Wednesday, March 30, 2016

In a new study, Cornell University researchers explain that people who come from a line of mostly plant eaters likely carry a gene mutation used to help compensate for a lack of essential fatty acids from meat or fish

The problem is that those who have the mutation — about 70% of South Asians, 53% of Africans, 29% of East Asians, 17% of Europeans, and 18% of Americans — can actually hurt their bodies with a fatty acid overload, particularly if their diet is heavy in things like meat and sunflower oil. The result is an increased risk of heart disease, colon cancer, and chronically high inflammation. Researchers identified the mutation in the FADS2 gene when comparing 234 people from Pune, India, where populations have historically eaten a plant-based diet, with 311 meat eaters from Kansas. Some 68% of the Indians had two copies of a sequence of DNA used to regulate genes FADS1 and FADS2 — which make long-chain polyunsaturated fats like omega-3 and omega-6, used for brain development and to curb inflammation — compared to just 18% of the Americans. While the gene came in useful generations ago, "changes in the dietary omega-6 to omega-3 balance may contribute to the increase in chronic disease seen in some developing countries," researchers say. People with South Asian and southern African ancestry are particularly prone to high inflammation. (This population produces very little fatty acid.)

Monday, March 28, 2016

Scars in our genetic landscape have revealed the fertility costs of breeding with different groups of our early ancestors

Researchers have analyzed the DNA of 257 individuals from 120 different non-African populations around the world to look for traces of ancestry from Neanderthals and Denisovans — another group of ancient humans that lived at the same time — in the modern human genome. Previous studies have shown that almost all present-day non-African people possess some Neanderthal DNA, while some people, particularly people from Oceania, also have Denisovan DNA. The new analysis indicated that modern humans interbred with Denisovans around 100 generations after their trysts with Neanderthals. But hybridization may have reduced male fertility according to evidence of significantly lower Denisovan and Neanderthal ancestry on the X chromosome and near genes more highly expressed in the testes than other tissues. "They're exactly the parts of the genome that we would expect them to be deficient in if there was infertility in males who were hybrids," said study co-author Professor David Reich of Harvard Medical School. "What they would reflect is that the males who happened to carry Denisovan or Neanderthal DNA in these sections were not as successful in terms of producing offspring as others, and because of that those sections were removed in that first handful of generations after the mixture occurred."

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

In recent decades, rich black kids have been more likely to go to prison than poor white kids

About 2.7% of the poorest white young people - those whose household wealth was in the poorest 10th of the distribution in 1985, when they were between 20 and 28 years old - ultimately went to prison. In the next 10th, 3.1% ultimately went to prison. The households of young people in both of these groups had more debts than assets. In other words, their wealth was negative. All the same, their chances of being imprisoned were far less than those of black youth from much more affluent circumstances. About 10% of affluent black youth in 1985 would eventually go to prison. Only the very wealthiest black youth - those whose household wealth in 1985 exceeded $69,000 in 2012 dollars - had a better chance of avoiding prison than the poorest white youth. Among black young people in this group, 2.4% were incarcerated. Hispanic participants who were less affluent in 1985 were more likely to be eventually incarcerated than their white peers with similar wealth, but less likely than black participants.

Political and economic unification of Ireland could potentially deliver a €35.6 billion boost in GDP for the island in the first eight years - according to a new study

The research found that unifying both economies could bring a sizeable boost to the economy in the North with a more modest boost in the Republic. Dr Kurt Hubner, professor at the University of British Columbia in Canada and author of the Modeling Irish Unification study, said the fact that the North would benefit more from such a union is not surprising. "The Republic of Ireland would benefit quite a lot, but the benefits would be mainly accrued by Northern Ireland," he said. "And that's not really a surprise, because if you compare the two entities, then Northern Ireland is obviously the less developed economy. It is more or less confirmed across the world that the less developed entities would benefit the most, in absolute terms, as well as in relative terms."

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Neocon William Kristol would rather have Hillary Rodham Clinton as president than Donald Trump

Kristol wants to create a third party if Trump wins the nomination. This would likely take away enough votes from Trump to allow Clinton to win.

