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(CNN) -- Radiation from cell phones can possibly cause cancer, according to the World Health Organization. The agency now lists mobile phone use in the same "carcinogenic hazard" category as lead, engine exhaust and chloroform.
(CNN) -- Radiation from cell phones can possibly cause cancer, according to the World Health Organization. The agency now lists mobile phone use in the same "carcinogenic hazard" category as lead, engine exhaust and chloroform.
As Medvedev Fades Away, Russia Becomes a Major Issue
The G8 summit in Deauville, France last week was a forgettable event, and the series of bilateral high-level meetings on its margins added marginally to its insignificance; but the leaders of seven Western democracies had to acknowledge the fact that President Dmitry Medvedev was no longer a meaningful political figure. There were always questions about the limits of his authority as well as expectations that he would gradually grow into the job and steer Russia toward real modernization. He was a person they had been able to do business with, and Russia’s relations with the West indeed improved markedly from the low point in the fall of 2008. Medvedev could still play some useful supporting roles like trying to talk sense into Colonel Gaddafi, who is trapped in an unwinnable civil war (Kommersant, www.gazeta.ru, May 27). This mediation has a slim chance of success, and Medvedev’s hope for proving himself worthy of a second presidential term is even slimmer, which rekindles the major problem of Russia’s international behavior shaped by domestic stagnation.
Medvedev’s petty personality matters little for setting Russia’s trajectory, but he has become the figurehead for the elite groups that think about reforming the self-serving and utterly corrupt system of power—and also for proof of the futility of such wishful thinking. There could hardly be a better demonstration of Medvedev’s helplessness than the so-called “Khodorkovsky affair.” At his high-profile press-conference on May 18, Medvedev faced a question about whether Mikhail Khodorkovsky’s release from prison would constitute a “danger for society,” and supplied a curt answer: “It would constitute no danger whatsoever.” On the day of Medvedev’s departure to Deauville, the Moscow court announced its decision on the appeal on the blatantly false verdict in the second trial of Khodorkovsky and his partner Platon Lebedev: the court hypocritically reduced the sentence by one year (Novaya Gazeta, Moskovskiy Novosti, May 26). This has become Medvedev’s final failure in the test of his ability to ensure a modicum of independence for the courts and a beginning of protection against political persecution for entrepreneurs (www.gazeta.ru, May 26).
There is no secret in what Medvedev told his G8 counterparts about the forthcoming elections: his senior partner-in-power Prime Minister Vladimir Putin has definitely set his sights on securing a dominant majority for the obedient United Russia party, returning to the supreme office and scrapping the awkward construct of duumvirate. Toward this end, Putin has firmly dismissed Medvedev’s timid propositions about the benefits of political pluralism and ordered to form a broad-based Popular Front in order to prop up United Russia’s sagging popular support (Nezavisimaya Gazeta, May 27; Vedomosti, May 25). In order to simulate political competition, flamboyant billionaire Mikhail Prohorov was instructed to take charge of the liberal quasi-party Pravoe Delo. Yet, he knows better than to dodge the augustly whims that could cost him not only his reputation (Kommersant, www.grani.ru, May 27).
Nothing could possibly stand between Putin and his pre-planned electoral triumph, but this does not mean that one year from now he will be in a position to macro- and micro-manage Russia as he sees fit. Seeking to dispel the premonition of change with the message of stability and trickling-down prosperity, Putin is not blind to the consequences of slower economic growth, even if uninterrupted by a new contraction. He is aware that his pet business designs, including over-sized state corporations like Rostekhnologii managed by trusted lieutenants like Sergei Chemezov, cannot deliver on his new aim of high-tech reindustrialization (Vedomosti, May 11). It is entirely possible that Putin will start his new presidential term by executing some of the reform ideas, which Medvedev hesitantly ventured, including partial privatization—certainly into good hands (Nezavisimaya Gazeta, May 27).
