Saturday, December 08, 2007

Parasitic Worms: An Introduction

There appears to be an unsatisfactory amount of information, at least to me, on the internets for general information about parasitic worms. In any case, I feel like writing about parasitic worms today.

Parasitic worms, or as we call them in the world of parasitology, parasitic helminths, are metazoan animals made up of three phyla: Platyhelminths or flatworms (flukes and tapeworms); Nematoda (roundworms) and the less well known Acanthocephala (thorny headed worms). Metazoan simply means they are members of the animal kingdom and are made up of many cells.

A fluke (trematode)

Parasitic worms (helminths) are a very diverse group of animals. Adult worms can range in size from just a few hundred microns up to 10 meters in length. In terms of sex, male and female reproductive organs can be in the same worm (flukes and tapeworms) or as individual male and female worms (roundworms and acanthocephalans). Some worms have no gut others have have a gut with a single opening (no anus), while others have guts with both a mouth and an anus.

Parasitic worms also have different types of life cycles. Those with a direct life cycle have only a single host. Those with an indirect life cycle utilize more than one host to complete their life cycle. In either case, the host in which sexual reproduction of the worm takes place is called the definitive host. Hosts in which development, growth or asexual reproduction takes place are called the intermediate host. Host to host transmission occurs via eggs or larvae. Eggs are usually ingested while larvae may be ingested or they can penetrate the skin.

A tapeworm (cestode)

As noted above, worms are classified into phyla and then further into classes. In the phylum Platyhelminthes we will only concern ourselves with the class Cestoda (tapeworms) and the class (subclass?) Digenea (flatworms or flukes). The phylum Nematoda consists of many different orders that we need not really be concerned with....they are all nematodes (roundworms).

A roundworm (nematode)

Next time we'll look more specifically at the Trematodes or flukes.

NY to Stop Tax Payments on State Land?

Chautauqua County Judge Timothy J. Walker, acting Supreme Court Judge, ordered the State of NY to cease making tax payments on state lands because of the "jumbled approach" to the state land taxation (reported in Plattsburgh Press Republican). The order was stayed pending appeal.

Here is how this could specifically affect the Saranac Lake School District if the state didn't make payments:
n the Saranac Lake Central School District -- the largest in the state formed of seven towns over an area the size of Rhode Island -- the numbers are mind-boggling.

District business manager Mike Kilroy ran a what-if scenario.

Of the total $16 million school tax levy, $3.7 million or about 22 percent comes in the form of state tax payments.

"Here's how much the school tax rates would go up if the state didn't make any payments," Kilroy said, his calculator whirring in the background.

"Harrietstown would go from $9.07 to $11.60 (per thousand of assessed value); Brighton would go from $9.15 to $11.67; Franklin (town) would go from $12.35 to $15.80; Santa Clara would go from $7.94 to $10.12; North Elba would go from $8.13 to $10.40; St. Armand would go from $8.40 to $10.72; and Black Brook, which only has a few parcels in the district, would go from $7.94 to $10.11."

State land is clearly assessed at a lower value than privately owned land. This never did seem fair or logical to me. This is an especially important issue in the Adirondacks since the State of NY owns almost half of the park.

Friday, December 07, 2007

Pearl Harbor Day and more

Besides being Pearl Harbor day, today is also the day that I defended my thesis..."A Comparative Genetic Approach to the Study of Host Resistance to Experimental Malaria". That was many years ago but still unforgettable.

Questions for Romney

Most of the pundits seem to be gushing over Mitt Romney's "religion speech". But I still have a couple of questions.

Did you mean what you said? Does freedom (Democracy?) require religion? If so, does it require the Christian form of religion?

Is there any room for non-believers in your version of the USA? You really didn't address that.

What exactly is the meaning of the "establishment clause" of the first amendment?

In my opinion, your speech was actually just pandering to the religious right. I wonder if they heard it that way?

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Mitt's Religion Speech

What has 2,540 words but only uses the word "Mormon" once? That would be Mitt's religion speech. Did he have a good reason for not mentioning his specific faith more often? He actually mentioned Islam more than LDS. Are there specific tenets of his faith that some suspicious voters should not know about? The entire text of Romney's speech can be found here. Here is one paragraph that just confuses the hell out me.
"Freedom requires religion just as religion requires freedom. Freedom opens the windows of the soul so that man can discover his most profound beliefs and commune with God. Freedom and religion endure together, or perish alone.

