Saturday, December 17, 2005


A little striped fish is helping scientists solve one of the biggest mysteries in biology - which genes are responsible for differences in human skin, eye and hair colour. The large, international team of scientists have found a gene that makes African zebrafish of a lighter-than-normal colour - and say the same gene helps explain the light-coloured hair, skin and eyes of many Europeans. While they stress they have not found a genetic basis for race, [what is it that they have found, then?] they say just a tiny change in a single amino acid plays a major role in causing the distinctive light European colouring. The gene is called SLC24A5, Keith Cheng of Pennsylvania State University and colleagues said. "Our results suggest that SLC24A5 explains between 25 and 38 per cent of the European-African difference in skin melanin index," the scientists wrote in tomorrow's issue of the journal Science.

Cheng's team was originally looking for genes involved in cancer. They were using zebrafish, a favoured tool of genetic researchers because they are small, reproduce quickly and are well understood. They found a gene that appeared to make some zebrafish "golden" - with lighter-than-usual stripes. Under a microscope, the skin of these fish have smaller, fewer structures called melanophores. In people of European descent, pigment granules called melanosomes are fewer, smaller, and lighter than those from people of West African ancestry. The melanosomes of East Asians fall in between. This suggested gene variations may be responsible and may be similar in vertebrates - which include fish, mice and people.

Scientists know that more than 100 genes are involved in pigment production, so the process is complex. But most of the genes identified so far are found in unusual conditions such as albinism, which causes very light skin and eyes. "...the genetic origin of the striking variations in human skin colour is one of the remaining puzzles in biology," the researchers wrote. But researchers have published several maps of the human genome and made them available to anyone. Cheng's team made use of them. They zeroed on on SLC24A5. Penn State pharmacologist Victor Canfield found that all vertebrates have a version of the gene. They found that one version appears to be the "base" version and is found in most people of African and East Asian descent. Europeans have a mutant version that differs by only a few letters of the genetic alphabet

Source. (The scientific abstract is here)



Iraqi voters decide their own future: "Iraqis streamed to the polls amid minimal violence yesterday in a legislative vote many hoped would heal a nation wracked by sectarian conflict and bring minority Sunnis back into the political process. Electoral officials briefly extended voting owing to the massive turnout, which preliminary estimates put at between 60 and 80 per cent, higher than October's referendum, with Sunni Arabs casting ballots in unprecedented numbers".

The "no idea" Democrats: "To this day, Democrats have yet to offer a coherent strategy for winning the war in Iraq, and it is clear that they have none. Their attacks on Bush's 'failed' strategy have rung hollow all these years because they never had anything better to offer. And now their top leaders have revealed that their real goal all along was not to win, but to cut and run. They only waited this long to announce it because they have concluded that the poll numbers finally are in their favor. While Americans disapprove of the Bush administration's execution of the Iraq war effort, will they really embrace surrender as the alternative? Howard Dean and Nancy Pelosi think so. We don't. The American people, rightly disturbed by serious administration mistakes, still want America to win this war. Unfortunately, the Democrats are quickly removing themselves as a serious foreign policy alternative to the Republicans, and that is damaging not only to them, but to the republic."

British legal piranhas get their comeuppance: "Some of the country's most successful law firms, which grew rich by exploiting sick miners, were told by the Government last night to repay more than 50 million pounds that they "outrageously" sliced from their clients' compensation. Ministers lambasted the firms for deducting money from payments to elderly pitmen suffering from chronic chest diseases as a result of their work".

A sincere Leftist agrees with neoconservatism: "What is neoconservative foreign policy? The best thumbnail definition is the one given by Paul Berman in his hugely influential Terror and Liberalism (2003) and quoted by Oliver Kamm: "Freedom for others means safety for ourselves. Let us be for freedom for others." It is that coupling, of national security with the promotion of freedom, that has given neoconservative foreign policy its potency, and why it is likely to last through a change of power in the United States after George W Bush - certainly if the Republican victor is John McCain, probably if the Democratic victor is Hillary Clinton."

There is a good article here about the many different attempts by the Irish government to create "affordable" housing by legislation and regulation -- attempts which simply drove the price of housing up, of course. Making things difficult for builders is not a good way to encourage them to build.

Pinter: Just another postmodernist hypocrite: 'There are no hard distinctions between what is real and what is unreal, nor between what is true and what is false. A thing is not necessarily either true or false; it can be both true and false." ...

Harold Pinter, explaining the difference between drama and politics in his acceptance speech for the Nobel Prize for Literature. In the lofty realm of dramatic art, Pinter asserted, there can be nothing so clear-cut as truth. It is, however, a very different matter when it comes to American foreign policy. There, the distinction between true and false is as clear as that between day and night. It's simple. Every- thing the United States says is false, and everything its critics say is true.... But it's not Pinter's solipsism I really object to. It's the way he used his award to pour verbal kerosene on the crackling flames of anti-Americanism.... Truth and falsehood are indeed hard to distinguish in Pinter's drama, and his Nobel soliloquy was no exception. First, the true part. Thousands were indeed killed by US-backed dictatorships, especially in Central and South America. What is demonstrably false is that this violence is comparable in scale with that perpetrated by Communist regimes at the same time...."

I am continuing to follow news about the racial tensions in Sydney on my Australian Politics blog (mirrored here).

For more postings, see EDUCATION WATCH, GREENIE WATCH, POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, GUN WATCH, SOCIALIZED MEDICINE. Mirror sites here, here, here, here and here. On Social Security see Dick McDonald


Practically all policies advocated by the Left create poverty. Leftists get the government to waste vast slabs of the country's labour-force on bureaucracy and paperwork and so load the burden of providing most useful goods and services onto fewer and fewer people. So fewer useful goods and services are produced to go around. That is no accident. The Left love the poor. The Left need the poor so that they can feel good by patronizing and "helping" them. So they do their best to create as many poor people as possible.

The Big Lie of the late 20th century was that Nazism was Rightist. It was in fact typical of the Leftism of its day. It was only to the Right of Stalin's Communism. The very word "Nazi" is a German abbreviation for "National Socialist" (Nationalsozialistisch)

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