Fukushima: Everyone From Japan Has Had Health Problems

Fukushima: Hawaii-Based Nonprofit Group Says “Every Single Person” They Hosted from Japan Has Had Health Problems

Fukushima: Hawaii-Based Nonprofit Group Says “Every Single Person” They Hosted from Japan Has Had Health Problems

Interview with Vicki Nelson, founder of Fukushima Friends (nonprofit organization which facilitates trips to Hawaii for Fukushima radiation refugees), Nuclear Hotseat hosted by Libbe HaLevy, Jun 9, 2015 (at 16:30 in):

  • Vicki Nelson, founder of Fukushima Friends (emphasis added): We have a home that’s open for them to come and experience some time of respite and eat different food. What we’ve been experiencing also is that every single person that comes has reaction to the change as soon as they come here. There’s been people who have vomited, they’ve been having nosebleeds, they’ve been dizzy, they’ve been very ashen in color.
  • Libbe HaLevy, host: This is once they have left Japan? In other words, it is the lack of the radiation that allows them to then have these reactions?
  • Nelson: It’s like it is expelling from their body. There’s diarrhea, there’s nosebleeds— almost every single person has had nosebleeds on their pillow. I find blood, and they don’t want to tell me that they have these reactions, they’re embarrassed. Tokiko’s son [from Koriyama, Fukushima] vomited the whole first week practically, and had diarrhea. We actually took him to the hospital because we felt that he was dehydrated. They did run tests, and they said yes he was dehydrated. So he was kept overnight at the Hilo hospital on the big island and cared for.

Meeting hosted by Andrew Cash, member of Canadian parliament, Dec 2012 — Japanese mother (at 2:12:30 in): “My home town is Sapporo [northernmost island in Japan]… In my city, no one thinks about radiation. I found a group of escaped mothers from Tokyo and the Fukushima area, and I was very surprised… Most of them had thyroid problems, or eye problems, or nose bleeds… They are very worried about it. In Japan we knew about the meltdowns two months after the meltdowns happened, so we can have no information about radiation. Now the government is telling us to eat food from Fukushima. We can’t rely on government. The TV said Fukushima is safe, no problem… Fukushima is good to live. They want to invite a lot of tourists to Fukushima.

 

PLUS:

  • Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) admits record radiation spike in port water from Fukushima Daiichi leak.
  • Japanese government gets pushback for plan to end rent subsidies for some Fukushima evacuees/refugees.
  • Japan plans nuke restarts despite severe volcanic activity less than 50 miles from reactor site.
  • The pro-nuclear International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) releases report that Japan’s overconfidence regarding the safety of its nuclear power plants was a major reason behind the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster.
  • AND – Japan plans for nukes to supply 20-22% of all electricity in the country by 2030.  What’s wrong with this picture?

 

Source:  globalresearch.ca

Half Of All Jobs Will Be Automated By 2034

47% Of All Jobs Will Be Automated By 2034

47% Of All Jobs Will Be Automated By 2034

Almost half of all jobs could be automated by computers within two decades and “no government is prepared” for the tsunami of social change that will follow, according to the Economist.

The magazine’s 2014 analysis of the impact of technology paints a pretty bleak picture of the future.

It says that while innovation (aka “the elixir of progress”) has always resulted in job losses, usually economies have eventually been able to develop new roles for those workers to compensate, such as in the industrial revolution of the 19th century, or the food production revolution of the 20th century.

But the pace of change this time around appears to be unprecedented, its leader column claims. And the result is a huge amount of uncertainty for both developed and under-developed economies about where the next ‘lost generation’ is going to find work.

It quotes a 2013 Oxford Martin School study that estimates 47% of all jobs could be automated in the next 20 years:

“Our findings thus imply that as technology races ahead, low-skill workers will reallocate to tasks that are non-susceptible to computerisation – i.e., tasks requiring creative and social intelligence. For workers to win the race, however, they will have to acquire creative and social skills,” that study says.

The Economist also points out that current unemployment levels are startlingly high, but that “this wave of technological disruption to the job market has only just started”.

Specifically the Economist points to new tech like driverless cars, improved household gadgets, faster and more efficient online communications and ‘big data’ analysis to areas that humans are quickly being superceded. And while new start-ups are raising billions, they employ few people – Instagram, sold to Facebook in 2012 for $1 billion, employed just 30 people at the time.

Those conclusions are echoed elsewhere. Another study (‘Are You Ready For #GenMobile?’), to be released in full on 21 January by Aruba Networks, points out just how fast traditional working models are changing.

It says that 72% of British people now believe they work more efficiently at home, and that 63% need a WiFi network to complete their tasks – not bad for a technology that was barely standardised 10 years ago.

Meanwhile in ‘The Second Machine Age’, out this week, Erik Brynjolfsson and Andrew McAfee argue workers are under unprecedented pressure by the automation of skilled and unskilled jobs.

In a recent Salon interview Brynjolfsson said: “technology has always been destroying jobs, and it’s always been creating jobs, and it’s been roughly a wash for the last 200 years. But starting in the 1990s the employment to population ration really started plummeting and it’s now fallen off a cliff and not getting back up. We think that it should be the focus of policymakers right now to figure out how to address that.”

The BBC also produced a report earlier this month which claimed, in stark tones, that “the robots are coming to steal our jobs”.

“AI’s are embedded in the fabric of our everyday lives,” head of AI at Singularity University, Neil Jacobstein, told the Beeb.

“They are used in medicine, in law, in design and throughout automotive industry.”

That report too pointed out the change will affect jobs of all kinds – from a Chinese factory Hon Hai which has announced plans to replace 500,000 workers with robots in three years, to lawyers, surgeons and public sector workers.

Opinions remain divided on the impact and future of technological innovation on the jobs market, and wealth inequality. The Economist leader argues that governments have a responsibility to innovate in education, taxation and embracing progress, though the solutions are by no means obvious or without uncertainty.

If only we could automate the process of making and implementing those political decisions – now that would really be something.

 

Source:  huffingtonpost.co.uk

Animals internal compass possibly found

Internal Compass

Internal Compass

Scientists have long known that animals have some kind of internal compass that allows them to use Earth’s magnetic field to navigate. This ability allows species such as the monarch butterfly to travel up to an incredible 5,000 km across the US to the exact same location, year after year, and the Arctic tern to travel 71,000 km between Greenland and Antarctica annually. But these magnetic fields are pretty much invisible to humans, and we’ve never been able to find the sensor that lets animals to detect them.

Now a team of researchers from the University of Texas at Austin in the US has identified a tiny antenna-like structure in the brain of worms that allows them to sense Earth’s magnetic field, and they suspect the same structure could be the key to helping other species navigate, too.

“Chances are that the same molecules will be used by cuter animals like butterflies and birds,” one of the researchers, Jon Pierce-Shimomura, said in a press release. “This gives us a first foothold in understanding magnetosensation in other animals.”

Back in 2012, scientists found cells in pigeons that process information about magnetic fields, but this is the first time researchers have ever found the actual sensor in animals.

“It’s been a competitive race to find the first magnetosensory neuron,” said Pierce-Shimomura. “And we think we’ve won with worms, which is a big surprise because no one suspected that worms could sense the Earth’s magnetic field.”

The team made the discovery while conducting Alzheimer’s research in small soil worms, C. elegans. They noticed that when worms from Texas soil were hungry, they moved downwards to look for food. But worms that came from other parts of the world – Hawaii England and Australia, for example – didn’t move down; they moved at a precise angle to the magnetic field that would have corresponded to down if they’d been in their home country.

The team then altered the magnetic field around the worms’ enclosure using a special magnetic coil system, and found that they changed their behaviour accordingly.

But the real breakthrough came when they worked with worms that had been genetically engineered to block a structure called the AFD neuron from forming in the brain. These worms didn’t change their behaviour when the magnetic fields around their enclosure were altered – in fact, they seemed unable to detect the magnetic fields at all.

The AFD neuron is a tiny structure at the end of a neuron that gives worms the ability to sense carbon dioxide levels and temperature while underground. To confirm its additional role in sensing magnetic fields, the team used a technique called calcium imaging to show that changes in the magnetic field caused the AFD neuron to light up. Their findings have been published in the journal eLife. 

The next step will be to confirm that this AFD neuron exists in other species and that it works in the same way. If that’s the case, we might finally have an explanation for the incredible navigation abilities of animals, and perhaps a roadmap for how humans could one day achieve the same ability.

 

Source:  sciencealert.com

1 in 3 American’s are Alcoholic’s

American's are alcoholics

American’s are alcoholics

About 30 percent of adults in the United States misuse alcohol at some point in their lives, but the large majority don’t seek treatment, a new study suggests.

Researchers also found that in a given year, about 14 percent of American adults misuse alcohol, which researchers refer to as having “alcohol use disorder.” This yearly rate translates to an estimated 32.6 million Americans with drinking problems during a 12-month period.

“The study found that the risk of alcohol use disorders appears to be going up in the last decade,” said George Koob, director of the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), the agency that conducted the research.

Not only is problem drinking becoming more widespread, but the intensity of drinking is also going up, Koob said. Instead of having three drinks on a night out, more people may be drinking heavily and having at least five, or even eight or 10 drinks at a time.

“Alcohol use disorder” is a relatively new term. Prior to May 2013, people who had drinking problems were diagnosed with either “alcohol abuse” or “alcohol dependence.”

Now, rather than categorizing these problems as two separate conditions, the latest edition of the American Psychiatric Association’s “Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders” (American Psychiatric Publishing, 2013) considers the two a single diagnosis known as “alcohol use disorder.” A person with the disorder is further classified as having a mild, moderate or severe form of the condition, based on the number of symptoms the individual has. [7 Ways Alcohol Affects Your Health]

Adults who meet at least two of the 11 diagnostic criteria are considered as having an alcohol use disorder. Criteria include having strong cravings for alcohol, making unsuccessful efforts to cut down consumption and drinking causing problems at work, home or school.

The results, published online today (June 3) in the journal JAMA Psychiatry, are the first to estimate nationwide prevalence rates for alcohol misuse since the diagnostic criteria were changed.

 

Source:  livescience.com

Majority of American’s are now Obese

Most American's are Obese

Most American’s are Obese

The number of overweight and obese adults in the United States continues to rise, according to a new study that’s found more than two-thirds of adult Americans aged 25 years or older are now overweight or obese.

The research analysed data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, which ran from 2007 to 2012, and included information on a sample of 15,208 men and women. Based on the data, the researchers estimate that 39.96 percent of US men (36.3 million) are overweight and 35.04 percent (31.8 million) are obese.

 For women, the estimates are 29.74 percent (28.9 million) of them are overweight, while 36.84 percent (35.8 million) are obese. If you do the maths, sure enough, the number of obese adult Americans (67.6 million) now eclipses those who are only overweight (65.2 million).

What’s so remarkable about the research, conducted by the Washington University School of Medicine and published in The Journal of the American Medical Association, is just how stark the numbers are for the US population. Every three in four men is overweight or obese, and the same can be said for two out of every three women.

In other words, people in healthy weight ranges in the US make up only a distinct minority of the population, especially when you consider that some portion of the remainder in these figures will be people who are actually underweight.

The researchers found the African American community has the biggest problem with obesity – affecting 39 percent of black men and 57 percent of black women – followed by Mexican Americans and then whites.

A similar study was published back in 1999, finding that 63 percent of men and 55 percent of women aged 25 and older were overweight or obese, so clearly the problem has only gotten worse over the last two decades, despite efforts from the government and the health community to educate people on how to take care of themselves when it comes to food and lifestyle choices.

“This is a wakeup call to implement policies and practices designed to combat overweight and obesity,” said Lin Yang, the study’s lead, in a statement. “An effort that spans multiple sectors must be made to stop or reverse this trend that is compromising and shortening the lives of many.”