Putin appears to be serious about moving away from the model of harvesting and distributing the oil rent, not only because of its vulnerability to oscillating prices, but also, as he asserted in one of his recent speeches, because “an economy driven by natural resources puts us on one of the lowest positions in the world division of labor.” He might even enact the long-discussed plan for splitting the almighty Gazprom into several parts, so that several producing companies will have no formal control over pipelines (Vedomosti, May 26; Kommersant, May 20).
This pseudo-liberalization and retro-modernization does not appeal to the falsely-loyal business elite, so the massive outflow of capital from Russia continues despite Putin’s expressed disapproval of this “unpatriotic” behavior (www.newsru.com, May 24). It means that the deceivingly smooth economic sailing in the election year will meet some seriously rough weather at the very start of Putin’s new presidency. He will have to choose between populist giveaways and rescue packages to “friendly” businesses, but at least there will be a prime minister to blame for the unforeseen hardships. Beautiful pictures of a prosperous future that are painted now by the court economists look more professional than the electoral platform of President Alyaksandr Lukashenka.
In fact, however, the economic recession in Russia is as predictable as the current deep crisis in Belarus was one year ago (www.gazeta.ru, May 25).
For the United States and the EU, the revolutionary situation in Belarus may look interesting, but an escalation of social tensions in Russia would be a matter of grave concern, not least because its foreign policy behavior could become erratic. Medvedev’s warning to President Barack Obama that the missile defense controversy could degenerate into a full-blown confrontation by 2020 might appear nonsensical, but what he is really saying is that the incompatibility of strategic aims is a matter of little import for him. Rather this incompatibility could easily become a casus quasi-belli for his successor. Putin has no doubt that Western leaders actually prefer his substance to Medvedev’s smiles and would show him all the due respect of the real leader of rising Russia. If he is shunned as just another self-appointed autocrat presiding over a crumbling economy, he will exploit every strategic vulnerability from Afghanistan to Libya and every disunity in the Euro-Atlantic-Pacific alliance in order to boost his own profile. Long spoons will be needed for the dinner table at the next G8 summit.
The previous week in Ukrainian politics was full of surprises, contradictions and missed opportunities.
First, the spat between EU integration and the Russian-proposed Customs Union was conclusively settled. The Ukrainian Parliament passed legislation "on the current state and prospects of development of economic relations with the EU and the customs union," which states that the completion of the political association and free trade talks with the EU is the top, short-term priority for Ukraine. As for the Customs Union, the document only advises the government to develop "cooperation" with the organization and its member states according to World Trade Organization (WTO) guidelines (www.rada.gov.ua May 19), Surprisingly, the Party of Regions and the opposition united, and both voted in favour of the EU vector, sending a clear signal back to Russia on what Ukrainian legislators (read oligarchs) wish - 289 out of 385 deputies voted in favour of the EU. This included all caucus fractions except the Communist Party, whose deputies abstained from voting. Clearly, self-interest trumps pro-Russian interests here.
Also, the Ukrainian General Prosecutor’s Office indicated that it is ready to drop all charges against Leonid Kuchma. Not a surprise - too many skeletons in various people's closets.
As gas talks between Ukraine and Russia get under way, the concessions Ukraine is ready to make to get a lower gas price remain unclear. Last year, the Russian Deputy Prime Minister, Igor Sechin, set the tone: "Ukraine can expect a discount on the price of gas, but it has to offer something in return." One possible scenario is that Ukraine will try to balance between threatening Russia with international court actions and making some economic concessions. But, since the negotiators, Ukrainian Fuel and Energy Minister Yuriy Boyko and Gazprom's Aleksey Miller, are not obliged to discuss the details, the public is not privy to the progress of talks. Thus, the agreement is likely to be reached via political and /or economic concessions or both. We may never know.
