Sean King

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San Juan, Puerto Rico, United States

Sunday, January 31, 2010

If Obama is losing Chicago... know things must be bad.

Steve Jobs Tells It Like It Is

I just love that guy:

On Google: We did not enter the search business, Jobs said. They entered the phone business. Make no mistake they want to kill the iPhone. We won’t let them, he says. Someone else asks something on a different topic, but there’s no getting Jobs off this rant. I want to go back to that other question first and say one more thing, he says. This don’t be evil mantra: “It’s bullshit.” Audience roars.

Much more, including his thoughts on Adobe and others, can be found here.

Body Bombs
Britain is facing a new Al Qaeda terror threat from suicide ‘body bombers’ with explosives surgically inserted inside them.
Until now, terrorists have attacked airlines, Underground trains and buses by secreting bombs in bags, shoes or underwear to avoid detection.
But an operation by MI5 has uncovered evidence that Al Qaeda is planning a new stage in its terror campaign by inserting ‘surgical bombs’ inside people for the first time.

Gives the phrase "blonde bombshell" a whole new meaning, I suppose.

Climate Chaos

The revelation will cause fresh embarrassment for the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), which had to issue a humiliating apology earlier this month over inaccurate statements about global warming.
The IPCC's remit is to provide an authoritative assessment of scientific evidence on climate change.

In its most recent report, it stated that observed reductions in mountain ice in the Andes, Alps and Africa was being caused by global warming, citing two papers as the source of the information.

However, it can be revealed that one of the sources quoted was a feature article published in a popular magazine for climbers which was based on anecdotal evidence from mountaineers about the changes they were witnessing on the mountainsides around them.

The other was a dissertation written by a geography student, studying for the equivalent of a master's degree, at the University of Berne in Switzerland that quoted interviews with mountain guides in the Alps.

The revelations, uncovered by The Sunday Telegraph, have raised fresh questions about the quality of the information contained in the report, which was published in 2007.
It comes after officials for the panel were forced earlier this month to retract inaccurate claims in the IPCC's report about the melting of Himalayan glaciers.

Europe on the Brink:

Greece benefitted from being in the Eurozone by getting very low interest rates, up until recently. Being in the Eurozone made investors confident. Now that confidence is eroding daily. And this week's market action says rates will go higher, without some fiscal discipline. To help my US readers put this in perspective, let's assume that Greece was the size of the US. To get back to Maastricht Treaty levels, they would need to cut the deficit by 4% of GDP for the next few years. If the US did that, it would mean an equivalent budget cut of $500 billion dollars. Per year. For three years running.

That would guarantee a very deep recession. Just a 10% suggested pay cut has Greek government unions already planning strikes. Nevertheless, the government of Greece recognizes that it simply cannot continue to run such huge deficits. They have developed a plan that aims to narrow the shortfall from 12.7% of output, more than four times the EU limit, to 8.7% this year. That reduction will be achieved even though the economy will contract 0.3%, the plan says. The deficit will shrink to 5.6% next year and 2.8% in 2012.

The market is saying they don't believe that will happen. For one thing, if the Greek economy goes into recession, the amount collected in taxes will fall, meaning the shortfall will increase. Second, it is not clear that Greek voters will approve such a plan at their next elections. Riots and demonstrations are a popular pastime.

Both French and German ministers made it clear that there would be no bailout of Greece. But here's the problem. If they ignore the noncompliance, there is no meaning to the treaty. The euro will be called into question. And the other countries with serious fiscal problems will ask why they should cut back if Greece does not. If Greece does not choose deep cutbacks and recession, the markets will keep demanding hikes in interest rates, and eventually Greece will have problems meeting just its interest payments.

Can this go on for some time? The analysis of debt crises in history says yes, but there comes a time when confidence breaks. My friends from GaveKal had this thought:

"What is the next step? Having lived through the Mexican, Thai, Korean and Argentine crises, it is hard not to distinguish a common pattern. In our view, this means that investors need to confront the fact that we are at an important crossroads for Greece, best symbolized by a simple question: 'If you were a Greek saver with all of your income in a Greek bank, given what is happening to the debt of your sovereign, would you feel comfortable keeping all of your life savings in your savings institution? Or would you start thinking about opening an account in a foreign bank and/or redeeming your currency in cash?' The answer to this question will likely direct the next phase of the crisis. If we start to see bank runs in Greece, then investors will have to accept that the crisis has run out of control and that we are facing a far more bearish investment environment. However, if the Greek population does not panic and does not liquefy/transfer its savings, then European policy-makers may still have a chance to find a political solution to this growing problem.

