Monday, December 31, 2007

Make Me Moo and Laptop Holdup


A Local issue?

Some of the discerning few have begun to express concerns about Washington State Governor Chris Gregoire's to plans for Health Care: Keeping patients safe --- including having all their prescription information centralized. Some are not happy at having such a medical profile freely available. But can they not trust 'confidentiality' and electronic safeguards? --- Dah!

Someone was suggesting that they would abandon their local pharmacist and buy outside the State. Way to go Gov!

Someone else suggested that they would buy on line. They thought using was perfectly secure. But has a physical presence in Bellevue, Washington and they do collect WA sales tax for non-exempt on line purchases. . So will the WA State electronic system monitor the prescriptions of out of state purchases?

Just asking.


On a more optimistic note. It is good to see Seattle’s Gay City celebrating the launch of a new, collaborative community program. As yet there does not seem to be much information about what that actually means. But it is a start and a good omen for the New Year. Of course, we could go along to the celebration and find out what it is all about.

p.s. Lifelong AIDS Alliance is not mentioned. Perhaps they are giving behind the scenes financial support and sharing some of that funding they have accumulated from the community.

Wi-Fi routers vulnerable to viruses

Zeeya Merali writing for the New Scientist (22 Dec – 4 Jan) in

There's something nasty in the air

The viral infection that began in Cambridge, Massachusetts, somewhere between MIT and Harvard University, failed to cross the Charles River into Boston; in California, the San Francisco Bay stymied a similar attack.

This was not a biological infection, but the first simulation of an airborne computer virus. It spread by hopping between wireless routers, which are more susceptible to viruses than computers, says Steven Myers of Indiana University in Bloomington. "We forget that routers are mini-computers. They have memory, they are networked and they are programmable." And since they aren't scanned for viruses, or protected by existing firewalls, they are easy targets. Myers knows of no actual router viruses, but says such a virus could steal credit-card numbers, make the router send out spam and block incoming security patches.

Routers close enough together to communicate - less than 100 metres apart - could act as a vast network for viruses. Although routers don't usually communicate with each other it would be easy enough for malicious hackers to use a virus to switch on that capability.

Myers and his colleagues used the locations of Wi-Fi routers around Chicago, Manhattan, San Franisco, Boston and parts of Indianapolis to simulate a virus attack.


WiFi Epidemiology: Can Your Neighbors' Router Make Yours Sick?
Hao Hu, Steven Myers,
Vittoria Colizza, Alessandro Vespignani
arXiv:0706.3146v1 [cs.CR]

Link to Cornell Univ. Library: abstract

Link to New Scientist article [registration required]

Sunday, December 30, 2007


Cerys Matthews - Keep The Home Fires Burning

Prepared for the Iraq war ???

'The Right to Choose'

The Association of Humanistic Psychology (AHP) is concerned enough about the threats to personal freedoms in the Health Care system to warn on their web site:

"We are living in a cultural climate where the health care system is to a large extent defined and regulated by the forces of politics, economics, and fear of litigation. Many healing practitioners who are knowledgeable and skilled in humanistic, transpersonal, integrative, and/or certain indigenous healing modalities are governed by mainstream licensing boards and the conventional medical model standard of care, which generally does not recognize the validity of alternative healing approaches.

At the same time, a growing number of individuals are seeking professional assistance to grapple with deep issues of emotional growth, interpersonal relationship, somato-psychic distress, and psychospiritual upheaval. Many of these individuals rely on health insurance and managed care systems, which dictate not only who they can see professionally, but also what interventions are acceptable. Even though the client and the practitioner may understand the value of an unconventional or alternative approach, they are forced to comply with the established ideologies and practices of the conventional treatment which, in many cases, do not honor the essence of the human struggle. For this, we all suffer."

So, the AHP, committed to the belief in the individual’s inherent right to choose his/her own path of healing and growth, stands firm on the tenet that the most effective and growth enhancing therapeutic relationships are those that are fundamentally democratic and interactive between client and practitioner.

