Friday, March 29, 2013

New way to lose weight? Changing microbes in guts of mice resulted in rapid weight loss

Mar. 27, 2013 ? Scientists at Harvard may have new hope for anyone who's tried to fight the battle of the bulge.

New research, conducted in collaboration with researchers at Massachusetts General Hospital, has found that the gut microbes of mice undergo drastic changes following gastric bypass surgery. Transfer of these microbes into sterile mice resulted in rapid weight loss. The study is described in a March 27 paper in Science Translational Medicine.

"Simply by colonizing mice with the altered microbial community, the mice were able to maintain a lower body fat, and lose weight -- about 20% as much as they would if they underwent surgery," said Peter Turnbaugh, a Bauer Fellow at Harvard's Faculty of Arts and Sciences (FAS) Center for Systems Biology, and one of two senior authors of the paper.

But as striking as those results were, they weren't as dramatic as they might have been.

"In some ways we were biasing the results against weight loss," Turnbaugh said, explaining that the mice used in the study hadn't been given a high-fat, high-sugar diet to increase their weight beforehand. "The question is whether we might have seen a stronger effect if they were on a different diet."

"Our study suggests that the specific effects of gastric bypass on the microbiota contribute to its ability to cause weight loss and that finding ways to manipulate microbial populations to mimic those effects could become a valuable new tool to address obesity," said Lee Kaplan, director of the Obesity, Metabolism and Nutrition Institute at MGH and the other senior author of the paper.

"We need to learn a good deal more about the mechanisms by which a microbial population changed by gastric bypass exert its effects, and then we need to learn if we can produce these effects -- either the microbial changes or the associated metabolic changes -- without surgery," Kaplan, an associate professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School, added. "The ability to achieve even some of these effects without surgery would give us an entirely new way to treat the critical problem of obesity, one that could help patients unable or unwilling to have surgery."

While the results were exciting, Turnbaugh warned that it may be years before they could be replicated in humans, and that such microbial changes shouldn't be viewed as a way to lose those stubborn last 10 pounds without going to the gym. Rather, the technique may one day offer hope to dangerously obese people who want to lose weight without going through the trauma of surgery.

"It may not be that we will have a magic pill that will work for everyone who's slightly overweight," he said. "But if we can, at a minimum, provide some alternative to gastric bypass surgery that produces similar effects, it would be a major advance."

While there had been hints that the microbes in the gut might change after bypass surgery, the speed and extent of the change came as a surprise to the research team.

In earlier experiments, researchers had shown that the guts of both lean and obese mice are populated by varying amounts of two types of bacteria, Firmicutes and Bacteroidetes. When mice undergo gastric bypass surgery, however, it "resets the whole picture," Turnbaugh said.

"The post-bypass community was dominated by Proteobacteria and Proteobacteria, and had relatively low levels of Firmicutes," he said. What's more, Turnbaugh said, those changes occurred within a week of the surgery, and weren't short-lived -- the altered gut microbial community remained stable for months afterward.

While the results may hold out the hope for weight loss without surgery, both Turnbaugh and Kaplan warned that future studies are needed to understand exactly what is behind the weight loss seen in mice.

"A major gap in our knowledge is the underlying mechanism linking microbes to weight loss," Turnbaugh said. "There were certain microbes that we found at higher abundance after surgery, so we think those are good targets for beginning to understand what's taking place."

In fact, Turnbaugh said, the answer may not be the specific types of microbes, but a by-product they excrete.

In addition to changes in the microbes found in the gut, researchers found changes in the concentration of certain short-chain fatty acids. Other studies, Turnbaugh said, have suggested that those molecules may be critical in signaling to the host to speed up metabolism, or not to store excess calories as fat.

Going forward, Turnbaugh and Kaplan hope to continue to explore those questions.

"We think such studies will allow us to understand how host/microbial interactions in general can influence the outcome of a given diet," Kaplan said. "To some degree, what we're learning is a comfort for people who have an issue with their weight, because more and more we're learning that the story is more complicated than just how much you exercise and how much you eat."

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The above story is reprinted from materials provided by Harvard University, via EurekAlert!, a service of AAAS.

Note: Materials may be edited for content and length. For further information, please contact the source cited above.

Journal Reference:

  1. A. P. Liou, M. Paziuk, J.-M. Luevano, S. Machineni, P. J. Turnbaugh, L. M. Kaplan. Conserved Shifts in the Gut Microbiota Due to Gastric Bypass Reduce Host Weight and Adiposity. Science Translational Medicine, 2013; 5 (178): 178ra41 DOI: 10.1126/scitranslmed.3005687

Note: If no author is given, the source is cited instead.

Disclaimer: This article is not intended to provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Views expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of ScienceDaily or its staff.


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Thursday, March 28, 2013

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

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


University of Georgia:

Thanks to University of Georgia for this article.

This press release was posted to serve as a topic for discussion. Please comment below. We try our best to only post press releases that are associated with peer reviewed scientific literature. Critical discussions of the research are appreciated. If you need help finding a link to the original article, please contact us on twitter or via e-mail.

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Beavers help contain fuel spill, recover slowly

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- Talk about unlikely heroes.

A group of at least six beavers at a Utah bird refuge have emerged as key players in helping contain a fuel leak that left half of them with severe burns. The Chevron Corp. fuel spill leaked about 27,000 gallons of crude oil into soil and marshes at Willard Bay State Park last week after a split in a Salt Lake City-to- Spokane, Wash. pipeline.

The beavers' dam blocked a hefty portion of diesel from rolling onto the bay, though it's uncertain exactly how much, officials said. Three of the beavers were rescued earlier this week, and three more that were rescued Tuesday night are being cared for under a Wildlife Rehabilitation Center of Northern Utah program.

