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

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'Darwin's Frog' goes extinct

LONDON (Reuters) - A frog named after Charles Darwin has gone extinct because of a deadly amphibian skin disease, scientists believe.

Darwin's frogs were named after the father of evolution, who discovered them in 1834 in Chile during his voyage around the world on the ship HMS Beagle.

They are notable for having evolved to escape predators by looking like a dead leaf, with a pointy nose, and the fact that the males carry young tadpoles around inside their vocal sacs.

Researchers think the northern Darwin's frog, one of two species, has been killed off completely by a fungal disease called chytridiomycosis that infects their skin. Numbers of the related southern species have plunged dramatically.

An analysis into the spread of the disease by a team from the Zoological Society of London (ZSL) and Chile's Universidad Andres Bello found that habitat loss contributed to the decline, but this alone could not explain the animal's demise.



Implanting platinum jewelry in eye

It's an eye-opening new procedure being done in New York for the first time: a woman is getting a piece of platinum jewelry placed in her eye.

"It's going to be a conversation maker," says Lucy Luckayanko. "I will be able to tell people. It will be unique. It will be sort of my unique factor.

Luckayanko already has a twinkle in her eye, but now she is adding some real bling.

"I'm excited about it," she says. "I liked the idea from the beginning. I was like 'Yeah, why not?'"

Lucy is getting a new procedure at Park Avenue Laser Vision to implant a small platinum heart into her eye. It's called Safesight jewelry.

"The bottom of heart down so pointing diagonal like that," she says. "It's really small, really tiny, really cute."

Read more: http://www.myfoxny.com/story/24016649/implanting-platinum-jewelry-in-eye

Sculptor Zheng Chunhui Spent 4 Years Carving the World’s Longest Wooden Sculpture

Chinese artist Zheng Chunhui recently unveiled this exceptionally large wooden sculpture that measures some 40 feet (12.286) meters long. Four years in the making, the tree carving is based on a famous painting called “Along the River During the Qingming Festival,” which is a historical holiday reserved to celebrate past ancestors that falls on the 104th day after the winter solstice. On November 14th the Guinness World Records arrived in Fuzhou, Fujian Province where the piece is currently on display to declare it the longest continuous wooden sculpture in the world.


Rise in health care spending lowest on record

Kelly Kennedy, USA TODAY

WASHINGTON — Health care spending since the 2010 passage of the Affordable Care Act has risen by 1.3% a year, the lowest rate ever recorded, and health care inflation is the lowest it has been in 50 years, a report released Wednesday by the White House shows.

An economy hobbled by the recession and 2008 economic crisis played a role in some of the reduced spending growth, officials said, but the report cited "structural change" caused, in part, by the law.

The report's release comes as President Obama and his administration struggle with the political fallout associated with the problem-filled opening of the federal health care exchange, the online marketplace where uninsured Americans can shop for and buy insurance. The exchange's website, HealthCare.gov, opened Oct. 1 and has been hampered by outages and delays, particularly in its first weeks of operation.

Per capita spending has grown at a rate of 1.3% since 2010, the lowest recorded rate for any three-year period on record, according to the report, which was conducted by the White House Council of Economic Advisers.


My God, It's Full Of Stars!

This cluster of stars is known as Messier 15, and is located some 35 000 light-years away in the constellation of Pegasus (The Winged Horse). It is one of the oldest globular clusters known, with an age of around 12 billion years.

Both very hot blue stars and cooler golden stars can be seen swarming together in the image, becoming more concentrated towards the cluster's bright centre. Messier 15 is one of the densest globular clusters known, with most of its mass concentrated at its core. As well as stars, Messier 15 was the first cluster known to host a planetary nebula, and it has been found to have a rare type of black hole at its centre.

This new image is made up of observations from Hubble's Wide Field Camera 3 and Advanced Camera for Surveys in the ultraviolet, infrared, and optical parts of the spectrum.



An Interview With a Texas Abortion Doctor Who Can No Longer Do His Job

On Tuesday the U.S. Supreme Court declined to block a new law in Texas that requires doctors who perform abortions to have admitting privileges at a local hospital, a measure that has caused at least a dozen clinics in the state to stop terminating pregnancies. Dr. Lester Minto owns and operates one of the affected clinics, Harlingen Reproductive Services. I spoke with him last week as he awaited the Supreme Court’s vote.

Slate: Are you closed? 

Lester Minto: Of course not. I have nine ladies scheduled for tomorrow.

Slate: What do you tell them? 

Minto: That I do not do abortions. I cannot do them legally. And I tell them that I know that there are other things that people do.

Slate: What do other people “do?”

Minto: If they have a passport and enough money, they go over the border to Mexico and go to a pharmacy and buy misoprostol at a pharmacy. It is an ulcer drug, but it works as an abortifacient. It is not as effective mifepristone, which is the on-label medicine used in the U.S. But in these ladies’ situations, misoprostol can be a good choice. It is proper medicine in a blister pack from a proper pharmacy. Someone might even know how to dose it. But it can be an expensive choice. In the U.S., misoprostol costs 10 to 12 cents a pill. I have had ladies charged $80 a pill at Mexican pharmacies. Also passports are expensive and can take too long to get if you don’t have one already. Misoprostol only works up to about seven weeks after your last menstrual period. You need a passport now just to walk over the bridge into Mexico and back. Of course if you are undocumented this isn’t an option at all.



