The placebo effect even if you know it’s a placebo, the conglomerate approval of the Comcast-NBC merger, and the introduction of Google Body. These discoveries and more after the jump.

On a regular basis, Truthdig brings you the news items and odds and ends that found their way to Larry Gross, director of the USC Annenberg School for Communication. A specialist in media and culture, art and communication, visual communication and media portrayals of minorities, Gross helped found the field of gay and lesbian studies.

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You Can Have the Placebo Effect, Even If You Know It’s a Placebo A new study shows that patients taking placebos don’t have to think they’re getting real drugs to enjoy the placebo effect.

FCC Chairman Approves Comcast-NBC Merger The chairman of the FCC has green-lighted the merger of Comcast and NBC Universal, to the dismay of consumer advocates who say a merger between the nation’s largest cable provider and a prominent broadcast network will create antitrust issues.

Google Adds the Human Body to Its Search Functions On Dec. 16, Google released the first version of its Body Browser, a simulation of the human body. Users can travel, as in the 1980s movie “Innerspace,” through various layers of human anatomy, zooming in on internal organs, navigating around bones and peeling back layers of the human body until all that’s left are the stringy tangles of the nervous system.

Should the Rise in Temporary Workers Scare Us? Temporary workers have been a growing segment of the labor force since the recovery began. In 2010, 26.2% of private sector hiring can be accounted for by temporary workers alone.

My Name Is Dalu. I’ll Be Your Robot Tonight Service with a smile also comes with an electronic voice at the Dalu Robot restaurant, where the hotpot meals are not as famous yet as the staff who never lose their patience and never take tips.

Community Radio Gets a Big Boost Little noticed but extremely important to progressives, on Saturday afternoon Congress also passed the Local Community Radio Act. This legislation opens up radio spectrum to hundreds, if not thousands, of local independent radio stations.

Wikileaks: Documents Confirm US Plans Against Venezuela A substantial portion of the more than 1600 State Department documents Wikileaks has published during the past two weeks refer to the ongoing efforts of US diplomacy to isolate and counter the Venezuelan government.

The 9 Biggest Conservative Lies About Taxes and Public Spending It’s difficult to know where to begin deconstructing conservative rhetoric on taxes and spending. It’s such a central part of their worldview, and yet it’s a view informed by a whole slew of falsehoods that have been repeated again and again during this year’s debates over the Bush tax cuts, public spending and the deficit.

Former British Drug Chief: Legalize It All All illicit substances, including heroin and cocaine, should be legalised, according to a former drugs minister who will today become the most senior politician to push for a dramatic change in the strategy for tackling Britain’s drug problems.

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