Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Science you want to know: Epigenetic research explains what makes us human

So much of science promises a lot...and then never delivers. It's enough to make you sigh and roll your eyes every time you see a screaming headline about a new type of research. That's why so many of us don't really want to dig in and try to understand some of the newer developments in basic science. It's hard to argue with an I'll Just Wait Until Something Real Appears approach. Well, epigenetics is an area whose time has come. Whether you're an investor looking at potential therapeutic developments, or a social justice activist fascinated by the intersection of environment and health, or a passionate animal-lover (are you out there, Ken White?) wondering exactly what it is that makes us human, or an armchair social scientist pondering how people's lives are affected by their choices (and visa versa), epigenetics is something you want to delve into. But where do you start?

In fact, once the horse is already out of the barn (and high school biology is a dim traumatic memory), how do you get your head around something that sounds as complex as "epigenetics"? Well here's your chance for a user-friendly explanation with a clear-headed look at epigenetic's promise and limitations. Check it out. Then pass it on to colleagues, friends, and your buddies who like to argue down at the pub.

"Epigenetics is now the hottest topic in biosciences," began our California Endowment Health Journalism Fellowship's keynote address by Randy Jirtle of Duke University. More....

Academy Awards:The King's Speech For Best Picture

Earlier, I said that while The Social Network may be the favorite with some, the 5,744 voting members of the Academy Of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences would pick The King's Speech for Best Picture. I stated that here:

Now, after having seen The King's Speech, and most of the 10 candidates for "Best Picture" at The 83rd Academy Awards, I can see why the "period piece" directed by Tom Hooper is getting so many rave reviews. It's a well crafted film that expertly uses the camera to tell a story, almost without dialog.

Hooper's use of close shots, wide-angles, and off-set one shot scenes work to give the feeling of a person in "Bertie" or King George V (Colin Firth) who's so in over his head it's as if the World's coming down on him. And, unless he gets his speech together and effectively answers Hitler's formal declaration of war, it will be.

Indeed, The King's Speech is about more than a man overcoming his stammer, it's about a man finding himself at the time his country needs him the most. All of that you get in one viewing.

That's completely different from the experience I get watching Inception or The Social Network. Inception requires more than one sitting to totally "get it," but once you do it stays with you. The Social Network is more a story about Facebook Founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg than a movie that teaches anyone anything - except that the path to success is littered with ass holes and one has to make sure they don't become one along the way.

While Toy Story 3 is a terrific animated film, what it lacks to win the Oscar is that sense of importance we normally attach to any top Best Picture candidate; The King's Speech has that.  Moreover, the movie does an excellent job of transporting us to another time and place for a moment.  That's an incredible feat only the best films can achieve, and that's something both The King's Speech and Inception do.  The problem is with Inception, it takes a little while to figure out where you are once you get there; with The King's Speech, there's no question of where you are and why it's important.  You just know.

Oakland Children's Hospital CalOSHA Fine Draws Children's RN Comments

Oakland Children's Hospital (CHO) was recently fined $10,350 for alleged safety violations which include "inadequately protecting employees from violence in its emergency department," according to the San Jose Mercury News. That fine triggered today's press conference, where Children's Hospital Emergency Room staff came forward to share their stories.

"We have demanded that our employer provide us with the training we need to care for the children of Oakland," said Martha Kuhl. "Instead they have disregarded their obligations, and we applaud the state for its actions, while we insist CHO provide a safe environment for everyone who comes through our doors."

The nurses, part of the California Nurses Association, have said that Children's Hospital's execs have put procedures in place, but that what's being done thus far is inadequate, and give specific examples where CHO RN's have been placed in danger:

In July 2010, an armed gunman came into the emergency room and held an RN and ward clerk hostage.

Nurses complained to CalOSHA after incidents in October 2010 when multiple gunshot victims arrived within minutes of each other, including one who was dropped off in the driveway.

Anna Smith, an emergency room RN who took care of the patients during the October incidents said: "As an RN I am not going to allow a patient to die in the driveway, and I want to be able to focus on my patients and trust that the hospital will pay attention to our safety. Instead, their response has been to blame the nurses. They thought we shouldn't have gone immediately to the driveway to save a man's life. Nurses won’t accept this."

