Monthly Archives: October 2009

How Not To Name a Product

NOW and then there are amusing instances of a company that selects a brand name that has unforeseen connotations. Previous examples are: Shitto sauce, which seems to go along with Wack off! (insect repellent), after which you may need some 666 Cold Medicine.

The latest example comes from what we imagine is a fine little company in the Netherlands. Their very stylish titanium wireless mouse has been named: Intelligent Design.

We understand that it costs 800 Euros, almost $1,200. But who wouldn’t want a product with that name?

Copyright © 2009. The Sensuous Curmudgeon. All rights reserved.

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Creationist Runs for School Board in Pennsylvania

IN the Centre Daily Times of State College, Pennsylvania, site of Pennsylvania State University’s main campus, we read STATE COLLEGE AREA SCHOOL DISTRICT: Five candidates, four seats.

We’d expect that in the town dominated by the presence of Penn State, the local school board would consist entirely of rational, educated people. They might be a bit on the artsy side for our taste, but surely they’d all be solidly sane in matters like science education. Right?

Not necessarily, dear reader. Even in a community like State College, the creationist madness is manifest. Here are some excerpts from that article in the local paper, with bold added by us:

Challengers Penni Fishbaine, Jim Leous and Brian Kaleita and incumbents David Hutchinson and Gowen Roper are competing for the four-year spots.

One of those five won’t make it. As the article informs us later:

Three challengers and two incumbents are competing for four seats with four-year terms.

Exciting, huh? Let’s read on:

Kaleita is on the Republican ballot, Roper and Leous are on the Democratic ballot, and Fishbaine and Hutchinson won enough votes in the primary to appear on both.

Brian Kaleita is the one candidate who is identified as being only Republican. Does that matter? We continue:

Kaleita has leveled the sharpest criticism at previous boards, saying they’ve raised taxes 4 percent on average over the past 20 years, spent too much on administrative positions and increased the number of district employees while enrollment declined. “This school district has been wasting taxpayer money for many years,” Kaleita said.

Kaleita seems like a reasonable fellow, doesn’t he? Here’s more:

During the Oct. 3 League of Women Voters forum, the candidates were asked about teaching creationism — the belief that the universe was created by some higher being.

We like that. From our very limited experience, creationism isn’t a typical League issue, but it’s a good one, and we hope they do this nationwide.

Okay … how did the five candidates respond? Surely in a college town — especially one named State College — they all gave acceptable answers. Didn’t they? Let’s see

Only Kaleita believed the topic had a place in science class, alongside evolution, saying “neither side has been proved to be correct.”

Silence here. Then what’s known on the internet as head-desk.

Okay, we’ve recovered now. On to the next paragraph

Others disagreed. “I think it’s very important now, in an age where science and technology are crucial to our children’s future, that we teach the best science that we can,” Roper said.

The article discusses other issues of interest to the local community, but we’re not going to bother with those. In this race, four of the five candidates will become board members. One must lose. The voters will decide.

What else can we say? Nothing, really, because we’ve said it all before — Creationists: Ignorant, Stupid, Insane, or Wicked.

Copyright © 2009. The Sensuous Curmudgeon. All rights reserved.

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Naked Mole Rats and Cancer Resistance


Naked Mole Rat

WE haven’t seen much reported about this, but there may be big news arising from the study of a humble creature called the naked mole rat.

From the news office of the University of Rochester we read Scientists Discover Gene that ‘Cancer-Proofs’ Rodent’s Cells , subtitled: “Naked Mole Rat, the Only Known Cancerless Animal, Has Two-Tier Defense Against Cancer.” Here are some excerpts, with bold added by us:

Despite a 30-year lifespan that gives ample time for cells to grow cancerous, a small rodent species called a naked mole rat has never been found with tumors of any kind — and now biologists at the University of Rochester think they know why.

The findings, presented in today’s issue of The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, show that the mole rat’s cells express a gene called p16 that makes the cells “claustrophobic,” stopping the cells’ proliferation when too many of them crowd together, cutting off runaway growth before it can start. The effect of p16 is so pronounced that when researchers mutated the cells to induce a tumor, the cells’ growth barely changed, whereas regular mouse cells became fully cancerous.

Here’s a link to the abstract of the published paper: Hypersensitivity to contact inhibition provides a clue to cancer resistance of naked mole-rat.

Let’s read on:

We think we’ve found the reason these mole rats don’t get cancer, and it’s a bit of a surprise,” says Vera Gorbunova, associate professor of biology at the University of Rochester and lead investigator on the discovery. “It’s very early to speculate about the implications, but if the effect of p16 can be simulated in humans we might have a way to halt cancer before it starts.”

Now you can see why this is worth knowing about. We continue:

Naked mole rats are strange, ugly, nearly hairless mouse-like creatures that live in underground communities. Unlike any other mammal, these communities consist of queens and workers more reminiscent of bees than rodents. Naked mole rats can live up to 30 years, which is exceptionally long for a small rodent. Despite large numbers of naked mole-rats under observation, there has never been a single recorded case of a mole rat contracting cancer, says Gorbunova. Adding to their mystery is the fact that mole rats appear to age very little until the very end of their lives.

That’s probably enough excerpts to get you interested. You’ll want to click over to the University of Rochester to read it all. But here’s a little bit more:

Like many animals, including humans, the mole rats have a gene called p27 that prevents cellular overcrowding, but the mole rats use another, earlier defense in gene p16. Cancer cells tend to find ways around p27, but mole rats have a double barrier that a cell must overcome before it can grow uncontrollably.

“We believe the additional layer of protection conferred by this two-tiered contact inhibition contributes to the remarkable tumor resistance of the naked mole rat,” says Gorbunova in the PNAS paper.

