Endocannabinoid System Regulates Emotional Homeostasis, Study Says

Endocannabinoid System Regulates Emotional Homeostasis, Study Says
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Madrid, Spain: Naturally occurring chemicals in the human body that mimic the effects of plant cannabinoids moderate human emotions and control anxiety, according to findings published in the Spanish scientific journal Revista de Neurologica.

Investigators at Complutense University in Madrid report that manipulating of the endocannabinoid system may one day be a course of treatment in the management of certain emotional disorders.

“[P]resent data reinforce the involvement of the endocannabinoid system in the control of emotional homeostasis and further suggest the pharmacological manipulation of the endocannabinoid system [is] a potential therapeutic tool in the management of anxiety-related disorders,” authors concluded.

Previous research on the endocannabinoid system indicates that endogenous cannabionoids moderate numerous biological functions, including appetite, blood pressure, reproduction, motor coordination, and bone mass.

For more information, please contact Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director, at: paul@norml.org. Full text of the study, “Functional role of the endocannabinoid system in emotional homeostasis,” appears in the January issue of Revista de Neurologica.

Marijuana Legalization Questions Top Obama’s ‘Citizen’s Briefing Book’

Washington, DC: Ending the federal prosecution of adults who use cannabis is the most popular public policy issue facing the Obama administration, according to the results of a new poll conducted by Change.gov – the official website of the President’s Transition Team.

More than 125,000 visitors to the site voted on 44,000 specific policy proposals. The leading vote getters are slated to appear in a ‘Citizen’s Briefing Book,’ which will be delivered to the new President imminently.

The public’s demand to “stop imprisoning responsible adult citizens” who use marijuana received more votes than any other issue in the online poll.

A related question calling on the new administration to “stop using federal resources to undermine states’ medicinal marijuana laws” finished in third place.

The Citizens’ Briefing Book poll marks the third time the Obama Transition Team has asked for the public’s input regarding what they perceive to be the most important public policy questions facing America. Questions pertaining to the legalization of marijuana have dominated online voting in each poll, and have twice finished in the #1 position.

A separate poll, conducted last week by Change.org and the Case Foundation, also reported that the legalization of cannabis for personal use is the most popular issue among online voters.

Commenting on the poll results, NORML Deputy Director Paul Armentano said: “This past August House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, in a live interview with CNN, called on the public to actively voice their support for marijuana law reform. Since then, Americans have expressed their desire to amend our nation’s antiquated and punitive cannabis laws in unprecedented numbers. In short, the people have spoken. Are Congress and the Barack Obama administration listening?”

For more information, please contact Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director, at: paul@norml.org, or Allen St. Pierre, NORML Executive Director, at (202) 483-5500.

Life on Google Earth

From an Amazonian rainforest to a Santa Cruz Canyon, activists are discovering if you can map it, you can save it

by E.B. Boyd

The map didn’t make sense. It was one of those grainy, black-and-white topographical maps, the kind of 8 ½ x 11 photocopy you get in the mail to inform you of an upcoming construction project near your home. The kind you turn this way and that until you give up trying to figure out what it corresponds to in the real world and just toss it into the trash instead.

[Rebecca Moore of Google Earth Outreach teaching Surui tribal Chief Almir Surui how to use Google Earth at a training center in Cacoal, Brazil. The Surui is just one of the groups using Google Earth as a tool to raise awareness for environmental and social issues. (Photo: Andrea Ribeiro)]Rebecca Moore of Google Earth Outreach teaching Surui tribal Chief Almir Surui how to use Google Earth at a training center in Cacoal, Brazil. The Surui is just one of the groups using Google Earth as a tool to raise awareness for environmental and social issues. (Photo: Andrea Ribeiro)

Rebecca Moore, however, did not toss this particular map. It was the summer of 2005, and the map came from a utility company that owned land in the Santa Cruz Mountains near her home. The map was titled “Notice of Intent to Harvest Timber.” Moore thought that sounded like logging. She couldn’t make heads or tails of the boundaries the map proposed to illustrate, but she was determined to figure out where the timber harvest was going to take place.Moore, a computer programmer, had recently started playing around with digital mapping tools. Her original idea had been to plot the hiking trails in her local canyon. But after an ambulance took two hours to find a neighbor’s house, her interest intensified. She learned that rescue workers were relying on 20-year-old hand-drawn maps that were badly out of date. Moore decided to put her new skills to use. She obtained parcel information from local county offices and, using GPS data, she plotted out all the homes and roads in the canyon. The result was a clear, professional-grade map, like the kind you’d buy in any bookstore. Local fire companies snapped it up.

