Later On

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

Archive for February 26th, 2007

More good news about coffee

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It is high-fiber:

Already recognized as a source of healthful anti-inflammatory and antioxidant compounds, coffee also contains significantly higher levels of soluble dietary fiber than other commonly consumed beverages, scientists in Spain report.

Their study is scheduled for publication in the March 21 issue of ACS’ Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, a biweekly journal.

Fulgencio Saura-Calixto and M. Elena Diaz-Rubio point out that coffee is a complex chemical mixture that reportedly contains more than 1,000 different compounds, some of which have been linked to good and bad effects on human health. Scientists have known that coffee beans are rich in soluble dietary fiber (SDF) that can pass into brewed coffee, the researchers added, noting, however, that little research has been done on the topic.

In the new study, researchers used a special technique for measuring dietary fiber in beverages to show that brewed coffee contains a significant amount of SDF — 02.5 percent to 20.0 percent by weight of powdered coffee bean. “The dietary fiber content in brewed coffee is higher than in other common beverages such as wine or orange juice,” the study states.

The findings mean that consumption of 1 cup (about 200 milliliters) of coffee per day represents a contribution of up to 1.8 grams of the recommended intake of 20-38 grams of this essential nutrient, the researchers noted.

Written by Leisureguy

26 February 2007 at 5:23 pm

Posted in Caffeine, Food, Health

Gore’s other warning

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Robert Parry reminds us:

As Al Gore steps into the national spotlight because of the Academy Awards and his global-warming documentary “An Inconvenient Truth,” it’s worth remembering that in fall 2002 Gore sought to warn the American people about another “inconvenient truth,” the folly of invading Iraq.

The former Vice President did so at a time when it was considered madness or almost treason to object to George W. Bush’s war plans. But Gore was one of a small number of national political figures who took that risk and paid a price, subjected to widespread ridicule and disdain from the Washington news media.

On Sept, 23, 2002, in a speech at the Commonwealth Club in San Francisco, Gore laid out a series of concerns and differences that he had with Bush’s policy of “preemptive war” and specifically Bush’s decision to refashion the “war on terror” into an imminent invasion of Iraq.

Gore, who had supported the Persian Gulf War in 1990-91, criticized Bush’s failure to enlist the international community as his father had. Gore also warned about the negative impact that alienating other nations was having on the broader war against terrorists.

“I am deeply concerned that the course of action that we are presently embarking upon with respect to Iraq has the potential to seriously damage our ability to win the war against terrorism and to weaken our ability to lead the world in this new century,” Gore said. “To put first things first, I believe that we ought to be focusing our efforts first and foremost against those who attacked us on Sept. 11. …

“Great nations persevere and then prevail. They do not jump from one unfinished task to another. We should remain focused on the war against terrorism.”

Instead of keeping after al-Qaeda and stabilizing Afghanistan, Bush had chosen to start a new war against Iraq as the first example of his policy of preemption, Gore said.

“He is telling us that our most urgent task right now is to shift our focus and concentrate on immediately launching a new war against Saddam Hussein,” Gore said. “And the President is proclaiming a new uniquely American right to preemptively attack whomsoever he may deem represents a potential future threat.”

Gore also objected to the timing of the vote on war with Iraq.

“President Bush is demanding, in this high political season, that Congress speedily affirm that he has the necessary authority to proceed immediately against Iraq and, for that matter, under the language of his resolution, against any other nation in the region regardless of subsequent developments or emerging circumstances,” Gore said.

The former Vice President staked out a position with subtle but important differences from Bush’s broad assertion that the United States has the right to override international law on the President’s command. Gore argued that U.S. unilateral power should be used sparingly, only in extreme situations.

“There’s no international law that can prevent the United States from taking action to protect our vital interests when it is manifestly clear that there’s a choice to be made between law and our survival,” Gore said. “Indeed, international law itself recognizes that such choices stay within the purview of all nations. I believe, however, that such a choice is not presented in the case of Iraq.”

Lost Good Will

Gore bemoaned, too, that Bush’s actions had dissipated the international good will that surrounded the United States after the 9/11 attacks.

“That has been squandered in a year’s time and replaced with great anxiety all around the world, not primarily about what the terrorist networks are going to do, but about what we’re going to do,” Gore said. “Now, my point is not that they’re right to feel that way, but that they do feel that way.”

Gore also took aim at Bush’s unilateral assertion of his right to imprison American citizens without trial or legal representation simply by labeling them “enemy combatants.”

“The very idea that an American citizen can be imprisoned without recourse to judicial process or remedy, and that this can be done on the sole say-so of the President of the United States or those acting in his name, is beyond the pale and un-American, and ought to be stopped,” Gore said.

