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Feb 19 2015

The Breakfast Club (Chicken Heart)

breakfast beers photo breakfastbeers.jpgSo this is a story I’ve told before but not with such detail and outrage.

The essence of the scientific method is that theories are disprovable (by contradictory experimental results) and that experiments are replicable.  The reason I call Economics no more than Shamen dancing around a corpse shaking rattles is that the theories are not disprovable (for the most part, since like all social sciences experiments to test the conclusion are impossible to arrange and only observation is feasable) and when examining the results of natural experiments (oh, say austerity in Greece) they are shown to be in direct contradiction of the predicted results.

It’s worse than that he’s dead Jim, Dead Jim, DEAD!

Not that this keeps the Shamen from shaking their rattles and dancing.  It’s FAITH you see and when we’re talking about WASP Christianity the firm belief that the elect, favored by God and predestined before birth to sit at his side on the big rock candy mountain in the sky by and by, display the benefits of God’s grace even in this mortal coil.

That’s why the rich are rich you know.  They deserve it.  And all you all expecting divine justice like some kind of after-life lottery don’t really understand that ‘so above as it is below’ and the opiate of justice is merely to numb your pain as you suffer and die for the benefit of your betters.

You think God wants to hang with you?  You wouldn’t know a pickle fork (two tines) from a dessert fork (three) unless a servant laid them out in the correct order (always good to wait until you can see what your host uses).

Which brings us to the Chicken Heart.  This is why I’m conflicted about Cosby.

My dear readers, you may disagree with my opinions, object to my theories, but when I talk about science I insist that my experiments are reproducible and consistent.

What pushes scientists to lie? The disturbing but familiar story of Haruko Obokata

John Rasko and Carl Power, The Guardian

Wednesday 18 February 2015 08.30 EST

The man in the middle of it all was Alexis Carrel, a brilliant and rather dapper Frenchman working at the Rockefeller Institute in New York. Carrel discovered that, if you remove some cells from the body, sit them in a nutritious broth and handle them correctly, they can not only survive, but thrive and multiply. Also, if you take some cells from one culture, you can start a new one and, with that, a third, and so on. The importance of this technique – know as cell “passaging” – can’t be overstated. With it, Carrel literally opened a new era in cell research. Unfortunately, he did so with an experiment that, while earning him international superstardom, proved to be a complete and utter train wreck.

On 17 January 1912, Carrel removed a chick embryo from its egg and cut out a small fragment of its still-beating heart with the aim of keeping it alive as long as possible. He had hardly begun this experiment when he announced to the world that his chicken heart culture was immortal, that immortality belonged potentially to all cells, and that death was only the consequence of how cells are organised in the body. In other words, the secret of eternal life is within us all, an attribute of our basic biological building blocks. It captured the public’s imagination and was soon accepted by the scientific community.

Carrel and his assistants kept – or claimed they had kept – that culture alive for 34 years, which is five times longer than the average chicken. For many years, around 17 January, journalists wrote birthday stories on the chicken heart and wondered how large it would have grown had Carrel nurtured every one of its ever-multiplying cells. (According to calculations, it swiftly dwarfed the Earth and filled up the entire solar system.)

The problem was, no one else could keep a cell culture alive indefinitely. Lab after lab tried and failed, decade after decade. Because Carrel was a giant in the field of cell research and a Nobel Prize winner, few dared to doubt him. Scientists blamed themselves when their cells died. They assumed that they lacked the master’s skill, that his lab had higher standards than they could reach, that they had somehow exposed their cells to infection or failed to keep them properly nourished. We now know that the reverse was true. Other researchers probably couldn’t duplicate Carrel’s results because they weren’t incompetent or dishonest enough.

It was only in the mid-60s – half a century after Carrel established his chicken heart culture – that the dogma of cell immortality came crashing down. That’s when Leonard Hayflick, an ambitious young researcher at the Wistar Institute in Philadelphia, discovered that ordinary body cells have a finite life span – or, more precisely, an average number of times they can multiply in vitro. This is their Hayflick number. For chickens, it is 35. In other words, a population of chicken cells can double about 35 times before they die, which usually takes several months.

