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Friday, October 17, 2008

Centrosome misorientation reduces stem cell division during ageing

Jun Cheng1,5, Nezaket Türkel2,5,6, Nahid Hemati2,5, Margaret T. Fuller4, Alan J. Hunt1 & Yukiko M. Yamashita2,3

1. Department of Biomedical Engineering, Center for Ultrafast Optical Science
2. Life Sciences Institute, Center for Stem Cell Biology,
3. Department of Cell and Developmental Biology, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Michigan 48109, USA
4. Departments of Developmental Biology and Genetics, Stanford University, School of Medicine, Stanford, California 94305, USA
5. These authors contributed equally to this work.
6. Present address: Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre, Anatomy and Cell Biology Department, University of Melbourne, Melbourne, Victoria 3002, Australia.

Correspondence to: Yukiko M. Yamashita2,3 Correspondence and requests for materials should be addressed to Y.M.Y. (Email:

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Asymmetric division of adult stem cells generates one self-renewing stem cell and one differentiating cell, thereby maintaining tissue homeostasis. A decline in stem cell function has been proposed to contribute to tissue ageing, although the underlying mechanism is poorly understood. Here we show that changes in the stem cell orientation with respect to the niche during ageing contribute to the decline in spermatogenesis in the male germ line of Drosophila. Throughout the cell cycle, centrosomes in germline stem cells (GSCs) are oriented within their niche and this ensures asymmetric division. We found that GSCs containing misoriented centrosomes accumulate with age and that these GSCs are arrested or delayed in the cell cycle. The cell cycle arrest is transient, and GSCs appear to re-enter the cell cycle on correction of centrosome orientation. On the basis of these findings, we propose that cell cycle arrest associated with centrosome misorientation functions as a mechanism to ensure asymmetric stem cell division, and that the inability of stem cells to maintain correct orientation during ageing contributes to the decline in spermatogenesis. We also show that some of the misoriented GSCs probably originate from dedifferentiation of spermatogonia.

No more third time lucky

NIH clamps down on proposal resubmissions.

Heidi Ledford

The US National Institutes of Health (NIH) announced last week that biomedical researchers will be able to amend and resubmit a failed funding application only once. Applicants whose grants are unfunded after the second submission may reapply only after designing a new proposal.

New law threatens Italian research jobs

Scientists protest over government's cost cutting.

Emiliano Feresin & Alison Abbott

Nearly 2,000 Italian researchers will lose promised permanent positions under a law that is expected to come into force by the end of the year. They may have to leave public research altogether.

Computer circuit builds itself

Organic molecules organize themselves to form a bridge between electrodes.

Geoff Brumfiel
Flexible circuitsComputer circuits made from organic molecules could be used to build lightweight, flexible displays.ASSOCIATED PRESS

A team of European physicists has developed an integrated circuit that can build itself. The work, appearing in this week's Nature1, is an important step towards its ultimate goal — a self-assembling computer.

Today's computer chips are made by etching patterns onto semiconducting wafers using a combination of light and photosensitive chemicals. But the technique is being pushed to the limit as ever more processing power is being packed onto chips, requiring engineers to etch details just a few tens of nanometres across. So scientists are hunting for alternative ways to assemble even tinier chips.

“We dump it in a beaker with a solution of the molecules, we take it out, we wash it, and it works.”

Dago de Leeuw
Philips Research Laboratories, the Netherlands

Letting them build themselves is, in many ways, the most obvious solution, says Dago de Leeuw, a researcher at Philips Research Laboratories in Eindhoven, the Netherlands. "The nicest example is DNA," he says. Our genetic code provides a set of instructions that can be used to marshal molecules into an entire person, and researchers would like to come up with a similar set of compounds able to organize each other into circuits.

That's no small task. To make a circuit that is truly self-assembling, physicists would need to get insulators, conducting electrodes and semiconductor transistors to all link to each other automatically — something that is still a long way away, says de Leeuw.
Chip 'n dip

But his team has made an important step. They took a long organic molecule with mobile electrons, called quinquethiophene, that behaves like a semiconductor and attached it to a long carbon chain with a silicon group at the end, which acts an an anchor.

“Self-assembly and nanotechnology is certainly cool, but the one thing missing is higher performance.”

Hagen Klauk
Max Planck Institute for Solid State Research, Germany

The researchers then dunked a circuit board with preprinted electrodes into a solution of their new molecules. The molecules hooked on to an insulating layer between the electrodes, forming bridges from one electrode to the next. It took billions to make the connection, but they were tightly packed enough that a current could flow across them. "The different molecules are like little bricks," says Edsger Smits, another researcher at Philips. "Frankly it worked much better than we expected."

The team used the technique to construct a simple circuit that generates a code based on an input voltage. Although the system depends on the preprinted electrodes to act as a template, the circuit is truly self-assembling, says de Leeuw: "We dump it in a beaker with a solution of the molecules, we take it out, we wash it, and it works."

The new technique is impressive but still needs improvement, says Hagen Klauk, an electrical engineer at the Max Planck Institute for Solid State Research in Stuttgart, Germany. "Self-assembly and nanotechnology is certainly cool, but the one thing missing is higher performance," he says. The mobility of electrons through the circuit, he explains, means that the transistors would make for a very slow computer.

Klauk hopes that improving the characteristics of the molecules and tweaking the technique will eventually lead to self-assembling circuits that out-perform existing technologies, which use thick films of organic molecules.

For his part, de Leeuw says the next step will be figuring out a way to develop self-assembling electrodes. In the meantime, however, he says the group's circuits may already have a use. Because the bridge of molecules is very thin, it is extraordinarily sensitive to passing particles. The team believes that it could be used to develop sensors for different kinds of airborne material, such as pathogens or dangerous chemicals.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Flying The Anti-Porn Skies

Violet Blue wants to know, if airline Wi-Fi is censored, who wants it?

Getting ready for my latest flight out of SFO, I ran down my checklist of must-have carry-on items in my bag. For the long flight to Los Angeles, I'd need a 16 oz. bottle of Liquid Silk, latex gloves, my raincoat, my Vibrating Hugh Jackman Realistic Dong, a pack of ten C batteries, my trusty fur-lined leopard ankle cuffs, and a blindfold. The blindfold was for napping. Since my airline now sells in-flight Wi-Fi, I could add my laptop to the list, eschew all the DVDs I usually lug on the plane, and instead of watching "Penetration Impossible #4," I'd be flying the friendly skies crammed between my seat-mates and cruising the latest videos uploaded to After checking my e-mail, Twittering a complaint about the overpriced Wi-Fi, doing a guest blog post for Laughing Squid about the overpriced Wi-Fi and watching the Dow have another bipolar episode, of course.

I am a porn consumer. And from San Francisco, it's like a double-whammy of pervery; everyone knows we porn users just can't control ourselves. Thank goodness the airlines - despite having no complaints of porn being accessed over their new Wi-Fi services - are preemptively blocking and blacklisting Web sites. Otherwise, my flight would be a trip to hell in the skies for everyone sitting next to one of us porn watchers, because, you know, all that online porn consumption makes us into drooling lunatics who no longer know right from wrong.

At least that seems to be the logic when you peel back the layer of reason behind American Airlines' recent decision to reverse their originally stated no-filtering policy for in-flight Wi-Fi and announce that they'll be implementing "technology" to filter pornographic content over its Gogo Internet service. Seeing that on the Gogo Web site they also have Air Canada, Delta and Virgin Airlines listed as upcoming partners, we can expect to be nannied from here to Internet infinity so no one in the seats behind you have to tell you to turn down the volume on your VoD stream of "White Men Can't Hump." Which, if you've seen it, gives new meaning to the concept of "red eye flight."

Despite the fact that there haven't been any complaints thus far, the Association of Flight Attendants is hailing the decision they see as one less thing they have to police on board, and it makes sense - until you think about the fact that people can have and view porn on their computers even without access to the evil scary child-eating unfiltered Internet, or a European fashion magazine could have more exposed sexy nipples than and rubbed together. Or that someone might - gasp! - read a book. One with sexual or pornographic content. There are so few of those out there. At least we can rest easy on our "comfortable flight" safe in the knowledge that no one reads books anymore.