They note that political, economic, and legal pressures continue to move us toward greater regulation within a narrow perspective so both clients and practitioners lose the freedom to vigorously and openly explore and pursue paths of healing which may be the most suited to the person’s need but are not supported or sanctioned by mainstream regulatory boards or financial institutions.

AHP claims to be a voice in the midst of this storm which proclaims a resounding unwillingness to capitulate to these forces. Toward this end, AHP is initiating a Right to Choose project, intended to address the philosophical, ethical, political, legal, educational, organizational, and practical aspects of this issue.

Link to AHP’s The Right to Choose

A Last Holiday Fling

Saturday, December 29, 2007

New Years Honours

It is good to see Julie Walters being recognized --- she was awarded a CBE.
Not only is she a fine actor, we love her because she is not afraid to hid her attractiveness in the interests of portraying a character. And she is so much fun!


In Rolling Stone ( Dec27 – Jan 10) Bill Maher presents a Worst List as

Dickheads of the Year
or his
“ picks for the biggest assholes of 2007”

Number 7 on the list

The Solid Quarter

That twenty-five percent of America who would not desert George Bush if he ran over Dakota Fanning with his pickup truck on the White House lawn. Is it a coincidence that twenty-five percent is also the number of people who, in an AP poll of predictions for 2007, said they expect Jesus Christ to return this year!? I don't think it is.

Link to Rolling Stone list

Friday, December 28, 2007


Tuna N Sweet Corn

New Years Honours

Sir Ian McKellen joins the exclusive Order of the Companion of Honour - restricted to 65 members, including the Queen - for his services to drama and equality

Fighting Crystal Meth Newscenter Staff (December 28, 2007) in
Gay Health Group Given Grant To Fight Meth Use

Reports New York City's Gay Men’s Health Crisis, the world’s oldest HIV/AIDS organization, has been awarded $303,000 in federal funds to fight the growing role of crystal methamphetamine use in the HIV/AIDS epidemic on a national level.

In a 2004 study conducted by theNational Alliance of State and Territorial AIDS Directors and the National Coalition of STD Directors, crystal meth users were more than twice as likely to be HIV infected, nearly twice as likely to contract gonorrhea, and five times as likely as non-crystal users to be diagnosed with syphilis.

Though crystal meth is most commonly smoked, injection use is on the rise. This is disturbing because of the increased potential for HIV transmission through shared needles, said Dr. Marjorie J. Hill, GMHC’s Chief Executive Officer.

.“HIV diagnoses among men who have sex with men in the United States are up 13% since 2001. In New York City, infections among young MSM are up by one third.

Crystal meth is one factor fueling this rise in HIV infections among gay men,” said Janet Weinberg, Senior Managing Director of Development and Legislative Funding. “This funding will allow us to warn people of the risks of crystal meth before they start using and to get users into treatment.”

The appropriation, signed by President Bush, was sponsored by Senators Charles Schumer (D-NY) and Hillary Clinton (D-NY).
The legislation also flat-funded domestic abstinence-only-until-marriage education at $176 million for Fiscal Year 2008. The Bush administration had sought an additional $28 million for the program.

“We’re disappointed that this omnibus bill still contains millions for harmful and ineffective abstinence-only-until-marriage education and still contains the restriction banning the use of federal funds for syringe exchange,” said Sean Cahill, Managing Director for Public Policy, Research and Community Health at GMHC.

Link News report

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Catherine Tate Xmas Special

Artificial blood vessels

BBC News on line (December26, 2007) in

Artificial blood vessels 'closer'

reports that scientists are a step nearer the creation of tiny artificial blood vessels after growing miniscule tubes out of stem cells in the laboratory. The Massachusetts Institute of Technology team got the cells to stretch and form tubes along a grooved template.Now they plan to produce capillaries which could be tested in animals.

