Saturday, March 19, 2016

‘Lost’ Memories in Alzheimer Sufferers May Be Recoverable, Says Study

In the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease, patients are often unable to remember recent experiences. However, a new study from MIT suggests that those memories are still stored in the brain — they just can’t be easily accessed.

The MIT neuroscientists report in Nature that mice in the early stages of Alzheimer’s can form new memories just as well as normal mice but cannot recall them a few days later. However, the researchers were able to artificially stimulate those memories using a technique known as optogenetics, suggesting that those memories can still be retrieved with a little help. Although optogenetics cannot currently be used in humans, the findings raise the possibility of developing future treatments that might reverse some of the memory loss seen in early-stage Alzheimer’s, the researchers say.

“As humans and mice tend to have a common principle in terms of memory, our findings suggest that Alzheimer’s disease patients, at least in their early stages, may also keep memories in their brains, which means there may be a possibility of a cure,” Susumu Tonegawa, the Picower Professor of Biology and Neuroscience and senior author of the study, told AFP.

“Even if a memory seems to be gone, it is still there. It’s a matter of how to retrieve it,” says Tonegawa.

Lost Memories
In recent years, Tonegawa’s lab has identified cells in the brain’s hippocampus that store specific memories. The researchers have also shown that they can manipulate these memory traces, or engrams, to plant false memories, activate existing memories, or alter a memory’s emotional associations.

Last year, Tonegawa, who is director of the RIKEN-MIT Center for Neural Circuit Genetics, and Dheeraj Roy, an MIT graduate student who is the paper’s lead author, found that mice with retrograde amnesia, which follows traumatic injury or stress, had impaired memory recall but could still form new memories. That led the team to wonder whether this might also be true for the memory loss seen in the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease, which occurs before characteristic amyloid plaques appear in patients’ brains.

To investigate that possibility, the researchers studied two different strains of mice genetically engineered to develop Alzheimer’s symptoms, plus a group of healthy mice.

All of these mice, when exposed to a chamber where they received a foot shock, showed fear when placed in the same chamber an hour later. However, when placed in the chamber again several days later, only the normal mice still showed fear. The Alzheimer’s mice did not appear to remember the foot shock.

“Short-term memory seems to be normal, on the order of hours. But for long-term memory, these early Alzheimer’s mice seem to be impaired,” Roy says.

“An Access Problem”
“Directly activating the cells that we believe are holding the memory gets them to retrieve it,” Roy says. “This suggests that it is indeed an access problem to the information, not that they’re unable to learn or store this memory.”

“This is a remarkable study providing the first proof that the earliest memory deficit in Alzheimer’s involves retrieval of consolidated information,” says Rudolph Tanzi, a professor of neurology at Harvard Medical School, who was not involved in the research. “As a result, the implications for treatment of memory deficits Alzheimer’s disease based on strengthening synapses are extremely exciting.”

Long-term Connection
The researchers were also able to induce a longer-term reactivation of the “lost” memories by stimulating new connections between the entorhinal cortex and the hippocampus.

Optogenetics, which stimulates entorhinal cortex cells, is very precise but too invasive to use in humans, and existing methods for deep brain stimulation — a form of electrical stimulation sometimes used to treat Parkinson’s and other diseases — affect too much of the brain.

“It’s possible that in the future some technology will be developed to activate or inactivate cells deep inside the brain, like the hippocampus or entorhinal cortex, with more precision,” Tonegawa says. “Basic research as conducted in this study provides information on cell populations to be targeted, which is critical for future treatments and technologies.”

Daily Inspirational Quote - March 19, 2016

“Who are you to judge the life I live? I am not perfect and don’t have to be! Before you start pointing fingers, make sure your hands are clean.”

Being honest, I must admit I can occasionally be judgmental, although it’s something I’m working on. Quick to assume or make a snap judgment of someone without knowing anything about them. I am far from alone and most people I know tend to think along the same lines to a certain degree. However, as I said, I’m working on it, and learning to take the time to learn a bit more about who someone really is and where they’re coming from before I make a judgment. Hopefully, this works both ways and people will take the time to get to know me better or discover more about me before making judgments or firm opinions about me and how I should be living my life. Quid pro quo rules!


Lawrence Bloom: Captain Planet

"Meet Lawrence Bloom. His team invented today's ubiquitous hotel cards that promote towel reuse. But the businessman turned earth guru doesn't plan to stop there; he's on a lifetime mission to save us from ourselves." Alicia Buller reports on Bloom's insights from a transformation which began one introspective day, many years ago, as Bloom sat in his luxury Mercedes, parked outside his seven-bedroom home in London's wealthy Hampstead. "Is this it?" In that moment his life changed forever and Bloom decided to become a man of "right action" -- compelled towards a life of reverence to earth and humanity.

Friday, March 18, 2016

Dogs Can Now Join NYC Diners at Outdoor Tables, Say New Rules

With the warm weather upon us, some New Yorkers will be thrilled at the new ‘Dining With Dogs’ rule that allow canines into certain defined outdoor dining areas.

The New York City rules clarify that participating restaurants allowing dogs in outdoor areas must post a sign to alert customers that the pets must be licensed and vaccinated against rabies–though restaurants will not be required to verify any paperwork.

