Thursday, November 30, 2006

the role is not the person
A former pastor has been accused of murdering an 85-year-old California man in a scheme to inherit his trust fund.

Another example of why we cannot assume that a person in a respected position is a good person.
In regards to several police shootings of unarmed people, there have been letters to the editor and vent right after the event, defending the police, assuming that the police were right. They may or may not be. Being hired by a police department, church, the military, doesn't prove that a person is perfect, competent, or even half-way decent. People can be drawn to these roles for good reasons, and also for bad reasons.

I have noticed that police often take a righteous attitude toward the law, even for something trivial like not coming to a total stop at an intersection where there is nobody in sight from any direction. But they will protect co-workers who frame or kill innocent people. If they were really so committed to the law and order, it seems to me they would be outraged when a co-worker transgressed their proclaimed ethics.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

more of the same
The rate at which humans are pumping carbon dioxide into the atmosphere has more than doubled since the 1990s, according to Australian research, the latest report warning about the high rate of emissions accumulating in the atmosphere.

Just a couple of weeks ago, I heard a speaker say that global warming wasn't an individual responsibility; it was the responsibility of car makers, utility companies, etc.

Certainly, business can and should do a lot to reduce pollution, including greenhouse gases. But our individual actions share the blame. Business isn't creating pollution just for fun. They create gasoline and electricity because we buy it. They don't force us to buy SUVs. They don't yank our fingers away from the light switch when we turn out the lights.

Some people think that biofuels will be a magic solution. But if we continue to waste so much energy, surely we will burn more fuel faster than nature can regrow it. Even if we attained a break even situation, we will still be creating pollutants in addition to greenhouse gases.
In a study called “Going to the Extremes,” coming out in the December issue of the journal Climatic Change, researchers from the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) and Texas Tech University found strong evidence that by the end of this century, there will be significant increases in what the authors call “extreme weather events”—deadly heat waves, heavy rainfall and prolonged droughts.


Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Tarantula Venom And Chili Peppers Target Same Pain Sensor
Venom from a West Indian tarantula has been shown to cause pain by exciting the same nerve cells in mice that sense high temperatures and the hot, spicy ingredient in chili peppers, UCSF scientists have discovered.

No surprise to me. I have never understood why anybody would want to eat hot chilis in the first place, unless they are masochistic.

Social Exclusion Changes Brain Function And Can Lead To Poor Decision-making
In new research, reported in the current online issue of the journal Social Neuroscience, researchers from the University of Georgia and San Diego State University report for the first time that social exclusion actually causes changes in a person's brain function and can lead to poor decision-making and a diminished learning ability.

I read several years ago of research that found that school bullies were found to be of normal I.Q. when they entered school, but when they were older, they scored below average. Perhaps this new research is at least part of the reason. I suspect that it at least partly due to a dependence on bullying, rather than peaceful interaction, with others, resulting in less exercise of of the intellect. We know that using one's brain results in the growth of connections between brain cells, and possibly in the number of brain cells.

Secret Santa medical costs

More on the Secret Santa story:

It was mentioned in an Atlanta Journal-Constitution story (Nov. 19, 2006), that his cancer treatment costs $16000 a month. "His insurance company won't cover the cost, which has left him concerned about his finances." didn't mention that. Not the first time I've noticed the appearance of possible conservative censoring on
This info was also missing on the report

Friday, November 17, 2006

on the one hand, on the other hand

Researchers at the University of Virginia School of Medicine and Federal University of CearĂ¡ in Brazil have joined forces to study if the gene believed to contribute to Alzheimer's protects children from the developmental stresses of early childhood diarrhea.

In addition, Guerrant says the research will also shed further light on situations where negative genetic traits are found to have beneficial effects that likely help to explain their presence in human evolution. An example of this phenomenon, called a balanced polymorphism, is sickle cell anemia, a genetic disease in which a double "dose" of the sickle cell gene causes red blood cells to form odd shapes and results in pain and anemia. A single "dose" of the same gene, however, makes a person resistant to malaria, a deadly tropical disease.

results of piety

This article explains how religious extremism in the Essenes, causing faithfulness to teachings on cleanliness, led to illness and greatly decreased life expectance.
According to Tabor, however, poor health might have had its own place in the cultural thinking of Qumran.
"As a group the men of Qumran were very unhealthy, but I think this would have been likely to have actually fed the Essenes' religious enthusiasm," said Tabor. "They would have seen their infirmities as punishment from God for their lack of purity and then have tried even harder to purify themselves further."

