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4 - Tuesday, March 19, 2013

The Michigan Daily - michigandaily.com

4 - Tuesday, March 19, 2013 The Michigan Daily - michigandaily.com

C 1
4e Michigan laity

Edited and managed by students at
the University of Michigan since 1890.
420 Maynard St.
Ann Arbor, MI 48109


We see elevated hydration signals in
the narrow veins that cut many of
the rocks in this area."
- Melissa Rice of the California Institute of Technology said to CNN on Monday in regards to the recent
discovery of evidence of water on the surface of Mars with the Curiosity rover.
Weighing in on diets

Unsigned editorials reflect the official position of the Daily's editorial board.
All other signed articles and illustrations represent solely the views of their authors.
Online learning, to a degree
Michigan should give college credit for MOOC completion
n Wednesday, California state senators proposed a new bill
that requires the state's 145 public colleges and universities
to grant credit for completing massive open online courses,
called MOOCs. The preposed mandate on online credit reflects a
necessary shift in higher education, allowing for easy and affordable
access to courses for many students. This legislation will propel the
conversation about online courses forward, and with any luck should
prompt other states to adopt similar policies. Michigan should con-
sider similar legislation to ensure that students who pass MOOCs,
such as Udacity and Coursera, obtain credit toward their degree.

The bill would create a system in which stu-
dents can access courses virtually and receive
credit at the University of California, Califor-
nia State University and California Communi-
ty College campuses. A nine-member faculty
council, composed of three faculty members
selected by each system's Academic Senate,
would decide which courses can be taken for
credit. They'll also decide logistics such as
prerequisites, instructional support and text-
book accessibility. The bill will help allow
students to bypass California's overcrowded
classrooms and lower the price tag attached
to a college education by giving credit for
MOOCs, which are often free to take.
This mandate propels the future of MOOCs
and other online education resources as a
legitimate option in higher education. Taught
by professors at top universities, these online
classes allow for more flexibility and options
for affordable instruction. Furthermore,
these courses allow students to enroll in inex-
pensive classes over the summer - an attrac-
tive option for those looking to lighten their
load during the school year or are ineligible
for financial aid over the spring and summer
terms. Currently, MOOCs don't necessar-
ily offer any credit incentive, but a bill that
requires universities and colleges to grant

credit would ensure that students' effort
helps them toward a degree instead of just
for knowledge's sake. The bill also offers con-
tent from the California Digital Open Source
Library, where students can obtain free or
cheap textbooks.
However, there are certain guidelines that
need to be considered when granting college
credit. When receiving credit for online cours-
es, there should be a set credit limit a student
can transfer. This system. would be similar to
when a student wants to transfer credit from
a community college or four-year university
to another school. Additionally, the bill does
create a faculty council that decides which
courses that are a part of the system, and
they should ensure that well-qualified profes-
sors from accredited universities and colleges
teach the courses.
Not only do MOOCs and other online educa-
tion tools allow easier access and affordability,
but they also give students more time to take
advantage of a liberal arts education. Students
using MOOCs for required courses would have
time to explore other interests. California's
legislature has actualized the conversation
about MOOCs and various other online tools,
andnow it's time for Michigan to start moving
toward the future of online learning as well.

We're caught in the midst
of an obesity epidemic.
One-third of Ameri-
can adults are
another third is
clinically obese.
Michigan is
frequently cited
as one of the
fattest states in
the nation, with JENNIFER
an adult obese XU
population that
teeters past the
30-percent mark. Obese people live
shorter lifespans, and their quality
of life is decreased by diseases such
as diabetes, hypertension, stroke
and cancer.
Exhortations to improve nutri-
tion and increase physical activity
have only made a dent in the under-
lying issue. As any dieter can tell
you, it's not so easy to shed the extra
pounds once they're packed tight
on the belly. Try as we might to eat
more greens and hit the treadmill,
our bodies appear to have a tightly
regulated set point: If we deviate
from the norm, we just gain the
weight back later.
what's more, overly aggressive
governmental efforts to curb the
obesity problem have drawn ire
from social activists. Advertise-
ments depicting children loading
shopping carts with processed
foods were denounced as discrimi-
natory and ineffective. "There is
nothing that anyone is going to do
or say that's going to make fat peo-
ple skinny tomorrow," said Jezebel