So when Moore got the inscrutable utility company notice, she pulled out her favorite mapping tool, Google Earth. Google had recently acquired the software, which most people are familiar with as the free desktop application you can use to gaze at satellite pictures of your house. But Moore had been toying with the software since before Google acquired it. Most digital geographical information systems just offer the kind of flat topographical views you’d get in a typical hiking map. The Google Earth tool went further. It had satellite imagery, so you could see real pictures of what the land looked like, and its embedded 3-D geographic information allowed you to fly through landscapes as if you were in a helicopter. Moore was so excited about the potential uses for the software that she had recently joined Google as a technical lead for the product.

When Moore turned to her new employer’s software to identify which parcels of land the utility company owned, she was acting only as a private citizen concerned about a local land use issue. But her effort to understand what was happening in her own backyard led to a breakthrough that has had worldwide ramifications for environmental and humanitarian organizations seeking to communicate the significance of their causes.

It’s a Bird, It’s a Plane, It’s Google Earth

Los Gatos Creek Canyon, where Moore lives, is the kind of place people move to specifically because they love and care about nature. Secluded houses sit on acres of redwood forest, which is also home to osprey, beavers and even the occasional mountain lion. Hiking trails run up and down the canyon slopes, and neighbors form bonds over communal responsibilities like maintaining the winding roads that lead to their homes. If loggers were going to be removing trees in the area, Moore wanted to know exactly where.

Moore dumped her parcel information into the software and looked for the utility company’s land. The results alarmed her: it was a six-mile swath jutting straight up the canyon, right below private homes, schools and churches. The roads the loggers would take were a mess of hairpin turns. Just recently, a local woman’s car had been crushed after logs had rolled off another logging truck. These are the roads kids use to walk to school, Moore thought. There will be more accidents.

The creek at the base of the canyon provides water for 100,000 people living in the mountains and in nearby Silicon Valley. Soil erosion from the logging would surely degrade water quality, Moore thought, if not gum up the filtration machinery altogether. Plus landslides were already common; the removal of so many trees would certainly precipitate more slides.

A little more digging revealed that the proposal wasn’t even a one-time project. The utility company was seeking an ongoing permit that would allow them to remove redwoods and Douglas fir week in, week out, into perpetuity. It sounded like a bad idea to Moore, and also unnecessary. The proposal purported to be a fire-prevention plan, but from Moore’s point of view, the old-growth trees targeted in the plan weren’t a hazard. In the 1980s, for example, it was a stand of old-growth redwoods, with the fire resistance they’d built up over centuries, which had been credited with stopping a raging fire and saving many homes.

Moore soon learned she wasn’t the only one in the canyon worried about the proposed logging project. A small group of her neighbors were already discussing the proposal’s ramifications and exploring ways to fight it. Normally, community activists face an uphill battle in soliciting support for their causes. And in this case, the group, who adopted the name Neighbors Against Irresponsible Logging (NAIL), was told to expect defeat. The utility company was a pro at these kinds of battles, they were told, and the regulatory agencies usually approved these types of requests.

But in this particular David and Goliath showdown, the little guy had a secret weapon. Moore realized she could use Google Earth to take canyon residents on the equivalent of an aerial tour of the proposed logging site, helping them to understand the various risks of running such an operation so close to their homes and communities. Over the course of a weekend, Moore marked up the images in Google Earth, coloring in the land where the logging would take place, and inserting labels to denote well-known landmarks, like schools and playgrounds.

Moore unveiled her work at a community meeting in front of 300 neighbors who so tightly packed the room that some had to stand outside and watch through the windows. She began her tour in outer space with a view of the Earth floating in inky blackness. Then, Moore zoomed in on the planet, like the pilot of a spaceship. The United States came into view, then the West Coast, then the Bay Area, until Moore finally flew to the base of Silicon Valley. The image pivoted toward the local reservoir and then started flying up the canyon.