Scary stuff, but hopefully this latest research will help galvanise efforts to turn weights around in the US and put healthy eating and living squarely back on the agenda.

 

Source:  sciencealert.com

Human cyborgs within 200 years

cyborg women

cyborg women

Within the next 200 years, humans will have become so merged with technology that we’ll have evolved into “God-like cyborgs”, according to Yuval Noah Harari, an historian and author from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem in Israel.

Harari researches the history of the human species, and after writing a new book on our past, he now believes that we’re just a few short centuries away from being able to use technology to avoid death altogether – if we can afford it, that is.

 “I think it is likely in the next 200 years or so Homo sapiens will upgrade themselves into some idea of a divine being, either through biological manipulation or genetic engineering of by the creation of cyborgs: part organic, part non-organic,” Harari said during his presentation the Hay Festival in the UK, as Sarah Knapton reports for the Telegraph. “It will be the greatest evolution in biology since the appearance of life … we will be as different from today’s humans as chimps are now from us.”

Obviously, we should take Harari’s predictions with a grain of salt, but while they sound more suited to science fiction than real life, they’re not actually that out-there. Many researchers believe that we’ve already started down the path towards a cyborg future; after all, many of us already rely on bionic ears and eyes, insulin pump technology and prosthetics to help us survive. And with researchers recently learning how to send people’s thoughts across the web, subconsciously control bionic limbs and use liquid metal to heal severed nerves, it’s not hard to imagine how we could continue to use technology to supplement our vulnerable human bodies further.

Interestingly, Harare’s comments came just a few days after UK-based neuroscientist Hannah Critchlow from Cambridge University got the Internet excited by saying that it could be possible to upload our brains into computers, if we could build computers with 100 trillion circuit connections. “People could probably live inside a machine. Potentially, I think it is definitely a possibility,” Critchlow said during her presentation at the festival.

But Harari warned that these upgrades may only be available to the wealthiest members of society, and that could cause a growing biological divide between rich and poor – especially if some of us can afford to pay for the privilege of living forever while the rest of the species dies out.

If that sounds depressing, the alternative is a future where instead of us taking advantage of technology, technology takes advantage of us, and artificial intelligence poses a threat to our survival, as Elon Musk, Stephen Hawking, and Bill Gates have all predicted.

Either way, one thing seems pretty clear – our future as a species is now inextricably linked with the technology we’ve created. For better or for worse.

 

Source:  sciencealert.com

Friends genetically more similar than strangers

'We Become Friends With Genetically Similar People'

‘We Become Friends With Genetically Similar People’

Our friends seem to be genetically more similar to us than strangers, according to a new U.S. scientific study led by prominent Greek-American professor of sociology and medicine at Yale University Nicholas Christakis and James Fowler, professor of medical genetics and political science at the University of California.

The researchers, who made the relevant publication in the Journal of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), analyzed the genome of 1,932 people and compared pairs of friends with pairs of strangers.

There was no biological affinity among all these people, but only the difference in the level of social relations between them.

The study showed that, on average, every person had a more similar DNA with his friends than with strangers. The researchers noted that this finding has to do with the tendency of people to make friends with similar racial (and hence genetic) background.

The genetic similarity between friends was greater than the expected similarity between people who share a common national and genetic inheritance. It is not clear yet by what mechanisms this occurs.

But how similar are we with our friends?

On average, according to the study, a friend of ours has a genetic affinity comparable to our fourth cousin, which means that we share about 1% of our genes our friends.

“1% does not sound a big deal, but it is for geneticists. It is noteworthy that most people do not even know who their fourth cousins ​​are, but somehow, from the countless possible cases, we choose to make friends with people who are genetically similar to us,” said Prof Christakis.

Christakis and Fowler even developed a “friendship score”, which predicts who will befriend whom with nearly the same accuracy as scientists predict, on the basis of genetic analysis, the chances of a person to obesity or schizophrenia.

Focusing on individual genes, the research shows that friends are more likely to have similar genes related to the sense of smell, but different genes that control immunity; thus friends vary genetically in their protection against various diseases.

It seems to be an evolutionary mechanism that serves the society in general, since the fact that people hang out with those who are vulnerable to different diseases constitutes a barrier to the quick spread of an epidemic from person to person. Another notable finding is that the common genes we share with our friends seem to evolve more rapidly than others.

Prof. Christakis explains that probably that is why human evolution seems to have accelerated over the past 30,000 years, as the social environment with an important role of linguistic communication is a vital evolutionary factor.

 

Source:  humansarefree.com

Multitasking lowers your IQ

Multitasking makes you stupid

Multitasking makes you stupid

Envisage the switched-on new-millennium male – his iPhone in one hand while he switches between emails and business reports on his computer screen – a vision of productivity in this wondrous age of apps.

Wrong. He’s seriously dumbing himself down.

Several scientific studies around the world have concluded the brain doesn’t switch tasks like an expert juggler. Quite the opposite. It can reduce your IQ by as much as 10 points, cause mental blanks and reduce your productivity by 40 per cent.

Not a single study in psychology shows that women are better than men at multitasking, says Dr Julia Irwin, senior lecturer in psychology at Macquarie University.

What about women? They’re legends at multitasking and concentrating on several things at once. Nope. Not a single psychological study concludes women are better at multitasking than men, and some research indicates they can be worse.

One Australian researcher in the field, Dr Julia Irwin, senior lecturer in psychology at Macquarie University, advises people to abandon their apps, turn off their mobiles and ignore their emails while they concentrate on one task at a time. “At the end of the day, they will have been a lot more productive,” she says.

“If you’re sending an email while also working on an assignment, one downside is that withdrawing your attention from one task to another creates a split-second in which the brain’s in no-man’s land. It’s called a post-refractory pause.

“Over time these pauses add up and can mean your mind wasn’t on the job for a couple of minutes.”

Dr Irwin says such mental blanks can be dangerous when doing something of critical importance like keeping an eye out for a child in a playground. “If, in that pause, a child wobbles on their bicycle, it’s obviously a worry. You just haven’t got your attention on it.

“The other aspect is, if you’re deeply immersed in writing something and turn your attention to an email that’s just come in, there are studies that show it can take you up to 15 minutes to get yourself back into that same degree of immersion.”

One early study by the Institute of Psychiatry in London involved more than 1000 workers and found multitasking with electronic media caused a temporary 10-point decrease in IQ – a worse effect than smoking marijuana or losing a night’s sleep.

The study’s leader, an adjunct professor at the University of Nevada, Dr Glenn Wilson, called it “informania”, a condition created by using multiple electronic devices and employers’ growing demands to tackle more than one task at a time.

“This is a very real and widespread phenomenon,” he told CNN. “We have found that this obsession with looking at messages, if unchecked, will damage a worker’s performance by reducing their mental sharpness. Companies should encourage a more balanced and appropriate way of working.”

Another study, by Professor David Meyer, director of the University of Michigan’s Brain Cognition and Action Laboratory, concluded that even brief mental blocks created by shifting between tasks cost as much as 40 per cent of someone’s productive time.

Dr Irwin’s own Australian research concludes clearly that in today’s multitasking multi-app world, people should turn off their devices when doing something that merits their full attention.

One of her studies also defies a widespread belief that women are better at multitasking. “One of the very first studies I did was with young students driving and either talking to passengers or on a mobile,” she says. “I thought, oh, the women are going to ace this, but the women actually scored worse on the phones than the men.

“When I looked in the literature, there is not a single study in psychology that shows that women are better at multitasking. But what I did find in the sociological literature is that they perform multiple tasks more often.

“This has  led to the belief that women are better at multitasking, but the more studies are done, the fewer differences they find between female and male brains.”

 

Source:  theage.com.au

Reality doesn’t exist, quantum experiment confirms

 

Reality doesn't exist

Reality doesn’t exist

Australian scientists have recreated a famous experiment and confirmed quantum physics’s bizarre predictions about the nature of reality, by proving that reality doesn’t actually exist until we measure it – at least, not on the very small scale.

That all sounds a little mind-meltingly complex, but the experiment poses a pretty simple question: if you have an object that can either act like a particle or a wave, at what point does that object ‘decide’?

Our general logic would assume that the object is either wave-like or particle-like by its very nature, and our measurements will have nothing to do with the answer. But quantum theory predicts that the result all depends on how the object is measured at the end of its journey. And that’s exactly what a team from the Australian National University has now found.

“It proves that measurement is everything. At the quantum level, reality does not exist if you are not looking at it,” lead researcher and physicist Andrew Truscott said in a press release.

Known as John Wheeler’s delayed-choice thought experiment, the experiment was first proposed back in 1978 using light beams bounced by mirrors, but back then, the technology needed was pretty much impossible. Now, almost 40 years later, the Australian team has managed to recreate the experiment using helium atoms scattered by laser light.

“Quantum physics predictions about interference seem odd enough when applied to light, which seems more like a wave, but to have done the experiment with atoms, which are complicated things that have mass and interact with electric fields and so on, adds to the weirdness,” said Roman Khakimov, a PhD student who worked on the experiment.

To successfully recreate the experiment, the team trapped a bunch of helium atoms in a suspended state known as a Bose-Einstein condensate, and then ejected them all until there was only a single atom left.

This chosen atom was then dropped through a pair of laser beams, which made a grating pattern that acted as a crossroads that would scatter the path of the atom, much like a solid grating would scatter light.

They then randomly added a second grating that recombined the paths, but only after the atom had already passed the first grating.

When this second grating was added, it led to constructive or destructive interference, which is what you’d expect if the atom had travelled both paths, like a wave would. But when the second grating was not added, no interference was observed, as if the atom chose only one path.

The fact that this second grating was only added after the atom passed through the first crossroads suggests that the atom hadn’t yet determined its nature before being measured a second time.

So if you believe that the atom did take a particular path or paths at the first crossroad, this means that a future measurement was affecting the atom’s path, explained Truscott. “The atoms did not travel from A to B. It was only when they were measured at the end of the journey that their wave-like or particle-like behaviour was brought into existence,” he said.

Although this all sounds incredibly weird, it’s actually just a validation for the quantum theory that already governs the world of the very small. Using this theory, we’ve managed to develop things like LEDs, lasers and computer chips, but up until now, it’s been hard to confirm that it actually works with a lovely, pure demonstration such as this one.

Source:  Sciencedaily.com

Google turns your clothes into touchscreens

Google plans on turning your clothes into touchscreens

Google plans on turning your clothes into touchscreens

Last week Google unveiled a wealth of new innovations and initiatives at its annual I/O developer conference, and one of the big reveals was Project Jacquard. It’s part of the Google ATAP (Advanced Technology and Projects) division and it’s the company’s plan for the future of clothing: touch-sensitive materials that you can interact with in the same way as your smartphone display.

Project Jacquard uses touch-sensitive, metallic yarns that are weaved in with normal material – cotton, silk or polyester – to give it the kind of capabilities that you don’t usually find outside of science fiction movies. The yarn is connected to a small receiver and controller the size of a button, with the idea that one day you might be able to tap your lapel to switch on the washing machine, or flick your cuff to change the volume on your smart television set.

One of the demos that Google showed off at I/O 2015 was a touch-enabled outfit controlling a set of Philips Hue lights. A quick tap on the clothing turned the lights on and off, while swiping left and right changed the colour, and swiping up and down adjusted the brightness. You wouldn’t have to take your phone out of your jeans pocket to do all this – the pocket itself would act as the controller.

Monitoring capabilities can be included too, so your pillow could track your breathing or your t-shirt could monitor your heart rate without the need for any other equipment. Google is expecting to work with a number of different partners on the technology in the future, and already has an agreement in place with denim manufacturer Levi Strauss & Co in the US.

