Dec 31, 2012

Fiscal cliff: America goes to the brink, but millions already fell into poverty

Whatever the outcome of the political haggling, Congress has failed the 50 million Americans below the bread line

The one comfort of government incompetence is that it is never a surprise: it is, if anything, a starting point for the public's expectations of Washington.

Still, even that certainty doesn't pay the bills, and that is a problem for 2.1 million Americans who have been out of work for more than 27 weeks and will be cut off from unemployment insurance tonight. No matter what happens, the fiscal cliff talks have been a failure: Congress will not achieve a "grand bargain" to save Americans from the brunt of ill-considered, sweeping tax hikes and government spending cuts.

That's why we'd be better off talking about the "fiscal conscience", the era of which seems to be coming to a sharp end tonight. Unemployment is the American crisis you hear about; poverty is the one you don't. And what the fiscal cliff covers up is what will be the slow transition of the US unemployment problem into a serious poverty problem.

The biggest failure of the fiscal conscience is the disregard for those unemployed Americans. Some of those 2.1 million Americans who stand to lose their benefits tonight only started collecting unemployment in July. Those who have been out of work for more than six months make up 40% of all the unemployed people in America.

The predicament of the long-term unemployed only has a passing relationship to the fiscal cliff. There happens to be no one in the government who can put their hand up and protect the unemployed. As Congress goes about wrecking confidence in the economy, there are other agencies that can pick up some of the slack.

The Treasury Department is finding room to avoid the debt ceiling. The Internal Revenue Service has said it will hold off on imposing tax increases. The Defense Department has promised it will do what it can to delay cuts.

But the unemployed have no one to protect their benefits. There is no agency to buy them some time: they are at the mercy of congressional bickering.

Nothing new. For the unemployed, the fiscal cliff is the final boot on the neck of their prospects, not the first time they've been knocked down by an aggressive Congress. Congress has been chipping away at unemployment benefits for well over a year. 

Lawmakers in Washington have been pretending to pass "extensions" to unemployment benefits, but what they have really been doing is cutting them. From 2009 to 2011, when nearly one-sixth of the country was out of work, some Americans could receive 99 weeks of unemployment insurance. This year, Congress cut that maximum down to 73 weeks and, with the help of some states, put further barriers to unemployment insurance, including drug tests and national job search requirements. 

This would make sense if unemployment insurance were taking money out of the pockets of other, worthier programs; but it's not. American taxpayers and employers pay for unemployment insurance through taxes imposed on every paycheck. When the economy is good, and few people are unemployed, the government collects a surplus, because many people are paying the unemployment tax but few are collecting it.

Please continue reading by Heidi Moore at:

Senate Outraged at Having to Work Weekend to Save Nation : via @BorowitzReport

us-capitol-boro-465.jpg

WASHINGTON (The Borowitz Report)—Howls of protest filled the halls of the U.S. Senate today as dozens of Senators expressed their outrage at having to work through the weekend to save the United States from financial Armageddon.

"We're hearing a lot about the country plunging back into recession and millions of people being thrown out of work," said Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky). "What we're not hearing much about is how our Sunday is being completely and irrevocably ruined."

Senator McConnell said that when President Obama called the Senate back to work on a budget deal this weekend, "At first I thought he was kidding. Not only have I never worked on a weekend, I've never met anyone who's done such a damn fool thing."

The Senate Minority Leader added that "if saving this country means working Saturday and Sunday, then I'm not sure this is a country worth saving."


Please continue reading at:
http://www.newyorker.com/online/blogs/borowitzreport/2012/12/senate-outraged-at-having-to-work-weekend-to-save-nation.html

Dec 30, 2012

Celebrate safety in science education with The Online Lab Safety Dictionary

In celebration of thirty-five years of service to safety in science education, the Laboratory Safety Institute (LSI) invites you to join us in creating "The Online Laboratory Safety Dictionary".  It will be located on the resources page of our website: http://www.labsafetyinstitute.org/Resources.html
 

Injured workers falling deeper into poverty

Photo: John Bonnar

He can't collect employment insurance or workers' compensation benefits. 

He's on the verge of selling his house. Spent $60,000 on his line of credit. $7,000 on his credit cards. And he owes a friend $3,000.

"Because the time since they cut me off and now, this eat up all my savings and my credit," said Rene Pineta, an injured worker.

Two years ago, Pineta suffered injuries to his wrists, shoulder and back in a workplace accident. 

"At this point I have no income," said Pineta. "My employer is refusing to pay me or give me my record of employment."