Producing lab-grown blood vessels has been described as one of the "holy grails" of regenerative medicine. Researchers have already managed to make wider blood vessels from scratch, but the formation of the tiny diameter capillaries needed to create a blood supply within other tissues and organs is far more challenging.

The US scientists claim to have made progress towards this, using a "nanoscale" template into which stem cells called endothelial progenitor cells are placed. The cells detected the grooves and elongated themselves along them, aligning themselves in the same direction. Adding a gel made of growth factors allowed the cells to grow outwards, forming a series of tiny tubes running parallel to each other.

While these tubes are not yet ready to be put inside a human body, the researchers say they are "very excited" by their potential. Professor Robert Langer, who led the research, said: "It provides a new way to create nano-based systems which we hope will provide a novel way to some day engineer tissues in the human body."

The team now plan to develop capillary tubes which can be inserted into animals to see if they work properly.


Enhancement of In Vitro Capillary Tube Formation by Substrate Nanotopography
C. J. Bettinger et al
Advanced Materials: Early View 10.1002/adma.200702487

Link to Advanced Materials abstract

Link to BBC News report

Living cells?


BBC News on line (December 25, 2007) in
Clue to migraine headache cause

reports a team of French scientists may be a step closer to uncovering the cause of certain types of debilitating migraine headaches. They observed activation in the hypothalamus region of the brain as sufferers had a migraine attack. The hypothalamus has long been suspected as it regulates physiological responses to factors known to trigger headaches, such as hunger.

The researchers, from Rangueil Hospital, used a technique called Positron Emission Tomography (PET), which contrasts functional activity within the brain, on seven patients with migraine without aura, the most common type of migraine.

Previously, activation in the brain stem and midbrain, and a thickening in some areas of the cortex had been seen in migraine sufferers.The present study may have seen a more detailed pathogenesis of the condition for two reasons.

  1. First, timing was crucial: to capture an attack as it happened, patients rushed to hospital without self-medicating, arriving on average around three hours after the onset of the migraine.
  2. Second, the observed headaches were spontaneous, and not chemically induced as in other laboratory studies.

Lead researcher Dr Marie Denuelle said: "When you induce the attack you miss the hypothalamic activation.
"We suspect the hypothalamus may play a role in the start of the migraine attack.
"But to prove it we would need to do similar study before the start of an attack."

Activation of the hypothalamus had previously only been seen in cluster headache, a different and altogether more crippling condition. Cluster headache sufferers experience headaches on a regular basis: for certain months of the year in the episodic form, or every day at regular intervals in the chronic form. So debilitating can the attacks be that they have been dubbed "suicide headaches" because some sufferers have taken their own lives.

The new evidence for hypothalamic activation in migraine may explain why some migraine drugs, particularly the triptans, can sometimes be effective at aborting a cluster headache attack.


Hypothalamic Activation in Spontaneous Migraine Attacks
Marie Denuelle MD et al
Headache: The Journal of Head and Face Pain 47 (10), 1418–1426.

Link to Headache abstract

Link to BBC News report

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Improving Santa and Christmas!

The Spirit of Christmas Present

"They are Man’s.” said the Spirit, looking down upon them.

“And they cling to me, appealing from their fathers. This boy

is Ignorance. This girl is Want. Beware them both, and all of

their degree, but most of all beware this boy, for on his brow

I see that written which is Doom, unless the writing be erased.

“Deny it!” cried the Spirit, stretching out its hand towards the

city. “Slander those who tell it ye! Admit it for your factitious

purposes, and make it worse.

And bide the end!”

A Christmas Carol - Charles Dickens

I Believe in Father Christmas

Merry Christmas

Monday, December 24, 2007

Dame Edna Everage

A New Toy

"The terrifying prospect of military powers that fry their enemies from above using high-energy lasers is a step closer. The US air force and Boeing have attached a 5-tonne chemical laser to a C-130 Hercules transport aircraft. The plan is to test its ability to destroy ground targets such as tanks. The only visible sign that the plane is carrying the weapon is a small mirrored turret beneath the fuselage that directs the laser."

