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Glance at Maradona Life and Controversies

Diego Maradona, who was on Tuesday named the new coach of Argentina, is a gifted yet controversial figure whose off-field antics could never overshadow his brilliance on the pitch.

The pint-sized midfielder is widely regarded as the greatest footballer of all time. He shared FIFA’s Player of the Century award with Brazilian legend Pele.

A glittering career at national level brought him a World Cup winners medal in Mexico in 1986 — the same tournament as the infamous “Hand of God” incident against England in the quarter-finals.

He was also part of the team that came runners-up four years later in Italy after a shameful 1-0 defeat against West Germany which saw two of their players sent-off.

At club level he played for Boca Juniors, before moving to Barcelona for two seasons in 1982.

After Spain he moved to Napoli, his bustling play and talismanic presence driving the Neapolitans to two Serie A titles in 1987 and 1990 and a UEFA Cup triumph in 1989.

He finished his career at Boca in 1997, having retired from the national team three years earlier.

But controversy was never far from the dark-haired maestro.

He was twice banned for drug infringements, he was linked to the Mafia and was not fond of paparazzi intrusion into his private life. However, it is the illegal goal against England that towers above all else.

The “Hand of God” came during Argentina’s 2-1 win over England, when he rose above keeper Peter Shilton to punch the ball into the net. Despite English protests the referee never spotted the incident and the goal stood.

Later in the match saw Maradona at his most sublimely skilful when he weaved through the England team from the halfway line, taking on Terry Butcher and Terry Fenwick to slot the ball home.

Michel Platini, the former French captain and present UEFA president, once remarked: “The things I could do with a ball, he could do with an orange.”

Balance, vision, and a powerful left foot marked him out from a very early age. At 17 he made his debut for the national side — the same age Pele was when he made his.

The spectre of drug abuse surfaced in 1991 when he tested positive for cocaine and was slapped with a 15-month ban.

Health problems followed his retirement and in 2000 he suffered a heart attack in Uruguay, reportedly brought on by a cocaine overdose. His convalescence involved a spell in Cuba at the request of Fidel Castro.

Maradona, who still enjoys the adulation of millions in his homeland despite his well-publicised battles with drink and drugs, was in Beijing to see the Argentina side win gold this summer.

December 9, 2008 Posted by | Sports Controversy | , , | Leave a comment

Controversy Behind the Evolution of World

The scientific study of evolution is filled with controversies. That was one of the messages coming out of a two-day symposium on the latest in research from the field that was hosted by Rockefeller University last week. I’ll discuss the scientific details of some of the talks separately, but it’s worth analyzing these controversies in light of the “academic freedom” bills that are being considered by a number of states, which purport to protect teachers who discuss controversies regarding evolution.

Nationwide, nearly half a dozen states are considering variants of such bills, some of which throw in the origin of life and climate change for good measure. Legislators in Florida recently introduced such a bill in response to new educational standards that were the first to formalize the teaching of evolution. Althought two incompatible bills passed the state House and Senate, they died when the legislature went out of session; similar measures are still pending in other states. These bills appear to have originated at the pro-Intelligent Design thinktank the Discovery Institute, and constitute part of its latest effort towards reducing the teaching of evolution in public schools.

Manufacturing controversies

So, might Discovery actually be on to something here? It’s worth doing a comparison of the controversies they’d like to see taught with the topics that are considered controversial within the actual scientific community. It’s pretty easy to get a sense for what Discovery thinks is a controversy by looking at Explore Evolution, the textbook they have created in the hope of encouraging schools to teach it. Those ostensible controversies fall into three major groups: existence of common descent, power of natural selection, and the existence of proteinaceous machines.

Common Descent: Discovery presents common descent as controversial exclusively within the animal kingdom, as it focuses on embryology, anatomy, and the fossil record to raise questions about them. In the real world of science, common descent of animals is completely noncontroversial; any controversy resides in the microbial world. There, researchers argued over a variety of topics, starting with the very beginning, namely the relationship among the three main branches of life.

Russ Doolittle presented an analysis based on individual folds in proteins that clearly resolved the Bacteria, Archaea, and Eukaryotes, while a distant relative, Ford Doolittle, argued that the prevalence of horizontal gene transfer at the bacterial level made any such trees questionable, or at best uninformative. Meanwhile, Thomas Cavalier-Smith argued forcefully that gene-based trees miss out on significant evolutionary events, such as the transition that gave the Archaea a radically different membrane chemistry. Almost anyone who touched on the subject (and there were several speakers that did) gave a confused picture of what the genome of a Eukaryote looked like before it first took a mitochondrion on board.

These are areas of real controversy; Cavalier-Smith seemed to introduce half his slides by pointing how they showed where others had gone wrong. But it’s worthwhile noting that there is essentially no overlap with the areas that Discovery would like to pretend are controversial. Ford Doolittle, in fact, made repeated reference to the fact that there were areas that phylogenetic trees made sense for tracing common descent, and that the animal kingdom was one of them.

Natural Selection: Explore Evolution seems to think a reply can be made to the arguments in favor of natural selection. Based on the symposium, the scientific community clearly doesn’t. Selective pressure made appearances in nearly every session. Selection for self-replicating RNAs and for enclosing biochemical precursors within membranes were central to the origin of life work of Gerald Joyce and Jack Szostack, respectively. At the other end of the spectrum, the researchers exploring human evolution (Katherin Pollard, Bruce Lahn, and Svante Pääbo) spoke of the challenges of identifying signs of selection amidst the genetic drift that’s occurred within the genomes of mammals in general and primates in particular.

Here, it was clear that there simply is no controversy. In contrast to the arguments over bacterial trees and the origin of eukaryotes, none of the researchers felt compelled to explain or justify their focus on the role of mutation and selective pressure. Concerns, when they arose, were simply focused on identifying the consequences of selection. As such, Discovery’s focus on presenting a controversy here seems hallucinatory.

Molecular Machines: Michael Behe, a Discovery fellow, has advanced the argument that some aspects of cellular life are analogous to machinery, and thus must have required the same attentive design that a machine does. This proposal is flawed on a number of levels, and has not gained enough traction within the biological community to rise to the level of anything beyond a distraction. But items Behe might consider molecular machines did appear in the talks, and their role was informative.

The proteasome is one complex of dozens of proteins that was mentioned in a couple of talks. Despite the enormous complexity and large number of specialized proteins in a proteasome, evolution readily explains its origins through gene duplication and specialization. Simplified forms, with fewer proteins, exist in Archaea and Bacteria. Not only are these simple versions of the proteasome an indication of its evolution, the gradual increase in its complexity allowed researchers to use it to infer evolutionary relationships among the three branches of life.

Similar analyses were performed with actin and tubulin, essential components of the complex skeletons that support Eukaryotic cells. Structural relatives of these genes appear in Bacteria and Archaea, where they appear to act to separate cell components even in the absence of a complex skeleton. An essential component of some Eukaryotic RNA interference systems also shows up in Archaea, where it does something completely unrelated to RNA interference. In all of these cases, parts of the supposedly designed machinery exist elsewhere, where they perform more limited but often related roles. Their use in determining evolutionary relationships didn’t so much as elicit a blink from an audience of scientists.

December 4, 2008 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , | Leave a comment