Welcome to a “hump day” (“Araw ng umbok” in Filipino), Wednesday September 27, 2023, and National Chocolate Milk Day. This was the only milk I drank in the junior-high cafeteria, and it costs 2¢ per half pint. When I was very young, my father Floyd used to tell me that chocolate milk came from brown cows—and I believed him. Surprisingly, many adults still do today!
It’s also Ancestor Appreciation Day, National Day of Forgiveness, World Dense Breast Day (a couple of my female friends have this mammogram-frustrating issue), World School Milk Day, National Corned Beef Hash Day, National Women’s Health and Fitness Day,World Tourism Day, National Gay Men’s HIV/AIDS Awareness Day, and, in Poland, Polish Underground State’s Day.
It’s Google’s 25th birthday, and if you click on the Google Doodle below, you’ll see their celebration:
Readers are welcome to mark notable events, births, or deaths on this by consulting the September 27 Wikipedia page.
*The breaking news is that, in a civil suit, a NY judge found the Trumpster was guilty of grossly inflating his property values (the overvaluation could be over $2 billion!) in order to make himself look wealthier than he was. The judge reamed the Orange Man out in his decision, and the result is that there will apparently be no civil trial—only a determination of what his penalty will be.
A New York judge ruled on Tuesday that Donald J. Trump persistently committed fraud by inflating the value of his assets, and stripped the former president of control over some of his signature New York properties.
The surprising decision by Justice Arthur F. Engoron is a major victory for Attorney General Letitia James in her lawsuit against Mr. Trump, effectively deciding that no trial was needed to determine that he had fraudulently secured favorable terms on loans and insurance deals.
Ms. James has argued that Mr. Trump inflated the value of his properties by as much as $2.2 billion and is seeking a penalty of about $250 million in a trial scheduled to begin as early as Monday.
Justice Engoron wrote that the annual financial statements that Mr. Trump submitted to banks and insurance companies “clearly contain fraudulent valuations that defendants used in business.”
Mr. Trump, for his part, noted that Justice Engoron was a Democrat and called him “deranged.”
While the trial will determine the size of the penalty, Justice Engoron’s ruling granted one of the biggest punishments Ms. James sought: the cancellation of business certificates that allow some of Mr. Trump’s New York properties to operate, a move that could have major repercussions for the Trump family business.
The decision will likely end Trump’s control of much of his empire, including his flagship “Trump Tower” in Manhattan. But the penalty, $250 million, is chump change for Trump, and even though he be guilty, he’s not a convicted criminal, for this is a civil suit. He won’t be wearing stripes.
*Amazon is getting sued by both the Federal Trade Commission and 17 states for creating a retail monopoly through illegal business practices:
The Federal Trade Commission and 17 states sued Amazon on Tuesday, setting up a long-awaited antitrust fight with the e-commerce giant that could alter the way Americans shop for everything from toilet paper to electronics online.
The 172-page suit, the federal government’s most significant challenge to the power of the online store, accused Amazon of protecting a monopoly over swaths of online retail by squeezing merchants and favoring its own services.
For consumers, that meant “artificially higher prices” as merchants were blocked from selling their products for less on other sites, and a worse shopping experience as Amazon boosted its own products and peppered its search results with ads, the lawsuit said. The retailer’s tactics made it impossible for its rivals to compete, the agency and states said.
“A single company, Amazon, has seized control over much of the online retail economy,” said the lawsuit, which was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington. “It exploits its monopolies in ways that enrich Amazon but harm its customers: both the tens of millions of American households who regularly shop on Amazon’s online superstore and the hundreds of thousands of businesses who rely on Amazon to reach them.”
What could happen? The article isn’t really clear:
The F.T.C. asked the court to issue an injunction blocking Amazon from engaging in “unlawful conduct” and raised the possibility of altering the structure of the company. But it stopped short of detailing how the court could clip Amazon’s dominance, such as breaking apart elements of its business. The agency could become more specific if it succeeded in proving Amazon violated the law.
I use Amazon a lot because of its one-stop shopping, and I’m curious about how the suit, if successful, will affect the shopping experience. The article implies that Amazon’s prices will be lower if the government wins, but to know that you have to do what I hate: COMPARISON SHOPPING. On the other hand, I don’t want to benefit from illegal business practices.
*A deadly childhood brain cancer that’s invariably fatal now may be susceptible to a new method called “intensity focused ultrasound.” Only two children in the world are trying out the new method, and both have the deadly cancer diffuse intrinsic pontine glioma, or DIPG, which is diagnosed in about 300 children a year.