Poking holes in filtering Internet Wi-Fi access as a strategy to prevent in-flight inappropriateness is easy enough, but looking at the implementation of Wi-Fi censorware will make even the sweetest sexy librarian want to throw the book at the Association of Flight Attendants. Historically, filtered Internet access doesn't have a very good track record with subjects like sexual health Web sites (including the famously filtered breast cancer Web site kerfluffle), nor a healthy relationship with LGBT and sexual minority Web sites. And when you think that just last year Google's AdWords was putting sites with the reclaimed word "dyke" in the child porn bucket by accident, you're going to have a lot more incidents of air rage on your hands when the businessperson who just paid $12.95 plus fees for a few hours of access can't find the address of the non-porn business they're supposed to go to when they land. Or can't work remotely because their company's Web site (or blogging interface) is inexplicably blocked. Or, we just all get cranky because we can't visit our favorite entertainment blog because it once flashed a nipple or reported on an obscenity case, triggering the nannyware to auto-blacklist it.

Of course, the sensible thing to do would be to tell customers at point of purchase that they're getting only part of the Internet for their dollars (or one Euro), and provide a list of sites they won't be able to access before they click "submit payment." But then again, we're talking about an airline that just banned Internet phone service Skype for no real reason other than because it competed with airlines' own expensive in-flight phone services. Talk about nonconsensual power play; I guess that's great if your fetish is being a captive consumer.

It's not just the shady peepshow-style implementation of the Wi-Fi filtering that's got my airline dollars feeling a little shrinkage from the cold eye on my browsing habits; it's the people pimping the notion of filtering to the airlines in the first place. According to Wired, "Girls Against Porn lobbied American to install filters, urging the airline to consider the harm inappropriate content might have on passengers and citing a particularly disgusting incident that has resulted in a $200,000 lawsuit against American (Airlines). 'The airlines risk having this happen repeatedly if the Internet isn't filtered,' Girls Against Porn said in a statement." And the Texas Star-Telegram tells us that, "(...) several groups, including the conservative Christian group Focus on the Family, expressed concerns that children could be exposed to pornographic Web sites by adjacent passengers. Daniel Weiss, an analyst for media and sexuality at Focus on the Family Action, recently warned in a statement that "passengers who openly view porn where children can see it may be violating federal harmful-to-minor laws."

Never mind that the "particularly disgusting incident" where a male passenger masturbated into a female passenger's hair while she slept had absolutely nothing to do with porn. It's that because there was a sexual incident, and that sex is bad and shameful and porn is as evil as any sexual violation, that by its very nature these anti-porn groups can discredit anything sexual by nature of its very existence. Taking for granted the hurtful myths about porn consumption is the easiest way to masturbate in the dark all over any conversation regarding adult choices and consumer freedom.

Lest we forget that the point of filterware is to limit or prevent viewers from accessing anything the Wi-Fi provider considers objectionable and frequent subjects of content-control include not just sex and queer Web sites, but also topics considered "immoral", sites that discuss religion, health and politics and possibly more. This isn't a spam blocker, this is something that doesn't let you see what the authority doesn't want you to - or, whoever's pressuring them, such as the nightmare-inducing CP80 - backing anti-porn all-women-are-victims GAP or the notoriously tolerant Focus On The Family. FotF, who markets the lovely CYBERsitter filtering software that handily, blocks the National Organization for Women homepage (and any Yahoo Web search for "gay rights"). Filtering for moral or political reasons, much?

Yes, the airlines are businesses and we don't have to buy their crappy Wi-Fi. And maybe there's something inherently hot about being treated like a criminal for simply being a normal porn consumer, despite the fact that we prefer our porn behind closed doors and not while packed like cattle into overpriced seats. But next time I'm on Virgin America and I see the safety video with a two-second image of a bull sitting next to a matador, while the matador gets his seat belt figured out, and the bull is plainly reading a magazine with bright pink exposed udders on it - I really hope I can control myself. Because you know I'll have the Guy Ritchie blowup doll in my purse, ready for takeoff.

Web Video Marketing TV™ Opening Local Marketing Offices Nationwide

Channels Network TV announced today that they will begin opening local offices of their business video marketing division Web Video Marketing TV in major cities throughout the nation. The local offices of Web Video Marketing TV will provide all businesses and professionals with expert business video marketing and search optimization services that rank as among the best in the world.

Web Video Marketing TV has the unique expertise that can only come from being a subsidiary of Channels Network TV, a company with a history of e-commerce success, e-business success and superior search engine optimization and search marketing since 1995. Channels Network TV is the first to develop and launch the first of its’ kind video based network of websites that showcase every business and profession in the nation on Business Intros TV and Biz Intros TV business web portals, and niche video business portal that showcase attorneys, car dealers, internet car dealers, hotels, and restaurants nationwide.

Business web video marketing has quickly become the advertising and marketing medium of choice for all businesses, and business video directories are where all businesses and professionals need to post their videos for maximum web exposure. The viral nature of web video produces tremendous marketing results at a price far below any other advertising or marketing.

Web Video Marketing TV local offices will provide all area businesses and professionals with proven business web video marketing that will immediately put these businesses before the eyes of tens of thousands of unique visitors everyday. Because Web Video Marketing TV is the industry pioneer in business video marketing, only they can provide any business with video marketing success by illustrating their own search video marketing organic search positioning which often ranks number one, two, or three on the first page of natural search.

The Web Video Marketing TV offices will be owned and operated by local entrepreneurs who will also be the exclusive local sales agents for the many business video websites that make up Channels Video Network. The owners of the local Web Video Marketing TV will receive comprehensive training to prepare to provide the highest level of video marketing services. The local agency offices will operate in conjunction with Channels Video Network through an exclusive joint venture agreement where the local agent provides sales and customer service and Channels Video Network provides the web infrastructure, technical services, and all other aspects of web operations.

McCain caught in DMCA flap

YouTube denies special treatment to candidate

Written by Shaun Nichols in San Francisco

Video-sharing site YouTube has declined to give special treatment to Republican presidential candidate John McCain over digital millenium copyright act (DMCA) claims.

In an exchange of letters, the site and McCain's campaign staff engaged in a debate over the controversial law, which requires web sites to take down content which contains copyrighted material at the request of the copyright holder in order. McCain voted to approve the DMCA in 1998.

The issue surrounds campaign videos produced by McCain which contained clips from broadcasts by Fox News. The network contended that McCain was illegally using is copyrighted broadcasts in the advertisements and filed a DMCA claim to have the video clips removed from the internet.

McCain's campaign sent a letter to YouTube asking the site to allow the clips to remain online while it was determined whether the videos constituted fair use, a series of protections which allows individuals to use copyrighted clips under certain circumstances. Earlier this year, US courts decided that copyright holders had the responsibility to consider fair use before filing a DMCA takedown claim.

The campaign contended that because the clips were brief and non-commercial in nature, they fell under the protections of fair use and as such should not be removed. The letter also suggested that the site extend special protections to political campaigns which would allow for a more thorough review before clips could be removed due to a DMCA claim.

YouTube countered in a letter contending that if the site complied with the campaign's request, it could lose the DMCA protections which shield sites from lawsuits. The site also said that, given the amount of video uploads it receives on a regular basis, it could not make special concessions to isolate and protect campaign videos.

"The fact remains that we do not know who uploaded what content in user vid eos, who uploaded the videos or what authorization the uploader may or may not have to use that content," read the letter.

"Moreover, while we agree with you that the US presidential election-related content is invaluable and worthy of the highest level of protection, there is a lot of other content on our global site that our users find to be equally important, including political campaigns from around the world at all levels of government, human rights movements, and other important voices."

YouTube, PBS Ask Americans to "Video Your Vote"

Citizens to Document Their Voting Experiences From Polling Places

SAN BRUNO, CA and ARLINGTON, VA--(Marketwire - October 15, 2008) - YouTube, the leading online video community that allows people to discover, watch and share originally created videos, has partnered with PBS to empower American voters to upload their Election Day voting experiences to YouTube (

The initiative educates voters on the entire process and a wide array of issues associated with voting in America, while enabling the world to watch pivotal moments in this historic election as they unfold. In the first presidential election since YouTube's inception, this program aims to gather massive amounts of polling place video, with the Channel serving as an online library for Election Day footage.

"Voters have documented each step of the 2008 election on YouTube and this phenomenon will culminate on November 4 as people head to the polls to determine the forty-fourth President of the United States," said Steve Grove, YouTube's head of news and politics. "This partnership with PBS, an organization known for offering rich perspectives, will help voters examine all aspects of voting from the registration processes, to reforms, to technology and election administration, to the actual casting of ballots."

Starting today, registered United States voters can share their voting experiences via the Video Your Vote YouTube Channel. On November 4, the Channel will serve as the premier online destination for up-to-the-minute coverage from voters contributing videos straight from thousands of precincts across the country.

