Archive for May, 2007

Experimental Gene Therapy ‘Abolishes’ Arthritis Pain And Lessens Joint Damage

Thursday, May 31st, 2007

Science Daily Early-stage research has found that a new gene therapy can nearly eliminate arthritis pain, and significantly reduce long-term damage to the affected joints, according to a study published today in the journal Arthritis and Rheumatism. While the study was done in mice, they are the first genetically engineered to develop osteoarthritis like humans, with the same genetic predisposition that makes some more likely to develop the disease, the authors said. If all goes well with a follow-up study currently underway, researchers will apply to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for permission to begin human trials next year.

Nearly everyone aged 65 or older suffers from the pain, swelling and permanent joint damage of osteoarthritis. The most common form of arthritis, it develops over time following initial joint injuries or just as a result of aging. In the current study, researchers found that one injection of a newly designed gene therapy relieved 100 percent of osteoarthritic pain in the study model. In addition, researchers were surprised to find that the therapy also brought about a nearly 35 percent reduction in permanent structural to joints caused by round and after round of osteoarthritic inflammation.

To date, treatment of arthritis is dominated by drug treatments like non-steroidal, anti-inflammatory drugs, COX-2 inhibitors and acetominophen. Morphine and its derivatives are still in common use as well, but can depress breathing and lead to addiction. Taken together, current treatments deliver inconsistent results and new approaches are needed, researcher said. Gene therapy has been attempted in the past, but older, invasive techniques required that therapeutic genes be injected directly into nerve cells. Strong pain relief resulted, but in some cases the injections caused nerve damage.

“Our publication represents the first proof that gene therapy can work in a way that is clinically applicable,” said Stephanos Kyrkanides, D.D.S., Ph.D., associate professor of Dentistry at the University of Rochester Medical Center. “This therapy can simply be injected anywhere in an injured joint, and the treatment will find the nerve endings,” said Kyrkanides, whose work on genetics in dentistry led to broader applications. The common ground between arthritis and dentistry: a common site of arthritic pain is the jaw joint.


China Investigates Contaminated Toothpaste

Wednesday, May 30th, 2007

See also: 1 ➡, 2 ➡, 3 ➡, 4 ➡, & 5 ➡

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DANYANG, China, May 21 — Chinese authorities are investigating whether two companies from this coastal region exported tainted toothpaste as more contaminated product, including some made for children, has turned up in Latin America.

A team of government investigators arrived here Sunday afternoon and closed the factory of the Danyang City Success Household Chemical Company, a small building housing about 30 workers in a nearby village, according to villagers and one factory worker. The government also questioned the manager of another toothpaste maker, Goldcredit International Trading, which is in Wuxi, about an hour’s drive southeast of here.

No tainted toothpaste has been found in the United States, but a spokesman for the Food and Drug Administration said yesterday that the agency would be taking “a hard look” at whether to issue an import alert.

Authorities in the Dominican Republic said they seized 36,000 tubes of toothpaste suspected of containing diethylene glycol, an industrial solvent and prime ingredient in some antifreeze. Included were tubes of toothpaste marketed for children with bubble gum and strawberry flavors sold under the name of “Mr. Cool Junior.”

Toothpaste containing the toxic solvent was also found in Panama and Australia in the last week.


– This article is from the NY Times and they insist that folks have an ID and a PW in order to read their stuff. You can get these for free just by signing up. However, recently, a friend of mine suggested the website :arrow: as an alternative to having to do these annoying sign ups. Check it out. Thx Bruce S. for the tip.

Samadhisoft Blog – Like what you read here?

Tuesday, May 29th, 2007

– If you do, you can get it sent to you via E-mail daily and not have to keep checking back to see what’s new.

– Follow this link to subscribe:

Coal-fired Power On the Increase — And With It CO2 Emissions

Tuesday, May 29th, 2007

-Read this and then go back and read The Power of Green. The China Price is the key factor here – and we currently don’t have a way to deflect that bullet.

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According to a report by the Natural Resources Defence Council, 39% of the carbon dioxide emitted into the atmosphere from all sources in the United States in 2004 originated from the top 100 US electric power producers. Given that figure and all the recent media attention on climate change, one would think that US electric utility companies would be taking serious proactive steps to reduce their CO2 emissions. Unfortunately, the reality is quite different.

According to a March 22, 2007 article in the Christian Science Monitor, Global Boom in Coal Power and Emissions“, 37 countries plan to add new coal-fired capacity over the next 5 years. This is worrisome since burning coal generates 6% more CO2 per kilowatt-hour than burning petroleum and 52% more CO2 than natural gas (from the US Energy Information Agency). On a worldwide basis, the shift to more coal-fired power plants will result in an additional 1.2 billion tons of CO2 missions per year by 2011. The United States will have the largest increase in CO2 emissions from new coal-fired electric power plants on both a percentage and an absolute tonnage basis where nearly 38,000 megawatts of new coal-fired capacity is slated to come online resulting in an additional 230 million tons of CO2 emissions per year. Worldwide, by 2012, there will be approximately 7500 coal-fired power plants emitting 9 billion tons of CO2 annually, compared to 31 billion tons from all sources.

