Daily Archives: January 4, 2009

Helen Suzman

Helen Suzman was for many years a lone voice among white South Africans in power, actively opposing Apartheid. She died on New Years day at the ripe old age ofr 91.

She was buried today.

The mourners included President Kgalema Motlanther and the last leader of apartheid regime, F W de Klerk.

Mr de Klerk described Mrs Suzman as “one of South Africa’s great icons”.

“Suzman was my mentor, she was opposed to the abuse of power by the old apartheid regime,” South Africa’s opposition leader Helen Zille – who also attended the funeral – said.

“She was also opposed to the current abuses of power by the current ANC [African National Congress] government,” Ms Zille added.


The Game…

UPDATE: We suck. They’re pretty good. We do not deserve to win. If by some chance we do manage to win, we should not accept it. We suck.

… is going pretty well. We are losing by only a small amount.

Mike wanted me to live blog this game, but I assure you that you don’t want me doing that. I don’t know enough about football and would only embarrass myself.

I will tell you one small football story, though, to keep you amused during half time.

Several years ago, I think the last time the Vike’s were in the playoffs, we were up against the Falcons. Now, at the time I lived in Falcon Heights. Maybe this wasn’t the playoffs, maybe it was later in the process, like the world series or something … but the point is, there was this key game against the Falcons, and who won would go to the Superbowl.

So the night before the game a secret highly organized and rather expensive operation was undertaken in the city of Falcon Heights. All the signs that said “Welcome to Falcon Heights” were changed to say “Welcome to Vikings Heights.” All of them.

And, of course, the Vikings were JINXED and lost that game. Badly, as I recall.

OK, back to the game…


i-129cfc3f463b2e464b7e2bbd0b5d56c7-car19.jpgI would like to begin by reminding you that the next edition of the Linnaeus’ Legacy blog carnival will be hosted HERE In theory, it will come out tomorrow, but I have the sense that a few more submissions (your?) are still to come in, so I may delay posting until Tuesday morning. So you have time (any time today, Sunday, or tomorrow, Monday) to send in your submissions on the diversity of life, it’s classification and analysis, and stuff!

Now, on to a listing of some of the current carnivals:

Will VP35 be Ebola’s weak link?

ResearchBlogging.orgEbola is a viral disease that only occasionally infects humans, but when it does, he fatality rate is very high. In some population, where culturally determined methods of treating the dead involve a lot of contact with bodily fluids and where people are unaware of techniques to avoid spread of infection and are otherwise at risk, a large percentage of a rural village population can become infected, and the survival rate once infected can be as low as 10%. With increased awareness of how to avoid infection and even the most basic improvements in patient care, these numbers can be much improved, but fatality rates have never been lower than about 25% and are usually closer to 50%.

(Part of the large variation in survival rate data comes form the fact that ebola outbreaks always involve relatively small numbers of people and are rare. Useful rate data are best obtained from much larger samples.)

The protein VP35 is one of a small number of molecules that make up the center of the virus. VP35 serves several functions. Together with nearby proteins, VP35 is involved in ‘reproduction,’ such as it is for viruses. But VP35 also inhibits interferon, an immune system product, in the infected (host) individual. It turns out that mutations that affect this protein also mess up the virus’s ability to avoid the interferon.

A paper just coming out in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences explores the physical structure of VP35 at several levels, allowing for a characterization of the protein, with the hope of leading to the development of an effective anti-viral treatment.


From the paper:

Our results suggest a structure-based model for dsRNA-mediated innate immune antagonism by Ebola VP35 and other similarly constructed viral antagonists.

D. W. Leung, N. D. Ginder, D. B. Fulton, J. Nix, C. F. Basler, R. B. Honzatko, G. K. Amarasinghe (2009). Structure of the Ebola VP35 interferon inhibitory domain Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences DOI: 10.1073/pnas.0807854106

Someone on the internet agrees with me

… regarding the likely response by Coleman following the certification of the Minnesota Senatorial Race tomorrow (Monday) by the Canvassing Board.

No matter who wins, either party can lodge a legal challenge, potentially pushing the election results out quite a period of time from now. In 1969, Minnesota was unable to certify their Senator until well in to March.

But this isn’t the 1960s, and Norm Coleman surely knows that.

Just because he challenges the election, which is something he’s well poised himself to do, it doesn’t mean the outcome will change. If he fights tooth and nail to the death, and he loses, it will surely spell the end of his political career…

Read the rest by Brian White at Glossy News. Oh, google it. The site is showing signs of not being well behaved so I’m not linking to it.

Nature’s Evolutionary Gems

The following announcement is from Nature.

About a year ago, an Editorial in these pages urged scientists and their institutions to ‘spread the word’ and highlight reasons why scientists can treat evolution by natural selection as, in effect, an established fact (see Nature 451, 108; 2008).

This week we are following our own prescription. Readers will find at http://www.nature.com/evolutiongems a freely accessible resource for biologists and others who wish to explain to students, friends or loved ones just what is the evidence for evolution by natural selection. Entitled ’15 evolutionary gems’, the document summarizes 15 lines of evidence from papers published in Nature over the past 10 years. The evidence is drawn from the fossil record, from studies of natural and artificial habitats, and from research on molecular biological processes.

In a year in which Darwin is being celebrated amid uncertainty and hostility about his ideas among citizens, being aware of the cumulatively incontrovertible evidence for those ideas is all the more important. We trust that this document will help.