Later On

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

Archive for March 10th, 2023

The Messenger RNA Pioneers Everyone Ignored

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Naomi Kresge writes at Bloomberg:

Hungarian biochemist Katalin Kariko is on the awards circuit. She’s been feted by the World Health Organization, painted onto the side of a building in Budapest and even made Glamour Magazine’s Women of the Year. Together with her longtime research partner Drew Weissman, she won the Lasker-DeBakey Clinical Medical Research Award — an honor that in many cases has preceded a Nobel Prize.

It’s all quite a turnaround for Kariko, who struggled for years to get research funding. She dedicated her career to the study of messenger RNA, long seen as too delicate and hard to handle to be of much use.

The discoveries Kariko and Weissman made helped change all that. On this week’s episode of the Prognosis podcast, we tell the story of how they and others laid the groundwork for successful mRNA vaccines against Covid-19.

“Many, many people contributed to it, and I was just one of them,” Kariko said at a WHO event in Berlin in September. “I am just representing all of those fellow scientists.”

Kariko and Weissman famously met while waiting to use a Xerox machine to copy the hundreds of academic journal articles they both voraciously consumed. In 2005, the pair published a paper showing how to modify mRNA to dodge a cell’s defenses. They were surprised and disappointed when the scientific world never came knocking on their door. Kariko said she felt like Cassandra, the mythological Trojan princess cursed to prophesy and never to be believed.

“Our phones never rang,” Weissman says on the podcast. “I think that even though we published that paper, they still said RNA is too difficult to work with.”

The phones are ringing now as scientists study mRNA to treat diseases from HIV to malaria, multiple sclerosis and cancer.

Kariko and Weissman’s discovery is “fundamental to this entire field,” says Derrick Rossi, a co-founder of mRNA vaccine maker Moderna. “I believe it’s going to earn them a Nobel Prize because it really is what allows these mRNA vaccines and any mRNA therapeutic down the road.”

At the WHO event in Berlin, Kariko, now a senior vice president at BioNTech, made a plea for  . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

10 March 2023 at 6:48 pm

Kale & Friends

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Vegetables on a cutting board: 2 poblano peppers, green beans, red bell pepper, 4 red Fresno peppers, green kale, ginger root, onion, red cabbage mushrooms garlic, cooked Kamut, 3 Cambray onion, celery, and a can of Ro•Tel Original Tomatoes and Green Chiles.

Above is pictured a close approximation of what went into the 6-qt pot now simmering on my induction burner. What actually went in, roughly clockwise:

• 2 poblano peppers, seeded and chopped
• a good handful of green beans, chopped
• 1 red bell pepper, seeded and chopped
• 4 red Fresno peppers, not seeded but chopped
• a large bunch of green kale (greens; also, cruciferous vegetable)
• a good-sized chunk of ginger root, minced (spices & herbs)
• 2 lemons, diced, rather than 1
• 1/4 large of red cabbage, shredded and added after cooking completed 
• 2 cans Ro•Tel Original Tomatoes and Green Chiles, not just 1
• 3 Cambray onions, chopped
• about half that bunch of celery, chopped
• 1 cup cooked Kamut (grain)
• 1 block fava-bean (i.e., soy-free) tofu, pressed and then diced (beans)
• a handful of garlic cloves, chopped small

Shown in boldface are ingredients that check off boxes in the Daily Dozen template, which I use to ensure I get good coverage of essential nutrients. The ingredients above also include a good variety of other vegetables. And, like kale, red cabbage also checks off two boxes: greens and cruciferous vegetable (plus it’s more nutritious than green cabbage).

A large pot of cooked vegetables with shredded red cabbage mixed in. One can see kale, tofu, green beans, celery and other vegetables.
Kale & Friends cooked.

Also included are more spices & herbs:

• about a tablespoon of Spanish smoked paprika
• about 3 tablespoons dried marjoram
• about 3 tablespoons Mexican oregano
• about 2 tablespoons Lea & Perrin Worcestershire sauce
• about 1/4 cup apple-cider vinegar
• about 1/2 cup water

I simmered it for covered about 35 minutes at 225ºF, stirring from time to time.

