Meth-fueled Darwin Award – UPDATED

A dead body found rotting in a freezer has Hobbs Police investigating. KOB Eyewitness News 4 talked to neighbors who said they noticed something was wrong.

Officers arrived at the abandoned house Tuesday night after a call about the stench. Neighbors said they could smell it inside their homes.

“It was a really strong stench; really, really strong. I’ve never smelled that before, and I would never want to smell it again ever,” said Camille Franco…

“Upon arrival, they located an unidentified body and the body was sent to Albuquerque for autopsy,” said Officer Mike Stone of the Hobbs Police Department.

Police could not identify the gender or identification of the body, leaving a whole lot of questions and not a lot of answers.

“For somebody to be in a freezer, and I mean for somebody to actually do something like that. No, that scares me, that frightens me. I’m actually really wanting to lock up my house more,” said Franco. “Like they say, you might think you might know your neighbors, but you never know.”

Hobbs police said they are waiting for the autopsy results to figure out the cause of death.

This was published back in September. The final results of the autopsy were published, today. Local newspapers haven’t caught up, yet; so, I don’t know if they identified the body. UPDATE: Everett Willford was his name. 22 years old.

According to 30 seconds of TV coverage, apparently, the dude overdosed on meth. With severe hot flashes, he must have climbed into the freezer to cool off. He didn’t freeze to death. It was the meth that killed him.

Somewhere along the timeline, the power was cut off to the abandoned house. Decomposition followed.

An alternative solution to America’s probation problem?

Paradise on earth is how most people know Hawaii – white sandy beaches and coconut palms. But there are Hawaiians living outside the frame on the picture postcard.

The roughly 8 million tourists who visit the state each year attract a lot of property crime. Even an ocean away from the mainland, the methamphetamine market is thriving. The islands have jails and prisons, and plenty of people to fill them. But Judge Steven Alm is trying to bring his home state a little bit closer to the paradise people imagine.

To do that, he’s spearheaded an alternative probation program, one that delivers immediate consequences – often jail time — for each and every infraction. The program is tough on crime, while also keeping people out of prison. And this double feat has made it a nascent darling in the world of criminal justice policy, with states across the political spectrum seeking it out as a model…

From the deputy prosecuting attorney for Honolulu to the U.S. Attorney for Hawaii and finally judge, Alm won the respect of the law enforcement community…

That reputation gave Alm an opportunity. He knew Hawaii and the justice system. He also knew it needed a change, particularly the probation program.

…Probation is a great way to keep people out of prison, help them rebuild their lives and ease the burden on taxpayers.

The problem is that probationers rampantly violate the rules, and are often sent back to prison is at the discretion of the probation officer or presiding judge. How those authorities respond to violations varies widely from state to state, according to a 2007 Pew Study, with “enormous implications” for prison population size, cost and public safety…

In 2004, Alm founded HOPE, short for Hawaii’s Opportunity Probation with Enforcement. Its central principle is simple, Alm explained: “If there are any violations of probation, they’re going to go to jail.”

There also are opportunities and judicial/parole officer discretion exists especially for probationers who are honest and timely about reporting and discussing violations. This was an excellent piece of news reporting – and I hope the video is available sooner rather than later.

Please RTFA. It’s longish and thoughtful. Judge Alm’s system is bringing results – at a minimum 55% of probationers do not re-offend. Other qualities measured have even better results.

So far, 17 states and a number of other countries are on board to give his system a trial. No, New Mexico isn’t one of them; I can’t offer any local evidence.

But, please, read the whole article. If you have access to AJAM, AlJazeera in America from your TV content providers, watch for the documentary on one of their evening news programs. I imagine they’ll rerun it.

Scientists reprogram skin cells into insulin-producing cells


Ke LiChris Goodfellow

Type 1 diabetes, which usually manifests during childhood, is caused by the destruction of beta-cells (β-cells). β-cells are a type of cell that normally resides in the pancreas and produces a hormone called insulin. Without insulin, the body’s organs have difficulty absorbing sugars, such as glucose, from the blood. Once a death sentence, the disease can now be managed with regular glucose monitoring and insulin injections. A more permanent solution, however, would be to replace the missing β-cells. But these cells are hard to come by, so researchers have looked towards stem cell technology as a way to make them…

One of the major challenges to generating large quantities of β-cells is that these cells have limited regenerative ability; once they mature it’s difficult to make more. So the team decided to go one step backwards in the life cycle of the cell.

The team first collected skin cells, called fibroblasts, from laboratory mice. Then, by treating the fibroblasts with a unique ‘cocktail’ of molecules and reprogramming factors, they transformed the cells into endoderm-like cells. Endoderm cells are a type of cell found in the early embryo, and which eventually mature into the body’s major organs—including the pancreas, the home of β-cells.

“Using another chemical cocktail, we then transformed these endoderm-like cells into cells that mimicked early pancreas-like cells, which we called PPLC’s,” said Gladstone Postdoctoral Scholar Ke Li, PhD, the paper’s lead author. “Our initial goal was to see whether we could coax these PPLC’s to mature into cells that, like β-cells, respond to the correct chemical signals and—most importantly—secrete insulin. And our initial experiments, performed in a petri dish, revealed that they did.”

The research team then wanted to see whether the same would occur in live animal models. So they transplanted PPLC’s into mice modified to have hyperglycemia (high glucose levels), a key indicator of diabetes.

“Importantly, just one week post-transplant, the animals’ glucose levels started to decrease, and gradually approached normal levels,” continued Dr. Li. “And when we removed the transplanted cells, we saw an immediate glucose spike, revealing a direct link between the transplantation of the PPLC’s and reduced hyperglycemia.”

But it was when the team tested the mice eight weeks post-transplant that they saw more dramatic changes: the PPLC’s had given rise to functional, insulin-secreting β-cells.

“These results not only highlight the power of small molecules in cellular reprogramming, and are proof-of-principle that could one day be used as a personalized therapeutic approach in patients,” explained Dr. Ding.

Bravo. I imagine pretty much everyone knows someone with Type 1 diabetes. I had friends in elementary school with what was then called childhood diabetes. I have friends since – who spent their childhood battling to get to something approaching normalcy in adult life.

All the symptomatic treatment in the world ain’t going to make folks’ lives easier than the potential of this cellular reprogramming.