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A majority of Americans rate their current financial situation as poor or fair, and nearly half of Americans say they have encountered financial problems in the past year, according to the Pew Research Center. A University of Missouri researcher studied how parents' financial problems and resulting mental distress affect their relationships with their children. He found that parents who experience financial problems and depression are less likely to feel connected to their children, and their children are less likely to engage in prosocial behaviors, such as volunteering or helping others.

"The study serves as a reminder that children's behaviors are affected by issues beyond their immediate surroundings," said Gustavo Carlo, Millsap Professor of Diversity in the MU Department of Human Development and Family Studies. "Families' economic situations are affected by broader factors in our society, and those financial problems can lead to depression that hurts parent-child relationships."

Previous research has indicated that parent-child connectedness is an important indicator of prosocial behavior in children. Prosocial behaviors lead to moral development, better outcomes in relationships and enhanced performance at work and school.

Unlike previous research that has focused on high-risk and low-income families, Carlo and his colleagues studied middle- to upper-middle-class families. Parents and children answered questions about economic stress, depression and connectedness between parents and children. A year later, the children reported how often they engaged in prosocial behaviors toward strangers, family members and friends.

"Even middle-class families are having financial difficulties, and it's affecting their ability to be effective parents," Carlo said. "When parents are depressed, it affects their relationships with their kids."

Carlo suggests, when possible, that depressed parents seek treatment from a mental health professional. Parents also can seek help from their spouses, families, friends, churches and other community agencies. He recommends parents balance efforts to help themselves with spending quality time with their children.

"Raising kids is tough as it is," Carlo said. "When you have the added layers of financial difficulty and depression, it makes raising children even more challenging."

The study, "A Test of the Economic Strain Model on Adolescents' Prosocial Behaviors," was published in the Journal of Research on Adolescence earlier this year. Carlo collaborated with researchers Laura Padilla-Walker and Randal Day at Brigham Young University. The Department of Human Development and Family Studies is part of the College of Human Environmental Sciences.

Source: University of Missouri-Columbia via


The work, published this week in Science, applies well known processes of corrosion in a novel manner to produce highly complex cage-like nanoscale structures with potential applications in fields from medicine to industrial processing.

A common theme in nanoscience research is the recycling of "old" processes and protocols that were once applied crudely on bulk materials in trades and industrial settings, but which can now be applied to nano-sized structures with high precision and resolution using newly available instruments and know-how.

Examples of hollow nanoparticles produced by corrosion processes.

After several years of research, Spanish scientists at the Catalan Institute of Nanotechnology (ICN) have refined methods based on traditional corrosion techniques (the Kirkendall effect and galvanic, pitting, etching and de-alloying corrosion processes). They show that these methods, which are far more aggressive at the nanoscale than in bulk materials due to the higher surface area of nanostructures, provide interesting pathways for the production of new and exotic materials.

By making simple changes in the chemical environment it is possible to tightly control the reaction and diffusion processes at room temperatures, allowing for high yields and high consistency in form and structure. This should make the processes particularly attractive for commercial applications as they are easily adapted to industrial scales.

A wide range of structures can be formed, including open boxes, bimetallic and trimetallic double-walled open boxes with pores, multiwalled/multichamber boxes, double-walled, porous and multichamber nanotubes, nanoframes, noble metal fullerenes, and others.

Asides from their intrinsic beauty, such nanostructures present new options for drug delivery, catalysis, remediation of contaminants and even structural components for nanoscale robots.

Source: Institut Catala de Nanotecnologia


Researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE) Argonne National Laboratory have developed an extraordinarily efficient two-step process that electrolyzes, or separates, hydrogen atoms from water molecules before combining them to make molecular hydrogen (H2), which can be used in any number of applications from fuel cells to industrial processing.

Easier routes to the generation of hydrogen have long been a target of scientists and engineers, principally because the process to create the gas requires a great deal of energy. Approximately 2 percent of all electric power generated in the United States is dedicated to the production of molecular hydrogen, so scientists and engineers are searching for any way to cut that figure. "People understand that once you have hydrogen you can extract a lot of energy from it, but they don't realize just how hard it is to generate that hydrogen in the first place," said Nenad Markovic, an Argonne senior chemist who led the research.

