Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Why do people commonly go out of their way to do something nice for another person, even when it comes at a cost to themselves — and how could such altruistic behavior have evolved?

The answer may not just be in our genes, but also in our microbes. In a new paper, researchers Ohad Lewin-Epstein, Ranit Aharonov, and Lilach Hadany at Tel-Aviv University in Israel have theoretically shown that microbes could influence their hosts to act altruistically. And this influence could be surprisingly effective, with simulations showing that microbes may promote the evolution of altruistic behavior in a population to an even greater extent than genetic factors do. "I believe the most important aspect of the work is that it changes the way we think about altruism from centering on the animals (or humans) performing the altruistic acts to their microbes," Hadany said. It's already well-known that microbes can affect the behavior of their hosts, with a prime example being how the rabies virus increases aggressive behavior in infected individuals. Research has also shown that the microbiome — the community of microorganisms that inhabit our gut — can even manipulate the hosts' social behavior by infecting neurons and altering neurotransmitter and hormone activity. Against this backdrop, the researchers in the new study have proposed that microbes may induce a person to help others because the close physical contact (for example, food-sharing, co-sheltering, and grooming) increases the transmission of the microbes from one person to another. So when someone does something nice for us, we are not just the recipient of a kind act, but also of their microbes. To show that this idea can have a prevailing effect on a population over time, the researchers designed simulations of interacting individuals, some with altruism-inducing microbes, and some without. Then using a prisoner's dilemma payoff scheme, the researchers investigated what happens to this population, its microbes, and its altruistic behavior over many generations. The results showed that, as long as horizontal transmission (between individuals) of microbes is allowed, altruism-inducing microbes can take over the population, leading to microbe-induced altruism. This result occurs even when only a very small percentage of the population initially carries these altruism-inducing microbes. The simulations also revealed that the evolution of altruism is successful because the microbes have a chance to either meet genetically related microbes in the recipient or infect and transform some of the recipient's microbes into relatives. In a variation of this model in which altruism can also be induced by host genes, the researchers found that genetically encoded altruism does not evolve, but microbe-induced altruism continues to evolve whether or not genetic factors are present. Further simulations showed that, although there are some cases in which altruism encoded in genes can persist, microbe-induced altruism persists more often. Overall, the results suggest that microbes may play a dominant and previously overlooked role in the evolution of altruistic behavior.

Monday, January 30, 2017

Natural selection in East Asian populations has favored genetic mutations leading to bigger brains, according to a new study by Chinese researchers that did not find a similar preference in Europe or Africa

The study has shed new light on an issue that has puzzled scientists for decades: why is the average Asian brain bigger than the average European or African one? The world's largest survey of brain sizes, conducted by American scientists three decades ago using more than 20,000 modern human skulls from around the globe, found that the average cranial volume among East Asians was 1,415 cubic centimeters, compared with 1,362 for Europeans and 1,268 for Africans. Subsequent studies have confirmed those results. Among them was a magnetic resonance imaging survey which found that East Asians had a higher cranial vault, which allowed their skulls to house a bigger brain. Researchers proposed a range of hypotheses to explain the differences, with some suggesting that living in a cold climate could lead to a boost in brain size because in such conditions a bigger brain would be better at maintaining a constant temperature at its core, where most thinking took place. But the climate theory could not fully explain differences in the brain sizes of people living in the same latitudes, such as Chinese and Europeans. The Chinese researchers said that a gene called CASC5 – one of eight regulating human brain size – might provide more clues. Unlike most of the other genes, which also regulated the brain sizes of monkeys or early human species such as Denisovans and Neanderthals, genetic mutations of CASC5 in Homo sapiens are relatively young, only occurring after our species left Africa between 50,000 and 100,000 years ago. The researchers, led by Professor Su Bing, from the Chinese Academy of Sciences' Kunming Institute of Zoology, compared CASC5 mutations in different populations for the first time. They found a "high frequency" of four mutations closely related to increased brain size among East Asian populations including Chinese, Japanese and Mongolians. But such mutations rarely occurred in Europe or Africa. "At the population level, our results suggest a selection of CASC5 in East Asian populations, which seems to favor a larger grey matter volume of the brain," the researchers said. "By contrast, no signal of selection was detected in Europeans and Africans."