Please continue reading at:

Potential Environmental Impacts from the Metals in Incandescent, Compact Fluorescent Lamp (CFL), and Light-Emitting Diode (LED) Bulbs

 (ACS Publications)...The CFLs and LEDs have higher resource depletion and toxicity potentials than the incandescent bulb due primarily to their high aluminum, copper, gold, lead, silver, and zinc. Comparing the bulbs on an equivalent quantity basis with respect to the expected lifetimes of the bulbs, the CFLs and LEDs have 3–26 and 2–3 times higher potential impacts than the incandescent bulb, respectively. We conclude that in addition to enhancing energy efficiency, conservation and sustainability policies should focus on the development of technologies that reduce the content of hazardous and rare metals in lighting products without compromising their performance and useful lifespan.
Please continue reading at:

Demand for Water Growing Faster Than Energy Demand | Forget Peak Oil, Peak Water may already be here

To borrow a theme from former Indianapolis Colts Coach Jim Mora's "Playoff?" rant made famous through thousands of replays on ESPN: "Peak oil? Peak oil? You kidding me? Peak oil?  We're just trying to get some water here."

The International Energy Agency "buried the lead," as we old journalists say, earlier this year when it published its World Energy Outlook 2012. It listed the torrential growth in demand for water in the production of energy as only the third major point in its report.

Yet if IEA's forecast, and the forecasts of those few researchers who have focused on the subject to date, are right, Earth may already have reached "Peak Water" (though no one has dared use that term). Human, agricultural and industrial demand for water currently exceeds our extraction capacity. And while it's far from clear how we can extract much more water each day from the Earth than we do now, demand for water continues to grow rapidly as the earth's population swells and as big portions of the undeveloped and underdeveloped parts of the globe rush into industrialization.

In fact, water demand is growing faster than the demand for all types of energy combined. And we all know how fast energy demand is growing.

Ironically, energy production happens to be a particularly "thirsty" activity. The IEA estimated in its 2012 Outlook that humans withdrew 583 BILLION cubic meters of water from the earth in 2010 for use in energy production. Water is used in all sorts of ways to produce energy: in simple hydroelectric power generating dams; in shale oil and gas fracking fluids; on drilling platforms; as a coolant in nuclear-, oil- and coal-fired electricity generation stations; and, increasingly, in the cultivation of the plants and other biofuel feedstocks. Of that amount just 11.3%, or 66 billion cubic meters of water, were returned immediately to their source. The rest either were contaminated (and rendered unfit for re-use or consumption) or evaporated as steam. (In theory evaporated water returns for use after cycling through the atmosphere, turning into rain, and draining into streams or aquifers, but the process can take a very long time, creating the possibility of localized droughts and a general reduction in available ground water at any given point in time).

More sobering is the IEA's projection that future demand for water for use in energy production will increase by 85% by 2035.

So, to meet its current and future water needs the energy industry has three options:

  1. Steal water from human consumption.
  2. Find some cost-effective and practical way to use salty seawater.
  3. Find ways to reduce the amount of water needed in the various energy production processes.

Please continue reading at:

Wind energy tumbling over fiscal cliff. Installations to drop by 90% - @NYTimes

All over the country, developers are in a sprint to get new wind farms up and running before Tuesday, when the federal wind production tax credit will disappear like Cinderella's ball gown. After that, the nation's wind-farm building will be at a virtual standstill.

The stakes of meeting the deadline are enormous. Wind turbines that are connected to the grid and in commercial service before midnight on New Year's Eve are entitled toa 2.2 cent tax credit for each kilowatt-hour they generate in their first 10 years, which comes out to about $1 million for a big turbine. As it stands now, those that enter service on Jan. 1 or later are out of luck.

The deadline is a bit like the April 15 one for filing income taxes, but "there are no extensions here," said Paul Copleman, a spokesman for Iberdrola. To reduce the risk of missing it — a risk that increases when managing construction projects on mountaintops in New England in the winter — the company allowed more than a year for what are normally nine-month construction projects.

More than just individual projects are at risk; the wind industry says it expects installations to decline by 90 percent next year, with the loss of thousands of jobs. The erratic pattern of wind subsidies has spawned a boom-and-bust cycle, with supplier companies building factories that run at full production for months and then shut down when demand collapses.

Please continue reading at:
http://www.nytimes.com/2012/12/28/science/earth/wind-farm-developers-race-against-end-of-tax-credit.html

A family budget perspective of our nations fiscal cliff - #politics #economics

We are living like a family on the poverty line with massive medicals bills forcing them into bankruptcy... Is this the new model of American economics?

Poland And Czech Republic Ban Germany’s Green Energy | More forced shutdowns of wind farms

In order to boost Germany's 'ecological wonder' and its green energy transition, the Federal Republic has used power grids of neighbouring countries – without asking for permission. For this short-sighted policy, the German government is now being punished.