"That dam absolutely saved the bay," said Dalyn Erickson, a wildlife specialist running the program. The dam held fuel in place and kept it from going any further, she said.

The beavers that were part of the group rescued Tuesday night had burns on their skin and eyes, and only patches of fur left on their bodies. Erickson said she worries that some of the newly rescued beavers might not survive the fallout from the spill. It's unknown whether any other beavers might remain near the fuel leak site and have yet to be rescued, officials said.

One of the new beavers, a head-strong mother, is resisting the three-a-day cleanings with Dawn dish soap. So Erickson and other workers had to sedate her. Workers brought in more than 40 large bottles of the soap to scrub the beavers clean during their hour-long baths.

The three animals rescued earlier in the week arrived at the center slicked with fuel but burn-free. They now show signs of recovery, Erickson said. For example, they're rubbing their bellies in an effort to groom themselves. One of them can't stop eating, Erickson says, a sign that he's getting stronger. Another is breathing gustily because the diesel burnt his nostrils. The last one is still exhausted, dozing off during bath time.

Protecting other animals and plants is part of the beavers' daily routine, said Phil Douglass, spokesman for the Department of Wildlife Resources. Beavers are natural homemakers, he said, crediting beaver dams, or "lodges," for drawing moose to Utah because moose like still waters for drinking. The dams also keep the water cool for trout and make surrounding areas healthier by inviting more plant growth.

The leak is Chevron's third in Utah in the last three years. In June 2010, a spill involved more than 30,000 gallons of crude oil near Red Butte Gardens in Salt Lake City. And in December 2010, a leak near the same site involved about 21,000 gallons.

John Whitehead of the Division of Water Quality said trace amounts of fuel seeped into the ground, then bled into the bay, but did not flow overtop the water. The state is studying water samples to see how the spill could affect people, animals and birds around the refuge.

Investigators are still working to determine the exact cause of the spill.

The Federal office dealing with pipelines has barred Chevron from reopening the pipeline until it gets government approval.


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Raspbmc's March update brings XBMC 12.1, fixes to Raspberry Pi

Just because you have a Raspberry Pi, and the know-how to change the world, doesn't mean you want to do everything the hard way. For those who haven't already applied the 12.1 update to XBMC running on their Raspberry Pi, the Raspbmc team is now eager to handle the dirty work for you. Wondering how easy it is to upgrade? Just reboot your Pi and wait about 15 minutes. Seriously, that's all the elbow grease required to receive a litany of fixes and enhancements in the latest version of XBMC as well as a number of specific patches for Raspbmc. Specifically, there is a newer version of HDMI-CEC, improved support for internet streams and third-party modules, and finally, a few security fixes.

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florida loans low mortgage rate - Minor Scratches

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florida loans low mortgage rate, Consider other Factors You should also look at the convenience in the application process and minimum requirements. There are two types of online applications, fax and no fax. Faxed applications require copies of your picture id, normally a driver?s license, past records, and pay stubs. With florida loans low mortgage rate, someone will then review your application for approval. A no fax application simply requires that you fill in a software online, which can be verified through databases. There is no appraisal of creditworthiness involved and you'll find a way to get a virtually instant approval. Lenders also vary of their minimum requirements. You may be required to are actually employed for a couple of months.


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Monday, March 25, 2013

New pope opens Holy Week at Vatican on Palm Sunday

Pope Francis reaches for a child after celebrating his first Palm Sunday Mass, in St. Peter's Square, at the Vatican, Sunday, March 24, 2013. Pope Francis celebrated his first Palm Sunday Mass in St. Peter's Square, encouraging people to be humble and young at heart, as tens of thousands joyfully waved olive branches and palm fronds. The square overflowed with some 250,000 pilgrims, tourists and Romans eager to join the new pope at the start of solemn Holy Week ceremonies, which lead up to Easter, Christianity's most important day. (AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino)

Pope Francis reaches for a child after celebrating his first Palm Sunday Mass, in St. Peter's Square, at the Vatican, Sunday, March 24, 2013. Pope Francis celebrated his first Palm Sunday Mass in St. Peter's Square, encouraging people to be humble and young at heart, as tens of thousands joyfully waved olive branches and palm fronds. The square overflowed with some 250,000 pilgrims, tourists and Romans eager to join the new pope at the start of solemn Holy Week ceremonies, which lead up to Easter, Christianity's most important day. (AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino)

Pope Francis gestures as he greets faithful after celebrating his first Palm Sunday Mass, in St. Peter's Square, at the Vatican, Sunday, March 24, 2013. Pope Francis celebrated his first Palm Sunday Mass in St. Peter's Square, encouraging people to be humble and young at heart, as tens of thousands joyfully waved olive branches and palm fronds. The square overflowed with some 250,000 pilgrims, tourists and Romans eager to join the new pope at the start of solemn Holy Week ceremonies, which lead up to Easter, Christianity's most important day (AP Photo/Andrew Medichini)

Pope Francis celebrates Palm Sunday Mass, in St. Peter's Square, at the Vatican, Sunday, March 24, 2013. (AP Photo/Andrew Medichini)

Pope Francis celebrates the Palm Sunday mass, in St. Peter's Square, at the Vatican, Sunday, March 24, 2013. (AP Photo/Andrew Medichini)

Pope Francis arrives to celebrate an open-air Palm Sunday Mass in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican, Sunday, March 24, 2013. Palm Sunday commemorates Jesus Christ's triumphant entry into Jerusalem, and is the start of the church's Holy Week. (AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino)

(AP) ? Pope Francis celebrated his first Palm Sunday Mass in St. Peter's Square, encouraging people to be humble and young at heart and promising to go to a youth jamboree in Brazil in July, while the faithful enthusiastically waved olive branches and braided palm fronds.

