Frankenfood

Genetically modified foods: Why does California insist on finding a problem where nobody else does?

by: Erika Johnsen

On the state’s ballot in November, Californians will be voting on Proposition 37 — an initiative that would require all foods produced with or from genetically modified organisms (GMOs) to carry mandatory warning labels. Oh, sure, it all sounds well and good and simple enough, except that such a measure would impose significant expenses on (often small) businesses; would cost the way-past-completely-broke California government up to over a million dollars to regulate the practice; and, oh yeah — is completely pointless because there is not a single documented case of “adverse health consequences” due to genetically engineered foods.

For a group of people who subscribe to the supposed “party of science,” progressives and environmentalists have waged a strange and steady campaign against the very idea of genetically modified foods. These “frankenfoods,” as they’re sometimes dubbed, are supposedly bad for us because they don’t occur by themselves in nature. But, here’s a news flash, greenies: Human beings have been ‘modifying’ foods with agricultural techniques for centuries. We didn’t just stumble upon corn as we know it today, and we make new apple hybrids all the time. Many medicines, I might also point out, are man-made, but we know that medicines can save lives. Tylenol doesn’t grow on trees, you know. From Forbes:

Except for wild berries and wild mushrooms, virtually all the fruits, vegetables and grains in our diet have been genetically improved by one technique or another – often as a result of seeds being irradiated or genes being moved from one species or genus to another in ways that do not occur in nature. But because genetic engineering is more precise and predictable, the technology is at least as safe as – and often safer than – the modification of food products in cruder, “conventional” ways. This superior technology is the target of Prop. 37.

The safety record of genetically engineered plants and foods derived from them is extraordinary. Even after the cultivation worldwide of more than 3 billion acres of genetically engineered crops (by more than 14 million farmers) and the consumption of more than 3 trillion servings of food by inhabitants of North America alone, there has not been a single ecosystem disrupted or a single confirmed adverse reaction.

The advantages are also remarkable. Every year, farmers planting genetically engineered varieties spray millions fewer gallons of chemical pesticides and substantially reduce topsoil erosion. In addition, many of these varieties are less susceptible to mold infection and have lower levels of fungal toxins, making them safer for consumers and livestock.

Not only would requiring these types of foods to carry mandatory labels impose costs on producers and raise prices for everybody, including consumers, they would imply to consumers that they need to be wary of undefined dangers, which in turn limits their choices unnecessarily. Maybe part of the idea is that consumers are supposed to spring for the organic foods as an alternative (which no state has any business doing anyway), except that recent studies have suggested organic food might not actually be all that it’s cracked up to be:

…Stanford University doctors dug through reams of research to find out — and concluded there’s little evidence that going organic is much healthier, citing only a few differences involving pesticides and antibiotics.

Eating organic fruits and vegetables can lower exposure to pesticides, including for children — but the amount measured from conventionally grown produce was within safety limits, the researchers reported Monday.

Nor did the organic foods prove more nutritious.

Even the federal Food and Drug Administration, normally inclined towards being more meddlesome over less, has declined to require all foods in the U.S.A. to carry GMO labels. Imposing such a mandate in California would create a whole new level of regulation-and-litigation bureaucracy that no Californian food-business or individual consumer could avoid paying for. (For more resources, here’s a great piece from the Volokh Conspiracy on why this whole labeling idea is a possibly unconstitutional farce, and an op-ed from the LA Times on why California’s entire ballot-initiative procedure is a hot mess.)

The hubris of ignorant environmentalist groups never ceases to amaze. Have they ever paused to consider that genetically modified foods can, perhaps, save lives and help lift human beings out of poverty? Maybe? I know I’ve posted this video from Penn & Teller before, but it is great, and well worth the watch (warning: some brief foul language).

Sleeping with the Fishes

Perfect for tourists who have seen enough beaches or city landscapes, this floating hotel offers a room with a different kind of view: Ten feet beneath the surface of a Swedish lake.

The Utter Inn offers guests a night to remember, with windows in every wall of the bedroom looking out into the water, teeming with fish.

