Archive for September, 2009

Image Credit: NASA

Image Credit: NASA

Okay, so you would have had to read Stephen’s King’s novel “the Stand” to get the title I chose for this posting but the science fiction part rings true enough this time. Believe it or not after all these years, NASA says they have found water on the Moon or at least traces of it.

The moon isn’t the dry dull place it seems. Traces of water lurk in the dirt unseen.

Three different space probes found the chemical signature of water all over the moon’s surface, surprising the scientists who at first doubted the unexpected measurement until it was confirmed independently and repeatedly.

It’s not enough moisture to foster homegrown life on the moon. But if processed in mass quantities, it might provide resources – drinking water and rocket fuel – for future moon-dwellers, scientists say. The water comes and goes during the lunar day.

The discovery, with three studies bring published in the journal Science on Thursday and a NASA briefing, could refocus interest in the moon. The appeal of the moon waned after astronauts visited 40 years ago and called it “magnificent desolation.”

The announcement comes two weeks before a NASA probe purposely smashes near the moon’s south pole to see if it can kick up buried ice. Over the last decade, astronomers have found some signs of underground ice on the moon’s poles. But this latest discovery is quite different. It finds unexpected and pervasive water clinging to the surface of soil, not absorbed into it.

“It’s sort of just sticking on the surface,” Sunshine said. “We always think of the moon as dead and this is sort of a dynamic process that’s going on.”

It’s not a lot of water. If you took a two-liter soda bottle of lunar dirt, there would probably be a medicine dropperful of water in it, said University of Maryland astronomer Jessica Sunshine, one of the scientists who discovered the water. Another way to think of it is if you want a drink of water, it would take a baseball diamond’s worth of dirt, said team leader Carle Pieters of Brown University.

NASA will hold a media briefing today (9/22) to disclose their findings and discuss the new data.

NASA will hold a media briefing at 2 p.m. EDT on Thursday, Sept. 24, to discuss new science data from the moon collected during national and international space missions. NASA Television and the agency’s Web site will provide live coverage of the briefing from the James E. Webb Memorial Auditorium at NASA Headquarters, 300 E St. SW, in Washington.

The briefing participants are:
– Jim Green, director, Planetary Science Division, Science Mission Directorate at NASA Headquarters in Washington
– Carle Pieters, principal investigator, Moon Mineralogy Mapper, Brown University
– Rob Green, project instrument scientist, Moon Mineralogy Mapper, NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif.
– Roger Clark, team member, Cassini spacecraft Visual and Infrared Mapping Spectrometer and co-investigator, Moon Mineralogy Mapper, U.S. Geological Survey in Denver
– Jessica Sunshine, deputy principal investigator for NASA’s Deep Impact extended mission and co-investigator for Moon Mineralogy Mapper, Department of Astronomy, University of Maryland

For more information about NASA TV downlinks and streaming video, visit their website.


Now this is politics at it’s very best.

Vodpod videos no longer available.


FOD Cast includes: Will Ferrell, Jon Hamm, Olivia Wilde, Thomas Lennon, Donald Faison, Linda Cardellini, Masi Oka, Ben Garant, Jordana Spiro, lauren, Drew Antzis, and Chad Carter


A hearing slated for later today will examine the latest findings made by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) regarding the oversight and expansion of  high-containment laboratories in the United States. In their report, the GAO focused on the  Bio-Safety level 3 & 4 laboratories both operational and planned i.e. National Bio and Agro Defense facility (NBAF), for obvious reasons; these facilities conduct research on the deadliest most dangerous pathogens or select agents. Interesting enough, was GAO’s cited reason for the study; “public concern” regarding over-sight and accidental or intentional release of select agents.  In short, opposition to these facilities nation-wide has turned those  “living in the shadows” into activist, lobbyist and educators, all working to prevent or stop construction or expansion of the biolab slated for their area.

U.S. laboratories working with dangerous biological pathogens (commonly referred to as high containment laboratories) have proliferated in recent years. As a result, the public is concerned about the oversight of these laboratories. The deliberate or accidental release of biological pathogens can have disastrous consequences.

Ample evidence exist and experts agree that many incidents or accidents go “unreported and unrecorded”. Consider the Sunshine Project’s investigation into Texas A&M, Ed Hammond uncovered a serious incident that even the CDC; which regulates some of these facilities, missed. Texas A&M ended up paying a $1 million dollar fine for the incident but the findings by Hammond suggested that far more incidents are taking place than the public knows, which if left “as is” puts us all at risk. Consider the following from a report by the Congressional Research Office’s, Issues for Congress report released in June of this year.

The experts we spoke with also stated that it is highly probable that many incidents go unreported and unrecorded because of the lack of such serious consequences. Such underreporting represents lost opportunities to analyze and learn lessons that can provide a basis for continuing improvement and maintenance of laboratory safety.

We as a Nation cannot continue to ignore issues at hand with regard to the operation of  high-containment laboratories and their dual -use research. It is, pardon the pun a double-edged sword for all concerned but Congress must act on the recommendation of the GAO once and for all before it is too late. 

What the GAO found:

The recent expansion of high-containment laboratories in the United States began in response to the need to develop medical countermeasures after the anthrax attacks in 2001. Understandably, the expansion initially lacked a clear, governmentwide coordinated strategy. In that emergency situation, the expansion was based on individual agency perceptions of the capacity their highcontainment labs required as well as the availability of congressionally approved funding. Decisions to fund the construction of high-containment labs were made by multiple federal agencies in multiple budget cycles. Federal and state agencies, academia, and the private sector considered their individual requirements, but an assessment of national needs was lacking. Even now, after more than 7 years, GAO was unable to find any projections based on a governmentwide strategic evaluation of future capacity requirements set in light of existing capacity; the numbers, location, and mission of the laboratories needed to effectively counter biothreats; and national public health goals. Such information is needed to ensure that the United States will have facilities in the right place with the right specifications.

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Fact Check: The number of registered BSL-3 labs rose from 415 in 2004 to 1,362 by 2008, the GAO found

Fact Check: The number of registered BSL-3 labs rose from 415 in 2004 to 1,362 by 2008, the GAO found

Source: The Boston Herald | The Associated Press  

A national strategy is needed for overseeing the expanding number of laboratories designed for research on the world’s deadliest pathogens, the Government Accountability Office said Monday.

Since the fatal anthrax attacks of 2001, the number of so-called high-containment labs has increased, but no federal agency knows whether their number meets or exceeds the national need or is at a level that can be operated safely, the GAO said in the 104-page document.

The federal watchdog agency recommended that the White House national security advisor, in consultation with the National Intelligence Council and the secretaries of health, agriculture, defense, and homeland security, identify a single entity to oversee the growth of high-containment labs.

The overseer would determine the number, location, and mission of the laboratories needed to effectively counter biological threats. It also would analyze the risks associated with the laboratories’ expansion and determine how much oversight is needed.

The agency would then develop national standards for designing, building, commissioning and operating the labs.

High-containment labs are rated either Biosafety Level 3 (BSL-3), for work with agents such as anthrax and tuberculosis bacteria that may cause serious illness or death if inhaled, or BSL-4, which is reserved for potentially lethal agents that lack vaccines or other treatments, such as the Marburg and Ebola viruses. Workers in BSL-4 labs must wear protective suits with a self-contained oxygen supply.

For most of the past 50 years, only two U.S. entities had BSL-4 labs: the Army biodefense center at Fort Detrick in Frederick, Md., and the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta. Three more were built between 1990 and 2000, at Georgia State University in Atlanta; the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston, Texas; and the privately funded Southwest Foundation for Biomedical Research in San Antonio, Texas.

Since the 2001 anthrax mailings that killed five people and sickened 17 others, seven new BSL-4 facilities are in the works. Three will be at Fort Detrick, including a replacement for the existing lab there. The others will be in Manhattan, Kan.; Boston; Galveston, Texas, and Richmond, Va.

The GAO said no one knows how many BSL-3 labs exist or are planned, since only those that work with dangerous “select agents” must register with the CDC. The number of registered BSL-3 labs rose from 415 in 2004 to 1,362 by 2008, the GAO found.

The report comes on the eve of a Senate subcommittee hearing on biolab security, and a National Research Council review of health and safety risks at an Army biodefense lab under construction at Fort Detrick in Frederick.

Finally, Facebook seems to have gotten it and they have decided to do away with their privacy busting, on-line tracking program called Beacon. Did I mention it took $9.5 million and a class action lawsuit to convince them.

Facebook is closing an uncomfortable chapter in its five-year history.

The social network says it will shut down Beacon, a program that tracks users’ activities on other Web sites. When it launched in 2007, Beacon was immediately attacked by users as a privacy violation.

