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Current location: Georgia
Member since: Tue Feb 10, 2004, 12:08 PM
Number of posts: 31,524

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Environmental Scientist

Journal Archives

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Mentally Ill





On climate change, expect the worst

Mario Molina and Bob Litterman

For far too long, our national debate about climate change has been about "yes or no:" Is human-caused climate change real? That debate should now end. Based on well-established evidence, about 97% of climate scientists have concluded that human-caused climate change is happening. If 97 of 100 doctors told you that your child's health was at serious risk without surgery, how long would you wait for the other three to get on board?

The next debate is about how we should respond. Those decisions should be supported by the best information climate science can give us about what's already happening, what's likely to happen in the future and – importantly – what might happen.

Let's start with what's already happening. Temperatures are going up. Ice sheets are melting. Sea level is rising. The patterns of rainfall and drought are changing. Heat waves are getting worse as is extreme precipitation. The oceans are acidifying. All of these impacts have social and economic costs. But we must also consider what science tells us as we conduct this unprecedented experiment with the world's climate system: expect the unexpected.

As global temperature rises, the risk increases that one or more important parts of the Earth's climate system will experience changes that may be abrupt, unpredictable and potentially irreversible with massively disruptive and large-scale impacts. As one example, we could experience abrupt losses from both major ice sheets in Antarctica, precipitating rapid and irreversible sea level rise all around the globe. Will that happen? It's unlikely, but the point is that it might. And the risk increases as global temperature goes up.



Franken’s Campaign Against Comcast Is No Joke


WASHINGTON — For Senator Al Franken, the political became personal at a “Saturday Night Live” cast party, of all places.

It was there in New York two years ago that Mr. Franken, a Minnesota Democrat, ran into Lorne Michaels, the creator of the NBC show and his former boss when he was a writer and performer there. Mr. Michaels was chatting with Brian L. Roberts, the chief executive of Comcast, which had recently acquired NBCUniversal in a deal that Mr. Franken opposed.

“I fought to prevent this!” Mr. Franken blurted out to the two men.

It was a potentially awkward moment that Mr. Franken defused with the kind of blustery humor that delighted audiences during his years as an entertainer. “We all had a laugh, fun was had by all, and I went on,” he said in an interview.

But for Mr. Franken, antitrust issues involving big companies are no joking matter. The man who created such famous “Saturday Night Live” characters as the self-help guru Stuart Smalley is now a serious policy wonk and a self-made expert in antitrust matters like price-fixing and monopolization.



Creepy Bill Kramer story

By Kristin Hansen

In 2009, Governor Jim Doyle signed the indoor smoking ban. Republicans ranted and railed, predicting wide spread closure of bars and restaurants and general state-wide chaos. (This has since been proved completely false, of course – restaurant and bar business is actually up.) One of the chief purveyors of that rant was State Rep. Bill Kramer. It was one of his main points in a Doyle attack speech delivered to the Waukesha Kiwanis Club, of which I was the president at the time.

As president, it was not my job to invite speakers, but it was my job to open the meetings, deliver club news, and welcome the speakers. I did so politely, even when they were there to talk about things I disagreed with – a courtesy that was extended among all members. We had conservative and liberal members, and we worked together to raise money for charity and learn about our community.

Kramer’s speech was the usual political presentation – they’re wrong, we’re right, etc. Nothing newsworthy there. But he got especially agitated about the smoking ban. He was red-face and nearly hysterical, telling us that this was just the worst thing to happen to small business in the history of the state and that “mom and pop taverns” would be forced to close because nobody would go out if they couldn’t smoke.

I raised my hand, and told him that as an asthma sufferer I was looking forward to being able to go to any restaurant, without worrying about smoke. I asked about the employees who are forced to inhale smoke all day or night, etc. He just stared at me. I think that he thought since he was in Waukesha he wouldn’t be challenged on anything. Finally, he told me that it was people like me who hated freedom, that if I didn’t like smoke I should stay home, and that when we had massive job loss because of all the businesses closing it would be the fault of people like me.

But that isn’t the point of this story. What happened at the end of the meeting is.

Read more from Journal Sentinel: http://www.jsonline.com/blogs/purple-wisconsin/253112431.html

Bet he wouldn't have done that to a big man. He likely would have ended up with a fist in the face.