Do you really have to have religion to be truly free? Romney had to convince evangelical Christians that he is just like them. At least he said he would swear his oath on a Bible rather than the Book of Mormon. That should satisfy some evangelical Christians.

Transubstantiation and Human Gods

Mitt Romney will address his religious beliefs in a speech to be given this morning. I doubt he will talk about gods on other planets and humans becoming gods. When religious folk start talking about the nitty-gritty of their religious beliefs, the discussion can become problematic. For instance, it is my understanding that you cannot claim to be a Catholic without believing in transubstantiation. That can be a problem for some.

At the risk of the penalty of anathema, examine the belief of transubtantiation, "is the change of the substance of bread and wine into the Body and Blood of Christ occurring in the Eucharist according to the teaching of some Christian Churches".
Jesus therefore said to them, "Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in yourselves. "He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day. "For My flesh is true food, and My blood is true drink. "He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood abides in Me, and I in him. (John 6:53-56)
You can go to the Catholic encyclopedia at New Advent for an extensive defense of the belief the "revealed fact" of transubstantiation.

Here are the contradictions discussed in section V:
(a) the continued existence of the Eucharistic Species, or the outward appearances of bread and wine, without their natural underlying subject (accidentia sine subjecto);

(b) the spatially uncircumscribed, spiritual mode of existence of Christ's Eucharistic Body (existentia corporis ad modum spiritus);

(c) the simultaneous existence of Christ in heaven and in many places on earth (multilocatio).
See, it all has to do with what the meaning of "substance" is....You can find a much simpler discussion concerning transubstantiation here, in an article called "Transubstantiation and Reason".

You can also find many fruitless religious arguments against transubstantiation.

But is the belief in transubstantiation really any different from the belief that god was once a man on another planet who became a god? My question can people so easily believe these religious concepts as facts....and not just facts based on faith but actual facts based on reason (without evidence of course). Yet these same people have problems with the "theory" of evolution which is based on reams of actual evidence and not just philosophical arguments.

In any case, good luck today Mitt. You're going to need it.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

A Great American Classic - Woody Guthrie

Woody Guthrie didn't like Irving Berlin's "God Bless America". So he wrote "This land is your land".

S. 1943 Anti-torture Bill: How's It Coming Along?

S. 1943 is a bill to establish uniform standards for interrogation techniques applicable to individuals under the custody or physical control of the United States Government. This Bill is sponsored by Sen. Ted Kennedy and according to, has no cosponsors. The Bill basically says that no one shall be subject to any treatment or technique of interrogation not authorized by sections 5-50 through 5-99 of the United States Army Field Manual on Human Intelligence Collector Operations.

How is the Bill coming along in the US Senate? It was introduced on August 2nd, 2007. It's been refered to the Judiciary Comm. and as far as I can tell, there it sits. Aug 2, 2007: Read twice and referred to the Committee on the Judiciary. The Judiciary Comm. has a lot on it's plate, unfortunately S. 1943 may not be as important as S. 2046 "Text a tip act" or S. 1989 the "Pigford Claims Remedy Act".

Sen. Schumer Explains His Vote for Mukasey

Several weeks ago I emailed Sen. Schumer to express my disappointment with his vote supporting the appointment of Judge Michael B. Mukasey to the position of US Attorney General. Sen. Schumer must of gotten a ton of emails about this because today I received a long email from him attempting to explain his vote. Here it is:
Thank you for contacting me to express your opposition to the nomination of Judge Michael B. Mukasey for attorney general.

As you may know, I voted in favor of Judge Mukasey's nomination. I did so for one critical reason: the Department of Justice is a shambles and is in desperate need of a strong leader committed to depoliticizing the agency's operations.

The department has been devastated under the Bush administration. Outstanding United States attorneys have been dismissed without cause; career civil-rights lawyers have been driven out in droves; people appear to have been prosecuted for political reasons; young lawyers have been rejected because they were not conservative ideologues; and politics have been allowed to infect decision-making.

