Saturday, April 30, 2016

Improper functioning of the mitochondria, a cell's source of energy, may help account for the fact that African-American men with prostate cancer respond poorly to the same conventional therapies provided to white American men, according to research led by Dhyan Chandra, PhD, Associate Professor of Oncology in the Department of Pharmacology and Therapeutics at Roswell Park Cancer Institute (RPCI)

"In an earlier study, we provided the first evidence that African-American men possess reduced levels of mitochondrial genetic material in healthy prostate tissues, compared to Caucasian-American men. This new study highlights the importance of mitochondrial dysfunction as one of the main reasons for prostate cancer health disparities," says Dr. Chandra. "We conclude that the presence of severe mitochondrial dysfunction in African-American men with prostate cancer, compared with Caucasian men with the disease, would be one of the potential reasons for the increased cancer resistance to chemotherapy and the recurrence of disease." Mitochondrial dysfunction is strongly linked to chemotherapeutic resistance leading to relapse of prostate cancer, but its effects can sometimes be overcome by treatment with the small molecule dichloroacetate. In prostate cancer cells from African-American men, dichloroacetate did not restore mitochondrial function to required levels. This mitochondrial dysfunction within prostate cancer cells appears to make African-American men more resistant to current chemotherapy, putting them at greater risk for disease spread. The identification of new anticancer agents that would restore mitochondrial activity may result in better disease control, the researchers emphasize. "These findings may provide an explanation for the higher incidence and mortality rates of prostate cancer among African-American men. African-American patients might get more positive outcomes after major restoration of mitochondrial function, which could improve the anticancer effects of therapy," adds Dr. Chandra.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Muslims and gays: Murders force Bangladeshi gay rights activists underground

Xulhaz Mannan was a rallying figure for Bangladesh's marginalized but increasingly outspoken lesbian, gay and transgender community, but his brutal murder has dealt a huge blow to the movement and forced some of its leaders underground. Mannan, who founded Bangladesh's first magazine for gays and lesbians which he used to launch a vibrant rights movement in the deeply religious, Muslim-majority country, was hacked to death along with a fellow activist. Friends and fellow campaigners this week rushed to remove all trace of their activism from social media sites, fearing they could themselves become targets. A group of unidentified attackers carrying machetes and guns murdered Mannan and Mahbub Tonoy after gaining access to his Dhaka apartment. It was the latest in a series of killings of secular bloggers and liberal activists in Bangladesh that have caused global outrage, and sparked fears that the attackers are expanding their range of targets to include openly gay people. Al-Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent (AQIS) has said that it killed the men, accusing them of working to "promote homosexuality" in Bangladesh. The government, however, says that homegrown Islamists were responsible. Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has blamed the main opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) and its Islamist ally, Jamaat-e-Islami.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Gay politician crime: A federal judge has sentenced former House speaker J. Dennis Hastert to one year and three months in federal prison — a term above what prosecutors had recommended and one that clearly took into account the sexual abuse allegations that generated the criminal case against the Illinois Republican

