Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #5596 on: Nov 25th, 2011, 8:12pm »
The Hollywood Reporter
London Riots Turned Into Dramatic Stage Play 3:08 PM PST 11/25/2011 by THR staff
The events of the London riots earlier this year have been turned into a stage production, the Associated Press reports.
A 250-seat London venue, Tricycle Theatre, opened The Riots earlier this week, recreating the mayhem that took place over four nights in August through real-life testimonies from residents, police, politicans, community employees and rioters.
Director Nicholas Kent said that The Riots was done with the intention of acting as a public inquiry into the riots. The government has not held an inquiry thus far.
"It didn't have to happen," Kent told the AP. "That's the thing I totally took away from our work on the play. It seemed to us important to explore the reasons for the riots and people's motivations and what happened and what our response was to it as Londoners -- and how we could prevent something like that happening again."
The riots took place after a fatal shooting in the working class neighborhood of Tottenham of 29-year-old Mark Duggan on Aug. 4. The Riots spotlights the events that came shortly thereafter.
Gillian Slovo, who penned the story, and her team of researchers had 56 hours worth of interviews with police officers on duty in Tottenham that night, community leaders, rioters and a man who was left without a home due to arson. Two people who were sent to prison for taking part in the riots wrote letters after Tricycle advertised in a prison paper.
Slovo defended the decision to include their voices in the production, saying in an interview, "I do think it's important for us to listen and to see how they got caught up, what they think about it afterwards and what provoked them to do it. Because otherwise how can you make sure this won't happen again?."
The production also depicts how different the riots felt depending on a person's perspective.
The Tricycle has been known to put on numerous productions based on true-to-life events, including the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #5597 on: Nov 26th, 2011, 11:27am »
Fury erupts as India opens door to Wal-Mart, other big foreign firms
One lawmaker says she'll burn down any store the foreign retailer opens in the country. The uproar highlights the divide between the emerging middle class and the poor.
By Mark Magnier, Los Angeles Times 5:20 PM PST, November 25, 2011 Reporting from New Delhi
The Indian Parliament adjourned in an uproar Friday over the government's decision to let large international retailers enter this long-protected market, leading an opposition leader to threaten to burn down any Wal-Mart that opened in the country.
The fury underscores the gap between the India of glitzy shopping centers, conspicuous consumption and increasingly efficient service catering to a rapidly emerging middle class and the India of dusty shops, limited inventory and 5-cent shampoo packets serving hundreds of millions of poor.
It also reflects the debate over whether the world's second-most-populous country should embrace economic reform, globalization and competition, or remain true to its socialist roots, protecting small shopkeepers at the cost of innovation.
The government predicted that the move, which doesn't require parliamentary approval, would generate 10 million jobs, spur efficiency and attract much-needed foreign investment.
Under the revised rules, single-brand retailers such as Sweden's IKEA can be 100% foreign-owned while foreign retailers that sell other companies' brands, such as Wal-Mart, France's Carrefour or Britain's Tesco, are allowed 51% ownership. None of these companies have stores in India now because of the tight restrictions, although most large foreign retailers are reportedly interested.
At the main local market in South Delhi's Vasant Vihar neighborhood, grocery store owner Krishna Gupta guarded her wooden cash box with an eagle eye. As customers entered the 600-square-foot grocery store, a clerk mounted a 15-foot ladder and retrieved cans from wooden shelves built to the ceiling.
"I can't even tell you how many times a day I climb this ladder," said longtime clerk Uday Kumar, 45, slapping dust off a packet of grated coconut. "I'm sick and tired of doing the same thing."
Both said they expected the added competition would erode business, but said they would ask customers what discounts they're getting at the bigger stores and try to keep their business by knocking off a few rupees here and there. Still, they said, they're resigned to reduced profits and tougher times ahead.
Longtime customer Pavitra Vohra, 79, wandered in dressed in a green traditional salwar kameez and flowing scarf. She has traveled extensively overseas and loves the convenience, selection and lower prices of large foreign stores.
"I'm very happy about this change," she said. "More jobs will come, the economy will go up, we want foreign money to pour in. If India just sticks inside its shell, how are we going to grow?"
Nearby, in a commercial area of broken sidewalks and dangling electrical wires, co-owner Mohammed Kashif, 31, of the M.S. Sons butcher shop said he wasn't worried because customers prefer freshly killed meat, not the frozen cuts sold by big stores. Business is decent, he said, because his is the only butcher shop nearby.
Experts predict that stepped-up competition will sharply reduce the number of small retailers — the nation's second-largest employer after farming, with 35 million workers — and will pare inefficient middlemen, improve efficiency and raise farm income. By some accounts, 30% of India's fruit and vegetables spoil on their way to market in unrefrigerated trucks and in decrepit warehouses.
"Many foreign companies have been eyeing India for quite some time," said Pinakiranjan Mishra of consultant Ernst & Young India. "It's a big opportunity for Wal-Mart, for sure."
On Friday, a senior leader of the main opposition Bharatiya Janata Party told the news media that poor people would lose under the new policy. "If Wal-Mart attempts to open any shop anywhere, then I will personally burn them down," Uma Bharti said.
After operating since 2009 as a wholesaler under a joint venture with India's Bharti conglomerate, Wal-Mart can now focus on opening its own retail outlets. Raj Jain, Bharti Walmart's chief executive, declined to comment on the incendiary threat but said he didn't expect the retail industry to change rapidly, given land, regulatory and infrastructure constraints and the need to comply with state rules. "This is a slow burn," he said.
