Europe against GMO crops! Please, sign the Avaaz petition!
I already did. It's us who decide, not Monsanto!!!

The war is and has always been an industry. Something that aggressor nations use to prosper and enrich themselves. Only once upon the time, people had the dignity to admit what they are fighting for. Then, the Church came up with the concept of the Holy War, the Crusades and the good publicity became essential for this business. Because only when there is "a cause that is just", soldiers are willing to die for their rulers. If there's no good cause, the soldiers come home very very angry and bad things happen.
Why is this long introduction. Well, I've been quite busy lately, so I don't have to post here regularly. But yesterday, a very interesting article caught my eye. Here's the title:
Western Companies See Prospects for Business in Libya 
"Western security, construction and infrastructure companies that see profit-making opportunities receding in Iraq and Afghanistan have turned their sights on Libya, now free of four decades of dictatorship. Entrepreneurs are abuzz about the business potential of a country with huge needs and the oil to pay for them, plus the competitive advantage of Libyan gratitude toward the United States and its NATO partners.
Like France and Britain, the United States may benefit from the Libyan authorities’ appreciation of NATO’s critical air support for the revolution. Whatever the rigor of new rules governing contracts, Western companies hope to have some advantage over, say, China, which was offering to sell arms to Colonel Qaddafi as recently as July."
How about that, huh? Quite disgusting if you ask me. To use people's gratitude for profit. But that's what the whole military industry is, no? Let's set free the country, so that we can buy it cheaply afterwards. Let's destroy anything we see, in the name of the security of the civilians, so that they can pay us afterward to reconstruct it.
It's not the idea of war as industry that provoked me to write. This is not something new, it's a monstrosity which goes on for centuries with the support of public ignorance and greed. What bothers me is that they don't even try to hide it anymore. Articles are published, so that more US companies may join the banquet and earn some money. The public is convinced that this is something good, something normal. It is not good! It's not good for the Libyan people, who will have to eventually pay for all this. The people who suffered the regime, then they suffered the war, now they will suffer the peace. This is what really piss me off.  The arrogance!
And that's not even all of it. Here's the other article I wanted to share:
In Strikes on Libya by NATO, an Unspoken Civilian Toll
NATO’s seven-month air campaign in Libya, hailed by the alliance and many Libyans for blunting a lethal crackdown by Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi and helping to push him from power, came with an unrecognized toll: scores of civilian casualties the alliance has long refused to acknowledge or investigate.
By NATO’s telling during the war, and in statements the alliance-led operation was nearly flawless — a model air war that used high technology, meticulous planning and restraint to protect civilians from Colonel Qaddafi’s troops, which was the alliance’s mandate. 
But an on-the-ground examination by The New York Times of airstrike sites across Libya found credibljuste accounts of dozens of civilians killed by NATO in many distinct attacks. 
In all, at least 40 civilians, and perhaps more than 70, were killed by NATO at these sites, available evidence suggests.
NATO, however, deferred the responsibility of initiating any inquiry to Libya’s interim authorities, whose survival and climb to power were made possible largely by the airstrike campaign. So far, Libyan leaders have expressed no interest in examining NATO’s mistakes. 
So, let's repeat. NATO's operation was surgically clean. No collateral damage, no innocent victims, only cruel barbarian killed by the perfect fighters and their pilots? And if there are any victims at all, well, we don't care. Because ... well, because we can.
I think that the most important part of the war in Libya was not so much the end of the regime, but the new stage of media coverage of the issue. Because it wasn't only the operation which was planned to the last detail. The media coverage was also planned. There was not critical to the NATO forces stories, no survivors which had other version of what happened. No cruelty. Everything was clean and cut, just like in a movie. And that's unbelievably scary.
Because it's absurd to believe that there are no casualties. Of course there are. Civilian buildings were under heavy fire from the air. Even statistically, nobody can be that precise. There were also some scarce evidence of victims. Evidences which you could not obtain the normal way, you had to go there and count the bodies yourself. Because as much as NATO is concerned, none of this ever happened. Well, that's a lie. That's a lie in the face of the public, a lie in the face of the voters and of the taxpayers who paid for EVERY SINGLE BOMB! We paid for everything that happened there. And we cannot even get credible account for what we paid for.
And this is not the single occasion in which the public was deceived. How about the murder of Ossama Bin Laden. Which was streamed via video link directly to the US president. Who not only approved the murder, but also witnessed it. And then, we had pictures, videos, and more lies. And in the end, it turned out that the orders were shoot-to-kill and not to arrest him. It was an execution. An execution that the whole world sanctioned and greeted. An execution that US people celebrated on the streets! How is this for civilization?
I don't know about you, but I find this tendency very troublesome. Because war is becoming more and more polished. Metrosexual in a way. Everything is clean and hairless. No blood, no bodies, no death. Almost like in a movie - everything is just an illusion. But it is not. Pain is real. The losses and the destruction in Libya, Iraq, Afghanistan - they are real. This is not simply something happening on the TV/computer screen, it is something that changes, destroys people's life somewhere. And it's our duty as citizens, as children of the so-beloved democracy, to stop it.
Now a new war is being prepared and staged. See Drone Crash in Iran Reveals Secret U.S. Surveillance Effort. Beware! Be ready. Because if the worst happens, the blood will be on our hands. That is what democracy is about. People rule and people are in charge. And we all share our guilt. To all the people our soldiers "set free". So if you don't want that guilt, ask for your right to choose. Defend the democracy, which our ancestors fought for. 
Have a good night!

I have rarely felt more disgusted than after watching the yesterday's news. You know, you read titles as "Gaddafi killed in hometown, Libya eyes future" and you think oh, well, people do die, especially in a war. But then you turn on the TV and you see Gaddafi still breathing, then they tell you he's dead and at that moment, you remember that two days ago, Hillary Clinton said that the USA wanted Gaddafi caught - dead or alive (source). And then, there is the horrible "WOW" with which she reacted to the news he's dead! (source)

WOW! WOW?! WOW???????????????????

What's wrong with you people! You can't say Wow to the news that somebody has been killed. You remember the story with Osama bin Laden, how the president ordered an operation to kill him, how they all gathered in a room to watch the video-feed from the murder?! Does this sounds normal?

Ok. Osama bin Laden was an enemy of the state and he probably knew this is coming to him one day. I don't feel sorry about him, though I feel sorry about the thousands who celebrated his death. But colonel Gaddafi wasn't an enemy of the state. Should I remind you how many deals the USA made with him, how the same lady, Hillary Clinton, met him and smiled and they talked and stuff?! The same one, that now said a happy WOW.

It's not that he was a very nice person. He wasn't, and as a Bulgarian, I have national reasons to hate him. But he was a person. And that person asked not to be killed, he surrendered (source), but was shot anyway. Because these were the orders. The orders by the USA.

Don't you feel ashamed? I do. I feel terribly ashamed by what's happening in the world. For a second time, the USA kills someone they decided an enemy, just like that. Like it's nothing. Like it's normal. And we don't talk about casualties in a war, we talk about cold-blooded murder. Videotaped (if not even streamed directly) and then shown to the world. Times and times again. So that everyone knows, that when someone becomes a nuisance to the USA, they will take care of it.

You know what's the most disgusting? That the person who gave those orders, got a Nobel Price for Peace. FOR PEACE! And he decided to work for peace by seeding wars, by killing people and then showing them on the tv, as this is something to be proud of. Americans, I'm sorry for you. I'm ashamed for you. Because that's your president. You chose him, you voted him confidence, only because of the color of his skin, and now, you are just as guilty in man-slaughter as he is. I'm not saying that the other candidates were better, I'm only saying that this person is a killer. Maybe it's not him, maybe it's the time. But for me it doesn't matter. In civilized world, there is no death-penalty. What USA is doing lately, are public executions.

Osama bin Laden had to go, that's clear. He was a public enemy, he probably knew too much, he wasn't someone to put on a trial. I can understand that, even if I find the media-stunt that followed his killing absolutely horrible. But what about Gaddafi? What about his sons? Is it normal to exterminate the whole family, because one of them no longer wants to cooperate? Is it normal to bring democracy, where you know very well it cannot exist and thus to drown a country into civil war with unknown duration, to ruin people lives, to shoot and bomb civilians, just because it's a crisis and you need a way to prove you're still the man. Not only this, but to try to go into a war with Iran ("To Isolate Iran, U.S. Presses Inspectors on Nuclear Data") after a very unconvincing and obviously unsuccessful plot on assassinating Saudi Arabia’s ambassador to the United States? Did anyone bother to ask WHY? Why would Iranian hire Mexicans trough someone who everyone find untrustable, to kill an ambassador?! It makes absolutely no sense to me. True, Iranian president is kind of crazy, but THAT crazy?! Even a US senator saw the whole story as leading to war with Iran ("Sen. Dianne Feinstein: No War with Iran"). The question is why the US president so desperately wants to go into a war with Iran, which will alienate the USA from Russia and China and which will cause serious problems to China, Japan and South Korea which import oil from Iran. Is this the point? To oil prices to go up again, so that the oil produced in the USA can be sold better. Or is it just that the military industry needs some profit?