This image depicts the series of reactions by which water is separated into hydrogen molecules and hydroxide (OH-) ions. The process is initiated by nickel-hydroxide clusters (green) embedded on a platinum framework (gray). Credit: Flikr

While a great deal of hydrogen is created by reforming natural gas at high temperatures, that process creates carbon-dioxide emissions. "Water electrolyzers are by far the cleanest way of producing hydrogen," Markovic said. "The method we've devised combines the capabilities of two of the best materials known for water-based electrolysis."

Most previous experiments in water-based electrolysis rely on special metals, like platinum, to adsorb and recombine reactive hydrogen intermediates into stable molecular hydrogen. Markovic's research focuses on the previous step, which involves improving the efficiency by which an incoming water molecule would disassociate into its fundamental components. To do this, Markovic and his colleagues added clusters of a metallic complex known as nickel-hydroxide—Ni(OH)2. Attached to a platinum framework, the clusters tore apart the water molecules, allowing for the freed hydrogen to be catalyzed by the platinum.

"One of the most important points of this experiment is that we're combining two materials with very different benefits," said Markovic. "The advantage of using both oxides and metals in conjunction dramatically improves the catalytic efficiency of the whole system."

According to Argonne materials scientist George Crabtree, who helped to initiate the establishment of Argonne's energy conversion program, the researchers' success is attributable to their ability to work on what are known as "single-crystal" systems—defect-free materials that allow scientists to accurately predict how certain materials will behave at the atomic level. "We have not only increased catalytic activity by a factor of 10, but also now understand how each part of the system works. By scaling up from the single crystal to a real-world catalyst, this work illustrates how fundamental understanding leads quickly to innovative new technologies."

This work, supported by the DOE Office of Science, is reported in the December 2 issue of Science.

Source: Argonne National Laboratory


Using a specially designed facility, UCLA stem cell scientists have taken human skin cells, reprogrammed them into cells with the same unlimited property as embryonic stem cells, and then differentiated them into neurons while completely avoiding the use of animal-based reagents and feeder conditions throughout the process.Generally, stem cells are grown using mouse "feeder" cells, which help the stem cells flourish and grow. But such animal-based products can lead to unwanted variations and contamination, and the cells must be thoroughly tested before they can be deemed safe for use in humans.

The UCLA study represents the first time scientists have derived induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cells with the potential for clinical use and differentiated them into neurons in animal origin–free conditions using commercially available reagents to facilitate broad application, said Saravanan Karumbayaram, the first author of the study and an associate researcher with the Eli and Edythe Broad Center of Regenerative Medicine and Stem Cell Research at UCLA.

The Broad Center researchers also developed a set of standard operating procedures for the process so that other scientists can benefit from the derivation and differentiation techniques. The process was performed under good manufacturing practices (GMP) protocols, which are tightly controlled and regulated, so the cells created meet all the standards required for use in humans.

"Developments in stem cell research show that pluripotent stem cells ultimately will be translated into therapies, so we are working to develop the methods and systems needed to make the cells safe for human use," Karumbayaram said.

The study was published Dec. 7 in the early online edition of the inaugural issue of the peer-reviewed journal Stem Cells Translational Medicine, a new journal that seeks to bridge stem cell research and clinical trials.

Karumbayaram tested six different animal-free media formulations before arriving at a composition that generated the most robust pluripotent stem cells. He combined two commercial media solutions to create his own mix and tried different concentrations of an important growth factor.

"The colonies we get are of very good quality and are quite stable," said Karumbayaram, who compared his animal-free colonies to those created conventionally using mouse feeder cells. Efficiency did suffer. Fewer colonies were created using the animal-free feeders, but the colonies did remain stable for at least 20 passages.

The neurons that resulted from the process started life as a small skin-punch biopsy from a volunteer. The skin cells were then reprogrammed to become pluripotent stem cells with the ability to make any cell in the human body. These iPS cells were grown in colonies and were later coaxed into becoming neural precursor cells and, finally, neurons.

The animal-free cells were compared at every step in the process to cells produced by typical animal-based methods, Karumbayaram said, and were found to be of very similar quality.

"We were very excited when we saw the first colonies growing, because we were not sure it would be possible to derive and grow cells completely animal-free," he said.