Gore raised, too, practical concerns about the dangers that might follow the overthrow of Hussein, if chaos in Iraq followed. Gore cited the deteriorating political condition in Afghanistan where the new central government exerted real control only in parts of Kabul while ceding effective power to warlords in the countryside.

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Leisureguy

26 February 2007 at 4:45 pm

Adult stem cells not so useful as embryonic stem cells

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A 2002 study that suggested adult stem cells might be as useful as embryonic ones was flawed and its conclusions may be wrong, a scientific panel says — a finding that raises questions about the promise of a less controversial source for stem cells.

The research by Catherine Verfaillie at the University of Minnesota concluded that adult stem cells taken from the bone marrow of mice could grow into an array of biological tissues, including brain, heart, lung and liver.

So far only embryonic stem cells, which are commonly retrieved by destroying embryos at an early stage of development, are known to hold such regenerative promise. Many scientists believe they might one day be used to treat certain diseases and other conditions.

Opponents of stem cell research seized on the 2002 findings as evidence that stem cell science could move forward without destroying embryos. But Verfaillie has acknowledged flaws in parts of the study after inquiries from the British magazine New Scientist, which first publicized the questions last week.

A panel of experts commissioned by the university concluded that the process used to identify tissue derived from the adult stem cells was “significantly flawed, and that the interpretations based on these data, expressed in the manuscript, are potentially incorrect,” according to a portion of the panel’s findings released by the university.

The panel concluded that it was not clear whether the flaws mean Verfaillie’s conclusions were wrong. It also determined that the flaws were mistakes, not falsifications.

Tim Mulcahy, vice president of research at the university, said it would be up to the scientific community to decide whether Verfaillie’s study still stands up.

“From her perspective, the findings stand. I think the scientific community will have to make their own opinion,” he said.

Other researchers have been unable to duplicate Verfaillie’s results since the 2002 publications, increasing their skepticism about her claims. But that may only be an indication of how difficult the cells are to work with, said Amy Wagers, a Harvard University stem cell researcher who was not involved in the investigation.

Verfaillie did not respond to a phone message left with her current employer, the Catholic University of Leuven in Belgium. She told the Star Tribune of Minneapolis in a story published Friday that the problem was “an honest mistake” that did not affect the study’s conclusions about the potential of adult stem cells.

Her research was scrutinized after a writer for New Scientist noticed that some data from the original 2002 article in the journal Nature duplicated data in a second paper by Verfaillie around the same time in a different journal, even though they supposedly referred to different cells. Verfaillie told the Star Tribune that the duplication was an oversight and said she notified the University of Minnesota, which convened the panel to take a closer look at the research.

The editor of the London-based scientific journal Nature said in a statement, “We are in touch with the author and investigating the problems that have been mentioned. We have no further comment.”

Dr. Diane Krause of Yale University, who, like Verfaillie, has studied using bone marrow as an alternative to embryonic stem cells, said she believes Verfaillie’s research will hold up, despite being hard to repeat.

“When it comes to Catherine, she’s impeccable. She’s one of the most careful scientists I know,” Krause said.

Nigel Cameron, who runs the Institute on Biotechnology and the Human Future and is a bioethics professor at Chicago-Kent College of Law in the Illinois Institute of Technology, said scientists who have been trying to find a middle way on stem cells have seen their work seized by one side or the other for their own advantages.

“This is a fascinating example of the way in which science is becoming politicized, on both sides of this debate,” said Cameron, who supported U.S. President George W. Bush’s 2001 ban on federal money spent on deriving new stem cells from fertilized embryos. “It’s no longer scientists in white coats coming up with facts. There are uses being made of the facts on all sides, and I think it’s quite problematic.”

Written by Leisureguy

26 February 2007 at 3:05 pm

They can’t stop lying

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From ThinkProgress:

In an effort to push back against congressional efforts to rescind the original 2002 Iraq War resolution, White House press spokesman Tony Fratto on Friday argued the United Nations had authorized the initial U.S. invasion of Iraq:

“The president said this isn’t the fight we entered in Iraq, but it’s the fight we’re in,” Fratto told reporters Friday. “We went in as a multinational force under U.N. authorization to take military action in Iraq. We were there as an occupying force, and now we’re there at the invitation of the sovereign, elected government of Iraq.”

Actually, the White House did not invade Iraq “under U.N. authorization.” President Bush had promised to take the issue to the U.N. Security Council “no matter what the whip count,” but never did. U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan described the invasion of Iraq as “not in conformity with the UN charter…from the charter point of view, it was illegal.”

It’s one thing to spin history; it’s quite another to rewrite it from scratch.

Written by Leisureguy

26 February 2007 at 3:01 pm

Supporting the troops, GOP style

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From USA Today:

The Army is shortchanging troops on their disability retirement ratings to hold down costs, according to veterans advocates, lawyers and service members.

The number of people approved for permanent or temporary disability retirement in the Navy, Marine Corps and Air Force has stayed relatively stable since 2001.

