Daily Archives: October 15, 2009

British scientists develop ‘brain to brain communication’

merging-of-mind-and-machine_1

A system that creates “brain to brain communication” has been developed by British scientists, it has been claimed.

Telegraph | Oct 15, 2009

By Andrew Hough

The system, developed by a team at the University of Southampton, is said to be the first technology that would allow people to send thoughts, words and images directly to the minds of others, particularly people with a disability.

It has also been hailed as the future of the internet, which would provide a new way to communicate without the need for keyboards and telephones.

“This could be useful for those people who are locked into their bodies, who can’t speak, can’t even blink,” said the lead scientist Dr Christopher James.

The scientists claimed the research proved it could eventually be possible to create a system where people sent messages through their thoughts alone, although they conceded it was many years away.

Related

Scientists hail a thoughtful future with ‘brain-to-brain communication’

Scientists used “brain-computer interfacing”, a technique that allows computers to analyse brain signals, that enabled them to send messages formed by a person’s brain signals though an internet connection to another person’s brain miles away.

According to Dr James, during transmission two people were connected to electrodes that measure activity in specific parts of the brain.

The first person generated a series of zeros and ones, where they imagined moving their left arm for zero and right arm for one.

After the first person’s computer recognises the binary thoughts, it sends them to the internet and then to the other person’s PC.

A lamp is then flashed at two different frequencies for one and zero, the Times reported.

The second person’s brain signals are analysed after staring at this lamp and the number sequence is picked up by a computer.

“It’s not telepathy,” Dr James told the paper.

“There’s no conscious thought forming in one person’s head and another conscious thought appearing in another person’s mind.

“The next experiments are to get that second person to be aware of the information that is being sent to them. For that, I need to get my thinking cap on, so to speak.”

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GM Soy Herbicide Linked to Birth Defects

NaturalNews | Oct 13, 2009

by David Gutierrez

The active ingredient of the popular herbicide Roundup, widely used on lawns and genetically modified (GM) crops worldwide, causes birth defects of the brain, heart and intestines even in minuscule doses, Argentinean researchers have found.

“The observed deformations are consistent and systematic,” said lead researcher Andres Carrasco, director of the Laboratory of Molecular Embryology at the University of Buenos Aires.

Argentina is the world’s third largest exporter of soy, planting nearly 17 million hectares (42 million acres), or half of the country’s cropland. Much of this soy has been genetically modified by the Monsanto Corporation to be resistant to the company’s trademark herbicide, Roundup. As a consequence, massive quantities of Roundup are sprayed over soy fields across the country. In many cases, the herbicide is sprayed from the air and may drift over nearby communities or enter their water supplies.

Approximately 200 million liters (53 million gallons) of Roundup are used in Argentina each year.

The new study, conducted by the National Council for Scientific and Technical Research (CONICET), was ordered by the Argentinean Health Ministry in response to complaints filed before federal courts over the health effects of widespread herbicide spraying. For the past five years, a wide coalition of environmental and rights groups have pointed to significantly higher rates of birth defects, cancer, lupus, and diseases of the kidney, skin and respiratory systems in communities located near field of GM soy. Most recently, the nonprofit Rural Reflection Group (GRR) published a paper containing reports of health effects from rural doctors, residents and experts.

The group has called for a ban on the use of Roundup in accordance with the precautionary principle.

In the first phase of the CONICET study, researchers diluted Roundup’s active ingredient, glyphosate, to a strength 1,500 times less than that used on GM soy crops. Other than water, no ingredients were added. The researchers then submerged amphibian embryos into this glyphosate solution, finding that the embryos consistently developed into animals with deformed heads.

In the second phase, researchers injected embryos directly with the diluted glyphosate solution. In addition to head deformity, the researchers observed reduced head size, increased death of skull-forming cells, deformed cartilage and genetic changes to the animals’ central nervous system, on a much larger scale than in the first part of the study.

“One should be able to suppose, with certainty, that the same thing that happens to amphibian embryos can happen to humans,” Carrasco said, noting that the observed results were “completely comparable to what would happen in the development of a human embryo.”

“Pure glyphosate, in doses lower than those used in fumigation, causes defects … (and) could be interfering in some normal embryonic development mechanism having to do with the way in which cells divide and die,” he said. Because the researchers deliberately excluded any of the additives that are also found in Roundup, they concluded that the herbicide’s active ingredient was definitely to blame for the effects.

Because the levels of glyphosate used “were much lower than the levels used in the fumigations,” the risk in real life “is much more serious” than that seen in the lab, Carrasco said.