Some of the best videos will be showcased on PBS television, as part of The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer's Election Day broadcast. They may also be used throughout PBS' election coverage, both on-air and online. YouTube users are asked to tag all of their Election Day videos "videoyourvote". Events, for instance, that hinder the voting process should be tagged, "pollproblem". These videos, as well as those documenting the spectrum of the entire voting process, will be easy to find on the Channel and analysts from PBS' political team will then review some of them and offer commentary on how the election played out.

"This program takes the best of PBS and The NewsHour, our editorial reputation and broadcast reach, and combines it with YouTube's tremendous online video community to share polling place footage from Maine to California and everywhere in between for all to see," said Judy Woodruff, senior correspondent and political editor of The NewsHour With Jim Lehrer. "This is the YouTube election, and we're thrilled to be a part of it."

In addition, YouTube and PBS will distribute 1,000 Flip Video™ camcorders through Pure Digital Technologies, Inc.'s Flip Video Spotlight Program so that participating non-partisan nonprofit groups and local PBS stations across the country can also capture polling place activity.

"By providing a way for local-level voters to 'video your vote' YouTube, PBS and our local stations will empower thousands of people across the country to take an active -- and personal -- role in the democratic process," said Jason Seiken, senior vice president, PBS Interactive.

As Election Day excitement rises to a boil, people are encouraged to visit the Video Your Vote channel to view exclusive videos from:, Center for Governmental Studies, Citizen Media Law Project, Common Cause, HowCast, Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, People for the American Way Foundation, Rock the Vote, Video the Vote, Why Tuesday? and more.

Some states and counties have regulations against the use of recording equipment at polling places on Election Day. YouTube and PBS remind voters to please check with individual polling places on rules and regulations -- more information can be found on the Video Your Vote channel.

About YouTube

YouTube is the world's most popular online video community allowing millions of people to discover, watch and share originally created videos. YouTube provides a forum for people to connect, inform and inspire others across the globe and acts as a distribution platform for original content creators and advertisers large and small. YouTube, LLC is based in San Bruno, Calif., and is a subsidiary of Google Inc.

About PBS

PBS, with its 356 member stations, offers all Americans -- from every walk of life -- the opportunity to explore new ideas and new worlds through television and online content. Each week, PBS reaches more than 65 million people and invites them to experience the worlds of science, history, nature and public affairs; hear diverse viewpoints; and take front row seats to world-class drama and performances. PBS' broad array of programs has been consistently honored by the industry's most coveted award competitions. Teachers of children from pre-K through 12th grade turn to PBS for digital content and services that help bring classroom lessons to life. PBS' premier children's TV programming and Web site,, are parents' and teachers' most trusted partners in inspiring and nurturing curiosity and love of learning in children. More information about PBS is available at, one of the leading dot-org Web sites on the Internet.

Get unparalleled reporting and analysis from the full "PBS Vote 2008" election line-up, including programs like The Newshour With Jim Lehrer, Frontline, Now on PBS, Bill Moyers' Journal, Tavis Smiley and Washington Week, offering Americans a unique opportunity to explore the Presidential elections and make an informed vote. In addition,'s election hub page,, will provide further perspectives. The site aggregates video from PBS, features syndicatable content from across public media and highlights innovative Web-only projects from PBS producers and stations.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Health News

You can have love in every relationship and in every aspect of life. When you are upset, you lose your effectiveness and tend to make your situation worse.

( - Notice what happens when you get upset. You close down inside. You get tunnel vision and lose your ability to see clearly. All you can do is to fight, resist, hang on, or withdraw. This in turn, destroys love, fuels conflict, and makes your situation worse.

If you could somehow be free of the upset, the tunnel vision would disappear. You would see your situation clearly.

You would be creative, resourceful and able to discover solutions you could never have seen before. You would be very effective in handing your situation.

However, being free of an upset is much easier said than done. This is because we believe that upsets are caused by what happens, but they’re not. This is just an illusion.

Upsets are not caused by what happens. Upsets are caused by fighting and resisting what happens.

To see this in your life, select a recent upset. Now notice what would happen to the upset if, somehow, you were at peace with what happened. There would be no upset.

There would be no upset because the upset wasn't caused by what happened. The upset was caused by fighting and resisting what happened.

The moment you take away the fighting and resisting, the upset disappears. You restore both your peace of mind and your effectiveness.

Notice what would happen if someone spilled a glass of water on you. You would be wet, and you would be wet whether you liked it or not. Your being wet is like any other circumstance. It's something that happens outside of you. Your feelings about it are totally irrelevant.

Upsets, on the other hand, are located on the inside. Since an upset is something that happens on the inside, there has to be something on the inside that creates it.

We create our upsets by fighting and resisting what happens.

Let's go back to the water. If you were at peace with being wet, there would be no upset. If you fought being wet, you would be upset, and the more you fought it, the more upset you would be.

Notice that the upset has nothing to do with being wet. The upset can only exist if you are fighting being wet.

The same is true with all the circumstances of your life. Nothing has the power to create an upset in you. Only you can do that.

So why do we fight and resist what happens?

We fight what happens, because our circumstances trigger a suppressed hurt from the past. To say this another way, the circumstances strike a nerve.

This is why different people get upset at different things. Different people have different sets of nerves, or core issues, that get triggered.

This is also why the same type of upsets and the same self-sabotaging behavior keep showing up in your life. The same nerve keeps getting struck.

It's the automatic, subconscious avoidance of this hurt that fuels the conflict and sabotages both your relationships and your life.

Finding and healing these core issues is one of the most important things you can ever do. We’ll talk more about this later.

The information in these articles is valuable, but knowing it intellectually won’t change your life. Getting it in your heart will. That’s the purpose of our programs.

If you want to make a profound difference in your relationships, attend our workshops and make an appointment for individual support.

Feeling down? Take a dose of Nature's Prozac

From St John's Wort to a stroll in the park, there are plenty of ways to beat the blues and remain buoyant and healthy
Peta Bee

Financial struggles are the latest worry for a generation that is already overburdened with stress. Rising divorce rates, long working hours, relationship problems and a lack of time to relax are all contributing to a rise in mood problems. One person in five now suffers a mental health problem at some point in his or her life, says Mind, the mental health charity.

But how do you know whether you are simply down in the dumps or suffering from clinical depression? According to Paul Farmer, chief executive of Mind, if feeling blue lasts more than a couple of weeks you probably have mild to moderate depression, which affects 9 per cent of the population. So you should seek professional advice and make positive changes to your diet and exercise. If that doesn't work you may need medical treatment for chronic depression.

There is much that you can do to alleviate milder conditions and prevent them getting worse. Last week it was reported that the supplement St John's Wort is as effective as some antidepressants in lifting mood. “Getting outside, being active and talking are some measures that can be really beneficial,” says Farmer.


On bright, sunny autumn and winter days, make sure that you go outside. Warm or sunny, but not hot, weather has a positive impact on mental health, according to researchers at the University of Michigan. Dr Paul Keller, a social psychologist, found that the optimal temperature for a good mood was about 22C (72F) - about room temperature - with the good feeling decreasing if temperatures became significantly higher or lower.

“For pleasant weather to improve mood you need to spend at least 30 minutes outside,” Keller says. “It really does offer a way to alter your mindset.” If the next few months are dull and dark and your mood suffers as a result, then light therapy might help. A lack of daylight is thought to be the main cause of seasonal affective disorder (SAD), also called the winter blues. The condition is thought to be linked to the way light triggers messages to the part of the brain called the hypothalamus, which controls sleep, sex drive, appetite and mood. Ordinary electric light bulbs, which produce 200 to 500 units of light energy (lux) won't boost mood, but specially designed light boxes that emit about 10,000 lux from a fluorescent bulb are effective for those in front of them for at least 45 minutes a day.


“There is very good evidence that regular exercise is beneficial for people with depression,” says Paul Farmer, adding that Mind launched a major campaign called Get Moving last week. “Any exercise helps and people should do whatever makes them feel good.”

Physical activity need not be too strenuous to achieve results. A study by researchers at the University of Texas two years ago asked subjects with clinical depression to rest or walk at a gentle pace on a treadmill for half an hour. When their mood was tested afterwards both groups showed improvements, but the walkers had much more positive feelings of well-being and energy. Last year Dr Astrid Bjornebekk, of the Karolinska Institutet, Stockholm, revealed that exercise, particularly running, stimulates the production of new brain cells and has a similar effect to antidepressant drugs in depression.

Where your exercise takes place is also important. A report called Eco-therapy, which was conducted last year by Mind and experts from the department of biological sciences at the University of Essex, indicated that physical activity outdoors offers more of a mental boost than gym workouts. “We found there were significant benefits to being outside as opposed to an enclosed environment,” Farmer says. “Ninety-four per cent of people with depression said that Nature and exercise is most important in improving how they feel.” Kite flying, for instance, sent moods soaring with 71 per cent of subjects in the Eco-therapy study experiencing significant improvements in their depression.