Retailers need about 30 permits to set up shop under India's notoriously bureaucratic system. Foreign players are confined to the 53 Indian cities with populations of more than 1 million and must invest at least $100 million, half of which must be in warehouses and related "back-end" infrastructure. Experts predicted that foreign big-box stores would head initially to smaller cities, gradually migrating to the outskirts of major high-cost markets such as New Delhi, Mumbai and Chennai.
Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #5598 on: Nov 26th, 2011, 11:29am »
NASA’s New Mars Rover Launches Successfully By Adam Mann November 26, 2011 | 10:15 am Categories: Space
NASA’s Mars Science Laboratory lifted off from the launch pad at 7:02 a.m. EST today.
The one-ton Mini Cooper-sized rover, which is the largest machine NASA can currently put down on the Martian surface, will now look forward to an eight-month cruise to the Red Planet, arriving in August 2012. The probe will survey the Martian landscape with HD cameras, search for signs of habitability and life past or present, and drill inside rocks to examine the planet’s composition.
After a shaky history on Earth, MSL will have to worry about one last event when it gets to Mars: its nail-biting landing procedure, the sky crane. The rover is tucked inside a saucer-like platform that will need to fire rockets 25 feet above the ground and hover as MSL is carefully lowered down on wires. Such a procedure has never been tried before, though landing system has undergone extensive testing prior to launch.
Still, the track record with probes to Mars has not been great. Nearly two-thirds of missions have had failures or partial failures. Spacecraft have lost solar power en route, crashed into the surface, or simply gone dead seconds after landing.
NASA’s history of rovers is more upbeat. The agency has already successfully roved three robots on Mars: tiny Sojourner and the twins Spirit and Opportunity. The later pair even managed to beat the odds. Originally expected to last for three months, Spirit went on for six years before getting permanently stuck in the soft Martian soil and losing contact this past May, while Opportunity is still going strong.
MSL is currently set for a 23-month initial mission. But given this history of terrible failures and stunning longevity, how long do you think the new rover will last on Mars?
Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #5599 on: Nov 26th, 2011, 11:32am »
The latest in Wii technology: video game urinals
Going to the loo has never been more fun, after the world's first urine-controlled video game is installed in a London bar.
10:42PM GMT 25 Nov 2011
Visitors at the The Exhibit Bar in Balham can play one of three games every time they use a urinal.
The video game has been trialled in a bar in Cambridge since mid-July and it has proved to be both popular and profitable.
One of the game's co-founders, Gordon MacSween, was not sure how the public would react to the game initially. But as soon he saw the game on trial at a bar in Cambridge he knew he was on to something good.
The game was designed to create a valuable media opportunity from the 55 seconds the average male spends while he pees just staring at a blank wall.
There is an advert played before and after the game promoting a drink you can buy at the bar.
At the end of the game, players are encouraged to post their scores via mobile to Twitter and to a live leader board so they can compete with their friends.
The units will be rolled-out in selected venues across the UK in early 2012.
Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #5600 on: Nov 27th, 2011, 12:49pm »
Idea of civilians using drone aircraft may soon fly with FAA
The Federal Aviation Administration plans to propose new rules for the use of small drones in January, a first step toward clearing the way for police departments, farmers and others to employ the technology.
By W.J. Hennigan, Los Angeles Times November 27, 2011
Drone aircraft, best known for their role in hunting and destroying terrorist hide-outs in Afghanistan, may soon be coming to the skies near you.
Police agencies want drones for air support to spot runaway criminals. Utility companies believe they can help monitor oil, gas and water pipelines. Farmers think drones could aid in spraying their crops with pesticides.
"It's going to happen," said Dan Elwell, vice president of civil aviation at the Aerospace Industries Assn. "Now it's about figuring out how to safely assimilate the technology into national airspace."
That's the job of the Federal Aviation Administration, which plans to propose new rules for the use of small drones in January, a first step toward integrating robotic aircraft into the nation's skyways.
The agency has issued 266 active testing permits for civilian drone applications but hasn't permitted drones in national airspace on a wide scale out of concern that the pilotless craft don't have an adequate "detect, sense and avoid" technology to prevent midair collisions.
Other concerns include privacy — imagine a camera-equipped drone buzzing above your backyard pool party — and the creative ways in which criminals and terrorists might use the machines.
"By definition, small drones are easy to conceal and fly without getting a lot of attention," said John Villasenor, a UCLA professor and senior fellow at the Brookings Institution's Center for Technology Innovation. "Bad guys know this."
The aerospace industry insists these concerns can be addressed. It also believes that the good guys — the nation's law enforcement agencies — are probably the biggest commercial market for domestic drones, at least initially.
Police departments in Texas, Florida and Minnesota have expressed interest in the technology's potential to spot runaway criminals on rooftops or to track them at night by using the robotic aircraft's heat-seeking cameras.
"Most Americans still see drone aircraft in the realm of science fiction," said Peter W. Singer, author of "Wired for War," a book about robotic warfare. "But the technology is here. And it isn't going away. It will increasingly play a role in our lives. The real question is: How do we deal with it?"
Drone maker AeroVironment Inc. of Monrovia, the nation's biggest supplier of small drones to the military, has developed its first small helicopter drone that's designed specifically for law enforcement. If FAA restrictions are eased, the company plans to shop it among the estimated 18,000 state and local police departments across the United States.
In the foothills north of Simi Valley, amid acres of scrubland, AeroVironment engineers have been secretly testing a miniature remote-controlled helicopter named Qube. Buzzing like an angry hornet, the tiny drone with four whirling rotors swoops back and forth about 200 feet above the ground scouring the landscape and capturing crystal-clear video of what lies below.