Germany considers itself the environmental conscience of the world: with its nuclear phase-out and its green energy transition, the federal government wanted to give the world a model to follow. However, blinded by its own halo Germany overlooked that others have to pay for this green image boost and are suffering as a result.

For example, Germany's 'eco-miracle' simply used the power grids of neighboring countries not only without asking for permission but also without paying for it. Now Poland and the Czech Republic have pulled the plug and are building a huge switch-off at their borders to block the uninvited import of green energy from Germany which is destabalising their grids and is thus risking blackouts.

Wie das Wasser, so sucht sich auch der Strom den besten Weg

Foto: Infografik Die Welt : Wie das Wasser, so sucht sich auch der Strom den besten Weg

More forced shutdowns of wind farms

Germany's neighbours act in self-defense, no one can blame them. The blocking of energy at their borders, however, are fragmenting the single European market for electricity. They also turning Germany into an electrical island within the European energy network, with unknown consequences for the security of supply.

And they cause even more forced shutdowns of wind farms in Germany, which means additional costs of at least one hundred millions Euros.


Please continue reading at:
http://www.thegwpf.org/poland-czech-republic-ban-germanys-green-energy/

'The game is rigged:' Matt Damon says he's done with Washington politics | the game is rigged & no matter how hard you work to change things, it just doesn't matter.'

Matt Damon says he's giving up on politics.... he feels 'the fix is in, the game is rigged and no matter how hard you work to change things, it just doesn't matter.'
Damon bemoaned the state of Washington as he completes a media circuit for the release of his new movie, 'Promised Land' which - coincidentally - deals with the high politicized issue of fracking, or drilling for natural gas. 

Damon said he lost hope that the movie might have some impact in Washington.
'We're at a point where politicians don't really get any benefit from engaging with long-term issues,' he said, according to Politico. 'Instead, it's all about the next election cycle. Those guys in the House don't do anything now but run for office. So unless they can find some little thing that zips them up a couple of points in the polls, they're not interested.'

Please continue reading at:

Dec 29, 2012

2012: A Costly Year for Weather Disasters in the U.S. via @HuffPostGreen

While 2011 established a record for the number of individual U.S. weather disasters that caused at least $1 billion in damage, 2012 is expected to eclipse 2011 in terms of the aggregate amount of damage done (in terms of dollars). This is according to NOAA's National Climatic Data Center.

The government estimates that there were $11 billion-plus weather disasters this year, after 14 such disasters in 2011. Cumulative damage totals are expected to exceed $60 billion.

The most dramatic weather event of the year, of course, was Hurricane Sandy that hit the mid-Atlantic region and Northeast with fury in late October. Sandy killed 131 people, and early estimates of damage were set at close to $50 billion.

One major weather disaster--a widespread and intense drought -- has persisted all year. At its peak, the drought affected more than half of the nation and was accompanied by intense and, sometimes, deadly heat during the summer. It's estimated that the drought and heatwaves were responsible for 123 deaths, along with billions of dollars in agricultural losses.

Extreme-to exceptional-drought conditions (the worst category) continue in much of the middle of the nation.

2012-12-27-drought_december_2012.gif

Please read more by Paul Yeager at
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/paul-yeager/2012-weather-disasters_b_2367970.html

Facebook bans Gandhi quote as part of history purge

(NaturalNews) The reports are absolutely true. Facebook suspended the Natural News account earlier today after we posted an historical quote from Mohandas Gandhi. The quote reads:
"Among the many misdeeds of British rule in India, history will look upon the Act depriving a whole nation of arms as the blackest." - Mohandas Gandhi, an Autobiography, page 446.

This historical quote was apparently too much for Facebook's censors to bear. They suspended our account and gave us a "final warning" that one more violation of their so-called "community guidelines" would result in our account being permanently deactivated.

They then demanded we send them a color copy of a "government issued identification" in order to reactivate our account. Our account was removed from suspension just minutes before InfoWars posted its article on this Facebook censorship, and the Facebook page is now functioning...

Please continue reading at:

“Sea Water” Metal Used to Make Plane | element extracted from sea water. Though the metal weighs less than the lightest aluminum

"Sea Water" Metal Used to Make Plane

Sea and air combine in a five-seater British personal plane made of magnesium alloy, an element extracted from sea water. Though the metal weighs less than the lightest aluminum, the wings in bending tests have withstood deflection five times greater than is required. Expected to fly over 200 m.p.h., the unorthodox craft was designed by an "amateur" who had never before worked around airplanes.

