Later On

A blog written for those whose interests more or less match mine.

Archive for January 4th, 2007

Getting Things Done—updated primer

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For 2007, a review and update of the Getting Things Done methodology.

Written by LeisureGuy

4 January 2007 at 6:49 pm

Posted in Business, Daily life

Good news: discrimination against Roma falling

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From the National Geographic:

Awareness of the centuries of discrimination against the Roma—the ethnic group often mistakenly called Gypsies—is on the rise in Eastern Europe, according to a leading scholar.

The people’s plight has been one of neglect and discrimination since arriving in Eastern Europe in the 1300s, said Carol Silverman, an anthropologist at the University of Oregon in Eugene who studies the Roma.

Often mischaracterized as free-spirited travelers who lie and steal their way around the world, the Roma have been enslaved, persecuted, and left to fend for themselves on the margins of society, she said.

Though an official count is impossible to determine, at least hundreds of thousands were killed during the Holocaust alongside an estimated six million Jews.

Today most Roma live in shantytowns isolated from education, health care, and secure employment, Silverman said.

But with the fall of Communism in much of Eastern Europe, a new generation of Romani leaders has emerged to advocate social integration and legal protection.

“And the way to do that is to call attention to long patterns of discrimination, lack of access to education, lack of access to jobs, systematic discrimination in jobs, and so on,” Silverman said today in broadcast of the Pulse of the Planet radio program.

Voice of Millions

A key agenda for Romani activists is to document the true number of Roma living in Europe.

“Trying to get a full picture of Roma presence and number is very, very hard all across Eastern Europe,” Silverman told National Geographic News.

“Official numbers are about half the scholarly estimate.”

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Written by LeisureGuy

4 January 2007 at 4:45 pm

Posted in Daily life, Government

New drug might work against obesity and type 2 diabetes

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As an obese (but not for long) and type 2 diabetic guy, I found this story interesting:

Chinese researchers may have found the key to an oral drug that could treat both type 2 diabetes and obesity.

They are focusing on a compound called Boc5 by Ming-Wei Wang, MD, PhD, and colleagues at the National Center for Drug Screening and the Chinese Academy of Sciences in Shanghai, China. Boc5 is not powerful enough to become a diabetes or weight loss drug. But Wang and colleagues suggest that daughter compounds could join the latest generation of diabetes drugs, called “incretin mimetics.”

The first FDA-approved incretin mimetic was Byetta. A second such drug, with the generic name liraglutide, is in clinical trials. These drugs mimic an intestinal peptide, glucagon-like peptide, or GLP-1. The drugs help people with type 2 diabetes normalize their blood sugar, lose weight, and perhaps even gain new insulin-making cells.

The problem is that they are large molecules. This means they can’t be used as oral drugs, but have to be given by injection. That’s what makes Boc5 different. It’s a small molecule and therefore promises to sire a new family of more powerful oral drugs for diabetes.

New Diabetes, Weight Loss Drug?

To find Boc5, Wang and colleagues screened 48,160 compounds for GLP-1-like activity. They found two. Eventually, these compounds led them to the molecule now called Boc5.

The scientists tested the Boc5 drugs in a strain of mice bred with a defect that makes them overeat. This overeating, coupled with insulin resistance and defective insulin production, makes the mice diabetic.

Mice given Boc5 began to eat less; and daily doses reduced the animals’ blood-sugar levels to normal. Also, when GLP-1 activity was blocked, these Boc5 effects were blocked as well.

“Although the observed effects point to a potential anti-diabetic, anti-obesity utility, a practical drug will likely require greater potency,” Wang and colleagues conclude. But, they add, “The findings reported here … have the potential to spawn a new class of orally available [drugs] for treatment of metabolic diseases.”

Wang and colleagues report their findings in the Jan. 5 early online edition of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Written by LeisureGuy

4 January 2007 at 4:39 pm

Posted in Health, Medical, Science

Pretty cool: get your refunds from Amazon easily

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Amazon guarantees their price for 30 days. If, within 30 days, the price drops below what you paid, you will be refunded the extra that you paid. The only catch is, of course, keeping track—and a hell of a catch it has been.

No more. Via Lifehacker, check out RefundPlease.com.

Written by LeisureGuy

4 January 2007 at 12:22 pm

Posted in Business, Daily life

The sorry state of American healthcare

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From ThinkProgress:

It is no surprise to hear that the U.S. health care system is in shambles. Health care costs are increasing faster than wages and nearly 47 million Americans — 8 million of whom are children — are uninsured. Millions more are underinsured.

