Many lung cancer cases in nonsmokers

From Scientific American:

Smoking Up to 20 percent of women who develop lung cancer have never smoked, U.S. researchers found in a study that suggests secondhand smoke may be to blame. A survey of a million people in the United States and Sweden shows that just 8 percent of men who get lung cancer are nonsmokers.

She said it is not clear why women may be more likely to get lung cancer even if they have never smoked. “There is a lot of controversy over whether women are more susceptible to smoking at all, whether direct or secondhand smoke,” Wakelee said in a telephone interview.

Among women who never smoked, the lung cancer incidence rate ranged from 14.4 per 100,000 women per year to 20.8 cases per 100,000. In men, it ranged from 4.8 to 13.7 per 100,000. Rates were about 10 to 30 times higher in smokers. This would translate to about 20 percent of female lung cancer patients having been nonsmokers and 8 percent of males.

Smoking is by far the leading cause of lung cancer, but radon, asbestos, chromium and arsenic are also associated with lung cancer.

More here.

Friday, February 9, 2007

The Uncontainable Kurds

Christopher de Bellaigue in the New York Review of Books:

Since the Turkish Republic was set up in 1923, no Turkish statesman has shown the necessary combination of courage and imagination to resolve the question of how the country’s ethnic Kurds, who are now estimated to number fifteen million people, should be treated. Turkey’s leaders have tried variously to isolate the Kurds, integrate them, and repress them, hoping that they might agree to live unobtrusively in a state that was set up on the premise that all its inhabitants, except for a small number of non-Muslim minorities, are Turks.

During the past twenty years, several million Kurds have moved from their homes in southeastern Turkey to towns and cities further west, many to Istanbul—some to escape the state’s pitiless treatment of Kurds, others in the hope of becoming a bit less poor. Some of these Kurds have done what the state wanted them to. They have married Turks, or they have decided not to teach their children to speak Kurmanji, the Kurdish language that is most widespread in Turkey. They have taken their place in the mainstream Turkish economy and learned to enjoy Turkish food, pop music, and soap operas. In short, they have become the Turks that the state always insisted they were.

But there is another group…

More here.

Ulcers of the World, Unite

Carl Zimmer in his blog, The Loom:

PyloriThe discovery of H. pylori’s role in ulcers attracted a huge amount of attention to the bug, and to its effects on different people. In the late 1990s Mark Achtman, a German microbiologist at the Max Planck Institut for Infectious Biology, began to gather strains of H. pylori from around the world. He and his colleagues compared the DNA from the strains to see how they were related to one another. They found something strange. Most of the H. pylori strains they collected in China and Japan appeared to be closely related to one another. Based on the diversity of these Asian germs, Achtman suggested they had arrived in the stomachs of early Homo sapiens that moved into Asia some 40,000 years ago.

Further research by Achtman and others indicated that other ethnic groups also carried their own strains of H. pylori. A debate then emerged about how germ and host got associated in this way. H. pylori is not like the flu, which can move between continents in a matter of days. Scientists don’t know much about how it gets from stomach to stomach, but it seems to move mostly within families. So it would make sense that H. pylori’s genealogy tracked the genealogy of its hosts. On the other hand, some critics have argued, H. pylori might be a recent arrival in our stomachs. If it jumped from animals to humans on several occasions in different parts of the world, it might have produced the same patterns seen by Achtman and others.

In this week’s Nature, Achtman and his colleagues report the latest data on humans and their ulcer bugs. They argue that our histories are even more intimately wrapped together than previously thought…

More here.

50 Greatest Cartoons

From City Rag:

Found a cool list of The 50 Greatest Cartoons as voted on by the animation industry in 1994. As a holiday present to our readers we’ve put together a link to an online video for each one below! (we found a video for all but 6.) Many wonderful, funny, trippy and cartoons spanning the decades (and some that were banned.) Enjoy!


(Update: some of the cartoons have been removed from YouTube for copyright infringement, but most are still there…)

1. What’s Opera, Doc? (1957)
2. Duck Amuck (1953)
3. The Band Concert (1935)
4. Duck Dodgers in the 24½th Century (1953)
5. One Froggy Evening (1956)
6. Gertie the Dinosaur (1914)
7. Red Hot Riding Hood (1943)
8. Porky in Wackyland (1938)
9. Gerald McBoing-Boing (1951)
10. King Size Canary (1947)

More here.

Choosing Children

Robert Scott Stewart reviews Choosing Children: Genes, Disability and Design by Jonathan Glover, in Metapsychology:

019929092x_01_mzzzzzzzIt has now been over twenty years since Jonathan Glover published What Sort of People Should There Be, which explored the then brand new field of genetic intervention. At that time, “no philosophers had written on genetic issues and it was widely believed that choosing genes for children was either impossible or at least not even on the horizon. So I had to make it all up myself” (114). In contrast, genetic intervention is now the subject of intense debate from a wide variety of fields, much of it empirically based.

