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Google recognizes Palestine as 'independent nation'

NEW DELHI: Google seems to have recognized Palestine as an independent nation. The influential technology company last night changed the description of the area from 'Palestine Territories' to 'Palestine' on www.google.ps, a portal that serves Palestinian people. 

The notion of Palestinian state and its physical boundaries is a controversial topic. But it seems that the Google's move to term Palestine a nation is influenced by the developments in the United Nations (UN) last year. Despite the objections from "Israel" and the United States, the UN last year recognized Palestine as a "non-member observer state". India had voted in favor of the proposal in the UN General Assembly. 

Google, a multinational company, in the past has often punched above its weight on certain issues even though they have little to do with technology.

While Google complies with all the local laws across the world, the company, along with other technology firms like Twitter, is also vocal about what it perceives to be the rights of its users. It publishes data on the government requests it receives for removing content from its websites. 

In many cases, Google refuses to take down content if it feels the requests are not 'justified'. One such example was the controversial film "Innocence of Muslims" that was uploaded on the Youtube last year. Despite requests from several governments, including the US, the company refused to take it down. Though, it did censor the film in some countries.

Source: India everyday

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Scientists create bacteria that produce diesel

EXETER, United Kingdom -- A team of British scientists from Exeter University have developed a method which makes E.Coli bacteria produce a biofuel almost identical to diesel.

The discovery is considered of particular importance as the bacteria-produced diesel is a "drop-in" fuel, which requires no modification of existing engine technology in order to use it as a fuel.

Professor John Love from the University of Exeter's Biosciences department commented: "Producing a commercial biofuel that can be used without needing to modify vehicles has been the goal of this project from the outset."

Though an engine running off biodiesel will still create carbon dioxide emissions, Love said the E. Coli bacteria use carbon dioxide in the diesel-making process, leading to net-zero emissions.

Love warned against any speculation that he and his team may have discovered the magic bullet in synthetic fuel production.

"Our challenge is to increase the yield before we can go into any form of industrial production," Love said, describing that around 100 litres of bacteria would be required in order to produce just a teaspoon of diesel.

He said he hopes to implement a "pilot program" over the coming years to test the commercial viability of his new discovery.

Source: sciencedaily

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For Development in Brazil, Two Crops Are Better Than One

It's not just about agriculture. Growing two crops a year in the same field improves schools, helps advance public sanitation, raises median income, and creates jobs.

 New research finds that double cropping -- planting two crops in a field in the same year -- is associated with positive signs of economic development for rural Brazilians.

The research focused the state of MatoGrosso, the epicenter of an agricultural revolution that has made Brazil one of the world's top producers of soybeans, corn, cotton, and other staple crops. That Brazil has become an agricultural powerhouse over the last decade or so is clear. What has been less clear is who is reaping the economic rewards of that agricultural intensification -- average Brazilians or wealthy landowners and outside investors.

Leah VanWey, associate professor of sociology at Brown University and the study's lead author, says her results suggest at least one type of agricultural intensification -- double cropping -- is associated with development that improves well-being for average rural Brazilians.

Looking at agricultural and economic data from the last decade, VanWey found that in municípios (counties) where double cropping is common, GDP and median per capita income were both substantially higher. Double cropping was also associated with higher quality schools and better public sanitation. "We looked at two indicators of private goods and two indicators of public goods," VanWey said. "Overall, we find this really nice pattern of impacts on development associated with double cropping. These benefits seem to be widespread through the population."

Meanwhile, intensification to single-crop fields from pasture with low stocking rates was not associated with development gains, the research found. VanWey says that is probably because double cropping is more labor intensive, which creates jobs, and more lucrative, which creates more tax revenue that can be invested in public goods. That was evidenced by a case study of two counties within MatoGrosso that was part of this new research.

"The community with the most double cropping also has a soy processing plant that employs thousands of workers as well as complementary poultry and swine raising and processing," VanWey said. "In the long run there isn't much money in just growing things and selling them, but processing allows the local area and workers to retain more of the per-unit cost of the final product."

To understand how land use is associated with economic development, VanWey teamed with John Mustard, professor of geological sciences at Brown, and Stephanie Spera, Mustard's graduate student. Spera and Mustard used imaging from NASA's Terra satellite to track land use changes in MatoGrosso from 2000 to 2011. They captured satellite images of the region every 16 days for a year. They looked for peaks in the greenness of the fields followed by a rapid loss of greenness, indicating the ripening and subsequent harvesting of a crop. Two peaks in greenness in the same year is an indicator that a field is double-cropped. Spera and Mustard recorded images from 2000 to 2001, and again from 2010 to 2011, to see how usage had changed over the decade. They found substantial increases in both single- and double-cropped fields.

VanWey then matched those data to local economic data, with the help of Brown undergraduates Rebecca de Sa and Dan Mahr.

The research showed that intensification to single-crop fields from pasture had no effect on economic variables. Double cropping, however, was associated with strong gains. For example, where double cropping was common, median income was substantially higher. According to VanWey's calculations, median income for citizens of MatoGrosso would be decreased from 346 Brazilian reals per month (about $190) to 144 reals without the effects of double cropping. On the other hand, if all areas double cropped, monthly income would increase to 459 reals.

