Friday, October 24, 2008

album cover

Mr. Green Genes / New York Times endorses Obama

Mr. Green Genes is the first fluorescent cat in the United States, said Betsy Dresser, the center’s director.

The researchers made him so they could learn whether a gene could be introduced harmlessly into the feline’s genetic sequence to create what is formally known as a transgenic cat. If so, it would be the first step in a process that could lead to the development of ways to combat diseases via gene therapy.

The gene, which was added to Mr. Green Genes’ DNA when he was created earlier this year in the Audubon center’s laboratory, has no effect on his health, Dresser said. Cats are ideal for this project because their genetic makeup is similar to that of humans, said Dr. Martha Gomez, a veterinarian and staff scientist at the center.

Why a glowing cat?

To show that the gene went where it was supposed to go, the researchers settled on one that would glow.

The gene “is just a marker,” said Leslie Lyons, an assistant professor of population health and reproduction at the School of Veterinary Medicine at the University of California, Davis, who is familiar with the Audubon center’s work.

“The glowing part is the fun part,” she said.

Glowing creatures made international news earlier this month when the Nobel Prize in Chemistry was awarded to three scientists who had discovered the gene through their work with jellyfish. They used the gene, whose formal name is enhanced green fluorescence protein, to see how things work inside animals and even inside cells.

Mr. Green Genes — his name comes from Mr. Green Jeans, a character on the long-departed “Captain Kangaroo” television show — is deeply suspicious of strangers. He spends most of his days napping, and he doesn’t like being held when he doesn’t want to be cuddled.
In normal light, the 7-pound cat, who lives at the center, looks and acts like any other feline.

But turn out the room lights and switch on some black light, and you can see glowing ears, nostrils, eyes and gums. Those body parts light up because the protein is more likely to express itself in mucous membranes, Lyons said.

“You can’t lose that cat at night,” said C. Earle Pope, the center’s senior scientist.

“The frozen zoo”
In theory, his litter box could glow, too, because cat droppings include epithelial cells, where the gene can be found. But there is entirely too much other stuff around them to allow for readily visible glowing without messy lab work, Gomez said.

The Audubon center started its animal-cloning experiments in 2001. Two years later, Ditteaux, an African wildcat, was born there. He was the world’s first cloned wild carnivore.

Cloning starts with cells — generally skin cells, Gomez said, because retrieval isn’t too invasive — and the cells’ genetic material is stored in a tank of liquid nitrogen where the temperature is 316 degrees below zero. The Audubon center has 12 such tanks of genetic specimens awaiting use;

Dresser calls them “the frozen zoo.”

For work with felines, eggs are collected from a donor cat — usually a domestic cat — and the DNA is removed and replaced. To create Mr. Green Genes, the fresh DNA included the fluorescent gene.

Then the fertilized egg is inserted into a surrogate mother cat for a pregnancy lasting 65 to 70 days.

After Ditteaux’s arrival, Gomez was invited to discuss it before a group of gene-therapy specialists, who, she said, were interested in the prospect of creating a genetic model for fighting diseases.

A tool to spot cystic-fibrosis
The Audubon scientists want to use their technique to develop a gene-therapy treatment for cystic fibrosis, an incurable hereditary disease for which, Gomez said, there are no gene-therapy models.

The fluorescence gene will go alongside the cystic-fibrosis gene and make it easy to spot. The long-term goal of this process, for which there is no timetable, is the production of what Gomez calls a “knockout gene.”

Work on this project is under way, she said. “We are getting some preliminary data, but we don’t have the full funds for it.”

Mr. Green Genes’ next role for the center will combine science and sex. He will become a stud so the Audubon team can determine whether the fluorescence gene can be transmitted. That should take no more than two breeding cycles, Gomez said.

“If he is fertile and if the female is fertile, it should be quick,” she said. “The idea is not to have a lot of green cats around, but to demonstrate that the gene can be passed.”

After that, he will retire to Gomez’s home, where two cats already live.

“I feel that he is my baby,” said Gomez, who led the team that created him.

“You have to realize that this is our first transgenic cat,” she said. “I don’t want him to go to just anybody. I feel he is mine.”