“I’m so pleased that the City Department of Health threw dog lovers a bone,” said the bill’s sponsor, Assemblymember Linda B. Rosenthal. “These proposed regulations are common sense measures designed to protect the public health while allowing New Yorkers to dine with their dogs.”

Restaurants must also use barriers or other methods to limit contact between dogs in the outdoor dining area and dogs and people on an adjacent sidewalk. The rule will be effective 30 days from March 15.

Navy Rescues Dog 5 Weeks After It Fell Overboard in the Ocean (WATCH)

A German shepherd missing at sea for five weeks is back home after the U.S. Navy rescued the dog on an island in the Pacific.

Eighteen-month-old Luna apparently fell overboard from a Nick Hayworth’s fishing boat February 10, eighty miles off the California coast.

He was two miles away from San Clemente Island when he noticed Luna was gone and reported her missing to the U.S. Navy.

Sailors launched air, land, and sea searches over several days in February, but couldn’t find any trace of the dog. Then Tuesday, conservationists driving across the island, which is maintained by the Navy, spotted a dog by the side of the road. They opened their car door and Luna jumped in, ready for a ride home.

Luna, it turns out, is a survival expert. Not only did she have to swim two miles through the ocean to land, but there’s no natural fresh water on the island. She had to find rain puddles and live off whatever food she could scavenge for five weeks.

The Navy flew her to San Diego Wednesday where Hayworth’s best friend was waiting to pick her up until the family returns to California.

We think this self-rescuing pup deserves a big treat and her own reality show.

SeaWorld Ends Captive Breeding of Orcas at All its Parks

SeaWorld announced today it is ending its killer whale breeding program, and for its last generation of orcas it will provide only natural encounters for visitors, phasing out all circus acts for the giant ocean mammals.

The park has also agreed not to collect any more marine mammals from the wild and has entered a partnership with the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS).

Wayne Pacelle, the CEO of HSUS, said in a statement his group would work with the park on a wide range of animal protection issues following SeaWorld’s “game-changing commitment” to end captive orca breeding.

“Everything will reflect the natural world and will focus on the research, education, care and respect that align with our mission to advance the well-being and conservation of these beautiful creatures,” said SeaWorld in a statement.

The aquatic animal park has been under mounting pressure over the killer whale shows at its parks in Florida, Texas, and California, and says it will have phased in its plan by next year in San Diego, and in all locations by 2019.

SeaWorld promised last year it would phase out its killer whale show at it’s San Diego, California park after mounting pressure from the state and animal activists. A California commission later banned the orca breeding program at that park.

Daily Inspirational Quote - March 18, 2016

“An open mind allows you to explore and create and grow. Remember that progress would be impossible if we always did things the way we always have.”

An open mind reminds me of a big plot of land with absolutely nothing remotely resembling a fence on or around it. I guess it could also be that I don’t have a lot going on upstairs? Quickly moving on…. Those of us who allow our minds to be open to new ideas, who maintain a thirst for knowledge and who also seize every opportunity for advancement are the ones responsible for keeping everything moving on the great conveyor belt of life. If we restrict our wonderful minds by erecting a barrier that sifts through the possibilities moving along the belt and discard anything remotely new out then it’s like cutting off the blood flow to a treasure trove. Be prepared to be open and add to your “treasures.”


Ten Counterproductive Behaviors of Well-Intentioned People

"We are not all privileged or all oppressed. We are complex people with complex identities that intersect in complex ways. Therefore, we all show up in problematic ways with our privilege. I own that my background is from the higher education setting, but I think the points below can be useful for all folks interested in creating dynamic change in the communities around them." This article shares ten counterproductive behaviors to be mindful of in the midst of all our well-intentioned efforts to help create a better world.

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Daily Inspirational Quote - March 17, 2016

“Don’t allow negative people to make you one of them.”

Some people are “glass half empty” by nature aren’t they? It doesn’t matter how good they have things, or how blessed they are, the glass is seen as half empty and always will be. I feel very sorry for them as I try to be a “glass half full” and indeed, a glass hoping to be full again very soon, type of “girl”. As such, I tend to let them get on with it as it is their choice and they’re welcome to it. They will never change this “glass half full” lady. I hope you are keeping me company in this belief? Well, are you……..?


Understanding of the Heart: A Conversation with Irene Sullivan

Irene Sullivan is an artist. She's lived in remote regions of Alaska as a nurse practitioner; her experiences with indigenous people led her to an interest in female shamanism among arctic peoples and to independent research as a Fulbright Scholar. Later she became an ordained priest in the Episcopal Church in the sub-arctic region of northern Manitoba where she served three villages of the Cree people. She is co-author of the Dictionary of Native American Mythology. As she writes, my artwork is a response to my experiences of living an observed life of mystery, silence, research and scholarship.

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Obama Posts Video Introducing Judge He Nominated for Supreme Court

President Barack Obama announced his nomination of Chief Judge Merrick Garland to the Supreme Court.

“Judge Garland has earned bipartisan praise as one of the best appellate judges in the country – a brilliant, meticulous jurist with a reputation for building consensus,” said Obama in his introduction.

“He has dedicated his life to public service, choosing to serve our country and take on some of the most difficult and significant anti-terrorism cases in America’s history including prosecuting Timothy McVeigh in the wake of the Oklahoma City bombing.

