Archive | June, 2013

Reconstructing DNA 1Ma Possible

30 Jun

In Canada, DNA that was buried 7,000 centuries ago has been unearthed and reconstructed. The horse bone was protected by permafrost and found in the Yukon. The technique increased the previous limit by a factor of 10. It now may be possible to reconstruct the DNA of mammals that lived 700,000 years ago. 1 Ma represents one million years ago.

Before this work, the oldest genome that had been recovered was that of a Denisovan human who lived 70,000 years ago. The new finding, if accepted, would extend by tenfold the reach of paleogenomics, the study of ancient genomes reconstructed from fossil bones.

DNA has a half-life of 521 years. There is no hope for reconstructing dinosaurs as they went extinct 65Ma. There remains the ability to clone some of the earliest anatomically modern humans, which began 100,000-200,000 (1-2ka) years ago or even easier, Neanderthals found 50,000 years ago in Europe. Of course, we may already have a little Neanderthal in us already.


Triple Play Service in the US

26 Jun

Comcast, Verizon Editorials Distort True Picture of U.S. Internet Service, Experts Say

The number of people in the US watching TV OTA (Over the Air) has grown over the last 3 years from 14% to over 19%. The main reason proposed, is the cost of cable. The discussion over cable rates these days cannot be stripped out of internet access rates, as the same company you choose for either, will be providing both.

Triple play (Internet, Cable, and phone) rates in the US are at record highs. The average US cost for these services is $160 per month, as compared to $38, for example, in France. Even though the US “invented” the internet, we now have some of the slowest services in the world. (29th and dropping)

Over the course of the last 20 years, nearly $500 billion has been collected by the telecom companies to (allegedly) bring America into the 21st century with an “Information Superhighway,” says Johnston. That works out ot $3,000 per household to have access to high-speed Internet.

And we hear from Verizon CEO Lowell McAdam in a New York Times Opinion that :

“…..the United States has gained a global leadership position in the marketplace for broadband”

What started when AT&T was busted up to “create competition and lower cost” has done everything but that. Comcast Chief Executive David Cohen says “consumer prices have remained relatively stable“. That is not a sign of a competitive environment.

In the UK, the government required that service providers that were building out their networks to share that build out with competitors for a reasonable price. This process is now being proposed for the entire EU per an article by Wired Magazine.

Pricing in the UK decreased as internet service was deployed, per ofCom (Independent regulator and competition authority for the UK communications industries).

Over The Air TV Reception is Growing

24 Jun

A recent survey finds that over 19% of TV viewing households in the US get their TV Over-The-Air (OTA) for free. Three years ago, it was only 14%.



When the US went to Digital/ HD broadcasting in 1998, broadcast over the air programming remained. Analog transmission went silent in 2009, when all new TVs were required to have a digital tuner. The broadcast signals went Digital, so what you can get OTA is HD content and more. Broadcast on the basic frequency as PBS, for example, are the standard programs and 2 additional programming channels.

Selection of programming has expanded to fill a minority demand.

The majority of Latino households that primarily speak Spanish now use an antenna to get their TV programming, with only 49 percent of those households subscribing to a pay TV service. Also notable: 28 percent of all households with a head of household under the age of 35 use an antenna instead of a pay TV subscription.

The economy is said to be in recovery, but the growing household use of OTA programming would suggest otherwise. Likewise the push by Verizon and AT&T to increase their fees due to reduced subscribers suggests otherwise.

Within this Blog is an article on stripping commercials out of OTA television programming.

If you’d like to see the channels that are available to you by Zip, or street address, go to this link : ANTENNA WEB



The World Food Prize and Angry Mermaid Award

21 Jun

Monsanto was awarded the World Food Prize for the development of the ability to insert foreign genes into plants. The award, here in the US, is released by the nonprofit World Food Award Foundation, whose contributions include $5M from Monsanto in 2008.

GMO products are banned in Europe. They have a different award. In Copenhagen, Monsanto was awarded the Angry Mermaid Award for many achievements, including the same ability to insert foreign genes into plants.

A YouTube video entitled Seeds of Death is an hour and 19 minute perspective on GMO products and their impact on our planet.

Transplanting Feces 6/20/2013

20 Jun

People that have contracted Clostridium difficile (C. difficile) bacteria have not been able to find a cure until recently. The treatment today, found to be successful over 90% of the time, involves transplanting feces from a healthy patient into the gut of the infected patient. OSU has approved treatment in Ohio.

This week, FDA backed off the requirement for hospitals and doctors to “treat human stool as an unapproved drug”.

So who are those “donors” for the program? As an example of a universal donor is Dr. Hunter Johnson.

8/14/2013 Update – Researchers are now working to generate safe alternatives to the real thing in the laboratory.

They Used to Call It Price Fixing

19 Jun

It used to be that companies could not collude to fix prices and avoid competition.

In 2008, DeBeers settled a lawsuit about price fixing diamonds.

In 2010, DRAM makers settled a price fixing litigation with 33 states.

Even this month, Chocolate manufacturers in Canada were being sued for price fixing chocolate in that country.

Canada’s Competition Bureau said in a statement that Hershey Canada was expected to plead guilty later this month “for its role in the conspiracy to fix the price of chocolate confectionery products in Canada.”