It is difficult to understand in these energy negotiations, why Ukraine needs to make concessions at all. In fact, Ukraine has more trump cards on the table than Russia does, but yet, it curiously refuses for some reason to use them. Besides, Ukraine has several months of gas stored in reserve and Gazprom can’t withhold gas indefinitely - it will go bankrupt. But, if Russia insists on blackmailing Ukraine and Europe with threats of future gas embargos, then Ukraine has the equal right to withhold its technology, intellectual property, or services, to Russia's gas transit industry. Ukraine has a number of "hard to replace" technologies that Russia desperately needs.
One example is Zaryamashproekt (http://eng.zmturbines.com/) - a former Soviet monopoly that designs and builds steam turbines for ships, and more importantly, turbines for compressor stations on trunk gas pipelines. They are a very critical component of all Russian gas pipelines - construction is impossible without them. Russian oligarchs such as Putin, Timchenko, and the Rottenberg Brothers all have direct financial interest in these pipeline projects ("South Stream", "Nord Stream", Sakhalin-Khabarovsk-Vladivostok, etc.), valued at around US $40 billion. So, Russia is trying to grab Zaryamashproekt, but Ukraine refuses to budge.
The Ivano-Frankivsk National Technical University of Oil and Gas was one of the best university-level educational institutions in the oil and gas sector in the former USSR. It continues to train operational specialists from numerous countries,including India, Pakistan, Jordan, Mongolia, Bulgaria, Vietnam, Israel, Poland, Russia, Belarus, Turkmenistan, Moldova and Lithuania. (See http://www.nung.edu.ua/about/index.html).
In the beginning of the 1990s, a Ukrainian newspaper outlined the "early days" of the Ukrainian gas industry in Western Ukraine - Drohobych, Dashava etc. This was before the Soviet Union depleted traditional fields and sent many Ukrainian oil and gas experts to Siberia to develop Russia's gas sector and start Gazprom. To this day, Ukrainians continue to service Russian gas production in Western Siberia. Upstream in the production cycle, all pipelines are designed by Yuzhniigiprogaz (see http://www.ungg.org/eng/index.html) (formerly Yuzh Trub Proekt), which has a controlling stake owned by Gazprom, but it's located in Donetsk. Ukraine could start to repatriate this expertise to develop its own internal gas industry, if it wanted to. A reverse brain drain, just as Russia plans to do with its intellectual ex-patriots.
Ukraine is making slow progress in diversifying away from dependence on Russian oil and gas. In November 2010, the Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources stated that Ukraine "enjoys the biggest supply of shale gas deposits in the world." However, the exact reserves were not specified. And, according to Energy Minister Yuriy Boyko, over the next 2 years, Ukraine plans to invest about $300 million into its existing gas fields to modernize and improve its own gas extraction efficiency. This will boost extraction by 1.2 billion cubic metres of natural gas, annually. However, very little is currently being done in Ukraine to develop new gas fields. (Den, May 26). Watch for more surprises in the coming weeks.
Identifying brain networks for specific mental states
Researchers at Stanford University have determined from brain-imaging data whether experimental subjects are recalling events of the day, singing silently to themselves, performing mental arithmetic, or merely relaxing.
In the study, subjects engaged in these mental activities at their own natural pace, rather than in a controlled, precisely timed fashion as is typically required in experiments involving fMRI. The team used uninterrupted scan periods ranging from 30 seconds to 10 minutes in length.
The team assembled images from each separate scan. Instead of comparing “on-task” images with “off-task” images to see which regions were active during a distinct brain state compared with when the brain wasn’t in that state, the researchers focused on which collections, or networks, of brain regions were active in concert with one another throughout a given state
The researchers found that distinct mental states can be distinguished based on unique patterns of activity in coordinated networks — brain regions that are synchronously communicating with one another.
The team is using this network approach to develop diagnostic tests for Alzheimer’s disease and other brain disorders in which network function is disrupted.
M. D. Greicius, et al., Decoding Subject-Driven Cognitive States with Whole-Brain Connectivity Patterns, Cerebral Cortex, 2011; DOI: 10.1093/cercor/bhr099 (in press)
MIT researchers have found a way to make complex composite materials whose attributes can be fine-tuned to give various desirable combinations of properties such as stiffness, strength, resistance to impacts, and energy dissipation.
