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Journal Archives

Noisy clarinet blamed for neighbor's alleged threat with gun

GRAND JUNCTION, Colo. - A western Colorado woman is accused of pointing a rifle at several children in a neighboring back yard because she was upset that an 11-year-old boy was playing his clarinet outside.

Mesa County sheriff's deputies believe 60-year-old Cheryl Ann Pifer of Clifton had been drinking before allegedly threatening the children Wednesday afternoon.

The Daily Sentinel reports that the boy told Pifer that he was practicing the clarinet as part of his homework and couldn't go back inside his grandmother's house because a baby was sleeping.

There were six other children in the back yard with him. Several of them reported that Pifer also pointed a gun at them and yelled "Fire in the hole!" as they ran away.



Controversial stem cell paper was published over reviewers’ objections

And following rejection at two other journals.

by John Timmer

Early this year, the journal Nature published two papers with some completely surprising results. Researchers had only recently figured out how to use a small set of genes to reprogram mature adult cells into a stem-cell-like state. The new papers suggested you could forgo the genetic engineering entirely; a short time in an acidic environment, followed by some carefully controlled growth conditions, could completely reprogram the cells. It was a potentially revolutionary finding.

Unfortunately, it didn't take long for the wheels to fall off. Other researchers quickly pointed out possible instances of improperly manipulated figures and plagiarism, and one of the researchers involved had already had some ethical issues in the past. Initial attempts to replicate the experiments in other labs failed. By the summer, there was an official finding of misconduct; shortly thereafter, one of the researchers involved committed suicide. In July, the papers were formally retracted by the remaining authors.

That's a relatively quick resolution to a problem like this, but it leaves a rather significant question: how did these papers get published in the first place if the problems became apparent so quickly? That question only got more bewildering this week, as people have started to leak the reports of peer reviewers who had evaluated the papers.

The first leak was published yesterday by the Retraction Watch blog. It turns out that Nature was the third journal to see the drafts of the stem cell papers; by the time it got them, Science and Cell had already rejected them. Someone who had access to the reviewers' reports at Science handed them over to Retraction Watch.



Predatory dinosaur was larger than T. rex, went for swims

Red and orange bones represent either the original Egyptian find or the new skeleton. Yellow bones come from other animals. Only the blue and green bones had to be inferred based on other species.
Model by Tyler Keillor, Lauren Conroy, and Erin Fitzgerald, Ibrahim et al., Science/AAAS

The predatory dinosaur Spinosaurus aegyptiacus isn't famous, but it might have been. Discovered in Egypt in 1912, it had all the ingredients to make for a childhood favorite: enormous size, sharp teeth, and a huge, enigmatic sail running down its back. But the study of Spinosaurus suffered a serious interruption when the only bones of the creature happened to be underneath the payload of a British bomber targeting Munich.

Now, roughly 70 years later, Spinosaurus is back thanks to some additional samples discovered in Morocco. These, combined with images of the original skeleton and a handful of scattered bones found in the intervening years, appear to indicate the creature was a rarity for dinosaurs. It was adapted to an aquatic lifestyle and probably used its jaws and claws to snare fish.

The new skeletal remains include parts of the head, the spinal column, limbs, and extensive remains of the tail. It was found in a fossil bed called Kem Kem, which preserves the remains of a freshwater river system including various fish and sharks. The authors created a 3-D scan of the individual bones and, by filling in the gaps with bones scaled up or down from other samples or close relatives, created a complete model of the animal's skeleton. In total, the animal appears to have been 15 meters (nearly 50 feet) long, which would make it larger than any known Tyrannosaurus skeleton.

But it wouldn't have cut nearly as imposing a figure. The model allowed the authors to locate the animal's center of gravity, and they found that it would be quite a bit forward of its hips. This means that, on land, Spinosaurus would have been hunched over on all fours.



Koch foundation proposal to college: Teach our curriculum, get millions

In 2007, when the Charles Koch Foundation considered giving millions of dollars to Florida State University’s economics department, the offer came with strings attached.

First, the curriculum it funded must align with the libertarian, deregulatory economic philosophy of Charles Koch, the billionaire industrialist and Republican political bankroller.

