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Archive for May 10th, 2009

Nanoneedle is small in size, but huge in potential applications

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Min-Feng Yu

Researchers at the University of Illinois have developed a membrane-penetrating nanoneedle for the targeted delivery of one or more molecules into the cytoplasm or the nucleus of living cells. In addition to ferrying tiny amounts of cargo, the nanoneedle can also be used as an electrochemical probe and as an optical biosensor.

“Nanoneedle-based delivery is a powerful new tool for studying biological processes and biophysical properties at the molecular level inside living cells,” said Min-Feng Yu, an associate professor of mechanical science and engineering and corresponding author of a paper accepted for publication in Nano Letters.

In the paper, Yu and collaborators describe how they deliver, detect and track individual fluorescent quantum dots in a cell’s cytoplasm and nucleus. The quantum dots can be used for studying molecular mechanics and physical properties inside cells…

With a diameter of approximately 50 nanometers, the nanoneedle introduces minimal intrusiveness in penetrating cell membranes and accessing the interiors of live cells…

“Combined with molecular targeting strategies using quantum dots and magnetic nanoparticles as molecular probes, the nanoneedle delivery method can potentially enable the simultaneous observation and manipulation of individual molecules,” said Ning Wang, a MechSE professor and a co-author of the paper…

“Nanoneedles can be used as electrochemical probes and as optical biosensors to study cellular environments, stimulate certain types of biological sequences, and examine the effect of nanoparticles on cellular physiology.”

Wow! As screwed-up as our education system is at the grassroots level, at least the realm of higher studies remains sufficiently advanced to attract the best and brightest.

If we could only figure out how to carry this obvious capacity down to our high schools and all undergraduate institutions.

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Written by Ed Campbell

May 10, 2009 at 10:00 pm

Afghanistan not Al Qaida’s base – says General Petraeus

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petraeusinterview

The terrorist group that carried out the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks is not based in Afghanistan, said U.S. CENTCOM Commander Gen. David Petraeus.

Rather, al Qaida is “a syndicate of extremist organizations” with sanctuaries in the country, Petraeus said Sunday in an appearance on CNN’s “State of the Union” program.

“They do come in and out of Afghanistan. But al Qaida — precise al Qaida, if you will — is not based per se in Afghanistan. Although its elements and certainly its affiliates … certainly do have enclaves and sanctuaries in certain parts of Eastern Afghanistan,” he added.

Petraeus, who heads U.S. military operations in the Middle East and Central Asia, said the Afghani element of al Qaida has a presence in some parts of Pakistan.

The federally administered tribal areas of Pakistan — that very, very mountainous, rugged terrain — just east of the Afghan border and in the western part of Pakistan is the locus of the leadership of these organizations although they do, again, go into Afghanistan and conduct operations against our troops,” he said.

Watch the whole interview. You’re already seeing elements of the new anti-terror strategy formulated by the Obama administration – being introduced by Pakistan’s military.

It seems obvious to me that Obama is allowing information collected by intelligence services to guide our nation’s response to the threat – instead of the trite incompetence of Cheney and Bush, partisan automatons prepared to march the United States deeper and deeper into the history of failed imperialism.

Honestly, I didn’t think I’d be around long enough to see thoughtful and knowledgable processes supercede greed and collusion in American foreign policy. Perhaps, that time has arrived. I hope so. Personally, it’s daunting to assume that Obama and his Merry Band could bring change that qualitative.

Written by Ed Campbell

May 10, 2009 at 6:00 pm

Button – Barrichello – Brawn dominate the Spanish GP – UPDATED

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Daylife/Getty Images used by permission

Jenson Button’s superb season continued as he grabbed his fourth 2009 race win out of five at a tactical Spanish Grand Prix which Brawn GP totally dominated.

Team-mate Rubens Barrichello got past pole-sitter Button with a great start – but a strategy change benefited the Englishman, who pushed him into second.

Subtle complicity here. If a suggestion from Ross Brawn can ever be considered subtle.

Now, a day after the race, I think the details on lap times make it clear there were no team orders.

Red Bull’s Mark Webber was third ahead of team-mate Sebastian Vettel, who passed Felipe Massa’s Ferrari late on.

McLaren’s world champion Lewis Hamilton finished outside the points in ninth.

Massa ran third for much of the race, holding up Vettel’s faster Red Bull, but the Brazilian lost the place to Webber at the second pit stops thanks to clever strategy from Red Bull.

Massa then slipped down to sixth behind Vettel and Renault’s Fernando Alonso in the closing laps when the Brazilian was forced to go into fuel-saving mode when a problem at his pit stop meant not enough fuel was put into his car.

BMW Sauber’s Nick Heidfeld and Williams’s Nico Rosberg finished seventh and eighth in the final points positions.