"What could a political solution be? The answer here is simple: there is none. So if Europe wants to save Greece from hitting the wall towards which it is now heading, the European commission, the ECB and/or other institutions (IMF?) will have to bend the rules massively. In turn, this will likely lead to a further collapse in the euro.

Read the whole thing, including an explanation as to why this time is not different.

Wild and Crazy Guys

The Tennessean:
Since the late 1800s, Churches of Christ, one of Tennessee's largest faith groups, have believed their approach to church — singing without instruments in worship, interpreting the Bible literally, taking Communion weekly and banning women from church leadership — was God's way.

That meant they kept mostly to themselves, shunned other Christians and did not participate in interfaith projects for the community.

In recent years, congregations like Otter Creek have adopted a more progressive view of their faith. They've added instruments to church services on Sunday nights and during the week. And they've begun cooperating with other faith groups, especially on charitable projects.

Confederate Yankee:

God never promised that the 72 virgins would be...female!


The Tennessean:
The son of a well-known Alcoa pastor has taken out an order of protection against his father, claiming he was threatened with a gun during an argument at a church over his lack of church attendance.

The order of protection was filed by 32-year-old Michael Louis Colquitt against 60-year-old Joe Colquitt, pastor of St. John Missionary Baptist Church.

The younger man told police his father pulled out a handgun when they met at the church to discuss church attendance. He told officers his father pointed the gun at him and threatened to kill him, his wife and family.

Climategate conduct has been confirmed illegal... the Information Commissioner.

Vaccines are Safe

Jonathan Adler:
Claims that childhood MMR vaccines cause autism are unfounded and irresponsible. As Ron Bailey notes, “study after study has debunked” the claim that MMR vaccines are linked to autism, and there are credible allegations that the study that prompted the initial scare was faked. As the BBC reports, British medical authorities have also concluded that the primary researcher promoting such claims, Andrew Wakefield, acted “dishonestly and irresponsibly” in conducting and promoting his research. More here from Discover’s Bad Astronomy blog.

Despite the broad medical consensus on the importance of vaccination for many diseases, some prominent public figures, such as Oprah Winfrey and John McCain, continue to embrace or encourage the unfounded, unscientific charge that vaccinations cause autism. This could have very serious consequences as the rate of vaccination gradually declines. Childhood vaccinations are extremely important for public health. If vaccination rates drop below a certain point, herd immunity can be compromised, leading to widespread outbreaks of disease. Perhaps the latest report on Wakefield’s research will lead some to reconsider.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

He Lied

The chairman of the leading climate change watchdog was informed that claims about melting Himalayan glaciers were false before the Copenhagen summit, The Times has learnt.

Rajendra Pachauri was told that the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change assessment that the glaciers would disappear by 2035 was wrong, but he waited two months to correct it. He failed to act despite learning that the claim had been refuted by several leading glaciologists.

The IPCC’s report underpinned the proposals at Copenhagen for drastic cuts in global emissions.
Asked whether he had deliberately kept silent about the error to avoid embarrassment at Copenhagen, he said: “That’s ridiculous. It never came to my attention before the Copenhagen summit. It wasn’t in the public sphere.”

However, a prominent science journalist said that he had asked Dr Pachauri about the 2035 error last November.

"We're with the government, and we're here to help you... football."

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Beauty is Big in Brazil
Brazil has become the world's third-biggest market for beauty products after the US and Japan. And it is not only the lower end of the market that is expanding. In plastic surgery, Brazil is now the world's second-biggest market after the US.

Virginia Sunrise:

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

St. Augustine, Florida

California Dreamin'

Approximately 85% of the state's 235,000 employees (not including higher education employees) are unionized. As the governor noted during his $83 billion budget roll-out, over the past decade pension costs for public employees increased 2,000%. State revenues increased only 24% over the same period. A Schwarzenegger adviser wrote in the San Jose Mercury News in the past few days that, "This year alone, $3 billion was diverted to pension costs from other programs." There are now more than 15,000 government retirees statewide who receive pensions that exceed $100,000 a year, according to the California Foundation for Fiscal Responsibility.

