Some words I never thought I would utter: This is the last ScuttleButton puzzle that will ever appear on the NPR Web site.
With the cancellation of Talk of the Nation, and of course the weekly Political Junkie segment that goes with it, the long relationship between Political Junkie and NPR is coming to an end.
Thus, this is the last button puzzle, with the final winner (and t-shirt and button prizes) announced on Wednesday, June 26th — the final Junkie segment on TOTN.
There will also be a final Junkie column, up next week.
The good news: I'm making a serious effort to find new homes for these features, including the creation of a stand-alone Political Junkie on-air program, to run on public radio stations around the country. For more details about that, write me at email@example.com.
Meanwhile, first things first.
ScuttleButton is of course that waste of time exercise in which each Tuesday or Wednesday I put up a vertical display of buttons on this site. Your job is to simply take one word (or concept) per button, add 'em up, and, hopefully, you will arrive at a famous name or a familiar expression. (And seriously, by familiar, I mean it's something that more than one person on Earth would recognize.)
The randomly-selected winner not only hears their name mentioned during the Wednesday Junkie segment (by me) but they receive a Political Junkie t-shirt and button in the bargain. Is this a great country or what?
You can't use the comments box at the bottom of the page for your answer. Send submission (plus your name and city/state — you won't win without that) to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Here are the buttons used and the answer to last week's puzzle:
Ould for U.S. Senate — James Ould was the unsuccessful Republican nominee against William Spong (D) in Virginia in 1966.
Mick is Sex — That's Mick Jagger of the Rolling Stones.
Barack, You're Fired/Trump for President 2012 — Donald Trump threatened to seek the White House that year but backed away.
Bella For Senator (on hat) — Rep. Bella Abzug, the fiery Manhattan congresswoman who was well known for her omnipresent hat, sought the Democratic nomination from New York in 1976 but lost a squeaker to Daniel Patrick Moynihan in the primary.
Against State Income Tax/Sandman F Line — Rep. Charles Sandman unsuccessfully sought the Republican nomination for governor of New Jersey in 1965 and 1969. In 1973, he knocked off GOP Gov. Bill Cahill in the primary but then got trounced in November by Democrat Brendan Byrne.
Sobnosky Senator/The Strength to Do the Job (picture of a muscular arm) — Thought to be from an Ohio state legislative race.
So, when you combine Ould + Mick + Donald + Hat + F + Arm, you may just very well end up with ...
Old MacDonald Had a Farm. The famous nursery rhyme.
The winner, chosen completely at random, is Bonni Thoza of Stockton, Calif. Bonni She gets not only the coveted Political Junkie t-shirt — but the Official No Prize Button as well!
NOTE: A sincere thank you to all the thousands and thousands of loyal ScuttleButton fans who have participated in this silly little exercise over the years. If you wish to be informed about the future of ScuttleButton and Political Junkie — and if you are not already on my list — make sure you send your e-mail address to me at email@example.com.
Final Political Junkie column appears next week.
While the American Medical Association may not have the clout it once did, it's still the largest single group of doctors making waves about health and the practice of medicine.
So it's not nothing when the AMA's House of Delegates approves a measure to label obesity a disease. The group's deliberative democratic body passed a measure in Chicago Tuesday that broadly, if vaguely, says obesity is a medical condition:
"RESOLVED, That our American Medical Association recognize obesity as a disease state with multiple pathophysiological aspects requiring a range of interventions to advance obesity treatment and prevention."
The AMA isn't vested with legally binding authority on what's a disease and what's not. And, in fact, when it comes to the labeling of diseases, there's a whole other global ball of wax called the International Classification of Diseases, which already has a range of categories covering obesity — from the type "due to excess calories" to the kind that's a side effect of prescription drugs.
So what's the big dea with the AMA? The group still has a considerable bully pulpit. And the vote could give more oomph to efforts to have obesity interventions paid for by insurers and to get the public focused on the problem.
"We felt it's time to take a stance and say we're going to identify this as a disease," Dr. Douglas Martin, chairman of the AMA public health committee that referred the resolution for vote, told MedPage Today. "We think that's going to send a message not only to the public but to the physician community that we really need to make it a priority and put it in our cross hairs."
Before the voice vote, Dr. Virginia Hall, an obstetrician from Hershey, Pa., said the AMA should call obesity disease so "insurers can stop ducking their responsibility" in paying for obesity treatments, according to a Forbes report by Bruce Japsen.
After the vote, the AMA cited board member Dr. Patrice Harris praising the measure: "Recognizing obesity as a disease will help change the way the medical community tackles this complex issue that affects approximately one in three Americans."
But even within the AMA there was some uneasiness about the disease label. A report on the proposed resolution from the group's Council on Science and Public Health didn't support it. The analysis noted the lack of a clear definition of what constitutes a disease and whether obesity would fit, in any case. The report also raised practical concerns:
"Similarly, a sensitive and clinically practical diagnostic indicator of obesity remains elusive. Obesity, measured by [body mass index], is clearly associated with a number of adverse health outcomes, with greater consistency across populations at the highest BMI levels. However, given the existing limitations of BMI to diagnose obesity in clinical practice, it is unclear that recognizing obesity as a disease, as opposed to a 'condition' or 'disorder,' will result in improved health outcomes. The disease label is likely to improve health outcomes for some individuals, but may worsen outcomes for others."