Because the cells were grown in a special facility designed to culture animal-free cells, the testing and examination required to make clinical-grade cells should be much simpler, said William Lowry, senior author of the study and an assistant professor of molecular, cell and developmental biology in the UCLA Division of Life Sciences.

To date, at least 15 animal-free iPS cell lines have been created at the Broad Stem Cell Research Center.

"It's critical to note that we are nowhere near ready to use these cells in the clinic," Lowry said. "We are working to develop methods to make sure these cells are genetically stable and will be as safe as possible for human use. The main goal of this project was to generate a platform that will one day allow translation of stem cells to the clinic."

Source: Medical Xpress


A team of researchers from led by Guillaume Gervais from McGill’s Physics Department and Mike Lilly from Sandia National Laboratories, have managed to develop one of the smallest electronic circuits in the world using nanowires spaced across each other by a distance so small, it has to be measured at an atomic level.

Miniaturization has been the dominant trend in the digital industry for years, and nano-electronics, with which scientists have been fiddling for the past 20 years, is considered as the next obvious step, allowing for even smaller and powerful electronic devices.

“People have been working on nanowires for 20 years,” says Sandia lead researcher Mike Lilly. “At first, you study such wires individually or all together, but eventually you want a systematic way of studying the integration of nanowires into nanocircuitry. That’s what’s happening now. It’s important to know how nanowires interact with each other rather than with regular wires.”

While nanowires have been studied extensively in the past, this current study is the first of its kind to approach how the wires in an electronic circuit interact with one another when packed so tightly together. The researchers used gallium-arsenide nanowire structures which they placed one above the other, separated by only a few atomic layers of extremely pure, home-grown crystal – two wires separated by only about 150 atoms or 15 nanometers (nm).

At this extremely tiny scale, new properties and characterisctics arise, along with inherent issues in the path of the researcher’s study. For one, the nano-wires have been envisoned as a 1-D structure, very different from your usual, bulk 3-D wire common in any kind of electrical device. Through these types of wires, current can only flow in one direction, not horizontally, vertically, back/forward like in a typical 3-D capable.

“In the long run, our test device will allow us to probe how 1-D conductors are different from 2-D and 3-D conductors,” Lilly said. “They are expected to be very different, but there are relatively few experimental techniques that have been used to study the 1-D ground state.”

At the nanoscale, also, the behavior of the circuit is described by quantum physics. In our case, by the introduction of Coulomb’s drag effect. This force operates between wires, and is inversely proportional to the square of the clearance. This is why in conventional circuitry, where the gap between wires is quite visible, this drag force can be considered negligible, however at nanodistances, the force becomes large enough for it to disturb electrons. This causes the current flowing through to the nanowires to march in opposite directions.

This means that a current in one wire can produce a current in the other one that is either in the same or the opposite direction.

“The amount is very small,” said Lilly, “and we can’t measure it. What we can measure is the voltage of the other wire.”

Coulomb’s drag effect is still not very well understood at this time, however what is know is that “enough electrons get knocked along that they provide positive source at one wire end, negative at the other,” Lilly said.

Yes, nanowires will allow for a even smaller scale of the digital world, however this is just the most visible benefit, out of many which are set to revolutionize electronics in the following decades.

One of the biggest hassles scientists working in the field of electronics at this time is how to control dissipated heat, the energy lost to the environment. This is a great concern to computer designers especially since millions of integrated circuits are currently employed in most devices today, and the heat generated by them has to be controlled. Well-known theorist Markus Büttiker speculates that it may be possible to harness the energy lost as heat in one wire by using other wires nearby. Basically, as the distance is smaller, the heat generated will be smaller as adjacent wires can easily absorb those minute quantities.

Also, speed will be a parameter which will be improved, as smaller distances translate in shorter time for signals to travel from one point to another. In this present research, the Sandia National Laboratories experiment rendered an unexpected voltage increases of up to 25 percent.

Source: ZME Science

By Admin (from 22/02/2012 @ 11:02:47, in en - Science and Society, read 1674 times)

Injuries involving torn or degraded joint cartilage can be very debilitating, especially since that cartilage is incapable of healing itself, past a certain point. It's not surprising, therefore, that numerous scientists have been working on ways of either growing replacement cartilage outside of the body, or helping the body to regrow it internally. Just a few of the efforts have included things like stem cell-seeded bandages, bioactive gel, tissue scaffolds, and nanoscale stem cell-carrying balls. Now, researchers from Cleveland's Case Western Reserve University have announced something else that shows promise - sheets of mesenchymal (bone and cartilage-forming) stem cells, permeated with tiny beads filled with the growth factor beta-1.

