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168 posts from October 2006

October 30, 2006

Bush politcal appointee ridiculed scientists on endangered species

PICT0015, originally uploaded by lunameztli.

A senior Bush political appointee at the Department of the Interior repeatedly ignored staff scientists' recommendations for protecting endangered species:

In addition, staff complaints that their scientific findings were frequently overruled or disparaged at the behest of landowners or industry have led the agency's inspector general to look into the role of Julie MacDonald, who has been deputy assistant secretary of the interior for fish and wildlife and parks since 2004, in decisions on protecting endangered species.


MacDonald said she does not make the decision on whether to federally protect a species, because the head of the Fish and Wildlife Service has that responsibility. But she said she had made her feelings clear in an array of documents; overruled scientists' conclusions in areas where she has authority, such as designating critical habitat; and mocked rank-and-file employees' recommendations.


I bet Julie MacDonald is a veritable Rush Limbaugh at the Department of the Interior--mocking struggling creatures and accusing them of faking their own endangerment for political gain.

In one incident MacDonald declared that the Santa Barbara and Sonoma salamanders were no longer separate populations in need of protection:

In a few instances, federal judges have overturned decisions that MacDonald had influenced. After she declared that the endangered Santa Barbara and Sonoma salamanders were no longer "distinct populations" entitled to protection, William Alsup, a judge on the U.S. District Court for Northern California, ruled that MacDonald had arbitrarily instructed Fish and Wildlife scientists to downgrade the two species even though an agency scientist concluded that "genetics state otherwise."

And that, ladies and gentlemen is one more reason why we need to take back Congress on November 7th. We can't let Bush put any more of this third-rate hacks in charge of irreplaceable resources.

October 28, 2006

New York journalist shot by police in Oaxaca, Mexico

Fe, originally uploaded by Fernando Careaga.

Mexican police fired on protesters in Oaxaca, Mexico, killing three people including 36-year-old Bradley Roland Will, a New York journalist.

Nine people, mostly protesters, have died during the five-month teachers' strike in Oaxaca. Will was the first journalist to die covering the conflict.

On Thursday the teachers union announced that members had voted to ratify a new contract.

PostGlobal: "Should homosexuals marry"

The latest PostGlobal discussion topic is: "Should homosexuals marry?" (Odd phrasing, I know.)

I've submitted my response and the discussion should be going live sometime this afternoon at the PostGlobal site.

October 27, 2006

What big eyes you have

cannon beach, originally uploaded by Shane Goguen.

Today's FlickrFind.

Tony Snow lies about Dick Cheney's water boarding comments

In a radio interview on Tuesday, Vice President Dick Cheney not only endorsed water torture, he also admitted that US interrogators use waterboarding:

In the interview on Tuesday, Scott Hennen of WDAY Radio in Fargo, N.D., told Cheney that listeners had asked him to ``let the vice president know that if it takes dunking a terrorist in water, we're all for it, if it saves American lives.''

''Again, this debate seems a little silly given the threat we face, would you agree?'' Hennen said.

''I do agree,'' Cheney replied, according to a transcript of the interview released Wednesday. ``And I think the terrorist threat, for example, with respect to our ability to interrogate high-value detainees like Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, that's been a very important tool that we've had to be able to secure the nation.''

Cheney added that Mohammed had provided ``enormously valuable information about how many [al Qaeda members] there are, about how they plan, what their training processes are and so forth. We've learned a lot. We need to be able to continue that.''

''Would you agree that a dunk in water is a no-brainer if it can save lives?'' asked Hennen.

'It's a no-brainer for me, but for a while there, I was criticized as being the vice president `for torture.' We don't torture. That's not what we're involved in,'' Cheney replied. ``We live up to our obligations in international treaties that we're party to and so forth. But the fact is, you can have a fairly robust interrogation program without torture, and we need to be able to do that.'" [Miami Herald]

Now, White House press secretary Tony Snow is lying for Cheney:

Continue reading "Tony Snow lies about Dick Cheney's water boarding comments" »

Gene therapy may improve sexual function in diabetic men

According to a recent study, gene therapy may one day improve sexual function in diabetic men.

Up to 70% of diabetic men will develop erectile dysfunction as a complication of their illness. Over time, diabetes can damage the lining of the blood vessels (the endothelium), including the blood vessels that supply the penis.

The healthy endothelium releases nitric oxide (NO) during sexual arousal to relax the muscles in the blood vessel walls and increase blood flow to the penis. If the endothelium is damaged by diabetes, it may be unable to produce enough NO to sustain normal sexual function.

ED drugs like Viagra essentially "leverage" the supply of NO that's already present in the patient's vessels by inhibiting NO breakdown. These drugs are ineffective for many diabetic patients because their endothelial cells don't produce enough NO for the drugs to work on. 

Gene therapy may be able to temporarily restore the damaged epitheliums of diabetic patients. Researchers in Colorado have developed injectable particles containing the gene VEGF. When the epithelial cells absorb these particles, VEGF stimulates them to multiply. Researchers hypothesize that increasing epithelial cell growth can restore sexual function by increasing NO levels. This gene therapy hasn't been tested on humans yet, but animal studies have shown promising results. 

More on Nicaragua's total abortion ban

Liza supplies some political context for Nicaragua's total abortion ban.

NBC to Dixie Chicks: Shut up

NBC is refusing to air an ad for the new Dixie Chicks documentary, Shut Up and Sing. Think Progress got ahold of the spot, click the preceding link to watch the ad.

Scientists endorse pro-evolution candidate

Seventy-five science Ohio professors have endorsed a pro-evolution candidate for the Ohio Board of Education. [NYT] It's nice to see scientists getting involved in science policy and science-related politics. It's about time that scientists and their allies began making themselves heard as an interest group.

October 26, 2006

Like Dickens--with female genital mutiliation

Eighteen-year-old Adama Bah may learn today whether she will be deported to Guinea. In the spring of 2005, the federal government arrested Bah and held her for 6 weeks in a juvenile detention center on unsubstantiated charges that she was a potential suicide bomber:

Officially, she and a 16-year-old Bangladeshi girl arrested in Queens the same day were detained solely because their childhood visas were no longer valid. That remains the only reason Ms. Bah is in deportation proceedings, and the sole legal basis for an order last year that released the other girl, Tashnuba Hayder, on the condition that she leave the country immediately.

Even now, Ms. Bah says she has no idea whether her slight acquaintance with Ms. Hayder was what caused agents of the Federal Bureau of Investigation to hold her for questioning. Though a document provided by a federal agent at the time said the F.B.I. considered the girls “an imminent threat” to national security, it provided no evidence, and officials refused to discuss the matter. [NYT]

Bah's father. a cabdriver, was also arrested and detained until he was deported last month. Her mother, who is illiterate and speaks little English, subsequently lost the trinket stand that was the family's sole means of support. Bah has had to drop out of school to support her four younger siblings. Her government-imposed curfew won't allow her to go to night school, so her education is on hold. Now, the government is trying to deport Bah to Guinea where she faces female genital mutilation:

“Right now all we have is a straightforward asylum claim,” said Bryan Lonegan, a lawyer with the Legal Aid Society’s immigration unit who is advising Hughes, Hubbard lawyers on the case. “This is a life and death situation for her.”

The petition draws a grim picture of what she would face in Guinea as a young woman with intact genitalia who opposes the painful and dangerous practice of female genital mutilation.

In Guinea, “If a girl’s genitals are not mutilated, she is considered dirty, repulsive, unfit for marriage and motherhood, and devoid of morals and monetary value,” an expert, Hanny Lightfoot-Klein, wrote in an affidavit. Male relatives consider themselves dishonored, and will beat her until she submits, the affidavit added. “Elder women perform the procedure on dimly lit floors, with dull kitchen knives, glass shards, scissors or razor blades,” the affidavit said.

Ms. Bah’s mother, Aissatou Dalanda Bah, who has separately applied for asylum, had her clitoris excised by her grandmother with a kitchen knife when she was about 10, the court papers said. Later, she watched helplessly as one of Adama’s cousins bled to death from the procedure. [NYT]

It's unclear what would happen to Bah's four younger siblings (all American citizens) if she and her mother were to be deported.

For Ms. Bah, who grew up absorbing American values and believing she was a legal immigrant, the prospect is terrifying and unreal. Genital mutilation “has nothing to do with my religion,” she said. “You can’t just circumcise a woman against her will, to take away her pleasure. That’s my right as a woman.” [NYT]

This is truly one of the most shocking and heart-wrenching stories I've read in a long time. I wish the New York Times had reported on Bah's deportation status earlier so that the public would have had more time to rally in support of her asylum claim.