“The companies say that drinking a glass of glyphosate is healthier than drinking a glass of milk, but the fact is that they’ve used us as guinea pigs,” Carrasco said.

Berlusconi backs Tony Blair to be President of Europe

Berlusconi_blair

Silvio Berlusconi kisses Tony Blair (Thierry Chesnot/Reuters)

The former Prime Minister has enjoyed the Italian leader’s hospitality

London Times | Oct 15, 2009

by Lucy Bannerman in Rome

Tony Blair can count on the support of at least one old ally as he manoeuvres himself to become the first president of Europe.

Silvio Berlusconi, the Italian Prime Minister, found time out from his political battles to write a front-page letter in a right-wing newspaper, declaring his former holiday companion to be the best man for the job.

“Tony Blair has got everything it needs to become the first president of the European Council,” he wrote in Il Foglio. “He has everything it needs to be designated to that role, as soon as it will be judicially and politically possible . . . In agreement with many other heads of government, and heads of state, and in co-ordination with the powers of the European Parliament, my Government and I will work to ensure we do not lose a great political legacy, made with courage, equilibrium and prudence without uncertainty.”

Mr Blair’s appointment, he added, would renew the governance of the European Union.

The Italian leader has made no secret of his support for Mr Blair to win the historic role, created under the Lisbon treaty.

A summit in Brussels was due to name the new president, and also the foreign minister, at the end of the month but the path has since been blocked by President Klaus of the Czech Republic, who refuses to put the final signature to the document, which has been ratified by the rest of the EU member states.

Mr Berlusconi was one of Mr Blair’s key allies over the Iraq war, during the days of the Bush Administration. He also played a memorable role in their Italian holidays, treating the Blairs to his legendary hospitality during a visit to his villa in Sardinia in 2004.

Because he was recovering from a hair transplant at the time he also treated the world’s press to photographs of a world leader in a bandana. Cherie Blair later spoke of the impressive festivities held in her husband’s honour, including live music and a fireworks display that spelt out the words “Viva Tony”.

Mr Berlusconi also made a personal call to the head of the European Commission, José Manuel Barroso, to put in a good word for the former British Prime Minister, according to Il Foglio, a Milanese daily, whose largest stakeholder is Mr Berlusconi’s estranged wife, Veronica Lario, and whose editor is Giuliano Ferraro, a former spokesman in his first Government. Mr Barroso, a Portuguese conservative, is strongly supported by Britain and was appointed in 2004, thanks largely to Mr Blair.

The Irish bookmaker Paddy Power said this week that Mr Blair was the 4-6 favourite, followed by the Dutch Prime Minister, Jan Peter Balkenende (4-1); the Luxembourg Prime Minister, Jean-Claude Juncker (11-2); and the Danish Nato chief, Anders Fogh Rasmussen (6-1).

Mr Berlusconi, 73, who faces a series of criminal trials after a court stripped him of his immunity from prosecution last week, was removed from the running after his odds reached 100-1.

Iraqi Does Not Regret Throwing Shoes at President Bush

muntadhar-al-zeidi-throws-his-shoes-at-the-dog

AP | Oct 14, 2009

GENEVA —  The Iraqi journalist who threw his shoes at President George W. Bush said Wednesday he has no regrets and would carry out his brazen protest again, even if it cost him his life.

Muntadhar al-Zeidi told Swiss television station Leman Bleu that, after being mistreated in Iraqi custody for two days following his outburst last Dec. 14, a judge asked him whether he regretted the gesture.

“I told the judge only one thing: if the hands of the clock could go back I would do the same act even if it cost my life,” al-Zeidi said, speaking through a translator.

Al-Zeidi, a TV reporter, became a hero for many in and outside Iraq angered by the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq when, at a press conference in Baghdad, he hurled his shoes at Bush, shouting “this is your farewell kiss, you dog!” and “this is from the widows, the orphans and those who were killed in Iraq.”

Bush’s term in office expired the following month.

“I knew I was doing something that would put my life in danger, and I was sure of that, but I wasn’t afraid,” he told Leman Bleu during the live interview.

Al-Zeidi was wrestled to the ground by security guards. He claims he was tortured during his nine months in prison.

After his release last month he obtained a tourist visa for Switzerland with the help of a Geneva lawyer. He arrived in the country Tuesday to seek medical treatment and to promote a new human rights group for Iraqi civilians.

“I wanted to create this foundation to help my people, the Iraqis, after all they have suffered,” he said. “The aim is to help the five million orphans, the one million widows and three million handicapped.”

His lawyer, Mauro Poggia, said an earlier plan to apply for asylum in Switzerland was canceled.

