Archive for May, 2014

May 30, 2014

Quakes in Japan’s pacifism

Japan’s prime minister is attempting to revise constitutional pacifism to allow for strengthening of armed forces.

Last updated: 30 May 2014 09:59
Akira Kawasaki
Akira Kawasaki is Executive Committee member of Peace Boat.
Celine Nahory
Celine Nahory is Coordinator of Global Article 9 Campaign to Abolish War.
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PM Shinzo Abe aims to beef up rules of military engagement to allow the Self-Defence Force to use force overseas [AFP]

On May 15, Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe made public his plan to gut the country’s peace constitution by allowing its Self-Defence Force (SDF) to use force overseas. The ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) has long sought to amend Article 9, which renounces war and prohibits maintenance of war potential, the economic capability of a nation to wage war, through an overall constitutional revision. However, due to significant public opposition,Abe has changed his strategy and is now trying to revise not the text of the constitution, but its interpretation. Such a move would make the fundamental peace clause a dead letter and signal a sharp departure from Japan’s traditionally restrained defence policy.

Abe’s plan is to change Article 9’s interpretation through a cabinet decision without approval by the Japan’s parliament called the National Diet in the coming months. This backdoor tactic has attracted much criticism, even among those who support an eventual amendment for bypassing the formal procedure for constitutional revision, which requires a national referendum. It remains unclear whether Abe will get his way, since ruling coalition partner New Komeito, a Buddhist partystrongly resists the move. There are also significant voices of concern within the LDP about a process that neglects the formal Diet procedure.

Constitutional re-interpretation is a part of Abe’s overall military and foreign policies pursued in the name of “proactive pacifism”. It seeks to develop a stronger capacity to defend Japan’s territorial claims over the disputed islands from China, broader military cooperation with the US, and military activities overseas to secure Japanese corporate interests, including the pursuit of natural resources. In the last year and a half, as part of this policy, Abe’s government has formulated a new national security strategy, increased its military budget for two fiscal years and abandoned the long-held arms export ban. Abe is now trying to remove the constitutional restraints that have limited Japan’s military to a purely defensive role.

101 East – Japan: The next wave

Claimed to be part of his declared commitment to “proactively contribute to international peace”, these initiatives are in fact driven by Abe’s personal ideological ambitions. His political agenda as a right-wing nationalist has been to break away from the post-World War II regime imposed during the US occupation and realise a “proud and strong Japan”. Abe’s visit to the Yasukuni Shrine that honours Class-A war criminals and offensive remarks by Japanese top officials, including wartime sexual slavery, are part of this nationalism associated with historical revisionism.

Such right-wing rhetoric resonates with the growing nationalistic sentiments that are taking root in Japanese society. This unfortunate reality can be explained by a number of factors – the long-lasting economic stagnation that has disturbed social stability, the correlated decrease of power internationally, the loss of confidence felt especially among the younger generation, and, against this backdrop, the rise of China. “National unity” slogans in the aftermath of the March 2011 tsunami, coupled with an extraordinary lack of public education regarding Japan’s wartime history, have contributed to making young Japanese amenable to nationalist and historical revisionist claims.

Abe seems eager to be remembered in history as the man who brought Japan back to normality. His latest move is a relatively modest proposal compared to what had been anticipated: It focuses on scenarios such as rescuing Japanese citizens residing overseas. However, lifting constitutional restraint for the use of force may pave the way to further and more significant changes in the future.

Renunciation of war was the oath by post-WWII Japan not to repeat its mistakes. Changing its interpretation would have serious consequences internationally, especially on the fragile stability in Northeast Asia. Tensions between Japan, China, and the Koreas over territorial disputes, historical issues, and nuclear weapons programs are already severe enough. Abe’s move threatens to exacerbate them.

Opinion polls show that a clear majority of Japanese opposes the re-interpretation of Article 9 as proposed by Abe. Thousands of people have protested in Tokyo against making Japan “a country that can wage war.” Japan’s peace movement is vibrant, but it also faces challenges. Notably, how to deal with growing nationalism, and how to respond to criticisms that Japan’s pacifism is self-righteous and the country does not shoulder its share of international responsibilities.