“Beyond the courtroom, Judge Garland is a committed mentor and dedicated family man, advising hundreds of law clerks and tutoring elementary school kids in reading and math,” he added.
The White House shared a video in which Garland introduces himself and his family and speaks about his life and accomplishments.

“The rule of law is what distinguishes our country from many other countries,” Garland says. “And, people’s willingness to trust…that the law will treat them fairly.”

“Take a few minutes to watch this video and meet him for yourself,” wrote Obama for Facebook, where the video was posted. “I’m confident you will share my belief that Chief Judge Merrick Garland is not only eminently qualified to be a Supreme Court Justice, but that he deserves a fair hearing and an up-or-down vote in the Senate. I have fulfilled my Constitutional duty. Now it’s time for the Senate to do theirs.”

With Tax Deadline a Month Away, Free Tax Services Available Online From Nonprofit

With almost one month left until the tax deadline, we wanted to let Americans know about the Free File Alliance, a nonprofit partnership between tax software companies and the Internal Revenue Service, which is offering free tax solutions on the internet–both for low income and higher income earners.

Taxpayers with a 2015 Adjusted Gross Income of $62,000 or less can access free, industry-leading tax software to prepare, complete and e-file their federal tax returns at no cost. Free state return options are also available to everyone earning less than $62,000.

If your income exceeded $62,000, you can e-file your federal tax returns or apply for an extension using Free File Fillable Forms—a service designed for taxpayers who are familiar with tax law and need no preparation assistance. Free File also helps taxpayers with the new health care requirements. Using Free File, most taxpayers will simply have to check a box to report health care coverage for the entire year. The service is also available in Spanish.

“Every American taxpayer can and should take advantage of the Free File program,” said Tim Hugo, executive director of the Free File Alliance. “Whether you need to e-file a tax return or an extension, Free File is the fast, safe and free way to tackle your taxes. Free File is also the only place where the industry’s best tax software is available at one place and at no cost. Simply visit and choose the software offering that fits your tax needs.”

Since 2003, the Free File program has provided the equivalent of nearly $1.4 billion in free tax software completing over 46 million tax returns. The coalition of 13 industry-leading tax software member companies have continually worked with the IRS to strengthen the Free File program, and taxpayers have consistently reported that it is user-friendly and efficient.

Responding to a 2009 IRS survey, 96 percent of users said they found Free File easy to use, while 98 percent said they would recommend the program to others. The Free File Alliance is committed to giving 70 percent of taxpayers free access to online tax preparation software.

Daily Inspirational Quote - March 16, 2016

“When life gets stormy, dance in the rain.”

This always reminds me of the song “Singing in The Rain”, and Gene Kelly dancing and singing in the pouring rain with a big smile on his face. They don’t make movies like that anymore, sigh…. Now where was I? Oh yes! I like to think that we can all follow his inspiring lead and that, when things tend to get “stormy” in our lives, we can appreciate the healing the “rain” brings and allow it to wash away our troubles while refreshing us at the same time. Thanks Gene!


An Open Letter to the Next Generation of Artists

From their early days composing and playing together with Miles Davis in Davis' Second Great Quintet, Wayne and Herbie's contributions to the world of music have been extraordinary, including winning a combined total of twenty-five Grammys. What's their advice to the next generation of artists? They shared it in this dazzling letter, and whether you consider yourself an artist or not, it's certainly worth a read.

We find ourselves in turbulent and unpredictable times.

From the horror at the Bataclan, to the upheaval in Syria and the senseless bloodshed in San Bernardino, we live in a time of great confusion and pain. As an artist, creator and dreamer of this world, we ask you not to be discouraged by what you see but to use your own lives, and by extension your art, as vehicles for the construction of peace.

While it’s true that the issues facing the world are complex, the answer to peace is simple; it begins with you. You don’t have to be living in a third world country or working for an NGO to make a difference. Each of us has a unique mission. We are all pieces in a giant, fluid puzzle, where the smallest of actions by one puzzle piece profoundly affects each of the others. You matter, your actions matter, your art matters.

We’d like to be clear that while this letter is written with an artistic audience in mind, these thoughts transcend professional boundaries and apply to all people, regardless of profession.


We are not alone. We do not exist alone and we cannot create alone. What this world needs is a humanistic awakening of the desire to raise one’s life condition to a place where our actions are rooted in altruism and compassion. You cannot hide behind a profession or instrument; you have to be human. Focus your energy on becoming the best human you can be. Focus on developing empathy and compassion. Through the process you’ll tap into a wealth of inspiration rooted in the complexity and curiosity of what it means to simply exist on this planet. Music is but a drop in the ocean of life. [...]


We have this idea of failure, but it’s not real; it’s an illusion. There is no such thing as failure. What you perceive as failure is really a new opportunity, a new hand of cards, or a new canvas to create upon. In life there are unlimited opportunities. The words, “success” and “failure”, themselves, are nothing more than labels. Every moment is an opportunity. You, as a human being, have no limits; therefore infinite possibilities exist in any circumstance.


The world needs more one-on-one interaction among people of diverse origins with a greater emphasis on art, culture and education. Our differences are what we have in common. We can work to create an open and continuous plane where all types of people can exchange ideas, resources, thoughtfulness and kindness. We need to be connecting with one another, learning about one another, and experiencing life with one another. We can never have peace if we cannot understand the pain in each other’s hearts. The more we interact, the more we will come to realize that our humanity transcends all differences. [...]


