Category: Uncategorized

“Nafurahi” translates to “Happy”

Pharrell Williams made his song “Happy” freely available to use and encouraged people all over the world to make their own videos for the song. Hundreds of groups have taken him up on the offer, but most are lip-dubs or dancing to the original recording.

This one is a full cover version in Swahili, liberally sprinkled with French, from the city of Goma, in the Democratic Republic of Congo. The performers, from KivuYouth Entertainment, are awesome.

I have an abiding love for Afro-French rock. My favorite of the genre being Wock. And special thanks to Ursarodinia for finding this and passing it along.

The DEA threatens doctors supporting medical marijuana

The US Drug Enforcement Administration is intimidating physicians in Massachusetts to get them to give up jobs at medical marijuana dispensaries, The Boston Globe reports.

The DEA allegedly went to physicians’ homes and offices and offered them a choice: either they stop helping medical marijuana dispensaries, or the DEA will take away federal licenses that are necessary to prescribe certain medications. Since doctors’ livelihoods can depend on their ability to prescribe drugs, the threats forced some of them to resign from their medical marijuana jobs…

The DEA, in a statement to Vox, confirmed the policies are part of the agency’s protocol, but it refused to comment on the specific allegations in Massachusetts.

Although marijuana is voter-approved and legal for medical purposes in Massachusetts, it remains illegal under federal laws and regulations. The DEA classifies marijuana as a schedule 1 substance, which puts the drug in a stricter classification than cocaine and meth.

The contradiction between federal and state laws speaks to why so many supporters of marijuana legalization want clearer rules on the books. Just two weeks ago, the US House of Representatives voted to protect medical marijuana patients from federal interference. A few weeks before the House vote, the DEA decided to increase how much marijuana it makes available for medical research.

At this point, the two-steps-forward-one-step-backward approach has become all too familiar for supporters of recreational and medical marijuana legalization. As public opinion shifts in favor of marijuana legalization, it’s taking the federal government — and agencies that rely on strict drug laws to stay afloat — a bit more time to catch up…

Several states have already legalized medical marijuana, although the drug remains illegal for all purposes at the federal level. Maryland in 2014 became the 21st state to legalize medical marijuana, and New York and Florida may follow soon.

Every level of our government is not only characterized by hypocrisy; but, the deliberate rejection of either modern inquiry or policies based on sound science. Marijuana is almost impossible to research – good, bad or indifferent – because of laws that were absurd in the first place.

Though citizens and individual states are miles ahead of the morality-crockpot legislators and law enforcers in Washington, DC – that only seems to supercharge bureaucrats who fear diminished budgets more than the good news that their services are no longer needed.

South Dakota Court allows ‘pink slime’ lawsuit to proceed

The South Dakota Supreme Court is allowing a $1.2 billion defamation lawsuit to proceed against television network ABC over its coverage of a meat product that critics derided as “pink slime.”

The decision on Thursday allows the plaintiffs to potentially depose news anchor Diane Sawyer, two of the networks correspondents and other defendants.

Dakota Dunes-based Beef Products Inc. sued the network in 2012 for its coverage of the meat product the industry calls “lean, finely textured beef.” BPI alleges that the coverage led to plant closures and layoffs because it misled consumers into believing the product was unsafe.

Attorneys for ABC in court filings say the network in each of its broadcasts stated the FDA deemed the product safe to eat.

It just looks disgusting until you kill the beast and thoroughly cook it.

Then, consider the quality of politicians who think this crap is a taste treat.

Thanks, Mike

Habitable Worlds

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Click to enlarge

Is Earth the only known world that can support life?

In an effort to find life-habitable worlds outside our Solar System, stars similar to our Sun are being monitored for slight light decreases that indicate eclipsing planets. Many previously-unknown planets are being found, including over 700 worlds recently uncovered by NASA’s Kepler satellite.

Depicted above in artist’s illustrations are twelve extrasolar planets that orbit in the habitable zones of their parent stars. These exoplanets have the right temperature for water to be a liquid on their surfaces, and so water-based life on Earth might be able to survive on them. Although technology cannot yet detect resident life, finding habitable exoplanets is a step that helps humanity to better understand its place in the cosmos.

If you’re thinking about leaving town, escaping whichever nutso nation you find yourself encapsulated within – consider a truly long-range journey.

I have no idea how to get there.

Thanks, Ursarodinia

Sharing ideas and work among scientists in different fields


Desktop nanofabrication with massively multiplexed beam pen lithography

Cross-pollination of ideas among scientific disciplines is key to creative solutions, a U.S. nanotechnology pioneer says.

Building networks of outstanding scientists, engineers and clinicians will promote development of creative solutions to complex societal needs in an age of specialization, Northwestern University Professor Chad Mirkin says.

Mirkin is the founding director of the International Institute for Nanotechnology, an institute that brings together more than 190 faculty researchers from 25 different disciplines.