What makes the technology so exciting is its invisibility. There’s no need to wear a clunky headset or a smart wristwatch to get connected – it’s essentially the ultimate in wearables. Project Jacquard is still at the early stages, but a lot of progress has been made in a short space of time, and Google thinks the interactive yarn will have an important role to play in our sartorial future.

“The complementary components are engineered to be as discreet as possible,” explains the official Project Jacquard page. “We developed innovative techniques to attach the conductive yarns to connectors and tiny circuits, no larger than the button on a jacket. These miniaturised electronics capture touch interactions, and various gestures can be inferred using machine-learning algorithms.”

The smart clothing is stretchable and washable, and Google says it’s up to the designer whether the special yarn is highlighted on the material or kept completely invisible. It can be restricted to a certain patch of clothing or spread over the whole garment.

Jacquard, by the way, is a type of loom used in the 19th century. Google says that the new touch-enabled clothing can be made at scale using equipment that already exists, so when it’s ready for the mass market it can be cheaply and easily produced.

Ultimately, we could see all kinds of smart clothing, furnishings and textiles that look identical to the ‘dumb’ versions that came before them. Google doesn’t have a timescale for launching Project Jacquard out into the world just yet, but you can sign up for updates at the project page.

 

Source:  sciencedaily.com

Woolly mammoths genome mapped

woolly mammoth genome

woolly mammoth genome

An international team of researchers has sequenced the nearly complete genome of two Siberian woolly mammoths — revealing the most complete picture to date — including new information about the species’ evolutionary history and the conditions that led to its mass extinction at the end of the Ice Age.

“This discovery means that recreating extinct species is a much more real possibility, one we could in theory realize within decades,” says evolutionary geneticist Hendrik Poinar, director of the Ancient DNA Centre at McMaster University and a researcher at the Institute for Infectious Disease Research, the senior Canadian scientist on the project.

“With a complete genome and this kind of data, we can now begin to understand what made a mammoth a mammoth — when compared to an elephant — and some of the underlying causes of their extinction which is an exceptionally difficult and complex puzzle to solve,” he says.

While scientists have long argued that climate change and human hunting were major factors behind the mammoth’s extinction, the new data suggests multiple factors were at play over their long evolutionary history.

Researchers from McMaster, Harvard Medical School, the Swedish Museum of Natural History, Stockholm University and others produced high-quality genomes from specimens taken from the remains of two male woolly mammoths, which lived about 40,000 years apart.

One had lived in northeastern Siberia and is estimated to be nearly 45,000 years old. The other -believed to be from one of the last surviving mammoth populations — lived approximately 4,300 years ago on Russia’s Wrangel Island, located in the Arctic Ocean.

“We found that the genome from one of the world’s last mammoths displayed low genetic variation and a signature consistent with inbreeding, likely due to the small number of mammoths that managed to survive on Wrangel Island during the last 5,000 years of the species’ existence,” says Love Dalén, an associate professor of Bioinformatics and Genetics at the Swedish Museum of Natural History.

Scientists used sophisticated technology to tease bits and pieces of highly fragmented DNA from the ancient specimens, which they then used to sequence the genomes. Through careful analysis, they determined the animal populations had suffered and recovered from a significant setback roughly 250,000 to 300,000 years ago. However, say researchers, another severe decline occurred in the final days of the Ice Age, marking the end.

“The dates on these current samples suggest that when Egyptians were building pyramids, there were still mammoths living on these islands,” says Poinar. “Having this quality of data can help with our understanding of the evolutionary dynamics of elephants in general and possible efforts at de-extinction.”

The latest research is the continuation of the pioneering work Poinar and his team began in 2006, when they first mapped a partial mammoth genome, using DNA extracted from carcasses found in permafrost in the Yukon and Siberia.

 

Source:  Sciencedaily.com

Iris scanner that works 12 metres away

Iris scanner that can work at 12 metres away

Iris scanner that can work at 12 metres away

Iris scanner that can work at 12 metres away

Imagine an advertising billboard or a smart door that can recognise you from across the street – that’s the futuristic type of technology that’s on the way after researchers the US developed an iris scanner that can work at a distance of 12 metres (40 feet).

We’re starting to see primitive eye scanners appear in consumer electronics, but this new device takes the innovation one step further. The team from Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) has developed a scanning system that can spot and identify a driver sat in a car, so whether you’re traveling through a toll bridge or exceeding the speed limit, the cameras will know who you are.

That brings up a whole series of difficult questions about user privacy and the capabilities of law enforcement agencies across the world. Given a positive spin, it means a dangerous criminal getting spotted ahead of time; seen more cynically, the technology could be used to track citizens without their knowledge.

This long-range iris scanning system is primarily the work of CMU engineering professor, Marios Savvides. As our irises are as distinctive as our fingerprints, the technology is very accurate – but as with fingerprints, your eyeballs will already need to be on file for you to be spotted.

Savvides thinks the technology is helpful rather than scary. “Fingerprints, they require you to touch something. Iris, we can capture it at a distance, so we’re making the whole user experience much less intrusive, much more comfortable,” he told The Atlantic. “There’s no X-marks-the-spot. There’s no place you have to stand. Anywhere between six and 12 metres, it will find you, it will zoom in and capture both irises and full face.”

If nothing else, it could speed up queues at the airport. But in the wrong hands or used in the wrong way, it could be just as dangerous as it is convenient. There’s no chance of these types of biometric technology going backwards, so rigorous laws on how it can be used become increasingly important.

Savvides thinks we’re already in a new era of surveillance, and that his invention won’t change that. “People are being tracked,” he says. “Their every move, their purchasing, their habits, where they are every day, through credit card transactions, through advantage cards – if someone really wanted to know what you were doing every moment of the day, they don’t need facial recognition or iris recognition to do that. That’s already out there.”

Like many recent advancements in biometrics, increased convenience and accuracy comes at a cost – it’s all a question of how the technology is used. Just don’t be surprised if in the near future your office door spots you well before you reach it.

 

Source:  Sciencealert.com

Monsanto Department discredits scientists who are against GMOs.

‘discrediting’ and ‘debunking’ scientists who speak out against GMOs.

‘discrediting’ and ‘debunking’ scientists who speak out against GMOs.

Dare to publish a scientific study against Big Biotech, and Monsanto will defame and discredit you. For the first time, a Monsanto employee admits that there is an entire department within the corporation with the simple task of ‘discrediting’ and ‘debunking’ scientists who speak out against GMOs.

The WHO recently classified glyphosate, a chemical in Monsanto’s best-selling herbicide Roundup, as carcinogenic – news that is really heating things up with biotech. So Monsanto has been demanding that the World Health Organization (WHO) and the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) retract their statements about the poisons’s toxicity to human health.

The company demands this even though a peer-reviewed study published in March of 2015 in the respected journal, The Lancet Oncology, conducted a analysis proving that glyphosate was indeed ‘probably carcinogenic.’

Monsanto’s vice president of global regulatory affairs Philip Miller told Reuters the following in interview:

“We question the quality of the assessment. The WHO has something to explain.”

It has already been explained, Mr. Miller. The study states:

“Glyphosate is a broad-spectrum herbicide, currently with the highest production volumes of all herbicides. It is used in more than 750 different products for agriculture, forestry, urban, and home applications. Its use has increased sharply with the development of genetically modified glyphosate-resistant crop varieties. Glyphosate has been detected in air during spraying, in water, and in food. There WAS limited evidence in humans for the carcinogenicity of glyphosate.

Glyphosate has been detected in the blood and urine of agricultural workers, indicating absorption. Soil microbes degrade glyphosate to aminomethylphosphoric acid (AMPA). Blood AMPA detection after poisonings suggests intestinal microbial metabolism in humans. Glyphosate and glyphosate formulations induced DNA and chromosomal damage in mammals, and in human and animal cells in vitro. One study reported increases in blood markers of chromosomal damage (micronuclei) in residents of several communities after spraying of glyphosate formulations.”

In a recent talk attended mostly by students hoping to get decent paying internships in their field, a student asked what the company was doing to negate “bad science” concerning their work.

Monsanto’s employee, Dr. William “Bill” Moar, who gives talks on Monsanto’s products to reassure everyone that they are safe, perhaps forgot the event was public when he openly revealed that Monsanto had:

“An entire department” (waving his arm for emphasis) dedicated to “debunking” science which disagreed with theirs.”

Likely, this is the first time a Monsanto employee has publicly admitted that they have immense political and financial weight to bear on scientists who dare to publish against them. Of course they don’t list this discrediting department anywhere on their website.

The company will stop at nothing to discredit and devalue the contributions of unimpeachably respected Lancet and the international scientific bodies of WHO and IARC, among others.

The stakes are high – after all, an entire industry of GMO seed (for which they currently hold more than a three-fourths monopoly share) is based on being Roundup ready. Glyphosate is their hallmark product, and it accounts for billions in sales when you account for the seed they sell to go with their best-selling herbicide.

In a single publicly made phrase, Moar has admitted that the Monsanto-funded science is sheer propaganda – essentially that they indeed have dozens, if not hundreds of employees out making sure that no science which tells the truth about their cancer-causing products ever garners any credibility whatsoever in the information age.

Monsanto has also held up the findings of regulatory bodies, particularly in the United States where the revolving door between agrochemical corporations and government seems never ending.

 

Source:  themindunleashed.org

Japanese scientists reverse aging in human cell

By altering the behavior of two genes responsible for the production of simple amino acids in human cells, scientists have gained a better understanding of how the process of ageing works, and how we could delay or perhaps even reverse it.

The team, led by Jun-Ichi Hayashi at the University of Tsukuba, targeted two genes that produce the amino acid glycine in the cell’s mitochondria, and figured out how to switch them on and off. By doing this, they could either accelerate the process of ageing within the cell, which caused significant defects to arise, or they could reverse the process of ageing, which restored the capacity for cellular respiration. Using this technique to produce more glycine in a 97-year-old cell line for 10 days, the researchers restored cellular respiration, effectively reversing the cell line’s age.

 The finding brings into question the popular, but more recently controversial, mitochondrial theory of ageing, which puts forward the notion that an accumulation of mutations in mitochondrial DNA leads to age-related defects in the mitochondria – often referred to as the cell’s powerhouses because they are responsible for energy production and cellular respiration. Defects in the cell’s mitochondria lead to damage in the DNA, and an accumulation of DNA damage is linked to age-related hair loss, weight loss, spine curvature, osteoporosis, and a decreased lifespan.

But is this theory accurate? The results of Hayashi’s study support an alternative theory to ageing, which proposes that age-associated mitochondrial defects are caused not by the accumulation of mutations in mitochondrial DNA, but by certain crucial genes being turned on and off as we get older.

The team worked with human fibroblast cell lines gathered from young people – from foetus-age to 12 years old – and the elderly, from 80 to 97 years old. They compared the capacity for cellular respiration in the young and old cells, and found that while the capacity was indeed lower in the cells of the elderly, there was almost no difference in the amount of DNA damage between the two. This calls into question the mitochondrial theory of ageing, the team reports in the journal Scientific Reports, and suggests instead that the age-related effects they were seeing were being caused by a process known as epigenetic regulation.

Epigenetic regulation describes the process where the physical structure of DNA – not the DNA sequence – is altered by the addition or subtraction of chemical structures or proteins, which is regulated by the turning on and off of certain genes. “Unlike mutations that damage that sequence, as in the other, aforementioned theory of ageing, epigenetic changes could possibly be reversed by genetically reprogramming cells to an embryonic stem cell-like state, effectively turning back the clock on ageing,” says Eric Mack at Gizmag.

