Archive for October, 2009

They’re Born Bad

Posted in Society on October 31st, 2009

Back in June, 2009, scientists discovered the “gangsta gene,” now known as the monoamine oxidase A (MAOA) gene. People with a particular form of MAOA gene are twice as likely to join a gang or engage in other violent criminal behavior, compared to those with other forms of the gene.

The MAOA gene is located on the X chromosome, and the enzyme it produces breaks down important neurotransmitters such as: serotonin, norepinephrine, and dopamine. This renders them inactive. These neurotransmitters control mood, aggression, and pleasure.

Scientific research into the causation of self destructive and/or violently antisocial behavior is worthwhile. It had in the past been assumed that people turned to drugs, gangs, violence, and general thuggery solely due to environmental factors. Discovering that some of the thugs were just “born bad,” or at least with a genetic predilection for bad behavior is extremely useful data; it allows society to level set its expectations.

A lot of Liberals in America won’t like these findings or this post. Oddly and hypocritically, they’re the same one lauding any study that says homosexuality is genetically caused.

Of course some people who look to provide and/or invent excuses for thuggishness and criminal behavior have misused these findings. Recently an Italian court reduced the sentence of a convicted murderer because he had this genetic deficiency.

Abdelmalek Bayout, an Algerian citizen who has lived in Italy since 1993, admitted in 2007 to stabbing and killing Walter Felipe Novoa Perez on 10 March. Perez, a Colombian living in Italy, had, according to Bayout’s testimony, insulted him over the kohl eye make-up the Algerian was wearing. Bayout, a Muslim, claims he wore the make-up for religious reasons.

During the trial, Bayout’s lawyer, Tania Cattarossi, asked the court to take into account that her client may have been mentally ill at the time of the murder. After considering three psychiatric reports, the judge, Paolo Alessio Vern, partially agreed that Bayout’s psychiatric illness was a mitigating factor and sentenced him to 9 years and 2 months in prison around three years less than Bayout would have received had he been deemed to be of sound mind.

But at an appeal hearing in May this year, Pier Valerio Reinotti, a judge of the Court of Appeal in Trieste, asked forensic scientists for a new independent psychiatric report to decide whether he should commute the sentence further.

For the new report, Pietro Pietrini, a molecular neuroscientist at Italy’s University of Pisa, and Giuseppe Sartori, a cognitive neuroscientist at the University of Padova, conducted a series of tests and found abnormalities in brain-imaging scans and in five genes that have been linked to violent behaviour including the gene encoding the neurotransmitter-metabolizing enzyme monoamine oxidase A (MAOA). A 2002 study led by Terrie Moffitt, a geneticist at the Institute of Psychiatry, King’s College, London, had found low levels of MAOA expression to be associated with aggressiveness and criminal conduct of young boys raised in abusive environments.

In the report, Pietrini and Sartori concluded that Bayout’s genes would make him more prone to behaving violently if provoked. “There’s increasing evidence that some genes together with a particular environmental insult may predispose people to certain behaviour,” says Pietrini.

On the basis of the genetic tests, Judge Reinotti docked a further year off the defendant’s sentence, arguing that the defendant’s genes “would make him particularly aggressive in stressful situations”. Giving his verdict, Reinotti said he had found the MAOA evidence particularly compelling.

Thankfully, this foolishness was perpetrated by an Italian court, not an American one so the wrong-headed precedent that it sets won’t immediately have an adverse effect upon the American court system. Sadly though, it’s only a matter of time before some Liberal judge in America reaches the same dangerous conclusion, most likely somewhere on the Left Coast. 🙁

If these people are genetically deficient in such a way that they are far more prone to violent antisocial behavior, then releasing them back into society sooner is just wrong. It’s obvious to anyone with a brain that they’d be extremely prone to recidivism. Instead of using their mutation as an excuse for them, it should be grounds for lengthier incarceration and behavioral therapy.

Related Reading:

Law 101: Everything You Need to Know About American Law, Fourth Edition
Wealth, Poverty and Politics
Lonely Planet Italy (Travel Guide)
The Deadly Dozen: America's 12 Worst Serial Killers (American Serial Killers) (Volume 1)
The Gene: An Intimate History

Just Brilliant!