Article 9 can work as an international mechanism for peace that promotes disarmament and non-military solutions to disputes, through dialogue, confidence-building, mediation, and international laws. It also encourages human security cooperation on disasters, diseases and humanitarian affairs, while advocating for coordinated reduction of military spending. Japan can play a leading role, particularly in nuclear disarmament and arms trade control. Real proactive pacifism lies in Article 9.

Measures to promote dialogue among East Asian countries – for both reconciliation and risk reduction – are a matter of urgency. Any provocation by countries in the region will be counterproductive. And international support is needed to prevent the quakes of nationalism and militarism from getting out of control. Japan has much to learn from Europe’s post-war reconciliation experience, which can help convince the country that its commitment to peace remains something it can be proud of.

Akira Kawasaki is Executive Committee member of Peace Boat.

Celine Nahory is Coordinator of Global Article 9 Campaign to Abolish War.

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera’s editorial policy.

Money-As-Speech = Legislation-As-Corruption

May 30, 2014
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Money-As-Speech = Legislation-As-Corruption

“When once a republic is corrupted, there is no possibility of remedying
any of the growing evils but by removing the corruption and restoring its
lost principles; every other correction is either useless or a new
evil.”
Thomas Jefferson

How corrupt can we get? Well, thanks to the fascist Supreme Court Five we can now go the whole way and completely decimate democracy, justice, and equity entirely. The spate of 5-4 decisions, giving us a one-man, one-vote tyranny have taken care of the domestic side. The international side has already been covered by the traitorous “free trade” treaties that have given us global corporate fascism and rendered nations impotent – thanks to a Congress of thieves and idiots. The final coup, of course, is the private central bank — the “Fed” being a mafia cartel of private banks that control “our” money and monetary policy… and that’s the big one.

So, apparently we might as well either hang ourselves, or them. As Jefferson observed so long ago, “reform” nearly always proves a deceitful and criminal joke. Witness the secret riders attached to bills at the last moment so no legislator can read them. Witness a twenty-five thousand page WTO bill that no Congressperson either read or understood. Witness a Patriot Act magically whipped up in two days after 9-11 crime, and pushed thru in four days. Witness ALEC handing state legislators their pre-written bills and getting the greedy and corrupt “representative” to pass this corporate crap without concern or question.
Clearly, we are in a box, and it isn’t Pandora’s.
With money-as-speech there is no way that ordinary people can match the influence of mega-corporations and billionaires buying up all the TV ad time and filling the radio waves and mail boxes with, well, lies — another “free speech” freedom plus for the plutocracy. They own the media, the newspapers and hire the editors so the editorials will not upset the ruling elite. The rest of media will be constantly reloading their “weapons of mass distraction” they purposely aim against the people.
With money-as-speech everyone becomes bought off or afraid-for-their-jobs wage slaves of the oligarchy. Freedom and independence have thus degenerated into fear and dependence – the base hallmarks of a police state society.
There are not many weapons left for the people, who cannot trust their digital voting machines – wherein votes disappear into a black hole, and trusted, recountable, paper ballots are becoming extinct. When police state fascism has reduced you to a far-removed “free speech zone” to protest, it looks like boycotts are the only effective tool left short of revolution or a military coup that did not reify the existing tyranny.
Yes, the days of wishing for a military coup in the United States are closer than you think. How else do people escape neo-slavery? The problem there is the Fox News juggernaut and the idiot Right that might prevail in such a case, and in their hatred of ‘Big Government,’ simply give us really Big Fascism, with a twist of inane religious dogma, all courtesy of their screwy libertarian de-regulation doctrine that places and preserves power in the hands of the already powerful and rich. No freedom there.
Along with boycotts of corporations we can only hope to discover, support, and vote for candidates who remain free of corporate money and media and understand we must end the doctrine of money-as-speech, otherwise we will continue to have legislation-as-corruption and society-as-slavery.