Germany is about to run out of prison cells due to the unprecedented migrant influx in the country

Foreigners make up 9% of Germany’s population, but close to 30% of its prison population. Immigrants from North Africa are particularly over-represented in crime statistics.

Saturday, March 19, 2016

In 2013, a black was 6 times more likely than a non-black to commit murder and 12 times more likely to murder someone of another race than to be murdered by someone of another race

In 2013, of the approximately 660,000 crimes of interracial violence that involved blacks and whites, blacks were the perpetrators 85% of the time. This meant a black person was 27 times more likely to attack a white person than vice versa. A Hispanic was eight times more likely to attack a white person than vice versa.

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Denmark is the world's happiest country while Burundi is the least happy, according to a new survey

The fourth World Happiness Report also found that countries where there was less inequality were happier overall. Switzerland, Iceland, Norway and Finland, which like Denmark have strong social security systems, made up the rest of the top five. The United States was the world's 13th happiest country, Britain was 23rd, China was 83rd and India was 118th. At the bottom of the 156 countries on the list was Burundi, which is experiencing severe political unrest and the threat of violence. It scored worse than Syria, where a civil war has killed more than 250,000 people over the past five years. The survey found that Syrians had a better healthy-life expectancy and were also seen as being more generous than Burundians and people in the three other nations - Togo, Afghanistan and Benin - making up the five least happy countries. Northern America, Latin America and the Caribbean and Europe were the happiest regions overall. South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa were the only regions where the average rating for well-being was less than five out of 10.

The Jewish war on free speech: University of California officials are proposing to include “anti-Zionism” as a form of discrimination that is unacceptable on campus, according to a long-awaited draft statement on intolerance

The inclusion immediately drew sharply divergent reactions, with pro-Israel groups hailing it as a needed step to protect Jewish students from hostility and those supporting Palestinian rights criticizing it as a naked attempt to suppress criticism of the Jewish state. Scholars were similarly divided over whether a statement meant to express the UC regents’ principles against intolerance should include Zionism — historically an international movement to establish a Jewish homeland and now viewed as the belief in Israel’s right to exist. And although the statement provides no sanctions, calling on university leaders to “challenge” bias, [Judith] Butler wondered whether those singled out as criticizing Zionism would be denied faculty research funds, promotions or other benefits. “To include anti-Zionism as an instance of intolerance and bigotry is actually to suppress a set of political beliefs that we actually need to hear,” she said. “It saddens me and strikes at the heart of the task of the university.”

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Australian research into the academic performance of twins in NAPLAN tests has revealed that skills in maths, reading and spelling are up to 75% genetic

Genetics also had a 50% impact on writing skills. In stark contrast, the influence of teachers and schools on students was only found to be around 5%, when looking at why children performed better or worse than their peers. The research has been conducted by Emeritus Professor Brian Byrne and colleagues at the Centre of Excellence for Cognition and its Disorders, and the University of New England. Byrne and his colleagues were allowed access to around 3000 sets of twins and were able to look at their academic performance in literacy and numeracy NAPLAN tests in years 3, 5, 7 and 9. Families, teachers and schools had a much more modest contribution when explaining the difference in academic performance of children in the same grade or class. The majority of difference between students’ abilities in literacy and numeracy were instead attributable to their genetic make-up. Writing skills were the least influenced by genetics – only about 50%. Genetic influences on reading, spelling and mathematics abilities were found to be between 50% - 75%. “Genes are the things that are, for the most part, driving differences among children, and not different teachers or even different schools,” Byrne said.

