Gene Therapy Successful Against Tumors

August 31, 2006

National Geographic reports the good news:

Two of 17 people with advanced melanoma—a deadly form of skin cancer—who underwent experimental treatment with the engineered immune cells saw their tumors shrivel.

A year and a half after therapy began, the two patients were declared free of the disease.

“This is the first example of an effective gene therapy that works in cancer patients,” said Steven Rosenberg, chief of surgery at the National Cancer Institute in Bethesda, Maryland, and leader of the research team.

The therapy has so far been applied only to melanoma patients. But the researchers are optimistic that their treatment can be used for many other types of cancer.

The team has already engineered similar immune cells for more common tumors, such as breast, lung, and liver cancers.

The research appears in tomorrow’s issue of the journal Science.

Granted, there’s a lot to be skeptical about, and I don’t think that this partial success is much consolation to the 15 patients who still have cancer. But every big advance begins with a small step; Jenner’s vaccine took time to catch on, too.

A year ago, I read Biology as Ideology, a book that claims that modern genetics is based on a warped ideology and has no medical applications; back in 1991, Lewontin said that the Human Genome Project would be a waste of money and gene therapy was a pipedream. Fifteen years later, scientists may have just found a cure for cancer by genetic engineering.

Just classism

August 31, 2006

Gordo interprets my comment about the social mobility study’s race differential to mean,

So there is quite a bit of opportunity for mobility in the US … for white people. For African-Americans, though, income mobility is virtually nonexistent. No wonder so many white Americans believe that America is a land of unparalleled opportunity. For them, it is.

Thomas Frank and a lot of other liberals wonder why it’s so difficult to appeal to conservative, working-class whites on purely economic grounds. I think that this study contains a good part of the answer.

In fact, although white social mobility is higher than the overall figure, it’s still fairly low. There aren’t enough black people in the US to make that significant an impact. The numbers I gave for the bottom quartile are staggering, but that’s largely because that quartile has nearly equal numbers of blacks and whites; for all other quartiles, the income mobility figure is almost identical to the white-only figure.

The international comparison I gave is based on another set of data, so I can’t calculate the whites-only mobility for the US. However, the study I quoted says that the r^2 correlation between parents’ and children’s income is 0.431, of which 0.062 is due to race.

So, if you’ll allow me to engage in bad math a little bit, if the same 62:431 ratio applies to the regression coefficient, we get that for whites only, the USA’s regression coefficient is 0.47*(1-(62/431)) = 0.4, just less than in France, and significantly more than Germany. For the record, France and Germany got their figures without race correction, despite being more racist than the US.


August 31, 2006

Joe Lieberman’s campaign ran an ad depicting sunrise, which was really reversed footage of a sunset. Incredibly, some people think it’s a real issue.

The amount of voting irregularity (read: fraud) in Mexico is simply astounding. The courts apparently adhere to the philosophy that every vote should be counted, except in areas that lean toward Obrador.

Keith Olbermann decided to bash Rumsfeld in prime time, comparing him and the rest of the administration to Neville Chamberlain.

The reason 17 people in New York have died of fenatyl OD in the last 16 months compared with 200 in Chicago is that New York is a major hub for illegal drugs, so the local supply tends to have higher quality.

Britain’s going on a new binge of censorship because a sex addict watched hardcore porn and then murdered a woman (hat-tip to Avedon). Update: it’s not clear if it was murder, or consensual play gone awry. Note to my parents: if I engage in risky play and accidentally die, do not go on a moral crusade. It won’t help anyone, and I’ll be dead so I won’t care.

Racism and Classism

August 31, 2006

The Center for American Progress has a nifty study about income mobility in the US, which looks at how much there is (or, more precisely, isn’t), what factors influence it the most, how it compares over time, and so on. It also has a short international comparison, which should lay waste to the libertarian argument that the US is the land of opportunity. Read or at least skim the entire thing, but here are a few key findings:

– The regression coefficient between parents’ and children’s income is 0.47 in the US, 0.5 in the UK, 0.41 in France, 0.32 in Germany, 0.27 in Sweden, 0.19 in Canada, 0.18 in Finland, 0.17 in Norway, and 0.15 in Denmark.

– The difference between white and black social mobility is huge, so statistically significant that its p-value is 0 to 3 decimal places. Of all whites born in the bottom quartile, 32.3% stay there and 14.2% go to the top; of all blacks, it’s 62.9% and 3.6% respectively.

– While the difference between non-Hispanic whites and Hispanics (a 27% income gap) is reduced to statistical insignificance (15%, p = 0.19), such as income and education, the difference between blacks and whites is barely affected, dropping from 33% to 28% and remaining significant at p = 0 to 3 decimal places.

Among the subjects I’ve been meaning to write about is racism, and the different kinds of it in the world. This certainly strengthens my view that American racism against blacks is something unique and different from American racism against other ethnic groups, which mirrors the most common forms of racism in the rest of the Western world.


