Thursday, January 14, 2010

IQ-related genes continue to be discovered

There is universal agreement that there are many genes involved in the production of high IQ. There is not a single "IQ gene". High IQ seems to be the product of many genes working "just right" in the same individual -- which is why it is rare. And the process of finding out which genes are involved is advancing steadily. Below is the latest report of a gene which has been found to affect IQ. The focus below is on what happens when the gene works badly but the implication is that the gene is one of those that would need to work well for high IQ to emerge

An interesting side-effect is the demonstration that the cousin marriages which are common among Muslims can lead to mental retardation. Arab populations do show a lower than average IQ

A gene involved in some forms of intellectual disability has been identified by scientists at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH), as published this month in The American Journal of Human Genetics. The gene is called TRAPPC9.

In the same journal two other international research teams independently confirm the findings of Dr. John B. Vincent, a scientist at CAMH, and his team. "This spotlights the intense interest that genetics is bringing to types of inherited intellectual disability that, to date, have been poorly understood," says Dr. Vincent. "Now that we have identified TRAPPC9 as a gene that may be associated with hundreds of thousands of cases of intellectual disability world-wide, we can build on that knowledge with research to help individuals and their families," says Dr. Vincent.

Unlike intellectual disabilities that are part of a syndrome with other medical conditions or physical abnormalities, TRAPPC9 is associated with non-syndromic types of intellectual disability; these cause up to 50 per cent of intellectual disability worldwide. "The discovery sheds light on a gene for intellectual disability on one of the non-sex chromosomes," says Dr. Vincent, "just the seventh such gene that we know of." The mutation in the TRAPPC9 gene identified by Dr. Vincent's team causes the production of a truncated version of a protein and results in faulty cell function.

Because there are no highly recognizable physical differences that are associated with the non-syndromic intellectual disabilities, it is more difficult to tease out the genetic mutations that may cause them. But researchers and families themselves have long suspected an inherited factor, based on patterns observed in extended families. Families with many affected individuals, and particular families from cultures where cousin-cousin marriages are common, have become invaluable in the search for such genes, and with recent advances in technology it is now possible to map disease-causing genes in a single family.

Dr. Vincent's team first identified and mapped out the TRAPPC9 gene in a large family from Pakistan that had at least seven members with non-syndromic intellectual disability. "To date, most such genes have only been found responsible for disease in a single family," he adds. But Dr. Vincent's team also found a mutation in the same gene in a family from Iran, confirming the gene's importance. "This additional finding gives us a very strong reason to continue to explore the gene and its possible mutations," he says.



Ayatollahs desert Iran's besieged regime

Not something you often hear about:

AYATOLLAH Ruhollah Khomeini established his Islamic regime on the premise of velayet-e faqih, the undisputed moral and religious authority of the supreme leader as a successor to the prophet Mohammed and the infallible Shia imams. This premise was set to justify and guarantee the survival of the system he created. Undisputed authority, he thought, with a back-up from Allah, cannot be challenged. But as events in Iran unfold, it becomes clear this is no longer the case. Not only is the leader challenged but also his self-ascribed monopoly on God.

Khomeini's successor Ali Khamenei never enjoyed the religious and moral authority of his predecessor. Khamenei, a mid-level cleric (hojatoleslam) who had never completed a resaleye amalie (equivalent to a PhD dissertation for Shia religious students), ascended to the rank of grand ayatollah within three months. He began his career by putting his rival, grand ayatollah Hosein Ali Montazeri, under house arrest. For his part, Montazeri, once designated as the successor to Khomeini, indeed became Khamenei's most vocal opponent. His once lonely voice of dissent became stronger as more and more ayatollahs, including very senior ones, found it increasingly difficult to keep silent.

The rift between the clerical establishment and the regime has significantly widened during the past six months. Slowly but surely, even some of the most conservative ayatollahs began to distance themselves from both. Last month, grand ayatollah Javadi Amoli, who performs Friday prayers in Qom, announced his resignation. In his departure statement, he expressed his frustration with the lack of listening on the part of the Supreme Leader: "When the Friday imam articulates the problems that people face and those problems are resolved, it is evidence that he has expressed them well. But if the problems are not resolved, that means he was not successful."

In another recent sermon, Ayatollah Reza Ostadi, a Friday prayer leader in the holy city of Qom, condemned the "extremism in support of the Supreme Leader", or the heavy-handed tactics used by the regime to impose Khamenei's authority. In response, one of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's aides launched a verbal attack on the senior cleric. However, no less than 19 top members of Qom seminaries issued an open letter in support of their colleague.

Last June, shortly after the first peaceful demonstrations were met with violence, a video clip of Grand Ayatollah Ali Mohammed Dastghaib, the most senior religious figure in Fars, appeared on YouTube. In it, he openly called the supreme leader an apostate who should be removed from God's mercy. This brazen speech brought the closure of his mosque as well as several attacks on his office and home. He was also barred from giving public speeches. But his message still resonates.

