Monday, April 20, 2015

Alzheimer's Disease: Duke U. Researchers Find Likely Cause, Successfully Halt Memory Loss In Mice

Charlie Cooper at The Independent gives us the basics:
...

How Alzheimer's disease manifests itself
Researchers at Duke announced that their studies of Alzheimer’s in mice had thrown up a new process they believe contributes to the disease’s development.

They observed that in Alzheimer’s, immune cells that normally protect the brain instead begin to consume a vital nutrient called arginine.

By blocking this process with a drug, they were able to prevent the formation of ‘plaques’ in the brain that are characteristic of Alzheimer’s disease, and also halted memory loss in the mice.

...

The drug that was used to block the body’s immune response to arginine – known as difluoromethylornithine (DFMO) – is already being investigated in drug trials for certain types of cancer and may be suitable for testing as a potential Alzheimer’s therapy.

...

Those of you who know how my mother died will understand why this is exciting news to me: I look forward to the day when no one has to suffer what she suffered, and no family faces the heartache we faced as she declined into dementia. Seeing humanity rid of Alzheimer's disease would be a medical breakthrough the significance of which can scarcely be overstated: if this treatment works in humans, it is a really big deal.

Yes, there is a political component to this story. Mom died in 1990, so I've been following the research that has been done, as best a layman can follow a subject so intrinsically complex, for more than 25 years. After a few years I began to realize that drug companies, in the face of repeated failures to find the cause of Alzheimer's (let alone any serious leads toward a cure), eventually began withdrawing research funding, presumably because there appeared to be so little potential for finding a drug they could sell profitably to justify the extreme expense of the research.

If you ever gave a minute's thought to why the so-called free market is ineffective in solving some problems of great import to society, you'll probably stumble upon this situation, if not this very disease: until now, pursuing a cure for Alzheimer's has been unprofitable. And profitability is the sacred goal of every corporation in anything resembling a free market economy. In other words, if you insist on a government-free approach to funding Alzheimer's research, you are likely condemning Alzheimer's sufferers and their families to a life of sorrow. If you do insist on that approach for ideological reasons... don't come knocking on my door for any reason whatsoever; you're liable to leave with a broken nose.

(H/T Ruth Curran for the graphic on Cranium Crunches; Walter Einenkel at Kos for the ref to the Independent article.)

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Hillary's Positions On Several Issues

What kind of president would Hillary be? Here are a few posts on some issues:
As I've said before, Hillary is no progressive, at least not as I use the term. But if you read the articles, you'll see she's at least a Democrat. Things could be worse!

Friday, April 17, 2015

A New Cold War?
Salon's Dan Falcone and Saul Isaacson interview Noam Chomsky on the Middle East, Russia, and America's whitewash of its own war crimes

An interview of Noam Chomsky by Dan Falcone and Saul Isaacson at Salon is a bit unfocused as to topic, but each section is vintage Chomsky: full of information about America's mismanagement of relations with Israel, proxy wars old and new with the old Soviet Union and Russia, education of Muslim girls in madrassas, "how [America can] perform better in stabilizing the Middle East," etc. It's a quick read, and international relations neophytes like me are well‑rewarded for the short time it takes.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

My Tepid Nod To Hillary

So Hillary is in the race in 2016. One-legged man that I am, I'm not dancing in the streets... Hillary is many things I am not... but considering the field of GOP terrorists already announced or contemplating a run, and that it appears there will never be a genuinely progressive major party candidate for president in my lifetime, I will back Hillary if she gets the Democratic nomination. One can contend against intraparty politics, but contending against such a clear trend is truly tilting at windmills, and I'm too old for that. So, yeah, Hillary 2016. It's her year.

This is from WaPo, at the above link:
Clinton summed her long and colorful biography in cheeky fashion when she joined Twitter in 2013: "Wife, mom, lawyer, women & kids advocate, FLOAR, FLOTUS, US Senator, SecState, author, dog owner, hair icon, pantsuit aficionado, glass ceiling cracker, TBD..."

Not a bad summary. TBD indeed: it's going to be a long 1½ years of determining. Those of us who love the country of our founders and its actual living Constitution as amended (not the one that exists only in the minds of tea-baggers) had better put aside our reservations and get busy determining right away.

