Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Tangled Bank

The 30th edition of Tangled Bank is being hosted by The Geomblog today. Go check out some great posts on science, mathematics, medicine, and more.

Exxon Wants Cooney

Remember Mr. Phillip A. Cooney? Well Mr. Cooney has now packed his bags and moved on from lying for the government to lying for the oil industry.

Just last week, reports revealed that Cooney, the chief of staff for the White House Council on Environmental Quality, had been doctoring government climate reports “in ways that play[ed] down links between emissions and global warming" [Bush Aide Softened Greenhouse Gas Links to Global Warming, NYTimes]. Handwritten notes on documents showed the Mr. Cooney had been inserting comments which modified the findings of government climate research to insert an “air of doubt” regarding the conclusions. In many cases, these changes appeared in the final copy of the documents even though the reports had been approved by the Bush administration prior to Cooney’s revisions.

Before joining the Council on Environmental Quality, “the office that helps devise and promote administration policies on environmental issues”, Cooney was a leading lobbyist for the American Petroleum Institute and “led the oil industry's fight against limits on greenhouse gases.”

Two days after the discovery of his actions, Cooney resigned his post as chief of staff for the Council. Yet the White House claims that Cooney’s decision was in no way influenced by this recent disclosure.

[Former Bush Aide Who Edited Reports Is Hired by Exxon, NYTimes] The White House, which said on Friday that there was no connection between last week's disclosure and Mr. Cooney's resignation, repeated yesterday that his actions were part of the normal review process for documents on environmental issues involving many government agencies.

I think we’re all in trouble if this is a normal process, as the White House terms it, and involves “many government agencies.”

Its hard to understand how the White House can condone his actions as being “part of the normal review process” as Cooney’s editing changed the meaning and message of the documents in question. If you look at some of Cooney’s handwritten notes, it is apparent that Cooney was not revising, but injecting his own views and impressions into the report by adding phrases like “[this is] straying from research strategy into speculative findings/musings.”

[Click to view larger]

[Click to view larger]

Now, Mr. Cooney has announced that he will be going to work for Exxon Mobile starting in the fall. Cooney should fit right in at Exxon, a company which “has long financed advertising and lobbying efforts that question whether warming caused by humans poses risks serious enough to justify curbing carbon dioxide, the main greenhouse gas emitted by smokestacks and tailpipes.” Indeed, Cooney's skills at muddying the truth will come in handy while working for Exxon. In such a setting, I'm sure Cooney's editorial work will be cheered on by Exxon just as his work was most likely celebrated by the Bush administration.

In light of Cooney’s departure and new employment, the White House issued another statement yesterday:

"Phil Cooney did a great job," said Dana Perino, a deputy spokeswoman for the White House, "and we appreciate his public service and the work that he did, and we wish him well in the private sector."

It is evident that Mr. Cooney has done well for himself in the private sector by landing such a well paying job so soon after this scandal. This is just shows that people who lie for the government don’t suffer long for their dishonesty.

[Update 4:25 pm] I just stumbled across this post on The O'Toole File that I found quite interesting:

ANOTHER MYSTERIOUS DISAPPEARANCE: When The Moderate Voice’s Joe Gandelman wrote his blog post about this morning’s NYT story on former oil industry lobbyist Philip A. Cooney’s remarkably smooth transition from Bush environmental staffer to Exxon Mobil executive, the article in question ended with what Gandelman called “the environmental quote of the year.”

Some climate scientists and environmental campaigners said Mr. Cooney’s quick shift from the White House to Exxon was evidence of a near-seamless relationship between the Bush administration and the oil industry.

“Perhaps he won’t even notice he has changed jobs,” said David G. Hawkins, who directs the climate center at the Natural Resources Defense Council, a private environmental group.

Joe’s right. That’s a pretty good line. So why is it missing from the latest version of the article?

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Jealous Sperm

This is just bizarre. A new study in Austrailia by by Dr. Leigh Simmons has determined that pornography can help a man produce more viable sperm. Apparently, heterosexual men who viewed pornographic pictures of two naked men with a woman produced a higher percentage of motile sperm than men who watched pornography with only women. The researchers have ascribed this difference in men to a subconcious realization that their sperm will have to compete against the sperm of other men. It seems that just seeing other naked men triggers a response for more aggressive little critters. While more research needs to be done, the scientists have hopes that thier discovery will someday be helpful in providing better quality sperm for fertility treatments.

