Thursday, March 28, 2013

Discovery may allow scientists to make fuel from CO2 in the atmosphere

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Excess carbon dioxide in the Earth's atmosphere created by the widespread burning of fossil fuels is the major driving force of global climate change, and researchers the world over are looking for new ways to generate power that leaves a smaller carbon footprint.

Now, researchers at the University of Georgia have found a way to transform the carbon dioxide trapped in the atmosphere into useful industrial products. Their discovery may soon lead to the creation of biofuels made directly from the carbon dioxide in the air that is responsible for trapping the sun's rays and raising global temperatures.

"Basically, what we have done is create a microorganism that does with carbon dioxide exactly what plants do?absorb it and generate something useful," said Michael Adams, member of UGA's Bioenergy Systems Research Institute, Georgia Power professor of biotechnology and Distinguished Research Professor of biochemistry and molecular biology in the Franklin College of Arts and Sciences.

During the process of photosynthesis, plants use sunlight to transform water and carbon dioxide into sugars that the plants use for energy, much like humans burn calories from food.

These sugars can be fermented into fuels like ethanol, but it has proven extraordinarily difficult to efficiently extract the sugars, which are locked away inside the plant's complex cell walls.

"What this discovery means is that we can remove plants as the middleman," said Adams, who is co-author of the study detailing their results published March 25 in the early online edition of the Proceedings of the National Academies of Sciences. "We can take carbon dioxide directly from the atmosphere and turn it into useful products like fuels and chemicals without having to go through the inefficient process of growing plants and extracting sugars from biomass."

The process is made possible by a unique microorganism called Pyrococcus furiosus, or "rushing fireball," which thrives by feeding on carbohydrates in the super-heated ocean waters near geothermal vents. By manipulating the organism's genetic material, Adams and his colleagues created a kind of P. furiosus that is capable of feeding at much lower temperatures on carbon dioxide.

The research team then used hydrogen gas to create a chemical reaction in the microorganism that incorporates carbon dioxide into 3-hydroxypropionic acid, a common industrial chemical used to make acrylics and many other products.

With other genetic manipulations of this new strain of P. furiosus, Adams and his colleagues could create a version that generates a host of other useful industrial products, including fuel, from carbon dioxide.

When the fuel created through the P. furiosus process is burned, it releases the same amount of carbon dioxide used to create it, effectively making it carbon neutral, and a much cleaner alternative to gasoline, coal and oil.

"This is an important first step that has great promise as an efficient and cost-effective method of producing fuels," Adams said. "In the future we will refine the process and begin testing it on larger scales."


University of Georgia:

Thanks to University of Georgia for this article.

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BOJ chief says Japan economy on the mend

TOKYO (AP) ? Japan's economy has stopped weakening and should show signs of recovery by midyear, the newly appointed central bank governor said Thursday, as weaker-than-expected retail sales for February underscored the challenge he faces in restoring consumer confidence.

"The bank currently assesses that the economy has stopped weakening," Bank of Japan Gov. Haruhiko Kuroda told lawmakers in presenting the bank's semiannual report. But he said there was still "a high degree of uncertainty" about the economy because of the crisis in Europe, the tenuous state of the U.S. recovery and often testy relations with China.

Kuroda has pledged to work with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's government in achieving a 2 percent inflation target, preferably within two years, and ending years of growth-inhibiting deflation. However, the success of that program will hinge on ensuring that domestic demand is strong enough to spur investment and hiring by companies that are sitting on huge cash reserves.

Exports, battered by feeble demand in the key U.S. and European markets and by anti-Japanese protests in China, appear to have stopped declining, Kuroda said, while private consumption has remained resilient.

"With regard to the outlook, the pick-up in Japan's economy is expected to become more evident around mid-2013," he said.

However, data from the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry, released Thursday, showed retail sales falling 2.3 percent from a year earlier in February, worse than the 1.2 percent drop forecast by most analysts. Sales rose 1.6 percent from the month before.

By boosting inflation, Japan's planners hope to persuade consumers to spend more now in anticipation of price increases in the future. That could prove a daunting challenge given a drop in real wages over the past two decades and a weak job market, said Susumu Takahashi, head of the Japan Research Institute and a member of a government economic advisory council.

The only way to achieve the inflation target within two years, he said, was to change expectations.

"The only way is for the deflationary way of thinking to change. Without that it will be very hard," he said.

