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Member since: Tue Feb 10, 2004, 12:08 PM
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Environmental Scientist

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Toon: Stuff Happens

Scientist Takes First-Ever Photo of Rare Bird, Then Kills It in the Name of Science

When Chris Filardi, director of Pacific Programs at the American Museum of Natural History in New York, was finally holding the elusive Guadalcanal moustached kingfisher, he told Slate writer Rachel Gross, it was like finding a unicorn.

Filardi had been searching for the orange, white, and brilliant-blue bird for more than 20 years, when on a field study in the high forests of Guadalcanal in the Solomon Islands, he finally heard the “ko-ko-ko-ko-kiew” sound of what he described as the unmistakable call of a large kingfisher.

After days of tracking, he and his colleagues captured a male moustached kingfisher in a mist net.

“When I came upon the netted bird in the cool shadowy light of the forest I gasped aloud, ‘Oh my god, the kingfisher,’ one of the most poorly known birds in the world was there, in front of me, like a creature of myth come to life.” Filardi wrote in a Sept. 23 blog post.

The team snapped the first-ever photos of the remarkably photogenic bird and made the first-ever recordings of a male variety of the species (a female was described back in the 1920s).

Then the team killed it.


Wet paleoclimate of Mars revealed by ancient lakes at Gale Crater

Composite of images taken at the Kimberley formation. (A) shows a view looking south. The strata in the foreground dip towards the base of Mount Sharp, indicating the ancient depression that existed before the larger bulk of the mountain formed. (B) is a view to the west of the same sandstone formations. (C) is a close-up view of the area boxed in (A), and shows the coarse grain structure of the sandstone. (D) is a close view of grains in the rocks north of the area indicated as "Rock" in (A).
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech.

We have heard the Mars exploration mantra for more than a decade: follow the water. In a new paper published October 9, 2015, in the journal Science, the Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) team presents recent results of its quest to not just follow the water but to understand where it came from, and how long it lasted on the surface of Mars so long ago.

The story that has unfolded is a wet one: Mars appears to have had a more massive atmosphere billions of years ago than it does today, with an active hydrosphere capable of storing water in long-lived lakes. The MSL team has concluded that this water helped to fill Gale Crater, the MSL rover Curiosity's landing site, with sediment deposited as layers that formed the foundation for the mountain found in the middle of the crater today.

Curiosity has been exploring Gale Crater, which is estimated to be between 3.8 billion and 3.6 billion years old, since August 2012. In mid-September 2014, the rover reached the foothills of Aeolis Mons, a three-mile-high layered mountain nicknamed "Mount Sharp" in honor of the late Caltech geologist Robert Sharp. Curiosity has been exploring the base of the mountain since then.

"Observations from the rover suggest that a series of long-lived streams and lakes existed at some point between 3.8 billion to 3.3 billion years ago, delivering sediment that slowly built up the lower layers of Mount Sharp," says Ashwin Vasavada (PhD '98), MSL project scientist. "However, this series of long-lived lakes is not predicted by existing models of the ancient climate of Mars, which struggle to get temperatures above freezing," he says.



Fetal-Tissue Bans Are All About Making Abortion Providers Look Like Monsters

Life-saving research is collateral damage in the war on Planned Parenthood.
By Katha Pollitt

If you think fetal-tissue research is wrong and should be banned, would you refuse to use any therapies that may come out of it? I thought not. I’ve posed this question to abortion opponents before, but so far, no one has said, Yes, Katha, I would rather let Alzheimer’s turn my brain into cottage cheese and ketchup than benefit from this diabolical practice. If I get Parkinson’s, HIV, breast cancer, diabetes, or the flu; if I go blind from macular degeneration; if I have a miscarriage, so be it. Treatments for those conditions are still being developed, but surprise! If you have been vaccinated for polio, mumps, measles, chicken pox, hepatitis, or rabies, it may be too late for you to stand your ethical ground: You have already benefited from fetal-tissue research. This is, after all, a practice that’s been legal since the 1930s. In 1954, John Enders, Thomas Weller, and Frederick Robbins won the Nobel Prize for work on the polio virus that paved the way for the Salk and Sabin vaccines. They used fetal tissue, the monsters. Should their heirs return the medals?

As has been noted with some glee, when Congress lifted President Reagan’s ban on federal funding for the research in 1993, plenty of Republicans voted yea. Among them were Orrin Hatch, Mitch McConnell, Lamar Smith, and Fred Upton, who are now baying for Planned Parenthood’s blood in the wake of the videos secretly recorded by anti-choice activists—videos that do not, in fact, show Planned Parenthood officials killing babies to sell their “body parts.” Where did those gentlemen think the tissue would come from, if not abortion? (John Kasich, a congressman at the time, voted no, then as now hardly the “moderate Republican” depicted in the media.) It’s amusing to see them try to square that vote with their newfound abhorrence for what it legalized. “On viewing the video,” Upton wrote in July, “the contents can’t help but make you weep for the innocents who were sacrificed in such a cavalier manner for alleged profit.” So if Planned Parenthood lost money on fetal tissue, it would be okay to “harvest” it? As long as nobody got graphic about it over wine and salad?

