Friday, December 18, 2009

Scientists unlock genetic code in major cancer breakthrough.

From CNN:
The entire genetic codes of two common types of cancer have been cracked, according to scientists, who say the breakthrough could unlock a new era in the treatment of deadly diseases.

Scientists at the UK-based Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute catalogued the genetic maps of skin and lung cancer and have pinpointed the specific mutations within DNA that can lead to dangerous tumors.

Researchers predict these maps will offer patients a personalized treatment option that ranges from earlier detection to the types of medication used to treat cancer.

The genetic maps will also allow cancer researchers to study cells with defective DNA and produce more powerful drugs to fight the errors, according to the the study's scientists.

"The knowledge we extract over the next few years will have major implications for treatment," Peter Campbell from the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute said.

"By identifying all the cancer genes we will be able to develop new drugs that target the specific mutated genes and work out which patients will benefit from these novel treatments."

Drug money saved banks in global crisis.

Thanks JenK! From The Guardian:
Drugs money worth billions of dollars kept the financial system afloat at the height of the global crisis, the United Nations' drugs and crime tsar has told the Observer.

Antonio Maria Costa, head of the UN Office on Drugs and Crime, said he has seen evidence that the proceeds of organised crime were "the only liquid investment capital" available to some banks on the brink of collapse last year. He said that a majority of the $352bn (£216bn) of drugs profits was absorbed into the economic system as a result.

This will raise questions about crime's influence on the economic system at times of crisis. It will also prompt further examination of the banking sector as world leaders, including Barack Obama and Gordon Brown, call for new International Monetary Fund regulations. Speaking from his office in Vienna, Costa said evidence that illegal money was being absorbed into the financial system was first drawn to his attention by intelligence agencies and prosecutors around 18 months ago. "In many instances, the money from drugs was the only liquid investment capital. In the second half of 2008, liquidity was the banking system's main problem and hence liquid capital became an important factor," he said.

Some of the evidence put before his office indicated that gang money was used to save some banks from collapse when lending seized up, he said.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Tool-using octopus discovered.

From Huffington Post:
Australian scientists have discovered an octopus in Indonesia that collects coconut shells for shelter – unusually sophisticated behavior that the researchers believe is the first evidence of tool use in an invertebrate animal.

The scientists filmed the veined octopus, Amphioctopus marginatus, selecting halved coconut shells from the sea floor, emptying them out, carrying them under their bodies up to 65 feet (20 meters), and assembling two shells together to make a spherical hiding spot.

Julian Finn and Mark Norman of Museum Victoria in Melbourne observed the odd activity in four of the creatures during a series of dive trips to North Sulawesi and Bali in Indonesia between 1998 and 2008. Their findings were published Tuesday in the journal Current Biology.

"I was gobsmacked," said Finn, a research biologist at the museum who specializes in cephalopods. "I mean, I've seen a lot of octopuses hiding in shells, but I've never seen one that grabs it up and jogs across the sea floor. I was trying hard not to laugh."

Man who fought off violent burglar gets jail, while burglar goes free.

The UK is seriously messed up. From Daily Mail:
A millionaire businessman who fought back against a knife-wielding burglar was jailed for two-and-a-half years yesterday. But his attacker has been spared prison.

Munir Hussain, 53, and his family were tied up and told to lie on the floor by career criminal Waled Salem, who burst into his home with two other masked men.

Mr Hussain escaped and attacked Salem with a metal pole and a cricket bat. But yesterday it was the businessman who was starting a prison sentence for his 'very violent revenge'.

Jailing him, Judge John Reddihough said some members of the public would think that 56-year-old Salem 'deserved what happened to him' and that Mr Hussain 'should not have been prosecuted'.

But had he spared Mr Hussain jail, the judge said, the 'rule of law' would collapse.

He said: 'If persons were permitted to take the law into their own hands and inflict their own instant and violent punishment on an apprehended offender rather than letting the criminal justice system take its course, then the rule of law and our system of criminal justice, which are hallmarks of a civilised society, would collapse.'

Salem, who has previous convictions, has already been given a non-custodial sentence despite carrying out what the judge called a 'serious and wicked' attack.

Mr Hussain's nightmare began on September 3 last year when he, his wife, 18-year-old daughter and two sons aged 18 and 15 returned from their mosque during Ramadan to find three intruders in their home in High Wycombe, Buckinghamshire.

Rush snubbed.

Are you seriously telling me that Genesis is more deserving than Rush?! Seriously? Genesis? From ReadJunk:

Today, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Foundation announced ABBA, Genesis, Jimmy Cliff, The Hollies and The Stooges as its 2010 artist inductees. Also being inducted this year as individual recipients of the Ahmet Ertegun Award will be David Geffen and songwriters Barry Mann, Cynthia Weil, Elle Greenwich, Jeff Barry, Jesse Stone, Mort Shuman and Otis Blackwell. The ceremony will take place on March 15, 2010 at the Waldorf Astoria in New York City and will air live on Fuse, Madison Square Garden’s national music television network, as part of the three-year broadcast deal between the Foundation and Fuse.