Please continue reading at:

Dec 28, 2012

Facebook Paid 0.3% Taxes On $1.34 Billion Profits

"Facebook is unlikely to make many new (non-investor) friends with reports that it paid Irish taxes of about $4.64 million on its entire non-U.S. profits of $1.344 billion for 2011. 'Facebook operates a second subsidiary that is incorporated in Ireland but controlled in the Cayman Islands,' Kenneth Thomas explains. 'This subsidiary owns Facebook Ireland, but the setup allows the two companies to be considered as one for U.S. tax purposes, but separate for Irish tax purposes. The Caymans-operated subsidiary owns the rights to use Facebook's intellectual property outside the U.S., for which Facebook Ireland pays hefty royalties to use. This lets Facebook Ireland transfer the profits from low-tax Ireland to no-tax Cayman Islands.' 
Please continue reading at:

Dec 27, 2012

Is America rapidly becoming a nation of takers?

InvestmentWatch...America is rapidly becoming a nation of takers.  An increasing number of Americans expect the government to take care of them from the cradle to the grave, and they expect the government to dig into the pockets of others in order to pay for it all.  This philosophy can be very seductive, but what happens when the number of takers eventually outnumbers the number of producers?  In 11 different U.S. states, the number of government dependents exceeds the number of private sector workers.  This list of states includes some of the biggest states in the country: California, New York, Illinois, Ohio, Maine, Kentucky, South Carolina, Mississippi, Alabama, New Mexico and Hawaii.  It is interesting to note that seven of those states were won by Barack Obama on election night.  In California, there are 139 "takers" for every 100 private sector workers.  That is crazy!  The American people have become absolutely addicted to government money, and it gets worse with each passing year.  If you can believe it, entitlements accounted for 62 percent of all federal spending in fiscal year 2012.  It would be one thing if we could afford all of this spending, but unfortunately we simply cannot.  We are drowning in debt, and we are stealing more than a hundred million more dollars from future generations with each passing hour.  No bank robber in history can match that kind of theft.

Please continue reading at:

Bangladesh Slaughters 150,000 Birds After Worst H5N1 Virus Outbreak In 5 Years

"At least 150,000 chickens and 300,000 eggs have been destroyed at a giant poultry farm near Dhaka in Bangladesh after the major outbreak of avian flu was detected last week, officials said Wednesday. This season's bird flu outbreak was the worst in five years. Officials at Bay Agro at Gazipur detected the deadly H5N1 flu strain 25 miles (40 kilometers) north of Dhaka on Monday after dozens of birds died, which had prompted the poultry company to send samples to a laboratory for testing. 'There are about 150,000 chickens at the farm. We have already killed and destroyed 120,000 chickens and we will kill the rest today,' livestock department director Mosaddeq Hossain said, according to AFP. Hossain said that it was the worst avian flu outbreak in five years."
Please continue reading at:
http://science.slashdot.org/story/12/12/27/049214/bangladesh-slaughters-150000-birds-after-worst-h5n1-virus-outbreak-in-5-years

Dec 26, 2012

Oil will decline shortly after 2015, says former IEA oil expert

Olivier Rech developed petroleum scenarios for the International Energy Agency over a three year period, up until 2009. This French economist now advises large investment funds on behalf of La Fran├žaise AM, a Parisian assets management firm. His forecasts for future petroleum production are now much more pessimistic than those published by the IEA. He expects stronger tensions as of 2013, and an inevitable overall decline of oil production "somewhere between 2015 and 2020", in the following interview.

Olivier Rech, responsible for petroleum issues at the International Energy Agency from 2006 to 2009.

Rech's outlook serves as another significant contribution to the expanding list of leading sources portraying the threat of an imminent decline in global extraction of crude oil

Federal Budget Deficit Totaled $292 Billion for the First Two Months of 2013, 16 percent increase

The federal budget deficit was $292 billion for the first two months of fiscal year 2013, $57 billion more than the shortfall recorded in October and November of last year, CBO estimates in its latest Monthly Budget Review. Revenues rose by $30 billion, or 10 percent, but outlays increased by $87 billion, or 16 percent.


Please continue reading at:

The New Ethanol Blend May Damage Your Vehicle, increase food prices and will not decrease foreign oil use.