First, the little girl gets to choose the smell of the anesthetic that will put her to sleep: cotton candy. Then doctors place a helmet over her head so that hundreds of tiny metallic devices inside it can fire sound waves through her skull into the tumor in her brain. The goal: to open the brain’s protective barrier, clearing a path for a chemotherapy drug nicknamed the Red Devil.
You may know that there’s a protective “blood brain barrier,” which evolved to protect the brain from assault by chemicals and infectious agents elsewhere in the body. This method is designed to circumvent that barrier
DIPG becomes entangled in the brain stem, making it inoperable most of the time. Drugs have difficulty even reaching the tumor. Blocking the way are tightly packed cells inside the brain’s blood vessels that keep out toxins. Doctors call this the blood-brain barrier. While radiation can improve DIPGsymptoms briefly, in virtually all cases the tumor starts to grow again within six to 12 months.
Here’s how it works:
The Food and Drug Administration has approved the use of focused ultrasound to treat seven conditions, including cancer that has spread into the bones, Parkinson’s disease and prostate cancer. The technology is in various stages of development and testing for more than 160 other medical conditions, including congestive heart failure, traumatic brain injuries, arthritis, glaucoma and schizophrenia.
. . .“This noninvasively gets us to parts of the brain that are inaccessible,” he said. “It allows us to do something that is really unprecedented.”
While focused ultrasound has been used to treat cancers in the prostate, breast and other organs, none of those are encased in bone, said Nir Lipsman, a neurosurgeon at Toronto’s Sunnybrook Hospital, which is collaborating on a DIPG clinical trial with another medical center in Toronto.
. . . Moreover, Callie’s trial marks the first time focused ultrasound has been used on the brain stem, which is responsible for crucial functions such as breathing, heart rate and balance, Lipsman said. “There’s basically no margin for error.”
. . .On July 13, with Callieanesthetized, hospital staffers place a metal frame over her to keep her head in place, then a rubber membrane containing water through which the sound waves will travel on their way into her brain.
At 8:41 a.m., they wheel her into the MRI room and position her head inside the helmet and the scanner. The MRI beams images of her brain back to a room filled with monitors. There, doctors map the precise locations and intensity levels of the sound waves to be aimed at Callie’s brain. Twice, they return to the MRI room to make small adjustments to the helmet.
. . . One final step must be taken before doctors can trigger the sound waves and attempt to open the blood-brain barrier. Fonseca prepares a vial containing tiny microbubbles, each less than one-hundredth of a millimeter in diameter, thinner than a human hair.
. . .Five minutes later, doctors begin directing the sound waves into the tumor, stimulating the bubbles so that they ricochet around inside the blood vessels of the brain. The pinballing bubbles cause the vessels to widen, creating temporary gaps in the blood-brain barrier.
Around noon, the focused ultrasound procedure finishes and doctors examine new MRI images, checking to make sure the blood-brain barrier inside the tumor has opened.
Finally, at 2 p.m., doctors administer a bright red liquid, the chemotherapy drug doxorubicin, known as the Red Devil both for its color and harsh side effects, such as severe nausea, vomiting and even possible heart muscle damage.
This is a very comple and clever way to obviate the blood-brain barrier to allow the chemo inside (that’s why brain tumor are usually treated with radiation). But if it works it would be a remarkable feat of scientific medicine. I hope it does, but the tumor in the other child to get this treatment did not become smaller.
*While U.S. universities cope with rising costs by raising tuition (often, it seems, more than necessary), universities in the UK can’t do that, for their tuition is capped by the government. This is leading to a serious crisis in the UK,
The U.K.’s storied universities have a problem. They lose money on almost every British student they teach.
The country’s university system boasts 11 of the world’s top 100 universities, with three in the top 10—in a country that has just 1% of the global population. The system’s health has an outsize impact on both the future of the world’s sixth-biggest economy and globally important research.
I couldn’t find a list of the world’s best universities that had three ones from the UK, though all lists included Cambridge and Oxford. I found one list that had 3 in the top 12: University College London besides the other two.
That system is increasingly at risk from politics. Unlike in the U.S., where private universities and many state schools set their own tuition, in England and Wales the government sets a price cap on tuition for all domestic undergraduate students—the same cap for every college from Cambridge to Coventry. Since 2010, the price cap has remained essentially frozen, even as inflation sharply raises costs. Northern Ireland cuts tuition in half for domestic students. In Scotland, there is no tuition at all.