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

The increase of foreign-born children in Swedish schools has played a part in the country’s overall decline in educational achievement and test scores in recent years, officials report

The number of teenagers who failed to qualify for upper secondary school in Sweden increased from 10% in 2006 to more than 14% in 2015. A report by the Swedish Education Agency has concluded that 85% of the increase was explained by immigrant students unable to catch up with Swedes of the same age. Over the past decade, Swedish test scores on the OECD’s so-called PISA ranking of school performance among 15-year-olds has seen the most dramatic drop out of all the countries taking part in the survey. At the same time, the percentage of students in Swedish schools who had arrived in the country after the age of seven jumped from 3% in 2006 to 8% in 2015. The report, entitled The Importance of Immigration for School Results, defines immigrant students as children who are either foreign-born or whose parents are both born outside Sweden. It concluded that as immigrant students now arrive in greater numbers and at an older age, they had less time to learn Swedish and catch up in vital subjects before leaving Year 9. As a result, an increasing number of foreign-born students fail to obtain the grades needed to move on to Swedish upper secondary school – equivalent to A-levels or High School. "We already know that immigrant students on average have lower performance in school," said Education Agency Director Anna Ekstrom. "Now we know more about how much the increasing proportion of immigrant students has affected overall performance."

Friday, March 11, 2016

Nearly half of African-American adults are at risk of developing hypertension, a rate significantly higher than that of any other group in the United States

Hypertension-related ailments, such as strokes and end-stage renal disease, account for 20% of all deaths among African-Americans. Then there are the lesser-known facts - such as the inherent differences between blacks and whites in blood pressure regulation both during rest and exercise. These disparities exist even among healthy, non-hypertensive blacks. African-Americans respond differently to different forms of physiological stress, such as exercise, cold and other acute forms of stress. Researchers are looking at mechanisms to help explain theses differences. A thorough understanding of biological mechanisms associated with hypertension could have significant ramifications for all racial and ethnic groups. There appears to be less of an ability to defend against hypersensitive challenges and increases in blood pressure among African-American participants.

In a long-term study of the 8th grade class of 2004, only 13% of blacks or Hispanics, compared to 29% of whites, had obtained any post-secondary credential 11 years later

About one-third of both black and Hispanic children in Texas live in poverty, according to the Annie E. Casey Foundation’s encyclopedic Kids Count project. That’s triple the share for Texas whites. In every major Texas city, minority children are vastly more likely than whites to attend schools where most of their classmates qualify as low-income. Fewer than one-in-five Texan African American and Hispanic students score as proficient in 8th grade reading on national tests — less than half the level for whites.

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

A 16-year-old Danish Muslim girl has been charged with planning attacks on two schools, one of them Jewish

The girl, who was 15 when she was arrested in January 2016, allegedly planned bombing attacks on a Jewish school in Copenhagen and another school in Denmark. She had acquired chemicals to create the explosives, according to Danish prosecutors. A friend, 24, who prosecutors said provided the bomb-making manuals, was charged as an accessory. Both of the suspects, who have not been named, maintain their innocence. The girl recently converted to Islam and her friend had fought with the Islamic State in Syria.

Nearly half of Israeli Jews want Arabs to be expelled from Israel and many have lost hope in a two-state solution to the Palestinian question, according to a survey

The poll by the Washington-based Pew Research Center, a non-partisan think tank, found that 48% of Israeli Jews support the idea of moving Arabs out of Israel, where they make up 19% of the population of 8.4 million. Up to 71% of Jews who consider themselves ultra-Orthodox, religious or “traditional” and 36% of the secular community agree. In addition, about eight in 10 Arabs complained of heavy discrimination in Israeli society against Muslims, the largest religious minority, while 79% of Jews questioned said that Jewish citizens deserved preferential treatment.

Monday, March 7, 2016

Poll: 61% of Americans agree that continued immigration into the country jeopardizes the United States

The degree of concern is remarkable considering that the question was about all immigration, including the legal kind. A belief that immigration jeopardizes the United States was common across age groups, although highest among baby boomers (65%) and lowest among millennials (55%). By education, it was highest among those with just a high school education or some college (65%), and by region it was highest in the South, including Texas (66%).