I am completely disgusted. Yesterday, I just stopped watching the news. That bad I felt about what's going on in this world. Why the USA have a license to kill? Why politicians around the world made deals with someone who they now claim to be so bad, and they felt good about it, and when they realised they need some billions, they froze his bank accounts and declared him a dictator? Like before, they didn't know what he is. Like they didn't make deals for billions with him. And now, they killed him and his children and then showed off on the TV his dead body? Not to mention that now in Libya even the young children are armed. What future will this country have? And why is nobody talking about it! Why it is so important that Sarkozy had a baby, but not that Libya will be in ruins because of him. Why is the USA wanting to go on war with Iran, but nobody cares about Syria's protesters, and nobody cares about Belorussian and Ukrainian dictators?

I don't have the illusion that we live in a good and fair world. But I had the illusion that people have some moral values left. That when a good, free person living in a democratic country, see a dead man on the TV, he or she will feel bad about it. That when those free people see that their government wants to go to a war with another nation, just because they don't have anything better to do, they will ask them to stop. Nothing like this happened! Nobody cared about the war in Libya (not actively at least), nobody reacted on the murder of Libyan ex-dictator or his family and nobody reacts to the war that is being prepared. Why?! People, wake up! We don't need wars. We don't need the USA policing the whole world. We don't need to watch murders. I don't say Gaddafi was innocent, but he had the right of a trial. Instead of requiring the new government to prove their democratic intentions by securing a fair trail (after which they would probably kill Gaddafi, since they have death-penalty), the US government said they want him dead. And dead he was.

That's not normal! The world we live in must be changed. But it cannot change unless people change. We need to choose what kind of life do we want to live - of fear, or of freedom. Because democracy is not a fundamental right, it is something to be earned, fought for and protected! And now we see that democracy is dead. Because protesters are being beaten and arrested, because foreigners to the US are considered non-humans and they can be killed at any time, at any point of the world, just because someone decided this way. Without judge and without a trial. And the USA used to be the world's leader. What anyone needs to understand is that if the USA has a license to kill, then so does any nation on this planet. And since USA is no longer the leader, very soon we can expect very serious implications from that behavior. You can see some hints of it in this article ("Coming Soon: The Drone Arms Race"). It is not a threat, it's a fact. And I'm writing this, because I don't want to live in that kind of world. I want to live in a better world, and I believe we can have this world if we are committed to it. Because people choose their rulers and not the other way around. Because if we are united, if we strive for perfection,for doing good and not evil, we may create a good world. A better world. And I don't mean religion here, I mean "Live and let the others live". I mean to find a way to coexist without killing each other. It is possible. In Europe, we had all those wars, now we have a Union. And no wars. At least for now and I hope - forever. Then it is possible. It's just question of common values, common goals and commitment to them. We can do it. We just have to want it enough.

The first reform in US patent laws in decades is a fact. However, nobody has any serious expectations towards it. How come?! And what actually is the change? Well, it appears the change is quite interesting according to this article in physorg: 1) "The America Invents Act changes the way one can obtain patents to a new "first to file” system replacing the old "first to invent" system."
This effectively means that everyone is free to steal and espionage, the patent will be given to whoever files first. Sure, this will speed up the process of granting patents. But is this the major problem in the system - the lack of speed? Or the fact that everyone patents everything, even when that thing is not eligible for patenting - like the situation with human genes, which was solved by the Court (see Judge Invalidates Human Gene Patent). ""People patent any old thing and they repatent things that are already patented," he said."No truce expected in global patent wars. So even if this change is well-intended, it will serve no good. Correction - it will. It will serve lawyers just perfectly. Because the more patents, the more companies will be sued over them. And consequently, the more money for the lawyers. Yeah.
The second change is that the patent office will be able to gather fees for itself. Which basically means that they will have a good motivation to grant even more patents. Oh, well.
For me this system has to go. And the sooner the officials realise it, the better. Because this is only the beginning of the patent war. What do you think Google will do with their 12 billions worth patents? Keep them safe and warm? Or all the other recent patent deals. There's gonna be a war and the users/customers are the ones who will pay for it. Because that's what always happens. The giants fight, the humans suffer. Everybody steals from everybody, but in the end, usually the ones who sell cheaper gets banned (like Samsung vs. Apple). And people are forced to pay more. Microsoft gets $15 from each Android device sold (see Microsoft Milks More Patent Licensing Dollars Out of Android Manufacturers). Who do you think pays those money? We do. Why? Because M$ holds the patent on something that they never developed, that they never marketed into a successful product, that they never made a hit, but yet, now they earn from it. How fair is this? It is not! But does the government care about it? No. Not really.
Sure, the idea of patents is good - to protect the inventors, to make sure if you invest in something, you will earn from it. But in what research exactly did any of those huge companies invested in when BUYING patents from other companies? None. How this helps inventors or invention as a whole - it doesn't, not at all. It's preventive act against patent trolls (or patents vampires)! Those patents may never be used in any product, but they are important, because they are weapons in the hands of whoever pays more. And those weapons are meant to kill anyone who has the wit to want to enter in the competition. They are not scary for Google or Apple or Microsoft. They will pay their $15 per device, or pay to lawyers and everything's going to be all right. Those weapons are scary only for small companies who are just starting with bright and fresh idea, that could make them rich, that could change the market, that could steal from the pie of the giants. And that is of course unacceptable. Now tell me about innovation or free market!
And anyway, in current dynamical world, 20 years for a patent is ridiculous. No current IT product is sold for more than 10 years (or even 5) as it is. Then the patents lasting so long are obsolete and they actually stifle innovation. So instead of developing the patented technology when it is actually worth something, 20 years later, the technology is lost, because life moved on.
I didn't even start with software patents which are absurd. It's like an author patenting a phrase, so that nobody can use it in another book. Sound stupid, right? Well, it is. But it happens. Everything get patented. And in the end, nobody will be able to move or to develop, because of eventual patents. And progress will suffer. Because governments are too busy keeping the statusquo and protecting the giants (and their lawyers) instead of thinking of ways to change radically the system into something serving the society as a whole. Nothing new, I know, but we could do so much better.

Hi all,
Although I usually defend people's and nation's right to evolve at their own pace, I think in the case of Somalia, some action is badly needed. We speak of tens of thousands of human lives, wasted because the UN security counsel is too busy wondering what next country to bomb. But that's a distraction.


The important point is that people are dying. The situation was very grave a month ago, but now, it's not much better. We speak of people who for decades now are doomed to starvation and diseases which normal world had eliminated. And those people have no chance, no hope and no dreams. Why shouldn't they have the right to exist and prosper? Because someone decided it's great for the business in Africa to have chaos, poverty and misery. Is this fair? How much more Africa should be robbed by Western people (and soon also by Eastern people), and how much longer we can pretend that it's not our fault, that it's not us which are to blame for their misery? We are to blame. We, the people robbing Africa's treasuries - gold, diamonds and ores, or allowing our fellows to do it, or voting for those selling guns to the tribes to continue the chaos and the pain, it's our fault. And it's about time we all start helping.
So I write here to ask people who care, to pray for a qualitative improvement of the situation, to send energy, meditate, ask their representative in the ruling body of the country, donate or participate in organizations or do whatever else you figure it might help, so that those lives would be saved and that Africa will escape the horror that the famine is unleashing and the situation will improve. If you go for the spiritual help, please focus on general stuff, like saving lives in the best and quickest way possible, rather than on specific solutions, but that's, of course, up to everyone to decide. The point is to help those people survive.

If anyone wants to help, whether spiritually, or socially, please do so. Because dying from FAMINE in the 21st century is an offense towards our civilization as a whole. And it's unbelievable that politicians think it's right to bomb anyone to "defend democracy", but they are "helpless" when it comes to thousands of dying children. I hope that if enough people talk about it, if enough people ask for action, if enough people send their energy in direction of helping those people, the situation may change in a positive direction.