“The accomplice to the crime of corruption is frequently our own indifference”
Bess Myerson

Kent Welton,
FascismUSA.com
PublicCentralBank.com
 
 

 

http://www.KentWelton.com

Author, Exec. Dir. The Center For Balance.org – Websites: PanditPress.com, OligarchyUSA.com, PublicCentralBank.com, EditorFreedom.com, FascismUSA.com & more
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Japan Scientist: We gave butterflies food from Fukushima… then, they died; Deformities get worse with each generation — TV: “Truly horrifying… it doesn’t really even look like a butterfly anymore” (PHOTOS & VIDEO)

May 30, 2014

ENENews


Japan Scientist: We gave butterflies food from Fukushima… then, they died; Deformities get worse with each generation — TV: “Truly horrifying… it doesn’t really even look like a butterfly anymore” (PHOTOS & VIDEO)

Posted: 29 May 2014 05:36 PM PDT

New emails reveal concern over plutonium chain reaction in WIPP containers — “There shouldn’t be a ‘significant’ reaction… criticality safety issues are not my area of expertise” — “Significant amount of plutonium” — No mention of kitty litter

Posted: 29 May 2014 11:04 AM PDT

Official: Breach at Fukushima reactor blamed on saltwater corrosion — Over 75 tons of highly radioactive liquid flowing out everyday (PHOTOS & VIDEO)

Posted: 29 May 2014 06:03 AM PDT

The Housing Bust and the American Psyche

May 29, 2014
Article image
FROMA HARROP
NationofChange/Op-ed
Published: Thursday 29 May 2014
Real estate mania lives on at the HGTV cable channel, where house shoppers still holler for granite on their kitchen islands and his-and-her sinks in their en suite bathrooms. But in the non-TV reality of middle-class America, the bloom is definitely off the real estate rose.
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Real estate mania lives on at the HGTV cable channel, where house shoppers still holler for granite on their kitchen islands and his-and-her sinks in their en suite bathrooms. But in the non-TV reality of middle-class America, the bloom is definitely off the real estate rose.

The rose isn’t dead, mind you. Surveys show an enduring desire to own one’s home, despite the trauma left by the real estate meltdown and recession. But the love is not what it was.

So customer demand continues, Jane Zavisca, a University of Arizona sociologist, told me, “but not homeownership at all costs.”

Young people who’ve seen others’ lives ruined by the pain of foreclosure seem especially wary of taking on a mortgage, according to Zavisca, who studies attitudes toward homeowning.

More on the psychology later.

 

Economists worry that the depressed housing sector is hampering a robust recovery. Federal Reserve Chairwoman Janet Yellen recently testified before Congress that housing remains a cloud on an otherwise promising economic horizon of stronger hiring and amped-up consumer spending. 

True, some formerly shattered markets — in Phoenix, Las Vegas and parts of California, for example — have much improved. But nationally, the sign of a housing recovery seen a year ago now appears to have been a blip. And the problems in the sector aren’t going away.

What’s wrong is this: At the end of March, 19 percent of “homeowners” with mortgages — nearly 10 million households — were “underwater.” That means they owed more on their house than they could sell their house for. These numbers come from the real estate website Zillow.

 

Article image

That sounds a lot better than the 31 percent owing more than their house was worth near the height of the misery in 2012. But it doesn’t count the legions of homeowners barely above water. 

Many lack the financial breathing room to sell; they’d have to first find some extra cash.

Thus, the middle-class housing market remains fairly frozen as owners decline to trade their homes for something better. Note: About 30 percent of homes in the bottom third price range are underwater. (As usual, things are much better at the top.)

Furthermore, many members of the middle class with jobs and savings no longer believe in a future of plenty. They’re seeing their neighbors slide down the economic chute.

So taking on a mortgage seems a scarier prospect than before. Zavisca cites studies confirming that holding a mortgage weighs heavier on psychological well-being than it used to.

“Even for people with a lot of equity, just having a mortgage makes them feel more insecure than they did five or 10 years ago,” Zavisca said. With a mortgage now comes heightened anxiety.

Though Americans clearly do want to own homes, they are much less optimistic about the potential for large gains in equity.

That said, the idea of a home as a means of saving for retirement — as something one could sell in hard times — persists. It is a financial asset, Zavisca said, “but not in the sense that the average individual should be making a living buying and selling real estate.”

What amazes me is that more Americans aren’t seething over one of the biggest con jobs ever perpetrated on an unsuspecting public. The housing bubble was a product of public policy.

The Fed under Alan Greenspan kept interest rates low to keep the speculative frenzy going. Financial deregulation let lenders push snake-infested mortgage contracts onto the shoulders of ordinary people.

When the bubble splattered, ordinary people were left bankrupt, foreclosed upon and devastated both financially and psychologically. If Americans are less than enthusiastic about real estate, who can blame them?

