Monday, August 3, 2015
More support from professionals for the nuclear deal with Iran:
July 27, 2015By and large, the more people know about the deal, the more likely they are to support it.
Dear Speaker Boehner and Minority Leader Pelosi:
As former United States ambassadors to Israel and former Under Secretaries of State, we have worked throughout our careers to strengthen and deepen the bonds between the United States and Israel. Our firm instructions in every administration we served, reflecting American national interests and values, were to help assure Israel's well-being and safety.
It is our commitment to this enduring objective of American policy that motivates us now to write in support of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) reached by the five permanent United Nations Security Council members plus Germany (P5+1). We are persuaded that this agreement will put in place a set of constraints and monitoring measures that will arrest Iran's nuclear program for at least fifteen years and assure that this agreement will leave Iran no legitimate avenue to produce a nuclear weapon during the next ten to fifteen years. This landmark agreement removes the threat that a nuclear-armed Iran would pose to the region and to Israel specifically.
We acknowledge that the JCPOA does not achieve all of the goals its current detractors have set for it. But it does meet all of the key goals required for high confidence. . . . We see no fatal flaws that should call for the rejection of this agreement and have not heard any viable alternatives from those who oppose the implementation of the JCPOA.
Those who advocate rejection of the JCPOA should assess carefully the value and feasibility of any alternative strategy to meet the goal of better protecting the security of the U.S. and Israel and more effectively prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon. The consequences of rejection are grave. . . .
The Administration must make clear that it will remain the firm policy of the United States during the agreement and beyond, to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon by all necessary means.
During the implementation period of the JCPOA, it is essential that Israel remain assured by the Administration of the enduring and unequivocal American commitment to its security and well-being. The prevention of a nuclear-armed Iran must remain a highest priority of U.S. policy in the Middle East.
R. Nicholas Burns, former Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs and Ambassador to NATO
James Cunningham, former Ambassador to Israel
William Harrop, former Ambassador to Israel
Daniel Kurtzer, former Ambassador to Israel
Thomas R. Pickering, former Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs and former Ambassador to Israel
Edward S. Walker Jr., former Ambassador to Israel
Frank G. Wisner, former Under Secretary of State for International Security Affairs and Under Secretary of Defense for Policy
an amazing exhibit of bronze sculptures from the Hellenistic and Roman worlds, 330 to 30 BCE. Above, Head of a Poet. Lots of amazing stuff from museums in Italy; I wonder if this was part of the deal when the Getty returned all that stuff that turned out to have been looted?
the Getty's web site.
the Getty's web site.
From an interview with novelist and translator Juan Gabriel Vásquez:
You’ve translated the work of John Hersey and Victor Hugo, among others. What’s the most challenging aspect of translation for you? Has translating changed your approach to reading fiction in translation?
The most challenging aspect of translation, particularly when working with a book you love, is learning to be unfaithful to the original. Doing a little violence to a sentence you love is hard, and many sleepless nights can be caused by it. As for the second question, the answer is yes. Knowing firsthand how translation works, I’m unable now to read just any Chekhov or Kafka: I have my favorite translators too. Also, I try to read in languages that are closer to the original. I read German literature in English (Sebald by Michael Hulse) but Italian literature in Spanish (Claudio Magris by J. A. González Sainz).
Sunday, August 2, 2015
1) the instructions for making the protein are transcribed from a DNA molecule to a molecule of messenger RNA (mRNA);If you want more detail than that, the British Society for Cell Biology has it.
2) the mRNA molecule carries the instructions to a ribosome;
3) the ribosome assembles the protein.
From the time that we first discovered what ribosomes do, scientists have imagined taking over this amazing machinery to make custom proteins or other molecules. You can get cells to make new proteins by altering their DNA, the way we get yeast to make vanilla and so on. But this only works if you can find a gene for that protein that will work in your target cell's genome. This excludes many proteins that one might like to make, including completely novel, unnatural ones. Which is why there is continued interest in directly hacking the ribosome.
So for a decade now scientists have tried creating mutant ribosomes and inserting them into cells, hoping that the cells would then produce the desired proteins. But because the two halves come apart and recombine with others, the hacked ribosomes kept combining with native ribosomes in failed combinations that could make neither the natural nor the hacked proteins, and the cells stopped growing or even died.
And now this week's news:
The solution, Mankin and Jewett's team decided, was to marry together two engineered subunits. It was unclear whether the approach would work: it was thought that ribosomes exist in two distinct units because it is necessary for their function.
The researchers used a strand of RNA to tether the large and the small subunit together, toiling for months to get the length and location of the link just right so that the machine could still function. “We certainly came close, several times, to saying ‘OK, biology wins',” says Jewett.
The team screened its tethered ribosomes in Escherichia coli cells that lacked functioning RNA, and eventually found engineered ribosomes that worked well enough to support some growth, albeit slow. They then tested their platform to confirm that a tethered ribosome could operate side-by-side with natural ribosomes.
The result unlocks a molecular playground for bioengineers: by tethering the artificial subunits together, they can tweak the engineered machines to their liking without halting cell growth.