The square overflowed with a crowd estimated by the Vatican at 250,000 people. Pilgrims, tourists and Romans jostled each other in an eager effort glimpse Francis as they joined the new pope at the start of solemn Holy Week ceremonies, which lead up to Easter, Christianity's most important day.

Keeping with his spontaneous style, the first pope from Latin America broke away several times from the text of his prepared homily to encourage the faithful to lead simple lives and resist the temptation to be sad when life's obstacles inevitably come their way.

"Don't let yourselves be robbed of hope! Don't let yourselves be robbed of hope!" Francis told the crowd, in an apparent reference to the economic difficulties people are grappling with as they try to find adequate work amid a poor job market in much of the world.

At the end of the two-hour Mass, Francis took off his red vestments, and wearing his plain white cassock and skull cap, climbed into an open-topped popemobile to circle through the excited crowd. He leaned out to shake hands, kissed and patted the heads of infants passed to him by bodyguards, and often gave children the thumbs-up sign.

His security detail seemed to be reluctantly dealing with this get-close-to-the-people pontiff, scrambling around the vehicle to pick up this child or that one. At one point, the chief bodyguard, Domenico Giani, was sent back to the mother of a child he had greeted to convey a message from the pontiff, and the ever-tense Giani broke into a smile after his mission was accomplished.

Francis even climbed down from the vehicle, kissed a woman in the crowd and chatted briefly with her, and another man in the crowd leaned over a barrier to squeeze the pontiff on a shoulder ? an unheard of familiarity in the previous pontificate of the reserved Benedict XVI.

In keeping with his stress on giving examples of humility, Francis kissed the hand of an elderly woman who had outstretched an arm to him.

"There is no doubt that there will be a new spring for the church, a renewal" with this pope, said Sister Emma, an Argentine nun in the crowd.

Palm Sunday recalls Jesus' entry into Jerusalem but its Gospel also recounts how he was betrayed by one of his apostles and ultimately sentenced to death on a cross.

Francis presided over the Mass at an altar sheltered by a white canopy on the steps of St. Peter's Basilica.

Recalling the triumphant welcome into Jerusalem, Francis said Jesus "awakened so many hopes in the heart, above all among humble, simple, poor, forgotten people, those who don't matter in the eyes of the world."

Cardinals, many of them among the electors who chose him to be the Roman Catholic church's first Latin American pope, sat on chairs during the ceremony held under hazy skies on a breezy day. He quoted from Benedict when he told the cardinals that while they are "princes" of the church, their leader is the crucified Christ, a further admonition against attachment to temporal power.

The pope ticked off a litany of evils afflicting the world, including wars, "economic conflicts that hit the weakest" as well as corruption. In the final stretch of Benedict's papacy, the Vatican was embarrassed by a leak of documents from the papal apartment, indicating corruption, ambition and rivalries among upper ranks of the Holy See's management.

Francis told an off-the-cuff story from his childhood in Argentina. "My grandmother used to tell us children, 'burial shrouds don't have' pockets," the pope said, in a variation of "you can't take it with you."

Since his election on March 13, Francis has put the downtrodden and poor at the center of his mission as pope, keeping with the priorities of his Jesuit tradition.

In his homily, Francis said Christian joy "isn't born from possessing a lot of things but from having met" Jesus. That same joy should keep people young, he said.

"Even at 70, 80, the heart doesn't age" if one is inspired by Christian joy, said the 76-year-old pontiff.

The pontiff said he was joyfully looking forward to welcoming young people to Rio de Janiero for the Catholic Church's World Youth Day. So far, that is the first foreign trip on the calendar of Francis' new papacy. "I'm coming in July," Francis said in remarks after Mass from the esplanade of the basilica.

During Mass, at the point when the Gospel recounts the moment of Jesus' death, many faithful knelt on hard cobblestones paving the square, and Francis knelt on a wooden kneeler.

A few young olive trees were inserted in dirt placed around the central obelisk in the square.

Holy Week will see at least one break from tradition with this new papacy. Instead of washing priests' feet in a basilica in a symbolic gesture of humility on Holy Thursday, Francis will wash the feet of young inmates at a juvenile detention center in Rome. Other appointments in public will include the Way of the Cross procession at the Colosseum on Good Friday night. Next Sunday, Francis will celebrate Easter Mass in the square.

Associated Press


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My Chemical Romance, In Memoriam

MCR have called it quits, and Bigger Than The Sound remembers their career.
By James Montgomery

My Chemical Romance
Photo: Getty Images


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Tuesday, March 12, 2013

CYBER DIARY: Tongue has no bones: The need for 'speech therapy'!

