My favorite underreported medical ethics quandary, updated

Some of you likely remember that series of scientific studies showing the most dramatic anti-aging therapy ever discovered. All you need is lots of blood from the very (very) young and, in rats and mice anyway, the worst effects of age disappear. Ergh. The good news was that researchers might have identified a protein called GDF11 that had all the same good effects as the blood of children without the obvious ethical issues.

That sounded promising, but follow-up reports suggested that GDF11 might not work as well as they first thought. Now, much more authoritative follow up studies have confirmed the point.

[W]e have now gone from the hope that GDF11 might be the factor that is lost as a result of aging, and therefore could reverse age-related phenotypes, to the finding from multiple groups that GDF11 is not decreased as a result of aging, makes age-related phenotypes worse, and is now shown to be a risk factor for human frailty and disease when it is found at high levels (Schafer et al., 2016).

On the plus side, data for very young blood still looks solid. If you consider the potential market for an actual, no bullshit treatment to reverse aging, I feel pretty confident that this will become a question people have to address sooner or later.

Here’s a picture of an Orange Bishop that I took at the National Aviary.


Late Night Gaming Open Thread: Deeply Inappropriate, Niantic…

On the one hand, healthful exercise out in the fresh air

… New Zealand police have issued multiple warnings about the addictive app after people swam and kayaked out to a “Poké gym” in the middle of Oriental Bay in Wellington, gathered outside public toilets at night, and turned up at the headquarters of Hells Angels in Whanganui – all in the name of the game.

The New Zealand Herald reported that a man who answered the gate at the Hells Angels club did not know what Pokémon Go was and told players to “go talk to the police”…

On the other hand, still a few bugs in the system:

… According to the Washington Post, three places within the D.C. Holocaust Museum are PokéStops, or real-world locations where players can collect items to be used in the game.

Andrew Hollinger, a spokesperson for the Holocaust Museum, told BuzzFeed News that playing the game “in a memorial dedicated to the victims of Nazism is extremely inappropriate.”…

The Holocaust Museum isn’t the only questionable game location: the 9/11 Memorial is a PokéStop too…

Also, Gizmodo warns of malware:

Security firm Proofpoint is now cautioning those who couldn’t wait for an official app store release, saying that one specific APK was modified to install a backdoor called DroidJack. The app is different form the official version, but is close enough to fool anyone who may have picked it up…

And the Guardian says Senator Al Franken has questions:

… The lawmaker wrote a letter to Niantic Inc’s John Hanke on Tuesday with a list of demands for further information regarding the app’s privacy settings.

“I am concerned about the extent to which Niantic may be unnecessarily collecting, using, and sharing a wide range of users’ personal information without their appropriate consent,” he wrote.

Franken, who sits on the Senate subcommittee on privacy, technology, and the law, accused the company of collecting users’ information and potentially sharing it with third-party service providers. He highlighted that most users are children and the app’s default setting is to automatically collect data, with users having to specifically “opt-out”…

The app was immediately controversial because it asked new users to provide “all access” to their Google accounts. It later became clear that this was simply clumsy wording and the app only had limited access to password information…

Franken, a former comedian on Saturday Night Live, gave Hanke until 12 August to respond to his request.

Victory for Net Neutrality

This is kind of a big fucking deal:

A federal appeals court has voted to uphold a series of strict new rules for Internet providers, handing a major victory to regulators in the fight over net neutrality and ensuring that one of the most sweeping changes to hit the industry in recent years will likely remain on the books.

The 2-1 court ruling Tuesday forces Internet providers such as Verizon and Comcast to obey federal regulations that ban the blocking or slowing of Internet traffic to consumers. The regulations from the Federal Communications Commission also forbid carriers from selectively speeding up websites that agree to pay the providers a fee — a tactic critics have said could unfairly tilt the commercial playing field against startups and innovators who may not be able to afford it.

More broadly, the decision affirms Washington’s ability to regulate Internet providers like legacy telephone companies. Approved in a bitterly partisan vote last year, the move by the FCC to “reclassify” Internet providers significantly expanded the agency’s role in overseeing the industry. It opened up Internet providers to all-new obligations they were not subject to before, such as privacy requirements that all telecom companies currently follow in order to protect consumers’ personal data.

More at ars technica and CNet.

Thursday Evening Open Thread: Crowning Glory of the Ubermensch

I too can remember when Burt Reynolds slayed with that ‘I paid for it, so it’s my hair’ line… back on Johnny Carson’s show in the 1970s. Gawker performs a public service with its deeply researched investigative report on the possible roots of That Urine-Colored Thing on Donnie’s Head:

Is Donald Trump’s Hair a $60,000 Weave? A Gawker Investigation
A tipster who claimed knowledge of Trump’s hair recently came to Gawker with a potential solution to the enigma: Trump’s hair is not his own, costs tens of thousands of dollars for installation and upkeep, and comes from a man as mysterious as Trump is bombastic.