Hayashi and his team supported this theory by showing that they could turn off the genes that regulate the production of glycine to achieve cellular ageing, or turn them on for the restoration of cellular respiration. This suggests, they say, that glycine treatment could effectively reverse the age-associated respiration defects present in their elderly human fibroblasts.

“Whether or not this process could be a potential fountain of youth for humans and not just human fibroblast cell lines still remains to be seen, with much more testing required,” Mack points out at Gizmag. “However, if the theory holds, glycine supplements could one day become a powerful tool for life extension.”

We’ll just have to wait and see. The faster we can solve the debate over how ageing actually works, the faster we can figure out how to delay it.

 

Source:  sciencedaily.com

Monsanto Lawsuit Blacked out by Media

monsanto media black out

monsanto media black out

What happens when one courageous attorney and a few citizens try to take down Monsanto? The MSM doesn’t cover it, for starters.

Efforts to publicize a class action lawsuit against Monsanto for false advertising it’s best-selling herbicide Roundup filed in Los Angeles County Court on April 20, 2015 have been rejected by almost every mainstream media outlet.

It’s no different than Fox, NBC, CNN, or ABC refusing to cover the DARK ACT which would give Monsanto legal immunity and disallow states to demand GMO labeling.

You would think that coverage of something the whole world wants to see – the first step toward the successful downfall of Monsanto –would be a hot news item; a newsworthy tidbit that every paper, radio station, and blog would want to spread across their pages with double bold headlines. But wait. . . just six corporations own ALL of the media in America, so there isn’t much luck there.

That’s why you have to go to sites like Russia Insider or Al Jazeera to find real news outside of certain alternative news channels in the US, and even those are white-washed from Facebook pages, and given secondary ratings on Google pages.

Matthew Phillips, the attorney suing Monsanto in California for false advertising on Roundup bottles, has asked the LA Times, New York Times, Huffington Post, CNN, and Reuters, one of the world’s largest news agencies to report on the lawsuit (Case No: BC 578 942), and most enforced a total media blackout.

When I spoke with Phillips over the phone, he said that he has tried posting the suit in Wikipedia’s Monsanto litigation section, but it keeps ‘disappearing.’ He says that he has also noticed posts on Facebook about this lawsuit get removed.

Phillips points out that as long as Monsanto can keep this lawsuit off of most of America’s radar, then his client base would be relegated to just the citizens of California.

If other attorneys were to follow his template-style lawsuit, which he wrote in English, devoid of extraneous legal-speak to encourage others to also take action against Monsanto, then suddenly the plaintiff count could be closer to several million. That is if you were to tally up all the citizens in the US who have purchased a bottle of Roundup from their local DIY store (Lowe’s, Home Depot or Ace Hardware, for example) in the last four years, not suspecting it could demolish their gut health.

Another possibility, according to Phillips, is that Monsanto could try to bump the case up to federal court in order to try to side-step a likely adverse judgment. But in this case the class action suit would also be open to residents other than those of just California. This is surely an idea that Monsanto doesn’t want seeded in the American psyche.

Phillips is extremely confident he has the goods on Monsanto in this case, and barring a sold out judge:

“This is a slam-dunk lawsuit that exposes Monsanto for LYING about Roundup. Contrary to the label, Roundup does indeed target and kill enzymes found in humans — in our gut bacteria — and this explains America’s chronic indigestion!”

His enthusiasm is palpable, as many well-known scientists and professors emeritus have offered to be key witnesses in this suit when it goes to trial. The attorney says he refuses to ‘settle’ the case and hopes that 49 additional attorneys in 49 states use his case as an example. He joked:

“When we allege that Roundup’s targeted enzyme is found in humans, it’s like alleging that the Golden Gate Bridge is found in California.”

The facts of the case really are that obvious.

Phillips also states that ‘false advertising’ and ‘misleading’ are synonyms in California law, so the fact that Monsanto has stated that there are enzymes in its product that don’t target humans – well that’s beyond just misleading. This obvious misjudgment by Monsanto is a well-known secret among many anti-GM scientists. This enzyme is definitely found in humans.

Here is how ‘misleading’ Monsanto’s statement that, “Round Up targets an enzyme only found in plants and not in humans or animals,” truly is:

EPSP synthase, also known as (3-phosphoshikimate 1-carboxyvinyltransferase) is found in the microbiota that reside in our intestinal tracts, and therefore the enzyme is “found in humans and animals.” It is partly responsible for immunity activation and even helps our gut and our brains communicate with one another.

EPSP synthase is among other beneficial microbes that produce neurometabolites that are either neurotransmitters or modulators of neurotransmission.

“These could act directly on nerve terminals in the gut or via ‘transducer’ cells such as enterochromaffin cells present throughout the intestinal tract and are accessible to microbes and in contact with afferent and efferent nerve terminals. Some of these cells may also signal and therefore modulate immune cell activity.”

Furthermore, although this will not be addressed in Phillip’s lawsuit:

“There is increasing evidence that exposure to Monsanto’s herbicide Roundup, may be an underlying cause of autism spectrum disorders (see [19]).  Glyphosate, the active ingredient, acts through inhibition of the 5-enolpyruvylshikimic acid-3-phosphate synthase (EPSPS synthase) enzyme in the shikimate pathway that catalyses the production of aromatic amino acids. This pathway does not exist in animals, but it does exist in bacteria, including those that live in the gut and are now known to be as much a part of our body as our own cells. A widely accepted dogma is that glyphosate is safe due to the lack of the EPSPS enzyme in our body. This however does not hold water now that the importance of our microbiota to our physiology is clear.”

Though Monsanto is only being sued for false advertising in this case, it is an important precedent to set in order to eventually take down one of the biotech giants that is poisoning the planet. It should send a clear message to Dow, Bayer, Cargill, and Syngenta as well.

 

Source:  Globalresearch.ca

War between China and US

China sea war

China sea war

A Chinese state-owned newspaper said on Monday that “war is inevitable” between China and the United States over the South China Sea unless Washington stops demanding Beijing halt the building of artificial islands in the disputed waterway. 

The Global Times, an influential nationalist tabloid owned by the ruling Communist Party’s official newspaper the People’s Daily, said in an editorial that China was determined to finish its construction work, calling it the country’s “most important bottom line.”

The editorial comes amid rising tensions over China’s land reclamation in the Spratley archipelago of the South China Sea. China last week said it was “strongly dissatisfied” after a US spy plane flew over areas near the reefs, with both sides accusing each other of stoking instability.

China should “carefully prepare” for the possibility of a conflict with the United States, the newspaper said.

“If the United States’ bottomline is that China has to halt its activities, then a US-China war is inevitable in the South China Sea,” the newspaper said. “The intensity of the conflict will be higher than what people usually think of as ‘friction’.”

Such commentaries are not official policy statements, but are sometimes read as a reflection of government thinking. The Global Times is among China’s most nationalist newspapers.

China claims most of the South China Sea, through which $5 trillion in ship-borne trade passes every year. The Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Taiwan and Brunei also have overlapping claims.

The United States has routinely called on all claimants to halt reclamation in the Spratlys, but accuses China of carrying out work on a scale that far outstrips any other country.

Washington has also vowed to keep up air and sea patrols in the South China Sea amid concerns among security experts that China might impose air and sea restrictions in the Spratlys once it completes work on its seven artificial islands.

China has said it had every right to set up an Air Defense Identification Zone in the South China Sea but that current conditions did not warrant one.

The Global Times said “risks are still under control” if Washington takes into account China’s peaceful rise.

“We do not want a military conflict with the United States, but if it were to come, we have to accept it,” the newspaper said. —Reuters

 

Source:  Globalresearch.ca

Science identified the gene for pain

Science has found the gene for pain

Science has found the gene for pain

Scientists have identified a gene essential to the ability to sense pain, a discovery which could be a potential target in the development of new pain relief medications.

The researchers also say there are people who have a mutant copy of the gene and are unable to feel pain from birth.

These people can’t distinguish between unpleasant heat or cold but their other senses, including touch, remain intact.

The study, of people with the rare condition Congenital insensitivity to pain (CIP), is published in the journal Nature Genetics.

The target of new research, to help develop treatments for chronic pain, will be the protein produced by the pain gene.

 

Source:  businessinsider.com.au

Israel demands 6 billion Military Aid for Netanyahu’s Killing Machine

Netanyahu's War Machine

Netanyahu’s War Machine

Israel already gets at least $3 billion annually from Washington – plus a whole lot more. US taxpayers fund its killing machine.

It wants a 50% increase for more wars and ruthless daily persecution of millions of Palestinians – plus terror-bombing Syria, Yemen and southern Lebanon at its discretion as well as regional destabilizing activities.

On May 24, Defense News headlined “Israel Seeks Surge in US Security Support,” saying:

“(W)orking bilateral groups have (been) assess(ing) Israel’s projected security needs in (preparing) a new 10-year foreign military financing (FMF) deal” to begin when the current one expires in 2017.

According to an unnamed security source, Israel wants up to $4.5 billion annually besides additional amounts on request, resupplying its killing machine as needed, increasing amounts of US weapons and munitions in Israel for “emergency use,” and nearly $500 million annually for so-called anti-rocket/missile defense.

Washington’s House approved 2016 national defense authorization funding calls for financing an Israeli anti-tunneling defense system to deal with so-called subterranean threats.

Washington is expected to provide Israel with additional billions of dollars of aid if a nuclear deal with Iran is consummated.

Israel’s only enemies are ones it invents. Not according to AIPAC CEO Howard Kohr claiming it may need $160 billion for “defense” through 2025 – a big increase over current budgeted amounts.

Israeli military spending is for offense, not defense. It wants state-of-the-art weapons for maximum killing machine effectiveness.

According to Kohr, US military aid for Israel “is an essential component of America’s national security strategy” – code language for waging imperial wars of conquest and domination.

Earlier in May, the Al Mezan Center for Human Right reported escalated Israeli attacks on Gaza. The IDF fired on border areas at least six times.

They attacked farmers in their fields. Israeli naval forces assault Gazan fishermen regularly for the crime of fishing.

Palestinian children too close to Israel’s imposed buffer zone are shot at with live fire. Deaths and injuries result.

Gaza remains an active war zone. Overnight Wednesday, Israeli warplanes terror-bombed multiple sites outrageously claiming “Hamas’ territory is used as a staging ground to attack Israel…”

According to Press TV, Israel attacked Gaza despite Hamas and Islamic Jihad denying firing rockets into Israeli territory as its military claims.

Multiple strikes targeted the Nuseirat refugee camp in central Gaza, Rafah on Egypt’s border, Khan Younis and Beit Lahia.

The attacks followed a rocket fired by an unknown source striking southern Israel, causing no casualties or damage.

Israel’s Shin Bet security service claims Tuesday’s rocket attack was the third since last summer’s war.

The UN Special Coordinator (UNSCO) called Gaza’s ceasefire “perilously fragile.” Israeli border, air and sea attacks risk renewed war.

Hardline Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon said

“if there won’t be quiet in Israel, Gaza will pay a very heavy price, which will cause all who plan to challenge us to regret their actions.”

“Hamas is advised to restrain any attempt to fire rockets at Israel or provoke it, otherwise we will be forced to act with greater power. I would not advise anyone to test us.”

Political analyst Talal Okal believes multiple Israeli attacks are in preparation for more war. Israel wants Palestinian resistance groups disarmed and weakened, he said.

When its provocative attacks are responded to in self-defense, it claims terrorism as justification for naked aggression.

Since December 2008, it waged three premeditated wars without mercy on Gaza. Is a fourth in prospect?

 

Source:  globalresearch.ca

US military robots will leave humans defenceless

US military robots

US military robots

Killer robots which are being developed by the US military ‘will leave humans utterly defenceless‘, an academic has warned.

Two programmes commissioned by the US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) are seeking to create drones which can track and kill targets even when out of contact with their handlers.