Laughter has a powerful effect on depression and researchers recently revealed that even anticipating a laugh can lower stress hormones and boost mood. Dr Lee Berk, a researcher in physical therapy, and her team at the Loma Linda University, California, have indicated that levels of beta-endorphins, the family of chemicals that alleviate depression, went up by 27 per cent when subjects were asked to watch a comedy video. Levels of three stress hormones - cortisol, epinephrine and dopac - that can also affect mood and anxiety were reduced by up to 70 per cent. “By seeking out positive experiences that make us laugh we can do a lot to stay well,” Berk says. It is the theory on which “laughter yoga”, now practised in more than 40 countries including the UK, is based. Laughing releases feel-good hormones called endorphins into the body and laughter yoga is said to utilise this as a way of getting fit by stimulating the body. While there is no medical evidence that it works, more than 40,000 people claim that the activity has helped them.

Talking therapies are also proven to be effective. One study showed that cognitive behaviour therapy (CBT) was as effective as drugs in preventing the return of severe depression over time. Dr Steve Hollon, a psychologist at Vanderbilt University, Tennessee, indicated that the risk of relapse over 16 months was no higher, perhaps even lower, for patients receiving CBT than those taking antidepressants. If you can't find a counsellor, try computerised cognitive behaviour therapy (CCBT) online. A study by the City University, London, revealed that more than three people in five with mild depression could stop treatment after eight days of the online approach. Another, by Swedish researchers, found that computer therapy is as effective as face-to-face treatment for moderate to mild depression.


A lack of sleep will almost certainly leave you feeling tired, groggy and grumpy, but over time those feelings can escalate into depression. Young adults who took part in research at the Psychiatric University Hospital Zurich displayed far greater symptoms of depression if they suffered from insomnia. Up to 50 per cent of the subjects who experienced sleeplessness lasting two weeks or longer during their early twenties were more likely to get a depressive episode later in life.

“We used to think that insomnia was often just a symptom of depression,” says Dr Daniel Buysse, of the University of Pittsburgh. “But growing evidence suggests that it may actually precede depression. In other words, people who can't sleep but have no depression are at increased risk of later developing it.”

Dr Sara Mednick, a scientist and sleep expert at Harvard University, says that regular napping might help people to relax, reducing stress levels. “Even short sleep reduces stress and anxiety [both a result of rising levels of the hormone cortisol being produced by the adrenal glands] by triggering the release sleep hormones that act as an antidote to mood problems,” she says.

John Shneerson, director of Britain's largest sleep clinic at Papworth Hospital, Cambridge, says “a 15 to 20-minute siesta is enough to be refreshing without giving you grogginess afterwards” .


A study by Dr Klaus Linde, of the Centre for Complementary Medicine, Munich, suggested that St John's Wort (Hypericum perforatum) is as effective as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) such as Prozac for mild to moderate depression. In a review of 29 studies of the plant, which grows in hedgerows, Linde revealed that it was not only effective for many of the 5,489 depressed patients, but also that it had fewer side-effects than conventional drugs.

“Using a St John's Wort extract may be justified, but products vary considerably, so these results apply only to the preparations tested,” he says. Trials generally use preparations containing only a standard 0.3 per cent dose of the active ingredient hypericin. Capsules or tablets of 300- 450mg are regarded as optimal.

Other supplements may also help to alleviate the blues. Earlier this year, a report in the Archives of General Psychiatry journal showed that increasing vitamin D intake could protect the elderly against depression. Sunlight is the best supplier of vitamin D and a lack of exposure to it can lead to deficiency. As well as supplements, it can be found in margarine, fortified cereals, dairy products, egg yolk and oily fish. Dr Birgit Teucher, of the Institute of Food Research, Norwich, says that around 5mcg a day is recommended.

Food and drink can lift the spirits

Probably the best you can do when going through tough times is to stick, as much as you can, to a healthy, balanced diet. Make sure you get your five fruit and veg a day, eat wholegrain foods and skip the junk. Some psychologists believe that colours have a profound effect on our moods so eating colourful fruit and veg can all help to lift your mood. Dehydration can cause stress, headaches and irritably so also make sure you have plenty of fluids.

Peter Rogers, Professor of Psychology at Bristol University, is not convinced about the use of certain supplements as mood enhancers. “We've reviewed the data on omega-3 supplements. They may affect mood in people who are clinically deficient, but I'm less convinced that they have a general benefit.”

As for the B vitamin folate, which has had reports of improving low moods, Rogers says that this is an area in which needs more good, robust research.

Knowing that you are eating healthily will provide a variety of essential nutrients and help you to feel that you are doing your best for yourself.

World 'to fail' on nature target

By Richard Black
Environment correspondent, BBC News website, Barcelona

Endangered African gray crowned crane (Balearia regulorum)
Europe has made the most progress on curbing biodiversity loss

The world's governments will fail to meet their agreed target of curbing biodiversity loss by 2010, according to experts questioned by BBC News.

Nearly 200 countries signed up to the target in 2002.

Ten leading conservationists asked here at the World Conservation Congress were unanimous that the goal cannot be met.

All the global indicators of progress are heading in the wrong direction, and few governments have even translated the target into national legislation.

Not all the experts questioned would go on the record, and some said there was a reluctance to embarrass governments over their failures on the matter.

Others suggested the target was unachievable even at its inception six years ago.

Ahmed Djoghlaf, executive secretary of the UN Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), told BBC News that the 2010 target was achievable if governments acted urgently, but conceded that "all indicators are telling us it is unlikely".

Last week saw the publication of the Red List of Threatened Species, showing that between a quarter and a third of mammals are at risk of extinction.

It also saw the head of an EU-commissioned review into the economics of biodiversity loss say that degradation of forests worldwide cost the global economy more each year than the current banking crisis.

Measured approach

The CBD was agreed at the Rio Earth Summit in 1992, but not until 10 years afterwards did it acquire a firm, supposedly binding target - "to achieve by 2010 a significant reduction of the current rate of biodiversity loss at the global, regional and national level as a contribution to poverty alleviation and to the benefit of all life on Earth".

Virtually all of the trends that drive the loss of species and ecosystems are continuing at a global level

Georgina Mace, director of the Centre for Population Biology at Imperial College London, said that on the worldwide basis there was absolutely no chance of achieving it.

"We don't have many measures of biodiversity at a global level, but there are a few," she said.

"They measure things like the rate at which species are moving down the categories of threat on the Red List towards extinction, they measure average trends in various populations that have been measured over time, they measure trends on habitat change."

"And at global level, all those data that we have show either continuing downward rates of loss or maybe continuing rates of loss - so some of them aren't getting worse, some are just staying at the same rate of loss - but none of them are getting better," she added.

In addition, virtually all of the trends that drive the loss of species and ecosystems are continuing at a global level.

"The biodiversity convention doesn't deal with cross-cutting issues such as logging, road building, climate change, pollution and the expansion of agriculture," said Gordon Shepherd, director of global policy at the environmental group WWF.

"In reality the people who own decision-making in those areas, be they in governments or in business, have much more power than environment ministers, who don't have tools to get to grips with over-use [of natural resources] or over-consumption."

Endangered Grey-shanked douc langur
Some experts say the target set by the convention was too ambitious

Political paths

However, Sebastian Winkler from the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) said the time period from 2002 to 2010 was so short that we should not have expected to see any changes in the real world.

He suggested a different way of measuring the lack of progress - that only 16 governments have followed through on their commitment to integrate the 2010 target into national plans for tackling biodiversity loss.

Mr Winkler runs an IUCN initiative called Countdown 2010, which aims to engage stakeholders across the world such as local authorities and get them to commit to actions that could improve prospects in their own regions.

"Now the CDB is trying to use Countdown 2010 as a fig leaf for governments - we have 800 partners, they're each taking at least 10 actions, so that's 8,000 actions and that's what they hope to report back as progress," he said.

By March next year, governments must submit assessments of their own progress to the CBD, which will compile them into a global assessment.

Sweet dreams

Thomas Lovejoy, president of the Washington DC-based think-tank, the Heinz Center, said there were signs of progress in different corners of the world, citing Costa Rica and Bhutan among countries that were taking the issue seriously.

There's no longer a question whether there will be a sixth major extinction in Earth history. It's already happening, and the question is how big we'll allow it to get

Sebastian Winkler

"In 43 years we've gone from one protected forest in the Amazon to 40% of the area under some form of protection," he said.