One change to note in particular is the current inclusion in the debate of the narrative voices of people with certain conditions historically classified as disabilities. Ironically, however, these new voices have raised concerns about what used to be the least controversial area of genetic interventions in human reproduction; namely, interventions that would rid (potential) children of certain adverse genetic conditions. While there is still general (though not universal) agreement that we ought to eradicate certain genetic disorders, such as Tay-Sachs disease, sickle-cell anemia, and hemophilia, there is a great deal of controversy regarding what to do regarding genetically based disabilities. Consider, as Glover does, the recent case of Sharon Duchesneau and Candy McCullough, a lesbian couple, both of whom were deaf, who chose a sperm donor with hereditary deafness in order to produce a deaf child. According to them, their action was justified because deafness is not a disability or a disease, it’s merely a difference that is, moreover, worth keeping.

At the heart of this matter is how we are to define a disability.

More here.

universal shakespeare


The same idea came up in a number of the seminar papers presented by a significant contingent of Eastern European scholars at the conference. Zdenek Stríbrný, from Charles University in Prague, gave an especially interesting paper on “Shakespeare as Liberator—Macbeth in Czechoslovakia.” He pointed out that Macbeth has been popular among the Czechs almost from the beginning. The first translation of the play into Czech was published in Prague in 1786. The Czechs in fact made Macbeth their own and in general turned to Shakespeare as a way of establishing their legitimacy as a culture. In their efforts throughout the 19th century to translate Shakespeare, as Stríbrný writes, “they wanted to prove to the whole nation and the world that the Czech language was capable of coping with the highest achievements of European culture, even though it was, by that time, practically abandoned by higher society and spoken only by common people.” (As part of the Habsburg Austro-Hungarian Empire, the Czechs were forced to use German as the official language of business, politics, and high culture for much of the 19th century.) In short, the Czechs did not regard Shakespeare’s plays as something imposed on them. Rather they embraced these foreign works as a way of cultivating their own identity and freeing themselves from the hegemony of German culture.

more from Claremont Review here.

the murder of Hrant Dink


I am a Turk. Hrant was an Armenian. I write for Agos. He was Agos. Hrant, Agos’s Turkish writers, and Agos itself risked everything for a cause: to cease the hostility between Turks and Armenians; to bring the resentment and hatred to an end.

Hrant and Agos were a single flower blooming on the barren plains of Turkey. That flower was destroyed, torn from the ground. Everyone says: “The bullet fired at Hrant hit Turkey.” That’s true, but we need to ask ourselves in complete and transparent honesty: Who made the target for that bullet? Who targeted Hrant so the bullet would find its mark? Who held him fast so the shot wasn’t wasted?

Hrant wasn’t killed by a lone 17-year-old. He was murdered by those who made him a target and held him in place.

more from Taner Akçam at n+1 here.

Madame Du Châtelet


Acclaimed in the Décade d’Augsbourg, a German “Who’s Who” produced between 1741 and 1755, as one of the outstanding erudites of her time, Gabrielle Émilie Le Tonnelier de Breteuil, Marquise Du Châtelet (1706–49), considered one of the first women scientists, was relegated after her death to the Enlightenment’s shadows, from which she has emerged only recently. Brilliant and passionate, as fun-loving as she was hard-working, “la divine Émilie” was both admired and loathed by her peers, stunned as they were by the nerve of an eighteenth-century female who was as capable of debating men on the laws of physics as she was of performing the role typically assigned to her gender. She left in her wake a series of lovers in the best tradition of intrigue among French royals—or rather among intellectuals, long before the Existentialists and the French avant-garde.

more from Cabinet here.

Anti-icers make airport runoff toxic

From Geotimes:Aircraft_deicing_bigger

What keeps passengers safe when they fly in the winter may not be as safe for ecosystems. Researchers examining the environmental harm done by airplane de-icing and anti-icing fluid runoff have found that such runoff from airports located near bodies of water — including 45 of the 50 busiest airports in the United States — could spell trouble for aquatic ecosystems.

Although de-icer fluid is known to be toxic, de-icers have generally become less harmful since the mid-1990s, says Steven Corsi of the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS). But anti-icers — de-icers with additives that help the fluid stick to the surface and prevent the formation of new ice — have stayed just as toxic, he says. Airports use de-icers to remove ice from planes before takeoff, spewing between 100 and several thousand gallons per aircraft with each application, depending on conditions. Some of the fluid sticks to the plane, but 75 to 80 percent escapes into the surrounding environment, according to a 1995 Federal Aviation Administration report.

More here.

The Moth’s Gyroscope

From Science:Moth

How do moths stay aloft? With their antennae, of course. When your wingspan is just three inches across, the slightest breeze becomes a gale, and knowing which way is up becomes a matter of life and death. Now, a research team reports that moths stabilize their flight by using their antennae as gyroscopic sensors.

