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Assorted Personal Notations, Essays, and Other Jottings

Posts Tagged ‘human beings

[BLOG] Some Wednesday links

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  • 3 Quarks Daily asks whether parenthood is morally respectable.
  • blogTO has vintage photos of Toronto’s neighbourhood of Corktown.
  • Centauri Dreams notes that a small moon may be condensing out of Saturn’s Ring A.
  • The Dragon’s Gaze notes evidence that close-orbiting “hot Jupiters” influence their stars.
  • The Dragon’s Tales notes continuing progress in teasing out evidence of Neandertal ancestry from current populations.
  • Joe. My. God. notes that some Muslim cab drivers in Cleveland refuse to drive cabs with signs advertising the upc9oming Gay Games.
  • Lawyers, Guns and Money takes on the minor scandal of Ayaan Hirsi Ali’s non-receipt of a symbolic degree from Brandeis University.
  • Marginal Revolution’s Tyler Cowen seems unduly skeptical about Norway’s program of buying books by local authors for libraries, so as to subsidize literary production.
  • New APPS Blog contrasts the open citizenship of the Roman Republic with the closed citizenship of the Greek city-states, with Carthage being somewhere in between.
  • Towleroad explores continuing controversy around the use of Truvada as an alternative to condoms in HIV/AIDS prevention.
  • Transit Toronto notes the closing of several streets, notably Church Street, in downtown Toronto on the occasion of former Canadian finance minister Jim Flaherty’s funeral.
  • Window on Eurasia notes that contemporary Russians like their country’s open egress to the world and wouldn’t be pleased by transit restrictions, and observes that ethnic Russians in Estonia seem to be mobilizing against Russian annexation.

[LINK] “The Scientific Quest to Prove Bisexuality Exists”

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Benoit Denizet-Lewisrecent article in The New York Times is one I quite liked. Besides touching on the science and psychology of sexual orientations including bisexuality, he also manages to effectively communicate the stigma still felt.

(I default to gay now if people ask. It’s easier, and requires rather less convincing.)

“Let me tell you a story,” [activist Brad S. Kane] said, recalling the time he represented a heterosexual woman in a case against gay neighbors who were trying to have her dog put down. “People would say, ‘You’re gay — why aren’t you helping the gay couple?’ I’d say, ‘Because I always side with the underdog.’ The poor dog was in animal prison at animal control, with nobody to advocate for it. The dog needed help, needed a voice.” He paused and caught my eye in the rearview mirror. “You’re probably wondering where this is going and whether I’ll shut up anytime soon.”

“I know I am,” said Ian Lawrence, a slender and youthful 40-year-old [American Institute of Bisexuality] board member in the passenger seat.

“Well, bisexual people are kind of like that dog,” Kane said. “They’re misunderstood. They’re ignored. They’re mocked. Even within the gay community, I can’t tell you how many people have told me, ‘Oh, I wouldn’t date a bisexual.’ Or, ‘Bisexuals aren’t real.’ There’s this idea, especially among gay men, that guys who say they’re bisexual are lying, on their way to being gay, or just kind of unserious and unfocused.”

Lawrence, who struggled in college to understand and accept his bisexuality, nodded and recalled a date he went on with a gay television personality. When Lawrence said that he was bisexual, the man looked at him with a pained face and muttered: “Oh, I wish you’d told me that before. I thought this was a real date.”

Hoping to offer bisexuals a supportive community in 2010, Lawrence became the head organizer for amBi, a bisexual social group in Los Angeles. “All kinds of people show up to our events,” he told me. “There are older bi folks, kids who say they ‘don’t need any labels,’ transgender people — because many trans people also identify as bi. At our events, people can be themselves. They can be out.”