Study: Fluoride in Water = Money Wasted

PR Inside | Oct 14, 2009

Millions of dollars are spent adding non-required fluoride chemicals into public water supplies to reduce tooth decay. A recent dental journal article reveals the same decay rates whether water is fluoridated or not

Children’s cavity rates are similar whether water is fluoridated or not, according to data published in the July 2009 Journal of the American Dental Association by dentist J.V. Kumar of the NY State Health Department (1).

In 2008, New York City spent approximately $24 million on water fluoridation ($5 million on fluoride chemicals)(1a). In 2010, NYC’s fluoride chemicals will cost $9 million (1b).

Fluoride in water at “optimal” levels (0.7 – 1.2 mg/L) is supposed to reduce tooth decay without creating excessive fluorosis (fluoride-discolored and/or damaged teeth). Yet cavities are rampant in NY’s fluoridated populations (1c).

Attempting to prove that fluorosed teeth have fewer cavities, Kumar uses 1986-1987 National Institute of Dental Research (NIDR) data which, upon analysis, shows that 7- to 17-year-olds have similar cavity rates in their permanent teeth whether their water supply is fluoridated or not

In 1990, using the same NIDR data, Dr. John Yiamouyiannis published equally surprising results in a peer-reviewed journal. He concluded, “No statistically significant differences were found in the decay rates of permanent teeth or the percentages of decay-free children in the F [fluoridated], NF [non-fluoridated], and PF [partially fluoridated] areas.” (2).

Kumar divided children into four groups based on their community’s water fluoride levels:

Less than 0.3 mg/L where 55.5% had cavities

From 0.3 to 0.7 mg/L where 54.6% had cavities

Optimal 0.7 to 1.2 mg/L where 54.4% had cavities

Over 1.2 mg/L where 56.4% had cavities

“Dr. Kumar’s published data exposes more evidence that fluoridation doesn’t reduce tooth decay,” says attorney Paul Beeber, President, New York State Coalition Opposed to Fluoridation, Inc.

“It’s criminal to waste taxpayers’ money on fluoridation, while exposing entire populations unnecessarily to fluoride’s health risks, especially when local and state governments are attempting to balance budgets by cutting essential services,” says Beeber.

More fluoride = more money for dentists?

Despite 60+ years of water fluoridation, Americans are spending more than ever on dental care. “between 1998 and 2008 the increase in the cost of dental services exceeded that of medical care and far exceeded the overall rate of inflation,” according to Slate Magazine. Americans paid 44.2 percent of dental bills themselves compared to 10.3 percent of physician costs, Slate reports. (3)

Dentists pat themselves on the back claiming they are the only profession endorsing something that would put them out of business. But apparently the more fluoride people get, the more money dentists make.

Dentists’ Nominal Net Income

for 2000 was $533,000 up from $141,000 in 1982, according to the American Dental Association Survey published in the March 2005 Journal of the American Dental Association. During the same time period, the number of Americans living in fluoridated communities went from 116 million to 172 million.

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Rough Road Ahead for New York Eagle Scout as School District Won’t Budge on Pocketknife Suspension

Matthew Whalen

Matthew Whalen, right, says he was suspended from high school for four weeks because he kept a 2-inch pocketknife in his car. He completed an Army basic training course this summer. Photo: Matthew Whalen

Fox News | Oct 14, 2009

By Joseph Abrams

As a 17-year-old Eagle Scout continues to wait out a one-month suspension from his upstate New York high school for having a 2-inch pocketknife locked in a survival kit in his car, the U.S. Military Academy says the missed school days could pose a big problem when it reviews his application.

Pressure is mounting on a Troy, N.Y., school board to overrule Matthew Whalen’s suspension from Lansingburgh High School, which was issued because of a zero-tolerance policy that is facing increasing opposition from parents and education advocates.

Whalen, a senior, says he stocks his car with a sleeping bag, water, a ready-to-eat meal and the small knife, which was given to him by his grandfather, a police chief in a nearby town.

But Lansingburgh High has a zero-tolerance policy for weapons, and when school officials discovered that Whalen kept his knife locked in his car, he says, they suspended him for five days — and then tacked on an additional 15 after a hearing.

Related

Cub Scout faces 45 days in reform school for carrying Swiss Army camp set

On Wednesday, West Point’s director of admissions told Foxnews.com that Whalen’s suspension alone wouldn’t be a “show-stopper” and “didn’t appear to be a big issue” for the youth, though it will appear on his record as the military academy considers his moral and ethical fiber.