It tracked purchases Facebook users made on other sites and sent alerts about them to their Facebook friends. Facebook later let users turn Beacon off, and CEO Mark Zuckerberg publicly apologized for it.

Beacon never really caught on, and Facebook agreed to end it as part of a class-action lawsuit settlement.

The Palo Alto, California-based Facebook company will also pay $9.5 million to create a foundation to promote online privacy, safety and security.

The proposed settlement must still be approved by a judge

Let’s face it, privacy on networking sites is difficult and I quess a user can expect less privacy to a degree but when the service provider embeds a program that tracks a user’s activities on ALL of their web based traffic. Saying only the program is meant to “personalize your experience” you have crossed a line into what I refer to as “you can kiss my arse goodbye territory”. Yahoo does the same type of thing but they let you know they use them and their web-beacons can be shut off, with Facebook you didn’t have that option until very recently.

It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out their doing this in order to sell the data they have collected and that’s fine but be straight up about it.

Plague researcher dies of infection

Autopsy shows weakened strain of bacteria in blood of U. of C. prof — officials say no public health threat

A University of Chicago researcher studying the genetics of the plague bacteria died last week from an infection he may have gotten in the laboratory, officials said Saturday.

The researcher, 60-year-old molecular genetics Professor Malcolm J. Casadaban, died Sept. 13 at the University of Chicago Medical Center’s Bernard Mitchell Hospital.

An initial autopsy showed that Casadaban “showed no obvious cause of death” except for the presence of the weakened strain of the plague bacteria Yersinia pestis in his blood, the U. of C. Medical Center said in a statement.

It is not known to cause illness and has been used in some countries as a vaccine to protect against the plague. It has been approved by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for lab studies.

University officials said there does not appear to be a public health threat related to Casadaban’s death. There have been no illnesses reported by those who came into contact with him.

As a precaution, U. of C. notified Casadaban’s close contacts once the bacteria had been identified in his blood. The medical center’s infection control team is also working with the city and state health departments and the CDC to investigate the death.

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It’s hard to believe all of this is just across the border.

Hey I know that goat!

Hey I know that goat!

The other day I got an email from a friend, that contained some photos of what appears to be some really strange folks, wearing some really, really strange apparel with some random TMI (too much information) thrown in here and there.  Turns out the photos are from random Wal-Mart’s around the country and the “Wal- creature” photos are submitted by… you guessed it, other Wal-mart shoppers. Now here’s the best part or worst part depending on your perspective…. You too can get sucked into the Wallyworld madness, all of these crazy a** photos can be viewed at “People of Walmart“.  Who’d a thunk it? and how many people you know, will be hastily going through the site to see if any photos are of them? Just a thought and FYI, I already checked and Suzanne nice outfit!

H/T  MB (I think)

Foxx does it again, she’s giving my hometown of Winston-Salem a bad name, enough all ready.

Why didn’t Foxx just say some of her best friends are black? Bottomline, this chick is whacked but what scares me more? She is seriously out of touch as most of her colleges; Foxx co-sponsored legislation to reign in Obama’s “czars” , the amusing thing about this is these czars have official titles but Rachel does a much better job of explaining the czar thing so “nevermind”.

Consider that, CIGNA’s CEO Edward Hanway spends his holidays in a $13 million beach house in New Jersey, or flys around in one of the two $68 million dollar corporate jets CIGNA owns. While, regular Americans like you and I are routinely denied coverage for the care we need. For those who have health care it’s no big issue but for those who don’t it can literally mean life or death. Yes folks, “welcome to the American health insurance industry”. “Instead of helping policyholders attain the health security they need for their families, big insurance companies get rich by denying coverage to patients”. This is what the GOP and their minions are protecting. Why is the health care industry sending all  those  lobbyists to Washington, DC to twist the arms of lawmakers to oppose reform of the status quo? Why? Because the status quo pays for the big insurers and the GOP profits largely due to campaign contributions and as stock holders.

The video below is from the Ed Show on MSNBC; Watch Brave New Films, Robert Greenwald talk about CIGNA and Sick For Profit a new website launched to expose the obscene profits being made by the CEO’s of some of the Nation’s biggest insurers.

The Health Insurance Racket

Also, watch Former Labor Secretary Robert Reich as he explains what a public option for healthcare coverage really means for working people.
Learn more about the glamorous lives of billionaire health insurance executives or tell your story.
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