The new drone weighs 51/2 pounds, fits in the trunk of a car and is controlled remotely by a tablet computer. AeroVironment unveiled Qube last month at the International Assn. of Chiefs of Police conference in Chicago.
"This is a tool that many law enforcement agencies never imagined they could have," said Steven Gitlin, a company executive.
Plenty of police departments fly expensive helicopters for high-speed chases, spotting suspects and finding missing people. The Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department said it recently bought 12 new helicopters at a cost of $1.7 million each.
Gitlin said a small Qube, by comparison, would cost "slightly more than the price of a police cruiser," or about $40,000.
Sheriff's Department Cmdr. Bob Osborne said that there's "no doubt" that the department is interested in using drones. "It's just that the FAA hasn't come up with workable rules that we can harness it. If those roadblocks were down, we'd want to use it."
Drones' low-cost appeal has other industries interested as well.
Farmers in Japan already use small drones to automatically spray their crops with pesticides, and more recently safety inspectors used them at the crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant. Archaeologists in Russia are using small drones and their infrared cameras to construct a 3-D model of ancient burial mounds. Officials in Tampa Bay, Fla., want to use them for security surveillance at next year's Republican National Convention.
But the FAA says there are technical issues to be addressed before they're introduced in civil airspace. Among them is how to respond if a communication link is lost with a drone — such as when it falls out of the sky, takes a nose dive into a backyard pool or crashes through someone's roof.
Frederick W. Smith, founder of FedEx Corp., the largest owner of commercial cargo jets, suggested using a fleet of package-laden drones led by a traditionally piloted plane that could keep an eye on the robotic aircraft.
"Think of it like a train where you have a locomotive and you put two or three or four or 10 cars — depending on what demand is — and the drones basically fly the exact same flight profile in formation," Smith said at a Wired magazine conference last year. "It's very efficient."
Drones could also be useful to real estate agents to showcase sprawling properties. Oil and gas companies want to utilize them to keep an eye on their pipelines. Even organizations delivering humanitarian assistance want to use drones.
Matternet, a Silicon Valley start-up, has proposed a network of drones to deliver food and medicine in isolated regions around the world that are now inaccessible because they have no roads.
But if the use of drones is so widespread in the future, it raises concern that they could fall into the wrong hands and be weaponized.
Small drones are not designed to carry weapons or explosive materials, and the extra weight makes the drones difficult to control, said Gretchen West, executive vice president of the Assn. for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International, a robotic technology trade group.
"Also, because the technology on these systems are state of the art," West said, they are controlled by "rules that govern the larger systems, which prohibit the systems and technology from falling into the wrong hands."
Still, there are vast privacy concerns to be confronted by government officials, such as what kinds of surveillance should be allowed and who should be permitted to use these drones.
"It's important that the FAA is scrutinizing the safety of the technology, but they should also make sure Americans' privacy is maintained," said Catherine Crump, an American Civil Liberties Union staff attorney. "Having cheap, portable, flying surveillance machines may have a tremendous benefit for law enforcement, but will it respect Americans' privacy?"
Other countries appear to have safely harnessed the technology. Brazil uses drones to scour the Amazon rain forest for drug trafficking. Researchers in Costa Rica are sending drones into clouds of volcanic ash to help predict future eruptions. Argentina, South Korea, and Turkey buy small drone helicopters for overhead views of their land and for crop dusting from Guided Systems Technologies Inc.
For now, the Stockbridge, Ga., company deals primarily with foreign countries, which don't have restrictive rules against drones, because it can't sell the aircraft at home.
That all might change, said West of the Assn. for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International. The U.S. commercial market for drones has "untapped" potential, she said. The association estimates that 23,000 jobs could be added over the next 15 years if national airspace is opened to commercial drones.
"Industry is ready," she said. "We're all waiting to see what the FAA will do."
Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #5601 on: Nov 27th, 2011, 12:51pm »
Rage grips Pakistan over NATO attack
By Michael Georgy and Emma Graham-Harrison ISLAMABAD/KABUL Sun Nov 27, 2011 11:55am EST
ISLAMABAD/KABUL (Reuters) - Fury spread in Pakistan on Sunday over a NATO cross-border air attack that killed 24 Pakistani soldiers and could undermine the U.S. effort to wind up the war in Afghanistan.
On Sunday night in Pakistan, more than 40 hours after the incident, many questions remained.
NATO described the killings as a "tragic unintended incident" and said an investigation was underway. A Western official and an Afghan security official who requested anonymity said NATO troops were responding to fire from across the border.
It's possible both explanations are correct: that a retaliatory attack by NATO troops took a tragic, mistaken turn in harsh terrain where identifying friend and foe can be difficult.
Militants often attack from Pakistani soil or flee after combat across a porous border that NATO-led troops, under their United Nations mandate, cannot cross.
What is clear is the incident could undermine U.S. efforts to improve ties with Pakistan so that the regional power helps stabilize Afghanistan before NATO combat troops go home by the end of 2014.
The attack was the latest perceived provocation by the United States, which infuriated Pakistan's powerful military with a unilateral special forces raid that killed al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden in May.
Thousands gathered outside the American consulate in the city of Karachi to protest against the NATO attack.
A Reuters reporter at the scene said the angry crowd shouted "Down with America". One young man climbed on the wall surrounding the heavily fortified compound and attached a Pakistani flag to barbed wire.
"America is attacking our borders. The government should immediately break ties with it," said Naseema Baluch, a housewife attending the demonstration. "America wants to occupy our country but we will not let it do that."