Barack Obama for President

NY Times editorial. some excerpts:

The United States is battered and drifting after eight years of President Bush’s failed leadership. He is saddling his successor with two wars, a scarred global image and a government systematically stripped of its ability to protect and help its citizens — whether they are fleeing a hurricane’s floodwaters, searching for affordable health care or struggling to hold on to their homes, jobs, savings and pensions in the midst of a financial crisis that was foretold and preventable. ...

Mr. Obama has met challenge after challenge, growing as a leader and putting real flesh on his early promises of hope and change. He has shown a cool head and sound judgment. We believe he has the will and the ability to forge the broad political consensus that is essential to finding solutions to this nation’s problems....

In the same time, Senator John McCain of Arizona has retreated farther and farther to the fringe of American politics, running a campaign on partisan division, class warfare and even hints of racism. His policies and worldview are mired in the past. His choice of a running mate so evidently unfit for the office was a final act of opportunism and bad judgment that eclipsed the
accomplishments of 26 years in Congress.

Given the particularly ugly nature of Mr. McCain’s campaign, the urge to choose on the basis of raw emotion is strong. But there is a greater value in looking closely at the facts of life in America today and at the prescriptions the candidates offer. The differences are profound....

The Candidates

It will be an enormous challenge just to get the nation back to where it was before Mr. Bush, to begin to mend its image in the world and to restore its self-confidence and its self-respect. Doing all of that, and leading America forward, will require strength of will, character and intellect, sober judgment and a cool, steady hand.

Mr. Obama has those qualities in abundance. Watching him being tested in the campaign has long since erased the reservations that led us to endorse Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton in the Democratic primaries. He has drawn in legions of new voters with powerful messages of hope and possibility and calls for shared sacrifice and social responsibility.

Mr. McCain, whom we chose as the best Republican nominee in the primaries, has spent the last coins of his reputation for principle and sound judgment to placate the limitless demands and narrow vision of the far-right wing. His righteous fury at being driven out of the 2000 primaries on a racist tide aimed at his adopted daughter has been replaced by a zealous embrace of those same win-at-all-costs tactics and tacticians.

He surrendered his standing as an independent thinker in his rush to embrace Mr. Bush’s misbegotten tax policies and to abandon his leadership position on climate change and immigration reform.

Mr. McCain could have seized the high ground on energy and the environment. Earlier in his career, he offered the first plausible bill to control America’s emissions of greenhouse gases. Now his positions are a caricature of that record: think Ms. Palin leading chants of “drill, baby, drill.”

Mr. Obama has endorsed some offshore drilling, but as part of a comprehensive strategy including big investments in new, clean technologies.


Mr. Obama has withstood some of the toughest campaign attacks ever mounted against a candidate. He’s been called un-American and accused of hiding a secret Islamic faith. The Republicans have linked him to domestic terrorists and questioned his wife’s love of her country. Ms. Palin has also questioned millions of Americans’ patriotism, calling Republican-leaning states “pro-America.”

This politics of fear, division and character assassination helped Mr. Bush drive Mr. McCain from the 2000 Republican primaries and defeat Senator John Kerry in 2004. It has been the dominant theme of his failed presidency.

The nation’s problems are simply too grave to be reduced to slashing “robo-calls” and negative ads. This country needs sensible leadership, compassionate leadership, honest leadership and strong leadership. Barack Obama has shown that he has all of those qualities.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

please take a minute for something that is so obviously just

Hello Elizabeth's Blog Readers,

Across the country, people are picking up the phone, usually in the evening, and hearing a recorded voice recite vile smears about Barack Obama. The voice could be Rudy Giuliani's, or Sarah Palin's, or someone anonymous, but the pattern is the same: overheated rhetoric spreading distortions and lies designed to whip up fear or anger at Barack Obama.

The calls are so bad, even some Republicans have come out against them. Republican Senator Gordon Smith's spokesman said, "Senator Smith does not condone these sort of calls."

Susan Collins "urges the McCain campaign to stop these calls immediately." Even Norm Coleman in Minnesota has distanced himself from the calls.