People have killed nearly 10% of all the wild red wolves this year.

by Jason Bittel

Authorities in North Carolina say they discovered another dead red wolf this week, apparently killed by a gunshot wound. Another is suspected dead, too, but wildlife officials were only able to recover its collar, which appears to have been cut off the animal. This marks four dead wolves since the beginning of October, and eight total killed this year.

Those numbers may not sound like much until you consider that there are only 90 to 100 wild red wolves left in existence. Living in northeastern North Carolina, this last handful of wolves (which were nearly wiped out by government-sanctioned hunting) is the result of an intense U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service reintroduction effort that began in Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge in the 1980s.

“Nearly 10 percent of red wolves living in the wild have been killed by poachers this year, putting the species on the fast track to extinction,” said Brett Hartl with the Center for Biological Diversity in a press release. “The actions of a few ignorant, misguided criminals have severely crippled the recovery of one of the rarest animals in the United States.”

As a result of the most recent spate of killings, the Center for Biological Diversity has doubled its donation to the bounty pool for information leading to an arrest, bringing its total contribution to $10,000. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, North Carolina Wildlife Federation, and the Humane Society of the United States have all also kicked in funds to bring the grand total to $26,000.



Piles of tar-sands waste (Koch Krap) in Chicago are pissing people off

By John Upton

Clouds of coal dust and petroleum coke, a waste product from the refining of tar-sands oil, have been enveloping neighborhoods on Chicago’s southeast side. Federal, state, and city officials are finally moving to temper the dangerous air pollution.

The villains: KCBX Terminals (a division of Koch Industries) and Beemsterboer Slag Co.

The villainous acts: The companies own three terminals along the Calamut River that are storing huge piles of coal and petroleum coke, aka petcoke, which is coming from a nearby BP refinery. But they aren’t bothering to cover all that gunk to make sure it stays on site, so it’s being picked up by winds and blown over neighboring homes, forcing residents to stay indoors.

The plot: The piles of petcoke are expected to grow in Chicago and elsewhere around the country as refineries switch to processing tar-sands oil from Canada. Detroit suffered a similar problem (also courtesy of the Kochs) until city, state, and federal officials banded together to chase it away with lawsuits and legislation.



Obamacare Shows How Americans Are Becoming Jerks

By Christopher Flavelle Nov 19, 2013 11:44 AM ET

New Gallup poll numbers show Americans increasingly dispute the idea that government has a responsibility to make sure everybody can get health insurance. It's tempting to see that as an indictment against Obamacare, but it might just mean more Americans are becoming jerks.

What's clear is that the shifting views on health care predate the Affordable Care Act. The number of Americans who think health care is the government's responsibility hovered around two-thirds for the first half of the 2000s, peaking at 69 percent in 2006. Then those numbers started falling, hitting 50 percent in 2010 and 42 percent this year.

The shrinkage of American generosity during that period wasn't just about health care. The onset of the recession corresponded with a change in public opinion on a range of issues, and in most cases the effect was to make Americans less caring about others.

Starting in 2007, the portion of Americans who said the government should guarantee every person enough to eat and a place to sleep started falling, from 69 percent to 59 percent last year. People who said the government should help the needy, even if it means going deeper into debt, fell from 54 percent to 43 percent over the same period.

That increased callousness extends beyond Americans' views of helping the needy. In 2007, 60 percent of respondents agreed that people should be willing to pay higher prices to protect the environment; by last year, that figure was 43 percent. The share who said the U.S. should "pay less attention to problems overseas" rose from 76 percent to 83 percent between 2007 and 2012.



Republicans Push Plan to Renege on Medicaid Promise

By Sarah Mimms

During the nasty campaign for Virginia governor last month, House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan, R-Wis., tried to poke a hole in Democratic candidate Terry McAuliffe’s pledge to tap the full federal funding promised to states for expanding their Medicaid programs.

“The notion that the federal government is going to keep matching Medicaid spending at this level is a notion that is just a faulty premise. It’s going to get cut,” Ryan said on a conference call with Republican gubernatorial candidate Ken Cuccinelli in late October.

Now Ryan’s right-hand man on the Budget Committee, Rep. Tom Price, and other House Republicans are pushing a plan that would ensure those federal dollars do not come through.

Price, a Georgia doctor, brought up the issue during a meeting of the budget conference committee on Wednesday, arguing that by forcing states to pay for at least a portion of their expanded Medicaid programs, Congress could mitigate some of the sequestration cuts—a key goal for Democrats on the committee.

Currently, the federal government has promised the states that it will kick in 100 percent of funding for a Medicaid expansion over the first three years. After that, the government will pay for at least 90 percent of the program indefinitely. So far, 25 states and the District of Columbia have expanded the program under those terms, while another four are considering an expansion. McAuliffe, who narrowly defeated Cuccinelli on Nov. 5, has made it a top priority when he assumes Virginia’s governorship in January.

Price suggested Friday that the federal contribution should be dropped to 90 percent immediately. While the issue is not currently under “official” consideration in the budget conference committee, he said, many House Republicans are discussing such a proposal.



The sabotage efforts continue….
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