Rotational inertia keeps a spinning top balancing on its tip: If you try to knock it over, the Coriolis force pushes it to the side instead. The size of that force depends on how fast the top is spinning. Engineers measure the corrective force on calibrated gyroscopes to keep aircraft and ballistic missiles on a level course. And flies stabilize their flight by using their club-shaped hind wings to detect these forces. But no one suspected that moths use a similar strategy. Their antennae are primarily known as super-sensitive odor receptors–used to sniff out females and food from miles away–and researchers had hypothesized that they assist in flight only by acting as air flow sensors. That untested idea had “become part of the lore,” says biologist Sanjay Sane of the University of Washington in Seattle.

More here.


Hasan Zaidi at NBC News:

X_lon_pakistantalkshow_0701_standardLast year when a journalist from Indian-administered Kashmir asked me what the “story” was behind Begum Nawazish Ali, I was more than just surprised. The Begum (the term means “Lady” in Urdu) in question is the host of Pakistan’s most popular TV talk show – “Late Night Show with Begum Nawazish Ali.”

I didn’t think Aaj, the fledgling television channel which broadcasts the show, was even seen outside the country. I asked him how he knew the name of Pakistan’s rising star and he said “Oh, we all watch her program off satellite!”

The talk show host making waves in the Islamic Republic of Pakistan (and apparently Kashmir) is purportedly a stylish, middle-aged, socialite widow of an army colonel. Her monologues are often laced with sexual innuendo, she flirts openly with her guests, and sometimes embarrasses them with probing questions about their private lives. Her guests include some of Pakistan’s most well-known personalities: the urban elite, film and television stars and even some top politicians. Most are nevertheless thrilled to be invited to appear on a program millions are watching.

Viewers are obviously fascinated too. Dinner party conversations here in Karachi are often peppered with anecdotes about her risqué banter and sly digs at Pakistani politics. Women call the television station to inquire about the tailoring of her sequined blouses and where to buy her glamorous saris.

The thing is, Begum Nawazish Ali is actually a man. Ali Saleem, the 28-year-old man who dons lipstick, mascara and a wig to Begum Nawazish Ali, has managed to break many taboos in conservative Pakistan through the character.

More here.

Thursday, February 8, 2007

The Women of Pedro Almodóvar

Daniel Mendelsohn reviews the film Volver, directed by Almodovar, in the New York Review of Books:

20070301volverThe theme of returning to and suggestively recycling old material is at the very core of Almodóvar’s new film, the Academy Award–nominated Volver, as its title reminds us. The Spanish verb volver means not only “to turn” —there is, indeed, a recurrent visual motif here of windmills turning—but “to return” and, with a verbal object, “to do again.” Here, as in Talk to Her, two women are at the center of connected plots; here, as in All About My Mother, the emphasis is on motherhood. Most remarkably there is here a crucial allusion to the groundbreaking Flower of My Secret. For Volver takes as its donnée the plot of the very novel that Leo, in her quest for seriousness, had tried and failed to publish in the earlier film. Exactly like Leo’s novel, The Cold Storage Room, the new movie is about a mother (here called Raimunda), a lower-class cleaning woman, who learns that her deadbeat husband has tried to rape her daughter and, after the husband is murdered, disposes of the body in a freezer in a neighbor’s restaurant.

We eventually learn that these crimes —the incest, the murder, the mother’s willingness to do anything to protect the daughter—are echoes of, “returns” to, earlier crimes committed by Raimunda’s own mother; but this internal return is nowhere near as interesting as the larger one taking place here, which is that of Almodóvar himself once again returning, with delicious self-consciousness, to an old plot—one that sounded hopelessly excessive, too much like his own early work—and reconfiguring it, as he does here even more radically than in his other recent films, in the subtle but provocative manner of his mature style.

More here.  [Photo shows Almodovar and Penelope Cruz on the set of Volver.]

Quantum Physics Made Relatively Simple

From the website of Cornell University:

Screenhunter_01_feb_08_1932Three Lectures by Hans Bethe

IN 1999, legendary theoretical physicist Hans Bethe delivered three lectures on quantum theory to his neighbors at the Kendal of Ithaca retirement community (near Cornell University). Given by Professor Bethe at age 93, the lectures are presented here as QuickTime videos synchronized with slides of his talking points and archival material.

Intended for an audience of Professor Bethe’s neighbors at Kendal, the lectures hold appeal for experts and non-experts alike. The presentation makes use of limited mathematics while focusing on the personal and historical perspectives of one of the principal architects of quantum theory whose career in physics spans 75 years.