The central driver behind more coal-fired power generation is coal’s lower price per kilowatt and greater price stability over natural gas and petroleum fuel. Plus coal is abundantly available and poses fewer national security issues.


More Bad News From NASA – Arctic Replaced Very Little Thick Sea Ice In 2005

Tuesday, May 29th, 2007

A new NASA study has found that in 2005 the Arctic replaced very little of the thick sea ice it normally loses and replenishes each year. Replenishment of this thick, perennial sea ice each year is essential to the maintenance and stability of the Arctic summer ice cover.

The findings complement a NASA study released in fall 2006 that found a 14-percent drop in this perennial ice between 2004 and 2005. The lack of replenishment suggests that the decline may continue in the near future.


Vast Region Of Antarctic Melted In 2005

Tuesday, May 29th, 2007

A team of NASA and university scientists has found clear evidence that extensive areas of snow melted in west Antarctica in January 2005 in response to warm temperatures. This was the first widespread Antarctic melting ever detected with NASA’s QuikScat satellite and the most significant melt observed using satellites during the past three decades. The affected regions encompass a combined area as big as California.


Nanotechnology Requires Immediate Changes In EPA, Experts Urge

Tuesday, May 29th, 2007

– I’ve written about this problem before. Nanotechnology holds huge promise but, I believe, it also holds huge risks.

– Anyone who’s read Engines of Creation by Drexler understands how incredibly powerful these new compounds will become as we master their creation. But anyone who’s read Vonnegut’s Cat’s Cradle and the story of Ice-9 will also realize how very badly things could go if we’re not careful.

– Scientists are and have been raising the alarm on this issue but thus far, not much has been done. In systems which are primarily profit driven, one can predict that not much will be done until a major problem manifests. Let’s hope it’s not a self-replicating, self-perpetuating something that we’ll be very unhappy we let out of the box.

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Science Daily As the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recently stated, nanotechnology has evolved from a futuristic idea to watch to a current issue to address. And for this new technology’s enormous potential to improve everyone’s life to be realized, nanotechnology must be subject to an adequate oversight system—a system designed to identify and minimize any adverse effects of nano materials and products on health or the environment.

Regulatory oversight of nanotechnology is urgently needed and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) should act now, reports a new study released today. In EPA and Nanotechnology: Oversight for the 21st Century, former EPA assistant administrator for policy, planning and evaluation, J. Clarence (Terry) Davies, provides a roadmap for a new EPA to better handle the challenges of nanotechnology.

New nanomaterials and nanotechnology products are entering the market each week, and an adequate oversight system is necessary to identify and minimize any adverse effects of nano materials and products on health or the environment. Davies’ report sets out an agenda for creating an effective oversight system as nanotechnology advances–the technology that some have hailed as “the next industrial revolution.”


Books mentioned:

070528 – Monday – CrashBlogging

Monday, May 28th, 2007

One of my readers sent me a link to a discussion thread in which folks were discussing New Zealand and other places where one might consider moving if they are worried about the world’s future over the next few decades. The link he sent leads to a fun read: I recommend it.

In reading the thread, I picked up a new term, CrashBlogger. It refers to any blogsite that focuses on future global calamities.

Needless to say, Samadhisoft would be considered a CrashBlogger site given its central theme which is the Perfect Storm Hypothesis. I liked the term so I’ve created a new chiclet button:


which I added to the right sidebar of this site under General Plugs. I’ve created a category here on samadhisoft for CrashBlogging and anything I write that bears on the Perfect Storm Hypothesis will be so tagged in the future.

Anyone who wants a copy of this chiclet for their own use can find it here:

And, if you want to make chiclets of your own, I highly recommend this site:

And, finally, if you want to find ready made chiclets, try this site:

I also went to Technorati and checked for the terms CrashBlogger and CrashBlogging. There was nothing there- but I think there will be.

– thx again to Brian C. for input on this piece.

070528 – Monday – Why New Zealand cautionary feedback

Monday, May 28th, 2007

The other day, a reader wrote me about a piece I’d written entitled, Why New Zealand? He thought that I was a bit over the top with my praises of New Zealand as a destination.

New Zealand

Indeed, he had some good cautionary points about New Zealand as follows:

New Zealand owns a heap of public, external debt; all summed, this debt aggregates to 41% of the national GDP. I do not like reflecting on that percentage. Let’s reflect, anyway. National revenue now exceeds national expenditures, by $100 million. National expenditures budgets for payment of debt interest but not debt repayment. $100 million in public profits for a nation of 4 million: not sound.

New Zealand has a population growth rate of 1.12%. America, by due compare, only has a population growth rate of 0.89%. Which of these is healthy, and which of these is not? (Neither is healthy – of course. But one is in better accord with reality and one is not.)

New Zealand currently suffers from deforestation, soil erosion, top-soil depletion, and catabolic agricultural collapse. So does America. To quote a recently published academic paper which I tripped across, “A significant consequence of agricultural development has been the loss of native vegetation, including forests, wetlands and tussock grasslands, and biodiversity. Farming in New Zealand ranges from intensive to extensive practices. Intensive farming has higher concentrations of animal waste, fertilisers and pesticides and is implicated in the contamination of soil, groundwater and streams. Extensive farming of hill country has resulted in mass erosion, due to the loss of vegetation, resulting in the loss of topsoil and increased sedimentation of waterways. Agricultural development has been driven largely by economics, fluctuating with export prices and past government subsidies. There is currently increasing pressure for farmers to intensify due in particular to the global market for dairy products and niche market products, and improved technology.” Sound familiar? It sure does.

New Zealand is predominantly mountainous. Current estimates of arable land have you at only 6% of your land-mass. Current estimates of arable land in America, on the other hand, extend from 18% to 28% – and I am more inclined to believe 28%, given the still-tremendous fertility of California, the Great Plains, and the Empty Quarter. How will you feed 4 million, on only 16 thousand square kilometers of arable land? The isolation, which you value, also isolates your people from the protective value of emigration: if events on either island “go south,” you won’t have a South to emigrate to.

80% of the population lives in cities. That may be a good thing, for those sequestering themselves into the hills. I’m more inclined, however, to believe that city dependency breeds abstraction and alienation from the land, and ignorance of base necessities. It won’t be good, when ignorant city-hordes unravel across your terrain.

These all seem like good points – though I can’t comment on them as being true or false without doing some research.

I’ve spent a fair amount of time now in New Zealand and I’d still hold, even in the face of these negative points all being true, that New Zealand is arguably the best place in the world to run away to if you fear the coming Perfect Storm.

If you doubt this assertion, just lay a map of the world out and begin to go over every place you can think of that might provide a safe haven in a world of chaos. And for each place you consider, look at the points I’ve made in favor of New Zealand and the ones my correspondent has asserted against it.

The World

I have other correspondents in New Zealand who wish I’d just shut up on this subject <smile>.

They like that New Zealand is one of the world’s best kept secrets. And they don’t want to see paradise over run with refugees from the rest of the world’s insanities. And the truth is that for the most part, I agree with them. Fortunately, this Blog has a fairly small readership and immigration to New Zealand isn’t a subject I’m going to spend much time on from here on out.

If I can help alert people to the coming Perfect Storm, then that’s enough. Each of you will have to work out what you want to do about it on your own. I’d just caution you not to wait to bolt until the signs are unmistakable.

Homer sapiens ?? Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists - Doomsday Clock

One final note. My correspondent is immigrating to New Zealand from the US. Apparently, the negative points he’s cited, while worrisome, are not sufficient to dissuade him from recognizing a good thing <smile>.


– thx to Brian C. for his input on this piece

070527 – Sunday – Religion vs. Atheism debate

Sunday, May 27th, 2007

– A friend of mine recently turned me onto an on-line debate between Andrew Sullivan and Sam Harris on the subject of religion vs. atheism. This territory has, of course, been raked over many times before but this example is well worth reading because of the clarity and power of these two men’s intellects. All of the major points are brought out into high relief. If you consider yourself an open-minded intellectual then you owe it to yourself to spend some time and grind through long but excellent exchange.

Sam Harris Andrew Sullivan

– I’ve decided to put this debate into the category of the PerfectStorm because both of these men believe that religious fundamentalism is going to play a part in the coming chaos. I offer here a quote from Andrew Sullivan as he closes his side of the debate:

…we are in a civilizational crisis outside the monastery’s walls. Fundamentalist religion is on the march, its certainty dangerous, its ambitions terrifying, its capacity for destruction incalculable. In my more realistic moments, I have come to accept the inevitability of large-scale global destruction in my lifetime.

Later: Now that I’ve had time now to read and digest the debate between Andrew Sullivan and Sam Harris I wanted to make some follow-up comments on it::

– In virtually every debate I’ve ever been in with someone who’s defending religion, the debate process always runs up on the shoals of faith and forward progress ends. Both sides begin with logic and reason but, at some point, the one defending religion comes to a point where they are forced to say, “I cannot defend this by logic and reason – it is by an act of faith that I believe thus.” And I’ll confess here to having been on both sides of this divide.

– I find that debates, in general, are deeply unsatisfying because there is so seldom a 1:1 correspondance between the points and questions put by person A and the responses and answers given by person B. Harris commented more than once on Sullivan’s failure to address his points in the debate. I think that debating, as a form of truth seeking, needs something like, perhaps, the Roberts Rules of Order. Some system that ensures that if A makes a point, that B must reply to it directly. One might complain that asking a question, by its very form and content, can stack things in the questioner’s favor. But, since both sides would ask an equal number of questions, the playing field would be as level as their respective skills at debating would allow.

– As a continuation of the last comment’s theme, I think it would also be helpful if one or more folks sat to the side and sifted the logic of statements made to see if they really are logical or simple one of any number of logical fallacies (such as out detailed wonderfully in Robert Gula’s book, “Non-Sense – A Handbook of Logical Fallacies“). Then, debate might actually product results that materially advanced our search for truth.

– My last comment involves Harris’ belief that moderate religion indirectly supports fundamentalism. I, for one, did not feel that the points offered by either of the debaters settled this point for me.