The "traditional" approach to growing cartilage from a sheet of stem cells would involve soaking that sheet in a solution of the growth factor. Over time, that solution would cause the stem cells to differentiate into cartilage cells.

The Case Western team, however, chose to encapsulate the beta-1 in biodegradable gelatin microspheres, which were then distributed throughout the structure of the sheets. There are several advantages to introducing the growth factor in this way.

For starters, once the spheres degrade, they leave empty spaces between the cells. This creates a strong, scaffold-like structure, and allows the new cartilage to better retain water - the better that it can retain water, the more resilient it is to damage.

Also, the microspheres degrade at a controlled rate, when exposed to enzymes released by the stem cells. This means that cells throughout the sheet, inside and out, come into contact with the growth factor at about the same time, and thus the sheet forms into cartilage more uniformly.

Additionally, it is possible to tweak the microspheres' rate of degradation, by varying the amount of cross-linking in their molecular structure. To that end, the scientists tested separate sheets containing sparsely cross-linked and highly cross-linked beta-1-laden spheres. They also tried out sheets containing sparsely cross-linked spheres containing no beta-1, but that were soaked in a solution of it, instead.

All three types of sheets transformed into cartilage that was thicker and more resilient than that obtained from a solution-soaked control sheet containing no microspheres. The thickest cartilage, however, came from the sheet with the sparsely cross-linked beta-1-containing spheres. This was because the spheres degraded quicker than their highly cross-linked counterparts, providing the stem cells with a longer, more continuous exposure to the growth factor.

The tissue created was similar to the articular cartilage found in the knee, although it wasn't as mechanically strong as the real thing. The Case Western scientists are now working on ways of toughening it up, so that it could one day find use in human patients. They believe that within just one or two weeks of being cultured, the sheets could be implanted in the body, where the mechanical forces of the joints would help build and strengthen the new cartilage.

Source: GIZMAG

By Admin (from 18/02/2012 @ 08:05:58, in en - Science and Society, read 1372 times)

Fifty years after the pioneering discovery that a protein's three-dimensional structure is determined solely by the sequence of its amino acids, an international team of researchers has taken a major step toward fulfilling the tantalizing promise: predicting the structure of a protein from its DNA alone.

The team at Harvard Medical School (HMS), Politecnico di Torino / Human Genetics Foundation Torino (HuGeF) and Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York (MSKCC) has reported substantial progress toward solving a classical problem of molecular biology: the computational protein folding problem.

The results was published on Dec. 7, 2011 in the journal PLoS ONE.

In molecular biology and biomedical engineering, knowing the shape of protein molecules is key to understanding how they perform the work of life, the mechanisms of disease and drug design. Normally the shape of protein molecules is determined by expensive and complicated experiments, and for most proteins these experiments have not yet been done. Computing the shape from genetic information alone is possible in principle. But despite limited success for some smaller proteins, this challenge has remained essentially unsolved. The difficulty lies in the enormous complexity of the search space, an astronomically large number of possible shapes. Without any shortcuts, it would take a supercomputer many years to explore all possible shapes of even a small protein.

Studying related proteins, researchers identified pairs of amino acid residues (left) that seemed to change in lockstep in the evolutionary record. These co-varying pairs indicated points on protein (middle) likely to be in contact after folding, giving researchers enough clues to create a computational model of the protein's three-dimensional structure (right). Credit: Terry Helms/Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center.

"Experimental structure determination has a hard time keeping up with the explosion in genetic sequence information," said Debora Marks, a mathematical biologist in the Department of Systems Biology at HMS, who worked closely with Lucy Colwell, a mathematician, who recently moved from Harvard to Cambridge University. They collaborated with physicists Riccardo Zecchina and Andrea Pagnani in Torino in a team effort initiated by Marks and computational biologist Chris Sander of the Computational Biology Program at MSKCC, who had earlier attempted a similar solution to the problem, when substantially fewer sequences were available.

