Later On

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

Archive for January 17th, 2007

Who will fund this cancer drug?

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The problem: it’s cheap, easy to make, and unpatented:

It sounds almost too good to be true: a cheap and simple drug that kills almost all cancers by switching off their “immortality”. The drug, dichloroacetate (DCA), has already been used for years to treat rare metabolic disorders and so is known to be relatively safe.

It also has no patent, meaning it could be manufactured for a fraction of the cost of newly developed drugs.

Evangelos Michelakis of the University of Alberta in Edmonton, Canada, and his colleagues tested DCA on human cells cultured outside the body and found that it killed lung, breast and brain cancer cells, but not healthy cells. Tumours in rats deliberately infected with human cancer also shrank drastically when they were fed DCA-laced water for several weeks.

DCA attacks a unique feature of cancer cells: the fact that they make their energy throughout the main body of the cell, rather than in distinct organelles called mitochondria. This process, called glycolysis, is inefficient and uses up vast amounts of sugar.

Until now it had been assumed that cancer cells used glycolysis because their mitochondria were irreparably damaged. However, Michelakis’s experiments prove this is not the case, because DCA reawakened the mitochondria in cancer cells. The cells then withered and died (Cancer Cell, DOI: 10.1016/j.ccr.2006.10.020). [Graphic appears in the original article at the link.]

Michelakis suggests that the switch to glycolysis as an energy source occurs when cells in the middle of an abnormal but benign lump don’t get enough oxygen for their mitochondria to work properly (see diagram). In order to survive, they switch off their mitochondria and start producing energy through glycolysis.

Crucially, though, mitochondria do another job in cells: they activate apoptosis, the process by which abnormal cells self-destruct. When cells switch mitochondria off, they become “immortal”, outliving other cells in the tumour and so becoming dominant. Once reawakened by DCA, mitochondria reactivate apoptosis and order the abnormal cells to die.

“The results are intriguing because they point to a critical role that mitochondria play: they impart a unique trait to cancer cells that can be exploited for cancer therapy,” says Dario Altieri, director of the University of Massachusetts Cancer Center in Worcester.

The phenomenon might also explain how secondary cancers form. Glycolysis generates lactic acid, which can break down the collagen matrix holding cells together. This means abnormal cells can be released and float to other parts of the body, where they seed new tumours.

DCA can cause pain, numbness and gait disturbances in some patients, but this may be a price worth paying if it turns out to be effective against all cancers. The next step is to run clinical trials of DCA in people with cancer. These may have to be funded by charities, universities and governments: pharmaceutical companies are unlikely to pay because they can’t make money on unpatented medicines. The pay-off is that if DCA does work, it will be easy to manufacture and dirt cheap.

Paul Clarke, a cancer cell biologist at the University of Dundee in the UK, says the findings challenge the current assumption that mutations, not metabolism, spark off cancers. “The question is: which comes first?” he says.

Written by LeisureGuy

17 January 2007 at 8:03 pm

Cingular name change explained

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Written by LeisureGuy

17 January 2007 at 7:58 pm

Posted in Business

Wow! Great lamp!

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I just got the new reading lamp. I had a reading lamp—a Verilux—but it was way too short—and not bright enough. That one puts the lamp more or less at eye level when I’m sitting down—very much in the way—and it didn’t really illuminate my full lap, so I had to hold the book or magazine just so. Moreover, the plastic wrapping around the gooseneck broke in two so it looks ratty.

Finally I had had enough. I ordered a Blue Max: the black 70-Watt dimmable full-spectrum fluorescent that puts out LOTS of lumens. It arrived today, and it’s GREAT.

A couple of things you should know: assembly is VERY easy, especially if you read the instructions, which I didn’t. I tried to stuff the extra cord into the pole. No: you FOLD the extra cord, and then it fits easily. Still, I got the cord up in there and got it assembled, no problem.