Prosecutors called the sentence a “day of reckoning” for a man who was once a revered high school teacher and wrestling coach in Illinois and who ascended into the highest ranks of American politics. Even before the hearing, prosecutors had revealed in court filings how Hastert had molested or inappropriately touched five teenagers affiliated with the wrestling team he coached decades ago, and U.S. District Judge Thomas Durkin forced him to acknowledge that abuse in specific terms. The hearing, in a small courtroom packed with reporters and others, was an emotional one — highlighted by a tearful statement from a victim speaking publicly for the first time and a lengthy monologue from the judge that leveled sharp attacks at Hastert. For his part, Hastert told the judge that he was “deeply ashamed” to be in court and was still “struggling to come to terms with events that occurred four decades ago.” He said that he “mistreated some of my athletes that I coached.” “The thing I want to do today is say I’m sorry to those I have hurt and misled,” he said. “They looked to me, and I took advantage of them.” Hastert, 74, who arrived at the courthouse in a wheelchair, was allowed to remain free until federal prison officials find a facility that can tend to his substantial health problems. As part of his sentence, he will have to undergo sex offender treatment. He left the courthouse without talking to reporters. Hastert did not plead guilty to any sex crimes. Rather, he admitted in October 2015 that he had withdrawn money in increments that would allow him to avoid having to report it — itself a crime carrying a maximum five-year sentence. The money, investigators would come to learn, was meant to buy the silence of a man who alleged that Hastert had victimized him as a youth. In court, though, Hastert was forced to face abuse allegations in all their dark detail. Jolene Burdge — who has alleged previously that Hastert abused her now deceased brother, Steven Reinboldt, years ago — told Hastert how Reinboldt felt “betrayed, ashamed and embarrassed” by what had happened to him. She said that she hoped by sharing his story publicly, she had become Hastert’s “worst nightmare.” “You were supposed to keep him safe, not violate him,” Burdge said. Scott Cross, 53, a married father of two, fought back tears as he told the judge how Hastert, who also is married and has two children, abused him during his senior year of high school. Cross, who wrestled on a team Hastert coached and whose brother is a former Illinois legislator, said that he “looked up to Coach Hastert. He was a key figure in my life.” But one day after practice, when Cross stayed late to cut weight, he ended up alone with Hastert in a locker room, and Hastert offered him a massage. Cross said that while he was lying on a training table, Hastert pulled down his shorts and touched him in a sexual way. “I was stunned by what he was doing,” Cross said. Cross said that he got up, left and “did not say anything to anyone.” “As a 17-year-old boy, I was devastated,” he said. “I tried to figure out why Coach Hastert had singled me out.” Prosecutors had shared the outlines of Cross’s story in sentencing papers — identifying him only as Individual D — but now marked the first time that he or any victim had shared their experience publicly. As Cross talked, Hastert sat motionless, his head tilted slightly toward the ground. Cross, who works in financial services, said that he felt “pain, shame and guilt” for years and that he confided in his brother and wife about what happened only after the criminal case against Hastert emerged. He said that he had trouble sleeping and working but that he came forward because he wanted the judge to know what happened and he wanted his children to know that “there’s an alternative to staying silent.” “I wanted you to know the pain and suffering he caused me then, and still causes me today,” Cross said. Prosecutors had recommended that Hastert face zero to six months in prison, though in court and afterward, they said that it was not a resolution that brought them any satisfaction. Defense attorneys had advocated for probation. Durkin on multiple occasions called Hastert a “serial child molester,” though he noted that he could not sentence him as such. He pressed Hastert to go beyond his admission that he “mistreated” his former students, asking him outright whether he had sexually abused them. In some cases, Hastert was hesitant. Of Cross, he said: “I don’t remember doing that, but I accept his statement.” He acknowledged abusing another victim, but hemmed and hawed about Reinboldt. “It’s a different situation, Sir,” Hastert said, before ultimately acknowledging that he had sexually abused Reinboldt. Thomas Green, Hastert’s defense attorney, said that Hastert did not seem to be “fully cognizant” of the abuse in some cases. In a statement after the hearing, he said: “Mr. Hastert accepts the sentence imposed by the court today. As he made clear in his own words in addressing the court, he takes sole responsibility for this tragic situation and deeply apologizes to all those affected by his actions. He hopes that he now can focus on addressing his health issues and on healing the emotional damage that has been inflicted on his family and friends who have shown unwavering support throughout this trying time.” Assistant U.S. Attorney Steven Block said that prosecutors would have charged Hastert with sex crimes, or referred him to their state counterparts, if not for the statutes of limitations. And he said that they agreed to a plea deal in the case only because it spared a victim who did not want to be identified from having to take the witness stand at a trial. “Trying to respect his decision was a driving force for us,” Block said.

Only 37% of American 12th-graders were academically prepared for college math and reading in 2015, a slight dip from two years earlier

The National Assessment of Educational Progress, also known as the “Nation’s Report Card,” said that share was down from an estimated 39% in math and 38% in reading in 2013. In reading, 49% of Asian students performed at or above proficiency last year. So did 46% of white students, 25% of Hispanic students and 17% of black students. In math, 47% of Asian students performed at or above proficiency. So did 32% of white students, 12% of Hispanic students and 7% of black students.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Half of all Western European men are descendants of a Bronze Age "king" who lived 4,000 years ago

That's according to the largest ever study of global genetic variation in the Y chromosome. Researchers believe that the "monarch" was one of the earliest people to rule Europe in the Stone Age. His identity remains a mystery, but scientists believe that he fathered a group of "nobles" who then spread across Europe. They brought with them advances in technology such as metal work and wheeled transport. Dr Chris Tyler-Smith, from the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute, said: "Genetics can't tell us why it happened but we know that a tiny number of elite males were controlling reproduction and dominating the population. Half of the European population is descended from just one man. We can only speculate as to what happened. The best explanation is that they may have resulted from advances in technology that could be controlled by small groups of men."