A video introduction and appreciation are provided by Professor Silvan S. Schweber, the physicist and science historian who is Professor Bethe’s biographer, and Edwin E. Salpeter, the J. G. White Distinguished Professor of Physical Science Emeritus at Cornell, who was a post-doctoral student of Professor Bethe.

To see the videos, go here.

In Books, a Clash of Europe and Islam

Patricia Cohen in the New York Times:

Award nominations are generally occasions for exaggerated compliments and air kisses, so it was something of a surprise when Eliot Weinberger, a previous finalist for the National Book Critics Circle award, announced the newest nominees for the criticism category two weeks ago and said one of the authors, Bruce Bawer, had engaged in “racism as criticism.”

The resulting stir within the usually well-mannered book world spiked this week when the president of the Circle’s board, John Freeman, wrote on the organization’s blog ( “I have never been more embarrassed by a choice than I have been with Bruce Bawer’s ‘While Europe Slept,’ he wrote. “It’s hyperventilated rhetoric tips from actual critique into Islamophobia.”

More here.

The Truth About Beauty

Virginia Postrel in The Atlantic:

Cosmetics makers have always sold “hope in a jar”—creams and potions that promise youth, beauty, sex appeal, and even love for the women who use them. Over the last few years, the marketers at Dove have added some new-and-improved enticements. They’re now promising self-esteem and cultural transformation. Dove’s “Campaign for Real Beauty,” declares a press release, is “a global effort that is intended to serve as a starting point for societal change and act as a catalyst for widening the definition and discussion of beauty.” Along with its thigh-firming creams, self-tanners, and hair conditioners, Dove is peddling the crowd-pleasing notions that beauty is a media creation, that recognizing plural forms of beauty is the same as declaring every woman beautiful, and that self-esteem means ignoring imperfections…

Last fall, Dove extended its image building with a successful bit of viral marketing: a seventy-five-second online video called Evolution. Created by Ogilvy & Mather, the video is a close-up of a seemingly ordinary woman, shot in harsh lighting that calls attention to her uneven skin tone, slightly lopsided eyes, and dull, flat hair. In twenty seconds of time-lapse video, makeup artists and hair stylists turn her into a wide-eyed, big-haired beauty with sculpted cheeks and perfect skin. It’s Extreme Makeover without the surgical gore:

But that’s only the beginning. Next comes the digital transformation, as a designer points-and-clicks on the model’s photo, giving her a longer, slimmer neck, a slightly narrower upper face, fuller lips, bigger eyes, and more space between her eyebrows and eyes.

More here.

Bush and the Psychology of Incompetent Decisions

John P. Briggs, MD, and J.P. Briggs II, PhD, in TruthOut:

George_bush_uniform_smResentment naturally contaminated Bush’s efforts to prove himself to his father and receive his father’s approval. The contradictory mix showed up in his compulsion to re-fight his father’s war against Iraq, but this time winning the duel some thought his father failed to win with Saddam. He could at once emulate his father, show his contempt for him, and redeem him. But beneath this son-father struggle lies a far more significant issue for Bush – a question about his own competence, adequacy and autonomy as a human being.

We have seen this inner question surface repeatedly, and we have largely conspired with him to deny it.

  • On September 11, 2001, we saw (and suppressed) the image of him sitting stunned for seven minutes in a crowd of school children after learning that the second plane had hit the Twin Towers, and then the lack of image of him when he vanished from public view for the rest of the day. Instead, we bought the cover-up image, three days after the attack, of the strong leader, grabbing the bullhorn in New York City and issuing bellicose statements.
  • In 2004, we saw and denied the insecurity displayed when the president refused to face the 9/11 Commission alone and needed Vice President Cheney to go with him.
  • In 2003, we saw and suppressed the dark side of the “Mission Accomplished” aircraft carrier landing, in which a man who had ducked out on his generation’s war and dribbled away his service in the Texas Air National Guard dressed up like Top Gun and pretended that he was a combat pilot like his father.

More here.  [Thanks to Pablo Policzer.]

Ian Buruma: the debate continues


It is the fate of certain books, like certain phrases (“fascism”, “Orientalism”, “multiculturalism”, “racism”), to be used as bludgeons to beat up people whose views one dislikes. These verbal sticks often bear little or no relation to their original meanings, or, in the case of books, to what their authors actually wrote. I suppose I should feel flattered that “Murder in Amsterdam” is gradually turning into such a book.

Professor Cliteur wishes to beat up nihilists, postmodern cultural relativists, and multiculturalists, and uses my book as his bludgeon. I can only assume he has actually read it, but his version is certainly not mine. Nowhere did I suggest that the ideals of the Enlightenment are no better than radical Islamism. My descriptions of Theo van Gogh’s killer and his murderous ideology make it quite clear what I think of religious extremism. Either Professor Cliteur is incapable of grasping a complicated argument, or he wilfully misreads my book in order to classify me as a “post-modern relativist.”

more from Sign and Sight here.