After taking power late last year, Abe's administration embarked on an aggressive stimulus program of government spending, monetary easing and planned reforms aimed at improving Japan's competitiveness. Revised figures show Japan's economy likely emerged from a recession late last year, but other data has been mixed.

Kuroda said prices are unlikely to rise for the next few months but after that Japan would see some progress toward its inflation target as the economy moved toward a "moderate recovery path."

The central bank asset purchases and other strategies adopted so far have not been sufficient to reach the inflation target, he said, reiterating his intention to manage market expectations and "make clear that we have adopted the uncompromising stance that we will do whatever is necessary to overcome deflation."


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Saturday, March 23, 2013

Top U.S. court to decide on deals to delay cheaper drugs

By Diane Bartz

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. Supreme Court will hear arguments on Monday over whether big drug companies can settle patent litigation with generic rivals by making deals to keep cheaper products off the market.

U.S. and state regulators say the practice costs consumers, insurers and government billions of dollars annually.

The Federal Trade Commission, which has dubbed the arrangements "pay for delay," has fought them in court for more than a decade with mixed success, culminating in the case now before the Supreme Court.

"The continuing stream of monopoly profits is large enough to pay the generic competitors more than they could hope to earn if they entered the market at competitive prices," the FTC said in a brief.

At the same time, the brand-name manufacturer receives greater profits than it could earn in the face of generic competition, the regulatory agency argued.

The Justice Department, the European Union and more than two dozen U.S. state attorneys general view the deals as illegal, but drug companies defend them as a way to avoid potentially lengthy patent litigation.

"In every case that we've been involved in that resulted in a settlement, it has resulted in years being taken off the patent life," said Paul Bisaro, chief executive of generic drug maker Actavis, Inc. Actavis was formerly Watson Pharmaceuticals.

"It's very unsophisticated to say 'Oh, they get paid a bunch of money to stay off the market,'" said Bisaro.

In the case before the court, Solvay Pharmaceuticals Inc, now owned by AbbVie, sued generic drug makers Watson, Paddock Laboratories Inc and Par Pharmaceutical Cos in 2003 to stop them from making cheaper versions of AndroGel, which is used to treat men with low testosterone.

The firms settled in 2006, reaching a deal that generic AndroGel would not be marketed until 2015. The patent expires in 2020.

In exchange, the FTC alleges, the generic manufacturers were each paid as much as $30 million annually. AbbVie's 2012 sales of AndroGel totaled $1.2 billion.

Solvay internal documents dating from April 2006 which were released at the Supreme Court on Friday, show that months before the companies struck their deal, Solvay concluded that it would make about $1.4 billion from AndroGel if it won the court fight and $359 million if it did not.

The documents also show what appear to be a list of ideas of what to offer the generic firms to make it attractive to them to settle and delay entry. One was to allow Watson to promote the drug to urologists, while Solvay would not.

The FTC declined comment on the documents.


AbbVie spokeswoman Adelle Infante described the papers as "a single document among hundreds of thousands of pages of documents that were provided to the FTC."

"This internal analysis is insignificant because the negotiated patent settlement led to generic entry years in advance of the expiration of the patent, she said.

The company also said that it expected to prevail.

"The federal district and appellate courts have both previously ruled that the plaintiff's allegations lacked merit. We are confident that these decisions will be upheld," Adelle Infante, an AbbVie spokeswoman, said in a statement.

The Supreme Court is expected to issue a decision by the end of June.

AbbVie's arrangement with the generic manufacturers is similar to the 40 deals made in the 2012 fiscal year, which ended on September 30. That was up from 28 the previous year, despite FTC efforts to stop them. The FTC said the agreements involved 31 different brand-name drugs with total U.S. sales of more than $8.3 billion annually.

The FTC sued to stop the AndroGel arrangement, arguing that it was illegal under antitrust law because the companies divided up the market.

The FTC lost at the district court level and lost an appeal as well. But another appellate court has said the deals were illegal, prompting the Supreme Court to step in.

The FTC also sued Cephalon Inc, accusing it in 2008 of blocking a generic version of the anti-sleep drug Provigil. The case has been stayed, pending the Supreme Court's decision.

In 2001 the FTC sued Schering-Plough Corp., which was later bought by Merck and Co Inc, because of payments to rivals to delay generic versions of its potassium supplement, K-Dur 20. The FTC lost that case.

But in a private case that also involved K-Dur, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit, in New Jersey, backed the FTC position and found the deals to be illegal.


Opponents of pay-for-delay deals in the United States and Europe are not waiting for a high-court decision, though.