writer Lindy West.
But what if there was something
we could do? What if the answer to
the obesity epidemic lay in a Japa-
nese asthma and canker sore drug
from the 1980s?
Researchers at the University
have found that the off-patent drug
Amlexanox, originally developed as
a topical paste for canker sores and
a tablet for asthma by the Takeda
Pharmaceutical Company in 1987,
is effective in reducing fat deposits
and type-2 diabetes in obese mice.
The study, headed by Alan Saltiel,
the Mary Sue Coleman Direc-
tor of the Life Sciences Institute,
discovered that populations of
genetically obese mice and mice
on a high-fat diet lost significant
amounts of weight after being treat-
ed with this Japanese asthma drug.
The drug also caused obese mice to
have improved glucose tolerance - a
sign of decreased diabetic effects on
their metabolism - and produced
less fatty tissue in their livers.
Most significantly, the drug
didn't reduce the animals' food
intake. That's right: the obese mice
bulked down considerably - even
while they continued to gorge
themselves on food.
Why? The researchers think it has
something to do with metabolism.
Though the Amlexanox-injected
mice didn't stop overeating, they
were much more active than those
not exposed. Normally, the fatter
you are, the less you move, and if
you restrict calories, you're likely to
move even less. That's because our
brains have a tricky way of regulat-
ing body weight: cut calories, and

the body will respond by slowing
down metabolism. It's a key reason
why it's so difficult to lose weight
even after diet restriction. But
the Amlexanox-treated mice had
metabolisms comparable to those
mice of a much lower weight, dissi-
pating the extra energy in their fat
cells as heat.
Can a canker sore
drug solve the
obesity problem?
Obviously, mice are not people,
so researchers can't draw strong
conclusions about the drug's effec-
tiveness on obese patients. But the
benefit of using Amlexanox is that
we already know it's safe - it's been
used in Japan to treat canker sores
and asthma for the past 25 years.
Researchers can begin clinical tri-
als immediately, without the usual
rigmarole involved in getting a
drug approved for human studies.
The sequestration - a govern-
mental cut that slashed National
Institutes of Health's $31-billion
budget by $1.5 billion - couldn't
come at a more inopportune time.
It's frustrating to know that,
though the pieces to combating the
obesity epidemic are in front of us,
the receptacle holding the money is
pe'rpetually shrinking.
- Jennifer Xu can be reached
at jennifxu@umich.edu.

Kaan Avdan, Sharik Bashir, Barry Belmont, Eli Cahan, Jesse Klein,
Melanie Kruvelis, Maura Levine, Patrick Maillet, Aarica Marsh,
Megan McDonald, Jasmine McNenny, Harsha Nahata, Adrienne Roberts,
Paul ShermanSarah Skaluba,Michael Spaeth, Luchen Wang, Derek Wolfe
Regulations, across the (bill)board

Get active, not pretentious

Everything is relative. Sometimes we're so
distracted by certain things that we assume
they're the only cause of an issue - even
a major issue. Take distracted driving, for
example. When I mention distracted driv-
ing, the first thing you probably think of is
someone talking or texting on his or her cell
phone. Or maybe you think of someone try-
ing to apply makeup in heavy traffic. You
might even see someone reading a book on
the way to work. But something fails to cross
our minds: the enormous and ever-present
use of billboards on every stretch of highway
in Michigan.
Lately, laws such as Kelsey's Law, signed
by Gov. Rick Snyder on Jan. 8, target student
drivers with a level one or two graduated
license. The law bans cell phone use by people
of this age group with the intent of keeping
young drivers safe and undistracted. Studies
from the University of Utah have shown that
using a cell phone while driving -hands-free
or not - is equivalent to the driver having a
blood alcohol concentration at the legal limit
of .08 percent. With the rise of cell-phone
use, more attention has been given to stop-
ping people from using their phones on the
road. While these new initiatives are impor-
tant, the government refuses to look at other
highly dangerous road distractions.
On a recent drive across Michigan, I noticed
countless billboards with flashing lights, three-
dimensional items and larger-than-life images.
The sole purpose of billboards? To distract the
driver. On the highway late at night, all it takes
is a split-second glance at a billboard - a lawyer
smiling oily, his phone number plastered below
- and you've suddenly veered out of your lane,
causing an accident.

