Category: Science


Read the complete article here

Heads-up folks the Leonid’s are here, don’t know where to look? View  sky-map here

Video below has some historical background on the Leonids:

Even more here and Happy watching!

Every once in a while a dialogue comes through (via comments) on a post that is worthy of further debate. Below is just the kind of dialogue I’m refering to. I hope you will agree.

 

Plum Island Animal Disease Center (Unedited) Satellite Image

 

Save_PIADC writes:

Thanks for your coverage.

The internal DHS Study Committee (SSRA) was about as close to an “inside job” as you could assemble and virtually all of the panelists had glaring conflicts of interest and personal stakes in seeing this project move forward.

Both of the USDA “independent experts” on the SSRA, Drs. Cyril Gay and Randall Leavings, were also members of the initial NBAF site visit team. Their efforts as site visit team members, largely informed the decision of siting NBAF in Kansas. They may have also met with Senator Pat Roberts during their 2007 site visits in Kansas.

SSRA members Steve Bennett, Dr. Michelle Colby, Dr. Bruce Harper and Dr. Joanne Jones-Meehan are all DHS employees. The notion that they would cast a skeptical eye towards a pet project of the DHS Secretary is laughable.

SSRA member Dr. David Brake is a contractor for DHS at Plum Island and his firm would have a vested financial stake in an expanded DHS countermeasure enterprise at NBAF.

SSRA member Dr. Josh Fine (SAIC) is also a contractor for DHS at Plum Island. His firm, SAIC, could potentially stand to gain a windfall if selected to provide SETA contract support at NBAF.

SSRA member Dr. Ted Schroeder is a professor at Kansas State. No conflict of interest there;) SSRA member Dr. Charles Hobbs is a “senior scientist emeritus” at the Lovelace Respiratory Reserach Institute. Lovelace’s President and CEO, Dr. Robert Rubin, was appointed in 2007 by then-Governor Kathleen Sebelius to serve on the “NBAF in Kansas Task Force.” Of course, there is no chance that Dr. Hobbs would come out against a major policy goal of his instiution’s President and CEO.

Other than the two HHS members, the SSRA panelists were riddled with ethical, professional, personal and financial conflicts of interest.

Continue reading

A report released today by the National Research Council, solidified concerns brought forth by two grassroot, non-profits who opposed and fought the placement of the National Bio and Agro Defense Facility (NBAF) from being sited in North Carolina and Georgia. Both groups, the Granville Non Violent Action Team (GNAT) and AthensFAQ brought forth the same credible arguments presented in the NRC’s report. The report titled: “Evaluation of a Site-Specific Risk Assessment for the Department of Homeland Security’s Planned National Bio- and Agro-Defense Facility in Manhattan, Kansas” (that’s a mouth-full) was completed by DHS in June 2010.

The NRC report finally sheds some much-needed light on DHS’s flawed methodology and skewed data the agency used to justify the NBAF’s risk to near-by communities and livestock populations.

Upon review of the DHS assessment, the National Research Council found “several major shortcomings.” Based on the DHS risk assessment, there is nearly a 70 percent chance over the 50-year lifetime of the facility that a release of FMD could result in an infection outside the laboratory, impacting the economy by estimates of $9 billion to $50 billion. The present Research Council report says the risks and costs of a pathogen being accidently released from the facility could be significantly higher. The committee found that the SSRA has many legitimate conclusions, but it was concerned that the assessment does not fully account for how a Biosafety-Level 3 Agriculture and Biosafety-Level 4 Pathogen facility would operate or how pathogens might be accidently released. In particular, the SSRA does not include important operation risks and mitigation issues, such as the risk associated with the daily cleaning of large animal rooms. It also fails to address risks that would likely increase the chances of an FMD leak or of the disease’s spread after a leak, including the NBAF’s close proximity to the Kansas State University College of Veterinary Medicine clinics and KSU football stadium or personnel moving among KSU facilities.

Matt DeGennaro of AthensFAQ sums the report up quite nicely, “WE TOLD YOU SO” (and all we had was Google). Critical thinking  suggest this report should lay to rest once and for all, the federally funded bio-hazard, right? No, not if the Kansas Congressional Delegation has its way.