Saturday, January 28, 2017

Amid speculation surrounding the 762 homicides that took place in Chicago in 2016 – the highest number in two decades – the city's former police superintendent is blaming the Black Lives Matter movement for the murder spike

Garry McCarthy, who held the superintendent position for four years before getting fired in 2015 after his department withheld dash-cam footage of the police shooting of 17-year-old Laquan McDonald, said on the "Cats Roundtable" radio show that anti-police brutality protesters have led to a state of lawlessness and a political atmosphere of anti-police sentiment. Chicago, where the homicide rate rose by 58% from 2015 to 2016, is "probably the worst example of something that has happened across the country," McCarthy told host John Catsimatidis. "The simplest way to describe it is that we have created an environment where we have emboldened criminals and we are hamstringing the police," said McCarthy, echoing a widespread notion that the Black Lives Matter movement has driven a deeper wedge between minority communities and law enforcement.

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Why the Democrats will continue to lose the support of white voters

Steve Sailer has a post that is both funny and scary in showing the mindset of many in the Democratic party.

Monday, January 23, 2017

Transgender activists are upset that the women’s march against President Trump was not inclusive to biological men who identify as women, as the protest presented an “oppressive message” that having a “vagina is essential to womanhood”

The event to oppose the inauguration of Donald Trump was largely a “white cis women march,” with too many pictures of female reproductive organs and pink hats, according to many trans women and “nonbinary” individuals. A fight is brewing between “trans-exclusionary radical feminists,” or “TERFs,” and transwomen, according to the article, “How the Women’s March’s ‘genital-based’ feminism isolated the transgender community.” The women’s march had an over-reliance on slogans and posters depicting gender norms, like using pink to represent women and girls, said some transgender activists who boycotted the march. “The main reason I decided not to go was because of the pussy hats,” said one transwoman from California. “I get that they’re a response to the ‘grab them by the pussy’ thing, but I think some people fixated on it the wrong way. I believe there’s a lot of inequality that has to do with genitals — that’s not something you can separate from the feminist movement,” the transwoman added. “But I feel like I’ve tried to get involved in feminism and there’s always been a blockade there for trans women.” The “saturation of vagina-related messages and imagery,” such as a giant hand-knit uterus, “set the tone for a march that would focus acutely on genitalia at the expense of the transgender community,” writes Marie Solis. The signs referencing Trump’s infamous comments made on a hot mic during an Access Hollywood taping more than a decade ago were too heteronormative, trans activists said. Signs that said “Pussy grabs back,” “Resistance is Fertile,” and “Pussy Power” sent a “clear and oppressive message to trans women, especially: having a vagina is essential to womanhood.” The article explained that transwomen are weary of “trans-exclusionary radical feminists.” “TERFs” are people who “equate womanhood with having a vagina” or feminists who “argue trans women are actually men in disguise trying to infiltrate their spaces.”

Barack Obama had an average approval rating of 47.9% during his time in office, according to a Gallup poll

That puts him behind Richard Nixon, who resigned, and George W. Bush, who saw his approval rating drop as low as 25% near the end of his term. It puts him ahead of only Gerald Ford (47.2%), Jimmy Carter (45.5%) and Harry Truman (45.4%). Gallup has published the average approval rating for all twelve presidents who have served since World War II. John F. Kennedy ranks highest with an average approval rating of 70.1%. He is followed by Dwight Eisenhower (65.0%), George H.W. Bush (60.9%), Bill Clinton (55.1%), Lyndon Johnson (55.1%), Ronald Reagan (52.8%), George W. Bush (49.4%), Barack Obama (47.9%), Gerald Ford (47.2%), Jimmy Carter (45.5%) and Harry Truman (45.4%). “After his first year,” the Gallup analysis said of Obama’s poll numbers, “he received sustained majority approval only once more during his first term in office. Fortunately for him, that came during his 16th quarter in office - around the time he was re-elected in the fall of 2012. Shortly after his second term began, his support dipped back into the 40s and did not return to the majority level again until his final year in office.”