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ABOUT FROMA HARROP
Froma Harrop’s nationally syndicated column appears in over 150 newspapers, including The Dallas Morning News, Houston Chronicle, Seattle Times, Denver Post and Newsday. The twice-a-week column is distributed by Creators Syndicate, in Los Angeles. Harrop has written for numerous other publications, ranging from The New York Times and Institutional Investor, to Harper’s Bazaar and Metropolitan Home. Previously, she covered business for Reuters Ltd., in New York, and was a financial editor for The New York Times News Service. A Loeb Award finalist for economic commentary, Harrop was also honored by the National Society of Newspaper Columnists. Over the years, the New England Associated Press News Executives Association has named her for five awards.

Relaxation helps pack DNA into a virus

May 29, 2014

Date:
May 26, 2014
Source:
University of California – San Diego
Summary:
DNA packs more easily into the tight confines of a virus when given a chance to relax. DNA is a long, unwieldy molecule that tends to repel itself because it is negatively charged, yet it can spool tightly. Within the heads of viruses, DNA can be packed to near crystalline densities, crammed in by a molecular motor.

This image shows cross-sections of the empty prohead of the bacteriophage phi29 (left) and the fully assembled virus (right). A molecular motor transports the DNA (red) into the prohead through a portal. Higher resolution TIFF image available.
Credit: Jingua Tang and Timothy Baker, University of California, San Diego

Researchers at the University of California, San Diego have found that DNA packs more easily into the tight confines of a virus when given a chance to relax, they report in a pair of papers to be published in in the early edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences the week of May 26 and the May 30 issue of Physical Review Letters.

DNA is a long, unwieldy molecule that tends to repel itself because it is negatively charged, yet it can spool tightly. Within the heads of viruses, DNA can be packed to near crystalline densities, crammed in by a molecular motor.

“These are among the most powerful molecular motors we know of,” says Douglas Smith, a professor of physics whose group studies them.

Within an infected cell, viruses assemble in a matter of minutes. Smith’s group studies the process by isolating components of this system to watch single molecules in action.

They attach the empty head of a single virus, along with the molecular motor, to a microscopic bead that can be moved about using a laser. To another bead, they tether a molecule of viral DNA.

“It’s like fishing,” Smith says. “We dangle a DNA molecule in front of the viral motor. If we’re lucky, the motor grabs the DNA and starts pulling it in.”

Packaging proceeds in fits and starts, with slips and pauses along the way. These pauses increase, along with forces the motor counters, as the viral head becomes full.

Scientists who model this process have had to make assumptions about the state of the DNA within. An open question is whether the DNA is in its lowest energy state, that is at equilibrium, or in a disordered configuration.

“In confinement, it could be forming all kinds of knots and tangles,” said Zachary Berndsen, a graduate student in biochemistry who works with Smith and is the lead author of the PNAS paper.

To figure this out, Berndsen stalled the motor by depriving it of chemical energy, and found that packaging rates picked up when the motor restarted. The longer the stall, the greater the acceleration.

DNA takes more than 10 minutes to fully relax inside the confines of a viral head where there’s little wiggle room, the team found. That’s 60,000 times as long as it takes unconfined DNA to relax.

“How fast this virus packages DNA is determined by physics more than chemistry,” Smith said.

DNA’s tendency to repel itself due to its negative charge may actually facilitate the relaxation. In related experiments, the researchers added spermidine, a positively charged molecule that causes DNA in solution to spool up.

“You might think the stickiness would enhance packing, but we find that the opposite is true,” said Nicholas Keller, the lead author of this second report, published in Physical Review Letters.

Countering the negative charges, particularly to the point of making the DNA attractive to itself, actually hindered the packaging of DNA.

“The DNA can get trapped into conformations that just stop the motor,” Keller said.

“We tend to think of DNA for its information content, but living systems must also accommodate the physical properties of such a long molecule,” Berndsen said. “Viruses and cells have to deal with the forces involved.”

Beyond a clearer understanding of how viruses operate, the approach offers a natural system that is a model for understanding and studying the physics of long polymers like DNA in confined spaces. The insights could also inform biotechnologies that enclose long polymers within minuscule channels and spheres in nanscale devices.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of California – San Diego. The original article was written by Susan Brown. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.

