December 16, 2006

Weekend Question 2: How About Some Truth in Packaging in Compromised News Reports?

That phrase explains why I believe dispatches from less-than-free countries would almost seem to need a qualifier. Allah explained on Wednesday, as he expressed exasperaton over Reuters’ reporting from the Holocaust-denier conference in Tehran:

None of these places grant true press freedom. Reuters’ reporters toe the tyrants’ line, either because they’re working for the tyrant or are under the tyrant’s heel. Reuters’ Western editors have to be aware of this, yet they do nothing about it. They publish the work of local stringers that amounts to official government (or insurgent, or Hezbollah) propaganda. We read such journalism coming from Iraq every day. When we challenge it, they sniff at us. But not at the crap their local stringers and scribes are doling out.

A prescription drug doesn’t come without instructions for proper use. Why shouldn’t news from less-than-free locations be handled similarly?

Would it be too difficult to point out, when it’s the case, in reports from a given country that “Country X places severe restrictions on press freedoms and Reuters dispatches from there must be viewed in that light”? Or “Reuters reporters covering the terrorist insurgency were escorted the entire time they were present, and operated under severe restrictions relating to what they could report”? I believe it’s irresponsible NOT to. If Country X or the terrorists doesn’t like that qualifier, fine; Reuters leaves Country X or cuts off contact with the terrorists. How difficult is that?

Of course (!), I’m not proposing this as a requirement. But because viewers, listeners, and readers have been conditioned for decades to believe that news reports, even from totalitarian countries, are objective if delivered by a “mainstream source,” I AM saying that to disabuse news users of that presumptive belief, professionally honest reports from such countries or in terrorists would routinely include such disclaimers.

They don’t. Why not? In the case of the Middle East, this is probably one reason.

Weekend Question 1: Does Barone Do Economics?

Filed under: Economy,Taxes & Government,TWUQs — Tom @ 10:07 am

ANSWER: Apparently yes, and pretty well on explaining the New Deal and Depression mindset.


In the midst of this Monday post that was primarily about lobbying, he threw in some important reminders about where FDR & Co. were really coming from, and how we still to this day are in certain cases paying for their flawed worldview:

The problem here (with lobbying) is not free people; the problem is big government. More specifically, it’s a big government program set up during the New Deal whose purpose was not to stimulate economic growth and competition but to freeze the economy in place and stifle competition.

Remember that the New Dealers believed that the Depression showed that free markets don’t work and that economic growth was a mirage.

Franklin Roosevelt on taking office in March 1933 faced a deflationary downward spiral, and, to his credit, he stopped its momentum with an otherwise cockamamie scheme called the National Recovery Act, which set up 700-some industry codes barring price and wage cuts. NRA was foundering in May 1935, since it was obvious that everyone was gaming this ridiculous system, and Congress was uncertain to reauthorize it when the Supreme Court unanimously declared it unconstitutional.

Unfortunately, Congress kept passing freeze-the-economy-in-place legislation, including the dairy provisions of the farm bill. One in four Americans then lived on farms; they were a big constituency, and they were hurting. Things are different now. Only 2 percent of Americans live on farms. Our economy grows and grows and grows, and we realize, thanks in large part to the late Milton Friedman, that the Depression resulted not from the inevitable defects of free markets but from certain specific policy mistakes that we can, unless we take leave of our senses, refuse to remake.

But we’ve still got dairy price supports, which keep the price of milk well above what it would be if we had free markets. The people who benefit from these laws will, as the Post shows, work hard to defend them. And those people include not only dairy farmers but also trade association executives and lobbyists who are very well paid out of the money extracted by the system from milk consumers–a group tilted toward young families with small children, a group with very little wealth and tending to have below-average incomes.

That’s big government for you.

Positivity: Diabetes Breakthrough

Filed under: Positivity — Tom @ 7:00 am

I tend to avoid “breakthroughs” in scientific research that haven’t gotten to the human testing stage yet, but though it’s years away, this one (HT Instapundit) looks too good and too promising to ignore:

Friday, December 15, 2006

In a discovery that has stunned even those behind it, scientists at a Toronto hospital say they have proof the body’s nervous system helps trigger diabetes, opening the door to a potential near-cure of the disease that affects millions of Canadians.