By the time Hayflick proved this, Carrel was long dead and his “immortal” chicken cells discarded. Which means that we know Carrel’s most famous experiment was a sham, but not why. If it was fraud, it was one of the most outrageous cases in the history of science. However, the cause may have been carelessness rather than dishonesty. Carrel and his staff used “embryonic juice” as a culture medium and, if they prepared it badly, it might have contained live chick cells. In that case, instead of just feeding their culture, they re-seeded it. It’s an easy enough mistake, but to make it consistently enough to keep their chicken heart cells alive for 34 years suggests an astonishing degree of negligence.

Reproducibility is one of the cornerstones of modern science. Unless an experiment can be repeated again and again by different researchers, each time yielding similar results, it can’t be said to prove anything much. At least that’s the theory. Carrel’s chicken heart experiment shows how far science can stray from the scientific method. And the fault doesn’t just lie with Carrel and his laboratory. The entire scientific community shares some of the blame because it upheld the dogma of cell immortality for more than 50 years despite the fact that it was based on a single, sensational, irreproducible experiment.

Tha-thump.  Tha-Thump!  THA-THUMP!

So why is credibility so important to you ek?

I write pseudonymously.  I don’t delude myself that it protects me from various initialed government agencies, that’s not the point.  What it has done (so far) is keep my mail relatively spam free and save me from random strangers who want me to help them and people who fiercely disagree with me and would like to burn a cross on my lawn (kerosene just ruins the grass, you have to re-sod).

I can not expect you to accept my assertions merely on the basis of my expertise and reputation.  Test them yourself!

The law that entropy always increases holds, I think, the supreme position among the laws of Nature. If someone points out to you that your pet theory of the universe is in disagreement with Maxwell’s equations – then so much the worse for Maxwell’s equations. If it is found to be contradicted by observation – well, these experimentalists do bungle things sometimes. But if your theory is found to be against the second law of thermodynamics I can give you no hope; there is nothing for it but to collapse in deepest humiliation.

Sir Arthur Stanley Eddington, The Nature of the Physical World (1927)

Science News and Blogs

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Obligatories, News and Blogs below.

Obligatories

Welcome to The Breakfast Club! We’re a disorganized group of rebel lefties who hang out and chat if and when we’re not too hungover we’ve been bailed out we’re not too exhausted from last night’s (CENSORED) the caffeine kicks in. Join us every weekday morning at 9am (ET) and weekend morning at 10:30am (ET) to talk about current news and our boring lives and to make fun of LaEscapee! If we are ever running late, it’s PhilJD’s fault.

I would never make fun of LaEscapee or blame PhilJD.  And I am highly organized.

This Day in History

News

Bibi’s expenses bombshell: Could scathing report derail prime minister’s re-election bid?

Luke Brinker, Salon

Wednesday, Feb 18, 2015 10:02 AM EST

Israeli State Comptroller Yosef Shapira released the long-anticipated report on Tuesday, detailing Benjamin and Sara Netanyahu’s exorbitant spending on food, cleaning services, and clothing after Netanyahu took office for the second time in 2009. In 2012 alone, the Netanyahus’ taxpayer-funded food costs totaled nearly $120,000, almost a third of which was spent on takeout meals, even though the couple enjoy a cook and full staff. The state also picked up the $2,120 monthly tab for cleaning expenses at the Netanyahus’ private beach resort; by comparison, the average pretax salary for an Israeli worker is $2,376. Additionally, Shapira’s inquiry found that the Netanyahus charged the state $68,000 over a two-year period for makeup, hairstyling, and “presentation.”



The Israeli Army Radio poll released Wednesday underscores the report’s potentially explosive political ramifications. In the poll, 41 percent of voters said that the new report made them less likely to support Netanyahu’s right-wing Likud Party ahead of the country’s fiercely contested March 17 elections. While a 49 percent plurality said the report would not influence their vote, 22 percent of those who were leaning toward Likud indicated that the report had prompted them to reconsider. Many of those voters may well opt for other rightist parties that could then enter into a coalition government with Likud, but Shapira’s report could also nudge many voters toward the center-left Zionist Union alliance of Isaac Herzog and Tzipi Livini.

Although many analysts see Netanyahu as the favorite to lead Israel’s next government, a poll released last week found that a quarter of voters were still undecided, with those who had yet to make up their minds leaning toward the Zionist Union. This week’s report is unlikely to dissuade them from pulling the lever for the alliance.

