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Archive for September, 2011

Gene therapy to treat cancer

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The New York Times is featuring an article this week about an experimental treatment for leukemia that could show a world of promise for current or future sufferers of leukemia and hopefully other types of cancer. In the method, which was used recently on William Ludwig, 65, of Bridgeton, N.J., doctors extracted a billion of Ludwig’s T-cells, altered them to identify and attack his cancer cells and then replanted the “tweaked” cells back into his body.

After the procedure, Ludwig experienced some fever and other symptoms but after a few weeks, the fever was gone and his cancer was in remission. The treatment was said to have killed two pounds of cancer cells, and a year hence, Ludwig is still cancer free.

Read the rest of this entry »

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Fact-checking tonight’s GOP debate

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Politifact.com has made rulings on nine points made from the GOP/Tea Party debate from tonight. Only one such ruling was deemed “true.” The “true” ruling comes from Mitt Romney, who claimed that Texas Gov. Rick Perry said in his book, “By any measure, Social Security is a failure.” It’s hard to get a point wrong about which someone has put into the written word, so this “true” ruling is hardly remarkable. The rest of the rulings from the GOP debate: three “pants on fire” rulings, two “half true,” two “mostly false” and one outright “false.”

Can’t say that I’m surprised. Here’s the rulings thus far.

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Written by Jeremy

September 12th, 2011 at 11:29 pm

Krugman brings pain, Rumsfeld unsubscribes

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New York Times columnist Paul Krugman had this to say on the morning of the 10th anniversary of 9/11:

What happened after 9/11 — and I think even people on the right know this, whether they admit it or not — was deeply shameful. The atrocity should have been a unifying event, but instead it became a wedge issue. Fake heroes like Bernie Kerik, Rudy Giuliani, and, yes, George W. Bush raced to cash in on the horror. And then the attack was used to justify an unrelated war the neocons wanted to fight, for all the wrong reasons. …

The memory of 9/11 has been irrevocably poisoned; it has become an occasion for shame. And in its heart, the nation knows it.

Former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, who played a key role in the cashing in, subsequently cancelled his subscription to The Times the same morning.

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Written by Jeremy

September 12th, 2011 at 10:15 pm

Our daily universe: scientists discover ‘super-Earth’

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Astronomers announced today the discover of a “super-Earth” planet that is apparently 3.5 times the size of Earth. The planet, which is on the warm side of the habitable zone in relation to its star, is 36 light years away. I haven’t done the math to verify this (feel free), but one commenter to the above-linked story noted that the Voyager aircraft would need more than 600,000 years to get there at its present speed capacity.

Credit: European Southern Observatory/M. Kornmesser

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Written by Jeremy

September 12th, 2011 at 9:50 pm

Amidst the rubble …

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A local church sign is featuring these enlightening words this weekend: “Amidst the rubble, stood a metal cross,” which is obviously a statement in honor of the now famous World Trade Center cross, a group of beams that was found in the rubble following the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks in New York.

Credit: Samuel Li via Wikipedia

Of course, folks who say the discovery of a steel cross gives people hope apparently have forgotten the fact that they aren’t called “crossbeams” for anything, since skyscrapers have many such “crosses” all along their structures. In fact, if volunteers at Ground Zero hadn’t found a grouping of beams in the shape of a cross, that would have been a real miracle, since that’s essentially of what building frames consists. As it happens, the discovery of this particular WTC cross of crossbeams is, without a doubt, unremarkable.

But let’s assume for a moment that there was actually some kind of spiritual element behind the cross appearing at Ground Zero. Couldn’t a cross amid the rubble just as well mean that Jesus was actually behind the attacks? Couldn’t the cross be kind of like a personal stamp on the whole scene, kind of like graffiti or the branding of animals? And if that were the case, wouldn’t it be a little bizarre for Christians to look at the cross as a sign of hope and inspiration? In actuality, if God exists and if he’s omnipotent, he is at the very least, an accomplice to the attacks because he is said to be a) all-loving and b) omnipotent. He knew it was going to happen and watched it take place with folded arms, possessing all the power in the universe to prevent it. Isn’t this more plausible than an all-loving, all-powerful God watching 3,000 people die in New York and then mockingly placing his supposed symbol among the bodies and debris? In that context, how could this cross, even if legit, provide inspiration to anyone?

