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Chico, California: What Would Happen in a Brain Transplant?
Randall A. Delarosa 2031 Hill Croft Farm Road Chico, CA 95926
Stop right there, Cleona. In a brain transplant, whoís the recipient and whoís the donor?
Hereís one way to think about it. Although a brain transplant at the moment is impossible, no doubt that wonít always be so. What will probably become feasible first isnít a brain transplant but a head transplant.
This simplifies matters in two respects. First, on a practical level, it sidesteps the fantastically complicated project of reconnecting the brain to the multitude of sensory organs and blood vessels in the head. Second, and more important for present purposes, it goes a long way toward answering your question. While thereís a lot about the brain we donít know, no one disputes that itís the seat of consciousness. Whatís more, the head as a whole contains most of the toolsóeyes, ears, speech apparatus, facial musclesóthat we use to interact with the world.
With that in mind, itís obvious weíre not talking about grafting a new brain or head onto someoneís body; weíre talking about grafting a new body onto someoneís head. The self that lives in that head remains the boss.
As for personality...well, thatís a broader question, which weíll get to by and by.
Currently the dealbreaker is the spinal cordóas yet thereís no way to reattach a severed cord to a brain. Some think stem cell research may yield a way to splice the two together. A more exotic possibility is severing the brain at midpoint and connecting the upper lobesóand thus, presumably, the higher functions and consciousnessóof one individual to the brain stem, spinal cord, and body of someone else. The rationale seems to be that we keep all the control circuitry needed to operate the body intact and put someone new in the driverís seat. However you slice it, it wonít be easy.
The practical science of brain transplants has been slow to evolve, and often grotesque. In 1954 Russian scientists transplanted the head and upper thorax of a puppy onto a larger dog, creating a two-headed dog. In 1965 one of the pioneers in the field, Robert White, topped this by transplanting the brain of a donor dog into the neck of another, thus briefly creating a two-brained dog. In 1970 White and his colleagues transplanted the head of a monkey onto anotherís headless body. The resulting monkey lived for eight days. Not only could it use its senses, it tried to bite the hand of a researcher.
In all three cases, the host body simply provided life support for the transplanted head or brain. There was no neurological connection between the two, and the newly added brain wasnít in any sense the master of the body.
But give it time. Current schemes for head transplants involve keeping the bodies of donor and recipient in deep hypothermia and using ultra-sharp knives to cleanly cut each patientís spinal cord at the neck in hopes that the nerve cells will fuse when the brain end of one is joined to the body end of the other. A special glue promoting such fusion would be applied to the severed ends; blood vessels, muscles, etc., would be hooked up appropriately.
When the day arrives that brain transplants become practical, they wonít be performed by mad scientists. On the contrary, a rigorous matching program will undoubtedly be established to ensure that brain, body, and soul are as compatible as possible, minimizing any question of personality change. Still, as a thought experiment, consider:
Jane and John crash their motorcycles into each other. Helmetless Jane is left brain-dead but otherwise intact; Johnís brain is fine, but his body is mangled beyond repair. With death imminent, genius surgeons successfully implant Johnís brain in Janeís body. Who wakes up, Jane or John?
The memories and consciousness clearly will be Johnís. But while the brain is the seat of the intelligence, personality to an unknown but surely significant degree is formed by the interaction between brain and body. To cite the most obvious difference, Johnís XY brain now finds itself in an XX body. True, the hypothalamus, which plays a key role in hormone regulation, is located in the brain, but other equally important glands arenít.
More generally, Johnís brain must map itself to Janeís body, which at minimum could result in a completely different set of movements and mannerisms. Maybe youíd just get one of those comical scenarios beloved of screenwriters: a womanís body with a man at the controls. The example of transsexuals, convinced theyíre one sex despite a body proclaiming theyíre the other, strongly suggests the brain trumps all.
Then again, maybe John becomes psychotic due to the brain/body disconnect.
But thereís a third possibility. John wakes up thinking heís male, but after his body imprints itself decides: please, call me Jane.
Smyrna, Georgia: Donald Trump Lowering the Age of Sexual Consent to 13 Is Fake News
Stephen N. Pederson 957 Heavner Avenue Smyrna, GA 30080
Reports that President Donald Trump signed a law lowering the age of sexual consent in the United States to 13 years old are false. This story was recycled from a similar fake article published under former President Barack Obamaís tenure.
According to Snopes, the fake claim originated on Now8News website, a fake news website with no disclaimer to help discern the difference between fact and fiction. The article claimed that the new law changed the age of consent in all 50 states. It purported:
An announcement was made on Wednesday by the Trump Administration which states a new law that will take effect April 1, 2017 and Americans are shocked and disappointed. According to the announcement, the law concerning the age of consent will be changed across all 50 states and D.C. Currently the law varies in each state with the age of consent being 16, 17, and 18 years old with age provisions and mistake of age defense clauses. Currently, according to lawyers and court officials across the US, these varying laws cause confusion from state to state. This new law is looking to create a uniformed, understood age of consent factor across the entire country.