The other thing you should know: when you get it assembled and ready to go, you must turn it on “high” (which is immediately after it clicks on—you turn further to dim it) and let it burn on high for two hours. This burns in the bulb for long life.

The lamp is nice and high, and it puts out plenty of light and illuminates the whole area with nice, even, glare-free, full-spectrum light. I recommend it highly.

And I also got a torchiere—the gray Ultralux. Very easy to assemble. In this one, you pull the surplus cord out from the base, so that the poles go together easily. They use a sort of twist-connect that’s easier and faster than screwing them together (though the bottom pole does screw onto the base). I got the 70-Watt High Definition regular (i.e., full-spectrum) bulb, rather than the “Sunset” bulb (red tones). Again: a great lamp, lots of light, and dimmable (after the first two-hour burn-in).

They also have some very nice incandescent-bulb replacements. Save money, get more light—great deal. In fact, in comparing the savings over the 300-watt halogen torchiere, the Ultralux pays for itself in just a little over a year.

Written by LeisureGuy

17 January 2007 at 7:00 pm

Posted in Daily life, Technology

Sidney Blumenthal’s take on what’s going on in the WH

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From Salon (the original contains various links):

James Baker, the consummate Republican political operator over the past 30 years, did not expect that President Bush would accept the recommendations of the Iraq Study Group he co-chaired simply on its merits. Baker’s hidden political hand was unrevealed in the report’s dire analysis or in its urgent suggestions for diplomacy or force redeployment. Baker summoned as witnesses the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the military commanders in Iraq past and present (including the recently named commander there, Gen. David Petraeus) and even British Prime Minister Tony Blair. But he understood that enlisting all of these formidable figures was insufficient. Baker privately negotiated with Bush, but he did not rest solely on his own powers of persuasion to convince the president, as the report put it, that the “situation is grave and deteriorating” and his policies are “not working.”

Ultimately, Baker’s political strategy counted on the decisive intervention of one person in the president’s closed inner circle — who sees him alone and could not be kept from him, and on whom he has become dependent for support and trusts implicitly — to deliver the bad news that continuing those policies would only deepen the disaster and explain that he had no way out except to change course.

After the debacle of the Israeli invasion of southern Lebanon, which Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice called “the birth pangs of a new Middle East,” her former mentor, Brent Scowcroft, the elder Bush’s national security advisor and still his public voice, published an article on July 30, 2006, in the Washington Post titled “Beyond Lebanon: This Is the Time for a U.S.-Led Comprehensive Settlement.” In it he argued that the peace process the Bush administration had abandoned was essential in stabilizing the whole region, not least Iraq, and in reducing the influence of Iran.

With the knowledge of the elder Bush and Baker, Scowcroft traveled to Egypt and Saudi Arabia, broaching his ideas to President Hosni Mubarak and King Abdullah. They told him they were fully supportive and prepared to step forward, but were skeptical that Rice or Bush would embrace Scowcroft’s program. Meanwhile, Scowcroft and Baker began reassembling the elder Bush’s national security team, using the Iraq Study Group as a mobilizing tool. They saw this as a last chance to save the Bush presidency, which was indelibly tainting the father’s legacy, and replace neoconservatism with foreign policy realism.

At the end of August 2006, Scowcroft briefed Rice, according to a national security official close to Scowcroft. She seemed to concur with his views and asked him, “How are we going to present this to the president?” “Not we,” replied Scowcroft. “You.” She appeared taken aback, but he emphasized that she was the only one who could induce Bush to change his policies. Thus Rice became the linchpin for Scowcroft’s and Baker’s plans.