"It's not enough to maintain the integrity of the ecosystem but it's a huge achievement."

Europe is the continent which has made most progress towards the target. According to one recent study, it is on course to curb biodiversity loss - but by 2050, rather than 2010.

Mr Djoghlaf said the 2010 initiative had at least put the issue of natural decline into the political and public spotlight.

"There is more and more increased awareness, people are ready to be engaged, business behaviour is changing, biodiversity is becoming a business case because businesses know the market of tomorrow is green, and they have to adapt," he said.

Most of the other leading figures I spoke to here about the issue were not willing to go on the record, although all said in private there was no chance of achieving the target.

Sebastian Winkler said it was important to keep governments engaged with the issue.

"Martin Luther King said 'I have a dream', not 'I have a nightmare'," he said.

"And if we always paint nightmares, we will not engage the international community."

But Mr Lovejoy suggested that at the level of species and ecosystems, the nightmare was already unfolding.

"There's no longer a question whether there will be a sixth major extinction in Earth history," he said.

"It's already happening, and the question is how big we'll allow it to get."

Friday, October 10, 2008

Birdseed by no means immune to economic uncertainty

Yikes! I bought two 40-pound bags of sunflower seeds last week, and each was $30 — on sale — $10 more than last year's price. My reaction to the cost was similar to how I feel when I go food shopping. Talk about sticker shock.

I don't know how that's going to affect you, but for those like me, who use at least 200 pounds a year at several feeders, it's going to lead to menu alterations.

The skyrocketing cost is not limited to the much-desired sunflower seeds; even the lowly wild-bird mix prices are rising.

Customers at Wild Birds Unlimited in Olympia are noticing the difference, and their questions have prompted the business to create a handout offering reasons for the cost increases (a 20-pound bag of black-oil sunflower at WBU is $18.99), according to sales associate Kathy Boston.

The increase is the result of several variables, including:

• Birdseed such as sunflower, safflower and millet are sold on the commodity markets just like corn and soybeans and are just as vulnerable to real and perceived factors that drive that market.

• Prices often fluctuate depending on good or bad harvests. There has been major crop damage in various regions around the world.

• Higher fuel prices have driven up the cost of shipping.

• The anti-trans-fat trend means that more foods are cooked in sunflower oil (example: Frito Lay potato chips) because the seeds are rich in polyunsaturated fatty acids.

• Because of the demand for biofuels, more acres of corn and other grains are being planted, squeezing out thousands of acres previously used for sunflowers.

All of this while birdwatchers' demand for birdseed is increasing.

Those hardest hit by these large increases will be older people on fixed incomes, people whose lives are enhanced by the world of birds at nearby feeders.

If you're looking for alternatives to seed feed, forget bread crumbs. It's not nutritional and will not supply the high-energy calories the birds need to stay warm.

Suet (high-energy animal fat) may be a cheaper alternative, depending on what happens to the suet prices.

Cheaper seeds usually mean mixtures, and much of that goes on the ground. Changing seed types also may mean a shift in species; sunflower seeds draw the greatest variety of birds to your feeder, in part because of its oil content, in part because the thin shells are easy to crack.

And there's no help from the Internet on this issue. I found a 50-pound bag for $23.67 but the shipping cost was $33.45.

So for birders, this is the season of our indecision on avian menus. A diet may be in the offing. It won't hurt the birds, but it might lessen our joy.

On the bookshelf

For the kids, consider Jim Arnosky's "Wild Tracks" ($15, Sterling, ages 4-8), a guide to nature's footprints with fold-out life-size prints of many animals. It's an excellent way for children to compare their feet or hands with the prints, and animal prints in relationship to other animals. The written information is in short blocks.

Susan Mitchell's "Kersplatypus" ($17, Sylvan Dell, ages 4-8) is an excellent introduction to Australia's platypus. One young one is lost; the other creatures try to help it find its niche — land, tree, water, sea — and in the process teach readers about animals' adaptations. The book comes with helpful information, pictures and activities in the back.

Binding kids' hands on airliner possibly assault, judge says

A judge said Friday enough evidence exists to move forward with charges for a man accused of binding the hands of a teenage girl and attempting to do the same to her sister during a Southwest Airlines flight.

The attorney for 29-year-old Ezra Wallace called the incident on a San Diego-to-Denver flight Aug. 1 distressing but said it was "horseplay," pointing to the lack of screaming from the girls.

Wallace faces two counts of assault.

Wallace is free on $5,000 bail. U.S. Magistrate Judge Kristen Mix on Friday outlined several conditions for his release, including ordering Wallace to refrain from alcohol and submit to breath tests and urinalysis.

In a written statement, Wallace said he had been drinking and "never harmed anybody or had any bad intentions."

Wallace and the two sisters, ages 9 and 16, were seated in the same row on the flight. Officials said Wallace did not know the girls or their brother, 10, who was seated behind them. The siblings were traveling without a parent.

In a preliminary hearing, FBI special agent Joel Nishida said Wallace tried to take pictures of the younger sister seated in the aisle seat but she covered her face. The girl was identified only as F.G.

During the flight, the older sister said Wallace took out some strips of white athletic tape from his backpack and used a figure eight pattern to tie her hands together with the tape.

When she asked him what he was doing, "he gave out a creepy laugh," Nishida testified.

The younger sister managed to free her sister, tearing the tape off using her teeth. Afterward, Wallace allegedly tried to tape the younger sister's hands to those of her older sibling. A flight attendant who saw what was happening then moved the two girls to a different row with their brother.

During cross examination by defense attorney Brian Leedy, Nishida acknowledged that there was no commotion, other passengers did not react, and that the flight attendant who moved the girls only said that he felt what they were doing was not appropriate.

Nishida said the investigation was prompted by an e-mail from the girls' mother three days after the flight, not a report from the airline.

Southwest Airlines spokeswoman Ashley Rogers said flight attendants are trained to spot threatening situations but added that passengers also need to alert them.

"The incident, while distressing, could also be defined as horseplay and the remedy taken on the plane treated it exactly as that," Leedy told the judge, arguing the charges should be dropped.

Nishida said Wallace told him he had half a pint of vodka, including two shots just before boarding the plane.

In a written statement read in court by Nishida, Wallace said he has a playful nature and that he vaguely remembers taping the girl's hands, adding that it was "all in good fun."

Investigators have said the two-month lag between the incident and the filing charges this week was because of "investigative work."

Wallace's next hearing is scheduled for Friday.

Stone Takes Control

By Lesley O'Toole

On Monday, Oliver Stone's hotly anticipated George Bush biopic, W, starring Josh Brolin as the beleaguered President and Thandie Newton as Condoleezza Rice, premiered to a Los Angeles audience. The celebrity-heavy, predictably partisan gathering (Jodie Foster, Barbra Streisand, Al Pacino) was billed quite particularly as a "special screening" by Lionsgate, distributor of the Oscar-winning Crash and producer of the Emmy-winning Mad Men. Verdicts at the (not a premiere) party were reportedly positive across the board. Domestic media - provincial newspapers, web sites and/or college newspapers - also made quietly appreciative noises when shown the film the next day.

But then it all began to unravel. "The film is a mess," said The Los Angeles Times; Variety branded it "unable to achieve any aims higher than as a sort of engaging pop-history pageant and amateur, if not inapt, psychological evaluation" while The Hollywood Reporter damned it with the faint praise, "it's a gutsy movie but not necessarily a good one". Ouch. At least they acknowledged that there was little of the proselytising they'd expected from Stone, famed still as the liberal beatnik who propagated wild conspiracy theories in 1991's JFK but gave Nixon a sympathetic ride in 1995.

Years ago Stone might have been angrier about his critics who seem unwilling to acknowledge his highly unconventional Hollywood feat: a film filmed, edited and released in less than a six-month span for about $30m (18m), less than the average major studio marketing budget per film. "I am never surprised. I've been humbled by this business for years. I got more money to make Nixon and JFK but that was in the mid-90s and here we are in 2008 and I'm getting quite considerably less money to make my third political movie. These are the rules of the game and I accept. But this is also my third political film where I have complete freedom. This is my vision, with my collaborators. I don't have a committee going, 'Oh well, you've got to change this'. Keeping my freedom was really crucial for me. No one interfered. That's very rare, that's the nature of this business. Political visions are tampered with. It was very hard to get this through and I'm proud of it."

