Scientists reverse the ageing process in mice – are we next?

Scientists claim to be a step closer to reversing the ageing process after rejuvenating worn out organs in elderly mice. The experimental treatment developed by researchers at Harvard Medical School turned weak and feeble old mice into healthy animals by regenerating their aged bodies.

The surprise recovery of the animals has raised hopes among scientists that it may be possible to achieve a similar feat in humans – or at least to slow down the ageing process…

“What we saw in these animals was not a slowing down or stabilisation of the ageing process. We saw a dramatic reversal – and that was unexpected,” said Ronald DePinho, who led the study, which was published in the journal Nature.

“This could lead to strategies that enhance the regenerative potential of organs as individuals age and so increase their quality of life. Whether it serves to increase longevity is a question we are not yet in a position to answer…”

The Harvard group focused on a process called telomere shortening. Most cells in the body contain 23 pairs of chromosomes, which carry our DNA. At the ends of each chromosome is a protective cap called a telomere. Each time a cell divides, the telomeres are snipped shorter, until eventually they stop working and the cell dies or goes into a suspended state called “senescence”. The process is behind much of the wear and tear associated with ageing…

Repeating the trick in humans will be more difficult. Mice make telomerase throughout their lives, but the enzyme is switched off in adult humans, an evolutionary compromise that stops cells growing out of control and turning into cancer. Raising levels of telomerase in people might slow the ageing process, but it makes the risk of cancer soar…

DePinho said none of Harvard’s mice developed cancer after the treatment. The team is now investigating whether it extends the lifespan of mice or enables them to live healthier lives into old age.

Bravo! Another step forward for medicine, science, for human beings.

Rent-a-coppers dress as baby Jesus to catch thieves

Store detectives at Christmas Markets in Austria are being disguised as the baby Jesus in an attempt to catch shoplifters and pick pockets.

In the German speaking world the Christ child is usually played by young women and is also the traditional bringer of Christmas gifts.

Actors have been replaced by the undercover detectives to stop criminals taking advantage of the crowds to steal items from the stalls and shoppers’ bags at the events which are popular tourists attractions.

Church officials have criticised the idea of using staff employed to play the role as the Christ child to also catch thieves.

A spokesman for the city council in Weitra, Austria, which is one of those to employ the Christ child detectives said: “They are in among the crowds all day long and they are perfect for keeping an eye out for petty crooks.”


How NY TIMES readers chose to fix the deficit

Reduce the size of the military rather than reduce pay for noncombat members of the military. Impose a millionaire’s tax rather than cut deductions for high-income households. Cap the growth of Medicare spending rather than raise the eligibility age.

These were among the choices made by readers who completed the online you-fix-the-deficit puzzle that accompanied a Week in Review article last Sunday. Since the puzzle went online, there have been more than one million page views, and more than 11,000 posted Twitter messages about the puzzle, most including their own solution. The Times analyzed those solutions, each of which cut at least $1.345 trillion from the 2030 deficit, to get a sense of readers’ choices…

The single least popular choice was allowing the expiration of the Bush tax cuts on income below $250,000 a year. Fewer than 10 percent of the solutions included that option. But when it came to tax cuts for incomes above $250,000, people’s opinions appeared to diverge according to their political views. Those who preferred spending cuts — a conservative group, in all likelihood — generally wanted this tax cut to remain in place. Among those who closed the deficit mostly with tax increases — probably a liberal group — the expiration was the single most selected policy.

The most popular option among all respondents? Reducing the military to less than its size before the Iraq war — included in about 80 percent of the solutions posted to Twitter. But cutting pay and benefits for the military was a choice of only 40 percent.

Given that Twitter users skew young, one arguable surprise was the reluctance to raise the eligibility age for Social Security (above 67, as is now scheduled) or Medicare (above 65). The four options that would have increased those ages, to either 68 or 70, were all among the 10 least popular. Making other changes to those programs — like reducing Social Security benefits for high earners and capping Medicare growth by cracking down on high-cost hospitals and doctors — received more support.

The puzzle remains online, and version 2.0 may lie in the future. Comments continue to be welcome. Given how far Congress seems from enacting any deficit-reducing proposal, this debate will probably be around for a long time.