A perfect storm brews in the Middle East

By David Ignatius, Washington Post

February 16, 2015

Mistrust between the Obama administration and Benjamin Netanyahu has widened even further in recent days because of U.S. suspicion that the Israeli prime minister has authorized leaks of details about the U.S. nuclear talks with Iran.

The decision to reduce the exchange of sensitive information about the Iran talks was prompted by concerns that Netanyahu’s office had given Israeli journalists sensitive details of the U.S. position, including a U.S. offer to allow Iran to enrich uranium with 6,500 or more centrifuges as part of a final deal.

Obama administration officials believed these reports were misleading because the centrifuge numbers are part of a package that includes the size of the Iranian nuclear stockpile and the type of centrifuges that are allowed to operate. A deal that allowed 500 advanced centrifuges and a large stockpile of enriched uranium might put Iran closer to making a bomb than one that permitted 10,000 older machines and a small stockpile, the administration argues.



Iran policy isn’t the only short-circuit between Washington and Jerusalem. The administration also fears that Netanyahu is ignoring a potential new blowup with the Palestinians. U.S. intelligence reports indicate that the Palestinian Authority, which governs the West Bank and has nominal authority now in Gaza, could run out of money as early as next month. If that happened, the United States fears that the civil service and security force in the West Bank could collapse, creating a new crisis for Israel and the region.

“This is a dangerous issue,” Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas warned Friday. “Israel is withholding our money and this means that the ‘State of Palestine’ will face a crisis.” The United States believes Abbas may simply dissolve his government if the money isn’t released.

Ukrainian Soldiers’ Retreat From Eastern Town Raises Doubt for Truce

By ANDREW E. KRAMER and DAVID M. HERSZENHORN, The New York Times

FEB. 18, 2015

It was unclear Wednesday how many of the thousands of Ukrainian soldiers trapped in the eastern Ukrainian town had survived the hellish retreat under enemy fire and avoided capture. President Petro O. Poroshenko put the figure at 80 percent, but since the Ukrainian military has never commented on its troop strength, the final accounting may never be known.



“Many trucks left, and only a few arrived,” said one soldier, who offered only his rank, sergeant, and first name, Volodomyr, as he knelt on the sidewalk smoking. “A third of us made it, at most.”



The political fallout was as uncertain as the military situation. Mr. Poroshenko sought to cast the retreat in a positive light, saying in a televised statement that he had ordered the troops out of Debaltseve, a strategic transportation hub where intense fighting raged in recent days despite a cease-fire agreement signed last week in Minsk, Belarus.

Yet, his decision to fight for several days before retreating, and his earlier refusal to hand over the town during the cease-fire talks even when a Ukrainian defeat seemed inevitable, could prove contentious in Ukraine as the scale of the potential slaughter comes into focus.

“It was clear they couldn’t get a deal on Debaltseve,” Samuel Charap, senior fellow for Russia and Eurasia at the International Institute for Strategic Studies, said of the Minsk talks. “The question then becomes: What the hell was Poroshenko thinking?”

Our embarrassing, servile media: Does the New York Times just print everything the government tells it?

by Patrick L. Smith, Salon

Wednesday, Feb 18, 2015 07:00 PM EST

As the crisis in Ukraine lurches on, and as a media war is ever more prominent a feature of it, I think it is time to tell a story. Some readers will know it; those who do not should. Our media war is waged for hearts and minds, as they often are, but not those of Ukrainians. Nobody cares what they think or what befalls them. Your eyes, ears and brains, readers, are the battlefields.

This is the story of Sydney Gruson, a long-serving and celebrated New York Times correspondent. I consider it essential to be aware of the history embedded in the tale so you know what you are being served when you read the Times’ coverage of Ukraine and Russia and, not least, the institutional habits of those doing the serving.

Gruson joined the Times in London during World War II and went on to numerous postwar assignments in Europe and elsewhere. Here we zero in on his coverage of Guatemala in the early 1950s, as the Dulles brothers-John Foster at State, Allen at the CIA-prepared for and then executed the coup that brought down Jacobo Arbenz, the elected president, in June 1954.