A Disturbing Trend Of Violence

The CNA says there's a disturbing trend of violence in healthcare industries but given Oakland's pathologies, that problem seems to be almost beyond Oakland Children's Hospital's control.  But the fact that CHO (Children's Hospital Oakland) was fined means that CalOSHA believes something can be done and CHO's not doing it.

Or is it?

Stay tuned.

Jason Calacanis Apologizes For Taking The Black Cab And Train

My blog post asking if "Launch," the startup presentation event formally known as TechCrunch50, was going to be just another "White Tech Guy" event started a lively conversation on Twitter. Lauch is the baby of Internet entrepreneur Jason Calacanis, who's best known for the blog Engadget and for Mahalo.

I was going to leave the matter alone until I discovered a Twitter tweet I wasn't supposed to see on SocialMention.com. This one:

Jason: @wesley83 @fahrni @strategiclee @zennie62 I'm going to apologize right now for taking a black cab instead of a yellow.
yesterday - by looppacosmos on stumbleupon

Which reads for me that I'm "not authorized to see that status." Trouble is, it was picked up on FriendFeed, Stumbleupon, and SocialMention.

I'll come back to this later.

The Backstory

For me, the need to blog that Launch would be one of those events that had a massive racial imbalance was spurred not by, as Jason claims, my not getting a press pass, but because of my experience being one of a few blacks at these events, and the way Jason's just plain ignored my attempts at contact over the years, punctuated by his email insult to me three days ago. As I explained in the email, I have no interest in attending Launch at all. My desire was, frankly, to demonstrate that you can't just ignore a person and treat them terribly because you think "Well, there's nothing this black guy can do."

In fact, Jsaon has such a track record of blowing me off - for no reason until now - that I wasn't even going to send an email request to attend Launch three weeks ago, when it was mentioned on Quora. But then I figured, you know maybe I'm wrong. So I sent an email - again three weeks ago.

That was plenty of time to get back to me.

Then, in an exchange, I expressed frustration with how I was treated by Jason to a friend, and by copying him on the email, created proof. But rather than apologize or show me any respect, Jason just rubbed salt into the wound more. That was it. I'd had it.

One thing you don't do is talk down to anyone, particularly someone black who already perceives that you turn a blind spot to diversity, and keeps dealing with your disrespectful treatment of him - ah, me. After our exchange, I was so livid I did a quick search and learned that Jason was already under fire for Launch's lack of diversity. All I had to do was echo what had been expressed. So I did.

We Need Black Tech Expos

In the first post, I stressed the need for a Black Tech Expo. Some African Americans in Tech didn't like the idea, but their real reasons are still not clearly stated in reaction to my question: what do you fear? My observation is the younger generation of blacks in Tech is running scared: scared of being thought of as militant. Scared that they will not be included. Scared that they will not get a piece of the pie. Scared that they will alienate anyone white in Tech. Scared.

In other words, they give a lot of power to anyone white in Tech. Some said, "well there are going to be blacks at DEMO, so we don't need to do anything." That's great. But it will not solve the overall problem where blacks in Tech are not assembled, don't know each other, don't know who's who, or what the other person is doing.

There are clumps of loose, small associations, but nothing large at all. In forming a Black Tech Expo we can go on a hunt for who's out there, and in the process learn something about the true picture. Right now, we seem to be relaxed in the notion that there aren't a lot of blacks in Tech because of the age-old problems of lack of education and economic background. We wade in this pool of thought to such a degree that inaction reins.

That must stop.

There's nothing wrong with creating a brand of tech events around Blacks. We, for some reason, seems more concerned over who others are dating than economic assembly. It's time to turn from personal racial concerns to professional ones. In so doing, we will find that, just as in Rap and Hip Hop, whites, Asians, Latinos, and others will join us. Why?


When you're happy with who you are, others want to be around you. We have to be happy with who we are and move forward in Tech.

Oh, and it's not a matter of "the race card:" that silly term invented by right-wing activists during the Reagan years and which reared its head during the O.J. Trial.  In fact, have you ever heard anyone say to a woman "You're playing the sex card?"  No, and you should not.  These matters of racial and sexual representation are not cards to play, but serious issues to be dealt with constructively.  For those right-wingers who use the term, please stop.  It's not helping anyone.