Immune system’s rules of engagement discovered

May 29, 2014

Date:
May 27, 2014
Source:
Stanford University
Summary:
Surprising similarities in the way immune system defenders bind to disease-causing invaders have been found by researchers. “Until now, it often has been a real mystery which antigens T cells are recognizing; there are whole classes of disease where we don’t have this information,” said the study’s senior author. “Now it’s far more feasible to take a T cell that is important in a disease or autoimmune disorder and figure out what antigens it will respond to.”

Stanford School of Medicine researchers, working with scientists at the SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory, have made discoveries about the ways in which T cell receptors (shown in bright red) recognize invaders in the body.
Credit: Eric Smith & K. Christopher Garcia

A study led by researchers at Stanford’s School of Medicine reveals how T cells, the immune system’s foot soldiers, respond to an enormous number of potential health threats.

X-ray studies at the Department of Energy’s SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory, combined with Stanford biological studies and computational analysis, revealed remarkable similarities in the structure of binding sites, which allow a given T cell to recognize many different invaders that provoke an immune response.

The research demonstrates a faster, more reliable way to identify large numbers of antigens, the targets of the immune response, which could speed the discovery of disease treatments. It also may lead to a better understanding of what T cells recognize when fighting cancers and why they are triggered to attack healthy cells in autoimmune diseases such as diabetes and multiple sclerosis.

“Until now, it often has been a real mystery which antigens T cells are recognizing; there are whole classes of disease where we don’t have this information,” said Michael Birnbaum, a graduate student who led the research at the School of Medicine in the laboratory of K. Christopher Garcia, the study’s senior author and a professor of molecular and cellular physiology and of structural biology.

“Now it’s far more feasible to take a T cell that is important in a disease or autoimmune disorder and figure out what antigens it will respond to,” Birnbaum said.

T cells are triggered into action by protein fragments, called peptides, displayed on a cell’s surface. In the case of an infected cell, peptide antigens from a pathogen can trigger a T cell to kill the infected cell. The research provides a sort of rulebook that can be used with high success to track down antigens likely to activate a given T cell, easing a bottleneck that has constrained such studies.

Combination approach

In the study, researchers exposed a handful of mouse and human T-cell receptors to hundreds of millions of peptides, and found hundreds of peptides that bound to each type. Then they compiled and compared the detailed sequence — the order of the chemical building blocks — of the peptides that bound to each T-cell receptor.

From that sample set, which represents just a tiny fraction of all peptides, a detailed computational analysis identified other likely binding matches. Researchers compared the 3-D structures of T cells and their unique receptors bound to different peptides at SLAC’s Stanford Synchrotron Research Lightsource (SSRL).

“The X-ray work at SSRL was a key breakthrough in the study,” Birnbaum said. “Very different peptides aligned almost perfectly with remarkably similar binding sites. It took us a while to figure out this structural similarity was a common feature, not an oddity — that a vast number of unique peptides could be recognized in the same way.”

Researchers also checked the sequencing of the peptides that were known to bind with a given T cell and found striking similarities there, too.

“T-cell receptors are ‘cross-reactive,’ but in fairly limited ways. Like a multilingual person who can speak Spanish and French but can’t understand Japanese, a receptor can engage with a broad set of peptides related to one another,” Birnbaum said.

Impact on biomedical science

Finding out whether a given peptide activates a specific T-cell receptor has been a historically piecemeal process with a 20 to 30 percent success rate, involving burdensome hit-and-miss studies of biological samples. “This latest research provides a framework that can improve the success rate to as high as 90 percent,” Birnbaum said.

“This is an important illustration of how SSRL’s X-ray-imaging capabilities allow researchers to get detailed structural information on technically very challenging systems,” said Britt Hedman, professor of photon science and science director at SSRL. “To understand the factors behind T-cell-receptor binding to peptides will have major impact on biomedical developments, including vaccine design and immunotherapy.”


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Stanford University. The original article was written by Glenn Roberts Jr..Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Michael E. Birnbaum, Juan L. Mendoza, Dhruv K. Sethi, Shen Dong, Jacob Glanville, Jessica Dobbins, Engin Özkan, Mark M. Davis, Kai W. Wucherpfennig, K. Christopher Garcia.Deconstructing the Peptide-MHC Specificity of T Cell RecognitionCell, 2014; 157 (5): 1073 DOI:10.1016/j.cell.2014.03.047

Cite This Page:

Stanford University. “Immune system’s rules of engagement discovered.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 27 May 2014. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/05/140527100652.htm>.