Hillary 2016!

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Katrina Vanden Heuvel Offers Opposition To TPP

Katrina vanden Heuvel, weekly columnist at the WaPo and editor/publisher of The Nation, believes that the "Trans‑Pacific Partnership treaty will help neither workers nor consumers".

I agree we must not fast-track a treaty that would override our federal and state laws with little if any advantage to any ordinary Americans. This is another sop tossed to corporate America to the disadvantage of working Americans. If it can be stopped, let's stop it.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

ACRONYM Ensemble Plays Giovanni Valentini: Canzona A 5 in G Major — UPDATED

Delicious music performed by a strikingly good ensemble formed only in 2012...



Now that you've heard that, see what YouTube has under "ACRONYM ensemble"; then visit ACRONYM's own web site. There are lots of Oberlin-educated folk in this group; that's probably part of why I like their sound... two of my private teachers studied there, and one of them taught there.

Yes, "ACRONYM" is an acronym, one with many expansions. See the group's web site.

AFTERTHOUGHT: this piece by Johann Pezel may be more generally representative of the kind of high baroque music that is ACRONYM's stock‑in‑trade:

Mom! Look! I'm Cleaning My Plate!

Here are some significant items from the past few days (if this thunderstorm doesn't take my system down)...
  • Paul Krugman: A Victory Against The Shadows
    "GE Capital was a quintessential example of the rise of shadow banking. In most important respects it acted like a bank; it created systemic risks very much like a bank; but it was effectively unregulated," - PK
  • Peterr at FDL: 150 Years After Appomattox, the GOP Revises Their Views
    "Consider, for example, the remarks of a rather well known Republican leader, speaking in 1865 on the eve of the surrender of the Army of Northern Virginia at Appomattox" - Peterr
  • Katha Pollitt at The Nation: There Are No Abortion Cakes
    "If CEOs are worried that their LGBT employees won’t be treated as equals in Indiana, they should show as much concern for their pregnant and potentially pregnant employees." - KP
  • Joan McCarter at Kos: Dick Cheney: Obama is the 'worst president we've ever had'
    [For Dick, an irony lesson... obviously unlearned - SB]
  • NYT Editorial Board: A New Phase in Anti-Obama Attacks
    "It is a peculiar, but unmistakable, phenomenon: As Barack Obama’s presidency heads into its twilight, the rage of the Republican establishment toward him is growing louder, angrier and more destructive." - NYT [NFK - SB]
  • Joan McCarter at Kos: Rand Paul: America's hungry seniors should turn to charity
    [And this man would be President? - SB]
  • BlankBeat at Kos: You won't see Hillary Clinton in the same light ever again
    [As any reasonable hope of Elizabeth Warren as the 2016 Democratic presidential candidate fades, I find myself looking for legitimate justifications for voting for Hillary, which in fact I will do in preference to pitching my vote into a third-party sinkhole. This article expresses a decent and substantive reason for such a vote. - SB]

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Budgets: Obama's Vs. GOP's; Krugman On GOP Budget Lies; Senate Vs. Ringling Bros.

NYT on Obama vs. GOP budgets; Marian Wright Edelman on Big Winners and Big Losers in congressional budgets; Paul Krugman on the Trillion Dollar Fraudsters, the truly dumbfounding increase in the degree to which the GOP is trying to play us all... yes, compared to anything the Dems are doing, and yes, compared to previous years' and Congress's GOP budgets. This is not your grandparents' Republican Party!


Oh, and here is a USA Today article titled Republican-controlled Senate approves budget plan, on the same web page as a small insert titled Ringling Bros. retiring elephants. Too bad it's only Ringling Bros. ...

Friday, April 10, 2015

US Government Has Spied On Your Phone Calls For Longer Than Anyone Knew

Every time we think we've seen it all, reached the limit, learned all the bad stuff there is to learn about US government agencies engaged in illicit surveillance of American citizens, we are disabused of that comfortable notion with a metaphorical slap upside the head. This time it's Peter van Buren at FDL who administers the slap, and we should be grateful to him for doing so:
DEA Secretly Tracked Billions of Americans’ Calls a Decade Before 9/11

While the Snowden-NSA revelations continue to shock Americans on a daily basis, and illustrate how intrusive the government is in our lives, and how casually it violates our Fourth Amendment right against unwarranted searches, it just got worse.