Tongue has no bones. But it is the sharpest weapon and it can injure many. But the worst consequence is when it destroys the user himself badly. That is what is happening these days with the omnipresent digital capturing devices all around. For many people, microphone is a weakness. The moment a microphone is given, their main mission is to say something that can amuse the audience. Very few have the self-control to abide by the time allotted to them. They know that routine facts are never of interest to any audience. You won?t get any claps for giving a gentleman talk. For getting the attention of audience, you need to do one or all of the following: a) criticize someone?s actions b) dig someone?s past c) leak some secrets d) make some promises e) pull someone?s legs, and if nothing of these are handy, then f) share one?s own mischiefs and blunders. People call the last one, ?lying on your back and spiting on yourself?. The passionate speaker, who got mesmerized by the excellent acoustics and enthusiastic and encouraging audience, loses control over what he speaks, when he speaks, to whom he speaks, how he speaks and about whom he speaks. The words flow faster than his thoughts, and every word and every gesture of him are captured by the cameras and then transmitted within no time far and wide to alert the subjects of his oration. Before he comes out of the stage, sharp reactions emerge from even far-flung areas, defamation suits are filed, and arrest warrants are ready. Then he has to go on a denial spree accusing everyone including the reporters, cameramen, and even the microphone for misrepresenting his words. They regret their words privately and justify their stand publicly that they have been misquoted. Here are a few examples. (Since some of them are still sub-judice, I prefer to say that the speakers have been ?misquoted?. All are innocent unless they are declared guilty at the end of all judicial processes). A leader of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) in the Kerala state (known for the first democratically elected communist government in the world) located in Southern India, told in a public meeting that his party had murdered and thus eliminated as many as 13 congress workers a few years back. He reportedly added that his party used to prepare the lists of opponents they want to eliminate and had used contract killers. (See a clipping).?? He was arrested by the police on charge of murder. There are several politicians who have landed into trouble for their criticisms against judgments of the court. A few have gone to the extent of imputing ulterior motives on the judicial officers.? In a speech on the eve of India?s Independence Day in 2012, the head of a state in India criticized the judiciary stating that ?court verdicts are purchased?. It was also stated that ?at times favourable verdicts are given in return for money?. The Calcutta high court took serious view of these remarks and advised the public figure to ?lace her speech with moderation?. No doubt, political leaders always get trapped by their own words, because they are destined to devote major part of their life talking to public and media, for their own survival and image building. But, media houses are also in search of spice, and they send the reporters who are trained to put sticks and words in the mouths of politicians. Very few political leaders have the capacity and skill to escape from the media. They lose control easily when bombarded with leading questions in the presence of their supporters. One public figure was quizzed by a reporter for his comments on an accusation regarding sexual abuse by a politician. The minister tried to evade the question, but the lady reporter did not leave him. Finally, the annoyed minister regained his sense of humour and reportedly asked her: ?Why are you after that person? I think, something happened between you!? Speakers of Indian Parliament and Assemblies have tough time removing from records those unparliamentary words inadvertently uttered by members in ?charged atmosphere? within the legislative houses. Microphone mania is killing!!

How to control our tongue? It is written the Bible as follows:

??If anyone does not stumble in what he says, he is a perfect man, able also to bridle his whole body. If we put bits into the mouths of horses so that they obey us, we guide their whole bodies as well. Look at the ships also: though they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are guided by a very small rudder wherever the will of the pilot directs. So also the tongue is a small member, yet it boasts of great things. How great a forest is set ablaze by such a small fire!??(James 3: 2-5)
May be, some institutes will come with a ?speech therapy? of a different kind for 'outspoken' people. Else management institutes can think of starting a course on ?Microphone Management?!? (Views are personal. Thanks to Sajjive for translating my thoughts to wonderful cartoons)

? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ?Sibichen K Mathew

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Some Background on VA, (Veterans Administration) Loans? | R.H. ...


I thought it would be worthwhile for both the general public and service members to share some background information on VA Loans at this time. Many of our returning service members as well as?members of the General Public are often not fully aware of how this excellent program works. I have edited a portion of my New Hampshire 40 Hour pre-Licensing Course here to help everybody have a little more information about the program.

The VA is authorized to insure loans for eligible veterans. Like the FHA the VA does not normally lend money, rather it guarantees loans made by VA approved lenders. Eligible veterans may purchase: multi-family homes up to four units, new condos or construction of condos, new or used mobile homes and lots for mobile homes, finance the construction of a new home on its own land, or the eligible veteran may also refinance existing loans.

To be eligible for VA financing the subject property must be owner occupied, the Veteran Borrower must have had 180 days of active military service and have received an Honorable Discharge from the service.

There are a few special characteristics of VA financing that are specifically built into the program to protect VA borrowers as well as the VA. Here are the big ones: The subject property must be appraised by a VA approved appraiser and meet special VA Loan specifications. Loan Specifications for a VA loan include: It can be from any regular lending institution that has been approved by the VA. Maximum loan is based on fair market value as determined by the VA appraisal or MCRV, (Maximum Certificate of Reasonable Value). The VA guarantees top 25% ? eliminating PMI; no down payment is required: closing costs may not be financed with the exception of the VA Funding Fee, however there is no limit on seller contributions to the VA Buyer?s closing cost expenses. Should purchase price exceed appraised value, the difference must be paid in cash by the VA Buyer, the seller can decrease their price to match the VA appraisal or the VA buyer can withdraw from the contract without penalty from the seller. VA Loans have a maximum term of thirty years; no secondary financing is allowed on VA loans and there can be no pre-payment penalty on VA Loans. Co-borrowers on VA Loans must be married to the veteran or be Veterans themselves. (The VA does not recognize same sex marriages regardless of State Statues.) The Veteran must supply their Certificate of Eligibility ? DD214.

By Dick Thackston CRB, ABR, ABRM, BrokerNH, MA & VT

A Brief History of VA (Veterans Administration) Loans

The original Servicemen?s Readjustment Act, passed by the United States Congress in 1944, extended a wide variety of benefits to eligible veterans. The loan guarantee program of the Veterans Administration has been especially important to veterans. Under the law, as amended, the Veterans Administration is authorized to guarantee or insure home, farm, and business loans made to veterans by lending institutions. Over the history of the program, 18 million VA Home Loans have been insured by the government. The VA can make direct loans in certain areas for the purpose of purchasing or constructing a home or farm residence, or for repair, alteration, or improvement of the dwelling. The terms and requirements of VA farm and business loans have not induced private lenders to make such loans in volume during recent years.