Here's some news excerpt sfor those who need information:

Famine could kill 400,000 Somali children: Britain
Britain said on Wednesday that hundreds of thousands of children could starve to death in Somalia if the international community did not ramp up its response to the famine there.
Britain has already pledged more than 80 million pounds (US$130-million) to help tackle what aid agencies are calling the worst drought in decades to hit Somalia, Kenya and Ethiopia.

WHO decries increasing cholera cases in southern Somalia - The World Health Organization (WHO) on Thursday decried increased number of confirmed cholera cases in the Somalian capital Mogadishu, and growing reports of acute watery diarrhea in Kismayo and other crowded urban centers, saying an urgent multi-sector response to contain the spread of this highly contagious disease is being mounted.

Somalis Waste Away as Insurgents Block Escape From Famine
"The Shabab Islamist insurgent group, which controls much of southern Somalia, is blocking starving people from fleeing the country and setting up a cantonment camp where it is imprisoning displaced people who were trying to escape Shabab territory.
The situation is growing bleaker by the day, with tens of thousands of Somalis already dead and more than 500,000 children on the brink of starvation. " (NY Times)

Peace to all,
Denitsa

Inertia is one of the biggest faults of human mind. Some people are totally addicted to the status quo, not because it's so good, but because they're so hell scared by what could eventually happen. By the unknown. While in some cases, precautions are advisable, this fear can be taken to unbelievable highs by the weak-hearted. Or those who pretend to be such, even if in fact, they don't need that fear, nor those precautions.
Why I start from so far away? Because I grow more and more wary of the hysteria around marriage and its place in our society. Some people seem to identify marriage with everything good, important and generally positive in life. Hollywood romantic nonsenses playing a significant role in this strange notion.
The thing is that the idea of marriage is not universal, even if the mystery of marriage is. But I'm not going to discuss religious mysteries now, because I don't think they have anything to do with the majority of people. For most people, marriage is nothing more than a civil union giving them certain privilleges and social status and of course, the illusionary security we all dream of. It's not a religious thing, but a social one.
So if we speak of the marriage as a civil union, we should be aware that they are many types of marriage - monogamous, polygamous (1 husband and many wives, up to 4 in the Muslim case) or polyandrous (one wife, many husbands, like in some Amazon tribes, Asian people - see One Bride for 2 Brothers: A Custom Fades in India, and also in ancient times in tribes like the Sarmatians, part of the Thracians familly). We also have the abstention of nuns, monks and many others and of course, the numerous people who get divorced for one reason or other and later can have happier or worst life with a new spouse or without any.
So marriage is something much wider than what usual romantic comedy has to offer us - one girl, one boy, love till the end of the world.
Marriage has many faces and there is absolutely no need or cause to seek to unite them into the face of a heterosexual couple in love forever. There is nothing sacral in civil union. At least for me, at the moment when the state enters in the ritual, the holy part of it flies away. Because the mystery is a mystery of the heart, not of lawyers and other official beings which seek to suck your money and freedom, by putting your life in the cage of written words and contracts. For me, matters of the heart can not and should not be a matter of the authorities, they should be solved only by the people affected. But since we live in society, some things require some amount of paper to be signed and this is where the states enters. And it is my utter belief that the state has no right to discriminate between men, women and their numbers in such documents. After all, if we speak of a contract, it should be up to the people who want to sign it, what arrangements should be made and so on.
In short, I believe we should live and let others live their life the way they want it. I have no problem with a family of two men, two women, or 3 women or 2 women and one man or 2 men and one woman or whatever. It's their choice and as long as they don't hurt my rights in any way, they are free to do whatever they please. And I don't see how their civil union may affect me. So what's the problem. Let the people love themselves in any way they see fit.
I'm quite glad to see that the world is slowly riping for this idea and homosexual marriages and also civil unions gain to wider and wider acceptance. For me this is normal. But I don't understand, why still polygamy and polyandry are not discussed at all. After all, only the number changes, the idea remains the same. It is a contract you sign and if you're not happy with it, you can always leave behind. Then what's the problem?! It might get little bit more complicated, but so what - it's not like we already don't have so many complicated issues, one more or one less doesn't make a difference. But reforming the marriage as an idea will bring so much more freedom to the people. Freedom from the state, that is.
There is one more aspect i would like to comment and it's the financial aspect. I don't quite get why should married couples or couples as a whole have tax-exemptions and other privileges that single people don't have. The obvious reason is that starting a family requires money. Fair enough. But usually, having or expecting children is not the definition of a couple. It's their civil status. So, the state doesn't care about the children, not directly, at least. Instead, it helps couples with the presumption they will have children. Well, I think this is discriminatory. Because single people are not worst than married people. And financial support should be given to promote something that is socially good. Coupling of people is not socially good. Having children is socially good. So for me, instead of having all this discussions for marriage, which for me is a dying institution anyway (see the news for France below), the discussion should be for rethinking of the definitions of our society and its needs. Rethinking how to promote what is worth promoting, to support what is worth supporting and let people enjoy their lives without interference in at least this aspect of their life. But do you see that discussion anywhere? I don't. And I really would like to see it at some point.

New York Allows Same-Sex Marriage, Becoming Largest State to Pass Law - Lawmakers voted late Friday to legalize same-sex marriage, making New York the largest state where gay and lesbian couples will be able to wed.
Senator Mark J. Grisanti, a Republican from Buffalo who had sought office promising to oppose same-sex marriage, told his colleagues he had agonized for months before concluding he had been wrong.
“I apologize for those who feel offended,” Mr. Grisanti said, adding, “I cannot deny a person, a human being, a taxpayer, a worker, the people of my district and across this state, the State of New York, and those people who make this the great state that it is the same rights that I have with my wife.”

Polygamist, Under Scrutiny in Utah, Plans Suit to Challenge Law -
The family is the focus of a reality TV show, “Sister Wives,” that first appeared in 2010. Law enforcement officials in the Browns’ home state, Utah, announced soon after the show began that the family was under investigation for violating the state law prohibiting polygamy.
On Wednesday, the Browns are expected to file a lawsuit to challenge the polygamy law.
Mr. Brown has a civil marriage with only one of his wives; the rest are “sister wives,” not formally wedded.

In France, Civil Unions Gain Favor Over Marriage - Whatever their reasons, and they vary widely, French couples are increasingly shunning traditional marriages and opting instead for civil unions, to the point that there are now two civil unions for every three marriages. When France created its system of civil unions in 1999, it was heralded as a revolution in gay rights, a relationship almost like marriage, but not quite. No one, though, anticipated how many couples would make use of the new law. Nor was it predicted that by 2009, the overwhelming majority of civil unions would be between straight couples.
It remains unclear whether the idea of a civil union, called a pacte civil de solidarité, or PACS, has responded to a shift in social attitudes or caused one. But it has proved remarkably well suited to France and its particularities about marriage, divorce, religion and taxes — and it can be dissolved with just a registered letter.
“The notion of eternal marriage has grown obsolete.”
France recognizes only “citizens,” and the country’s legal principles hold that special rights should not be accorded to particular groups or ethnicities. So civil unions, which confer most of the tax benefits and legal protections of marriage, were made available to everyone. (Marriage, on the other hand, remains restricted to heterosexuals.) But the attractiveness of civil unions to heterosexual couples was evident from the start. In 2000, just one year after the passage of the law, more than 75 percent of civil unions were signed between heterosexual couples. That trend has only strengthened since then: of the 173,045 civil unions signed in 2009, 95 percent were between heterosexual couples.
As with traditional marriages, civil unions allow couples to file joint tax returns, exempt spouses from inheritance taxes, permit partners to share insurance policies, ease access to residency permits for foreigners and make partners responsible for each other’s debts. Concluding a civil union requires little more than a single appearance before a judicial official, and ending one is even easier.

I had somewhat hard week so I really want to post about something positive now that I am able to. And one of the first news that caught my attention after all that time of Internet deprivation was that news of free South Sudan.
Why should the yet another splitting of a nation be a good news? Because Africa is a continent to which the Western civilization owes so much, we can hardly ever start to repay our debt. And all those conflicts we see there are because of us and supported by our money. And people die, because of our infinite greed. As you can see:
After Years of Struggle, South Sudan Becomes a New Nation - "A new nation was being born in what used to be a forlorn, war-racked patch of Africa, and to many it seemed nothing short of miraculous. After more than five decades of an underdog, guerrilla struggle and two million lives lost, the Republic of South Sudan, Africa’s 54th state, was about to declare its independence in front of a who’s who of Africa, including the president of the country letting it go: Omar Hassan al-Bashir of Sudan, a war-crimes suspect."