Written by Randy McDonald

April 2, 2014 at 7:59 pm

[BLOG] Some Friday links

  • Anders Sandberg of Andart links to a paper suggesting that mind emulations–uploaded human minds–are likely to arrive not too late after 2050.
  • Cody Delistraty wonders why writers are so often depressed and in bad relationship.
  • The Dragon’s Gaze notes that analyses of the atmospheres of five hot Jupiters.
  • The Dragon’s Tale observes evidence that First Nations in British Columbia practiced mariculture.
  • The Financial Times‘ World blog observes that Euroskepticism and hostility towards the Euro is growing in Italy.
  • Lawyers, Guns and Money takes note of Paul Ryan’s tone-deaf statement about inner-city men.
  • Marginal Revolution argues that, at least in the United States, large amounts of property are held by governments which don’t make use of them.
  • The Power and the Money’s Noel Maurer wades into the question of just how many constitutions Argentina actually has had.
  • Towleroad links to Stephen Colbert’s interview with former Russia Today anchor Liz Wahl.
  • The Way the Future Blogs shares an old Frederik Pohl article from 1988 describing his experiences on a book tour.
  • Window on Eurasia notes that apparently more Russians don’t believe Ukraine is a nation and think Russia has legitimate claims on Ukrainian territory, and shares an article written by one man who thinks this threatens Russia’s future.

[BLOG] Some Thursday links

  • Andart’s Anders Sandberg links to an essay he co-wrote about human longevity. The lessons of centenarians are important, but they also indicate the problems with extended: the damage of ageing has to be slowed down or even repaired, somehow.
  • BlogTO has two photoposts about alternate subways in Toronto, one showing a 1913 proposal for a downtown route, the other examining the Lower Queen Station that could have anchored a Queen Street subway.
  • Crooked Timber and Lawyers, Guns and Money both go after Conor Friedersdorf’s article that doesn’t identify bigoted behaviour as bigoted.
  • The Dragon’s Gaze notes that the results of a search for exomoons, while not turning any up, has produced interesting data on planetary densities.
  • Eastern Approaches, looking to the examples of Arab Spring states, argues that Ukraine will have trouble getting back state assets appropriated by the Yanukovich elite.
  • Geocurrents wonders whether mealtimes in Spain are product of geography and climate.
  • Language Hat notes the disappearance of Yiddish as a major American language.
  • Marginal Revolution links to a paper asking whether too many cultural similarities can lead to interstate war and notes Ukraine’s weak post-Soviet economic growth.
  • The Planetary Society Blog features a Marc Rayman post talking about the Dawn probe’s maneuvering towards dwarf planet Ceres.
  • Steve Munro breaks down Toronto’s transit history into three different phases.
  • Torontoist goes into more detail about the school trustees who would like a crackdown on nudity at Pride.
  • Towleroad examines Liz Dahl, the second Russia Today anchor to quit on a live broadcast over Crimea.

[LINK] “Making Babies with 3 Genetic Parents Gets FDA Hearing”

Dina Fine Maron’s Scientific American article concerning new technologies that could marry DNA from three individuals, creating three-parent children, is a good overview of the technology’s position in the United States right now. (I’m for it, for whatever it’s worth, in that preventing inherited mitochondrial DNA diseases in children is a good thing.)

Scientists have already had successes with this type of reproductive approach in monkeys and in human embryos, and are now eager to launch human clinical trials. First, however, they must get the green light from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, which will convene a public hearing before an advisory committee on February 25.

The technology, called oocyte modification (but sometimes nicknamed “three-parent IVF”), involves scooping out potentially mutated mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) from a woman’s egg and replacing it with the mtDNA of an unaffected donor woman. The process is designed to prevent the transmission of some debilitating inherited mitochondrial diseases, which can result in vision loss, seizures and other maladies. Such inherited diseases, often unfortunately known by acronyms for complex medical names that include LHON, for Leber’s Hereditary Optic Neuropathy, along with MELAS, MERRF and NARP, occur in about one in every 5,000 live births and are incurable.

Once the mtDNA has been swapped out, the egg could be fertilized in the lab by the father’s sperm and the embryo would be implanted back into mom where pregnancy would proceed. The resulting child would be the genetic offspring of the intended mother but would carry healthy mitochondrial genes from the donor.