Gruson was hardly shy of reporting the influence of Communist labor leaders and legislators in Guatemala City. At one point Foreign Minister Guillermo Toriello accused him of red-baiting and expelled him for a few months. But Gruson’s real problems arose from his efforts-by the CIA’s own declassified accounts-to report disinterestedly. The even hand did not do back then (as now, alas).

In December 1953 Gruson wrote of Washington’s double standard in Latin America-dictatorships were OK, leftists were not-and noted “a fixed concern over the United States’ intentions in Latin America and an almost constant suspicion coloring reaction to anything Washington does or says regarding the area.” Other pieces reported fairly when Toriello denied that the Arbenz government was fomenting strikes in Honduras. (It was not, of course.)



Here is the new truth of the Ukraine crisis: Washington wants this cease-fire to fail as swiftly as possible so it can get on with the job of arming Ukraine, provoking further tension with Russia and advancing as close as it can to the Russian border, the better to destabilize the Putin government. This remains my take on the American motivation.

With this thought in mind, the Times now fights the propaganda war on two fronts, it seems to me.

Reflecting a 21st century version of the relationship with power that obtained in Sydney Gruson’s time, it remains enlisted in Washington’s cause as just described. In days to come we are likely to hear all about how Russia is sabotaging whatever peace is eventually achieved. Minsk II failed because the man with the expensive watch can never be trusted. The feeble Europeans ought to have known this. Now for the weaponry.

Equally, the Times has a war of its own to wage now. The body of evidence as to Washington’s primary responsibility in Ukraine is simply so substantial now-incontrovertible, indeed-one loses interest in arguing the case. More interesting now is what lengths the Times will go to get out of the corner it has painted itself into. And what the Times does the rest of the American media will do, like a pack of penguins. The question is thus important.

So far the Times guards its investment in a false narrative by investing more in it. As things go now, in 50 years some young Times reporter will lay out the Ukraine crisis as it truly was and a carefully attenuated account of the Times’ part in it. It is a shame this cannot happen now.

Reason No. 1: Its reputation, at a time its credibility is already in question in a number of spheres, would take too damaging a hit were it to dial back. Reason No. 2: This is a large, institution-wide rendition of the access game. Mind your manners and do as you are told and you will continue to get all the leaks, the whispered tips, the documents no one else sees, the exclusive interviews with “senior administration officials.” (When, incidentally, was the last time a Times reporter ever spoke to an official who was not “senior”?)

Fail to mind your manners, goes without saying, and one way or another we will make a Sydney Gruson of you.

Politicians should ditch ALEC

by Amy B. Dean, Al Jazeera

February 18, 2015 2:00AM ET

“[ALEC’s] extreme agenda includes denying the science of climate change, defunding public services, curtailing workers’ rights and opposing net neutrality,” a coalition of more than 80 religious, civic and labor groups said in a petition delivered to eBay executives shortly before the company parted ways with ALEC.



Corporate leaders are realizing that the conservative think tank is too radical to represent their interests. ALEC promotes state and local legislation to eliminate the minimum wage, privatize public education and oppose campaign finance reform.

It is time our politicians also recognize that ALEC is out of touch with mainstream American values and stop treating the group as a constructive player in our legislative processes.



How is it that ALEC legislation, which is being rejected by corporate America, is still accepted in so many state legislatures?

The organization often presents itself with benign and innocuous language. “ALEC provides a forum for the private sector to provide practical input on how state public policy decisions can impact jobs and the local economy,” reads the group’s website. “It provides a constructive forum for state legislators and private sector leaders to discuss and exchange practical, state-level public policy issues.” It even claims to not “lobby in any state.”

However, the misleading PR masks ALEC’s agenda, which pushes at the boundaries of American conservatism to an extent that even big businesses are becoming uncomfortable with its proposals. ALEC may not directly hire individuals to pressure lawmakers, but its Private Enterprise Advisory Council is composed of top lobbyists representing the pharmaceutical, petroleum, tobacco, finance and insurance industries. The advisory council helps write bills that ALEC-affiliated legislators then take back to their states.



Despite the lack of popular support for such measures, state legislatures across the country continue to spend significant amounts of time debating bills drafted by the organization. These bills do not reflect the needs of local constituencies. They are laws brought in by an outside lobbyist that is pursuing a national agenda that benefits the interests of a select few.