The ‘floatel’ is the brainchild of artist Mikael Genburg, known for his unique hotel experiences including one in a tree in a city centre park, and ‘Ooops’, the sunken villa which opened this summer not far from Utter Inn by Lake Malaren, Vasteras.

 
Idyllic: The floating hotel is located in the middle of a Swedish lake east of Stockholm

Idyllic: The floating hotel is located in the middle of a Swedish lake east of Stockholm
 
Above surface: On top of the sundeck is a hut which is designed to resemble a traditional Swedish cottage and guests step inside to climb down to their bedroom

Above surface: On top of the sundeck is a hut which is designed to resemble a traditional Swedish cottage and guests step inside to climb down to their bedroom

Utter Inn has an above-surface kitchen inside a little hut made to look like a traditional Swedish cottage.

At bedtime guests climb down the hatch to their sleeping quarters which has an all-round view of life under the surface. 

Mr Genburg, who opened Utter Inn in 2000, said the idea came to him out of the blue and he was curious to see if it could work.

He said: ‘I don’t think there is an experience quite like sleeping underwater and many people have come to find out if they like it.

 Life in a goldfish bowl: Guests can look out into the lake from the bedroom

Life in a goldfish bowl: Guests can look out into the lake from the bedroom
 
Interior: Despite being made of tough steel and glass the homely room has two single beds and is decorated with a traditional handknitted Swedish rug and a wooden floor

Interior: Despite the tough steel and glass exterior, the bedroom room has a homely feel with a hand-knitted Swedish rug on the wooden floor

‘It’s like a reverse aquarium – the fish like looking in at the guests and are fascinated by them.

‘It’s as if you’re sat on your own island when you’re on board – it’s just an amazing experience.’

After being taken out to the floating hut by Utter Inn staff, visitors can relax on the deck or use the hotel’s inflatable dinghy to explore one of the uninhabited islands in Lake Malaren before a night underwater.

The artist admitted that he had his doubts about the project when it first opened.

‘I was quite worried as it was an unproven concept, but now I love it!

‘Because there is a window on every side, you feel totally submerged in the lake.’

 Explore: In case the little hut gets too claustrophobic, guests can get in the inflatable dingy and take a trip around the lake

Explore: In case the little hut gets too claustrophobic, guests can get in the inflatable dingy and take a trip around the lake
 
Small, but perfectly formed: Cross section shows the floating platform and living quarters above the water line, with a ladder going down into the bedroom, with two single beds

Small, but perfectly formed: Cross section shows the floating platform and living quarters above the water line, with a ladder going down into the bedroom, with two single beds
 
The Utter Inn is located in southern Sweden, just east of the capital Stockholm

The Utter Inn is located in southern Sweden, just east of the capital Stockholm

Mikael said: ‘A lot of people who have visited have said they slept extremely well because of the rocking motion on board.

‘People with busy lives and high-pressured jobs tend to visit, I think for the natural peace there is in the very relaxing surroundings.

‘You can hear the lapping of the water outside of the windows as well which I think is a very therapeutic sound.

‘I always want to be by water – it’s so soothing, romantic and calm – all at the same time.’

Goodnight: A nearby town brightens up the already light Swedish summer night as the guests at Utter Inn nip off to sleep with the fishes

Goodnight: A nearby town brightens up the already light Swedish summer night as the guests at Utter Inn nip off to sleep with the fishes

Attribution: Mail Online

Benghazi was no Coincidence

Once again, You’ve been Lied to

by: the Common Constitutionalist

(As reports surface, the following article has been updated several times since I started writing it days ago.)

So, here’s what we’ve been told by the major media.

The night of Sept. 11, 2012, protesters are rioting outside and opened fire on the consulate building in Benghazi, Libya. At the same time from all 3 sides and within minutes the perimeter of the consulate was breeched.

Witnesses say that the, at least 30 guards, put up no resistance to the breech and fled.

A short time later the consulate was engulfed in flames.

The consulate staff raced to a supposedly secret safe house about a mile away.

The security staff then regrouped and tried to regain control of the consulate. They failed and were forced to fall back.