It's simply not fair that the government is
cracking down on citizens for driving while
making a business call (which is admittedly
dangerous) but allow billboards to get big-
ger and bigger. I don't remember seeing such
extensive, fancy and distracting billboards
when I was younger. The distractions are only
getting worse as the technology to grab the
driver's attention gets better.
The reason the companies get away with
it and the individual citizens using their cell
phones don't is because the set-up of our soci-
ety promotes the unlimited freedom of the
advertising companies. The government has
little to no interest in stopping the advertisers
from doing whatever they want. Multi-million
dollar corporations exemplify this statement
in everything they do from polluting the earth
to sponsoring obnoxious billboards for revenue
purposes. Our society promotes doing what-
ever is necessary to get ahead and make the
most money. If that means distracting drivers
to promote a product and putting people's lives
in danger, these companies will do it. The prob-
lem is that our government isn't checking the
advertisers' actions.
We cannot ask companies to stop putting up
billboards. Some of them are innocuous enough
to ignore and businesses big and small use
them. But it's the principle of the matter. Why
is it fair for billboards to exist to entertain and
distract us while we have to put our cell phones
away? The government needs to take a closer
look at what distracts drivers. If they make laws
prohibiting distracting activities, especially
targeting students, they must follow this action
across the board.
Maura Levine is an LSA sophomore.

Turn off the lights. Use reus-
able water bottles. Skip the
With all these
orders, the
movement starts
to soundalot like
a nagging moth-
er (sorry Mom,
but it's true!).
Even so, I try my ZOE
best to listen - I STAHL
obsessively turn
off the lights
around my apartment to save ener-
gy, I lug my water bottle around to
avoid adding plastic to ever-growing
landfills and I've learned to balance
plates and cups and bowls like a
waitress. All this so that there's one
less tray to wash and, hopefully, a
little less food waste, too.
Even though I care deeply about
the environment and am commit-
ted to creating a more sustainable
future, I must admit that I'm sick
of it. All those reminders put the
onus on the individual. You have
to spend your time, your energy
and sometimes even your money
to make the sustainable choice in
a fundamentally unsustainable
system. And you know what? Not
everyone can, knows how to or
even cares to do so.
So, I'm looking at you, kid - you
who also cares about the environ-
ment and totes a reusable bag. Maybe
you've even worked on an organic
farm or volunteered with Natural
Resources Defense Council one sum-
mer. I know how you feel. I feel ittoo.

I'm frustrated by what sometimes
seems like a lack of concern for envi-
ronmental issues and, even more, by
a lack ofurgency to address them.
But you know what I find equally
worrying? How self-righteous and
self-satisfied (and not to mention,
insular) we environmentalists can
sometimes be. If you're anythinglike
me, you can't help but feel the slight-
est bit proud as you sip out of your
Camelbak while fellow Wolverines
drink out of a disposable bottle.
And though it sounds like I'm
dripping with disdain for the envi-
ronmental movement and its adher-
ents, I commend them, really. I just
have a suggestion: We should sac-
rifice some of the satisfaction we
derive from these personal acts of
sustainability and start advocating
for structural changes that promote
an even more environmentally con-
scious university.
So, how about instead of your
weekly Saturday trip to the Farm-
ers' Market, you attend a Student
Sustainability Initiative roundtable
meeting and get involved in efforts
to make the Big House a zero-waste
facility? Don't get me wrong, sea-
sonal produce is certainly a step
in the sustainable direction, but
it's ultimately a small, individual-
ized drop in the reusable bucket. By
helping to make systemic changes,
you'll ultimately have a greater
effect on the environment and the
University itself.
Maybe you think the Univbersity
should stop installing air condition-
ers in newly built residence halls in
order to preserve energy. Or maybe

you would like to see the University
use organic fertilizers for all of the
campus greenery so we can prevent
soil erosion and toxic run-off while
simultaneously lowering costs.
Write the Office of Campus Sustain-
ability or the Graham Institute of
Sustainability an e-mail. Pen a let-
ter to University President Mary Sue
Coleman while you're at it.
I care about the
environment - but I'm
sick of the movement.
"The University is too big," you
say? "I'm only one person." "They
won't listen." "I don't have enough
time." "Michigan is so bureaucrat-
ic." Maybe, but what isn't bureau-
cratic these days? Where does it
seem easy to make a change? If you
put in the time and effort, good
things will happen.
You might argue that I'm now
placing the burden on you again.
And you know what? To some
degree, I am. But at the very least
you'd be using your time and energy
to create a more sustainable system
that will ease and facilitate more
environmentally friendly behavior,
benefiting all.
But hey, don't forget to still turn
off those lights.
Zoe Stahl can be reached
at zoestahl@umich.edu.

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