Two million lives lost. And unknown million of lives devastated by the wars and rapes and the never-ceasing violence. And now, finally, those people can have their chance of peace.
Don't be fooled, miracles are rare events. Everything has its price and I'm sure that this independence will not mark the immediate enrichment of South Sudanese people, but it is at least some progress. One enemy less for the guerrilla or so I hope.

What is important now, is for the world to offer a helping hand to South Sudan and to try to lead them trough the pains of getting back to normality. And hopefully, the natural treasures of that young country won't get sold to Europe too cheaply. Unfortunately corruption is overwhelming companion to poverty, but let's hope that cutting one level of theft will provide more money to the people on the bottom.

God Speed to the newest country in the world! At least this one deserves its independence.

Another absolutely unrelated news I'd like to share is the following:
NYC judge asked to throw out border search lawsuit - "A federal judge in New York City is questioning why laptops and smartphones should be excluded from random searches done by U.S. customs agents protecting the border.
The judge suggested Friday no cause is needed because the searches are meant to stop terror attacks."

In case you wonder what's the problem, well the problem is simple. When people travel with a laptop, they usually bring all the personal and professional files they have with them. Should a border-crossing allows the police (or border-control) to have unlimited by the law and by court view of ALL your life?! Why? What's the difference when you go to Canada from when you go from home to work? Does this mean that the police should have absolute access to the files of every person they wish, just because they have to stop eventual terrorists? I don't think so. I think that the idea of border police is to make sure you don't carry a weapon or anything dangerous for the others. If they suspect something about you, they must take a court order and then they have the right to check your files. And not before. That's why I think this news and this court decision, if left as it is, could bring a lot of damage to democracy and of course to airports traffic. Please, watch out! Because freedom is not something life owes you, it is something you fight for.

Have a great and sunny Sunday! :) 

Today, I'd like to dedicate my blog to some recent news in pharmaceutical and medicinal industry. You can imagine they are not very positive.
My only comment is to always think twice when you read something about those industries, because they have the tendency to lie. For example, the first news about the use of Vitamin D leaves me under the impression that vitamin D is dangerous. They don't say it, but they kind of imply it. The reality, however, is different. When irradiated by direct sunlight, the body produces tons of vitamin D absolutely safely! And there are no adverse effects appart from the danger of sunburn. So this kind of statements are very suspicious. Especially considering the fact that most people do not expose themselves enough on sunlight and thus, they are very unlikely to have high levels of vitamin D. And how you define sufficient levels when that vitamin is just starting getting properly studied is a mystery for me. For calcium, however, I agree that one should be careful with it.
Also, in articles 2, 3 and 9, you can see how the power of one industry - be it chemical or farming, can postpone crucial risk assessments and changes of rules. Just because of ... financial loss and inconvenience. Still believes your governments cares about your health? I don't.

  1. Report Questions Need for 2 Diet Supplements
  2. F.D.A and Dairy Industry Spar Over Testing of Milk
  3. US water has large amounts of likely carcinogen: study
  4. U.S. Says Genes Should Not Be Eligible for Patents
  5. Should You Be Snuggling With Your Cellphone?
  6. Study of Breast Biopsies Finds Surgery Used Too Extensively
  7. Lymph Node Study Shakes Pillar of Breast Cancer Care
  8. Diet Plan With Hormone Has Fans and Skeptics
  9. Government Says 2 Common Materials Pose Risk of Cancer

Report Questions Need for 2 Diet Supplements


By GINA KOLATA , Published: November 29, 2010

The very high levels of vitamin D that are often recommended by doctors and testing laboratories — and can be achieved only by taking supplements — are unnecessary and could be harmful, an expert committee says. It also concludes that calcium supplements are not needed. 
The group said most people have adequate amounts of vitamin D in their blood supplied by their diets and natural sources like sunshine, the committee says in a report that is to be released on Tuesday.
With calcium, adolescent girls may be the only group that is getting too little, the panel found. Older women, on the other hand, may take too much, putting themselves at risk for kidney stones. And there is evidence that excess calcium can increase the risk of heart disease, the group wrote.
The 14-member expert committee was convened by the Institute of Medicine, an independent nonprofit scientific body, at the request of the United States and Canadian governments. It was asked to examine the available data — nearly 1,000 publications — to determine how much vitamin D and calcium people were getting, how much was needed for optimal health and how much was too much.

Bone health, though, is only one of the benefits that have been attributed to vitamin D, and there is not enough good evidence to support most other claims, the committee said.
Some labs have started reporting levels of less than 30 nanograms of vitamin D per milliliter of blood as a deficiency. With that as a standard, 80 percent of the population would be deemed deficient of vitamin D, Dr. Rosen said. Most people need to take supplements to reach levels above 30 nanograms per milliliter, he added.
But, the committee concluded, a level of 20 to 30 nanograms is all that is needed for bone health, and nearly everyone is in that range.
The committee, though, said people need only 600 international units a day (vit. D).
To assess the amounts of vitamin D and calcium people are getting, the panel looked at national data on diets. Most people, they concluded, get enough calcium from the foods they eat, about 1,000 milligrams a day for most adults (1,200 for women ages 51 to 70).
Vitamin D is more complicated, the group said. In general, most people are not getting enough vitamin D from their diets, but they have enough of the vitamin in their blood, probably because they are also making it naturally after being out in the sun and storing it in their bodies.
After reviewing the data, the committee concluded that the evidence for the benefits of high levels of vitamin D was “inconsistent and/or conflicting and did not demonstrate causality.” Evidence also suggests that high levels of vitamin D can increase the risks for fractures and the overall death rate and can raise the risk for other diseases. While those studies are not conclusive, any risk looms large when there is no demonstrable benefit.
source

F.D.A and Dairy Industry Spar Over Testing of Milk


By WILLIAM NEUMAN Published: January 25, 2011
Each year, federal inspectors find illegal levels of antibiotics in hundreds of older dairy cows bound for the slaughterhouse. Concerned that those antibiotics might also be contaminating the milk Americans drink, the Food and Drug Administration intended to begin tests this month on the milk from farms that had repeatedly sold cows tainted by drug residue.
But the testing plan met with fierce protest from the dairy industry, which said that it could force farmers to needlessly dump millions of gallons of milk while they waited for test results. Industry officials and state regulators said the testing program was poorly conceived and could lead to costly recalls that could be avoided with a better plan for testing.
In response, the F.D.A. postponed the testing, and now the two sides are sparring over how much danger the antibiotics pose and the best way to ensure that the drugs do not end up in the milk supply.
But food safety advocates said that the F.D.A.’s preliminary findings raised issues about the possible overuse of antibiotics in livestock, which many fear could undermine the effectiveness of drugs to combat human illnesses.The F.D.A. said that it would confer with the industry before deciding how to proceed. 
The concerns of federal regulators stem from tests done by the Department of Agriculture on dairy cows sent to be slaughtered at meat plants. For years, those tests have found a small but persistent number of animals with drug residues, mostly antibiotics, that violate legal limits.
The question for the F.D.A. is whether cows that are producing milk also have improper levels of such drugs in their bodies and whether traces of those drugs are getting into the milk.
Regulators and veterinarians say that high levels of drugs can persist in an animal’s system because of misuse of medicines on the farm.
 source

US water has large amounts of likely carcinogen: study

December 19, 2010 
A US environmental group has found that drinking water in 35 American cities contains hexavalent chromium, a probable carcinogen, The Washington Post reported Sunday.
The study by the Environmental Working Group -- the first nationwide analysis measuring the presence of the chemical in US water systems -- is to be made public on Monday, the daily reported.
The group found hexavalent in the tap water of 31 out of 35 cities sampled. Of those, 25 had levels that exceeded the goal proposed in California, which has been trying aggressively to reduce the chemical in its water supply.
The federal is considering whether to set a limit for hexavalent chromium in . The agency is reviewing the chemical after the National Institutes of Health, deemed it a "probable " in 2008.
Hexavalent chromium has long been known to cause when inhaled, and scientists recently found evidence that it causes cancer in laboratory animals when ingested. It has been linked in animals to liver and as well as leukemia, stomach cancer and other cancers.
A widely used industrial chemical until the early 1990s, hexavalent chromium still used in some industries, such as in chrome plating and the manufacturing of plastics and dyes. The chemical can also leach into groundwater from natural ores.
 source



US orders more testing of chromium-6 in tap water

January 13, 2011
The Environmental Protection Agency has asked local US communities to test more carefully for hexavalent chromium, a probable carcinogen.
After preliminary health studies, the EPA opted Wednesday to class the chemical known as chromium-6 as one likely to cause cancer in humans when ingested over the course of a lifetime.It adopted a rule of a maximum 0.1 milligrams per liter (100 parts per billion), and urged managers of water systems with their source in ground water be tested two times a year, versus four times a year for systems with surface water sources.
 source 

U.S. Says Genes Should Not Be Eligible for Patents

Reversing a longstanding policy, the federal government said on Friday that human and other genes should not be eligible for patents because they are part of nature. The new position could have a huge impact on medicine and on the biotechnology industry. The issue of gene patents has long been a controversial and emotional one. Opponents say that genes are products of nature, not inventions, and should be the common heritage of mankind. They say that locking up basic genetic information in patents actually impedes medical progress. Proponents say genes isolated from the body are chemicals that are different from those found in the body and therefore are eligible for patents.

