France passes 75% ‘millionaire’s tax’

By Thomson Reuters

France’s Constitutional Council gave the green light on Sunday to a ‘millionaire’s tax’, to be levied on companies that pay salaries of more than one million euros, or about $1.4 million, a year.

The measure, introduced in line with a pledge by President Francois Hollande to make the rich do more to pull France out of crisis, has infuriated business leaders and soccer clubs, which at one point threatened to go on strike.

It was originally designed as a 75 per cent tax to be paid by high earners on the part of their incomes exceeding one million euros, but the council rejected this, saying 66 per cent was the legal maximum for individuals.

The Socialist government has since reworked the tax to levy it on companies instead, raising the ire of entrepreneurs.

Under its new design, which the Council found constitutional, the tax will be an exceptional 50 per cent levy on the portion of wages exceeding 1 million euros paid in 2013 and 2014.

Including social contributions, its rate will effectively remain roughly 75 per cent. The tax will, however, be capped at 5 percent of the company’s turnover.

The Council, a court made up of judges and former French presidents, has the power to annul laws if they are deemed to violate the constitution.

Courtesy: CBC
http://www.cbc.ca/news/world/france-passes-75-millionaire-s-tax-1.2478390

A Rare Elected Voice for Socialism Pledges to Be Heard in Seattle

SEATTLE — People are used to liberals running things around here. But nobody reckoned with Kshama Sawant. Ms. Sawant, a 41-year-old economics teacher and immigrant from India, took a left at liberal and then kept on going — all the way to socialism.

When she takes a seat on Seattle’s nine-member City Council on Jan. 1, representing the Socialist Alternative Party, she will become one of the few elected socialists in the nation, a political brand most politicians run from.

But Kshama Sawant (pronounced SHAH-mah sah-WANT) heartily embraces the label. Ask her about almost any problem facing America today, and her answer will probably include the “S” word as the best and most reasonable response. Socialism is the path to real democracy, she says. Socialism protects the environment. Socialism is the best hope for young people who have seen their options crushed by the tide of low-wage, futureless jobs in the post-recession economy.

“The take-home message for the left in general is that people are looking for alternatives,” she said in an interview, discussing her victory over a veteran Democrat by a margin of 3,100 votes of about 184,000 cast in a citywide contest. “If you ask me as a socialist what workers deserve, they deserve the value of what they produce.”

Read more » The New York Times
http://mobile.nytimes.com/2013/12/29/us/a-rare-elected-voice-for-socialism-pledges-to-be-heard-in-seattle.html?pagewanted=2&_r=1&rref=us&hpw=

Scientists racing to build invisibility devices

Metamaterials are the tool of choice for scientists racing to build all sorts of wave-cloaking devices

By Reuters

Singapore: A new way of assembling things, called metamaterials, may in the not too distant future help to protect a building from earthquakes by bending seismic waves around it. Similarly, tsunami waves could be bent around towns, and soundwaves bent around a room to make it soundproof.

While the holy grail of metamaterials is still to make objects and people invisible to the eye, they are set to have a more tangible commercial impact playing more mundane roles — from satellite antennas to wirelessly charging cellphones.

Metamaterials are simply materials that exhibit properties not found in nature, such as the way they absorb or reflect light. The key is in how they’re made. By assembling the material — from photonic crystals to wire and foam — at a scale smaller than the length of the wave you’re seeking to manipulate, the wave can, in theory, be bent to will.

This makes metamaterials the tool of choice for scientists racing to build all sorts of wave-cloaking devices, including the so-called invisibility cloak — a cover to render whatever’s inside effectively invisible by bending light waves around it.

“The invisibility cloak was just one more thing we were discovering — that we have all this flexibility in this material and here’s another thing we can do,” David Smith of Duke University, widely regarded as one of the founding fathers of metamaterials, said in a telephone interview.

“But we’re equally interested in seeing this transition in making a difference in people’s lives.” Indeed, Smith’s own journey from laboratory to factory illustrates that while metamaterials have for some become synonymous with “Harry Potter” cloaks, their promise is more likely to be felt in a range of industries and uses, from smaller communication devices to quake-proof buildings.

