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Environmental Scientist

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Researchers see link between hunter-gatherer cannabis use, fewer parasites

VANCOUVER, Wash.--Washington State University researchers have found that the more hunter-gatherers smoke cannabis, the less they are infected by intestinal worms. The link suggests that they may unconsciously be, in effect, smoking medical marijuana.

Ed Hagen, a WSU Vancouver anthropologist, explored cannabis use among the Aka foragers to see if people away from the cultural and media influences of Western civilization might use plant toxins medicinally.

"In the same way we have a taste for salt, we might have a taste for psychoactive plant toxins, because these things kill parasites," he said.

In an earlier study, Hagen found that the heavier tobacco smokers among the Aka also had fewer helminths, parasitic intestinal worms.



Researchers Find Missing Link Between the Brain and Immune System

In a stunning discovery that overturns decades of textbook teaching, researchers at the University of Virginia School of Medicine have determined that the brain is directly connected to the immune system by vessels previously thought not to exist. That such vessels could have escaped detection when the lymphatic system has been so thoroughly mapped throughout the body is surprising on its own, but the true significance of the discovery lies in the effects it could have on the study and treatment of neurological diseases ranging from autism to Alzheimer’s disease to multiple sclerosis.

“Instead of asking, ‘How do we study the immune response of the brain?’ ‘Why do multiple sclerosis patients have the immune attacks?’ now we can approach this mechanistically. Because the brain is like every other tissue connected to the peripheral immune system through meningeal lymphatic vessels,” said Jonathan Kipnis, PhD, professor in the UVA Department of Neuroscience and director of UVA’s Center for Brain Immunology and Glia (BIG). “It changes entirely the way we perceive the neuro-immune interaction. We always perceived it before as something esoteric that can’t be studied. But now we can ask mechanistic questions.”

“We believe that for every neurological disease that has an immune component to it, these vessels may play a major role,” Kipnis said. “Hard to imagine that these vessels would not be involved in a [neurological] disease with an immune component.”

Kevin Lee, PhD, chairman of the UVA Department of Neuroscience, described his reaction to the discovery by Kipnis’ lab: “The first time these guys showed me the basic result, I just said one sentence: ‘They’ll have to change the textbooks.’ There has never been a lymphatic system for the central nervous system, and it was very clear from that first singular observation – and they’ve done many studies since then to bolster the finding – that it will fundamentally change the way people look at the central nervous system’s relationship with the immune system.”



Tanzania elephant population declined by 60% in five years, census reveals

Tanzania has emerged as the epicentre of Africa’s elephant poaching crisis after a government census revealed it had lost a “catastrophic” 60% of its elephants in just five years.

The results will pile pressure on a government that has been heavily criticised for its inability to stop a flood of poached ivory being stripped from its national parks.

Tanzania’s elephant population is one of the continent’s largest. But data, released on Monday by the Tanzanian government, showed that between 2009 and 2014 the number dropped from 109,051 to 43,330. When an annual birth rate of 5% is taken into account the number of dead is 85,181.

The census reveals a loss to Africa’s elephants far greater than declines reported in Mozambique last week.



Patients Get Extreme to Obtain Hepatitis Drug That's 1% the Cost Outside U.S.

This is how far one Express Scripts Holding Co. executive was willing to go to secure inexpensive versions of Gilead Sciences Inc.’s hepatitis C drug Sovaldi, unavailable to U.S. consumers under federal drug import and patent laws.

His plan: Dock a cruise ship flying an Indian flag off the coast of Miami. Stock the ship with versions of Sovaldi sold in India for $83,000 less than the U.S. retail price for 12 weeks of treatment. Ferry U.S. patients to the boat and send them home with the potentially life-saving medicines at a huge discount.

The only wrinkle in his plan wasn’t the absurdity of a pharmacy benefit manager manning and operating a cruise ship full of drugs from India. The problem, after doing some quick research into the idea, was that it would probably violate U.S. drug re-importation laws that limit the value of drugs brought into the country to $1,500 -- the price of one and a half Sovaldi tablets in the U.S., said Steve Miller, chief medical officer at Express Scripts, who came up with the idea.