“My concern would be, how does this impact on his academics?” said Col. Deborah McDonald, the academy’s head of admissions. “Because 20 (school) days is a long time to be suspended.”

But the Lansingburgh School District is not budging. A person reached at the home of a school board member referred all calls to the superintendent, who told a local newspaper he thinks the punishment was “appropriate and fair,” and that it was necessary for the district to enforce its zero-tolerance policy evenly.

“Sometimes young people do things they may not see as serious,” Superintendent George Goodwin told the Albany Times-Union. “We look at any possession of any type of knife as serious.”

Yet the knife is not considered a weapon by the New York State Education Department — definitions and punishments are left up to local school boards to decide.

“Districts by law are given a great deal of discretion for the conditions they impose,” said Jonathan Burman, spokesman for the Education Department.

“The discipline that’s meted out … [is] a matter of local discretion,” he said, and “simply here if the school board decides to make a change in their policy it’s a matter for them to decide.”

Whalen’s family says they’ve given up hope that their school district will rethink the penalty, even after a school board in Delaware reversed a similar decision Tuesday night, granting a reprieve to a 6-year-old first-grader who had been ordered to attend a reform school for 45 days after he brought a Cub Scout camping utensil to lunch.

“The board hasn’t even taken the issue,” said Bryan Whalen, Matthew’s father. “As far as the superintendent is concerned, he’s made his decision and we haven’t been offered the opportunity to even appeal that at a board meeting.”

That policy is coming under fire from some education advocates, who say it is “pernicious” and inflexible and must be overturned.

“I just don’t believe zero tolerance is the right way to go,” said John Young, a board member in the Delaware school district that voted unanimously Tuesday night to reinstate 6-year-old Zachary Christie.

Young, who was not aware of the details of Whalen’s case, said that as long as the school didn’t have reason to suspect any intent to use the knife, “I don’t see any reason why it shouldn’t be overturned.”

Young says the zero-tolerance policies were born in the wake of the 1999 Columbine school massacre, and were a response to worries from parents that school security needed to be beefed up. Though he doesn’t support the policies, he said he understand the impulse to ensure school safety.

But Bryan Whalen says the policy allowed no room for his son, who did not pose a danger to the school. “It was another example of an administration not providing any thought, just trying to hide behind a blind rule for whatever reason.”

Whalen said his son is more or less resigned to his fate but is still bewildered that he’s in trouble over possession of a “keychain knife” after he handled M16s during an Army basic training course he completed over the summer.

He’s “frustrated because he knows he’s falling so far behind on his studies — he’s missing a ninth of his senior year,” Whalen said.

But Whalen says his son is feeling reassured from positive feedback he’s getting from cadets at West Point who have “contacted him through Facebook and told him they’re behind him and to keep fighting.

“‘When he gets down there he’ll be carrying a machine gun around campus,'” they wrote.

Eagle Scout suspended for keeping 2-inch knife in car

AP | Oct 14, 2009

TROY, N.Y. — An Eagle Scout who kept a 2-inch pocketknife in his car was suspended from his high school for 20 days for bringing the weapon onto school grounds. Now he is concerned about his chances for acceptance to West Point.

Matthew Whalen, 17, said he gave the knife to an administrator at Lansingburgh High School in Troy last month after another student told officials he had been carrying a knife. He was suspended for violating the district’s zero-tolerance policy for weapons on school grounds.

Related

Cub Scout faces 45 days in reform school for carrying Swiss Army camp set

The high school senior said the knife was a gift from his grandfather, the police chief in a nearby village.

Whalen, a member of the Army National Guard, said he kept the knife in his car along with other survival items in case of an emergency. He now worries the suspension may hurt his chances of gaining admission to West Point, where he has wanted to go for years.

“I just want to be able to go back to school,” Whalen told the Times Union of Albany. “I didn’t intentionally do anything wrong. I don’t even consider it a weapon.”

Whalen will be allowed to return to school Oct. 21.

District officials said they don’t comment on student disciplinary matters, but superintendent George Goodwin said in a prepared statement that the district has a zero-tolerance policy for possessing weapons of any kind on school property.

“We believe this policy allows us to fulfill our duty of maintaining the safety of our district’s education environment for our students, faculty and community members,” said Goodwin.

In another zero-tolerance case this week in Delaware, a 6-year-old boy was facing 45 days in an alternative school as punishment for bringing his favorite camping utensil — a combination folding knife, fork and spoon — to school to use at lunch. The school board voted Tuesday to reduce the punishment for kindergartners and first-graders who take weapons to school or commit violent offenses, and the boy was allowed to return to school.