Many of these retirees are former police officers, firefighters, and prison guards who can retire at age 50 with a pension that equals 90% of their final year's pay. The pensions for these (and all other retirees) increase each year with inflation and are guaranteed by taxpayers forever—regardless of what happens in the economy or whether the state's pensions funds have been fully funded (which they haven't been).

A 2008 state commission pegged California's unfunded pension liability at $63.5 billion, which will be amortized over several decades. That liability, released before the precipitous drop in stock-market and real-estate values, certainly will soar.

Unfortunately, the problems aren't limited to California. Many states, and even the federal government, labor under massive pension burdens that are only now coming to light (thanks in part to new accounting rules that actually require governments know...account for the cost of the promises they make).

Fortunately, depressions have a way of wiping such slates clean. As a result, I would encourage public employees not to rely on these benefits.

DIY Biologists?

Yes, it's a growing trend.

Despite Obama's attempts to revive it, the cult of the expert is dying a slow, painful death.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Henry Blodget ponders...

...the morality of defaulting on your mortgage, and the hypocritical positions of those bankers who insist that you don't.

Building a Brain

Scientists have great expectations that nanotechnologies will bring them closer to the goal of creating computer systems that can simulate and emulate the brain's abilities for sensation, perception, action, interaction and cognition while rivaling its low power consumption and compact size. DARPA for instance, the U.S. military's research outfit known for projects that are pushing the envelope on what is technologically possible, has a program called SyNAPSE that is trying to develop electronic neuromorphic machine technology that scales to biological levels. Started in late 2008 and funded with $4.9 million, the goal of the initial phase of the SyNAPSE project is to "develop nanometer scale electronic synaptic components capable of adapting the connection strength between two neurons in a manner analogous to that seen in biological systems, as well as, simulate the utility of these synaptic components in core microcircuits that support the overall system architecture."

It's in the Genes
The echolocation abilities of bats and whales, though different in their details, rely on the same changes to the same gene - Prestin. These changes have produced such similar proteins that if you drew a family tree based on their amino acid sequences, bats and toothed whales would end up in the same tight-knit group, to the exclusion of other bats and whales that don't use sonar.

This is one of the most dramatic examples yet of 'convergent evolution', where different groups of living things have independently evolved similar behaviours or body parts in response to similar evolutionary pressures.

It is one of a growing number of studies have shown that convergence on the surface - like having venom, being intelligent or lacking enamel - is borne of deeper genetic resemblance.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Why Is Fish Oil So Good for You?

Thomas Burton explains in the WSJ.

The documented virgin birth...

...of a shark.

Need Help Because You're Buried Alive in a Collapsed Hatian Hotel After an Earthquake?

Well, there's an app for that:

At first, Woolley used the phone’s camera flash to illuminate the space in which he was trapped in near dark, and to take flash photos that let him study his surroundings. He was able to spot an elevator shaft in the photos, to which he made his way to wait in hope of rescue.

Then, he says, he remembered that he had an app called Pocket First Aid & CPR, a $3.99 download created by the American Heart Association. Sure enough, Pocket First Aid instructed him on how to dress the compound fracture in his leg, as well as scrapes on his head.

Most important, the app told him that falling asleep in his condition could be fatal. Woolley set his phone’s alarm to ring every twenty minutes.

Yes, iPhones are amazingly useful (as long as the battery lasts, at least).

Leading Priests Into Temptation?
Using the Feast of the Patron Saint for writers and journalists, the Holy Father has called his pastors to become “leaders of communities” online in the new digital marketplace.

“Who better than a priest, as a man of God,” the Pope said, “can develop and put into practice, by his competence in current digital technology, a pastoral outreach capable of making God concretely present in today’s world and presenting the religious wisdom of the past as a treasure which can inspire our efforts to live in the present with dignity while building a better future?”

Hmmmm. I can think of many people other than Catholic priests who are better prepared to resist the Internet's less wholesome temptations.

The Mistake that Wasn't
A London newspaper reported yesterday that the unsubstantiated Himalayan-glacier melt figures contained in a supposedly authoritative 2007 report on climate warming were used intentionally, despite the report’s lead author knowing there were no data to back them up.