Of course not. This isn’t about fetal tissue. It’s about abortion. It’s about showing those bloody pictures and making providers look greedy and heartless. Fetal-tissue research is collateral damage in the war against Planned Parenthood, and it has already been banned or severely restricted in six states. Nebraska and Wyoming ban the transfer of fetal tissue, and New Jersey and California are considering laws that would limit suppliers’ ability to recover costs. In August, Arizona governor Doug Ducey issued a temporary rule requiring abortion clinics to report the destination of fetal tissue to state health officials. North Carolina has just passed a bill criminalizing the sale of tissue from aborted fetuses (already illegal under federal law). For good measure, the same bill defunds Planned Parenthood’s teen-pregnancy-prevention programs. According to state legislator Larry Pittman, the organization distributes contraceptives that “don’t work” in order to “get more business.” This is what we are dealing with, people.

Meanwhile, the Wisconsin state legislature is debating not just banning the sale of fetal tissue (already illegal, see above) but making research using tissue from any fetus aborted after January 1, 2015, a felony. Leading the charge in the Assembly is Tea Partier André Jacque, who in a previous session proposed an amendment to the state constitution recognizing fertilized eggs as people. Like many opponents of Planned Parenthood, Jacque pooh-poohs the importance of fetal tissue. “If aborted fetal tissue is available, don’t feel that they need to try an alternative. They’re going with the most convenient, the laziest route.”


Saudi Arabian employer accused of chopping off Indian maid’s hand

Jason Burke in Delhi

An Indian maid has claimed her employer in Saudi Arabia cut off her hand in punishment for poor work, after months of mistreatment in the kingdom.

Kashturi Munirathinam, 55, is being treated in a hospital in Riyadh, the Saudi capital, her family told Indian media.

Munirathinam travelled to Saudi Arabia from her home in a rural district of the southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu three months ago to take up a job as a cleaner in a household in the eastern city of Dammam and then in Riyadh. She was to be paid about £150 a month.

“When she tried to escape harassment and torture, her right hand was chopped off by the woman employer. She fell down and sustained serious spinal injuries,” her sister, S Vijayakumari, told local media.

“The incident happened after … she complained about torture and non-payment of wages by her employer. Some neighbours and others took her to hospital,” relatives told the Indian Express newspaper.


U.S. military bars University of Phoenix recruiting

Source: Marketwatch

The Department of Defense on Thursday placed the University of Phoenix system on probation, barring the for-profit school giant from recruiting on military bases and preventing troops from using federal money for classes.

The Defense Department provided few details on the move, but the university system APOL, -8.98% has been subjected to scrutiny by the department and Congress for months. In June, Sen. Dick Durbin (D., Ill.) sent a letter to Defense Secretary Ash Carter requesting an investigation into, among other things, the school’s recruitment efforts on bases.

The university system, with some 200,000 enrolled civilian and military students, is a major provider of classes to active duty troops, reservists and National Guardsmen, and provides on-campus and distance learning.

“The institution will not be authorized access to DoD installations for the purposes of participating in any recruitment-type activities,” said Dawn Bilodeau, chief of the Defense Department’s Voluntary Education program. “Further, no new or transfer students at the institution will be permitted to receive DoD tuition assistance.”

Read more: http://www.marketwatch.com/story/us-military-bars-university-of-phoenix-2015-10-09?link=MW_home_latest_news

Four more carmakers join diesel emissions row

Mercedes-Benz, Honda, Mazda and Mitsubishi have joined the growing list of manufacturers whose diesel cars are known to emit significantly more pollution on the road than in regulatory tests, according to data obtained by the Guardian.

In more realistic on-road tests, some Honda models emitted six times the regulatory limit of NOx pollution while some unnamed 4x4 models had 20 times the NOx limit coming out of their exhaust pipes.

“The issue is a systemic one” across the industry, said Nick Molden, whose company Emissions Analytics tested the cars. The Guardian revealed last week that diesel cars from Renault, Nissan, Hyundai, Citroen, Fiat, Volvo and Jeep all pumped out significantly more NOx in more realistic driving conditions. NOx pollution is at illegal levels in many parts of the UK and is believed to have caused many thousands of premature deaths and billions of pounds in health costs.

All the diesel cars passed the EU’s official lab-based regulatory test (called NEDC), but the test has failed to cut air pollution as governments intended because carmakers designed vehicles that perform better in the lab than on the road. There is no evidence of illegal activity, such as the “defeat devices” used by Volkswagen.


Friday TOON Roundup 4 - The Rest


Middle East

The Issue





Friday TOON Roundup 3 -Catching Up on some favs



Friday TOON Roundup 2 - Crazy ol' Ben

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