Writing in the journal Nature, Stuart Russell, Professor of Computer Science at the University of California, Berkley, said the research could breach the Geneva Convention and leave humanity in the hands of amoral machines.

“Autonomous weapons systems select and engage targets without human intervention; they become lethal when those targets include humans,” he said.

“Existing AI and robotics components can provide physical platforms, perception, motor control, navigation, mapping, tactical decision-making and long-term planning. They just need to be combined.

“In my view, the overriding concern should be the probable endpoint of this technological trajectory.

“Despite the limits imposed by physics, one can expect platforms deployed in the millions, the agility and lethality of which will leave humans utterly defenceless. This is not a desirable future.”

• Killer robots a small step away and must be outlawed, says UN official
• Britain prepared to develop ‘killer robots’, minister says

The robots, called LAWS – lethal autonomous weapons systems – are likely to be armed quadcopters of mini-tanks that can decided without human intervention who should live or die.

DARPA is currently working on two projects which could lead to killer bots. One is Fast Lightweight Autonomy (FLA) which is designing a tiny rotorcraft to manoeuvre unaided at high speed in urban areas and inside buildings. The other and Collaborative Operations in Denied Environment (CODE), is aiming to develop teams of autonomous aerial vehicles carrying out “all steps of a strike mission — find, fix, track, target, engage, assess” in situations in which enemy signal-jamming makes communication with a human commander impossible.

Last year Angela Kane, the UN’s high representative for disarmament, said killer robots were just a ‘small step’ away and called for a worldwide ban. But the Foreign Office has said while the technology had potentially “terrifying” implications, Britain “reserves the right” to develop it to protect troops.

Professor Russell said: “LAWS could violate fundamental principles of human dignity by allowing machines to choose whom to kill — for example, they might be tasked to eliminate anyone exhibiting ‘threatening behaviour’

“Debates should be organized at scientific meetings; arguments studied by ethics committees. Doing nothing is a vote in favour of continued development and deployment.”

• The US army tests a killer robot tank
• Future robots will resemble ostriches or dinosaurs, scientists say

However Dr Sabine Hauert, a lecturer in robotics at the University of Bristol said that the public did not need to fear the developments in artificial intelligence.

“My colleagues and I spend dinner parties explaining that we are not evil but instead have been working for years to develop systems that could help the elderly, improve health care, make jobs safer and more efficient, and allow us to explore space or beneath the ocean,” she said.

 

Source:   telegraph.co.uk

Freelance NSA Spies Private Conversations

NSA Spies

NSA Spies

Thanks to Edward Snowden, we know that the National Security Agency collects the phone records of every American in order to keep the country safe from terrorism. But for the past eight months a group of artists claiming to work for the NSA on “a freelance, pro bono basis” have been recording people’s private conversations in popular bars, restaurants, and gyms in Lower Manhattan to ensure that no actionable intelligence falls through the cracks.

“We’re looking for terrorism, we’re looking for signs of plots and schemes that could put the homeland at risk,” one of the group’s “agents” tells us.

The project’s website, We Are Always Listening, includes snippets of actual conversations recorded by tiny, hidden tape recorders placed in The Brindle Room, Café Mogador, and the Crunch Gym in Union Square, among other popular public spaces.

In the recordings, a group of men talk about how a friend is “trying too hard to be one of us,” a woman complains about paying more than $2,000/month in rent, and a man describes a former boyfriend’s fetish: “He wanted me to like, fake double over in pain. Like we’re doing a scene from Batman Returns.”

None of the recordings contain any last names or other forms of information that would allow the people in the recordings to be directly identified, but first names flow freely.

“The reason we broadcast small, small, small, fractions of what we’ve gathered is because we’ve also heard members of the American public say they want a more transparent window into how data is collected,” said the “agent,” who asked to speak anonymously because New York State law requires the consent of at least one party in order to record a conversation (as Governor Cuomo famously discovered).

“Our agents would dispute that having a conversation at a restaurant or a gym is private. There should not be an assumption of privacy.”

The Manhattan DA’s office declined to comment on the group’s activities.

The project is seemingly designed to shake Americans (and, based on the locations the group placed their recorders, the Downtown bourgeoisie) out of their torpor with respect to how the NSA collects data and the federal government’s reliance on millions of independent contractors with security clearances.

“We imagine people are fine with this type of surveillance,” the “agent” said, tongue firmly in cheek. “The general public has mostly spoken in a unified voice saying, well, it’s just what you need to do to keep the country safe.”

For those who believe that posting audio of private conversations online is wrong, or that it surpasses what even the NSA considers appropriate, a button marked “Angry?” on the group’s website directs users to the ACLU’s website that allows you to contact your federal representatives and urge them to kill the portion of the Patriot Act that allows for the NSA’s blanket surveillance (the Senate recently voted to block a bill from the House designed to curtail the government’s collection of phone data).

The “agent” told us that New Yorkers should expect more leaked conversations. If you’ve hung out at 61 Local in Cobble Hill recently, you might want to keep your eye on the group’s website: a tape recorder has been listening there for some time.

 

Source:  gothamist.com

Google closer to developing human-like intelligence

Artificial Intelligence

Artificial Intelligence

Computers will have developed “common sense” within a decade and we could be counting them among our friends not long afterwards, one of the world’s leading AI scientists has predicted.

Professor Geoff Hinton, who was hired by Google two years ago to help develop intelligent operating systems, said that the company is on the brink of developing algorithms with the capacity for logic, natural conversation and even flirtation.

The researcher told the Guardian said that Google is working on a new type of algorithm designed to encode thoughts as sequences of numbers – something he described as “thought vectors”.

Although the work is at an early stage, he said there is a plausible path from the current software to a more sophisticated version that would have something approaching human-like capacity for reasoning and logic. “Basically, they’ll have common sense.”

The idea that thoughts can be captured and distilled down to cold sequences of digits is controversial, Hinton said. “There’ll be a lot of people who argue against it, who say you can’t capture a thought like that,” he added. “But there’s no reason why not. I think you can capture a thought by a vector.”

Hinton, who is due to give a talk at the Royal Society in London on Friday, believes that the “thought vector” approach will help crack two of the central challenges in artificial intelligence: mastering natural, conversational language, and the ability to make leaps of logic.

He painted a picture of the near-future in which people will chat with their computers, not only to extract information, but for fun – reminiscent of the film, Her, in which Joaquin Phoenix falls in love with his intelligent operating system.

“It’s not that far-fetched,” Hinton said. “I don’t see why it shouldn’t be like a friend. I don’t see why you shouldn’t grow quite attached to them.”

In the past two years, scientists have already made significant progress in overcoming this challenge.

Richard Socher, an artificial intelligence scientist at Stanford University, recently developed a program called NaSent that he taught to recognise human sentiment by training it on 12,000 sentences taken from the film review website Rotten Tomatoes.

Part of the initial motivation for developing “thought vectors” was to improve translation software, such as Google Translate, which currently uses dictionaries to translate individual words and searches through previously translated documents to find typical translations for phrases. Although these methods often provide the rough meaning, they are also prone to delivering nonsense and dubious grammar.

Thought vectors, Hinton explained, work at a higher level by extracting something closer to actual meaning.

The technique works by ascribing each word a set of numbers (or vector) that define its position in a theoretical “meaning space” or cloud. A sentence can be looked at as a path between these words, which can in turn be distilled down to its own set of numbers, or thought vector.

The “thought” serves as a the bridge between the two languages because it can be transferred into the French version of the meaning space and decoded back into a new path between words.

The key is working out which numbers to assign each word in a language – this is where deep learning comes in. Initially the positions of words within each cloud are ordered at random and the translation algorithm begins training on a dataset of translated sentences.

At first the translations it produces are nonsense, but a feedback loop provides an error signal that allows the position of each word to be refined until eventually the positions of words in the cloud captures the way humans use them – effectively a map of their meanings.

Hinton said that the idea that language can be deconstructed with almost mathematical precision is surprising, but true. “If you take the vector for Paris and subtract the vector for France and add Italy, you get Rome,” he said. “It’s quite remarkable.”

Dr Hermann Hauser, a Cambridge computer scientist and entrepreneur, said that Hinton and others could be on the way to solving what programmers call the “genie problem”.

“With machines at the moment, you get exactly what you wished for,” Hauser said. “The problem is we’re not very good at wishing for the right thing. When you look at humans, the recognition of individual words isn’t particularly impressive, the important bit is figuring out what the guy wants.”

“Hinton is our number one guru in the world on this at the moment,” he added.

Some aspects of communication are likely to prove more challenging, Hinton predicted. “Irony is going to be hard to get,” he said. “You have to be master of the literal first. But then, Americans don’t get irony either. Computers are going to reach the level of Americans before Brits.”

A flirtatious program would “probably be quite simple” to create, however. “It probably wouldn’t be subtly flirtatious to begin with, but it would be capable of saying borderline politically incorrect phrases,” he said.

Many of the recent advances in AI have sprung from the field of deep learning, which Hinton has been working on since the 1980s. At its core is the idea that computer programs learn how to carry out tasks by training on huge datasets, rather than being taught a set of inflexible rules.

With the advent of huge datasets and powerful processors, the approach pioneered by Hinton decades ago has come into the ascendency and underpins the work of Google’s artificial intelligence arm, DeepMind, and similar programs of research at Facebook and Microsoft.

Hinton played down concerns about the dangers of AI raised by those such as the American entrepreneur Elon Musk, who has described the technologies under development as humanity’s greatest existential threat. “The risk of something seriously dangerous happening is in the five year timeframe. Ten years at most,” Musk warned last year.

“I’m more scared about the things that have already happened,” said Hinton in response. “The NSA is already bugging everything that everybody does. Each time there’s a new revelation from Snowden, you realise the extent of it.”

“I am scared that if you make the technology work better, you help the NSA misuse it more,” he added. “I’d be more worried about that than about autonomous killer robots.

 

Source:  theguardian.com

One out of Four Workers Has a Stable Job

workers don't have a stable job

workers don’t have a stable job

Only one quarter of the world’s working population holds a permanent and stable job, according to a new report published by the International Labor Organization (ILO) Tuesday.

Even as the number of unemployed people worldwide remains significantly higher than before the 2008 crisis, the few jobs that have been created in recent years have been disproportionately part-time, contingent and low-wage.

The ILO’s World Employment and Social Outlook—Trends 2015 report found that three-quarters of workers are “employed on temporary or short-term contracts, in informal jobs often without any contract, under own-account arrangements or in unpaid family jobs.”

The report notes that worldwide more than 60 percent of workers do not have any sort of employment contract, with most of them working on family farms and businesses in developing countries. But even among those who earn wages or salaries, less than half—only 42 percent—are employed on a permanent basis.

In what are categorized as high-income countries, the share of workers employed on a permanent basis has declined in recent years, from 74 percent in 2004 to 73.2 percent in 2012. For males this decline has been even sharper, with the share working on permanent contracts falling from 73.1 percent to 71.2 percent during the same time.

The report likewise found a global rise in part-time employment. “In the vast majority of countries with available information, the rise in the number of part-time jobs outpaced gains in full-time jobs between 2009 and 2013.”

The ILO notes,

“In France, Italy, Japan, Spain and the [European Union] more broadly, increases in part-time employment occurred alongside losses in full-time jobs—leading in some instances to overall job losses during this period.”

Since 2009, the number of full-time jobs in the European Union fell by nearly 3.3 million, while part-time employment increased by 2.1 million.

Meanwhile, legal protections assuring workers a stable employment schedule have been slashed, with the ILO noting that, “labour protection has generally decreased since 2008.”