[. . .]

Scientists already have evidence for the promise of this type of oocyte modification. Shoukhrat Mitalipov of the Oregon Health & Science University and his colleagues created human embryos in this way, although they did not implant those embryos to make babies. Their findings were published in October 2012 in Nature. Other work from that same team also found that in monkeys the process could lead to the birth of healthy offspring that remained free of complications into adulthood. (Scientific American is part of Nature Publishing Group).

[. . .]

But wading into this type of approach is also fraught with ethical issues. Marcy Darnovsky, executive director of the Center for Genetics and Society, fears that this reproductive approach could soon lead to tampering with other traits, such as intelligence or sports ability. “Life is full of slippery slopes and we need brakes,” she says. “This is described as saving lives but it is not aimed at people who are sick,” she adds. The FDA advisory committee does not plan to consider ethical issues at this meeting. Instead it will focus on the scientific aspects of future clinical trial considerations, including long-term risk of carryover of abnormal mtDNA, the potential benefits and harm to mothers and future children, and the need for multigenerational follow-up in any trials (because female children could pass on mitochondrial disease to future offspring). “Our job will be purely to air the issue and bring it out into the open,” says Evan Snyder, chair of the committee and director of the Stem Cell and Regenerative Biology Program at Sanford–Burnham Medical Research Institute in La Jolla, Calif. “We’re not going to come out at the end of the meeting and say we are advocating for clinical trials or any particular technique. This is educational,” he says.

Written by Randy McDonald

February 27, 2014 at 8:47 pm

[NEWS] Some Tuesday links

  • Here on Livejournal, Elf Sternberg notes that the sort of homophobia that reduces same-sex partners to sex acts and anatomical parts is also really unflattering to heterosexuals, too.
  • The New Scientist notes a recent paleogenetic study suggesting that among the legacies left to Homo sapiens by Neanderthals may be lighter skin and straighter hair.
  • Bloomberg notes that growing official homophobia is making lives for GLBT people across Africa more difficult than ever before.
  • The Guardian suggests suggests that the growing crackdown on student visas in the United Kingdom may be alienating future professionals from Britain, and notes that migrants from Mali are going to Africa much more than Europe nowadays.
  • Al Jazeera provides background to the ethnic conflict ongoing in the Central African Republic and notes the popularity of Korean popular culture in northeastern India based–among other things–on shared race.
  • New York magazine notes the absurdity of US Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas claiming that Georgia in the 1960s was race-neutral.
  • In the Caucasus, Eurasianet notes that Georgia wants to join NATO to get its lost territories back (another reason not to let it in) and that Abkhazia has not benefitted from the Olympics as some had hoped.
  • Radio Free Europe notes that Serbian and Bosnian Serb migrant workers at Sochi seem to have gotten screwed over.
  • The New York Post traces the genesis of Suzanne Vega’s songs in different places around New York City.

[LINK] “The Little Bit of Neanderthal in All of Us”

Carl Zimmer’s New York Times article summarizing two recent studies on the degree and nature of Neanderthal ancestry in modern human beings is interesting, as much for its suggestions as to what Neanderthals did contribute as to what they didn’t. They may have been more genetically distinctive than a mere isolated hominid population.

The first draft of the Neanderthal genome was too rough to allow scientists to draw further conclusions. But recently, researchers sequenced a far more accurate genome from a Neanderthal toe bone.

Scientists at Harvard Medical School and the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Germany compared this high-quality Neanderthal genome to the genomes of 1,004 living people. They were able to identify specific segments of Neanderthal DNA from each person’s genome.

“It’s a personal map of Neanderthal ancestry,” said David Reich of Harvard Medical School, who led the research team. He and his colleagues published their results in the journal Nature.

Living humans do not have a lot of Neanderthal DNA, Dr. Reich and his colleagues found, but some Neanderthal genes have become very common. That’s because, with natural selection, useful genes survive as species evolve. “What this proves is that these genes were helpful for non-Africans in adapting to the environment,” Dr. Reich said.