At first the audience was quiet. But as soon as Moore began to guide the room through the canyon they all knew, people started leaning forward. Real images of the actual trees, roads and buildings in their community popped up. The logging area was marked in a translucent red, clearly bumping up right next to the roads, homes and businesses where audience members lived and played. Using Google Earth’s ruler tool, Moore showed them exactly how far logging would take place from their houses and communities. She showed them the locations of proposed helicopter landing pads for logs that couldn’t be removed by truck and demonstrated how closely timber-laden choppers might pass the local day care center and schools.

“Within 10 minutes of looking at the flyover, people were saying, ‘We can’t have this. This has to stop. We have to get active,'” says Terry Clark, a Los Gatos Creek neighbor and a member of the NAIL steering committee.

“I thought I was well-informed… but I nearly fell off my chair when I had a good look at [the] Google Earth presentation of the logging zone,” resident Lisa Sgarlato wrote to a local magazine after the meeting. “This three-dimensional presentation gave an amazing topographic bird’s eye view of how invasive the logging will be.”

Soon Moore was schlepping her presentation to more community meetings as well as to sit-downs with local politicians. Area news organizations clamored for tape of the flyover to run in primetime. The area’s state assembly member had been planning to travel to the land to take a look for himself. But the flyover gave him the tour he needed and confirmed his opposition to the project. Local papers wrote editorials against the logging plan. Even former Vice President and uber-environmentalist Al Gore signed NAIL’s petition and issued a statement against the plan after seeing the flyover on a visit to Google.

“We didn’t even have to try to convince people,” says Clark, who had struggled with more conventional means of persuasion on previous neighborhood campaigns. “We just put [on the visualization], and they would automatically respond, ‘Oh yes, this has to stop.'”

Envisioning Solutions

Late last year, after numerous meetings and agency reviews, the utility company’s permit request was denied. Ultimately, the ruling was made on the basis that the utility company owned too much land to qualify for the type of permit it was seeking. But organizers and supporters alike say the ability to provide an aerial tour of the impacted area played an essential role in keeping the plan in the spotlight and organizing community opposition.

“For policymakers or environmental activists, this kind of tool that allows you to accurately fly over a site is extremely useful,” says the area’s state assembly member, Ira Ruskin. “It obviates the need for a more arduous way of taking a look at things.”

Following media coverage, environmental groups started contacting Moore to learn how they could use Google Earth for their own campaigns. At Google, Moore started setting up in-house programs to help non-profits. As demand continued to grow, the company began to realize there was an enormous opportunity to help organizations illustrate and advocate for their causes. In 2007, the company set up a new unit, Google Earth Outreach, to do just that – and tapped Moore to lead it.

The U.S. Holocaust Museum in Washington has used Google Earth to disseminate information about what some are calling genocide in Darfur. Google Earth users can fly in on villages that have been destroyed and learn more about how many people have been displaced. An east coast non-profit has successfully used the tool to raise awareness about the environmental impacts of mountaintop removal coal mining in Appalachia and to generate support for a clean water bill in Congress. UNESCO has used it to call attention to endangered world heritage sites. And over the summer, Moore and a Google Earth Outreach team flew to South America to teach an indigenous Amazonian tribe how to use the tool’s satellite images to spot illegal logging and mining activity on their land.

The tool can be used to envision potential solutions as well as to identify problems, Moore says. The Appalachia group, for example, used Google Earth to envision a future where mountaintops were covered with wind turbines, and to show how a renewable energy source like wind could produce far more energy over time than the finite amount of underlying coal.

The work has become a personal mission for Moore, whose environmental leanings germinated during childhood summers spent gamboling on her grandfather’s property in upstate New York. “I want to work on making this tool available to everyone so they can use it to strengthen their communities and protect their environments,” she says.

A strengthened community was just one by-product of the NAIL campaign. Previously, Los Gatos Creek Canyon residents had identified primarily with the specific neighborhood in which they lived. The flyover showed how all the neighborhoods were connected. “Google Earth made it possible for everyone to see what a close-knit community we are,” Clark says. “It bound people together.”

E.B. Boyd is a journalist based in San Francisco who, yes, has used Google Earth to look at satellite pictures of her home.