The team combined two polymer materials with quite different properties: one that is glass-like, strong but brittle, and another that is rubber-like, not so strong, but tough and resilient. The result was a material that is stiff, strong, and tough, the researchers said.
The key feature of the new composites is a “co-continuous” structure of two different materials with very different properties, creating a material combining aspects of both. The co-continuous structure means that the two interleaved materials each form a kind of three-dimensional lattice whose pieces are fully connected to each other from side to side, front to back, and top to bottom.
The researchers said that the process can be used to make materials with “tunable” properties: for example, to allow certain frequencies of phonons (waves of heat or sound) to pass through while blocking others, with the selection of frequencies tuned through changes in mechanical pressure. It can also be used to make materials with shape-memory properties, which could be compressed and then spring back to a specific form.
Mary C. Boyce, et al., Co-Continuous Composite Materials for Stiffness, Strength, and Energy Dissipation, Advanced Materials, 2011; 23 (13): 1524 DOI: 10.1002/adma.201003956
[N.B....Vitaman D the Sunshine Vitamin....Coincidently cancer rates started to increase in the world as fewer and fewer people worked outdoors as farmers--higher cancer rates in northern climates then at the equator --wd]
Researchers at the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine and Creighton University School of Medicine in Omaha have reported that markedly higher intake of vitamin D is needed to reach blood levels that can prevent or markedly cut the incidence of breast cancer and several other major diseases than had been originally thought. The findings are published February 21 in the journal Anticancer Research
While these levels are higher than traditional intakes, they are largely in a range deemed safe for daily use in a December 2010 report from the National Academy of Sciences Institute of Medicine.
"We found that daily intakes of vitamin D by adults in the range of 4000-8000 IU are needed to maintain blood levels of vitamin D metabolites in the range needed to reduce by about half the risk of several diseases - breast cancer, colon cancer, multiple sclerosis, and type 1 diabetes," said Cedric Garland, DrPH, professor of family and preventive medicine at UC San Diego Moores Cancer Center. "I was surprised to find that the intakes required to maintain vitamin D status for disease prevention were so high – much higher than the minimal intake of vitamin D of 400 IU/day that was needed to defeat rickets in the 20th century."
"I was not surprised by this" said Robert P. Heaney, MD, of Creighton University, a distinguished biomedical scientist who has studied vitamin D need for several decades. "This result was what our dose-response studies predicted, but it took a study such as this, of people leading their everyday lives, to confirm it."
The study reports on a survey of several thousand volunteers who were taking vitamin D supplements in the dosage range from 1000 to 10,000 IU/day. Blood studies were conducted to determine the level of 25-vitamin D – the form in which almost all vitamin D circulates in the blood.
"Most scientists who are actively working with vitamin D now believe that 40 to 60 ng/ml is the appropriate target concentration of 25-vitamin D in the blood for preventing the major vitamin D-deficiency related diseases, and have joined in a letter on this topic," said Garland. "Unfortunately, according a recent National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, only 10 percent of the US population has levels in this range, mainly people who work outdoors."
Interest in larger doses was spurred in December of last year, when a National Academy of Sciences Institute of Medicine committee identified 4000 IU/day of vitamin D as safe for every day use by adults and children nine years and older, with intakes in the range of 1000-3000 IU/day for infants and children through age eight years old.
While the IOM committee states that 4000 IU/day is a safe dosage, the recommended minimum daily intake is only 600 IU/day.
"Now that the results of this study are in, it will become common for almost every adult to take 4000 IU/day," Garland said. "This is comfortably under the 10,000 IU/day that the IOM Committee Report considers as the lower limit of risk, and the benefits are substantial." He added that people who may have contraindications should discuss their vitamin D needs with their family doctor.
"Now is the time for virtually everyone to take more vitamin D to help prevent some major types of cancer, several other serious illnesses, and fractures," said Heaney.