[New Scientist Dec 22 – Jan 4]

Link to New Scientist report


BBC News on line (December 23, 2007) in

Sea cucumber 'new malaria weapon'

reports Sea Cucumbers could provide a potential new weapon to block transmission of the malaria parasite. The slug-like creature produces a protein, lectin, which impairs development of the parasites.

An international team genetically engineered mosquitoes - which carry the malaria parasite - to produce the same protein in their gut when feeding.They found the protein disrupted development of the parasites inside the insects' stomach.

To stimulate the mosquitoes to produce lectin, the researchers fused part of the gene from the sea cucumber which produces the protein with a gene from the insect. The technique was effective against several of the parasites which cause malaria.

Lectin is poisonous to the parasites when they are still in an early stage of development called an ookinete. Usually, the ookinetes migrate through the mosquito's stomach wall, and produce thousands of daughter cells which invade the salivary glands, and infect a human when the mosquito takes a blood meal. But when exposed to lectin the ookinetes are killed before they can start their deadly journey.

Researcher Professor Bob Sinden, from Imperial College London, said: "These results are very promising and show that genetically engineering mosquitoes in this way has a clear impact on the parasites' ability to multiply inside the mosquito host."

However, he said much more work still had to be done before the technique could be used to curb the spread of malaria. "Although the sea cucumber protein significantly reduced the number of parasites in mosquitoes, it did not totally remove them from all insects.”

"At the current stage of development, the genetically modified mosquitoes would remain dangerous to humans.

"Ultimately, one aim of our field is to find a way of genetically engineering mosquitoes so that the malaria parasite cannot develop inside them."


Hemolytic C-Type Lectin CEL-III from Sea Cucumber Expressed in Transgenic Mosquitoes Impairs Malaria Parasite Development
Yoshida S, Shimada Y, Kondoh D, Kouzuma Y, Ghosh AK, et al.

PLoS Pathogens Vol. 3, No. 12, e192 doi:10.1371/journal.ppat.0030192

Link to PLoS Pathogens article

Link to BBC News report

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Tony Blair converts to Catholicism

Morland - The Times

Ooh, Vicar!

I suppose you were expecting some Celtic Christmas cheer -- a video of Dylan Thomas's A Child's Christmas in Wales or something. These days I'm more in tune with T. S. Elliot

"A cold coming we had of it,
Just the worst time of the year. . . '"

Yes, I know it continues but remember "silken girls bringing sherbet" might not be as exciting as they once were. A little too reminiscent of the virgins waiting for all those 'martyrs'.

I have been thinking of days long ago in Wales. But I was remembering haircuts at the local barber. It was certainly a barber's shop rather than a salon -- more Sweeny Todd than Vidal Sasoon. Product meant the discrete supply of a condom ("Something for the week-end, Sir") rather than hair gel. He certainly did not have his own line of hair products. In fact hair dressing meant a slap of Brylcreem (at least we hoped it was) dug from a jam jar with a knife, like someone spreading mayonnaise. I tried refusing it, once, but that just wasn't part of the deal.

So why go there? The haircut was certainly not fashionable even if it was cheap. The attraction was the conversation. Here men were talking. Not about the weather or TV but about real issues. Granted, I could be caught out. It was assumed because I was a Grammar School Boy (The Scholarship Boy - as Richard Hoggart wrote about him) that I would know about Hegelian Dialectic and that I would participate in the discussion. By the way, fifty years on, Hoggart is still fighting the good fight against cultural relativism amongst other issues.

That was the time I began to be aware of the difference between education and qualifications. I don't recall seeing a Business License or a Diploma on the Barber's walls. He was a Baptist Chapel Deacon but I doubt he ever went to University. But there is no doubt that he was respected because he was well read and known as 'educated man'.