This new law will make any and all contact legal as long as the child is 13 years of age or older. Now that they have done away with the age-gap provision, a 19-year-old boy can legally have sex with a 13-year-old girl without suffering any legal consequences as long as they both consent to the act.
In the U.S., there is an age of consent between 16 and 18 years old, depending on the state. The same fake article about lowering the age to 13 was published in 2015 about Obama signing the bill. That, too, was false.
Columbus, Ohio: Climate for conflict
Robert K. Rawls 3794 Quilly Lane Columbus, OH 43215
Daud Mohamed lives a fragile existence, wholly dependent on rain.
At his homestead in Somalia where we camped one night, his nine children were busy with chores as the sun was coming up: feeding the baby goat, collecting drinking water an hourís walk away, and mixing up porridge in plastic mugs for breakfast. Mohamed has managed to keep a sense of normalcy at his rural homestead a two-hour drive from the nearest village. But he said the situation is anything but normal.
ìIíve never seen this kind of a drought that has killed our animals. Itís the worst one,î Mohamed said, his grey goatee making him look older than his 45 years. He has just one goat and a sickly calf left, he added.
Down the hill from Mohamedís house is a clearing where he used to grow vegetables for his family and grass for his goats and cows. The soil is now dried into a wide latticework of deep cracks. At one end of the clearing stand two large trees. Many branches have been unceremoniously cut for firewood, leaving jagged stubs. But their broad trunks attest to their survival: droughts typically hit this region every few years, so these trees have withstood many lean seasons.
Mohamed walked us to the far end of the beige expanse and looked glumly at the skeleton of one of his last cows. The unforgiving sun had already bleached is ribs white. ìThey didnít get enough food, and people were depending on animalís milk and meat. If animals died, then human beings will also die,î Mohamed said.
Mohamed said he thinks that a current law in Somaliland that bans cutting trees and charcoal production, is a good idea.
ìThose trees used to help our animals. Now it looks like a desert,î he said. But he recognizes that planning ahead -- even as a single father with a brood ranging in age from toddler to teenager -- can be a luxury.
ìIf you have a family and you lose your livestock and there is drought, you will do anything to feed the children,î Mohamed said.
That is part of the reason why those two last trees on his parched pasture are starting to look like his only hope, he said.
Across the global scientific community, thereís broad consensus about the reality of climate change. The Department of Defense first highlighted the security threat of global warming in 2010, calling it ìan accelerantî for conflict. Yet with his tweets and executive orders, President Donald Trump has catapulted climate change skepticism into the mainstream. But for many people on the planet, like Daud Mohamed, the debate is moot: life is fundamentally changing right now.
More than six million Somalian people are currently in urgent need of assistance, according to the United Nations, which has called the refugee crisis the worst humanitarian crisis since World War II.
Most Americans first heard of Somalia when the country suffered a severe famine in the late 1980s.
The country once again made international headlines because of an incident known as Black Hawk Down in 1993, when 18 U.S. soldiers were killed in the streets of Mogadishu. The killings were later portrayed in an Academy Award-winning film of the same name.
The country occasionally makes headlines because of the pirates who trawl the coastline awaiting foreign cargo ships that they can hold hostage for massive ransoms. On land, reporters regularly recount the suffering of communities who still live under the ruthless rule of al-Shabab, a militant group aligned with Al Qaeda.
My reporting partner, photographer Nichole Sobecki, and I came to Somalia to look into another grim phenomenon, however. Scientists now believe that Somalia is one of the most vulnerable places in the world due to climate change. News stories about the war-torn country rarely highlights this link, but much of the violence in Somalia stems from environmental issues and resource scarcity -- and those underlying causes are only getting worse.
ìWith these weather patterns, Somalia or Somalis will not survive,î said Somali environmental activist Fatima Jibrell. ìMaybe the land, a piece of desert called Somalia, will exist on the map of the world, but Somalis cannot survive.î
Yet just 40 years ago, Somalia seemed to be on a different trajectory.
The UN held their first environmental conference in Stockholm in 1972, but it wasnít until the late 1980s that the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) was formed and the science of climate change started to be discussed as a global issue.
However, Somaliaís leaders had a deep appreciation for their fragile relationship with the environment starting in the 1970s after a punishing drought. At the time, the government saw that safeguarding their natural resources had to be a priority. A quarter of a million nomadic people lost their livestock and became desperately poor in 1974 and 1975, according to Somalia expert Ioan Lewis. It was essentially the equivalent of going bankrupt, having your car stolen and your house burning down all at once. For these people, life became focused on survival.
