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Ayahuasca psychedelic tested for depression

A psychedelic drink used for centuries in healing ceremonies is now attracting the attention of biomedical scientists as a possible treatment for depression. Researchers from Brazil last month published results from the first clinical test of a potential therapeutic benefit for ayahuasca, a South American plant-based brew1. Although the study included just six volunteers and no placebo group, the scientists say that the drink began to reduce depression in patients within hours, and the effect was still present after three weeks. They are now conducting larger studies that they hope will shore up their findings.

The work forms part of a renaissance in studying the potential therapeutic benefits of psychedelic or recreational drugs — research that was largely banned or restricted worldwide half a century ago. Ketamine, which is used medically as an anaesthetic, has shown promise as a fast-acting antidepressant; psilocybin, a hallucinogen found in ‘magic mushrooms’, can help to alleviate anxiety in patients with advanced-stage cancer2; MDMA (ecstasy) can alleviate post-traumatic stress disorder; and patients who experience debilitating cluster headaches have reported that LSD eases their symptoms.

Ayahuasca, a sacramental drink traditionally brewed from the bark of a jungle vine (Banisteriopsis caapi) and the leaves of a shrub (Psychotria viridis), contains ingredients that are illegal in most countries. But a booming ayahuasca industry has developed in South America, where its religious use is allowed, and where thousands of people each year head to rainforest retreats to sample its intense psychedelic insights.



Ultra-fast charging aluminum battery offers safe alternative to conventional batteries

Stanford University scientists have invented the first high-performance aluminum battery that's fast-charging, long-lasting and inexpensive. Researchers say the new technology offers a safe alternative to many commercial batteries in wide use today.

"We have developed a rechargeable aluminum battery that may replace existing storage devices, such as alkaline batteries, which are bad for the environment, and lithium-ion batteries, which occasionally burst into flames," said Hongjie Dai, a professor of chemistry at Stanford. "Our new battery won't catch fire, even if you drill through it."

Dai and his colleagues describe their novel aluminum-ion battery in "An ultrafast rechargeable aluminum-ion battery," in the April 6 advance online edition of the journal Nature.

Aluminum has long been an attractive material for batteries, mainly because of its low cost, low flammability and high-charge storage capacity. For decades, researchers have tried unsuccessfully to develop a commercially viable aluminum-ion battery. A key challenge has been finding materials capable of producing sufficient voltage after repeated cycles of charging and discharging.



Artists secretly install Edward Snowden statue in Brooklyn park

Dressed in reflective yellow construction gear while working under the cover of darkness early Monday, a small group of artists installed a tribute to NSA-leaker Edward Snowden in a Brooklyn park.

The Snowden bust stands atop a column at the Prison Ship Martyrs Monument in Fort Greene Park, a site built to honor more than 11,000 American prisoners of war who died aboard British ships during the American Revolutionary War.

The location is no coincidence.

Speaking to Mashable on the condition of anonymity, the artists said they chose the spot because it is "loaded with significance and meaning and reverence of others." It positions Snowden, they said, "as a continuation of a story that began at the beginning of this country" — one represented in the plight of the captured Americans.



More than 1 million Californians don’t have reliable access to clean water

ARVIN, California – Californians who grumble about not being able to water their lawns everyday during the fourth year of a historic drought should swing by this small town in southern Kern County.

Drought or no drought, residents of this rural community can’t drink water from the tap and can’t even use it for cooking because high levels of arsenic — known to cause cancer — become even more concentrated when water is boiled.

“They worry about little things,” said Salvador Partida, president of the Committee for a Better Arvin, of the rest of the state. “We’re worried about not being able to drink the water.”

Last week Gov. Jerry Brown ordered the State Water Resources Control Board to enact mandatory cuts in water use by 25 percent. But more than 1 million California residents who live in mostly rural areas have unreliable access to safe drinking water, according to the Community Water Center, a non-profit group that advocates affordable and clean water for all Californians. For them, the ongoing drought that is ravaging the state's water supply is merely a sideshow.



Florida Gov. Rick Scott reverses course, opposes Medicaid expansion

Gov. Rick Scott is reversing course and says he no longer supports Medicaid expansion in a move that threatens to undo budget talks between the state House and Senate.

In a statement Monday, Scott expressed concern that the federal government might not make good on their promise to fund Medicaid for an additional 800,000 Floridians. The decision comes as Scott and the Legislature have been in intense negotiations with the federal government to extend more than $1 billion dollars in hospital grants. But the feds have said no and the disagreement has spilled over to Medicaid expansion.

Scott originally opposed expansion, but in an emotional speech two years ago he came out in support.

The disagreement has crippled Tallahassee lawmakers as they finalize a new state budget before the end of the session on May 1.


Joe Arpaio, “America’s Toughest Sheriff,” Comes With A Hefty Price Tag

Sheriff Joe likes to talk about his cost-cutting programs. But abuses in his Arizona jails have led to hundreds of millions of dollars in legal judgments

Joe Arpaio has become one of America’s most well-known sheriffs, thanks in part to unorthodox programs like his Tent City detention facility. In an effort to tackle jail overcrowding, Arpaio came up with the novel idea to house some of his inmates in sprawling outdoor facilities. This week, he hit a new milestone: half-a-million inmates have now passed through Tent City, on the west side of Phoenix. To commemorate that fact, he put up a new McDonald’s-esque sign boasting “500,000 Served.”

When a local TV reporter recently asked Arpaio if he planned to keep Tent City open to “serve” another 500,000 inmates, the sheriff answered: “We’re gonna keep going – it saves millions of dollars.” Indeed, over the course of his six terms in office, Arpaio has cultivated the image of a guy who’s not only tough on crime but also creative when it comes to cutting expenses.

But what Arpaio doesn’t note in his stream of press releases about Tent City is that inmate abuses and misuse of funds in the jail system he oversees have cost the county nearly $200 million over the last 15 years.



Now some of the Religious nut jobs are claiming c-sections are "against God's will"

Moms are furious at a dubious web meme claiming women who undergo C-sections are selfish, lazy and doomed to hell. The so-called Disciples of the New Dawn posted several pictures of women with C-section scars, encouraging Christians to call out women who elected not to undergo natural childbirth for their laziness, and to identify these mothers by their “guilt scars.”

Appalled mothers are sharing the post in a frenzy, sending the meme viral. The pinned tweet at the top of the Facebook page has attracted more than 60,000 comments and shares, and says:

“Pregnancy is a beautiful thing as it is the zenith of a woman’s role in a moral Christian society. If God has decided to call you home, it is not up to you or a doctor to reject Him. You may find yourself cast into the lake of fire for doing so. God’s Peace.”

The comments are filled with women sharing their C-section experiences, and pushing the post on to other friends in disgust. The cult behind the troll-meme is the work of the self-styled figure Father Patrick Embry, who has a history of religious rants against women’s rights.



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