I could not have been a successful Essene, becuase no way could I have adhered to the following practices:
Josephus, in talking about the Essenes, mentions it as a point of admiration or piety -- he says that these people are so holy, that on the Sabbath day they won't even use the toilet, because on the Sabbath one can't go outside the settlement," he said.

This is an example of the necessity of the scientific method. Pure reasoning often leads one to faulty conclusions, because of lack of knowledge.

happy countries

Results of a survey of happiness around the world.
(The U.S. is 23rd)


A dioxin toxin contained in the herbicide Agent Orange affects male reproductive health by limiting the growth of the prostate gland and lowering testosterone levels, researchers at UT Southwestern Medical Center have found in a cohort study of more than 2,000 Air Force veterans who served during the Vietnam War.

... the urgency of further research is underlined by a rise in disorders of the male reproductive tract over the past several decades.
These include a decrease in sperm production by almost 50 percent, a three- to four-fold increase in testicular cancer, an increase in the incidence of cryptorchidism (undescended testes, a condition where the testes are not in their normal location in the scrotum) and hypospadias (abnormality of the urethra).
The reason for this increase is not known, but it is thought that these disorders might be caused by environmental chemicals that are estrogenic and have endocrine-disrupting effects, Dr. Gupta said.
Dioxins are among the most toxic substances known and are thought to be partially responsible for this increase in male reproductive tract disorders. They are formed as byproducts of processes such as incineration, smelting, paper and pulp manufacturing and pesticide and herbicide production.
Humans are exposed to these chemicals primarily through consumption of animal fat and dairy products. Babies are exposed to the highest levels of dioxins through breast milk. Dioxins are eliminated extremely slowly from the body and they tend to stay in the body for several years to several decades after exposure.

radical religious influence

These students are part of a large, well-organised movement that is empowering parents to teach their children creationist biology and other unorthodox versions of science at home, all centred on the idea that God created Earth in six days about 6000 years ago. Patrick Henry, near the town of Purcellville, about 60 kilometres north-west of Washington DC, is gearing up to groom home-schooled students for political office...

Now evangelical home-schoolers can also opt for a college like PHC. The school was founded in 2000 to "prepare leaders who will fight for the principles of liberty and our home-school freedoms through careers of public service and cultural influence".
It worked. By 2004, PHC students held seven out of 100 internships in the White House, a number even more striking when one considers that only 240 students were enrolled in the entire college. Last year, two PHC graduates worked in the White House, six worked for members of Congress and eight for federal agencies, including two for the FBI. "Patrick Henry is something to worry about because these kids end up in the administration," says Glenn Branch, deputy director of the National Center for Science Education in Oakland, California, which campaigns against the teaching of creationism as science.

Home-schoolers are drawn to PHC partly because of its political connections and partly because, unlike most Christian colleges, it boasts high academic standards. Besides the focus on creationism, much of the curriculum is dedicated to rhetoric and debate, preparing students to fight political and legal battles on issues such as abortion, stem cell research and evolution. The technique is effective. For the past two years, the college has won the moot court national championship, in which students prepare legal briefs and deliver oral arguments to a hypothetical court, and has twice defeated the UK's University of Oxford in debating competitions.