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Written by LeisureGuy

17 January 2007 at 5:10 pm

This sounds great to me: Kim chee pork rice

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I’m going to make this soon (From Coconut & Lime, written by a Baltimore girl—this is her own recipe):

Ingredients:
2 cups short grain or sushi rice
2 cups hot broth
2 cups baby bok choy or baby napa cabbage, chopped
1 cup cabbage kimchee, chopped
1/2 cup green onions, chopped
1/2 cup green beans, quartered
4 cloves of garlic, minced
1 inch piece of ginger, grated
8 oz lean ground pork
2 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 teaspoon sesame oil
salt to taste

Directions:
30 minutes before you start cooking, rinse the rice once and soak in warm water. Do not let the rice soak for more than 30 minutes are it will get mushy. If the time is up on your rice before you are ready to cook, strain it and leave it in the colander to dry.

In a large non-stick saucepan with a lid, add the vegetable oil and sesame oil and set the heat to medium high. Saute green onions, garlic and ginger for 1 minute until fragrant. Add the pork and brown it, breaking it up with a spoon. When the pork is brown, add the baby bok choy and kimchee. Saute for 5 minutes or until the green are wilted. Add hot broth and rice and stir. Bring to a boil, cover, and cook for 15 minutes on medium heat, stirring every 5 minutes or so. Add green beans, turn the heat down to low and cook for 10 more minutes. Turn off heat and let sit for 10 more minutes. Serve.

Yield: 4 main course servings

My thoughts:
We love kimchee and are always looking for new ways to use it. My husband saw a recipe that called for kimchee to be mixed with rice and peas and was inspired to make this. We added a bit of ground pork and used green beans and baby napa to make it filling enough to serve as a main course.

Written by LeisureGuy

17 January 2007 at 4:45 pm

Posted in Recipes

Teeth whitening

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From Health.com via Dumb Little Man:

The secret to this inexpensive home whitening method is malic acid, which acts as an astringent to remove surface discoloration. Combined with baking soda, strawberries become a natural tooth-cleanser, buffing away stains from coffee, red wine, and dark sodas. While it’s no replacement for a bleaching treatment at your dentist’s office, “this is a fast, cheap way to brighten your smile,” says Adina Carrel, DMD, a dentist in private practice at Manhattan Dental Arts in New York. “Be careful not to use this too often, though, as the acid could damage the enamel on your teeth.”

You need:
1 ripe strawberry
1/2 teaspoon baking soda

Directions: Crush the strawberry to a pulp, then mix with the baking powder until blended. Use a soft toothbrush to spread the mixture onto your teeth. Leave on for 5 minutes, then brush thoroughly with toothpaste to remove the berry–baking soda mix. Rinse. (A little floss will help get rid of any strawberry seeds.) Carrel says you can apply once a week.

Written by LeisureGuy

17 January 2007 at 3:19 pm

Posted in Daily life

Why the 1918 flu virus was so lethal

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When you get a chance, read The Great Influenza, a fascinating and highly informative book about the great pandemic. And now we know why people in the prime of life died so quickly from that flu:

In a study of non-human primates infected with the influenza virus that killed 50 million people in 1918, an international team of scientists has found a critical clue to how the virus killed so quickly and efficiently.

Writing this week (Jan. 18, 2007) in the journal Nature, a team led by University of Wisconsin-Madison virologist Yoshihiro Kawaoka reveals how the 1918 virus — modern history’s most savage influenza strain — unleashes an immune response that destroys the lungs in a matter of days, leading to death.

The finding is important because it provides insight into how the virus that swept the world in the closing days of World War I was so efficiently deadly, claiming many of its victims people in the prime of life. The work suggests that it may be possible in future outbreaks of highly pathogenic flu to stem the tide of death through early intervention.

The study “proves the 1918 virus was indeed different from all of the other flu viruses we know of,” says Kawaoka, a professor in the UW-Madison School of Veterinary Medicine and at the University of Tokyo.

The new study, conducted at the Public Health Agency of Canada’s National Microbiology Laboratory in Winnipeg, Manitoba, utilized the 1918 flu virus, which has been reconstructed by researchers using genes obtained from the tissues of victims of the great pandemic in a reverse genetics process that enables scientists to make fully functioning viruses.

