Saturday, November 15, 2014

This Article About the JRC Is Very Enlightening, If You Can Stand to Read It

"Prisoners of the Apparatus": The Judge Rotenberg Center, by Quentin Davies of the Autistic Self Advocacy Network

The article is very long (though very much worth reading in full, if you have the time and concentration for it), so I'm going to excerpt the section at the end that talks about what the best avenues for shutting the place down permanently would be:
Policy Recommendations
The Judge Rotenberg Center's abusive behavior is a civil rights concern, and should be addressed by policy at the federal level. As the New York Psychological Association Task Force said, the use of shock aversives on the students at the Judge Rotenberg Center would be considered corporal punishment and would be illegal if the nondisabled people were treated the same way in a school setting. Regulations that selectively allow abusive punishment for disabled students that are not allowed for nondisabled students is not only a terrible allowance of abuse, but also is a discriminatory action on the part of the United States and Massachusetts governments, regardless of whether we call this "corporal punishment" or "aversive behavioral intervention" (Ahern and Rosenthal 27). Additionally, the lack of actual instruction within the Judge Rotenberg Center, the social isolation, the food deprivation, the use of restraints and seclusion as punishment and for long periods of time mean that preventing the Judge Rotenberg Center from using shock aversives, while it would be a step in the right direction, would not be broad enough to stop the abuse at the Center. The Judge Rotenberg Center (formerly called the Behavior Research Institute) has tortured disabled children and adults for over forty years, and it needs to stop now. 
This policy must be passed at the federal level. The Judge Rotenberg Center has been located in three different states over its history, and there is a real possibility of the JRC moving again if protections were only ensured on a state level (Méndez). Currently, there is some federal policy that is applicable to the Judge Rotenberg Center, but much of that legislation has been weakened by court action. For example, in 1975, Congress passed the "Developmental Disabilities Assistance and Bill of Rights Act" (DD Act), which states, that "the Federal Government and the States have an obligation to ensure that public funds are provided only to institutional programs, residential programs, and other community programs, including educational programs in which individuals with developmental disabilities participate, that  ... meet minimum standards relating to provision of care that is free of abuse, neglect, sexual and financial exploitation, and violations of legal and human rights that subjects individuals with disabilities to no greater risk of harm than others in the general population ... and prohibition of the use of such restraint and seclusion as a substitute for a habilitation program" (Ahern and Rosenthal 29). However, in the case, Pennhurst State School and Hospital vs. Halderman, where a former Pennhurst resident alleged that the hospital was unsanitary, inhumane, dangerous, and used cruel and unusual punishment, the US Supreme Court ruled that the DD Act did not create any new legal rights or protections and [that] the language of the DD Act was "hortatory not mandatory." That court opinion, written by William Rehnquist, stated that "[t]he Act does no more than express a congressional preference for certain kinds of treatment" (Ahern and Rosenthal 30). Consequently, new legislation that has similar goals but expresses them in a way that is clear about the mandatory nature of the legislation is necessary. 
Although the President's New Freedom Commission on Mental Health has said that "restraint will be used only as safety interventions of last resort, not as treatment interventions" and the US Department of Health and Human Services Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration has said that restraint and seclusion are "detrimental to the recovery of persons with mental illnesses" (Ahern and Rosenthal 12), no federal legislation has enforced these goals. Restraints and seclusion are still used in almost every state in the United States, and no federal law limits the use of restraints within schools (Ahern and Rosenthal 28). The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) states that alternatives to aversives should be considered, but does not explicitly prohibit aversives (Ahern and Rosenthal 29). None of these recommendations have protected the students at the Judge Rotenberg Center from the torturous treatment they have experienced. 
Federal law could draw from the state laws of California, Connecticut, Florida, North and South Dakota, Pennsylvania, Arizona, Rhode Island, New York, New Jersey, Nevada, and Colorado, all of which have taken steps to ban or limit the use of aversives on disabled children and adults (Cobb 9). A US Court of Appeals found in Bryant vs. New York State Department of Education (2012) that bans on aversive interventions did not violate IDEA as was alleged by the plaintiffs. The decision reads "[w]e conclude that prohibiting one possible method of dealing with disorders in behavior, such as aversive intervention, does not undermine a child's right to an individualized, free and appropriate public education, and that New York's law represents the State's considered judgment regarding the education and safety of its children that is consistent with federal education policy and the United States Constitution" (Bryant 2). Federal law prohibiting aversive interventions would provide protection throughout the US for disabled children and adults subjected to aversive techniques, including the students of the Judge Rotenberg Center.
That was a lot of densely written text, so I will attempt to paraphrase: To close the Judge Rotenberg Center, we need legislation that is 1) federal, not state; 2) comprehensive in what types of abuses it prevents (i.e., not narrowly focused on the skin shock devices); and 3) unmistakably binding and mandatory.