Other co-authors of the article were Leo Baggerly, PhD, and Christine French.
People's moral responses to similar situations change as they age, according to a new study at the University of Chicago that combined brain scanning, eye-tracking and behavioral measures to understand how the brain responds to morally laden scenarios.
Both preschool children and adults distinguish between damage done either intentionally or accidently when assessing whether a perpetrator had done something wrong. Nonetheless, adults are much less likely than children to think someone should be punished for damaging an object, especially if the action was accidental, said study author Jean Decety, the Irving B. Harris Professor in Psychology and Psychiatry at the University of Chicago and a leading scholar on affective and social neuroscience.
The different responses correlate with the various stages of development, Decety said, as the brain becomes better equipped to make reasoned judgments and integrate an understanding of the mental states of others with the outcome of their actions. Negative emotions alert people to the moral nature of a situation by bringing on discomfort that can precede moral judgment, and such an emotional response is stronger in young children, he explained.
"This is the first study to examine brain and behavior relationships in response to moral and non-moral situations from a neurodevelopmental perspective," wrote Decety in the article, "The Contribution of Emotion and Cognition to Moral Sensitivity: A Neurodevelopmental Study," published in the journal Cerebral Cortex. The study provides strong evidence that moral reasoning involves a complex integration between affective and cognitive processes that gradually changes with age.
For the research, Decety and colleagues studied 127 participants, aged 4 to 36, who were shown short video clips while undergoing an fMRI scan. The team also measured changes in the dilation of the people's pupils as they watched the clips.
The participants watched a total of 96 clips that portrayed intentional harm, such as someone being shoved, and accidental harm, such as someone being struck accidentally, such as a golf player swinging a club. The clips also showed intentional damage to objects, such as a person kicking a bicycle tire, and accidental damage, such as a person knocking a teapot off the shelf.
Eye tracking in the scanner revealed that all of the participants, irrespective of their age, paid more attention to people being harmed and to objects being damaged than they did to the perpetrators. Additionally, an analysis of pupil size showed that "pupil dilation was significantly greater for intentional actions than accidental actions, and this difference was constant across age, and correlated with activity in the amygdala and anterior cingulate cortex," Decety said.
The study revealed that the extent of activation in different areas of the brain as participants were exposed to the morally laden videos changed with age. For young children, the amygdala, which is associated the generation of emotional responses to a social situation, was much more activated than it was in adults.
In contrast, adults' responses were highest in the dorsolateral and ventromedial prefrontal cortex — areas of the brain that allow people to reflect on the values linked to outcomes and actions.
In addition to viewing the video clips, participants were asked to determine, for instance, how mean was the perpetrator, and how much punishment should he receive for causing damage or injury. The responses showed a clear connection between moral judgments and the activation the team had observed in the brain.
"Whereas young children had a tendency to consider all the perpetrator malicious, irrespective of intention and targets (people and objects), as participants aged, they perceived the perpetrator as clearly less mean when carrying out an accidental action, and even more so when the target was an object," Decety said.
When recommending punishments, adults were more likely to make allowances for actions that were accidental, he said. The response showed that they had a better developed prefrontal cortex and stronger functional connectivity between this region and the amygdala than children. Adults were better equipped to make moral judgments. "In addition, the ratings of empathic sadness for the victim, which were strongest in young children, decreased gradually with age, and correlated with the activity in the insula and subgenual prefrontal cortex," which area areas associated with emotional behavior and automatic response to stresses, Decety said. Together, the results are consistent with the view that morality is instantiated by functionally integrating several distributed areas/networks.
The research was supported with a grant from the National Science Foundation. Joining Decety in writing the paper were Kalina Michalska, a postdoctoral scholar, and Katherine Kinzler, an assistant professor, both in the Department of Psychology.
Medicine and technology are converging at a faster pace than most people realize, says New Jersey Institute of Technology Professor Atam Dhawan, chair of the the IEEE emerging technology committee.