“In 1918, the existence of viruses had barely been recognized. In fact, the influenza virus wasn’t identified until 1933. Thanks to recent technological advancements, we are now able to study this virus and how it wreaked havoc around the globe,” explains Darwyn Kobasa, research scientist with the Public Health Agency of Canada and lead author of the new study. “This research provides an important piece in the puzzle of the 1918 virus, helping us to better understand influenza viruses and their potential to cause pandemics.”

By infecting monkeys with the virus, the team was able to show that the 1918 virus prompted a deadly respiratory infection that echoed historical accounts of how the disease claimed its victims.

Importantly, the new work shows that infection with the virus prompted an immune response that seems to derail the body’s typical reaction to viral infection and instead unleashes an attack by the immune system on the lungs. As immune cells attack the respiratory system, the lungs fill with fluid and victims, in essence, drown. The mechanisms that contribute to the lethality of the virus were uncovered by University of Washington researchers using functional genomics, a technique in which researchers analyze the gene functions and interactions. Learning more about the virulence mechanisms of the 1918 flu virus may help researchers understand how to keep the virus from causing such a severe immune response.

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Written by LeisureGuy

17 January 2007 at 3:04 pm

Posted in Books, Health, Medical, Science

The (original) Carpetbagger notes a trend

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In today’s postings:

A familiar pattern is taking shape: a qualified, competent official joins Bush’s counterterrorism team, grows frustrated by the administration’s priorities, resigns, and joins the Dems.

The latest is Todd Hinnen.

A counterterrorism adviser to President Bush is leaving the White House to join the staff of a prominent Democratic senator gearing up to investigate the administration’s war policies.

A Senate source said Todd M. Hinnen, a director for combating terrorism on the staff of the president’s National Security Council (NSC), will become the chief counsel for Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr., Delaware Democrat and chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. [Hinnen will work with the Judiciary Committees, not Foreign Relations]

Hinnen follows Richard Clarke, Rand Beers, and Flynt Leverett, all of whom had key counterterrorism roles in the Bush administration, all of whom grew frustrated with the Bush gang’s policies, and all of whom teamed up with the Dems.

Upon learning that Hinnen was joining Biden, a Republican staffer on the Hill told the Washington Times, “Once again, people on the Bush White House staff turn on him while our soldiers and Marines fight to protect the rest of us.”

It’s exactly this kind of nonsensical, backwards attitude that probably helped drive Hinnen (and Clarke, Beers, and Leverett) to the Dems in the first place.

Indeed, it’s an oldie but a goodie, but Reuters ran an interesting item way back in 2004 noting a “staff exodus” among counterterrorism officials, all of whom left the White House because of the same frustrations expressed by Clarke and Beers. Considering the number of people and the scope of their concerns, it’s impossible to simply dismiss the whole lot as angry employees with axes to grind.

Since the Sept. 11 attacks, the Bush administration has faced a steady exodus of counterterrorism officials, many disappointed by a preoccupation with Iraq they said undermined the U.S. fight against terrorism.

Former counterterrorism officials said at least half a dozen have left the White House Office for Combating Terrorism or related agencies in frustration in the 2 1/2 years since the attacks.

Some also left because they felt President Bush had sidelined his counterterrorism experts and paid almost exclusive heed to the vice president, the defense secretary and other Cabinet members in planning the “war on terror,” former counterterrorism officials said.

“I’m kind of hoping for regime change,” one official who quit told Reuters.

And for good measure, let’s also not forget Henry Crumpton, Coordinator for Counterterrorism for the State Department, who’s not only stepping down after a year on the job, he’s telling reporters that “we haven’t made any progress” in stopping the worldwide surge in Islamic radicalism, and added “we’ve lost ground,” due in part to the war in Iraq.

It’s impossible to dismiss all of these officials as disgruntled former employees. At a certain point, the White House will have to explain why the president’s top counterterrorism officials keep leaving in droves.