“We are very happy to present this year’s inductees into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as they represent a great cross-section of artists that define the broad spectrum and history of rock and roll and people that have contributed immeasurably to our business” says Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Foundation President & CEO Joel Peresman.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Toyota ad called incestuous.

Car giant Toyota has pulled an advertisement slammed as incestuous, degrading and sexist.

The winning entry in the Toyota-sponsored Clever Film Comp has been yanked from the event site after an online backlash against sexual jokes including a father alluding that his daughter "can take a good pounding".

Dubbed "abuser-generated content", the clip features a young woman's boyfriend and father sharing innuendo about her losing her virginity with promises to "have her on her back" and being "ready to blow".

Iran puts three US hikers on trial for espionage.

Bill Clinton, do your thing! From BBC:
Iran is to put on trial three US citizens who crossed into Iran while hiking in Iraq, Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki has said.

He did not specify any charges but the three young American friends, who were detained in July, have been accused of entering Iran illegally.

Iranian officials have also alleged that Shane Bauer, Sarah Shourd and Josh Fattal were spying.

Their families say they were hiking and strayed across the border accidentally.

They say the spying allegations are "entirely at odds with the people Shane, Sarah and Josh are and with anything that Iran can have learned about them since they were detained".

The United States government has said there is "no evidence to support any charge whatsoever" and called for their release.

'Deliberate provocation'

Mr Mottaki told a news conference that "interrogation of the three Americans who have illegally entered Iran with suspicious aims is ongoing".

"They will be put on trial by the judiciary and rulings will be made," he said in comments broadcast on state television.

China tightens Central Asia hold with new gas link.

From Reuters:
China's President Hu Jintao opened a pipeline linking a gas field in Turkmenistan with his country's Xinjiang region on Monday, extending Beijing's reach into Central Asia's natural resources.

The leaders of Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan joined Hu at a remote spot near the Turkmen-Uzbek border to commission the 1,833-km (1,139-mile) pipeline that snakes across Central Asia through their countries.

The pipeline, starting near a Chinese-developed gas field in eastern Turkmenistan, is expected to reach full annual capacity of 40 billion cubic metres by 2012-13 and help Beijing propel its explosive economic growth.

In the windswept settlement of Saman-Tepe, festooned with Chinese and Central Asian flags, officials cheered and hugged after the four presidents symbolically turned the pipeline tap, injecting the first gas with a loud humming noise.

A nearby gas plant, its metal chimneys sparkling in the sun, was adorned with huge portraits of Hu and Central Asian leaders.

"We have to join forces at a time when the world is going through a difficult period," Hu said at the ceremony. "I hope we will be not only good neighbours but also reliable partners."

China's foray into Central Asia represents a challenge to Russia which still sees the Muslim region as part of its sphere of influence. It is also a worry for Europe, which sees the energy-rich region as an alternative new supplier of gas.

Critics: Atheist NC councilman "unworthy of seat."

How can someone possibly be able to legislate zoning laws if they don't believe in angels and talking snakes?? From FOX News:
RALEIGH, N.C. -- Asheville City Councilman Cecil Bothwell believes in ending the death penalty, conserving water and reforming government -- but he doesn't believe in God. His political opponents say that's a sin that makes him unworthy of serving in office, and they've got the North Carolina Constitution on their side.

Bothwell's detractors are threatening to take the city to court for swearing him in, even though the state's antiquated requirement that officeholders believe in God is unenforceable because it violates the U.S. Consititution.

"The question of whether or not God exists is not particularly interesting to me and it's certainly not relevant to public office," the recently elected 59-year-old said.

Raised a Presbyterian, Bothwell began questioning Christian beliefs at a young age and considered himself an atheist by the time he was 20. He's an active member of the Unitarian Universalist Church of Asheville and he still celebrates Christmas, often hanging ornaments on his Fishhook cactus.

Bothwell ran this fall on a platform that also included limiting the height of downtown buildings and saving trees in the city's core, views that appealed to voters in the liberal-leaning community at the foot of the Appalachian Mountains. When Bothwell was sworn into office on Monday, he used an alternative oath that doesn't require officials to swear on a Bible or reference "Almighty God."

That has riled conservative activists, who cite a little-noticed quirk in North Carolina's Constitution that disqualifies officeholders "who shall deny the being of Almighty God." The provision was included when the document was drafted in 1868 and wasn't revised when North Carolina amended its constitution in 1971. One foe, H.K. Edgerton, is threatening to file a lawsuit in state court against the city to challenge Bothwell's appointment.