Intertwined evolution of human brain and brawn

May 29, 2014

Date:
May 27, 2014
Source:
PLOS
Summary:
The cognitive differences between humans and our closest living cousins, chimpanzees, are staggeringly obvious. However, a new study suggests that human muscle may be just as unique. Scientists have found that metabolite concentrations evolved rapidly over the course of human evolution in two tissues: in the brain and, more surprisingly, in muscle.

Swinging ape. The cognitive differences between humans and our closest living cousins, the chimpanzees, are staggeringly obvious and a new study suggests that human muscle may be just as unique.
Credit: © Marcel Mooij / Fotolia

The cognitive differences between humans and our closest living cousins, the chimpanzees, are staggeringly obvious. Although we share strong superficial physical similarities, we have been able to use our incredible mental abilities to construct civilisations and manipulate our environment to our will, allowing us to take over our planet and walk on the moon while the chimps grub around in a few remaining African forests.

But a new study suggests that human muscle may be just as unique. Scientists from Shanghai’s CAS-MPG Partner Institute for Computational Biology, together with teams from German Max Planck Institutes, investigated the evolution of metabolites — small molecules like sugars, vitamins, amino acids and neurotransmitters that represent key elements of our physiological functions. Their study found that metabolite concentrations evolved rapidly over the course of human evolution in two tissues: in the brain and, more surprisingly, in muscle. An article describing their findings will be published on May 27th in the open-access journal PLOS Biology.

Genomes, including the human genome, accumulate changes steadily over time. Among the genetic changes that have happened over the course of human evolution, only a few might be responsible for the rise of distinct human features. To determine what other molecules played a role in human evolution, scientists began to look beyond the genome. The international team of scientists, led by Dr Philipp Khaitovich from Shanghai, examined for the first time the evolution of the human metabolome — the compendium of metabolites present in human tissues. “Metabolites are more dynamic than the genome and they can give us more information about what makes us human,” says Khaitovich. “It is also commonly known that the human brain consumes way more energy than the brains of other species; we were curious to see which metabolic processes this involves.”

Indeed, it turned out that unlike the uniformly-paced evolution of the genome, the metabolome of the human brain has evolved four times faster than that of the chimpanzee. What was more surprising, however, is that human muscle accumulated an even higher amount of metabolic change — ten times that of the chimpanzee!

To rule out the possibility that this change simply reflects our couch potato lifestyle, the scientists performed additional measurements in specially treated macaque monkeys. These macaques were moved from a spacious countryside facility to small indoor enclosures and served fatty and sugary food for several weeks, to imitate the environment of many contemporary humans. These lifestyle changes had only a small effect on the macaque muscle metabolome. “For a long time we were confused by metabolic changes in human muscle,” says Dr Kasia Bozek, the lead author of the study, “until we realized that what other primates have in common, in contrast to humans, is their enormous muscle strength.” Dr Josep Call, from the Wolfgang Kohler Primate Research Center in Leipzig, Germany, concurs: “This is common knowledge to all the zoo keepers, but it was never tested systematically.” To prove their point, researchers involved several chimpanzees, macaques, university students, and even professional athletes in a pulling strength competition. Despite their sweat and determination, all of the human participants of the experiment were outcompeted by their primate opponents by more than two-fold.

A tantalizing hypothesis suggested by the scientists is that the metabolic roles of human brain and brawn are intertwined. “Our results suggest a special energy management in humans, that allows us to spare energy for our extraordinary cognitive powers at a cost of weak muscle,” summarizes Dr Kasia Bozek. “The world of human metabolomics is just starting to open up its secrets to us,” adds Dr Patrick Giavalisco, who led the metabolome measurement effort at the Max Planck Institute for Molecular Plant Physiology in Golm. “Such human-specific metabolic features we find could be related not only to physical or cognitive performance but also to common human metabolic diseases.”