Arrogance can develop within artists, either from artists who believe that their status makes them more important, or those whose association with a creative field entitles them to some sort of superiority. Beware of ego; creativity cannot flow when only the ego is served.


The medical field has an organization called Doctors Without Borders. This lofty effort can serve as a model for transcending the limitations and strategies of old business formulas which are designed to perpetuate old systems in the guise of new ones. We’re speaking directly to a system that’s in place, a system that conditions consumers to purchase only the products that are dictated to be deemed marketable, a system where money is only the means to an end. The music business is a fraction of the business of life. Living with creative integrity can bring forth benefits never imagined. [...]


As we accumulate years, parts of our imagination tend to dull. Whether from sadness, prolonged struggle, or social conditioning, somewhere along the way people forget how to tap into the inherent magic that exists within our minds. Don’t let that part of your imagination fade away. Look up at the stars and imagine what it would be like to be an astronaut or a pilot. Imagine exploring the pyramids or Machu Picchu. Imagine flying like a bird or crashing through a wall like Superman. Imagine running with dinosaurs or swimming like mer-creatures. All that exists is a product of someone’s imagination; treasure and nurture yours and you’ll always find yourself on the precipice of discovery.

How does any of this lend to the creation of a peaceful society you ask? It begins with a cause. Your causes create the effects that shape your future and the future of all those around you. Be the leaders in the movie of your life. You are the director, producer, and actor. Be bold and tirelessly compassionate as you dance through the voyage that is this lifetime.

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Newly Discovered Bacteria Can Eat Plastic Bottles

Deborah Netburn

A team of Japanese scientists has found a species of bacteria that eats the type of plastic found in most disposable water bottles.

The discovery, published Thursday in the journal Science, could lead to new methods to manage the more than 50 million tons of this particular type of plastic produced globally each year.

The plastic found in water bottles is known as polyethylene terephalate, or PET. It is also found in polyester clothing, frozen-dinner trays and blister packaging.

"If you walk down the aisle in Wal-Mart you're seeing a lot of PET," said Tracy Mincer, who studies plastics in the ocean at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution in Massachusetts.

Part of the appeal of PET is that it is lightweight, colorless and strong. However, it has also been notoriously resistant to being broken down by microbes—what experts call "biodegradation."
Previous studies had found a few species of fungi can grow on PET, but until now, no one had found any microbes that can eat it.

To find the plastic-eating bacterium described in the study, the Japanese research team from Kyoto Institute of Technology and Keio University collected 250 PET-contaminated samples including sediment, soil and wastewater from a plastic bottle recycling site.

Next they screened the microbes living on the samples to see whether any of them were eating the PET and using it to grow. They originally found a consortium of bugs that appeared to break down a PET film, but they eventually discovered that just one of bacteria species was responsible for the PET degradation. They named it Ideonella sakainesis.

Further tests in the lab revealed that it used two enzymes to break down the PET. After adhering to the PET surface, the bacteria secretes one enzyme onto the PET to generate an intermediate chemical. That chemical is then taken up by the cell, where another enzyme breaks it down even further, providing the bacteria with carbon and energy to grow.

The researchers report that a community of Ideonella sakaiensis working this way could break down a thin film of PET over the course of six weeks if the temperature were held at a steady 86 degrees Fahrenheit.

Mincer said the study was impressive and did a good job showing that these organisms were eating the plastic pretty well. However, he said it was not immediately clear whether or not it would help keep plastics out of the ocean, for example.

"When I think it through, I don't really know where it gets us," he said. "I don't see how microbes degrading plastics is any better than putting plastic bottles in a recycling bin so they can be melted down to make new ones."

He added that the research could make it easier to identify other microbes that might have similar PET-degrading capabilities.

"This process could be quite common," he said. "Now that we know what we are looking for, we may see these microbes in many areas around the world."

Blueberries May Fend Off Alzheimer’s: It’s All About The Anthocyanins

The blueberry, already known to be a ‘super fruit’ for its power to potentially lower the risk of heart disease and cancer, also could be insurance for your brain against Alzheimer’s disease. New research presented by scientists Sunday bolsters the idea that this fruit, loaded with healthful antioxidants, could help prevent the devastating effects of this common form of dementia.

“Our new findings corroborate those of previous animal studies and preliminary human studies, adding further support to the notion that blueberries can have a real benefit in improving memory and cognitive function in some older adults,” says Robert Krikorian, Ph.D., leader of the research team.
He said that blueberries’ beneficial effects could be due to flavonoids called anthocyanins, which have been shown to improve animals’ cognition.

Krikorian and colleagues at the University of Cincinnati Academic Health Center conducted two human studies to follow up on earlier clinical trials.

One study involved 47 adults aged 68 and older, who had mild cognitive impairment, a risk condition for Alzheimer’s disease. The researchers gave them either freeze-dried blueberry powder, which is equivalent to a cup of berries, or a placebo powder once a day for 16 weeks.

“There was improvement in cognitive performance and brain function in those who had the blueberry powder compared with those who took the placebo,” Krikorian says. “The blueberry group demonstrated improved memory and improved access to words and concepts.” The team also conducted functional magnetic resonance imaging, which showed increased brain activity in those who ingested the blueberry powder.

