Monday, April 03, 2017
Scientists predict reading ability from DNA alone
Reading ability is a major component of IQ so this is another step forward towards measuring IQ directly from brain features
Researchers from King's College London have used a genetic scoring technique to predict reading performance throughout school years from DNA alone.
The study, published today in Scientific Studies of Reading, shows that a genetic score comprising around 20,000 of DNA variants explains five per cent of the differences between children's reading performance. Students with the highest and lowest genetic scores differed by a whole two years in their reading performance.
These findings highlight the potential of using genetic scores to predict strengths and weaknesses in children's learning abilities. According to the study authors, these scores could one day be used to identify and tackle reading difficulties early, rather than waiting until children develop these problems at school.
The researchers calculated genetic scores (also called polygenic scores*) for educational achievement in 5,825 individuals from the Twins Early Development Study (TEDS) based on genetic variants identified to be important for educational attainment. They then mapped these scores against reading ability between the ages of seven and 14.
Genetic scores were found to explain up to five per cent of the differences between children in their reading ability. This association remained significant even after accounting for cognitive ability and family socio-economic status.
The study authors note that although five per cent may seem a relatively small amount, this is substantial compared to other results related to reading. For example, gender differences have been found to explain less than one per cent of the differences between children in reading ability.
Saskia Selzam, first author of the study from the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology & Neuroscience (IoPPN) at King's College London, said: 'The value of polygenic scores is that they make it possible to predict genetic risk and resilience at the level of the individual. This is different to twin studies, which tell us about the overall genetic influence within a large population of people.'
'We think this study provides an important starting point for exploring genetic differences in reading ability, using polygenic scoring. For instance, these scores could enable research on resilience to developing reading difficulties and how children respond individually to different interventions.'
Professor Robert Plomin, senior author from the IoPPN at King's College London, said: 'We hope these findings will contribute to better policy decisions that recognise and respect genetically driven differences between children in their reading ability.'
*Calculating an individual's polygenic score requires information from a genome-wide association study (GWAS) that finds specific genetic variants linked to particular traits, in this case educational attainment. Some of these genetic variants, known as single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs), are more strongly associated with the trait, and some are less strongly associated. In a polygenic score, the effects of these SNPs are weighed by the strength of association and then summed to a score, so that people with many SNPs related to academic achievement will have a higher polygenic score and higher academic achievement, whereas people with fewer associated SNPs will have a lower score and lower levels of academic achievement.
Is Putin the 'Preeminent Statesman' of Our Times?
By Patrick J. Buchanan
"If we were to use traditional measures for understanding leaders, which involve the defense of borders and national flourishing, Putin would count as the preeminent statesman of our time.
"On the world stage, who could vie with him?"
So asks Chris Caldwell of the Weekly Standard in a remarkable essay in Hillsdale College's March issue of its magazine, Imprimis.
What elevates Putin above all other 21st-century leaders?
"When Putin took power in the winter of 1999-2000, his country was defenseless. It was bankrupt. It was being carved up by its new kleptocratic elites, in collusion with its old imperial rivals, the Americans. Putin changed that.
"In the first decade of this century, he did what Kemal Ataturk had done in Turkey in the 1920s. Out of a crumbling empire, he resurrected a national-state, and gave it coherence and purpose. He disciplined his country's plutocrats. He restored its military strength. And he refused, with ever blunter rhetoric, to accept for Russia a subservient role in an American-run world system drawn up by foreign politicians and business leaders. His voters credit him with having saved his country."
Putin's approval rating, after 17 years in power, exceeds that of any rival Western leader. But while his impressive strides toward making Russia great again explain why he is revered at home and in the Russian diaspora, what explains Putin's appeal in the West, despite a press that is every bit as savage as President Trump's?
Answer: Putin stands against the Western progressive vision of what mankind's future ought to be. Years ago, he aligned himself with traditionalists, nationalists and populists of the West, and against what they had come to despise in their own decadent civilization.
What they abhorred, Putin abhorred. He is a God-and-country Russian patriot. He rejects the New World Order established at the Cold War's end by the United States. Putin puts Russia first.
And in defying the Americans he speaks for those millions of Europeans who wish to restore their national identities and recapture their lost sovereignty from the supranational European Union. Putin also stands against the progressive moral relativism of a Western elite that has cut its Christian roots to embrace secularism and hedonism.
The U.S. establishment loathes Putin because, they say, he is an aggressor, a tyrant, a "killer." He invaded and occupies Ukraine. His old KGB comrades assassinate journalists, defectors and dissidents.
Yet while politics under both czars and commissars has often been a blood sport in Russia, what has Putin done to his domestic enemies to rival what our Arab ally Gen. Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi has done to the Muslim Brotherhood he overthrew in a military coup in Egypt?