At a minimum, the cost to American taxpayers to support members of the armed services is cut in half when they’re inside our borders instead of stationed in some other nation. The real number is probably more like a two-thirds’ saving. If – as our governments have continually prated – they are for our national defense, then, bring them all back home where they belong.

The excuses our Congress-critters make for kissing the wealthiest butts in the world should have worn thin a century ago. The promises of job creation are a crock. They have never come through. They don’t build factories or businesses with it. They sit on it.

Unemployed held hostage by conservatives and copouts, again

It is hard to believe, as the holidays approach yet again amid economic hard times, but Congress looks as if it may let federal unemployment benefits lapse for the fourth time this year.

Lame duck lawmakers will have only one day when they return to work on Monday to renew the expiring benefits. If they don’t, two million people will be cut off in December alone. This lack of regard for working Americans is shocking. Last summer, benefits were blocked for 51 days, as senators in both parties focused on preserving tax breaks for wealthy money managers and other affluent constituents.

This time, tax cuts for the rich are bound to drive and distort the debate again. Republicans and Democrats will almost certainly link the renewal of jobless benefits to an extension of the high-end Bush-era tax cuts. That would be a travesty. There is no good argument for letting jobless benefits expire, or for extending those cuts…

Nor do jobless benefits bust the budget. Just the opposite. They do not add to dangerous long-term deficits because the spending is temporary. And because they support spending and jobs, they contribute powerfully to the economic growth that is vital for a healthy budget. Extending the Bush high-end tax cuts would be budget busting, because they are likely to endure, adding $700 billion to the deficit over 10 years. Tax cuts for the rich provide virtually no economic stimulus, because affluent people tend to save their bounty…

President Obama should pound the table for a clean, yearlong extension of unemployment benefits, and should excoriate phony deficit hawks — in both parties — who say that jobless benefits are too costly, even as they pass vastly more expensive tax cuts for the rich.

As we move into the next 2-year cycle of corruption, lies and deception that defines our Congress, the lack of bi-partisanship between cowards and crooks, political hacks governed by the golden rule of “what must I now do to get re-elected” – we all get to witness how little these thugs care for working people. Especially the unemployed.

Take the time to Google your way through and other sites that track the day-by-day record of America’s only native criminal class. Remember who the crucial offenders are in your own neck of the prairie. Call ’em out on their failures and faux accomplishments.

Rio reborn, declares mayor, as police march through shantytown

Daylife/Reuters Pictures used by permission

More than two thousand heavily armed police operatives swept into Rio’s most notorious shantytown today following a week of explosive confrontations that have left at least 50 people dead.

The operation, unprecedented in the city’s history, began at around 8am and focused on the Complexo do Alemao, a gigantic network of slums that is the HQ of Rio’s Red Command drug faction and houses around 70,000 impoverished residents.

According to police the favela had been “conquered” by around 9.30am, with drug traffickers offering little resistance.

Gang members reportedly attempted to flee the 2,600 police and army operatives through the favela’s sewage system or by disguising themselves as Bible-carrying evangelical preachers…

Around 10 tonnes of marijuana were seized along with a small arsenal of assault rifles and a missile. At least three suspected drug traffickers died in confrontations with police operatives while several gang members handed themselves in at special “surrender centres” that opened around the slum.

This was the HQ, the fortress and the heart of the drug faction with the greatest firepower,” said Colonel Mario Sergio Duarte, the head of Rio’s military police. “We will continue chasing them wherever they are.”

In an interview with Brazilian TV, Rio’s mayor, Eduardo Paes, said the operation represented “virtually a re-foundation of this city”. He added: “Rio will go back to being the marvellous city. There is still a lot of work to be done but today this city has taken a major step forwards.”

A strong beginning. There will be inevitable parallels made with Mexico.

Brazil has lots of commercial and political motivation to get things cleaned up before the World Cup and the next Summer Olympics – both hosted in Brazil. The long-range success of these quasi-military operations will be defined by the ease or not – of drug gangs re-establishing themselves in the political life of favelas.