Great news from Africa, where our cleverness with molecular biology has finally given us the advantage over an awful scourge:
A highly unusual clinical trial in Guinea has shown for the first time that an Ebola vaccine protects people from the deadly virus. The study, published online today by The Lancet, shows that the injection offered contacts of Ebola cases 100% protection starting 10 days after they received a single shot of the vaccine, which is produced by Merck. Scientists say the vaccine could help to finally bring an end to the epidemic in West Africa, now more than 18 months old. . . .Not only was the vaccine created in a hi-tech way, it was tested using advanced techniques in public health:
The vaccine, first developed by researchers at the Public Health Agency of Canada, consists of the Vesicular Stomatitis Virus (VSV), which causes disease in livestock but not people, with the Ebola surface protein stitched into it.
The decision to start the trial was taken in October, but it didn't get off the ground until March. By then, Ebola cases had already begun to plummet, and they were scattered across a large area in Guinea. To show efficacy in a standard randomized controlled trial, the researchers would have had to enroll far more people than was feasible.Still waiting to here the results of another vaccine that is also being tested this year, but rumor has it that we may soon have two effective vaccines to choose from.
Instead, they opted for a design called ring vaccination, in which only contacts of new Ebola patients, as well as the contacts' contacts, were vaccinated. The rings, or clusters, were randomized; in 48 of them, vaccination occurred as soon as possible after the detection of the Ebola case in their community. In the 42 other clusters, the vaccination teams came to give the shots three weeks later. The researchers then counted the number of new Ebola cases in each ring; because they weren't sure how long it takes for the vaccine's protection to kick in, they only included cases that occurred at least 10 days after vaccination in their primary analysis of the data. There were zero such cases among the 2014 people who were vaccinated right away, and 16 among the 2380 who got the shot 3 weeks later. That translates to 100% vaccine efficacy, at least in this study, the researchers write.
Thursday, July 30, 2015
There is a willow grows aslant a brook,
That shows his hoar leaves in the glassy stream.
Therewith fantastic garlands did she make
Of crow-flowers, nettles, daisies, and long purples,
That liberal shepherds give a grosser name,
But our cold maids do dead men's fingers call them.
There, on the pendent boughs her crownet weeds
Climb'ring to hand, an envious sliver broke,
When down the weedy trophies and herself
Fell in the weeping brook. . . .
Whether the willow can love or not,
It is always dancing,
With a beauty that shakes the kingdom. . . .
From an article on math prodigy turned Fields Medal winner Terry Tao:
The true work of the mathematician is not experienced until the later parts of graduate school, when the student is challenged to create knowledge in the form of a novel proof. It is common to fill page after page with an attempt, the seasons turning, only to arrive precisely where you began, empty-handed — or to realize that a subtle flaw of logic doomed the whole enterprise from its outset. The steady state of mathematical research is to be completely stuck. It is a process that Charles Fefferman of Princeton, himself a onetime math prodigy turned Fields medalist, likens to ‘‘playing chess with the devil.’’ The rules of the devil’s game are special, though: The devil is vastly superior at chess, but, Fefferman explained, you may take back as many moves as you like, and the devil may not. You play a first game, and, of course, ‘‘he crushes you.’’ So you take back moves and try something different, and he crushes you again, ‘‘in much the same way.’’ If you are sufficiently wily, you will eventually discover a move that forces the devil to shift strategy; you still lose, but — aha! — you have your first clue.
Wednesday, July 29, 2015
Recent developments in the study of animal cognition and emotion have resulted in the ‘judgement bias’ model of animal welfare. Judgement biases describe the way in which changes in affective state are characterized by changes in information processing. In humans, anxiety and depression are characterized by increased expectation of negative events and negative interpretation of ambiguous information. Positive wellbeing is associated with enhanced expectation of positive outcomes and more positive interpretation of ambiguous information.According to this study, hamsters who live in "enriched" environments are 12% more likely to interpret ambiguous signals in a positive way, i.e., are more optimistic, than those who live in a Spartan environment.
Who says science isn't taking on the hard, important problems?
Tuesday, July 28, 2015
Every time a lunatic opens fire in a theater or school, fans of guns say that it wouldn't have happened if more people were armed. The National Gun Victims Action Council arranged a study to see what would happen if average citizens with guns actually encountered crisis situations:
They recruited 77 volunteers with varying levels of firearm experience and training, and had each of them participate in simulations of three different scenarios using the firearms training simulator at the Prince George's County Police Department in Maryland. The first scenario involved a carjacking, the second an armed robbery in a convenience store, and the third a case of suspected larceny.Gee, that sounds like a great solution. The Post has videos of some of the amateurs in actions.
They found that, perhaps unsurprisingly, people without firearms training performed poorly in the scenarios. They didn't take cover. They didn't attempt to issue commands to their assailants. Their trigger fingers were either too itchy -- they shot innocent bystanders or unarmed people, or not itchy enough -- they didn't shoot armed assailants until they were already being shot at.
Some things to note: the large areas of dark blue (= population decline of more than 2% per year) in Albania, Bulgaria, eastern Germany, the Baltic states and rural Greece and Turkey; strong population growth in western France, Ireland, and in rings around many great cities, representing surging suburbs. In general there is much movement from rural areas to great cities, and from east toward the northwest.
web site and instagram.