Friday, January 20, 2017

A 14-year-old Muslim girl who claimed that she was pushed in front of a train simply for wearing a headscarf has been challenged after police checked CCTV tapes

The girl, identified only as Sinem, claimed on social media that she had been called a terrorist and was pushed onto the tracks by a man who had taken offence at her headscarf at a railway station in the Austrian capital of Vienna. She told an online anti-racism forum that she was only saved at the last second by another man who pulled her onto the platform before the S-Bahn train arrived at Wien-Döbling station. The girl, whose parents are originally from Turkey, said that she was taken to hospital with minor injuries and her parents filed a criminal complaint after hearing what had happened. Vienna police spokesman Irina Steirer said that officers had searched through tapes of CCTV cameras on the platform and found no trace of the incident that the girl described. She said: "We have looked through the CCTV and at the time when the incident is alleged to have occurred nothing can be seen on the records. Both the alleged victim and the accused are captured on CCTV, but nothing ever happens and they are both simply seen getting on the train." The original claim was widely reported in the Austrian media and one anti-racism group blamed Austrian Foreign and Integration Minister Sebastian Kurz for having called for a ban on civil servants wearing headscarves.

The genes that predispose people to attain higher levels of education have been in decline over the past 80 years, and researchers are suggesting that they’re now under negative selection, which could have a big impact on our species in the coming centuries

A study involving more than 100,000 people in Iceland found that those who carry the genes for longer education time were less likely to have a big family, which means that the smartest people in the room were actually contributing less to the Icelandic gene pool. "As a species, we are defined by the power of our brains. Education is the training and refining of our mental capacities," said Kari Stefansson, CEO of Icelandic genetics firm deCODE, which ran the study. "Thus, it is fascinating to find that genetic factors linked to more time spent in education are becoming rarer in the gene pool."

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

If it was only white women who had voted in the past presidential election, Donald Trump still would have won

The only difference would be that he would also have won the popular vote, and by a 12-point margin. Trump garnered 53% of the white female vote, whereas a white woman named Hillary Clinton was only able to rally 41% of her white sisters to pull the lever for her.

Saturday, January 14, 2017

A German regional court has ruled that Palestinians who used Molotov cocktails in July 2014 to torch a synagogue were not influenced by anti-Semitism

A Wuppertal judge has upheld a lower court’s 2015 ruling that Palestinians convicted of arson against the city’s synagogue did so merely to “criticize Israel” and “bring attention to the Gaza conflict.” Fire damage caused by 31-year-old Mohamad E., 26-year-old Ismail A. and 20-year-old Mohammad A. (full names withheld by German authorities) totaled almost $850. The court went on to cite Israel’s Operation Protective Edge against Hamas in the summer of 2014 — and the criminals’ consumption of alcohol — as the apparent impetus for the crime. This is not the first time that Wuppertal’s court system has made national news in a story linked to Islam. Its district court judges ruled in November 2016 that gangs of men who harangued citizens in 2014 while wearing “shariah police” vests did not break any laws.

In yet another racial "hate crime" hoax, the Anne Arundel County Police Department in Maryland has charged a 14-year-old African American girl with a juvenile citation for sending out racist tweets

Another black troublemaker using social media to spread anti-white hatred.

