Some Birds “with Higher Radiation Exposure May Show Greater Adaptation”

MousseauTimothyStudiesBatsAtChernobyl2014-05-31.jpg With an unfinished cooling tower at the Chernobyl plant in the background, Timothy Mousseau, right, and an assistant set out microphones to study bats in the contaminated area.” Source of caption and photo: online version of the NYT article quoted and cited below.

(p. D1) In dozens of papers over the years Dr. Mousseau, his longtime collaborator, Anders Pape Moller of the National Center for Scientific Research in France, and colleagues have reported evidence of radiation’s toll: . . .

(p. D2) But their most recent findings, published last month, showed something new. Some bird species, they reported in the journal Functional Ecology, appear to have adapted to the radioactive environment by producing higher levels of protective antioxidants, with correspondingly less genetic damage. For these birds, Dr. Mousseau said, chronic exposure to radiation appears to be a kind of “unnatural selection” driving evolutionary change.
. . .
The findings . . . suggest that in some cases radiation levels might have an inverse effect — birds in areas with higher radiation exposure may show greater adaptation, and thus less genetic damage, than those in areas with lower radiation levels.
Like almost all of the studies by Dr. Mousseau and his colleagues, the latest one takes advantage of the unique circumstances of the Chernobyl exclusion zone as a real-world laboratory. “Nature is a much more stressful environment than the lab,” Dr. Mousseau said.

For the full story, see:
HENRY FOUNTAIN. “Adapting to Chernoby.” The New York Times (Tues., MAY 6, 2014): D1 & D2.
(Note: ellipses added.)
(Note: the online version of the story has the date MAY 5, 2014, and has the title “At Chernobyl, Hints of Nature’s Adaptation.”)

The research discussed above is more fully elaborated in:
Galván, Ismael, Andrea Bonisoli-Alquati, Shanna Jenkinson, Ghanem Ghanem, Kazumasa Wakamatsu, Timothy A. Mousseau, and Anders P. Møller. “Chronic Exposure to Low-Dose Radiation at Chernobyl Favours Adaptation to Oxidative Stress in Birds.” Functional Ecology (Early View published online on May 17, 2014).

Edison “Put His Winnings from the Electric Light Business into the Mining Business”

(p. 265) In his business and research projects, Edison became more timid as he became older. While in his thirties, he had had the energy to tackle a problem that had seemed to many to be insoluble: the “subdivision” of the electric light that would make indoor use technically and economically feasible. In his forties, he had continued to dream big and put his winnings from the electric light business into the mining business. It had ended disappointingly, but he cannot be criticized for timidity. In his fifties, he did make another sizable bet. However, for this venture, pursuing the improvement of the battery for an electric car, he had financing from Ford that insulated him from personal risk. He continued to steer clear of risk in his sixties and seventies.

Source:
Stross, Randall E. The Wizard of Menlo Park: How Thomas Alva Edison Invented the Modern World. New York: Crown Publishers, 2007.

In China “Overwhelming Evidence of the Leaders’ “Moral Vulnerability””

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Source of book image: http://media.npr.org/assets/bakertaylor/covers/t/the-peoples-republic-of-amnesia/9780199347704_custom-d21f4e2d0281b692c74781102e750ff1e27b7cc9-s6-c30.jpg

(p. 21) During the night of June 3-4, 1989, when the Chinese Army was slaughtering demonstrators in Tiananmen Square, Wang Nan, a young student, was shot in the head. As he lay dying at the side of the road, soldiers threatened to kill anyone, even some young doctors, who tried to help him. In the morning, finally dead, he was buried in a shallow grave nearby. A few days later, the smell of Wang Nan’s body was so great that it was dug up and moved to a hospital.