In another YouTube clip, Ayatollah Shirazi, who belongs to one of the most prominent clerical families in Shia Islam, called Khamenei "worse than Yazid", referring to a historical figure who is the embodiment of Satan for Shi'ites. Yazid's army killed Hussein, the grandson of Mohammed and the most revered Shia imam on the day of Ashura. Although the timing of the clip is not clear, its content is unequivocally lucid: Khamenei, no longer represents Islam but, rather, he is perceived as an enemy of the faith. Shirazi ends his remarks by praying for Khamenei's severe punishment on the day of judgment. Shirazi's remarks appeared more relevant at the December 27 mass demonstrations that coincided with the Ashura, the annual commemoration of Hussein's death. At least nine people were killed that day, an untold number were injured and more than 1100 people arrested in Tehran alone. Such brutality during the holy day placed the supreme leader closer to the side of Yazid in the eyes of many.

Co-opting God remains at the core of this debate. Ayatollah Abbas Vaez-Tabasi, one of Khamenei's most corrupt representatives, called the leaders of the opposition enemies of God who should be sentenced to death. Mehdi Karubi, a mid-ranking cleric and an opposition leader, characterised the attack on the demonstrators on the day of Ashura as an "unforgivable sin".

Yazid or not, it is becoming increasingly evident that the moral authority of the Supreme Leader is fading. With it, the very foundation on which the Islamic Republic was built appears shakier than ever. The Iranian people, along with the religious leadership, are distancing themselves from a regime that represents neither the people below nor God above.



STIMULUS WATCH: Unemployment unchanged by projects

A federal spending surge of more than $20 billion for roads and bridges in President Barack Obama's first stimulus has had no effect on local unemployment rates, raising questions about his argument for billions more to address an "urgent need to accelerate job growth." An Associated Press analysis of stimulus spending found that it didn't matter if a lot of money was spent on highways or none at all: Local unemployment rates rose and fell regardless. And the stimulus spending only barely helped the beleaguered construction industry, the analysis showed.

With the nation's unemployment rate at 10 percent and expected to rise, Obama wants a second stimulus bill from Congress including billions of additional dollars for roads and bridges — projects the president says are "at the heart of our effort to accelerate job growth."

Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood defended the administration's recovery program Monday, writing on his blog that "DOT-administered stimulus spending is the only thing propping up the transportation construction industry." Road spending would total nearly $28 billion of the Jobs for Main Street Act, a $75 billion second stimulus to help lower the unemployment rate and improve the dismal job market for construction workers. The Senate is expected to consider the House-approved bill this month.

But AP's analysis, which was reviewed by independent economists at five universities, showed the strategy of pumping transportation money into counties hasn't affected local unemployment rates so far. "There seems to me to be very little evidence that it's making a difference," said Todd Steen, an economics professor at Hope College in Michigan who reviewed the AP analysis.

And there's concern about relying on transportation spending a second time. "My bottom line is, I'd be skeptical about putting too much more money into a second stimulus until we've seen broader effects from the first stimulus," said Aaron Jackson, a Bentley University economist who also reviewed AP's analysis.




SCOTUS protects witnesses in homosexual marriage trial: "The Supreme Court split along ideological lines Wednesday as it barred a federal judge in San Francisco from broadcasting a high-profile trial involving same-sex marriage. The court issued an unsigned opinion that said lower courts had not followed proper procedure in approving plans for the broadcast. … The court’s liberal bloc — joined for the first time in an ideological split by Sonia Sotomayor, the new justice — issued a strong dissent.”

Forecast: Foreclosures may rise to record three million US homes in 2010: "A record 3 million U.S. homes will be repossessed by lenders this year as high unemployment and depressed home values leave borrowers unable to make their house payment or sell, according to a RealtyTrac Inc. forecast. Last year there were 2.82 million foreclosures, the most since RealtyTrac began compiling data in 2005. More than 4.5 million filings are expected this year, including default or auction notices and bank seizures, said Rick Sharga, senior vice president for the Irvine, California-based seller of default data and forecasts.”

Rasmussen: Massachusetts race a dead heat: "Pollster Scott Rasmussen’s latest numbers on that special Senate election in Massachusetts: Democrat Martha Coakley 49%, Republican Scott Brown 47%, independent candidate Joe Kennedy (no relation to the Kennedys) 3%. Rasmussen points out that this is not precisely comparable with his survey last week, which showed Coakley ahead 50%-41%, since in that survey it offered the choice of “some other candidate” and in this one Kennedy (whose inclusion in debates Coakley insisted on) was named. Turnout matters: this most recent poll shows Brown 2% ahead among those absolutely certain to vote. Obviously all these results are within the statistical margin of error, which means that either candidate could win.

