Friday, April 7, 2017

April 7, 2017 -- A Quick Run Around the Web (Updated)

"The FALSE Equivalence of Timothy McVeigh"--Black Pigeon Speaks (7 min.)
Sometimes apologists for Islamic terrorism try to point to "Christian" terrorists in an attempt to create the appearance of a moral equivalence. One of their favorite examples is Timothy McVeigh. Only problem, as explained in the video, was that McVeigh did not claim to be a Christian; in fact, he claimed that science was his god, and that he was agnostic.

       In a DEA training tape made several years ago, members of that agency take a four-door sedan out to a secluded range and, after placing two cardboard targets under the front dashboard area of the driver’s side and another simulating a crouched suspect in the backseat floor area, commenced shooting the car full of holes. The barrage recorded on tape is not from just one agent or gun but pretty much every pistol and long gun available to DEA agents at that time: 9mm pistols, .357 revolvers, shotguns with buckshot and slugs, 9mm carbines and 5.56mm AR carbines. The vehicle was shot from the passenger side as well as straight on from the front.
           Although the tires are flattened and virtually every square inch of the car has a hole in it, the vehicle starts and the instructor can drive away (limp away is probably a better way to describe it). But the amazing thing: When both targets are checked, neither have any hits.
    He goes on to discuss how a vehicle is not guaranteed protection; and the protection it does afford is going to depend not only on the round being directed into the vehicle, but also what it strikes when it hits the car. As the author states, cars are not homogeneous materials: you have a light sheet metal (generally steel) body, heavier framing around or through parts of the body and door, mechanisms that operate windows and so on, airbag equipment, different types of glass, the engine and drive train, etc. He observes, for instance:
    Most handgun chamberings, .38 Special or larger, can easily penetrate the side glass windows of cars without deflection. Bullets fired into the front or rear windshields made of safety glass may deflect. In one particular shooting in my agency, the officer fired into the front window but the bullets deflected downward, and most impacted the dash and did not hit the suspect. Bullets fired through laminated safety glass tend to follow the perpendicular angle of the glass. When firing into the vehicle, they deflect downward. When you shoot through from the inside, they travel at an upward angle if they pass through the laminated glass.
    He also mentions that "[y]our best protection from incoming fire when using a patrol car as cover is the engine block up front as well as the front and rear wheels and axles."
           More than 42 percent of Americans between the ages of 18 and 59 are infected with genital human papillomavirus, according to the first survey to look at the prevalence of the virus in the adult population.
             The report, published on Thursday by the National Center for Health Statistics, found that high-risk strains of the virus — a cause of cervical and vaginal cancers, and cancer of the penis, as well as cancers of the anus and throat in both sexes — infect 25.1 percent of men and 20.4 percent of women.
      In the United States, there is strong evidence that the national interest has not been well served by the country’s immigration policy over the last five decades. Even as levels of immigration have approached historic highs, debate on the topic has been subdued, and policymakers and opinion leaders in both parties have tended to overstate the benefits and understate or ignore the costs of immigration. It would make a great deal of sense for the country to reform its immigration policies by more vigorously enforcing existing laws, and by moving away from the current system, which primarily admits immigrants based on family relationships, toward one based on the interests of Americans.
      He also notes:
      Proponents of immigration to the United States often contend that the country is a “nation of immigrants,” and certainly immigration has played an important role in American history. Nevertheless, immigrants currently represent 13.5 percent of the total U.S. population, the highest percentage in over 100 years. The Census Bureau projects that by 2025, the immigrant share of the population will reach 15 percent, surpassing the United States’ all-time high of 14.8 percent, reached in 1890. Without a change in policy, that share will continue to increase throughout the twenty-first century. Counting immigrants plus their descendants, the Pew Research Center estimates that since 1965, when the United States liberalized its laws, immigration has added 72 million people to the country—a number larger than the current population of France.
      He further illustrates why the arguments that immigrants are needed to boost fertility rates, are an economic benefit and necessary to sustain pensions systems are false. Read the whole thing.
               Cephalopods are unusual not only because they solve puzzles and clams cannot. Squids, cuttlefish and octopuses do not follow the normal rules of genetic information, according to research published Thursday in the journal Cell. Their RNA is extensively rewritten, particularly the codes for proteins found in the animals' neurons.
                 Put simply, that's very weird. According to the central dogma of molecular biology, cells convert DNA sequences to RNA, which then creates proteins.
                   Imagine a library full of cookbooks, where you're not allowed to check anything out. But you are allowed to copy recipes as you need them. The copies must almost always be verbatim, as though done by a faithful scribe. RNA plays the role of scribe.
                     Sometimes, cells edit RNA, plucking out the molecule adenosine and inserting a molecule called inosine. University of Utah biochemist Brenda Bass discovered RNA editing three decades ago. “Everything we have learned in the 30 years since these were discovered says that these type of editing events usually don’t change codons,” Bass told The Washington Post, meaning that the edits to RNA did not change what proteins are created.
                       “The general view was that editing sites are being 'expelled' from the coding part of the RNA molecules,” Eli Eisenberg, a co-author of the new study and an expert in RNA editing at Tel Aviv University, wrote in an email to The Post.
                         But, far from expelling the edited sites, cephalopods use the tweaked RNA to generate new proteins. Rather than one gene producing one protein, this type of RNA editing, called recoding, could allow a single octopus gene to produce many different types of proteins from the same DNA.
                           “Recoding by editing effectively creates a new protein sequence, and thus it's expanding the protein repertoire at the organism's disposal,” Eisenberg said.
                              To return to the metaphorical library of cookbooks, it's as though a chef has replaced the scribe. Perhaps the chef owns an oven that doesn't heat up well, said Joshua Rosenthal, a neurobiologist at the Marine Biological Laboratory in Woods Hole, Mass., and an author of the new study. The chef decides to write down a higher temperature than the printed recipe calls for. Or maybe the chef is in the mood for something sweeter, and alters how much sugar a recipe has.
                               These RNA changes can have a dramatic impact on squid or octopus biology. In a previous study, Rosenthal discovered that octopuses living in the Antarctic used RNA editing to keep their nerves firing in frigid waters.

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