I remember Mr. Norris who somebody rather foolishly described as "only a road sweeper". I suppose they could not know that he, dispite the unfortunate fact that this first name was Horace, was the holder of a Bardic Chair in Welsh Poetry. Sadly, I cannot help wondering if these days anybody would care.

Let's hope my thoughts only apply to my generation. It does seem as if today's kids have seen though the facade of making it just because you can acquire diplomas and credentials. They are savvy. They know the internet and that it is possible to pick up all sorts of window dressing which has very little to do with education or achievement. Didn't the Bush Administration try filling the Justice Department with lawyers with degrees from 'religious' institutions?

I suppose that is why we have been posting all kinds of references to Credentials.
It seems to me rather like the old tailor's joke -

Never mind the quality. Feel the width.

Can't help feeling a little sad that Washington Professional Counselors Association got suckered into playing the credentials game. It does make it look as if they sold out just to move up the health industry ladder. To be fair, it is hard to fight against a politician who is presenting her "reforms" as patient’s rights and safeguards and protection against predators. It might have been better if they had become public whistleblowers and let some light into what is going on. I am humming the Peggy Lee song, "I don't want to play in your yard."

We cannot help but notice that money has been found for all kinds of health "support"--- even when there is hardly imminent danger. Where was the money when we were shouting about the AIDS Pandemic, MRSA which we were told didn't exist for so long, Resistant TB etc. etc?

Perhaps someone will begin to ask how all this fits in with personal privacy (let alone Confidentiality --- another myth that we mustn't question). I know I don't want my prescription information available to all and sundry. It tells too much. And don't tell me there will be safeguards until I can be assured they are real. Where does Washington State figure in the league table of loss of personal information & identity theft?

I don't know how it will all work out in practice but the 'reforms' under managed care and HMOs didn't work out so well.

Some have asked why I am concerned. After all, they say, religious organizations will be exempt. Doesn't that say a lot!

Well have a Merry Christmas.
A Happy New Year, I am not so sure about.

Saturday, December 22, 2007


The seat of the soul?

New Scientist (December 17 – 21, 2007) in

Is the seat of the soul in the brain?

suggests perhaps René Descartes was right when he argued in 1649 that the pineal gland is the seat of the soul. Brain scans suggest that the area surrounding the gland is activated when people meditate.

"There is no definition of 'soul' in the scientific field," says Jyh-Horng Chen of the National Taiwan University in Taipei, co-leader of the study. "However, our results demonstrate a correlation between pineal activation and religious meditation which might have profound implications in the physiological understanding of mind, spirit and soul."

Chen and his colleagues took fMRI scans of the brains of 11 men and 9 women as they practised a meditation technique called Chinese original quiet sitting. Their pineal areas were most active in the first phase, when practitioners silently recite religious mantras and try to get themselves into the right frame of mind prior to a prolonged relaxation phase.

The gland's main function is to secrete melatonin, a hormone which regulates the biological clock. Chen speculates that it may also play a role in the "intrinsic awareness" of spirituality.


Correlation between Pineal Activation and Religious Meditation Observed by Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging
Chien-Hui Liou et al

Nature Precedings hdl:10101/npre.2007.1328.1

Link to Nature Precedings abstract

Link to New Scientist article [registration required]

Power of a cell

BBC News on line (December 22, 2007) in

Single brain cell's power shown

reports there could be enough computing ability in just one brain cell to allow humans and animals to feel. The brain has 100 billion neurons but scientists had thought they needed to join forces in larger networks to produce thoughts and sensations.

A Dutch and German study, published in Nature, found that stimulating just one rat neuron could deliver the sensation of touch.

The complexity of the human brain and how it stores countless thoughts, sensations and memories are still not fully understood. Researchers believe connections between individual neurons, forming networks of at least a thousand, are the key to some of its processing power.