This solution that Trump, our tipster says, sought for his hair woes is a little-known, patented hair restoration treatment called a “microcylinder intervention.” It’s only performed by one clinic that we know of—Ivari International—where our source once sought treatment, and where he says he learned of Trump’s apparent patronage. What’s more, Ivari’s New York location was inside Trump Tower—on the private floor reserved for Donald Trump’s own office…

Srsly, this is good political work, because it’s much more likely to get under Deadbeat Donald’s extremely thin skin — and thereby damage his credibility with low-info voters — than respectable sercon reporting like TPM‘s “Trump Unites Generations Of White Nationalists”:

Tucked away in the woods of middle Tennessee’s Montgomery Bell State Park, 300 “white advocates” gathered over the weekend at the fourteenth American Renaissance conference to reflect on just how much fuel Trump has added to their movement this election cycle.

“I’ve never felt this sense of energy in our movement,” the conference host, Jared Taylor, said in his opening remarks. “I’ve never been more optimistic.”

For the conference, American Renaissance, a white nationalist publication, brought advocates for a white ethno-state together with Holocaust deniers, eugenicists and confederate sympathizers. American Renaissance and many of the groups the conference speakers are associated with are designated as hate groups by the Southern Poverty Law Center…

Trump’s candidacy and the proliferation of white nationalist media online have put the old guard of white advocacy in touch with the new. At the conference, anti-immigrant, pro-Confederate old-timers rubbed shoulders with the young men of the “alt-right”—a loosely defined amalgam of isolationist white nationalists who crusade against political correctness and thrive on the Internet…

Repeat along with me: “It’s about ethics in gaming political journalism… “

We Had a Good Run…

Prolly no real need to worry about Trump, anyway:

For the first time, researchers have found a person in the United States carrying bacteria resistant to antibiotics of last resort, an alarming development that the top U.S. public health official says could signal “the end of the road” for antibiotics.

The antibiotic-resistant strain was found last month in the urine of a 49-year-old Pennsylvania woman. Defense Department researchers determined that she carried a strain of E. coli resistant to the antibiotic colistin, according to a study published Thursday in Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy, a publication of the American Society for Microbiology. The authors wrote that the discovery “heralds the emergence of a truly pan-drug resistant bacteria.”

Colistin is the antibiotic of last resort for particularly dangerous types of superbugs, including a family of bacteria known as carbapenem-resistant Enterobacteriaceae, or CRE, which health officials have dubbed “nightmare bacteria.” In some instances, these superbugs kill up to 50 percent of patients who become infected. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has called CRE among the country’s most urgent public health threats.

Health officials said the case in Pennsylvania, by itself, is not cause for panic. The strain found in the woman is treatable with some other antibiotics. But researchers worry that the antibiotic-resistant gene found in the bacteria, known as mcr-1, could spread to other types of bacteria that can already evade other types of antibiotics.

This is very, very, very serious.

Late Night Horrorshow: Zika Is Coming, Ready or Not

I’m probably gonna get dinged for chicken-littling, because hey, no Ebola outbreak happened in America, right? And yet… “White House Ebola response coordinator from 2014 to 2015” Klain’s Washington Post article:

The good news is that both the House and Senate have finally passed bills that would provide some funding to combat the Zika virus. The bad news is that this action comes more than three months after President Obama requested the aid. Moreover, the House bill provides only one-third of the response needed; pays for this limited, ineffective response by diverting money allocated to fight other infectious diseases; and necessitates a conference committee to resolve differences with the Senate bill, meaning we still do not know when any money will finally get through Congress to fund the response…

As befuddling as Congress’ refusal to approve funds for the Zika response is, perhaps even more of a mystery is why such approval is needed in the first place. If nature was threatening us with serious injury and evacuations via fire, flood or hurricane, the president could use his authority under the Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act to provide immediate aid without waiting for Congress to act. The fact that epidemic “natural disasters” are the result of disease and not an earthquake or tornado should not constrain the federal government’s ability to provide a timely, comprehensive response…

Speaking of those damaged babies? Once the Zika virus gets established in “our” mosquitos, microcephaly is going to become yet another standard prenatal test for women in the afflicted areas. Or who’ve visited those areas. Or whose male partners were exposed to Zika, even months before the pregnancy. And by the time microcephaly can be diagnosed, it’s too late for a quiet ‘medical abortion‘ — women will need full surgical services, and most will have been visibly pregnant. It’s not going to be easy for ‘fundamentalist’ anti-choicers to find reasons to blame good married Christian white ladies in the Sunbelt for having been bitten by the wrong mosquito… but I’m sure they’re gonna try their damndest.
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Saturday Evening Open Thread: Sparklies!

Yeah, I know, dangerous, wasteful, and generally problematic even if the Olympics weren’t such a scam. But still

Tokyo based start-up Star-ALE is is designing a man-made meteor shower over the Japanese capital city , which will serve as the highlight of the 2020 Olympics opening ceremony. The meteor shower is expected to have an audience of 30,000,000 people and would be viewable from the ground in an area 120 miles across.

As a first step of the project named “Sky Canvas,” the company would launch a micro-satellite into space (the first is scheduled for the year 2017 ) that’s loaded up with 500 to 1,000 proprietary pellets containing various elements. The combustible pellets are made from various metals and elements so that they burn with different colors when ignited at an altitude of between 35 to 50 miles above Earth…

Apart from fireworks, what’s on the agenda for the evening?