"About 80 percent of the gasoline consumed in the U.S. is blended with ethanol, primarily with a 10 percent mix of ethanol, generally derived from corn. Now Kate Sheppard writes that the Environmental Protection Agency has approved a new policy that will allow states to raise the blend to up to 15 percent ethanol (also known as E15), approved for use for cars and light trucks from the model year 2001 and later. A few weeks ago, AAA issued a statement saying that the EPA's new policy creates the 'strong likelihood of consumer confusion and the potential for voided warranties and vehicle damage.' AAA surveyed vehicle manufacturers, and found that only about 12 million of the 240 million vehicles on the roads today are built to use E15 gasoline. The EPA will require that gas pumps with E15 bear a warning sign noting the blend and that it is not recommended for cars older than the 2001 model year. But what happens if you accidentally use it? 'Nobody really knows what negative effects [E15 is] going to have on the vehicle,' says Brian Lyons, Toyota's safety and quality communications manager. 'We think that there needs to be a lot more study conducted to make sure there are no longer term effects on the vehicle. So far everything we've seen says there will be.' The concern is that repeated, long-term exposure could cause the higher-alcohol-content fuel to degrade engine parts like valves and cylinder heads — which could potentially cost thousands of dollars to replace. Gas station owners don't like it very much either, because they'd likely have to upgrade their equipment to use it. Nor are environmental groups big fans of the EPA's decision, arguing that increasing the use of ethanol can drive up food prices, and isn't the best means of reducing our reliance on foreign fuels. The ethanol lobby is theonly group that really seems to like the new rule. 'We've force fed a fuel into every American's car that benefits a few thousand corn farmers and ethanol refiners at the expense of virtually every other American,' says Scott Faber."
Please read full and follow at:
http://tech.slashdot.org/story/12/12/25/0220228/the-new-ethanol-blend-may-damage-your-vehicle

UK Milk Supply Contains New MRSA Strain of bacteria resistance to common antibiotics.

Tests on milk from several different farms across the U.K. have turned up evidence for a new strain of MRSA — bacteria which have evolved resistance to common antibiotics. As long as the milk is properly pasteurized, it poses no threat to consumers, but anyone working directly with the animals bears a small risk of infection. According to The Independent,"The disclosure comes amid growing concern over the use of modern antibiotics on British farms, driven by price pressure imposed by the big supermarket chains. Intensive farming with thousands of animals raised in cramped conditions means infections spread faster and the need for antibiotics is consequently greater. Three classes of antibiotics rated as 'critically important to human medicine' by the World Health Organization – cephalosporins, fluoroquinolones and macrolides – have increased in use in the animal population by eightfold in the last decade."
Please continue reading at:
http://news.slashdot.org/story/12/12/26/1742243/uk-milk-supply-contains-new-mrsa-strain

Will the Chicago River Change Course and Flow Back Into the Great Lakes?

Henry Henderson: ...water levels are visible almost everywhere you look in the normally water-rich upper Midwest right now. The Mississippi River is so low that it needs emergency blasting to clear rocks impeding barge travel. And the Great Lakes are approaching an all-time low, which could write a new chapter in the ever-fascinating history of the Chicago River.

As you probably know, Chicago's city fathers pulled out one of the most celebrated engineering feats in modern history by reversing the river away from the Great Lakes to stave off all manner of waterborne illnesses that were infecting our drinking water; this is the so-called "Chicago Diversion." The reversal effort could be undone in the coming months as drought conditions may lower Lake Michigan well below the height of the river, causing the waterway to flow back into the Lake as it originally did, rather than into the Mississippi River watershed as it was engineered to do a century ago. 

As the Great Lakes are expected to reach historic lows this winter, gravity becomes a problem. Water flows down hill and the Army Corps of Engineers worry that an additional drop of six inches will be enough to undo the hydrology of the Chicago Diversion. That half-foot would make the lake lower than the river, which would flip the flow with the waterway reverting back to its natural course back into the Great Lakes. 

Unfortunately, we have not really fixed the problems that necessitated the reversal to begin with: sewage and filth dumped into the river (plus the more recent issue of the waterways acting as invasive species superhighways). The river remains rife with human bacteria from undisinfected human waste released by water treatment plants. The regional water authority has finally agreed to install the equipment to disinfect sewage that comes into their plants, but the disinfection will happen far too late should the river spontaneously head into the lake this winter. And this equipment will not address the problem of uncontrolled sewer over flows that happen whenever there is more than an inch and a half of rain in the region -- thus, uncontrolled sewage flow will continue under present realities. 

The Army Corps of Engineers is so worried that they announced last week that drastic measures are going to be necessary if Lake Michigan drops six more inches -- something that is within the realm of possibility if the drought that grips the region continues. 

So, what is to be done to protect our water... again? 

Please continue reading at:

Dopehead Marijuana growers endanger salmon, bears, & even dogs

We've written before about the environmental damage done by marijuana growers — massive energy consumption, indiscriminate pesticide use,dead little forest critters, both cute and uncute. Now theL.A. Times reports that pot growers in California are also undermining salmon recovery efforts, poisoning bears, and even threatening our BFFs: dogs.

The marijuana boom that came with the sudden rise of medical cannabis in California has wreaked havoc on the fragile habitats of the North Coast and other parts of California. With little or no oversight, farmers have illegally mowed down timber, graded mountaintops flat for sprawling greenhouses, dispersed poisons and pesticides, drained streams and polluted watersheds.