We won’t be hearing from the creationist websites about this, unless it’s to “explain” things by saying that we lost our p16 gene in the Fall.

Update: See Naked Mole Rat’s Genome Sequenced.

Copyright © 2009. The Sensuous Curmudgeon. All rights reserved.

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James “Jesus Glasses” Corbett: Update 28 Oct ‘09

THIS case keeps finding its way into the news. Our last report was here: Corbett Update 24 Oct ‘09, about the fascinating award of legal fees against the kid who sued Corbett, because although he had been partially successful in suing Corbett, the kid had also sued the school board which was found not liable. Thus — wonder of wonders! — the court ruled that because same lawyers represented both Corbett and the school board, the kid had to pay legal fees to Corbett’s lawyers for their victory on behalf of the school board.

Since then the case has come to the attention of the Wall Street Journal‘s legal affairs blogger: Case Involving Harsh Words About Religion Heads to 9th Circuit. What’s interesting there is that we learn a bit about Corbett’s appeal. As you know, he’s appealing the court’s ruling that he violated the student’s First Amendment rights by saying in a class lecture that creationism is “religious, superstitious nonsense.” He said loads of other things, but the court brushed them aside.

The creationist kid is also appealing. He objects to the court’s ruling because it says the rest of Corbett’s lecture was constitutionally permissible. The appellate court is being asked to review everything, which it probably doesn’t want to do — although it might. They normally won’t re-examine fact questions, especially those that were decided by a jury, but in this case there wasn’t a jury at the trial court level. Therefore the whole case could be re-examined by the appeals court. Besides, as far as we can tell there really aren’t many factual issues — the lecture statements were made. The issues are all legal: Did those statements violate the First Amendment?

Everything is quite unsettled at this point, which makes things agonizingly difficult for Corbett. That’s just what the creationist kid wants, we imagine. Hey, if you can’t burn a witch, at least you can sue him to death.

Anyway, the WSJ blog says:

Joining Corbett for the appeal: Erwin Chemerinsky, the dean of the UC Irvine law school. According to this story in the OC Register, Chemerinsky was named in the filings as a member of Corbett’s new, four-person defense team. All of the attorneys will work on a pro bono basis.

We’re delighted to learn this. The WSJ blog article also says:

Meanwhile, attorneys for student Chad Farnan simultaneously appealed the case today to the Ninth Circuit. They believe [trial court judge] Selna should have found Corbett liable for more than just the Creationism comment.

“We will ask the court to reconsider all 22 statements,” said Farnan’s attorney, Robert Tyler. “We hope that the Court of Appeals will recognize that comments like, ‘Religion was invented when the first con man met the first fool,’ are truly a violation of the establishment clause, when used in the context used by Dr. Corbett.”

Corbett sounds like a great, thought-provoking teacher. Anyway, today’s hottest news isn’t what’s in the WSJ blog. It’s this:

The Corbett case has hit the big time! WorldNetDaily — one of the most ridiculous “news” organs in the universe — is on the job. In their buffoonish pages we read: Student appeals teacher’s ‘Jesus glasses’ mockery. Here are some excerpts, with bold added by us:

Advocates for Faith and Freedom is appealing on behalf of the student, Chad Farnan, whose problems erupted while he was attending advanced placement classes at Capistrano Valley High School in Mission Viejo, Calif.

The kid’s problems “erupted”? What’s that all about — his adolescent complexion?

Teacher James Corbett, who already had a reputation for mocking Christians when Farnan began taking an Advanced Placement European history class from him two years ago, was determined by a judge to have violated the Constitution when he stated “an unequivocal belief that creationism is ‘superstitious nonsense.’ “

This must truly shock the righteous folks at WorldNetDaily. Let’s read on:

But a number of other statements were left standing, and officials with Advocates said they, too, need to be addressed.

“Officials”? Lawyers in a pro-bono shop harassing teachers on behalf of creationist kids are now referred to as “officials”? Does anyone sense a wee bit of grandiosity here? We continue, as we’re told of things from the viewpoint of the kid’s lawyer-officials:

For example, the teacher’s statement, “When you put on your Jesus glasses you can’t see the truth,” was found not to be a violation.

Right. The court said that’s not a First Amendment problem. But it’s certainly great blogging material. Here’s more:

“It is constitutionally impermissible for Dr. Corbett to use his classroom as a bully pulpit to display his personal disapproval of Christianity,” said Robert Tyler, general counsel for Advocates.

Now the creationist kid’s lawyers have a “general counsel.” In the prevailing spirit of all this titular escalation, you may now address your Curmudgeon as the “Ultimate, Maximum, Most Perfect, All-encompassing Supremacy™.” We could go farther, but it wouldn’t be consistent with our basic humility.

Back to the WND article’s account, told from “general counsel” Tyler’s side of things:

“As the court correctly determined, Dr. Corbett violated the Establishment Clause. This is an important precedent-setting case that will likely set the standard for teaching in public schools.

If, as the kid’s “general counsel” says, such judicial supervision of teachers’ lectures becomes “the standard for teaching in public schools,” then teachers won’t be free from the threat of litigation unless the only thing they do is read their lectures from previously approved scripts. You think schools are bad now? Just wait until after the creationists have cleansed them of all diabolical influences.

There’s more in the WorldNetDaily article. Check it out if you like. As we see it, the big news is that the creationist kid, together with his lawyers (and their gloriously-titled “officials”) have found a true champion to proclaim the righteousness of their cause.

With WorldNetDaily on the kid’s side, it’s so much easier to keep things in perspective.

Copyright © 2009. The Sensuous Curmudgeon. All rights reserved.

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