“The shift we’re seeing from the traditional employment relationship to more non-standard forms of employment is in many cases associated with the rise in inequality and poverty rates in many countries,”

said Guy Ryder, Director-General of the ILO.

The report found “a shift away from the standard employment model, in which workers… have stable jobs and work full time. In advanced economies, the standard employment model is less and less dominant.”

This phenomenon was mirrored in developing countries where,

“at the bottom of global supply chains, very short-term contracts and irregular hours are becoming more widespread.” As a result, “in emerging and developing economies, the historical trend toward more wage and salaried employment is slowing down.”

The report notes that “nearly eight years have passed since the first signs of crisis emerged in the global economy,” yet “the more recent period has seen global unemployment march higher” and has been “characterized by an uneven and fragile job recovery.”

The ILO estimates that the number of people unemployed worldwide hit 201 million last year, up by 30 million since the eruption of the global financial crisis in 2008. The report notes that, far from making any significant dent in the number of people unemployed worldwide, “providing jobs to more than 40 million additional people who enter the global labour market every year is proving to be a daunting challenge.”

The ILO notes that employment growth has largely stalled worldwide, with the number of jobs available growing by only 0.1 percent each year in developed countries since 2008, compared to a rate of 0.9 percent between 2000 and 2007.

This has corresponded with an overall slump in economic growth. For the “advanced economies” as a whole, growth in the period between 2007 and 2014 averaged about 0.7 percent per year, compared with an annual growth rate of two percent in the period before the crisis.

The report warned that falling wages and continued mass unemployment have contributed to a structural weakness in global demand, resulting in a further slump in the labor market. Director-General Ryder added,

“These trends risk perpetuating the vicious circle of weak global demand and slow job creation that has characterized the global economy and many labour markets throughout the post-crisis period.”

The increasing prevalence of low-wage, part-time and contingent work has coincided with a massive enrichment of the financial elite. Since 2009, the wealth of the world’s richest 400 individuals has nearly tripled, from $2.4 trillion to $7.05 trillion in 2015, according to Forbes magazine. This massive growth of inequality has been the direct outcome of policies carried out by governments throughout the world, which responded to the 2008 crash by pumping trillions of dollars into the financial system while slashing social services and promoting poverty-wage employment.

The findings of the report constitute a scathing indictment of the capitalist system, which is incapable of addressing mass unemployment, poverty or any other social problem. Developing countries, robbed and exploited by imperialism, remain backward and impoverished, while in the “advanced” economies the ruling classes have carried out a relentless assault on jobs, wages and living conditions for the great majority of the population.

There is nothing in the 155-page report to indicate any prospect for improvement in the near future. This fact constitutes an implicit admission that soaring inequality, falling wages, mass unemployment and increasingly contingent employment constitute essential features of the present social order.

 

Source:  globalresearch.ca

14 Thousand Child Abuse Suspects Identified

 

child abuse

child abuse

More than 1,400 suspects, including politicians and celebrities, have been investigated by police probing historical child sex abuse allegations.

The figures were revealed by Operation Hydrant, set up by the National Police Chiefs’ Council (NPCC).

It explores links between child sex abuse by “prominent public persons”.

Of the 1,433 suspects identified, 216 are now dead and 261 are classified as people of public prominence, with 135 coming from TV, film or radio.

Of the remainder:

  • A further 76 suspects are politicians, 43 are from the music industry and seven come from the world of sport.
  • A total of 666 claims relate to institutions, with 357 separate institutions identified.
  • Of these, 154 are schools, 75 are children’s homes, and 40 are religious institutions.
  • They also include 14 medical establishments, 11 community institutions, nine prisons, nine sports venues and 28 other institutions, including military groups and guest houses.

Another 17 institutions are classified as unknown.

The figures are taken from police forces in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.

They relate to reports of abuse, or investigations of abuse, which police forces were dealing with in the summer of 2014.

‘Unprecedented increase’

Norfolk Police Chief Constable Simon Bailey, the NPCC’s lead on child protection, said the referrals were increasing “on an almost daily basis” with the numbers released being a “snapshot in time”.

“We are seeing an unprecedented increase in the number of reports that are coming forward.

“That has brought about a step change in the way the service has had to deal with it.”

He also said police were projected to receive about 116,000 reports of historical child sex abuse by the end of 2015 – an increase of 71% from 2012.

He added: “There is no doubt [Jimmy] Savile has had an effect on us. We are dealing with more and more allegations.”

Ex-DJ Jimmy Savile was revealed after his death to be one of the UK’s most prolific sexual predators.

Jon Brown says abuse is to be found in all areas of society

And Mr Bailey said while there was no figure for the number of victims, it was likely to run into the thousands.

“These figures raise the question, is more abuse being perpetrated?” he said.

“I don’t have the evidence at this moment in time to prove this one way or another.”

Operation Hydrant does not conduct any investigations itself, but gathers information from other inquiries.

There are a number of ongoing investigations into historical sex crimes, including Operation Pallial, which is looking at claims of abuse in care homes in north Wales and an inquiry into Knowl View school in Rochdale, where the late MP Sir Cyril Smith is said to have preyed on boys.

Operation Yewtree has already seen Rolf Harris and former public relations guru Max Clifford jailed for sex crimes.

Mr Bailey said police forces were now moving resources from other departments to focus on past sex crimes.

“More and more officers are being deployed into our vulnerability teams because of this surge in demand. And it’s right they should do that.”

‘Astonishing’ figures

Liz Dux, a lawyer with legal firm Slater and Gordon, which represents 800 child sexual abuse victims, told the BBC the Savile revelations meant people had given victims confidence.

“The hope is the police have enough manpower to do [the investigation] justice, and to give it the importance it deserves.

“What we’ve seen is, not only in relation to celebrities, or well-known politicians, people have generally come forward and said ‘I was abused by a family member, or I was abused in these circumstances, and I now feel able to address it and I now want to see my offender brought to justice’.”

Jon Brown, head of the NSPCC’s programme to tackle sexual abuse, described the figures as “astonishing” and said they showed abuse “permeates all parts of society”.

He added: “We are seeing a seismic shift in people’s willingness and preparedness to come forward now and talk about things that have happened sometimes many, many years or decades ago.

“What we’re beginning to see is a much more realistic picture now of the scale of the problem, and we now need to be looking at ways in which that can most effectively be dealt with.”

 

Source:  BBC.com

Iron levels hasten Alzheimer’s disease

Brain

Brain

High levels of iron in the brain could increase the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease and hasten the cognitive decline that comes with it, new research suggests.

The results of the study, which tracked the brain degeneration of people with Alzheimer’s over a seven-year period, suggest it might be possible to halt the disease with drugs that reduce iron levels in the brain.

 “We think that iron is contributing to the disease progression of Alzheimer’s disease,” neuroscientist Scott Ayton, from the University of Melbourne in Australia, told Anna Salleh at ABC Science.

“This is strong evidence to base a clinical trial on lowering iron content in the brain to see if that would impart a cognitive benefit.”

Alzheimer’s is a devastating disease that researchers suspect “begins when two abnormal protein fragments, known as plaques and tangles, accumulate in the brain and start killing our brain cells,” explains Fiona Macdonald for ScienceAlert.

It starts by destroying the hippocampus – the region of the brain where memories are formed and stored – and eventually damages the region where language is processed, making it difficult for advanced Alzheimer’s patients to communication. As the disease’s gradual takeover continues, people lose the ability to regulate their emotions and behaviour, and to make sense of the world around them.

But previous studies have shown that people with Alzheimer’s disease also have elevated levels of brain iron, which may also be a risk factor for the disease.

“There has been debate for a long period of time whether this is important or whether it’s just a coincidence,” Ayton told ABC Science.

The long-term impact of elevated iron levels on the disease outcome has not been investigated, the researchers say.

So Ayton’s team decided to test this, examining the link between brain iron levels and cognitive decline in three groups of people over seven years. The participants included 91 people with normal cognition, 144 people with mild cognitive impairment, and 67 people with diagnosed Alzheimer’s disease.

At the beginning of the study, the researchers determined the patients’ brain iron levels by measuring the amount of ferritin in the cerebrospinal fluid around the brain. Ferritin is a protein that stores and releases iron.

The researchers did regular tests and MRI scans to track cognitive decline and changes in the brain over the study period.

They found that people with higher levels of ferritin – in all groups – had faster declines in cognitive abilities and accelerated shrinking of the hippocampus. Levels of ferritin were also a linked to a greater likelihood of people with mild cognitive impairment developing Alzheimer’s.

Their data contained some other interesting takeaways: The researchers found higher levels of ferritin corresponded to earlier ages for diagnoses – roughly three months for every 1 nanogram per millilitre increase.

They also found that people with the APOE-e4 gene variant, which is known to be the strongest genetic risk factor for the disease, had the highest levels of iron in their brains.

This suggests that APOE-e4 may be increasing Alzheimer’s disease risk by increasing iron levels in the brain, Ayton told ABC Science.

The researchers say their findings, which were published in the journal Nature Communications, justify the revival of clinical trials to explore drugs to target brain iron levels.

In a study carried out 24 years ago, a drug called deferiprone halved the rate of Alzheimer’s cognitive decline, Ayton told Clare Wilson at NewScientist. “Perhaps it’s time to refocus the field on looking at iron as a target.”

“Lowering CSF ferritin, as might be expected from a drug like deferiprone, could conceivably delay mild cognitive impairment conversion to Alzheimer’s disease by as much as three years,” the team wrote.

FDA Cover’s Up Deaths in Drug Trials

FDA

FDA

Does the habitual use of antidepressants do more harm than good to many patients? Absolutely, says one expert in a new British Medical Journal report. Moreover, he says that the federal Food and Drug Administration might even be hiding the truth about antidepressant lethality.

In his portion of the report, Peter C. Gotzsche, a professor at the Nordic Cochrane Centre in Denmark, said that nearly all psychotropic drug use could be ended today without deleterious effects, adding that such “drugs are responsible for the deaths of more than half a million people aged 65 and older each year in the Western world.”

Gotzsche, author of the 2013 book Deadly Medicines and Organized Crime: How Big Pharma Has Corrupted Healthcare, further notes in the BMJ that “randomized trials that have been conducted do not properly evaluate the drugs’ effects.” He adds, “Almost all of them are biased because they included patients already taking another psychiatric drug.”

Hiding or fabricating data about harmful side effects

The FDA’s data is incomplete at best and intentionally skewed at worst, he insisted:

Under-reporting of deaths in industry funded trials is another major flaw. Based on some of the randomised trials that were included in a meta-analysis of 100,000 patients by the US Food and Drug Administration, I have estimated that there are likely to have been 15 times more suicides among people taking antidepressants than reported by the FDA – for example, there were 14 suicides in 9,956 patients in trials with fluoxetine and paroxetine, whereas the FDA had only five suicides in 52,960 patients, partly because the FDA only included events up to 24 hours after patients stopped taking the drug.

He said that he was most concerned about three classes of drugs: antipsychotics, benzodiazepines and antidepressants, saying they are responsible for 3,693 deaths a year in Denmark alone. When scaling up that figure in relation to the U.S. and European Union together, he estimated that 539,000 people die every year because of the medications.

“Given their lack of benefit, I estimate we could stop almost all psychotropic drugs without causing harm – by dropping all antidepressants, ADHD drugs, and dementia drugs (as the small effects are probably the result of unblinding bias) and using only a fraction of the antipsychotics and benzodiazepines we currently use,” Gotzsche wrote.

“This would lead to healthier and more long lived populations. Because psychotropic drugs are immensely harmful when used long-term, they should almost exclusively be used in acute situations and always with a firm plan for tapering off, which can be difficult for many patients,” he added.

Gotzsche’s views were disputed in the same BMJ piece by Allan Young, professor of mood disorders at King’s College London, and psychiatric patient John Crace.