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by PLOSNote: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Katarzyna Bozek, Yuning Wei, Zheng Yan, Xiling Liu, Jieyi Xiong, Masahiro Sugimoto, Masaru Tomita, Svante Pääbo, Raik Pieszek, Chet C. Sherwood, Patrick R. Hof, John J. Ely, Dirk Steinhauser, Lothar Willmitzer, Jens Bangsbo, Ola Hansson, Josep Call, Patrick Giavalisco, Philipp Khaitovich. Exceptional Evolutionary Divergence of Human Muscle and Brain Metabolomes Parallels Human Cognitive and Physical UniquenessPLoS Biology, 2014; 12 (5): e1001871 DOI:10.1371/journal.pbio.1001871

Cite This Page:

PLOS. “Intertwined evolution of human brain and brawn.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 27 May 2014. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/05/140527185347.htm>.

Detecting oceanic carbon dioxide sink today and in the future

May 29, 2014

Date:
May 28, 2014
Source:
Uni Research
Summary:
The ocean has steadily taken up excess anthropogenic carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, but a slow down is expected in various parts of the ocean. The current observational network needs to be improved to monitor these changes. Using the latest collection of data and state-of-the-art Earth system models, researchers confirm that ocean partial pressure of carbon dioxide has steadily increased following the atmospheric carbon dioxide concentration in the past four decades. A large portion of this increase is attributed to the ongoing invasion of anthropogenic carbon dioxide into the ocean, whereas increase in sea surface temperature contributes only marginally.

Projections of annual oceanic CO2 uptake as simulated by five Earth system models plotted against surface pCO2 (bottom x-axis) and time (top x-axis).
Credit: Image courtesy of Uni Research

The ocean has steadily taken up excess anthropogenic CO2from the atmosphere but a slow down is expected in various parts of the ocean. The current observational network needs to be improved to monitor these changes.

The surface ocean partial pressure of CO2(pCO2) can be directly measured and is an indicator of long-term climate change and the ocean carbon uptake. A new study at the Bjerknes Centre for Climate Research aims to quantify the long-term growth rate of surface pCO2 over various large-scale ocean domains.

Using latest collection of pCO2 data and state-of-the-art Earth system models, the researchers led by Jerry Tjiputra (Uni Research), confirm that the ocean pCO2has steadily increased following the atmospheric CO2 concentration in the past four decades. A large portion of this increase is attributed to the ongoing invasion of anthropogenic CO2into the ocean, whereas increase in sea surface temperature contributes only marginally.

It is evident from the models that in order to monitor the oceanic CO2 sink accurately, long-term records of surface pCO2 in key ocean regions are required. The study shows that, despite substantial increase in number of measurements in the past years, only few ocean regions have a sufficient spatial and temporal coverage, namely the subtropical North Atlantic and the western subpolar North Pacific. For the rest of the ocean, particularly in the southern hemisphere, poor data coverage hinders the full picture of the pCO2 trend. The vast ocean area and the high cost of data collection are the main reasons for the data limitation.

The models, which were assessed in the IPCC-AR5, predict that the ocean will continue to absorb the emitted anthropogenic CO2 toward the end of the 21st century under a high-CO2 future scenario. However, the uptake rate is expected to change in critical regions, such as the subpolar North Atlantic, eastern equatorial Pacific, and the Southern Ocean. Detecting these changes will further elucidate the mechanistic response of ocean biogeochemistry to climate change as well as its potential feedback to the climate.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Uni Research.Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. JERRY F. Tjiputra, ARE Olsen, LAURENT Bopp, ANDREW Lenton, BENJAMIN Pfeil, TILLA Roy, JOACHIM Segschneider, IAN Totterdell, CHRISTOPH Heinze. Long-term surface pCO2trends from observations and modelsTellus B, 2014; 66 (0) DOI: 10.3402/tellusb.v66.23083

Cite This Page:

Uni Research. “Detecting oceanic carbon dioxide sink today and in the future.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 28 May 2014. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/05/140528103312.htm>.

What can plants reveal about gene flow? That it’s an important evolutionary force

May 29, 2014

Date:
May 28, 2014
Source:
American Journal of Botany
Summary:
How much gene flow is there between plant populations? How important is gene flow for maintaining a species’ identity and diversity, and what are the implications of these processes for evolution, conservation of endangered species, invasiveness, or unintentional gene flow from domesticated crops to wild relatives?

A plant breeder discovers his experimental crops have been “contaminated” with genes from a neighboring field. New nasty weeds sometimes evolve directly from natural crosses between domesticated species and their wild relatives. A rare plant is threatened due to its small population size and restricted range. What do all these situations have in common? They illustrate the important role of gene flow among populations and its potential consequences. Although gene flow was recognized by a few scientists as a significant evolutionary force as early as the 1940s, its relative role in maintaining a species’ genetic integrity and/or its diversity has been debated over the decades, vacillating from trivial to critical.