Because marijuana is unregulated in California and illegal under federal law, most growers still operate in the shadows, and scientists have little hard data on their collective effect. But they are getting ever more ugly snapshots.

Please continue reading at:
http://grist.org/living/marijuana-growers-endanger-salmon-bears-and-even-dogs/

Dec 25, 2012

Google starts watching what you do off the Internet too — after you shop at mall with your credit card, you'll see same Store ads online later

RT: Google is all but certain to ensure that all user data collected off- and online will be cloaked through safeguards that will allow for complete and total anonymity for customers. When on-the-Web interactions start mirroring real life activity, though, even a certain degree of privacy doesn't make Conversions API any less creepy. As Jim Edwards writes for Business Insider, "If you bought a T shirt at The Gap in the mall with your credit card, you could start seeing a lot more Gap ads online later, suggesting jeans that go with that shirt."

Of course, there is always the possibility that all of this information can be unencrypted and, in some cases, obtained by third-parties that you might not want prying into your personal business. Edwards notes in his report that Google does not explicitly note that intelligence used in Conversions API will be anonymized, but the blowback from not doing as much would sure be enough to start a colossal uproar. Meanwhile, however, all of the information being collected by Google — estimated to be on millions of servers around the globe — is being handed over to more than just advertising companies. Last month Google reported that the US government requested personal information from roughly 8,000 individual users during just the first few months of 2012.

"This is the sixth time we've released this data, and one trend has become clear: Government surveillance is on the rise," Google admitted with their report.

Please continue reading at:

http://rt.com/usa/news/google-internet-online-offline-500/

What The Mayan Calendar Actually Predicted...

Dec 24, 2012

Congressional Negotiators Drop Biofuel Restrictions in U.S. Defense Bill - military pays up to $26 a gallon for some "advanced" biofuels,

Negotiators from the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives have dropped a controversial provision blocking the military's ability to develop and purchase advanced biofuels. The deal comes as legislators aim to finalize a bill authorizing the U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) to spend $633 billion in 2013. The restrictions were adopted by the Republican-controlled House in May, but were left out of the version of the bill that the Democrat-controlled Senate passed late last month. The compromise language is expected to pass both houses of Congress later this week before landing on President Barack Obama's desk on Friday.

The military's use of biofuels originally sparked the ire of some GOP members of congress and the senate after it was widely reported that the military pays up to $26 a gallon for some "advanced" biofuels, which can be used as direct replacements for petroleum fuels used by ships and aircraft.


Please continue reading at:

Smoking Smothers Your Genes - tobacco use can chemically modify and affect the activity of genes known to increase the risk of developing cancer

Cigarettes leave you with more than a smoky scent on your clothes and fingernails. A new study has found strong evidence that tobacco use can chemically modify and affect the activity of genes known to increase the risk of developing cancer. The finding may give researchers a new tool to assess cancer risk among people who smoke.

DNA isn't destiny. Chemical compounds that affect the functioning of genes can bind to our genetic material, turning certain genes on or off. These so-called epigenetic modifications can influence a variety of traits, such as obesity and sexual preference. Scientists have even identified specific epigenetic patterns on the genes of people who smoke. None of the modified genes has a direct link to cancer, however, making it unclear whether these chemical alterations increase the risk of developing the disease.

In the new study, published in Human Molecular Genetics, researchers analyzed epigenetic signatures in blood cells from 374 individuals enrolled in the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition. EPIC, as it's known, is a massive study aimed at linking diet, lifestyle, and environmental factors to the incidence of cancer and other chronic diseases. Half of the group consisted of people who went on to develop colon or breast cancer 5 to 7 years after first joining the study, whereas the other half remained healthy.

Please continue reading at:

Why Marijuana is the Most Dangerous Drug | primary cause of substance use disorders around the world.

Robert L. DuPont, M.D.President:  Marijuana is a primary cause of substance use disorders around the world. In the United States, over 60% of all Americans aged 12 and older who have an illegal drug-related substance use disorder abuse or are dependent on marijuana.[2] In the U.S. more teens are in treatment with a primary diagnosis of marijuana dependence than all other illicit drugs combined.

Early marijuana use is particularly dangerous. Research has shown that adults age 18 and older who first started using marijuana use at age 14 or younger were most likely to have abused or been dependent on illicit drugs in the past year.[3] Additionally, adults who first used marijuana at or before age 14 were six times more likely to have a substance use disorder than those who initiated marijuana use at age 18 or older (12.6% vs. 2.1%) and two times more likely than those who initiated marijuana use between the ages of 15 and 17 (12.6% vs. 6.6%).