Posted in Humor, Politics, Society on October 31st, 2009

The Mythbusters, led by Jamie Hyneman and Adam Savage, have been teaching logic and critical thinking – and doing so by blowing things up! How cool is that?

jamie hyneman and adam savage
Adding Explosives to Congress – Brilliant!

Adding the television series to America’s school curriculum may well be the best idea I’ve heard for real education reform in a long, long while.

Adding the techniques used by the Mythbusters to prove or debunk myths and assumptions to Congress might well save America. 😉

Related Reading:

Healing Through Humor: Fabulous Jokes From the Happy Hunters
Inside Congress: A Guide for Navigating the Politics of the House and Senate Floors
Fierce Pajamas: An Anthology of Humor Writing from The New Yorker (Modern Library Paperbacks)
The PEOPLE Celebrity Puzzler Holiday Superbook!
The PEOPLE Celebrity Puzzler Superbook

Curried Pumpkin Soup

Posted in Recipes on October 30th, 2009

While I’ve called this recipe Curried Pumpkin Soup, it is really a winter squash soup. Because this soup is not sweet just about any winter squash (acorn, butternut, kobacha, Hubbard) can be used instead of pumpkin.

Curried Pumpkin Soup
Author: 
Recipe type: Soup
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 4 - 6
 
The rich flavor combinations in this creamy soup are complex and subtle, yet the soup is neither difficult to make nor overly filling. It is a wonderful meal on any cooler and/or rainier day or evening.
Ingredients
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1½ teaspoons fresh ginger, grated
  • 1 teaspoon dried, smoked chiles (chipotle, cobn, and/or ancho), chopped
  • 5 cups pumpkin, peeled and cut into 1-inch cubes
  • 5 cups chicken broth
  • ½ teaspoon Jamaican curry powder
  • ¾ cup heavy cream
  • Salt & Pepper to taste
Instructions
  1. Sauté the onion in butter in a wide 6-quart heavy pot over moderately low heat, stirring occasionally, until softened (3 - 5 minutes). Add the minced garlic and grated ginger allow this to cook for 1 minute longer.
  2. Add the dried, smoked chiles, pumpkin, and chicken broth. Reduce heat to medium-low and cook until pumpkin is completely tender (30 minutes).
  3. When the pumpkin is tender, add the Jamaican curry powder and heavy cream. Use a hand / stick blender to puree the soup until smooth, or transfer to a blender and blend in batches. Add salt, pepper, and additional curry powder to taste.
  4. Turn heat down to low and allow the soup to slowly come back up to heat ( 3 - 5 minutes).
Notes
For a more Caribbean flavor, substitute coconut milk for the heavy cream. This will also sweeten the soup somewhat, so you may want to adjust the levels of chiles, salt, and pepper. For a higher protein dish with a decidedly coastal flair, add some firm white fish (cod, haddock, pollack, or snapper) that has been sautéed, baked, or broiled to the soup after it has been puréed. Simply cut the fish into bite-sized pieces and fold them into the soup. Allow them to heat through and serve. For a more ancient and Native American variation, add roasted corn to soup at service. Toss 2 - 3 cups of corn kernels (fresh or frozen) with olive oil and place them in a baking dish. Season with black pepper. Broil, stirring often, until the corn begins to brown. Keep an eye on them! They burn quickly and easily. Sprinkle or mound the roasted corn onto each bowl of soup just before serving it up.

This rich and creamy soup also pairs well with Fresh Corn Salad, especially in warmer months or areas.

Serve in deep bowls with a side of cornbread, fry bread, or Johnny cakes and enjoy the autumn or winter!

Related Reading:

Our Family Recipes Journal
All Time Best Soups (Cook's Illustrated)
There's a Giraffe in My Soup
Air Fryer Cookbook: 550 Recipes For Every Day. Healthy and Delicious Meals. Simple and Clear Instructions.
Twelve Months of Monastery Soups