You say tomato – I say comparative transcriptomics

Brad Townsley/UC Davis

You say tomato, I say comparative transcriptomics. Researchers in the U.S., Europe and Japan have produced the first comparison of both the DNA sequences and which genes are active, or being transcribed, between the domestic tomato and its wild cousins.

The results give insight into the genetic changes involved in domestication and may help with future efforts to breed new traits into tomato or other crops, said Julin Maloof…senior author on the study.

For example, breeding new traits into tomatoes often involves crossing them with wild relatives. The new study shows that a large block of genes from one species of wild tomato is present in domestic tomato, and has widespread, unexpected effects across the whole genome…

Among other findings, genes associated with fruit color showed rapid evolution among domesticated, red-fruited tomatoes and green-fruited wild relatives. And S. pennellii, which lives in desert habitats, had accelerated evolution in genes related to drought tolerance, heat and salinity…

New technology is giving biologists the unprecedented ability to look at all the genes in an organism, not just a select handful. The researchers studied not just the plants’ DNA but also the messenger RNA being transcribed from different genes. RNA transcription is the process that transforms information in genes into action. If the DNA sequence is the list of parts for making a tomato plant, the messenger RNA transcripts are the step-by-step instructions…

“We could not have done a study like this ten years ago — certainly not on any kind of reasonable budget,” Maloof said. “It opens up a lot of new things we can do as plant scientists.”

Bravo! Like anyone who has Mediterranean genes – and cooking – in their life, I have an inordinate interest in tomatoes.

I grew up in a New England factory town with tomatoes in the backyard garden. I live in the high desert country of New Mexico with tomatoes in our courtyard garden. I cook with fresh, dried, canned and whatever kind of tomatoes I can get hold of any time of the year.

They’re all delicious and all good for me – as far as I’m concerned.

Hemp flag flying over US Capitol for the Fourth of July

Betsy Ross had it right

The flag flying over the Capitol building on the Fourth of July might look like your typical Old Glory. But you probably won’t notice the fibers that make it special. It’s believed to be the first hemp flag to flutter over the dome since the government began outlawing marijuana’s less-recreational cousin back in the 1930s.

Colorado hemp advocate Michael Bowman is the man responsible for getting the flag, made from Colorado-raised hemp and screen-printed with the stars and stripes, up there.

He cooked up the idea while lobbying Congress this year to include pro-hemp measures in the farm bill. That legislation failed, of course, but the seed of the hemp flag had been planted.

Rep. Jared Polis (D-Colo.) gave Bowman an assist with the details, which included working with the Capitol’s flag office. (The flag program allows people to buy flags flown over the Capitol, so they rotate in new Old Glories nearly every day.)

It’s a powerful symbol,” Bowman says, adding that the red, white and blue flying over the Capitol is a reminder of the role that hemp played in the founding and early days of the country. Betsy Ross’s flag was made of hemp, he notes, and Colonial settlers even paid their taxes in the crop — it was used for all kinds of goods, from rope to fabric to paper. Those Conestoga wagons heading west were covered in canvas fashioned from hemp fibers…

After its Capitol flight, the flag will make its way back to Colorado, where it will fly over the state capitol building in Denver. After that, Bowman is sending it out on a tour of state houses in states where there’s legislation pending that would legalize hemp. One of the first up: Vermont.

One more small step – albeit symbolic – for the legalization of hemp, hemp products, and their mellow cousins. Overdue, of course; but, it still takes a couple generations to lever a bit of truth past the dolts who play Let’s Pretend in Congress.

Euro-flunkies collaborate with Obama – Bolivian President kidnapped in Snowden search!

The world has changed since LBJ – presidential lies remain the same

Bolivia accused Austria of “kidnapping” its president, Evo Morales, on Wednesday after authorities searched his plane during a stop-over in Vienna on suspicion he was taking fugitive U.S. intelligence analyst Edward Snowden to Latin America.

A senior Bolivian diplomat said the Austrians had acted at the bidding of the United States, which has been trying to get its hands on Snowden since he revealed details of its secret surveillance programs last month.

“We’re talking about the president on an official trip after an official summit being kidnapped,” Bolivia’s ambassador to the United Nations, Sacha Llorenti Soliz, told reporters in Geneva.

The Bolivian plane, which was taking Morales home from an energy conference in Moscow, was stranded at Vienna airport for several hours after Portugal and France refused to allow it to fly through their airspace.