Until now, the organization that published the report – the Nobel Prize-winning Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change – had argued the exaggerated figures in that report were an accident: due to insufficient fact checking of the source material.

Uh, no. It now appears the incident wasn’t quite that innocent.

Goldman Warns Fed Not to Raise Rates

Vincent Fernando:
Not only does Goldman say the fed won't raise rates, but they even say that the Fed shouldn't; which if Goldman-conspiracy theorists are right essentially means the Fed won't.

Not necessarily, Vincent. Many Goldman-conspiracy theorists would suggest that Goldman's pronouncement means just the opposite: That is, that it already knows the Fed is likely to raise rates and is simply trying to convince the public and its clients of the opposite, all in a cynical attempt to maximize its own trading profits once the rest of us are clued in to the real deal.

Such theories sound far fetched, but Goldman has done such things before.

Steve Keens explains the true cause of depressions...

...and why Bernanke should not be reappointed Chairman of the Fed.

Days of Deflation

Sales of previously occupied homes took the largest monthly drop in more than 40 years last month, plunging far deeper than expected after lawmakers gave buyers extended time to use a tax credit.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Why Such a Deep Recession?

Arnold Kling:
Several economists, not just Scott Sumner, have argued that the recession is too deep and too broad to be explained by the Recalculation Story. I think that there are many weaknesses in the Recalculation Story. It is far from a well established scientific thesis.

However, I would suggest that explaining the depth of the recession is a challenge for just about any macroeconomist. There is no well-established theory that can explain how we got to 10 percent unemployment.

If by "well-established" he means "orthodox", then I suppose Mr. Kling is correct. But, there are heretical theories of economics that not only explain how we got here, but also successfully predicted these events in advance.

I would add to the above-linked list of "those who saw it coming" the following:

1) Robert Prechter
2) Harry Dent
3) Martin Weiss

Monday, January 18, 2010

Jonah Goldberg Spanks Tom Friedman

I like Friedman, but sometimes he does need to be taken out behind the woodshed.

"We're with the government, and we're here to help...

...guarantee your retirement income":

Bloomberg reports that the Obama Administration is considering measures to encourage Americans to convert their 401(k)s and IRAs into Government-provided annuities.

"Encourage", huh?

This is Rediculous!

Haiti is Katrina times two, I'm afraid. And the administration's response under Obama is even more inept than Bush's.

The fact that ISRAEL was able to come half-way across the world and set up a mobile hospital for these poor souls while the US still hasn't managed to do so is just...pathetic.

When It Rains, It Pours

On orthodox climate scientists, that is.

A WARNING that climate change will melt most of the Himalayan glaciers by 2035 is likely to be retracted after a series of scientific blunders by the United Nations body that issued it.

Two years ago the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) issued a benchmark report that was claimed to incorporate the latest and most detailed research into the impact of global warming. A central claim was the world's glaciers were melting so fast that those in the Himalayas could vanish by 2035.

In the past few days the scientists behind the warning have admitted that it was based on a news story in the New Scientist, a popular science journal, published eight years before the IPCC's 2007 report.

It has also emerged that the New Scientist report was itself based on a short telephone interview with Syed Hasnain, a little-known Indian scientist then based at Jawaharlal Nehru University in Delhi.

Hasnain has since admitted that the claim was "speculation" and was not supported by any formal research. If confirmed it would be one of the most serious failures yet seen in climate research. The IPCC was set up precisely to ensure that world leaders had the best possible scientific advice on climate change.

Unfortunately for the IPCC, those portions of its "scientific" findings that weren't based on the speculations of a little-known Indian scientist were based on the shenanigans of the Hockey Team (as revealed in Climategate).

Today's a good day...

to remember Martin Luther King, Jr.

It's hard to believe how things really were not all that long ago.

Three cheers...

for CNN correspondent and physician, Sanjay Gupta:

Earthquake victims, writhing in pain and grasping at life, watched doctors and nurses walk away from a field hospital Friday night after a Belgian medical team evacuated the area, saying it was concerned about security.
The decision left CNN Chief Medical Correspondent Sanjay Gupta as the only doctor at the hospital to get the patients through the night.