There’s plenty for multiple meals. I made a small amount of sauce for a bowl of it, starting with some peanut butter and genmai (brown rice and soybean) miso and adding acid (rice vinegar), sweet (maple syrup), umami (tamari), some white pepper, and about 2 teaspoons chipotle-garlic paste. I whisked that together and poured it atop a bowl of the stew. Delicious.

Written by Leisureguy

10 March 2023 at 5:50 pm

In Nebraska, Big Brother is watching you

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Martin Kaste reports for NPR:

A 41-year-old woman is facing felony charges in Nebraska for allegedly helping her teenage daughter illegally abort a pregnancy, and the case highlights how law enforcement can make use of online communications in the post-Roe v. Wade era.

Police in Norfolk, Neb., had been investigating the woman, Jessica Burgess, and her daughter, Celeste Burgess, for allegedly mishandling the fetal remains of what they’d told police was Celeste’s stillbirth in late April. They faced charges of concealing a death and disposing of human remains illegally.

But in mid-June, police also sent a warrant to Facebook requesting the Burgess’ private messages. Authorities say those conversations showed the pregnancy had been aborted, not miscarried as the two had said.

The messages appear to show Jessica Burgess coaching her daughter, who was 17 at the time, how to take the abortion pills.

“Ya the 1 pill stops the hormones an rhen u gotta wait 24 HR 2 take the other,” read one of her messages.

Celeste Burgess writes, “Remember we burn the evidence,” and later, “I will finally be able to wear jeans.”

According to police investigators, medical records show the pregnancy was 23 weeks along. A Nebraska law passed in 2010 forbids abortions after 20 weeks, but that time limit wasn’t enforced under Roe v. Wade. After the Supreme Court’s Dobbs v. Jackson ruling overturned Roe in June, Madison County Attorney Joseph Smith brought charges against Jessica Burgess.

It’s not clear the illegal abortion charges against Burgess will stand. In his concurring opinion to DobbsJustice Brett Kavanaugh wrote, “May a . . .

Continue reading.

This is an example of the Republican idea of “limited government.”

And it’s not just the government: “Three Texas women are sued for wrongful death after allegedly helping friend obtain abortion medication.”

Written by Leisureguy

10 March 2023 at 2:33 pm

A corrupt lawyer buys off the California State Bar

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Harriet Ryan and Matt Hamilton report in the LA Times:

Disbarred Los Angeles lawyer Tom Girardi funneled more than $1 million in gifts and payments to an investigator at the State Bar and the investigator’s wife, a USC accounting professor, according to a report released Friday.

The long-anticipated report, the result of a year-and-a-half investigation by a law firm working for the State Bar’s governing board, described corruption of the agency by Girardi beyond what was previously known publicly.

In addition to the money and gifts he directed to investigator Tom Layton and his wife, Rose, the report documented that State Bar officials close to Girardi killed complaints that came into the agency about the lawyer’s alleged misconduct.

At least eight complaints were quashed by State Bar employees whose ties to the wealthy attorney “tainted their decisions to close the cases,” according to a summary of the report by the law firm Halpern May Ybarra Gelberg LLP. In addition, two agency prosecutors who advocated taking action against Girardi’s law license were fired under “questionable” circumstances by top executives close to the lawyer, according to the summary.

“The magnitude and duration of the transgressions reveal persistent institutional failure and a shocking past culture of unethical and unacceptable behavior,” said Ruben Duran, chair of the State Bar’s board of trustees, in a statement.

The release of the report was part of the board’s attempt to move the agency beyond the Girardi scandal. Despite more than a hundred lawsuits against the lawyer and more than 155 complaints over the decades, the State Bar did not take action against him until March 2021. By then, his law firm had collapsed, and a federal judge had referred him for criminal investigation related to alleged misappropriation of millions of dollars from clients’ settlement funds.

