Why Dogs & Cats Can’t Dance, But Parrots Do

In lab studies of two parrots and close review of the YouTube videos, scientists looked for signs that animals were actually feeling the beat of music they heard.

The verdict: Some parrots did, and maybe an occasional elephant. But researchers found no evidence of that for dogs and cats, despite long exposure to people and music, nor for chimps, our closest living relatives.

Why? The truly boppin’ animals shared with people some ability to mimic sounds they hear, the researchers say. (Even elephants can do that). The brain circuitry for that ability lets people learn to talk, and evidently also to dance or tap their toes to music, suggests Aniruddh Patel of The Neurosciences Institute in San Diego.

via Boogie birdie: Animals shown to ‘dance’ to music – washingtonpost.com.

Swine Flu Started At Smithfield Farm In Mexico

The operations, grouped under a Smithfield subsidiary called Granjas Carrol, raise 950,000 hogs per year, according to the company Web site—a level nearly equal to Smithfield’s total U.S. hog production.

April 6 – Veratect reported local health officials declared a health alert due to a respiratory disease outbreak in La Gloria, Perote Municipality, Veracruz State, Mexico. Sources characterized the event as a “strange” outbreak of acute respiratory infection, which led to bronchial pneumonia in some pediatric cases. According to a local resident, symptoms included fever, severe cough, and large amounts of phlegm. Health officials recorded 400 cases that sought medical treatment in the last week in La Gloria, which has a population of 3,000; officials indicated that 60% of the town’s population (approximately 1,800 cases) has been affected. No precise timeframe was provided, but sources reported that a local official had been seeking health assistance for the town since February.

via Biosurveillance: Swine Flu in Mexico- Timeline of Events.

Drug Decriminalization? Portugal’s Success Story

At the recommendation of a national commission charged with addressing Portugal’s drug problem, jail time was replaced with the offer of therapy. The argument was that the fear of prison drives addicts underground and that incarceration is more expensive than treatment — so why not give drug addicts health services instead? Under Portugal’s new regime, people found guilty of possessing small amounts of drugs are sent to a panel consisting of a psychologist, social worker and legal adviser for appropriate treatment (which may be refused without criminal punishment), instead of jail.

The paper, published by Cato in April, found that in the five years after personal possession was decriminalized, illegal drug use among teens in Portugal declined and rates of new HIV infections caused by sharing of dirty needles dropped, while the number of people seeking treatment for drug addiction more than doubled.

via The Portuguese Experiment: Did Legalizing Drugs Work? – TIME.

India and China want IMF to sell its $100b gold

Another example of the emerging Markets thinking outside-of-the-box to come up with a seemingly simple solution to re-starting the developing world’s growth.

India and China may press for the sale of the entire gold reserves of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to raise money for the least developed countries.

The IMF holds 103.4 million ounces (3,217 tonnes) of gold that, if sold, can fetch about $100 billion.

A draft paper exchanged between New Delhi and Beijing proposes that the gold be sold in bullion markets over a period of two to three years. The money thus raised must be used in tackling poverty in the poorest nations.

via India and China want IMF to sell its $100b gold.

Inside the War Against Robert Gates

It would take an idealist of John Lennon’s lyrical stature to predict a future in which terrorism — in all its low-tech and emerging high-tech forms — isn’t the predominant mode of conflict in a world undergoing twin paradigm shifts of its own: a religious “great awakening” (Imagine plenty more religion…) and the rise of history’s first truly global middle class of consumers (…and more possessions, too!). So while I’m not given to surrendering the future to John Robb’s “global guerillas” any time soon, I’m hard-pressed to locate a more gritty and realistic appraisal of the enemies America will persistently face in coming decades — as in, plenty to kill or die for.

Gates understands this nuance of modern warfare, too. So he wants to create a home for today’s warfighters — the Dances with Wolves guys who get stuck manning those tiny forts in southern Afghanistan. He wants the Pentagon to stop looking down upon them, to stop haphazardly welding so-called “hillbilly” armor onto vehicles that lacked such basic protection. He wants America to stop casually trading their lives in the here-and-now fight against real insurgencies for theoretical casualties in dreamed-up, there-and-then fights against, I dunno, the Chinese or something. He wants, ultimately, to show them the money.

In response to his “radical” vision, Gates is preparing for the Know Nothings — those same national-security figureheads who have long sung his praises from the Capitol — to put him through the meat grinder. He will be dubbed, with all appropriate indirectness, “naïve” and “reckless.” His opponents, all of whom fear that the loss of home-district defense jobs will ultimately end their congressional careers, will suddenly accuse Gates of disregarding this or that “disturbing trend.” Try not to laugh out loud when you spot these security neophytes on TV, spouting absolute nonsense fed to them by staffers smarted-up by Google searches.

Inside the War Against Robert Gates.

IMF Warns Over Limits Of Stimulus

Mr Strauss-Kahn called for a urgent action to “cleanse banks” of toxic assets and for further fiscal stimulus beyond the 2pc of global GDP already agreed. The snag is that high-debt countries may have hit the limits already.

“The impact becomes negative for debt levels that exceed 60pc of GDP,” said the Fund.

While no countries were named, this would raise questions about Japan, Germany, France, Italy and ultimately Britain and the US after their bank rescues.

via IMF warns over parallels to Great Depression – Telegraph.

How Sweet It Is?

The new stevia extract, which is an extract 300 times more potent than sugar, is the only widely marketed sugar substitute derived from a shrub. Other commonly used sweeteners aspartame (Nutrasweet, Equal) and saccharin were developed artificially in labs. Sucralose (Splenda) is derived from sugar but is processed with chlorinated chemicals.

Studies indicate that consuming something with a sweet taste primes the body for a calorie delivery that doesn’t happen. As a result eaters seek more sweets to satisfy the body’s cravings. Recent research also found that sucralose may alter people’s gut bugs in ways that promote weight gain.

A recent study by researchers at Louisiana State University’s School of Public Health found that liquid calories are a bigger problem than food when it comes to weight gain, and that sugar-sweetened beverages are the main culprit. What’s worse, Americans consume an average of 20 teaspoons of added sugars a day, about twice as much as recommended, according to government reports.

via New sweetener not so sweet for your diet – TODAY Health.

A ‘Copper Standard’ for the world’s currency system? – Telegraph

One thing is clear: Beijing suspects that the US Federal Reserve is engineering a covert default on America’s debt by printing money. Premier Wen Jiabao issued a blunt warning last month that China was tiring of US bonds. “We have lent a huge amount of money to the US, so of course we are concerned about the safety of our assets,” he said.

This is slightly disingenuous. China has the world’s largest reserves – $1.95 trillion, mostly in dollars – because it has been holding down the yuan to boost exports. This mercantilist strategy has reached its limits.

The beauty of recycling China’s surplus into metals instead of US bonds is that it kills so many birds with one stone: it stops the yuan rising, without provoking complaints of currency manipulation by Washington; metals are easily stored in warehouses, unlike oil; the holdings are likely to rise in value over time since the earth’s crust is gradually depleting its accessible ores. Above all, such a policy safeguards China’s industrial revolution, while the West may one day face a supply crisis.

The next industrial revolution is going to be led by hybrid cars, and that needs copper. You can see the subtle way that China is moving into 30 or 40 countries with resources

via A ‘Copper Standard’ for the world’s currency system? – Telegraph.