It needs to be those things because the JRC's own history shows that it can survive measures that do not meet all three of those criteria. If you outlaw what they do on a state level, they move. If you call attention to the barbarity of one particular method of punishment, they switch to others. If you say, "This is not a school and we will not give you a license to operate it," they re-incorporate, changing their paperwork but not their methods. If you sue them on the grounds that they violate an existing federal law (like, say, the DD Act), a court might well rule that the law is not absolute. And, finally, if you threaten to ban the device they use to administer the infamous skin shocks, on the grounds that it's not safe, they will stop using it -- but only on new students. Students who have been living there since before 2011 will continue to be shocked as before. 

It needs to be torn out, root and stem.

Carthago delenda est.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Cartoon Versions of Glycolytic Enzymes - Part I

Cross-posted from my Tumblr

Someone on Tumblr asked for help understanding glycolysis (along with a lot of other things, but I decided to focus on glycolysis first), so I had the brainwave of drawing cartoon versions of all the glycolytic enzymes.

Here are my cartoon interpretations of the enzymes catalyzing the first five steps of glycolysis:

1. Hexokinase
Hexokinase, drawn as a pair of interlocking jaws with a space for glucose and ATP
I drew this one to look like a huge snapping alligator jaw that fits together like a jigsaw puzzle, except for a small space near the back for glucose and ATP to fit into. (See the links at the bottom of this post, and also this blog -- particularly this post -- for more realistic images of hexokinase).

2. Phosphoglucose isomerase
Phosphoglucose isomerase, drawn as a stylized pair of interlocking hands
I have functional as well as structural reasons for choosing this way to represent this enzyme; besides the fact that its structure really is two identical subunits shaped roughly like twin blobs with long arms wrapped around one another — arms that remind me of thumbs sticking out from fists — I also figured that, since its function is to break the ring that makes up glucose, change a few things around and then let the ring re-form into fructose, a pair of hands looks like something that could do that. Like I drew hexokinase — whose function is to clamp itself around glucose — as a pair of jaws, I drew this one thinking to evoke some everyday-life analogy for what it does. The analogy that occurred to me was cracking an egg, which I do with two hands, using my thumbs to pry the shell open. (See the links at the bottom of this post, plus this one*, this one, and this one, for more realistic images of phosphoglucose isomerase).

3. Phosphofructokinase
Phosphofructokinase, drawn as a pinwheel with a smiley face in the middle
I drew a pinwheel to represent phosphofructokinase. I chose that shape because most of the drawings and computer models I found of its structure seemed to show a radial symmetry, of either 90 or 180 degrees depending on which image I was looking at. (See the links at the bottom of this post, plus this one, this one, this one and this one, for more realistic images of phosphofructokinase).

4. Aldolase
Aldolase, drawn as a pair of butterfly wings
I chose a butterfly for aldolase because in most of the drawings and computer models I could find of its structure, it looked like it had mirror symmetry. (See the links at the bottom of this post, plus this one and this one***, for more realistic pictures of aldolase).

5. Triose phosphate isomerase
Triose phosphate isomerase, drawn as a barrel with a face
I drew this one as a barrel, to reflect the "beta barrel" that makes up its interior structure, and contains the active site. (See the links at the bottom of this post, plus this one, this one and this entire blog -- particularly this post -- for more realistic images of triose phosphate isomerase). 

As you can hopefully see if you've been clicking on the links, I've tried to anchor all of my cartoon avatars of these enzymes in some element of their actual structure.

Here are some general links where you can see some decent representations of the structures of all ten of these enzymes:

Glycolysis (enzymes of the preparatory phase)

Glycolysis (enzymes of the payoff phase)

The Glycolytic Enzymes (PDF)


*The linked image is an illustration from an evolutionary biology textbook -- Evolution, by Nicholas H. Barton, Derek E. G. Briggs, Jonathan A. Eisen, David B. Goldstein, and Nipam H. Patel. The book has a website, where you can see some of the content -- including all the illustrations -- for free. 

This particular image is not original, though -- the ultimate source is a paper from 2006 by Christopher W. Wheat, Ward B. Watt, David D. Pollock and Patricia M. Schulte. It was published in Molecular Biology and Evolution and you can read the full text here.

**The linked image is Figure 2 from this article in Biochemical Society Transactions


Mitternacht, S., and Berezovsky, I. (2011). Coherent Conformational Degrees of Freedom as a Structural Basis for Allosteric Communication PLoS Computational Biology, 7 (12) DOI: 10.1371/journal.pcbi.1002301

Perica, T., Marsh, J., Sousa, F., Natan, E., Colwell, L., Ahnert, S., and Teichmann, S. (2012). The emergence of protein complexes: quaternary structure, dynamics and allostery Biochemical Society Transactions, 40 (3), 475-491 DOI: 10.1042/BST20120056

Wheat, C. (2005). From DNA to Fitness Differences: Sequences and Structures of Adaptive Variants of Colias Phosphoglucose Isomerase (PGI) Molecular Biology and Evolution, 23 (3), 499-512 DOI: 10.1093/molbev/msj062