Should You Be Snuggling With Your Cellphone?

WARNING: Holding a cellphone against your ear may be hazardous to your health. So may stuffing it in a pocket against your body.
I’m paraphrasing here. But the legal departments of cellphone manufacturers slip a warning about holding the phone against your head or body into the fine print of the little slip that you toss aside when unpacking your phone. Apple, for example, doesn’t want iPhones to come closer than 5/8 of an inch; Research In Motion, BlackBerry’s manufacturer, is still more cautious: keep a distance of about an inch. source

Study of Breast Biopsies Finds Surgery Used Too Extensively

Too many women with abnormal mammograms or other breast problems are undergoing surgical biopsies when they should be having needle biopsies, which are safer, less invasive and cheaper, new research shows. A study in Florida found that 30 percent of the breast biopsies there from 2003 to 2008 were surgical. The rate should be 10 percent or less, according to medical guidelines.
The figures in the rest of the country are likely to be similar to Florida’s, researchers say, which would translate to more than 300,000 women a year having unnecessary surgery, at a cost of hundreds of millions of dollars. Many of these women do not even have cancer: about 80 percent of breast biopsies are benign. For women who do have cancer, a surgical biopsy means two operations instead of one, and may make the cancer surgery more difficult than it would have been if a needle biopsy had been done.
A surgical biopsy requires an inchlong incision, stitches and sometimes sedation or general anesthesia. It leaves a scar. A needle biopsy requires only numbing with a local anesthetic, uses a tiny incision and no stitches and carries less risk of infection and scarring. If the abnormality in the breast is too small to be felt and has been detected by a mammogram or other imaging method, the needle biopsy must also be guided by imaging — mammography, ultrasound or M.R.I. — and will often have to be performed by a radiologist. If a lump can be felt, imaging is not needed to guide the needle, and a surgeon can perform it.
Hospitals charge $5,000 to $6,000 for a needle biopsy, and double that for an open biopsy, according to Dr. Grobmyer’s article. Doctors’ fees for an open biopsy range from $1,500 to $2,500, he said, and $750 to $1,500 for a needle biopsy.source

Lymph Node Study Shakes Pillar of Breast Cancer Care

A new study finds that many women with early breast cancer do not need a painful procedure that has long been routine: removal of cancerous lymph nodes from the armpit.
The discovery turns standard medical practice on its head. Surgeons have been removing lymph nodes from under the arms of breast cancer patients for 100 years, believing it would prolong women’s lives by keeping the cancer from spreading or coming back. Now, researchers report that for women who meet certain criteria — about 20 percent of patients, or 40,000 women a year in the United States — taking out cancerous nodes has no advantage. It does not change the treatment plan, improve survival or make the cancer less likely to recur. And it can cause complications like infection and lymphedema, a chronic swelling in the arm that ranges from mild to disabling.
Removing the cancerous lymph nodes proved unnecessary because the women in the study had chemotherapy and radiation, which probably wiped out any disease in the nodes, the researchers said. Those treatments are now standard for women with breast cancer in the lymph nodes, based on the realization that once the disease reaches the nodes, it has the potential to spread to vital organs and cannot be eliminated by surgery alone.
Experts say that the new findings, combined with similar ones from earlier studies, should change medical practice for many patients. Some centers have already acted on the new information. Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in Manhattan changed its practice in September, because doctors knew the study results before they were published. But more widespread change may take time, experts say, because the belief in removing nodes is so deeply ingrained.
The new results do not apply to all patients, only to women whose disease and treatment meet the criteria in the study. The tumors were early, at clinical stage T1 or T2, meaning less than two inches across. Biopsies of one or two armpit nodes had found cancer, but the nodes were not enlarged enough to be felt during an exam, and the cancer had not spread anywhere else. The women had lumpectomies, and most also had radiation to the entire breast, and chemotherapy or hormone-blocking drugs, or both.
It is not known whether the findings also apply to women who do not have radiation and chemotherapy, or to those who have only part of the breast irradiated. Nor is it known whether the findings could be applied to other types of cancer. The results mean that women like those in the study will still have to have at least one lymph node removed, to look for cancer and decide whether they will need more treatment. But taking out just one or a few nodes should be enough.
  source

Diet Plan With Hormone Has Fans and Skeptics


Ms. Brown, 35, is not taking hCG to help her bear a child. She believes that by combining the hormone injections with a 500-calorie-a-day diet, she will achieve a kind of weight-loss nirvana: losing fat in all the right places without feeling tired or hungry. “I had a friend who did it before her wedding,” Ms. Brown said. “She looks great.”
Women like Ms. Brown are streaming into doctors’ offices and weight-loss clinics all over the country, paying upward of $1,000 a month for a consultation, a supply of the hormone and the syringes needed to deliver it. More than 50 years after a doctor at a Roman clinic began promoting hCG as a dieting aid, it is as popular as ever, even though there is scant evidence that it makes any difference.
In response to inquiries stirred up by the diet’s popularity, the Food and Drug Administration warned in January that “homeopathic” forms of hCG, like lozenges and sprays, sold over the Internet and in some health food stores, are fraudulent and illegal if they claim weight-loss powers. The injectable, prescription form of hCG, human chorionic gonadotropin, is approved as a treatment for infertility and other uses, and it is legal for doctors to prescribe it “off-label” for weight loss.
But the F.D.A. has also reiterated a warning, first issued in the mid-1970s, that is required on hCG packaging: It has not been shown to increase weight loss, to cause a more “attractive” distribution of fat or to “decrease hunger and discomfort” from low-calorie diets.
The F.D.A. recently received a report of a patient on the hCG diet who had a pulmonary embolism, said Christopher Kelly, a spokesman for the agency. He said the hormone carried risks of blood clots, depression, headaches and breast tenderness or enlargement. source

Government Says 2 Common Materials Pose Risk of Cancer

WASHINGTON — The government issued warnings on Friday about two materials used daily by millions of Americans, saying that one causes cancer and the other might.
Government scientists listed formaldehyde as a carcinogen, and said it is found in worrisome quantities in plywood, particle board, mortuaries and hair salons. They also said that styrene, which is used in boats, bathtubs and in disposable foam plastic cups and plates, may cause cancer but is generally found in such low levels in consumer products that risks are low.

Frequent and intense exposures in manufacturing plants are far more worrisome than the intermittent contact that most consumers have, but government scientists said that consumers should still avoid contact with formaldehyde and styrene along with six other chemicals that were added Friday to the government’s official Report on Carcinogens. Its release was delayed for years because of intense lobbying from the chemical industry, which disputed its findings. 
Studies of workers like embalmers exposed to high levels of formaldehyde have found increased incidences of myeloid leukemia and rare cancers of the nasal passages and upper mouth.
Dr. Otis Brawley, chief medical officer at the American Cancer Society, said that formaldehyde is both worrisome and inescapable.