So how much gene flow is there between plant populations? How important is gene flow for maintaining a species’ identity and diversity, and what are the implications of these processes for evolution, conservation of endangered species, invasiveness, or unintentional gene flow from domesticated crops to wild relatives?

Norman Ellstrand, a plant geneticist at the University of California, Riverside, is interested in many aspects regarding gene flow, especially in applied plant biology, and has spent more than 25 years considering the possibility and potential impacts of unintended gene flow from genetically engineered crops. As part of the American Journal of Botany‘s Centennial Review series, Ellstrand reviews the history of gene flow, focusing on plants, and provides evidence for its importance as an evolutionary force.

Selection, mutation, gene flow, and genetic drift, are the four mechanisms that lead to biological evolution, or a change in allele frequencies in a population over time. Just how important are each of these forces relative to each other?

Interestingly, Ellstrand points out that evolutionary biologists’ view on the importance of gene flow has waxed and waned over the last century. Although it was first seen in the 1940s to be the evolutionary glue that held species together, and thus a significant evolutionary force, a few decades later when quantitative data on gene flow in plant populations began being collected, this view changed as evidence seemed to indicate that gene flow was not all that significant.

Not only was intra-specific gene flow among populations seen to be minimal at that time, but, somewhat incongruously, inter-specific hybridization, or the movement of genes among species, was seen to be a much larger force in evolution than intra-specific allele movement. At the time the main concern for plant breeders was pollen movement between different strains of crops — if a variety of sweet corn was contaminated by pollen from a popcorn variety, then the resulting hybrid offspring would produce seeds that were unusable for market purposes or for selecting new varieties. Increasing the distance between plots of different varieties was seen to be the best solution to this problem.

However, beginning in the 1980s the tide turned again due to mounting evidence from new approaches: parentage and spatial population genetic structure studies.

“When I first started doing plant paternity studies in the 1980s,” Ellstrand comments, “our lab assumed that gene flow was limited. But we kept identifying ‘impossible fathers’ that could not be assigned to our study population. Surely, these couldn’t be fathers from outside of our wild radish populations — hundreds of meters away? But after excluding all other possibilities, the improbable turned out to be the answer. And the paradigm of limited gene flow in plants began to crumble.”

Indeed, one of the amazing things that parentage studies revealed is just how far genes could flow — from hundreds to thousands of meters in some cases. In one extraordinary case, a study found that the nearest possible paternal sire of an individual fig tree was 85 km away!

With the advent of more and more sophisticated ways to measure genetic variation and relatedness using molecular markers, such as allozyme polymorphisms and DNA-based markers, not only can individuals be tracked as to their parentage, but changes in allele patterns over time and thus the effects of evolution on populations can be “seen” in the genetic information.

As it turns out, despite the initial skepticism about the importance of gene flow, modern empirical and theoretical research using up-to-date molecular and DNA techniques have shown us not only how surprisingly far the flow of genes between distant plant populations can be, but also that the flow of alleles among populations is just as important, if not more so in some cases, as natural selection. Indeed, even just a low level of gene flow between populations can counter opposing forces of mutation, genetic drift, and selection.

“Just like selection, gene flow is one of the evolutionary forces — and a potentially important one,” notes Ellstrand. And plants are very well suited for studies on gene flow because individuals are stationary yet pollen and seeds are mobile.

However, an important caveat that Ellstrand reports in his review is that the relative importance of gene flow can vary tremendously among species and among populations, and can be as low as no gene flow at all to very high rates of gene flow.

“This review paper tells the story of gene flow’s rise to respect among plant evolutionary biologists,” he concludes, “a fact that hasn’t yet penetrated biology in general that is still mired in selection/adaptation-only thinking.”


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by American Journal of BotanyNote: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. N. C. Ellstrand. Is gene flow the most important evolutionary force in plants? American Journal of Botany, 2014; 101 (5): 737 DOI: 10.3732/ajb.1400024

Cite This Page:

American Journal of Botany. “What can plants reveal about gene flow? That it’s an important evolutionary force.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 28 May 2014. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/05/140528105410.htm>.

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