"Collaboration was key," Sander said. "As with many important discoveries in science, no one could provide the answer in isolation."

The international team tested a bold premise: That evolution can provide a roadmap to how the protein folds. Their approach combined three key elements: evolutionary information accumulated for many millions of years; data from high-throughput genetic sequencing; and a key method from statistical physics, co-developed in the Torino group with Martin Weigt, who recently moved to the University of Paris.

Using the accumulated evolutionary information in the form of the sequences of thousands of proteins, grouped in protein families that are likely to have similar shapes, the team found a way to solve the problem: an algorithm to infer which parts of a protein interact to determine its shape. They used a principle from statistical physics called "maximum entropy" in a method that extracts information about microscopic interactions from measurement of system properties.

"The protein folding problem has been a huge combinatorial challenge for decades," said Zecchina, "but our statistical methods turned out to be surprisingly effective in extracting essential information from the evolutionary record."

With these internal protein interactions in hand, widely used molecular simulation software developed by Axel Brunger at Stanford University generated the atomic details of the protein shape. The team was for the first time able to compute remarkably accurate shapes from sequence information alone for a test set of 15 diverse proteins, with no protein size limit in sight, with unprecedented accuracy.

"Alone, none of the individual pieces are completely novel, but apparently nobody had put all of them together to predict 3D protein structure," Colwell said.

To test their method, the researchers initially focused on the Ras family of signaling proteins, which has been extensively studied because of its known link to cancer. The structure of several Ras-type proteins has already been solved experimentally, but the proteins in the family are larger--with about 160 amino acid residues--than any proteins modeled computationally from sequence alone.

"When we saw the first computationally folded Ras protein, we nearly went through the roof," Marks said. To the researchers' amazement, their model folded within about 3.5 angstroms of the known structure with all the structural elements in the right place. And there is no reason, the authors say, that the method couldn't work with even larger proteins.

The researchers caution that there are other limits, however: Experimental structures, when available, generally are more accurate in atomic detail. And, the method works only when researchers have genetic data for large protein families. But advances in DNA sequencing have yielded a torrent of such data that is forecast to continue growing exponentially in the foreseeable future.

The next step, the researchers say, is to predict the structures of unsolved proteins currently being investigated by structural biologists, before exploring the large uncharted territory of currently unknown protein structures.

"Synergy between computational prediction and experimental determination of structures is likely to yield increasingly valuable insight into the large universe of protein shapes that crucially determine their function and evolutionary dynamics," Sander said.

More information: "Protein 3D structure computed from evolutionary sequence variation," Marks et al. PLoS ONE, December 6, 2011

Source: Harvard Medical School


Broken promises are nothing new in Washington, DC. Yet even by the Beltway’s jaded standards, President Obama’s role reversal from one time medicinal cannabis sympathizer to White House weed-whacker is remarkable.

Indeed, the man who once pledged on the campaign trail that he was “not going to be using Justice Department resources to try to circumvent state laws on this issue,” has – since taking the Presidential oaths of office – done virtually everything in his administration’s power to do precisely that. Yet he's taken these steps at the very time that a record number of Americans, including 57 percent of democrats and a whopping 69 percent of self-described liberals, endorse doing just the opposite. Nonetheless, in recent months, the Obama administration – via a virtual alphabet soup of federal agencies – has launched an unprecedented series of attacks against medical cannabis patients, providers, and in some cases even their advocates.

 To review:

-- Deputy Attorney General James Cole, along with the four US Attorneys from California, has ramped up federal efforts to close or displace several hundreds of medical cannabis providers in California. Their tactics have included: raiding specific dispensaries and prosecuting their owners; filing civil forfeiture proceedings against landlords who rent their property to medical marijuana providers; threatening to federally prosecute newspapers and radio stations who accept ad revenue from medical cannabis operations; and, most recently, intimidating local lawmakers who have either enacted or are publicly supportive of cannabis oversight regulations. Speaking with radio station KQED San Francisco last month, Tommy LaNier – Director of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy's National Marijuana Initiative – boasted about the administration’s efforts to strong-arm local officials, stating "[We] have ... advised those places where they're trying to regulate marijuana -- which is illegal under the Control Substances Act -- (that) they cannot do that.”