“The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has chosen Manhattan as the site for the new NBAF. The construction of this cutting edge facility must move forward to safely conduct critical research to protect our nation’s agriculture sector and food supply. The National Research Council’s study is helpful to DHS as it continues in its design phase of the NBAF facility. We are also pleased that it confirms the importance of building a new NBAF to protect our nation. However, we are concerned that some of the findings do not seem to account for mitigation and safety plans that DHS has already said will be put in place. These efforts should not be discounted. We are confident this facility will be the safest research laboratory in the world and its mission is critical in order to protect our nation’s food supply.”

Absent critical thinking, politicos from the Kansas Congressional Delegation obviously can’t read !  U.S. Senator Pat Roberts knows first hand what an outbreak of FMD would do to his state. Sen. Roberts you see was the President of the U.S. during a government exercise known as Crimson Sky. Here is what he said about the mock FMD outbreak during a Senate Hearing ( To Review BioSecurity Preparedness and Efforts to Address AgroTerrorism Threats).

Senator ROBERTS.
Back in 2002, I joined an exercise held by the department called Crimson Sky. That was sort of a misnomer because it followed the experience of Great Britain in regards to their problems with their livestock herds. They used that method in regards in incinerating the animals, which is probably the worst thing you could have done, as we found out.
There wasn’t anybody else in town, so I played the role of President in this exercise, and it simulated the intentional introduction of foot and mouth disease in five different locations. By the way,the person who did that was from Iraq, at least in the exercise. The impact was incredible. In 6 days, if you do not detect the disease, that is when this or the effects of the disease first become obvious, and then it is too late. All of our exports stop. People in the cities discovered that their food doesn’t come from grocery stores, and panic set in. The markets went crazy.

Basically, we had States calling out the National Guard. That is when we had the National Guard in the States, not over in Iraq and in Afghanistan and everywhere else, setting up all sorts of border situations so livestock in Texas couldn’t go to Oklahoma; Oklahoma couldn’t go to Kansas; Kansas couldn’t go to Nebraska; etc.,etc. It got pretty rough except everybody finally realized that all of the States were involved and we had to do something.

As President, I stopped the movement of all livestock. The Secretary of Commerce said you couldn’t do that. So I fired him, and it felt very good. But it was absolute chaos and not only for 1 year and not only for livestock, but every crop. So if you talk about a real problem, that was a real problem.
So, Chuck, can you tell me are you still conducting these kind of exercises? You probably don’t want to have me play President, but at any rate, are we doing the exercises that we need to do in conjunction with your compatriots up there on the panel, and has that impacted the way you do business?

Senator ROBERTS. We had to terminate almost every herd in America. I mean that was the end result. It was an incredible experience when you really finally got down to the final answer to stop what was going on. We had to call out the National Guard and call out the military. Quite frankly, we ran out of ammunition. It was a mess, and then you had PETA on television, and I can’t describe the utter chaos that happened.

See folks this is the bottom line; Federal grant dollars have a way of creating amnesia. Here we have a person who knows first hand the economic damage caused by a mock- outbreak of FMD  in the state of Kansas but continues to push for the NBAF.  I don’t live in Kansas but if I did I’d be concerned, very concerned. Maybe real-life is too much for some people to believe, but when you involve their wallets everything changes, doesn’t it Sen. Roberts?

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3



Part 4



Source: Washington’s Blog

The FDA is close to approving genetically modified (gm) salmon. See this and this.

We know that at least some genetically modified foods may harm the environment. See this.

And serious questions have been raised about whether some gm foods might increase allergies or cause other health problems in humans and other organisms. See this, this, this, this, this, this, this and this.
Indeed, as Mother Jones pointed out last week, gm salmon may itself increase allergies:

Consumers Union senior scientist Michael Hansen called the company’s food safety tests “woefully incomplete,” and the group pointed out that the FDA approval panel is mostly comprised of GE [i.e. genetic engineering] cheerleaders, with no fish ecologists or allergists. Why’s an allergist important? Because the company’s own tests suggest that the new salmon could be much more allergenic than regular salmon.

