Later On

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

Archive for August 6th, 2008

Collateral damage in the War on Drugs

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Really, haven’t we had enough of this sort of thing? Read:

A police SWAT team raided the home of the mayor in the Prince George’s County town of Berwyn Heights on Tuesday, shooting and killing his two dogs, after he brought in a 32-pound package of marijuana that had been delivered to his doorstep, police said.

Mayor Cheye Calvo was not arrested in the raid, which was carried out about 7 p.m. by the Sheriff’s Office SWAT team and county police narcotics officers. Prince George’s police spokesman Henry Tippett said yesterday that all the residents of the house — Calvo, his wife and his mother-in-law — are “persons of interest” in the case.

The package was addressed to Calvo’s wife, Trinity Tomsic, said law enforcement officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the case is ongoing.

Tippett said police are working to determine for whom the drugs were meant.

Calvo said yesterday that he did not know how the drugs wound up on his doorstep. He works part time as the mayor and serves as director of expansion for the SEED Foundation, a well-known national nonprofit group that runs urban public boarding schools.

“My government blew through my doors and killed my dogs,” Calvo said. “They thought we were drug dealers, and we were treated as such. I don’t think they really ever considered that we weren’t.”

Calvo described a chaotic scene, in which he — wearing only underwear and socks — and his mother-in-law were handcuffed and interrogated for hours. They were surrounded by the dogs’ carcasses and pools of the dogs’ blood, Calvo said.

Spokesmen for the Sheriff’s Office and Prince George’s police expressed regret yesterday that the mayor’s dogs were killed. But they defended the way the raid was carried out, saying it was proper for a case involving such a large amount of drugs.

Sgt. Mario Ellis, a Sheriff’s Office spokesman, said the deputies who entered Calvo’s home “apparently felt threatened” by the dogs.

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

6 August 2008 at 7:05 pm

HIV drug and West Nile virus

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Interesting report from Miranda Hitti of WebMD:

A drug originally made to fight HIV may help treat West Nile virusencephalitis, a dangerous brain infection.

West Nile virus is usually spread through mosquitoes; it can also be transmitted through blood transfusions, organ transplants, breastfeeding, and during pregnancy from mother to infant. Most people who get infected with West Nile virus don’t get sick. Some have mild symptoms; serious symptoms such as encephalitis are rare.

The drug, called AMD3100, didn’t pan out as an HIV drug. And it doesn’t actually tackle West Nile virus itself. Instead, it paves the way for immune system cells to do the dirty work.

More at the link.

Written by Leisureguy

6 August 2008 at 7:05 pm

Posted in Daily life, Medical, Science

Weekend fun for frugal introverts

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Activities that cost little and don’t require a bevy of friends. Useful info from The Simple Dollar. The first few (of 50):

1. Make a collage postcard for PostSecret. For those unaware, PostSecret is a website to which people send postcards telling their deepest, darkest secret anonymously; the blog creator then posts images of some of those postcards on the blog. All you need is a blank postcard, some imagination, and a secret to tell. Look around your house for the materials you’ll need – old magazines are always a great place to start harvesting materials from. Look for images that reflect the secret you want to tell, then make a collage out of them on the card. Whether you mail it or not is up to you, but it’s a wonderful way to get creative and get some release on a secret you’ve been hiding.

2. Try out parkour. Parkour is essentially an athletic activity where you simply try to find the quickest path from point A to point B. You can do this pretty much anywhere – your yard, the park, anywhere in a city – and it’s always a lot of fun and good exercise. Plus, it’s an incredibly effective way to improve your mind-body coordination, as practicing this regularly will improve your balance and also your quick-decision skills.

3. Master a Rubik’s Cube. There are few parlor tricks that are more entertaining (for me, at least) than watching someone solve a Rubik’s Cube quickly. You can easily get ahold of one of these (ask on freecycle or Craigslist) – the trick is figuring out how to solve it on your own, then how to solve it quickly. Here’s a great guide for solving a Rubik’s Cube.

4. Make a list of all of the people who were a positive influence on your life and write them all a letter thanking them. Think for a bit about all of the people who have inspired you and helped you along in your current life path. Make a list of all of these people – mine, for example, includes my high school English teacher, some relatives and friends, and a few college professors. Then pull out some paper and a pen and write each of them a handwritten letter, reminding them of how they helped you out and thanking them for doing so. It’s a great way to get in touch with the people who helped shape your life, and it’s something you’ll feel genuinely good about for a long time.