It's time we get all Senators and House members on record about these calls. Follow this link to listen to a couple of these calls, and then fax or call your elected officials and urge them to condemn the McCain-Palin robocalls:

We've been working hard at to highlight these types of political tactics. We need to make these tactics unacceptable, make it politically painful to run these types of smear campaigns.

Our country deserves better than the slash-n-burn politics of the past. So fax or call your Senators and your Representative in the House and ask them to come out against these calls.

Brian Young

Joel Johnson Annotates

NM Joel Johnson - ARZ (2211) – Ilan Meerovich - CHC (2131) [B20]
ICC 60 30 u Internet Chess Club, 10/22/2008, Board 3
1.e4 d6 No need to panic. Based on my research, I am sure that he wants to play a Sicilian and this move does not change my opinion of that fact.

2.d3 g6
3.g3 Bg7
4.Bg2 Nf6
5.f4 0–0
6.Nf3 c5 Ah, yes, all is well now.
7.0–0 Nc6

8...d5 Even though this is the best move in the position for Black, I felt comfortable playing against this line. The move that I spent the most time on here was 8. ... b5.

9.e5 Nd7
10.c3 e6 Even though this is a solid move, I was happy to see it. Practically speaking, it seemed better for him to counter with 10. ... Nb6 and 11. ... Bf5. Part of the problem with e6 is that Black has to play very precise to avoid having his Bishop on c8 becoming locked out of the game.

11.Na3 a6
12.Nc2 b5
13.d4 c4 Black continues to play moves that make it more and more difficult to free his locked in light-squared Bishop on c8. And, even though it would appear that the situation is a wash because of my locked in dark-squared Bishop on c1, I plan on making kingside Pawn advances that will provide my Bishop with some real future value.

14.Qe1 My goal now is to secure the queenside, then turn my full attention to building up a kingside attack.

15.a3 Rb8
16.Kh1 Qe7
17.Bd2 Rb6
18.g4 Ndb8
19.Qg3 b4
20.axb4 axb4
21.Ne3 bxc3

23.exf6 Bxf6
24.Rae1 Qc7
25.Ne5 Nxe5
26.fxe5 Bg7
27.Rxf8+ Bxf8

28...Rb2? I had expected him to play 28. ... Bg7, after which I had planned on playing g5, followed by Ng4 and Nf6 with a growing advantage.

29.Qf4 My intention is to play Nd5! on the next move, but it is also very good here. One of the lines I was looking at here was 29. ... Bg7 30. Nd5! ed5 31. Bd5 Kh8 32. Qf8!! Bf8 33. Kg7 Rg8#.


30.Nxd5 exd5
31.Bxd5+ Black resigns
All moves lead to checkmate, for example:
31. ... Be6 32. Be6 Kh8 33. Qf8 Qf8 34. Rf8 Kg7 35. Rg8#;
31. ... Kh8 32. Qf8 Qf8 33. Rf8 Kg7 34. Rg8#;
31. ... Kg7 32. Qh6 Kh8 33. Rf8 Qf8 34. Qf8# 1–0

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

We ARE Queens Boulevard

Some USCL gossip for you: I hear that Queens will be changing its name next year from the Queens Pioneers to the Queens Entourage.

Monday, October 20, 2008

More China Photos

IM Dmitry Shneider
the very serious US men's team captain, GM Alex Shabalov

WFM Abby Marshall and WFM Shirley Ben-Dak

GM Jesse Kraai

GM Alex Shabalov, IM Dmitry Shneider
WFM Abby Marshall, GM Jesse Kraai

Dima, WFM Iryna Zenyuk

Iryna, Josh
WGM Jenn Shahade, GM Var Akobian, WFM Shirley Ben-Dak, IM Dmitry Shneider

tilt the screen

the US team
IM David Pruess, GM Var Akobian, GM Josh Friedel

WGM Jenn Shahade
Var and Ira

near: Elizabeth Paehtz, far: Jesse, Jenn, Abby

the lovely IM Elisabeth Paehtz

opening ceremony

photos taken by Alex Shabalov and Iryna Zenyuk