Consumers can reduce their exposure to formaldehyde by avoiding pressed-wood products or buying only those that are labeled as U.L.E.F. (ultra-low-emitting formaldehyde), N.A.F. (no added formaldehyde) or C.A.R.B. (California Air Resources Board) Phase 1 or Phase 2 compliant.
Styrene is mostly a concern for workers who build boats, car parts, bathtubs and shower stalls. Studies of workers exposed to high levels of styrene have found increased risks of leukemia and lymphoma and genetic damage to white blood cells. There is also some evidence that styrene increases the risks of cancer of the pancreas and esophagus among styrene workers, the report found. Consumers can be exposed to styrene from the fumes of building materials, photocopiers and tobacco smoke.
As for styrene’s presence in plastic utensils and other consumer products, Dr. Brawley likened the risk from such products to that of coffee and cellphones — uncertain and slight.
The report also lists aristolochic acids, found in plants and sometimes used in herbal medicines, as a known carcinogen and added to the list of probable carcinogens other substances like captafol (a fungicide no longer sold in the United States), finely spun glass wool fibers (used in insulation), cobalt-tungsten carbide (used in manufacturing), riddelliine (plants eaten by cattle, horses and sheep) and ortho-nitrotoluene (used in dyes).source
And more:

Federal Research Center Will Help Develop Medicines -
- The Obama administration has become so concerned about the slowing pace of new drugs coming out of the pharmaceutical industry that officials have decided to start a billion-dollar government drug development center to help create medicines. 
Under the plan, more than $700 million in research projects already under way at various institutes and centers would be brought together at the new center. But officials hope that the prospect of finding new drugs will lure Congress into increasing the center’s financing well beyond $1 billion
X-Rays and Unshielded Infants -

Our amazing brains, 2011

Today, I offer you some articles dedicated to human health and mind. Reading them, one can clearly see the power of our amazing brains! It's just unbelievable how much we can achieve if we set our minds to it. And what's even more remarkable is that sometimes we can achieve it even without thinking about it - like the article on the placebo effect. 59% improvement in the conditions of the group on placebo compared to 35% in the control group. That's certainly something to think about.
Last but not least, you can see some videos that simply left me speechless.
Enjoy! And don't forget - our life is our most precious treasure. :)

Brains of Buddhist monks scanned in meditation study


In a laboratory tucked away off a noisy New York City street, a soft-spoken neuroscientist has been placing Tibetan Buddhist monks into a car-sized brain scanner to better understand the ancient practice of meditation.
Zoran Josipovic, a research scientist and adjunct professor at New York University, says he has been peering into the brains of monks while they meditate in an attempt to understand how their brains reorganise themselves during the exercise.Since 2008, the researcher has been placing the minds and bodies of prominent Buddhist figures into a five-tonne (5,000kg) functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) machine.
Dr Josipovic, who also moonlights as a Buddhist monk, says he is hoping to find how some meditators achieve a state of "nonduality" or "oneness" with the world, a unifying consciousness between a person and their environment.
When one relaxes into a state of oneness, the neural networks in experienced practitioners change as they lower the psychological wall between themselves and their environments, Dr Josipovic says.And this reorganisation in the brain may lead to what some meditators claim to be a deep harmony between themselves and their surroundings.
Shifting attention Dr Josipovic's research is part of a larger effort better to understand what scientists have dubbed the default network in the brain.
He says the brain appears to be organised into two networks: the extrinsic network and the intrinsic, or default, network.
The extrinsic portion of the brain becomes active when individuals are focused on external tasks, like playing sports or pouring a cup of coffee. The default network churns when people reflect on matters that involve themselves and their emotions.
But the networks are rarely fully active at the same time. And like a seesaw, when one rises, the other one dips down.
This neural set-up allows individuals to concentrate more easily on one task at any given time, without being consumed by distractions like daydreaming.
Dr Josipovic has found that some Buddhist monks and other experienced meditators have the ability to keep both neural networks active at the same time during meditation - that is to say, they have found a way to lift both sides of the seesaw simultaneously.And Dr Josipovic believes this ability to churn both the internal and external networks in the brain concurrently may lead the monks to experience a harmonious feeling of oneness with their environment.
But Dr Raichle says the default network is important for more than just thinking about what one had for dinner last night."Researchers have wrestled with this idea of how we know we are who we are. The default mode network says something about how that might have come to be," he says.
And Dr Raichle adds that those studying the default network may also help in uncovering the secrets surrounding some psychological disorders, like depression, autism and even Alzheimer's disease.
"If you look at Alzheimer's Disease, and you look at whether it attacks a particular part of the brain, what's amazing is that it actually attacks the default mode network," says Dr Raichle, adding that intrinsic network research, like Dr Josipovic's, could assist in explaining why that is.
 source

Light therapy promising for treating major depression

January 7, 2011 by Lin Edwards
(PhysOrg.com) -- A small clinical trial in The Netherlands suggests bright light therapy may be a useful treatment for the symptoms of major depression in older adults.
The trial was run by a team led by Dr. Ritsaert Lieverse of GGZ inGeest and the VU University Medical Center in Amsterdam, and studied 89 adults aged 60 or over who had been diagnosed with (also called Disorder or MDD), around half of whom were randomly assigned to bright light therapy for three weeks.
The therapy involved spending an hour each morning with the same kind of light-therapy box as that used for treating seasonal affective disorder, which is a type of depression related to seasons such as winter, when the days are shorter and people are exposed to less natural light. The control group used a light box that emitted a dim red light (50 lux) rather than the bright pale blue light (7500 lux) of the light-therapy box. Dim red light has no known benefits or detrimental effects on humans.
The results of the trial showed those given bright light therapy made improvements over the controls, and the improvements were comparable to the use of antidepressant drugs. Improvements were measured using the standard Hamilton Scale for Depression. The light-therapy group also showed an increased level in the evening of the sleep-promoting hormone, , and a decrease in levels of cortisol, the stress hormone.
The light-therapy group continued to improve for the three weeks after the treatment, with 54 percent experiencing improvement of their symptoms compared to 33 percent of the control group.
Other research has shown that bright light affects the levels of some chemicals in the brain, such as serotonin, which is implicated in some forms of depression. Light also appears to affect the same areas of the brain as those targeted by antidepressant drugs. source

Placebos work -- even without deception

December 22, 2010 by David Cameron

(PhysOrg.com) -- For most of us, the "placebo effect" is synonymous with the power of positive thinking; it works because you believe you're taking a real drug. But a new study rattles this assumption.

Researchers at Harvard Medical School's Osher Research Center and Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (BIDMC) have found that placebos work even when administered without the seemingly requisite deception.

Placebos—or dummy pills—are typically used in clinical trials as controls for potential new medications. Even though they contain no active ingredients, patients often respond to them. In fact, data on placebos is so compelling that many American physicians (one study estimates 50 percent) secretly give placebos to unsuspecting patients.
Because such "deception" is ethically questionable, HMS associate professor of medicine Ted Kaptchuk teamed up with colleagues at BIDMC to explore whether or not the power of placebos can be harnessed honestly and respectfully.
To do this, 80 patients suffering from irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) were divided into two groups: one group, the controls, received no treatment, while the other group received a regimen of placebos—honestly described as "like sugar pills"—which they were instructed to take twice daily.
"Not only did we make it absolutely clear that these pills had no active ingredient and were made from inert substances, but we actually had 'placebo' printed on the bottle," says Kaptchuk. "We told the patients that they didn't have to even believe in the . Just take the pills."
For a three-week period, the patients were monitored. By the end of the trial, nearly twice as many patients treated with the placebo reported adequate symptom relief as compared to the control group (59 percent vs. 35 percent). Also, on other outcome measures, patients taking the placebo doubled their rates of improvement to a degree roughly equivalent to the effects of the most powerful IBS medications.
The authors caution that this study is small and limited in scope and simply opens the door to the notion that placebos are effective even for the fully informed patient—a hypothesis that will need to be confirmed in larger trials."Nevertheless," says Kaptchuk, "these findings suggest that rather than mere positive thinking, there may be significant benefit to the very performance of medical ritual." source

Scientists find evidence for 'chronesthesia,' or mental time travel

December 22, 2010 by Lisa Zyga
(PhysOrg.com) -- The ability to remember the past and imagine the future can significantly affect a person's decisions in life. Scientists refer to the brain’s ability to think about the past, present, and future as "chronesthesia," or mental time travel, although little is known about which parts of the brain are responsible for these conscious experiences. In a new study, researchers have used functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to investigate the neural correlates of mental time travel and better understand the nature of the mental time in which the metaphorical "travel" occurs. 
"Mental travel consists of two independent sets of processes: (1) those that determine the contents of any act of such ‘travel’: what happens, who are the 'actors,' where does the action occur; it is similar to the contents of watching a movie – everything that you see on the screen; and (2) those that determine the subjective moment of time in which the action takes place – past, present, or future," Tulving told PhysOrg.com.
In their study, the researchers asked several well-trained subjects to repeatedly think about taking a short walk in a familiar environment in either the imagined past, the real past, the present, or the imagined future. By keeping the content the same and changing only the mental time in which it occurs, the researchers could identify which areas of the are correlated with thinking about the same event at different times.
The results showed that certain regions in the left lateral parietal cortex, left frontal cortex, and cerebellum, as well as the thalamus, were activated differently when the subjects thought about the past and future compared with the present. Notably, brain activity was very similar for thinking about all of the non-present times (the imagined past, real past, and imagined future).
Because mental time is a product of the human brain and differs from the external time that is measured by clocks and calendars, scientists also call this time “subjective time.” Chronesthesia, by definition, is a form of consciousness that allows people to think about this subjective time and to mentally travel in it.
Some previous research has questioned whether the concept of subjective time is actually necessary for understanding similarities in brain activity during past and future thinking compared with thinking about the present. However, since scene construction was held constant in this study, the new results suggest that the brain’s ability to conceive of a subjective time is in fact necessary to explain how we think about the past and future.
source  
And some amazing videos on brain power:



 And finally, you can check out this article (Talk to the animals (w/ video), to bring you back to Earth. Because those parrots not only talk, but they understand the concepts of shape, color and size!!! 