Steve Guttenberg, CNET – It seems like most musicians I meet are more into making music than listening to it. They don’t care about how music sounds at home; many are satisfied with the sound they get from boom boxes or chintzy computer speakers. Some tell me they’re more focused on the way the players play than the sound.

Sure, I’ve met a few musicians with ears for sound. That happened just recently when I struck up a conversation with jazz drummer and audiophile Billy Drummond.

He readily conceded my point: “Getting a good hi-fi isn’t high on their list of priorities. Like everybody else, musicians listen to music while they’re on the computer or sending e-mails. That’s what music is now, a backdrop, so fidelity isn’t important anymore.”

Sad, but true, so what is music for? Drummond had a ready answer. “It’s for people to enjoy,” he said. “It can take you somewhere, you can dance to it, music conjures emotions. For musicians it’s an expression, a way to challenge ourselves, and it can be inspiring.”. . .

Drummond’s saying all the right things, so I was a little embarrassed to ask about sound quality, does that matter? Drummond was getting excited. “Absolutely,” he said, “especially when I’m listening to music in all its splendor over my system, it’s second only to being in the concert hall. I’d rather do that than watch a movie.”. . .

You can hear “the sound” on a car radio or a cheap boom box, so what does an expensive hi-fi bring to the party? Drummond doesn’t miss a beat, “OK, if you bring a musician to your house and sit him down in front of your high-end system and play Miles, he will acknowledge the difference. Now, they can really hear his sound. That’s what happens when I bring musicians over and let them hear that kind of thing. They get it, and say something like, ‘Man, I need to get new speakers.'”


Alister Doyle, Reuters – A huge Antarctic ice shelf is on the brink of collapse with just a sliver of ice holding it in place, the latest victim of global warming that is altering maps of the frozen continent. . . The flat-topped shelf has an area of thousands of square kilometers, jutting 20 meters (65 ft) out of the sea off the Antarctic Peninsula. But it is held together only by an ever-thinning 40-km (25-mile) strip of ice that has eroded to an hour-glass shape just 500 meters wide at its narrowest. In 1950, the strip was almost 100 km wide. . .

The Wilkins once covered 16,000 sq km (6,000 sq miles). It has lost a third of its area but is still about the size of Jamaica or the U.S. state of Connecticut. Once the strip breaks up, the sea is likely to sweep away much of the remaining ice. . .

In total, about 25,000 sq km of ice shelves have been lost, changing maps of Antarctica. Ocean sediments indicate that some shelves had been in place for at least 10,000 years.


NASA – Calendar year 2008 was the coolest year since 2000, according to a NASA analysis of worldwide temperature measurements, but it was still in the top ten warmest years since the start of record-keeping in 1880.


The 10 warmest years have all occurred within the 12-year period from 1997-2008. The map above shows global temperature anomalies in 2008 compared to the 1950-1980 baseline period. Most of the world was either near normal or warmer than normal. Eastern Europe, Russia, the Arctic, and the Antarctic Peninsula were exceptionally warm (1.5 to 3.5 degrees Celsius above average). The NASA scientists attribute the relative coolness of 2008 to the persistent La Nina.


Gideon Levy, Haaretz, Israel – On the morrow of the return of the last Israeli soldier from Gaza, we can determine with certainty that they had all gone out there in vain. This war ended in utter failure for Israel.

This goes beyond the profound moral failure, which is a grave matter in itself, but pertains to its inability to reach its stated goals. . . We have gained nothing in this war save hundreds of graves, some of them very small, thousands of maimed people, much destruction and the besmirching of Israel’s image. . .

The initial objective of the war was to put an end to the firing of Qassam rockets. This did not cease until the war’s last day. It was only achieved after a cease-fire had already been arranged. Defense officials estimate that Hamas still has 1,000 rockets.

The war’s second objective, the prevention of smuggling, was not met either. The head of the Shin Bet security service has estimated that smuggling will be renewed within two months.

Most of the smuggling that is going on is meant to provide food for a population under siege, and not to obtain weapons. But even if we accept the scare campaign concerning the smuggling with its exaggerations, this war has served to prove that only poor quality, rudimentary weapons passed through the smuggling tunnels connecting the Gaza Strip to Egypt.