After 10 days, his mother, Zhang Xianling, was called to the hospital to identify her son’s body. It took eight months, in the face of official obstruction, for Zhang to uncover what had happened to her son. In 1998 she held a modest remembrance service on the spot where he had died. The next year, on that day, she was barred from leaving her apartment. When she met Louisa Lim, Zhang said she longed to go to the fatal place again to pour a libation on the ground and sprinkle flower petals. “However,” Lim observes, ­”someone will always be watching her. A closed-circuit camera has been installed” and “trained on the exact spot where her son’s body was exhumed. . . . It is a camera dedicated to her alone, waiting for her in case she should ever try again to mourn her dead son.”
Until I read about that camera in “The People’s Republic of Amnesia,” I imagined, after decades of reporting from and about China, that nothing there could still shock me. As Lim contends, Zhang’s “simple act of memory is deemed a threat to stability.” Lim’s overwhelming evidence of the leaders’ “moral vulnerability,” together with her accounts of the amnesia of many Chinese, make hers one of the best analyses of the impact of Tiananmen throughout China in the years since 1989.

For the full review, see:
JONATHAN MIRSKY. “An Inconvenient Past.” The New York Times Book Review (Sun., MAY 25, 2014): 21.
(Note: ellipsis in original.)
(Note: the online version of the review has the date MAY 23, 2014.)

The book under review is:
Lim, Louisa. The People’s Republic of Amnesia: Tiananmen Revisited. New York: Oxford University Press, 2014.

TanksBeijingTwoDaysAfterTiananmenSquareMassacre2014-05-28.jpg “Tanks at the ready in Beijing on June 6, 1989, two days after the Tiananmen Square massacre.” Source of caption and photo: online version of the NYT review quoted and cited above.

How Medicaid Rewards Doctors Who Mistreat Patients

(p. A13) I recently operated on a child with strabismus (crossed eyes). This child was covered by Medicaid. I was required to obtain surgical pre-authorization using a Current Procedural Terminology, or CPT, code for medical identification and billing purposes. The CPT code identified the particular procedure to be performed. Medicaid approved my surgical plan, and the surgery was scheduled.
During the surgery, I discovered the need to change my plan to accommodate findings resulting from a previous surgery by another physician. Armed with new information, I chose to operate on different muscles from the ones noted on the pre-approved plan. The revised surgery was successful, and the patient obtained straight eyes.
However, because I filed for payment using the different CPT code for the surgery I actually performed, Medicaid was not willing to adjust its protocol. The government denied all payment. Ironically, the code-listed payment for the procedure I ultimately performed was an amount 40% less than the amount approved for the initially authorized surgery. For over a year, I challenged Medicaid about its decision to deny payment. I wrote numerous letters and spoke to many Medicaid employees explaining the predicament. Eventually I gave up fighting what had obviously become a losing battle.

For the full commentary, see:
ZANE F. POLLARD. “The Bureaucrat Sitting on Your Doctor’s Shoulder; When I’m operating on a child, I shouldn’t have to wonder if Medicaid will OK a change in the surgical plan..” The Wall Street Journal (Thurs., May 22, 2014): A13.
(Note: the online version of the commentary has the date May 21, 2014.)

Bowen Receives Standing Ovation for Calling Student Protesters “Immature and Arrogant”

BowenWilliamHaverfordCollegeCommencementSpeaker2014-06-01.jpg

“William Bowen, speaking at Haverford College on Sunday [May 18, 2014], criticized students who staged a protest over another scheduled speaker.” Source of caption and photo: online version of the WSJ article quoted and cited below.

(p. A3) William Bowen, a former president of Princeton University, criticized students who had objected to Haverford’s invitation to Robert Birgeneau, a former chancellor of the University of California, Berkeley, to speak at commencement.
. . .
“He is a person of consequence,” Mr. Bowen said. He said he told students, “If you expect to agree with commencement speakers on everything, then who will you get to speak? Someone totally boring.” He added that he also called the subset of students who had objected to Dr. Birgeneau “immature and arrogant.”
. . .
Phil Drexler, president of the Haverford Students’ Council, said some in the audience were upset but others gave a standing ovation. “I felt validated by the speech because I had wanted to hear Dr. Birgeneau talk,” said Mr. Drexler, a graduating physics major. On the plus side, he added, he likely won’t soon forget his commencement.
A number of commencement speeches have been derailed by student and faculty protests this graduation season. Christine Lagarde, managing director of the International Monetary Fund, withdrew last week from speaking at Smith College. Similar outcries foiled engagements by former National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice at Rutgers University and human-rights activist Ayaan Hirsi Ali at Brandeis University.