The Veterans Housing Act of 1970 removed all termination dates for applying for VA-guaranteed housing loans. This 1970 amendment also provided for VA-guaranteed loans on mobile homes.

More recently, the Veterans Housing Benefits Improvement Act of 1978 expanded and increased the benefits for millions of American veterans

Despite a great deal of confusion and misunderstanding, the federal government generally doesn?t make direct loans under the act. The government simply guarantees loans made by ordinary mortgage lenders (descriptions of which appear in subsequent sections) after veterans make their own arrangements for the loans through normal financial circles. The Veterans Administration then appraises the property in question and, if satisfied with the risk involved, guarantees the lender against loss of principal if the buyer defaults.

In association with the VA?s program, the Service members? Civil Relief Act protects service members from financial woes on their home loan that may occur as a result of active duty commitments, freezing their interest rates at 6%.

What is the VA and what do they do?

A?VA loan?is a mortgage loan in the United States guaranteed by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. The loan may be issued by qualified lenders.

The VA loan was designed to offer long-term financing to American veterans or their surviving spouses (provided they do not remarry). The basic intention of the VA direct home loan program is to supply home financing to eligible veterans in areas where private financing is not generally available and to help veterans purchase properties with no down payment. Eligible areas are designated by the VA as housing credit shortage areas and are generally rural areas and small cities and towns not near metropolitan or commuting areas of large cities.

The VA loan allows veterans 100% financing without private mortgage insurance or 20% second mortgage. A VA funding fee of 0 to 3.3% of the loan amount is paid to the VA and is allowed to be financed. In a purchase, veterans may borrow up to 100% of the sales price or reasonable value of the home, whichever is less. Since there is no monthly PMI more of the mortgage payment goes directly towards qualifying for the loan amount, allowing for larger loans with the same payment. In a refinance, veterans may borrow up to 90% of reasonable value, where allowed by state laws.

VA loans allow veterans to qualify for loans amounts larger than traditional Fannie Mae/Freddie Mac conforming loans. VA will insure a mortgage where the monthly payment of the loan is up to 41% of the gross monthly income vs. 28% for a conforming loan assuming the veteran has no monthly bills.

As of January 1, 2006, the maximum VA loan amount with no down payment is $417,000 and can be as high as $625,500 in certain high cost areas. VA also allows the seller to pay all of the veteran?s closing cost.

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Saturday, March 9, 2013

Bourbon Barrel Grill Wood

Step up your next BBQ with these smoky bourbon grill chips


One of our favorite Fancy Food Show finds, Bourbon Barrel Foods harnesses the flavors in bourbon barrels to infuse salts, sugar and spices as well as their barrel-aged soy sauce, sorghum, Worcestershire and Kentuckyaki. Now Bourbon Barrel Foods has begun selling the wood that they use to smoked their products. Available in three-pound bundles or 20-pound cases, the repurposed bourbon barrel staves bring the rich bourbon flavors to grilling and barbequing at home.


"These staves will impart a rich, oaky, almost buttery flavor to everything," says founder Matt Jamie. "My favorite is to grill a thick ribeye that's been rubbed down with our smoked salt, pepper and paprika. I also like to roast oysters with a bourbon brown butter garlic sauce. I make hot smoked salmon with sorghum. I've made a whole pork loin. You name it and it tastes better."


Jamie has been working on this project off and on for about two years. "I grill exclusively with hardwood charcoal and barrel staves at home and we had been selling pallets of them to restaurants around the country," he says. The next step was to develop the retail design of the grill wood. Jamie explains, "I wanted people to see the wood for what it actually is, bourbon barrel staves. The cool part about our product is that you can see the char, how far the bourbon has soaked into the wood, and the components that make up the stave."

Jamie considers the barrel staves to be easy to use and versatile for all types of smokers and grills and, he notes, they won't go bad. Bourbon Barrel Grill wood is available from their online shop for $14 or $78 for a case.

Images courtesy of Julie Wolfson and Bourbon Barrel Foods


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Courtney Stodden Video: Meet "Sister" Courtland


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Letter: Rating of military medal is too high

A troubling decision, apparently by some bureaucrat or bureaucrats at the Pentagon, merits response by veterans throughout southeastern Connecticut ? and nationally. At issue is the decision to rate the new Distinguished Warfare Medal above two long-standing and honored medals, the Bronze Star with Combat V and the Purple Heart.
I subscribe to the position taken by John Hamilton, national Commander-in-Chief of the Veterans of Foreign Wars, who recently wrote that ?medals that can only be earned in direct combat must mean more than medals awarded in the rear.?
I certainly agree with the establishment of the new medal for service personnel who work in today?s vital areas of cyberwarfare and missile programming, but its ranking needs revision. I presume letters to members of Congress is the first element of reaction on the matter.




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Thursday, March 7, 2013

"Searching for the Seventies: The DOCUMERICA Photography Project," a new exhibit, opens March 8 in Washington, DC.

Searching for the Seventies: The DOCUMERICA Photography Project

An exhibition at the National Archives, Washington, DC
March 8, 2013, through September 8, 2013

photo Take a new look at the 1970s through the lens of a Federal photography project called Project DOCUMERICA. Created by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in 1971, DOCUMERICA was born out of the decade's environmental awakening and produced striking photographs of many of that era?s environmental problems and achievements. DOCUMERICA photographers hired by the EPA took thousands of color photographs depicting pollution, waste, and blight, but they were given the freedom to also capture the era?s trends, fashions, and cultural shifts. The result is an amazing archive and a fascinating portrait of America from 1972 to 1977.

Purchase the Searching for the Seventies catalog

photoPurchase the Searching for the Seventies exhibition catalog and browse our selection of groovy ?70s products, including DOCUMERICA prints and postcards, in the myArchives Store on the Main Level of the National Archives Building. Proceeds support the National Archives Experience and educational programming at the National Archives.