In order to understand the allergy tests, a bit of backstory on how AquAdvantage salmon are made is necessary. First, genetic engineers create a “diploid” fish, meaning like people, it has two sets of chromosomes. Then, to make the final market product, they add genetic material from other fish and breed a new salmon with three sets of chromosomes—a “triploid” female that can’t reproduce. AquaBounty researchers compared the allergenicity—or potential to cause an allergic reaction—of a control group of salmon to both the genetically engineered diploids and triploids. They found (PDF, see page 102) that the diploid salmon were 40 percent more allergenic than the control, while the triploid group was 19 percent more allergenic.

AquaBounty says that the triploids’ allergenicity level wasn’t statistically significant, and although the diploids’ level is significant, it doesn’t matter because only triploids will be sold. But Hansen of the Consumers Union finds a few problems with this argument. For starters, the test wasn’t double blind, meaning the researchers knew which fish were part of which test group. Second, the sample size of triploid fish was tiny—only six fish in all. Third, although AquaBounty is going to try to turn all its market-bound fish into triploid sterile females, the process isn’t perfect, and some 5 percent could end up as the more allergenic diploid. Especially scary when you consider that unlike the triploids, the diploids aren’t sterile. So if they escaped, they could breed with wild salmon.

The FDA simply doesn’t have enough information to determine whether AquaBounty’s salmon are likely to cause more allergic reactions than their non-GE counterparts. But there is good reason to be concerned about the potential allergenicity of all GE foods, says Margaret Mellon, director of the scientist Union of Concerned Scientsts’ Food and Environment Program. “You have this technology that allows you to essentially move proteins around from food to food,” she says. “You can move a highly allergenic protein into a new food, and no one will know to avoid the new food.”

Indeed, a 1996 study published in the New England Journal of Medicine found that people who were allergic to Brazil nuts were also allergic to soy beans that had been implanted with a Brazil nut protein. There is also some evidence that even proteins don’t usually cause allergies can become allergenic when they are moved to a new food. A 2005 Australian study found that mice who were fed peas containing a typically non-allergenic protein from kidney beans experienced allergic reactions.

Another worry is that potentially allergenic GE crops might “escape” into foods. In the late ’90s, the pharmaceutical giant Aventis introduced StarLink, a genetically engineered variety of corn. StarLink was approved for sale in the US, but only for non-food uses, since it contained a potentially allergenic protein. But then, traces of it started turning up in food (most famously, Taco Bell taco shells), and 28 people claimed they had suffered allergic reactions to foods containing StarLink. Although the CDC later found no medical evidence that any of those people had an allergy to the corn, an EPA advisory panel acknowledged that the CDC’s tests did “not eliminate StarLink…protein as a potential cause of allergic symptoms.”

The bottom line: It’s not that genetically engineered foods are inherently more allergenic than traditional foods, but transfering genes does make it more likely that allergens might pop up in unexpected places. “There can be a lot of unintended side effects when you do genetic modification, which means you have to test very carefully,” says Wenonah Hauter, executive director of the watchdog group Food and Water Watch. “In the case of salmon, one test on six fish just seems very insufficient for something that will open the floodgates to other GE meat and fish.”
Allergic reactions can – in a small percentage of people – be more severe than just a sniffle or stomach ache. Some people die from allergic reactions.

At least genetically modified salmon will be labeled as such, so people can avoid it if they wish. Right?

Wrong.

As the Washington Post notes:

The FDA says it cannot require a label on the genetically modified food once it determines that the altered fish is not “materially” different from other salmon – something agency scientists have said is true.

Perhaps more surprising, conventional food makers say the FDA has made it difficult for them to boast that their products do not contain genetically modified ingredients.

Unfortunately, stifling the ability of producers of traditional foods to tell consumers they are not using an additive is nothing new. For example, Monsanto has sued milk producers who labeled their product as not containing growth hormone.