It turns out the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) was spying on Americans, gathering metadata on our phone calls, almost a decade before 9/11, and right up to 2013. With help from the U.S. military.

...

In an exclusive report, USA Today learned the U.S. government started keeping secret records of Americans’ international telephone calls nearly a decade before the 9/11 terrorist attacks, harvesting billions of calls in a program that provided a blueprint for the far broader National Security Agency surveillance that followed. The DEA spying only stopped, supposedly, in 2013, no longer needed due to the NSA.

For more than two decades, the Justice Department and the DEA amassed databases of virtually all telephone calls from the U.S. to as many as 116 countries “linked to drug trafficking.” ...

...
(or substitute GeeDubya Bush)
I seldom talk on the phone with my American friends in Europe; international phone calls (apart from emergencies) are not in my budget. But you may be comforted to know that on the rare occasions I've spoken to them in earlier years, the DEA was on the "wire" assuring that we were not talking about drugs. Not that we talked about drugs when we were face-to-face decades ago in the US... you may be comforted, but I sure as fuck am not.

The notion that any government action is justifiable if it leads to the capture and trial of someone engaged in a criminal act is one that our nation's founders were familiar with: when enough acts are criminalized that government must eliminate all citizens' privacy to enforce the laws, the essence of America's Bill of Rights (especially the Fourth Amendment) is destroyed. And that's where we are today. Privacy is gone, and has been gone for at least two decades.

In my youth I was convinced of the superiority of America's form of government. Why do I now think that that "superiority" is a pile of rank, steaming bullshit?

If there is a god, and if that god can damn, then god damn the people who did this and continue to do this... god damn them.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Man Who Took Video Of SC Cop Shooting/Killing Fleeing Suspect Feared For His Life

Caitlin MacNeal at TPM:

Man Who Videoed S.C. Cop Shooting: I Thought My Life 'Might Be In Danger'
Feidin Santana, the witness whose video led to murder charges against a South Carolina police officer, spoke out on Wednesday for the first time since the incident and said that he was so scared he thought about deleting his recording.

"I even thought about erasing the video," he said during an interview on MSNBC with Craig Melvin. "I felt that my life, with this information, might be in danger.”

...
Is Santana's fear justified?

Most photographers who have often wandered the streets looking for interesting material have confronted a question like this at one time or another. While toting my camera, I've never confronted a cop, but I've confronted an angry business owner who didn't like my taking pics of his storefront sign even though I was standing on the city sidewalk in front of his business. I faced the man down and demanded that he call the cops; he repeatedly refused to do so, perhaps knowing that he hadn't a leg to stand on. (Now I'm the one... oh, never mind!)

But that was an easy case. I knew my rights, and the business owner was an ordinary asshole, not an asshole credentialed by the city to put lead in my back. If I had been in Santana's circumstance, I'd have felt the same doubts he did.

So what are your rights in the streets with a camera, still or video?

Let's let ACLU tell us. The good news: courts have ruled you have rights. The bad news: they're not absolute. Here's what ACLU says, quoted directly from their article on the subject:

(Updated July 2014)

Taking photographs of things that are plainly visible from public spaces is a constitutional right – and that includes federal buildings, transportation facilities, and police and other government officials carrying out their duties. Unfortunately, there is a widespread, continuing pattern of law enforcement officers ordering people to stop taking photographs from public places, and harassing, detaining and arresting those who fail to comply. Learn more »

Your rights as a photographer: 