Okinawa anti-base governor Hirokazu Nakaima re-elected

Hirokazu and supporters celebrate re-election
Daylife/Getty Images used by per mission

The governor of Japan’s Okinawa has been re-elected, in a poll which was closely tied to the future of a controversial US base on the island.

Hirokazu Nakaima, who has fiercely opposed the relocation of the Futenma base, repeated his call that it be removed from the island.

Mr Nakaima had faced tough opposition from Mayor Yoichi Iha. But he will now have the power to veto the plan, which has severely strained ties between Tokyo and Washington…

I am demanding the base be removed off the island and the Japan-US agreement be reviewed,” the Jiji news agency quoted him as saying…

The unpopular Futenma base is located in the densely populated south of the island.

Both the US and Japan want to relocate it to a new offshore facility in the less populated north.

But residents and law makers in Henoko oppose the plan, as do environmentalists who say it will devastate marine life in the area. Many residents also say that Futenma should be moved off Okinawa altogether – they say Okinawa hosts more than its fair share of bases, leading to disruption, noise and crime.

Most of the treaty has been kept secret from both American and Japanese citizens. Even politicians who win the national election and are voted in as Prime Minister by the Parliament don’t get to see it until afterwards.

We’re still ruling the foreign policy of a nation as the result of a war won 65 years ago. If that ain’t a symptom of the corruption of imperialism – nothing is. Meanwhile, each democratic vote by the people who actually live on the island is meaningless in the eyes of our State Department and Japan’s Home Office.

With damned few exceptions, we should bring all our troops home. Now.

How do you reward a community for their anti-terror efforts? Gawrsh, let’s set fire to their church!

Ahson Saeed, of Corvallis reacts over burnt debris from the mosque
Daylife/AP Photo used by permission

Agents with the Federal Bureau of Investigation have been called in to aid the investigation into an arson fire at the Corvallis mosque where Portland bomb plot suspect Mohamed Osman Mohamud sometimes attended.

The fire at the Salman Al-Farisi Islamic Center was discovered by an on-duty police sergeant at about 2:15 a.m. today. It took firefighters 10 minutes to put it out and it damaged about 80 percent of the office it was contained to. No one was injured.

FBI spokeswoman Beth Anne Steele said it’s standard for the agency to become involved in attacks on religious groups, but that the possible connection between the fire and the arrest of Mohamud makes their involvement even more important…

The FBI is offering a reward of up to $10,000 for information that leads to the identification, arrest and conviction of the person or people responsible for the fire…

Arthur Balizan, the Special Agent in Charge of the FBI in Oregon stated: “We have made it quite clear that the FBI will not tolerate any kind of retribution or attack on the Muslim community…We are working very closely with the leadership at the mosque. We will find the person responsible for this attack and bring the full force of the federal justice system to bear…”

If you’ve followed the details of the teenage fool who wanted to commit terrorist murders at a tree lighting ceremony, you would know that the initiatives that turned this creep up to the FBI and Homeland Security came from the Islamic community in Oregon.

OTOH, the sort of cowardly bigot that committed the arson attack upon the Corvallis mosque will likely turn out to be someone who has trouble reading the Sunday comics.

FCC finally notices that texting can aid 911 calls

Texting – old school

In a bid to bring the life-saving emergency service 911 into the 21st century, the FCC is looking at letting citizens report crimes through text messages and even stream video from their mobile phones to emergency centers.

Established as a national standard in 1968, 911 handles more than 230 million calls a year — 70 percent of which now come from mobile phones.

The last real overhaul of 911 by the FCC came in 2001, when mobile carriers were required to allow 911 to identify the location of callers either through GPS or cell-tower data…

But the 911 system still can’t handle text messages, multimedia messages or streaming video, all of which could be very helpful to first responders.

A system that could handle those messages would also allow people to report crimes without being overheard, which could be useful in situations ranging from kidnapping to seeing someone being robbed on the street…

It’s not clear yet where the money will come from for the upgrades, whether they will be federal requirements states and cities must carry out or if they will simply be suggestions.

Perish the thought our politicians adopt useful, constructive protocols like this without giving every local hack a chance to get in on an opportunity to be “lobbied” by equipment vendors.

Push comes to shove, the Federalist rationale supports small-time graft as well as it does the Congressional flavors.