Written by LeisureGuy

17 January 2007 at 1:21 pm

Milk chocolate notes

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I like dark chocolate, but The Wife prefers milk chocolate. I’m posting this list from Gourmet for her:

We tasted milk chocolate straight, then in a dessert sauce, and showcased the winners in our February 2007 issue (Testing for Perfection: “Milk Chocolate Lab”). Here is the full list of chocolates included in the testing, in order of our preference, with tasting notes:

1. Bernard Castelain: Creamy, good balance; smooth and delicious. Said one dark-chocolate lover: “I’ve had three pieces, and that’s huge!”
2. Lindt Excellence: Luscious in the mouth; vanilla and caramel finish.
3. Green & Black Organic: Good mouthfeel; slightly bitter (those who don’t like dark chocolate might not like this one).
4. Valrhona Nature & Chocolat: Smooth; fruity and floral notes.
5. E. Guittard Orinoco: More than a slight hint of coconut.
6. Jacques Callebaut: Lots of cocoa, a little less milk.
7. Galler: Intense milky taste, still in a nice balance. Creamy and clean.
8. Côte d’Or: Hints of peanut, anise detected. Smooth.
9. Villars Swiss: Intensely sweet and salty.
10. Nirvana Single Origin Java: Very light, gentle chocolate.
11. Chocolatour Java: Sweet and inoffensive.
12. Michel Cluizel “Mangaro”: On the bitter side for milk, but nice three-dimensional flavors.
13. Chocolove: Buttery up front; complete cocoa flavor.
14. Pralus Mélissa: Very sweet, chocolatey; not so much character.
15. Scharffen Berger: Complex; lots of cocoa, a little tannic.
16. Nirvana Single Origin Papua: Slight malt flavor.
17. Santander: Notes of cherry. A tad spicy.
18. Cadbury: A bland sweetness; slightly waxy.
19. Dagoba: Very faint cedar flavor and some mustiness.
20. Venchi: At first it tastes of nothing; finishes with a wash of condensed milk.
21. Dolfin: Nice melting but tastes off.
22. Hershey’s: Even a blind test couldn’t fool us: Every tester guessed its identity correctly from its classic supersweet, metallic flavors.
23. Michel Cluizel “Maralumi”: Dry, unpleasant, tinny.
24. Nestlé: Like solid condensed milk.
25. Ghirardelli: The worst by far: waxy as a bar of soap, with little redeeming flavor

Written by LeisureGuy

17 January 2007 at 1:00 pm

Posted in Food

Harvard Med School on Healthy Behavior

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They say:

January is a time for New Year’s resolutions, and many of us are thinking about changes we’d like to make in our lives. When it comes to health recommendations, we mostly know the drill: more exercise, healthier food, less stress, and good medical care.

Yet making healthy changes is easier said than done. Even when we’re strongly motivated, adopting a new, healthy habit — or breaking an old, bad one — can be terribly difficult.

What helps?

Considerable research has identified factors that will help us get rid of bad habits and adopt healthy ones. One problem researchers have identified is that many times we’re motivated too often by a sense of guilt, fear, or regret. Experts who study behavior change agree that long-lasting change is most likely when it’s self-motivated and rooted in positive thinking. Recently a British research group released findings on 129 different studies of behavior change strategies. The survey confirmed that the least effective strategies were those that aroused fear or regret in the person attempting to make a change.

Studies have also shown that goals are easier to reach if they’re specific (“I’ll walk 20 minutes a day,” rather than “I’ll get more exercise”) and not too numerous (having too many goals limits the amount of attention and willpower you can devote to reaching any single goal).

Another recurring theme is that it’s not enough to have a goal: You also need practical ways to reach it. For example, if your goal is to stick to a low-calorie diet, have a plan in place for quelling hunger pangs (for example, keep a bottle of water or cup of tea nearby, or chew sugarless gum).

Research has also produced models that help account for success and failure, and explain why making healthy changes can take so long. The expert conclusion is that any effort you make in the right direction is worthwhile, even if you encounter setbacks or find yourself backsliding from time to time.

