June 29, 2010

Tuesday Twofer - Chicago Politics

Two items featuring the Windy City this week -

The first is the Supreme Court's ruling against the banning of guns in Chicago. Makes sense to me; when guns are outlawed, only the outlaws retain their guns while the law-abiding citizens are left to protect themselves with less effective weapons.

Click below for the story:
Court strikes down Chicago gun ban

The second story is about our beloved President's beloved old "pastor" (I always have to put that in quotes because this man does not embody that title), Rev. Jeremiah Wright. Speaking at Chicago Theological Seminary during a seminar this past week, Wright had these nuggets of wisdom to share with his audience:

"White folk done took this country. You're in their home and they're going to let you know it."

"You are not now, nor have you ever been, nor will you ever be a brother to white folk," he said. "And if you do not realize that, you are in serious trouble."

He also explained that the civil rights movement "was always about becoming white" (whatever that means).

Absence makes the heart grow fonder, the saying goes. I'd say that Wright hasn't been out of the public eye long enough for me to miss him yet. And he probably never will!

June 24, 2010

Curing Blindness with Adult Stem Cells!

This is really something to celebrate. Imagine, people being able to see after 60 + years of living in a darkened, shapeless world! And the best part? The Italian scientists are curing them with adult stem cells. Add this to the ever-growing list of maladies that have been cured or put into remission by the use of these non-controversial cells. Praise God!

Stem cells reverse blindness caused by burns
By ALICIA CHANG, AP Science Writer Alicia Chang, Ap Science Writer
Wed Jun 23, 7:29 pm ET

LOS ANGELES – Dozens of people who were blinded or otherwise suffered severe eye damage when they were splashed with caustic chemicals had their sight restored with transplants of their own stem cells — a stunning success for the burgeoning cell-therapy field, Italian researchers reported Wednesday.

The treatment worked completely in 82 of 107 eyes and partially in 14 others, with benefits lasting up to a decade so far. One man whose eyes were severely damaged more than 60 years ago now has near-normal vision.

"This is a roaring success," said ophthalmologist Dr. Ivan Schwab of the University of California, Davis, who had no role in the study — the longest and largest of its kind.

Stem cell transplants offer hope to the thousands of people worldwide every year who suffer chemical burns on their corneas from heavy-duty cleansers or other substances at work or at home.

The approach would not help people with damage to the optic nerve or macular degeneration, which involves the retina. Nor would it work in people who are completely blind in both eyes, because doctors need at least some healthy tissue that they can transplant.

In the study, published online by the New England Journal of Medicine, researchers took a small number of stem cells from a patient's healthy eye, multiplied them in the lab and placed them into the burned eye, where they were able to grow new corneal tissue to replace what had been damaged. Since the stem cells are from their own bodies, the patients do not need to take anti-rejection drugs.

Adult stem cells have been used for decades to cure blood cancers such as leukemia and diseases like sickle cell anemia. But fixing a problem like damaged eyes is a relatively new use. Researchers have been studying cell therapy for a host of other diseases, including diabetes and heart failure, with limited success.

Adult stem cells, which are found around the body, are different from embryonic stem cells, which come from human embryos and have stirred ethical concerns because removing the cells requires destroying the embryos.

Currently, people with eye burns can get an artificial cornea, a procedure that carries such complications as infection and glaucoma, or they can receive a transplant using stem cells from a cadaver, but that requires taking drugs to prevent rejection.

The Italian study involved 106 patients treated between 1998 and 2007. Most had extensive damage in one eye, and some had such limited vision that they could only sense light, count fingers or perceive hand motions. Many had been blind for years and had had unsuccessful operations to restore their vision.

The cells were taken from the limbus, the rim around the cornea, the clear window that covers the colored part of the eye. In a normal eye, stem cells in the limbus are like factories, churning out new cells to replace dead corneal cells. When an injury kills off the stem cells, scar tissue forms over the cornea, clouding vision and causing blindness.

In the Italian study, the doctors removed scar tissue over the cornea and glued the laboratory-grown stem cells over the injured eye. In cases where both eyes were damaged by burns, cells were taken from an unaffected part of the limbus.

