RIKEN and the Tokyo University of the Arts hold joint symposium on science and art

On Sunday, November 15, 2009, RIKEN and the Tokyo University of the Arts held a joint symposium to commemorate an agreement toward cooperation in research and education with the aim of achieving broad-based advances benefitting all of society.

See original: RIKEN RESEARCH RIKEN and the Tokyo University of the Arts hold joint symposium on science and art

Unearthing chemistry’s rare gems

Stacking at the flick of a switch

Exploring symbiotic mechanisms through the genes of unculturable microorganisms

Genetic analyses help decode symbiosis in the termite gut as a model for the highly efficient conversion of plant cellulose

See original: RIKEN RESEARCH Exploring symbiotic mechanisms through the genes of unculturable microorganisms

WaPo tries to redeem itself: Palin's new nemesis is... [The Island of Doubt]

Alan I. Leshner, chief executive officer of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and executive publisher of the journal Science. In an op-ed published in today's Washington Post, he excoriates Sarah Palin for her illterate essay, published earlier this week, on the topic of climate change.

While former Alaska governor Sarah Palin wrote in her Dec. 9 op-ed that she did not deny the "reality of some changes in climate," she distorted the clear scientific evidence that Earth's climate is changing, largely as a result of human behaviors. She also badly confused the concepts of daily weather changes and long-term climate trends when she wrote that "while we recognize the occurrence of these natural, cyclical environmental trends, we can't say with assurance that man's activities cause weather changes." Her statement inaccurately suggests that short-term weather fluctuations must be consistent with long-term climate patterns. And it is the long-term patterns that are a cause for concern.

And so on. Of course, when an accomplished scientist tears apart Sarah's Palin's pseudo-scientific musing, the phrase "shooting fish in a barrel comes to mind." The problem remains, however. Why is it that the Washington Post, once one of the great American bastions of journalism, the slayer of Nixon, sees fit to publish an essay on a scientific subject, ghost-written or not, by one of the country's least qualified commentators on matters scientific?

Why is that people like Leshner should be compelled to respond to people like Palin, when the latter is clearly not in a position to offer informed observations?

The failure of the paper's highest profile columnist, George WIll, to admit he has grossly misrepresented the science of climate change poses some real challenges to the owners of the Post, I suppose, given Will's stature in the business. But why seek out or accept essays written by Palin on a scientific subject?

Many of us have been asking this question for months now. The answer, some say, is that the Post is desperate to sell papers. If the distribution department can demonstrate that essays by Palin significantly boost sales -- something I doubt -- then there would be nothing more to say.

I will make one criticism of Leshner's piece, though. He uses the term "doubters" to describe those who refuse to accept the science of climate change. I would prefer the term "deniers" because doubt implies skepticism, and there is no genuine skepticism, in the scientific sense, evident in the attitude of those deny the conclusion that every intellectually honest appraisal has produced. I tend to use the term "pseudoskeptic" because it implies a level of dishonesty or delusion, but denier is probably a more acceptable and less esoteric term for a paper like the Post.

UPDATE: For some reason, the Guardian saw fit to republish Palin's piece. At least the comments there are more fun.

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See original: ScienceBlogs Select WaPo tries to redeem itself: Palin's new nemesis is... [The Island of Doubt]

El Rio Community Health Center honored with 2009 APhA Pinnacle Award [Terra Sigillata]

El Rio.jpgAs I have said on occasion, the health care insurance reform debate seems to have underestimated the role of the clinically-trained pharmacist in improving care and cutting health care costs. Hands-on community-based drug management models have been operating around the US with far less fanfare than cut-rate prescriptions at Wal-Mart or CVS Caremark.

So I was delighted to learn via Phoenix pharmacist commenter, Michael Guzzo, that El Rio Community Health Center in Tucson, Arizona, was recognized this past summer with a 2009 Pinnacle Award from the American Pharmacists Association (APhA) Foundation.