-- In Colorado, United States Attorney John Walsh has sent letters to owners of dozens of the Centennial State’s medical cannabis facilities stating, "Action will be taken to seize and forfeit their property" if they do not cease their operations. Unlike similarly targeted dispensaries in California, the operations on Walsh’s hit list are explicitly licensed by the state and thus fully compliant with state law – a fact that Walsh’s letters readily acknowledge but appear content to ignore. "This ... constitutes formal notice that action will be taken to seize and forfeit (your) property if you do not cause the sale and/or distribution of marijuana and marijuana-infused substances at (this) location to be discontinued,” they state. “[T]he Department of Justice has the authority to enforce federal law even when such activities may be permitted under state law.” Ironically, the Justice Department’s letters arrived just weeks after US Attorney General Eric Holder publicly told (read: lied to) Colorado Congressman Jared Polis, an ardent supporter of the medicinal cannabis industry, that that the federal government would only target medical cannabis operators that "use marijuana in a way that's not consistent with the state statute."

-- But the Obama Justice Department isn’t only sending letters to cannabis dispensaries owners and their landlords. Last year, the DOJ also mailed letters to numerous state lawmakers, including the Governors of Delaware, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Washington, as they were debating legislation to allow for the licensed distribution of medical cannabis. The letters threatened federal prosecution for those involved with said efforts – including, in some cases, state civil servants – if the measures went forward. As a result, most didn’t.

The Justice Department isn’t the only agency directly involved in the administration’s medical pot crackdown. Also over the past six months:

-- The IRS has assessed crippling penalties on tax-paying medical cannabis facilities in California by denying these operations from filing standard expense deductions;

-- The Department of Treasury has strong-armed local banks and other financial institutions into closing their accounts with medicinal marijuana operators. In Colorado, where the state’s estimated 700 licensed cannabis dispensaries are routinely subjected to state audits, there no longer remains even a single bank willing to openly do business with med-pot operators.

-- The Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms has sternly warned firearms dealers not to sell guns to medical cannabis consumers, and stated that patients who otherwise legally possess firearms are in violation of federal law and may face criminal prosecution;

-- In July, the Drug Enforcement Administration rejected a nine-year-old administrative petition that called for hearings regarding the federal rescheduling of marijuana for medical use, ignoring extensive scientific evidence of its medical efficacy. “[T]here are no adequate and well-controlled studies proving (marijuana's) efficacy; the drug is not accepted by qualified experts,” the agency alleged. “At this time, the known risks of marijuana use have not been shown to be outweighed by specific benefits in well-controlled clinical trials that scientifically evaluate safety and efficacy.”

-- This fall, the National Institute on Drug Abuse rejected an FDA-approved protocol to allow for clinical research assessing the use of cannabis to treat post-traumatic stress disorder; a spokesperson for the agency conceded, “We generally do not fund research focused on the potential beneficial medical effects of marijuana.”

-- The DEA has reduced the total number of federally qualified investigators licensed to study plant marijuana in humans to 14 nationwide.

Most recently, and perhaps most egregiously, the DEA acknowledged that it was investigating a Montana state lawmaker for potentially conspiring to violate federal anti-marijuana laws. The lawmaker, Rep. Diane Sands – a Democrat from Missoula, Montana – served as the chairwoman of a 2011 interim legislative committee that sought to enact statewide regulations governing the production and distribution of medical pot, which has been legal in the state since 2004. "Can you say McCarthy?” she told The Missoulian newspaper.  “This sounds like stuff from the House Un-American Activities Committee and Joe McCarthy. So once you talk about medical marijuana in reasonable terms, you're on some sort of list of possible conspirators. … It's ridiculous, of course, but it's also threatening to think that the federal government is willing to use its influence and try to chill discussion about this subject."

* * *

So has the Obama administration collectively lost its mind when it comes to the subject of medical cannabis? That certainly seems to be the case. But the bigger question still remains: Why now?