However, in some creatures with simpler nervous systems, such as flies, a single neuron can play a more significant role. The latest research suggests this may also be true in "higher" animals.

The team, from the Humboldt University in Germany and the Erasmus Medical Center in the Netherlands, stimulated single neurons in rats and found this was enough to trigger a behavioral response when their whiskers were touched.


Behavioural report of single neuron stimulation in somatosensory cortex
Arthur R. Houweling & Michael Brecht

Nature advance online publication 19 December 2007 | doi:10.1038/nature06447

Link to Nature abstract

Link to BBC New report

Friday, December 21, 2007

Ritz to the Titz


UK Mobile Phones

The Daily Mail - 21 December 2007
UK Motorists can now be jailed if they use their mobile phones while driving.

"Yes,dear. I've got the turkey, the crackers and the tree.
I was on my way home with them when you rang earlier."

Morland - The Times

Here kitty, kitty

South Korean scientists have cloned the world's first red fluorescent cats. A cat possessing red fluorescence protein (RFP) glows in the dark when exposed to ultraviolet light


Trust the form --- WE'LL take care of the content

Depression & HIV Newscenter Staff report (December 21, 2007) in

Study: Depression Worsens HIV Treatment

The largest study to examine the effect of depression on HIV treatment has found that depression significantly worsens a patient’s adherence to highly active antiretroviral therapy and other clinical measures. It also found that effective antidepressant medication can reverse this outcome.

The study was done by the Kaiser Permanente Division of Research and the Group Health Cooperative

The researchers looked at 3,359 HIV-infected patients from seven Kaiser Permanente regions nationwide and Group Health in 2000 to 2003 to measure the effects of depression -- with and without selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRI) use -- on adherence and changes in viral and immunologic control in patients starting a new highly active antiretroviral therapy (HAART) regimen.

They found that depressed patients had a lower adherence rate and worse viral therapy response compared to non-depressed patients. But depressed patients who were prescribed SSRI medication and adhered to it had the same outcomes as non-depressed patients.

"The take-home point of this study is that depression carries a worse prognosis for HAART in HIV patients. However, we also found that SSRIs can reverse this and improve outcomes for HIV-depressed patients," said Michael A. Horberg, MD, MAS, FACP, Director of HIV/AIDS for Kaiser Permanente and the lead author on the study.

"HIV and depression often go hand in hand. If you are HIV-infected, you should be screened regularly for depression, and if you are depressed and you are going to go on HAART, it’s very worthwhile to treat your depression."


Effects of Depression and Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitor Use on Adherence to Highly Active Antiretroviral Therapy and on Clinical Outcomes in HIV-Infected Patients.
Michael Alan Horberg, MD, MAS, FACP et al

Journal of Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndromes (JAIDS)
Published ahead of Print 13 December 2007

Link to JAIDS abstract

Link to News report


New Scientist (December 17 – 21, 2007) reports

Extreme TB patient slips through aircraft surveillance net

In June American Andrew Speaker, caused a media storm by flying while supposedly infected with extremely drug resistant TB (XDR-TB). It turned out to be a more treatable strain and none of his fellow passengers became infected.

Back in October 2006, another man who genuinely was a threat flew unnoticed from Beirut, Lebanon, to Paris, France. Unlike Speaker, he was coughing up bacteria-laden sputum, and died 10 days later of XDR-TB that had resisted nine drugs - possibly due to poorly managed treatment in Chechnya, the Russian republic where he had been living.

French officials tried to warn 11 "close contacts" - flight attendants and nearby passengers. However, they only had contact details for nine of them, managed to reach seven, and have test results for just three. All are negative, though the slow incubation of TB means tests will need to be repeated after a year.

Jacques Chemardin of the French Ministry of Health says the event "highlights the need to improve international coordination" over XDR-TB, as the final destination of nine of the 11 contacts was outside France, making it particularly hard for French authorities to reach them.