Bob Baker, an attorney who has represented Layton during the investigation, said Friday that he had not seen the law firm’s report. Asked for comment about the report, Baker said, “I don’t give a damn,” before ending the call.

None of the officials alleged to have inappropriate relationships with Girardi still works for the State Bar, according to the agency. Layton was fired in 2015. The Times has detailed how he functioned as Girardi’s social secretary and chauffeur while collecting a State Bar paycheck. Girardi provided free legal representation when the Laytons sued their general contractor, and employed two of their children at the Girardi Keese firm.

Of the cash and valuables Girardi directed to the Laytons, the summary said that . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

10 March 2023 at 12:14 pm

Not so much low-information voters as anti-information voters

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Written by Leisureguy

10 March 2023 at 12:03 pm

BBC assists the Right with censorship

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Conservative forces are being assisted by those in the media who cooperate by censoring anything that might offend conservatives. Here’s a specific instance reported in Daily Kos by Mark Sumner:

Even if you don’t know David Attenborough, you know David Attenborough. At 96, the British broadcaster, biologist, and author has been one of the biggest popularizers of science for more than six decades. Odds are if there’s a video of animals doing something interesting, the voice behind that moment is either Attenborough or someone mimicking his signature delivery.

The nine series making up Attenborough’s Life collection—which he wrote, produced, and presented—may be the greatest documentation of the diversity and sheer wonder of life on this planet that has ever been assembled. Each represents hundreds of person-years of labor and innovative techniques to capture moments almost no one would otherwise have the opportunity to witness. The work has garnered Attenborough multiple awards and made him one of the best known and most beloved figures working anywhere in broadcasting—not just in England but around the world. The programs he has created have been called the best of the BBC by figures across the political spectrum.

All this shows just how extraordinary it is that the BBC—Attenborough’s partner on many of his ventures—is refusing to air an episode of his latest presentation. That program, Wild Isles, focuses specifically on the wildlife of the British isles. It allows Attenborough to bring the technology and the team of wildlife photographers he has used around the world and apply their skills to the nation he has always called home.

Why would the BBC refuse to air their most iconic presenter helming what may be his last series, on a topic not just dear to his heart, but of intrinsic interest to a British audience? It’s because in this banned episode, Attenborough focuses on the destruction of nature, and the BBC fears that the Conservative government will find this offensive.

As The Guardian reports, the Wild Isles series consists of five episodes that begin airing this Sunday. Only in the last week the BBC has decided to ditch a full 20% of this series in order to prevent a “backlash” from Tories who might see mourning the destruction of the natural environment as somehow offensive.

They’re not even being coy about it.

Senior sources at the BBC told the Guardian that the decision was made to fend off potential critique from the political right. …

One source at the broadcaster, who asked not to be named, said “lobbying groups that are desperately hanging on to their dinosaurian ways” such as the farming and game industry would “kick off” if the show had too political a message.

Reportedly, the episode shows a balanced approach to agriculture. It features descriptions of how monoculture farms heavily dependent on chemical pesticides and fertilizers cause damage to the environment, resulting in huge environmental rifts. However, it also features farms that are using practices including the use of native plants for native pest control and that preserve both the farm and the surrounding natural habitat.

A similar approach was applied to gaming, which in this case isn’t video games or casinos. It’s largely staged hunting events that sacrifice land and natural diversity to maintain artificial crops of animals to be hunted for sport. The impact of these practices can be reduced, but too often hunters want open, parklike land for “traditional” hunts that are little more than ritualized slaughter of tamed animals.

But this balanced approach was not enough to satisfy the concerns of the BBC. They’re not even responding to an actual issue, they’re running away from a potential backlash that they admit is being generated by lobbyists. The whole decision smacks of an almost unfathomable level of cowardice.

“For the BBC to censor of one of the nation’s most informed and trusted voices on the nature and climate emergencies is nothing short of an unforgivable dereliction of its duty to public service broadcasting, “ said Caroline Lucas, a member of Parliament for the Green Party.