We now have the potential to improve this critical department. There is virtually universal agreement, even from those who opposed Judge Mukasey, that he would do a good job in turning the department around. Indeed, my colleagues who opposed his confirmation have gone out of their way to praise his character and qualifications. More importantly, Judge Mukasey has demonstrated his fidelity to the rule of law, saying that if he believed the president were violating the law he would resign.

My colleagues and I, and many others, spent a great deal of time and effort to expose the failings of Alberto Gonzales. I did not want to see those failures continued by the installation of a caretaker, acting Attorney General who would do the bidding of Vice President Cheney and his Chief of Staff David Addington instead of working to get the Justice Department back on track.

I understand and respect those who believe that Judge Mukasey's view on waterboarding should trump all other considerations. Like you, I believe that the cruel and inhumane technique of waterboarding is not only repugnant, but also illegal under current laws and conventions. I too found Judge Mukasey's refusal to classify waterboarding as a form of torture unsatisfactory. Therefore, I hope Congress will soon pass S.1943, a bill I am cosponsoring to explicitly ban the use of waterboarding and other abusive interrogation techniques. Judge Mukasey not only made clear to me that the president would have no legal authority to ignore such legislation, but also pledged to enforce such a law. Some say such a law is unnecessary because waterboarding is already illegal รข€“ a view with which I fully agree. However, there appears to be enough dissention and confusion in the legal community, and within the White House, that a new law, which makes the illegality of waterboarding crystal clear, can only help.

Further, even if we don't pass a new anti-waterboarding law, on the issue of torture we would be better off with Judge Mukasey than with a caretaker. The Judge has stated that he would abide by a court or Office of Legal Counsel ruling against the practice. We could certainly not expect the same from a caretaker appointee who would be more likely to embrace the theory of the unitary executive.

Had we rejected Judge Mukasey, President Bush made clear his intention to install an acting, caretaker attorney general who could serve for the rest of his term without the advice and consent of the Senate. To accept such an unaccountable attorney general, I believe, would be to surrender the department to the Administration's extreme ideology and abandon the hope of instituting the many reforms called for by our investigation. I believe the rejection of Judge Mukasey would have been a symbolic victory in the short term, but it would have ultimately delayed reform at the Justice Department and, in all likelihood, caused more problems in the long run.

Indeed, it is my hope Judge Mukasey's first weeks as attorney general are an indicator of his service to come. Days after he took office, the Justice Department reopened an internal investigation into the administration's warrantless surveillance program, which had stalled for over a year under his predecessor. More recently, the recall of the controversial U.S. attorney for Minnesota, whose radical views and poor management were symbolic of how far the Justice Department had fallen, is a tremendous step towards dismantling the legacy of Attorney General Gonzales. While there is certainly more to do, it is my hope that Judge Mukasey will do what it takes to remove the stench of politics from the Justice Department.

Again, thank you for contacting me on this important issue. Please do not hesitate to contact me in the future if I can ever be of assistance to you on this or any other matter.


Charles E. Schumer
United States Senator
That's a very long letter to explain why someone who doesn't know whether waterboarding is illegal was appointed Attorney General.

Snow and More Snow in Saranac Lake

Snow every day since last Thursday and more in the forecast.


AFTER (1 hr 15 min)

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Bush: Liar or Just Stupid?

Bush claims he was made aware of the NIE, that indicates Iran is not working towards nucler weapons, just last week. In August, he is told "we have some new information"...he wasn't told what the new information was.....and evidently Bush didn't ask what the new information was all about. He is famously incurious.

Either way, this guy is the biggest idiot to have ever served as the President of the USA.

UPDATE: Here's Joe Biden:
“Are you telling me a president who is briefed every single morning, who is fixated on Iran, is not told back in August that the tentative conclusion of 16 intelligence agencies in the United States government said they had abandoned their effort for a nuclear weapon in ’03?”
UPDATE 2: Scott Horton writes in Harpers Magazine:
one highly reliable intelligence community source I consulted immediately after Hadley spoke answered my question this way: “This is absolutely absurd. The NIE has been in substantially the form in which it was finally submitted for more than six months. The White House, and particularly Vice President Cheney, used every trick in the book to stop it from being finalized and issued. There was no last minute breakthrough that caused the issuance of the assessment.”