Saturday, April 23, 2016

By 2100 Africa’s population could be three billion to 6.1 billion, up sharply from 1.2 billion today, if birth rates remain stubbornly high

This unexpected rise will stress already fragile resources in Africa and around the world. In Africa, women give birth on average to 4.7 children and the population is rising nearly three times faster than in the rest of the world. By the end of this century, demographers now project, Africa’s inhabitants will triple or quadruple. For years the prevailing projections put Africa’s population at around two billion in 2100. Those models assumed that fertility rates would fall fairly rapidly and consistently. Instead the rates have dropped slowly and only in fits and starts. The United Nations now forecasts three billion to 6.1 billion people — staggering numbers. Even conservative estimates, from places such as the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis in Austria, now see Africa at 2.6 billion. The U.N. has in recent years continually raised its midline projection for 2100 world population, from 9.1 billion in a 2004 estimate to 11.2 billion today. Almost all of the unanticipated increase comes from Africa. Extreme growth threatens Africa’s development and stability. Many of its inhabitants live in countries that are not especially well endowed with fertile soils, abundant water or smoothly functioning governments. Mounting competition for nourishment and jobs in such places could cause strife across the region and, in turn, put significant pressure on food, water and natural resources around the world, especially if Africans leave their nations in droves, which is already happening. As many as 37% of young adults in sub-Saharan Africa say that they want to move to another country. Today only 29% of married African women of childbearing age use modern contraception. On all other continents the rate is solidly more than 50%. Surveys also show that more than a third of African pregnancies are unintended; in sub-Saharan Africa 58% of women aged 15 to 49 who are sexually active but do not want to become pregnant are not using modern contraception. In Niger in West Africa, one of the world’s poorest nations, the average fertility is 7.5 children per woman, and it has barely dipped since measurements began in 1950. Women and men surveyed in Niger say that the ideal family is even larger.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Are Ashkenazi Jews descended from Turks?

Persian Jews converted Turks to Judaism to create the rump of what would become today’s Jewish population, DNA research has revealed. The fascinating insight, which shows that most Ashkenazi Jews descend from Turkey, was made possible by state-of-the-art computer modelling and genetic techniques. The project, led by Israeli-born Dr Eran Elhaik, even pinpointed Iskenaz, Eskenaz and Ashanaz – three Turkish villages an ancient Silk Road route which still exist today – as part of the original Ashkenazi homeland. It is the largest genomic study ever carried out on Ashkenazi Jews, and claims that most of today’s population are the descendants of Greeks, Iranians and others who colonized what is now northern Turkey more than 2,000 years ago. Elhaik says that locals were converted to Judaism by Jews from Persia, whose empire was then home to the world’s largest Jewish communities. He said that the word Ashkenaz likely derives from Ashguza, the ancient Assyrian and Babylonian term for Iron Age Eurasian steppeland people known as Scythians. Concurrent analysis of Yiddish suggests that it was originally a Slavic language which the researchers think was developed by Jewish tradesmen travelling along the Silk Roads linking China and Europe 1,200 years ago. It was only when the Khazar Empire began to decline around 1,000 years ago that the Jewish converts headed west, into central Europe, coming into contact with German-speaking peoples. Elhaik and his team from the University of Sheffield say that their work helps settle an age-old debate about the origins of the 1,000-year old Yiddish language. “The prevalent view claims Yiddish has a German origin, whereas the opposing view suggests a Slavic origin with strong Iranian and weak Turkic substrata,” they say. “One of the major difficulties in deciding was the unknown geographical origin of Yiddish speaking Ashkenazic Jews,” they say, but their analysis “demonstrates that Greeks, Romans, Iranians, and Turks exhibit the highest genetic similarity with Ashkenazic Jews”.