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Written by Jeremy

September 11th, 2011 at 8:13 pm

Our daily universe: 9/11 attacks from space

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I seem to be in a posting kind of mood today after a fairly long slump. As usual, I have been preoccupied with Counter Strike: Source, reading this and well, work has been a gom.

Just when you thought you had seen all the photographs from Sept. 11, 2001, here are some views of New York following the Sept. 11 attacks taken by Frank Culbertson from the International Space Station:

Credit: NASA

 

 

Credit: NASA

 

See here for more information.

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Written by Jeremy

September 11th, 2011 at 3:48 pm

Economic development in the Arab world

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As mentioned on today’s edition of Fareed Zakaria’s GPS, the 2002 Arab Development Report identified three key elements that were keeping the Arab League, which includes most of the Middle East and Northern Africa, from achieving increased levels of human development. The three are freedom, the empowerment of women and education. Here is the report.

The sad news is that almost 10 years later, that region isn’t much better off. According to an April 2011 report from the International Monetary Fund, the region faces serious economic challenges in recovering from high unemployment and the effects of the social unrest that has swept across the region (known as the Arab Spring):

The key policy challenges across the region are daunting. For oil importers, the main priority is to raise growth and tackle chronically high unemployment, especially among young people. For oil exporters, the focus should be to strengthen or develop fi nancial systems and promote economic diversifi cation. Recent increases in public spending on non-energy-related sectors should be helpful in diversifying activity toward these sectors and rebalancing regional growth. …

In most MENA economies, chronically high unemployment, especially among young people and the educated, is a long-standing challenge that now must be tackled urgently. h e fact that unemployment has remained high for so long suggests that the problem is largely structural—stemming from skill mismatches, labor market rigidities, and high reservation wages. A lasting solution to the region’s unemployment problem will require a combination of permanently higher and inclusive economic growth and reforms to improve the responsiveness of labor markets.

Also according to the IMF, the collective GDP of the Arab League is abysmally low. Estimates from 2007 show that Arab League nations had a GDP (purchasing power parity) of about $2.765 trillion, while India alone had a GDP of $2.818 trillion in that year.

As for education, a 2008 report from World Bank reveals that unemployment was averaging 14 percent in the Middle East and North Africa, which is higher than most everywhere else in the world other than sub-Saharan Africa, and the region has yet to see the positive gains in education that have been shown in parts of Latin America and in other developing regions. This part of the introduction to the report tracks the changes in education in the MENA in the last half century:

Since the early 1960s, the MENA region has registered tremendous gains in terms of more equitable access to formal education. In the 1950s, very few children, particularly girls, were attending formal schools. Now most countries in MENA register full or close to full enrollment in basic education and secondary and tertiary education rates equivalent to countries in other regions at comparable levels of development. Moreover, the region no longer has severe gender disparities in secondary and tertiary education. As a result, most MENA countries have been able to achieve a significant decline in fertility and infant mortality, as well as a rapid increase in life expectancy. The World Bank is proud of being a partner of the region over the course of this impressive evolution.

Notwithstanding these successes—and the considerable resources invested in education—reforms have not fully delivered on their promises. In particular, the relationship between education and economic growth has remained weak, the divide between education and employment has not been bridged, and the quality of education continues to be disappointing. Also, the region has not yet caught up with the rest of the world in terms of adult literacy rates and the average years of schooling in the population aged 15 and above. Despite considerable growth in the level of educational attainment, there continues to be an “education gap” with other regions, in absolute terms.

Women, of course, continue to be forced to wear burkas across the region and educational and career opportunities for half of the MENA population are even bleaker.

Zakaria didn’t mention it — probably because it would have been too controversial for his show — but one fact that is hard to ignore is the pervasiveness of religion in the region. For the faithful, education and economic advancement aren’t exactly high priorities in these regions, and that has been borne out by centuries of religious feuding, wars and general social turmoil, so much so that any kind of educational and economic advancements in the Middle East and Africa will have to take place in spite of the religious fervor that continues to dominate. History has shown that the least developed nations in the world have also been the most superstitious and religious, with the United States being the most obvious and glaring exception.

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Written by Jeremy

September 11th, 2011 at 3:45 pm

9.11.11

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Written by Jeremy

September 11th, 2011 at 12:07 pm

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