Here are some articles regarding this study:
Porn Makes Sperm Better Swimmers and Rivals Spur Men to Produce Better Sperm

Mini Baby Boom

[Stormy Romance Brings Baby Boom, Reuters] Nine months after the first of three hurricanes crisscrossed central Florida and stranded residents in their darkened homes, hospitals throughout the region are reporting a baby boom, the Orlando Sentinel said on Tuesday.

Halifax Medical Center in Daytona Beach has seen 25 percent more deliveries than a year ago and pregnant women flocking to childbirth classes there all tell the same story.

"There was no electricity, they were spending a lot of time at home, there were candles and -- I'll leave the rest up to you," Halifax spokeswoman Kate Holcomb told the newspaper.
Some women said hurricanes Charley, Frances and Jeanne and their aftermath made it difficult for them to reach their pharmacies for birth-control pills.

Florida Hospital, one of the region's largest hospital groups, has seen a 26 percent increase in births at its Winter Park Memorial since May 20 compared with the same period last year and an 18 percent spike at its downtown Orlando campus.
Lovely. Just what we need: extra babies every time there's a bad storm.

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

China to Tighten Hold on Bloggers

[China Orders Bloggers to Register with Government, Associated Press] The Chinese authorities have ordered all weblogs and websites in the country to register with the government or face closure in Beijing's latest attempt to control online dissent...Private bloggers or websites must register the complete identity of the person responsible for the site...

...Those who continue to publish under their real names on sites hosted in China will either have to avoid political subjects or just relay the Communist party's propaganda," [Reporters Without Borders] said. "This decision will enable those in power to control online news and information much more effectively."

The latest restrictions follow the introduction of many other measures. Authorities have closed down thousands of internet cafes, the main point of entry to the internet for many Chinese unable to afford a computer or web access.

An Informational Guide to Tasers

Anatomy of a Taser
Tasers were originally developed in the 1970’s by a California based company. Since then, tasers have been advertised as having greater advantages than other non-lethal weapon like police batons and chemical sprays. They were a revolutionary invention as they allowed police officers to target individuals from a greater distance and were resistant to outside interference. Yet these early stun guns were not effective when individuals were agitated or under the influence of certain substances. Since then, companies have released stronger tasers which ensure effectiveness.

The M26 taser is now the most widely used taser by police departments around the country. Developed in 1999, these tasers are several times more powerful than the original tasers of the 70’s. The old tasers ran at 7-8 watts of electrical output. The M26 runs at 28 watts and can deliver a shock of up to 50,000 volts and can penetrate up to 2 inches deep. Another popular model, the X26, was released in 2003 and is about 60% smaller than the M26. There is a common misconception about the X26: that it is not as strong as the M26. However, while the X26 is smaller, it still delivers a shock of the same voltage as the M26.

When a taser is fired, two nitrogen compressed barbed probes blast out from the end of the device. These probes attach to the victim’s skin or clothing and transmit a high-voltage electrical pulse. Once the shock is administered, it travels to the central nervous system and causes muscle tissue to instantly contract. With each successive shock, muscle continues to contract and tighten. [Click the picture to view full size.]

Unlike firearms or sprays, taser shocks can be administered and are effective almost anywhere on the body. This is depicted in the following diagram: [Click picture to view full size.]

Ouch! That Hurt
Just over a month ago, on May 4, 2005, Phoenix police officers tasered a 24 year old man with an M26 for talking back to police officers. The young man passed away a few hours after the shock. The autopsy report admitted that “the taser may have contributed to death.” What followed was an intense uprising of criticism against taser use. In a press release, Sgt. Randy Force, the spokesperson for the Phoenix police department, had the gall to respond to criticism with this statement:

[Amnesty International Urges Ban on Taser Use, Arizona Republic] “We have solid training, solid policy and solid experience with [tasers],” Force said. “I would call it a more humane use of force. It is pre-emptive in nature, not punitive…[the taser] has been used so many times here so effectively without any injury to anybody. It’s the tool of choice in an incident like this.”