The radicalism underlying such efforts is beginning to be noticed. Many U.S. corporations recognize that ALEC’s agenda is harmful to our communities, and they are voting with their feet. It’s time our politicians do the same.

Animal rights ‘terrorists’? Legality of industry-friendly law to be challenged

by Ed Pilkington, The Guardian

Thursday 19 February 2015 08.17 EST

The hearing marks the first time that the law, the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act (AETA), will be legally challenged as a violation of the US constitution.

Congress passed the AETA eight years ago under heavy lobbying from the pharmaceutical, fur and farming industries. Under its terms, anyone who damages the property or the profit line of an animal business and who uses “interstate commerce” such as a cellphone or the internet to carry out the action can be convicted of terrorism even though no violence is involved.

That applies to the two defendants, who were served the federal charges last July even though they have never been accused of any act of violence.

“These charges demean the definition of terrorism. They not only violate the defendants’ individual rights, but also serve to chill the first amendment rights of an entire movement,” said Rachel Meeropol, a staff attorney with the Center for Constitutional Rights who is representing the men.



In the terrorism indictments of Johnson and Lang, the duo are accused of driving across Iowa, Wisconsin and Illinois in August 2013 and “interfering with the operations” of a mink farm and a fox farm. They were alleged to have “intentionally damaged and caused the loss of real and personal property” resulting in “economic damage exceeding $10,000”.

They released about 2,000 mink from cages and painted the slogan “liberation is love” in red paint over a barn, according to press reports.

Guantánamo torturer led brutal Chicago regime of shackling and confession

by Spencer Ackerman, The Guardian

Wednesday 18 February 2015 11.01 EST

A Chicago detective who led one of the most shocking acts of torture ever conducted at Guantánamo Bay was responsible for implementing a disturbingly similar, years-long regime of brutality to elicit murder confessions from minority Americans.

In a dark foreshadowing of the United States’ post-9/11 descent into torture, a Guardian investigation can reveal that Richard Zuley, a detective on Chicago’s north side from 1977 to 2007, repeatedly engaged in methods of interrogation resulting in at least one wrongful conviction and subsequent cases more recently thrown into doubt following allegations of abuse.

Zuley’s record suggests a continuum between police abuses in urban America and the wartime detention scandals that continue to do persistent damage to the reputation of the United States. Zuley’s tactics, which would be supercharged at Guantánamo when he took over the interrogation of a high-profile detainee as a US Navy reserve lieutenant.



Lathierial Boyd, convicted in 1990 of murder, accuses Zuley in a federal civil-rights lawsuit of planting evidence and withholding crucial details.

Boyd told the Guardian that Zuley had a racial animus as well. “No nigger is supposed to live like this,” he remembered Zuley telling him after the detective searched his expensive loft.

Other Chicago cases detailed by the Guardian, centering on three people interrogated by Zuley who are still in state prison, turned up evidence in police precinct houses of severe and internationally condemned tactics in Guantánamo Bay interrogation rooms.

Several of those techniques – prolonged shackling, threats about family, pressure to confess – used by Zuley bear similarities to those he enacted when he took over the interrogation of Mohamedou Ould Slahi at Guantánamo, described in official government reports and a best-selling memoir serialised last month by the Guardian as one of the most brutal in the history of the notorious US wartime prison.



Most official accounts of Slahi’s torture have concealed or glossed over Zuley’s name.

Re-election Bid Offers Test of Mayor’s Appeal to ‘Two Chicagos’

By MONICA DAVEY, The New York Times

FEB. 17, 2015

Chicago has gotten to know Mr. Emanuel. He oversaw the closing of nearly 50 public schools, and many of the schools were in minority neighborhoods on the South and West Sides. He clashed with the Chicago Teachers Union, which went on strike for the first time in a quarter-century. He presided through an increase in killings that included more than 500 homicides in one year, most of which took place on the South and West Sides.

Seeking a second term, Mr. Emanuel is seen as the front-runner beside four lesser-financed, lesser-known candidates. Yet as he tries to win re-election next week, an essential worry for his campaign is how well he will do with black residents, who make up about a third of the city’s population of 2.7 million. To avoid a runoff in April, Mr. Emanuel must win at least one vote more than 50 percent on Tuesday – an outcome that is threatened by the possibility of a weak showing from alienated black voters.