Israel’s ability to achieve its third objective is also dubious. Deterrence, my foot. The deterrence we supposedly achieved in the Second Lebanon War has not had the slightest effect on Hamas, and the one supposedly achieved now isn’t working any better: The sporadic firing of rockets from the Gaza Strip has continued over the past few days.

The fourth objective, which remained undeclared, was not met either. The IDF has not restored its capability. It couldn’t have, not in a quasi-war against a miserable and poorly-equipped organization relying on makeshift weapons, whose combatants barely put up a fight. . .

Israel’s actions have dealt a serious blow to public support for the state. While this does not always translate itself into an immediate diplomatic situation, the shockwaves will arrive one day. The whole world saw the images. They shocked every human being who saw them, even if they left most Israelis cold.

The conclusion is that Israel is a violent and dangerous country, devoid of all restraints and blatantly ignoring the resolutions of the United Nations Security Council, while not giving a hoot about international law. The investigations are on their way.

Graver still is the damage this will visit upon our moral spine. It will come from difficult questions about what the IDF did in Gaza, which will occur despite the blurring effect of recruited media.

So what was achieved, after all? As a war waged to satisfy considerations of internal politics, the operation has succeeded beyond all expectations. Likud Chair Benjamin Netanyahu is getting stronger in the polls. And why? Because we could not get enough of the war.




I was a little disappointed when I first bought this item, because the functionality is limited. My 5 year old son pointed out that the passenger’s shoes cannot be removed. Then, we placed a deadly fingernail file underneath the passenger’s scarf, and neither the detector doorway nor the security wand picked it up. My son said “that’s the worst security ever!”. But it turned out to be okay, because when the passenger got on the Playmobil B757 and tried to hijack it, she was mobbed by a couple of other heroic passengers, who only sustained minor injuries in the scuffle, which were treated at the Playmobil Hospital. The best thing about this product is that it teaches kids about the realities of living in a high-surveillance society. My son said he wants the Playmobil Neighborhood Surveillance System set for Christmas. I’ve heard that the CC TV cameras on that thing are pretty worthless in terms of quality and motion detection, so I think I’ll get him the Playmobil Abu-Gharib Interrogation Set instead (it comes with a cute little memo from George Bush). this)

Thank you, Playmobil, for allowing me to teach my 5-year old the importance of recognizing what a failing bureaucracy in a ever growing fascist state looks like. Sometimes it’s a hard lesson for kids to learn because not all pigs carry billy clubs and wear body armor. I applaud the people who created this toy for finally being hip to our changing times. Little children need to be aware that not all smiling faces and uniforms are friendly. I noticed that my child is now more interested in current events. Just the other day he asked me why we had to forfeit so much of our liberties and personal freedoms and I had to answer “Well, it’s because the terrorists have already won”. Yes, they have won. I also highly recommend the Playmobil “farm fencing” so you can take your escorted airline passenger away and fence him behind bars as if he were in Guantanamo Bay.

My family was planning a vacation to Europe, so I purchased this item to teach my twins about what to expect at the airport and hopefully, alleviate some of their anxiety. We also downloaded the actual TSA security checklist from the American Airlines website and then proceeded with our demonstration. . . Worst of all, since the suitcase did not actually open, the baggage inspector made a call to the FBI and ATF bomb squads which then segregated the family’s suitcase (which btw was the only suitcase they provided for our educational family experience) and according to the advanced TSA regulations, had to blow it up, (since they could not otherwise mutilate the luggage, break off the locks and put one of those nice little advisory stickers on it), which we had to simulate out in the backyard with a few M-80s and other fireworks. The girls started crying. They became so hysterical by the whole experience that we could not even get them in the car when the time came to actually take our trip, and so we had to cancel the whole thing at the last minute, losing over $7,000 in airfare and hotel charges that we could not recoup do to the last minute cancellations.

We’ve now spent an additional $3,000 to pay for the girls therapy and medication over the past year since this incident occurred, and the psychologists have told us that this will affect them for life, so much for their college fund and our retirement. Then, to top it all off, when we tried to use to Playmobil phone to call the company to ask for reimbursement, as you might expect, of course the damn thing didn’t even work; neither did our efforts to e-mail them using the computer screen on the baggage checkpoint; and our real-life efforts to contact them to obtain re-imbursement have also likewise been ignored.