Searching for the Seventies News

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Visiting the Lawrence F. O?Brien Gallery

?Searching for the Seventies: The DOCUMERICA Photography Project? was created by the exhibits staff of the National Archives Experience. It is based on National Archives holdings, and the National Archives is solely responsible for the exhibit?s content and design. ?Searching for the Seventies? was made possible, in part, by support from the Foundation for the National Archives.


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Chavez's body brought 'home' to military academy

A supporter of Venezuela's late President Hugo Chavez holds images of him while the coffin containing his body passes in the street, from the hospital where he died on Tuesday to a military academy where it will remain until his funeral in Caracas, Venezuela, Wednesday, March 6, 2013. Seven days of mourning were declared, all schools were suspended for the week and friendly heads of state were expected for an elaborate funeral Friday. (AP Photo/Rodrigo Abd)

A supporter of Venezuela's late President Hugo Chavez holds images of him while the coffin containing his body passes in the street, from the hospital where he died on Tuesday to a military academy where it will remain until his funeral in Caracas, Venezuela, Wednesday, March 6, 2013. Seven days of mourning were declared, all schools were suspended for the week and friendly heads of state were expected for an elaborate funeral Friday. (AP Photo/Rodrigo Abd)

Covered by objects placed by supporters, the coffin carrying the body of Venezuela's late President Hugo Chavez arrives to the military academy where his body will lie in state until his funeral in Caracas, Venezuela, Wednesday, March 6, 2013. Seven days of mourning were declared, all schools were suspended for the week and friendly heads of state were expected for an elaborate funeral Friday. (AP Photo/Fernando Llano)

A woman holds a picture of President Hugo Chavez against her face as she cries outside the military hospital where he died Tuesday in Caracas, Venezuela, Wednesday, March 6, 2013. Seven days of mourning were declared, all school was suspended for the week and friendly heads of state were expected for an elaborate funeral Friday..(AP Photo/Ariana Cubillos)

In this photo released by Miraflores Press Office, Venezuela's interim President Nicolas Maduro, left, and Diosdado Cabello, President of Venezuela's National Assembly stand next to the flag-draped coffin containing the body of Venezuela's late President Hugo Chavez on display during his wake at a military academy where his body will lie in state until his funeral in in state in Caracas, Venezuela, Wednesday, March 6, 2013. Seven days of mourning were declared, all schools were suspended for the week and friendly heads of state were expected for an elaborate funeral Friday. (AP Photo/Miraflores Presidential Press Office)

A woman holding a small image of Venezuela's late President Hugo Chavez stands in the street to watch Chavez's coffin be moved from the hospital where he died on Tuesday to a military academy where his body will lie in state until his funeral in Caracas, Venezuela, Wednesday, March 6, 2013. Seven days of mourning were declared, all schools were suspended for the week and friendly heads of state were expected for an elaborate funeral Friday. (AP Photo/Rodrigo Abd)

(AP) ? Hugo Chavez has been carried back to the military academy where he started his army career, his flag-draped coffin lying in state in the echoing halls until Friday's funeral.

As a band played the hymn from his first battalion, a long ribbon of tearful mourners numbering in the hundreds of thousands bid farewell to the larger-than-life leader Wednesday after a procession carried his casket through Caracas.

With the entire government, including anointed successor Nicolas Maduro, caught up in the seven-hour procession, there were few answers to the most pressing question facing the country ? the timing of a presidential election that must be called within a month.

Generations of Venezuelans, many dressed in the red of Chavez's socialist party, filled the capital's streets to remember the man who dominated their country for 14 years before succumbing to cancer Tuesday afternoon.

Chavez's coffin made its way through the crowds atop an open hearse on an eight-kilometer (five-mile) journey that wound through the city's north and southeast, into many of the poorer neighborhoods where Chavez drew his political strength.

At the academy, Chavez's family and close advisers, as well as the presidents of Argentina, Bolivia and Uruguay, attended a funeral Mass around the president's glass-topped casket. The public then began filing past to peer at their longtime president, many of them coming closer to him than they had ever been while he was alive. Some placed their hand over their heart, others saluting or raising a fist in solidarity. The viewing lasted far into the night.

The head of Venezuela's presidential guard, Gen. Jose Ornella, told The Associated Press late Wednesday that Chavez died of a massive heart attack after great suffering.

"He couldn't speak but he said it with his lips ... 'I don't want to die. Please don't let me die,' because he loved his country, he sacrificed himself for his country," said Ornella, who said he was with the socialist president at the moment of his death Tuesday.

Set against the outpouring of grief was near-total official silence on where Venezuela is heading next, including when the election will take place. Even the exact time and place of Chavez's funeral Friday has not been announced, nor has it been revealed where he will be laid to rest.

During Chavez's nearly two-year health fight, the government never specified the exact location or type of cancer he had.

Opponents already have been stepping up criticism of the government's questionable moves after Chavez's death, including naming Maduro, the vice president, as interim president in apparent violation of the constitution, and the military's eagerness to choose political sides.

For a day, at least, Chavez's heartbroken supporters immersed themselves in emotion and sad farewells.

Maduro and Bolivian President Evo Morales, one of Chavez's staunchest allies, mingled with the crowd, and at one point both fell to the ground in the jostle of bodies pushing in every direction.

Military officers and Cabinet members ringed the president's coffin, stone-faced. Other mourners pumped their fists and held aloft images of the late president, amid countless yellow, blue and red Venezuelan flags.

"The fight goes on! Chavez lives!" the mourners shouted in unison, many through eyes red from crying for long hours.