As in the United States, . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

10 March 2023 at 11:40 am

Quantum Shaves: Yesterday Ω, Today α

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A somewhat stylized image of a silvertip badger shaving brush with a black handle standing next to a tub of shaving soap whose label shows an overhead view of a red rose on a black background. Next is a small rectangular bottle of frosted glass half filed with a yellow liquid and tall silver sap labeled "Dark Rose." In front a DE razor lies on it side, stainless steel except for a bras baseplate and the end of the handle.
Two brushes with matching black handles, standing side by side. One is a one-band silvertip, the other a two-band silvertip.

I have a twin pair of Prince shaving brushes from Wet Shaving Products, but as you can see in the photo at right, they are fraternal twins. The two-band brush on the left has a slightly chubbier handle. 

The two-band is what I used for today’s shave. Typical of two-band silvertips, it has noticeable backbone — not stiff, exactly, but definitely very resilient. The tips are soft, and it’s not uncomfortable, but I prefer a bit more give in a shaving brush, though of course some really like the strength of this sort of knot.

It was easy to load with this Grooming Dept exclusive from The Razor Company. Pomp uses the Donkeymilk formula, and I like its fragrance a lot: “Bourbon whiskey, Dark Rose, Dark Fruits, Dark Woods.” 

The Quantum with the α baseplate is more aggressive than with the Ω baseplate, though still very comfortable — but it clearly takes a sterner attitude toward stubble. I think this would work well even for a man whose beard is particularly tough and wiry.

A vintage double-edge razor,, the Eclipse Red Ring, lying on its sides, with the unusual ribbed guard clearly visible, along with the red ring in the groove around the base.

As you can see in this photo of an original Red Ring (click to enlarge), the Quantum’s handle is noticeably thicker and, for me, more comfortable and (with the better knurling) offers a better grip.  The Red Ring’s cap has grooves to match the guard’s ribs, and in the photo above you’ll see grooves also in the Quantum’s cap. 

I am still trying to figure out the right nomenclature. These razors have, in effect, a comb guard whose tines are reinforced by the bar attached to the back of the ends of the comb’s tines — but then it’s not really a comb guard. I have settled on “ribs” as the right name for this guard: separated bars, but both ends attached — unlike a comb guard, which has one end free.

So far as I know, the Quantum and the Eclipse Red Ring are the only razors to feature a ribbed guard. Comb guards and bar guards are common (with bar guards being plain or scalloped).

The α baseplate is extremely efficient — three passes to an easy BBS result and — due to my own momentary carelessness — one nick on my upper lip. (Not a bad nick: My Nik Is Sealed stopped it in its tracks.)

A splash of Saint Charles Shave’s Dark Rose EDT, augmented with a couple of squirts of Grooming Dept’s Aion Hydrating Gel, finished the shave. My face feels extremely smooth — a BBS result, for sure.

The caffeine this morning is Murchie’s Balmoral Blend: “a strong, traditional, rich blend of bright Ceylon and malty Assam teas.” It really is a remarkably good cuppa this morning.

Written by Leisureguy

10 March 2023 at 11:21 am

Posted in Caffeine, Shaving

Physics Girl and Covid (not like the flu)

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Our government seems to have decided just to let Covid (an airborne virus) go unchecked, apparently assuming that vaccines for those who want them will be enough — but of course, many have been infected with severe misinformation and do not want vaccines. And in many states, conservative legislatures are undermining and restricting public health officials to prevent any outbreak of effective information and public health programs.

The idea that seems prevalent on the Right is that Covid is just like the flu — you get it, and sure, some die, but on the whole, it’s a brief unpleasant illness, and then things go back to the way they were.

That idea is, unfortunately, false. Covid damages the body in ways that scientists still are learning, and each repeated illness extends the damage and increases significantly the risk of dying from diseases triggered by Covid.

And for some, that first infection kills them or leaves them struggling with Long Covid. Physics Girl is one of those. 

Watch this brief video, then ponder those who believe that Covid is the flu and will not mask and will not get vaccinated.

Written by Leisureguy

10 March 2023 at 5:36 am

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