Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Police return pot to patient almost 3 years later

LEAVING HAPPY: Jim Spray, left, departs Huntington Beach police headquarters Tuesday. Marvin Chavez, a medical marijuana advocate, helps him carry out bags of Spray's seized medical marijuana. Huntington Beach police returned marijuana-related property confiscated in November 2005 back to Spray.


HUNTINGTON BEACH It was like Christmas Day for Jim Spray. He giggled with glee as he tore into brown paper bags as if they were presents.

These bags, however, were filled with jars of his medical marijuana and other paraphernalia that had been stored for nearly three years at the city's police department.

A court order today forced officials to give it back, marking the second time in a year that Huntington Beach police have had to return seized marijuana to a patient after court rulings stated that the marijuana should not have been seized in the first place.

"That's a chunk of hash," said Spray, a 52-year-old trade show decorator from Huntington Beach. A tall, stocky police official watched as the medical marijuana patient inspected a tiny, eye shadow-sized container full of hashish.

"It's still good. I almost forgot about all this," said Spray, who uses medical marijuana because of pain from a herniated disc.

It has been almost three years since Huntington Beach officers confiscated Spray's estimated 4 ounces of marijuana and a $1,000 growing system, which included special lighting and a water-timing system.

While police had destroyed most of the growing equipment, officials returned Spray's marijuana today after an order from Orange County Superior Court Judge Thomas Borris.

The order came nearly nine months after the 4th District Court of Appeal ruled that the city must return Spray's marijuana and equipment taken from his home in November 2005. Spray was represented by attorneys with medical marijuana advocacy group Americans for Safe Access.

The Huntington Beach Police Department doesn't have a policy regarding medical marijuana, officials have said in the past. Officers interpret the Compassionate Use Act as protecting medical marijuana recipients from prosecution, not arrest.

The 1996 law allows people to use medical marijuana in California. Federal law, however, outlaws all marijuana use.

On Aug. 25, state Attorney General Jerry Brown developed guidelines for the first time since the passing of the act. The most notable guideline upholds the legality of medical marijuana dispensaries that operate as nonprofit cooperatives or collectives.

In addition, the new directive essentially tells law enforcement officials that they cannot take marijuana from medical marijuana patients in the first place and are not allowed to charge them if they are carrying less than 8 ounces.

Agencies, such as Huntington Beach, however, are still trying to figure out what to make of Brown's directive, since it is opinion and not law, officials said.

About six months ago, Dave Lucas of Huntington Beach also retrieved his purple urkel – a higher-end marijuana – and a couple of smoking pipes officers confiscated from him more than a year ago.

Lucas retrieved his medical marijuana in April, after waiting for the California Supreme Court to decline to review an appellate court ruling, which ordered Garden Grove police to return seized medical marijuana to Felix Kha.

In November, Kha won the right to get his medical marijuana returned to him. A month later, the same court also ruled in Spray's favor.

"Hopefully, they'll stop taking people's medicine away," Spray said today out loud in the police lobby.

Spray said he plans to file a claim against Huntington Beach because of his destroyed marijuana growing equipment. Medical marijuana advocates Bill Britt and Marvin Chavez Sr., who were there for support, helped Spray with the about half a dozen bags of once-seized pot.

"Do you know how much of a pleasure it is to take medicine from the department?'' said Chavez, a medical marijuana patient and advocate. "It's such a victory."

Contact the writer: 714-445-6688 or

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Body exhumed in fight against flu


Sir Mark Sykes

The body of an aristocrat who died nearly 90 years ago has been exhumed in the hope that it will help scientists combat a future flu pandemic.

Yorkshire landowner Sir Mark Sykes died in France in 1919 from Spanish flu.

Sir Mark was buried in a lead coffin which scientists hope may have helped preserve the virus.

They believe his remains will help piece together the DNA of Spanish flu, which could have a similar genetic structure to modern bird flu.

This knowledge, added to major breakthroughs by American scientists last year, could help prevent a modern pandemic through the development of new drugs.

A church court covering the Diocese of York has authorised the exhumation of the body of Sir Mark, who owned historic Sledmere House near Driffield, after permission was given by his grandchildren.

His body will have to be examined in a special air-tight laboratory to avoid any risk of contamination.

Death toll

Researchers from BBC One's Inside Out programme have tracked down contemporary records of Sir Mark's funeral at St Mary's Church, Sledmere, and other archive documents to help a medical team from St Barts and the Royal London Hospitals.