But in the Army — in the midst of a war — the number of soldiers approved for permanent disability retirement has plunged by more than two-thirds, from 642 in 2001 to 209 in 2005, according to a Government Accountability Office report last year. That decline has come even as the number of soldiers wounded or injured in Iraq has soared above 15,000.

Meanwhile, the number placed on temporary disability retirement has increased more than fourfold, from 165 in 2001 to 837 in 2005. After 18 months, troops on temporary disability are re-evaluated and either returned to duty, rated for separation or permanent disability retirement, or sent back to temporary disability for another 18 months — up to five years.

Along with paying them reduced wages during that time, the eventual re-evaluation often leads to downward revisions in their disability ratings — and lower disability payments.

“It’s a bureaucratic game to preserve the budget, and it’s having an adverse effect on service members,” said Ron Smith, deputy general counsel for Disabled American Veterans.

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Leisureguy

26 February 2007 at 2:50 pm

Sophie: she has her strengths

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Lovability, for one. Example: The Wife calls to say that Sophie’s sitting on top of the hutch, doing a good job of cleaning her butt, one leg stuck straight up in the air, when a bird comes by the window. Sophie sees the bird, starts watching it—leg still stuck straight up in the air. Slowly, Sophie sits up at attention—leg still stuck in the air, but it starts to drift down, and the paw passes in front of her face, surprising her. So she bites it.

Written by Leisureguy

26 February 2007 at 11:21 am

Posted in Cats, Sophie

Thoughts on the science of global warming

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In another forum, I brought up global warming and submitted a little poll. I was surprised by the results:

What’s your take on global warming?
It’s not happening.
11% [ 6 ]
It’s happening, but totally due to natural causes outside our control.
39% [20]
It’s happening and it’s man-made and nothing we can do about it.
11% [ 6 ]
It’s happening and it’s man-made and if we take action, we can still correct the situation.
37% [19]
Total Votes : 51

11% still think there is no global warming, in spite of the dwindling Arctic icecap, the vanishing of glaciers, the melting of the Greenland ice cap, and the anomalous high temperatures over the entire globe. That surprised me, but then I remembered the old Army axiom: “10% never get the word.” No matter how thoroughly the word that “we’ll move out at dawn” is passed down the chain of command with orders that every troop be told, the next morning will find 10% taken totally by surprise by all the activity. So that accounts for that.

UPDATE: A little more insight into the 10%: a remark made by one who voted that it’s not happening pointed out that Greenland’s climate was once much warmer than it is today—the implication being that, if climate scientists knew this fact, they would not be saying that we experiencing global warming. Climate scientists, of course, know substantially more about the historical and pre-historical climate changes that most, and one is reminded of Alexander Pope’s point:

A little learning is a dangerous thing
Drink deep, or taste not the Pierian spring:
There shallow draughts intoxicate the brain,
And drinking largely sobers us again.

I might add that it was not until my sophomore year of college that I realized that “largely” modifies “drinking,” not “sobers”: it is drinking largely (as opposed to shallow draughts) that makes us sober once more.

But what about the 20% who imagine that it’s totally due to natural causes?

Some clarification came in comments: one person suggested that the amount of greenhouse gas issued by volcanoes, fumaroles, geysers, and the like was greater than the anthropogenic greenhouse gases by a factor of 3650: that is, those natural sources emitted “more in one day than mankind produces in ten years.” Since anthropogenic greenhouse gases are currently running about 26.7 billion tons a year of just CO2, that would put the output from volcanoes at around 97.5 trillion tons per year. In fact, the total of CO2 and SO2 emissions from the natural sources listed is around one-quarter of a billion tons—two orders of magnitude less than anthropogenic causes. (See here and here (pdf) for source articles.)

So part of it stems from simply not knowing the facts. But there was another interesting comment made by more than one: reference to the fear of global cooling raised in the early 70’s. So some of it is, as President Bush said, “There’s an old saying in Tennessee — I know it’s in Texas, probably in Tennessee — that says, fool me once, shame on — shame on you. Fool me — you can’t get fooled again.”

This position, I think, fails to take into account what’s happened in the 35 or so years since the early 70’s. Think about it for a minute: microcomputers (IBM’s microcomputer came out in 1981) and embedded microprocessors (the little embedded microcomputers that are now everywhere, from our autos to our kitchen appliances). Observation satellites and the Global Positioning System. The Internet. And a lot more knowledge about our planet and the climate. Indeed, we now have 35 more years of historical data from ice cores gathered from the Antarctic and the Greenland ice cap, so our understanding of the history of climate is much greater.

Science builds on a foundation of data. It takes the data that it now has to test its current theories and try out new ones—and it’s always, always gathering more data. We now can gather surface-temperature data by satellite, from oceans and land. We can release buoys, containing microcomputers and GPS systems and sensors, to float with the currents and transmit observations of temperature, salinity, wind speed, and the like. We can grind this data with much bigger computers—teraflops of processing power. Scientists can exchange data, theories, requests via the Internet—both person-to-person and in forums. And more and more of the data are digitized: computer-ready from the start. That’s how my dentist looks at my X-rays immediately and can retake them if needed, and get magnified views on the spot. (I was recently told of a radiologist who works from home in a tiny village in backwoods Pennsylvania, reading (digitized) X-rays from all over the country at home: digitized images, the Internet, and the radiologist is part of the hospital staff, as it were, at a vast collection of hospitals.)

35 years ago scientists did the best they could with the data they had, but they didn’t rest there (unlike Rumsfeld, who went to war with the Army he had and then did nothing to provide the equipment they so desperately needed). They invented new instruments, new ways to gather more data and new data, all digitized, and they had the processing (computer) power to manage the data and the communications (Internet) to share the data.

So some are stuck with memories of past approaches and capabilities and don’t understand how much things have changed, how much more is known about the world’s climate.

But still: when climate scientists worldwide come to a consensus agreement that we are experiencing global warming at an increasing rate, and it’s due to anthropogenic gases, how can their knowledge and observations and expertise be so readily dismissed? I don’t know. I suspect it’s something to do with a hunger for the status quo: a desire that things not change. But they do. And the scientists are trying to tell us that: Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Leisureguy

26 February 2007 at 10:38 am

B12 and Metformin

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For you Type 2 diabetics who are taking Metformin: maybe have your endocrinologist check your blood levels of B12 on your next blood draw. I just learned this morning that Metformin interferes with B12 absorption, so even if you’re getting enough in your diet, you could still be short due to the Metformin.

And, while you’re at it, have her/him also check your vitamin D levels. This seems worthwhile with all the reports of people having unsuspected vitamin deficiencies, especially given all the things that vitamin D does for you.

Here’s some useful info:

There are two vitamin D tests — 1,25(OH)D and 25(OH)D.

25(OH)D is the better marker of overall D status. It is this marker that is most strongly associated with overall health.

The correct test is 25(OH)D, also called 25-hydroxyvitamin D.

The optimal levels shown below are taken from healthy people from the tropical or subtropical parts of the world where they are receiving healthy sun exposures. It seems more than reasonable to assume that these values are in fact reflective of an optimal human requirement.

Dr. Michael Hollick is one of the top vitamin D researchers in the world and he has been advocating higher reference ranges, though not as high as the ones suggested here.

(Holick MF. Calcium and Vitamin D. Diagnostics and Therapeutics. Clin Lab Med. 2000 Sep;20(3):569-90)

Optimal 25-hydroxyvitamin D values are:

45-50 ng/ml or
115-128 nmol/l

Normal 25-hydroxyvitamin D lab values are:

20-56 ng/ml
50-140 nmol/l

If you have the above test performed, please recognize that many commercial labs are using the older dated reference ranges. The above values are the newest ones from the clinical research.

There are a number of different companies that have FDA approval to perform vitamin D testing. The gold standard company though is DiaSorin. Quest labs is the largest commercial lab in the US and they use this company to measure 25 hydroxy D levels. However, many other commercial labs don’t. So if you do not have your test done at Quest labs please contact the lab directly to find out which assay is being used. Your test results will not be accurate and you can not use the values in the table above unless the D is measured with a DiaSorin assay. The extra hassle is definitely worth it, believe me. You will only need to do this once though, as the labs do not switch assays. However, if your lab is not using the DiaSorin assay you could ask them to switch to the gold standard.

Written by Leisureguy

26 February 2007 at 9:32 am

Posted in Daily life, Health

Castle Forbes begins a week of shaving cream

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This is a week I’ll be using 6 top-shelf shaving creams—that is, from the top shelf of my little cabinet of shaving creams and soaps, though they are also quite good. Indeed, Castle Forbes prices its shaving and perfume products quite generously, considering they they are in Scotland, land of the frugal. Wonderful shaving creams, no mistake about it, but perhaps better to receive as a gift than to buy. (You’ll note at the link that the castle lord has made quite a business of his castle and its grounds, with accommodations, hunting,  a perfumery, and even “natural burial.”)

I used the Lime shaving cream, which (it says on the jar) is specifically “for skin prone to cuts & nicks.” My skin is not—flawless technique, I calls it—but it’s nonetheless a wonderful shaving cream: a tiny amount producing a thick luxury of lather using the Rooney Style 2 Finest.

With the Vision holding a Swedish Gillette, I made short work of two days’ beard. Alum and Musgo Real aftershave, and I feel a BBS face. What a pleasant experience!

Written by Leisureguy

26 February 2007 at 9:23 am

Posted in Shaving

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