The Daily Coyote

The Daily Coyote is sure to become a huge hit in the blogosphere once the word gets out. Click on the link, you won't be sorry.

What is Dark Matter? Learn in 60 Seconds.

Don't have a lot of time to spend learning complex scientific ideas? Then go to 60 second science. Here is the link to the archive of the videos.

Changes in the Guantanamo Bay SOP manual

OK, here is a new one for me.....WikiLeaks, a place for truth-tellers. It's a place where you can anonymously upload documents for analylis and dissemination.

Here is the link for the Guantanomo Bay SOP manual (2004). The document has been examined by lawyers from the Center for Constitutional Rights and here are some of their conclusions.
Non-compliance with the Geneva Conventions remains official US Policy

Extraordinary, increased petty restrictions on detainees

Increased hostility towards chaplains and Red Cross

Changes reveal extent of suicide and self-harm attempts among detainees
Some of the language changes made to the SOP manual include:

"hunger strike(s)" changed to "Voluntary Total Fasting" or "VTF"

"suicide" changed to "self-harm"

Monday, December 03, 2007

Ad FOX News Will Not Run

I wonder if anyone at FOX News has ever read the US Constitution?

Iran, Nuclear Weapons and Bush Bluster

A National Intelligence Estimate that no one in the Bush Administration wanted released has, for some reason, been released. What does it say?
A new assessment by American intelligence agencies concludes that Iran halted its nuclear weapons program in 2003 and that the program remains on hold, contradicting an assessment two years ago that Tehran was working inexorably toward building a bomb.
This NIE was completed a year ago. So all the Bush bluster about Iran and World War III was just that.....bluster. But it sure was a good reason to try to convince the rubes we needed to take military action on Iran.

Let the Bush spin machine begin.

What Does "Adirondack" Mean?

This post is for the people who get refered to this blog when they Google "What does Adirondack Mean"? The explanation is taken from "History of the Adirondacks" by Alfred Donaldon (ISBN 0-916346-26-9).
Ad-i-ron'-dacks: The word means "tree-eaters," and was used by the Iroquis as an apithet of contempt and derision for their hereditary enemies, the Algonquins.
Donaldson also quotes from a paper by Professor J. Dyneley Prince, entitled "Some Forgotten Indian Place-Names in the Adirondacks" published in the "Journal of American Folk-lore" for 1900, pp. 123-128. Here is a bit of it:
The mountainous district known as the Adirondacks takes its name from a well-known Mohawk word, ratirontaks, "they eat trees" or "those who eat trees". This term is in regular use at the present day among the Mohawks at Caughnawauga, P.Q., and elsewhere, to denote the so-called Algonquin tribe who formerly had their headquarters at Oka, not far from Montreal.
Hope this is useful.

Hugo Chavez and G. W. Bush: Democracy Works

Chavez humbled by electoral defeat.
"I understand and accept that the proposal I made was quite profound and intense," he said after voters narrowly rejected the sweeping constitutional reforms by 51 percent to 49 percent.

G.W. Bush re-machofied telling us which laws he will and will not follow.
"The Act contains certain provisions identical to those found in prior bills passed by the Congress that might be construed to be inconsistent with my Constitutional responsibilities"

"To avoid such potential infirmities, I will interpret and construe such provisions in the same manner as I have previously stated in regard to those provisions."

Simplyfying the Ten Commandments

Here is someone worth listening to when it comes to religion.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Romney to Address Religion

Republican Presidential candidate Mitt Romney is going to talk about his religion on Thursday.
Romney will deliver a speech called "Faith in America" at the George Bush Presidential Library in College Station, Texas, on Thursday, outlining his religious beliefs and how they might impact his administration.
I have no idea why he is going to talk about religion. I found this youtube cartoon about mormonism. I'm a bit familiar with the teachings explained in the second half of the cartoon as I have been attempting to read the Book of Mormon. I believe the beliefs presented in the first part of the cartoon are based on Mormon Doctrine.

Mormonism makes about as much sense as most religions I guess.

34 Unconvincing Arguments for God

Here at Pharyngula via Minnesota Atheists.

Duet Playing Cat