The second study included 94 people aged 62 to 80 who had less severe issues. The results were not as robust as with the first study and Krikorian believes the two studies indicate that blueberries may be more effective in treating patients with cognitive impairments, but may not show equal measurable benefit for those with minor memory issues or who have not yet developed cognitive problems.

The researchers, whose funding came from the U.S. Highbush Blueberry Council, the National Institute on Aging and Wild Blueberries of North America, presented their work at the 251st annual meeting of the American Chemical Society, the world’s largest scientific society, on March 13.
Currently 5.3 million people suffer from Alzheimer’s disease.

The team plans to conduct a blueberry study with a younger group of people, aged 50 to 65. The group would include people at risk of developing Alzheimer’s, such as those who are obese, have high blood pressure or high cholesterol. This work could help the researchers determine if blueberries could help prevent the onset of Alzheimer’s symptoms.

New Drug Combination Shrinks Tumors Before Chemo, Results Are Incredible

Juliana Barrera

A new study has demonstrated that a drug combination of lapatinib (Tyverb or Tykerb) and trastuzumab (Herceptin) before surgery shrinks and may it even elimate tumors in women with an aggressive form of breast cancer within 11 days, potentially eliminating the need for chemotherapy in the future. "We were particularly surprised by these findings as this was a short-term trial," one of the lead researchers, Judith Bliss from the Institute of Cancer Research in London, told the BBC. "It became apparent some had a complete response. It's absolutely intriguing, it is so fast."

The experiment was conducted with 257 women who had been diagnosed with HER2-positive breast cancer between 1 and 3 cm in size, science alert reports.“For some HER2 positive breast cancer patients the effect of this drug combination will be amazing and mean they can avoid chemotherapy and its gruelling side effects completely. For others, their tumors may not shrink, but doctors will know either way very quickly, giving them the ability to rapidly decide on further treatment, " Samia al Qadhi, chief executive at Breast Cancer Care, said.“Although an early study, this has game changing potential. Yet before this can be made available we need to see more evidence. Particularly because, at present, trastuzumab’s (Herceptin) licensing means it is only available to be used alongside chemotherapy and not alone. All cancer patients deserve access to clinically effective treatments.”

Hilarious Photo Series Shows How Pets Look A Lot Like Food

Whether you're a dog lover, a food lover, or both, the latest trending Twitter meme from  comparing animals to food stuffs will have you rolling in the aisles.

Cactus Guts Could Rid Drinking Water of Toxins

Christina Procopiou

Sometimes it pays to bring an ancestor’s most primitive knowledge to even the most complicated of tasks. Chemical engineer and University of South Florida researcher Norma Alcantar’s grandmother used prickly pear cactus to remove sediment from river water she’d collected for drinking when growing up in early-1900s rural Mexico. Now a team of chemical engineers led by Alcantar is testing this intelligent abuela’s tactic on cleansing everything from oily seawater to recirculated water systems that are home to farmed fish.

Typically, when you want to remove something from water you need a dispersant, a chemical mixture that can break down the unwanted substances so they can be more readily washed away. Consider, for example, the detergent you use to clean grease from your dishes. Or, in the case of an oil spill, when chemical dispersants are applied to a layer of oil on the water to break the slick into small oil droplets that can be cleaned up. Alcantar’s team has found that sugars within mucilage—the gooey part of the cactus responsible for keeping the plant hydrated—are just as good as chemical dispersants. And they are more environmentally friendly.

Inside the mucilage are carbohydrates and some 60 polysaccharides, or sugars, that have specific effects on different contaminants. When Alcantar’s grandmother mixed the water left over from bringing nopal (or prickly pear) cactus to a boil on the stove with contaminated river water, the sediment would separate and rise to the top of the dirty water. In the lab, Alcantar’s team observed that mucilage from the insides of the cactus captures not only sediment but also arsenic and bacteria in contaminated water.

The researchers first tried using cactus to clean contaminated drinking water following the 2006 Haiti earthquake and found it worked well. Four years later came the Deepwater Horizon oil rig disaster and BP’s decision to throw 1.84 million gallons of the commercial dispersant Corexit at the spill. That prompted Alcantar to explore if nontoxic cactus mucilage would disperse oil as well as the chemical stuff that many environmental scientists believe has caused long-term damage to Gulf of Mexico sea life. It was a success: When Alcantar’s team applied mucilage to a simulated oil slick, it was as effective as a chemical dispersant.

The Mote Marine Laboratory and Aquarium in Sarasota, Florida, learned about Alcantar’s studies on mucilage and approached the scientist, hoping she’d partner with them to improve efficiency in fish farming. In a fishing farm, every time water is recirculated, bacteria grow and create smelly compounds t hat are absorbed by fish skin, tissue and eggs. Current practice is to purge the fish at harvest with fresh water treated with ozone, which takes months, uses large amounts of water and stresses the fish, Alcantar says. Her research has already shown that adding cactus mucilage in beads or as a powder to recirculating aquarium water in the lab reduces odor and bad taste.

The next step is to test the beads and powders inside Mote’s sturgeon tanks. If successful, Alcantar says, it could cut purging time from three months down to a week, saving huge amounts of water in the process.

Daily Inspirational Quote – March 15, 2016

“No one said life was easy….but with great determination, passion and strength everything is possible.”