Pakistan buried the troops killed in the attack on Sunday. Television stations showed coffins draped in green and white Pakistani flags in a prayer ceremony at the headquarters of the regional command in Peshawar, attended by army chief General Ashfaq Kayani.
The NATO attack highlights the difficulties faced by the United States as it tries to secure the unruly border area that is home to some of the world's most dangerous militant groups who have mastered the harsh mountainous landscape.
Around 40 troops were stationed at the outposts at the time of the attack, military sources said.
Militants targeting NATO forces have long taken advantage of the fact that the alliance's mandate ends at the border to either attack from within Pakistan or flee to relative safety after an attack.
Three Pakistani soldiers were killed last year by NATO gunships. NATO said then that its forces had mistaken warning shots from Pakistani forces for a militant attack.
In the latest incident, a Western official and a senior Afghan security official said NATO and Afghan forces had come under fire from across the border with Pakistan before NATO aircraft attacked a Pakistani army post, killing the soldiers.
"They came under cross-border fire," the Western official said, without identifying the source of the fire.
The Afghan official said troops had come under fire from inside Pakistan as they were descending from helicopters, which had returned fire.
Both officials asked not to be named because the attack is so sensitive.
Pakistan has said the attack was an unprovoked assault and has said it reserves the right to retaliate.
U.S. and NATO officials are trying to defuse tensions but the soldiers' deaths are testing a bad marriage of convenience between Washington and Islamabad.
Many Pakistanis believe their army is fighting a war against militants that only serves Western interests.
Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar spoke with U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton by telephone early on Sunday to convey "the deep sense of rage felt across Pakistan" and warned that the incident could undermine efforts to improve relations, the Foreign Ministry said in a statement.
Pakistan shut down NATO supply routes into Afghanistan in retaliation for the incident, the worst of its kind since Islamabad uneasily allied itself with Washington following the September 11, 2001, attacks on the United States.
Pakistan is the route for nearly half of NATO supplies shipped overland to its troops in Afghanistan. Land shipments account for about two thirds of the alliance's cargo.
A similar incident on Sept 30, 2010, which killed two Pakistani service personnel, led to the closure of one of NATO's supply routes through Pakistan for 10 days.
U.S. ties with Pakistan have suffered several big setbacks starting with the unilateral U.S. special forces raid in May that killed bin Laden in a Pakistani town where he had apparently been living for years.
Pakistan condemned the secret operation as a flagrant violation of its sovereignty, while suspicions arose in Washington that members of Pakistan's military intelligence had harbored the al Qaeda leader.
The military came under unprecedented criticism from both Pakistanis who said it failed to protect the country and American officials who said bin Laden's presence was proof the country was an unreliable ally in the war on militancy.
Pakistan's army, one of the world's largest, may see the NATO incursion from Afghanistan as a chance to reassert itself, especially since the deaths of the soldiers are likely to unite generals and politicians, whose ties are normally uneasy.
Pakistan's jailing of a CIA contractor, Raymond Davis, and U.S. accusations that Pakistan backed a militant attack on the U.S. embassy in Kabul have added to the tensions.
"From Raymond Davis and his gun slinging in the streets of Lahore to the Osama bin Laden incident, and now to the firing on Pakistani soldiers on the volatile Pakistan-Afghan border, things hardly seem able to get any worse," said the Daily Times.
Islamabad depends on billions in U.S. aid and Washington believes Pakistan can help it bring about peace in Afghanistan.
But it is constantly battling Anti-American sentiment over everything from U.S. drone aircraft strikes to Washington's calls for economic reforms.
"We should end our friendship with America. It's better to have animosity with America than friendship. It's nobody's friend," said laborer Sameer Baluch.
In Karachi, dozens of truck drivers who should have been transporting supplies to Afghanistan were idle.
Taj Malli braves the threat of Taliban attacks to deliver supplies to Afghanistan so that he can support his children. But he thinks it is time to block the route permanently in protest.
"Pakistan is more important than money. The government must stop all supplies to NATO so that they realize the importance of Pakistan," he said.
But some Pakistanis doubt their leaders have the resolve to challenge the United States.
"This government is cowardly. It will do nothing," said Peshawar shopkeeper Sabir Khan. "Similar attacks happened in the past, but what have they done?"
(Additional reporting by Zeeshan Haider in Islamabad, Izaz Mohmand and Aftab Ahmed in Peshawar, Imtiaz Shah in Karachi, and David Brunnstrom in Brussels; Writing by Michael Georgy; Editing by Peter Graff)
Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #5602 on: Nov 27th, 2011, 12:54pm »
Amping Up Brain Function: Transcranial Stimulation Shows Promise in Speeding Up Learning
Electrical stimulation of subjects' brains is found to accelerate learning in military and civilian subjects, although researchers are yet wary of drawing larger conclusions about the mechanism
By R. Douglas Fields November 25, 2011
WASHINGTON, D.C.—One of the most difficult tasks to teach Air Force pilots who guide unmanned attack drones is how to pick out targets in complex radar images. Pilot training is currently one of the biggest bottlenecks in deploying these new, deadly weapons.
So Air Force researchers were delighted recently to learn that they could cut training time in half by delivering a mild electrical current (two milliamperes of direct current for 30 minutes) to pilot's brains during training sessions on video simulators. The current is delivered through EEG (electroencephalographic) electrodes placed on the scalp. Biomedical engineer Andy McKinley and colleagues at the Air Force Research Laboratory at Wright–Patterson Air Force Base, reported their finding on this so-called transcranial direct current stimulation (TDCS) here at the Society for Neuroscience annual meeting on November 13.