[. . .]

Both studies suggest that Neanderthal genes involved in skin and hair were favored by natural selection in humans. Today, they are very common in living non-Africans.

[. . .]

Both teams of scientists also found long stretches of the living human genomes where Neanderthal DNA was glaringly absent. This pattern could be produced if modern humans with certain Neanderthal genes could not have as many children on average as people without them. For example, living humans have very few genes from Neanderthals involved in making sperm. That suggests that male human-Neanderthal hybrids might have had lower fertility or were even sterile.

Overall, said Dr. Reich, “most of the Neanderthal genetic material was more bad than good.”

io9/u> and National Geographic go also have posts discussing the findings.

Written by Randy McDonald

January 30, 2014 at 2:17 am

[BLOG] Some Monday links

[BLOG] Some social science links

  • Writing at io9, George Dvorsky argues that extreme human longevity won’t destroy the planet.
  • Behind the Numbers’ notes that fertility in Senegal remains high while rates of family planning use are low.
  • The Burgh Diaspora’s Jim Russell links to numerous of his articles. Is Italy becoming stagnant because its levels of social capital are too high, inhibiting migration to and from? How does San Francisco’s Tenderloin neighbourhood survive the city’s wealth and avoid gentrification? How can the world, or even the United States, deal with the pressing need of the poorest to migrate along with their inability to do so?
  • Crooked Timber had two posts in November taking a look at the risks faced by migrants, one on overland Mexican route and one on the overseas route to Australia.
  • The Everyday Sociology Blog examined a few different subjects. Peter Kaufmann wondered what choice, including an overabundance of choice, meant. Sally Raskoff traced sociological concepts in history. Karen Sternheimer examined the complexities surrounding death.
  • Geocurrents was unimpressed with a poor map by the DEA of the underground marijuana trade.
  • At Lawyers, Guns and Money, Dave Brockington examined the contradictory rhetoric used by British politicians concerned about migration from Romania and Bulgaria. (They fear brain drain from these countries but claim these people will be parasites?)
  • Marginal Revolution took a look at a few interesting subjects, including a new history of the British industrial revolution, examinations of inequality in Singapore and that city-state’s very low birth rate (I think there’s a connection), and the economic issues of Ukraine. Just beware the comments.
  • Naked Anthropologist Laura Agustín takes issue with abolitionist laws and rhetoric on prostitution, which, as usual, does not take realities into account.
  • Savage Minds’ Matt Thompson suggests that there could be more in common between the foraging strategies of hunter-gatherers and the proper use of libraries than one might think.
  • Strange Maps’ Frank Jacobs examines the multiple contradictory maps of the disputed South Asian region of Jammu and Kashmir, and takes a look at poor parched Karakalpakstan (western Uzbekistan, by the Aral Sea).
  • Towleroad linked to research demonstrating a correlation between anti-gay legislation and psychological issues of non-heterosexuals.
  • The Volokh Conspiracy linked to a study suggesting that 27% of Jewish children in the United States lived in Orthodox homes, suggesting that Orthodox Jewish birth rates are such that the Orthodox share of the Jewish community will grow sharply.
  • Window on Eurasia has a lot of interesting posts. Paul Goble noted that projected populations for most of the former Soviet republics made two decades ago are vastly overstated, the Central Asian republics being the big exception, and arguing that Russia has only a short time to deal with its, temporarily stabilized, demographic disequilibrium. (The Chechen birth rate is reportedly quite high, although statistics from the North Caucasus are often questionable.
  • Yorkshire Ranter Alex Harrowell, meanwhile redesigns the United Kingdom into regions each with the population of London and gets interesting results, and notes significant methodological and political problems with British statistics on unemployment.

[BLOG] Some science links

This will be the first of four posts sharing some of the links I’ve collected over the past few months, on my sabbatical.

Written by Randy McDonald

December 30, 2013 at 2:35 pm


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