About an hour later, back up arrives to attempt to take back the main building. Meanwhile the ‘safe house’ is set ablaze. The attackers were evidently armed with automatic weapons, RPG’s and laser guided mortars capable of pinpoint accuracy. The 2 former Navy SEALs (one being Sean Smith) of ambassador Stevens security detail were killed in the firefight.

Around 1:15 am Stevens body was taken to a hospital. He was D.O.A.

So that’s what we all heard through the media. It was totally spontaneous. Nothing was planned in advance and all due a Youtube video.

Now for some oddities; things that don’t add up.

Ambassador Chris Stevens had been back in the country only a short while and the details of his visit to Benghazi, where he and his staff died, were meant to be confidential. His security staff decided the Benghazi trip was safe.

Why did he and his security people go into Benghazi, a well known hotspot, in an unmarked, unarmored car? Diplomats overseas always travel in armored cars or SUV’s. He also had no advance team.

Patrick Kennedy, Under-Secretary at the State Department, said he was convinced the assault was planned due to its extensive nature and the proliferation of weapons, yet the White House, the American ambassador to the U.N. et al, stated that the attack was absolutely the result of the video that no one saw. The video was released in June. Why, all of the sudden, was such a fuss made of it, months later?

Update: It has been confirmed publically, this was a planned terrorist attack.

The former Navy SEALs (both were originally said to be Marines) worked for the State Department and were Ambassador Steven’s security. They both were killed along side Stevens. One of them, Sean Smith, sent out a rather odd message. He posted that he had seen suspicious people.

Update: The CIA /SEALs may not have been his security.

His message read, “Assuming we don’t die tonight. We saw one of our ‘police’ that guard the compound taking pictures.” By “our police”, he meant local Libyan police that he apparently thought they could trust. The message was not the oddity; it was where it was posted. He didn’t the try to hail the embassy in Tripoli or any military or State Department. The post was to an online gaming website. Smith was known as “Vile Rat” on the site. This is the type of front that might be used by a CIA operative to reach out for help to other operatives.

Update: Two former SEALS, Tyrone Woods, 41, and Glen Doherty, 42, were not employed by the State Department diplomatic security office and instead were what is known as personal service contractors who had other duties related to security.

So why is the administration so hell bent on having everyone believe the attacks were due to the video when the new president of Libya is saying the exact opposite?

There was, according to witnesses, little defense put up by the 30 or more local guards meant to protect the staff. Ali Fetori, a 59-year-old accountant who lives near by, said: “The security people just all ran away and then the people in charge were the young men with guns and bombs.”

The building then came under fire from heavy weapons. “I don’t know how they found the place to carry out the attack. It was planned, the accuracy with which the mortars hit us was too good for any ordinary revolutionaries,” said Captain Obeidi. “It began to rain down on us, about six mortars fell directly on the path to the villa.” Villa? It has been portrayed as an established consulate. Wrongo! It was a rented house with bars on the windows.

Stevens lived in Tripoli. The embassy was in Tripoli. So why did he go to Benghazi. Benghazi was a bad place. That’s where all the radicals are. Where was he before? In Tripoli? It was reported he had just come back from a trip to Germany, Austria and Sweden.

Stevens was the US government’s representative to the opposition National Transitional Council (the rebels) during the 2011 uprising against the government of Muammar Gaddafi and had previously been the second-ranking US diplomat in Libya.

Prior to this event, one of Steven’s security men ( a former Navy SEAL) was interviewed and he said he was, “ On an intelligence mission to round up dangerous weapons in the war-torn nation”. There’s a problem with that statement. Diplomatic security doesn’t do that. They are charged with security and protection only. So who does do that? Former Navy SEALs who are now CIA.

So what weapons could the CIA be that concerned with, to feel the need to “round them up”?

If you recall, last year the Obama administration said it would help the rebel forces. When asked by Brian Williams, Obama said, “he had not ruled out the supply of weapons to the rebels but he had also not ruled it in.” I guess he did rule it in.

Benghazi was ground zero for the rebel forces opposing Gadhafi. It was confirmed a good deal of the rebels were actually al-Qaeda. Did we, in fact, arm al Qaeda? Looks like the Obama administration may have done just that.