Oh boy do I know it! I also know I am far from the only one. It’s very easy for some people battered by life’s boxing gloves to throw in the towel and retreat to their corner, but where to go from there? Stay in the corner forever clinging to the ropes for dear life? It’s never easy, and nobody is saying it is. However, wouldn’t it be to your advantage, in the long run, to climb out of the ring through the ropes and, with your head held high, retreat to the changing room in order to regain your strength and determination for a return bout? The next encounter will see you stronger, more determined, and much better equipped to succeed resulting in your arm being raised as the winner when the final bell is rung.


Gulabi Gang: We Are Fire

Bundelkhand region, in the hinterlands of Uttar Pradesh, is one of the poorest districts in India. In this deeply patriarchal society, domestic and sexual violence against women is endemic. The Gulabi (pink) Gang was founded by Sampat Pal to start a movement for change. Named for the pink saris worn by the women members, the organization helps raise women's consciousness and empowers them to become self-sufficient. Learn more about their inspiring work through this short video.

Monday, March 14, 2016

Shifting Your Energetic Blueprints

An Excerpt from Seven Cups of Consciousness by Aleya Dao

In the physical world there are many aspects of your reality: relationships, health, finances, and so on. In the higher realms you have energetic blueprints for different aspects of your reality. You have a relationship blueprint, a resource/money blueprint, a body health blueprint, and a passion-creativity-career blueprint: every component of your life has an energetic blueprint or map. When you use your Higher Self to shift the energy within and around you, this process is reflected in your physical world as well.

My first palpable experience of this concept was spurred by my insatiable desire for an intimate relationship. I was single and very determined to find love. One evening I sat in meditation and asked the question, “What is the first step I need to take to help me manifest a beloved partner?”
I quieted my mind by focusing solely on my breath. I held my awareness in my divine line and firmly attached it to the front of my spine. I imagined traveling up my divine line to my Higher Self and held my awareness in that higher dimension.

As I traveled up my glass elevator shaft to my Higher Self, I saw a realm filled with multiple beams of light. They looked like blueprints, similar to what one would find on the desk of an architect, but in 3-D. I felt a very particular energy radiating from each line. I saw multiple blueprints for every aspect of my life. When all the blueprints were combined, they created a shape that looked like a sphere of light. It was exquisitely beautiful and complex.

Holding my awareness and desire to shift the energy around my intimate relationships — or lack thereof — I asked for assistance from my Team. They instructed me to make my request to my Higher Self, so I asked my Higher Self to locate my relationship blueprint. I sat in stillness and watched that energetic aspect of me locate and connect with that specific blueprint. Once that was done, I asked my Higher Self to infuse and activate the vibrations of love, connection, and passion in my divine line and to infuse these same qualities into my relationship blueprint.

I continued to sit in stillness and trust that my Higher Self was doing this work. I had no idea how my Higher Self was doing it, but it was happening. I could feel the reverberations reflecting down from the higher dimensions. I felt a swirling expansion within and around me.

The more my Higher Self worked, the sleepier I got. My meditation turned into a night of deep sleep. When I awoke the next morning, I felt a deep sense of connection, sweetness, and love. The visions of the night before flooded over me, and I realized that the work I had done with my Higher Self had indeed created a shift within me. I hoped this shift would positively affect my love life...

I got out of bed, threw on my running clothes, stepped out the door, and headed for my favorite trail. As I began my run up the hill, I passed a friend who was coming down. She looked at me and said, “Wow, you look amazing! Are you in love?” I almost laughed out loud, and said, “Not yet.” As I continued the ascent, I wondered what my friend had seen in me. Was the little bit of work in a higher realm last night really that noticeable? I did feel different. I was calmer and happier and somehow felt fuller inside.

I stopped on a little plateau halfway up the trail and heard my Team say to me, “When you shift the energy in the higher realms, it shifts the energy in all the realms where you express yourself. Your physical life is the reflection of the higher realms.”

I thought about this concept as I finished my run and swung by the Coffee Cowboy in town to grab a two-shot latte. As I stood in line, a man I had always found attractive approached me and asked if he could buy me my morning coffee. Without my jaw dropping to the ground and without stumbling all over my words, I said, “Sure. That’s so kind of you. Thank you.” At the end of our casual conversation he said, “You know, you have the most beautiful eyes I’ve ever seen.”

I almost broke down in tears but held it together long enough to say, “Thank you,” and hightailed it home for a cold shower. My heart was racing, not from the run or my two shots of espresso, but from his recognition of a deep inner shift that had happened the night before.

Could I hold this energy? Would I succeed in finding a beloved lifelong partner? Was I no longer destined to be alone, wandering the world as a spiritual, untouchable, highly sensitive woman? Time would tell...

Though I was not sure when my beloved would appear, I did know that when you enlist your Higher Self to do the work for you, in the dimension where your blueprints are held, good things can happen remarkably fast.

You can invite your Higher Self to infuse particular vibrations into your blueprints for different aspects of your life. You can ask for greater vibrations of support and flow to be held in your resource/money blueprint. You can ask your Higher Self to infuse vibrations of love and connection into your relationship blueprints. Those vibrations will then reflect into those aspects of your life. The more you acknowledge that your Higher Self is doing the work, the faster the shift will happen.