Lifestyle factors reduce the need for nursing home care

A study published in the May 8, 2006, issue of the Archives of Internal Medicine followed nearly 6,500 middle-aged and elderly people for 20 years. Among the more than 3,500 participants ages 45–64 when the study began, those who were obese, were physically inactive, smoked, or had diabetes or uncontrolled high blood pressure at the start of the study were much more likely to be admitted to a nursing home.

Middle-age smoking increased the chance of a nursing home admission by 56%, physical inactivity by 40%, and uncontrolled high blood pressure by 35%. Diabetes more than tripled the risk. (Middle-age obesity was also associated with higher risk, but the association wasn’t statistically significant — that is, the numbers could have resulted from chance.) All of these conditions, of course, can be modified with lifestyle changes.

Change is a process, not an event

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Written by LeisureGuy

17 January 2007 at 11:54 am

Posted in Drug laws, Health

The kitten and the hen

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A good friendship:

(YouTube inexplicably calls this hen a “rooster.” City boys. Don’t send ’em out to milk the cow.)

Written by LeisureGuy

17 January 2007 at 11:04 am

Posted in Cats

Interesting height/money study

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It’s more complex than at first thought:

Conventional wisdom has it that taller men make more money, get more dates and are more likely to win a presidential election. Shorter women aren’t taken seriously, and boys and girls both suffer psychologically well into adulthood if they’ve grown up the shortest in their class. Right?

Well, maybe … or maybe not. What people thought they knew about the height advantage doesn’t always hold up to the cold eye of psychological and sociological research. Experts are digging deeper into data on the consequences of shortness, and though recent studies validate some of society’s long-held assumptions about height, others are getting chipped away — even dismissed.

“There is little or no evidence that making short people taller changes their lives in any meaningful way,” says Dr. Norman Fost, professor of pediatrics and bioethics at the University of Wisconsin Medical School.

The reality of the relative advantages of being tall is increasingly important because in 2003 the Food and Drug Administration approved the use of synthetic growth hormone for kids with idiopathic short stature, or shortness for no apparent medical reason.

The treatment, an injection every day for many years, is expensive and not consistently covered by insurers. The average benefits — an increase of about 2 inches in height — are modest. Although no one expects ill health consequences down the road, no one really knows for sure what might happen. And critics say all this risk and expense is aimed at altering healthy children who are objects of social prejudice, rather than attacking the prejudice itself.

There’s little doubt that short kids get teased, even occasionally ridiculed. But most grow up to do just as well as their taller taunters. Take the common perception that employers discriminate against short men in hiring and income. That isn’t exactly what happens. It turns out the much-touted income advantage of height is more closely linked to high school experiences than to hiring practices in the adult workplace. And when brothers are studied, one tall and one short, the two have exactly the same employment opportunities and income, regardless of height.

“There’s still a widespread perception that male success is measured in stature,” says Dalton C. Conley, chairman of the sociology department at New York University. “But in terms of total income, earnings and occupational outcomes, the male height issue is really a red herring.”

Other widely held notions about short people do hold up. Based on history, there can be no doubt that Americans like their presidents tall. And on the dating scene, women go for taller men. When it comes to romance, height is often a deal-breaker.

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Written by LeisureGuy

17 January 2007 at 10:44 am

Posted in Daily life, Medical

The 30-day trial for new habits

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I recall reading that it takes about 30 days to establish a habit, so Steve Pavlina’s onto something here. Take a look. Good idea.

Written by LeisureGuy

17 January 2007 at 10:30 am

Posted in Daily life, Health

When did war become okay?

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Glenn Greenwald discusses this phenomenon.

Written by LeisureGuy

17 January 2007 at 10:29 am

Grown accustomed to the Prius

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Specifically, The Wife has grown accustomed to the Prius’s remote keyless operation. She went to TJ’s last night and on leaving walked up to my 10-year-old Nissan and tried to open the door. It didn’t unlock. Odd. She waved her purse at it and tried again. It still didn’t unlock.