Biology is not the only science being rewritten in home-schooling textbooks. Other sciences are also being modified to suit the creationist perspective that God created Earth about 6000 years ago. Take for instance this advice on climate change in the book Science Order and Reality published by A Beka Book: "Because most environmental scientists see the universe and even life itself as mere products of chance, it is easy for them to visualise potentially catastrophic changes occurring on the Earth. As Christians we must remember that God provided certain 'checks and balances' in creation to prevent many of the global upsets that have been predicted by environmentalists." For those who still worry about global warming, another A Beka book, Science of the Physical Creation, flatly denies it is happening: "All of the scientific evidence gathered indicates that there is no danger of a global warming disaster."
Chemistry textbooks argue that radiometric dating is unreliable and therefore not a concern for those who believe in a 6000-year-old Earth. And geology books claim that the Grand Canyon in Arizona - a gorge carved by the Colorado river, exposing 2 billion years of Earth's history - was formed rapidly during the worldwide Biblical flood, and all the sedimentary strata visible in the canyon walls were deposited then.
Even astronomy is being rethought to address what many creationists consider their most difficult challenge: explaining how starlight from billions of light years away has reached the Earth in only a few thousand years. Books like Taking Back Astronomy by Jason Lisle suggest possible explanations: maybe God created the light already en route; or maybe the Milky Way sits in a large gravitational well where the time-stretching effects of general relativity can explain the anomaly; or - the creationists' favourite - maybe the speed of light was much, much greater in the past.

This would, of course, be a return to the dark ages. I guess one could argue that it might have been better if we had stayed there. Then the population would not have increased as quickly as it has, so we wouldn't be having as much environmental destruction yet. But, since the population was increasing even then, we would have had many of the same problems eventually.

We are a vampire clan

Polar bear cubs in Alaska’s Beaufort Sea are much less likely to survive compared to 20 years ago, probably due to melting sea ice caused by global warming, according to a new federal government study.

Signs of warming continue in the Arctic with a decline in sea ice, an increase in shrubs growing on the tundra and rising concerns about the Greenland ice sheet.

If the sun warms the Earth too dangerously, the time may come to draw the shade. The "shade" would be a layer of pollution deliberately spewed into the atmosphere to help cool the planet.

Hindus in India’s West Bengal state began burning wood and herbs in over a 1,000 deep pits on Friday in a ceremony they said will heal the ozone layer and cure disease, drawing anger from green campaigners.
These Hindus may be misguided, but at least they understand there is a problem.
The famous flamingos of Nakuru are fading away.
The spindly, exquisite birds, clouds of pink rising on a million wings in generations of tourist photographs, are dying, flying off, fleeing a seemingly fatal brew of environmental threats in a shrinking Lake Nakuru, the home that has sheltered them for uncounted centuries.
Fishermen who rake giant nets across the ocean floor to maximize their catch are destroying unique and unexplored ecological systems, according to a U.N. draft environmental report made public Wednesday.
Global warming could stoke ferocious wildfires that will be more difficult and costly to fight and might drastically alter the environment in parts of the world, some scientists warn.
A warmer world already seems to be producing a sicker world, health experts reported Tuesday, citing surges in Kenya, China and Europe of such diseases as malaria, heart ailments and dengue fever.

FW: chutzpa

"About 1,000 nonunion workers, mostly Hispanics upset with the recent firing
of immigrants for allegedly providing false documents, walked off their jobs
at a Smithfield Foods Inc. slaughtering plant, a union spokeswoman said. ...
Smithfield Foods also has failed to address problems of sexual harassment
and denial of workers compensation claims, said Gene Bruskin, a
representative of the union who serves as the Smithfield campaign director."

I'm all for unions protecting legitimate worker's rights, but if it is true
that the unions are demanding that the company re-hire workers who provided
false documentation, that is outrageous. As noted in the article, it also
against federal law.

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consistantly unwise

The Bush administration has appointed a new chief of family-planning programs at the Department of Health and Human Services who worked at a Christian pregnancy-counseling organization that regards the distribution of contraceptives as "demeaning to women."

Weird. How is the use of condoms, which besides acting as a contraceptive, protects women (and men) from disease, demeaning to women? Is it demeaning to women to think they will willing have sex for reasons other than procreation? Is it demeaning to women to think they might be of use as other than breeders?

A friend of mine complained that Bush doesn't pick good advisors. I told her, to know that you need advisors more knowledgable than oneself, and to recognize them, requires a sufficient level of wisdom and emotional maturity that Bush does not have.

exception to rule

People who own vicious dogs such as pit bulls have significantly more criminal convictions — including crimes against children — than owners of licensed, gentler dogs such as beagles, researchers reported on Thursday.