With a win that never looked in doubt after he had built up more than 11 seconds between his car and the rest of the field half-way through the race, Button has further stretched his lead at the top of the drivers’ championship and now sits 14 points ahead of Barrichello…

The sixth race of the season takes place on the street circuit of Monaco in two weeks’ time on 24 May.

Monaco – so difficult, so important to the history of motorsport, a feather in the cap of any driver good enough – and fortunate enough – to win there. There will be a TV breakfast party at our home. :)

Written by Ed Campbell

May 10, 2009 at 4:00 pm

Chain store stops charging extra to women with big boobs

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Daylife/Getty Images used by permission

Marks & Spencer said it would stop charging more for larger bras after more than 14,000 consumers joined a Facebook group calling for an end to its differential pricing.

Unlike most retailers, M&S charged £2 more for bras with a cup size above DD – a cost described by the Facebook group Busts 4 Justice as a “tit-tax”.

The company defended its position saying the charge reflected the extra cost of producing a bra for larger bust sizes, and that other specialist lingerie retailers charged £60 or more for larger cups.

However, it has now backed down and today took out full-page adverts in the press to tell consumers that from tomorrow, all bras will cost the same. Under the headline “We boobed” the adverts say: “We were wrong, so as of Saturday 9th May the storm in a D cup is over…”

The Busts 4 Justice group was set up last summer by Beckie Williams, a 26-year-old writer from Brighton who was fed up of paying extra for her 30G bras…

Eventually, her Facebook group had attracted 14,246 members. In a message on its homepage she told them: “We are really happy to say that, thanks to the members of Busts 4 Justice, M&S have decided to abolish the tit-tax, and from now on will be operating a one-price-fits-all policy across their ranges.

“We would like to thank everyone who has supported us on this issue; especially the thousands of brilliant, busty women that have joined forces with us. We couldn’t have done this without you.”

Bravo! I’d be willing to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with a political movement like this, any day.

Nothing like a full-frontal assault!

Written by Ed Campbell

May 10, 2009 at 2:00 pm

Kidney stones afflicting children is on the rise

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When Lisa Garnes received a call from her daughter’s daycare saying that 3-year-old Emma was complaining of back pain, she never dreamt the cause would be a condition often associated with middle aged men: kidney stones.

“They said that Emma was doubled over in pain and saying that her back hurt her,” says Garnes.

Garnes took her to the pediatrician, who suggested it was a urinary tract infection. A half hour later, she called again to tell her doctor that her daughter couldn’t keep anything down. The doctor suggested taking her to the ER.

After a battery of tests, including an ultrasound, the doctor returned with the news: she had kidney stones…

The growing incidence of kidney stones in children can be linked to the modern diet and lifestyle, says Gary Faerber, MD, a urologist at the University of Michigan Health System.

I am seeing more and more children who have kidney stones,” says Faerber. “It’s a real phenomenon…”

Children today seem to live a lifestyle that puts them at risk of kidney stones, meaning they consume sugar-filled drinks and a fast-food diet that is high in sodium, a known risk factor in the formation of kidney stones, says Faerber.

“The sedentary lifestyle we’re starting to see in the younger age group and the pediatric group is also a risk factor because we know that obesity increases the risk of forming kidney stones,” he adds…

“The main takeaway is to get your child to stay away from sugar filled drinks, sodas, colas and go to something natural like plain old water,” he says.

RTFA. Pay attention to what your kids are consuming.

Let me say that again. Pay attention to what your kids are consuming. For crying out loud – pay attention to your own nutrition and your whole family’s diet. Even when money is hard to come by, veggies and water are easier to come by than sugar and sloth.

Written by Ed Campbell

May 10, 2009 at 12:00 pm

Ponzi schemer untouchable because of DEA connection?

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Daylife/AP Photo used by permission

Evidence has emerged that the Texan who bankrolled English cricket may have been a US government informer.

Sir Allen Stanford, who is accused of bank fraud, is the subject of an investigation by the BBC’s Panorama.

Sources told Panorama that if he was a paid anti-drug agency informer, that could explain why a 2006 probe into his financial dealings was quietly dropped.

Sir Allen vigorously denies allegations of financial wrongdoing, despite a massive shortfall in his bank’s assets. Of the $7.2bn in deposits claimed by the bank, only $500m has been traced.

Secret documents seen by Panorama show both governments knew in 1990 that the Texan was a former bankrupt and his first bank was suspected of involvement with Latin American money-launderers.

In 1999, both the British and the Americans were aware of the facts surrounding a cheque for $3.1m that Sir Allen paid to the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). It was drug money originally paid in to Stanford International Bank by agents acting for a feared Mexican drug lord known as the ‘Lord of the Heavens’.

On 17 February of this year, the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) accused Sir Allen of running a multi-billion dollar Ponzi fraud…civil charges he has denied.

Two and a half months after the SEC filing, the Texan has not yet faced criminal charges.

