Author Archive for Pharmboy

Chilled proteins and 3-D images: The cryo-electron microscopy technology that just won a Nobel Prize

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Chilled proteins and 3-D images: The cryo-electron microscopy technology that just won a Nobel Prize

Courtesy of Melanie OhiUniversity of Michigan and Michael CianfroccoUniversity of Michigan

File 20171004 31791 6zhlqy

Cryo-electron microscopy resolution continues to improve. Veronica Falconieri, Sriram Subramaniam, National Cancer Institute, National Institutes of Health, CC BY-NC

Many people will never have heard of cryo-electron microscopy before the announcement that Jacques Dubochet, Joachim Frank and Richard Henderson had won the 2017 Nobel Prize in chemistry for their work developing this technology. So what is it, and why is it worthy of this honor?

Cryo-electron microscopy – or cryo-EM – is an imaging technology that allows scientists to obtain pictures of the biological “machines” that work inside our cells. Most amazingly, it can reconstruct individual snapshots into movie-like scenes that show how protein components of these biological machines move and interact with each other.

It’s like the difference between having a list of all of the individual parts of an engine versus being able to see the engine fully assembled and running. The parts list can tell you a lot, but there’s no replacement for seeing what you’re studying in action.

What’s revolutionary about cryo-EM is not only that it lets scientists actually see and understand how important biological machines work, but that it allows us to study a vast array of important proteins that can’t be seen using any other structural biology technique.

Advances in both imaging technology and computing have really pushed cryo-EM forward over the last decade or so. Researchers are now able to generate atomic, or near-atomic, resolution 3-D models of challenging molecules – things like receptors that are therapeutic drug targets, molecular motors that deliver cargo to different parts of the cell and emerging viruses that lead to human disease.

Cryo-EM structure of the enzyme beta-galactosidase. EMDB-2984, CC BY-ND

Frozen world of cryo-EM

To obtain an image…
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Scientists are unraveling the mystery of your body’s clock – and soon may be able to reset it

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Scientists are unraveling the mystery of your body's clock – and soon may be able to reset it

Courtesy of Carrie L. PartchUniversity of California, Santa Cruz

File 20170913 20251 nxwsbd

Bad night’s sleep? Blame your genes. A. and I. Kruk/shutterstock.com

For people who don’t get sleepy until 2 a.m., the buzz of an alarm clock can feel mighty oppressive.

Relief may be on the horizon, thanks to the discovery this spring of a genetic mutation that causes night-owl behavior.

Whether you’re a night owl or a morning lark rising effortlessly each day with the sun, your sleep habits are regulated by circadian rhythms. These internal clocks control just about every aspect of our health, from appetite and sleep to cell division, hormone production and cardiovascular function.

Like many who study the intricacies of circadian biology, I’m optimistic that one day we’ll be able to design drugs that synchronize our cellular clocks. Bosses frowning on tardy arrivals could soon become a thing of the past.

Our internal clocks

Nearly every cell in your body contains a molecular clock. Every 24 hours or so, dedicated clock proteins interact with one another in a slow dance. Over the course of a day, this slow dance results in the timely expression of genes. This controls when particular processes will occur in your body, such as the release of hormones like sleep-promoting melatonin.

Why are heart attacks and strokes two to three times more common in the early morning? Chalk that up to our internal clocks, which coordinate an increase in blood pressure in the morning to help you wake up. Why should teens listen to their parents’ pleas to go to bed? Because human growth hormone is secreted only once a day, linked to sleeping at night.

Nearly every biological function is intimately linked to our internal clocks. Our bodies are so finely tuned to these cycles that disruptions caused by artificial light increase our risk of obesity, chronic inflammatory diseases and cancer.

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Nobel winners identified molecular ‘cogs’ in the biological clocks that control our circadian rhythms

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Nobel winners identified molecular ‘cogs’ in the biological clocks that control our circadian rhythms

Courtesy of Carrie L. PartchUniversity of California, Santa Cruz

File 20171003 12163 1cgw877

‘The key fourth awardee here is … the little fly,’ Hall said. Lynn Ketchum, CC BY-SA

Circadian rhythms control when we’re at our peak performance physically and mentally each day, keeping our lives ticking in time with Earth’s day/night cycle. This year’s Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine was awarded to three American scientists, Jeffrey Hall and Michael Rosbash of Brandeis University and Michael Young of Rockefeller University, for shedding light on how time is measured each day in biological systems, including our own bodies.