Senator Amy Klobuchar, a Democrat from Minnesota and chairwoman of the Senate Judiciary Committee's antitrust panel, and Senator Chuck Grassley, a Republican from Iowa, introduced legislation in February to make the deals illegal.

Previous bills have failed, in part because of opposition from the drug industry, both branded and generic.

In Brussels, EU regulators have eight investigations under way involving more than a dozen drugmakers. The European competition regulator says the deals violate antitrust law.

The decision will be made by an eight-member U.S. Supreme Court. Justice Samuel Alito recused himself, without giving a reason.

The case is Federal Trade Commission v. Watson Pharmaceuticals Inc et al, U.S. Supreme Court, No. 12-416.

(Reporting By Diane Bartz; editing by Ros Krasny, Kenneth Barry and David Brunnstrom)


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Friday, March 22, 2013

NRSC Creates Blogger Outreach Position To Facilitate ...

This week, the Republican National Committee released an "autopsy" on how the GOP lost the election in 2012 and where it can improve its branding going forward. William Jacobsen of Legal Insurrection noted that the 100 page report failed to mention New Media and bloggers as an opportunity to improve communications. However, the National Republican Senatorial Committee has seen the power of New Media and has decided to take a more proactive approach. The NRSC recently hired Bill Murphy to direct blogger outreach.

Murphy, Director of BlogBash, appeared at a blogger's briefing at CPAC this past weekend and said, "They get it now. Their whole team is fired up and ready to reach out to all the conservative online activists and all the bloggers. You (bloggers) will start getting a lot of emails from us, and if you have any comments or any kind of criticism, we will appreciate hearing from you." Murphy previously served in a similar capacity on the Romney campaign.?

It will be interesting to see if they reach out to bloggers and activists that are aligned with groups such as FreedomWorks where there has been pushback against the incumbent protection machines. Will they make a concerted effort to strengthen the party by choosing many voices instead of one? Many believed that the RNC report served as a roadmap for centralizing power at the top, instead of allowing the grassroots to help craft new election strategies. The true power of the decentralized media is the ability to have many voices and perspectives. Time will tell if the NRSC will embrace the democratization of media, or will rather seek to homogenize the message.

With the decline of traditional media and the decline of access to actual news in those mainstream media outlets, digital media is poised to become the dominant force in news dissemination. The annual report from the Pew Research Center's Project for Excellence in Journalism on The State of the News Media says, in part,

[Increasingly] newsmakers and others with information they want to put into the public arena have become more adept at using digital technology and social media to do so on their own, without any filter by the traditional media.? They are also seeing more success in getting their message into the traditional media narrative. ?

We saw what the Obama campaign was able to do when it combined astonishingly detailed data analysis with online outreach and digital media. The NRSC seems to have taken that lesson to heart. As traditional news outlets slowly die out, it will be more important than ever for Conservatives to own the digital arena and properly leverage their advantages.

We no longer live in an age of passive participation in politics.


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SmackDown Five-Point Preview: Mar. 22, 2013

All WWE programming, talent names, images, likenesses, slogans, wrestling moves, trademarks, logos and copyrights are the exclusive property of WWE, Inc. and its subsidiaries. All other trademarks, logos and copyrights are the property of their respective owners. ? 2012 WWE, Inc. All Rights Reserved. This website is based in the United States. By submitting personal information to this website you consent to your information being maintained in the U.S., subject to applicable U.S. laws. U.S. law may be different than the law of your home country. WrestleMania XXIX (NY/NJ) logo TM & ? 2012 WWE. All Rights Reserved. The Empire State Building design is a registered trademark and used with permission by ESBC.


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Movie review: 'Stoker' goes wild with Hitchcock style | The Salt Lake ...

Evelyn (Nicole Kidman, left) and her daughter India (Mia Wasikowska) mourn India's father Richard in the thriller "Stoker." Courtesy Fox Searchlight

When you?re going to rip off Hitchcock, you might as well go for it with both feet ? as Korean director Park Chan-Wook does in his first Hollywood film, the eerie thriller "Stoker."

When the patriarch of the Stoker clan, Richard (Dermot Mulroney), dies in a mysterious car accident, the news hits his wife, Evelyn (Nicole Kidman), hard. But their awkward daughter, India (Mia Wasikowska), who turned 18 on the day of the accident, takes it harder. Evelyn and India have little time to mourn when Richard?s long-absent brother Charlie (Matthew Goode) arrives, stirring the loins of mother and daughter. But India starts to see Uncle Charlie?s dark side and is both repulsed by it and attracted to him.

