Why one man lived, are pesticides good or bad, the Pillager Mud Run, and when you can give up or keep going.
The Star Tribune's Gail Rosenblum carries word on the doorstep today that "Hank" Andersen has died. Andersen, a Presbyterian minister, was on the Leopold troop ship when it was torpedoed, killing 800 soldiers. Rosenblum's father was also on the ship heading for France.
Mr. Andersen's son -- Rev. Tim Hart-Andersen -- told his father's story last year at the Westminster Presbyterian Church's Christmas celebration.
Watch Minn. Church Recalls How Christmas Carols Saved Some U.S. Lives in World War II on PBS. See more from PBS NewsHour.
"This is a guy who could simply appreciate his white privilege," Fred de Sam Lazaro, the PBS journalist told Rosenblum. "But, when the war was over, he fought for social justice and became a preacher. It epitomizes what leadership should be."
Leave it to Maggie Koerth-Baker (via Boing Boing) to bring a more scientific voice to the debate this week surrounding organic foods. She asks the fascinating question, "Are pesticides evil, or awesome?"
If you think the answer is simple, she suggests, you're mistaken:
It's legitimate to be concerned about how pesticides affect biodiversity. It's also legitimate to be concerned about having access to the tools we need to protect people from malaria. At some point, you have to make a decision, but you're fooling yourself if you think that decision is clear-cut.
The situation gets doubly confusing when you start adding in the fact that we don't actually have a lot of great data on the human health impacts of pesticides. In fact, we might never have good data on that.
Which is a scary thought, indeed.
If the rest of the world was accomplishing the things science does on a daily basis, it'd be a heck of a world. The latest breathtaking accomplishment comes from scientists who have figured out why some diseases and afflictions are so hard to diagnose, the New York Times reports.
The human genome is packed with at least four million gene switches that reside in bits of DNA that once were dismissed as "junk" but that turn out to play critical roles in controlling how cells, organs and other tissues behave. The discovery, considered a major medical and scientific breakthrough, has enormous implications for human health because many complex diseases appear to be caused by tiny changes in hundreds of gene switches.
"Most of the changes that affect disease don't lie in the genes themselves; they lie in the switches," said Michael Snyder, a Stanford University researcher for the project, called Encode, for Encyclopedia of DNA Elements.
It is a big deal. If scientists can figure out which changes occur in, say, cancer or mental illness, they can figure out why. When they figure out why, that's a step toward being able to prevent it. That would be a cure.
"A given drug only works in about a third of the people you give it to, but you don't know which third," a researcher says. "A lot of that is related to genomics, so if you knew the relationship between a person's genome and which drugs work for them and which ones they shouldn't take because it gives them side effects, that would improve medicine."
A long way off? Probably. But it's possible and that's where the excitement comes from. Hope comes from possibility. It also comes from a computer. The research took more than 300 years of computer time.
On his blog, Trail Baboon, Dale Connelly makes an excellent point:
Complex diseases appear to be influenced by the throwing of hundreds of these gene switches. All that remains is to figure out which levers cause which things to happen. Not a simple task by any measure, but this work by hundreds of researchers in dozens of labs around the globe will have amazing and long lasting scientific and medical effects.
All because they had the patience to investigate the junk in the corner.
Maybe science is one of the last fields to embrace patience.
By way of the Brainerd Dispatch, we learn that Eric Sumner and Sheila Eldred of Minneapolis are your champion mud runners at Camp Lake Placid in Pillager. Our mothers used to tell us not to do this sort of thing ...
Your inspiration to face the day...
Bonus: A new video from Steve Russell of Apple Valley. You're a fine-looking state, Minnesota.
According to a guest appearing on the Daily Circuit, the federal government is running a global surveillance system that is collecting huge amounts of information. Some observers fear that the communications of U.S. citizens are coming under the scrutiny of federal agencies. Meanwhile, a new survey finds that people are avoiding cell-phone apps that might compromise their privacy. Today's Question: Are you concerned that you're being watched too much?
WHAT WE'RE DOING
Daily Circuit (9-12 p.m.) - First hour: Will anything really change in Washington after the election?
Second hour: The rise of the surveillance state.
Third hour: Adam Johnson, the author of "The Orphan Master's Son."
MPR News Presents (12-1 pm): The first of two Chautauqua Lectures about the presidents. Tim Naftali speaks about the relationship between Presidents Eisenhower and Kennedy.
Talk of the Nation (1-2 p.m.) - The changing car business. For decades, government regulations drove innovation in the car business. Now, the rules call for an average of better than fifty miles per gallon by 2025. But auto makers are already moving onto better batteries and new and lighter materials, and many of their customers are ready, too.
All Things Considered (3-6:30 p.m.) - MPR's Euan Kerr looks at the issues at play in talks involving both the Minnesota Orchestra and the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra and its musicians. What are the stakes for the institutions and the artists?
NPR will report on "issue placement" in Hollywood. Finding product placement on television shows is simple. But there's a similar type of placement on TV that's off most people's radars. Non-profits are getting in on the act, advocating for their issues in popular programs.
#4: We have a couple people in my office practicing for events like this. Me? I did mine in basic training, thank you.
Talk of the Nation: There are some interesting local stories on this angle. Like the kids from tiny Alden-Conger High School, who build vehicles that get incredible MPG. Or Jukka, a former Ford engineer from Finland who is now leading the way toward electric vehicles in Minnesota. Or the first in the world alternative fuel vehicle test track in Eden Prairie.
One thing I'd like to see addressed more around pesticides is how many farmer workers are poisoned each year. Around 10,000 to 20,000 migrant workers are diagnosed with pesticide poisoning each year. That's a lot for a group that rarely has access to health care. Many migrant workers are children or bring their children to the fields with them. That's where the harm is being done.
To travel a bit farther down the PESTICIDES: GOOD OR BAD path,
yes, pesticides reduce the incidence of malaria.
But so does sickle cell anemia, which results in a natural immunity.
So, Sickle Cell Anemia: Good or Bad ?!?
Sickle Cell Anemia? Bad.
Sickle Cell Trait (heterozygous) provides the advantage against the malaria plasmodium.
Those with sickle cell anemia have far lower survival rates than those that are heterozygous, even in places where malaria is prevalent,
Along with Kassie's excellent point, I think we need to look closer at whether pesticides are truly necessary. Organic growing practices would suggest they are not. How can we encourage more farmers to employ organic practices and reduce our reliance on pesticides?
David G - Thanks for the interesting additional info. Are you in the field?
I don't think that research had been made public when I studied Public Health under Al Schweitzer in the early part of the last century :-)
RE #2: For some facts on organic farming, I suggest this blog post at Scientific American.
Not in the field specifically, but I am in molecular biology. Sickle Cell is a common example used in molecular biology and genetics courses.
It's "simple" cause, a single nucleotide mutation, makes it a good example to demonstrate mutations and inheritance.