There were reports circulating that we were now on the same side as al Qaeda. They (al Qaeda) wanted the ouster of Gadhafi also. The leader of the Libyan rebels admitted there were many al Qaeda fighting with them. The Rebel leader also admitted that he fought against the U.S. in Afghanistan. We actually captured him in 2002, but then released him. The enemy of our supposed enemy is not our friend.

Now there have been glowing reports of ambassador Stevens. He had a heart of gold and loved, according the New York Times, the regular Libyan people. He was portrayed as just a regular guy. How many regular guys sneak into warring countries under cover of darkness in cargo ships or ride around in unarmed cars at night with CIA operatives?

Is that the training regimen for all our diplomats? No? Then who was this guy? CIA, possibly? Could he be that regions CIA weapons dealer? Could he have been the man that brokered the deal to supply arms to the rebels? Items like the missiles that took down Gadhafi’s air force.

So now the Middle East is on fire so close to the presidential election. Where did all the weapons we supplied go? Who has all the weapons? What if the electorate discovers our government-supplied terrorists with weapons? Boy that wouldn’t look good.

Could it be that the CIA found a cache of weapons, or an informant that claimed knowledge of there whereabouts in Benghazi, or near by? Could it be that whomever has the weapons we so desperately needed to recover insisted on seeing the agent that brokered the original deal; agent Stevens?

So Stevens flys back to Libya on short notice, gets into an unmarked unarmored car at night, so as to not draw undue attention and he goes to the meeting. Maybe he was followed. Maybe something else goes awry. Is that how they end up at the safe house? This is the time Sean Smith sends his message to the gaming website. Is this really the time to do some online gaming? Of course not. The message to other CIA ops, get us the hell out of here!

They were likely followed to the “safe house”. The attack was designed to do exactly what it did. Kill the CIA agents.

What about the riots; the protests? They were called in by the terrorists to smoke out the agents.

Imagine if it were to come out that Obama supplied the weapons to the terrorists that killed our own people. It wouldn’t sit well, I think.

Of course this is just a theory, but it’s a lot more plausible than spontaneous riots, coincidentally on 9/11, taking out our ambassador and just three others.

How odd, that with all that mayhem only 4 people died, and all American. Huh.

Don’t go looking for the mainstream press to poke around in this hot zone. We might only learn the truth if this were the Bush administration.

Thank you to Glenn Beck for providing the bulk of this information. Attribution also goes to the Independent UK and the Blaze.

Trillions of Carats

Russia is about to start tapping into a huge source of diamonds that could supply the world market for the next 3,000 years.

Scientists estimate there are ‘trillions of carats’ lying beneath a 35million-year-old asteroid crater in Siberia – more than ten times the global stockpile.

The Kremlin has known about the reserves under the 62-mile-wide impact zone since the 1970s.

But it has kept it a secret until now because it was already reaping big profits in what back then was a heavily controlled market.

 
Hidden treasures: A aerial view of the 35-mile-wide Popigai Astroblem crater which contains enough diamonds to supply global markets for the next 3,000 years

Hidden treasures: A aerial view of the 35-mile-wide Popigai Astroblem crater which contains enough diamonds to supply global markets for the next 3,000 years
 
In the money: The crater, in eastern Siberia, has been known about since the 1970s, but the Kremlin kept it a secret to exploit its already rich reserves of the precious stone

In the money: The crater, in eastern Siberia, has been known about since the 1970s, but the Kremlin kept it a secret to exploit its already rich reserves of the precious stone

The Soviets had also been producing various artificial diamonds for industry which proved a lucrative enterprise.

Government officials finally gave scientists from the nearby Novosibirsk Institute of Geology and Mineralogy permission to lift the lid on the crater’s hidden gems in a meeting with journalists over the weekend.

The official news agency, ITAR-Tass, said the diamonds at the site, known as Popigai Astroblem, are ‘twice as hard’ as the usual gemstones, making them ideal for industrial and scientific uses.

According to The Christian Science Monitor, the institute’s director, Nikolai Pokhilenko, told the agency that the new source would cause a radical shake-up in the precious stones market.

