radon in the air. Also, the Navajo nation used some of the left behind mine waste as construction material for their homes.
Since the 1950′s the Nuclear Regulatory Commission and Indian Health Service realized they were serious health problems with exposed uranium mines. But cleaning up the sites has always been a low political priority- the problem was described by an Indian Health Service officer in 1986 as a “significant but resource consuming endeavor.”
The House oversight committee hasn’t announced its next step. Lacking a powerful lobbying group or influential member of Congress representing their interests, citizens of the Navajo Nation aren’t exactly big players in Washington. So any continued scrutiny of the issue would probably mark an improvement.
This time I measured:
Leeks (white & light-green stem only): 15.0 oz.
Butter: 1.5 Tbsp
Sockeye salmon fillet: 0.54 lb
Pistachio oil: 2 tsp
Cook leeks in butter over moderate heat until leeks wilt. Sprinkle with salt, and turn heat to low.
Lay fillet on top of leeks, cover, and cook about 11 minutes.
Plate leeks, fillet to the side, and drizzle pistachio oil over the salmon.
This is actually two meals for me (lunch and dinner). Total, for both meals:
Julian Jaynes wrote a wonderful crackpot book, The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind, filled with fascinating facts gleaned from his research. I highly recommend it for a fascinating read, and much better than the average thriller. Mind Hacks quotes one of the factoids from that book today:
PsyBlog has collected the responses to its request for the most annoying psychobabble and you can now vote for your favourite worst offender.
The list reminds me how many terms, particularly from psychoanalysis, have become part of the language, probably without people realising it.
Being ‘in denial’, being ‘anal’, being ‘defensive’, feeling ‘split’ over a decision, ‘projecting’ your fears, ‘repressing’ a thought, having a big ‘ego’, increasing ‘libido’ and feeling ‘castrated’ were all terms created or popularised by Freud and his followers.
Sadly for jargon haters, today’s psychobabble is tomorrow’s everyday language.
Much of our everyday language of the mind is a relatively new cultural invention, suggesting that language is just another form of technology.
Hopefully though, some of the more annoying linguistic technologies will fall into disuse fairly soon, although I have to say, I have a fondness for some of the more arcane terms.
The Younger Daughter, a Classicist, will find this of interest. By Davide Castelvecchi in Science News:
The sun has been obliterated from the sky
and an unlucky darkness invades the world
Homer, the Odyssey
Eventually, the stars took a luckier turn for the embattled hero of the Odyssey — while for his enemies, the noontime sun turned ominously dark.
Homer marked Odysseus’ last days of wandering on his way back to his kingdom of Ithaca with accurate references to the position of the stars and planets and to a solar eclipse, researchers propose in an upcoming Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
But the findings, if true, would open a major puzzle. Scholars believe that the poet lived some time after 800 B.C., and that the Greek astronomy of his time was not sophisticated enough to calculate where the planets had been at the time of the Trojan war, which took place up to four centuries before. “It would require a major revision of the history of ancient astronomy,” warns James Evans, a historian of astronomy at the University of Puget Sound in Tacoma, Wash.
At the story’s climax, 10 years have elapsed since the Trojan War, and since the veteran Odysseus never made it back, suitors besieged his wife Penelope, each of them hoping to make her his bride. But as the suitors gather for a banquet, the seer Theoclymenus says that the sun has suddenly disappeared, and foresees the suitors’ ghosts running away toward Hades. (Odysseus, who has secretly already returned, will soon lay death upon them.)
Despite the mythical nature of the story, some scholars proposed in the 1920s that the the description of this disappearance of the sun may have referred to a solar eclipse that actually took place in the Mediterranean around noon on April 16 1178 B.C.
Now Constantino Baikouzis, an astronomer at the La Plata Observatory in Argentina, and Marcelo Magnasco, a mathematical physicist at Rockefeller University in New York City, say that all other references the poem makes to the positions of the stars and planets, taken together, point to the same conclusion. “Whoever wrote the poem may have been referring to astronomical events,” says Magnasco.
A climate change denier just showed up in comments, and I was prompted to find this excellent set of responses again. A partial list from the link:
Below is a complete listing of the articles in “How to Talk to a Climate Skeptic,” a series by Coby Beck containing responses to the most common skeptical arguments on global warming. There are four separate taxonomies; arguments are divided by:
Individual articles will appear under multiple headings and may even appear in multiple subcategories in the same heading.
Well worth bookmarking. Graph above from Wikipedia; click for full size.
The network news programs apparently have a mission to avoid reporting news. Entertainment is what it’s all about. Take a look at this report from Media Matters:
Continuing a pattern of ignoring developments in the ongoing investigation into the firing of several U.S. attorneys, none of the broadcast networks’ June 24 or 25 evening newscasts reported on the Justice Department Inspector General’s findings of politicization of hiring practices in several of the department’s recruiting programs.