I'd like to think that I would have done the same thing.

One a related note: I'm not a fan of CNN's political bias, but when it comes to covering a story like Haiti, nobody does it better. Their coverage of this unbelievable tragedy has been outstanding.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Recipe for Disaster
China’s population control policy is staring it in the face. A country with a population of around 1.3 billion will be short of 24 million brides by the turn of next decade.

24 million young males with no possibility of mating! What could possibly go wrong?

UPDATE:> Charles Sizemore has a great idea for a new business: A gay bar in China.

Michael Silence...

...has a roundup of Derek Dooley news.

Ambrose Evans-Pritchard:

A global fiasco is brewing in Japan.

Signs of the Times

Some corporate debt deemed safer than sovereign debt.

Stupid is as stupid...


Y Chromosome

A "powerhouse of evolution".

What a Crock
Simon Glik, a lawyer, was walking down Tremont Street in Boston when he saw three police officers struggling to extract a plastic bag from a teenager’s mouth. Thinking their force seemed excessive for a drug arrest, Glik pulled out his cellphone and began recording.

Within minutes, Glik said, he was in handcuffs.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Carl Zimmer discusses...

...death by mutation.

While interesting, the concerns expressed at the above link ignore the fact that gene therapy will be both cheap and common in less than twenty years.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Will the Great Recession be...

...the end of the European Union?

Jurgen Stark, the ECB's chief economist and the powerful German member on the bank's inner council, said Greece's problems are entirely "home-made" and do not meet the terms required to trigger the rescue mechanism under EU treaty law, which is limited to countries that face severe difficulties "beyond their own control".
"The Treaties set out a 'no bail-out' clause, and the rules will be respected. This is crucial for guaranteeing the future of a monetary union among sovereign states with national budgets. Markets are deluding themselves if they think that the other member states will at a certain point dip their hands into their wallets to save Greece,"

Truth be told, the EU needs Greece right now more than Greece needs the EU, so I'm betting that Jurgen Stark will eat his words, and soon. But regardless, such articles demonstrate the current frailty of the EU. Nations such as Greece don't print their own money, and so they can't simply inflate their way out of this mess like more "sovereign" nations are trying to do.

Sexless Ant
The complete asexuality of a widespread fungus-gardening ant, the only ant species in the world known to have dispensed with males entirely, has been confirmed by a team of Texas and Brazilian researchers.

Don't get any ideas, ladies.

Can Cell Phones Protect Against Alzheimers?


How weird.

Why China Won't Meet Expectations

Gordon Chang predicts China's coming collapse.

I think "collapse" probably overstates the case, but starting during the next ten years China will certainly struggle beyond most present expectations. The biggest reason, though not sufficiently emphasized by Chang at the above link, is its disastrous one-child policy.

China is now the fastest ageing country on earth, and quickly aging countries don't prosper economically. Just look at Japan, or soon to Europe (Italy, Greece, and Spain in particular), for examples.

Fortunately, the US's demographics are much, much better, though they do leave something to be desired.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Controvery Over IPCC's Melting Glaciers Claim

See coverage at

Barry Ritholz ponders...

the wages of failure.

Google Strongarms the AP?

No new AP news stories have appeared on Google News since December 23rd.


Mortgage Bankers Association to Homeowners:

"Moral obligations are for thee but not for we."

A History of Ecstasy... Oliver Hockenhull.

This is just one of a series of articles I've seen over the last year or so directly or indirectly discussing the benefits of illegal drugs. Perhaps not surprisingly, interest in drugs increases during recessions and depressions, and drug laws are often liberalized during these times (for instance, prohibition was repealed in 1933 during the middle of the Great Depression).

I'm not really sure how to explain this phenomenon. Perhaps politicians perceive legalizing drugs as a way of temporary relieving some of the misery of the masses? Or more likely, they perceive legalizing drugs as a way to increase tax revenues during times when governments couldn't otherwise pay their bills.

Thought-Operated Computers

A new thought-operated computer system which can reduce the symptoms of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) in children will be rolled out across the UK this month.

I can't wait for...

...wireless HD.