Saturday, March 5, 2016

A powerful Pakistani religious body that advises the government on the compatibility of laws with Islam has declared a new law that criminalizes violence against women to be un-Islamic

The Women's Protection Act, passed by Pakistan's largest province of Punjab, gives unprecedented legal protection to women from domestic, psychological and sexual violence. It also calls for the creation of a toll-free abuse reporting hot line and the establishment of women's shelters. But since its passage in the Punjab assembly, many Islamic clerics and religious leaders have denounced the new law as being in conflict with the Muslim holy book, the Koran, as well as Pakistan's constitution. "The whole law is wrong," Muhammad Khan Sherani, the head of the Council of Islamic Ideology said at a news conference, citing verses from the Koran to point out that the law was un-Islamic. The 54-year-old council is known for its controversial decisions. In the past it has ruled that DNA cannot be used as primary evidence in rape cases, and it supported a law that requires women alleging rape to get four male witnesses to testify in court before a case is heard. The council's decision in January 2016 to block a bill to impose harsher penalties for marrying off girls as young as eight or nine has angered human rights activists. The new law establishes district-level panels to investigate reports of abuse, and mandates the use of GPS bracelets to keep track of offenders. It also sets punishments of up to a year in jail for violators of court orders related to domestic violence, with that period rising to two years for repeat offenders. Fazlur Rehman, the chief of one of Pakistan's largest religious parties, the Jamiat-i-Ulema Islam, said that the law was in conflict with both Islam and the constitution of Pakistan. "This law makes a man insecure," he said. "This law is an attempt to make Pakistan a Western colony again." In 2013, more than 5,800 cases of violence against women were reported in Punjab alone, the province where the law was passed, according to the Aurat Foundation, a women's rights advocacy group. Those cases represented 74% of the national total that year, the latest for which data is available.

Thursday, March 3, 2016

Research from an investigator at Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey and colleagues from the National Cancer Institute (NCI) and other facilities, shows differences in a certain type of small protein vary by race and may contribute differently to the development of lung cancer in African Americans and European Americans

African Americans have a higher chance of developing lung cancer and have lower lung cancer survival rates as compared to European Americans, which research shows may be due to differences in genetics as well as other factors. Identification of biomarkers that would uniquely distinguish African Americans at a high risk of lung cancer may help to bridge the gap in lung cancer racial health disparities. The research looked at cytokines, which are small proteins released by cells that affect communication between cells. The research team hypothesized that a difference in serum cytokine levels between the two populations may yield some answers. They analyzed the levels of ten serum cytokines in blood samples from over 450 African-American and European-American lung cancer patients or healthy adults. They found that the levels of six cytokines were significantly higher among European Americans than African Americans. The levels of two cytokines were associated with lung cancer in both races, but other elevated cytokine levels were associated with lung cancer only in African Americans. These findings suggest that cytokine levels in the blood vary by race and may contribute to lung cancer differently between African Americans and European Americans.

Hispanic Republican admits that he prefers Joe Biden to Donald Trump

Former RNC Chairman Mel Martinez says that he wishes Joe Biden was running so he could vote for him instead of Donald Trump. And people wonder why so many white Republicans despise the GOP leadership.

Jewish neocons would rather have Hillary Clinton as president than Donald Trump

Leading Jewish neocons — people who promoted the Iraq War, detest Putin and consider Israel’s security non-negotiable — have said that Trump would be a disaster for U.S. foreign policy and vowed never to support him. So deep is their revulsion that several even say that they could vote for Hillary Clinton over Trump in November 2016. “Hillary is the lesser evil, by a large margin,” said Eliot Cohen, a former top State Department official under George W. Bush and a strategic theorist who argues for a muscular U.S. role abroad. Trump’s election would be “an unmitigated disaster for American foreign policy,” Cohen said, adding that “he has already damaged it considerably.” Cohen - an Iraq war backer - said that he would “strongly prefer a third party candidate” to Trump, but added: “Probably if absolutely no alternative: Hillary.” Max Boot, a Jewish military historian at the Council on Foreign Relations who backed the Iraq War and often advocates a hawkish foreign policy, said that he, too, would vote for Clinton over Trump. “I’m literally losing sleep over Donald Trump,” he said. “She would be vastly preferable to Trump.”

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Jewish leaders back Ted Cruz, saying that he's the best hope for the survival of Israel

Ted Cruz has repeatedly emphasized his commitment to Israel and the Jewish people, which he said began long before he became a senator and a presidential candidate. Cruz vowed that as president, "I will stand unapologetically with Israel, prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons" and "move the U.S. embassy in Israel to Jerusalem" among other executive actions.