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Archive for September 18th, 2009

Russian Dandelion modified for large-scale latex production

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Test Garden

Anyone who has picked dandelions as a child will be familiar with the white liquid that seeps out of the stalks as you break them off. Viscous, sticky – and a much sought-after material: natural latex. Around 30,000 everyday products contain natural rubber, everything from car tires, catheter tubes, latex gloves to tops for drinks bottles. Car tires, for instance, would not be elastic enough without the incorporation of natural rubber. The bulk of this material comes from rubber trees in Southeast Asia.

Rubber produced in this way can, however, cause allergic reactions, which is clearly an issue with clinical products. A fungus is also creating concern for rubber cultivators. In South America the infection is now so widespread that large-scale cultivation has become virtually impossible. The disease now also appears to have taken root in Southeast Asia’s rubber belt. Fungicides still provide at least temporary protection. But if the fungus disease was to reach epidemic proportions, chemical crop protection would be rendered useless – experts fear that the natural latex industry could collapse if that were to happen.

Researchers are therefore turning to other sources – such as the Russian dandelion. Germans, Russians and Americans produced rubber from this plant during the Second World War. Once it is cut, latex seeps out, albeit difficult to use as it polymerizes immediately…

“We have identified the enzyme responsible for the rapid polymerization and have switched it off,” says Prof. Dr. Dirk Prüfer, Head of Department at the IME. “If the plant is cut, the latex flows out instead of being polymerized. We obtain four to five times the amount we would normally. If the plants were to be cultivated on a large scale, every hectare would produce 500 to 1000 kilograms of latex per growing season.”

The dandelion rubber has not caused any allergies so far, making it ideal for use in hospitals.

It really knocks me out – how many questions unable to answer back in the day – now become possible to sort with genetic science. This is taking care of a question examined 60-70 years ago and simply set aside.

You could spend a career just wandering back through biologic and botanical science for unresolved experiments which might now be finished.

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Written by Ed Campbell

September 18, 2009 at 10:00 pm

FCC is sneaking up on endorsing Net Neutrality – UPDATED

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Daylife/Getty Images used by permission

Federal Communications Commission Chairman Julius Genachowski will unveil in a speech on Monday new proposals that would force Internet providers to treat the flow of content equally, say sources familiar with the speech.

The concept, referred to as net neutrality, pits open Internet companies like Google against broadband service providers like AT&T, Verizon Communications, and Comcast, which oppose new rules governing network management.

Advocates of net neutrality say Internet service providers must be barred from blocking or slowing traffic based on content.

Providers say the increasing volume of bandwidth-hogging services like video sharing requires active management of their networks and some argue that net neutrality could stifle innovation.

“He is going to announce rulemaking,” said one source familiar with his speech about broadband, to be delivered at the Brookings Institution, a public policy think tank. “The commission will have to codify into new regulations the principle of nondiscrimination.”

The most hypocritical aspect of the Telco/Cableco position is their whining over the amount of fibre utilized by consumers, small vendors, independent producers of video content – anyone but the fibre-owners and their backdoor buddies in the MPAA.

Then, the sky’s the limit on how much bandwidth is used to provide direct unregulated profit.

UPDATE: Here’s the speech.

Written by Ed Campbell

September 18, 2009 at 6:00 pm

Talk like a Pirate Day is almost here – me hearties!

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Easy tip number one, if you want to talk like a pirate: Add “me hearties” to the end of any sentence.

The meaning is simple — “my friends, my mates” — said John “Ol’ Chumbucket” Baur, before offering as way of example, “Turn your head and cough, me hearties. Or, fill it up with regular, me hearties.”

Saturday marks “Talk Like a Pirate Day,” an observance that has been recognized on all seven continents and beyond. It inspires dress and behavior — of the Long John Silver variety — in seedy bars, staid workplaces and even the International Space Station. It has fueled fundraisers, been the topic for a New York Times crossword puzzle and mentioned on various game shows.

Pirate speak:

Ahoy — Hello.
Avast — Stand and give attention; listen up.
Aye — I heartily agree with everything you said or did.
Aye Aye — Yeah, boss, I’ll get on that as soon as I finish this coffee or rum.
Aarrr — Not to be confused with Arrgh (a sign of pain), it’s a way of announcing yourself to the world, telling everyone you’re here and alive. It could mean don’t look at my girlfriend that way, or I’m enjoying this hamburger.

You realize after a while that “me hearties” is piratespeak for “homie”.

Written by Ed Campbell

September 18, 2009 at 3:00 pm

Posted in Culture, Humor

Tagged with , , , ,

Insane killer escapes – from field trip! WTF?

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A mental hospital patient who strangled an elderly woman 22 years ago and slit her throat is still on the loose after escaping from a hospital outing to the Spokane County fair, The Spokesman Review reports.

The paper says 57-year-old Phillip Arnold Paul walked away from a group of 31 Eastern State Hospital patients on a trip to the fair along with 11 hospital employees. Authorities were not notified for two hours that he had gone missing…

Paul, who is 5-foot-8 and weighs 207 pounds, was diagnosed with schizophrenia and hospitalized in 1987, after being found innocent by reason of insanity of killing a 78-year-old woman in Sunnyside. According to previous reports, the paper says, Paul said voices in his head said the woman was a witch…

State officials have temporarily halted all outings for state patients with criminal histories while they conduct a review.