How Cool! <
span style="font-style:italic;">Studies of two supernova remnants using the Japan-U.S. Suzaku observatory have revealed never-before-seen embers of the high-temperature fireballs that immediately followed the explosions. Even after thousands of years, gas within these stellar wrecks retain the imprint of temperatures 10,000 times hotter than the sun's surface.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Why is Exercise So Good for You?
As millions of Americans flock to the gym armed with New Year's resolutions to get in shape, medical experts are offering an additional reason to exercise: Regular workouts may help fight off colds and flu, reduce the risk of certain cancers and chronic diseases and slow the process of aging.

Physical activity has long been known to bestow such benefits as helping to maintain a healthy weight and reduce stress, not to mention tightening those abs. Now, a growing body of research is showing that regular exercise—as simple as a brisk 30- to 45-minute walk five times a week—can boost the body's immune system, increasing the circulation of natural killer cells that fight off viruses and bacteria. And exercise has been shown to improve the body's response to the influenza vaccine, making it more effective at keeping the virus at bay.

"No pill or nutritional supplement has the power of near-daily moderate activity in lowering the number of sick days people take," says David Nieman, director of Appalachian State University's Human Performance Lab in Kannapolis, N.C. Dr. Nieman has conducted several randomized controlled studies showing that people who walked briskly for 45 minutes, five days a week over 12 to 15 weeks had fewer and less severe upper respiratory tract infections, such as colds and flu. These subjects reduced their number of sick days 25% to 50% compared with sedentary control subjects, he says.

Medical experts say inactivity poses as great a health risk as smoking, contributing to heart disease, diabetes, hypertension, cancer, depression, arthritis and osteoporosis. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says 36% of U.S. adults didn't engage in any leisure-time physical activity in 2008.

Even lean men and women who are inactive are at higher risk of death and disease. So while reducing obesity is an important goal, "the better message would be to get everyone to walk 30 minutes a day" says Robert Sallis, co-director of sports medicine at Fontana Medical Center, a Southern California facility owned by managed-care giant Kaiser Permanente. "We need to refocus the national message on physical activity, which can have a bigger impact on health than losing weight."

Read the whole thing for theories on why exercise is so effective.

Update:> Related topic here.

Using Google Earth for No Good

Thieves Use Google Earth to Find and Plunder Wineries' Solar Panels

Nanotech News

Nanotech improves lifespan of medical implants.

The Best from the Consumer Electronics Show...

...according to PopSci.

There's lotsa cool new things coming.

An Interview with Anti-Aging Guru...

Aubrey De Grey.

Consumer Electronics Show Update:

The world's first life-size sex robot can be yours for only $15,000.

UPDATE:> Hank Hyena predicted this, though I think it's safe to say that current models don't live up to the prediction.

R. U. Sirius:

"The nano-hits just keep on coming."

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Stealth Care Reform

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IRS Seeks Additional Regulation of Tax Preparers
Under the plan, which would begin with the 2011 tax season, anyone who takes money to help people with their taxes will have to register with the IRS, and eventually pass competency tests and sign up for continuing education. So having made tax filing so complicated that most Americans need help with their forms, Washington now wants to raise the price of such counsel by regulating advisers in a way that may reduce their supply.

Defending the decision, IRS Commissioner Douglas Shulman declared that regulating tax preparers was reasonable because "In most states you need a license to cut someone's hair." Yes, the cosmetology guild does like to raise the barriers to entry for competitors.

Read the whole thing.

It's Cold!

East Tennessee close to breaking 1895's record cold streak.

And this occurs in the same year as Climategate. Oh, the irony.

A 3D Printer for $950?


What is a 3D printer and why would you want one? Watch this for the answers:

Unbelievable really.

Unemployment Increases
One step forward, 85,000 steps back,” said Michael Feroli, an economist at JPMorgan. About 661,000 people stopped looking for work in the US in December. If they had not done so, the unemployment rate would have gone up to roughly 10.4 per cent.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Does Vitamin C reduce aging by...

reprogramming genes?

UPDATE: A different but related story can be found here.

Is Charles Johnson just a Troll?

Recently I was critical of Charles Johnson's hyper-sensitivity to racism, and his apparent willingness to label seemingly anyone a racist (apparently in a cynical attempt to simply be controversial).

Now, the Instapundit, Glenn Reynolds, has seemingly come to the same conclusion, and for the same reasons.