Sunday, April 17, 2016

African-Americans develop end-stage renal disease (ESRD) about 3.5 times more often than people of European ancestry

Greg Cochran looks at the issue of whether or not people outside of sub-Saharan Africa have more genetic load, generated by drift over a population history in which Eurasians generally had a smaller effective population size.

Friday, April 15, 2016

Several genetic differences uncovered in an analysis of data from The Cancer Genome Atlas (TCGA) are biologically plausible contributing factors for the worse survival of African American patients with clear cell renal carcinoma, even in the era of targeted therapy

Clear cell renal carcinoma is the most common type of kidney cancer. These findings could help explain why African American patients with this disease have lower survival rates than white patients. This difference in survival rates is independent of age, sex, tumor stage, and other variables. “Our study suggests there are differences in the cancer biology of clear cell kidney cancer that develop in African American patients as opposed to those that develop in white patients,” said William Y. Kim, MD, a University of North Carolina (UNC) Lineberger member and associate professor in the UNC School of Medicine Department of Medicine, Genetics, and Urology in Chapel Hill, and senior author of the study. This new study involved analysis of genomic data from TCGA, including 419 clear cell renal cell carcinoma tumors from non-Hispanic white patients and 19 from non-Hispanic African American patients. The findings were validated against a set of 125 white and 10 African American patient tumors from another publicly available data set. A key finding was that African Americans were less likely to have inactivated von Hippel-Lindau (VHL) gene. Mutations that inactivate VHL can increase VEGF expression, which promotes blood vessel growth and is targeted by multiple drugs for kidney cancer. Only 17% of the African American patients had VHL mutations (2 of 17 patients), which is few compared with 50% of white patients (175 of 351 patients). Furthermore, the tumors of the African American patients had down-regulated VEGF signaling relative to those of the white patients. Another finding was an increased frequency of the molecular tumor subtype known as ccB in African American patients. The ccB subtype is associated with lower survival. It occurred in 79% (15 of 19 patients) of the African American patients, compared with 45% of the white patients. “There are clear genetic differences in clear cell kidney tumors that develop in African Americans compared to whites,” Kim said. “While we believe that these differences could impact outcomes we don't know enough at this time to suggest that African American's with kidney cancer should be treated differently, but it does underscore the need to investigate these findings further.”

Thursday, April 14, 2016

A multi-institutional study led by a Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) investigator finds significant racial disparities in the risk that patients being treated for gout will develop a serious, sometimes life-threatening adverse reaction to the most commonly prescribed medication

The increased risk closely correlates with the frequency of a gene variant previously associated with that adverse reaction, supporting recommendations to screen for that variant in patients from those populations. "We found that Asian and black patients have a substantially higher risk of severe cutaneous adverse reactions to urate-lowering drugs than do white or Hispanic patients, which correlates with the frequency of the HLA-B*5801 gene in their U.S. populations," says Hyon K. Choi, MD, DrPH, of the MGH Division of Rheumatology, Allergy and Immunology, senior author of the report. "This risk is almost certainly due to allopurinol, the dominant urate-lowering drug in the U.S., and screening gout patients from those populations for the HLA-B*5801 variant could help increase treatment safety." Caused by excessive levels of uric acid in the body, gout involves the deposition of uric acid crystals in the joints, leading to inflammation and significant pain. Studies have associated the HLA-B*5801 variant with the risk of these reactions in particular Asian populations - Koreans, Japanese, Thai and Han Chinese - and in some Europeans; and the current study was designed to investigate whether the frequency of the HLA-B*5801 variant across races leads to significant racial disparities in the risk of severe cutaneous reactions to urate-lowering drugs in a representative U.S. population. The researchers examined data covering 2009 to 2013 from the Nationwide Inpatient Sample of the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality. From that database of between 5 and 8 million hospitalizations each year, they identified 606 with a principal diagnosis of SJS/TEN related to an adverse reaction to urate-lowering drugs. While the database does not include information on specific medications, the frequency with which allopurinol is prescribed implies that most, if not all, of those reactions involved that drug, the authors note. Among patients with that diagnosis, there was a significant over-representation of Asian and black patients compared with whites. For example, while another database indicates that Asian patients represented only 2% of U.S. allopurinol users in 2011-12, they represented 27% of those hospitalized for SJS/TEN related to urate-lowering drugs. Black patients represented 13% of allopurinol users and 26% of hospitalizations, while white patients represented 81% of allopurinol users but only 29% of hospitalizations. The number of Hispanic patients in the hospitalization database with this diagnosis was extremely small. Overall the risk of these dangerous reactions was 12 times higher for Asian patients and 5 times higher for black patients compared with white patients. Those differences are closely aligned with the frequency of the HLA-B*5801 variant in those populations - a 7.4% frequency in Asians, 4% in blacks, and 1% in both whites and Hispanics. "Since no other urate-lowering drug is an established cause for these severe adverse reactions, our findings support the use of vigilance when considering allopurinol for Asian and black patients with gout," says Choi, who is a professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School.