Speculation among reformers and the general public is widespread. Many activists contend that the administration's about face is due to pressure from the pharmaceutical industry, which they surmise may be hoping to eliminate competition in the marketplace for their own forthcoming, soon-to-be FDA-approved cannabis-based drug. Others believe that Obama’s crackdown is a Machiavellian attempt on the part of the President and his advisors to appeal to independent, conservative-leaning swing voters during an election year. Still others argue that the recent attacks have little to do with President Obama at all. Instead, they believe the efforts of the DEA, DOJ, and other federal agencies are being coordinated primarily by drug war hawks within the administration, many of which are holdovers from the George W. Bush regime, such as DEA administrator Michele Leonhart. Adding weight to this claim are recent statements from US Attorney Andre Birotte, who acknowledged that the DOJ’s recent activities were led by the federal prosecutors themselves and were not instigated by either President Obama or Attorney General Eric Holder – both of which are engaged in their own personal battles for political survival and, as a result, are unlikely to expend even a shred of political capital to halt the efforts of the administration’s more ardent drug warriors.

There may be a grain of truth in all of the above theories. But perhaps the greatest underlying motivator for the administration’s sudden and severe crackdown on medical marijuana providers and patients is its desire to preserve America’s longstanding criminalization of cannabis for everyone else. There is little doubt that the rapid rise of the medical marijuana industry and the legal commerce inherent to it is arguably the single biggest threat to federal cannabis prohibition. Just look at the poll numbers. According to Gallup, in 1996 – when California became the first state to allow for the legally sanctioned use of cannabis therapy – only 25 percent of Americans backed legalizing marijuana for all adults. (Seventy-three percent of respondents at that time said they opposed the idea.) Fast forward to 2011. Today, a record high 50 percent of Americans support legalizing the plant outright and only 46 percent of respondents oppose doing so. It’s this rapid rise in the public’s support for overall legalization that no doubt has the Obama administration, and the majority of America’s elected officials, running scared.

While the passage and enactment of statewide medical marijuana laws – 16 states and the District of Columbia now have laws recognizing marijuana’s therapeutic use on the books – is not solely driving the public’s shift in support for broader legalization, it is arguably a major factor. Why? The answer is simple. Tens of millions of Americans residing in these states are learning, first hand, that they can coexist with marijuana being legal! And that is the lesson the federal government fears most.

In states like California and Colorado, voters have largely become accustomed to the reality that there can be safe, secure, well-run businesses that deliver consistent, reliable, tested cannabis products. They have come to understand that well-regulated cannabis dispensaries can revitalize sagging economies, provide jobs, and contribute taxes to budget-starved localities. Most importantly, the public in these states and others are finally realizing that all the years of scaremongering by the government about what would happen if marijuana were legal, even for sick people, was nothing but hysterical propaganda. As a result, a majority of American voters are now for the first time asking their federal officials: ‘Why we don’t just legalize marijuana for everyone in a similarly responsible manner?’

That is a question the President remains unable and unwilling to answer. And the administration appears willing to go to any lengths to avoid it.

Source: - Editor's Note: This article incorrectly said Rep. Diane Sands is from Billings, Montana. She represents Missoula, Montana.

Paul Armentano is the deputy director of NORML (the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws), and is the co-author of the book Marijuana Is Safer: So Why Are We Driving People to Drink (2009, Chelsea Green).


The Vienna University of Technology is the only research facility in the world, where single atoms can be controllably coupled to the light in ultra-thin fiber glass. Specially prepared light waves interact with very small numbers of atoms, which makes it possible to build detectors that are extremely sensitive to tiny trace amounts of a substance.

Professor Arno Rauschenbeutel’s team, one of six research groups at the Vienna Center for Quantum Science and Technology, has presented this new method in the journal Physical Review Letters. The research project was carried out in collaboration with the Johannes Gutenberg University in Mainz, Germany.

The light wave in the glass fiber sticks out and touches the atoms trapped above and below the glass fiber.

Ultra-Thin Glass Fibers

The glass fibers used for the experiment are only five hundred millionths of a millimeter thick (500 nm). In fact, they are even thinner than the wavelength of visible light. “Actually, the light wave does not really fit into the glass fiber, it sticks out a little”, Arno Rauschenbeutel explains. And this is precisely the big advantage of the new method: the light wave touches atoms which are located outside of, but very close to, the glass fiber. “First, we trap the atoms, so that they are aligned above and below the glass fiber, like pearls on a string”, says Rauschenbeutel. The light wave sent through the glass fiber is then modified by each individual atom it passes. By measuring changes in the light waves very accurately, the number of atoms trapped near the fiber can be determined.