Democrats fielding a corruptocrat in Massachusetts: " Democrat Martha Coakley is the voice of the “little people” the way Ted Kennedy was the voice of sobriety. If Massachusetts voters want another privileged liberal who talks a good “social justice” game while ignoring public corruption, pocketing gobs of money from Beltway fat cats and pandering to corporate special interests, Coakley’s the one. Coakley, the Bay State’s attorney general, has campaigned to replace the late Sen. Kennedy on a law-and-order platform. But she has consistently turned a blind eye to both. When a top aide to Boston Mayor Tom Menino was caught deleting thousands of e-mails in violation of public records law last fall, Coakley punted. Democrat Menino was in the middle of a re-election bid; Coakley was wrapped up in her own senatorial bid. Instead of expressing any concern about the City Hall information black hole, Coakley refused to investigate. She accused her critics of playing politics: “(W)e get lots of complaints from folks who are adversaries who have a particular agenda.”

Playing politics with pullets and paychecks: "Back in the early 1960s, West Germans were eating a lot of imported American chicken. This apparently threatened Germany’s poultry producers so their politicians slapped an import tax on the foreign fowl. What this did, as ever, was to punish large numbers of their own chicken chomping citizens for the benefit of a relatively small number of politically connected roaster raisers. But never mind. America struck back. President Lyndon Johnson imposed an onerous 25 percent tax on imported delivery vans and trucks, thereby punishing Volkswagen's autoworkers while ostensibly protecting America's unionized autoworkers at the expense of hundreds of thousands of American large and small business owners who use delivery vehicles in their daily operations."

More than zero: "Anyone who has expended energy arguing for free trade, market competition, and the open exchange of ideas has repeatedly encountered the same obstacle: zero-sum assumptions misapplied to dynamic, nonlinear phenomena. Almost anywhere you see statism advancing — in economic policy, national security, even the basic conditions for free speech — you can bet that underneath there’s a faulty zero-sum argument. All complicated matters of life, according to this way of thinking, can be reduced to a simple binary scale: Press your thumb down on the bad end, and the good one will go up. So when President Barack Obama slaps a 35 percent tariff on Chinese tires, as he did on September 11, he does it in the name of ensuring that (as he put it in a campaign promise) ‘China is no longer given a free pass to undermine U.S. workers.’ In this yin-yang formulation, there is a single pie of domestic American tire consumption, and China’s slice is growing bigger at the expense of domestic producers.”

India: Pill signals new openness: "A college-age woman, dressed in traditional Indian clothing with her hair in a long braid, nervously whispers into a phone that she needs to find an abortion clinic. The next scene of the popular Indian TV ad shows the woman and a friend peering into a dimly lit alley as a voice-over says, ‘It’s better to take an I-pill and avoid the quandary of an abortion.’ The candor of the advertisement is a sign of dramatic change in India, whose traditional society still frowns on public displays of affection. Sexual behavior is increasingly openly discussed — and prevalent.”

Facing a choice about fascism: "Political scholars tend to disagree about what, exactly, defines fascism. Many go the ‘I know it when I see it’ route, alluding to the nebulous definition of pornography, while others maintain that it doesn’t exist at all, believing instead that what we perceive as fascism is usually just a perversion of some other form of government. Largely due to Hitler’s would-be empire, the modern world views fascism as a mish-mash of bigotry, ultra-nationalism, totalitarianism, and censorship. However, if you dig beneath the ‘isms,’ you’re left with is a single, simple truth. Most of the evils perpetrated by Hitler’s regime were trappings created to support an economy where private ownership of industry was coupled with a massive level of government control. Fascism is, and always was, about money.”

The old delusion of protectionism: "When Senator Byron Dorgan of North Dakota announced his support for Barack Obama’s presidential campaign in 2008, he told reporters that a key factor in his endorsement was that Obama ‘has always opposed NAFTA’ — the North American Free Trade Agreement linking Canada, Mexico, and the United States. Dorgan is a strident protectionist, so there was nothing unusual about his slap at NAFTA. Except this: The same week that Dorgan came out for Obama, the US Commercial Service reported that North Dakota had ranked first in the nation for export growth the previous year. And the top destinations for the North Dakota merchandise exported in 2007? Canada and Mexico. International commerce has been good to Dorgan’s state.”

The people making “the rules” are dumber than you: "The people who regulate what you do, in most cases, know less about what you’re doing than you do. It doesn’t matter whether it’s nominally a ‘public’ or ‘private’ organization, or how smart the people running it are as individuals. No matter how smart the people in charge are, they are systematically stupid in their organizational roles, because of the dynamics of information flow in hierarchies (as described by Robert Anton Wilson, for example). Organizations are pyramids, and the people at the tops of the pyramids tend to communicate much more effectively with each other than they do with those at the bottoms of their own respective pyramids. That means that most organizations are riddled with ‘best practices’ based almost entirely on feedback about how well they worked from people at the tops of the other pyramids. And those latter people have almost no valid knowledge of how the policies actually worked in their own organizations.”


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The Big Lie of the late 20th century was that Nazism was Rightist. It was in fact typical of the Leftism of its day. It was only to the Right of Stalin's Communism. The very word "Nazi" is a German abbreviation for "National Socialist" (Nationalsozialist) and the full name of Hitler's political party (translated) was "The National Socialist German Workers' Party" (In German: Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei)


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