. . .The upshot: While U.S. universities charge ever higher tuition in an arms race for the best facilities and research, leading to a soaring student debt crisis, U.K. universities have the opposite problem. They aren’t able to charge enough.
To bridge the gap, they are cutting back on everything from research to teacher salaries to dorm rooms, and teaching more classes online. They are increasingly relying on foreign students, who are charged market rates. And they are cutting back on local students: The percentage of British teens going to college is now falling for the first time in generations.
“It’s a turning point,” said Simon Marginson, a professor of higher education at the University of Oxford. Even the U.K.’s most elite universities could see finances and quality decline if the government doesn’t step in, he said. A new report this month by the House of Lords said the university funding system in the U.K. wasn’t sustainable and faced a looming crisis.
Matthew may have to go on strike again! But the only solution to this crisis that will keep a credible university system in the UK is to either raise tuition or taxes. That will happen for sure.
*And bye-bye to the glaciers of Austria: a sad story of global warming from the AP:
High up on an Alpine ridge beneath a ceiling of ice, water drips from above into a cave formed by the slowly shrinking Jamtalferner glacier.
In just a few years, Jamtalferner will be gone, and in a few decades, so might the rest of Austria’s glaciers as human-caused climate change warms up the world.
Andrea Fischer, a glaciologist with the Austrian Academy of Sciences, has witnessed this significant glacier retreat. She and her team measure the ice to understand how climate change affects the glaciers, now and in the future. In the last few years, the Austrian glaciers have started losing mass from chunks breaking off onto dry land — a process known as dry calving, not seen in past centuries in the region.
“A few years ago we thought that they would last until about the end of this century, but now it looks like at the end of 2050, at the end of the first half of the century, there’ll be no glaciers in Austria anymore,” said Fischer.
And that’s all she wrote.
Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, we have a lovely photo of the Princess musing on her insignificance:
Hili: Do we have any influence on reality?A: A very small one.Hili: That’s what I was afraid of.(Photo: Sarah Lawson)
Hili: Czy mamy wpływ na rzeczywistość?Ja: Bardzo mały.Hili: Tego się właśnie obawiałam.(Zdjęcie S.L.)
A groaner from Barry:
From Masih, more Iranian women’s hair flying free:
The greatest threat to an authoritarian Islamic regime? These young girls, whose hair terrifies the regressive mullahs. Every day, they challenge the sharia laws and chant #WomanLifeFreedom. pic.twitter.com/IjtzoZy3h5
— Masih Alinejad 🏳️ (@AlinejadMasih) September 25, 2023
Titania retweets her alter ego. Read the whole tweet and then the associated article in Spiked:
Author and academic Alka Sehgal Cuthbert (@ASCphiled) has been no-platformed from the Rethinking Education conference.
Although she was the only person of colour on the panel, some claimed her opposition to Critical Race Theory made them feel “unsafe”.
So now the conference…
— Andrew Doyle (@andrewdoyle_com) September 23, 2023
From Barry: All that information stored in a tiny, tiny brain!
This video shows timelapse of an orb-weaver spider creating its typical spiral wheel-shaped web, a true engineering feat
— Massimo (@Rainmaker1973) June 19, 2023
A helpful kitty:
If you can’t be cute, be helpful. Fortunately this cat is both.pic.twitter.com/1jQby8L517
— cats with jobs 🛠 (@CatWorkers) September 25, 2023
From the Auschwitz Memorial, an eight year old girl, gassed upon arrival:
27 September 1936 | A Czech Jewish girl, Blanka Schwarzkopf, was born in Prague.
— Auschwitz Memorial (@AuschwitzMuseum) September 27, 2023
Tweets from Professor Cobb. This first story (from the Dodo, of course) is a heartwarmer:
A baby moose adopted this woman as her mom 💗 pic.twitter.com/aKTOKfmoWY
— The Dodo (@dodo) September 25, 2023
Both Matthew and I want to see the other 190 videos!
This is Umeda. She was last pregnant in 2021 and this time she decided to park her small family of 3 infront of the cameratrap for 4 days. What followed are 190 videos capturing the most tender and intimate moments between her and the cubs. #Badhyz #TeamBarsTurkmenistan pic.twitter.com/JbPcrsYAeA
— Naryn T R (@NarynTR) September 25, 2023
. . . and a groaner:
How pianists dry their socks pic.twitter.com/6azktWvb0S
— Helen Ingram (@drhingram) September 24, 2023