There are always exceptions to such generalities. I owned a rottweiler, or rottweiler mix, one time. I found him as a stray, and never found the owner. He was a very sweet dog, but he scared people because he barked at them and was so big, although at 90 pounds, he was small for the breed. So I guess I could be considered a technical exception, because I didn't go out and choose this dog.

anti-Santa hospitals

A Los Angeles hospital accused of dumping homeless patients on downtown’s Skid Row is facing the first criminal charges in the city’s campaign to crack down on the practice and clean up the area.
Kaiser Permanente is among 10 hospitals under investigation by city prosecutors for allegedly discharging homeless patients to the streets of Skid Row rather than to a relative or shelter.

There should be more than fines. There should be jail time for the people responsible, but of course, that won't happen.

secret Santa needs prayers

A man who has given away millions of dollars and become known as Secret Santa for handing out Christmas cash to the needy is allowing his name to be publicized after 26 years.
But the reason for the revelation is an unhappy one. Secret Santa has cancer. He wants to start speaking to community groups about his belief in random acts of kindness, but he can't do that without telling people who he is.

Let's send loving, healing thoughts to this wonderful man, and thank him for being a ray of light.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

danger to babies brains

Exposure to industrial chemicals in the womb or early in life can impair brain development but only a handful are controlled to protect children, researchers said on Wednesday.

Some parents with children who have autism remain fixated on mercury in vaccines, despite studies that have found no effects, but they seem unconcerned about other sources of mercury, such as power plants, and the effects of other pollutants. Considering the way the Bush administration has suppressed so many scientific findings in order to benefit big business, it's rational to be skeptical, but not to totally ignore all the other environmental toxins we are exposing our babies to.

people are waking

Americans now rank climate change as the country’s most pressing environmental concern, a new survey reveals. This is a dramatic shift from just three years ago, when climate change ranked only sixth out of 10 environmental problems.

This is really encouraging news. At this point, I still doubt that we will act in time to prevent total catastrophe, but at least I feel there is a chance that we will choose to act before it is too late. Of course, it is already too late to avoid some effects, and for those who are already victims of catastrophes possibly/probably caused by global warming, it is already too late.

Monday, November 06, 2006

roots of politics

From this article:
"Genetic researchers are trying to prove that social attitudes can be
inherited, and have discovered strong correlations between the two.

So far, the political connection has relied on studies by Lindon Eaves,
professor of human genetics and psychiatry at Virginia Commonwealth
University. About 8,000 sets of identical and fraternal twins answered a
series of questions on topics such as school prayer, nuclear power, women's
liberation and the death penalty.

Identical twins, who share their entire genetic code, answered more
similarly than fraternal twins, who are no more similar than non-twin

"Some scientists, however, are not ready to embrace the theory.

"The very idea that something like a political ideology could be heritable
is incoherent," said Evan Charney, assistant professor of public policy and
political science at Duke University. "It doesn't make any sense, and it's
historically inaccurate."

Any similarities found in twins' political beliefs can be attributed to
environment, not genetics, Charney said."

But it seems to me that Charney's arguments are the one that are
"incoherent". The claim that "Any similarities found in twins' political
beliefs can be attributed to environment, not genetics," doesn't explain why
identical twins political beliefs are more similar than fraternal twins.

We know that genes influence such emotional attributes as the amount of
fearfulness toward new people and circumstances. I am sure the ability to
empathize with others is influenced by genes. Eg., a susceptibility to
autism is apparently caused by genes, and is characterized by an inability
to empathize.

Our politics are obviously influenced by such emotional factors. In fact,
there have been studies showing links between an adults political leanings
and their personality as children.

A couple of years ago there was an article in "Scientific American" about
why highly intelligent people sometimes have irrational beliefs. The answer
is that they form their beliefs on the basis of emotion; in other words,
they are perfectly normal. Their high intelligence then enables them to
rationalize their beliefs by sophisticated arguments that sound plausible.
It appears to me that Professor Charney is an example of this phenomenon.

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