“I was trying to be as creative as possible,” Miller said in an interview. “This is what the market is demanding, this level of creativity that almost borders on the ridiculous.”

Miller quickly dropped the drug boat scheme, but he says he is still searching for creative ways to save money on the $84,000 Sovaldi, which Express Scripts stopped covering for many patients this year because of the cost. He isn’t alone. A cottage industry of drug distributors, medical tourism agencies and consultants is emerging to offer patients in the U.S. and other developed countries cheap copies of Sovaldi from countries where it is sold for 1 percent of the U.S. price.


Just wait, the TPP will end this. You WILL give big pharma ALL of your money. Or Die.

The ridiculous non-candidate charade

t might look like a duck and quack like a duck. But until it formally announces that it is a duck, don’t even think about calling it a duck, let alone holding it to any duck-related rules and regulations.

Such is the ridiculous state of our presidential non-campaign campaigns.

Take, for instance, Jeb Bush’s non-candidacy candidacy. Bush hasn’t held public office in more than eight years, but for some mysterious reason he recently hired a team of public policy advisers. He has delivered speeches and met with voters in key early primary and caucus states such as New Hampshire, Iowa and Nevada. He’s given interviews about everything from Social Security to gay marriage to National Security Agency surveillance. He has also reportedly raised something like $100 million for Right to Rise, the super PAC he founded.

Right to Rise is expected to politic in support of a to-be-determined presidential candidate whose name is widely rumored to rhyme with Shmeb Shmush. But alas, even as the money spigot gushes, no such candidate has materialized. Apparently Silicon Valley isn’t the only place where you can raise millions of dollars without actually having a product.

Right to Rise has no candidate to promote because Bush maintains that he can’t decide whether he wants to become the next Decider. Honest to goodness!


Hog Farmer, Ag-Gag Bill Sponsor Illegally Dumps 800,000 Gallons of Sh*t

by Sarah Von Alt - June 1, 2015
Tennessee representative Andy Holt, former hog farmer and sponsor of the state’s failed ag-gag bill, created quite a stink when he dumped 800,000 gallons of pig manure into the streams and fields surrounding his hog farm. Holt’s lagoons were apparently overflowing with waste and Holt’s response was simply to dump the waste in the waters and lands nearby, with no regard for the environment or the law.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency recently sent a letter to Holt indicating that absent good cause it would take formal civil enforcement action against him. According to a Memphis news source, Tennessee state officials were considering taking action against Holt at the time this happened, but were “discouraged by upper management” from doing so.

Holt’s disregard for the environment should come as no surprise. He was the main sponsor of a controversial ag-gag bill to prevent whistleblowers from documenting animal cruelty and criminal activity in Tennessee’s factory farms and slaughterhouses. That bill ultimately failed. Clearly, Holt’s staunch backing of that bill was more self-serving than it may have seemed.

This story makes clear what so many of us already knew: factory farmers blatantly disregard the environment and the animals they abuse and neglect to make a profit. To make matters worse, they’re fighting tooth and nail to hide it.


Tuesday Toon Roundup 3: The Rest


Corporate Revolution







Tuesday Toon Roundup 2: GOP and Primaries



Tuesday Toon Roundup 1- Spies and Privacy

Hedge Fund Billionaire Tells Hillary Clinton to Cut the 'Crap'

In the early days of Hillary Clinton's latest presidential campaign, hedge fund managers have taken it on the chin.

“There’s something wrong when hedge fund managers pay lower tax rates than nurses or the truckers that I saw on I-80 as I was driving here over the last two days,” Clinton declared in mid-April as she campaigned in Iowa.

“People aren’t getting a fair shake. Something is wrong when CEOs earn more than 300 times than what the typical American worker earns and when hedge fund managers pay a lower tax rate than truck drivers or nurses,” she repeated a month later when she returned to the state.

Now, one such manager is firing back.

"I don't need anybody crapping all over what I do for a living," Leon Cooperman, the billionaire founder of the Omega Advisors hedge fund told CNN on Monday, adding that she 'hangs out with all these people in Martha's Vineyard and in the Hamptons and then the very first thing she has to say is to criticize hedge funds."


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