God just wants some credit, so he's suing Equifax

Give God some credit. He might own a cash-for-gold store, but a New York man says he can't get credit because his first name is God.

God M. Gazarov is suing credit bureau Equifax because, despite two years of trying to resolve the issue over the phone and online, he is shown as having no credit history, said Gazarov's lawyer, James Fishman.

"He has credit denials as a result of this," Fishman said.

Gazarov, a 26-year-old naturalized citizen, owns the pawnshop Gold Hard Cash LLC in Brooklyn, but can't get more than a $500 credit line with Capital One because of the Equifax glitch, the suit alleges.



Another Legal Setback For SeaWorld: Trainers Must Stay Out Of Orca Tanks

by Melissa Cronin

A petition filed by SeaWorld asking a federal appeals court to overturn a safety violation issued by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has been denied -- meaning that the park’s trainers will not be allowed to interact with killer whales during performances -- a move that is seen as a major step forward for both animal and trainer safety at the marine parks.

Animal advocates have applauded the decision, saying that not only are trainers safer, but the whales are free from the stress that comes along with having humans constantly interacting with and touching them.

The ruling is the culmination of a three-year legal battle that began after the February 2010 death of trainer Dawn Brancheau at the SeaWorld’s Orlando park, the central incident of the documentary "Blackfish." OSHA alleged that SeaWorld had violated safety standards, and ordered that trainers maintain a minimum distance or a physical barrier between themselves and orcas. The violation was issued under the “general duty clause” of the Occupational Safety and Health Act -- usually used in citing industries without established safety standards.

SeaWorld appealed this violation, as David Kirby of TakePart reported back in November, when Eugene Scalia (son of United States Supreme Court Associate Justice Antonin Scalia) represented the marine park in court:

Scalia also argued that physical contact with killer whales is as critical to his client’s core business as blocking and tackling are to professional football. By banning trainer-to-orca contact at SeaWorld, he argued, the government was irreparably changing and undermining the “premise of its business model.” OSHA’s restrictions were akin to telling "the NFL that close contact would have to end,” Scalia said, adding that the NFL saw more player injuries on any given Sunday than had occurred at SeaWorld in the past 22 years.



Journalists Sue Government After Military Security Seizes Cameras

Photography is the new "driving while black." Not that the original "driving while black" has actually vanished, what with New York City making "walking while black" the equivalent of reasonable suspicion, but now people of all races, even those normally somewhat immune to harassment, can join in on the "fun" of low-level oppression.

Two members of the Toledo (OH) Blade found themselves being screwed with by military security while taking photographs of stuff in plain sight. (via Poynter)

Mr. Linkhorn and Ms. Fraser were in Lima covering a Ford Motor Co. news conference at the automaker’s plant there. Afterward, they went to shoot photos of businesses in the area for future use, including the tank plant, which is also known as the Joint Systems Manufacturing Center.

The reporters were at the entry portions of the plant, in an area where no fence or gate restricted access, according to the complaint. They did not pass a guard hut, which is about 30 feet from Buckeye Road.

The Lima, OH tank plant is well known and has been photographed before. The company makes no secret about what it manufactures, having placed this right in front of its plant.



Stephen Colbert Is the Best Source of Science on TV

Will he be stuck interviewing dingbat celebrities at CBS?

By David Shiffman

David Letterman announced last week that he will soon be retiring from The Late Show after hosting for more than 30 years, and CBS has confirmed that Stephen Colbert will replace him. While switching from The Colbert Report to The Late Show will be a huge career advancement for the comedian and TV show host, it could be a big loss for television coverage of science.

Stephen Colbert is one of the only news or faux-news anchors to regularly cover scientific discoveries and interview scientists. “The Colbert Report has certainly been one of the best television programs ever for showcasing scientists—and I don't just mean ‘for a comedy talk show,’” says science comedian Brian Malow. He points out that the guest who has made the most appearances is Neil deGrasse Tyson. “More than any movie star! And Tyson isn’t even the only physicist he’s featured!”

Among the other physicists Colbert has interviewed are Brian Greene, Michio Kaku, and Lawrence Krauss. He has hosted oceanographer Robert Ballard, neurophilosopher Patricia Churchland, surgeon Atul Gawande, and evolutionary biologist Neil Shubin as well as experts in science policy such as then–Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Lisa Jackson and National Institutes of Health Director Francis Collins. The online archive of interview guests includes separate categories for “academic,” “medical,” and “scientist.”