From 1980 to 2008, 93% of black murder victims were killed by blacks

White-on-black homicides are much rarer than black-on-white homicides. The vast bulk of interracial violence is committed by blacks. In 2012, blacks committed 560,600 acts of violence against whites, and whites committed 99,403 acts of violence against blacks, according to data from the National Crime Victimization Survey. Blacks, in other words, committed 85% of the interracial crimes between blacks and whites, even though they are 13% of the population. This data accords with the last published report on interracial crime from the Bureau of Justice Statistics; the Bureau stopped publishing its table on interracial crime after 2008, the first year of the Obama presidency.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Saturday, January 7, 2017

Poverty in California: A recent United Way study found that half of all California Latinos, and some 40% of African-Americans, have incomes below the cost of necessities (the “Real Cost Measure”)

Among non-citizens, 60% of households have incomes below the Real Cost Measure, a figure that stretches to 80% below among Latinos. Upward mobility is not particularly promising for the state’s majority Latino next generation. Not only are housing prices out of reach for all but a few, but the state’s public education system ranks 40th in the nation, behind New York, Texas and South Carolina. If California remains the technological leader, it is also becoming the harbinger of something else — a kind of feudal society divided by a rich elite and a larger poverty class, while the middle class either struggles or leaves town. Instead of a role model for the future, the Golden State seems likely to become a cross between Hawaii and Tijuana, a land for the aging rich and their servants.

Upper caste Indians are generally lighter skinned than other Indians, particularly those from tribal groups

I guess this is the South Asian version of white privilege.

African Americans may be less responsive to asthma treatment and more likely to die from the condition, in part, because they have a unique type of airway inflammation, according to a study led by researchers at the University of Illinois at Chicago College of Medicine

Airway inflammation is a key component of asthma, and innovations in treatment are becoming more personalized based on the specific type of airway inflammation in a patient, says Dr. Sharmilee Nyenhuis, assistant professor of medicine at UIC and corresponding author on the study. "Emerging evidence suggests that differences in airway inflammation can affect a patient's response to treatment, but whether the patterns of airway inflammation vary across race has, until now, been very unclear," said Nyenhuis, of UIC's division of pulmonary, critical care, sleep and allergy. Black men and women are two to three times more likely than whites to be hospitalized or die from asthma. And while many factors contribute to the burden of asthma in African Americans — such as access to health care and environmental exposures — rates are disproportionate even when social and environmental elements are taken into account. Nyenhuis and her colleagues performed a secondary analysis of more than 1,000 sputum samples obtained from AsthmaNet, a nationwide clinical research network created by the National Heart Lung and Blood Institute, and the Asthma Clinical Research Network. Samples of the coughed-up fluids were from past clinical trial participants over the age of 12 with mild or moderate persistent asthma and who had not smoked within the last year. The samples were tested for the presence of eosinophils — a type of white blood cell. The study is one of the largest and most diverse trials conducted in the United States on race and asthma, with 26% of the patients self-identifying as African American. Researchers found that black patients were more likely to exhibit eosinophilic airway inflammation than whites, despite taking comparable doses of asthma medication, such as inhaled corticosteroids. "Our findings of higher numbers of African Americans with this type of airway inflammatory pattern suggests a mechanism that may account for more severe and difficult to control asthma in African Americans," said Nyenhuis. "It follows that the persistence of eosinophilic airway inflammation in African Americans may be associated with asthma exacerbations and an impaired response to corticosteroids." The findings suggest that black patients with eosinophilic airway inflammation may not benefit from increasingly strong corticosteroid treatment — instead, other targeted therapies may need to be considered and researched as a treatment option for those black patients with difficult to control eosinophilic asthma.

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Among high school seniors, interest in science varies by race and ethnicity

A majority of high school seniors in the U.S. say that they enjoy science and around four-in-ten (44%) would like to have a job in the field, according to a Pew Research Center analysis of the 2015 National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP). These sentiments, however, tend to vary by race and ethnicity – a pattern that also is reflected in American students’ test scores in science. Overall, 71% of 12th-grade students agree with the statement, “I like science.” While majorities of all major racial and ethnic groups report having a fondness for science, Asian and Pacific Islander high school seniors are the most likely group to say this, while blacks are the least. Similar racial and ethnic differences emerge when 12th-graders are asked whether they want a career in science. Six-in-ten Asian and Pacific Islander high school seniors say that they would like a job that involves science and 64% say it is important that they do well in the subject to get the kind of job they want. By comparison, 45% of whites, 40% of Hispanics and 39% of blacks say that they want a science-related job, and no more than half of these respective groups agree that they need to do well in science to get the kind of job they desire. Recent studies paint a mixed picture of how U.S. students – not just high school seniors – are faring in science. Fourth- and eighth-graders, for example, have made gains since 2009, but test scores among 12th-graders have remained flat, according to the NAEP. And while some racial and ethnic performance gaps have narrowed over time, black and Hispanic students still score considerably lower than their Asian/Pacific Islander and white peers, regardless of grade level.