 
Lucrative industry: These diamonds, weighing over 50 carats each, were found in Russia's Yakutia mine, which has been rich resource for the country, but nothing compared to the new one

Lucrative industry: These diamonds, weighing over 50 carats each, were found in Russia’s Yakutia mine, which has been rich resource for the country, but nothing compared to the new one

The resources of super-hard diamonds contained in rocks of the Popigai crypto-explosion structure are by a factor of ten bigger than the world’s all known reserves,’ he said.

‘We are speaking about trillions of carats. By comparison, present-day known reserves in Yakutia (a Russian mine) are estimated at one billion carats.’

The stones at Popigai are known as ‘impact diamonds’ which result when an object like a meteor strikes an existing diamond deposit.

They are also unique, which will make them even more sought-after in high-precision scientific and industrial markets.

Pokhilenko said: ‘The value of impact diamonds is added by their unusual abrasive features and large grain size.

‘This expands significantly the scope of their industrial use and makes them more valuable for industrial purposes.’

Diamond production was booming in Russia in 2007 when output reached $1.35billion, 98 per cent of which was exported to Belgium, Israel, Southeast Asia and the USA.

But the bottom fell out in 2009 when polished diamond production fell to an unprecedented low of US$350 million during the economic crisis.

With world markets starting to show signs of resilience, this may explain why Russia has chosen now to reveal its hidden treasure.

Attribution: Mail Online

Enough is Enough; Bring Them All Home

An Afghan police officer turned his gun on NATO troops at a remote checkpoint in southern Afghanistan before dawn Sunday, killing four American service members, according to Afghan and international officials.

It was the third attack by Afghan forces or insurgents disguised in military uniforms against international forces in as many days, killing eight troops in all.

Recent months have seen a string of such insider attacks by Afghan forces against their international counterparts. The killings have imperiled the military partnership between Kabul and NATO, a working relationship that is key to the handover of security responsibilities to Afghan forces as international troops draw down.

 
Night patrol: Infantry men from the 1st platoon, Delta company attend a briefing prior to embarking on night patrol in Kandahar province

Night patrol: Infantry men from the 1st platoon, Delta company attend a briefing prior to embarking on night patrol in Kandahar province
 

Meanwhile, according to Afghan officials, airstrikes by NATO planes killed eight women and girls in a remote part of the country, fueling a long-standing grievance against a tactic used by international forces that Afghans say causes excessive civilian casualties.

Villagers from a remote part of Laghman province’s Alingar district drove the bodies to the provincial capital, claiming they were killed by NATO aircraft while they were out gathering firewood before dawn. (Who gathers firewood in the dark?)

‘They were shouting ‘Death to America!’ They were condemning the attack,’ said Laghman provincial government spokesman Sarhadi Zewak.

Seven injured females were also brought to area hospitals for treatment, some of them as young as 10 years old, said provincial health director Latif Qayumi.

NATO forces at first said that about 45 insurgents and no civilians were killed in the attack but spokesman Jamie Graybeal stressed later that they took the charge of civilian deaths seriously and were investigating the allegations. (We’ll never find out the truth, because that is not important. It’s the mere allogation that counts. Gee, I wonder where the Taliban learned that accusatory technique? From the American left perhaps? Remember this quote from the Clarence Thomas confirmation hearings: “The nature of the evidence is irrelevant. It’s the seriousness of the charge.”)

 
An Infantry man from the 1st platoon walks in front of a tactical mine-resistant vehicle in Kandahar province

An Infantry man from the 1st platoon walks in front of a tactical mine-resistant vehicle in Kandahar province
 

‘Protecting Afghan lives is the cornerstone of our mission and it saddens us when we learn that our action might have unintentionally harmed civilians,’ Graybeal said. (Excuse me? That’s our U.S. military’s freaking mission?!)

Afghan President Hamid Karzai condemned the airstrike and said a government investigation had been opened.

The recent violence also comes amid an international uproar about an internet video mocking the Prophet Muhammad that many fear could further aggravate Afghan-U.S. relations. (but, of course, we all know that’s a lie. Even the brother of al Qaeda leader Ayman al Zawahiri admitted he hadn’t see the video.)