  • When in public spaces where you are lawfully present you have the right to photograph anything that is in plain view. That includes pictures of federal buildings, transportation facilities, and police. Such photography is a form of public oversight over the government and is important in a free society.
  • When you are on private property, the property owner may set rules about the taking of photographs. If you disobey the property owner's rules, they can order you off their property (and have you arrested for trespassing if you do not comply).
  • Police officers may not confiscate or demand to view your digital photographs or video without a warrant. The Supreme Court has ruled that police may not search your cell phone when they arrest you, unless they get a warrant. Although the court did not specifically rule on whether law enforcement may search other electronic devices such as a standalone camera, the ACLU believes that the constitution broadly prevents warrantless searches of your digital data. It is possible that courts may approve the temporary warrantless seizure of a camera in certain extreme “exigent” circumstances such as where necessary to save a life, or where police have a reasonable, good-faith belief that doing so is necessary to prevent the destruction of evidence of a crime while they seek a warrant.
  • Police may not delete your photographs or video under any circumstances. Officers have faced felony charges of evidence tampering as well as obstruction and theft for taking a photographer’s memory card.
  • Police officers may legitimately order citizens to cease activities that are truly interfering with legitimate law enforcement operations. Professional officers, however, realize that such operations are subject to public scrutiny, including by citizens photographing them.
  • Note that the right to photograph does not give you a right to break any other laws. For example, if you are trespassing to take photographs, you may still be charged with trespass.
The remainder of that ACLU article explains what you should do if the police stop you from photographing, and special rules particular to video recording (hint: the video and audio portions may be treated differently under the law, although ACLU says that constitutionally they should not be).

Unfortunately, these days, Santana's fear that the cops will not treat him in accordance with the law and the Constitution are not wholly unjustified. We live in parlous times: the police officers associated with the alleged killer may or may not be Santana's friend.

If you carry a camera (and a lot of people do these days, even if they call it a "cell phone," almost as many as carry guns), good luck to you.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Reading For Wednesday

Left over from earlier in the week, but not to be forgotten:

Feel free to post some good news in comments. (Sorry; salvation doesn't count.)

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Easter Churchgoer Accidentally Shoots Self With Own Gun

UU Chalice
When I was about 25 years old, a fellow student (actually a woman) at a music workshop, on learning in a lunchtime chat that I am a Unitarian Universalist, accused me of being "dangerous." Really? More dangerous than this guy?

From a TV news transcript at that link:
...

Catholic
Cross
Police say a gun went off at about 11 p.m. Saturday at the Cathedral of the Blessed Sacrament...

...

Jason Wagler was sitting with his fiancee at Mass and heard the gunshot.

...

Interdenominational
Pistol
"We were standing for a few minutes and just before the final procession started, the gunshot went off," Wagler said.

Wagler said at first no one seemed to know what had happened. Some people thought a speaker blew. But then he saw smoke.  Wagler took several photos with his phone shortly after the incident happened.

"I immediately took a step back and was about to take cover. You never know if you're safe anymore in this world. It's a shame to know you can't go into church without having something like this happen," Wagler said.

Police say a man had a gun in his pocket and it discharged when he stood up. The bullet grazed the man's hand.

... newspaper reported the trigger caught on the man's pants and the gun's safety was not on.

"I noticed the gun was handed to another gentleman. He immediately concealed it in a white program, so I took pictures of the gun inside this program," Wagler said.

The man was taken to the hospital. Police haven't released his name.
It's unclear why he brought a gun into church. At this point, no charges have been filed.
(NOTE: I believe that in this church the proper term for "program" is "disorder of service." But what do I know... like most UU's, I am not Christian... see the video linked above for a shot (ahem) of the paper in which the gun was hidden. - SB)

So... this happened in Houston, TX, right? Ummm... try Altoona, PA, about 100 miles east of Pittsburgh. Oh, and surely it happened in a "dangerous" Unitarian Universalist church, right? Ahhhh... no. Catholic.

I no longer attend church, but during the dozen or so years I did, I didn't know a single congregant of First UU Church Houston (apart from the occasional law enforcement officer) who entered a church service there carrying a firearm... let alone careless enough to have the safety off. Of course, YMMV...

(H/T Brendan James at TPM.)

Monday, April 6, 2015

Deepwater Horizon — Five Years Later

Oiled pelican - Deepwater Horizon
Here's a podcast by Susanne Bard featuring Science Editor-in-Chief Marcia McNutt and other Science staff assessing many aspects of the current state of the Gulf, the coast and their ecosystems five years after the worst oil spill in US history (at least). The 'cast is about 34 minutes long and there's very little fluff... I learned as much in those minutes as I have in the same period spent reading one or another article on the disaster over the last few years. I may have to revise my earlier opinion of the information density of podcasts!