Atoms Change the Speed of Light

When scientists study the interaction of atoms and light, they usually look at rather disruptive effects – at least on a microscopic scale: Atoms can, for example, absorb photons and emit them later in a different direction. This way, atoms can be accelerated and hurled away from their original position. In the glass fiber experiments at Vienna UT however, a very soft interaction between light and atoms is sufficient: “The atoms close to the glass fiber decelerate the light very slightly”, Arno Rauschenbeutel explains. When the light wave oscillates precisely upwards and downwards in the direction of the atoms, the wave is shifted by a tiny amount. Another light wave oscillating in a different direction does not hit any atoms and is therefore hardly decelerated at all. Light waves of different polarization directions are sent through the glass fiber – and their relative shift due to their different speed is measured. This shift tells the scientists how many atoms have delayed the light wave.

Detecting Single Atoms

Hundreds or thousands of atoms can be trapped, less than a thousandth of a millimeter away from the glass fiber. Their number can be determined with an accuracy of several atoms. “In principle, our method is so precise that it can detect as few as ten or twenty atoms”, says Arno Rauschenbeutel. “We are working on a few more technical tricks – such as the reduction of the distance between the atoms and the glass fiber. If we can do this, we should even be able to reliably detect single atoms.”

Non-Destructive Quantum Measurements

The new glass fiber measuring method is not only important for new detectors, but also for basic quantum physical research. “Usually the quantum physical state of a system is destroyed when we measure it”, Rauschenbeutel explains. “Our glass fibers make it possible to control quantum states without destroying them.” The atoms close to the glass fiber can also be used to tune the plane in which the light wave oscillates. Nobody can tell yet, which new technological possibilities may be opened up by that. “Quantum optics is an incredibly innovative research area today – and the Vienna research groups in this field are competing among the best in the world”, says Arno Rauschenbeutel.

Source: Vienna University of Technology


This would include what is referred to as the "exome," But as University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill medical geneticists point out, this avalanche of information also includes the totality of one's genetic mutations and as such arrives with both promise and threats associated with its use.

James P. Evans, MD, PhD is the Bryson Distinguished Professor of Genetics and Medicine at UNC and is a member of the Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center. He is also editor-in-chief of Genetics in Medicine, the journal of the American College of Medical Genetics. "What you're now dealing with is a real medical test, one that has the power to help, hurt and to confuse. I believe we need to think carefully about how to best use it and how that use should be regulated in order to maximize benefit and minimize harm," he said.

In a commentary published in JAMA on Wednesday, Dec. 7, 2011, Evans and UNC co-author Jonathan S. Berg, MD, PhD, Lineberger member and assistant professor of genetics and medicine, argue that whole genome and whole exome sequencing technology "will routinely uncover both trivial and important medical results, both welcome and unwelcome … and presents the medical community with new challenges."

"What we have had up until this point with direct-to-consumer genetic testing, despite all the hoopla, was arguably rather trivial from the standpoint of either benefits or threats. It was a fairly worthless technology because it really didn't give people medically significant findings," Evans said.

"Now we are entering an entirely different era due to the advent of robust sequencing technology. We have now the potential to tell people very real and important things about their genomes. Some of those things can be very useful and very welcome if acted upon in the right way, but some of that information may not be very welcome to people: being at high risk for an untreatable disease such as dementia, for example."

As to regulation, Evans and Berg suggest that it need not be draconian but must be nuanced. "Basically, what we call for is that this new generation of medical testing be treated like other medical tests that involve complex medical information – and that there should be a reasonable expectation that an individual who gets it done has some relationship with a qualified care provider."

That person doesn't need to be a physician, Evans adds. "There are genetic counselors capable of dealing with this. But it must be a person not employed by the company or laboratory doing the testing since that invites egregious conflict of interest."

As physicians pledged to avoid causing harm, the authors acknowledge the inevitable tension that exists between paternalism and the reasonable protection of people. They point to three compelling arbiters of whether the acquisition of medical information should require a relationship with a healthcare professional: the information's complexity, ability to mislead and potential for harm.

"The advent of next generation sequencing technology marks a threshold at which genomic testing easily meets these bars," they state.your complete set of protein-coding sequences.

Source: Medical Xpress

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