These awards were inspired by and created in response to the increasing importance of the proper use of medications in today's health care environment. Morbidity and mortality associated with improper medication use is a major public health problem, resulting in significant disability and up to 100,000 deaths each year. An estimated 177 billion dollars is spent annually on preventable hospitalizations, lengthened stays, and/or prolonged treatment as a result of prescribing contraindicated therapy, drug-drug interactions, adverse drug reactions, duplication of drug therapy, and/or errors in drug administration.

"The 2009 Pinnacle Award recipients represent those who are shaping the future of health care delivery," said William M. Ellis, APhA Foundation Executive Director and CEO. "Their work shows that system changes and new thinking are not only possible but can enhance medication use and improve patient outcomes. The one constant between all of the award winners is that they never fail to put the patient as the focal point in the care process and I commend them for their commitment to quality."

Guzzo pointed out to me that a four-minute YouTube video is available from APhA detailing the activities of El Rio. Diabetes disproportionately affects Hispanic patients, and especially type II diabetes in Native Americans of the Pima tribe, in the Land of the Sun. Through a series of culturally-sensitive and reading level-appropriate materials and face-to-face medication counseling, El Rio's team of three clinical pharmacists and others are making great strides in improving the quality of life, and decreasing the costs of diabetes complications, for thousands of good folks in the Sonoran region.

Of great pride to me is that the team is led by Pharmboy laboratory graduate, Sandra Leal, PharmD, CDE. We featured an interview with her back in October for the Diversity in Science Carnival during Hispanic Heritage Month. Sandra is featured prominently in the second half of this video.

Congratulations to all the good folks at El Rio who are making a world of difference in the lives of diabetes patients in Arizona and serving as an example for community pharmacy practice models nationwide

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See original: ScienceBlogs Select El Rio Community Health Center honored with 2009 APhA Pinnacle Award [Terra Sigillata]

Emissions are substantially higher than companies and countries report, say scientists.

10/12/2009 BBC Emissions of some greenhouse gases are substantially higher than companies and countries report, say scientists.The gases in question are much more powerful warming agents than CO2, but make a small contribution to climate change as concentrations are low. US researchers found that levels of some of them in the air are five times more [...]

See original: Resources for a sustainable future Emissions are substantially higher than companies and countries report, say scientists.

Even Einstein got a little short of cash now and then [bioephemera]

Einstein2.jpg

Albert Einstein has never reminded me much of Dr. Evil. Quite the opposite, in fact. But even Einstein occasionally had to ask for one MEEEEL-LION dollars - for a good cause, of course:

Dear Friend:

I write to you for help at the suggestion of a friend.

Through the release of atomic energy, our generation has brought into the world the most revolutionary force since prehistoric man's discovery of fire. This basic power of the universe cannot be fitted into the outmoded concept of narrow nationalisms. For there is no secret and there is no defense; there is no possibility of control except through the aroused understanding and insistence of the peoples of the world.

We scientists recognize our inescapable responsibility to carry to our fellow citizens an understanding of the simple facts of atomic energy and its implications for society. In this lies our only security and our only hope -- we believe that an informed citizenry will act for life and not death.

We need $1,000,000 for this great educational task. Sustained by faith in man's ability to control his destiny through the exercise of reason, we have pledged all our strength and our knowledge to this work. I do not hesitate to call upon you to help.

Faithfully yours,

[A. Einstein]

Honestly, if this letter weren't from Mike Rhode's blog, I'd think it was made up. It's just too odd! But it's real, all right - and here's the archived text at FAS. Anybody out there have a similar letter?

I wonder if Einstein ever got his $1M?

PS. "Emergency Committee of Atomic Scientists" may be among top ten letterheads ever. "It's not just an emergency, dammit, it's an ATOMIC emergency!"