Bending light

At the heart of both metamaterials and invisibility are waves. If electromagnetic waves — whether visible light, microwave or infrared — can be bent around an object it would not be visible on those wavelengths. It was long thought you couldn’t control light in this way with natural materials as their optical properties depended on the chemistry of the atoms from which they were made.

It was only when Smith and his colleagues experimented with altering the geometry of material in the late 1990s that they found they could change the way it interacted with light, or other kinds of wave — creating metamaterials. With that, says Andrea Alu, an associate professor at the University of Texas at Austin, scientists found “it may be possible to challenge rules and limitations that were for centuries considered written in stone.” The past decade has seen an explosion in research that has built on Smith’s findings to make objects invisible to at least some forms of light.

“There have now been several demonstrations of cloaking at visible wavelengths, so cloaking is truly possible and has been realised,” says Jason Valentine of Vanderbilt University, who made one of the first such cloaks. These, however, have limitations — such as only working for certain wavelengths or from certain angles. But the barriers are falling fast, says Valentine.

In the past year, for example, Duke University’s Yaroslav Urzhumov has made a plastic cloak that deflects microwave beams using a normal 3D printer, while Alu has built an ultra-thin cloak powered by electric current.

Invisible army

Funding much of this US research is the military. Urzhumov said in an email interview that the US Department of Defence is “one of the major sponsors of metamaterials and invisibility research in the US.” The Defence Advanced Research Projects Agency, which commissions advanced research for the Department of Defence, has funded research into metamaterials since 2000, according to the department’s website.

Military interest in metamaterials was primarily in making a cloak, said Miguel Navarro-Cia of Imperial College London, who has researched the topic with funding from the European Defence Agency and US military.

But an invisibility cloak needn’t be a sinister tool of war.

Vanderbilt’s Valentine suggests architectural usage. “You could use this technology to hide supporting columns from sight, making a space feel completely open,” he said.

Other potential uses include rendering parts of an aircraft invisible for pilots to see below the cockpit, or to rid drivers of the blind spot in a car.

Read more » Gulfnews
http://gulfnews.com/news/world/usa/scientists-racing-to-build-invisibility-devices-1.1270952

Bee Venom Destroys Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV)

Nanoparticles carrying a toxin found in bee venom can destroy human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) while leaving the surrounding cells unharmed. The research was conducted by the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis. The Nanoparticles carry melittin, which is the principal active component of bee venom. Melittin fuses with the HIV virus and destroys it’s protective envelope while molecular bumpers prevent the nanoparticles from harming the body’s normal cells. Bee venom is known to disrupt cellular walls and destroy tumour cells as well.

Bee venom contains a potent toxin called melittin that can poke holes in the protective envelope that surrounds HIV, and other viruses. Large amounts of free melittin can cause a lot of damage. Indeed, in addition to anti-viral therapy, the paper’s senior author, Samuel A. Wickline, MD, the J. Russell Hornsby Professor of Biomedical Sciences, has shown melittin-loaded nanoparticles to be effective in killing tumor cells.

The new study shows that melittin loaded onto these nanoparticles does not harm normal cells. That’s because Hood added protective bumpers to the nanoparticle surface. When the nanoparticles come into contact with normal cells, which are much larger in size, the particles simply bounce off. HIV, on the other hand, is even smaller than the nanoparticle, so HIV fits between the bumpers and makes contact with the surface of the nanoparticle, where the bee toxin awaits. (1)

Most anti-HIV drugs inhibit the virus’s ability to replicate. This is an anti-replication strategy that does nothing to stop the infection, and many strains of the virus have found ways around these drugs and continue reproducing. Given this discovery, a new vaginal gel could possibly be used in places where HIV is prominent. It can be used as a preventative measure to stop the initial infection and prevent the spread of HIV. The bee venom HIV study was published a several days ago in the journal Antiviral Therapy.

More than 34 million people are living with HIV/AIDS worldwide, and over 3 million of them are under the age of 15. Everyday, thousands of people contract HIV around the world.

– See more at: http://www.collective-evolution.com/2013/03/13/bee-venom-destroys-human-immunodeficiency-virus-hiv/#sthash.7Amjn3a3.dpuf