He was initially investigated by the SEC for running a possible Ponzi fraud in the summer of 2006, but by the winter of that year the inquiry was stopped.

Panorama understands that the decision was taken because of a request by another government agency.

In recent years – actually going all the way back to Ollie North and CIA drugs involvement – the U.S. government has dabbled in chasing vs. partnering with drug lords as the wind blew one way or another in the absolutely useless War on Drugs.

I trust all of these clowns about as far as I can throw them uphill into a heavy wind. Unprincipled thugs no different from their officially-criminal buddies.

Written by Ed Campbell

May 10, 2009 at 10:00 am

Deprived of sex, Kenyan man sues over boycott

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A Kenyan man has sued activists who called on women to boycott sex to protest the growing divide in the nation’s coalition government.

James Kimondo said the seven-day sex ban, which ended this week, resulted in stress, mental anguish, backaches and lack of sleep, his lawyer told the state-run Kenya Broadcasting Corp.

The lawsuit filed Friday claims lack of conjugal rights affected Kimondo’s marriage and seeks undisclosed damages from the G-10, an umbrella group for women’s activists…

Gender activists say they are not worried about the lawsuit.

“I have not been served with the papers, but I was told they are coming and I am eagerly waiting,” said Ann Njogu, executive, director of Centers for Rights Education and Awareness. “It will be interesting to see the face of a man who is not willing to abstain for the sake of his country.”

Har!

Written by Ed Campbell

May 10, 2009 at 8:00 am

Posted in Culture, Politics

Tagged with , , , ,

Measuring snow with a bucket, a windmill, and the sun?

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In Maine, government scientists have figured out how to measure snowfall in remote areas with a bucket, a small windmill, and the sun – all the while saving money, energy, and, ultimately helping to save lives.

What led to this energy-efficient ingenuity was the need to help the National Weather Service forecast and predict the risk of floods from spring snowmelt.

The problem was this: While the USGS has about 15 snowmelt measurement sites in Maine, they also needed a way to measure snowfall in remote areas where power grids are scarce. Emergency managers need accurate information to prepare for forthcoming hazards and energy companies need to plan ahead for how much water to expect in reservoirs.

Bob Lent, chief of the USGS Maine Water Science Center in Augusta: “We cobbled together a small-scale commercial windmill to replace commercial AC power, and supplemented the windmill with solar panels. What we ended up with is a windmill that powers our measurements on windy and cloudy days, and solar panels that power them on calm, sunny days…”

Basically, the system looks like this: a gage is attached to a 5-gallon bucket that sits atop a simple wooden platform on a metal pole. The gage has a heating element to melt the snow as it collects in the cone of the bucket. The gage only turns on when snow is detected. Nearby is a data-collection box that is linked to the windmill and solar panels. When the bucket fills up with melted snow it tips over and empties. Each tip of the bucket measures 0.01 inches of precipitation and is recorded to the data recorder, which transmits the data and is updated on the web every hour…

It’s a very small step in a very long journey of helping this country become greener, but this embodies what we need to be doing and the direction in which we need to be going,” said Lent.

Couple really good points in the release: [1] Over a few years, the system saves money. Ain’t it nice to have a government that supports that sort of ideology. [2] This can work as well in a funky Florida swamp as glacial Maine.

Written by Ed Campbell

May 10, 2009 at 6:00 am

Posted in Earth, Science

Tagged with , , , ,

Technology and democracy – both changing in an historic land

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Daylife/Reuters Pictures used by permission

Sometimes a technology comes along and crystallizes a cultural moment. Not since Americans and their automobiles in the 1950s, perhaps, have a people and a technology wedded as happily as Indians and their cellphones — small and big, vibrating and tringing, BlackBerry and plain vanilla.

And neither India nor the cellphone will be the same after the pairing. India now adds more cellphone connections than anyplace else, with 15.6 million in March alone. The cost of calling is among the lowest in the world. And the device plays a larger-than-life role here — more so, it seems, than in the wealthy countries where it was invented.

Of course, in so vast a country, India’s nearly 400 million cellphone users still account for only a third of the population. But the technology has seeped down the social strata, into slums and small towns and villages, becoming that rare Indian possession to traverse the walls of caste and region and class; a majority of subscribers are now outside the major cities and wealthiest states. And while the average bill, of less than $5 per month, represents 7 percent of the average Indian’s income, enough Indians apparently consider the sacrifice worth it: if present trends continue, in five years every Indian will have a cellphone.

What makes the cellphone special in India? It is partly that India skipped the land-line revolution, making cellphones the first real contact with the outside world for hundreds of millions of people. It is partly that, with few other machines selling so briskly, the cellphone in India is forced variously to be a personal computer, flashlight, camera, stereo, video-game console and day organizer as well. It is partly that India’s relative poverty compels providers to be more creative to survive…

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Ed Campbell

May 10, 2009 at 2:00 am

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