“More than a fifth of all health-related disability is caused by mental ill health, studies suggest, and people with poor mental health often have poor physical health and poorer (long-term) outcomes in both aspects of health,” they wrote.

They also insisted that psychiatric drugs are “rigorously examined for efficacy and safety, before and after regulatory approval.”

 

Source:  globalresearch.ca

PTSD Linked to Accelerated Aging

chromosomes_with_telomeres

chromosomes_with_telomeres

In recent years, public health concerns about post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) have risen significantly, driven in part by affected military veterans returning from conflicts in the Middle East and elsewhere. PTSD is associated with number of psychological maladies, among them chronic depression, anger, insomnia, eating disorders and substance abuse.

Writing in the May 7 online issue of American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry, researchers at University of California, San Diego School of Medicine and Veterans Affairs San Diego Healthcare System suggest that people with PTSD may also be at risk for accelerated aging or premature senescence.

“This is the first study of its type to link PTSD, a psychological disorder with no established genetic basis, which is caused by external, traumatic stress, with long-term, systemic effects on a basic biological process such as aging,” said Dilip V. Jeste, MD, Distinguished Professor of Psychiatry and Neurosciences and director of the Center on Healthy Aging and Senior Care at UC San Diego, who is the senior author of this study.

Researchers had previously noted a potential association between psychiatric conditions, such as schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, and acceleration of the aging process. Jeste and colleagues determined to see if PTSD might show a similar association by conducting a comprehensive review of published empirical studies relevant to early aging in PTSD, covering multiple databases going back to 2000.

There is no standardized definition of what constitutes premature or accelerated senescence. For guidance, the researchers looked at early aging phenomena associated with non-psychiatric conditions, such as Hutchinson-Gilford progeria syndrome, HIV infection and Down’s syndrome. The majority of evidence fell into three categories: biological indicators or biomarkers, such as leukocyte telomere length (LTL), earlier occurrence or higher prevalence of medical conditions associated with advanced age and premature mortality.

In their literature review, the UC San Diego team identified 64 relevant studies; 22 were suitable for calculating overall effect sizes for biomarkers, 10 for mortality.

All six studies looking specifically at LTL found reduced telomere length in persons with PTSD. Leukocytes are white blood cells. Telomeres are stretches of protective, repetitive nucleotide sequences at the ends of chromosomes. These sequences shorten with every cell replication and are considered a strong measure of the aging process in cells.

The scientists also found consistent evidence of increased pro-inflammatory markers, such as C-reactive protein and tumor necrosis factor alpha, associated with PTSD.

A majority of reviewed studies found increased medical comorbidity of PTSD with several targeted conditions associated with normal aging, including cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, gastrointestinal ulcer disease and dementia.

Seven of 10 studies indicated a mild-to-moderate association of PTSD with earlier mortality, consistent with an early onset or acceleration of aging in PTSD.

“These findings do not speak to whether accelerated aging is specific to PTSD, but they do argue the need to re-conceptualize PTSD as something more than a mental illness,” said first author James B. Lohr, MD, professor of psychiatry. “Early senescence, increased medical morbidity and premature mortality in PTSD have implications in health care beyond simply treating PTSD symptoms. Our findings warrant a deeper look at this phenomenon and a more integrated medical-psychiatric approach to their care.”

 Barton Palmer, PhD, professor of psychiatry and a coauthor of the study, cautioned that “prospective longitudinal studies are needed to directly demonstrate accelerated aging in PTSD and to establish underlying mechanisms.”
Source:  scienceblog.com

Bionic Lens 3x better than 20/20

bionic-lens

bionic-lens

Imagine being able to see three times better than 20/20 vision without wearing glasses or contacts — even at age 100 or more — with the help of bionic lenses implanted in your eyes.

Dr. Garth Webb, an optometrist in British Columbia who invented the Ocumetics Bionic Lens, says patients would have perfect vision and that driving glasses, progressive lenses and contact lenses would become a dim memory as the eye-care industry is transformed.

Dr. Garth Webb says the bionic lens would allow people to see to infinity and replace the need for eyeglasses and contact lenses. (Darryl Dyck/Canadian Press)

Webb says people who have the specialized lenses surgically inserted would never get cataracts because their natural lenses, which decay over time, would have been replaced.

Perfect eyesight would result “no matter how crummy your eyes are,” Webb says, adding the Bionic Lens would be an option for someone who depends on corrective lenses and is over about age 25, when the eye structures are fully developed.

“This is vision enhancement that the world has never seen before,” he says, showing a Bionic Lens, which looks like a tiny button.

“If you can just barely see the clock at 10 feet, when you get the Bionic Lens you can see the clock at 30 feet away,” says Webb, demonstrating how a custom-made lens that folded like a taco in a saline-filled syringe would be placed in an eye, where it would unravel itself within 10 seconds.

8-minute surgery

He says the painless procedure, identical to cataract surgery, would take about eight minutes and a patient’s sight would be immediately corrected.

Webb, who is the CEO of Ocumetics Technology Corp., has spent the last eight years and about $3 million researching and developing the Bionic Lens, getting international patents and securing a biomedical manufacturing facility in Delta, B.C.

Webb says people who have the specialized lenses surgically inserted would never get cataracts because their natural lenses, which decay over time, would have been replaced. (Laitr Keiows/Wikicommons)

His mission is fuelled by the “obsession” he’s had to free himself and others from corrective lenses since he was in Grade 2, when he was saddled with glasses.

“My heroes were cowboys, and cowboys just did not wear glasses,” Webb says.

“At age 45 I had to struggle with reading glasses, which like most people, I found was a great insult. To this day I curse my progressive glasses. I also wear contact lenses, which I also curse just about every day.”

Webb’s efforts culminated in his recent presentation of the lens to 14 top ophthalmologists in San Diego the day before an annual gathering of the American Society of Cataract and Refractive Surgery.

Dr. Vincent DeLuise, an ophthalmologist who teaches at Yale University in New Haven, Conn., and at Weill Cornell Medical College in New York City, says he arranged several meetings on April 17, when experts in various fields learned about the lens.

He says the surgeons, from Canada, the United States, Australia and the Dominican Republic, were impressed with what they heard and some will be involved in clinical trials for Webb’s “very clever” invention.

“There’s a lot of excitement about the Bionic Lens from very experienced surgeons who perhaps had some cynicism about this because they’ve seen things not work in the past. They think that this might actually work and they’re eager enough that they all wish to be on the medical advisory board to help him on his journey,” DeLuise says.

“I think this device is going to bring us closer to the holy grail of excellent vision at all ranges — distant, intermediate and near.

 

Source:  cbc.ca

China and India sign $22 billion business deal

China and India sign business deals worth more than $22bn

China and India sign business deals worth more than $22bn

China and India signed deals worth more than $22bn in areas including renewable energy, ports, financing and industrial parks, an Indian embassy official said on Saturday.

Namgya C Khampa, of the Indian embassy in Beijing, made the remarks at the end of a three-day visit by the Indian prime minister, Narendra Modi, during which he sought to boost economic ties and quell anxiety over a border dispute between the neighbours.

Khampa said: “The agreements have a bilateral commercial engagement in sectors like renewable energy, industrial parks, power, steel, logistics finance and media and entertainment.”

China is interested in more opportunities in India’s $2tn economy.

During a visit to India in 2014 by China’s president, Xi Jinping, China announced $20bn in investments over five years, including the establishment of two industrial parks.

Since then, progress has been slow, in part because of the difficulties Modi has had in getting political approval for easier land acquisition laws.

 

Source:  theguardian.com

Gut feeling about your CEO is spot on

Gut feeling about CEO is spot on

Gut feeling about CEO is spot on.

That gut feeling many workers, laborers and other underlings have about their CEOs is spot on, according to three recent studies in the Journal of Management, the Journal of Management Studies and the Journal of Leadership and Organizational Studies that say CEO greed is bad for business.

But how do you define greed? Are compassionate CEOs better for business? How do you know if the leader is doing more harm than good? And can anybody rein in the I-Me-Mine type leader anyway?

University of Delaware researcher Katalin Takacs Haynes and three collaborators — Michael A. Hitt and Matthew Josefy of Texas A&M University and Joanna Tochman Campbell of the University of Cincinnati — have chased such questions for several years, digging into annual reports, comparing credentials with claims and developing useful definitions that could shed more light on the impact of a company’s top leader on employees, business partners and investors.

They test the assumption that self-interest is a universal trait of CEOs (spoiler alert: it’s alive and well), show that too much altruism can harm company performance, reveal the dark, self-destructive tendencies of some entrepreneurs and family-owned businesses and provide a way to measure and correlate greed, arrogance and company performance.

“We tried to look at what we think greed is more objectively,” said Haynes, who was recently promoted to associate professor of management in UD’s Alfred Lerner College of Business and Economics. “What we’re trying to do is clean up some of the definitions and make sure we’re all talking about the same concepts.”

In their studies, researchers offer plenty of evidence that some leaders are insatiable when it comes to compensation. How much is too much? They don’t put a number on that. But they do add plenty of nuance to the question and point to a mix of motivations that goes beyond raw greed.

“It’s not for us to judge what too much is for anybody else,” said Haynes, “but we can see when the outcome of somebody’s work is the greater good, and when it is not just greed that is operating in them.”

Greed seems all too apparent to many workers. The recent recession left millions without jobs and many companies sinking into a sea of red. At the same time, though, stunning bonuses and other perks were landing in the laps of people at the helm.

Haynes, who joined the UD faculty in 2011, has found the range of pay within companies an intriguing question, too.

“Why is it that in some companies there is a huge difference between the pay of the top executive and the average worker or the lowest-paid employee and in other companies the pay is a lot closer?” she said.

Many a minimum-wage worker, making $15,080 per year, has wondered that, and so have those in the middle class, who may work a year to make what some CEOs make in a day.

But if you make more than anyone else does that mean you’re greedy?

The question is more complicated than water-cooler conversations might suggest. And Haynes and her collaborators go to the data for answers, leaving emotion, indignation and cries for justice to others. They leave others to correlate the data with names, too.

Instead, they offer definitions and analytical tools that add clarity, allow for apples-to-apples comparisons and shed new light on how a leader’s objectives shape company performance.

“It’s possible that high pay is perfectly deserved because of high contributions, high skill sets,” Haynes said, “and just because somebody doesn’t have high pay doesn’t mean they aren’t greedy.”

The marks of greed are found elsewhere — in a reporting category that tracks “other” compensation and perquisites, in the pay rates of other top executives, in compensation demands during times of company stress, for example.

Haynes’ studies included interviews (with anonymity assured), publicly reported data, written surveys, essays and a review of published information and interviews with CEOs.

The studies also examined managerial hubris and how it differs from self-confidence.

“Hubris is an extreme manifestation of confidence, characterized by preoccupation with fantasies of success and power, excessive feelings of self-importance, as well as arrogance,” researchers wrote.

“Say I’m a stunt driver and I have jumped across five burning cars before with my car,” Haynes said. “I’m pretty confident I can do that — and maybe even six. Say I’m not a stunt driver. To say I could jump through six burning cars would be arrogance. And if I drag you to go with me, it could be criminal.”

Risk aversion can harm a company. But risk for short-term gain without thought of the company’s future is a sign of greed.

“Some CEOs take risks and it will pay off,” she said. “They will have reliable performance and we can forecast that. We know their track record. Others take foolish risks not based on their previous performance.”

Such risks may be especially prevalent among young entrepreneurs, who underestimate the resources needed to help a startup succeed and fail to recognize that more than money is at stake.

“While financial capital is an important concern with these behaviors, the effects on human and social capital are often overlooked, despite the fact that they are highly critical for the success and ultimate survival of entrepreneurial ventures,” the researchers wrote.