Researchers followed the patients for an average of three years and some as long as a decade. More than three-quarters regained sight after the transplant. An additional 13 percent were considered a partial success. Though their vision improved, they still had some cloudiness in the cornea.

Patients with superficial damage were able to see within one to two months. Those with more extensive injuries took several months longer.

"They were incredibly happy. Some said it was a miracle," said one of the study leaders, Graziella Pellegrini of the University of Modena's Center for Regenerative Medicine in Italy. "It was not a miracle. It was simply a technique."

The study was partly funded by the Italian government.

Researchers in the United States have been testing a different way to use self-supplied stem cells, but that work is preliminary.

One of the successful transplants in the Italian study involved a man who had severe damage in both eyes as a result of a chemical burn in 1948. Doctors grafted stem cells from a small section of his left eye to both eyes. His vision is now close to normal.

In 2008, there were 2,850 work-related chemical burns to the eyes in the United States, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Schwab of UC Davis said stem cell transplants would not help those blinded by burns in both eyes because doctors need stem cells to do the procedure.

"I don't want to give the false hope that this will answer their prayers," he said.

Dr. Sophie Deng, a cornea expert at the UCLA's Jules Stein Eye Institute, said the biggest advantage was that the Italian doctors were able to expand the number of stem cells in the lab. This technique is less invasive than taking a large tissue sample from the eye and lowers the chance of an eye injury.

"The key is whether you can find a good stem cell population and expand it," she said.



New England Journal: http://www.nejm.org

"Creepy" and "Predatory" Marketing?

Parent readers of this blog,

Is it up to lawmakers to determine what foods are available to your children at privately-owned restaurants? In my opinion, the fact that these foods are available in the world is perfectly acceptable. Parents decide what their kids eat, and eating junky food some of the time is not a sin. It's the overindulgence to those kinds of foods, with a disregard to healthy eating practices, that concerns me. However, as maddening and saddening as it is to see fat seven-year-olds (and it is very, very sad for all the implications), it's none of my business to enforce healthy eating onto those kids and their parents.

You want to affect families' eating habits in a personal, highly-successful way? Employ yourself as a caregiver to kids and/or young adults. You are immediately given the duties of role modeling good eating behaviors and highlighting the importance of exercise. In fact, you're expected to encourage these things and are paid to do just that.

You'd be shocked at how incomplete peoples' information about how different foods get processed in our bodies, and what kind of results they bring when metabolized is. Many people simply do not even know what vitamins are, where to find them, why they're important, what too much fat, sugar and salt do to your body (including your brain, thus your behavior, mood and sensitivities) and why exercise and water are the greatest combatants.

Censoring what foods are simply available - fast food, vending machines, at ball games, etc. - is yet another misguided "solution" to the liberal notion of "caring for others." They don't care; caring takes time and involvement. They just want to control.


Unhappy Meals: McDonald's to be sued for 'enticing children with toys'

By Sean Poulter, Consumer Affairs Editor
Last updated at 9:37 PM on 23rd June 2010


As far as many children are concerned, they are the most appealing things on the menu.

But not everyone is so keen on the merchandising toys used by McDonald's to entice youngsters to buy its Happy Meals.

A powerful American consumer group is threatening a lawsuit and has given the chain 30 days to drop the 'creepy and predatory' ploy it says undermines the efforts of parents to encourage a healthy diet.

The merchandise, which is also given to customers in Britain, includes toys related to the latest Shrek movie. Earlier this year it also had tie-ups with Alvin and the Chipmunks and Scooby Doo.

The Centre for Science in the Public Interest says using the items to promote its Happy Meals is 'unfair, deceptive and illegal' under American state laws.

McDonald's insists it uses toys and popular characters to promote healthy options such as fruit, carrot sticks and organic milk.

However, the CSPI says the reality is 93 per cent of children who have a Happy Meal walk out with a portion of fries alongside products such as burgers and chicken nuggets.

"McDonald's is the stranger in the playground handing out candy to children," said the CSPI litigation director Stephen Gardner.

"McDonald's use of toys undercuts parental authority and exploits young children's developmental immaturity - all this to induce children to prefer foods that may harm their health.

