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The Meritocracy Myth: How the Super-Rich Really Make Their Money

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(Image: Jared Rodriguez / t r u t h o u t; Adapted: Azureon2, bayat)PAUL BUCHHEIT FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT Warren Buffett once claimed that the “geni…

Keith Wayne Brown's insight:

Case in point: “Checking the Stock Portfolio Every Morning… In one year the Forbes 400 ’earned’ more than the total combined budget for SNAP, WIC (Women, Infants, children), Child Nutrition, Earned Income Tax Credit, Supplemental Security Income, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, and Housing. These lucky 400 were the main beneficiaries of a stock market that grew by $4.7 trillion in just one year.”

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Unravelling How Planaria Regenerate: Cut into 279 tiny pieces, each one regenerates to a full worm

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Researchers have begun teasing apart the genes behind regeneration.

Planarian flatworms are one of nature’s little wonders. Although their ‘cross-eyed’ appearance is endearing, their real claim to fame comes from their regenerative ability. Split a planarian down the middle and you’ll soon have two cross-eyed critters staring back at you; cut one up and each piece will regenerate an entire flatworm. How do they pull of such an incredible feat? In 2011, researchers discovered that planarian regeneration depends on the activity of stem cells (‘neoblasts’) distributed throughout the flatworm’s body, but important questions about the process have remained unanswered. Are certain stem cells responsible for each organ? What activates the stem cells when regeneration is needed? An enterprising team of scientists at the Stowers Institute for Medical Research has brought us closer to answering these questions by developing a new technique to study planarian regeneration and using it to discover some of they genes involved.

Regeneration isn’t a uniquely planarian trait; starfish are well-known for growing back lost body parts, and even humans can regenerate to some extent (think of a wound healing). Planarians certainly excel at it, though; a flatworm can recover from being cut up into a staggering 279 tiny pieces, each of which regenerates into a new worm! Here’s a fun conundrum for those inclined to such things: which worm, if any, can claim to be the ‘original worm’? What if it were only two pieces instead of over 200? Would it make a difference if the two pieces were different sizes?

Using this technique, which they termed ‘chemical amputation’, the team induced lesions in planaria and investigated which genes were activated over the course of the regeneration process. The pharynx lacks neoblasts, but cells near the wound quickly start dividing and regenerate the amputated organ. To identify genes which were interesting, the team combined two screening approaches. First, a microarray picked out genes which were active during regeneration, providing a list of 356 candidates. Next, the team used RNAi to block the activity of each gene in amputated flatworms and checked whether the pharynx still regenerated. This narrowed the list down to twenty genes, which the team divided into different sets. Some genes affected stem cells in general, other affected feeding behaviour, and a handful directly affected the development of the pharynx. Of these, the transcription factor FoxA seemed to play the greatest role in regenerating the pharynx.

The team next looked at how regeneration went wrong in planaria with FoxA knocked down. They found that stem cells still migrated to the wound site and multiplied there, but the resulting outgrowth failed to become a pharynx. They also tried amputating the tails or heads of FoxA knock-downs, which then successfully regenerated. “Targeting FoxA completely blocked pharynx regeneration but had no effect on the regeneration of other organs,” said Adler in a press release. “Currently, we think that FoxA triggers a cascade of gene expression that drives stem cells to produce all of the different cells of the pharynx, including muscle, neurons, and epithelial cells.” FoxA is known to play a role in specifying the pharynx in the sea anemone and in the nematode Caenorhabditis elegans, as well regulating the development of the intestine in vertebrates, so it makes sense that it’s a central player in pharynx regeneration in planaria. More importantly, its identification can serve as a wedge to pry apart the details of regeneration; coupled with the other genes picked up in this study, it offers an exciting opportunity to expand our understanding of this important process.


Adler C, et al. Selective amputation of the pharynx identifies a FoxA-dependent regeneration program in planaria. eLife 3:e02238. (2014) doi:10.7554/eLife.02238

Rossant J. Genes for Regeneration. eLife 3:e02517. (2014) doi:10.7554/eLife.02517

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Erik Davis on VALIS, P.K.D. and High Weirdness | Reality Sandwich

Erik Davis on VALIS, P.K.D. and High Weirdness | Reality Sandwich

Great interview after the jump…

As part of the inaugural reread series on Reality Sandwich, Erik Davis, author of TechGnosis and Nomad Codes, spoke with me recently about the “High Weirdness” of Philip K. Dick and the postmodern pink-gnosis of VALIS, a partly autobiographic scifi novel where Dick literally wrote himself into fiction, and, as it were, “hacked the Hero’s Journey” (1).  Erik tells…

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Cymatics (from Greek: κῦμα “wave”) is the study of visible sound and vibration, a subset of modal phenomena. Typically the surface of a plate, diaphragm, or membrane is vibrated, and regions of maximum and minimum displacement are made visible in a thin coating of particles, paste, or liquid.[1] Different patterns emerge in the excitatory medium depending on the geometry of the plate and the…

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Fact! Fracking Is Unhealthy

Gas extraction produces a range of potentially health-endangering pollutants at nearly every stage of the process, according to a new paper by the California nonprofit Physicians Scientists & Engineers for Healthy Energy, released last week in Environmental Health Perspectives, a peer-reviewed journal published by the National Institutes of Health.

The study compiled existing, peer-reviewed…

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The Game of Thrones Sex Scene Can’t Be Both Rape and Not Rape

The Game of Thrones Sex Scene Can’t Be Both Rape and Not Rape

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Keith Wayne Brown:

Spoiler alert for some… What happens when a particularly strange circumstance in the timeline of a book series is reimagined in a different time frame with different conditions for a TV adaptation? Changes the eventa great deal. If you watched Game of Thrones, S04E03 last night, you know what this means.

Originally posted on TIME:


Sunday night on Game of…

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