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Wednesday Morning News

Good Morning Conflucians!!!

OK, let’s get right to it. What the heck is going on out there.

Here’s a fun one, scientists have figured out they can use ultrasound as a male contraceptive:

Lead researcher Dr James Tsuruta said: “We think this could provide men with up to six months of reliable, low-cost, non-hormonal contraception from a single round of treatment.

“Our long-term goal is to use ultrasound from therapeutic instruments that are commonly found in sports medicine or physical therapy clinics as an inexpensive, long-term, reversible male contraceptive suitable for use in developing to first world countries.”

Once the testis has stopped producing sperm and all “sperm reserves” have been depleted, explain the researchers, the man will be temporarily infertile.

I’m just trying to think of product names for this one. Hey, lady, why are you singing to my balls. Too early? I can never tell about these jokes.

If you’re using a Kindle or a Kindle App, Amazon is uploading and analyzing your bookmarks and notes:

There have already been plenty of questions over who “owns” the ebooks you’ve bought, with stories of remotely deactivated books and remotely deactivated features — neither of which happens when you have a real physical book. But there are also other concerns opened up by newly activated features. Apparently one new feature — sent in by a few concerned readers — is that Amazon will now remotely upload and store the user notes and highlights you take on your Kindle, which it then compiles into “popular highlights.”

Nope you’re not paranoid, they really are watching you.

Some interesting progress has been made in extracting hydrogen from water:

Artificial photosynthesis may soon be a reality – splitting water into hydrogen and oxygen. You only have to look as far as your garden to observe one of the most common chemical reactions in nature at work pulling apart water molecules (H2O) and splitting them into carbohydrates and oxygen (O2).  Nature provides the template for this process using the energy from sunlight to fuel the reaction.

Taking their clues from nature, they engineered a novel alternative to this process, as described in a recently published research paper in Nature Nanotechnology. The team decided to alter the common, harmless M13 bacterial virus so that it would attract and bind with molecules of a iridium oxide catalyst and the biological pigment zinc porphyrins. The viruses were used as wire-like devices to split the oxygen from water molecules. Thomas Mallouk, the DuPont Professor of Materials Chemistry and Physics at Pennsylvania State University, is quoted as saying that he finds the research “…an extremely clever piece of work that addresses one of the most difficult problems in artificial photosynthesis, namely, the nanoscale organization of the components in order to control electron transfer rates.”

It’s always nice to see some progress in these areas as we’re depressed about our current situation of a continuation of Dubya and this version’s very own Katrina.

Get ready, soon you’ll be able to get genetic test kits over the counter. Walgreens is preparing to sell one. But the FDA might be putting some breaks on the deal:

Walgreens is slated to become the first bricks-and-mortar retailer to sell genetic-testing kits that can tell people whether they’re likely to get breast cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, become obese or suffer from a range of other maladies.

But the announcement has prompted U.S. Food and Drug Administration to consider issuing the test manufacturer, Pathway Genomics of San Diego, a warning that Pathway must first obtain the FDA’s approval. Ultimately, the FDA could move to take the tests off the shelves, said FDA spokeswoman Karen Riley.

The FDA has never exercised its authority to approve genetic test kits because the kits have historically been used by doctors and other health-care professionals, and such tests conducted solely within labs are certified by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

Riley said Pathway Genomics overstepped its bounds when it announced its plans to market the tests directly to the consumer at 6,000 of Walgreen’s 7,500 stores, and allow consumers to take their own saliva samples to return to the lab. Pathway also is promoting the tests’ role in helping people decide drug dosing and other treatments, Riley said.

The FDA wants Pathway Genomics to submit data showing that its tests give accurate results, Riley said.

Will they tell you what percentage of Neanderthal you are is my main question. In case you missed it, apparently some of us are part Neanderthal:

Scientists say they have recovered 60 percent of the genome so far and hope to complete it. By comparing that genome with those of various present day humans, the team concluded that about 1 percent to 4 percent of the genome of non-Africans today is derived from Neanderthals. But the Neanderthal DNA does not seem to have played a great role in human evolution, they said.

Experts believe that the Neanderthal genome sequence will be of extraordinary importance in understanding human evolutionary history since the two species split some 600,000 years ago.

So far, the team has identified only about 100 genes — surprisingly few — that have contributed to the evolution of modern humans since the split. The nature of the genes in humans that differ from those of Neanderthals is of particular interest because they bear on what it means to be human, or at least not Neanderthal. Some of the genes seem to be involved in cognitive function and others in bone structure.

I’m waiting for the first neanderthal defense in court. You know it’s coming.

In a completely unrelated but will provide me with a lame joke at the end story, DNA could be used in logic chips in the future:

In his latest set of experiments, Chris Dwyer, assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering at Duke’s Pratt School of Engineering, demonstrated that by simply mixing customized snippets of DNA and other molecules, he could create literally billions of identical, tiny, waffle-looking structures.

Dwyer has shown that these nanostructures will efficiently self-assemble, and when different light-sensitive molecules are added to the mixture, the waffles exhibit unique and “programmable” properties that can be readily tapped. Using light to excite these molecules, known as chromophores, he can create simple logic gates, or switches.

These nanostructures can then be used as the building blocks for a variety of applications, ranging from the biomedical to the computational.

OK, this all well and good. But will the neanderthal percentage cause the computer chip reach up and hit us with a club. Groan.

And now for some political news (oh, do we have too…). UK has a PM:

Britain’s Conservatives and their new partners, the center-left Liberal Democrats, turned to the job of building a new government on Wednesday morning, a day after they agreed to an alliance that swept the Labour Party out of power and formed Britain’s first coalition government since World War II.

David Cameron, the Conservative leader and new prime minister, and his newly appointed deputy prime minister, the Liberal Democratic leader Nick Clegg, held their first joint news conference to address how they would govern Britain and tackle its huge deficit, national defense and a range of other issues.

Hey look, the UK has a crazy conservative as head of state just like we do. Only ours pretends he’s not. The coalition will be interesting to watch.

A Democratic incumbent just lost in WV:

Rep. Alan B. Mollohan (D-W.Va.) lost his bid for a 15th term Tuesday in a primary defeat that further affirms the anti-incumbent sentiment coursing through the country.

He is the first House member to lose a reelection bid in the 2010 campaign, and his defeat comes days after Sen. Robert F. Bennett (R-Utah) was knocked off the November ballot in that state’s convention process.

I think Arlen Spector just soiled his panties. Not just because of that race, but because of this poll:

One of this year’s most compelling races — the Pennsylvania Democratic primary election — remains too close to call with less than a week to go before voters head to the polls, according to a Quinnipiac University poll released today.

Rep. Joe Sestak, who is running to unseat incumbent Sen. Arlen Specter, now trails 44% to 42% among likely Democratic voters, according to the poll. With the May 18 primary days away, 14% of Democrats remain undecided and 29% said they could change their mind.

The race has narrowed from a 53% to 32% advantage for Specter in April and a 47% to 39% advantage for the incumbent in a May 4 Quinnipiac poll.

Chickens and roost and all that. Don’t look here for sympathy incumbents.

But lucky for us, Michelle Obama is going to end childhood obesity (just say no more):

Spearheaded by Michelle Obama, a new presidential initiative would reverse the child obesity epidemic.

The goal, as set out in a report from the White House Task Force on Childhood Obesity, is to reduce childhood obesity from 20% to 5% by 2030.

To accomplish this, the plan makes 70 recommendations for early childhood, for parents and caregivers, for school meals and nutrition education, for access to healthy food, and for increasing physical activity.

“For the first time, the nation will have goals, benchmarks, and measurable outcomes that will help us tackle the childhood obesity epidemic one child, one family, and one community at a time,” Obama says in a news release.

I was going to make a cynical remark here, but I’ll just leave it at that.

That’s a few things going on today. What’s new in your neck of the woods.