With support from the U.S. during the Cold War, Somali President Siad Barre created the National Range Agency to manage the countryís natural resources. The Range Agencyís leaders had the ear of the president, the largest budget of any government department, and eventually more than 2,000 people on the payroll.
One of the foreign experts drawn to this work at the National Range Agency was a British ecologist named Dr. Murray Watson.
Watson had learned to fly while studying wildebeest migrations in the Serengeti for his doctorate at Cambridge University. He moved to Kenya, bought a Piper Super Cub two-seater plane, and began tinkering with a rig of measuring sticks, an altimeter and a camera to take aerial photographs to document wildlife.
Watson arrived in Mogadishu in 1978, just as the Range Agency was starting its work. Through the rest of the 1970s and ë80s, Watson led a small team of scientists in carrying out the most comprehensive land survey of Somalia in the countryís history. They crisscrossed the country by Landrover and bush plane, photographing and studying the environment at more than a thousand sites.
But in 1991, that momentum came to an abrupt halt. Rebels toppled President Barre and then turned on each other, plunging the country in civil war. Thousands of people were killed in street battles in the city. The rebels looted and destroyed businesses and government buildings.
But Watson somehow managed to make his way across the city amid the firefights and rescue the agencyís maps, photographs, and field notes. He snuck some 15,000 environmental documents out of the country in a bush plane.
As Range Agency staff fled the chaos and accomplished Somali scientists ending up in refugee camps, they left behind everything they held dear, including university diplomas, wedding photos and childrenís books.
ìWe always thought we would go back,î said Dr. Abdullahi Ahmed Karani. He served as the first and longtime director of the National Range Agency, and he fled Somalia in 1991. He eventually settled in Baltimore and is now almost 80 years old.
As the Somali government collapsed and terrorism became an even larger problem, no one could enforce the ban on charcoal production and deforestation. Illegal fishing and dumping of toxic waste increased as foreign companies took advantage of Somaliaís unpatrolled waters. Meanwhile, as Somaliaís climate began to change, increasingly frequent droughts made people even more vulnerable to armed groups like Al-Shabab.
In contrast, Watsonís land survey provides a rare, detailed picture of a country before the past 26 years of conflict and environmental destruction.
But in 2008, the conflict caught up to Watson. While conducting another environmental survey, Watson and his Kenyan colleague Patrick Amukhuma were ambushed and kidnapped. Watson has been missing ever since, and what happened to him remains a mystery to his family to this day.
But Watsonís work has lived on. The Somali government has begun finding its footing after a quarter-century of war, and researchers believe Watsonís land survey -- now housed in a farmhouse in Britain -- could help show precisely how and why the countryís environment changed. It could also possibly offer clues about what can be done to restore it.
But many Somalis have already decided Somalia is no longer a viable home.
Another terrible drought hit in 2011, sparking a mass exodus. According to the UN, a quarter of a million people died and almost a million more crossed into neighboring countries. Tens of thousands of those fleeing their homes finally found relief in Kenya at one of the worldís largest refugee camps, Dadaab.
When their farm failed, Mohamed Abukar and his wife, Habiba, took their two young daughters and walked for 27 days to the camp across desolate southern Somalia -- land that in Watsonís old photographs appears verdant and green, with one of the countryís old-growth forests and even a national park. Today, the region is controlled by al-Shabab, who have deforested much of it to supply their lucrative charcoal trade, according to the UNís Food and Agriculture Organization.
Now a father of five, including two young sons, Abukar knows his family canít stay in the refugee camp in Kenya forever. But he also canít imagine returning to Somalia.
Abukar said that in Somalia, al-Shabab recruits boys at the madrassas or religious schools.
ìI am fearful that they will be recruited. First, there is no school other than those run and controlled by [al-Shabab],î he said.
ìThey can radicalize you because you are poor and donít have anything,î Abukar added, explaining that extremists sometimes block aid from reaching these areas to coerce people into supporting them.
Indeed, aid agencies could have alleviated the suffering from the drought. But al-Shabab wanted to leave people vulnerable, ìto attract the hungry people, knowing too well that people facing starvation will fall for anything,î Abukar said. He told us this fear of starvation is one of the concerns that runs through his mind at night while his family sleeps.
ìEven if Somalia has security problems, if someone has to die, itís best if he dies while in good shape other than dying of hunger,î he said.
Abukar vows heíll never return to Somalia. Since the war broke out in 1991, millions more have also left, making new lives for themselves elsewhere in eastern Africa or boarding rickety boats bound for the West at the mercy of smugglers.