"I don't know of anything that would be comparable," McKinley said, contrasting the cognitive boost of TDCS with, for example, caffeine or other stimulants that have been tested as enhancements to learning. TDCS not only accelerated learning, pilot accuracy was sustained in trials lasting up to 40 minutes. Typically accuracy in identifying threats declines steadily after 20 minutes. Beyond accelerating pilot training, TDCS could have many medical applications in the military and beyond by accelerating retraining and recovery after brain injury or disease.
The question for the Air Force and others interested in transcranial stimulation is whether these findings will hold up over time or will land in the dustbin of pseudoscience.
"There is so much pop science out there on this right now," says neurobiologist Rex Jung of the University of New Mexico Health Sciences Center in Albuquerque, referring to sensational media reports, the widely varying protocols and sometimes lax controls used in different studies of brain stimulation to power learning or elevate mood.
Indeed, electrical stimulation for therapeutic effect has a long and checkered history extending back to the 19th century when "electrotherapy" was the rage among adventurous medical doctors as well as quacks. Pulses of electric current were applied to treat a wide range of conditions from insomnia to uterine cancer. The placebo effect might have been at work in the case of those historical results, and although the experiments were carefully controlled, it is unclear to skeptics if it is a factor in the case of the Air Force's research on transcranial stimulation and learning.
Subjects definitely register the stimulation, but it is not unpleasant. "It feels like a mild tickling or slight burning," says undergraduate student Lauren Bullard, who was one of the subjects in another study on TDCS and learning reported at the meeting, along with her mentors Jung and Michael Weisend and colleagues of the Mind Research Network in Albuquerque. "Afterward I feel more alert," she says. But why?
Bullard and her co-authors sought to determine if they could measure any tangible changes in the brain after TDCS, which could explain how the treatment accelerates learning. The researchers looked for both functional changes in the brain (altered brain-wave activity) and physical changes (by examining MRI brain scans) after TDCS.
They used magnetoencephalography (MEG) to record magnetic fields (brain waves) produced by sensory stimulation (sound, touch and light, for example), while test subjects received TDCS. The researchers reported that TDCS gave a six-times baseline boost to the amplitude of a brain wave generated in response to stimulating a sensory nerve in the arm. The boost was not seen when mock TDCS was used, which produced a similar sensation on the scalp, but was ineffective in exciting brain tissue. The effect also persisted long after TDCS was stopped. The sensory-evoked brain wave remained 2.5 times greater than normal 50 minutes after TDCS. These results suggest that TDCS increases cerebral cortex excitability, thereby heightening arousal, increasing responses to sensory input, and accelerating information processing in cortical circuits.
Remarkably, MRI brain scans revealed clear structural changes in the brain as soon as five days after TDCS. Neurons in the cerebral cortex connect with one another to form circuits via massive bundles of nerve fibers (axons) buried deep below the brain's surface in "white matter tracts." The fiber bundles were found to be more robust and more highly organized after TDCS. No changes were seen on the opposite side of the brain that was not stimulated by the scalp electrodes.
The structural changes in white matter detected by the MRI technique, called diffusion tensor imaging (DTI), could be caused by a number of microscopic physical or cellular alterations in brain tissue, but identifying those is impossible without obtaining samples of the tissue for analysis under a microscope.
An expert on brain imaging, Robert Turner of the Department of Neurophysics at the Max Planck Institute for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences, in Leipzig, Germany, who was not involved in the study, speculated that the changes detected by DTI could represent an increase in insulation on the fibers (myelin) that would speed transmission of information through the fibers. "In my present view, the leading hypothesis for the observed rapid changes…is that previously unmyelinated axonal fibers within white matter become rapidly myelinated when they start to carry frequent action potentials," he says. There are, however, several other possible explanations, he cautions.
Matthias Witkowski, now at the Institute for Medicine, Psychology and Behavioral Neurobiology at the University of Tübingen in Germany, described the rapid changes in white matter in these experiments as "incredible." "That [white matter changes] would not have been my first guess," he said. "It will be very interesting to see if there are cellular changes." This is the next step in research planned by Jung and colleagues. They hope to obtain brain tissue from patients who would be willing to participate in TDCS studies prior to undergoing necessary brain surgery in which tissue would be removed as a required part of their treatment.
Witkowski is convinced by these new studies and his own research that transcranial stimulation can accelerate many kinds of learning, and research on brain–machine interfacing, which he presented at the meeting, demonstrates the potential for TDCS in speeding patient rehabilitation after injury. People with paralyzed limbs can be taught to control a robotic glovelike device that will move their fingers in response to the patient's own thoughts. Electrodes on the person's scalp pick up brain waves as the person imagines moving his or her hand. The brain waves are analyzed by a computer to control the robotic artificial hand. But learning to generate the proper brain waves to control the artificial hand through thought alone requires considerable training. Witkowski found that if patients received 20 minutes of TDCS stimulation once during five days of training, they learned to control the hand with their thoughts much more rapidly.
The new studies reported at this meeting suggest that there is far more to speed learning produced by TDCS than can be explained by the placebo effect. And the evidence now shows that TDCS produces physical changes in the brain's structure as well as physiological changes in its response. TDCS increases cortical excitability, which can be measured in recordings of brain waves, and it also causes changes in the structure of the brain's connections that can be observed on an MRI. By using electricity to energize neural circuits in the cerebral cortex, researchers are hopeful that they have found a harmless and drug-free way to double the speed of learning.
Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #5604 on: Nov 27th, 2011, 2:20pm »
The 8 germiest places in the mall
By Cari Wira Dineen, Health.com Sat November 26, 2011
(Health.com) -- During the craziness of the holidays, the last thing you want is to get sidelined with a cold, flu, stomach bug -- or worse. But while you're checking items off your shopping list, you may be exposing yourself to germs -- like flu viruses, E. coli, and staph -- that can make you sick.
"Anywhere people gather is filled with bacteria and viruses, and a crowded shopping mall is a perfect example," says Philip Tierno, Ph.D., director of clinical microbiology and immunology at New York University Langone Medical Center.
With that in mind, we asked a panel of experts to rank the worst germ hot spots at your local shopping center. Check out the ewww-inducing results -- and tips for keeping yourself in the clear.
1. Restroom sinks The filthiest area in a restroom (and therefore in the whole mall) isn't the toilet handle or the doorknob -- it's the sink, our experts say. Bacteria, including E. coli, fester on the faucet and handles because people touch those surfaces right after using the toilet, explains panelist Charles Gerba, Ph.D., a professor of environmental microbiology at the University of Arizona.
"The sink area is a moist environment, so bacteria can survive longer there," he adds.
Watch out for soap dispensers, too -- not only are they handled by many dirty hands, but the soap itself may harbor germs. When Gerba's team tested liquid soap from refillable dispensers in public bathrooms, they found that one in four contained unsafe levels of bacteria.
Protect yourself: Wash your hands thoroughly after using a public loo: Lather with soap for at least 20 seconds, then rinse well. Use a paper towel to turn off the water and open the door. If there's no soap or paper towels, kill germs with an alcohol-based hand sanitizer, using at least a tablespoon of product.
Gerba also advises avoiding refillable soap dispensers (usually made of clear plastic with a removable lid) and only using liquid soap that comes in a sealed refill; if that's not an option or you're not sure, follow up with hand sanitizer.
2. Food court tables Even if you see the table being wiped down, that doesn't mean it's clean, says panelist Elaine Larson, Ph.D., a professor of epidemiology at the Mailman School of Public Health at Columbia University: "The rags themselves can actually spread harmful bacteria such as E. coli if they are not changed and washed regularly."
Protect yourself: Consider stashing a pack of hard-surface disinfecting wipes in your purse so you can swipe the table before you sit down. "Look for ones that contain alcohol or another disinfecting agent in order to make sure you're killing germs, not just wiping away grime," Tierno says.
3. Escalator handrails "In our testing, we have found food, E. coli, urine, mucus, feces, and blood on escalator handrails," says Gerba. "And where there is mucus, you may also find cold and flu viruses." Tierno concurs: "We've found respiratory flora on handrails," he says, "which makes sense because people cough into their hands, then touch the rails."
Protect yourself: Play it safe: Avoid touching handrails altogether, recommends Gerba, unless you absolutely have to -- in which case, give yourself a generous squirt of hand sanitizer afterward.
4. ATM keypads After testing 38 ATMs in downtown Taipei, Chinese researchers found that each key contained an average of 1,200 germs, including illness-inducing microbes like E. coli and cold and flu viruses, Tierno says. The worst key of all? The "enter" button, because everyone has to touch it, Gerba points out.
Protect yourself: "Knuckle" ATM buttons -- you'll avoid getting germs on your fingertips, which are more likely to find their way to your nose and mouth than your knuckles. And be sure to wash your hands or use sanitizer afterward.
5. Toy stores Toy stores can actually be germier than play areas, carousels, and other kid-friendly zones, Tierno says, simply because of the way little ones behave there. "Kids lick toys, roll them on their heads, and rub them on their faces, and all that leaves a plethora of germs on the toys," he says. The goods their parents don't buy end up back on the shelves, where your kid finds them.
Protect yourself: If you make a purchase, wipe down any toy that isn't in a sealed box or package with soap and water, alcohol, or vinegar (which has antimicrobial properties) before giving it to your child. And, of course, reach for the hand sanitizer after you've been hands-on in the toy aisle.
6. Fitting rooms You won't pick up much from the hooks or the chair. The germ culprit? What you try on.
"After people try on clothing, skin cells and perspiration can accumulate on the inside," says Tierno. "Both can serve as food for bacterial growth." You can even pick up antibiotic-resistant bacteria, such as MRSA (methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus), just by trying on clothes, says Tierno.
Protect yourself: Always wear full-coverage underwear (no thongs!) when trying on clothes, especially pants, bathing suits, and any other garment that touches your genitals or rectum. Bandage cuts or scrapes before trying on clothes, as "open wounds can be a gateway to dangerous bacteria," Tierno says. And be sure to wash new clothes before you wear them.
7. Gadget shops While you're playing around on that new smartphone, you could be picking up germs from the thousand people who tested it out before you. "Most stores do clean their equipment," says Tierno, "but they certainly don't clean after each use."
A study published last year in the Journal of Applied Microbiology found that viruses easily transfer between glass surfaces (think iPad or smartphone faces) and fingertips. And a recent report found that of four iPads swabbed in two Apple stores located in New York City, one contained Staphylococcus aureus, the most common cause of staph infections, while another registered a bacteria associated with skin rash. That's not even counting the cold and flu germs that might be lurking.
Protect yourself: Before you try out the latest gizmo, quickly wipe it down with a disinfecting wipe. And (yes, once again) use a hand sanitizer after you're done.
8. Makeup samples Heading to the makeup counter? You might end up picking up a staph infection right along with the latest lipstick shade.