The search found that Snowden was not onboard and the plane eventually left Vienna about noon on Wednesday…

The plane incident was the latest twist in a saga which has raised a furor in the United States and abroad over the balance between privacy rights and national security…

Bolivia, which is part of a Venezuelan-led leftist alliance which has challenged U.S. political and economic influence in Latin America, denounced the Austrian action as an act of aggression and violation of international law.

“We have no doubt that it was an order from the White House,” ambassador Llorenti said. “By no means should a diplomatic plane with the president be diverted from its route and forced to land in another country.”

Bolivia will lodge a complaint at the United Nations…

Bolivia is among more than a dozen countries where Snowden has sought asylum and Morales has said he would consider granting the American refuge if requested…

Barack Obama has warned that an offer of asylum from a country would carry serious costs

Diplomats must not be liable to any form of arrest or detention…so says the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations agreed upon in 1961 and ratified by the United States. Like George W. Bush, Barack Obama decides which laws are “lawful” – whether domestic or international. How emperors behave.

An imperial nation in decline can be as vicious as any gangster syndicate, uncaring, deceitful and criminal. The United States is not the first in history’s long record to match the beginning of its fall from world superpower with an equivalent decline in ethical standards internally and externally. As American citizens we acquire a special responsibility to act to stop these crimes unless we are to be the “Good Germans” of the 21st Century.

Human head transplants will soon be feasible

Politicians are already pretty good at this

Human head transplants could now be possible using currently available medical techniques, according to an Italian neurosurgeon who thinks he has worked out how it could be done.

In a project proposal published by the medical journal Surgical Neurology International, Dr Sergio Canavero outlines his method for the “Head Anastomosis Venture” – or HEAVEN.

The procedure would involve severing the heads of two human patients simultaneously using an “ultra-sharp blade”, cooling and flushing out the “recipient” head before attaching its new body with an advanced polymer “glue”.

Dr Canavero suggests that the realigning of head and body could also be achieved using “electrofusion”, in an approach not entirely unlike that of Mary Shelley’s Dr Frankenstein.

But the Italian, who works for the Turin Advanced Neuromodulation Group and has previously published research on whole-eye transplants, says that his project is no fiction, and bases it on a similar experiment on Rhesus monkeys in the 1970s in which the patient survived for eight days…

He says that full and open research on the topic could bear fruit in just two years, and that the first patient should be someone young, with a fully-functioning brain, but suffering from “progressive muscular dystrophies or even several genetic and metabolic disorders”.

Dr Canavero concludes by saying “body image and identity issues will need to be addressed, as the patient gets used to seeing and using the new body”.

Um, OK.

Longer-term El Niño warnings are now possible

Scientists have found a way to forecast El Nino weather events in the Pacific a year in advance, long enough to let farmers plant crops less vulnerable to global shifts in rainfall…

While far from flawless, the technique doubles current six-month predictions of El Nino, a warming of the eastern Pacific linked in the past to floods in Peru and Ecuador, droughts in Australia and Indonesia and maybe severe winters in Europe…

El Ninos typically happen every two to seven years but scientists have been unable to find the causes of patterns that have occurred naturally throughout history and are among the most disruptive of extreme weather events.

The new system, built on a network of temperature records around the Pacific Ocean since 1950, correctly spotted El Nino events a year in advance more than half the time and gave false alarms fewer than one year in 10…

Even though the new computer-based system is not always right, farmers might find it worthwhile to invest in drought- or flood-resistant varieties of crops when there was a risk of an El Nino in a year’s time.

“Six months’ warning is too short. If you are a farmer in India, or in Zimbabwe or Brazil you have bought your seeds or even planted them. If you have a 12- or even 18-month early warning, you have a full agricultural cycle,” Hans Joachim Schellnhuber…co-author of the report said…

“We expect more strong El Ninos” overall this century because of rising concentrations of greenhouse gases, lead author Jinbao Li of the University of Hong Kong told Reuters.

I actually know folks in this neck of the prairie who got their graduate degrees on El Niño. Living in high desert, our climate doesn’t need a great deal of change to go from acceptable and enjoyable to hard to take. The extended drought we’re in being the hard to take bit. As you can witness on the nightly news with wildfire reports from the Southwest.

Even more locally, the switch from El Niño to ENSO-neutral to La Niña encourages the jet stream to waver 150-300 miles. And that can be enough to take the moisture coming from the west coast or Baja California up and over New Mexico, north of the Four Corners. We’ve subscribed to NOAA’s monthly updates for years. Looks like we may need to add another source – or bug the Feds to add this new estimating system to their report.