Stone launched into W with something of a vengeance after his previous passion project, Pinkville - about My Lai, the 1968 Vietnam massacre and its subsequent cover-up and court martial, which was due to star Bruce Willis - fell apart at United Artists (then run by Tom Cruise and Paula Wagner). "They endured like superheroes, to fight to get the truth out," asserts Stone of the military personnel who agitated to apportion blame where it was due. It is a theme which apparently resonates with the new, softer, Stone whose third wife, Chong, and their 12-year-old daughter, Tara, were frequent visitors to the set. One of his sons from his second marriage, a smiley handsome teen, is the production's videographer and a family vibe prevails.

He insists that W has an audience despite the hostile barrage of "who cares?" blogs which have appeared as footnotes to some of the film's sneering reviews. "I do think people like him, especially in this part of the country, real bible-belt country. Bush is seen as a guy who's got the common touch. He garbles his words, he talks like one of them. He's not the brightest bulb on the block and people like that. They didn't like Gore, they didn't like Kerry. Bush has the touch. We've met. He's a great salesman."

Before our meeting this week, I called in to see the director at work on set last July. Stone was darting about his tiny Oval Office set resplendent in white plastic booties over his shoes, laughing, playful and defying his age (62, the same as Bush). "Yesterday was fun, today is hard work," he exhorts all on set during a protracted day shooting a cabinet meeting, which produced the now-infamous "axis of evil" soundbite. Two reviews at least have cited the scene as straight out of Saturday Night Live, the long-of-tooth American sketch comedy programme itself reinvigorated this season by the scorching return of ex-staffer Tina Fey as Sarah Palin. Yet no one has credited Oliver Stone as the maverick he actually is. I ask later if he always has this much fun on set. "All the time. I had a lot of fun on Natural Born Killers. I was laughing the whole time. I loved U-Turn. I laughed a lot on that."

Critics aside, what can British audiences expect of W? "Hopefully an entertaining interpretation of Bush done in a way that is original and fresh. People don't know that much about the guy. He is a Wizard of Oz. He's manufactured, he's pulling the curtain back. And we are being honest to what we have read. We read a lot and we feel that these things happened. We don't know the exact dialogue. We're taking 10 different interpretations of what happened. And at the end of the day our dialogue [by old Stone cohort and collaborator Stanley Weiser (Wall Street)] is better. We've made it better, sharpened the arguments."

But Stone is receiving few props Stateside for his tireless pursuit of veracity, attracting instead criticism for focusing - as he did on 2006's World Trade Center, his biggest hit in years - on the human rather than political spectrum. It seems he cannot win, having been castigated too for taking money from China [the film's other backers are American, French, German and Indian] when virtually none was forthcoming from his own country. The commercial success of World Trade Center, Stone insists, "didn't help me that much. I had as much of a fight on Bush as I would have had without that."

He is sanguine about his operating now in a sort of vacuum of mainstream Hollywood approbation. "Look, I hate to see 14 producers on a film [as listed on W]. I once saw a European film with 26. But unfortunately the studio desire to take a risk has diminished severely in the last 10 years; 10 years ago you could still get these kinds of pictures through. Now it's an independent world, another world."

W screens at the London Film Festival 23 October and opens 7 November

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Nature Notes: conkers, poplars, birches, plane, wild cherry, Gingko and willowherbs Derwent May

Conkers are falling in Paris, and the Lombardy poplars along the banks of the Seine are tinged with yellow. In the countryside outside Paris (which is not very far), the small silver birches beside the railway are bright yellow, but most of the woods are still quite green. Here in Britain, the changes of colour are also taking place very slowly. London plane trees are sprinkled with yellow leaves, and some hawthorn bushes with purple and pink. Wild cherry leaves are just starting to turn red. Wild cherry is a remarkable tree, with flowers like swags of snow weighing down the branches in spring for many weeks, and rich scarlet foliage lingering on the branches for just as long in autumn. Gingko trees are turning an ochreous yellow, and the fan-shaped leaves are now falling steadily. There are downy seeds floating in the air everywhere, detaching themselves from thistles and from all the common willowherbs — the rosebay willowherb, the broad-leaved and the great hairy.

Scientists explore new source of stem cells Using the testicular cells of adult men, researchers have grown muscle, nerve and other kinds of tissue.

By Karen Kaplan, Los Angeles Times Staff Writer

Scientists have converted cells from human testes into stem cells that grew into muscle, nerve cells and other kinds of tissue, according to a study published Wednesday in the online edition of Nature.

The stem cells offer another potential alternative to embryonic stem cells for researchers who aim to treat diseases such as diabetes and Parkinson's by replacing damaged or malfunctioning cells with custom-grown replacements. Scientists have also derived flexible adult stem cells from skin, amniotic fluid and menstrual blood.

The new cells were created from sperm-making cells obtained from testicular biopsies of 22 men. They are theoretically superior to traditional embryonic stem cells because they can be obtained directly from male patients and used to grow replacement tissues that their bodies won't reject, Sabine Conrad of the University of Tuebingen in Germany and her colleagues wrote.

The cells also have an ethical advantage in that they do not require the destruction of human embryos.

Experiments in mice suggested that reproductive cells -- also known as germ cells -- were good candidates for making stem cells because they naturally express low levels of the "pluripotency" genes that make embryonic stem cells so versatile, said Renee Reijo Pera, director of the Human Embryonic Stem Cell Research Center at Stanford University, who was not involved in the study.

The German researchers obtained biopsies from men between the ages of 17 and 81. They extracted the individual testicular cells and grew them in laboratory dishes. After about three weeks, some of the cells formed colonies that resembled embryonic stem cells, the team reported.

They found that the so-called germline stem cells grew nearly as fast as embryonic stem cells and produced many of the specialized protein markers that are associated with embryonic stem cells.

Cells from eight of the patients were injected into mice, where they grew into jumbles of tissue that included cartilage, muscle, nerve cells and other building blocks of glands and internal organs, according to the study.

"This would be a great way to produce pluripotent stem cells," said Kathrin Plath, a researcher at the Broad Center of Regenerative Medicine and Stem Cell Research at UCLA, who was not involved in the study.

But, she said, it remains to be seen whether the germline stem cells are able to form as many kinds of functional cells as embryonic stem cells.

Reijo Pera said germline stem cells do not have a completely blank slate like embryonic stem cells or the reprogrammed skin cells known as induced pluripotent stem cells.

"They have very clear signs of where they came from," she said.

The Nature Conservancy and Enfold Systems to Announce the Release of ConserveOnline to The Open Source Community at the Plone Conference 2008 in Wash

WASHINGTON, D.C., Oct 08, 2008 (BUSINESS WIRE) -- ConserveOnline, a free, public resource for the conservation community, enhances the effectiveness of global conservation efforts by fostering active collaboration among people working on common problems, and by promoting the free and open sharing of conservation information and knowledge. The Nature Conservancy announced plans to release the source code for ConserveOnline as open source under the terms of the GNU GPL license. Enfold Systems, Inc., the world's premier provider of Plone based content management systems ("CMS"), teamed with The Nature Conservancy to make real the vision of ConserveOnline. This informative and collaborative tool began as an internal resource for scientists at The Nature Conservancy in 2000. Now it is much, much more.
The Conservancy soon realized that simply sharing information internally was not sufficient to meet the organization's conservation goals. So in 2001, ConserveOnline became a means for sharing conservation information and experience with othersin the field and the general public. The first public version used commercial software, but this became prohibitively expensive and too inflexible for the changing needs of the conservation community, so they moved ConserveOnline to the open source CMS tool, Plone in 2004. They utilized an unmodified installation of Plone until 2006, when they received a grant from Oracle Corporation to redesign ConserveOnline from the ground up, which was completed in April, 2008.
ConserveOnline Benefits TNC and the Conservation Community
Conservation organizations like The Nature Conservancy realized that in order to reach their goals they needed to be much better at sharing relevant and useful information, both within their organizations and with the broader conservation community. The Conservancy and others joined together to create the Conservation Commons ( and to promote a set of principles for promoting free and open access to conservation information. ConserveOnline supports this crucial transformation in the way conservation organizations think about how they work.
ConserveOnline now has thousands of visitors from around the world each week, more than 6,000 registered users worldwide, and hundreds of those users have created workspaces on the site so they can be more effective at communicating about what they do and how well they are doing it.David Williams, GIS Program Manager, African Wildlife Foundation says, "The African Wildlife Foundation (AWF) is using two workspaces on ConserveOnline to support its conservation programs and share data collection protocols, training materials, maps, and GIS data with AWF staff and partners. The versatility of the site streamlines the workload of staff by making resources accessible from a single location with variable levels of access suited to different users."
The ease of usingConserveOnline means conservation staff in the field can find and share information quickly,so they can spend less time online and more time solving real conservation problems. The ability to find useful information online also means that more and more conservation scientists and practitioners are seeing the value in making their own data and expertise available to others, which is helping to shift the culture of conservation to one that is more open, transparent, and collaborative."ConserveOnline allows me to get out a lot of information to a wide audience.Not only is this convenient, but it also makes our conservation process more transparent.An added benefit is that I get more feedback from scientists and lay people alike. I think this strengthens the science we are doing on the Zumwalt Prairie," comments Rob Taylor, TNC ecologist at the Zumwalt Prairie Preserve, Oregon.
The Nature Conservancy had plans to use the tool to give back to the community of open source since inception. Having benefited from license free open source software, Plone CMS, The Nature Conservancy wanted all to benefit from the wonderful results of the project.
The Nature Conservancy is a leading conservation organization working around the world to protect ecologically important lands and waters for nature and people. To date, the Conservancy and its more than one million members have been responsible for the protection of more than 15 million acres in the United States and have helped preserve more than 102 million acres in Latin America, the Caribbean, Asia and the Pacific. Visit The Nature Conservancy on the Web at For more information contact Blythe Thomas, Associate Director, Media Relations,, (703) 841-8782 (703) 841-1283 (Fax).
Enfold Systems, Inc., the premier provider of open source content management systems, enables organizations to reuse existing infrastructure and manage information using open source software. Enfold delivers consulting services, hosting solutions and software products based on the Plone Content Management System (, tailored to meet the needs of business, government and non-profit organizations. For more information, go to or contact Enfold at 713-942-2377 x155 or

