Thursday, February 13, 2014

Is intelligence written in the genes?

The evidence keeps piling up.  Many genes are now known to be involved, which reinforces my view that high IQ is just one aspect of general biological good functioning

A gene which may make people more intelligent has been discovered by scientists.  Researchers have found that teenagers who had a highly functioning NPTN gene performed better in intelligence tests.

It is thought the NPTN gene indirectly affects how the brain cells communicate and may control the formation of the cerebral cortex, the outermost layer of the human brain, also known as ‘grey matter.’  Previously it has been shown that grey matter plays a key role in memory, attention, perceptual awareness, thought and language.

Studies have also proved that the thickness of the cerebral cortex correlates with intellectual ability. However, until now no genes had been identified.

Teens with an underperforming NPTN gene did less well in intelligence tests.

Dr Sylvane Desrivi√®res, from King’s College London’s Institute of Psychiatry and lead author of the study, said: “We wanted to find out how structural differences in the brain relate to differences in intellectual ability.

“It’s important to point out that intelligence is influenced by many genetic and environmental factors. “The gene we identified only explains a tiny proportion of the differences in intellectual ability.”

An international team of scientists, led by King’s, analysed DNA samples and MRI scans from 1,583 healthy 14 year old teenagers.

The teenagers also underwent a series of tests to determine their verbal and non-verbal intelligence.

The researchers looked at over 54,000 genetic variants possibly involved in brain development.

They found that, on average, teenagers carrying a particular gene variant had a thinner cortex in the left cerebral hemisphere, particularly in the frontal and temporal lobes, and performed less well on tests for intellectual ability.

The genetic variation affects the expression of the NPTN gene, which encodes a protein acting at neuronal synapses and therefore affects how brain cells communicate.

Their findings suggest that some differences in intellectual abilities can result from the decreased function of the NPTN gene in particular regions of the left brain hemisphere.

Although the genetic variation identified in this study only accounts for an estimated 0.5 per cent of the total variation in intelligence.

However, the findings may have important implications for the understanding of biological mechanisms underlying several psychiatric disorders, such as schizophrenia, autism, where impaired cognitive ability is a key feature of the disorder.

The study was published in Molecular Psychiatry



A video to ponder



Barkin mad

Her Eastern European roots are showing

On Wednesday, actress Ellen Barkin announced on Twitter that as long as Barack Obama is President, the people of the United States belong to him, Twitchy reported.

The actress made her opinion known in an exchange that started when she announced that she voted for Obama to "protect" all of "his" people.

"Yes I vote Pres protect his ppl,ALL his ppl.The poor,the middle class,the jobless...the 1's that need our help..I vote 4 humanity, (sic)" she tweeted.

"HIS people?? Holy s**t you communists are insane," user "Linsey" tweeted in response.

"Right now he is the President of our country.He is our leader & we are his people, (sic)" Barkin tweeted.

Conservatives gave Barkin the civics lesson she should have received in grade school, letting her know in no uncertain terms that the American people are not the property of the state, or the president.

"Conservatives know a President doesn't own the American people but works for them," tweeted "Nathan Duffy," in response to a racially-charged tweet Barkin sent.

"He doesn't have any people - Americans are a free people. That means our presidents serve us, not us them. Kings have people," added "Teresa Graves."

"Doug" added: "I thought we weren't a monarchy? Is this like @donnabrazile referring to his beginning 'his rule' in 2008?"

"[W]ow, you sure are dumb," one person tweeted, while another called her "psychotic."

The staff at Twitchy suggested Barkin "seek help."

Barkin, the 58-year-old actress who appears in "The New Normal," a new NBC series about a gay couple who wants to have a baby using a surrogate, caused controversy in July when she expressed her hatred for conservatives in a series of profane tweets.

In August, she retweeted a message hoping that Tropical Storm Isaac would kill Republicans by washing them out to sea during the RNC convention.



Obama Doesn't Care to Enforce ObamaCare

For the 27th time, Barack Obama has issued a unilateral delay of an ObamaCare provision, this time the one requiring businesses with 50-99 full-time workers to offer health benefits. Obama had already delayed that mandate until 2015, but now it's not effective until 2016. Furthermore, businesses with more than 100 employees need not cover 100% of employees, but rather only 70% of workers by 2015 and 95% in 2016 and after.

Or, you know, whenever. The Obama Treasury Department wrote, “As these limited transition rules take effect, we will consider whether it is necessary to further extend any of them beyond 2015.” Whatever politically benefits Democrats. Republicans certainly can't challenge it or they would appear to support the mandate.

Last week's CBO report showed that ObamaCare is costing the economy big time, but the White House insisted that it's liberating workers. “Well, which is it?” asks The Wall Street Journal. “Either ObamaCare is ushering in a worker's paradise, in which case by the White House's own logic exempting businesses from its ministrations is harming employees. Or else the mandate really is leading business to cut back on hiring, hours and shifting workers to part-time as the evidence in the real economy suggests.”

For the Obama administration, it's both. While assuring low-info voters that ObamaCare enables people to “make a decision about how they will work, and if they will work,” the White House can also give businesses a reprieve until after the mid-term election. The previous delay put businesses in the position of accounting for the mandate right before the election and that simply wouldn't do. But the effect of yet another delay and the prospect of who knows how many others is that businesses can't plan for the law. Therefore, the economy will remain stagnant.

