Phony acupuncture works almost as well as the real deal

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Headache sufferers can benefit from acupuncture, even though how and where acupuncture needles are inserted may not be important. Two separate systematic reviews by Cochrane Researchers show that acupuncture is an effective treatment for prevention of headaches and migraines. But the results also suggest that faked procedures, in which needles are incorrectly inserted, can be just as effective.

“Much of the clinical benefit of acupuncture might be due to non-specific needling effects and powerful placebo effects, meaning selection of specific needle points may be less important than many practitioners have traditionally argued,” says lead researcher of both studies, Klaus Linde.

In each study, the researchers tried to establish whether acupuncture could reduce the occurrence of headaches. One study focused on mild to moderate but frequent ‘tension-type’ headaches, whilst the other focused on more severe but less frequent headaches usually termed migraines. Together the two studies included 33 trials, involving a total of 6,736 patients.

Overall, following a course of at least eight weeks, patients treated with acupuncture suffered fewer headaches compared to those who were given only pain killers. In the migraine study, acupuncture was superior to proven prophylactic drug treatments, but faked treatments were no less effective. In the tension headache study, true acupuncture was actually slightly more effective than faked treatments.

“If you believe” still rules a great deal of our Stone Age reflexes.

First Americans arrived as two separate migrations

The first people to arrive in America traveled as at least two separate groups to arrive in their new home at about the same time, according to new genetic evidence published online in Current Biology.

After the Last Glacial Maximum some 15,000 to 17,000 years ago, one group entered North America from Beringia following the ice-free Pacific coastline, while another traversed an open land corridor between two ice sheets to arrive directly into the region east of the Rocky Mountains. (Beringia is the landmass that connected northeast Siberia to Alaska during the last ice age.) Those first Americans later gave rise to almost all modern Native American groups of North, Central, and South America, with the important exceptions of the Na-Dene and the Eskimos-Aleuts of northern North America…

Such a dual origin for Paleo-Indians has major implications for all disciplines involved in Native American studies, said Antonio Torroni. For instance, it implies that there is no compelling reason to presume that a single language family was carried along with the first migrants.

When Columbus reached the Americas in 1492, Native American occupation stretched from the Bering Strait to Tierra del Fuego, Torroni explained. Those native populations encompassed extraordinary linguistic and cultural diversity, which has fueled extensive debate among experts over their interrelationships and origins…

The evidence that separate groups of people with distinctive genetic roots entered the Americas independently at the same time strongly implies linguistic and cultural differences between them. “The origin of the first Americans is very controversial to archaeologists and even more so to linguists,” said study corresponding author Professor Antonio Torroni, heading the University of Pavia group. “Our genetic study reveals a scenario in which more than one language family could have arrived in the Americas with the earliest Paleo-Indians.”

I have to wonder how some anthropology arguments can continue in the face of DNA information.

Darwin awards candidates: Copper thieves electrocuted in SA

Two men near the South African city of Johannesburg have been electrocuted while trying to steal copper wire from power cables just after first light.

“They tried to pull the cables using wires; they were standing on the ground,” a Johannesburg Emergency Management Services spokesman said…

Stolen copper is often sold to scrap yards, which then export it.

Mr Morokane said the two men, who were thought to be aged between 25 and 30, were trying to steal the copper from power lines running near a main road between Johannesburg and Pretoria.

Mr Morokane said the power lines had between 3,000 kilowatts and 6,000 kilowatts running through them…

The case had been handed over the South African Police Service.

I believe the remains of the two thieves are being kept in a cigar box at the Police Station.

Inauguration souvenir that lasts longer than a t-shirt

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For those who want a more permanent way to showcase their support for Barack Obama, Washington’s tattoo parlors are ready to help.

“There’s nothing more memorable than a tattoo,” said Matt Jessup, better known as “Fatty,” the owner of Fatty’s Custom Tattooz and Body Piercing.

His shop is celebrating what it has dubbed the “Obamathan,” where customers can get a free “Obama ’08” logo tattoo if they buy another tattoo worth $200. The Obama tattoo, Fatty says, is worth $70…

The most popular choices so far have been the Obama logo, the word “hope,” and the now iconic red-and-blue Obama hope poster by Shepard Fairey.

None of the shop owners reported any history of George W. Bush tattoos.

I’m still not a fan of tattoos. Makes it too easy to be identified.

Sony ready to unveil “restructuring”

Tensions are rising within Sony over a restructuring aimed at cutting billions of yen from costs, with Sir Howard Stringer, its British-born chairman and chief executive, pitted against what one senior figure called an “old guard” of managers in its electronics division.

News of the clash comes as the Japanese consumer electronics group prepares to announce today or tomorrow the details of a restructuring that was announced in December, including where job cuts will fall.

Managers in the company have told the Financial Times that Sir Howard’s plans to cut 16,000 full-time and part-time jobs and restructure the company have met resistance from executives in its manufacturing business.