Then she remembered. She took the key out of her purse and used it to open the door. Then she put the key back into the purse. 🙂

OTOH, I have occasionally run into a grocery-store door because I expected it to open for me and it was out of order…

Written by LeisureGuy

17 January 2007 at 9:49 am

Posted in Daily life, Technology

How to save money on books

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Thanks to The Son for pointing out these tips. And, he points out also, check out Book Burro, a Firefox add-on that will check your local library and also find the lowest price for any book that search on Amazon.

Written by LeisureGuy

17 January 2007 at 9:34 am

Posted in Books, Daily life

Maybe a new malaria drug

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And it sounds good:

Northwestern University researchers have discovered how malaria parasites persuade red blood cells to engulf them — and how to block the invading parasites.

The malaria marauders hack into the red cell’s signaling system and steal the molecular equivalent of its password to spring open the door to the cell. The researchers have found that a common blood pressure medication — propranolol — jams the signal to prevent the parasite from breaking in.

Scientists had long been perplexed by malaria’s ability to hijack red blood cells, then wildly multiply and provoke the life-threatening symptoms of malaria.

“This opens the possibility for important new drugs for malaria that won’t become

resistant,” said Kasturi Haldar, principal investigator for the study and the Charles E. and Emma H. Morrison Professor in the department of pathology at The Feinberg School of Medicine at Northwestern. “New drugs are urgently needed because the parasite has evolved resistance against virtually all types of commonly used drugs.”

The study was published in PLoS Medicine, and the lead author is Sean Murphy, a Medical Sciences Training Program student.

Malaria, one of the top three deadliest diseases in the developing world, is resurging worldwide because of drug resistance and lack of an effective vaccine, Haldar said.

Jamaica recently reported an outbreak of malaria after it had been eradicated in that country for 50 years.

A blood-borne illness, malaria is transmitted by infected mosquitoes. The symptoms include high fevers and flu-like symptoms such as chills, headache, muscle aches and fatigue. The disease kills an estimated 2 million people a year, mostly African children under five. It also poses a risk to travelers. An estimated 500 million cases of malaria were expected in 2006.

Commonly used drugs against malaria attack the parasite, but it rapidly changes its molecular structure to become resistant to those drugs. It would be difficult, however, for the malaria parasite to develop resistance to a drug that acts on a person’s red blood cells as the blood pressure medication does, Haldar said.

When Haldar and her colleagues tested propranolol in combination with existing anti-malarial drugs in human cell cultures and mice, it reduced the dose of the anti-malarial drugs needed to kill the parasites by tenfold. That’s significant because high doses of anti-malarial drugs — increasingly necessary as resistance to them builds — can be toxic.

In addition, blood pressure medication such as propranolol is cheap and safe for use even in pregnant women, a group particularly vulnerable to malaria.

“We’re working on developing a unique drug that would combine anti-malarial drugs with blood pressure medication,” Haldar said. “We think it has a high likelihood of success.” The next step is human clinical trials.

Written by LeisureGuy

17 January 2007 at 9:29 am

Posted in Health, Medical, Science

End of an era

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Death of an early city:

New details in the tragic end of one of the world’s earliest cities as well as clues about how urban life may have begun there were revealed in a recent excavation in northeastern Syria that was conducted by the University of Chicago and the Syrian Department of Antiquities.


Seal, bone, in shape of reclining animal, probably sheep; seal design shows two stylized horned goats; from Area B, date: ca. 3,500 B.C. (Image courtesy of University of Chicago)

“The attack must have been swift and intense. Buildings collapsed, burning out of control, burying everything in them under vast pile of rubble,” said Clemens Reichel, the American co-director of the Syrian-American Archaeological Expedition to Hamoukar. Reichel, a Research Associate at the University’s Oriental Institute, added that the assault probably left the residents destitute as they buried their dead in the ruins of the city.