Here are the five “hot spots” of convergence identified by Professor Dhawan:
Point of care health care technologies — connecting patients with healthcare professionals via computers. This includes nursing engineering, health monitoring, e-health, and health care information management for disaster situations.
Optical imaging technologies — diagnosing and staging cancer, cardiovascular diseases, and other fibrotic diseases. This includes discovery and exploration of naturally existing molecular targets of diseases and the differences associated with the molecular targets between normal and diseased states, as well as diagnosis and treatment.
Bioelectronics, bio-nano-sensor technology, and neural engineering — increased knowledge of the nervous system, neurophysiology, and neurological disorders as well as the development of devices to interface with neural tissues.
Tissue engineering and regenerative medicine — the advent of stem cell-based therapies, regenerative medicine, and gene therapy.
Medical or bio-robots — nano, micro, and macro devices to assist in diagnosis, surgery, prosthetics, rehabilitation and personal assistance. This includes clinical, therapeutic, and surgical applications of medical robots with advanced instrumentation, sensors, actuators, and real-time systems.
Professor Dhawan prepared his comments as workshop chair for the upcoming 33rd IEEE Engineering in Medicine and Biology Society (EMBS) Annual International Conference.
Scientists from the University of Warwick have discovered why a newly found form of cholesterol seems to be 'ultra-bad', leading to increased risk of heart disease. The discovery could lead to new treatments to prevent heart disease particularly in people with type 2 diabetes and the elderly.
The research, funded by the British Heart Foundation (BHF), found that 'ultrabad' cholesterol, called MGmin-low-density lipoprotein (LDL), which is more common in people with type 2 diabetes and the elderly, appears to be 'stickier' than normal LDL. This makes it more likely to attach to the walls of arteries. When LDL attaches to artery walls it helps form the dangerous 'fatty' plaques' that cause coronary heart disease (CHD).
CHD is the condition behind heart attacks, claiming 88,000 lives in the UK every year (1).
The researchers made the discovery by creating human MGmin-LDL in the laboratory, then studying its characteristics and interactions with other important molecules in the body.
They found that MGmin-LDL is created by the addition of sugar groups to 'normal' LDL – a process called glycation – making LDL smaller and denser. By changing its shape, the sugar groups expose new regions on the surface of the LDL. These exposed regions are more likely to stick to artery walls, helping to build fatty plaques. As fatty plaques grow they narrow arteries - reducing blood flow - and they can eventually rupture, triggering a blood clot that causes a heart attack or stroke.
The discovery might also explain why metformin, a widely prescribed type 2 diabetes drug, seems to lead to reduced heart disease risk. Metformin is known to lower blood sugar levels, and this new research shows it may reduce the risk of CHD by blocking the transformation of normal LDL to the more 'sticky' MGmin-LDL.
Dr Naila Rabbani, Associate Professor of Experimental Systems Biology at Warwick Medical School, who led the study, said:
"We're excited to see our research leading to a greater understanding of this type of cholesterol, which seems to contribute to heart disease in diabetics and elderly people. Type 2 diabetes is a big issue – of the 2.6 million diabetics in the UK, around 90 per cent have type 2. It's also particularly common in lower income groups and South Asian communities. (2, 3)
"The next challenge is to tackle this more dangerous type of cholesterol with treatments that could help neutralise its harmful effects on patients' arteries."
Dr Shannon Amoils, Research Advisor at the BHF, which funded the study, said:
"We've known for a long time that people with diabetes are at greater risk of heart attack and stroke. There is still more work to be done to untangle why this is the case, but this study is an important step in the right direction.
"This study shows how the make-up and the shape of a type of LDL cholesterol found in diabetics could make it more harmful than other types of LDL. The findings provide one possible explanation for the increased risk of coronary heart disease in people with diabetes.
"Understanding exactly how 'ultrabad' LDL damages arteries is crucial, as this knowledge could help develop new anti-cholesterol treatments for patients."
The research was published in the journal Diabetes.