Sgt. Force may have “solid experience” using tasers, but I am skeptical that he has ever been on the receiving end of a shock. If so, he may have had a different response than claiming that tasers are “humane”.

Like Force, many supporters of tasers, including Taser International, claim that tasers do not cause pain. One has only to look at the statements of a few officers who were subjected to taser shocks to see that this is a complete lie.

[Amnesty International] In meetings with amnesty international, Taser International has stressed that, unlike earlier models, the M26 and X26 taser are not designed to stop a target through infliction of pain, but work by causing instant immobilization through muscle contraction. According to the company, they are one of the few non-lethal weapons effective in causing incapacitation without physiological injury. They have pointed out that any pain involved in transient, with no after-effects. However, officers subjected to even a fraction of the normal taser discharge during training have reported feeling acute pain.

“Bjornstad, who was jolted for 1.5 seconds as part of his training, said all of his muscles contracted and the shock was like a finger in a light socket many times over. “Anyone who has experienced this will remember it forever…You don’t want to do this. It is very uncomfortable…and that’s an understatement.” (The Olympian, 14 October 2002)

“It’s like getting punched 100 times in a row.” (The Olympian, 2 March 2002)

“It felt terrible…it hurts. I’m going to think twice before I use this on anyone.” (Mobile Register, 8 April 2002)

“It’s the most profound pain I have ever felt. You get total compliance because they don’t want that pain again.” (Associated Press, 12 August 2003)

“They call it the longest five seconds of their life…its extreme pain, there’s no question about it.” (The Kalazazoo Gazette, 7 March 2004)

It is important to remember that these officers were subjected to only a fraction of the normal taser shock of five seconds. Even at such a reduced dose, these officers reported intense pain. Perhaps these officers are begging for attention just like many accuse taser victims of doing.

There are many accounts of taser related pain from victims as well. Statements, lawsuits, and pictures of burns all point to the fact that these individual truly did feel pain. If one still has doubts they have simply to watch the video footage of the woman who was pulled over for a traffic violation and tasered twice. Somehow I doubt that the victim’s bloodcurdling screams were improvised.

Unlimited Hell
Another interesting, yet disturbing, fact about tasers is that lack of a safety mechanism to prevent shocks from exceeding 5 seconds (the maximum shock duration recommended by manufacturers).

[Amnesty International] Although, as stated above, the M26 and X26 tasers are programmed to set off an automatic five-second electrical charge, this happens if an officer pulls the trigger then releases it. The electrical charge can be prolonged beyond five seconds if the officer keeps his finger depressed on the trigger. A taser International training manual state that “holding the trigger continuously beyond the 5 second cycle will continue the electrical cycle until the trigger is released.” The following testimony was given by a police training officer at an inquest into the death of William Lomax, who had a taser in stun gun mode applied repeatedly to his neck in jolts lasting up to eight seconds.

[Officer]: If you hold the trigger down, it will go until the battery life runs out of the taser.
[Juror]: So it will go continuously until you let go?
[Officer]: Correct

I find it hard to believe that police officers are expected to count off the seconds as they administer the taser and this is a clear example of how the taser can easily be misused. Under tense circumstances, a police officer is not likely to be quick in removing his finger from the trigger or to pause and consider how long his finger has already been depressing the trigger. Thus, as the duration of the shock is not regulated on its own, police officers may administer shocks which far exceed the recommended maximum. Also, as there is no mechanism to prevent over-shocking, there is nothing preventing officers from making their own judgments and deciding that a certain individual needs a longer shock. Since most officers believe taser to be a harmless form of law enforcement, I doubt that officers care about administering an extra second or two with a taser by accident or intentionally.

Trigger Happy
[Amnesty International] A review of reported cases suggest that some departments are deploying tasers in routine arrest situations at the first sign of resistance or in the face of relatively minor resistance. Incidents include cases of people under the influence of alcohol or drugs who failed to comply promptly with commands, people who “mouthed” off at officers, and people engaged in minor acts of public disturbance…many departments allow officers to use tasers in situations that would not justify the use of batons or other impact weapons liable to cause serious injury. Reports suggest that, in some departments, tasers are used by officers primarily as a substitute for pepper or chemical sprays.