For the full story, see:
NATHAN KOPPEL. “Commencement Speaker Blasts Students on Protest.” The Wall Street Journal (Mon., May 19, 2014): A3.
(Note: ellipses, and bracketed date, added.)
(Note: the online version of the story has the date May 18, 2014, and had the title “Haverford Speaker Bowen Criticizes Students Over Protests.”)

If Inventors Were Allowed to Educate

(p. 228) Along with the home projector, the company introduced a central clearinghouse for used films, which offered customers a way of replenishing the family’s entertainment supply by using the postal service to swap titles with others for a nominal processing fee. Edison, however, wanted to use his projector not for entertainment but for education. For preschoolers, his idea was nothing less than brilliant. For teaching the alphabet, Edison explained in an interview, “suppose, instead of the dull, solemn letters on a board or a card you have a little play going on that the littlest youngster can understand,” with actors carrying in letters, hopping, skipping, turning somersaults. “Nothing like action–drama–a play that fascinates the eye to keep the attention keyed up.” (A prospectus for Sesame Street could not have made a better case.)

Source:
Stross, Randall E. The Wizard of Menlo Park: How Thomas Alva Edison Invented the Modern World. New York: Crown Publishers, 2007.
(Note: italics in original)

Schulman Grants that Kochs “Have Sincere Political Views that Go Beyond Being Just a Cover for Their Companies’ Interest”

KochBrothersWilliamCharlesDavidFrederick2014-05-28.jpg “The Koch brothers, from left: William, Charles, David and Frederick.” Source of caption and photo: online version of the NYT review quoted and cited below.

(p. 12) “Sons of Wichita” may strike some readers as surprisingly pro-Koch.  . . . [Schulman] grants Charles and David two key concessions: They have sincere political views that go beyond being just a cover for their companies’ interest in lower taxes and fewer regulations, and many of their political activities have been right out in the open, rather than lurking in the shadows. He seems to be almost in awe of Charles, the most mysterious of the brothers, who runs Koch Industries by a system he devised called Market-Based Management. Summarizing, but not dissenting from, the views of Charles’s employees, Schulman calls him “a near-mythic figure, a man of preternatural intellect and economic prowess,” adding: “He is unquestionably powerful, but unfailingly humble; elusive, but uncomplicated; cosmopolitan, yet thoroughly Kansan.” It’s noteworthy, Schulman argues, that for decades the Koch family was definitely not welcome in the Republican Party. That they came to stand for Republicanism, at least in the minds of liberals, in 2010 and 2012 is testament to their persistence, to the weakening of the traditional party structures and to their success in making libertarianism a mainstream rather than a fringe ideology. “It’s a brilliant, extraordinary accomplishment,” Schulman quotes Rob Stein of the liberal Democracy Alliance as saying about the Kochs’ rise to influence.
. . .
Even the Tea Party movement is not entirely dependent on intravenous feeding from the Kochs or that other favorite liberal villain, Fox News. And elements of Koch-style libertarianism, connected to the interests of major donors, now live within the Democratic Party too — not just on social issues like same-sex marriage, but on economic and regulatory ones too. “Sons of Wichita” reminds us that political outcomes depend far more on ideas and organization, and the energy and persistence devoted to them, than they do on the balance of power between good guys and bad guys.

For the full review, see:
NICHOLAS LEMANN. “Billionaire Boys Club.” The New York Times Book Review (Sun., MAY 25, 2014): 12.
(Note: ellipses, and bracketed name, added.)
(Note: the online version of the review has the date MAY 23, 2014.)

The book under review is:
Schulman, Daniel. Sons of Wichita: How the Koch Brothers Became America’s Most Powerful and Private Dynasty. New York: Grand Central Publishing, 2014.

SonsOfWichitaBK2014-05-28.jpg

Source of book image: http://media.npr.org/assets/bakertaylor/covers/s/sons-of-wichita/9781455518739_custom-bd178f0c1a2667e448cf13ff7df2850774d77dd8-s6-c30.jpg