It's a creepy and predatory practice that warrants an injunction."

The CSPI said that of the 24 possible Happy Meal combinations that McDonald's describes on its U.S. website, all exceed 430 calories, which is one third of the 1,300 recommended daily intake for children aged four to eight*.

The figures will be similar in the UK.

A Happy Meal of a cheeseburger, French fries and Sprite has half a day's calories and saturated fat. It also has around two days of sugar at 35g.

McDonald's in the UK accused the CSPI of misrepresenting its food. A spokesman said: "McDonald's is committed to a responsible approach to our menu, and our Happy Meal offerings. We have added more choice and variety than ever before, a fact that has been widely reported and recognised. We couldn't disagree more with the misrepresentation of our food and marketing practices made by the CSPI."

Kathryn Montgomery, professor of communication at American University in Washington, said: "We know from scientific research that young children - and even older ones - do not have the ability to understand how marketing has been designed to influence them. In the era of digital marketing, these vulnerabilities are magnified even further. McDonald's use of these techniques raises troubling questions, for health professionals, parents, and policy makers."

*So what? A third of the day's calories is one meal's worth.

June 23, 2010

FMLA for Gay "Partners?"

Expansion of Gay Benefits Threatens Private Sector
by Kim Trobee, editor - citizenlink.org

The Labor Department is set to announce on Wednesday that the government will extend benefits to gay couples under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA). FMLA allows private and public employees to take extended absences for serious medical conditions, including pregnancy, or to care for family members.

The move is significant, because to date, the administration has only looked at benefits for federal employees.

Peter Sprigg, senior fellow for policy studies at the Family Research Council, said the latest plan may cause trouble for private employers.

"This action with the Family and Medical Leave Act is a huge leap beyond anything he's done before because he is imposing an obligation upon private employers," he said. "He's not the chief executive of every private employer in the country, and yet, he is telling them that they have to offer benefits to homosexual couples."

The latest announcement is part of a series of incremental steps that started a year and a half ago. The Obama administration has expanded benefits for the partners of gay federal workers to include long-term health insurance, access to day care, Federal Housing Authority loans and federal child-care subsidies.

Matt Barber, associate dean for career and professional development at Liberty University School of Law, said the president is acting on behalf of gay activists.

"He's really running roughshod," Barber said, "over the express language of the FMLA and is definitely violating the clear language of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA)."

DOMA defines marriage for federal purposes as the union of one man and one woman.

"It is not within the power or authority of the president to effect a de facto repeal simply by these little regulations, one regulation at a time," Sprigg said. "The president is going beyond his constitutional and legal authority. If he wants to repeal the Defense of Marriage Act, he needs to persuade Congress to repeal it."

The presidential proclamation for Father's Day exemplified the administration's changing rhetoric on the issue. It asserted that "nurturing families come in many forms," including "two fathers."

Jenny Tyree, marriage analyst for CitizenLink, said the president has been talking out of both sides of his mouth.

"He's been a supporter of married mothers and fathers in name only," she told The Washington Post. "He speaks very passionately and touchingly about how he grew up without a father. And yet there is this huge disconnect in how he's undermining that same opportunity for other children."

June 3, 2010

Quote of the Day

“It is a sad day in America when the rights guaranteed under the U.S. Constitution are trampled upon under the color of law and authority,” said LAUSD (Los Angeles United School District) Board Member Martinez. “Everyone, regardless of their status in the United States, has the right to equal protection under our laws. These Arizona laws are nothing but a knee-jerk backlash resulting from the lack of a comprehensive and well thought out immigration reform policy.”

In this statement you have the key elements of misguided liberal political thought:

1. Complete ignorance of who is protected under the U.S. Constitution and state laws. According to the LA school district, illegal aliens and legal citizens alike are entitled to all the rights, benefits and protections provided by the U.S. laws.

2. Insistance that those who support enforcing laws against people who are not legal in this country are "sad," a.k.a. bigots, racist, xenophobic, themselves ignorant.