Written by Leisureguy

6 August 2008 at 3:12 pm

Posted in Daily life

Floss the teeth you want to keep

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Good advice:

In dental offices all over the world, patients are often told they are not flossing enough or instructed to floss more. As the old saying goes, you only need to floss the teeth you want to keep. After all, not flossing regularly can lead to tooth decay and to periodontal disease, the leading cause of tooth loss in adults. A recent study published in the Journal of Periodontology (JOP), the official publication of the American Academy of Periodontology (AAP) demonstrates that including flossing as part of one’s routine oral care can actually help reduce the amount of gum disease-causing bacteria found in the mouth, therefore contributing to healthy teeth and gums.

The study, conducted at New York University, examined 51 sets of twins between the ages of 12 and 21. Each set was randomly assigned a 2-week treatment regimen with one twin brushing with a manual toothbrush and toothpaste and the other twin brushing with a manual toothbrush and toothpaste and flossing. At the end of the two week trial, samples were taken from both pairs of twins and compared for levels of bacteria commonly associated with periodontal disease.

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Written by Leisureguy

6 August 2008 at 3:09 pm

Posted in Daily life, Health, Science

More Megs in the sun

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Surrounded by toys—click to biggen.

Sun and toys, just for Megs

Sun and toys, just for Megs

Written by Leisureguy

6 August 2008 at 11:40 am

Posted in Cats, Daily life, Megs

Bush and language

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His contribution (negative, alas):

Vodpod videos no longer available.

more about "Bush and language", posted with vodpod

Written by Leisureguy

6 August 2008 at 11:14 am

Posted in Daily life

Why are Bush and Congress paying for Iraq reconstruction?

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There is, of course, the point that the US destroyed Iraq’s infrastructure, but that was done on the promise that Iraqi oil could pay much of the cost. And it isn’t:

Iraq has benefited handsomely from this year’s surge in oil prices and is well-positioned financially to shoulder a greater share of its own economic and security needs, the U.S. government’s accounting watchdog concluded in a report released Tuesday.

In its report on efforts to stabilize and reconstruct Iraq, the Government Accountability Office steered clear of the politics of who pays for what. But it left little doubt that Iraq, which racked up $32.9 billion in oil earnings from January through June, can afford to pay more for its own reconstruction.

The GAO estimates that Iraq will earn $67 billion to $79 billion in oil sales this year, twice the average annual amount of revenue that it generated from oil sales from 2005 through 2007. This windfall comes despite the fact that Iraq is still struggling to approach pre-invasion oil-production levels.

Record high oil prices mean that Iraq’s government could post a budget surplus of more than $50 billion by year’s end. From 2005 to 2007, oil exports provided 94 percent of the Iraqi government’s revenues.

“This substantial increase in revenues offers the Iraqi government the potential to better finance its own security and finance needs,” the GAO said.

The Iraqi government has run budget surpluses since 2005 that amounted to a cumulative $29.4 billion at the end of last year. Should oil prices remain high, Iraq could post a budget surplus for this year of $38.2 billion to $50.3 billion, GAO researchers concluded.

However, investment spending by the Iraqi ministries that are responsible for oil, water and electricity declined sharply from 2005 to 2007. The GAO said that Oil Ministry spending fell by an annual rate of 92 percent, Electricity Ministry spending by 93 percent and Water Ministry spending by 13 percent. All three ministries affect Iraqi citizens’ quality of life and thus support for the struggling elected government.

While Iraq has amassed budget surpluses, the U.S. Congress has appropriated roughly $48 billion since 2003 for efforts to stabilize and reconstruct the invaded nation. As of this June, the GAO said, about $42 billion of that money had been spent.

Just 1 percent of what Iraq spent from 2005 through 2007 went toward expenditures such as maintaining U.S.- and Iraqi-funded investment in buildings, water supplies and power-generation facilities.

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Written by Leisureguy

6 August 2008 at 10:49 am

Why antiretroviral therapy isn’t effective in HIV

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Interesting—and why treatment of symptoms continues to be important.

University of Minnesota researchers have answered a key question as to why antiretroviral therapy isn’t effective in restoring immunity in HIV-infected patients. Once a person is infected with the virus, fibrosis, or scarring, occurs in the lymph nodes – the home of T cells that fight infection. And once fibrosis occurs, T cells can’t repopulate the lymph nodes when HIV therapy begins, said Timothy Schacker, M.D., professor of medicine and principal investigator on the study.

“Importantly, we discovered that this fibrosis occurs more rapidly and to a greater extent in the portion of the gut – the largest lymphatic tissue in the body – containing the T cells, compared with other immune tissues,” he said. “The fibrosis stops cells from returning to immune tissues, especially in the gut.”