Indeed taser abuse has skyrocketed as more and more police departments have started using the device. One has only to read the news to find monthly incidents where non-threatening victims were brutally tasered. (The Green Lantern has a good collection of news reports on such taser abuse in her Taser Archives.) The following are some examples listed by Amnesty International of non-violent individuals have been tasered needlessly by police.

A 14 year old boy who had allegedly broken a window and tried to run away
A 50 year old man who refused to give police his date of birth during a disturbance at a picnic
A man escorted from a restaurant by police was touch stunned in the leg for “refusing to obey verbal commands”
A driver pulled over on a bridge, angry that his car was being towed away for lack of insurance, was tasered after repeatedly complaining and turning his head and body towards the officer.

Tasers should only be used, if at all, in cases when a police officer is physically threatened. The use of tasers when individuals refuse to listen to a police officer is simply a of misuse and abuse of power. Using such excessive force is cruel and inhumane against individuals who don’t pose a serious threat to themselves or anyone else.

This is essentially aversion training being practiced on the public. Officers are freely using their tasers to scare people from even contemplating the thought of standing up to the police. Although officers claim that their use of tasers helps to keep individuals from becoming too rowdy and violent, in many of these cases, there is no evidence that the individual would have become violent. The presumption that a person will become violent does not warrant pre-emptive action with a taser. In fact, Amnesty International writes that such use of tasers may have violated international standards.

[Amnesty International] The use of electro-shock weapons in such circumstances appear to breach international standards set out under the UN Code of Conduct for Law Enforcement Officials and the Basic Principles on the Use of Force and Firearms. These require that force should be used only as a last resort, in proportion to the threat posed…the US has [also] ratified the UN Convention against Torture and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), both of which prohibit torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. The UN Human Rights Committee…states that “the aim of the provisions of ICCPR is to protect both the dignity and the physical and mental integrity of the individual…[this] relates not only to acts that cause physical pain, but also to acts that cause mental suffering to the victim.

The Pig Didn’t Die, Why Should You?
There are no definitive studies regarding the safety of tasers. Although there have been numerous deaths of people who have been tasered, the company holds that the shock was not the cause of death. Taser’s chief executive, Patrick Smith, said, “We tell people that this has never caused a death, and in my heart and soul I believe that’s true.” But Taser International has very little evidence to back up this claim.

[As Police Use of Tasers Rises, Questions Over Safety Increase, New York Times] The company’s primary safety studies on the M26…consist of tests on a single pig in 1996 and on five dogs in 1999. Company-paid researchers, not independent scientists, conducted the studies, which were never published in a peer review journal.

While Taser International claims that their studies show that the device is harmless, other countries have come up with a different answer. The British government, based of their studies in 2002, declared that “Tasers cannon be classed, in the vernacular, as ‘safe’” In Britain, tasers are considered part of the firearm category and restricted to use for self defense only. To this study, Smith responded that he didn’t feel the need to report these results to the American police department. “The Brits are extremely conservative,” he said.

Yet people in the US are beginning to scrutinize taser use cases. Both the New York Times and The Republic have printed stories questioning Smith’s claims that tasers are safe.

[Taser Safety Claims Draw State Scrutiny, Arizona Republic] For years Taser maintained that its stun guns never caused death or serious injury. As proof, Taser officials said no medical examiner had ever cited the weapon in an autopsy report.

But Taser did not have these autopsy reports and didn’t start collecting them until April…The Republic has identified 88 deaths after police taser strikes in the United States and Canada since 1999. Of those, 11 autopsy reports have linked deaths to the stun gun. Medical examiners cited taser as a cause of contributing factor in eight deaths could not rule it out as a cause in three others...

In October, Taser issued a press release saying a Department of Defense study, whose full results have not yet been released have found that its guns were safe. By the NYTimes reported that the Air Force researchers who conducted the study actually found that the guns could be dangerous and that more data was needed to evaluate risks.

As more cases of taser abuse occur, we can only insist on more research into the adverse effects of taser use. Although tasers inhumane, police departments will continue to use the device until definitive scientific research is produced. Thankfully, all the recent attention and criticism of tasers is beginning to take hold. (See Arizona Republic’s list of 120 Cases of Death Following Stun-Gun Use) State officials around the country have begun to take notice and are realizing that they may need to take a closer look. Steve Wilson, the spokesperson for the Arizona Attorney General, says:

[Taser Safety Claims Draw Scrutiny, Arizona Republic] The attorney general has concerns about issues raised in media reports about Taser International, including questions about safety and alleged misrepresentation…The attorney general’s office has not opened an investigation, but is continuing to gather information.