This could change when Colbert takes over The Late Show. As Mashable noted, “the Late Show gig would force him to shoot the breeze with all manner of celebrities.” During Letterman’s run, Late Show guests have typically been movie or TV stars. For example, this week’s guests include Tom Selleck, Zach Braff, Lindsay Lohan, Rob Lowe, and Jason Bateman. Colbert Report guests this week include mathematician Edward Frenkel and primatologist Jane Goodall.



Those gut-wrenching Olestra chips from the ’90s might have been good for us

By Rachel Feltman

Remember Olestra? The molecule has the same taste and mouthfeel as regular fat, but your intestines can’t absorb it. That means delicious, satiating potato chips that essentially slide right through you. Olestra, which was marketed under the brand name Olean, was a dieter’s dream when it was marketed in the 1990s, during the low-fat craze.

It was also a massive pain—in the gastrointestinal area, to be precise. It became notorious for its warning of “abdominal cramping and loose stools.” But a new study has found that Olestra might actually be good for you, at least in one way: it could help rid your body of a dangerous toxin.

Like any 1990s child-of-the-calorie-conscious, I ate a lot of Wow! chips growing up. I still have the phantom stomach pains, and I still miss those damn chips. We now know that the fat substitute, which lost most of its popularity during the late 90s (sales dropped from $400 million in 1998 to $200 million in 2000), doesn’t actually help you lose weight. Lay rebranded Wow! chips as “Light” products, presumably to get away from the bloat of negativity surrounding the additive.

A study (paywall) lead by Ronald Jandacek, an adjunct professor of pathology and laboratory medicine at University of Cincinnati, presents one possible benefit of the fake fat (other than utter deliciousness, that is). Patients with high levels of PCBs (polychlorinated biphenyls), a man-made chemical and known carcinogen, were fed either regular Pringles or those containing Olestra. After a year, concentrations of PCBs in the body decreased significantly faster for the Olestra group than they had the year before—an increase eight times greater than the control group, who ate regular Pringles.


Wonder if mineral oil would have the same effect on purging fat-soluble chemicals?

Now Fox News Is Defending Tobacco-Cancer Denial

In response to Media Matters' documentation that a group pushing climate change denial has also rejected the known health impacts of tobacco and secondhand smoke, Fox News is suggesting that secondhand smoke is not dangerous.

On the April 9 edition of Special Report, Fox News correspondent Doug McKelway pointed to a report by the "Nongovernmental International Panel on Climate Change" (NIPCC), which was written in an attempt to debunk the United Nations' recent consensus report, to claim that "a torrent of new data is poking very large holes" in climate science. In an accompanying article at FoxNews.com, McKelway responded to a Media Matters blog post documenting that the group behind the report, the Heartland Institute, has previously denied the health impacts of tobacco, by claiming that the "Heartland's denial of the dangers of second hand smoke was re-affirmed by a large scale 2013 study":

The NIPCC report was immediately assailed by administration supporters. The website Media Matters reported that the NIPCC study was published by the conservative Heartland Institute, which previously denied the science demonstrating the dangers of tobacco and secondhand smoke. (In fact, Heartland's denial of the dangers of second hand smoke was re-affirmed by a large scale 2013 study in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute which found "no statistically significant relationship between lung cancer and exposure to passive smoke.")

Media Matters had actually pointed out that the Heartland Institute once claimed that smoking "fewer than seven cigarettes a day" -- not just secondhand smoke -- was not bad for you, while simultaneously being funded by the tobacco giant Philip Morris. Regardless, secondhand smoke is unequivocally dangerous and causally linked to cancers including lung cancer, according to the National Cancer Institute, the American Lung Association, and the Centers for Disease Control. McKelway cherry-picked one study that found no statistically significant link between secondhand smoke and cancer but did find a trend of "borderline statistical significance" among women who had lived with a smoker for 30 years or more. Meta-analyses have previously found that the "abundance of evidence ... overwhelmingly support the existence of a causal relationship between passive smoking and lung cancer." The Environmental Protection Agency states that it does not claim that "minimal exposure to secondhand smoke poses a huge individual cancer risk," but that nonetheless secondhand smoke is responsible for about 3,000 lung cancer deaths a year in U.S. nonsmokers


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