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Marijuana is kosher for Passover, leading rabbi rules

Consuming marijuana for medical reasons is kosher for Passover, a leading rabbi has ruled, after being presented with cannabis leaves and told that they have a ‘healing’ smell.

Among Ashkenazi Jews, who are of usually of Central and Eastern European descent, the drug would be considered to be a member of the kitniyot – a group of legumes and grains which are forbidden during the festival of Passover, including rice, peas and lentils.

But Belarusian rabbi Chaim Kanievsky has said that marijuana may be used by Jews from all backgrounds on Passover if it is used for medical purposes, The Times of Israel reports.

The 88-year-old rabbi, who lives in Bnei Brak, an Israeli city east of Tel Aviv, can be seen with another prominent rabbi in a video uploaded to YouTube by pro-legalisation group Cannabis Israel in which they are presented with cannabis leaves and partake in the leaves being blessed.



Botched Airdrop Sends Humvees Plummeting To Their Doom

By Eric Limer

Somebody screwed up at the United States Army Garrison (USAG) in Hohenfels, Germany the other day because I am relatively sure that an airdropped Humvee is not supposed to move towards the ground quite that quickly. Someone in the 173rd Airborne Brigade probably has some explaining to do.

As posted on the U.S. Army WTF Moments Facebook page and highlighted by Foxtrot Alpha, the botched airdrop lead to the free fall and subsequent destruction of three Humvees. You can watch all of them absolutely crater below, but just brace yourself for some colorful language as the cameraman cheers on the vehicular carnage:

The Tactical Air Network poses a few possibilities as to what might have caused the accident, which include high winds or improper rigging attaching the parachutes to the Humvees, which it supposes is the most likely cause. But you don't need to know exactly what happened to see that the results are, well, WOOF.

more with video

DEA gives approval to Colorado-funded study on marijuana and PTSD

Researchers expert to begin enrolling patients in May at clinics in Baltimore and Phoenix

By John Ingold

A groundbreaking, Colorado-funded study looking at whether cannabis can treat post-traumatic stress disorder in military veterans has received the final go-ahead from federal authorities.

Study leaders announced the approval from the Drug Enforcement Administration this week. It is the first time that agency has given permission to use raw marijuana in a placebo-controlled clinical trial on PTSD. Researchers in three states worked for the better part of a decade to win the approval.

"We are thrilled to see this study overcome the hurdles of approval so we can begin gathering the data," Amy Emerson, the executive director of study-backer MAPS Public Benefit Corporation, said in a statement.

The project is one of nine medical marijuana studies funded by historic grants from Colorado's Health Department. Researchers plan to begin enrolling patients in the next month at study sites in Phoenix and Baltimore. Blood samples from the study will be analyzed at the University of Colorado at Boulder, and a professor at CU's Anschutz Medical Campus will oversee the research's scientific integrity.


Private records of 93.4 million Mexican voters exposed in data breach

The personal information of more than 93.4 million Mexican voters was exposed this week in a massive data breach.

A leaky database, which was not password-protected, is said to contain Mexican citizens’ names, addresses, dates of birth, as well as occupations and the names of the voters’ parents, according to noted MacKeeper Security Researcher Chris Vickery. The database was reportedly downloaded to an Amazon server by an unknown party.

The database has now been secured. It contained no financial information about the voters, according to Vickery.

A detailed account of the discovery was reported at DataBreaches.net after Vickery published his findings on the MacKeeper blog. Notification of the breach was temporarily withheld while Mexican authorities investigated, according to the site’s author, Dissent Doe, a pseudonymous security blogger. An official with Mexico’s Instituto Nacional Electoral (INE) said the Amazon server containing the millions of voter records did not belong to the Mexican government.

An INE spokesperson was not immediately available for comment.



Brazil Amazon dam project suspended over concerns for indigenous people

Plans to build a huge hydroelectric dam in the Amazon have been put on hold after Brazil’s environmental agency, Ibama, suspended the licensing process over concerns about its impact on the indigenous community in the region.

As one of the central elements of the government’s project to expand hydroelectric power generation across the Amazon, the 8,000-megawatt São Luiz do Tapajós dam is slated to be Brazil’s second largest, after the controversial Belo Monte power plant, which finally began operating this week.

But in a letter sent this week to the heads of Eletrobrás, the state energy company, and Funai, Brazil’s agency on indigenous affairs, the Ibama president, Marilene Ramos, stressed the “unviability of the project given the indigenous component”.

Around 10,000 Munduruku people live around the river Tapajós. The dam would flood a vast area, requiring the forced removal of at least some indigenous communities, an act that is strictly prohibited by the Brazilian constitution except in cases of disease epidemics or war.



First performance in 1,000 years: ‘lost’ songs from the Middle Ages are brought back to life

An ancient song repertory will be heard for the first time in 1,000 years this week after being ‘reconstructed’ by a Cambridge researcher and a world-class performer of medieval music

‘Songs of Consolation’, to be performed at Pembroke College Chapel, Cambridge on April 23, is reconstructed from neumes (symbols representing musical notation in the Middle Ages) and draws heavily on an 11th century manuscript leaf that was stolen from Cambridge and presumed lost for 142 years.