Yet, we continue to spend more on health care per person than any other country, including countries that provide health care coverage to its entire citizenry. According to a new report by the Kaiser Family Foundation, in 2003 alone, health spending per person was at least 24 percent higher than that of Luxembourg (the second highest spending country) and over 90 percent higher than countries considered global competitors.

But our health care system spending is not buying us superior health:

Americans on average die at a younger age compared to the average age of death of comparable nations. Japan has the highest life expectancy.

– The U.S. infant mortality rate is 6.9 deaths per 1,000 live births, while Japan and Sweden have rates below 3.5 deaths per 1,000 live births.

– The obesity rate among adults in the U.S. is 30.6 percent; the highest rate of developed countries. This rate is nearly 21 percent higher than the rate of the second highest country, Mexico.

Nor does it buy us better health care or more resources:

– About 70 percent of deaths and health costs in the U.S. are attributable to chronic disease, which are largely preventable. Yet, only half of recommended preventive services are provided to adults.

– The U.S. has fewer practicing physicians and nurses per 1,000 people than comparable countries.

Instead, our health care system is pushing millions of hardworking Americans into relentless financial constraints and sends thousands to early graves.

With new policy leaders, the impetus for real health reform is now: we can afford to provide every American affordable health care that emphasizes prevention, while controlling costs and maintaining individuals’ choice of doctors and plans.

Written by LeisureGuy

4 January 2007 at 12:14 pm

Good question for Pelosi and Dem leaders

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From Morton Mintz:

Simply by installing “two digital cameras in every committee and subcommittee room,” the House could let citizens go on the Web to view all committee and subcommittee meetings–including oversight hearings–and thus erode “the power of K Street lobbyists who use ‘insider’ information gleaned from committee meetings to justify their fees.”

The House could also easily publish its finances online and make them fully searchable.

As Speaker of the House, Congresswoman Pelosi, will you seek to implement these reforms, and if not, why not?

Same nonpartisan question for every Democratic and Republican leader, every Democratic committee chairman and senior Republican member, and every rank-and-file Congressman.

The questions arise from a recent New York Times op-ed by a person who witnessed the inner workings of the House first-hand. He is Scot M. Faulkner, chief administrative officer of the House of Representatives from 1995 to 1997. [On the “more” page – LG]

“[I]f the new Democratic majority functions anything like the old one, they — and we — are in for trouble,” Faulkner wrote. “The Democrats’ previous administration of Congress was amazingly dysfunctional — an operation that allowed the least ethically inclined members to rob the place blind,…

“During the 104th Congress, from 1995 to 1997, a bipartisan reform effort cleaned up some of the worst abuses….

“However, as revolutionary passion faded and incumbency extended, the Republican majority backed away from the ultimate reform: true transparency of House operations.”

I’ll throw in a nonpartisan question I’d love to see asked of the Speaker-to-be, et al:

The counterparts of our Freedom of Information Act in several other countries cover their legislative as well as their executive branches. Why shouldn’t the FOIA do the same?

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Written by LeisureGuy

4 January 2007 at 12:03 pm

Mercury “hotspots” discovered—beware

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From Scientific American:

Researchers have discovered dangerous levels of the neurotoxin mercury (Hg) in the muscle tissue of perch and in the blood and eggs of the common loon in aquatic ecosystems of the northeastern U.S. and southern Canada. The finding led them to identify five “hot spots” of mercury contamination that pose serious health risks to animals as well as humans. In addition, elevated concentrations of the neurotoxin were found in nine other regions labeled as “areas of concern” in the report published in the January issue of Bioscience. High concentrations of mercury, which accumulate in the food chain, can cause brain and nerve damage in developing fetuses and young children.

In some areas the team of U.S. and Canadian researchers, led by David Evers of the BioDiversity Research Institute in Gorham, Maine, found perch containing mercury levels as high as 20 times greater than the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) recommended limits. A survey of other ecosystem members discovered that 75 percent of bass and trout sampled contained mercury levels exceeding the federal limits.

The northeastern hot spots—which include the western Adirondacks and the middle and lower Merrimack River—share several characteristics: most can track much of their mercury deposition to local sources such as waste incinerators and coal-fired electricity plants. Each area contains landscape components—like tree canopies that suck up airborne mercury particles or wetlands that facilitate the methylation of mercury to the toxic compound methylmercury—that concentrate the pollutant in aquatic environments, sometimes up to one million times greater than its ambient levels. Water manipulation, such as reservoirs, can also ratchet up methylmercury levels, causing a decrease in the viability of wildlife offspring. In addition, soil contamination from legacy mercury use is another major indicator of a hot spot.

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Written by LeisureGuy

4 January 2007 at 11:57 am

Posted in Environment, Food, Health

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