The video has sparked protests throughout the Muslim world and the Afghan government blocked the YouTube site that hosts the video and its parent company, Google, over the weekend in a move to prevent violent protests. So far, protests in Afghanistan have remained peaceful.

 
Infantry men on night patrol: The latest attack means that so far this year, Afghan security personnel have shot dead at least 47 NATO soldiers

Infantry men on night patrol: The latest attack means that so far this year, Afghan security personnel have shot dead at least 47 NATO soldiers
 

Details of Sunday’s attack were slow to come out because it took place in a remote area, said Graybeal, the NATO forces spokesman.

‘The attack took place in the vicinity of an outpost in southern Afghanistan. It is my understanding that it was a checkpoint,’ said Graybeal.

International forces often work with Afghan police to man checkpoints as part of the effort to train and mentor the Afghan forces so that they can eventually operate on their own.

The goal is to turn over all security responsibility for the country to the Afghans by the end of 2014, though numbers of NATO forces have already been reduced in many areas.

 
Two NATO soldiers were shot dead today by a man believed to be a member of a controversial Afghan police force in southern Afghanistan

Two NATO soldiers were shot dead today by a man believed to be a member of a controversial Afghan police force in southern Afghanistan
 

Graybeal said one police officer was killed in the clash with NATO troops but that the other officers at the site fled and it was unclear if they were involved in the attack or not.

Two international troops were wounded and were receiving treatment, Graybeal said. He did not say how serious the injuries were.

Afghan officials said the checkpoint in Zabul province’s Mizan district came under attack first from insurgents sometime around midnight. American forces came to help the Afghan police respond to the attack, said Ghulam Gilani, the deputy police chief of the province.

It was not clear if some of the Afghan police turned on their American helpers in the middle of the battle with the insurgents, or afterward, or were somehow forced into attacking the American troops by the insurgents, Gilani said.

‘The checkpoint was attacked last night. Then the police started fighting with the Americans. Whether they attacked the Americans willingly we don’t know,’ said Gilani. (my money is on willingly)

Continuing unrest: Afghan protesters set fire to a U.S. flag and shout slogans during a demonstration in Kabul

Continuing unrest: Afghan protesters set fire to a U.S. flag and shout slogans during a demonstration in Kabul

He said all four of the dead were American. A U.S. official speaking on anonymity because the information had not been officially released confirmed that the four killed were American.

Taliban spokesman Qari Yousef Ahmadi said the police who attacked were not affiliated with the Taliban insurgency. (the terrorists have spokesmen?)

‘But they are Afghans and they know that Americans are our enemy,’ Ahmadi told The Associated Press. In an emailed statement, he said the police who fled have joined up with the insurgency.

The coalition said in a statement that they were investigating what happened.

So far this year, 51 international service members have died at the hands of Afghan soldiers or policemen or insurgents wearing their uniforms. At least 12 such attacks came in August alone, leaving 15 dead.

On Saturday, a gunman in the uniform of a government-backed militia force shot dead two British soldiers in Helmand district in the southwest.

'Death to America': Afghans burn an effigy of President Obama during a protest in Khost, south-east of Kabul

‘Death to America’: Afghans burn an effigy of President Obama during a protest in Khost, south-east of Kabul

Britain’s defense minister said the two soldiers, from 3rd Battalion the Yorkshire Regiment, were killed at a checkpoint shooting in Nahri Sarraj district of Helmand province in southern Afghanistan, where the Taliban have their strongest roots.

NATO said earlier that the gunman was wearing a uniform used by the Afghan Local Police, a village-level fighting force overseen by the central government.

That strike came a day after insurgents wearing U.S. Army uniforms attacked a military base, killing two American Marines, wounding nine other people and destroying six Harrier fighter jets, military officials said. Fourteen insurgents were killed. The Taliban claimed responsibility for that attack and said that it was revenge for the video insulting Prophet Muhammad.

In the capital on Sunday, several hundred university students chanted ‘Death to America!’ and ‘Long life to Islam!’ over several hours to protest the video.

Riot police cordoned off the area and the protest ended without incident in the early afternoon. A smaller protest went forward in the western city of Herat.