From Darwin’s finches on the Galápagos Islands to modern city dwellers, organisms adapt to their environment. Regular 24-hour cycles of day and night on Earth led to the evolution of biological clocks that reside within our cells. These clocks help us unconsciously pick the best time to rest, search for food, or anticipate danger or predation.

The field of modern circadian biology got its start in the 1970s, when geneticist Seymour Benzer and his student Ron Konopka undertook a revolutionary study to track down the genes that encode biological timing in fruit flies. With that gene in their sights, the labs of Hall, Rosbash and Young ushered in the molecular era of circadian biology as they untangled the molecular mechanisms of biological timekeeping.

Drosophila larvae were the lab subject for the early circadian clock research. IrinaK/Shutterstock.com

Why flies?

To get started, Benzer and Konopka performed a simple experiment: tracking when the fruit fly Drosophila melanogaster would emerge from its pupal case. This developmental process, called eclosion, served as a powerful tool to study the complicated biological process of circadian rhythms. Because Drosophila pupae only emerge at a specific time of the day, Konopka could measure the timing between rounds of eclosion for different strains of flies and identify those…
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How we developed a cheap, accurate, on-the-spot test for Ebola

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How we developed a cheap, accurate, on-the-spot test for Ebola

Courtesy of Courtesy of Sterghios MoschosNorthumbria University, Newcastle

File 20170927 24193 1kph8n8

Ebola virus. Nixx Photography/Shutterstock

We have developed technology that reliably detects the Ebola virus in a blood sample seven times faster, ten times cheaper and 700 times safer than doing it in a lab. In fact, the test can be used to detect any genetic material in blood, and so could be used to find everything from malaria to Zika.

Imagine tropical heat. You are wearing a thick, awkward plastic suit that covers you head to toe. Your only access to air is via a respirator; water comes in the form of your own sweat trickling down your eyes. You flex your fingers in your thick, plastic gloves, as you approach yet another person who could kill you: a suffering, feverish, wet patient who may have Ebola virus disease.

You must stick a needle into their vein, get a vial of blood and get it to a diagnostic laboratory. The lab, however, might be several days’ drive away. Until the results are back, the patient, who might have malaria (the symptoms are similar to Ebola), must be kept separate from healthy people. They will be quarantined alongside other suspected cases, some of whom might test positive for Ebola.

Reaching the diagnostic lab, the sample joins a queue of hundreds of samples that need to be manually processed. At the peak of the 2014 West Africa Ebola outbreak, it took five days or more to get a result. By the time the West responded, this was reduced to between five and eight hours. At a cost of US$100 per test, however, the expense remained prohibitive. The average healthcare spend per person per year in oil-rich Nigeria is about US$118, but in Guinea, where the last Ebola outbreak started, it is just US$9. In the UK, it is about US$4,000.

When it comes to Ebola, testing a blood sample for the virus genome is the most reliable…
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Will whoever controls gene editing control historical memory?

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Will whoever controls gene editing control historical memory?

Courtesy of Julie Louise BaconUNSW

File 20170822 13676 1fqh7gf

Harvard’s recent CRISPR experiment isn’t just a new frontier for science – it’s also a new take on how we conceive of human history. gopixa/Shutterstock.com

In July, Harvard scientists used a gene-editing technology first developed in 2013 to programme bacteria to do something astounding: play back an animation of a galloping horse.

The GIF animation was generated from an iconic image series created in 1878 by the motion-picture pioneer Eadweard Muybridge.

The breakthrough involved the scientists translating image pixels into genetic code, which they fed to the cells one frame at a time. The bacteria incorporated and reproduced the sequence in their DNA, demonstrating the possibility of using living cells as information recording and storage devices.

The tech world was, predictably, agog. But beyond the hype, scientists’ goal of applying the technique to human cells has deep philosophical implications.