Mirkin discussed the IIN from inception to realization in a presentation titled “University Convergence Institutes” at the American Association for the Advancement of Science annual meeting in Chicago.

“The IIN provides the essential framework to overcome traditional divisions between university departments and schools,” Mirkin said…

The IIN is an umbrella organization for interdisciplinary research into transformative nanotechnologies including nanomedicine, nanomaterials and devices, nanotechnology for energy, the environment, security and defense, and nanotechnology solutions for food and water.

“It has enabled us to attract researchers with deep expertise in their fields, support and enable creative synergy, enhance translational capabilities and build one of the largest and most productive nanotechnology institutes in the world,” Mirkin said.

I’m not lurching off into a whole dissertation. I’d just like to mention some of the most advanced systems of alternative fuel development have come about in this manner. I’ve posted articles in recent years from scientists at Purdue – and at Cornell – where investigators in chemistry happened into collaboration with botanists almost by accident. Though the universities where they worked were supportive of this kind of interaction.

The best example in the tech world was, of course, the original style at Hewlett-Packard. Messrs Hewlett and Packard had a rule that any project an engineer or scientist was working on had to be kept out in the open on their desk. That way anyone who happened by could see what someone else had thought of – and participate or start a spinoff on their own. They called it management by wandering around.

I’m not certain; but, I have the feeling the practice still hasn’t caught on here in the States. I hope I’m wrong.

279 Republicans in Congress, 30 Republican governors – how many showed up for March on Washington? Zero, None, Nada!

king dirksen
Martin Luther King Jr, Walter Reuther, Everett Dirksen, John Lewis

…Not a single Republican elected official stood on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial on Wednesday with activists, actors, lawmakers and former presidents invited to mark the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington — a notable absence for a party seeking to attract the support of minority voters.

Event organizers said Wednesday that they invited top Republicans, all of whom declined to attend because of scheduling conflicts or ill health…

It seems pretty obvious, but if you want to change the fact that your party is viewed skeptically by minorities, and you want to claim Martin Luther King Jr.’s mantel — I’m looking at you Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) – then blowing off the highest profile civil rights event of the year is probably not a smart move, if for no other reason than “optics.” After their losses in the 2012 election, Republicans vowed to make a better effort to reach out to minorities, and just two weeks ago at its summer meeting, the GOP launched a program to attract minority voters by highlighting young “rising stars” in the party.

So what gives? According to Ed O’Keefe, the lawmakers said they “received formal invitations only in recent weeks, making it too late to alter their summer recess schedules.” Republicans had no problem appearing in droves at a hastily organized tea party rally in June, where “[GOP] lawmakers sweltered in a long line waiting to take the stage,” the Wall Street Journal reported. Some weren’t even invited but just showed up hoping to get a chance to speak to the party faithful…

So what was did they do instead? Well, Boehner was in Jackson Hole, Wyo., and had no public events scheduled, but he has been headlining GOP fundraisers all this month, so it’s a fairly safe to assume that he was raising cash at the time. Cantor, meanwhile was touring an oil field in North Dakota. The Grand Forks Herald reports:

Cantor, hosted by Rep. Kevin Cramer, R-N.D., met with energy industry and community leaders at a crew camp in Williston, toured a drilling site and other oilfield locations in the Bakken and met with North Dakota Petroleum Council members in Watford City…

The North Dakota Petroleum Council, by the way, is a lobby group that represents the state’s oil and gas industry. That’s what Cantor was doing on the day of the march.

They asked a long list of Republicans to come,” civl rights leader Julian Bond told MSNBC yesterday, “and to a man and woman they said ‘no.’ And that they would turn their backs on this event was telling of them, and the fact that they seem to want to get black votes, they’re not gonna get ‘em this way…”

Bond did credit Cantor for trying hard to find a replacement speaker, but, ultimately, the leader was unable to find a single Republican to attend the event.

I just happened to pick this article of the dozens on the topic. I knew I would be able to find one easily. We are dealing with today’s version of the Republican Party. White and Right.

Fifty years ago there were Republican officials from my home town who rode our Freedom Train from New England to Washington, DC. There were friends of mine who were Republican activists who came along. Further along – as push came to shove – there were Congressional Republicans like Everett Dirksen who stood up and opposed the “official” government bigots, Southern Democrats, and joined the fight to get the Civil Rights Act passed.

He said “The time has come for equality of opportunity in sharing of government, in education, and in employment. It must not be stayed or denied.” Try that out with the Tea Party Republicans, nowadays.

Flu vaccine may halve heart attack risk

Receiving the flu vaccine may almost halve the chance of a heart attack for middle-aged people with narrow arteries, a new study by Australian researchers has found…

The authors of the research, published in the journal Heart, suggest policy makers should consider this new evidence in any decisions around extending the age cut-off for vaccination.

People aged between 50 and 64 are not always included in routine vaccination programs in Australia and the UK.