Black versus Gay: Ellen DeGeneres has announced via Twitter that she has uninvited gospel singer Kim Burrell from performing on her daytime talk show after video began circulating online of an anti-gay sermon Burrell delivered at a Houston, Texas church

In a recent sermon at Liberty Fellowship Church International, Burrell, who is a pastor there, said that “perverted homosexual spirit, and the spirit of delusion and confusion, it has deceived many men and women.”

Sunday, January 1, 2017

A Mexican man who raped a 13-year-old girl on a Greyhound bus had been deported 10 times and removed from the United States another 9 times since 2003

Several U.S. senators are demanding to see immigration records for 38-year-old Tomas Martinez-Maldonado, who is charged with a felony in the attack on September 27, 2016 aboard a bus in Geary County, near Kansas City. Martinez-Maldonado had eight "voluntary removals" before his first deportation in 2010. That was followed by another voluntary removal that same year. He was then deported five more times between 2011 and 2013. Martinez-Maldonado was charged with entering the country without legal permission in 2013. Though he was only charged with a misdemeanor, he was subsequently deported in early 2014 after serving his sentence. A few months later he was again deported and then again in 2015 — twice. He was last deported in October 2015 after he had served his second sentence.

Celebrity chef Anthony Bourdain has an idea of who to blame for Donald Trump's presidential victory: people like him

"The utter contempt with which privileged Eastern liberals such as myself discuss red-state, gun-country, working-class America as ridiculous and morons and rubes is largely responsible for the upswell of rage and contempt and desire to pull down the temple that we're seeing now," he says in a new interview with Reason. "I've spent a lot of time in gun-country, God-fearing America. There are a hell of a lot of nice people out there, who are doing what everyone else in this world is trying to do: the best they can to get by, and take care of themselves and the people they love. When we deny them their basic humanity and legitimacy of their views, however different they may be than ours, when we mock them at every turn, and treat them with contempt, we do no one any good. The self-congratulatory tone of the privileged left — just repeating and repeating and repeating the outrages of the opposition — this does not win hearts and minds. It doesn't change anyone's opinions. It only solidifies them, and makes things worse for all of us," he continues. "We should be breaking bread with each other, and finding common ground whenever possible. I fear that is not at all what we've done."

One person was seriously injured when a suicide bomber aged around 10 blew herself up in a New Year's Eve attack in the northeastern Nigerian city of Maiduguri

The girl approached a crowd buying noodles from a food vendor in the Customs area of the city around 9:30 pm on New Year's Eve and detonated her explosives. Although no one has claimed responsibility, the attack bore the hallmark of Boko Haram Islamists who are notorious for using suicide bombers, mostly women and young girls, in attacking civilian targets. "The girl walked towards the crowd but she blew up before she could reach her target," said witness Grema Usman who lives in the area. "She died instantly, while one person was seriously hurt after after he was hit by shrapnel. (Judging) from her corpse the girl was around 10 years old," Usman said. An aid worker involved in the evacuation of the body gave a similar estimate of the bomber's age. "The girl was clearly not more than 10 and this could have made her too nervous, making her to detonate the explosives prematurely," the aid worker suggested. Borno state police spokesman Victor Isuku, meanwhile, said that a second female suicide bomber had been caught and lynched by an angry mob. Her bomb was safely detonated by security forces, he said. In December 2016, two girls aged between seven and eight detonated explosives in suicide attacks on market in the city, injuring 19 people. Authorities blamed the attack on Boko Haram, whose seven-year insurgency has killed 20,000 people and displaced 2.6 million others. The conflict has spilled into Nigeria's northern neighbors.