Enough is enough. We have no mission or purpose over there. We’re going to leave anyway. Let’s just pack up and bring every man and woman home. They already know our politicians don’t have the stomach to win at any cost, or even what winning would look like. The terrorists will just continue to attack us with impunity, receiving little or no reprisal. On our way out we can burn down all the poppy fields and chemical treat them so they can’t be regrown.

Attribution: Daily Mail

It’s Alive!

by: Sam Shead

Experiments with echoes of Frankenstein suggest electricity could one day be used to regenerate tissue and regrow lost limbs.

Scientists believe electric currents and fields hold the key to major advances in tissue engineering.

In the distant future they may even help people with severed limbs, such as victims of industrial accidents or soldiers, to grow new arms and legs.

 
Electric currents and fields could one day be used to grow tissue for soldiers with severed limbs
Electric currents and fields could one day be used to grow tissue for soldiers with severed limbs

Electrical stimulus has already shown some success in stimulating sensory nerve regrowth in people with damaged spinal cords.

There is also evidence that bio-electric fields play a role in regenerating lost fingertips, especially in children.

But the importance of electricity in wound healing and tissue repair has been largely overlooked because of its association with Victorian quackery and Frankenstein, according to Dr Ann Rajnicek.

‘Electricity is key; its something that has been under-appreciated,’ she said. ‘But people still think of Frankenstein and the Victorian age. Even when you try to sell the idea to a research funding agency, they say ‘oh no, I’m not sure about that’.’

In Mary Shelley’s novel, electricity provides the spark that brings Frankenstein’s monster to life. 

The idea of using electricity for tissue engineering has been dismissed due to the connotations it holds with Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein novel.

 
The creature created by Frankenstein later went on to be called Frankenstein itself
The creature created by Frankenstein later went on to be called Frankenstein itself
 

During the Victorian era, when the novel was written, electricity and its biological effects gripped the public imagination.

Electrical devices were built that were supposed to treat all manner of ills, from depression to kidney disease and impotence.

Macabre stage experiments were also common in which the dead were apparently brought to life using electricity to make limbs jerk or teeth chatter, said Dr Rajnicek.

In a show conducted in Glasgow in 1818, the corpse of a man hung for murder suddenly sat up, causing members of the audience to flee in terror. One man fainted.

Dr Rajnicek’s research at the University of Aberdeen has demonstrated the effect of electricity on flatworms rather than human corpses.

‘We’re using flatworms that multiply asexually by spontaneous fission,’ she said. ‘The worm snaps itself in two like an elastic band so you have one end missing a head and other missing a tail.

Geckos have the ability to regrow their tails with a surplus of stem cells that migrate towards parts of the body that need healing

‘Each half reforms, and this is something that has perplexed scientists for hundreds of years. How does a tail know it needs a head or a head know it needs a tail?

‘We believe the natural electrical field that’s associated with the wounding process acts like a compass to tell cells where to migrate. You get a field that points towards the wound and directs cells there.

‘We’ve also found that there’s a gradient – the electrical field is positive but at the very tip of the head of the worm its much less positive, so the animal has natural electrical polarity. We think the stem cells are being directed to build either a head or tail because one end is more positive and the other end is more negative.’

When a flatworm is cut, electricity leaks out of the wound – and the same thing occurs in all other animals, including humans, said Dr Rajnicek. ‘The skin [is] like a battery,’ she said.

 
Earmouse: Scientists managed to graft a lab grown human-like ear onto the back of a mouse
Earmouse: MIT Scientists managed to graft a lab grown human-like ear onto the back of a mouse in 1995

In animals that regenerate limbs, such as flatworms and amphibians, the leakage produces an electrical potential that causes cells at the ‘stump’ to regress to an embryonic state. They can then mature into different kinds of new regenerated cells.

By reversing the polarity of the electric field at the wound site, Dr Rajnicek was able to produce worms with heads where their tails should be, and vice-versa. Manipulating the field led to worms with two heads or two tails.

The scientists know there is much more to the story because flatworms are not completely simple creatures. They have complex nervous systems with two parallel nerve cords and a brain, eyes, a gut, and around 40 different cell types.