Diabetic mice became healthy virtually overnight after researchers injected a substance to counteract the effect of malfunctioning pain neurons in the pancreas.

“I couldn’t believe it,” said Dr. Michael Salter, a pain expert at the Hospital for Sick Children and one of the scientists. “Mice with diabetes suddenly didn’t have diabetes any more.”

The researchers caution they have yet to confirm their findings in people, but say they expect results from human studies within a year or so. Any treatment that may emerge to help at least some patients would likely be years away from hitting the market.

But the excitement of the team from Sick Kids, whose work is being published today in the journal Cell, is almost palpable.

“I’ve never seen anything like it,” said Dr. Hans Michael Dosch, an immunologist at the hospital and a leader of the studies. “In my career, this is unique.”

Their conclusions upset conventional wisdom that Type 1 diabetes, the most serious form of the illness that typically first appears in childhood, was solely caused by auto-immune responses — the body’s immune system turning on itself.

They also conclude that there are far more similarities than previously thought between Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes, and that nerves likely play a role in other chronic inflammatory conditions, such as asthma and Crohn’s disease.

The “paradigm-changing” study opens “a novel, exciting door to address one of the diseases with large societal impact,” said Dr. Christian Stohler, a leading U.S. pain specialist and dean of dentistry at the University of Maryland, who has reviewed the work.

“The treatment and diagnosis of neuropathic diseases is poised to take a dramatic leap forward because of the impressive research.”

About two million Canadians suffer from diabetes, 10% of them with Type 1, contributing to 41,000 deaths a year.

Insulin replacement therapy is the only treatment of Type 1, and cannot prevent many of the side effects, from heart attacks to kidney failure.

In Type 1 diabetes, the pancreas does not produce enough insulin to shift glucose into the cells that need it. In Type 2 diabetes, the insulin that is produced is not used effectively — something called insulin resistance — also resulting in poor absorption of glucose.

The problems stem partly from inflammation — and eventual death — of insulin-producing islet cells in the pancreas.

Dr. Dosch had concluded in a 1999 paper that there were surprising similarities between diabetes and multiple sclerosis, a central nervous system disease. His interest was also piqued by the presence around the insulin-producing islets of an “enormous” number of nerves, pain neurons primarily used to signal the brain that tissue has been damaged.

Suspecting a link between the nerves and diabetes, he and Dr. Salter used an old experimental trick — injecting capsaicin, the active ingredient in hot chili peppers, to kill the pancreatic sensory nerves in mice that had an equivalent of Type 1 diabetes.

“Then we had the biggest shock of our lives,” Dr. Dosch said. Almost immediately, the islets began producing insulin normally “It was a shock ? really out of left field, because nothing in the literature was saying anything about this.”

It turns out the nerves secrete neuropeptides that are instrumental in the proper functioning of the islets. Further study by the team, which also involved the University of Calgary and the Jackson Laboratory in Maine, found that the nerves in diabetic mice were releasing too little of the neuropeptides, resulting in a “vicious cycle” of stress on the islets.

So next they injected the neuropeptide “substance P” in the pancreases of diabetic mice, a demanding task given the tiny size of the rodent organs. The results were dramatic.

The islet inflammation cleared up and the diabetes was gone. Some have remained in that state for as long as four months, with just one injection.

They also discovered that their treatments curbed the insulin resistance that is the hallmark of Type 2 diabetes, and that insulin resistance is a major factor in Type 1 diabetes, suggesting the two illnesses are quite similar.

While pain scientists have been receptive to the research, immunologists have voiced skepticism at the idea of the nervous system playing such a major role in the disease. Editors of Cell put the Toronto researchers through vigorous review to prove the validity of their conclusions, though an editorial in the publication gives a positive review of the work.

“It will no doubt cause a great deal of consternation,” said Dr. Salter about his paper.

The researchers are now setting out to confirm that the connection between sensory nerves and diabetes holds true in humans. If it does, they will see if their treatments have the same effects on people as they did on mice.

Nothing is for sure, but “there is a great deal of promise,” Dr. Salter said.