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June 2006

Four on medicine and health.

It's too bad that Linus Pauling was a bit of a kook. He apparently made research into the benefits of vitamin C radioactive. Here's an article discussing whether massive intravenous infusions of C could be an effective--and very cheap--therapy for cancer.

If you have heart surgery, you might want to make sure you are transfused with fresh blood.

Discouraging finding:

There’s no argument that eating well, exercising wisely, and avoiding high risk behaviors can increase one’s chances for a longer, healthier old age. But it’s also obvious that in many ways the aging process is out of our control; that despite our best efforts (in concert with a genetic make-up that makes us more or less susceptible to certain diseases) our cells and tissues ultimately degenerate and eventually die. While scientists have long suspected that events outside our control can result in aging, a study led by Buck Institute faculty member Jan Vijg, PhD, provides the first direct evidence that the molecular machinery of our cells providing function to our tissues and organs spins irreversibly out of control as we age. The study appears in the June 22 edition of Nature

On the other hand, if your mom was 25 or younger when you were born, you might have a better chance to live to 100.

Sadly, all powerful technologies can be misused. "Teachers Adjust Lesson Plans as Web Fuels Plagiarism":

School term papers may be going the way of the typewriters once used to write them. . . .

Teachers who still assign long papers — 10 pages or more with footnotes and bibliographies — often require students to attach companion essays that describe every step of their research and writing. Even then, teachers scour the Internet for suspicious turns of phrase. And some schools are paying thousands of dollars a year for software such as Barrie's that scans work for plagiarism.

Those programs reveal that about 30% of papers are plagiarized, either totally or in part.

I've watched a bit of the World Cup these last couple of weeks. I have no doubt that soccer has its spectacular moments--here are the nominees for "Goal of the Century"--but I agree with the following two jaundiced assessments.

Frank Cannon and Richard Lessner, "Nil, Nil":

Whole blocks of game time transpire during which absolutely nothing happens. Fortunately, this permits fans to slip out for a bratwurst and a beer without missing anything important. It's little wonder fans at times resort to brawling amongst themselves in the grandstands, as there is so little transpiring on the field of play to occupy their wandering attention. Watching men in shorts scampering around has its limitations. It's like gazing too long at a painting by de Kooning or Jackson Pollock. The more you look, the less there is to see.

(I'd add: it's amazing how inaccurate the offensive play is. Many long passes are intercepted. Most shots aren't even on goal: they're way high or wide. It's as half the passing plays in a football game were interceptions or two-thirds of the shots in a basketball game were airballs.)

Jonathan V. Last, "Foul!":

But there is one obstacle to soccer acceptance that seems insurmountable: the flop-'n'-bawl.

Turn on a World Cup game, and within 15 minutes you'll see a grown man fall to the ground, clutch his leg and writhe in agony after being tapped on the shoulder by an opposing player. Soccer players do this routinely in an attempt to get the referees to call foul. If the ref doesn't immediately bite, the player gets up and moves along.

Paul Greenberg offers some interesting predictions on the 2006 elections.

Barring an economic meltdown, the old Democratic dream of rebuilding the Rooseveltian coalition on the ruins of another Hooverian presidency will fail to materialize. Because ever since the ideologues took control of the Democratic Party in the '60s, it hasn't been able to re-establish sustained contact with the American heartland. And the more fired-up its zealots, the poorer the candidates they support do in November. Call it the McGovern Effect.

The very thought of Nancy Pelosi, D-San Francisco, as speaker of the House will be enough to energize the right and concern the center, and I'd guess those two categories account for about 80 percent of the American electorate.

Even when leading Democrats talk about God, express doubts about the morality of abortion, say they're tough enough to win the war on terror, promise to repeal the estate/death tax and generally seek to get in touch with middle America again, they sound phony, as if they're just reciting phrases they've carefully practiced.

There's no way to fabricate authenticity; people can tell the real thing. And the unreal. Until the Harry Truman/Scoop Jackson/Joe Lieberman kind of Democrat stages a comeback, the party will continue to founder. Republican failures alone do not translate into Democratic appeal.