Sir Mark died towards the end of the Spanish flu outbreak which killed more than 50 million people when it took hold at the end of World War I. The death toll was compounded by large population movements during the war.

Sir Mark, who was also a politician tipped as a future prime minister and a diplomat, was working for the government in the Middle East where he helped draw up the national boundaries that still exist in the region today.

He sailed home from Syria via London, where it is thought he contracted the virus, and died on 16 February at the Hotel Lotti during peace negotiations in Paris.

BBC One viewers in Yorkshire can see more on the story on Inside Out on Wednesday at 1930 BST

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Breast cancer vaccine kills tumors in mice

Wayne State University researchers say a breast cancer vaccine completely eliminated HER2-positive tumors in mice -- without any toxicity.

The study, published in the journal Cancer Research, suggests the vaccine could treat women with HER2-positive, treatment-resistant cancer or help prevent cancer recurrence. The researchers also say it might potentially be used in cancer-free women to prevent initial development of these tumors.

HER2 receptors promote normal cell growth, and are found in low amounts on normal breast cells. But HER2-positive breast cells can contain many more receptors than is typical, promoting a particularly aggressive type of tumor that affects 20 percent to 30 percent of all breast cancer patients, the study says.

Therapies such as trastuzumab and lapatinib, designed to latch on to these receptors and destroy them, are a mainstay of treatment for this cancer, but a significant proportion of patients develop a resistance to them or cancer metastasis that is hard to treat.

"The immune response against HER2-positive receptors we saw in this study is powerful, and works even in tumors that are resistant to current therapies," lead investigator Wei-Zen Wei says in a statement.

"The vaccine could potentially eliminate the need to even use these therapies."

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How 'green' is the electric Chevy Volt?

General Motors at its centennial celebration in Detroit on Tuesday is expected to showcase the Chevy Volt, a plug-in hybrid electric car that carries the heavy expectations of reversing GM's slide and slashing consumers' fuel use.

Buzz around the Volt picked up last week when photos of the production car were captured, showing a less sporty look than the original concept car. But what are the environmental and cost benefits of the Volt?

The Volt will be able to run 40 miles on lithium-ion batteries and get a range of 400 miles from an internal combustion engine that charges the battery. The four-door sedan with a hatchback is set for release at the end of 2010.

Production version of the Chevy Volt from General Motors

Click on the image to see photos of what is said to be the production version of the plug-in hybrid Chevy Volt.

(Credit: General Motors via TheCarConnection.)

GM has not offered many details on the Volt's fuel economy and didn't respond on Monday to a request for more specifics. But early estimates indicate that the Volt will deliver a significant boost in mileage and be cheaper to operate than a gasoline car.

Plug-in electric cars also stand to reduce, although not eliminate, air pollution.

"The Volt story has gotten much more interest than other (GM) product introductions because it represents such a dramatic departure. Historically, things were more incremental," said David Cole, the chairman of the Center for Automotive Research in Ann Arbor, Mich.

GM says the Volt will get the equivalent of 50 miles per gallon on longer trips where an expected four-cylinder engine will be engaged.

But mileage will improve substantially if a person stays within the batteries' 40-mile range. GM designers targeted a 40-mile battery range because most people drive less than that in a day.

In all-electric mode, drivers can expect the equivalent of about 100 miles per gallon, said David Goldstein, the president of the Electric Vehicle Association of Washington D.C.

In a mixed mode, where the gasoline engine kicks in, Golstein thinks that overall mileage for a 100-mile trip would be about 50 miles per gallon, but would go down to 35 miles per gallon for a 200-mile trip because the gasoline motor is working more.

Compared with a gasoline car, plug-in hybrids like the Volt stand to be cheaper to operate. Goldstein estimates that people will pay between 2 and 6 cents per mile with the Volt, depending on electricity rates.

A detail on the Volt's styling.

(Credit: GM)

That price per mile estimate for the Volt is less than the 15 cents per mile that a typical gasoline car costs, calculated Scott Sklar, an alternative energy consultant at the Stella Group.

Comparing the cost per mile of a gasoline car with a battery-powered vehicle is complicated by the fact that many regions in the U.S. have different electricity tariffs that depend on usage and time of day.

Martin Eberhard, the founder and former CEO of Tesla Motors, is one of the first customers of the all-electric Tesla Roadster. After a few months of driving, he reported in his blog that the cost per mile of the Roadster is between 2 and 6 cents per mile.