A 2005 study found that between 67% and 100% of makeup-counter testers were contaminated with bacteria, including staph, strep, and E. coli. "This study shows us that someone was sick or went to the bathroom, didn't wash their hands, and then stuck their finger in the sample," Tierno says.
Protect yourself: "Avoid using public makeup samples to apply cosmetics to your lips, eyes, or face," says Tierno, who suggests asking for a single-use unit (you open it, try it, and throw it away). If that's not available, use a tissue to wipe off the sample and then apply the product to the back of your hand.
The best line of defense: Buy then try. Returning stuff to the store may be a little more of a hassle, but it's a heck of a lot better than bringing home a nasty bug.
Q: How dirty is the pump of hand-sanitizing gel in my doctor’s office, at the gym, and in other public places?
A: Frankly, the part of the pump your finger touches is probably pretty nasty—but the hand sanitizer you’re pumping out should get rid of any germs. To be extra safe, use a tissue or pull down your shirt to press on the gel dispenser. Better yet, carry your own bottle, and use it often. And when in doubt, wash your hands with soap and water for 20 seconds. Overall, that simple move is the best way to keep your hands germ-free.
Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #5605 on: Nov 27th, 2011, 5:47pm »
"5. Toy stores Toy stores can actually be germier than play areas, carousels, and other kid-friendly zones, Tierno says, simply because of the way little ones behave there. "Kids lick toys, roll them on their heads, and rub them on their faces, and all that leaves a plethora of germs on the toys," he says. The goods their parents don't buy end up back on the shelves, where your kid finds them."
Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #5607 on: Nov 28th, 2011, 11:41am »
Heavy turnout as Egyptians go to the polls November 28, 2011 | 9:15 am
REPORTING FROM CAIRO -- Egyptians turned out in large numbers Monday in a historic vote to move beyond the legacy of Hosni Mubarak, even as the nation’s military rulers have defied days of violent protests by refusing to step aside.
The first round of voting for a new parliament was testament to the spirit of the uprising that brought down the former president in February. It was also a sign of how far the nation still is from realizing the promises of a revolution that called for democracy to replace a police state.
Despite long lines and delays at many polling stations, Egyptians were not deterred. Some were at once joyous and perplexed by all the candidates and choices before them. For decades many of them had ignored elections that were rigged by Mubarak’s ruling National Democratic Party.
“I’m here because I want a future for my children,” said Hanan Milad as soldiers guarded a polling station at the edge of a cement factory along the Nile. “The revolution inspired us. You can see people are poor here. We don’t know a lot about politics, but we have hope.”
A bit farther north on the Nile, Ahmed Amin, an engineer, waited to vote outside a school: “It’s a national duty that we vote today,” he said. “Our votes didn’t matter before. But we have to be here now. I will vote for the Islamists because they fear God and will choose the right people to reform Egypt.”
The first round of elections, which include races for a share of parliament’s 498 seats, continues Tuesday. Second and third rounds will be held in December and January. About 50 million people are eligible to vote in all three phases. But a full democratic government won’t be in place until the military steps down after a president is elected by the end of June.
Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #5608 on: Nov 28th, 2011, 11:44am »
Wired Danger Room
Army Wants Grenade ‘Bots to Fly, Spy, Then Kill By Katie Drummond November 28, 2011 | 12:00 pm Categories: Army and Marines
The military’s already got grenades that do plenty more than detonate: They can spray rubber pellets, obliterate underwater opponents and even, uh, be catapulted from the air in a tiny robocopter. But the next generation of grenade? Oh, no biggie, it’ll just navigate through the sky on-command, spy on our enemies… and then blow them all up.
At least, if the Army’s latest bright idea moves forward. In their new round of small business solicitations, top brass are asking for proposals that’d yield what amounts to a very deadly grenade-drone love child. Or, as the Army’s calling it, “A Hovering Tube-Launched Micromunition.”
Already, the Army’s made some impressive advances where grenade munitions are concerned. Just last year, they ordered up hundreds of “Men in Black” grenade launchers, capable of shooting “smart” grenades loaded with sensors and microchips that communicate with a guidance system. And of course, drone development is so hot right now. Used in surveillance for years, the unmanned vehicles are now getting loaded up with missiles — or, as the newly developed Switchblade Drone illustrates, turning into missiles themselves.
The Army’s grenade-of-tomorrow would be capable of being fired off from a launcher before it would “hover/loiter by using propulsion and glide” according to navigational instructions sent by on-the-ground operators. The loitering grenade would be able to maneuver itself for 10 minutes and up to 0.6 miles. Of course, the grenades wouldn’t just mosey around. Each one could “survey enemy targets by using a miniature day/night camera” and offer video feed and GPS coordinates to troops.
It’s easy to see how that kind of intel — taken inside compound walls, on the 12th floor of a building or anywhere else troops can’t readily, safely access — could be incredibly valuable. Not to mention that once soldiers have the info they need, the hovering grenade can make the ultimate sacrifice. The Army wants each one loaded with “a lethal payload” to blow whatever’s spied by the grenade’s cameras to smithereens. Sounds a lot like the Switchblade, which will offer surveillance and lethality in a “backpack sized” device, except presumably even smaller. At this rate, it’s only a matter of time before death-from-above shrinks enough to turn the Air Force’s adorable micro-aviary into an extremely deadly one.
Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #5609 on: Nov 28th, 2011, 11:46am »
Germany, France press coercive euro zone debt rules
By Stephen Brown and Jan Strupczewski BERLIN/BRUSSELS Mon Nov 28, 2011 12:37pm EST
BERLIN/BRUSSELS (Reuters) - Germany and France stepped up a drive on Monday for coercive powers to reject euro zone members' budgets that breach EU rules, as a market rout of European debt eased temporarily on hopes of outside help for Italy and Spain.