Economics seen bolstering case to protect nature

By Alister Doyle, Environment Correspondent

BARCELONA, Spain (Reuters) - Worsening damage to nature is jolting the world into doing more to protect animals and plants and new economic arguments will bolster the case for action, the head of a global conservation network said.

"We are really in trouble," Julia Marton-Lefevre, head of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), told Reuters on Wednesday after an IUCN "Red List" this week showed that a quarter of all mammals were threatened with extinction.

"The amount of loss we have been able to measure ... is really pretty frightening," she said during an Oct 5-14 IUCN congress, held once every four years, during which 8,000 delegates are looking for better ways to safeguard the planet.

The IUCN groups governments, conservation organizations and scientists.

"People really get it that we have less water, that the water we have is not usable, that we have fewer places to breathe. People are noticing that the environment we have been taking for granted all of a sudden is not really there or there in a smaller way," Marton-Lefevre said.

She said the Barcelona congress showed conservation was "no longer a sideshow." The meeting is drawing government ministers, leaders of businesses such as oil group Shell and miner Rio Tinto, and indigenous peoples from the Amazon.

The mood was "there's enough conviction now that there is a problem and we do have some solutions so let's get on with it," she said.

But economic arguments about the essential role of biodiversity -- for uses such as food, pharmaceuticals or building materials -- had not yet sunk in fully

"Maybe the economic message hasn't yet been made clear to people. Once they start counting, I think they'll see it pretty clearly," she said.

A report submitted to a U.N. biodiversity conference in May said mankind was causing 50 billion euros ($68 billion) of damage to the planet's land areas every year, with factors including pollution and deforestation.

High food prices highlighted the effect of loss of biodiversity, it said. The cumulative loss could amount to at least 7 percent of annual consumption by 2050, it said.

That meant conservation was a huge long-term challenge even if financial turmoil was now overshadowing threats to nature.

Marton-Lefevre said conservation was increasingly trying to "join the dots. It's not just the one species that you are in love with that the world is losing, but 'what does this mean?'.

She said the IUCN could help to offer solutions. "We have the instruments to protect some parts of the environment, protected areas or better species protection."

Some species have been brought back from the brink of extinction, for instance with captive breeding.


NASA's "Great Observatories" have teamed up with other telescopes on Earth and in space to produce glorious pictures showing how stars are born.

Astronomers believe the first generations of stars were crushed into existence as cosmic gas congealed into galaxies, and that's the focus of a clever study that draws upon the Hubble Space Telescope's view of a bizarre "Cosmic Eye." More recently, blasts of radiation and supernova winds are hammering out stars from clouds of gas and dust, as seen in a pair of pictures that incorporate data from the Spitzer Space Telescope.

Here's a quick guide to the latest fireworks displays from NASA's three Great Observatories: Hubble, Spitzer and the Chandra X-Ray Observatory:

Stellar work of art
The picture below shows NGC 346, a star-forming cloud that is 210,000 light-years away in the Small Magellanic Cloud, a satellite dwarf galaxy orbiting our own Milky Way. The carnival colors reflect a spectrum of light that is far wider than the human eye can perceive - and that's the secret to interpreting what's happening.

"NGC 346 is an astronomical zoo," Dimitrios Gouliermis of Germany's Max Planck Institute for Astronomy explained in today's image advisory. "When we combined data from various wavelengths, we were able to tease apart what's going in in different parts of the cloud."

NASA / JPL-Caltech / XMM / NTT / MPIA
This painterly portrait of a star-forming cloud called
NGC 346 combines imagery from several telescopes.
Click on the picture to see a bigger version.

Clouds of cold dust show up best in the infrared wavelengths that are Spitzer's specialty. In this picture, they show up as red blotches. The green areas represent glowing gas, as seen in visible wavelengths by the European Southern Observatory's New Technology Telescope. Even hotter gas has been detected in X-ray wavelengths by the European Space Agency's XMM-Newton space telescope, and that gas is portrayed as a blue haze.

Ordinary stars appear as blue spots with white centers, while young, dust-enshrouded stars appear as pinkish-red spots with white centers.

The bright area at the center of the picture represents a region that is being blasted with radiation from massive stars. The resulting shock waves are squeezing new stars into existence.

Higher up in the cloud and toward the left, you can see a bright spot surrounded by a bluish glow. The glow is actually created by winds given off by a supernova explosion 50,000 years ago. The bright spot isn't the star that blew up - it's actually a triple-team of stars shining through the winds. The supernova winds push against the cloud of gas and dust seen to the right, spawning infant stars (which look pretty in pink).

The results show that two mechanisms for star formation can be at work simultaneously in the same region. The international team's findings are due to be published in an upcoming issue of the Astrophysical Journal. Check the Spitzer Web site and this Caltech news release as well as the ESA Web site and the ESO Web site for further explanation.

Hidden star clusters
Scientists combined infrared observations from Spitzer with X-ray observations from Chandra to figure out how stars were being born inside clouds of dust so thick that you can't see them in visible light.

NASA / JPL-Caltech / CXO / CfA
RCW 108 is a region where stars are forming within
the Milky Way, about 4,000 light-years from Earth. Click on the picture to see a larger version.

RCW 108 is a star-forming region in our own Milky Way galaxy, 4,000 light-years from Earth in the southern constellation Ara. This picture of the region is a composite, with Spitzer's infrared view highlighted in red and orange and Chandra's view shown in blue.

Chandra identified hundreds of hot, massive stars that are giving off violent bursts of radiation, including members a large star cluster known as NGC 6193 that is visible on the left side of the image. Astronomers believe that the radiation given off by these hot stars is carving away at the thick clouds of dust and gas that Spitzer mapped in detail.

The blast of radiation appears to have sparked the birth of a new star cluster inside the knot of clouds near the center of the image. The stars themselves are so thickly shrouded that their X-ray emissions can't be seen.

Click on over to the Spitzer Web site and the Chandra Web site for more about RCW 108.

The Cosmic Eye
The last region in our star-forming trio is a galaxy far, far, far away - about 11 billion light-years away, in fact, close to the edge of the observable universe. In this week's issue of the journal Nature, astronomers from the U.S. and Britain describe how they got a closer view of the galaxy by using the Hubble Space Telescope plus a galactic gravitational lens.

"Gravity has effectively provided us with an additional zoom lens, enabling us to study this distant galaxy on scales approaching only a few hundred light years," Caltech's Dan Stark, the research team's leader, said in a statement from Durham University. "This is ten times finer sampling than previously."

NASA / ESA / STScI via Durham U.
A Hubble Space Telescope image shows the "Cosmic
Eye." The yellow source in the middle is the
foreground lensing galaxy, while the blue ring is the
lensed image of the background star-forming galaxy.

The "zoom lens" is a galaxy that is sitting smack-dab between us and the distant galaxy, 2.2 billion light-years away. Because of the alignment, and because of general relativity, the nearer galaxy's gravitational field bends and focuses light beams from the faraway source. That produces what's known as a partial Einstein ring, nicknamed "the Cosmic Eye."