Link to New Scientist report

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Yer long eared Jerboa

The Long-ear Jerboa, an endangered Mongolian rodent, has been thrust into the spotlight in a bid to ensure its survival

No you can't get one for Christmas.

Dumb, dumb, dumb . . .

Fortune Magazine presents the

101 Dumbest Moments in Business 2007

Ah, what a dumb year it was! Fortune chose the absolutely dumbest of the dumb that the gods of fate and humor delivered this past year.

Number one is China (with all its recalls). Fortune warns

The bad news is that 2008 is the Year of the Rat.

Link to the full list

Syphilis is back. Can HIV be far behind? Newscenter Staff (December 20, 2007) in

Syphilis On The Rise In Europe

report there has been a marked increase in the number of new cases of syphilis in Europe health authorities said Thursday, warning it could be an indication of an impending spike in the number of people contracting HIV. Most of the new cases were in gay men, indicating more risky sex

"Syphilis used to be a very rare disease," Dr. Marita van de Laar, an expert in sexually transmitted diseases at the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control told the Associated Press. "I'm not sure we can say that anymore."


In Britain, syphilis cases have increased more than tenfold in the past decade to 3,702 in 2006, according to the Health Protection Agency. Among men in England, the syphilis rate jumped from one per 100,000 in 1997 to nine per 100,000 last year.

In Germany, the rate among men was fewer than two per 100,000 in 1991; by 2003, it was six per 100,000.

In France, there were 428 cases in 2003 — almost 16 times the number just three years earlier.

In the Netherlands, cases doubled from 2000 to 2004. In Amsterdam, up to 31 men per 100,000 were infected, while the rate was much lower in other regions.

Similar trends have been seen in the United States.

In 2000, syphilis infection rates were so low that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention embarked on a plan to eliminate the disease. But about 9,800 cases were reported in 2006.

Between 2005 and 2006 the rate rose from 2.9 cases per 100,000 people to 3.3, a 14 percent increase.

Syphilis is passed through direct contact with a syphilis sore during sexual activity. Contrary to popular belief, the disease cannot be spread through contact with toilet seats, doorknobs, swimming pools, hot tubs, bathtubs, shared clothing or eating utensils.

Many people infected with syphilis do not have any symptoms for years, yet remain at risk for late complications if they are not treated.

The increase in syphilis shows a decline in condom use. Because symptoms for syphilis show up sooner than HIV researchers warn that an increase in risky sex is likely to produce a higher number of cases of HIV.

Link to News report

c-Kit signaling

New Scientist (December 17 – 21, 2007) in

'Painkiller' gene turned off in mice

explains we experience chili peppers as hot because they activate an enzyme called c-Kit. It now seems that getting rid of c-Kit increases pain tolerance in mice, while stimulating it lowers the level at which heat becomes painful. This could lead to the development of a new class of painkillers that work by blocking the enzyme.

The skin contains more than a million "nociceptors", or bare nerve endings, around half of which fire in response to pain. Gary Lewin and colleagues at the Max Delbrück Centre for Molecular Medicine in Berlin, Germany, found that mice which cannot make c-Kit took 40 per cent longer to jerk their paw away from a hot infrared beam. Also, the beam had to be 6 °C hotter to make the nociceptors fire. Conversely, in normal mice c-Kit seems to be what makes inflamed skin feel pain more easily, for example after sunburn .


Nociceptive Tuning by Stem Cell Factor/c-Kit Signaling
Nevena Milenkovic et al
Neuron Volume 56, Issue 5, 6 December 2007
, Pages 893-906
DOI: 10.1016/j.neuron.2007.10.040)

Link to Neuron abstract

Link to New Scientist article

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Ho, Ho, Ho etc etc etc

Some of the 13,000 Santas who gathered at the Guildhall in Derry City, Northern Ireland to break the world record for the amount of Father Christmases in one place. Somebody keep a list?