A future in which our bodies are used as hard drives could, in effect, change the entire way we conceive of human history and perceive life.

My body, myself. Micah Baldwin, CC BY-SA

The origins of history

Today, it is impossible to imagine a world without history: from the vast array of chronicles housed in the world’s libraries to the countless traces of the past accumulating in the data farms that support the digital cloud, history surrounds us.

But it wasn’t always this way. Starting around 4000 BCE, the rise and spread of city-states, from Mesopotamia to Ancient Greece, radically changed the relationship between humans and our physical world.

New patterns of governance and information technology produced what’s now called “historical time”, a…
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Can low doses of chemicals affect your health? A new report weighs the evidence

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Can low doses of chemicals affect your health? A new report weighs the evidence

Courtesy of Rachel ShafferUniversity of Washington

File 20170817 28123 10gdonh

Assessing the data. LightField Studios/shutterstock.com

Toxicology’s founding father, Paracelsus, is famous for proclaiming that “the dose makes the poison.” This phrase represents a pillar of traditional toxicology: Essentially, chemicals are harmful only at high enough doses.

But increasing evidence suggests that even low levels of “endocrine disrupting chemicals” can interfere with hormonal signals in the body in potentially harmful ways.

Standard toxicity tests don’t always detect the effects that chemicals can have at lower levels. And, even when the data do suggest such effects, scientists and policymakers may not act upon this information in a timely manner.

Recognizing these challenges, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) asked a committee of scientists to study the issue in detail. How can we better identify whether chemicals have effects at low doses? And how can we act on this information to protect public health?

After several years of work, the committee’s report was released by the National Academy of Sciences in July. This landmark report provides the EPA with a strategy to identify and analyze data about low-dose health effects, as well as two case study examples. It is an evidence-based call to action, and scientists and policymakers should take notice.

Case studies

What exactly is a “low dose”? The committee defined this as “external or internal exposure that falls with the range estimated to occur in humans.” That covers any level of chemical exposure that we would encounter in our daily lives.

Adverse health effects, as defined by the committee, can include any biological change that impairs a person’s functional capacity or ability to handle stress, or makes her more susceptible to other exposures.

To help the EPA better identify whether chemicals can have adverse effects at low doses, the committee developed a three-part strategy. First, actively collect a wide range of data with participation from stakeholders and the public. Then, analyze and integrate the…
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Will CRISPR fears fade with familiarity?

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Will CRISPR fears fade with familiarity?

Courtesy of Patricia StapletonWorcester Polytechnic Institute

File 20170822 8916 y977a5

With all these ‘test-tube babies’ grown up, how have our reactions to the technology evolved? AP Photo/Alastair Grant

The first “test-tube baby” made headlines around the world in 1978, setting off intense debate on the ethics of researching human embryos and reproductive technologies. Every breakthrough since then has raised the same questions about “designer babies” and “playing God” – but public response has grown more subdued rather than more engaged as assisted reproductive technologies have become increasingly sophisticated and powerful.

As the science has advanced, doctors are able to perform more complex procedures with better-than-ever success rates. This progress has made in vitro fertilization and associated assisted reproductive technologies relatively commonplace. Over one million babies have been born in the U.S. using IVF since 1985.

And Americans’ acceptance of these technologies has evolved alongside their increased usage, as we’ve gotten used to the idea of physicians manipulating embryos.

But the ethical challenges posed by these procedures remain – and in fact are increasing along with our capabilities. While still a long way from clinical use, the recent news that scientists in Oregon had successfully edited genes in a human embryo brings us one step closer to changing the DNA that we pass along to our descendants. As the state of the science continues to advance, ethical issues need to be addressed before the next big breakthrough.

Birth of the test-tube baby era

Louise Brown was born in the U.K. on July 25, 1978. Known as the first “test-tube baby,” she was a product of IVF, a process where an egg is fertilized by sperm outside of the body before being implanted into the womb. IVF opened up the possibility for infertile parents to have their own biologically related children. But Brown’s family was also subjected to vicious hate mail, and groups opposed to IVF warned it would be used for eugenic experiments leading to…
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Editing human embryos with CRISPR is moving ahead – now’s the time to work out the ethics

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Editing human embryos with CRISPR is moving ahead – now's the time to work out the ethics

Courtesy of Jessica BergCase Western Reserve University

File 20170728 15340 1460v93

There’s still a way to go from editing single-cell embryos to a full-term ‘designer baby.’ ZEISS Microscopy, CC BY-SA

The announcement by researchers in Portland, Oregon that they’ve successfully modified the genetic material of a human embryo took some people by surprise.