August 31, 2006

There’s a raging debate on Feministing that boils down to one participant saying that Mexican-American culture is steeped in Hispanic nationalism and anti-Anglo racism and is not integrating into American life. About the one fact that participant can cite is “a recent 2002 zogby poll 58% of hispanics agreed with the statement that ‘the territory of the united states southwest rightfully belongs to Mexico,’ 28% disagreed and 14% were unsure.”

Now that would be damning, if it were true. First, WorldNetDaily says the poll is of Mexicans, not Mexican-Americans. Second, I can’t find evidence of the poll anywhere on Zogby’s website. The most I can find on Zogby’s website is a Zogby in the Media part. In other words, someone probably made it up somewhere in order to justify hating Mexicans, and the right-wing media picked up on it.

The End Times

August 31, 2006

Hat-tip to Echidne:

[Link] In a perfect world, a reporter at last week’s press conference with George Bush and Tony Blair would have asked Bush, in the presence of his principal European ally, if he believes the European Union is the Antichrist.

Although it sounds like the kind of Pat Robertson lunacy that makes even the wingnuts run for the nearest exit, it’s a question Bush should be forced to answer. Bush and other leading Republicans have lined up behind a growing movement of Christian Zionists for whom a European Antichrist figures prominently in an end-times scenario. So they should be forced to explain to the rest of us why they’re courting the votes of people who believe our allies are evil incarnate. Could it be that the central requirement for their breathlessly anticipated Armageddon — that the United States confront Iran — happens to dovetail so nicely with the neoconservative war agenda?

At the center of it all is Pastor John Hagee, a popular televangelist who leads the 18,000-member Cornerstone Church in San Antonio, Texas. While Hagee has long prophesized about the end times, he ratcheted up his rhetoric this year with the publication of his book, “Jerusalem Countdown,” in which he argues that a confrontation with Iran is a necessary precondition for Armageddon and the Second Coming of Christ. In the best-selling book, Hagee insists that the United States must join Israel in a preemptive military strike against Iran to fulfill God’s plan for both Israel and the West. Shortly after the book’s publication, he launched Christians United for Israel (CUFI), which, as the Christian version of the powerful American Israel Public Affairs Committee, he said would cause “a political earthquake.”

Of course, moderate Republicans would shrink at the thought. Why, of course they aren’t that bad! They support the war on Iran for secular, rational reasons! Their kill-all-Muslims rhetoric is the center between moonbats who don’t want to embark on a costly bombing that will kill many civilians and still achieve nothing, and wingnuts who want to bring on Armageddon. Except, of course, that

Republican National Committee Chair Ken Mehlman told the group that “no regime is more central to the global jihad” than Iran. Just two days before, Newt Gingrich and John McCain made the rounds of the Sunday talk shows to sound the same message, leading Benny Elon, a member of the Israeli Knesset, to comment to the Jerusalem Post that their remarks originated with Hagee.

Benny Elon may be an extremist who thinks Israel should rule both Israel and Palestine and the region’s Arab inhabitants must be thrown off to Jordan, but he’s honest. Unless I see strong evidence that McCain, that maverick who was considered a possible Kerry running mate in 2004, is not connected to Hagee, I can presume he is.

What’s really happening is that a group of powerful Christian theocrats is at one extreme. That includes McCain, whose moderate persona is as real as the liberal persona of Howard “I opposed the war on Iraq as soon as I realized it was an oil well of votes” Dean. The other extreme isn’t the left; it’s Ahmadinejad, Al Sadr, and Nasrallah.

We the people who just want to live our lives peacefully without being bombed and without bombing others for no good reason are the sensible side of all this. As far as I’m concerned, Hagee’s 18,000 followers and 18,000 followers of Sadr can go to an island and kill each other all they like.

Hagee doesn’t fear a nuclear conflagration, but rather God’s wrath for standing by as Iran executes its supposed plot to destroy Israel. A nuclear confrontation between America and Iran, which he says is foretold in the Book of Jeremiah, will not lead to the end of the world, but rather to God’s renewal of the Garden of Eden. But Hagee is ultimately less concerned with the fate of Israel or the Jews than with a theocratic Christian right agenda. When Jesus returns for his millennial reign, he tells his television audience, “the righteous are going to rule the nations of the earth When Jesus Christ comes back, he’s not going to ask the ACLU if it’s all right to pray, he’s not going to ask the churches if they can ordain pedophile bishops and priests, he’s not going to ask if it’s all right to put the Ten Commandments in the statehouses. He’s not going to endorse abortion, he’s going to run the world by the word of God The world will never end. It’s going to become a Garden of Eden, and Christ is going to rule it.”

The real question shouldn’t be directed to Bush, an unpopular President who’s becoming more and more of a lame duck as time passes. It should be to McCain: why do you support John Hagee, a man who wants to trigger conflict in Iran in order to cause Armageddon?

With any luck, the Religious Right will vote him in the primary and the issue will stick, making even Hillary Clinton electable.

Affirmative Action

August 30, 2006

I’m not going to say anything about affirmative action now, but please go to this post on the Sideshow and click on the comment thread, and see what kind of stupidity anti-AA proponents can come up with. SLC’s “Israel basher” tag is nothing compared to being asked “Since you support discrimination, what’s wrong with discrimination against black people?”.