Hopefully Arizona and other states will make the move to study tasers more closely and realize how harmful they are. Only then can the taser be banned, thus freeing the public from police abuse and brutality.

Monday, June 06, 2005

"Unintentional Mishandling"

“Mishandling a Koran at Guantánamo Bay is a rare occurrence,” said Brigadier General Jay Hood, the man in charge of the inquiry into the allegations of desecrated copies of the Koran. He added, though, that there were five confirmed cases of “intentional or unintentional mishandling of the holy book”.

[The Observer]The most recent, and perhaps strangest, case of mishandling was on 25 March, 2005, when a detainee complained to the guards that urine came through an air vent in his cell and 'splashed on him and his Koran... “The guard had left his observation area post and went outside to urinate,” according to a summary of the incident. “He urinated near an air vent and the wind blew his urine through the vent into the block.”

I expect General Hood received a sizable bonus for unearthing this plausible and accurate explanation.

Here is the transcript of Gen. Hood's report.

Horrifying Taser Torture

Having just watched and listened to the footage of the woman who was tasered twice for speeding, I am at a complete loss for words. I suggest you watch the video and read two excellent post regarding this atrocity at The Green Lantern and The Green Knight.

Anarchic Freedoms

Pope Benedict made a clear statement addressing gay marriage this morning in Rome. While harping on about the “family’s vital role for the future of society”, Ratzinger peppered his speech with phrases like “pseudo-freedoms” and “the banalisation of the human body”. His overall message?

[Reuters] Today's various forms of dissolution of marriage, free unions, trial marriages as well as the pseudo-matrimonies between people of the same sex are instead expressions of anarchic freedom which falsely tries to pass itself off as the true liberation of man.

The Pope then went on to address the moral goalposts that he has been trying to establish:

The greatest expression of freedom is not the search for pleasure…Today; a particularly insidious obstacle to (moral) education is the overwhelming presence in our society and culture of a type of relativism that recognizes nothing as definitive...

Ratzinger’s announcement, which touched also on issues of divorce and contraception, comes as an effort to bolster the support of Italians against the referendum which would rid Italy of its ban against embryo research. By firing up the public with blind moralistic fervor, the Pope hopes that voters will boycott the ballot.

This not the first time that the Vatican has tried to assert it’s authority over “moral” issues in the political arena during the few months since Benedict’s ascension. Only a few weeks ago, Spain embarked on the path to become the first European country to allow gay couples to marry and adopt children. Within hours after the Parliament passed the bill (which will most likely become law in a few months), a senior Vatican official stated that “Roman Catholic officials should be prepared to lose their jobs rather than co-operate with the law.

Although the Pope’s stance on these issues do not come as a surprise, it is nonetheless infuriating to listen to his statement and watch as insipid voters hang on his every word.

Sunday, June 05, 2005

Carnival of the Un-Capitalists

The latest edition of the Carnival of the Un-Capitalists has been posted here at Science and Politics. Check it out for some good Monday morning reading "dedicated to the Left angle of analysis of economics, poverty, work, trade and social justice."

Stem Cell Cloning

There have been numerous posts all week regarding the Korean stem cell scientists. Dr. John Leavitt's post at Nerac gives a great summary about the study and touches on a number of the issues surrounding this break through in science.

Genetically Engineered Lesbians

Astounded scientists watched as their genetically altered fruit fly vigorously courted another fly. The amazing part? They were both female.

While performing experiments on whether instinctive behavior can have a genetic basis, scientists modified a female fruit fly with a male gene. To their surprise, the female flies began exhibiting the male courtship ritual with other females.

[From the New York Times June 3, 2005] It pursued a waiting virgin female. It gently tapped the girl with its leg, played her a song (using wings as instruments) and, only then, dared to lick her - all part of standard fruit fly seduction.

Conversely, when the female equivalent of this gene was administered to males, the males exhibited typical fruit fly female characteristics. They became shy, passive…and gay.