Stark and his colleagues analyzed the spectral signature from that focused light, and found that there was a subtle redshift effect: One edge of the faraway galaxy is moving away from us, and the other is moving toward us. That led the researchers to conclude that the galaxy is in a whirl.

"For the first time we can see that a typical-sized young galaxy is spinning and slowly evolving into a spiral galaxy much like our own Milky Way," Stark said.

The researchers also factored in data from the Keck Observatory in Hawaii and the Plateau de Bure Interferometer in the French Alps. The interferometer's millimeter-wave instrument is sensitive to the distribution of cold gas that collapses to form stars.

"Remarkably, the cold gas traced by our millimeter observations shares the rotation shown by the young stars in the Keck observations," said study co-author Mark Swinbank of Durham University's Institute for Computational Cosmology. "The distribution of gas seen with our amazing resolution indicates we are witnessing the gradual buildup of a spiral disk with a central nuclear component."

The bottom line is that the far, faraway galaxy is apparently being formed from scratch, rather than through the collision of pre-existing galaxies. As all that cold primordial gas swirls together, it collapses gravitationally into a first generation of stars - a process that has not been seen in such detail before.

"Effectively, we are looking back in time to when the universe was in its very early stages," Swinbank said. "This technique of using gravitational lensing provides us with a glimpse of what we will commonly achieve when the next generation of telescopes, which are still a decade away, come online."

To get a preview of the Atacama Large Millimeter Array and other monster observatories, check out our interactive gallery of next-generation telescopes, as well as the Web sites for ALMA, the E-ELT and the TMT.

The NGC 346 study's authors include Gouliermis as well as Thomas Henning, Wolfgang Brandner, Eva Hennekemper and Felix Hormuth of the Max Planck Institute for Astronomy, and You-Hua Chu and Robert Gruendl of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. The "Cosmic Eye" study's authors include Stark and Swinbank as well as Richard Ellis and Johan Richard of Caltech, Simon Dye of Cardiff University and Ian Smail of Durham University.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

If we're lucky, we might see a banker

Welcome to another programme in our series Conservation Alert With Me, Prue Denim. As you know, the International Union for Conservation of Nature has just published a Red List of endangered species and we were going to devote the programme to the elephant shrew, or grey-faced sengi, as it is also named. Then we learnt of another species that faces even more imminent extinction - the whey-faced banker.

Elephant Shrew
The elephant shrew is vulnerable but not as endangered as the whey-faced banker

"I'm out here, just as dusk is falling, with my microphone and with naturalist Don Corduroy, who is an expert on this shy and timid creature. So, Don, what are the chances of catching a glimpse of a banker this evening?"

"Well, Prue, as you know, they are very timid and shy and inclined to panic at the least sight or sound. That is why we are both speaking in this special naturalist's whisper. This is certainly a good desolate area to look for them. They usually build their nests in tall glass structures, using large, shiny desks for protection. They feed on marble, mostly, and a kind of regurgitated coffee-like liquid."

"Why are they threatened with extinction?"

"Basically, it's a loss of habitat and a loss of confidence. A sudden drop in habitat prices caused an epidemic among them, known as portfolio tremens, or the jitters. We don't yet know if this disease can be passed on from bankers to humans.
# Read more from Oliver Pritchett
# Half of Europe's amphibians could be extinct by 2050

Bankers are gorgeous little creatures with big round, yearning eyes and sleek, stripy coats, but they faint at the slightest thing. I don't know if we'll spot any this evening. Just keep a sharp eye out for their droppings."

"Shhh, Don. What's that over there? There's something moving in the shadow, just outside the Pret a Manger. Do you see? Now it's scurrying along the street towards the traffic lights, dodging past the parking meter. Here, take a look through my binoculars."

"Yes, I see it now. No, that's just an economist. There are thousands of them around here. There's no danger of them dying out; in fact, they thrive in these conditions and they also breed like accountants. I know, Prue, let's just stand very still in this doorway for a few moments and we might hear the characteristic cry of a banker - it's a sort of well-bred whimper."

"Was that it? That swoopy hooting noise that goes on and on?"

"No, that's the alarm call of the Peston owl. That is likely to panic the whey-faced bankers and send them dashing to their burrows. That other cooing sound, which seems to be saying 'We're all doomed the noo', over and over again, is the Darling bird."

"What does the Darling bird do, Don?"

"It just flaps about, Prue."

"What can be done to save the banker from extinction?"

"The world needs to wake up before it's too late and establish a massive programme of reassurance. It may cost billions of pounds to build up their confidence again, but that is the only thing that will save them being wiped off the planet - which would be an absolute tragedy and a huge loss to our wildlife heritage.

Wait a minute, I think I heard one whimpering just then. Maybe if I rustle this £20 note it might just lure the little chap out into the open."

"To hear one is great, but to see it would be a real bonus."

"Don't say the word 'bonus', Prue. It upsets them dreadfully. Now it has probably gone back into its burrow."

"Well, it has been an absolutely fascinating evening, Don, and even though we didn't see a banker, I feel I've learnt a great deal more about its plight as an endangered species. Brrrr, I don't know about you, but I'm beginning to feel chilly in this economic climate and I think we ought to make tracks back to the studio for a nice mug of cocoa."

"Great idea, Prue."

"Oops, I just trod on something squelchy in the darkness."

"Nothing to worry about, Prue. Just the world's last surviving elephant shrew. Now, where's that cocoa?"


* No Related Post

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After Tonight

I look at you looking at me
Feels like a feeling meant to be
And as your body moves with mine
It’s iike I’m lifted out of time

And time again
Patientiy I’ve waited
For this moment to arrive

Chorus 1:
After tonight
Will you remember
How sweet and tenderly
You reached for me
And pulled me closer
After you go
Will you return to love me
After tonight begins to fade

I feel your touch caressing me
This feeling’s all l’ll ever need
With every kiss from your sweet lips
Lt’s like I’m drifting out of time

Alone will tell
If you feel the way I feel
When I look in your eyes

Chorus 2:
After tonight
Will you remember
How sweet and tenderly
You reached for me
And pulled-me closer
After you go
Will you return to love me
After the night becomes the day

And time and time again
So patiently I’ve waited
For this moment to arrive

Chorus 3:
After tonight
Will you remember
How sweet and tenderly
You reached for me
And pulled me closer
After you go
Baby will you return to love me
After the night becomes the day
After tonight begins to fade


Nature is mighty
Nature is strong
Nature is usually always right
Nature is rarely ever wrong
Nature is beauty
Nature is moody
Nature is smart
Nature always has the greater part
Nature is blue
Nature is green
Nature is every color possibly seen
Nature is true
Nature is beaming
Nature is dreaming
Nature is in every place
Nature is always with grace
Nature is true
Nature is you
Nature is me
Nature will forever be free.

Michael Carlson

Hot Topics - Redirecting magnetization for better memories

Scientists in Japan have opened the way to devices that could combine data processing with non-volatile memory — memory that retains its contents without a power supply.

Hard-disk drives and magnetic memory devices rely on processes that involve switching magnetization direction, a feat normally achieved by applying a current-generated magnetic field. As described in this week’s edition of Nature, the team of scientists has instead used an electric field to directly control the magnetization direction in a semiconductor.

Until now, using electric fields to manipulate magnetization in a semiconductor was possible only after resorting to mechanically generated strain, which is far from suitable for practical applications.

To achieve purely electrical control, Hideo Ohno from Tohoku University in Sendai, Japan, and his colleagues used a ferromagnetic semiconductor whose magnetic properties were coupled to its concentration of charge carriers. They were then able to manipulate the magnetic direction in response to an applied electric field that altered the carrier concentration.

Ohno and colleagues suggest that their findings could lead to “a totally new scheme of non-volatile device operation, without resorting to the use of a magnetic field, spin current or mechanical stress.”

Monday, October 6, 2008

Turtle cages on the Eco - friendly Cirali beach

Turtle cages on the Eco - friendly Cirali beach by canmom ( busy, busy ).
The Loggerhead Sea Turtle (Caretta caretta) is a sea turtle and the only member of the genus Caretta. The genus name "Caretta" is a latinization of the French "caret", meaning turtle, tortoise, or sea turtle[1]. A loggerhead sea turtle reportedly grows up to 800 lbs (364 kg) and 3.5 feet (1.1 m) long. Their shell color is a reddish brown color, and the color of their skin is brown yellow.

In the Mediterranean, Loggerheads mate from late March to early June. The female nesting season is at its peak in June and July, but this depends on the nesting beach. The clutch may vary from 70 to 150 eggs. Each egg is roughly the size and shape of a ping-pong ball. The average interval between nesting seasons is two to three years.