Charles is obviously a brilliant guy. Such a shame that he all-too-often wastes that mind slandering others with "cheap and bogus charges of racism."

Patrick Cox notes that... thing has been omitted from most "Top Scientific Advances of the Decade" lists:

The traditional “Top Ten Breakthroughs of the Decade” lists have been appearing in science-related publications. One breakthrough, however, is conspicuously missing from every list I’ve seen so far. I’m talking about the new understanding of the role and proper dosage of the sunshine vitamin D.

The “scientific consensus” that has held sway for four decades regarding both exposure to the sun and vitamin D has collapsed. What has emerged in place of the old “settled science” is the knowledge that most people in America are seriously vitamin D deficient or insufficient. The same is true for Canada and Europe, and the implications are staggering.

Simply put, unless you are one of the few people with optimal serum D levels, such as lifeguards and roofers in South Florida, you can cut your risks from most major diseases by 50 to 80 percent. All you have to do is get enough D. It also means we can significantly reduce both health care costs and the staggering national deficit by taking a few simple steps.

Read the whole thing.

Stupid is as Stupid Says:

Napolitano is surprised by AQ's determination? Really?! And that they would use individual suicide bombers to attack us?

What world has she been living in for the last...8 years?

As Glenn Reynolds frequently says, clearly "we're in the best of hands."

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

It's in the Genes
Scientists at the Broad Institute in Cambridge studied the DNA of 92 Doberman pinschers that displayed compulsive behavior and found a common link in a gene called Cadherin 2, The Boston Globe reported Monday, noting Cadherin 2 recently was linked to autism in humans.

Technology is the Answer

New York Times:
To spread their message to two communities that rarely speak in measured terms, Ronald and Adamchak have written a book, "Tomorrow's Table: Organic Farming, Genetics, and the Future of Food," which came out in paperback last month.

What Adamchak and Ronald pursue in the book is in essence a unified theory of farming. While critical of Western seed companies that have co-opted genetically modified (GM) crops for questionable business practices, the couple argues that both current and future generations of altered crops will, if responsibly managed, allow much of the world's hungry to be fed from land already degraded by the plow's slice and the tractor's compressing wheel.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

A Kurzweil Interview

There's a wonderful interview of Ray Kurzweil, who Forbes magazine called the "rightful heir to Thomas Edison", over at H+.

The man is brilliant.

Nanotech Leads to Artifical Artery
Early this year human trials of an artificial artery will begin. The hope is that this new creation could reduce amputations and heart attacks, potentially saving many lifes of patients with vascular diseases.

British scientists at London’s Royal Free Hospital have used nanotechnology to create the artificial artery made out of a polymer material. This material means the artery can imitate the natural pulsing of blood vessels.


Bryan Nelson:
Scientists from the Scripps Research Institute have shown for the first time that "lifeless" organic substances with no genetic material are capable of evolving just like any higher form of life. The discovery could reshape the definition of life and have revolutionary impacts on how certain diseases are treated.

One of my favorite wirters, Christopher Hitchens, makes some great points...

...about theocracies in general and Iran in particular:

My colleague and friend Fareed Zakaria wrote not long ago in these pages that there was a significant difference between, say, the Taliban takeover of the Swat Valley and the launching of suicide attacks on the non-Muslim world. I said to him then and I say once more that in the long run this is a distinction without very much difference. A country that attempts to govern itself from a holy book will immediately find itself in decline: the talents of its females repressed and squandered, its children stultified by rote learning in madrassas, and its qualified and educated people in exile or in prison. There are no exceptions to this rule: Afghanistan under the Taliban was the worst single example of beggary-cum-terrorism, and even the Iranians were forced to denounce it—because of its massacre of the Shia—without seeing the irony.

But when the crops fail and the cities rot and the children's teeth decay and nothing works except the ever-enthusiastic and illiterate young lads of the morality police, who will the clerics blame? They are not allowed to blame themselves, except for being insufficiently zealous. Obviously it must be because the Jews, the Crusaders, the Freemasons have been at their customary insidious work. Thus, holy war must be waged on happier and more prosperous lands.

If you think I exaggerate even slightly, consult the Web sites of the Iranian theocracy and of its Hamas and Hizbullah surrogates and proxies.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Gay Houston Mayor takes Oath...

...with her partner by her side.