In the end, Mr. Emanuel’s competition in Tuesday’s nonpartisan election reads like a tour of Chicago’s neighborhoods. Jesus Garcia, a Mexican-American county board member known as Chuy, was endorsed by Ms. Lewis and the teachers’ union, which is again starting negotiations over a new contract. Willie Wilson, a black businessman, boasts about his lack of experience in politics. Bob Fioretti, a white alderman with Polish and Italian roots, portrays himself as a rare voice of independence. William Walls III, once an aide to Mayor Washington, is a perennial candidate.

Mr. Emanuel has raised about $13 million since 2012, more than his opponents combined, and his ads are filling the airwaves. A Chicago Tribune investigation concluded that more than half of his top donors received some sort of benefit from City Hall – just the sort of finding that has stuck Mr. Emanuel with a nickname alluding to wealth: “Mayor 1 Percent.”

Sorry, Oklahoma. You don’t get to ban history you don’t like

Steven W Thrasher, The Guardian

Wednesday 18 February 2015 13.28 EST

Oklahoma House Republicans on the Common Education Committee voted on Tuesday to ban advanced placement US history courses, because they think it shows “what is bad about America“. If I were Oklahoma, I’d want to forget about “what is bad about” American history, too, especially in my corner of it!

In its “good” history, Oklahoma can boast being the basis of a Rogers and Hammerstein musical and the home of Oral Roberts University. But if Oklahomans were to purge all their local stories which reflect “what is bad about America”, their history pages would be wiped as white as a Tulsa klansman’s hood. Oklahoma was the extremely violent home to a number of lynched African-Americans, as chronicled by America’s Black Holocaust Museum; the Native American men, women and children slaughtered at what is now the Washita Battlefield National Historic Site; and the white people who killed them and likely went to church that very week. It is where Timothy McVeigh committed the largest domestic act of terrorism in recent years and blew up, killed and wounded hundreds of people in the Alfred P Murrah Federal Building. Oklahoma is chock full of former reservations ] where Native Americans were forced to relocate. It’s where, just last year, a botched execution took 45 minutes and left condemned Clayton Lockett “[a bloody mess“. And it’s where the violent fracking of its natural resources may be the reason why Oklahoma has gone from having “one or two perceptible earthquakes a year” to “averaging two or three a day.”

Just last month, Education Week gave the state a D- on education and ranked it 48th in the nation. Clearly, Oklahoma could move up from being third dumbest, fourth most incarcerated, and sixth fattest state if it just ignored its unpleasant history, right?

Nationally, if history teachers were to banish everything “bad” about America from our classrooms (i.e., the three-fifths compromise, Jim Crow, the lack of women’s suffrage for a century and a half, the genocide of Native Americans, the annexation of Mexico through war, the sexual assault of one in three women in her lifetime, the apartheid of imprisoned African Americans, Ronald Reagan, the internment of Japanese Americans, McDonald’s, the colonization of Puerto Rico, the Chinese Exclusion Act, exporting chemical warfare, Three Mile Island, Applebee’s (without drones), TGIF’s (with drones), killing kids with drones, selling drones to foreign countries, and Ryan Seacrest, to name just a few national disasters), and to instead only teach about what was truly exceptional about America, what would be left to give lessons on?

Neil Armstrong, Toni Morrison, and the snuggie?

Little Caesars’ bacon-wrapped deep dish pizza is a triumph of human ingenuity

by Joanna Rothkopf, Salon

Wednesday, Feb 18, 2015 04:00 PM EST

The afternoon snack village banquet is wrapped in three-and-a-half feet of bacon and caramelized cheese edges and will cost $12 once it goes on sale on Monday, February 23. One slice will cost you 450 calories, 23 grams of fat, 830 milligrams of sodium and 40 milligrams of cholesterol.



“Every time you take a bite out of the crust, you’ll get bacon,” said Scrivano, stating the painfully obvious. But this shouldn’t alienate health-conscious Little Caesars patrons, he stressed. “You can always get a plain, cheese pizza or a veggie pizza,” he continued. “This is a more indulgent offering for a demographic that craves premium quality.”

It’s Bacon!

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