From an environmental perspective, plug-in hybrids have the lowest greenhouse gas emissions over their product lifecycle compared with other transportation technologies except all-electric vehicles, according to a recent analysis done on the future of transportation published in August by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

That's because electric motors are more efficient than gasoline engines, said Goldstein. Also, electricity generation is several times more efficient than the energy conversion that happens in a car, said Cole.

Similarly, the the Electric Power Research Institute and the National Resources Defense Council (NRDC) last year concluded that adoption of plug-in hybrid electric vehicles would lower global warming emissions, improve air quality, and reduce petroleum consumption by 3 million to 4 million barrels per day in 2050.

Road blocks?
But for all the promise of the Volt, there are some real engineering and business challenges.

The biggest technical issue is the reliability of lithium-ion batteries, in which nearly all auto makers are investing.

The useful life of these batteries is still not totally clear, as they haven't already been tested in vehicles for decades.

One business model that automakers are looking at is a leasing option, where consumers would lease a plug-in hybrid electric car's batteries for 10 years, said Cole. After that, the battery would be replaced and potentially used in less-demanding applications such as power grid storage.

A drop in the price of petroleum, which has fallen dramatically since earlier this year, could also put the brakes on the investment in engineering to make plug-in hybrid vehicles less expensive.

Recent reports said that GM is planning to charge about $40,000 for the Volt, more than what was originally anticipated. For the price to go down, there needs to be a multi-year ramp-up in battery production.

"Anyway you look at it, out of the box, this is going to be expensive. These are going to be expensive batteries," Cole said.

In its report, MIT estimated that plug-in hybrids will be commercially competitive with gasoline cars in eight to ten years.

The battery will weigh 400 pounds, be 5 feet long, and be placed under the car, Bob Boniface, GM's Chevy Volt design director said in an interview. Boniface said GM had to make a break from the initial concept car design to improve the aerodynamics and fuel efficiency.

The Volt is a series hybrid, which means that the car's internal combustion engine only charges the battery, rather than drives the car directly. That means an automaker can design engines that run on different fuels.

Cole said that the biggest environmental pay-off from this design will come once ethanol from nonfood sources, called cellulosic ethanol, becomes commercially viable.

A car that uses E85 fuel, a mix of ethanol and gas, could get 400 miles per gallon of gasoline, he said. There are a handful of pilot cellulosic ethanol plants in the U.S., but none are producing at large scale.

For GM, the Volt is meant to help change its image as a vendor or SUVs and other trucks, while giving it important technical know-how in fuel-efficient cars.

"All GM brands are candidates to receive this technology," said Cole.

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3M Steals Viral Image Idea To Avoid Licensing It

There is probably nothing more pathetic in the world of marketing than watching a big corporation try to do something "viral"—usually they end up looking like Elaine dancing. But sometimes, they're so cynical and soulless about it that they don't just come across as incompetent, but as exploitative cheapskates as well. In 3M's case, they wouldn't pay $2,000 to license a well-known photo with its own viral history, and instead recreated a fake version of it to save a grand. We guess they're just hoping none of the sites and communities that made the photo popular in the first place will notice. Oh wait, this is supposed to be viral or something...

Melanie at All About Content has the entire story, from the original office prank that went viral thanks to sites like Digg and BoingBoing, to 3M's attempt to appropriate it, to their shabby treatment of the owner of the photo and their subsequent workaround.

Michelle, the "eMarketing Supervisor" who was negotiating with Scott, comes across as particuarly disingenuous in her email to him:

We were quoted about $750-$1000 to shoot our own, but if you could allow us to use yours on a couple in-store displays for 6 months within that range, we could arrange for that instead.

Really, Michelle? Only two displays throughout the entire country? Are you a really bad eMarketing manager, or lying to Scott about how much you'd use the photo? [We think mmmsoap makes a good point about how this was probably meant.]

We guess what's most offensive about this is 3M can surely afford to pay a legitimate licensing fee to the owner of the photo, which would have also served as a goodwill gesture to the community that most likely gave it the campaign idea to begin with. As Melanie puts it in her article:

But let’s pretend the legality of this move wasn’t even a question for now, and focus on this: Social media marketing campaigns rely on the social media community to carry them. As a marketer, you have to respect the community and its members. Ripping off community members and then turning around and asking that same community to generate buzz for your campaign is just ballsy... or stupid.

The irony: The YouTube contest rules say “Remember, creativity and true brilliance will get you noticed.”

Is that part of the rules, or a threat from 3M?

"3M Carjacks the Post-It Note Jaguar" [All About Content] (Thanks to Craig!)
(Photos: 3M display and original Post-It car by Scott Ableman)

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