Europe's Looming Demographic Crisis
"Due to amendments [we made] to the Bulgarian Citizenship Act (BCA), soon we will be able to process 30 000 applications a year and solve one of the biggest problems in this country; its demographic crisis," Bulgarian Minister without Portfolio Bozhidar Dimitrov was quoted by Focus news agency as saying.

Happy Birthday...

...Isaac Newton!

A Sign of Things to Come?

Mayo Clinic Arizona to stop taking Medicare.

A Former Director of the National Hurricane Center says...

...that you should be "steamed" over climategate.

Hope and Change?

In December, the number of Americans identifying themselves as Democrats fell to the lowest level recorded in more than seven years of monthly tracking by Rasmussen Reports.

Panic Room Saves Dutch Artist

Just when Denmark thought the worst was over, Islamic fury has come back to haunt it with an assassination attempt on the artist whose cartoon of the prophet Muhammad as a suicide bomber had an explosive impact four years ago on the Muslim world.

An axe-wielding Somali extremist broke into the home of Kurt Westergaard on Friday night as the 75-year-old cartoonist was looking after Stephanie, his five-year-old granddaughter.

Kurzweil seeks to reinvent...

...the eBook.

Nanosensor Speeds Cancer Detection
Detecting the biological signs of cancer in blood samples could be quicker and more sensitive thanks to new nanotechnology developed by U.S. scientists.

The new process involving nanowire sensors could significantly simplify the way blood is tested for diseases such as cancer and cardiovascular disease. In a study published in Nature Nanotechnology, researchers used nanosensors to detect the biomarkers for prostate and breast cancer.

Steeve Keens, one of the few to predict the global financial crisis...

...looks back at 2009 and forward to 2010. What he sees coming isn't what most are expecting:

We are just at the peak of the biggest debt bubble in human history. It dwarfs the level of debt reached in the 1930s largely because conventional economists like Greenspan and Bernanke allowed a “natural” debt bubble that should have burst in 1987 to keep going for two more decades.

“Business as usual” growth since the end of WWII has been underwritten by a rising level of debt (right from 1945 in the USA’s case, and from the mid-1960s in Australia’s).

This was always going to lead to a crisis when the debt-financing load became too great, and the asset bubbles financed by this Ponzi Lending finally burst. The government rescues of 2009 have clearly re-ignited this bubble in the stock market, giving us the longest running and biggest bear market rally in history.

Whether that rally can continue–and “business as usual” growth resume in the real economy–is the moot point for 2010. The rally, though impressive, has still only taken the market back to 25 percent below its peak in early October 2007.

My expectation is that, some time during 2010, the disconnect between the financial markets’ euphoric expectations and the hard reality of a deleveraging private sector will bring the optimism of both “born again Keynesian” neoclassical economists and the markets to an end. Growth will not resume once the stimulus packages are removed, since deleveraging will then assert itself in the absence of government stimulus. Falling debt will subtract from growth, as it once added to it, and unemployment will start to rise again.

Read the whole thing.

Reason Number 1001 Why I Bought a Plane

Mark Steyn:
The TSA announced that for the last hour of the flight no passenger can use the toilets or have anything on his lap — not a laptop, not a blanket, not a stewardess, not even a paperback book.

Tyler Cowen ponders...

the world's progress over the last decade.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

That'll Teach 'Em to Mess with Us!

Al-Qaida Threat Closes US Embassy in Yemen

What Will They Think to Tax Next?

Washington taxes plastic bags. But rest assured, it's for the "common good", or rather for Gaia's good.

UPDATE:> Washington, DC sues AT&T, insisting that AT&T must pay over to the DC government the full value of unused minutes on prepaid calling cards.

Just another hidden tax, I suppose.

Viscount Monckton Spanks Kevin Rudd

And makes many great points in the process.



In Ireland, blasphemy is now a crime.

Fortunately, the punishment is no longer torture, though it's still pretty steep!

End of an Age

Catalonia outlaws bullfighting.

Fannie and Freddie to Cost Taxpayers $400 Billion

Lax regulation of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac led to the mortgage companies taking on too many risky loans, Wallison said.

“It turns out it was impossible to regulate them,” he said. “They were too powerful.”

That's a fancy way of saying they'd bought off too many politicians.