And Lastly, On The Black Train

What's unfortunate is that Calacanis was referring to a "black train" when he tweeted that he was on the "b-train" in the Twitter tweet that caused me to consider writing the blog post I eventually wrote. I had no idea what that was all about until I saw the tweet he didn't want me to see.

There's nothing wrong with being race-concious, but the question is, is it expressed in a healthy way? That tweet was an example of an unhealthy way.   I wish Jason would take time to go to East Oakland or get involved in organizations where black kids can know that it's possible to achieve what he's done.  He's got a great success story to tell and that would be one "black train" worth tweeting about.  

Making Oakland Better Sunday Meeting Features Talk On Budget

A great group called "Making Oakland Better" had its first meeting on Sunday and just as this blogger returned from Georgia, and was running around taking care of personal matters. In other words, I missed the meeting.

The group made a number of decisions, listened to speeches by Oakland City Council Member Ignacio de la Fuente (District Five), City Attorney John Russo and City Auditor Courtney Ruby and as of this writing, is at the Oakland City Council’s Finance and Management Committee at Oakland City Hall. I repost a "recap" of the decisions the group made below, and give a link to their blog site:

Decisions Made / Positions Adopted By the Group

Police and Fire Retirement System: Make Oakland Better Now! urges the City to make the actuarially-required PFRS payment in the coming fiscal year, from the tax override reserve/surplus if necessary, and to examine all charter amendment and other options for reducing the cash flow impact of this obligation.
Rainy Day Fund: Make Oakland Better Now! supports a charter amendment instituting a rules-based Rainy Day Fund, similar to that proposed by the Budget Advisory Committee.
Budget Reform: Make Oakland Better Now! will promote adoption of performance based budgeting and budgeting for outcomes.

For more information and videos, click here: Making Oakland Better.

99er Nation Must Seize the Momentum of Public Protests Now or Perish

With public protests breaking out all over America (finally), the 99er Nation must seize the momentum of Public Protests NOW or perish. It is really just that simple.

Demonstrations are popping up in Ohio, Indiana, San Francisco, San Diego, Wisconsin, and the following cities:

Today Phoenix, AZ
2/22 - Little Rock, AR
2/22 - Sacramento, CA
2/22 - Palmdale, CA
2/22 - Denver, CO
2/22 - Des Moines, IA
2/22 - Annapolis, MD
2/22 - Boston, MA
2/22 - Springfield, MA
2/22 - St. Paul, MN
2/22 - Santa Fe, NM
2/22 - New York, NY
2/22 - Columbus OH
2/22 - Providence, RI
2/22 - Montpelier, VT
2/22 - Madison, WI
2/23 - Hartford, CT
2/23 - Atlanta, GA
2/23 - Scranton, PA
2/24 - Canton, OH

And sites like: http://protest.net/ and http://action.seiu.org/page/s/solidarityaction There is NO EXCUSE for not joining in to demand your rights! If you stay home you are part of the problem. Google Protest Marches in your City/State for up to date info and GET OUT THERE!!!!

ATTENTION NYC: There is a rally on Today in front of the real Tea Party headquarters: FOX News at 6th Ave. and 48th St. We'll start at 5 p.m., exactly when Tea Party leader Glenn Beck goes on!

Beck insists the American people support him, but we'll show him the American people really support our teachers, firefighters, police - and our unions.

Make your own signs. Wear Packers gear (or just green/yellow) and cheesehead hats (we'll bring a few to share). Bring your smartphones and cameras to tell the world!

(If you're not near NYC and want to host your own event: login to the JOB PARTY website http://jobparty.us/ , click "Events," and scroll to bottom to host your own event.)

WHEN: February 22, 2011 at 5:00 PM


FOX News
1211 6th Ave
New York, NY 10036


[The donation button below is for the protest sign fund. If you like what I write please donate so I can keep on fighting for the 99ers! Thank You!]

CRUDE Movie: A Brief Primer For Viewers - Part One

If you're interested in seeing the movie CRUDE, which is about a "one of the largest and most controversial environmental lawsuits on the planet," it's a good idea to be informed of what you're not going to see in the film.

CRUDE is about the Chevron-Ecuador case, but it makes its subjects, trail lawyer Steven Donziger and his crew, look like David trying to slay the Goliath that is Chevron. But the real problem with CRUDE lay in the hours and hours of outtakes that show what Donziger and his people were really trying to do: fabricate a believable story and "fix" the Ecuador court to draw billions from the American Oil Company, all the while protecting Ecuador's oil company, Petroeucador, which has been damaging the very environment that was cleaned up by Chevron Texaco before it left in 1992.

