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Democratic debate

I like this debate much better than the last one. They may be going a bit too far – they’re being so nice to each other that it’s looking strained. It’s kind of funny that Hillary countered Obama’s Kennedy endorsements with three Kennedys of her own.

It’s a little bit weird to see all the celebrities in the audience. I think that presidential debates should be viewed by the people, not by celebrities (who have access to politicians anyway).

Update: Keith Olbermann’s observation: “That looks like a ticket”. They agreed more than they disagreed, and they didn’t do much to distinguish themselves from the other.

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No bump for Hillary among netroots

The netroots at dKos have never been big on Hillary Clinton. John Edwards has been consistently in the lead among the voters in Markos’ polls, going from 31% in October to 42% on January 24th. In the same time period Clinton’s support has moved from 9% in October to 9% on January 24th (hitting a high of 11% and a low of 6% in between). Barack Obama has gained the most ground, moving from 16% in October to 41% in the last poll.

With Edwards out of the race, the question is: where does his support go? The general response has been “I don’t know”. At least among the netroots (albeit, not a representative group), that support has gone to Obama. In the latest dKos poll, Obama jumped from 41% to 76%. Taking into account sampling effects, it looks like almost all of Edwards’ support has gone to Obama although “No F’ing Clue” may have picked up 10% of Edwards supporters, as it jumped from 2% to 6%, and “other” (Gravel?) jumped from 1 to 5%.

When Edwards withdrew, a lot of people were talking about the fact that much of his support came from people who chose not to support a woman or a black man. There was an implication that neither candidate provided a natural home for Edwards’ supporters. Others pointed out that Edwards did best among educated white men, not the populist-union base he courted most. But no one was talking about whether these were “progressives”. People tend to see progressives/liberals as young people, but dKos readership tends to skew close to 40. Are Edwards’ supporters on dKos characteristic of that group? It’s possible. I’m sure that professional pollsters are actively seeking the answer of how the Edwards vote will go. At the least, we’ll probably learn a lot on Tuesday.

Snow in Oklahoma

ok-snow.jpgok-snow2.jpgWhile they promised “snow and blowing snow” on the news last night, I had my doubts – they tend to exaggerate any potential snowfall – they promise 5 inches and you get a dusting. Well, it’s snowing. And some schools are closed.

The end of Drosophila as a model organism?

Looks like the days of Drosophila melanogaster as a model organism are numbered. It’s likely to be displaced by Sophophora melanogaster. Want to know why? Check out Catalogue of Organisms.

(Looks like the genus Drosophila is paraphyletic, which means that it has to be split…and D. melanogaster ends up on the wrong side of the tracks, so to speak).

H/T Sandwalk.

Insecticidal compounds in plants

Several members of three plants families – the Rubiaceae, Violaceae and Cucurbitaceae– produce cyclotides, cyclic mini-peptides made up of 28-37 amino acids arranged in a circular configuration. These compounds are very stable and have attracted the attention of pharmaceutical companies. Because these peptides lack free amino and carboxyl ends, they cannot be broken down by proteases. The compounds helicoverpa_size.jpgappear to act primarily as insecticides. In an article published in the January 29 issue of PNAS, Barbara Barbeta and colleagues investigated the role of these compounds on the larvae of lepidopterans (butterflies and moths). The compounds damaged the cells of the midgut of Helicoverpa armigera larvae, which severely stunted their growth (image from Wikipedia; see license details).

Barbeta, B.L., Marshall, A.T., Gillon, A.D., Craik, D.J., and Anderson, M.A. 2008. Plant cyclotides disrupt epithelial cells in the midgut of lepidopteran larvae. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA 105(4):1221-1225 DOI:10.1073/pnas.0710338104

Why big ideas matter – Rosenau on Obama

I’m not one to trust “my gut” without stopping to wonder why I react the way I do.  My reaction to Obama’s victory speech in Iowa was pure gut feeling, pure emotion.  Without figuring out whether I was right or wrong to feel that way, I had to ask myself why I found him so inspiring.  “Idealism” is the easy answer – after all this time, I’m still a dreamy idealist.  But there was more to it than that – there’s a sense of intellectual depth that I am drawn to.  It’s nice to see those “senses” and “feelings” substantiated with opinions based on the analysis of data.

Josh Rosenau talks about his meeting with Obama in 2006 and his thoughts about him since then.  It’s definitely worth reading.

Orac on CAM

Since it isn’t medicine, and “Quackademic medicine” is too snarky, what should we call alternative therapies? It’s definitely a must-read.

Orac:Reclaiming the linguistic high ground: Renaming “complementary and alternative” medicine and the power of language