With headlines referring to “groundbreaking” research and “designer babies,” you might wonder what the scientists actually accomplished. This was a big step forward, but hardly unexpected. As this kind of work proceeds, it continues to raise questions about ethical issues and how we should we react.

What did researchers actually do?

For a number of years now we have had the ability to alter genetic material in a cell, using a technique called CRISPR.

The DNA that makes up our genome comprises long sequences of base pairs, each base indicated by one of four letters. These letters form a genetic alphabet, and the “words” or “sentences” created from a particular order of letters are the genes that determine our characteristics.

Sometimes words can be “misspelled” or sentences slightly garbled, resulting in a disease or disorder. Genetic engineering is designed to correct those mistakes. CRISPR is a tool that enables scientists to target a specific area of a gene, working like the search-and-replace function in Microsoft Word, to remove a section and insert the “correct” sequence.

In the last decade, CRISPR has been the primary tool for those seeking to modify genes – human and otherwise. Among other things, it has been used in experiments to make mosquitoes resistant to malaria, genetically modify plants to be resistant to disease, explore the possibility of engineered pets and livestock, and potentially treat some human diseases (including HIV, hemophilia and leukemia).

Up until recently, the focus in humans has been on changing the cells of a single individual, and not…
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Biologics: The pricey drugs transforming medicine

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Biologics: The pricey drugs transforming medicine

Courtesy of Ian HaydonUniversity of Washington

File 20170724 28293 q0p57w

The cells inside this bioreactor are the real pharmaceutical factories. Sanofi Pasteur, CC BY-NC-ND

In a factory just outside San Francisco, there’s an upright stainless steel vat the size of a small car, and it’s got something swirling inside.

The vat is studded with gauges, hoses and pipes. Inside, it’s hot – just under 100 degrees Fahrenheit. Sugar and other nutrients are being pumped in because, inside this formidable container, there is life.

Scientists are growing cells in there. Those cells, in turn, are growing medicine. Every two weeks or so, the hot, soupy liquid inside gets strained and processed. The purified molecules that result will eventually be injected into patients with Stage IV cancer.

Drugs that are made this way – inside living cells – are called biologics. And they’re taking medicine by storm. By 2016, biologics had surged to make up 25 percent of the total pharmaceutical market, bringing in US$232 billion, with few signs their upward trend will slow.

Distinct from conventional drugs

Common medicines such as aspirin, antacids and statins are chemical in nature. Though many were initially discovered in the wild (aspirin is a cousin of a compound in willow bark, the first statin was found in a fungus), these drugs are now made nonbiologically.

Conventional medicines are stitched together by chemists in large factories using other chemicals as building blocks. Their molecular structures are well defined and relatively simple. Aspirin, for example, contains just 21 atoms (nine carbons, eight hydrogens and four oxygens) bonded together to form a particular shape. A single aspirin tablet – even kid-sized – contains trillions of copies of the drug molecule.

Biologic drugs are a different story. This class of medication is not synthesized chemically – instead they are harvested directly from biology, as their name suggests. Most modern biologics are assembled inside vats – or bioreactors – that house genetically engineered microbes or mammalian cell cultures. Efforts are underway to make them in
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A new vaccine is promising to advance the frontier of eliminating malaria

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A new vaccine is promising to advance the frontier of eliminating malaria

Courtesy of Simon KariukiKenya Medical Research Institute

File 20170630 8190 11ktn0z

A malaria vaccine will be piloted in Ghana, Kenya and Malawi to assess its suitability. Siegfried Modola/Reuters.

More than 30 malaria vaccine candidates are at various stages of development. The RTS,S vaccine is at the most advanced stage.