The results of the study, sponsored by the National Institute of Health, will be published in the Aug. 15 edition of the Journal of Infectious Disease. The article is currently online.

In the study, seven HIV-infected patients were treated very early after infection and experienced a greater degree of immune reconstitution than patients treated in the chronic or end stages of the disease, especially in the gut.

Schacker said it’s crucial to start therapy earlier than current guidelines suggest. Beginning in the earliest stages of infection, when the patient only shows preliminarily symptoms of HIV, can preserve some elements of the immune system (mainly protecting T-cells that fight infection), he said.

The research also suggests that anti-fibrotic drugs might have a role as adjunctive therapy in HIV-1 infections – both in limiting depletion and improving reconstitution of T cells under therapy.

Source: University of Minnesota

Written by Leisureguy

6 August 2008 at 10:44 am

Posted in Daily life, Medical, Science

Medicinal marijuana for pain in HIV

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This is good information, and the use of medical marijuana, when recommended by a physician, is legal in California (and 11 other states). Of course, those who are busy bodies can call in the Feds to arrest the patient and the dispensary (though both are legal under state law) in order that the pain can continue.

We need Federal law to be changed to allow medical marijuana use—or simply to end prohibition, as they did on alcohol. Prohibition obviously does not work—not that this consideration seems to occur to lawmakers, too often an ignorant lot (US Sen. Dianne Feinstein, for example, thinks that marijuana is made of opium—when I emailed her about medical marijuana, she wrote to me that she didn’t think narcotics should be used medically. Wonder what she thinks about the medical use of morphine.)

At any rate: the finding—and note that the study was carefully done.

In a double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical trial to assess the impact of smoked medical cannabis, or marijuana, on the neuropathic pain associated with HIV, researchers at the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine found that reported pain relief was greater with cannabis than with a placebo. The study, sponsored by the University of California Center for Medical Cannabis Research (CMCR) based at UC San Diego, will be published on line, August 6 in the journal Neuropsychopharmacology. Led by Ronald J. Ellis, M.D., Ph.D., associate professor of neurosciences at UCSD School of Medicine, the study looked at 28 HIV patients with neuropathic pain not adequately controlled by other pain-relievers, including opiates. They took part in the controlled study as outpatients at the UCSD Medical Center. The proportion of subjects achieving pain reduction of 30 percent or more was greater for those smoking cannabis than those smoking the placebo.

“Neuropathy is a chronic and significant problem in HIV patients as there are few existing treatments that offer adequate pain management to sufferers,” Ellis said. “We found that smoked cannabis was generally well-tolerated and effective when added to the patient’s existing pain medication, resulting in increased pain relief.”

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Written by Leisureguy

6 August 2008 at 10:40 am

How time flies: 7 years ago today…

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ThinkProgress reminds us:

Today marks seven years since the day President Bush received a President’s Daily Brief entitled “Bin Laden Determined to Strike in U.S.” (See the memo here.) At the time, Bush was vacationing at his ranch in Crawford, TX and stayed on vacation the rest of August 2001. Here’s how the administration reacted, according to the 9/11 Commission report:

[President Bush] did not recall discussing the August 6 report with the Attorney General or whether Rice had done so. [p. 260]

We have found no indication of any further discussion before September 11 among the President and his top advisers of the possibility of a threat of an al Qaeda attack in the United States. DCI Tenet visited President Bush in Crawford, Texas, on August 17 and participated in the PDB briefings of the President between August 31 (after the President had returned to Washington) and September 10. But Tenet does not recall any discussions with the President of the domestic threat during this period. [p. 262]

The day after he received the memo, “Bush seemed carefree as he spoke about the books he was reading, the work he was doing on his nearby ranch, his love of hot-weather jogging, his golf game and his 55th birthday,” the Washington Post noted. Today — 2,557 days later — Bin Laden still remains free and “determined to strike in U.S.”

Written by Leisureguy

6 August 2008 at 10:32 am

Poaching chicken

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I generally (though not always) poach fish, and poached chicken is (as this post points out) very handy to have on hand for chicken salads, sandwiches, and the like. The trick is not to poach it so that it’s overcooked and dry, but just enough to cook it through while leaving it moist and tender.

Take a look at the post. Good instructions and a good recipe to boot: Chicken and yogurt salad with cucumber and peach. Yum.

Written by Leisureguy

6 August 2008 at 10:26 am

Posted in Daily life, Food, Recipes

Rewiring your brain through mental imagery

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This is a very interesting post at Mind Hacks, and makes one wonder just how extensively on might rewire the brain through mental imagery. Certainly athletes augment physical practice with mental imagery, so they may be on to it already.