Reichel made that assessment of the battle that destroyed Hamoukar about 3500 B.C. after an excavation was conducted in September and October at the site near the Iraqi border. The team uncovered further evidence of the accomplishments of the inhabitants among the remains of the walled city dating to the fourth millennium B.C.

In addition to the wall, the team has uncovered quasi-industrial installations and two large administrative buildings that had been destroyed by an intense fire. It was at the site that, mixed in with the debris from the collapsed wall, that over 1,000 egg-shaped sling bullets were found in 2005, leading the excavators to conclude that an early act of warfare had caused the end of the settlement.

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Written by LeisureGuy

17 January 2007 at 9:24 am

Posted in Daily life, Science

Torture’s efficacy

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No proof at all that torture works, and many indications that it does not:

There is almost no scientific evidence to back up the U.S. intelligence community’s use of controversial interrogation techniques in the fight against terrorism, and experts believe some painful and coercive approaches could hinder the ability to get good information, according to a new report from an intelligence advisory group.

The 374-page report from the Intelligence Science Board examines several aspects of broad interrogation methods and approaches, and it finds that no significant scientific research has been conducted in more than four decades about the effectiveness of many techniques the U.S. military and intelligence groups use regularly. Intelligence experts wrote that a lack of research could explain why abuse has been alleged at U.S. facilities in Afghanistan, Cuba, and Iraq.

“Since there had been little or no development of sustained capacity for interrogation practice, training, or research within intelligence or military communities in the post-Soviet period, many interrogators were forced to ‘make it up’ on the fly,” wrote Robert A. Fein, chairman of the study, published by the National Defense Intelligence College. “This shortfall in advanced, research-based interrogation methods at a time of intense pressure from operational commanders to produce actionable intelligence from high-value targets may have contributed significantly to the unfortunate cases of abuse that have recently come to light.”

The report explores scientific knowledge on interrogation in the wake of reported abuse around the globe. The study, sponsored by the Defense Intelligence Agency and the Pentagon’s Counterintelligence Field Activity, was posted yesterday on the Federation of American Scientists’ Web site, at http://www.fas.org/irp/dni/educing.pdf.

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Written by LeisureGuy

17 January 2007 at 9:06 am

Spineless Arlen Specter did it!

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From TPMmuckraker:

In order to replace several U.S. Attorneys with handpicked successors, the Bush Administration has relied on a tiny, obscure provision tucked into last year’s USA PATRIOT Improvement and Reauthorization Act.

How did it get there?

Former Senate Judiciary Chairman Arlen Specter (R-PA) slipped the language into the bill at the very last minute, according to one of the Republican managers of the bill.

A spokesperson for Rep. James Sensenbrenner (R-WI), who led the House team working on the bill, said that the provision was inserted by Specter into the final draft of the bill. The language was apparently requested by the Justice Department. Specter’s office didn’t respond to numerous requests for comment.

Earlier versions of the bill did not contain the provision, which grants authority to the Attorney General to replace U.S. Attorneys without Senate approval. When the House and the Senate first voted in favor of the legislation, the provision did not exist.

Instead, the tweak was inserted during the conference committee, where lawmakers from the House and Senate reconcile discrepancies in the two versions and craft a final bill.

In an unusual move, Republicans blocked Democrats from participating in many of the committee’s activities.

According to the original law, the Attorney General could appoint interim U.S. Attorneys, but if they were not nominated by the President and confirmed by the Senate within 120 days of being appointed, the federal district court would appoint a replacement. The new law wiped away that 120 day rule, in effect allowing the administration to handpick replacements and keep them there in perpetuity without the ordeal of Senate confirmation.

But amidst all the controversy last year over the PATRIOT reauthorization bill (the administration’s warrantless wiretapping program, their use of National Security Letters to get information on citizens), the new law simply went unnoticed. Until now.

Written by LeisureGuy

17 January 2007 at 8:58 am

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