The World Health Organisation has recommended the introduction of the vaccine in Ghana, Kenya and Malawi as a pilot programme to assess its suitability in expanded immunisation programmes.

The vaccine could prove to be a powerful tool in sustaining the gains made in the last decade in reducing malaria related cases and deaths. Between 2000 and 2015, new malaria cases fell by 37% globally, and by 42% in Africa. This has been achieved through key interventions such as using treated bed nets, spraying houses with insecticides and effective antimalarial drugs.

Combined with existing malaria interventions, the vaccine would have the potential to save tens of thousands of lives in Africa. It’s important for two other reasons too.

Firstly, it would reduce the cost of managing malaria. Historically, vaccines are more cost-effective in preventing the spread of diseases compared to other methods.

Secondly, the vaccine could deal with resistance to both drugs and insecticides that’s on the rise.

The vaccine’s history

The RTS,S malaria vaccine was created in 1987 by scientists working at GlaxoSmithKline laboratories. Early clinical development of the vaccine was conducted in collaboration with the Walter Reed Army Institute for Research.

In January 2001, GlaxoSmithKline and PATH’s Malaria Vaccine Initiative entered into a public-private partnership to develop RTS,S for infants and young children living in malaria-endemic regions of sub-Saharan Africa.

Phase I and II clinical trials allowed an initial assessment of the safety and efficacy of the vaccine, initially in adult volunteers in the US and Belgium.

This was followed by adults, adolescents, children, and then infants living in…
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ValueWalk

Is College Really for All?

By The Foundation for Economic Education. Originally published at ValueWalk.

In the last two and a half generations, the number of students who go on to attend college, as a percentage of the population, has tripled. In 1959, about 20 percent of high school students went on to college. Since relatively few people were earning degrees, having one all but guaranteed getting a good, high-paying job. As a result, parents, high schools, and colleges began encouraging more and more high school students to go to college. Today, about 60 percent of high school students go on to college. But has the big push to get kids into college done anything to improve outcomes? Is the average $250,000 investment in a four-year degree at all worth it? If not, what alternatives exist? Join Antony Davies and James Harrigan as they talk about this and more on this week’s episode of Words and Num...



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Phil's Favorites

Mad cows, Oprah Winfrey and communicating the science in a high-profile court case

 

Mad cows, Oprah Winfrey and communicating the science in a high-profile court case

A reporter interviews a protester outside the Amarillo courthouse. AP Photo/Eric Gay

Courtesy of Larry Lemmons, Texas Tech University and Asheley R. Landrum, Texas Tech University

Twenty years ago, images of staggering cattle and descriptions of brains resembling Swiss cheese became associated w...



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Zero Hedge

It's Not Just The Homicides: Commercial Robberies In Baltimore Are Up 88%

Courtesy of ZeroHedge. View original post here.

We now have supporting evidence that Baltimore is the “nation’s most dangerous city,” according to a new report issued by USA Today’s crime desk. The implosion of Baltimore’s inner city comes as little surprise to us, considering our recent reporting of out of control murders and violent crime plungin...



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Insider Scoop

Imperial Capital: MINDBODY Has The Keys To Success

Courtesy of Benzinga.

Related 7 Stocks Moving In Wednesday's After-Hours Session 50 Biggest Movers From Friday ...

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Digital Currencies

US Olympians Are Turning To Bitcoin To Offset Competition-Related Costs

Courtesy of ZeroHedge. View original post here.

As many college athletes know all too well, funding for more niche sports like - for example - luge is often lacking, and securing more often requires hours of fundraising by the team's boosters.

Which is why, ahead of the Winter Games in PyeongChang, some teams started getting creative. For instance, fundraisers for the US luge team have started accepting donations in bitcoin. Indeed, the team has raised several thousand dollars worth of bitcoin.

...



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Chart School

'Bull Trap' in Dow Jones Industrial Average

Courtesy of Declan.

Starting to see evidence that the February bounce in markets is fading. The Dow Jones Industrial Average finished with a 'bull trap' as it ducked below breakout support despite finishing above yesterday's close. Volume dropped as relative performance against tech indices took a marked step lower. Troubling times for the 'flight-to-safety' route.