For when you are working with your blueprints in the higher realms, you are using your Higher Self, not your mind. I have mentioned this before, but it bears repeating, since it is a key component of the work. You can use your mind to make the request, and then let the wiser, higher, energetic aspect of you do the work. Once the request is made, let it go. Your Higher Self will do the work for you. The shift will be gentle and balanced. It may feel like a release inside you, a swirl of energy like an invisible wind. It can be a flash of light, a deep breath, or a wave of relief. Your body might twitch as the energy moves. You might feel surges and sensations happening in different parts of your body. It is however you perceive it, no matter how subtle. If it is not subtle and seems uncomfortable, ask your Higher Self to slow down and turn down the energetic volume.

Slowly, bit by bit, the energy in these other dimensions will become easier to sense. You will become more aware of the higher energetic aspect of you (your Higher Self). You will develop your energetic senses. What seems unreal will become real. You will be living a conscious, multidimensional reality. Anyone can do this. It’s just a matter of paying attention to what is going on around you and within you, and using the other dimensions as a resource.

The Critics in Your Head Are Not You, or Your Partner

An Excerpt from Succulent Wild Love by SARK and Dr. John Waddell

You have a constant stream of thoughts running through your mind, and we use the term “inner critics” to describe the thoughts that criticize you or tell you that you should be ashamed or feel guilty if you do what you want to do.

When you were growing up, basically well-meaning people taught you when to feel shame and guilt, and criticized you to get you to do what they wanted. Part of the information you took in about how to function in the world included these beliefs about who you “should” be and how you “should” behave.

After a while, these external voices became inner voices. And in many ways they were helpful. They reminded you what the rules were so you could avoid getting punished. They motivated you to achieve things so the people with authority would reward you. They protected you in a world where everyone was much bigger.

Now that you’re older, you have the ability to evaluate what is genuinely best for you and no longer need to rely on others to do that for you. But these clusters of beliefs are still in your head and often demand that you listen to them and do what they say.

They aren’t as useful to you now as they were when you were small. In fact, they can block you from taking actions that would truly nourish you. They were given to you by the authorities in your life based on their view of the world, one that isn’t necessarily best for you, especially the adult you.

Listening to these voices without questioning them, the same way you did when you were small, leads to unnecessary guilt and shame, and decisions that don’t serve who you are now. Additionally, in a relationship, if your partner echoes what your inner critics are saying, those criticisms can have tremendous power to affect you.

For example, if your partner says you should become a mountain climber to get more exercise, chances are this would not echo an inner critic. Few of us have been told that we need to climb mountains to be better people. If you had an interest in climbing, you might look into it. If not, you would simply ignore the suggestion, though you might wonder why your partner would encourage you to do this.

But if your partner says you should do something that echoes what an inner critic has told you — for example, that you should lose weight or get a better job or stop playing video games or eat differently, just to name a few common inner-critic beliefs — your response would likely be much more emotional.

You might be upset with your partner for saying that. You might feel defensive or down on yourself and pressured to do what they said. It would look and feel like your partner evoked those feelings, when in reality it was your inner critics. Sometimes even mild disappointment from someone whose opinion you value can be experienced as severe criticism because it empowers your inner critics.

Using the Inner Critic Care System, you will be able to identify the thoughts in your head that speak critically to you or evoke guilt and shame, so when others echo them you can address your inner voices directly rather than trying to change the other person or having them dictate what you should do.

It doesn’t work to deny, repress, or ignore inner critics — if you do, their messages will only get louder and larger inside your head and project outward. Self-critical dialogue is extremely debilitating, not only in love relationships but at work and as you go about living your life.

Once you are able to deal with your inner critics effectively, you can look into others’ suggestions if they appeal to you, ignore them if not, and realize that their opinions and desires have more to do with them than you. You will be less affected by others’ judgments about you and be able to respond to them more harmoniously.

It isn’t that you might not want to make changes or improvements in your life, it’s that you don’t need to be bullied or criticized into doing so. Knowing how to manage inner critics and care for yourself at the same time will give you tremendous advantages in every area of your life.

Your inner critics don’t just criticize you, they also criticize everyone around you. Not only do you need to live up to their standards, often so does everyone else. So you might find yourself speaking for your inner critics and making judgments about your partner. And if their inner critics match yours, your partner is likely to respond defensively. You might even get into a big fight, when in reality it’s the inner critics in each of you fighting with the other’s.

The idea is for your adult self — we call it your Aware Self — to be in charge of your decisions, not your inner critics. Most of us start out so merged with our inner critics that we can’t see them. We might say things like, “That’s just the way I am, I’ve always been that way,” or, “I know I have flaws and should do better,” or, “Loving just isn’t easy for me — I always find faults and flaws in whomever I’m with.”

If the idea of inner critics is brand new to you, your first opportunity is to become aware of them. Begin to notice your inner dialogue. Is it critical of you or anyone else? Anything that implies that you or someone around you “should” be doing something different, or that you (or they) are bad, wrong, flawed, or unlovable as you are, is the voice of an inner critic.

Often, our thoughts move so quickly that we miss them. The easiest way to know that an inner critic has turned on you is by how you feel. If you’re angry at someone for criticizing you, if you feel that you should be different, if you feel down on yourself, and especially if you’re defending yourself — these are all signs of inner critics.

You can work from the feelings back to the thoughts. Allow yourself to be aware of the uncomfortable feelings and see if you can connect thoughts to them. They could be something like, “You’ll never find love,” or, “You should be better,” or, “You always ______.” The words “should,” “never,” and “always” are particular favorites of inner critics.