Park (who directed the Korean classic "Oldboy") amps up every moment with a sweaty, ghoulish atmosphere, and he plants the Hitchcock references like an Easter egg hunt. There are a plot point from "Shadow of a Doubt" and swinging light fixtures out of "Psycho," among other things. But Park?s bravura directing moves, while giving Kidman and Wasikowska some meaty scenes to chew up, cover the glaring story holes that screenwriter Wentworth Miller (yes, the actor from "Prison Break") leaves all over the field.;

Copyright 2013 The Salt Lake Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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iCloud revealed as America?s most-used cloud storage service

Apple (AAPL) may not have the best reputation for online services but that hasn?t stopped its iCloud online storage service from becoming the most-used cloud service in the United States. A new report from Strategy Analytics shows that 27% American web users user iCloud, giving it a lead of 10 percentage points over runner-up Dropbox, which is used by 17% of American web users. What makes Dropbox?s share remarkable is that, as Strategy Analytics notes, it ?has no associated content ecosystem,? which should seemingly put it at a disadvantage compared to iCloud, Amazon?s (AMZN) Cloud Drive and Google (GOOG) Play. So the fact that Dropbox ranks only behind Apple for the title of America?s most-used cloud service is impressive, especially for a company that Microsoft (MSFT) CEO Steve Ballmer recently dismissed as a ?little startup.??Strategy Analytics? full press release is posted below.


[More from BGR: BlackBerry Z10 said to have ?disappointing? preorder volumes in the U.S.]

Dropbox hits 17% of market share with no associated content ecosystem

Over half of Americans online have never used cloud storage service

Boston, MA ? March 21, 2013: Apple is dominating the cloud storage wars, followed by Dropbox, Amazon and Google according to Strategy Analytics ?Cloud Media Services? surve.?In a recent study of almost 2,300 connected Americans, Strategy Analytics found that 27% have used Apple?s iCloud followed by 17% for Dropbox, 15% for Amazon Cloud Drive and 10% for Google Play (see chart).

Usage of cloud storage is heavily skewed towards younger people, in particular 20-24 year olds, whilst Apple?s service is the only one with more female than male users. Amongst the big four, Google?s is the one most heavily skewed towards males.

Cloud storage is overwhelmingly dominated by music; around 90% of Apple, Amazon and Google?s cloud users store music. Even Dropbox ? which has no associated content ecosystem ? sees around 45% of its users storing music files. Dropbox?s recent acquisition of Audiogalaxy will add a much needed native music player to the platform in the coming months.

?Music is currently the key battleground in the war for cloud domination. Google is tempting users by giving away free storage for 20,000 songs which can be streamed to any Android device, a feature both Amazon and Apple charge annual subscriptions for,? observes Ed Barton, Strategy Analytics? Director of Digital Media. ?However, the growth of video streaming and the desire to access content via a growing range of devices will see services such as the Hollywood-backed digital movie initiative Ultraviolet ? currently used by 4% of Americans ? increase market share.?

Barton continues, ?The cloud?s role in the race to win over consumers? digital media libraries has evolved from a value added service for digital content purchases to a feature-rich and increasingly device agnostic digital locker for music and movies. Dropbox being used by 1 in 6 Americans shows that an integrated content storefront isn?t essential to build a large user base, however we expect competition to intensify sharply over the coming years.?

Strategy Analytics found that, the big four cloud storage services aside, recognition of other brands was uniformly low. Furthermore 55% of connected Americans have never used a cloud storage service ? although, amongst consumers who have used one, one third (33%) had done so in the last week.

?There needs to be considerable investment in evangelizing these services to a potentially willing yet largely oblivious audience,? suggests Barton. ?Given the size of bet Hollywood is making with Ultraviolet, this will be essential to their success given a crowded market and widespread apathy. However, more fundamental questions remain ? is the use of more than one cloud service going to be too much for consumers to handle and will consolidation in such a fragmented market become inevitable??

Barton concludes, ?Although cloud storage is fast becoming a key pillar of digital platform strategies for the world?s leading device manufacturers and digital content distributors, there?s still a lot of work to do in educating consumers ? particularly those over 45. With over half of consumers yet to use any consumer cloud based service, 2013 predictions for the ?year of the cloud? seem unrealistic. However given the market influence of the leading players pushing the concept, in particular Apple, Amazon, Google and Ultraviolet, I won?t be surprised to see mainstream adoption and usage spike within the next two to three years in the key US market.?


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