The Semiconductor Index had looked like it was ready to mount a challenge of the January 'bull trap' but the last couple of days have seen a second attempt at a reversal ...

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Biotech

What is 'right to try,' and could it help?

Reminder: Pharmboy is available to chat with Members, comments are found below each post.

 

What is 'right to try,' and could it help?

In this March 18, 2011 photo, Cassidy Hempel waved at hospital staff as she was being treated for a rare disorder. Her mother Chris, left, fought to gain permission for an experimental drug. AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez

Morten Wendelbo, Texas A&M University and Timothy Callaghan, ...



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Mapping The Market

The tricks propagandists use to beat science

Via Jean-Luc

How propagandist beat science – they did it for the tobacco industry and now it's in favor of the energy companies:

The tricks propagandists use to beat science

The original tobacco strategy involved several lines of attack. One of these was to fund research that supported the industry and then publish only the results that fit the required narrative. “For instance, in 1954 the TIRC distributed a pamphlet entitled ‘A Scientific Perspective on the Cigarette Controversy’ to nearly 200,000 doctors, journalists, and policy-makers, in which they emphasized favorable research and questioned results supporting the contrary view,” say Weatherall and co, who call this approach biased production.

A second approach promoted independent research that happened to support ...



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Members' Corner

An Interview with David Brin

Our guest David Brin is an astrophysicist, technology consultant, and best-selling author who speaks, writes, and advises on a range of topics including national defense, creativity, and space exploration. He is also a well-known and influential futurist (one of four “World's Best Futurists,” according to The Urban Developer), and it is his ideas on the future, specifically the future of civilization, that I hope to learn about here.   

Ilene: David, you base many of your predictions of the future on a theory of historica...



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OpTrader

Swing trading portfolio - week of September 11th, 2017

Reminder: OpTrader is available to chat with Members, comments are found below each post.

 

This post is for all our live virtual trade ideas and daily comments. Please click on "comments" below to follow our live discussion. All of our current  trades are listed in the spreadsheet below, with entry price (1/2 in and All in), and exit prices (1/3 out, 2/3 out, and All out).

We also indicate our stop, which is most of the time the "5 day moving average". All trades, unless indicated, are front-month ATM options. 

Please feel free to participate in the discussion and ask any questions you might have about this virtual portfolio, by clicking on the "comments" link right below.

To learn more about the swing trading virtual portfolio (strategy, performance, FAQ, etc.), please click here ...



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Promotions

NewsWare: Watch Today's Webinar!

 

We have a great guest at today's webinar!

Bill Olsen from NewsWare will be giving us a fun and lively demonstration of the advantages that real-time news provides. NewsWare is a market intelligence tool for news. In today's data driven markets, it is truly beneficial to have a tool that delivers access to the professional sources where you can obtain the facts in real time.

Join our webinar, free, it's open to all. 

Just click here at 1 pm est and join in!

[For more information on NewsWare, click here. For a list of prices: NewsWar...



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Kimble Charting Solutions

Brazil; Waterfall in prices starting? Impact U.S.?

Courtesy of Chris Kimble.

Below looks at the Brazil ETF (EWZ) over the last decade. The rally over the past year has it facing a critical level, from a Power of the Pattern perspective.

CLICK ON CHART TO ENLARGE

EWZ is facing dual resistance at (1), while in a 9-year down trend of lower highs and lower lows. The counter trend rally over the past 17-months has it testing key falling resistance. Did the counter trend reflation rally just end at dual resistance???

If EWZ b...



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All About Trends

Mid-Day Update

Reminder: Harlan is available to chat with Members, comments are found below each post.

Click here for the full report.




To learn more, sign up for David's free newsletter and receive the free report from All About Trends - "How To Outperform 90% Of Wall Street With Just $500 A Week." Tell David PSW sent you. - Ilene...

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About Phil:

Philip R. Davis is a founder Phil's Stock World, a stock and options trading site that teaches the art of options trading to newcomers and devises advanced strategies for expert traders...

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About Ilene:

Ilene is editor and affiliate program coordinator for PSW. She manages the site market shadows, archives, more. Contact Ilene to learn about our affiliate and content sharing programs.

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