Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Recalling what is right about America

Dear All,
Former Assistant Secretary of State Robert “Bobby” Charles has offered up his article below as a peace-pipe offering for all of us. 

America has come very far in healing the wounds of her past and yes there is still work to be done.  Lots of it, it seems.
But, as we Americans have made great progress to right past wrongs, we have a few actors that are hard at work trying to undo all the good work of the past.

We can’t let that happen, and in the long run it won’t….the march of progress “will” continue no matter what…….after all, this is America.
Please read “Bobby’s” words below and I hope you will consider sharing them with everyone within your sphere of influence.

Best regards,
Ronald L. Kirkish

Recalling what is right about America

The Washington Times, December 22, 2014

 By Robert Charles - - Sunday, December 21, 2014

• Robert B. Charles is a former assistant secretary of state [for former Secretary of State General Colin Powell in the Bush 41 administration] and also served as the former staff director and counsel to U.S. House Speaker Dennis Hastert.

A nation is defined by its aspirations and accomplishments

Everywhere, we suddenly hear words of division, difference, recrimination.
Suddenly, America is Ferguson, Missouri writ large.  

But are we?  
Are we not still Americans, first?  

We harbor 316 million different dreams, each born of one spirit.  
Peace and love, freedom, respect and being “one people” are all hard stuff.  

What’s new?  
It has always been so.  

Isn’t that what America is really about?  
Isn’t that what makes us Americans, that belief in the possible?

Is trust hard to build and maintain?  
Sure, but it always has been.  

Still, we are the exceptional people who have shown it can be done, adversity notwithstanding.  
We have learned over two centuries that progress requires patience.

Ask Booker T. Washington, Satchel Page, Frank Robinson, Thurgood Marshall, Louie Armstrong or Michael Jackson.
But let’s get deeper than that.   

Ask Mae Jemisim, Stephanie Wilson, Joan Higginbotham or Yvonne Cagle.  
Now there are some real Americans, the sort we can all pause and admire.

You haven’t heard of them?  
Well, you should have.  

·        Mae was a Stanford graduate, majoring in chemical engineering, fluent in Russian, French and Swahili, and a doctor of medicine from Cornell University.  What else?  She served in the Peace Corps and was an avid aviator.  Oh yes, something else.  A black American, she was a Space Shuttle astronaut.

·        So was Stephanie — three missions on the Space Shuttle Endeavor.  

·        Joan?  Another astronaut, on the Shuttle Discovery, an expert in electrical engineering with 308 hours in space.   

·        And Yvonne?   Also an astronaut, a biochemist and a doctor of medicine at the Johnson Space Flight Center.  

They are all women and all black Americans.  
They are also incredible Americans.

What’s the point?  
It’s worth taking time to think about the hope, achievement, promise and exceptionalism they each represent.   

Because they are women and black by heritage?   
Yes, and because they are American.   

Did they overcome incredible obstacles?  
You bet.   

Did they face more obstacles than others?  
Almost certainly.   

But more to the point, they believed in the possible — for America and for themselves.
They are heroes who risked all for their country — no excuses, no half-measures.  

They wanted and found windows of opportunity, then flew through them.  
They must have had beacons in their lives — mentors, teachers and parents who cared, communities around them and people who reminded them on more than one occasion to keep believing in America and in themselves.   

And that is America.  
They realized their dreams, and made us all proud as they did.

What do their stories, and millions of others like them, tell us?   
One thing clearly:  Look up and forward, not back and down.  

They looked at insecurity, defeatism and difference, and stepped beyond them all.
Against impossible odds — since becoming an astronaut is a 15 in 2,000 proposition — they said bring it on.  

They saw the sun behind the clouds, locked on and showed can-do spirit.
Who are we at our best, if not them?  

While we have our differences, we remain one people with a common belief in the possible.  
 We live in an exceptional place, founded on an exceptional document, built on courage, spirit and heart.

So let us stop being defined by others, or letting others redefine us as smaller than we are.   
False leaders divide for their own purposes, some by geography and others by religion, skin color, attractions, distractions and disaffections.

Some want us to divide from each other on the basis of where we are from or where our parents hailed from on this blue globe.  
But that is a misunderstanding of America.

We are defined by the desire to aspire, reinforced by the inspiration of others and by how we inspire them.   
That is the stuff of which Americans are really made.  

That is how we have all defied odds, reached toward the heavens in our own ways, leaped higher and bridged gaps thought unbridgeable.  
That is what we must do again.

Only by daring to trust, risk and believe can we live up to our legacy — that “anything really is possible.”  
The media tell us it is easier to be against than for, deconstruct than construct, blame than assume responsibility, grow frustrated than grow patient, attack than forgive, deflect than to lead.  

Yet we know that is not who we really are.  
We are forward movement, which only comes with believing.