Chavez's mother, Elena Frias de Chavez, leaned against her son's casket, while a priest read a prayer before the procession left the military hospital where Chavez died at age 58.

People who passed by the glass-topped coffin said Chavez's body was clad in the presidential sash and the military uniform and red beret of his days as a paratrooper.

Ricardo Tria, a social worker, said he waited nearly four hours to pass by the casket. Chavez looked "asleep, quiet, serious," he said.

"I feel so much pain. So much pain," said Yamile Gil, a 38-year-old housewife. "We never wanted to see our president like this. We will always love him."

Others who bitterly opposed Chavez's take-no-prisoners brand of socialism said they were sorry about his death, but hopeful it would usher in a less confrontational, more business-friendly era in this major oil-producing country.

"I am not happy that he has died, but I can't be sad either," said Delia Ramirez, a 32-year-old accountant who stayed away from the procession. "This man sowed hatred and division among Venezuelans."

The 1999 constitution that Chavez himself pushed through mandates that an election be called within 30 days to replace a president, but Chavez's top lieutenants have not always followed the law.

The charter clearly states that the speaker of the National Assembly, in this case Diosdado Cabello, should become interim president if a head of state is forced to leave office within three years of his election. Chavez was re-elected only in October.

But Chavez anointed Maduro for that role, and the vice president has assumed the mantle even as the government has named him as the ruling socialist party's candidate in the presidential vote.

The military also appears to be showing firm support for Maduro despite a constitutional mandate that it play no role in politics. In a tweet late Tuesday, state television said the defense minister, Adm. Diego Molero, had pledged military support for Maduro's candidacy against likely opposition candidate Henrique Capriles, raising concern among critics about the fairness of the vote.

Capriles, the 40-year-old governor of Miranda state who lost to Chavez in October, was conciliatory in a televised address after the president's death.

"This is not the moment to highlight what separates us," Capriles said. "This is not the hour for differences; it is the hour for union, it is the hour for peace."

Other opposition leaders were more critical of the military stance.

"When all Venezuela wants unity and peace, and a climate of respect between Venezuelans predominates, they're contrasted by what's unacceptable, the declarations of the minister of defense, that are, besides false, unconstitutional," said Ramon Guillermo Aveledo, executive secretary of the opposition coalition.

Cynthia Arnson, director of the Latin American Program at the Washington-based Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, said Maduro won't be able to harness "Chavismo" as Chavez did so successfully, but she expects him to win any upcoming presidential vote.

"There's really no one who can step into those shoes," she said.

In addition to spiraling crime and shortages of basic goods, the next administration must also control a ballooning public debt that has quadrupled to $102 billion since Chavez took office in 1999, despite Venezuela's booming oil exports

Maduro's Jekyll-and-Hyde-like behavior Tuesday has stoked worries about a future government.

He used a speech just before Chavez's death to lash out at the United States and internal opponents he accused of plotting to destabilize the government. He pointed to shadowy forces as being behind the president's cancer and expelled two American military attaches he charged with spying.

Then, in a televised appearance to announce the death, a shaken and somber Maduro called for peace, love and reconciliation among all Venezuelans.

Venezuela and the United States have a complicated relationship, with Chavez's enemy to the north remaining the top buyer of Venezuelan oil. But Chavez's inner circle has long claimed the United States was behind a failed 2002 attempt to overthrow him, and he has frequently used anti-American rhetoric to stir up support. Venezuela has been without a U.S. ambassador since July 2010 and expelled a U.S. military officer in 2006.

In Washington, senior Obama administration officials said Wednesday they hoped to rebuild the U.S.-Venezuelan relationship, but acknowledged that a quick rapprochement was unlikely given the Latin American country's impending presidential election.

The officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they weren't authorized to speak publicly on the matter, expressed displeasure with the expulsion of the two U.S. military officials by Venezuela and Maduro's accusations that the U.S. was somehow responsible for Chavez's cancer.

"Yesterday's first press conference was not encouraging," a senior official said. "It disappointed us."


Associated Press writers Christopher Toothaker, Jorge Rueda and Fabiola Sanchez in Caracas and Bradley Klapper in Salt Lake City, Utah, contributed to this report.


Paul Haven on Twitter:

Associated Press


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The $99 Roku 3 Launches With A New Processor, UI, And Remote Control With Built-In Headphone Jack

Roku-3-with-HeadphonesRoku is launching its new, $99 Roku 3. While keeping a similar form factor to previous Roku set-top boxes, the latest in its series should be much faster and more responsive, thanks to hardware upgrades. It also comes with a new remote control with built-in headphone jack for private listening, as well as a new user interface for navigating its hundreds of channels.


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US accuses Iran of nuke 'deception and delay'

VIENNA (AP) ? A senior U.S. envoy accused Iran of "deception, defiance and delay" Wednesday in dealing with international concerns about its nuclear activities, reflecting frustration over Tehran's expanding uranium enrichment program and stalled U.N. attempts to determine whether Tehran has worked secretly on atomic arms.

Joseph Macmanus, the chief U.S. delegate to the International Atomic Energy Agency, also suggested that the U.S. might push for tougher diplomatic action in the coming months.

While not going into details, his comments indicated that America might lobby the IAEA board to ask for a special inspection of Parchin, a facility that the agency suspects was used to test explosive triggers for a nuclear weapon, or that the United States would seek an IAEA resolution critical of Tehran.

International criticism of Iran has been relatively muted since last week's nuclear talks in which Tehran showed interest in proposals made by the United States and five other world powers. While expressing concern about enrichment and the deadlocked probe, the six powers avoided tough language and mentioned the "useful meetings" that produced the proposals in a joint statement Tuesday to the 35-nation International Atomic Energy Agency board.