As an aside, the timing of this delay is especially interesting given that House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) just said immigration reform was unlikely because Republicans don't trust Obama to enforce the law. The president's doubling down on ObamaCare should completely take immigration off the table.

Speaking of timing, it's incredibly ironic that, on a visit to Thomas Jefferson's home with French President Francois Hollande, Obama reportedly said, “[A]s a president, I can do whatever I want.” Jefferson, the author of the Declaration of Independence, didn't have kind things to say about Obama's brand of tyranny. “The tree of liberty,” wrote Jefferson, “must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants. It is its natural manure.”



Unemployment Data Brutalize Krugman and Keynes

When Republicans dug in their heels and allowed extended unemployment benefits to expire for 1.3 million people in late December, "progressives" charged that this "heartless" move would cause people to stop looking for work, and that the reduction in government spending (i.e., "stimulus") would slow job growth.

Oops. After falling by an average of 48,000/month during 2013, labor force participation surged by 523,000 in January. The total number of full-time-equivalent* (FTE) jobs shot up by 678,000, for the biggest one-month gain since April 2000. The number of long-term unemployed (27 weeks or more) declined by 232,000, or 6%, in a single month.

Although the reported headline (U-3) unemployment rate fell by only 0.1 percentage points in January, the true unemployment rate (adjusted to the labor force participation rate of December 2008) fell by 0.3 percentage points, to 10.6%. The broader U-6 unemployment rate fell by even more, 0.4 percentage points.

Given the spectacular results produced by the Republicans' courageous refusal to renew extended unemployment benefits, it would be tragic for them to give in now, and vote to extend a program that has had the unintended consequence of extending unemployment.

Recent economic data have been brutal on Keynesians, who believe that GDP and employment growth are driven by fiscal and monetary stimulus.

The Federal Reserve's "tapering" of its bond-buying binge (a.k.a., quantitative easing) was supposed to slow the economy. The jobs numbers belie this.

During the first 11 months of 2013, the Fed expanded the monetary base by an average of $91.9 billion/month. It then began to "taper." The monetary base rose by $31.8 billion in December, and by only $12.7 billion in January. This amounts to a pretty drastic tapering.

The results? FTE job growth averaged 103,000/month for the first 11 months of 2013, but came in at 240,000 for December, followed by 678,000 for January.

We have seen this pattern before, in both the employment and GDP numbers. During both QE2 and QE3, the performance of the economy was inversely correlated with the amount of quantitative easing done by the Fed. "Printing money" just made things worse, at least for ordinary people.

Recent GDP numbers have also been unkind to Keynesians in the area of fiscal stimulus, the notion that higher government deficits boost the economy.

Federal borrowing fell by 32% from 2012 to 2013, while our real GDP (RGDP) growth rate (4Q over 4Q) increased by 40%.

OK, so if Keynesianism doesn't explain what we are seeing, what does? Supply-side economics does. Let's revisit Jude Wanniski's "wedge model," and its implications for our economic future under ObamaCare.

Progressive welfare-state programs involve taxing things that we want more of (e.g., work, profits, capital gains, savings) to subsidize things that we want less of (e.g., idleness, disability, irresponsibility). The taxes and subsidies create a "wedge" between economic decision-makers and reality.

As an example, let's take America's corporate income tax, which is the highest in the world. This tax causes investors to locate factories in places like Ireland, when the actual cost of production would be lower in the U.S. Because jobs follow investment, the corporate tax wedge reduces employment in the U.S., and suppresses American wages.

Our system of unemployment insurance taxes working, and subsidizes not working. Accordingly, it would not surprise any supply-sider that when unemployment checks stopped flowing to millions of people in late December (and when even more people noticed that the rules of the game had changed), both labor force participation and total FTE employment increased.

The Obama administration and progressive pundits (like Paul Krugman) had to scramble last week after the CBO predicted that ObamaCare would reduce the labor force by the equivalent of 2.5 million FTE workers by 2024. The best that the liberals seemed to be able to come up with was to praise ObamaCare for "increasing worker choice."

Great concept, guys. If we want to maximize "worker choice," why not raise payroll taxes to 80%, and institute ObamaChow (to pay for food), ObamaCar (transportation), and ObamaCrib (housing)? Then everybody could choose not to work.

The worst thing about ObamaCare is that it will kill people by suppressing private sector investment in medical research. However, its second-worst feature is that it adds to a welfare state wedge that is already far too large.

In 2012, the Pennsylvania State Secretary of Public Welfare determined that a single mother in his state was no better off earning $69,000 than $29,000. In other words, the government "wedge" (taxes plus phase-outs of welfare state benefits) between these two income levels was 100%. If you want to know why more and more Americans are becoming trapped in the underclass, look no farther.

The supply-side wedge model explains the economic data we are seeing, and the Keynesian demand-side model does not. The way forward to prosperity is clear. We must shrink the welfare-state wedge.



For more blog postings from me, see  TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, GREENIE WATCH,  POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC,  AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, and Paralipomena (Occasionally updated) and Coral reef compendium. (Updated as news items come in).  GUN WATCH is now mainly put together by Dean Weingarten.

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