Similarly, Scientific American notes that gm seed producers control research, so that independent scientists can’t study the effects of gm:

Scientists must ask corporations for permission before publishing independent research on genetically modified crops.

Liberals and conservatives, progressives and libertarians should all be up in arms about this.

We have a right to know what we’re eating.

Postscript: Farmed salmon contains less of the healthy Omega 3 fatty acids and more pollutants than wild salmon. See this and this. GM salmon will be farmed (unless it escapes into the ocean). So eating wild salmon may potentially be one way to avoid gm salmon, reduce exposure to pollutants, and increase healthy Omega 3s.

The reason that wild salmon has more Omega 3s than farmed salmon is that wild salmon eat Omega 3 rich foods. It is the same reason that grass-fed beef contains more Omega 3s than beef from cows fed corn, meat or other “modern” feeds. See this and this.

Eating Omega 3 rich foods can increase gray matter in adults and boost neurological development in children. Conversely, low dietary levels of Omega 3s in mothers can reduce their kids’ IQ.

This is not entirely surprising, given that (1) our brains are about 60% fat, and (2) leading nutritionists say that humans evolved to consume alot of Omega 3 fatty acids in the wild game and fish which they ate (more), and that a low Omega 3 diet is a very new trend within the last 100 years or so

Hydro-Fracking aka Hydraulic fracturing is an industry-wide process in which large volumes of unknown chemicals, water and sand are injected at extremly high pressure to extract natural gas from underground rock formations. Basically, the process creates fractures in bed-rock formations such as shale, allowing the natural gas to escape into a well for recovery. Once, thought of as a method of last resort, hydraulic fracturing is now the primary method used to extract natural gas and its use is literally exploding across the country.

Pa. Environmental Agency Butts Heads With Gas Drilling Company Over Towns Water Woes

by Marian Wang | ProPublica, 44 minutes ago

Residents of Dimock, Pa., whose water woes have been widely chronicled as a prime example of the hidden costs of natural gas drilling,  will get a safe and permanent water supply to replace their methane-contaminated wells, the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection announced Thursday.

For about two years, Cabot Oil & Gas, a natural gas drilling company, has supplied drinking water to some Dimock residents after several private drinking wells were found to be contaminated with methane, the main component of natural gas. A few wells have exploded. The Pennsylvania DEP has said that Cabot is responsible for the problems and announced intentions to bill the company for the cost of an $11.8 million plan to construct a new public water line to serve these residents.

“We have had people here in Pennsylvania without safe drinking water for nearly two years,” said John Hanger, head of Pennsylvania’s DEP. “That is totally unacceptable. It is reprehensible. We have given Cabot every opportunity to resolve this matter.”

But Cabot has pushed back against the agency, taking out a full-page ad this week in several local newspapers and calling plans to construct the water system “unreasonable, unprecedented … and unfair.”

The company also issued the following statement:

Despite the fact that the company has presented overwhelming scientific evidence and historical documentation to the Pennsylvania DEP proving it is not responsible for methane gas migration to local water wells, the Pennsylvania DEP has chosen to ignore such evidence, preferring instead to base unprecedented and costly mandates on biased and unscientific opinions and accounts.

Pennsylvania’s DEP chief said earlier this week that the agency and the company would likely end up in court on this issue.

As we’ve reported, the agency fined Cabot $120,000 last fall after determining that water supplies were contaminated by methane gas leaked through Cabot’s faulty well casings. It was fined again in April for failure to address the problem of methane contamination. This time the fine was heftier 2014 a $240,000 penalty, plus $30,000 each month until the department determines that the problem has been properly addressed. It also ordered the company to permanently shut down some of its wells.

As we’ve noted, methane in drinking water itself isn’t necessarily harmful or dangerous, but it can be when it evaporates from the water and into people’s homes. If the gas becomes concentrated enough, it can ignite, even in water.

A private lab that tested water in Dimock found that water supplies in the areas affected by methane contamination were also contaminated by toxic industrial solvents including toluene, xylene and ethylbenzene, the Scranton Times-Tribune reported earlier this month.