The issue for this blogger goes all the way back to grad school at U.C. Berkeley, and how Third World countries, like Ecuador, trap petrodollars and keep them from their poorest citizens. Americans help in this by working deals that protect these countries, while placing American business in the almost unassailable role of "bad guy." In other words, the perception is that because American Business has money, they must be at fault for the problems in the Third World.

That perception clouds the truth, that greed and corruption hamper many Third World economic development efforts. CRUDE ads to that perception in the matter of Chevron Ecuador, but the American Legal System has cleared that problem up. Here's PointOfLaw.com quoting U.S. District Court Judge Lewis Kaplan:

The release of many hours of the outtakes has sent shockwaves through the nation's legal communities, primarily because the footage shows, with unflattering frankness, inappropriate, unethical and perhaps illegal conduct. In the film itself, Attorney Donziger brags of his ex parte contacts with the Ecuadorian judge, confessing that he would never be allowed to do such things in the United States, but, in Ecuador, everyone plays dirty. The outtakes support, in large part, Applicants' contentions of corruption in the judicial process. They show how nongovernmental organizations, labor organizations, community groups and others were organized by the Lago Agrio attorneys to place pressure on the new Ecuadorian government to push for a specific outcome in the litigation, and how the Ecuadorian government intervened in ongoing litigation.

And here's an outtake from CRUDE where Donziger talks about the need to "pressure," and use "intimidation," and "humiliation" against the Ecuador court; actions that are illegal for an American lawyer to do and could lead to disbarment:

And here's another one where Donziger says to the film crew "That was off the record," as he's talking about having Richard Cabrera, the "fake" environmental expert who came up with the damage claims of up to $100 billion, there. Also, one person talks of making "everything they do transparent," causing Donziger to chime in saying "No. Not everything we do." Witness:

There's a lot more. Visit http://www.youtube.com/TexacoEcuador to see the rest.

Stay tuned.

99ers Don't Forget Twitter #99erAID Round 2 Tonight 8PM EST

99ers, advocates, media and all US jobless: Please Don't Forget Twitter #99erAID Round 2 Tonight at 8PM EST. Spurred on by the success of last week’s Twitter chat, event organizer Jason Tabrys (@99erAID) is poised for the second event in his ongoing weekly #99erAID Twitter March.

#99erAID seeks to allow 99ers and the long term unemployed a chance to get together and share ideas while also lending each other support. The group is not affiliated with any political party or advocacy group.

Quick guide to twitter chat: http://xltweet.com/show/?id=5452585C57

There is a page on Facebook if you want to RSVP to the #99erAID event. Even if you don't tweet or can't participate in this chat, please help get the word out. This event is both to chat with other unemployed/99ers and to get more attention for our plight. http://www.facebook.com/event.php?eid=195361350493577

The event is scheduled to run between 8:00 PM EST and 9:30 PM EST with a 90 minute chat on the 99erAID Facebook group chat to immediately follow at 9:30 PM EST.

Any and all are welcome to participate and urged to help spread word about the event but the organizer has asked for respect, civility, and that all comments be made with an eye toward helping 99ers survive these harrowing times.

For more information please contact Jason Tabrys on Twitter @99erAID

99ers & All Unemployed - take a page from Wisconsin, Egypt, and Libya - NOTHING is IMPOSSIBLE if you participate in the process.

Tweet this out to all and to media / celebrity contacts:

1) WE NEED you to help in #99erAID Today 8PM so we can trend #SOLIDARITY!

Let's TREND tonight!!!

Libya: Educate Yourself

Instead of trying to explain what is going on in Libya within this blog post the following links direct to posts from journalists who went out and did research and got the information and anything I wrote as a second hand account could not do justice what was written straight from those journalists. This entire scenario is terrible and people need to care and be involved:

What's Happening in Libya Explained

Gadafi's Son Warns of Civil War

Gaddafi loyalists launch attacks against civilians as conflict in Libya escalates

There are some gruesome videos out there of people praying and being shot in the head as their bleeding bodies are carried away. This is really something that people need to be educated about. Americans need to be thankful that they have these freedoms and are not ruled under a dictator.