When Mr. Obama got his Nobel prize, I was very disapointed by the Nobel committee. Not because I had anything against Obama, but because giving prizes before the achievement goes against the very idea of those prizes. The explanation was that there were no better candidates. Well, I doubt it. So many people all over the world try to work for peace. They could have found at least one of them and handed him/her the prize. Not a chance. The prize went to a person whose only achievement was that he won US presidential election. As glorious as this may sound, it is not. Because being a good president is not something easy and it certainly doesn't depend only on your personal qualities. You can be the greatest person and yet, in certain situations to be a bad president. And you can be perfect president for your country, buto be the worst president for the rest of the world! So giving the prize before any significant contribution to the world peace was like a mockery to all the other Nobel laureates.
My personal conviction is that when you bet too much on one person, he's likely to disappoint you. And Obama disappointed me. Because he was supposed to fight for peace. Instead, he started the civil war in Libya (well, actually France did that, but USA supported them!) and he approved the execution of Osama bin Laden.
Don't get me wrong - I completely agree that Osama is a terrorist, who needs to pay for what he did. However, I don't approve executions without judge and verdict. And this is what they did - US soldiers went to Pakistan with the order to kill. As you can read in the articles below, this is actually what happened. They went there to kill. Well, I cannot approve that and I have to speak out. If the situation required it, and some situations may require it, ok. You do what you have to do. But in the case, the situation didn't require it. The reports of Pentagona prove it. There was no heavy fire and no immediate danger to those soldiers. There was no reason why bin Laden wouldn't be captured alive and brought to justice trough a court. But they didn't do that, they shot him to death.
Did he deserve it? Yes he did. But this goes against our idea of justice! Justice is supposed to come from authorized judges (or judges and jury) and not from the hands of unknown soldier. I don't get the idea that the President may give death penalty to anyone. It just don't seems right. And it returns us to the times of monarchies when all the citizens belonged to their monarch.
I could say a lot more, but this is very emotionally loaded issue. Many people died because of that person - both on the US side and on other sides. And since human life should be the most precious thing on this world, I don't want to offend the memories of the victims.
I just want to know - is this how we achieve peace? By killing off the people we don't like. Justice of the law makes sense and it can bring peace, because it makes all the people equal. But justice of the force is simply wrong. It makes the powerful people more powerful and all the others become expendable. And once we go this path, the return will be very hard. So I hope this act will remain the only one.
And I hope that all the people who celebrated on the day when someone was killed will ask themselves: if we react like this to anyone's death, what separates us from the fanatics we're fighting against? He was a villain, he was a terrorist, that's all true. But will this end the war against terrorism? No. Even Obama admitted it - this is a victory, but it's not the end. In this case, we have to ask how much of our emotions are real, how much are right and how much are genuine.

P.S. I must admit that the fact Obama watched live the whole operation definitely speaks well of him. But it doesn't speak well of his Nobel prize.

Pakistani Army, Shaken by Raid, Faces New Scrutiny

By
Published: May 4, 2011
ISLAMABAD, Pakistan — The reputation of the army, the most powerful and privileged force in Pakistan, has been severely undermined by the American raid that killed Osama bin Laden, raising profound questions about its credibility from people at home and from benefactors abroad, including the United States.
That American helicopters could fly into Pakistan, carrying a team to kill the world’s most wanted terrorist and then fly out undetected has produced a stunned silence from the military and its intelligence service that some interpret as embarrassment, even humiliation.
There is no doubt that the raid has provoked a crisis of confidence for what was long seen as the one institution that held together a nation dangerously beset by militancy and chronically weak civilian governments.
The aftermath has left Pakistanis to challenge their leadership, and the United States to further question an already frequently distrusted partner.
By Wednesday, members of Parliament, newspaper editorials and Pakistan’s raucous political talk shows were calling for an explanation and challenging the military and intelligence establishment, institutions previously immune to public reproach.
Some were calling for an independent inquiry, focused less on the fact that the world’s most wanted terrorist was discovered in their midst than on whether the military could defend Pakistan’s borders and its nuclear arsenal from being snatched or attacked by the United States or India.
But the most urgent question of all is what to do about it, and whether the United States should continue to invest in a Pakistani military whose assurances that it does not work with terrorists carry less weight than ever. Pakistani officials, who feel betrayed by the United States for not informing them in advance about the raid, are responding more defensively by the day.
The biggest question for Pakistan is whether the event prompts a reconsideration of its security strategy, which has long depended on militant proxies, including groups entwined with Al Qaeda.
American officials are certain to use the fact that Bin Laden had taken shelter in Pakistan to press the country for a clearer break from its past. Both sides have an interest in preserving some form of the status quo. Pakistan would like to keep the billions of dollars in aid that flow from the United States. The United States would like to prevent this nuclear-armed Muslim nation from turning more hostile, hosting terrorist networks and complicating efforts to end the war in Afghanistan.
The Foreign Office defended the fact that Bin Laden was not detected because the high security walls at his house in Abbottabad were in line with a culture of privacy.
source

Account Tells of One-Sided Battle in Bin Laden Raid

WASHINGTON — President Obama decided Wednesday not to release graphic photographs of Osama bin Laden’s corpse, as new details emerged about the raid on Bin Laden’s fortified compound that differed from the administration’s initial account of the nearly 40-minute operation.
Mr. Obama, after a brief but intense debate within his war council, concluded that making the images of Bin Laden public could incite violence against Americans and would do little to persuade skeptics that the founder of Al Qaeda had been killed, White House officials said.
The new details suggested that the raid, though chaotic and bloody, was extremely one-sided, with a force of more than 20 Navy Seal members quickly dispatching the handful of men protecting Bin Laden.
Administration officials said that the only shots fired by those in the compound came at the beginning of the operation, when Bin Laden’s trusted courier, Abu Ahmed al-Kuwaiti, opened fire from behind the door of the guesthouse adjacent to the house where Bin Laden was hiding.
After the Seal members shot and killed Mr. Kuwaiti and a woman in the guesthouse, the Americans were never fired upon again.
This account differs from an official version of events issued by the Pentagon on Tuesday, and read by the White House spokesman, Jay Carney, which said the Seal members “were engaged in a firefight throughout the operation.”
In a television interview on PBS on Tuesday, Leon E. Panetta, the director of the C.I.A., said, “There were some firefights that were going on as these guys were making their way up the staircase of that compound.”
Administration officials said the official account of events has changed over the course of the week because it has taken time to get thorough after-action reports from the Seal team. And, they added, because the Special Operations troops had been fired upon as soon as they touched down in the compound, they were under the assumption that everyone inside was armed.
“They were in a threatening and hostile environment the entire time,” one American official said.
When the commandos moved into the main house, they saw the courier’s brother, who they believed was preparing to fire a weapon. They shot and killed him. Then, as they made their way up the stairs of the house, officials said they killed Bin Laden’s son Khalid as he lunged toward the Seal team.
When the commandos reached the top floor, they entered a room and saw Osama bin Laden with an AK-47 and a Makarov pistol in arm’s reach. They shot and killed him, as well as wounding a woman with him.
The firefight over and Bin Laden dead, the team found a trove of information and had the time to remove much of it: about 100 thumb drives, DVDs and computer disks, along with 10 computer hard drives and 5 computers. There were also piles of paper documents in the house.
The White House declined to release any additional details about the operation, saying that further information would jeopardize the military’s ability to conduct clandestine operations in the future. The administration’s reticence came after it was forced on Tuesday to correct parts of its initial account of the raid, including assertions that Bin Laden had used his wife as a “human shield.”
The deliberations were reminiscent of Mr. Obama’s decision in May 2009 to fight the release of photos documenting the abuse of prisoners in Iraq and Afghanistan by American military personnel. The administration said originally that it would not oppose releasing the pictures, but the president decided he would fight making them public after his military commanders warned that the images could provoke a reaction against troops in those countries.source