Preventing youth marijuana use will decrease the likelihood of later substance use disorders and also decrease initiation to other illegal drug use. Youth who use marijuana are more likely to have higher rates of other illegal drug use [4] and to develop abuse and dependence.[5] A recent study of French adolescents showed that among marijuana users, the risk for other illicit drug use was 21 times higher among experimental marijuana users and 124 times higher among daily marijuana users than non-users.[6]

There are serious short- and long-term effects of marijuana use, particularly heavy chronic marijuana use, including deficits related to the brain, cognitive function, attention, et al.[7] [8] [9][10] [11] [12] [13] Marijuana use is associated with lower academic achievement[14] and associated with increased rates of dropout.[15] [16] [17] Marijuana contains about four times as much tar[18][19]and 60% more cancer-causing chemicals[20] than cigarettes. Most concerning is the growing body of research showing an association between early marijuana use and the development and worsening symptoms of schizophrenia.[21] [22] [23]

The harms of marijuana use extend beyond the individual users. U.S. rates of drugged driving show that marijuana is the most prevalent drug found among randomly stopped drivers[24] and among fatally injured drivers.[25] A recent international meta-analysis of studies confirms the danger of marijuana use amongst drivers in that marijuana use doubles the risk for crash.[26][27]

With a growing number of global efforts supporting "medical marijuana" and marijuana legalization, marijuana-based initiatives must be effectively combated with knowledge about the serious consequences of marijuana use.

Of course other drugs cause terrible harm as well. Why is marijuana the most dangerous drug? Use of other drugs, such a cocaine, methamphetamine, heroin and Ecstasy cause dramatic negative consequences, called "bottoms" that sooner or later – and often sooner – force the users to confront the folly of their drug use. Marijuana use, in contrast, commonly saps the users' motivation and determination. The losses with marijuana are tied to caring about people and goals. Not all users experience this effect but many do leading to the conclusion that marijuana causes users to become "stupid and lazy", terms readily accepted by people who have been heavy marijuana users once they have stopped use. Marijuana is also called the "careless" drug because it causes any users to care less about the things they cared a lot about before beginning using the drug.

For more information marijuana and its effects, visit:

- Office of National Drug Control Policy's Marijuana Resource Center: www.whitehouse.gov/ondcp/marijuanainfo

- National Institute on Drug Abuse: www.drugabuse.gov

- Prevent Teen Drug Use: www.PreventTeenDrugUse.org

Also read more by Robert L. DuPont, M.D.President at the Institute for Behavior and Health, Inc.
www.ibhinc.org

Peel-and-Stick Solar Cells Created At Stanford University - via @Slashdot

"Traditionally, thin-film solar cells are made with rigid glass substrates, limiting their potential applications. Flexible versions do exist, although they require special production techniques and/or materials. Now, however, scientists from Stanford University have created thin, flexible solar cells that are made from standard materials – and they can applied to just about any surface, like a sticker. The cells have been successfully applied to a variety of both flat and curved surfaces – including glass, plastic and paper – without any loss of efficiency. Not only does the new process allow for solar cells to applied to things like mobile devices, helmets, dashboards or windows, but the stickers are reportedly both lighter and less costly to make than equivalent-sized traditional photovoltaic panels. There's also no waste involved, as the silicon/silicon dioxide wafers can be reused."
Please continue reading at:
http://hardware.slashdot.org/story/12/12/24/1255212/peel-and-stick-solar-cells-created-at-stanford-university

The new famine is a crisis of undersupply - 10 million people, mostly children, died of hunger in 2012.

As we prepare to feast, let's pay the customary moment's attention, and maybe a somewhat longer period of serious thought, to those who won't be eating enough.

How many? By the most recent estimate of the UN Food and Agriculture Organization, there are now 870 million people living in "chronic undernourishment." Almost half of them are children, for whom hunger is deadly: A third of all child deaths are caused directly by malnourishment. Some 10 million people, mostly children, died of hunger in 2012.

Please read full and follow at:
http://www.theglobeandmail.com/commentary/the-new-famine-is-a-crisis-of-undersupply/article6647722/

Pot head farms destroying Northern Calif. environment - via @SFGate

EUREKA, Calif. (AP) — From water-siphoning to pesticide-spraying to just plain littering, a flowering of pot farms driven by the rise of medical marijuana is battering Northern California's wilderness areas, natural resources and endangered species....Despite the state push toward decriminalizing marijuana, growers remain rogue and free from oversight.

They have graded mountaintops for greenhouses, illegally cut down trees and in one case poisoned dozens of a rare forest carnivore near Yosemite called a fisher. Scientists determined most had ingested rodenticide used by growers on pot plants.


Researchers are finding a potpourri of contaminants seeping into the watershed from marijuana farms, which are unregulated and largely operate in the shadows. Fungicides, fertilizers, diesel fuel, human waste, plant hormones and soil amendments are some of the others that are ravaging the environment.