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See original: ScienceBlogs Select Even Einstein got a little short of cash now and then [bioephemera]

Carnivorous, worm-like amphibians invade London: 'The Secret World of Naked Snakes', part I [Tetrapod Zoology]

caecilian-ZSL-meeting-motley-Dec-2009-resized.jpg

On Monday 7th December the Zoological Society of London (ZSL) hosted the one-off event 'The Secret World of Naked Snakes' (part of the ZSL's 'communicating science' series): a whole meeting devoted entirely to those bizarre, poorly known, limbless, worm-like amphibians, the caecilians. The meeting was attended by over 100 people, which really isn't bad going, especially when some of the organisers expressed fears that the event would only be attended by (to quote David Gower) "A handful of caecilian freaks".

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See original: ScienceBlogs Select Carnivorous, worm-like amphibians invade London: 'The Secret World of Naked Snakes', part I [Tetrapod Zoology]

COP15 Behind the Scenes: Free bicycles for delegates

Watch the COP15 Behind the Scenes film about the organisation Bicikeli, providing free bicycles for delegates
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Unfair "Danish Text" Analysis Verified . . . by Shell Oil! [The Primate Diaries]

The so-called "Danish Text" agreement that was leaked to the Guardian newspaper has resulted in a firestorm of controversy. By far the most hostile reporting about the outrage that poor nations have expressed has been from the Financial Times.

FT Commentator Fiona Harvey wrote yesterday that:

The more the spotlight falls upon this Danish text, the more like a Danish pastry it looks.

Here's an assertion from Newsweek:

"Under the plan, by 2050 poor countries would have to limit per capita emissions at 1.44 tons, while rich countries would be given extra leeway at 2.67 tons per person."

Really? Well, that would be absolutely shocking - if it bore any relation to the document.

So, where do those figures appear in the draft text?

Can you find them?

No, because they're not there. The figures are supplied by NGOs, after the event. They don't appear in the text. And nowhere are they sourced.

So neither you nor I can make any comment on their validity. Other than this - if these figures have a reasonable pedigree, why isn't it quoted? If you had a case, why wouldn't you make it?

The fact that figures are given no provenance, and the case is not made, gives little credibility to the conclusion.

This unsourced speculation - allusions to figures that are not available to scrutiny - does no favours to the originators. Some friends are worse than enemies.

I hope Harvey is prepared to be shocked.

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See original: ScienceBlogs Select Unfair "Danish Text" Analysis Verified . . . by Shell Oil! [The Primate Diaries]

Obama's Nobel Peace Prize Speech Leaked [The Primate Diaries]

The following is an unconfirmed draft of the speech that President Obama plans to give before the Nobel Prize Committee in Oslo later today. Daniel Simpson has transcribed the draft:

EMBARGOED UNTIL DECEMBER 10, 2009

(Check against delivery)


Your Majesties, Your Royal Highnesses, Excellencies, Distinguished members of the Norwegian Nobel Committee, Dear Friends around the world, My fellow Americans.

I stand here today humbled, more than ever, by the task before us, grateful for the honour you've bestowed, and mindful of the sacrifices we must make to do it justice.

Twenty Americans before me have lent their names to this most eminent of prizes, among them three presidents, two sitting. Though challenged by the upheavals of fractious eras, their skill and vision hewed faithfully to the spirit of our forebears, who travelled across an ocean to seek sanctuary, and declared all who made their home there to have been created equal. Where possible, they worked to stem those tides in humankind that would drown us in the storms of violent conflict. And so we recall these efforts, and their fruits, praising Theodore Roosevelt for brokering peace, not chiding him for wielding his trademark stick to subjugate Cuba and the Philippines.

Others were inspired by a higher calling, rising above themselves to speak truths we shirk from hearing. Of these transformative figures, none was more righteous, more perspicacious, than Dr Martin Luther King, who accepted this award 45 years ago. I was surprised to be asked to follow him, and shared with you my doubts that I deserved to be doing so. But I've come here on the understanding that this ceremony is a call to action, a call for all nations to confront the challenges of the 21st century, and for America to lead.

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See original: ScienceBlogs Select Obama's Nobel Peace Prize Speech Leaked [The Primate Diaries]

Raise Your Voice, Mr. Sakihito Ozawa, Japanese Minister for Environment.