Paul also escaped during a day trip in 1990. He was convicted of assault after injuring a sheriff’s deputy who helped detain him.

Isn’t there some definition about dumb and dumber being illustrated here?

Written by Ed Campbell

September 18, 2009 at 12:01 pm

Google brand value rises faster than all in Top 100

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Google has notched up the biggest rise in brand value, according to Interbrand’s latest listing of the 100 most valuable global brands.

The internet search company’s value grew 25% over the past year to reach nearly $32bn. In growth terms, it was closely followed by Amazon, which saw its brand equity boosted 22% to almost $8bn.

There were double-digit rises in the technology sector for BlackBerry and Apple, which made it into the top 20 global brands for the first time…

The top five brands, however, have held onto their positions. Coca-Cola remains at the top for the ninth year in a row, with its value up 3% to $69bn followed by IBM, Microsoft, GE and Nokia.

Luxury brands have also held onto their value; Ferrari was the best-performing automotive brand. However, Harley Davidson was one of this year’s biggest losers dropping 43% of its brand value and slipping from 50th to 73rd in the table.

I’m not concerned about acquiring a Ferrari anytime soon. I don’t drink carbonated beverages anymore. And there’s nothing in my home from the 4 brands following Coca-Cola.

My wife and I both Google – and sometimes I think we keep Amazon in business on our own.

Written by Ed Campbell

September 18, 2009 at 9:00 am

Watching out for Americans trying to ripoff stimulus funds

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What sort of counterfeit do you need?

It would not ordinarily go down in the annals of crime. But when Robert Fitzsimmons was arrested this summer and accused of cashing a check made out to his long-dead father at a Pay-O-Matic check cashing store in Manhattan, he became one of the first people in the country accused of stealing some of the $787 billion in federal stimulus money.

At issue was one of the millions of $250 stimulus checks that were sent to all Social Security recipients in May; Mr. Fitzsimmons was accused of cashing one that was made out to his late father, according to a complaint filed in Federal District Court in Manhattan, which goes on to accuse him of stealing Social Security money for at least four years. His lawyer, Julia Gatto, said he intended to plead not guilty.

Compared with the immense size of the stimulus program, the actual number of arrests so far has been microscopic. Earl E. Devaney, the chairman of the Recovery Accountability and Transparency Board, the watchdog for stimulus money, said recently that federal prosecutors were looking at only nine stimulus-related cases, including accusations of Social Security fraud and of businesses improperly claiming to be owned by women and members of minorities.

Quite frankly, I’m a little surprised it’s that small,” Mr. Devaney testified recently before the Senate, explaining that his office passes along questionable expenses to the various federal inspector general offices following the money, as well as to the Department of Justice. “I know, from talking to them, they’re very interested in sending some very loud signals early, as often as they can, with this money.”

The small number of cases is partly a function of how much stimulus money has been spent so far, and how it has been spent. While more than $150 billion of it has been pumped into the economy, according to a recent report by the White House, some $62.6 billion of that was in the form of tax cuts. Of the rest, $38.4 billion was sent to states for fiscal relief; $30.6 billion was spent to help those affected by the recession by expanding unemployment benefits and other safety-net programs, and $16.5 billion was spent in areas like infrastructure, technology and research.

Will the fraud investigators check up on what the states do with the money?

As much as I may distrust my fellow citizens, I trust state governments even less. They practically invented graft.

Written by Ed Campbell

September 18, 2009 at 6:00 am

Posted in Economics, History, Politics

Tagged with , , , ,

Indians ask for H1N1 kits, get enough body bags for a plague!

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Body Bag shipment

Health Canada has apologized for sending more than two dozen body bags to a Manitoba First Nation in preparation for a possible swine flu outbreak.

“We regret the alarm that this incident has caused,” said a statement issued late Thursday afternoon. “It is important to remember that our nurses are focused entirely on providing primary health-care services under often-trying circumstances.”

But the apology only cites the bags sent to the Wasagamack First Nation. Manitoba First Nations chiefs said the bags — which arrived this week with a shipment of hand sanitizers and face masks — also arrived in God’s River First Nation.

Earlier Thursday afternoon, Jim Wolfe, director of First Nations and Inuit Health for Manitoba, issued his own apology and took the blame.

He said his department regrets the alarm the shipment has caused in those communities, which were hard hit by the H1N1 flu virus in the spring. Wolfe said the apology goes out to all First Nations in the country, not just those who received the bags.

He said their remote geography was part of the reason he asked nursing stations in those communities to stock up for the winter.

Usually, shipments deliver enough supplies to nursing stations to last for six weeks, he said, adding that this time they shipped a lot more…

“Given the unknown events that we may facing in the fall, we asked our nursing stations to stock up for three to four months. And unfortunately in this case we overestimated our requirements and that unfortunately caused the alarm we are seeing now,” Wolfe said…

“Is the body bags a statement from Canada that we as First Nations are on our own?” Wasagamack Chief Jerry Knott asked.

He flew to Winnipeg with the bags on Wednesday and took them to the Health Canada building on York Avenue. The office was closed at the time, so he stacked the bags on the doorstep and marked them “Return to Sender.”

Seems like a pretty clear comment to me. Some of the suits running Health Canada haven’t a clue about life outside their gridlocked urban reservations.

Written by Ed Campbell

September 18, 2009 at 2:00 am

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