Written by Leisureguy

6 August 2008 at 10:20 am

Posted in Daily life, Medical, Science

War on drugs out of control

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Review this post and then read this news story. Once you have calmed down, then read John Cole’s post, which reveals that in the second story the police did NOT have a no-knock warrant, and also has some cogent comments on the irrationality of the Federal response in the first post.

Written by Leisureguy

6 August 2008 at 10:06 am

Broccoli may undo diabetes damage

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Thanks to Jack in the Netherlands for pointing out this article. I’m going to Whole Foods today to get beets and feta to make the salad noted below—and probably the makings of more ceviche—and you can be sure that I’m coming home with a lot of broccoli.

Eating broccoli could reverse the damage caused by diabetes to heart blood vessels, research suggests.

A University of Warwick team believe the key is a compound found in the vegetable, called sulforaphane. It encourages production of enzymes which protect the blood vessels, and a reduction in high levels of molecules which cause significant cell damage.

Brassica vegetables such as broccoli have previously been linked to a lower risk of heart attacks and strokes. People with diabetes are up to five times more likely to develop cardiovascular diseases such as heart attacks and strokes; both are linked to damaged blood vessels.

The Warwick team, whose work is reported in the journal Diabetes, tested the effects of sulforaphane on blood vessel cells damaged by high glucose levels (hyperglycaemia), which are associated with diabetes. They recorded a 73% reduction of molecules in the body called Reactive Oxygen Species (ROS). Hyperglycaemia can cause levels of ROS to increase three-fold and such high levels can damage human cells.

The researchers also found that sulforaphane activated a protein in the body called nrf2, which protects cells and tissues from damage by activating protective antioxidant and detoxifying enzymes.

Countering vascular disease

Lead researcher Professor Paul Thornalley said: “Our study suggests that compounds such as sulforaphane from broccoli may help counter processes linked to the development of vascular disease in diabetes.

“In future, it will be important to test if eating a diet rich in brassica vegetables has health benefits for diabetic patients. We expect that it will.”

Dr Iain Frame, director of research at the charity Diabetes UK, stressed that research carried out on cells in the lab was a long way from the real life situation. However, he said: “It is encouraging to see that Professor Thornalley and his team have identified a potentially important substance that may protect and repair blood vessels from the damaging effects of diabetes.

“It also may help add some scientific weight to the argument that eating broccoli is good for you.”

Written by Leisureguy

6 August 2008 at 9:15 am

Posted in Daily life, Food, Health, Science

Limits of the rational

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I had numerous dreams last night on the limits of reason—of rational, analytic thought. Perhaps the articles referenced in this post had been swirling around in my unconscious mind (itself an instance of the power of nonrational processes: for example, how a skill is mastered by practice, not by rational analysis–rational analysis and careful reasoning about how a basketball shot is made cannot substitute for practicing the shot, in terms of success). Gödel’s Theorem, like Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle, becomes a useful metaphor with applications beyond its actual finding. Just as the Uncertainty Principle becomes applied to any situation in which having an observer perturbs the observations, Gödel’s Theorem serves as a useful shorthand for true statements unreachable by rational means.

Consider, for example, the impact a great painting might have. While rational considerations—the composition, the colors, the technique, the place of the painting in its artistic and social context—can expand the experience, the immediate impact and experience of seeing the painting takes place not on the rational level. Moreover, it’s not purely a sensual experience: the mind is involved, but the non-rational component of the experience is the driving force.

In my dream, this was expressed in a kind of Tron-like logical virtual construction in which I was a participant, but kept having to interrupt to respond to physical and non-rational needs—ultimately, to having to wake up and go pee.

Written by Leisureguy

6 August 2008 at 9:11 am

Posted in Daily life

Great new blade

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A new Best Blade

A new Best Blade

I tried the blade above, which Giovanni calls “Treet Classic” (scroll down at the link). As explained at the link (and in this detailed review, which includes microphotographs), this is the same blade as my beloved “Black Beauty” (Treet Blue Special), but without the bluing and with a coating of some type. The result is a blade that somehow surpasses the Black Beauty in smoothness without losing any of the sharpness. For me, a truly amazing blade (on the scale of Amazing, Good, Meh, Ugh!).

I used it in the Merkur Futur, which provides a lovely shave at the setting 2.0, and I used Tabac soap, worked into a wonderful lather with the Sabini ebony-handled brush. Tabac soap really does produce one of the best lathers around.

Gessato for the oil pass, and Tabac aftershave for the finish. A truly wonderful shave this morning. Give these blades a go sometime.

Written by Leisureguy

6 August 2008 at 8:38 am

Posted in Shaving

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