(Thanks to NTodd for alerting me to the availability of much of the Science web site via free registration. You'll probably have to register to hear this podcast.)

Another 5-4 Supreme Court Ruling Hammers Medicaid For 68 Million Americans

Elizabeth G. Taylor and Jane Perkins of the National Health Law Program (NHeLP) (see also Taylor's blog), writing at TPM:
When it comes to health care at the Supreme Court this year, all eyes are focused on the Obamacare tax credits case, King v. Burwell. But a case decided this week, Armstrong v. Exceptional Child Center, Inc., has raised significant concerns for the availability of quality health care for those who need it most.

In a 5-4 ruling, the Supreme Court turned against decades of legal precedent and ruled that Medicaid providers cannot use the Supremacy Clause of the U.S. Constitution to stop state provider payment policies that are inconsistent with the federal Medicaid Act’s requirement for adequate reimbursement rates. That may sound like a bunch of legalese, but the outcome has a real impact on the 68 million-plus people relying on Medicaid. If a state’s Medicaid payment rates are too low (and many providers complain these rates are below their cost of providing services), then provider participation in Medicaid—and the ability of enrollees to obtain care—is at risk.

...
[/face-palm] Yes, that's our Supreme Court, all right.

Dr. GOPer 'fixes' Medicaid
And unfortunately, that's our Medicaid system. Taylor and Perkins note that "Congress established Medicaid in 1965 as a cooperative program between states and the federal government"; the operative word there is "cooperative" ... in states run mostly by Republicans, the state implementation of Medicaid is as obstructionist as the state's governor and legislature can make it. I know: my late mother finally qualified for Medicaid to help with my late father's payments for her otherwise uninsured institutionalization for Alzheimer's disease... the week my mother died in 1990. Dad ended up nearly broke from paying for her treatment. Texas GOPers can be very proud [/irony] of what they accomplished in that case, goddamn them.

If there is one good reason above all others to hold your nose and vote for a Democratic president in 2016, it is to make sure the effing bastards of the Greedy Oppressive Party lack the power to appoint another Supreme Court Justice for at least another four years. A Democratic president will not assure an optimal replacement for a Justice who retires or dies... the GOPers can continue playing their obstructionist politics as surely as they obstruct Mr. Obama... but if the GOP has the presidency and both houses of Congress, it will be an utter disaster for healthcare in America. Don't let that happen!

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Right-Wing Nut-Job Welfare: More Lucrative By Far Than Selling Pizzas, And A Splendid ‘Christian’ Example For Easter

AP via TPM:

Indiana Pizza Shop Still Raking In Money, Over $840K

WALKERTON, Ind. (AP) — A crowdfunding campaign for an Indiana pizzeria that came under fire after its owners said their religious beliefs wouldn't allow them to cater a gay wedding has raised more than $840,000.

Memories Pizza in Walkerton is closed indefinitely and its operators say they've gone into hiding.

...
Look, muthafuckas: religion is about belief; bigotry is about action. No aspect of genuine religious freedom can ever allow you to override secular law in pursuing a business which is a  public accommodation. And if you're Christian, and you're getting fucking rich by exercising that same bigotry, you're defying just about everything Jesus ever said: you're transforming your own moral exemplar into his exact opposite. You're setting a fine example for the rest of us, eh?

Happy Fv<king Easter, muthafuckas.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Chicago Police Systematically Deny Counsel To Arrestees

Is this still true?
Even in Chicago?
In my not-so-humble opinion, denying the Sixth Amendment right to counsel to people arrested in the context of exercising their First Amendment right to free speech in protest of government action, especially denying that right systematically, is arguably one of the most egregious sorts of police misconduct possible. I mean, if Chicago PD is doing this, they might as well be firing rubber bullets into crowds, assaulting peaceful protesters with billy clubs, using tasers on nonviolent protesters, etc. (Oh, wait...) Police denying arrestees' access to an attorney is behavior characteristic of a totalitarian government, not a representative democracy.

Kevin Gosztola at FDL has details. This is no April Fool's joke!

Miscellany

Each worth reading, even if together they don't make up a coherent list post...



Flanders
Baker
Roberts
Takei

Static Pages (About, Quotes, etc.)

No Police Like H•lmes



(removed)