Before the risk of cardiovascular illness was considered, the benefits of including younger age groups into flu vaccine programs had been judged not to be worth the cost.

The authors of the study looked at 559 patients over the age of 40 who were referred to a Sydney hospital during the winter months of 2008 to 2010.

Those who were not vaccinated for flu were almost twice as likely as vaccinated subjects to have a heart attack.

The researchers also found that a recent respiratory infection was more common among those patients who had suffered a heart attack.

Professor Raina MacIntyre, a lead author of the study, said almost 10% of people admitted to hospital with heart attack had flu.

“This suggests that it is a precipitant of a heart attack,” she said.

Reason enough for further study.

Trying to keep an aging population alive at minimal expense may frustrate conservative politicians and economists; but, it feels good increasing the odds of living long enough to see some of the village idiots thrown out of office. :)

Big Pharma battling to continue to hide drugs trials data

Drugs companies publish only a fraction of their results and keep much of the information to themselves, but regulators want to ban the practice. If companies published all of their clinical trials data, independent scientists could reanalyse their results and check companies’ claims about the safety and efficacy of drugs.

Under proposals being thrashed out in Europe, drugs companies would be compelled to release all of their data, including results that show drugs do not work or cause dangerous side-effects.

While some companies have agreed to share data more freely, the industry has broadly resisted the moves. The latest strategy shows how patient groups – many of which receive some or all of their funding from drugs companies – have been brought into the battle.

The strategy was drawn up by two large trade groups, the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA) and the European Federation of Pharmaceutical Industries and Associations (EFPIA), and outlined in a memo to senior industry figures this month, according to an email seen by the Guardian.

The memo, from Richard Bergström, director general of EFPIA, went to directors and legal counsel at Roche, Merck, Pfizer, GSK, AstraZeneca, Eli Lilly, Novartis and many smaller companies. It was leaked by a drugs company employee.

The email describes a four-pronged campaign that starts with “mobilising patient groups to express concern about the risk to public health by non-scientific re-use of data”. Translated, that means patient groups go into bat for the industry by raising fears that if full results from drug trials are published, the information might be misinterpreted and cause a health scare…

A recent review of medical research estimated that only half of all clinical trials were published in full, and that positive results were twice as likely to be published than negative ones.

Which shouldn’t surprise anyone. Like insurance companies, big banks, investment brokerages, any number of robber barons, pharmaceutical manufacturers fear transparency like a literal plague. Who knows? Honesty in marketing might be forced upon them next.

Pic of the day

In a rare but amazing show of nature this grasshopper has been caught on camera shedding its old skin – and leaving behind a perfect replica of itself.

Carefully, but with determination and dexterity the insect took 40 minutes to cast off its hard outer shell – called an exoskeleton – all while hanging onto a piece of grass.

Photographer Adhi Prayoga, 41, watched the transformation in his back garden in Mataram, Indonesia and caught the moment on camera.

San Antonio to open first bookless public library

A new library to be opened in Bexar County, Texas, will provide visitors with a bank of e-Readers for borrowing e-books … but books of the traditional paper variety will be glaringly absent. The project marks the first public library to be built as an all-digital service and just to make sure library-goers are in no doubt that it’s the 21st century, the interior will feature a design influenced by Apple retail stores.

The library, known as the BiblioTech, was announced by Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff and is set to open later this year. If the scheme proves successful, then similar facilities will be opened across Bexar County.

And the library’s design? “If you want an idea what it looks like, go into an Apple store,” Wolff says. The designers might have a bit of a task on their hands however, with the new library being built in a remodeled structure that currently houses the offices for Tax Assessor, Justice of the Peace and Constable. Suffice to say, its not likely to be quite up there with Apple’s Fifth Avenue store, but the artist’s impression of the interior does bear a number of the Apple Store hallmarks.

Library goers won’t have to provide their own devices to take advantage of the BiblioTech’s digital catalog, with an initial stock of one hundred unspecified e-Readers available for lending. Visitors can borrow the devices for up to two weeks, and while the system might seem rather open to abuse, Wolff is confident that theft won’t be a widespread problem. “We do have your name, we do have your address,” he says. “You check it out for two weeks, just like a library book. In two weeks, your e-book goes dead, so you won’t have anything worth keeping.”

Hopefully, no one will tell the Tea Party Republicans in the Texas Legislature about this. First, they consider almost anything with an on-off switch to be a dangerous device. Pickup trucks exempt of course,

Second, they will have to discuss the change for months while they determine the best way to censor the eBooks. After all, the eBooks might discuss subversive topics like civil rights, evolution and reproductive rights decided by women. There ain’t nothing scares a Texan more than an uppity woman.

Third, this really ain’t difficult. I ran a paperless sales office 10 years ago – while pundits blathered about how everyone talked about paperless offices and did nothing about it. A paperless library is just as easy. People who “need” physical books will still get ’em. People who don’t, won’t. The latter will continue to outnumber the former. They already have in purchases at Amazon.