This week the Supreme Court ruled that profit sharing between drug companies that hold patents and generic manufacturers can be legally challenged.

“Today’s ruling is a victory for millions of Americans who depend on generic drugs to treat illness and pain,” New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman said. “Pay-for-delay drug settlements should receive serious scrutiny because they are frequently anti-competitive, unlawful, and harmful to health-care consumers across the country.”

In the Federal Trade Commission vs. Activis lawsuit, Solvay Pharmaceutical had negotiated an agreement to pay three generic manufacturers between $31M and $42M to withhold a generic version (and patent challenges) of the AndroGel product from the market until 2015. AndroGel is topical testosterone applied in gel form.

The FTC has fought such “pay-for-delay” settlements for a decade as their number has grown, from just three in 2005 to 40 last year. They were joined in this case by a coalition of 36 states that argued the deals should be subject to challenge.

It is suggested that generic manufacturers have to legally challenge a drug patent before they can bring a generic version to market. The “pay for delay” agreements are apparently put in place to avoid the litigation costs. An explanation of the duration, and types of drug patents can be found here.

Either way, the Supreme Court ruling should open the door for generic drugs to make their way to market earlier.

Addendum to Vernon Hershberger Trial

19 Jun

The trial for Vernon resulted in a $1000 fine and no jail time. The verdict on the safety of raw milk remains at large in Wisconsin.

Let Golfers Golf and Hackers Hack

17 Jun

As Justin Rose wins the 2013 US Open at Merion, becoming the first Brit to win in 43 years, more revelations become available about Britain’s equivalent to the US’s NSA.

In 2009, Britain’s GCHQ eavesdropped on telephone conversations and email communications between attendees of the G20 Summit in London. Four years ago, without (obviously) knowledge of this activity, targeted G20 attendees had their keystrokes logged so that their passwords could be captured, and their phone conversations were monitored. Rest assured, this was only being done so that the outcome of the meetings would be favorable to HMG, Her Majesty’s Government. This is not to be confused with some clandestine terrorist activity.

“The GCHQ intent is to ensure that intelligence relevant to HMG’s desired outcomes for its presidency of the G20 reaches customers at the right time and in a form which allows them to make full use of it.” Two documents explicitly refer to the intelligence product being passed to “ministers”.

To think that you can keep golfers from playing golf is equivalent to keeping hackers from hacking. It’s just what they do. So when The Office of the Director of National Intelligence, suggest that analysts (government hackers) cannot listen to phone calls without “proper legal authorization”, you have to ask, “What is stopping them?”

Your best bet is to remain calm, and accept the reality of the technological world we live in. If you have not disclosed enough personal information through Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, or whatever already, your emails and phone calls can be tapped as necessary. Look at it like 40% of people in the US do today. You are just helping to provide information so that the government can keep our country safe.

You’re not going to stop the golfers or the hackers, even when sometimes they are the same.

Patent Business Addendum – Supreme Court Rules

13 Jun

In an announcement today, the Supreme Court has ruled that human genes cannot be patented.

This is bad news for Myriad Genetics, who was banking on their patents over genetic traits associated with breast cancer for revenue.

Justice Clarence Thomas wrote the decision for a unanimous court. “Myriad did not create anything,” Thomas said. “To be sure, it found an important and useful gene, but separating that gene from its surrounding genetic material is not an act of invention.”

The issue before the judges was not simple, as there are significant costs associated with the development of new technologies.

“We invest heavily in the research and development that is needed to discover and provide high-quality molecular diagnostic products that save and improve patients’ lives,” said Richard Marsh, executive vice president and general counsel at Myriad. “Strong intellectual property and patent rights in the United States are critical to fulfilling our mission.”

Nonetheless, the ruling today is taken as a victory for cancer patients.

The decision represents a victory for cancer patients, researchers and geneticists who claimed that a single company’s patent raised costs, restricted research and sometimes forced women to have breasts or ovaries removed without sufficient facts or second opinions.”

This subject garnered worldwide attention as Angelina Jolie utilized Myriad Genetics’ technology to choose her course of action with regards to breast cancer treatment.

Genetic Modification Gone Haywire

12 Jun

No matter what your perspective is with regards to genetically modifying nature, you have to admit there are probably going to be some unintended consequences. After all, future generations of species get a somewhat modified version of their parents genes to start with. If their parents have genes that are from another species entirely, what outcome might we expect?

Anyway, a company called BioCurious decided it would be a good idea to create a Glow-In-The-Dark plant. A little short on funds, they resorted to crowdsourcing. Posting a need on KickStarter for funding, they raised over $480,000, when they apparently were going for $65,000.

“The group had hit upon a new method for funding biotech, one that’s faster, cheaper and requires less expertise than traditional grants or venture capital.”

As technology develops, as it does, this type of activity would become easier and cheaper to do in the future. Do we really want to open up Pandora’s door of genetically modified species to anyone that “has a good idea”?

Fortunately the ETC Group formally petitioned the USDA and Kickstarter to stop the program in its tracks. That, of course, would not prevent BioCurious from going outside the country to manipulate the genes, or stop other groups, fully funded to pursue the activity.



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