Generally, researchers found that greed is worse among short-term leaders with weak boards.

The good news, Haynes said, is that strong corporate governance can rein in CEO greed and keep both self-interest and altruism in proper balance. And that is where the greatest success is found.

“Overall, we conclude that measured self-interest keeps managers focused on the firm’s goals and measured altruism helps the firm to build and maintain strong human and social capital,” researchers wrote.

 

Source:  sciencedaily.com

Plasma made from matter and antimatter

Pulsar has atmosphere of matter and anti matter.

Pulsar has atmosphere of matter and anti matter.

One of the all-time great mysteries in physics is why our Universe contains more matter than antimatter, which is the equivalent of matter but with the opposite charge. To tackle this question, our international team of researchers have managed to create a plasma of equal amounts of matter and antimatter – a condition we think made up the early Universe.

Matter as we know it appears in four different states: solid, liquid, gas, and plasma, which is a really hot gas where the atoms have been stripped of their electrons. However, there is also a fifth, exotic state: a matter-antimatter plasma, in which there is complete symmetry between negative particles (electrons) and positive particles (positrons).

This peculiar state of matter is believed to be present in the atmosphere of extreme astrophysical objects, such as black holes and pulsars. It is also thought to have been the fundamental constituent of the Universe in its infancy, in particular during the Leptonic era, starting approximately one second after the Big Bang.

One of the problems with creating matter and antimatter particles together is that they strongly dislike each other – disappearing in a burst of light whenever they meet. However, this doesn’t happen straight away, and it is possible to study the behaviour of the plasma for the fraction of a second in which it is alive.

Understanding how matter behaves in this exotic state is crucial if we want to understand how our Universe has evolved and, in particular, why the Universe as we know it is made up mainly of matter. This is a puzzling feature, as the theory of relativistic quantum mechanics suggests we should have equal amounts of the two. In fact, no current model of physics can explain the discrepancy.

Despite its fundamental importance for our understanding of the Universe, an electron-positron plasma had never been produced before in the laboratory, not even in huge particle accelerators such as CERN. Our international team, involving physicists from the UK, Germany, Portugal, and Italy, finally managed to crack the nut by completely changing the way we look at these objects.

Instead of focusing our attention on immense particle accelerators, we turned to the ultra-intense lasers available at the Central Laser Facility at the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory in Oxfordshire, UK. We used an ultra-high vacuum chamber with an air pressure corresponding to a hundredth of a millionth of our atmosphere to shoot an ultra-short and intense laser pulse (hundred billions of billions more intense that sunlight on the Earth surface) onto a nitrogen gas. This stripped off the gas’ electrons and accelerated them to a speed extremely close to that of light.

The beam then collided with a block of lead, which slowed them down again. As they slowed down they emitted particles of light, photons, which created pairs of electrons and their anti-particle, the positron, when they collided with nuclei of the lead sample. A chain-reaction of this process gave rise to the plasma.

However, this experimental achievement was not without effort. The laser beam had to be guided and controlled with micrometer precision, and the detectors had to be finely calibrated and shielded – resulting in frequent long nights in the laboratory.

But it was well worth it as the development means an exciting branch of physics is opening up. Apart from investigating the important matter-antimatter asymmetry, by looking at how these plasmas interact with ultra powerful laser beams, we can also study how this plasma propagates in vacuum and in a low-density medium. This would be effectively recreating conditions similar to the generation of gamma-ray bursts, some of the most luminous events ever recorded in our Universe.

 

Source:  sciencealert.com

Holographic micro battery is 10 micrometers thick

holographic microbattery

holographic microbattery

Researchers and companies alike have been scrambling to come up with a next-generation battery, but one of the more unlikely places we’d expect to hear about it is from the study of holography. Recently, a team of engineers at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign demonstrated that porous, three-dimensional electrodes can boost a lithium-ion micro battery’s power output by three orders of magnitude, as first reported in Chemical & Engineering News. But now the team has gone a step further, and has optimized the electrode structure with holograms, the three-dimensional interference patterns of multiple laser beams, in order to generate porous blocks that could used as a sort of scaffolding for building electrodes.

The result: a holographic micro battery that’s only 2mm wide and 10 micrometers thick, with an area of 4mm squared, and 12% capacity fade. The researchers said it’s compatible with existing fabrication techniques, and ideal for large-scale on-chip integration with all kinds of microelectronic devices, including medical implants, sensors, and radio transmitters. To get an idea of scale, the photo above shows the battery’s electrodes in a 2mm by 2mm square on a glass substrate. Batteries like this could power implants small enough to track certain aspects of someone’s health in real time, and without the comparatively vast bulk of existing blood glucose and cardiac monitors, just to cite one example.

“This 3D micro battery has exceptional performance and scalability, and we think it will be of importance for many applications,” said Paul Braun, a professor of materials science and engineering at Illinois, in a statement. “Micro-scale devices typically utilize power supplied off-chip because of difficulties in miniaturizing energy storage technologies.”

Braun said that a supercapacitor-like, on-chip battery of this diminutive size would be ideal for autonomous microscale actuators, distributed wireless sensors and transmitters, monitors, and portable and implantable medical devices. To fabricate the batteries, controlling the interfering optical beams for building 3D holographic lithography isn’t trivial. But “recent advances have significantly simplified the required optics, enabling creation of structures via a single incident beam and standard photoresist processing,” said professor John Rogers, who assisted Braun and his team to develop the technology.

This isn’t the first time we’ve seen such tiny micro batteries developed. Back in 2013, researchers 3D-printed a battery that’s just 1mm wide, and in 2014, we saw a graphene-based microbattery that could also power implants. But it’s arguably the most sophisticated and realistic design yet. On the slightly larger front, last month a team of Stanford researchers developed an aluminum graphite battery that could charge up a smartphone in just 60 seconds. But in the end, it may be no surprise that holograms help us engineer better batteries — after all, we could be living inside a hologram all this time.

 

Source:  extremetech.com

 

Carbon Billionaire Al Gore

Al Gore Becomes First ‘Carbon Billionaire’

Al Gore First ‘Carbon Billionaire’

Former US Vice President and Global Warming advocate, Al Gore, has become the world’s first ‘carbon billionaire’ after landing a major carbon deal with Chinese coal mining company Haerwusu, one of the top ten coal mining companies in the world.

Al Gore and his partner David Blood, both principals at Generation Investment Management (GIM) have landed the most lucrative carbon deal to date, reaching an estimated $12 billion dollars in carbon shares, estimate experts, although official numbers have not yet been disclosed.

Haerwusu that has often been criticized by Amnesty International and other human rights groups for the poor working conditions of their employees is believed to have sealed the carbon deal to “improve its international image” in an attempt to facilitate commerce with Europe and America, believe specialists.

The former vice-president announced the news to share holders earlier this week during a press conference at GIM headquarters, in London, England.

“I am proud to say that this is just the beginning” he told share holders, visibly enchanted by the recent deal.

“I told the world 20 years ago that the ice caps would be melted by now. Although we are lucky this has not happened yet, we have been at the forefront of the Global Warming movement all along and today we are reaping what we have sown” he admitted with great pride.

“When a system of carbon taxes and carbon trade is setup all over the world in the near future, GIM will be at the epicenter of this green revolution, and believe me, this is just the beginning” he acknowledged prophetically.

The $12 billion dollar deal signed for a period of 10 years with the Haerwusu company could encourage other companies to join in the global carbon trade, a great thing for GIM share holders who’s profits are estimated by experts to sky rocket in the next years.

 

Source:  worldnewsdailyreport.com

Forty two thousand gun death in Brazil

Gun Deaths

Gun Deaths

A report on violence in Brazil says around 42,000 people were shot dead in 2012 – the highest figures for gun crime in 35 years. The study, by the UN and the government on the most recent available data, said almost all the deaths were murders.

More than half of those killed were young men under the age of 30 – two-thirds were described as black.

The Brazilian Congress is debating a controversial bill that would limit access to firearms.

Gun crime murders have been dropping in the states of Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo but rising in the north and northeast of the country.

The northern state of Alagoas is the most violent, with fifty-five gun deaths per hundred thousand inhabitants.

The report says a slow justice system and flawed police investigations as well as the widespread availability of firearms are to blame.

It says Brazil has become a society which tolerates guns to resolve “all sorts of disputes, in most cases for very banal and circumstantial reasons.”

A law to ban the carrying of guns in public and control illegal ownership came into effect in 2004.

It tightened rules on gun permits and create a national firearms register, with strict penalties for owning an unregistered gun.

 

Source:  BBC.com

American prison investing in alternatives to prison

Private Prison

Private Prison

Private prison companies are facing up to the realities of criminal justice reform — and how it could hurt their bottom lines if they don’t rethink their approach soon.

As more states and the federal government have enacted reforms to decrease the number of people in costly, overcrowded prisons, private prison companies have invested in the services that many new criminals will be pushed to instead of prison — probation, parole, and halfway houses.

GEO Group in 2011 acquired Behavioral Interventions, the world’s largest producer of monitoring equipment for people awaiting trial or serving out probation or parole sentences. It followed GEO’s purchase in 2009 of Just Care, a medical and mental health service provider which bolstered its GEO Care business that provides services to government agencies. “Our commitment is to be the world’s leader in the delivery of offender rehabilitation and community reentry programs, which is in line with the increased emphasis on rehabilitation around the world,” said GEO chairman and founder George Zoley during a recent earnings call.

For $36 million in 2013, CCA acquired Correctional Alternatives, a company that provides housing and rehabilitation services that include work furloughs, residential reentry programs, and home confinement. “We believe we’re going to continue to see governments seeking these types of services, and we’re well positioned to offer them,” says Steve Owen, CCA’s ‎senior director of public affairs.

The common refrain, as outlined by a 2011 report from the Justice Policy Initiative, is that private prison companies have hugely benefited from mass incarceration, since they’re paid for each prisoner they hold. And as they’ve benefited, they’ve used the proceeds to lobby lawmakers to not carry out prison reforms, so they can keep a steady flow of prisoners.

But this diversification shows that private prison companies aren’t necessarily all in for mass incarceration anymore. They’re developing other options, too — although they’ll still rely on a steady flow of people under correctional supervision like probation, parole, and home arrest to boost profits.

Still, private prisons are poised to get increased profits from at least one kind of incarceration in which they’ve heavily invested: the detainment of undocumented immigrants. A 2014 Government Accountability Office analysis found that the number of non-citizens in immigrant detention nearly doubled between fiscal years 2005 and 2013. And US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has a mandate to keep 34,000 detention beds available — although Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson has said this is a mandate to keep the beds, not necessarily fill them.

Source:  Vox.com

Test catches cancer 13 years before it hits

Test can predict cancer up to 13 years

Test can predict cancer up to 13 years

Scientists have developed a new test that can predict with 100 per cent accuracy whether someone will develop cancer up to 13 years in the future.

The discovery of tiny but significant changes taking place in the body more than a decade before cancer was diagnosed helped researchers at  Harvard and Northwestern University make the breakthrough.

Their research,  published in the online journal Ebiomedicine, found protective caps on the ends of chromosomes, which prevent DNA damage were more worn down those who went on to develop cancer.

Known as telomeres, these were much shorter than they should have been and continued to get shorter until around four years before the cancer developed, when they suddenly stopped shrinking.

“Because we saw a strong relationship in the pattern across a wide variety of cancers, with the right testing these procedures could be used eventually to diagnose a wide variety of cancers,” said Dr Lifang Hou, the lead study author, told The Telegraph.

“Understanding this pattern of telomere growth may mean it can be a predictive biomarker for cancer….We found cancer has hijacked the telomere shortening in order to flourish in the body.”

Source:

independent.co.uk