As the call to divide echoes, just let it fade.  
Instead, let’s remember Mae, Stephanie, Joan and Yvonne, four great Americans.  

We cannot all become astronauts, but we can see beyond our differences and lift each other up.  
If not now, as we count our own blessings in the Christmas season and resolve to do better, then when?   

If we can lead from the heart, leaders will follow.  
That is how it works in America.

• Robert B. Charles is a former assistant secretary of state and former staff director and counsel to U.S. House Speaker Dennis Hastert.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Alzheimer's Game Changer: Scientists Find That Changing One Molecule Reverses Memory Loss

Dear All,

First off, please know that this information is not about marijuana or drug abuse, but I think after reading it you will appreciate its significance and importance.

The Stanford University School of Medicine is doing wonderful work to understand and treat debilitating and insidious diseases that do great harm to many humans; including “cancer and Alzheimer's”.

Approximately a year ago, Stanford published an article regarding a human protein (CD 47) that was able to kill “all” cancers (in mice) including breast, brain, lung, and other forms.

Stanford School of Medicine Cancer Study - Article:  “Cancer Drug Kills Every Kind of Tumor: Study” – Thursday, March 28, 2013. 

Their hope is that their CD 47 work (Stanford School of Medicine) will be the “Holy Grail” to kill all cancers. 

My hope is that their work will soon eliminate all cancers in our lifetime not only for adults but especially for our young children.

Now we see that Stanford is getting close to understanding how to possibly eliminate another insidious disease that mostly affects those who are in their senior years of life.

These are exciting times!

 Ronald L. Kirkish, CDFC/IFBC/CALM

Alzheimer's Game Changer: Scientists Find That Changing One Molecule Reverses Memory Loss

Brain cells called microglia chew up toxic substances and cell debris, calm inflammation and make nerve-cell-nurturing substances.

 By Susan C. Schena (Patch Staff) - December 16, 2014 at 9:24am

By Bruce Goldman/Stanford News Service

The mass die-off of nerve cells in the brains of people with Alzheimer’s disease may largely occur because an entirely different class of brain cells, called microglia, begin to fall down on the job, according to a new study by researchers at the Stanford University School of Medicine

(Stanford Medicine article: Blocking receptor in brain’s immune cells counters Alzheimer’s in mice, study finds)
The researchers found that, in mice, blocking the action of a single molecule on the surface of microglia restored the cells’ ability to get the job done — and reversed memory loss and myriad other Alzheimer’s-like features in the animals.

The study, published online Dec. 8 in The Journal of Clinical Investigation, illustrates the importance of microglia and could lead to new ways of warding off the onset of Alzheimer’s disease, which is predicted to afflict 15 million people by mid-century unless some form of cure or prevention is found.

The study also may help explain an intriguing association between aspirin and reduced rates of Alzheimer’s.
Microglia, which constitute about 10-15 percent of all the cells in the brain, actually resemble immune cells considerably more than they do nerve cells.
“Microglia are the brain’s beat cops,” said Katrin Andreasson, MD, professor of neurology and neurological sciences and the study’s senior author.

“Our experiments show that keeping them on the right track counters memory loss and preserves healthy brain physiology.”
Implicated: a single molecule

A microglial cell serves as a front-line sentry, monitoring its surroundings for suspicious activities and materials by probing its local environment.
If it spots trouble, it releases substances that recruit other microglia to the scene, said Andreasson.

Microglia are tough cops, protecting the brain against invading bacteria and viruses by gobbling them up.
They are adept at calming things down, too, clamping down on inflammation if it gets out of hand.

They also work as garbage collectors, chewing up dead cells and molecular debris strewn among living cells — including clusters of a protein called A-beta, notorious for aggregating into gummy deposits called Alzheimer’s plaques, the disease’s hallmark anatomical feature.
A-beta, produced throughout the body, is as natural as it is ubiquitous.

But when it clumps into soluble clusters consisting of a few molecules, it’s highly toxic to nerve cells.
These clusters are believed to play a substantial role in causing Alzheimer’s.

“The microglia are supposed to be, from the get-go, constantly clearing A-beta, as well as keeping a lid on inflammation,” Andreasson said. “If they lose their ability to function, things get out of control. A-beta builds up in the brain, inducing toxic inflammation.”
The Stanford study provides strong evidence that this deterioration in microglial function is driven, in large part, by the heightened signaling activity of a single molecule that sits on the surface of microglial and nerve cells. Previous work in Andreasson’s lab and other labs has shown that this molecule, a receptor protein called EP2, has a strong potential to cause inflammation when activated by binding to a substance called prostaglandin E2, or PGE2.

“We’d previously observed that if we bioengineered mice so their brain cells lacked this receptor, there was a huge reduction in inflammatory activity in the brain,” she said.
But they didn’t know whether nerve cells or microglia were responsible for that inflammatory activity, or what its precise consequences were.