In January, Shots talked with sociologist Abigail Saguy about the perils of defining obesity as an illness. "People think that being obese means being sick, and there are some health risks, but risk is not the same thing as illness," Saguy said.
She also criticized the typical tool doctors use to assess the health aspects of weight: body mass index. A BMI of 30 or more puts a person in the obese category. "It's a very arbitrary threshold," Saguy said. "There are plenty of people with BMI well over 30 who are perfectly healthy, and plenty of people at 'normal' weight with metabolic issues."
I don't mean our private lives, our personal choices and hopes, the plans we make along the years. I imagine that each and every one of us believes our lives do have a purpose, or many. What I mean is life as a natural phenomenon, this strange assembly of matter endowed with autonomy, capable of absorbing energy from the environment and preserving itself through reproduction.
All life forms have one essential purpose: survival. This is even more important than reproduction. After all, babies and grannies are alive but don't reproduce. To be alive is more than passing genes along. To be alive is to want to remain alive. This is an essential difference between living creatures and other forms of material organization, such as stars or rocks.
These forms simply exist, passively allowing the unfolding of the physical processes that define their interactions with themselves and their surroundings. For rocks, it's a give and take with erosion; for stars, they withstand their gravitational imploding while there is enough fuel in their cores. There is no energy architecture, no planning to prolong what is inevitable.
The essential difference between the living and the non-living is the urge for preservation. Life is a form of material organization that strives to perpetuate itself.
The confusion with respect to the purpose of life shows up when we consider the amazing diversity of life forms. Given such richness and creativity, it's hard to accept that all of this is just the result of a purposeless accident, without any intention of creating ever-more-complex creatures. Things get worse when we learn that the history of life on Earth shows an increasing complexity.
Life has been around planet Earth for at least 3.5 billion years. During the first 2.5 billion years there were only unicellular bacteria. Only some 600 million years ago did diversity take off. After the Cambrian explosion, at about 550 million years ago, we see the multicellular complexity we associate with higher life forms. From there to here life took over the oceans, land and air with amazing speed and resilience.
No wonder so many people think that life has a purpose, that of increasing its complexity. Of course, the apex of this process would be us, intelligent humans.
This conclusion, however, is false. There is no "plan" to make life more complex so that it can finally generate intelligent beings. (The eminent biologist Ernst Mayr makes a powerful argument against this kind of teleology.) Take the dinosaurs, for example: they were here for some 150 million years and were pretty stupid. We don't see velociraptors using radio telescopes or iPads. Life wants to preserve itself. As long as it is well adapted to its environment it will remain as is, with the possibility of the occasional beneficial mutation.
If the environment changes drastically, life will respond. Either by dying or, for those species that survive, through mutations that may drive radical changes in short periods, as in the punctuated equilibrium hypothesis of Stephen Jay Gould and Niles Eldridge that — even if somewhat controversial — seems to contain a germ of truth.
If we changed one or more dramatic events in Earth's history, say, the fall of the asteroid that helped eliminate the dinosaurs 65 million years ago, life's history would also change. It's quite possible that we wouldn't even be here.
The lesson from life is simple: in Nature, creation and destruction dance together. But in this choreography there is no choreographer.
World War A (in which Isaac Newton is bonked on the head and still bravely figures out gravity)
World War B (spun off from a VH1 reality show)
World War C (in which two dudes hit each other with cellos for 2.5 hours)
World War D (part of The Great Report Card Skirmish Of 1998)
World War-E (in which a tiny robot rolls around and watches Hello Dolly and then smashes the doubloons out of everything in sight)
World War F (the [bleep]ing best war ever)
World War G (gorilla versus giraffes versus gerbils versus guinea pigs) (brutal)
World War H (sometimes, the war is silent)
World War I (often confused with World War I)
World War J (alternate title: World War Erving)
World War K (cereal warfare)
World War L (ends in Canarsie)
World War M (about the one thousandth world war)
World War N (directly follows World War N-1, followed by World War N+1)
World War O (Oprah's war)
World War P (when you lie on your side, it's just a war between people sticking their tongues out at each other)
World War Q (Almost always followed by World War U)
World War R (pirate war)
World War S (emphasizing that there are always many, many world wars)
World War T (the war between the shirts)
World War U (where we learn to party and chase monsters)
World War V (inside every warrior, there's a space lizard)
World War W (whatever)
World War X (the sexiest World War)
World War Y (the war for men only)
The bluegrass band Bearfoot returns to Mountain Stage, recorded live on the campus of the University of Alaska at Fairbanks. This was one of Bearfoot's final appearances featuring its current lineup, as singer Nora Jane Struthers and bassist P.J. George are set to step away to promote an upcoming Struthers solo project.
Although the group is currently based in Nashville, Bearfoot has roots in Alaska, where founding members Angela Oudean (fiddle and vocals) and mandolin player Jason Norris (mandolin and vocals) once made their home. They added fellow Alaskan Todd Grebe on vocals and guitar, and before long touring the country. Struthers and George joined not long after, incorporating Americana and honky-tonk flavors into the band's repertoire.
- "Mr. Moonshine"
- "Cowgirl Yodel #3"
This Mountain Stage episode was first published on Oct. 10, 2012.