Hepatitis Potato

I just found out about the potato hepatitis B vaccine in a odd way. Solid info from the BBC “An edible vaccine against the deadly liver disease hepatitis B may have been developed by scientists in the US.

Chunks of genetically modified potato may be enough to give immunity without the need for an injection, they hope. ” However “‘
They have not cracked it yet, but it is very exciting’
Professor Graham Foster, consultant hepatologist at the Queen Mary University of London”

I found out about this at unfogged between a story about a very unfortunate cat and a photoshoped image of Donald Yodafeld. Ah the internet.

I happen to be a fanatical supporter of genetically modified foods and have been for decades (that is since they were an idea not a meal). I consider civil disobedience whenever I drive the two kilometers to Grottaferata (comune anti-transgenico).

The potato does seem a bit hyped (as gently noted by Foster) but vaccine producing plants are likely to be seriously useful.

I would also mention IgA a class of antibodies which is absorbed when eaten. Milk contains IgA which is absorbed by infants. This is one of the important reasons that breast feeding is better than pure bottle feeding even in developed countries with safe drinking water and where people can afford formula.

It seems to me that modifying plants to produce human IgA would have its advantages, since, as mentioned above, IgA is absorbed before it is digested.
Also a vaccine with a hybrid IgA-antigen hybrid protein might work better than simple antigen.

The result of Dr Yasmin Thanavala and colleagues does remind us that genetically modified foods can, in theory, be allergenic even if the unmodified plants are not. It is good to be allergic to hepatitis B, but the principal has been proven (again).

By the way, anyone know whatever happened to golden rice ? I don’t think anyone is actually eating any.

Correction: I was totally wrong when I wrote “I would also mention IgA a class of antibodies which is absorbed when eaten. Milk contains IgA which is absorbed by infants.” Milk does contain IgA but it is not absorbed. The clas of antibodies which is absorbed is IgG not IgA. My father explained this to me. Also, although baby rats definitely absorb IgG, even he is not sure baby people do (different mammels defnitely differ in which proteins they digest and which they absorb). Thus my idea might just be a good way to vaccinate rats.


Ceci n’est pas une Warhol

Not very long ago I spent some time in Frankfurt’s Museum f?r Moderne Kunst looking at the exhibition The Brutal Truth, which took this year’s top prize for international exhibitions from Beaux Arts magazine. (It’s too late for you lot, sorry; the exhibition’s down now.) TBT is a retrospective of the expatriate American artist Sturtevant’s work.

More or less her work, anyway; for her oeuvre consists of painstaking copies of the works of other artists.

Continue reading

Public Service Announcement

Micael Froomkin left a comment:

How nice to see my favorite under-appreciated blogger turn up at one of my favorite appreciated sites.

Now if you could only get them to spill the beans on how they implemented that anti-spam measure in the comments box?”

Like hell we are. Yes, we get mentions in Foreign Affairs and award nominations, yadayada, but we have like 800 (sitemeter defined) visits a day. And we’re one of the best damn blogs there is! That’s underappreciated.

…that’s not what I was gonna write about at all. Um. Well.

The anti-spam hack we use was written by Stefan Geens. It’s pretty easy to implement and seems to be quite effective. Instructions here. (Don’t miss the updates to the post if you want MT Blacklist or MT 3.x compatibility.)

On another note, several of you have said you miss Edward Hugh. Edward has much better things to do than blogging right now, but he thinks he’ll come back around easter.

the amateur anthropologist

20 years ago I had an Idea. Maybe someone who knows something about the field can tell me what is wrong with it in 20 seconds (including maybe someone else had the idea 40 years ago).

This thought was stimulated by reading Structural Anthropology a collection of essays by Claude Levi-Strauss. There are two questions. One is why are some cultures monogynous and others polygynous ? The other is why do the Bororo divide their tiny villages into 3 endogamous clans ?

OK first question. Why in some cultures men can marry more than one woman and in others only one ? One possbile explanation is polygyny occurs when the gender ratio is many women for each man. This can happen if lots of men get killed by other men. So women share husbands or go single wasting their uteruses (the Moll Flanders problem described by Daniel Defoe some time ago).

Could be the explanation, but I would like to talk about another. Levi Strauss was very interested in a very simple mathematical model which pointed out that hunter gatherers typically live in tiny groups (have too to avoid killing off all the game within walking distance). Someone else (really some two else) calculated that these groups were about as small as could be sustained given risk that a generation would be all male or all female and thus the last (he didn’t explain this model very clearly and I didn’t look it up). OK see how much worse this problem is if monogynous. If people live in small groups and are mostly endogamous (must have some flow with other villages/bands to avoide inbreeding but I assume this is pretty low). If each man is allowed to get only one woman pregnant, the number of woman who reproduce each generation is the lesser of the number of woman and the number of men. If each man is allowed to get as many women pregnant as are available then the number of women who reproduce each generation is the number of women. Polygyny might be required in people who live in small mostly endogamous villages to deal with random fluctuations in the sex ratio.
Continue reading

Who is Roberto Frimigoni ?