By contrast, the comments Wednesday to the same meeting by Macmanus were unusually hard edged, suggesting they were meant to signal that pressure on Iran over its nuclear activities would not diminish.

Without having to pay heed to Russia and China ? countries in the six-power group that are traditionally softer on Iran than Washington ? Macmanus concentrated on expressing the U.S. view of Iran's alleged failure to meet its international obligations and diminish concerns that it wants nuclear weapons.

Iran denies any such aspirations. But it hid its enrichment program for years and is rapidly expanding it, prompting suspicions that it was less interested in using it to make reactor fuel and more in its other use ? producing fissile warhead material.

The IAEA also suspects that Tehran worked secretly on nuclear weapons, basing its assessment mostly on intelligence from the U.S., Israel and West European nations. Tehran says the intelligence is faked and refuses to allow the IAEA to resume a probe of the allegations until details of how that should proceed are worked out ? a stipulation the West dismisses as a delaying tactic.

Repeating that his country had no interest in nuclear weapons, Iran's chief delegate, Ali Asghar Soltanieh, told reporters that IAEA chief Yukiya Amano was to blame for Iran-related tensions at the agency by issuing reports that "provoke" member states. As for lack of progress in reopening the agency's probe, "the source of the problem is not Iran" but the IAEA, he told reporters.

The board approved Amano by acclamation for a second four-year term on Wednesday. Asked about his views on Amano's handling of Iran's nuclear file, Soltanieh, whose country is not a board member, criticized his "political approach," adding: "there have been some ups and downs."

Macmanus, in comments to the closed meeting made available to media, focused on both Iran's expanding enrichment program and refusal to allow IAEA experts access to sites, officials and documents it wants to probe in its investigations of Parchin and other suspicions of nuclear weapons work.

"We are deeply concerned with what appears to be Iran's unwavering commitment to deception defiance and delay," he said. "Iran ... has chosen to take further provocative actions."

Asked about possible requests for a special inspection or an IAEA board resolution in the future, he later told reporters that "some adjustment might have to be made" in ways to address concerns about Iran, adding that will be taken up by the board "over the next several months."

Iran can refuse a special inspection but that would set it up for referral to the U.N. Security Council. Like others before it, a resolution critical of Iran also would go automatically to the council, adding diplomatic pressure on Tehran.

Diplomats say the proposal made to Iran late last month by the United States, Russia, China, Britain, France and Germany, would obligate Iran to decommission its centrifuge plant at Fordo now making higher-enriched uranium and ship out the approximately 165 kilograms (about 365 pounds) it now has as well as allowing increased U.N. oversight.

With no such material stored and none being made, Iran's most direct path to quick manufacture of weapons-grade uranium would be eliminated ? about 250 kilograms of higher-enriched uranium are needed to be able to have enough material for one nuclear bomb with further enrichment.

In return, the six are offering to help supply and run Iran's research reactor, which is fueled by plates made from higher enriched uranium, coupled with what Iran wants most ? relief from sanctions meant to penalize Iran for refusing to heed U.N. Security Council demands to stop all enrichment.


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NVIDIA shines a light on lower spec Quadro cards: K600 priced at $199, K4000 at $1,300

NVIDIA Embargo

Despite all the energy it's been putting into mobile and gaming, NVIDIA hasn't fallen out of love with its professional graphics customers. In fact, it's in the process of trying to rekindle those sparks of romance through the clever use of chocolates, shoulder rubs and fresh additions to its Kepler-based Quadro lineup. We've already seen (and played with) the $2,249 K5000 flagship, but those of us on lower budgets will now be able to snag the K4000, K2000 or K600 as they begin to enter the retail channel.

Working from the top down, the $1,269 Quadro K4000 has 768 CUDA Cores, 3GB of RAM and a memory bandwidth of 134GB/s, which means it'll crank out your architectural documents and video reels at a healthy 1.246 TFLOPs. The $599 K2000 has half the CUDA cores and memory bandwidth, with 2GB of RAM, and reaches a top speed of 733 GFLOPs. Lastly, the $199 K600 has 192 CUDA Cores, 1GB RAM, a memory bandwidth of 29GB/s and a top speed of 336 GFLOPs. If you'd like more details, you know where the PR's at.

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Monday, March 4, 2013

Video: Mexican authorities up security for spring break

>> thanks. it's spring break time when college students take off for r & r in the sun. there is so much drug violence in mexico , but it remains a major destination, with so many headed to the beach in cancun . authorities there are going all out to keep them safe.

>> some 43,000 people, many of them spring breaking college students, will hit the beaches of cancun over the next week. and when they do, an unusual sight. marines walking the beach and extra tourist police all over the town. with increased violence in terrorist areas like acapulco, where six spanish tourists were raped last month, cancun wants to maintain its reputation as safe.

>> it's about how you travel to places, and the places that people go to in mexico , like cancun , are some of the safest places in the country.

>> reporter: the cancun convention and visitors bureau say none of its visitors were victims of violent crime . but they say we always amplify our response during peak times. it's an all-out effort to keep the area safe.

>> translator: spring breakers will be totally protected now that we have implemented various initiatives for their safety.

>> reporter: other popular mexico destinations have had reports of increasing violence in spots like acapulco, visitors are advised not to venture outside the tourist zone.

>> there has been a huge increase of drug-related deaths in mexico . there is no escaping that. most of that is in place where is tourists don't go to.

>> tourist destinations can be hotspots for petty crime , like cell phone and camera theft. and generally, spring breakers are more likely to be hurt after overindulging than being a crime victim . but travelers should always keep their guard up. for today, janet shamlian , nbc news, houston.


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