So they determined to find out.
Blocking receptor preserves memory

The experiments began in a dish.
Isolating viable microglia from the brain is quite difficult.

But it’s easy to harvest large numbers of their close cousins, immune cells called macrophages.
These cells circulate throughout the body and can be readily obtained from a blood sample.

While not carbon copies of one another, microglia and macrophages share numerous genetic, biochemical and behavioral features.
When placed in a dish with soluble A-beta clusters, macrophages drawn from young mice responded calmly, producing recruiting chemicals and not ramping up production of inflammatory molecules.

Notably, the output of A-beta-chewing enzymes in these young cells was robust.
But macrophages from older mice acted differently: A-beta’s presence incited a big increase in EP2 activity in these cells, resulting in amped-up output of inflammatory molecules and reduced generation of recruiting chemicals and A-beta-digesting enzymes.

This early hint that age-related changes in EP2 action in microglia might be promoting some of the neuropathological features implicated in Alzheimer’s was borne out in subsequent experiments for which Andreasson’s team used mice genetically predisposed to get the mouse equivalent of Alzheimer’s, as well as otherwise normal mice into whose brains the scientists injected either A-beta or a control solution.
In both groups of mice, the expected deleterious effects on memory and learning didn’t arise if EP2 within microglial cells was absent, as a result of a genetic manipulation.

Blocking microglial EP2 activity significantly improved these animals’ performance on two kinds of standard memory tests: one that assesses how quickly a mouse forgets that it has encountered an object before, and another that rates the mouse’s ability to remember where a food reward is in a maze.
Looking beyond aspirin

Clearly, knocking out EP2 action in A-beta-provoked microglia benefited memory in mice that had either gradually (the “Alzheimer’s” mice) or suddenly (the brain-injected mice) acquired excessive A-beta in their brains.
Likewise, mouse microglia bioengineered to lack EP2 vastly outperformed unaltered microglia, in A-beta-challenged brains, at such critical tasks as secreting recruiting chemicals and factors beneficial to nerve cells and in producing inflammation-countering, rather than inflammation-spurring, proteins.

Epidemiological reports suggest that the use of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, such as aspirin, can prevent the onset of Alzheimer’s — although only if their use is initiated well before any signs of the disorder begin to show up in older people, Andreasson said.
“Once you have any whiff of memory loss, these drugs have no effect,” she said.

NSAIDs’ mainly act by blocking two enzymes called COX-1 and COX-2; these enzymes create a molecule that can be converted to several different substances, including PGE2 — the hormone-like chemical that triggers EP2 action.
Although PGE2 is known to regulate inflammatory changes in the brain, it exercises diverse, useful functions in different tissues throughout the body, from influencing blood pressure to inducing labor.

Complicating matters, PGE2 is just one of five different prostaglandins originating from the precursor molecule produced by COX-1 and COX-2.
So aspirin and other COX-1- and COX-2-inhibiting drugs may have myriad effects, not all of them beneficial.

It may turn out that a compound blocking only EP2 activity on microglial cells, or some downstream consequences within microglial cells, would be better-suited for fending off Alzheimer’s without side effects, said Andreasson.
Meanwhile, her group is exploring the biological mechanisms via which PE2 signaling pushes microglia over to the dark side.

Former Stanford postdoctoral scholar Jenny Johansson, PhD, is the lead author of the study.
Other Stanford co-authors are former graduate student Nathan Woodling, PhD; postdoctoral scholars Siddhita Mhartre, PhD, and Holden Brown, PhD; research associate Xibin Liang, MD, PhD; life-science research assistants Qian Wang and Maharshi Panchal; and undergraduate Taylor Loui.

The study was supported by the National Institutes for Health (grants RO1AG030209, R21AG033914 and NRSA F31AG039195), the Alzheimer’s Association, the Swedish Research Council and the National Science Foundation.
Information about Stanford’s Department of Neurology and Neurological Sciences, which also supported the work, is available at http://www.neurology.stanford.edu.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Sorry, Putin. Russia’s economy is doomed

 Dear all,

Note to Russia’s dictator Vladimir Putin…your days are numbered and soon the Citizens of Russia will demand that you step down…one way or the other. 
A few months ago, you got a small taste of what to expect in the near future when tens of thousands of Russian Citizens flooded the streets of at least three major Russian cities demanding that you explain why their sons are coming home in body bags from the Ukraine and Crimea after you lied to them that Russian troops aren’t engaged in the conflict. 

Even the “Mothers of Russia”,  who do the best they can to count the number of dead to bring transparency and truth to the nation, when the Russian authorities try to hide the facts; sometimes threatening the families of the dead to stay quiet.
Meanwhile, more lethal aid is pouring into the Ukraine.  Tatars from around the region living in other countries are joining their fellow brothers in the Ukraine by the thousands, aided (trained and funded) by the Government of Turkey and other nations in the region; as Turkey promised several Tartar Tribes months ago after Putin militarily forced the annexation of the Crimea.

Very soon, as the economic conditions in Russia further degrade and long lines for bread and meat form once again and reminding the folks of their standard of living when suffering under the yolk of communism, the people will flood the streets yet again in angry protest. (Do you remember what the Russian mobs did to the statues of Stalin and Lenin? Or the Russian tanks firing on the Kremlin? Because of you and your insanity Vladimir, the Citizens of Russia will once again have to suffer the pain of internal revolution)
Then, as more young Russian soldiers come home dead, and the people can’t find or afford food……..then you will be forced from power and hopefully will be replaced by a leader who truly wants the Country of Russia to join the democratic countries of the west to fully enjoy their prosperity; no longer willing to silently appease the insanity of another Russian Tyrant.

So, It is time for you to go, Vladimir.  And how you go is up to you….you might want to remember how the late Romanian leader Nicolae Ceausecu and his wife were eventually removed from power.  FYI,  Mr. Putin,  you might be pleased to know that the Citizens of Romania are doing just fine these days.
Ronald L. Kirkish

By Matt O'Brien December 15 at 6:30 PM

 (Alexey Druzhinin/Ria Novosti/Kremin pool)

A funny thing happened on the way to Vladimir Putin running strategic laps around the West. Russia's economy imploded.

The latest news is that Russia's central bank raised interest rates from 10.5 to 17 percent at an emergency 1 a.m. meeting in an attempt to stop the ruble, which is down 50 percent on the year against the dollar, from falling any further. It's a desperate move to save Russia's currency that comes at the cost of sacrificing Russia's economy.

But even that wasn't enough. After a brief rally, the ruble resumed its cliff-diving ways on Tuesday, falling another 14 percent to a low of 80 rubles per dollar. It was 60 rubles per dollar just the day before. The problem is simple. Oil is still falling, and ordinary Russians don't want to hold their money in rubles even if they get paid 17 percent interest to do so. In other words, there's a well-justified panic. So now Russia is left with the double whammy of a collapsing currency and exorbitant interest rates. Checkmate. 

It's a classic kind of emerging markets crisis. It's only a small simplification, you see, to say that Russia doesn't so much have an economy as it has an oil exporting business that subsidizes everything else. That's why the combination of more supply from the United States, and less demand from Europe, China, and Japan has hit them particularly hard. Cheaper oil means Russian companies have fewer dollars to turn into rubles, which is just another way of saying that there's less demand for rubles—so its price is falling. It hasn't helped, of course, that sanctions over Russia's incursion into Ukraine have already left Russia short on dollars.

Add it all up, and the ruble has fallen something like 22 percent against the dollar the past month, with 11 percent of that coming on Monday alone. As you can see below, the Russian ruble has fallen even further than the Ukrainian hryvnia or Brent oil has this year. The only asset, and I use that word lightly, that's done worse than the ruble's 50 percent fall is Bitcoin, which is a fake currency that techno-utopians insist is the future we don't know we want.


Source: Bloomberg

And this is only going to get worse. Russia, you see, is stuck in an economic catch-22. Its economy needs lower interest rates to push up growth, but its companies need higher interest rates to push up the ruble and make all the dollars they borrowed not worth so much. So, to use a technical term, they're screwed no matter what they do. If they had kept interest rates low, then the ruble would have continued to disintegrate, inflation would have spiked, and big corporations would have defaulted—but at least growth wouldn't have fallen quite so much.

Instead, Russia has opted for the financial shock-and-awe of raising rates from 10.5 to 17 percent in one fell swoop. Rates that high will send Russia's moribund economy into a deep recession—its central bank already estimates its economy will contract 4.5 to 4.7 percent if oil stays at $60-a-barrel—but they haven't been enough to stop the ruble's free fall. Russia might have to resort to capital controls to prop up the value of the ruble now, and might even have to ask the IMF for a bailout, too.

Putin's Russia, like the USSR before it, is only as strong as the price of oil. In the 1970s, we made the mistake of thinking that the USSR's invasion of Afghanistan meant we were losing the Cold War, when the reality was that they had stumbled into their own Vietnam and could only afford to feed their people as long as oil stayed sky-high. The USSR's economic mirage, though, became apparent to everybody—none less than their own people, who had to scrounge in empty supermarkets—after oil prices bottomed out in the 1980s. That history is repeating itself now, just without the Marxism-Leninism. Putin could afford to invade Georgia and Ukraine when oil prices were comfortably in the triple digits, but not when they're half that. Russia can't afford anything then.

Putin might be playing chess while we play checkers, but only if we lend him the money for the set.

As the ruble plunges to new historic lows, ordinary Russians seem unfazed by the free falling currency saying everything will be good in the end. (Reuters)