The OECD rich nations' economic think-tank said the European Central Bank should cut interest rates and abandon its reluctance to step up purchases of government bonds to restore confidence in the euro area, which now posed the main risk to the world economy.
The ECB shows no sign of doing so yet. It bought 8.5 billion euros ($11.3 billion) of euro zone government debt in the latest week, in line with its previous activity but well short of what economists say is necessary to turn market sentiment around.
In Brussels, finance ministers of the 17-nation currency area meeting on Tuesday are due to approve detailed arrangements for scaling up the European Financial Stability Facility rescue fund to help prevent contagion in bond markets, and release a vital aid lifeline for Greece.
The signs are the EFSF may not have enough clout, leaving the onus firmly on the ECB.
Berlin and Paris aim to outline proposals for a fiscal union before a European Union summit on December 9 increasingly seen by investors as possibly the last chance to avert a breakdown of the single currency area.
"We are working intensively for the creation of a Stability Union," the German Finance Ministry said in a statement. "That is what we want to secure through treaty changes, in which we propose that the budgets of member states must observe debt limits."
Moody's Investors Service warned that the rapid escalation of the euro zone sovereign debt and banking crisis threatened all European government bond ratings.
"While Moody's central scenario remains that the euro area will be preserved without further widespread defaults, even this 'positive' scenario carries very negative rating implications in the interim period," the ratings agency said in a report.
Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble acknowledged on Sunday that it may not be possible to get all 27 EU member states to back treaty amendments, saying agreement should be reached among the 17 euro zone members.
"That can be done very quickly," he told ARD television.
Sources familiar with the Franco-German negotiations said they were also exploring a deal among a smaller number of countries outside the EU treaty if necessary.
"SAVE THE EURO"
The leaders of two smaller euro zone countries, Finland and Luxembourg, voiced unease about the Franco-German plans because they appeared to bypass the European Commission, which is seen as a guarantor of equal treatment for all member states.
"We don't find this type of system good and I am not too sure if it will get wider support. The disadvantage of this proposal is that it would bypass the EU, the Commission would have a very small role," Finnish Prime Minister Jyrki Katainen told reporters.
Luxembourg Prime Minister Jean-Claude Juncker, who chairs euro zone finance ministers, also warned against looking for instruments outside the EU treaty.
In France, Agriculture Minister Bruno Le Maire said euro zone countries would have to give up some budget sovereignty to save the euro from hostile "speculators."
"We won't be able to save the euro if we don't accept that national budgets will have to be a bit more controlled than in the past," Le Maire told Europe 1 radio.
"We are in an economic war with a number of powerful speculators who have decided that the end of the euro is in their interest," he said.
Giving up any fiscal sovereignty is politically sensitive in France, which has a strong Gaullist, nationalist tradition.
Asked whether the Commission would be granted intrusive powers over national budgets in the euro zone, Le Maire said: "Why not? The French people have to realize what is at stake -- the preservation of our common currency and our sovereignty.
"What matters is that we ensure that budget discipline is respected within the euro zone. Otherwise the euro itself is threatened."
He acknowledged that France and Germany were still at odds over greater ECB intervention to rescue the euro but said: "We will have to find a compromise."
On financial markets, the euro regained ground after slipping below $1.33 in Asia and European shares jumped on hopes of fresh measures to fight the debt crisis. Italian, Spanish, French and Belgian bond yields fell, as did the cost of insuring those countries' debt against default.
But relief may be short-lived as the rally was partly due to an Italian newspaper report that the International Monetary Fund was in talks to lend Italy up to 600 billion euros -- more than its entire war chest -- which the IMF flatly denied.
The European Commission also said Italy had not asked for any amount of money and there were no discussions at European level on aid for Rome.
IMF inspectors are due in Rome this week to examine Italy's public finances after former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi agreed earlier this month to submit to regular monitoring of his promised austerity measures and economic reforms.
IMF TO THE RESCUE?
EU officials say some sort of IMF program could make sense for both Italy and Spain as part of a multi-pronged response, involving the ECB and the euro zone rescue fund, to supervise reforms and restore investor confidence in their debt.
Reuters reported exclusively last week that Spain's People's party, due to form a government by mid-December, is considering seeking IMF aid as one option for shoring up public finances.
In its world economic outlook, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development forecast growth in the euro area will slow -- under a baseline scenario of "muddling through" -- to 0.2 percent in 2012 from an estimated 1.6 percent in 2011.
Urging "a substantial relaxation of monetary conditions," the OECD said banks would need to be well capitalized and policies put in place for sovereigns to finance themselves at reasonable rates.
"This calls for rapid, credible and substantial increases in the capacity of the EFSF together with, or including, greater use of the ECB balance sheet," the OECD said.
OECD chief economist Pier Carlo Padoan said current plans to leverage the euro zone bailout fund were insufficient. Euro zone leaders planned to leverage the EFSF up to 1 trillion euros, but the fund's head said it is now unlikely to achieve that.
The fund has yet to attract the pledges it hoped to get from countries with sovereign wealth to invest and Germany refuses to countenance allowing it to draw upon ECB funds.
(Additional reporting by Leigh Thomas in Paris, Emelia Sithole-Matarise in London, Matthias Sobolewski in Berlin, Ian Chua in Singapore,; writing by Paul Taylor; editing by Philippa Fletcher/Mike Peacock)