3. The posturing that the creation - and subsequent modification to exclude racial profiling - of the Arizona immigration law is not, in fact, a reasonable part of immigration reform, but simply a "knee-jerk" reaction. This is to say it was not "well thought-out," even though it was modified after the profiling option became obvious.

Opposite Day in Ottawa

Opposite day, wherein the opposite of the expected result is the preferred result. In this case it means that when you win a game of soccer, you actually lose. Thus, if you were the loser (by point earned), you automatically win. Oh, Canada!

The article is pretty straightforward, if you consider liberal parents getting a rule like this established in the name of "fairness" straightforward. I think of it as more subversive than upfront, but whatever. They're obviously pushing an agenda - that the world isn't "fair," and that it should be, on every level, including within sports.

Call me crazy but doesn't leveling the teams, forcing handicaps on their best players and allowing the losing team to be declared the winner for an arbitrary scoring system make the effort of playing sports - nay, the entire objective of sports - superfluous? If the point isn't to win, and to learn from both winning and losing, then what is the point?

Check out where the Gloucester club director emphatically states that paying a registration fee doesn't entitle parents to criticizing the club. But it apparently does entitle parents to push their agenda onto everyone for the sake of their losing-team kids' self-esteem.

Here's a tip to all future Olympians: if the games are in Canada, don't bother attending. You're guarenteed to lose.


Win a soccer game by more than five points and you lose, Ottawa league says

By Terrine Friday June 1, 2010 – 6:05 am

In yet another nod to the protection of fledgling self-esteem, an Ottawa children’s soccer league has introduced a rule that says any team that wins a game by more than five points will lose by default.

The Gloucester Dragons Recreational Soccer league’s newly implemented edict is intended to dissuade a runaway game in favour of sportsmanship. The rule replaces its five-point mercy regulation, whereby any points scored beyond a five-point differential would not be registered.

Kevin Cappon said he first heard about the rule on May 20 — right after he had scored his team’s last allowable goal. His team then tossed the ball around for fear of losing the game.

He said if anything, the league’s new rule will coddle sore losers.

“They should be saying anything is possible. If we can get five goals really fast, well, so can the other team,” said Kevin, 17, who has played in the league for five years. “People grow in adversity, they don’t really get worse…. I think you’ll see more leadership skills being used if a losing team tries to recuperate than if they never got into that situation at all.”

Kevin’s father, Bruce Cappon, called the rule ludicrous.

“I couldn’t find anywhere in the world, even in a communist country, where that rule is enforced,” he said.

Mr. Cappon said the organization is trying to “reinvent the wheel” by fostering a non-competitive environment. The league has 3,000 children enrolled ranging in age from four to 18 years old.

“Everybody wants a close game, nobody wants blowouts, but we don’t want to go by those farcical rules that they come up with,” he said. “Heaven forbid when these kids get into the real world. They won’t be prepared to deal with the competition out there.”

Paul Cholmsky, whose four- and six-year-old boys play in the league, said the intended goal of a default-lose rule might backfire in teaching life skills.

“If there’s one team that’s consistenly dominant and one team that’s not, well, that’s life,” he said.

Mr. Cholmsky said he would be in favour of temporarily handicapping a team, for example reducing the number of players on the field, over ensuring a team loss for a high score differential.

According to the league’s new rules, coaches of stronger teams are encouraged to deter runaway games by rotating players out of their usual positions, ensuring players pass the ball around, asking players to kick with the weaker foot, taking players off the field and encouraging players to score from farther away.

Club director Sean Cale said he is disappointed a few parents are making the new soccer rule overshadow the community involvement and organizing the Gloucester club does.

The registration fee, regardless of the sport, does not give a parent the right to insult or belittle the organization,” he said. “It gives you a uniform, it gives you a team.”

Mr. Cale said the league’s 12-person board of directors is not trying to take the fun out of the game, they are simply trying to make it fair. The new rule, suggested by “involved parents,” is a temporary measure that will be replaced by a pre-season skill assessment to make fair teams.

“The board is completely volunteer-run and we do the best that we can to provide a good, clean, fun soccer experience for everyone,” he said.

Although parents are fuming, he said the commotion is coming from “about 1% of the parents.”

First printed in the National Post


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