You know how patents are supposed to spur innovation? To protect inventors? To secure their interests? Well, that's not the case anymore. Not for the last few decades.
I don't have the legal background to discuss all the legal games that big companies play with patents, so we will leave that aside and go on the consumers side. Because after all, the idea of a patent is its holder to get paid by the people willing to use its invention. Without consumers interested in that product, it is just a piece of paper (or of electronic register) that means nothing at all.
So if the patents are good for the society, they will expand the market, attract buyers and make the inventors rich and famous. Well, it turns out that none of the above is true!
What happens is that the best-selling products are produced by huge corporations that actually have inventors on salary. The real inventors get approximately as much as any other person on non-bottom position in big company. I suppose there are some bonuses when you make something really cool, but you don't get filthy rich. You don't get famous. Actually, nobody will ever know your name. Because the product is already branded. You're just a piece in the giant money-making machine.
With which I'm not actually against engineers on salary - not at all. I'm against the myth that patents are an effective way to motivate inventors to invent. They are not. They are effective way to keep a multi-billion industry going flawlessly. When it comes to the individual inventors, they could profit, if they make a small company, manage to find money, manage not to get robbed by the big ones, manage not to get scared away or bought or whatever and ultimately, if their product gets the proper attention by the public. And all that if their patent is not already property of someone else by the mystical laws of US patent system.
So it's not exactly a piece of cake to be an inventor, even if you're brilliant. Just think of how many cool gadget you own, that are not produced by a corporation. Me - not much.
Obviously, this system does not help the small guy, not at all. It, however, helps the big guy a great deal. As you will read below, patents are the bread of corporations in many industries and without them, they suddenly get very unfortunate. To the point that they will require extension of a patent of a drug, just because they didn't create anything better in the mean time. Or this translates into - we all should pay more, because their investment didn't turn out well. Eh, what?
Even more, you will read of monstrosities of Sony, a company that I deeply respect, on the ground of patents and copyright infringements and all the other shit that no normal person could ever understand. You think that when you buy something, you own it? No, not according to Sony. If you ask them, you buy the thing, so that you could use it in the way the devised. From there on, you don't have the right to look inside, modify its hardware or software in any way or even you don't have the right to tell other people how to do so. Otherwise, you get sued. Even if you never used what you did for profit.
You might ask why are they doing that? Because they can. I personally cannot find any meaningful explanation of the zeal with which they chase inventors. I simply cannot understand their motivation. If someone finds a cooler use of a product I sell, this is good for my product, because it will be sold even more. Then why would I oppose that creativity? I have no idea. But this is what patents laws do to us. They simply give the right arms in the hands of vengeful corporation to fight those inventors.  They stop innovation. Then, why do we need them? Why don't we change them in a way that will accommodate everyone? Or at least to make them a little bit more fair? Is that that hard? I don't think so. Yet, nobody acts. Why? Nobody talks! Why?

Scientists warn against stifling effect of widespread patenting in stem cell field

February 11, 2011 By Michael Pena
(PhysOrg.com) -- In an opinion piece published on Feb. 10 in the journal Science, a team of scholars led by a Johns Hopkins bioethicist urges the scientific community to act collectively to stem the negative effects of patenting and privatizing of stem cell lines, data and pioneering technologies. This means grappling with the ambiguity of several fundamental distinctions typically made in ethics, law, and common practice, the experts insist.
The team, led by Debra Mathews, Ph.D., M.A., of the Johns Hopkins Berman Institute of , says failures to properly manage the widespread patenting by both private and public organizations threatens to obscure what is and what isn’t in the public domain. In addition, this disarray may well hinder progress toward breakthroughs that could lead to new treatments the public desperately wants.
“Following trends seen elsewhere in the sciences,” the authors write, “stem cell researchers—and the companies and universities for which they work—are increasingly taking private ownership of early-stage technologies, cell lines, genes and associated data.”The tracking and trading of intellectual properties is much harder than the tracking and trading of other kinds of assets, such as real estate, according to Graff. He used the analogy of the popular real estate website, the Multiple Listing Service, saying there is no equivalent public “MLS” that serves as a property records registry for stem cell researchers.
“The lack of transparency about who owns what rights can hamper stem cell research and development,” Graff says, “and so can the resulting ambiguity of the distinction between what is private property and what is in the public domain.”
Further bogging down the field, the authors assert, is the increasing blurriness of two additional and fundamental distinctions. For one, the boundary that separates what is “information” and what is “material” gets more obscure by the day. Secondly, stem cells are not simply research material: All cell lines are derived from the tissues of human beings—people who may have an interest in the future of their genetic material and, by law, have certain personal rights that must be respected.
“We need a conceptual synthesis that reflects how entangle persons and things, information and materials, property and the public domain.
“A real solution to the problem,” Winickoff continues, “will have to manage all three of these complexities together, and we think we have a pathway for doing that.”
The authors echoed a recent consensus statement issued by the Hinxton Group, an international consortium of experts in stem cell science, ethics and law, which decries the increasingly secretive climate created by excessive patenting and proprietary claims within the stem cell community.
Both the statement and today’s article in Science call for collaborative information and materials hubs that would broaden access and help clarify what types of information are rightly proprietary and what types are not. One such hub, the authors suggest, might take the form of a centralized portal for access to existing databases, such as the UK Stem Cell Bank and the Human Embryonic Stem Cell Registry . source


Drug Firms Face Billions in Losses in ’11 as Patents End -
At the end of November, Pfizer stands to lose a $10-billion-a-year revenue stream when the patent on its blockbuster cholesterol drug Lipitor expires and cheaper generics begin to cut into the company’s huge sales.

The loss poses a daunting challenge for Pfizer, one shared by nearly every major pharmaceutical company. This year alone, because of patent expirations, the drug industry will lose control over more than 10 megamedicines whose combined annual sales have neared $50 billion.
This is a sobering reversal for an industry that just a few years ago was the world’s most profitable business sector but is now under pressure to reinvent itself and shed its dependence on blockbuster drugs. And it casts a spotlight on the problems drug companies now face: a drought of big drug breakthroughs and research discoveries; pressure from insurers and the government to hold down prices; regulatory vigilance and government investigations; and thousands of layoffs in research and development.
While industrywide research and development spending has nearly doubled to $45 billion a year over the last decade, the Food and Drug Administration has approved fewer and fewer new drugs. Pfizer and Eli Lilly had major setbacks last year in once-promising Alzheimer’s drug experiments. Merck discontinued one of two major clinical trials testing its top acquisition from its merger with Schering Plough, a blood thinner that caused dangerous amounts of bleeding in some patients. 

Once in the Public’s Hands, Now Back in Picasso’s - Another absurd, when it comes to works with long expired copyrights.

More of world's crops are genetically engineered - The figures are in this year's International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-biotech Applications report, out Tuesday. Of the four most commonly planted biotech crops, a rising percentage of the total of all plantings are biotech. In 2010, 81% of all soybeans, 64% of cotton, 29% of corn and 23% of canola globally were from biotech seeds, the ISAAA says.

Sony Targets PS3 Hackers With Anti-Piracy Legal Team 

Sony continues to arm itself as they are pulling out all the stops in order to combat what they view as piracy across the PlayStation 3 platform.
Saving the “who’s right” discussion for another day, it’s clear that, critics and questions about the definition of ownership be damned, Sony is out for blood when it comes to cracking down on those trying to hack or jailbreak a PS3.  Besides going after existing hackers, armed with a judicial system that appears to favor Sony’s claims; firmware updates to block currently-successful hacks; PlayStation Network bans; and the apparent development of an “unhackable” PS3; they’re also working on another weapon to use in their little war:
An anti-piracy legal team.
Meanwhile, XBox developers encourage owners to hack the Kinect, but I digress.  BusinessInsider.com found some job listings over at SCEA that mentioned the creation of such a legal team.
“This position will be responsible for assessing annual SCEA corporate anti-piracy needs and addressing the needs through developing and implementing an anti-piracy program in consultation with the Deputy General Counsel and the General Counsel and collaborating with other anti-piracy organizations…”
Not only is Sony being incredibly headstrong about what they consider a hack attempt, which, to Sony, is tantamount to pirating PS3 games — their true concern here — they are also receiving outspoken support from game developers who don’t appear to understand the concepts of ownership either; or, worse yet, they’re willing to disregard them in order to ensure financial gain.
David Braben is one such developer: "Buying a PlayStation 3 does not give me unrestricted ownership of it. If I ‘dig’ into it, I can’t just sell or even give away all the information I find."  Braben goes on to say that people who broadcast PlayStation 3 hacking methods should be condemned. source
And for even more on the Sony's history of preventing innovation, read here: Sony’s War on Makers, Hackers, and Innovators - it is unbelievable how far would a company go to secure its profit. I was most shocked to read what happened to the Aibo robot and how the repressed the guy who actually made their own product more interesting for the buyers. Does that make any sense?! No, not at all.  

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