A group of Dimock residents 2014 among them, a former Cabot employee and several residents whose wells had caught fire 2014 filed a lawsuit last year against the company for the contamination and the health risks it could pose to them.

Cabot mentioned the lawsuit in its ad this week, adding that it “does not believe it caused these conditions and intends to fight these allegations through its scientific findings.”

Kudos goes to Robert K. Schaeffer of Manhattan, Kansas  for a moment of critical thinking regarding the National Bio and Agro Defense Factiliy, (NBAF) and it’s risk to the community of Manhattan,KS.

NBAF risk

Proponents of National Bio and Agro-Defense Facility argue that the risk is low of accidentally or intentionally releasing lethal pathogens (anthrax, plague) from the germ lab. But it is not up to government officials to assess the level of risk. Instead, the private insurance companies that provide coverage to households and businesses in Manhattan will determine the level of risk.

If insurance companies view the risk of NBAF as low — as rare as an earthquake in Kansas — households might pay about 5 percent more on their insurance policies, about $40 a year, according to insurance company estimates. Together, the 19,170 households in Manhattan would pay $766,800 a year, or $7.6 million over the next 10 years, to protect themselves from a big government project that puts their lives and property at risk.

But if insurance companies view the risk as high — as risky as a major quake in California — households could see their insurance premiums rise by 60 percent or $480 a year, which would amount to $9.2 million annually or $92 million over the next 10 years.

Federal and state officials should answer these questions: Will insurance companies provide coverage for the risks associated with NBAF? How much will premiums increase for households, businesses and Kansas State University? And what will they do if companies refuse to offer coverage or if they charge prohibitive rates?

ROBERT K. SCHAEFFER

Manhattan

Clearly the NBAF will be a money-maker for all “Businesses”, but what of the communities who will host and fund the facility? Folks in Butner, North Carolina and Athens, Georgia  have already spoken, been there and have a T-shirt.  What’s the old saying “if it sounds to good to be true, it probably is?  Wake-up Kansas! The threat of Foot and Mouth disease for farmers should be a pricey proposition, don’t you think? Or do you?

Source:  Indiana University Media Relations

Every three years, the same phase of the moon happens on about the same date of each month. The annual Perseid meteor shower of August last happened in a moonless sky in 2007, so this year if the sky is clear when the Perseids peak before dawn on Aug. 12 and 13, there will be an unhindered display of silent fireworks.

This shower is one of the most popular every year because it happens on warm summer nights, when gazing at the starry sky is always enjoyable. There may be as many as 100 bright meteors per hour, some with smoke trails that last several seconds after the meteor has vanished.

The Perseids will be visible for most of August, though there will be fewer meteors to see the farther from the peak date you watch. If the peak on Aug. 12-13 is hidden by clouds, try looking for meteors again as soon as the night sky is clear.

To minimize the effect of local light pollution, which can obscure as many as half of the meteors, try to avoid artificial lights. Face east if you have a clear view in that direction, and look about half-way up the sky from the horizon. You won’t need binoculars or a telescope — the meteors move much too fast for that. The chances of seeing a fireball will be greatest near dawn, when Earth will be moving head-on into the meteor stream.

Continue reading

Source: BBC

The bio-tech company Monsanto can sell genetically modified seeds before safety tests on them are completed, the US Supreme Court has ruled.

A lower court had barred the sale of the modified alfalfa seeds until an environmental impact study could be carried out.

But seven of the nine Supreme Court Justices decided that ruling was unconstitutional.

The seed is modified to be resistant to Monsanto’s brand of weedkiller.

The US is the world’s largest producer of alfalfa, a grass-like plant used as animal feed.

It is the fourth most valuable crop grown in the country.

Environmentalists had argued that there might be a risk of cross-pollination between genetically modified plants and neighbouring crops.

They also argued over-use of the company’s weedkiller Roundup, the chemical treatment the alfalfa is modified to be resistant to, could cause pollution of ground water and lead to resistant “super-weeds”.

But Monsanto says claims its products were dangerous amounted to “bad science fiction with no support on the record”.

%d bloggers like this: