Saturday, May 13, 2006

Wind Power

A truck hauling a single blade of a wind turbine. Cool. They are huge.

I'm an advocate of wind power and personally I don't care where they build them because in the end they are better for the environment than most other options. Here is a great diary by Jerome in Paris on wind energy that answers many questions about wind energy.

A few people in the Malone area of the North Country, led by Dr. Nina Pierpont disagree with me. A list of her concerns can be found here and at the We Oppose Wind Farms website. The groups biggest concerns are the noise generated by the windmills that can drive certain people insane (j/k kinda) and the strobe effect that causes you to murder your neighbor (def. j/k). North Country Public Radio has also addressed this topic very well here. You can also read about wind energy pro's and con's at National Wind Watch.

I don't know if the claims about the noise are true or not (most info on the web says they maybe once were true but are no longer). But before having a wind turbine placed on your property wouldn't you go to a wind farm and find out for yourself? The property owners who allow wind turbines on their property make a pretty penny, year after year, for doing nothing. While the rest of us get abundant clean energy.

What 'We Oppose Wind Farms' lack are links to academic or professional engineering studies showing that they have valid concerns about the negative effects of wind farms.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Minuteman Splinter Groups - Bigots and Racists

You can read about Minuteman 'splinter' groups here and about how they can't play nice with each other here and here.

The Texas Minuteman Project is here. Spelling isn't too good but they know how to post video.

Visit the 'Border Guardians' here. While you are at it you might purchase one of their T-shirts that proclaims "Proud Nativist Americans - Defending American Sovereignty". Your mission as written by 'Defender USA', if you decide to accept, is to disrupt and deter illegal immigration by any legal means, including psy-ops field missions, propaganda, and infiltration of organizations who are enemies of the lawful American republic and American citizenry as a whole. Oh my, psy-ops!!!

These people honestly believe that we are at war with Mexico. For a supposedly 'Christian' country, the USA sure has it's fair share of haters.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Desert and Wild Przewalski's Horses

For some awesome pictures of the desert and wild Przewalski's horses in Mongolia go to Karina's blog or click here.

SEX! That's the Ticket to Wake Up Apathetic Americans

All kinds of good scandals in the Bush administration.

Citizens being locked up forever on GW's say so.
Spying on US citizens without warrants.
Tom Delay.
Jack Abramoff.
Bob Ney.
Duke Cunningham....oh wait Cunningham! Now this is getting to be a good scandal because it involves sex! It's so awesome. It involves the Watergate, the CIA, the defense department, several congressmen, gambling, prostitutes, even CIGARS! Too bad we couldn't prove that Bush was somehow involved because with sex and CIGARS we would then have a case for impeachment!

Even better it also involves a guy named 'Nine Fingers'!

Hygiene Hypothesis - Part 3 - Evidence

What is the evidence that the decline of exposure to infectious agents is related to an increase of allergies and autoimmune diseases?

The incidence of asthma, allergies and autoimmune diseases has increased dramatically over the last 50 years.

There is a North-South gradient in the incidence of autoimmune diseases. And, this correlates with socio-economic level (Bach, 2002, NEJM). This means that autoimmune diseases are more frequently found at the higher latitudes (closer to the poles) than nearer to the equator. There could be many explanations for this finding but certainly the incidence of worm infection is generally greater the nearer you get to the equator. But even in Europe, the incidence of diabetes and multiple sclerosis is higher in the Scandinavian countries than in Italy, Spain or France.

There is a lower frequency of allergies and autoimmune diseases in populations of lower socio-economic status. For instance, in Europe the prevalence of multiple sclerosis is about 40/100,000 in countries with GNP's less than $14,000 vs 85/100,000 in countries with GNP's greater than $18,000.

Persons that grow up on a farm are less likely to get allergies than persons that do not grow up on a farm.

East Germans (before unification) had lower incidences of asthma and hay fever than West Germans even though East Germany was heavily polluted.

Children in Venezuela, when cured of their worm infections, had an increased incidence in allergies.

Mice (or rats) bred in germ free or pathogen free environments develop autoimmune diseases more frequently than normal mice.

A special mouse strain called non-obese diabetic mice (NOD) rapidly develop diabetes. Diabetes can be prevented if these mice if they are infected with some bacteria or worms. NOD mice have a 40% incidence of diabetes. If the NOD mouse is delivered by cesarian section and raised in a germ-free environment the incidence of diabetes increases to 80%.

Now this evidence is not sufficient to for us to absolutely say that there is a causal relationship between incidence of infections and of allergies and autoimmune diseases. Moreover, infections are also known to result in autoimmune disease in some cases.

Distinguished Service Awards - Dems vs GOP

Today the House of Reps is handing out Distinguished Service Awards to former members of the House.

Repubs have nominated Porter 'Fire All Democrats' Goss, recently resigned as head of the CIA and Vice President Richard 'Fuck You' Cheney who recently shot a guy in the face.

Dems have nominated Jesuit Catholic priest, law professor, and former Massachusetts Congressman Father Robert Drinan and Ambassador Lindy Claiborne Boggs, who represented Louisiana for 18 years in the House and served as an ambassador to the Vatican.

Quite the difference huh?

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Hygiene Hypothesis - Part 2 - Some Immunology

Before we go further in discussing the Hygiene Hypothesis, it's necessary to know a little immunology. The basics of the immune system can be learned by reading 'Understanding the Immune System' (an online pdf published by NIH). It's a bit dated and won't go into the Hygiene Hypothesis but is still worth reading. While you are at it you can also read 'Understanding Vaccines' and 'Understanding Microbes'. These booklets have all been written for the non-scientist.

Everyone has probably heard about antibodies, produced by B cells, or humoral immunity and how they protect you against infection. That is usually the extent of most people's knowledge of immunology.I want to talk about two lesser known types of immune responses and how they tend to counter-regulate each other. These immune responses concern T cell responses or what some persons call cell-mediated immunity.

There are at least 3 kinds of T cells: Helper T cells or CD4+ T cells; Cytotoxic T cells or CD8+ T cells; and T regulatory or CD4+FoxP3+ T cells. Each has their own complex role in mediating or controlling immune responses.

CD4+ helper T cells have been divided into two types: Th1 and Th2 cells which mediate Type 1 or Type 2 cytokine responses. NOTE: both Th1 and Th2 cells help B cells make antibodies! Don't believe this crap about Th1 mediating cellular responses and Th2 mediating antibody responses. It's not that simple.

Th1 T cells usually mediate protective immune responses to intracellular pathogens. They do this by producing a cytokine called 'Interferon gamma' which activates macrophages to destroy pathogens or by 'helping' B cells make certain types of antibodies (among many other mechanisms) which also help macrophages destroy pathogens. Uncontrolled Th1 cell inflammatory responses can result in tissue or organ damage called 'immunopathology'.

Th2 T cells likely evolved in response to helminth infections. They produce a cytokine called IL-4 (interleukin 4) which is involved in mediating immune responses against worms. In some individuals, Th2 T cells also mediate allergic responses.

One important thing to be aware of is that Th1 and Th2 T cells can counter-regulate each other. Interferon-gamma produced by Th1 cells can prevent the development of Th2 cells. IL-4 produced by Th2 cells can prevent the development of Th1 cells. There is no way to tell these cells apart just by looking at them in a microscope, special techniques need to be used.

T regulatory cells, like Th1 and Th2 cells, are also CD4+ T cells but they also express FoxP3 (forkhead box P3). These cells secrete IL-10 and/or TGF-beta, molecules that can down-regulate inflammatory immune responses. Mice which lack FoxP3 expression are called scurfy and they rapidly die from multi-organ inflammation. In other words, Treg cells are necessary to regulate inflammatory immune responses.

To very much simplify:

Th1 cells mediate protection against most infectious diseases but can cause organ damage if not controlled. Th1 cells can also cause autoimmune diseases such as Type 1 diabetes, maybe multiple sclerosis, and several gastrointestinal diseases to name but a few. Th1 cells produce a cytokine that can prevent development of Th2 cells.

Th2 cells mediate protection against helminth (worm) infections and are also responsible for allergic reactions. Th2 cells produce cytokines that can prevent development of Th1 cells.

Treg cells secrete protein molecules that regulate Th1 and Th2 mediated-immune responses.

Hygiene Hypothesis - Part 1 - What is it?

I'd guess about 80% of what I blog about is stuff in which I have no idea what I'm talking about. So. I've decided to write a multi-part series discussing one of my current interests - The Hygiene Hypothesis.

The Hygiene Hypothesis was formally proposed, in the British Medical Journal, by Dr. David P. Strachan in 1989 (Strachan, DP. Hay fever, hygiene and household size. BMJ 299:1259-60). Dr. Strachan observed, as have many others, that hay fever and other allergies occur more often in smaller, more affluent families.

He suggested: "These observations could be explained if allergic diseases were prevented by infection in early childhood, transmitted by unhygienic contact with older siblings, or acquired prenatally...Over the past century declining family size, improved household amenities and higher standards of personal cleanliness have reduced opportunities for cross infection in young families. This may have resulted in more widespread clinical expression of atopic disease."

Put more simply The Hygiene Hypothesis states that growing up in a relatively clean environment may make you more more likely to suffer from allergies and other autoimmune diseases. This is opposed to growing up on a farm, having many siblings, pets or attending day care during your first year of life. Some of us would like to argue that it has to do with whether you are harboring intestinal nematodes or not.

The increased incidence of allergies and autoimmune diseases is relatively recent, within the last 50-60 years. This means that something that protected us from allergies and autoimmune diseases has been lost from the childhood environment over recent decades. What is the something? Well, it should be something that has been present throughout the evolution of the mammalian immune system and it should be something that has been progressively depleted from the environment of developed countries over the last 5-6 decades.

One thing that has definitely been lost, at least in the United States and Canada, is intestinal nematode infection. Worms!

Are Teachers Paid Enough?

From myshortpencil, a gadfly I sometimes enjoy reading. Click on it to make it larger.

I don't know if they are or not. However, I'm sick of hearing about average salaries with no comparisons. You can't even discuss the issue of teacher salaries without looking a median salaries or having some other measure of variance. The above is a chart of median teacher salaries compared with median family income.

Family income: The combined income of all family members age 14 and above living in the household for the period of 1 year. Income includes money income from jobs; net income from business, farm, or rent; pensions; dividends; interest; social security payments; and any other money income.

Some states pay teachers really poorly. However, in every single state, a teacher makes more than the median family income. It is my impression that a good number of teachers have more problems with working conditions than with salaries per se. If you are currently in college, consider at least minoring in education.

Death in Africa

In Africa, 3 million babies are stillborn each year and four million die within a month of birth. If you are lucky enough to survive malaria or TB, your chances of starving to death are pretty good. The USA is spending 10 billion dollars a month on the 'war' in Iraq. An additional 4.1 billion dollars a year could result in saving millions of children in Africa. I have no idea how we get up each morning and live with ourselves knowing the devastation that is occuring in Africa and elsewhere in the world.

Monday, May 08, 2006

Close Yale University?

Maybe the World would be a better place if Yale University were to close down. Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito, G.H.W. Bush, G.W. Bush, Dick Cheney, John Ashcroft, Joe Lieberman, Paul Bremer, Edward Meese, William F. Buckley, Porter Goss, John Negroponte and many more people who have made the world a more difficult place to live in. On the other hand we would be giving up people like Henry Winkler and Gary Trudeau.