Spermicide warning

Reuters (Health) reports (December 18, 2007)

FDA to add HIV warning to contraceptive products

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has finalized a rule requiring makers of certain contraceptive gels, foams, films and inserts to carry a warning that the products do not protect against sexually transmitted diseases, including AIDS.

They will require the warning on over-the-counter products containing nonoxynol 9, used in many stand-alone spermicides.

"FDA is issuing this final rule to correct the misconceptions that the chemical N9 in these widely available stand-alone contraceptive products protects against sexually transmitted diseases," Janet Woodcock, FDA's deputy commissioner for scientific and medical programs, said in a statement.

The new FDA warning states that because the products can irritate the vagina and rectum, they may boost the risk of acquiring HIV/AIDS. A skin irritation may boost the chance of infection as the virus has more ways to invade the body.

Link to FDA warning

Link to Reuters article

Creation Science

[Might also be subtitled "CREDENTIALS"?]

Ralph Blumenthal
writing for the New York Times (December 19, 2007) in

Green Light for Institute on Creation in Texas

reports a Texas higher education panel has recommended allowing a Bible-based group called the Institute for Creation Research to offer online master’s degrees in science education.

The action comes weeks after the Texas Education Agency’s director of science, Christine Castillo Comer, lost her job after superiors accused her of displaying bias against creationism and failing to be “neutral” over the teaching of evolution.

The state’s commissioner of higher education, Raymund A. Paredes, said late Monday that he was aware of the institute’s opposition to evolution but was withholding judgment until the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board meets Jan. 24 to rule on the recommendation, made last Friday, by the board’s certification advisory council.

Henry Morris III, the chief executive of the Institute for Creation Research, said Tuesday that the proposed curriculum, taught in California, used faculty and textbooks “from all the top schools” along with, he said, the “value added” of challenges to standard teachings of evolution.

“Where the difference is, we provide both sides of the story,” Mr. Morris said. On its Web site, the institute declares, “All things in the universe were created and made by God in the six literal days of the creation week” and says it “equips believers with evidences of the Bible’s accuracy and authority through scientific research, educational programs, and media presentations, all conducted within a thoroughly biblical framework.”

It also says “the harmful consequences of evolutionary thinking on families and society (abortion, promiscuity, drug abuse, homosexuality and many others) are evident all around us.”

Asked how the institute could educate students to teach science, Dr. Paredes, who holds a doctorate in American civilization from the University of Texas and served 10 years as vice chancellor for academic development at the University of California, said, “I don’t know. I’m not a scientist.”

Link to NY Times article

Cab n' Condom

BBC News on line (December 17, 2007) in

Taxis 'should give out condoms'

reports experts' suggestion that free condoms should be given away in pubs, clubs and taxis to reduce the levels of unwanted pregnancies and sex infections.

UK researchers from the University of Southampton found strong links between binge drinking and unsafe sex. They report in the International Journal of STD and Aids from a poll of 520 people attending sexual health clinics 76% said they had unprotected sex due to drinking. And those with sex infections drank 40% more on average.

In total, only a sixth of those quizzed said they always had safe sex with a new partner.

Linda Tucker, one of the authors of the report, said: "The link between sexual risk and drinking too much alcohol is not the most original idea in the world, but we now have clear scientific evidence of the relationship."

Journal editor Professor Wallace Dinsmore said: "The young people interviewed in this study frequently said that better access to condoms at the time and place they were needed would have enabled them to practise safer sex.

"Young people can get free condoms from their GPs, family planning and GU [sexual health] clinics but it might make more sense to give condoms away in pubs, clubs and taxis."


Binge drinking, sexual behaviour and sexually transmitted infection in the UK
Standerwick, K
International Journal of STD & AIDS, Volume 18, Number 12, December 2007 pp. 810-813(4)

Link to IJ STD/AIDS abstract

Link to BBC News report