Recognizing Verbal Abuse So You Can End It

by Holly E. Messick, author of Karmic Dance---A Spiritual Journey through Verbal Abuse

During the first twelve years of my second marriage, my husband and I were involved in a verbally abusive relationship.  Because I had experienced ongoing verbal abuse since childhood, I was unaware of what was occurring in my marriage as it was unfolding.  It wasn't until we'd been together 10 years and the abuse began spiraling out of control, that I sought the help of a counselor who made me conscious of the nature of this verbally abusive relationship.  Even with my new-found knowledge and awareness, I continued to stay, in the hopes that the situation would improve.  But over the following two years, it only became worse, so I finally moved out and began a year-long separation.  At the end of the separation, my husband acknowledged his behaviors and agreed to change.

While we were separated, I had continued to go to counseling--reading about verbal abuse--reflecting on what I learned about myself, and journaling.  I learned to recognize the behaviors and also see how my victim mentality supported them.  When we reunited, I was able to teach him how to communicate in constructive ways, and we eventually created a balanced relationship. 

To define it, verbal abuse is used by one person to have control over another.  There are a variety of verbally abusive behaviors, some of which are built into our culture.  For example behaviors such as one-upmanship, bullying, disparaging, manipulating, criticizing, hard-selling and intimidating can be considered to be fair practices in the business world.  But in a relationship, these behaviors can be very destructive. Nothing is more damaging to one's confidence and self-esteem than being in a verbally abusive relationship.

Verbal abuse is experienced by people in all walks of life. Not limited by income, career or job, education, geography, age, or gender, it can occur in any type of relationship - including spousal/partner, parent-child, dating, at work or school.

A victim of verbal abuse may not see or recognize the abuser's behavior as abusive. Instead he or she often develops coping mechanisms--which include denial and minimizing--in order to deal with the abuse. However, long-term verbal abuse can cause severe emotional trauma in the victim, which may result in depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder.  It is also important to realize that while, verbal abuse doesn't always lead to physical abuse, physical abuse almost always begins with verbal abuse.

Understanding the various destructive behaviors can help identify whether verbal abuse is occurring in your relationship and enable you to realize that it is time to take action. Here is a list of what to watch for:

•    When the abuser doesn't share his or her feelings, thoughts, ideas, hopes and dreams, or only shares limited, necessary information. This is known as withholding. It's also a clear indicator that the abuser is not hearing and understanding the victim's feelings.
•    Countering is when the abuser refuses to acknowledge the victim's viewpoint or ideas, while constantly arguing against it, thus preventing any discussion. 
•    Discounting denies a person's reality or experience and diminishes that person's worth.  A discounting statement always begins with "You...", such as "You don't know what you're talking about."
•    When deliberate disparaging remarks are disguised as a joke and treated as if they are funny, it is abusive.

•    If an abuser controls the conversation by deciding what is discussed, withholding information, switching the topic, or refusing to discuss something, he or she is diverting or blocking.
•    Accusing and blaming someone of wrongdoing, breaking an agreement, or blaming the victim for the abuser's own anger or insecurity is another abusive tactic.
•    When an abuser makes judgments about a victim, then uses it to criticize that person, it is abusive.
•    Trivializing is when the abuser makes what the victim says or does seem insignificant, such as when the victim recounts accomplishments, hopes or dreams.  This can cause that other person to feel frustrated and confused.
•    An abuser undermines a victim's confidence by making statements that destroy that person's enthusiasm, or his or her interest in something.  Undermining can also be seen in such sabotaging behaviors as disrupting or interrupting the other person when he or she is involved in other activities.
•    An abuser will often purposely forget things that happened by saying "I don't remember that,"--or deliberately "forget" to provide information that the victim needs to know, or has a right to know, such as social events that the victim was supposed to or expected to attend.
•    Ordering someone to do something instead of asking them to do it denies that person's equality and treats them like a servant.
•    When someone resorts to name calling, making up labels of any kind, or uttering cutting remarks under one's breath; that is abusive.
•    Using denial is when the abuser tells the victim something which denies reality, such as saying, "I never said that"-- when in fact they did.
•    Threats can be subtle or overt, and involve saying things which manipulate a victim by causing them to be afraid or controlled.
•    Abusive anger can be exhibited through yelling and throwing things, withdrawing, or refusing to tell someone why they are angry.
•    An abuser may use control by treating their victim like a child or as an extension of themself.
•    Abuse is seen in the controlling of finances and access to money, and in the limitation of how a victim spends money.
•    Abusers are unable to show compassion and empathy towards their victims.
•    Withholding permission to make decisions or to leave the premises is a form of abuse.
•    It is abusive when a person repeatedly crosses another person's boundaries or ignores his or her requests. Abusers may also tear down and attempt to prevent their victim from having boundaries, but will create boundaries for themselves.

Recognizing any signs of verbal abuse in a relationship requires a person to be completely honest with oneself to reclaim personal power, stop the abuse and heal the emotional trauma.  If you have been denying or hiding the abuse, this may be a difficult step to take. But the stakes are high! Illness, emotional trauma, depression or anxiety can result from failing to face these issues.  There are many paths to healing, but one is to seek professional counseling-a key step to understand your pain and fears, and rebuilding self-esteem, so you can have an emotionally healthy life.