The dispute centres on whether products such as televisions have become commodities, in which case, Sir Howard believes, Sony should cut production costs and rely more on sales of software built into its gadgets…

The long delay since the restructuring was outlined on December 9 has added to anxiety among workers. One Sony employee said that the mood within the company was “black”, while on internet message boards factory workers have described management as “nothing but cost-cutters”.

We used to get the message: ‘Make a high-quality product‘. Now we don’t know what we should be doing, except maybe not spending any money,” said one engineer who has left the company.

My geek purchases that used to result in Sony over anyone else have always been founded on value for dollar spent. Recent years that means Samsung. But, it also means Apple. To me.

Stringer sounds like the archtypical beancounter. The sort who could make Tottenham Hotspur lose money.

UPDATE: Sony closing their TV plants in Japan, laying off 2000 workers.

Former KGB spy buys British tabloid for £1

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Russian ex-KGB agent Alexander Lebedev is to buy the London Evening Standard newspaper for the sum of £1. The paper’s publisher – the Daily Mail & General Trust (DMGT) – said it had agreed to the sale of a majority interest in the paper. The billionaire businessman is believed to have made an offer for approximately a 76% share of the paper.

He has previously revealed that he used the paper to find out information when he was a young spy based in London.

No wonder the Soviets lost the Cold War.

Mr Lebedev said: “We are strong supporters of a free and independent press and we greatly admire the Evening Standard as an iconic publication with its pedigree of fine journalism and commentary.

“We are committed to strengthening the newspaper’s competitiveness and look forward to working with Associated, which will continue to be involved as a minority shareholder.”

Mr Lebedev has also expressed an interest in buying out other struggling newspapers both in the UK and the United States.

Let’s start a bidding war. I offer $2.49 for the late Albuquerque TRIBUNE.

Scientists agree on human-induced global warming


Peter Nicholson

A new survey finds consensus among scientists about the reality of climate change and its likely cause. A group of 3,146 earth scientists surveyed around the world overwhelmingly agree that in the past 200-plus years, mean global temperatures have been rising, and that human activity is a significant contributing factor in changing mean global temperatures.

In trying to overcome criticism of earlier attempts to gauge the view of earth scientists on global warming and the human impact factor, Peter Doran and Kendall Zimmerman sought the opinion of the most complete list of earth scientists they could find, contacting more than 10,200 experts around the world listed in the 2007 edition of the American Geological Institute’s Directory of Geoscience Departments.

Questions used were reviewed by a polling expert who checked for bias in phrasing, such as suggesting an answer by the way a question was worded. The nine-question survey was short, taking just a few minutes to complete.

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Mitsubishi first major carco to roll out mass-market electric car

Mitsubishi has unveiled the first mass-market electric car from a mainstream car maker. Slightly bigger than the Smart ForTwo but with a similar design, the i-MiEV — which goes on sale in the UK later this year — is based on the i, Mitsubishi’s existing city car. With room for four adults, it has a top speed of 87mph and produces the equivalent of 57 horsepower.

Its lithium-ion battery has a range of 100 miles and can be charged from flat to 80% in 20 minutes using Mitsubishi’s bespoke high-powered charger; otherwise, a normal mains electricity socket will charge the battery from flat to full in six hours. Mitsubishi estimates that the car can travel 10,000 miles on £45 of electricity at current UK domestic prices…

Kieren Puffett, editor of car website Parkers.co.uk who took the i-MiEV for a test drive today, said the car was ideal for urban areas. “Through the town, the car is particularly torquey, it can get away from traffic lights and across roundabouts really quite quickly. That’s quite a nice benefit for town driving.”

He added: “Because it’s based on an existing city car, the characteristics are fairly familiar. If someone got in, I don’t think they’d notice anything massively adrift.”

Puffett had some reservations, however, about Mitsubishi’s claims on the car’s range. “I deliberately drove the car with headlights, heater and the radio on. I did about 50 minutes of driving and covered about 22 miles — and I discharged the battery to half way from full.”

The cost per mile is what impresses me. If the gasoline-engined version gets 40mpg, that’s about $500 or more for 10,000 miles. Versus $75 or so for the electric version? What could be someone’s hangup over a neat commuter-mobile like this?

Europeans are already smart enough to be driving little critters like this forth-and-back to work and shopping – instead of Ford F150 pickups or Toyota Landcrushers.

Cleantech science cheered by Obama’s inaugural speech


Rothera Research Station
Daylife/Reuters Pictures

After being ignored in the last two inaugural speeches, the issue of climate change got plenty of attention at U.S. President Barack Obama’s inauguration Tuesday. As an estimated 1.4 million watchers looked on in the mall alone, by far the largest attendance at an inaugural event, Obama said that “the ways in which we use energy strengthen our adversaries and threaten our planet” and that the country cannot “consume the world’s resources without regard to effect.”

He promised to “restore science to its rightful place,” a move that likely will be seen as an admonition to the Bush administration, which had been accused of interfering with scientific work related to climate change. He pledged to build electric grids, “harness the sun and the winds and the soil to fuel our cars and run our factories” and work with other countries to “roll back the specter of a warming planet.”

The cleantech industry applauded the speech for underlining the new president’s commitment to the climate change fight…

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