The positive association with public goods such as schools was strong as well. For that analysis, VanWey looked at a 10-point quality assessment scale used by the Brazilian government. She calculated that if all areas of MatoGrosso double cropped, scores on the assessment for public schools would increase from an average of 4.2 to 5.4.

The increases in measures of both personal wealth and public goods suggest widespread economic development associated with double cropping, VanWey concludes. However she's not yet ready to advocate for public policy steps like blanket subsidies for double cropping. More research needs to be done, she says, to find out why double cropping thrives in some places but not others.

She and her colleagues are working on those questions now.

 

Source: sciencedaily

 

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Scientists create protein 'superglue' from flesh-eating bacteria that could help detect cancer

The terms ‘flesh-eating bacteria’ and ‘good news’ do not normally go together, but a group of researchers from the University of Oxford believe they have engineered a protein from flesh-eating bacteria that acts as a molecular ‘superglue’ and could be used to help detect cancer cells.

Mark Howarth and his team genetically engineered the glue from a protein, FbaB, that helps Streptococcus pyogenes (S. pyogenes) bacteria infect cells. S. pyogenes is one of the microbes that can cause the rare necrotizing fasciitis, a soft tissue infection, in which the bacteria can cause gangrene, tissue death, systemic disease and toxic shock.

The team split FbaB into two parts, a larger protein and a smaller protein subunit, called a peptide. Using an abbreviation of S. pyogenes, the small peptide was named “Spy Tag” and the larger protein “Spy Catcher.” The gluing action occurs when Spy Tag and Spy Catcher meet.  The two quickly lock together by forming a strong chemical bond. Spy Catcher and Spy Tag can be attached to the millions of proteins in the human body and other living things, thus gluing proteins together.

Speaking at the 245th National Meeting & Exposition of the American Chemical Society in New Orleans Dr Howarth has  said: “We’ve turned the tables and put one kind of flesh-eating bacterium to good use. We have engineered one of its proteins into a molecular superglue that adheres so tightly that the set-up we used to measure the strength actually broke. It resists high and low temperatures, acids and other harsh conditions and seals quickly.

“With this material we can lock proteins together in ways that could underpin better diagnostic tests — for early detection of cancer cells circulating in the blood, for instance. There are many uses in research, such as probing how the forces inside cells change the biochemistry and affect health and disease.”

A future use of the technology would be to test for circulating tumor cells or CTCs, cells which tumors shed into the bloodstream where they act to help spread the cancer to other parts of the body. Detecting CTCs has the potential to help early diagnosis of cancer from samples of blood rather than by biopsies. Detection could also help in determining when new treatments are required to try and stop the cancer from spreading.

The system can glue proteins together at any point on the protein, allowing “many different ways to label proteins and gives us new approaches to assemble proteins together for diagnostic tests,” Dr Howarth said.

The research team are working with Isis Innovation, the University of Oxford’s technology transfer company, to find potential partners to bring the Spy system to the market.

Chris Stevenson

Source: The Independent

Khaled Falhoot

Tiny Wireless Device Shines Light On Mouse Brain, Generating Reward

Using a miniature electronic device implanted in the brain, scientists have tapped into the internal reward system of mice, prodding neurons to release dopamine, a chemical associated with pleasure.

The researchers, at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, developed tiny devices, containing light emitting diodes (LEDs) the size of individual neurons. The devices activate brain cells with light. The scientists report their findings April 12 in the journal Science.

"This strategy should allow us to identify and map brain circuits involved in complex behaviors related to sleep, depression, addiction and anxiety," says co-principal investigator Michael R. Bruchas, PhD, assistant professor of anesthesiology at Washington University. "Understanding which populations of neurons are involved in these complex behaviors may allow us to target specific brain cells that malfunction in depression, pain, addiction and other disorders."

For the study, Washington University neuroscientists teamed with engineers at the University of Illinois to design microscale (LED) devices thinner than a human hair. This was the first application of the devices in optogenetics, an area of neuroscience that uses light to stimulate targeted pathways in the brain. The scientists implanted them into the brains of mice that had been genetically engineered so that some of their brain cells could be activated and controlled with light.

"We used the LED devices to activate networks of brain cells that are influenced by the things you would find rewarding in life, like sex or chocolate," says co-first author Jordan G. McCall, a neuroscience graduate student in Washington University's Division of Biology and Biomedical Sciences. "When the brain cells were activated to release dopamine, the mice quickly learned to poke their noses through the hole even though they didn't receive any food as a reward. They also developed an associated preference for the area near the hole, and they tended to hang around that part of the maze."

The researchers believe the LED implants may be useful in other types of neuroscience studies or may even be applied to different organs. Related devices already are being used to stimulate peripheral nerves for pain management. Other devices with LEDs of multiple colors may be able to activate and control several neural circuits at once. In addition to the tiny LEDs, the devices also carry miniaturized sensors for detecting temperature and electrical activity within the brain.

Bruchas and his colleagues already have begun other studies of mice, using the LED devices to manipulate neural circuits that are involved in social behaviors. This could help scientists better understand what goes on in the brain in disorders such as depression and anxiety.

"We believe these devices will allow us to study complex stress and social interaction behaviors," Bruchas explains. "This technology enables us to map neural circuits with respect to things like stress and pain much more effectively."

Source: science magazine

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