What has Putin done to rival what our NATO ally President Erdogan has done in Turkey, jailing 40,000 people since last July's coup — or our Philippine ally Rodrigo Duterte, who has presided over the extrajudicial killing of thousands of drug dealers?
Does anyone think President Xi Jinping would have handled mass demonstrations against his regime in Tiananmen Square more gingerly than did President Putin this last week in Moscow?
Much of the hostility toward Putin stems from the fact that he not only defies the West, when standing up for Russia's interests, he often succeeds in his defiance and goes unpunished and unrepentant.
He not only remains popular in his own country, but has admirers in nations whose political establishments are implacably hostile to him.
In December, one poll found 37 percent of all Republicans had a favorable view of the Russian leader, but only 17 percent were positive on President Barack Obama.
There is another reason Putin is viewed favorably. Millions of ethnonationalists who wish to see their nations secede from the EU see him as an ally. While Putin has openly welcomed many of these movements, America's elite do not take even a neutral stance.
Putin has read the new century better than his rivals. While the 20th century saw the world divided between a Communist East and a free and democratic West, new and different struggles define the 21st.
The new dividing lines are between social conservatism and self-indulgent secularism, between tribalism and transnationalism, between the nation-state and the New World Order.
On the new dividing lines, Putin is on the side of the insurgents. Those who envision de Gaulle's Europe of Nations replacing the vision of One Europe, toward which the EU is heading, see Putin as an ally.
So the old question arises: Who owns the future?
In the new struggles of the new century, it is not impossible that Russia — as was America in the Cold War — may be on the winning side. Secessionist parties across Europe already look to Moscow rather than across the Atlantic.
"Putin has become a symbol of national sovereignty in its battle with globalism," writes Caldwell. "That turns out to be the big battle of our times. As our last election shows, that's true even here."
Here’s What Happened to Workers After Philadelphia Passed a Soda Tax
Pepsi announced last week that it will lay off around 100 employees at distribution plants that supply the Philadelphia area. This is the latest blow for the city’s new beverage tax, which went into effect in January.
“Unfortunately, after careful consideration of the economic realities created by the recently enacted beverage tax, we have been forced to give notice that we intend to eliminate 80 to 100 positions, including frontline and supervisory roles,” Pepsi spokesman Dave DeCecco said, according to Philly.com.
However, the layoffs could be quickly reversed if the beverage tax is abandoned, according to DeCecco.
“If the tax is struck down or repealed, we plan to bring people back to work,” DeCecco said, according to Reuters. The tax is currently under appeal in the Commonwealth Court, with arguments anticipated to begin in early April.
Although it is commonly known as the “soda tax,” the law also includes all “non-100 percent-fruit drinks; sports drinks; sweetened water; energy drinks; pre-sweetened coffee or tea; and nonalcoholic beverages intended to be mixed into an alcoholic drink,” according to the city of Philadelphia’s website.
The tax, passed in June 2016 by the Philadelphia City Council, adds 1.5 cents to every ounce of liquid, which amounts to an 18-cent tax for a 12-ounce can of soda and a $2.16 tax for a 12-pack of soda.
The tax was implemented to finance pre-kindergarten programs, increase funding to public parks and facilities, and improve the health of Philadelphians, according to a statement published online by Mayor James Kenney’s office.
Since the law was enacted, some local consumers and businesses say they have suffered.
Canada Dry Delaware Valley—a local distributor of Canada Dry Ginger Ale, Sunkist, A&W Root Beer, Arizona Iced Tea and Vita Coco—said business fell 45 percent in Philadelphia in the first five weeks of 2017, compared with the same period last year. Total revenue at Brown’s Super Stores, which operates 12 ShopRite and Fresh Grocer supermarkets, fell 15 percent at its six retailers in the city.
According to Bloomberg, the CEO of Brown’s Super Stores, Jeff Brown, said, “In 30 years of business, there’s never been a circumstance in which we’ve ever had a sales decline of any significant amount, I would describe the impact as nothing less than devastating.”
Daren Bakst, a research fellow in agricultural policy at The Heritage Foundation, said:
“The Philadelphia City Council decided it knew what its city residents should eat and drink. Freedom was apparently not important to them,” Bakst told The Daily Signal in an email. “They didn’t care that it would undermine freedom. They didn’t care that it would hurt small businesses in their city. Nor did they care that a tax like this is regressive, hurting the poor the most because a greater share of the poor’s income goes to food purchases.
“The Philadelphia City Council deserves all the blame that is coming their way. For those unfortunate individuals who are losing their jobs, they can thank this to the arrogance of people who think they should socially engineer diets,” Bakst said.
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Posted by JR at 12:28 AM