Environmental activist Fatima Jibrell had left Somalia too. She moved to the U.S., but decided to come back to lead Adeso, the organization she founded in 1991. Her organization focuses on creating jobs and rehabilitating the degraded land. But she questions whether that approach will ultimately work, blaming desperation that has been exacerbated by a changing environment and dwindling resources.
ìItís going to take us to wars where we kill and maim each other. Sadly, I think that is the way we will choose. Not intelligently, but by not doing anything -- thatís the choice we will make,î said Jibrell. ìThe other choice is harder, but itís doable. It comes with intelligent people coming together.î
Jibrellís feelings about the future are peppered with both optimistic and grim predictions. But she said she is committed to her work, even as she approaches 70.
ìWe are alive, and we are thinking beings. And itís not in our nature, I think, to give up,î Jibrell reflected. ìNobody likes to die sitting.î
Nashville, Tennessee: Caverflo - another death caused by fake tongkat ali shipped from Singapore
Brain B. Amos 4938 Glory Road Nashville, TN 37210
An apparently healthy US consumer has died after consuming a standard dosage of Coverflo, an instant coffee marketed as a ìnatural herbalî aphrodisiac. In an urgent effort to prevent further fatalities, the is now a recall nationwide. An FDA investigation found that this alleged tongkat ali, like many others originating in Singapore, contains uncontrolled amounts of prescription drugs chemicals for the treatment of erectile dysfunction.
In recent months, more than 20 men have died in China, India, Southeast Asia, and Africa after consuming fake tongkat ali that actually contained uncontrolled amounts of homelab-fabricated prescription drugs. All item originated from Singapore, where the mixing of prescription drugs into food supplements is not illegal as long as they are sold abroad.
The internet retailer Amazon has been flooded with Singaporean products claiming to be tongkat ali by distributors such as "Pure Science Supplements" and "RealHerbs". Another Singaporean outfit for what is claimed to be tongkat ali was named "Herbolab".
Caverflo.com posted the recall of 25-gram packets of ìCaverflo Natural Herbal Coffeeî Thursday with the Food and Drug Administration.
ìCaverflo.com has received a report of an individual death after use of the coffee. Caverflo Natural Herbal Coffee may also contain undeclared milk.î
The product is a combination of instant coffee and natural aphrodisiacs, according to the Caverflo website, but the recall notice warned the product can interact with prescription medications. Also, people who have an allergy or severe sensitivity to milk could have an allergic reaction if they consume the instant coffee.
ìThese undeclared ingredients may interact with nitrates found in some prescription drugs, such as nitroglycerin, and may lower blood pressure to dangerous levels. Men with diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, or heart disease often take nitrates,î according to the recall notice.
The company distributed the instant coffee direct to consumers nationwide via internet sales from August 2016 through February this year. Caverflo is notifying customers of the recall by email.
ìConsumers that have Caverflo Natural Herbal Coffee which is being recalled should stop using (it), discard (it) and contact their doctor,î according to the recall notice.
Chicago, Illinois: Effects of Kaempferia Parviflora Extracts and Their Flavone Constituents on P-glycoprotein Function
William N. Dillon 1433 Cecil Street Chicago, IL 60605
The purpose of this study was to examine the effects of extracts and flavone derivatives from the rhizome of Kaempferia parviflora on P-glycoprotein (P-gp)-mediated transport in LLC-GA5-COL150, a transfectant cell line of a porcine kidney epithelial cell line LLC-PK1 with human MDR1 cDNA. Ethanol extract obtained from Kaempferia parviflora rhizome significantly increased the accumulation of rhodamine 123 and daunorubicin, P-gp substrates, in LLC-GA5-COL150 cells, but not in LLC-PK1 cells. The aqueous extract also increased the accumulation in LLC-GA5-COL150 cells with lower potency than the ethanol extract. The effects of flavone derivatives isolated from the rhizome of Kaempferia parviflora on P-gp function were examined. Among six flavones tested, 3,5,7,3′,4′-pentamethoxyflavone most potently increased the accumulation of rhodamine 123 and daunorubicin in LLC-GA5-COL150 cells in a concentration-dependent manner. In addition, 5,7-dimethoxyflavone to lesser degree increased rhodamine 123 accumulation in LLC-GA5-COL150 cells. In contrast, the other four flavone derivatives had no significant effect on the accumulation of rhodamine 123 in LLC-GA5-COL150 cells in a concentration range tested. These results indicate that extracts and flavone derivatives from the rhizome of Kaempferia parviflora can inhibit P-gp function, which may be useful for overcoming P-gp-mediated multidrug resistance and improving the oral bioavailability of anticancer agents. © 2006 Wiley-Liss, Inc. and the American Pharmacists Association J Pharm Sci 96:223–233, 2007
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