‘We are still at the early stages, but we want to look at the genes that are switched on or off by the presence or absence of this field,’ said Dr Rajnicek, who gave a presentation on her work at the British Science Festival at the University of Aberdeen.

There is evidence that the leakage of electricity from wounds aids healing in humans, she added.

In the 1980s, researchers studied cases of children who regrew the tips of their fingers after having them sliced off in car doors.

They found that younger children healed better, and also leaked the most current from their wounds. When the wounds were sutured and sealed up, it prevented regeneration.

Another case in 2008 involved American Lee Spievak who chopped half an inch off the end of a finger in the propeller of a model aeroplane. The finger tip was lost, but Mr Spievak treated himself with a powder obtained from a tissue engineering lab at the University of Pennsylvania where his brother worked. The media described the regrowth of his finger tip as a ‘medical miracle’.

Mr Spievak put his recovery down to the powder, prepared from pigs bladder cells, which he called “pixie dust”. Dr Rajnicek believes growth factors in the powder may have worked in conjunction with the electrical effect of the open wound.

Covering up open wounds might help prevent infection, but could also hinder recovery, she suggested.

She added that early work had already shown that manipulating electricity can help repair damaged spinal cords.

A team from the University of North Texas improved sensory nerve function in 10 patients using electrical stimulus, although no effect was seen on motor function.

‘We’re not saying electricity is the only thing that matters, but it is one piece of the puzzle that has been neglected,’ said Dr Rajnicek.

The Volt needs a Jolt

Reuters: GM Is Losing Nearly $50K on Each Electric Volt

by:  at the Blaze

General Motors posts a $49,000 loss for each new Volt plug-in hybrid it produces, Reuters reports.

You know what this means, right? It means that for each new Chevy Volt, the taxpayer bailed out company loses what the average American makes in a year.

And on top of that, rock bottom lease offers made during the summer may have inflated the above number. According to the report, some motorists paid only $5K to drive around in a new $80K Volt for two years. Oh, yeah, and Volt production has been put on hold at GM’s Detroit-Hamtramck plant.

What we’re trying to say is that it will be a very, very long time (if ever) before GM makes a profit on the Volt.

The problem with the car is that “the Volt is over-engineered and over-priced,” according to Dennis Virag, president of the Michigan-based Automotive Consulting Group.

But hey! If it’s any consolation to GM, Nissan, Honda and Mitsubishi are all having a hard time marketing their electric and hybrid models as well. But even that minor bit of consolation disappears when you consider the fact that Toyota has had great success with its Prius model (meaning it’s possible to have a successful electric-hybrid).

“GM’s quandary is how to increase sales volume so that it can spread its estimated $1.2-billion investment in the Volt over more vehicles while reducing manufacturing and component costs — which will be difficult to bring down until sales increase,” the Reuters report reads.

“But the Volt’s steep $39,995 base price and its complex technology — the car uses expensive lithium-polymer batteries, sophisticated electronics and an electric motor combined with a gasoline engine — have kept many prospective buyers away from Chevy showrooms,” the report adds.

But more than just steep prices, many Americans simply prefer a car that gets better mileage and has the infrastructure in place to help charge and maintain it.

“It’s true, we’re not making money yet” on the Volt, Doug Parks, GM’s vice president of global product programs and the former Volt development chief, told Reuters in an interview. The Volt “eventually will make money. As the volume comes up and we get into the Gen 2 car, we’re going to turn (the losses) around,” he added.

But some analysts disagree with Parks.

“I don’t see how General Motors will ever get its money back on that vehicle,” said Sandy Munro, president of Michigan-based Munro & Associates, which specializes in vehicular analysis.

It currently costs GM “at least” $74K to produce the Volt, including development costs, Munro added.

“That’s nearly twice the base price of the Volt before a $7,500 federal tax credit provided as part of President Barack Obama’s green energy policy,” Reuters notes.

Again, as stated earlier in this article, with these type of costs tied into the vehicle’s production, it may be a very, very long time (if ever) before GM sees a profit on the Volt.