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Anti-aging drugs may wait a while

February 20, 2019

John LaMatinna discusses the difficulties in bringing an anti-aging drug to market. Those eager for that should note that the regulatory difficulties are subsequent to real testing difficulties. It’s quite plausible that some anti-aging drug that works well in mice causes increased mortality in humans. We all want to jump the gun. So long as we jump in the right direction.

On the other hand, University of Texas researchers are developing a drug that allows older muscles to grow more in the way they did in our youth. That might not have such a long time to market, and could bring additional longevity as a side effect. More, it might not need to be used continuously. I can imagine muscle growth once done persists.

Providing, you exercise. That remains the one anti-aging remedy now known. I’m of two minds about the recent study that heralded pushups as a way of predicting cardiovascular risk. On the one hand, I want to beat the drum that the study did not show pushups prevent heart disease. Most likely, they merely serve as an indicator of which older men have a regular exercise program. On the other hand, they are a fine exercise to include in that. If people are encouraged to do them, so what if they misunderstand a bit the benefit of that?


The toothless 25th amendment

February 19, 2019

Despite Trump’s nonsense tweet otherwise, applying the 25th Amendment’s process against him would not be illegal. It is part of the Constitution. Suggesting its application is no more treason than suggesting impeachment. Should it be done? Dr. Dee Mosbacher makes the medical case. For which the tweet just linked is one piece of evidence. Charles Pierce makes the common sense case. Elizabeth Warren makes the patriotic case.

And none of that matters one hoot.

I wish more of those talking about the 25th Amendment would read it. It was not designed to remove power from a president who wants to hold it, who is capable of expressing that, and who retains the support of his party. No matter how crazy he might be. Now, yes, the fourth clause does begin with this: “Whenever the Vice President and a majority of either the principal officers of the executive departments or of such other body as Congress may by law provide, transmit to the President pro tempore of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives their written declaration that the President is unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office, the Vice President shall immediately assume the powers and duties of the office as Acting President.”

But it then allows the president, acting on his own, to resume his duties: “Thereafter, when the President transmits to the President pro tempore of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives his written declaration that no inability exists, he shall resume the powers and duties of his office unless the Vice President and a majority of either the principal officers of the executive department or of such other body as Congress may by law provide, transmit within four days to the President pro tempore of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives their written declaration that the President is unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office.”

That creates an obvious conflict. Which gets resolved by Congress: “Thereupon Congress shall decide the issue, assembling within forty eight hours for that purpose if not in session. If the Congress, within twenty one days after receipt of the latter written declaration, or, if Congress is not in session, within twenty one days after Congress is required to assemble, determines by two thirds vote of both Houses that the President is unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office, the Vice President shall continue to discharge the same as Acting President; otherwise, the President shall resume the powers and duties of his office.”

Notice it takes two-thirds of both houses of Congress to remove a president who says he is fit, despite his cabinet saying otherwise. Removal by impeachment is easier, requiring only a majority of the House. And this president has done plenty deserving impeachment.

Arguably, the 25th Amendment provides a route for the cabinet to prod Congress, which might then act when it might not otherwise. Again, let’s be real. Trump’s cabinet? Fuggedaboutit.

Trust and its loss

February 18, 2019

Trust is a funny kind of thing. Once you build it, it can seem almost to run itself, at tremendous benefit to all the parties. So long as none destroy it. And once you destroy it, it is almost impossible to restore. Karl Kaiser says that the US has pissed it away:

Two years of Mr. Trump, and a majority of French and Germans now trust Russia and China more than the United States.

I think that article is quite correct about two things. First, that the problem is deeper than Trump. He is the result of a nationalist, right-wing movement that was brewing before he jumped into the political fray. Even if the US manages to defeat that movement in the next few years, doing so won’t fully restore the status ante. Second, this will indeed require Europe to shoulder more responsibility for its own defense.

That last will lead to more political rearrangement in Europe than those nations now foresee. The EU is a trade confederation, nothing like a nation. That has caused it all sorts of pains with regard to management of the Euro. As its core nations move to establish a military force, that of necessity will require tighter political bonds. And then the question is: Who wants to be part? Does Poland, for example, really share strategic interest with the rest of the EU?

The death penalty

February 17, 2019

Wyoming came quite close to ending the death penalty in that state, with a bill that passed the House but was defeated in the Senate. The curious thing there was one senator’s explanation of why she voted to retain the death penalty. Seemingly, Lynn Hutchings thinks Jesus … well, something:

The greatest man who ever lived died via the death penalty for you and me. I’m grateful to him for our future hope because of this. Governments were instituted to execute justice. If it wasn’t for Jesus dying via the death penalty, we would all have no hope.

Theology never reads quite as well as it sounds.

There be monsters.

February 12, 2019


Monster waves.

Vox explains why we can skate on ice.

Say, what?

February 11, 2019

Google is preparing to roll out a pair of applications for the hard of hearing: one that automatically transcribes speech to text in real time, and the other that uses signal processing to make spoken speech easier to understand.

Of course, anything wired with a jack that plugs in is a nuisance. Phone manufactures are putting a lot of emphasis on making their wireless buds ever better. The rumor is that Samsung’s new buds can be charged from the phone itself. Meanwhile, Apple is rumored to be building more biometric measurement into theirs.

I see a future where most everyone is wearing earbuds most of the time. And the one industry that loses are the companies that sell hearing aid services. There will be an app for that. Your phone will be able to detect your hearing loss, in what frequency range, and will track how it changes, with pop-ups alerting you to potential medical issues beyond “you should have worn earmuffs when shooting as a teenager, and not gone to so many rock concerts.” The product side of the industry likely will be snatched up by Apple and Google for its IP.

In the shadow of the wall

February 7, 2019

One reason many Texans oppose the wall, including many who otherwise are quite conservative, is that in Texas it necessarily cuts off quite a bit of valuable and interesting land on the shore of the Rio Grande. This morning, I woke to articles in my local paper about the coming destruction of the National Butterfly Center, and the threat to a historic chapel. State parks are at risk. Nature tourism is big money to the valley, attracting tourists, especially birders, from all over the globe. The wall threatens it. The unique ecosystem there spans both sides of the Rio Grande.

AtascosaRefugeThere is a common political discussion on the internet today, that would be silly were it not so tragic for this area. Trump supporters propound on the virtues of walls for border control. And even if some of those so propounding are soil engineers or civil engineers or environmental engineers or border control experts — usually none of the above — they are propounding without data or method. The notion of the wall did not come from some study by the Department of Homeland Security showing it to be necessary or cost effective or anything else. Without doing such study, no one has the basis for saying it is anything practical. We know how the idea originated: it was born as a campaign slogan. And now a campaign slogan turned into right-wing agenda will do a lot of harm.

Photo is from the Atascosa Wildlife Refuge, which I had the pleasure of sailing through in a small dinghy.