As The New York Times reported, the report, released June 24, “is the first in a series of internal reviews growing out of last year’s controversy over the dismissals of nine United States attorneys,” and, according to the Times, found that “Justice Department officials illegally used ‘political or ideological’ factors in elite recruiting programs in recent years, tapping law school graduates with Federalist Society membership or other conservative credentials over more qualified candidates with liberal-sounding résumés.” The report focused on the hiring practices associated with the Justice Department’s Honors Program, which it described as “the exclusive means by which the Department hires recent law school graduates and judicial law clerks who do not have prior legal experience,” and the Summer Law Intern Program, which “is the Department’s hiring program for paid summer interns.” The report stated that “beginning in 2002, a Screening Committee composed primarily of politically appointed employees from the Department’s leadership offices had to approve all Honors Program and SLIP candidates for interviews by the [department's] components.” As the Times reported, the report “found that ‘many qualified candidates’ were rejected” by the Screening Committee “from two key recruiting programs … because of what was perceived as their liberal bent.” From the Times:
Even though the Army desperately wanted to keep the gay soldier (a decorated medic), they had to bow to their stupid rules. Every other major nation’s army has no problem with gay soldiers, including the UK and Israel. Why is the US so weird? Here’s the story from the Carpetbagger Report:
In December, “60 Minutes” ran one of my favorite “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” stories, featuring Army Sgt. Darren Manzella, who’d been deployed twice during the war in Iraq. During his first deployment, Manzella, a medic with a field artillery unit in Baghdad, earned a combat medal for rendering treatment under fire. “I’ve treated everything from blast injuries to gunshot wounds,” he told Leslie Stahl.
Manzella is gay, a fact that he hid from no one, even introducing his Army buddies to his boyfriend. When he received emails suggesting his personal life might soon be investigated, Manzella told his battalion commander the truth, which in turn prompted an investigation.
Manzella didn’t hold anything back in the investigation, submitting photos of himself and A.J., and a video of a road trip, including passionate kissing. But when the investigation ended, Manzella says he was told to go back to work. “There was no evidence of homosexuality and go back to work,” he says.
“Wait a minute. You’ve given them photographs of you and A.J.,” Stahl remarks.
“Yes, and then they’re like, ‘Go back to work. You’re not gay,” Manzella says.
“So, no one ever said anything to you about the — I don’t even know what word to use, absurdity, confusing response?” Stahl asks.
“The closest thing that I was given by my superiors was, “I don’t care if you’re gay or not.”
Well, no, of course not. As Cholene Espinoza, an Air Force Captain who flew combat missions, explained, “Darren is in a critical field. He’s a medic. His commander needs him. He’s a known quantity. He gets along with others. He does what he’s supposed to. He goes above and beyond. Why do I want to lose Darren?”
The Army didn’t want to lose Darren, which is precisely why he was told to go back to work.
At least that was what he was told initially. The “60 Minutes” report raised a few eyebrows, and now that Manzella’s revelations have become embarrassing to the Army, he’s been discharged.
Decorated Army Sergeant Darren Manzella has been discharged under the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” law banning lesbian, gay and bisexual Americans from military service, effective June 10. The Iraq war veteran was the first openly gay active duty service member to speak with the media while serving inside a war zone. […]
“The discharge of battle-tested, talented service members like Sergeant Manzella weakens our military in a time of war. National security requires that Congress lift the ban on gays in the military and allow commanders to judge troops on their qualifications, not their sexuality,” said Adam Ebbin, Communications Director of Servicemembers Legal Defense Network (SLDN). […]
Sergeant Manzella said, “My sexual orientation certainly didn’t make a difference when I treated injuries and saved lives in the streets of Baghdad. It shouldn’t be a factor in allowing me to continue to serve.”
John McCain recently said gay people in the military represent an “intolerable risk” to unit morale, cohesion, and discipline.
I’m curious. Which poses the great risk, Manzella being deployed and serving honorably, or Manzella not being deployed? Which is better for the troops? Which does more to help those in uniform? Which leaves the military stronger, and which leaves it weaker?
If you have a Netflix subscription, a Wifi hub, and the Roku. Read here.
Good guidance on how to make up a cocktail from scratch.
I have a set of these and they are terrific—and take up no room since they nest. That they also measure is a plus. Each bowl is marked with two measures: full and half (marked by a line in the bowl)—for example, 1/8 cup and 1/4 cup in the smallest bowl. They come in various colors: persimmon (shown), pesto, crème, penne, espresso, and chianti. (Chianti and penne available from Sur La Table.)
I guess that this is NOT one of the public-health benefits that Dana Perino was talking about: the spread of the West Nile virus:
Higher temperatures helped a new strain of West Nile virus invade and spread across North America, according to a study published in the June 27 issue of the journal PLoS Pathogens. “The study shows that the warmer the temperature, the greater the advantage of the new strain. It also indicates that increases in temperatures due to global climate change would have major effects on transmission of the virus,” said A. Marm Kilpatrick, first author of the paper and a senior research scientist for the Consortium for Conservation Medicine.
Is there anyone besides Jim Inhofe who still denies that climate change is happening? Even Dana Perino, famous airhead, admits it, though cites the public-health benefits of climate change. Now it’s affecting fish communities:
A detailed analysis of data from nearly 50 years of weekly fish-trawl surveys in Narragansett Bay and adjacent Rhode Island Sound has revealed a long-term shift in species composition, which scientists attribute primarily to the effects of global warming. According to Jeremy Collie, professor of oceanography at the University of Rhode Island’s Graduate School of Oceanography, the fish community has shifted progressively from vertebrate species (fish) to invertebrates (lobsters, crabs and squid) and from benthic or demersal species – those that feed on the bottom – to pelagic species that feed higher in the water column. In addition, smaller, warm-water species have increased while larger, cool-water species have declined.
“This is a pretty dramatic change, and it’s a pattern that is being seen in other ecosystems, including offshore on Georges Bank and other continental shelf ecosystems, but we’re in the relatively unique position of being able to document it. These patterns are likely being seen in estuaries around the world, but nowhere else has similar data,” said Collie.