Saturday’s performance features music set to the poetic portions of Roman philosopher Boethius’ magnum opus The Consolation of Philosophy. One of the most widely-read and important works of the Middle Ages, it was written during Boethius’ sixth century imprisonment, before his execution for treason. Such was its importance, it was translated by many major figures, including King Alfred the Great, Chaucer and Elizabeth I.

Hundreds of Latin songs were recorded in neumes from the 9th through to the 13th century. These included passages from the classics by Horace and Virgil, late antique authors such as Boethius, and medieval texts from laments to love songs.

However, the task of performing such ancient works today is not as simple as reading and playing the music in front of you. 1,000 years ago, music was written in a way that recorded melodic outlines, but not ‘notes’ as today’s musicians would recognise them; relying on aural traditions and the memory of musicians to keep them alive. Because these aural traditions died out in the 12th century, it has often been thought impossible to reconstruct ‘lost’ music from this era – precisely because the pitches are unknown.

- See more at: http://www.cam.ac.uk/research/news/first-performance-in-1000-years-lost-songs-from-the-middle-ages-are-brought-back-to-life-0#sthash.yadn5AXI.dpuf

Evolution in action detected in Darwin's finches

The most characteristic feature of Darwin's finches is the diversification of beak morphology that has allowed these species to expand their utilization of food resources in the Galápagos archipelago. A team of scientists from Uppsala University and Princeton University has now identified a gene that explains variation in beak size within and among species. The gene contributed to a rapid shift in beak size of the medium ground finch following a severe drought. The study is published in Science.

Darwin's finches are a classical example of an adaptive radiation. Their common ancestor arrived on the Galápagos about two million years ago. During the time that has passed the Darwin's finches have evolved into 18 recognized species differing in body size, beak shape, song and feeding behaviour. Changes in the size and form of the beak have enabled different species to utilize different food resources such us insects, seeds, nectar from cactus flowers as well as blood from seabirds, all driven by Darwinian selection. In a previous study from the same team the ALX1 gene was revealed to control beak shape (pointed or blunt) and now a gene (HMGA2) affecting beak size has been identified.

'Our data show that beak morphology is affected by many genes as is the case for most biological traits. However, we are convinced that we now have identified the two loci with the largest individual effects that have shaped the evolution of beak morphology among the Darwin's finches', says Sangeet Lamichhaney PhD student at Uppsala University and first author of the study.

Read more at: http://phys.org/news/2016-04-evolution-action-darwin-finches.html#jCp

Why living around nature could make you live longer

Living closer to nature is better for your health, new research suggests — and may even extend your life.

A study just published in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives found that people who live in “greener” areas, with more vegetation around, have a lower risk of mortality. The health benefits are likely thanks to factors such as improved mental health, social engagement and physical activity that come with living near green spaces.

The research relied on data from a vast long-term Harvard study funded by the National Institutes of Health called the Nurses’ Health Study, which has collected health information biennially on more than 100,000 female registered nurses in the U.S. since 1976. The new paper analyzed participant data from between 2000 and 2008, taking note of any deaths that occurred and their causes. At the same time, the researchers used satellite data to assess the amount of green vegetation surrounding each participant’s home during the study period.

The researchers found that people living in the greenest places — that is, people who had the most vegetation within 800 feet of their homes — had a 12 percent lower rate of mortality from any non-accidental cause than people living in the least green places. Specifically, they found that the relationship was strongest for deaths related to respiratory disease, cancer and kidney disease. These results were the same regardless of the participants’ income, weight or smoking status and also did not significantly change between urban and suburban locations.


Giant Zooplankton makes up 5% of Total marine biomass

A team of marine biologists and oceanographers from CNRS, UPMC and the German organization GEOMAR have revealed the importance in all the world's oceans of a group of large planktonic organisms called Rhizaria, which had previously been completely underestimated. According to their findings, these organisms make up 33% of the total abundance of large zooplankton in the world's oceans, and account for 5% of the overall marine biomass. The study was carried out on samples collected during eleven oceanographic campaigns (2008-2013) covering the world's main oceanic regions, and included the Tara Oceans expedition. It is published on 20 April 2016 on the website of the journal Nature.

Although invisible to the naked eye, marine plankton play a key role in the balance of our planet. Still largely unexplored, they consist of an astonishingly wide variety of tiny organisms that produce half the Earth's oxygen and form the base of the oceanic food chain that feeds fish and marine mammals. Rhizarians, from their Latin name Rhizaria, are a group of large planktonic organisms whose importance had been overlooked until now. Most estimates of the distribution of marine organisms are performed locally (in a defined marine area) and are based on collection with plankton nets. However carefully carried out, this operation can damage certain fragile organisms such as rhizarians, preventing their identification.

Marine biologists and oceanographers have pooled their skills with the aim of analyzing samples collected during eleven oceanographic campaigns from 2008 to 2013, using a less destructive method, namely an underwater camera deployed at depth. This in situ imaging system, which involved no collection, was used to study the organisms directly in their environment without damaging them. In all, sampling was carried out at 877 stations (corresponding to 1 454 immersions of the camera down to 1 500 meters), covering the world's main oceanic regions. In total, the scientists analyzed 1.8 million images in order to quantify the abundance and biomass represented by Rhizaria.

Read more at: http://phys.org/news/2016-04-giant-plankton-gains-long-due-attention.html#jCp

We really still do not know all that much about our own planet
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