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

A new poll has found that nearly half of Jewish Israeli high school students believe that Arabs should not have the right to vote

The poll asked Jewish Israeli high school students in grades 11-12 a variety of questions intended to probe their opinions on current affairs and political identity, among other issues. Nearly half (48%) of those polled answered “no” to the question: “Do you think Arab Israelis should be represented in the Knesset?” The figure comes amid an ongoing controversy over the suspension of Arab members of the Knesset who paid a condolence call to the families of militants who killed Israelis. That controversy has led to the proposal of a bill that would allow 90 Knesset members to suspend a fellow lawmaker who they believed undermined Israel’s existence “as a Jewish and democratic state,” incited "racism" or expressed support for a "terror group" or an enemy at war with Israel. According to the CEO of pollster New Wave, Reuven Harari, most of the figures in the poll “were not surprising,” as they matched numbers pollsters have found for Israeli adults. According to Hariri, 60% of those polled also said that they believed medical treatment should not be given to an injured "terrorist".

Monday, April 11, 2016

What are the 10 states with the highest percentage of whites?

They are Maine, Vermont, New Hampshire, West Virginia, Iowa, Wyoming, Idaho, Montana, Kentucky and North Dakota. Each of these states has a white population of more than 90%.

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Black murderer, Winston Moseley, who killed Kitty Genovese, has finally died in prison at 81

Winston Moseley, who stalked, raped and killed Kitty Genovese in a prolonged knife attack in New York in 1964 died on March 28, 2016 in prison. He was 81. Moseley, a psychopathic serial killer and necrophiliac, died at the maximum security Clinton Correctional Facility in Dannemora, New York, near the Canadian border. He had been imprisoned for almost 52 years, since July 7, 1964, and was one of the state’s longest-serving inmates. His life behind bars had been relatively eventful. Moseley was condemned to die in the electric chair, but in 1967, two years after New York State abolished most capital punishments, he won an appeal that reduced his sentence to an indeterminate life term. While at Attica Correctional Facility, in 1968, he escaped while on a hospital visit to Buffalo, raped a woman and held hostages at gunpoint before being recaptured. He joined in the 1971 Attica uprising; earned a college degree in 1977; and was rejected 18 times at parole hearings, the last time in 2015.

Monday, April 4, 2016

Jewish Power and the Supreme Court

Obama’s nomination of Merrick Garland to the Supreme Court marks a continuation and deepening of the lopsided ethno-religious representation in the US judicial system. If Garland is appointed, Jewish justices will comprise 45% of the Court, even though they represent less than 2% of the overall population. Equally important the increasing power of Jewish justices on the Supreme Court is accelerating: Counting Garland, two of the last three appointments (67%) have been Jews.

Saturday, April 2, 2016

Hate crime hoax: A 20-year-old woman who claimed that she was slashed and called a 'f***ing terrorist' by an attacker in Lower Manhattan has owned up to carrying it out herself

The student, of Middle Eastern descent, was walking when she said that a man appeared outside Trinity Church, near Wall Street. She alleged that he was armed with a blade and wounded her on the left side of the face. The attacker was then said to have fled as locals heard a commotion. Emergency services were called after the woman contacted her father describing her injury and ordeal. Detectives were at the scene searching for clues to what was seen as a random violent assault. But they struggled in their hunt for witnesses and evidence before she admitted to carrying out the attack on herself.