Second, the Charles Koch Foundation would at least partially control which faculty members Florida State University hired.

And third, Bruce Benson, a prominent libertarian economic theorist and Florida State University economics department chairman, must stay on another three years as department chairman — even though he told his wife he’d step down in 2009 after one three-year term.

The Charles Koch Foundation expressed a willingness to give Florida State an extra $105,000 to keep Benson — a self-described “libertarian anarchist” who asserts that every government function he’s studied “can be, has been, or is being produced better by the private sector” — in place.



If Republicans want full-scale war, they should say so

By Paul Waldman

While there were a few Republicans who reacted favorably to President Obama’s speech last night describing what we will be doing to combat ISIS, the reaction from most on the right was predictably negative. Which is fine — it’s the opposition’s job to oppose, after all. But when you hear what they have to say, you notice a yawning gap in their criticisms: They were missing clear articulation of what exactly Republicans would prefer that we do.

After Obama spoke, John McCain shouted at Jay Carney that everything would have been fine if we had never removed troops from Iraq, saying “the president really doesn’t have a grasp for how serious the threat from ISIS is.” He and Lindsey Graham later released a statement advocating a bunch of stuff we’re already doing, along with some language that sounded like they might be advocating waging war on the Syrian government, but it’s hard to be sure. Ted Cruz said Obama’s speech was “fundamentally unserious” because it was insufficiently belligerent and fear-mongering.

Sarah Palin wrote on her Facebook page: “War is hell. So go big or go home, Mr. President. Big means bold, confident, wise assurance from a trustworthy Commander-in-Chief that it shall all be worth it. Charge in, strike hard, get out. Win.” Which is about the “strategy” you’d get for defeating ISIS if you asked a third-grader.

The only one who was clear on what they would do instead, oddly enough, was Dick Cheney. He pronounced Obama’s strategy insufficient in a speech bordering on the insane, in which he essentially advocated waging war in every corner of the earth.



Doctors discover woman complaining of dizziness was missing part of her brain

By Marissa Fessenden on September 11, 2014
Nestled in the back of your head, just behind where your spinal cord attaches to your brain lies a very important region: the cerebellum. Its grooved surface looks strikingly different from the folds of your cerebral cortex. It’s responsible for coordinating movements by combining inputs from your senses via the spinal cord with information from other brain regions.

So when a 24-year old woman walked into a hospital and complained about dizziness and nausea, the doctors were shocked to discover that she was missing a cerebellum.

Neurosurgeon Feng Yu and his colleagues at the Chinese PLA General Hospital of Jinan Military Area Command in Shandong Province reported the woman’s remarkable condition in the journal Brain in late August. “Only eight living cases have been reported prior to this study,” the researchers write.

Image via Wikimedia Commons (Public Domain)

Missing a cerebellum comes with some complications, as one might expect for such a critical brain region. (The regions represents about “10 percent of the brain's total volume, but contains 50 percent of its neurons,” writes Helen Thompson for The New Scientist.) The woman’s mother reported that her daughter wasn’t able to walk until she was 7 years old, never ran or jumped, and couldn’t speak intelligibly until she was 6. Even today, she has trouble walking steadily. She also has slightly slurred pronunciation related to difficulties with the muscles involved in speech.


Friday Toon Roundup 3: The Rest



The Issue


Friday Toon Roundup 2: Football

Friday Toon Roundup 1: War Mongers

House returns to anti-Obamacare votes

Source: Politico

House Republicans on Thursday returned to the Obamacare well for another vote against the law, this time to allow consumers to stay on once-canceled plans until 2019.

The House approved the bill, 247-167, with the support of all Republicans and 25 Democrats. It was the first vote on the health care law since April.

The bill, targeted at President Barack Obama’s promise that consumers would be able to keep their health plans under his signature health law, was sponsored by Rep. Bill Cassidy, who is in a tight race to unseat Democratic Sen. Mary Landrieu in Louisiana.

“The president and his allies in Congress tried to sell this health law to the American people by making false promises,” Cassidy said in a statement. “Each of these promises has been broken.”

Read more: http://www.politico.com/story/2014/09/house-returns-to-anti-obamacare-votes-110865.html

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