The transformed gene, fru, has long been known to be connected with mating in fruit flies as it coordinates the neurons which control movement during copulation. But scientists were not expecting to find that this gene also coded for behavioral patterns…and sexual orientation.

Over the last decade, there has been much speculation over the origins of instinctive behavior in the world of science. In the public arena, the debate over the origins of sexual orientation has been raging for even longer. Scientists believe that this discovery addresses both of these issues. Barry Dickson, senior scientist at the Institute of Molecular Biotechnology at the Austrian Academy of Sciences in Vienna and the lead author of the paper, says, “We have shown that a single gene in the fruit fly is sufficient to determine all aspects of the flies' sexual orientation and behavior… What [this] tells us is that instinctive behaviors can be specified by genetic programs, just like the morphologic development of an organ or a nose." In addition, the presence of this master gene for sexuality suggests that other genes may control other behaviors like “hitting back when feeling threatened, fleeing when scared or laughing when amused.”

Although the genome of a fruit fly is much less complicated that that of a human, the results of this study indicate that it may be possible that instinctual behavior is hard wired in our genes as in the genes of the fruit fly. Indeed, the simple fact that our genome is similar to that of the fruit fly seems to point to the possible presence of an undiscovered master gene for sexuality in humans as well. Barbara Culliton, from the Genome News Network, writes:

There appears to be a core number of genes that are essential for life and they all seem to exist in the fly. Human beings, doubtless have more genes than Drosophila (approximately 30,000 compared to 13,000) but, as Gerald M. Rubin, head of the Berkeley Drosophila Genome Project and lead author of one of the Science papers, says, "About 60 percent or more genes are conserved between fly and human." In other words, nature practices the addage against reinventing the wheel. If you’ve got a core set of genes that work, why not use them over and over again in just subtly different ways. "Complexity does not come from the number of genes but from the way in which they are used," according to Rubin. "Humans may have four copies of a gene where the fly has one, but if you look at the core proteome—the core set of parts—they’re not that different…The human is a supercomputer to the PC fly. It’s an organizational issue. The parts are basically the same."

Essentially, even though we humans have a more complex genome, these basic behavioral functions for life, if coded for in fruit flies, should also be coded for in our genes in some form.

The researchers involved in this study have voiced their hopes that their results will help move the debate regarding sexuality away from “the realm of morality and put it into the realm of science.” Indeed, other recent studies have also indicated that homosexuality may have a biological basis- thus shifting the debate on sexual preference from nurture to nature.

[From the New York Times May10, 2005] Using a brain imaging technique, Swedish researchers have shown that homosexual and heterosexual men respond differently to two odors that may be involved in sexual arousal, and that the gay men respond in the same way as women.The new research may open the way to studying human pheromones, as well as the biological basis of sexual preference.

Perhaps such research will help to convince the public that homosexuality is not unnatural or a chosen path as Yvette C. Schneider from the Family Research Council claims.

"Many misconceptions exist about the supposedly inborn nature of complex behaviors such as homosexuality...In reality, no scientific studies show an inborn cause for any such complex behaviors. In this day of shirking responsibility and blaming anything but ourselves for our actions, claims that someone is genetically or chemically structured to engage in dangerous or antisocial activities find increasing appeal. ...Without scientific evidence to support such claims, it is wrong and dangerously misleading to say that people are born homosexual and cannot change."

On the other hand, many people fear that the discovery of such a master gene for sexual behavior in humans, along with other biological evidence, could result in sexual orientation screenings of embryos and mass abortion. If such concrete evidence did arise, it would be interesting to see how conservative, anti-homosexual Americans could advocate aborting a “homosexual” fetus as most of them are also pro-life.

Some other notable posts on this article at:
AMERICAblog and Left2Right.

Saturday, June 04, 2005

Down with Pesticides

Read here about a victory against pesticide manufacturers and FIRFA (Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act).

Lifesaving Curves

Curvy Women "Live Longer" (Gulf Daily News)

Curvy women are more likely to live longer than their slimmer counterparts. Institute of preventative medicine in Copenhagen researchers found those with wider hips also appeared to be protected against heart conditions. Women with a hip measurement smaller than 40 inches, or a size 14 would not have this protection, they said. The researchers say hip fat contains a beneficial natural anti-inflammatory.