Watch the call to action on climate change from Mr. Sakihito Ozawa, Japanese Minister for Environment.
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Saboteurs at Copenhagen – Part 2

Second, he should request that EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson establish a carbon cap-and-trade system that equips the United States to participate in the global trading regime expected to emerge sooner or later from the United Nations process. Jackson should respond with a clean and transparent trading regime in coordination with states and regions that already have established their own trading systems.

Meantime, Obama should tell congressional leaders that he still prefers a market mechanism to regulation and he is willing to work with the Hill to make climate legislation work in tandem with the Clean Air Act. But he should set out these non-negotiable terms: The United States will cut its emissions 45 percent in the next 10 years. If Congress passes a bill with a lower cap, the Administration will regulate to achieve the rest. If Congress passes a bill that is wholly inadequate, the president will veto it.

Finally, if it appears the Senate cannot produce the 67 votes necessary to recommend ratification of an international treaty, the president should prepare to use an Executive Agreement to collaborate with other nations on carbon reduction and climate adaptation. An executive agreement can be used much like a treaty, but does not require a Senate vote.

Some members of Congress will react by trying to curtail EPA’s power and by placing new restrictions on executive agreements. To block such retaliation, the president should implement his strategy in full consultation with the members of Congress who believe in responsible climate action and who might he relieved to see the president take the heat. Obama should put Republicans and conservative Democrats in the position where they need 60 Senate votes to bring retaliatory legislation to the floor.

In Copenhagen on Tuesday, news of Jackson’s endangerment finding created a buzz of speculation about whether Obama would come to the climate conference with a December surprise – i.e., an announcement that he and Jackson planned to use the Clean Air Act to set a more ambitious carbon-cutting target than the president has embraced so far. Jackson was asked about this three times; she evaded the question each time, saying only that the EPA has to be mindful of lawsuits and has to take action that is “reasonable and cost-effective”.

But the EPA will be sued no matter what it does, and nothing is more reasonable and cost-effective than preventing severe climate change with all of its costly impacts, from drought and disease to national security threats and natural disasters. In fact, a strong climate policy that relies on energy efficiency and renewable energy, a smart grid and other improvements to our aging infrastructure, and that ends America’s dependence on foreign oil and slows our energy trade deficit, will put people back to work, from steelworkers to computer technicians.

The regulatory approach has been studied and recommended by groups such as the Center for Biological Diversity, which has just joined 350.org in petitioning EPA to use the Clean Air Act for aggressive cuts in greenhouse gases. http://www.yesmagazine.org/planet/using-the-clean-air-act-to-cap-carbon In an analysis issued earlier this year, the Center concluded:
http://www.usclimatenetwork.org/resource-database/No%20Reason%20To%20Wai...

Notwithstanding the fact that EPA currently has not only the full authority under the Clean Air Act, but the legal mandate, to begin requiring greenhouse emissions reductions immediately from nearly all major sources in the U.S., a decade of agency inaction under the statute has created a prevailing perception that the Clean Air Act is somehow “ill suited” to addressing greenhouse emissions and that new legislation is needed before meaningful U.S. action to address greenhouse emissions can occur. However, a review of Clean Air Act provisions demonstrates that the law is in fact very well-suited to addressing greenhouse emissions, and if expeditiously implemented and enforced would result in emission reductions in the U.S. at least equal to, but likely exceeding those under any climate legislation currently before Congress.

Researchers at the New York University Law School looked at the Executive Agreement option last April and concluded it can be used as an alternative to a treaty. http://www.policyintegrity.org/publications/documents/TheRoadAhead.pdf

It is time for the Executive Branch to assert itself. If it does, Obama can come to Copenhagen week with a bold and actionable commitment to cutting America’s carbon pollution, in a way that is under his control, saves the negotiations and renders meaningless the shameless shenanigans of the Flat Earth Caucus.

See original: Climate Change Task Force Saboteurs at Copenhagen – Part 2