Google thinks that means Roberto Formigoni and so do I. One year ago FreeRepublic.com
posted an effort to translate the list of people who got free (but not valueless) rights to buy oil from Iraq under the oil for food program. The list was published by an Ahmed Chalabi affiliated newspaper in Iraq. Chalabi to freerepublic is not exactly the most reliable sourcing. However I was interested that the
list included one Roberto Frimigoni, who does not, as far as anyone can tell actually exist.

8 months ago I guessed that Roberto Frimigoni was Roberto Formigoni president of Lombardy. A week ago confirmation was all over the papers.

So who is Roberto Formigoni ? He is the founder and leader of “communione e liberazione” a very devoutly catholic organisation which has a history of dubious financing. As such he became a rather prominent Christian Democratic politician. When the party collapsed he went with a splinter that was un-alligned then a sub-splinter allied with Silvio Berlusconi and finally a sub-sub-splinter allied with Silvio Berlusconi. In this capacity he was elected and re-elected president of Lombardy.

For some reason which I can’t understand, Formigoni uses every available opportunity to attack Rosy Bindi formerly health minister in the Prodi government. The obsession is particularly irritating, since he begins his attacks by saying that she divides the world into good people like her and bad people like her opponents. Aside from that, my most vivid memory of his service as president of Lombardy was when he said that Bindy was profiting from tragedy when she noted (correctly) that responsibility for inspecting a high preassur oxygen chamber which burned killing patients belonged the region. Formigoni insisted that the chamber had been inspected thoroughly. He had to revise his assertion when it was noted that the facility included two pressure chambers of which only one was licensed and that the thorough inspectior had failed to notice the second chamber (which is roughly the size of a beached wale).

In his capacity as a very devout catholic he followed the Pope in denouncing desert storm and then sanctions on Iraq. He was, in 1991, perhaps the most prominent and eloquent Italian opponent of Desert Storm over shadowing the Italian left which was divided and confusing Needless to say, like 80% of Italians he was opposed to Bush Jr’s invasion.

The sudden explosion of evidence and allegations against Formigoni is, for him, unfortunately timed since he is up for re-election in two months. My original post in Italian below the fold.
Continue reading

Hello I’m Robert Waldmann

I am Robert Waldmann and I am honored to be a fistfullofeuros guest blogger.
I have a blog “Robert’s Stochastic Thoughts” already on the blogroll and another one (which 200 people total have visited at http://fantapolitica.blogspot.com.

The high points of my blogging career are this, the time Atrios linked to me and the time that someone hinted that he was thinking of suing me.

I’m 44 years old born in Washington DC but live in Frascati which is South of Rome and next to Monte Porzio home town of Cato the censor.

On being a bad immigrant

A piece over at Crooked Timber by D-squared caught my eye this morning. Although it is primarily about using the Internet to slag off your MP/MSP/MEP, this bit piqued my interest:

It’s very useful for sending letters to MPs who don’t have readily available email addresses but (for example) helped sort out a parking ticket for you a couple of years ago and you want to say thank you. Or for that matter, if you want to ask them not to start any more wars, introduce ID card schemes. Or to suggest to them that the government is unlikely to do any better picking winners among immigrants than it did among nationalised industries.

Following the link to the Evening Standard reveals that the UK Home Secretary Charles Clarke has beliefs about immigration that warm my heart.

This is all quite a propos for me, since I discovered last Thursday that the Belgian Office des ?trangers, in its infinite wisdom, accorded me a permanent resident’s visa last September (read: green card) without my even having to apply, but then neglected to inform me. I discovered this as I attempted to, in fact, apply for permanent resident status. I have to suppress an urge to laugh manically, crying: “The fools have no idea!” In light of the recent rise of anti-immigrant politics in many European countries – including Belgium – I have to confess to a certain temptation to make D-squared’s point myself by getting laid off from my job, never learning the local language, and sitting around collecting unemployment for years. That would teach them to pick and choose immigrants on the basis of salary, employment class and nation of origin. (Indeed, the first part is already done.)
Continue reading

Ray Bradbury

Through a series of stupidities, when I moved from Washington to Germany, I lost a fair number of books. Several hundred, I think, but it’s a little too sad to count them up. There was, and still may be, a list I made when packing.

An indulgent winter evening’s thought is which one I would most like to have now. It changes, of course, with time, but the one I would most like to lay my hands on is one that I never read.
Continue reading