They said this anti-inflammatory, called adiponectin, prevents arteries swelling up and becoming blocked. The Danish researchers examined almost 3,000 men and women aged between 35 and 65 from 1987 to 1988 they measured height, weight and body mass index. They then looked at Danish health registers up until the end of 1998 to look at how many of the men and women had cardiovascular problems, and up to 2001 to see how many had died. Compared to the group of women with the smallest hip circumferences, women with the biggest were found to have an 87' reduction in deaths. Previous studies have found both men and women with small hips are at an increased risk of developing diabetes, high blood pressure and gall bladder disease. However the study, which has been published in obesity research, found a wider hip circumference was not linked with better heart health in men.

Friday, June 03, 2005

Dark Times for Women in Kansas

Now that State Secretary Ron Thornburgh has announced that he will not run for re-election, Kansas is left with Senator Kay O'Connor as the only candidate. Read on to learn a little more about this lovely woman.

Women's Suffrage Opponent Seeks Office

A state senator who once said that giving women the vote was a symptom of weakness in the American family now wants to be Kansas' top elections official.

Sen. Kay O'Connor announced Wednesday that she is seeking the GOP nomination for secretary of state next year. O'Connor, 63, has served in the Legislature since 1993.

In 2001, O'Connor received national attention for her remarks about the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, ratified in 1920, which gave women the right to vote.

"I think the 19th Amendment, while it's not an evil in and of itself, is a symptom of something I don't approve of," she said at the time. "The 19th Amendment is around because men weren't doing their jobs, and I think that's sad. I believe the man should be the head of the family. The woman should be the heart of the family."

On Wednesday, she dismissed the controversy — which included an unsuccessful drive to recall her from office — as "silliness." She said she does not believe voters will consider it a significant issue.

"I am who I am. You don't have to agree with everything I say," O'Connor said.

But Caroline McKnight, executive director of a group devoted to fighting conservatives in politics, said: "If she thinks it's going to go away because she's on a statewide ballot, she's living on another planet."

I think its safe to say that Mrs. O'Connor sounds as awful as she looks.

Oops..."How Terrible!"

"[Last-minute changes] caused us to miscalculate and we foolishly added an extra mile--how terrible!" said Mark Cihlar, the organizer and founder of Chicago’s Lake Shore Marathon. This “apology” came days after enraged and frustrated participants called for new management.

The Lake Shore Marathon, like other traditional marathons, is supposed to span 26.2 miles and is often used by athletes who wish to qualify for more notable competitions like the Boston Marathon. Unfortunately for these runners, the disorganized officials of the event accidentally tacked on an extra mile to the marathon, making running times incompatible with qualifying times for other races. Hugh Mainard, a furious participant, told the Chicago Tribune, “It's hard for me to fathom how someone can get the most basic element of a race wrong.”

Cihlar claimed that the extra mile resulted from last minute “second guessing” due to adjustments to the race.

This oversight was only one of the many problems with the Lake Shore Marathon. Missing mile markers and unstaffed aid stations added to the anger targeted at Cihlar, who is responsible for 90% of the planning. The lack of guidance on the course provided problems for more than one runner who seemed to be running in circles. Bridget Sullivan, who was the leading woman runner for the first portion of the race, quickly lost her lead when course marshals told her to run in the wrong direction…into the Lincoln Park Zoo.

"I started to pass the marathoners, and a few of them tried to save me by telling me the [course] turned `way back there.' I was so confused at this point that I wanted to cry," said Sullivan, who was trying to obtain a competitive starting time for the Chicago Marathon. She eventually ran into another misguided half-marathoner and the two rejoined the race after running a mile out of their way. "I lost a lot of momentum due to the drama," said Sullivan, who finished third among the women and said she never saw a mile marker after mile 6.

In response to the outrage, Cihlar is now relinquishing some of his power. After four years of complete control over coordinating the event, Cihlar is seeking qualified assistance for the race in 2006.

"We've been undercapitalized and under-resourced, but it looks like we're rounding the bend," he said. "Sponsors are taking a legitimate interest for 2006. There are lots of things we can improve on, but we're starting to make some headway."

Yet many are still critical of Cihlar’s abilities and have called on the city to withhold future marathon permits until there is new management.

Read article in the Chicago Tribune