Scientists suspect that runoff from potting soil and fertilizers, combined with lower-than-normal river flow due to water diversions, has resulted in a spate of toxic algae blooms in North Coast rivers over the past decade.


Please read full and follow at:

20 Signs That The U.S. Poverty Explosion Is Hitting Children And Young People The Hardest. This Is Easily The Worst Economic Environment That We Have Seen For Young People Since The Great Depression Of The 1930s | InvestmentWatch


The mainstream media continues to insist that the economy is "getting better", but the poverty numbers for children and young people just continue to explode.  For example, did you know that the poverty rate for families with a head of household under the age of 30 is a whopping 37 percent?  Children and young people sure didn't cause our recent economic downturn, but they sure are getting hit the hardest by it.  According to the U.S. Department of Education, for the first time ever more than a million U.S. public school students are homeless.  That seems like an impossible number, but it is actually true.  How in the world could the "wealthiest nation on earth" get to the point where more than a million children can't count on a warm bed to sleep in at night?  Sadly, a huge number of American children can't count on a warm dinner either.  About a fourth of them are enrolled in the food stamp program.  What do you do if you are a parent in that kind of situation?  How do you explain to your kids that you can't afford a nice home like everybody else has or that you can't afford to go to the grocery store and buy them some dinner?

Young people are experiencing very rough times right now as well.  If you are under the age of 30, it is really, really difficult to get a job in America today.  The competition for the few decent jobs that seem to be available is absolutely crazy.  Unemployment among young people is at a level that we have not seen since World War II, and this is causing major problems.

Even if you do have a college degree, there is no guarantee that you will be able to get any type of a job.  In fact, more than half of all college graduates under the age of 25 were either unemployed or underemployed last year.  There are millions of very talented college graduates that are waiting tables, making sandwiches or stocking shelves down at the local branch of a global retail conglomerate.  Meanwhile, they are saddled with record breaking amounts of student loan debt.

This is easily the worst economic environment that we have seen for young people since the Great Depression of the 1930s.  The number of good jobs continues to decline.  Many young people are faced with the choice of taking a bad job or having no job at all.

If you are under 30 in America today, you better hope that you come from a wealthy family or that you have some really good connections, because otherwise the future looks pretty bleak for you.

The following are 20 signs that the U.S. poverty explosion is hitting children and young people the hardest…

Please continue reading at:

Dec 23, 2012

Specific Gut Bacteria May Account For Much Obesity - via @Slashdot

"A limited study from China offers the tantalizing possibility that targeting specific gut bacteria in humans could significantly reduce the scope of an epidemic of obesity in Western countries: 'The endotoxin-producing Enterobacter decreased in relative abundance from 35% of the volunteer's gut bacteria to non-detectable, during which time the volunteer lost 51.4kg of 174.8kg initial weight and recovered from hyperglycemia and hypertension after 23 weeks on a diet of whole grains, traditional Chinese medicinal foods and prebiotics.' As usual, sensationalist reports have been exaggerating the import of this very early investigation, and one wonders about that 'diet of whole grains.' Still, there could be meat in the idea of addressing pathogenic bacteria for the control of excessive weight gain. After all, it wasn't too long ago that a brave scientist insisted in the face of widespread ridicule that peptic ulcers in humans usually are caused by bacterial infections, not by acidic foods."
Please read full and follow at:
http://science.slashdot.org/story/12/12/22/2130210/specific-gut-bacteria-may-account-for-much-obesity

The incredible shrinking economy, no job deals, stimulus and inevitable that taxes on the middle-class will go up in 2013

...The White House's abandonment of the payroll tax is of particular concern to economists and advocates who believe that more stimulus is necessary while the economy continues to recover — particularly if Democrats and Republicans fulfill their stated promise of passing a major deficit reduction package that will begin some of its austerity in the near term. Of all the parts of the fiscal cliff, continuing unemployment insurance has the biggest "bang for the buck" in terms of boosting the economy, according to Moody's Mark Zandi's calculations of the fiscal multipliers. But the payroll tax holiday would boost the economy even more, as it would benefit far more households. At the cost of $115 billion, it would bolster the economy by $144 billion, according to the Economic Policy Institute. 

...the concession to Boehner makes it essentially inevitable that taxes on the middle-class will go up in 2013, reducing the average family's income by $1,000. And Obama will be hard-pressed to keep any of the $175 billion of stimulus in a final deal. Boehner has already made clear that he believes any stimulus must be paid for, diminishing the spending cuts that Obama has offered him. 
Bernstein believes that federal unemployment insurance may have some shot of making it into a final bill. Unlike, say, new infrastructure spending, it's already scheduled to expire as part of the fiscal cliff, taking benefits away from 2 million unemployed people.

Please read full and follow at: