May 31, 2014

Obesity and Economic Environments | Lets tax your food...

Obesity and Economic Environments (PDF)
Source: CA: A Cancer Journal for Clinicians

This review summarizes current understanding of economic factors during the obesity epidemic and dispels some widely held, but incorrect, beliefs. Rising obesity rates coincided with increases in leisure time (rather than increased work hours), increased fruit and vegetable availability (rather than a decline in healthier foods), and increased exercise uptake. As a share of disposable income, Americans now have the cheapest food available in history, which fueled the obesity epidemic. Weight gain was surprisingly similar across sociodemographic groups or geographic areas, rather than specific to some groups (at every point in time; however, there are clear disparities). It suggests that if one wants to understand the role of the environment in the obesity epidemic, one needs to understand changes over time affecting all groups, not differences between subgroups at a given time. Although economic and technological changes in the environment drove the obesity epidemic, the evidence for effective economic policies to prevent obesity remains limited. Taxes on foods with low nutritional value could nudge behavior toward healthier diets, as could subsidies/discounts for healthier foods. However, even a large price change for healthy foods could close only part of the gap between dietary guidelines and actual food consumption. Political support has been lacking for even moderate price interventions in the United States and this may continue until the role of environmental factors is accepted more widely. As opinion leaders, clinicians play an important role in shaping the understanding of the causes of obesity. CA Cancer J Clin 2014;000:000-000. VC 2014 American Cancer Society.

U.S. Food Inflation Running at 22%

...After five years of the federal government telling the public that despite a $3.5 trillion increase in monetary expansion, the inflation rate is below +2%, the Department of Agriculture (DOA) just warned the American public that the consumer price index for food is up by 10% this year. 

The DOA tried to blame food inflation on the drought conditions in California, but last year's drought was worse and food prices fell by -6%. The real problem is Federal Reserve monetary stimulus is stimulating inflation. I reported in "Food Price Inflation Scares the Fed" two months ago that commodity food costs were exploding on the upside. Given the lag in commodity costs impacting prices on grocery store shelves, annual U.S. food inflation is now running at +22% and rising.

The DOA tried to blame food inflation on this year's drought conditions in California that they stated may have "large and lasting effects on U.S. fruit, vegetable, dairy and egg prices." It is true that California droughts are always agricultural issues, since 80% of the state's freshwater supply is used by farms and ranches. This has resulted in surface water deliveries to farms and ranches from reservoirs and the California Aqueduct being cut by 32.5%, or 6 million acre-feet.

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Why Are Food Prices so High? Because We're Eating Oil via @chsm1th

CHARLES HUGH SMITH "Regardless of what we eat, we're actually eating oil"

Anyone who buys their own groceries (as opposed to having a full-time cook handle such mundane chores) knows that the cost of basic foods keeps rising, despite the official claims that inflation is essentially near-zero.
Common-sense causes include severe weather and droughts than reduce crop yields, rising demand from the increasingly wealthy global middle class and money printing, which devalues the purchasing power of income.
While these factors undoubtedly influence the cost of food, it turns out that food moves in virtual lockstep with the one master commodity in an industrialized global economy: oil. Courtesy of our friends at Market Daily Briefing, here is a chart of a basket of basic foodstuffs and Brent Crude Oil:

In other words, regardless of what we eat, we're actually eating oil. Not directly, of course, but indirectly, as the global production of tradable foods relies on mechanized farming, fertilizers derived from fossil fuel feedstocks, transport of the harvest to processing plants and from there, to final customers.
Even more indirectly, it took enormous quantities of fossil-fuel energy to construct the aircraft that fly delicacies halfway around the world, the ships that carry cacao beans and grain, the trucks that transport produce and the roads that enable fast, reliable delivery of perishables.

May 30, 2014

Scott Adams's Plan For Building Giant Energy-Generating Pyramids

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"Scott Adams has proposed a pyramid project to save the world via energy generation and tourism. Basically build giant pyramids, miles wide and high, in the desert to generate power via chimney effect and photo voltaics with added features for tourism (he's planning ahead for when robots take over all the work and we'll need something to do). He's had a few "Big Ideas" lately (canals,ice bergsion energy)."

May 29, 2014

Obesity rates skyrockets to 2.1 billion worldwide, most comprehensive global study to date shows

Summary: Worldwide, there has been a startling increase in rates of obesity and overweight in both adults (28% increase) and children (up by 47%) in the past 33 years, with the number of overweight and obese people rising from 857 million in 1980 to 2.1 billion in 2013, according to a major new analysis from the Global Burden of Disease Study 2013, published in The Lancet.

However, the rates vary widely throughout the world with more than half of the world's 671 million obese individuals living in just ten countries -- the USA (more than 13%), China and India (15% combined), Russia, Brazil, Mexico, Egypt, Germany , Pakistan, and Indonesia.
Over the past three decades, the highest rises in obesity levels among women have been in Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Oman, Honduras and Bahrain, and among men in New Zealand, Bahrain, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, and the USA

Source: The Lancet

London’s Nitrogen Dioxide Pollution Worse Than Beijing’s, city’s smog the “airpocalypse.”

BloombergLondon has a dirty secret, 

Levels of the harmful air pollutant nitrogen dioxide at a city-center monitoring station are the highest in Europe. Concentrations are greater even than in Beijing, where expatriates have dubbed the city's smog the "airpocalypse."

It's the law of unintended consequences at work. European Union efforts to fight climate change favored diesel fuel over gasoline because it emits less carbon dioxide, or CO2. However, diesel's contaminants have swamped benefits from measures that include a toll drivers pay to enter central London, a thriving bike-hire program and growing public-transport network.

"Successive governments knew more than 10 years ago that diesel was producing all these harmful pollutants, but they myopically plowed on with their CO2 agenda," said Simon Birkett, founder of Clean Air in London, a nonprofit group. "It's been a catastrophe for air pollution, and that's not too strong a word. It's a public-health catastrophe."

Please continue reading Via: Bloomberg

May 28, 2014

Woohoo! Vermont Legislature Passes Bill to Regulate Chemicals in Children's Products

PAINT.ORG: After a heated battle in the Statehouse, on May 9, the Vermont State Legislature narrowly passed S. 239, a bill to regulate chemicals found in children’s consumer products. The bill was passed with a vote by the Senate of 26–3 and is expected to be signed into law by Gov. Peter Shumlin.

Before the bill received significant national attention, it made little progress in the beginning of the session, then quickly and unexpectedly gained momentum and passed in the Senate in March. The version of the bill that passed the Senate alarmed many industries, including ACA, doing business in Vermont because of its far-reaching, burdensome proposals that many considered to go much further than any other state’s toxic chemicals requirements. Many businesses were concerned that the legislation had the potential to have a large impact on the consumer products market, place financial and regulatory burdens on manufacturers, and give the Department of Health broad discretion to decide which chemicals go on the list of “chemicals of high concern.”

The initial bill proposed to require the Vermont Department of Health to identify and publish a list of priority chemicals of “high concern for human health or the environment.” It required a manufacturer of a consumer product containing a chemical of high concern in certain quantities to disclose to the Commissioner of Health the use of this chemical in the consumer product and pay a fee of up to $2,000 per disclosure. The bill allowedthe Commissioner of Health to regulate the sale or distribution of a consumer product containing a priority chemical.

However, when the bill moved to the House of Representatives, the bill was substantially narrowed due to industry advocacy efforts, so that it requiredmanufacturers to report to the state their use of any of the listed chemicals in products sold to children, and to pay a $200 fee, rather than a $2,000 fee, every 2 years for each listed chemical that they used. The bill expanded the list of exemptions, and directed the Department of Health to create a list of chemicals of high concern to children. Notably, the House narrowed the scope of the bill to focus on consumer products marketed for use by, marketed to, sold to, offered for sale to, or distributed to children (such as toys, children’s jewelry, and children’s clothing) rather than all consumer products. This narrowed version passed the House, and the battle continued in Conference Committee.

Could this little-known biomass generator start an energy revolution?

The Power Pallet is a combination gasification unit and electrical generator
It could be the most important portable power plant you've never heard of. It's called the "Power Pallet" and it is essentially a combined biomass refinery and generator that fits on a single pallet and can kick out up to 20 kilowatts of electricity... Continue Reading Could this little-known biomass generator start an energy revolution?

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May 27, 2014

GE uses plastic surgery on wind turbine blades for more power

GE has found a way to extend wind turbine rotor blades without replacing them
Sometimes progress can be its own worst enemy, with early adopters being stuck with obsolete equipment that leaves them with the choice of living with out-dated technology or an expensive replacement. The green energy field isn't immune to this, and as part of a US$2 million renewable energy project, GE has developed a way to make smaller, less efficient wind turbines into bigger more efficient ones with a bit of plastic (or carbon composite) surgery. .. Continue Reading GE uses plastic surgery on wind turbine blades for more power

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Screwy-looking wind turbine makes little noise & a big claim of 80% of the maximum that is theoretically feasible

The Liam F1 Urban Wind Turbine is said to be considerably more efficient than most convent...
Although it's getting increasingly common to see solar panels on the roofs of homes, household wind turbines are still a fairly rare sight. If Rotterdam-based tech firm The Archimedes has its way, however, that will soon change. Today the company officially introduced its Liam F1 Urban Wind Turbine, which is said to have an energy yield that is "80 percent of the maximum that is theoretically feasible." That's quite the assertion, given that most conventional wind turbines average around 25 to 50 percent. .. Continue Reading Screwy-looking wind turbine makes little noise and a big claim

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Vice-President Of The American #Cancer Society, experimented on human beings, injecting them with cancer cells.

 io9A doctor who was once vice president of the The American Cancer Society turns out to have had a dark history. He twice experimented on human beings, injecting them with cancer cells. Learn about the human experimentation of Chester Southam.

Amazingly, the loss of the license, even for a brief time, was a step forward. In 1952, Southam worked for a medical organization that injected over 300 women with cancer cells, with relatively few repercussions. Still the quick step from injecting people with cancer cells without their knowledge to heading an organization that treats people with cancer is dramatic, and disconcerting.

From Poop to Pump for Half the Cost of Conventional Biogas

Whether you're turning lead into gold or farts into fuel, taking something that has no value and transforming it into the very thing that makes your economy run has been the dream of philosophers, alchemists, and scientists since humanity first started thinking of stuff. Recently, Spain launched an initiative to do just that- but the costs have been excessive.

Enter: the Green Cross Method.

This new method is being developed on a farm located just outside of Moscow, and is currently being used to process the manure and methane from about 200 cows into a commercially viable biogas. Derek Markham, over at our sister site, Ecopreneurist, has more on the story, below. Enjoy!


New Method Converts Manure to Biogas at Half the Cost

New Method Converts Manure to Biogas at Half the Cost (via Ecopreneurist)

One of the key pieces in building systems that are more sustainable is the idea of using waste as a resource, especially those waste products that aren't avoidable. It's one thing to reduce the amount of waste that gets produced from processes,…

The post From Poop to Pump for Half the Cost of Conventional Biogas appeared first on Gas 2.

US Nuclear Plants Expanding Long-Term Waste Storage Facilities

Shared via feedly // published on Slashdot // visit site writes with news of nuclear plants across the U.S. dealing with the consequences of the failure of Yucca Mountain. From the article:
The steel and concrete containers used to store the waste on-site were envisioned as only a short-term solution when introduced in the 1980s. Now they are the subject of reviews by industry and government to determine how they might hold up — if needed — for decades or longer. With nowhere else to put its nuclear waste, the Millstone Power Station overlooking Long Island Sound is sealing it up in massive steel canisters on what used to be a parking lot. The storage pad, first built in 2005, was recently expanded to make room for seven times as many canisters filled with spent fuel. ... The government ispursuing a new plan for nuclear waste storage, hoping to break an impasse left by the collapse of a proposal for Nevada's Yucca Mountain. The Energy Department says it expects other states will compete for a repository ... But the plan faces hurdles including a need for new legislation that has stalled in Congress.There's always recycling or transmutation.

May 26, 2014

Organic Cat Litter May Have Caused Nuclear Waste Accident

In February, a 55-gallon drum of radioactive waste burst open inside America's only nuclear dump, in New Mexico. Now investigators believe the cause may have been a pet store purchase gone bad. 'It was the wrong kitty litter,' says , a geochemist in Richland, Wash., who has spent decades in the nuclear waste business. It turns out there's more to cat litter than you think. It can soak up urine, but it's just as good at absorbing radioactive material. 'It actually works well both in the home litter box as well as the radiochemistry laboratory,' says Conca, who is not directly involved in the current investigation. Cat litter has been used for years to dispose of nuclear waste. Dump it into a drum of sludge and it will stabilize volatile radioactive chemicals. The litter prevents it from reacting with the environment. And this is what contractors were doing as they packed Cold War-era waste for shipment to the dump. But at some point, they decided to make a switch, from clay to organic. 'Now that might sound nice, you're trying to be green and all that, but the organic kitty litters are organic,' says Conca. Organic litter is made of plant material, which is full of chemical compounds that can react with the nuclear waste. 'They actually are just fuel, and so they're the wrong thing to add,' he says. Investigators now believe the litter and waste caused the drum to slowly heat up 'sort of like a slow burn charcoal briquette instead of an actual bomb.' After it arrived at the dump, it burst.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Prescription drugs more deadly than guns, suicide or cars

Boing Boing - More than 100 Americans die each day from prescription drug overdoses, mostly painkillers. That's more daily deaths than from car accidents, gunshot wounds, or suicides. In California, two county District Attorneys are suing five of the biggest drug companies in the world, and the lawsuits include the same kind of arguments once used against big tobacco industry, demanding "public protection." 

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Structural supercapacitors could make batteries and power cords obsolete

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Structural supercapacitors could allow energy to be stored directly in structural material...

Envision using a mobile phone powered entirely by its casing, or an electric car that runs off power stored in its chassis. Researchers at Vanderbilt University have created a structural supercapacitor that could, they believe, bring this closer to reality, making batteries and power cords obsolete. The structural supercapacitor could, they claim, make it possible to store energy directly in structural materials, allowing them to deliver power long-term while surviving the real-life mechanical stresses they're bound to experience. .. Continue ReadingStructural supercapacitors could make batteries and power cords obsolete 

May 25, 2014

Environmental Nano Solutions proposes large electrostatic ion air cleaners for China's Smog

Daan Roosegaarde's positive–ionization "vacuum cleaner" uses high-voltage, low-amp electricity to create an electrostatic field. Particles flowing across the field—enclosed in a box—become positively charged and attach themselves to a grounded electrode, which need to be scraped clean periodically. (Roosegaarde plans to turn the stuff into "diamond" rings, with a cubic-centimeter stone representing a cubic kilometer of smog.)

The system was actually invented by Delft University of Technology researcher Bob Ursem, who came up with the idea of ionizing smog particles after watching tiny bits of salt, dust and organic matter flow off the Atlantic Ocean onto a Dutch beach. "They floated into the dunes toward some bushes," Ursem says, "and there was a lift effect, carrying them above the bushes." The particles, negatively charged from friction, were avoiding contact with negatively charged foliage. "They floated above the bushes, indicating that the electrical force is greater than the gravity force," Ursem says.

A Beijing air cleaner would require fans, say officials the research and development firm Environmental Nano Solutions (ENS) Europe, which bought the concept from Delft University and is developing it for commercial marketing. 

Plans for the Beijing device center on a large octagonal structure eight meters tall with intake vents at the top and exhaust vents in the middle, out of which will flow smog-free air. The steel structure will weigh about nine metric tons. To demonstrate the absence of smog in the freshair zone, lasers will shoot out beams, which will be invisible in a particle-free environment. ENS Europe's smog buster will clean a dome-shaped area 30 meters in diameter to a height of about five meters. The whole thing, Pau says, will "resemble a medieval Chinese palace."

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First Work Place Injury from nanoparticles

A 26-year-old female chemist formulated polymers and coatings usually using silver ink particles. When she later began working with nickel nanoparticle powder weighed out and handled on a lab bench with no protective measures, she developed throat irritation, nasal congestion, "post nasal drip," facial flushing, and new skin reactions to her earrings and belt buckle which were temporally related to working with the nanoparticles. Subsequently she was found to have a positive reaction to nickel on the T.R.U.E. patch test, and a normal range FEV1 that increased by 16% post bronchodilator. It was difficult returning her to work even in other parts of the building due to recurrence of symptoms. This incident triggered the company to make plans for better control measures for working with nickel nanoparticles. In conclusion, a worker developed nickel sensitization when working with nanoparticle nickel powder in a setting without any special respiratory protection or control measures.

Micron sized particles of Nickel are also deemed to harmful. So having problems at the nano scale seems to be not surprising.

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Is Bamboo the Next Carbon Fibre?

Real carbon fibre, mind, is still just as wondrous as it was in the last century, even if a bit more commonplace in road cars. But it's still very expensive to make in large pieces and quantities, it requires copious energy to manufacture, can be very brittle if made poorly, is not recyclable and can impose a detrimental impact of the environment when being produced. In other words, it is ripe for disruption. Technology stands still for no one. But could nature provide carbon fibre's replacement? So argues Gary Young, a renowned manufacturer of surfboards who has spent his life pioneering alternative materials use for that industry. 'With the right approach,bamboo can be used in many applications in the automotive world where its performance qualities can better carbon fibre's,' Young says. 'Plus, it does not have a negative effect on the environment.''

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

China did not turn on some of the pollution control technology that was already built until recent air pollution protests. It adds over $16 billion/year to electricity prices

Cleaning up the air pollution from coal, still leaves the mining deaths, solid and liquid waste, and the transportation deaths. Plus the mitigation technologies increase the operating costs and lower the efficiency of the plants.

There are 84 different pollutants in coal pollution so there is a lot of different technology needed to control the air pollution

China continues to build a lot of coal plants and for the last 10-20 years China has built modern coal plants that have the latest pollution mitigation technology. Why did they not turn on pollution control until recent protests about air quality. It would have added over 0.4 US cents per kwh to the costs for one of the technologies and more for each of the other pollution control technologies. China is making about 4000 billion kwh/year of electrical power from coal power. So 0.4 cents per kwh is $16 billion/year.

A Planners Guide to Selecting Clean Coal Technologies is a World Bank book that covers the costs and issues for putting in coal plant pollution mitigation.

The cost to operate the ESP mitigation (power and plant operation effects is about 0.3-0.5 cents per kwh.) So coal plants electricity costs go up about 10%. This is for just one of pollution control technologies (but the most important in terms of preventing air pollution deaths because particulates are the most deadly. However, you still want to stop the smog and the ozone and the mercury and the 80 other pollutants.

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May 24, 2014

Dump World's Nuclear Waste In Australia, Says Ex-PM Hawke

Australia bore a responsibility to assist with the safe disposal of radioactive waste, given the ample space the country possesses. 'If Australia has – as we do – the safest remote locations for storing the world's nuclear waste, we have a responsibility to make those sites available for this purpose,' he said. Hawke based this conclusion on a 25-year-old report made by Ralph Slayter, whom the former prime minister appointed as Australia's first chief scientist back in 1989. According to Slayter's report, some of the remote reaches of the Northern Territory and Western Australia could provide apt dumping grounds for radioactive waste.

Feds slash projected fracking output in California, by a whopping 96 percent.

Truth Out - Energy Information Administration officials told reporters on Wednesday that they are cutting their estimate of how much oil can be drawn out of California's massive Monterey Shale formation by a whopping 96 percent. 

The news deals a serious blow to the fracking industry...
In 2012, the federal officials estimated that 13.7 billion barrels of oil could be recovered from the Monterey Shale. The EIA now says that only 600 million barrels of oil can be recovered using existing technologies ...Please continue reading at 
Truth Out

The Questionable Link Between Saturated Fat and Heart Disease - "Saturated fat does not cause heart disease"

Are butter, cheese and steak really bad for you? The dubious science behind the anti-fat crusade

"Saturated fat does not cause heart disease"—or so concluded a big study published in March in the journal Annals of Internal Medicine. How could this be? The very cornerstone of dietary advice for generations has been that the saturated fats in butter, cheese and red meat should be avoided because they clog our arteries. For many diet-conscious Americans, it is simply second nature to opt for chicken over sirloin, canola oil over butter.

The new study's conclusion shouldn't surprise anyone familiar with modern nutritional science, however. The fact is, there has never been solid evidence for the idea that these fats cause disease. We only believe this to be the case because nutrition policy has been derailed over the past half-century by a mixture of personal ambition, bad science, politics and bias.

CDC - 10,000 small chidren being overdosed

Alternet -  A report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention last week confirmed what many have suspected: more than 10,000 2 and 3-year-olds in the U.S. are being dosed with drugs like Ritalin and Adderall for "attention deficit hyperactivity disorder." You read that right.

There is no medical basis to the dosing. American Academy of Pediatrics' guidelines for ADHD "do not even address the diagnosis in children 3 and younger—let alone the use of such stimulant medications," reported the New York Times, especially because "hyperactivity and impulsivity are developmentally appropriate for toddlers."
Please continue reading on Alternet

May 23, 2014

Trillions of Plastic Pieces May Be Trapped In Arctic Ice

Humans produced nearly 300 million tons of plastic in 2012, but where does it end up? A new study has found plastic debris in a surprising location: trapped in Arctic sea ice. As the ice melts, it could release a flood of floating plastic onto the world. From the article: 'Scientists already knew that microplastics—polymer beads, fibers, or fragments less than 5 millimeters long—can wind up in the ocean, near coastlines, or in swirling eddies such as the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. But Rachel Obbard, a materials scientist at Dartmouth College, was shocked to find that currents had carried the stuff to the Arctic.'

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

May 22, 2014

We Energies settle as Wisconsin power plant violated air pollution regulations case - via @JSOnline

We Energies will be required to pay $50,000 in penalties and forfeitures to settle allegations that the utility's natural gas-fired power plant in Kenosha County violated air pollution regulations.

The civil complaint filed by the state Department of Justice in Kenosha County court claims We Energies made a major modification to its Paris Generating Station in Union Grove that required it to address the potential impact on air pollution from those changes.

..."The work was performed as routine maintenance that we did not believe required a construction permit at the time," the utility said.

..."The facility is currently in compliance with Wisconsin air pollution laws," the Justice Department said in a prepared statement.

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Candle Powered Fan Keeps You Cool Using a Thermoelectric Generator

Candle powered fan

This is a great example of using a thermoelectric generator for a project. [Joohansson] made both a functional, and aesthetically beautiful fan using components from a computer.

Thermoelectric generators (TEGs for high temperatures, and cheaper TECs for lower temperatures) are also called peltier elements, which look like small square pieces of ceramic with two wires sticking out of them. If you supply power to it, one side will become hot, and the other cold. The TECs [Joohansson] is using want a temperature difference of 68C between either sides. They are typically used for cooling electronics and even some of those cheap mini-fridges will make use of one with a giant heat sink on the hot side.

In addition, they can be used as an electric generator, thanks to the seebeck effect. If you can create a temperature differential between the two sides, you can generate electricity. Using a CPU heatsink, cooler, and fan, [Joohansson] was able to power a small DC fan using only a candle. It's a brilliant demonstration of the seebeck effect.

TECs are great for getting power to remote areas — we've even seen someone manage to put one into a "glowing life ring" that harvests body heat to light a tiny LED!

[via Hackedgadgets]

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Handheld device detects and analyzes soil contamination within seconds

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RemScan puts a self-contained soil analyzer in your hand (Photo: ZilteK)

Contamination of soil from petroleum spills is an ongoing problem that threatens to adversely affect the environment and the health of the people in it, so rapid testing of sites is a pressing issue. However, with laboratory samples and results requiring at least a number of days turn around, particularly in remote locations, rapid analysis is not usually possible. RemScan is a self-contained, hand-held hydrocarbon contamination testing device designed to address this problem. Recently released on the US market, the device is capable of testing many hundred samples a day, providing data on the spot, within seconds, and completely without the need of a laboratory. .. Continue Reading Handheld device detects and analyzes soil contamination within seconds 

US Officials Cut Estimate of Recoverable Monterey Shale Oil By 96%

The U.S. Energy Information Administration ( is planning to release a major 96% reserve downgrade to the amount of oil and gas recoverable from the Monterey Shale formation, one of the largest oil/gas reserves in the United States. After several years of intensified exploration the Monterey oil shale play seems to have much less recoverable oil and gas then previously hoped. This is due to multiple factors such as the more complex rippled geology of the shale and over-hyped recovery estimates by investors. By official estimates the Monterey Shale formation makes up 2/3 of the shale reserves in the US and by some estimates 1/3 of all crude reserves in the US. Not a drop in the bucket. Next Month the will be announcing cutting it's estimates for Monterey by 96%. That's a huge blow to the US energy portfolio, trillions of dollars, oil and gas the US might have used for itself or exported. Presently the White House is evaluating making changes to US oil export restrictions so this downgrade may result in changes to US energy policy. As well as have a significant impact on US economy and the economy of California.
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May 21, 2014

Toshiba expands to food production with indoor vegetable factory

Toshiba's factory will be isolated from the outside air and have tightly controlled air an...
Looking to take a bite out of the Japanese food market, electronics giant Toshiba has announced plans to construct a vegetable production factory in the city of Yokosuka. The factory will use tightly controlled air and lighting systems to optimize conditions for pesticide-free, indoor plant growth... Continue Reading Toshiba expands to food production with indoor vegetable factory

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Russia and China partner on $400 Billion Gas Pipeline Deal - Be afraid...

BloombergRussia is close to signing a decades-long contract to supply natural gas to China at a price that would value the deal at about $400 billion, according to Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev.

Medvedev's boss Vladimir Putin arrives in Shanghai today to try and complete an agreement after more than 10 years of talks. The stumbling block has been price, but with Putin facing trade and financial sanctions from the U.S. and European Union after he annexed Crimea from Ukraine, a deal is seen as probable.

"It's time we reached an agreement with the Chinese on this issue," Medvedev said in a Bloomberg Television interview in Moscow yesterday. "It is very likely that there will be a contract, which means long-term contracts."

OAO Gazprom (OGZD), the world's largest natural gas producer, aims to sign a contract with China National Petroleum Corp. during the visit, Russian executives and officials have said. China, Russia's largest trading partner with $94.5 billion of business last year, was the only country in the United Nations Security Council not to censure Putin's actions in Ukraine.

"We expect the Sino-Russia gas deal to be finally ratified during President Putin's visit and the pricing terms will not be too demanding for China," said Simon Powell, head of oil and gas research as CLSA Ltd. in Hong Kong.

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May 20, 2014

World Health Statistics 2014, nearly 18 000 children worldwide died every day

Source: World Health Organization

From Health-related Millennium Development Goals - Summary of Status and Trends:

With one year to go until the 2015 target date for achieving the MDGs, substantial progress can be reported on many health-related goals. The global target of halving the proportion of people without access to improved sources of drinking water was met in 2010, with remarkable progress also having been made in reducing child mortality, improving nutrition, and combating HIV, tuberculosis and malaria.

Between 1990 and 2012, mortality in children under 5 years of age declined by 47%, from an estimated rate of 90 deaths per 1000 live births to 48 deaths per 1000 live births. This translates into 17 000 fewer children dying every day in 2012 than in 1990. The risk of a child dying before their fifth birthday is still highest in the WHO African Region (95 per 1000 live births) – eight times higher than that in the WHO European Region (12 per 1000 live births). There are, however, signs of progress in the region as the pace of decline in the under-five mortality rate has accelerated over time; increasing from 0.6% per year between 1990 and 1995 to 4.2% per year between 2005 and 2012. The global rate of decline during the same two periods was 1.2% per year and 3.8% per year, respectively.

Nevertheless, nearly 18 000 children worldwide died every day in 2012, and the global speed of decline in mortality rate remains insufficient to reach the target of a two-thirds reduction in the 1990 levels of mortality by the year 2015.

Direct link to document (PDF; 2.4 MB)

Mysterious Disease, affecting over 12,000 children a year in Japan, May Be Carried by the Wind

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Kawasaki disease is a mysterious condition that results in alarming rashes, inflammation and sometimes early death. It sickens 12,000 children a year in Japan and is suspected to arrive there and elsewhere by the wind. Now, researchers have narrowed the source to croplands in northern China and offered some possible explanations as to its cause.

Ag Department says honeybees dying too fast to suvive

Eco Watch - Honeybees in the U.S. are dying at a rate too high to ensure their long-term survival, according to a new report from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Over the past winter—a season when honeybee hives are most vulnerable—the U.S. lost 23.2 percent of its hive honeybee population. That is lower than the previous winter's 30.5 percent death rate, but the cumulative impact on honeybee populations over the past eight years poses a major threat to their long-term survival, as well as the country's agricultural productivity, the USDA said.

Roughly one-quarter of U.S. crops depend on honeybees for pollination. "Yearly fluctuations in the rate of losses like these only demonstrate how complicated the whole issue of honey bee heath has become," said a USDA researcher, citing factors such as viruses, pathogens, and pesticides.

May 19, 2014

Radioactivity Cleanup At Hanford Nuclear Reservation going on 25 Years

The cleanup of the Hanford Nuclear Reservation in Washington was supposed to be entering its final stages by now. The reality is far from that. The cleanup was to be managed under the 'Tri-Party Agreement', signed on May 15, 1989, which was supposed to facilitate cooperation between the agencies involved. Today, underfunded and overwhelmed by technical problems, the effort is decades behind schedule. Adding to the frustrations for stakeholders and watchdogs is a bureaucratic slipperiness on the part of the Federal Department of Energy. As one watchdog put it, 'We are constantly frustrated by how easily the Department of Energy slips out of agreements in the Tri-Party Agreement.'

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

The economics of good environmental policy, 40 to 1 more than the costs of compliance

Greg Gerritt There is an abundance of evidence linking strong regulatory climates with healthier economies beginning with Stephen Meyers' classic 1991 study. The innovation generated by the need to clean up, combined with efficiencies generated by not throwing things away, has had a huge positive effect on many bottom lines even before we discuss the economics of the health and well being benefits that strong regulations bring. A number of studies have shown that the various sections of the Clean Air Act provide economic benefits ranging from 4 to 1 to 40 to 1 more than the costs of compliance in our communities.

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May 17, 2014

Brazil faces water shortage, worst drought since records began in 1930

Economist - Brazil has the world's biggest reserves of fresh water. That most of it sits in the sparsely populated Amazon has not historically stopped Brazilians in the drier, more populous south taking it for granted. No longer. Landlords in São Paulo, who are wont to hose down pavements with gallons of potable water, have taken to using brooms instead. Notices in lifts and on the metro implore paulistanos to take shorter showers and re-use coffee mugs.

São Paulo state, home to one-fifth of Brazil's population and one-third of its economic activity, is suffering the worst drought since records began in 1930. Pitiful rainfall and high rates of evaporation in scorching heat have caused the volume of water stored in the Cantareira system of reservoirs, which supplies 10m people, to dip below 12% of capacity. This time last year, at the end of what is nominally the wet season, it stood at 64%.

On April 21st the governor, Geraldo Alckmin, warned that from May consumers will be fined for increasing their water use. Those who cut consumption are already rewarded with discounts on their bills. The city will tap three basins supplying other parts of the state, but since these reservoirs have also been hit by drought and supply hydropower plants, fears of blackouts are rising.

Depletion of ground water linked to great earthquake risk

SF Public Press - Depletion of groundwater in the San Joaquin Valley is having wide-ranging effects not just on the agricultural industry and the environment, but also on the very earth beneath our feet. Massive changes in groundwater levels in the southern Central Valley are changing the stresses on the San Andreas Fault, according to research published today.

Researchers have known for some time that human activity can be linked to localized seismic effects. In particular, much of the debate about fracking in California in the past few years has centered on evidence that the process of injecting large volumes of liquid underground can lubricate fault lines and increase local earthquake risk.

Now geophysicists in Washington, California and Nevada have gathered evidence that human activity can have much farther-reaching seismic consequences.

This research was spurred by the observation that the southern Sierra Nevadas and the Coastal Ranges are rising by 1 to 3 millimeters a year. Geologists have been observing this movement, which they call uplift, using a network of GPS sensors planted along these mountain ranges. They've batted around theories about why it might be happening, with no clear answer.

"It looks like there's a big bullseye of uplift in the mountains surrounding the south Central Valley," said Colin Amos, a geologist at Western Washington University in Bellingham.

Ten years of satellite data show that groundwater use in the Central Valley is outpacing its replenishment, a trend that is intensifying in the current drought. Amos wondered if the two things might be connected. "What if uplift in the mountains is a response to sucking water out of the ground?" Amos said.

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23% Of Honeybee Colonies Died This Winter following eight-year average of 30% losses

WASHINGTON (AP) — Nearly one out of four American honeybee colonies died this winter — a loss that's not quite as bad as recent years, says a new U.S. Department of Agriculture survey of beekeepers.

Under siege from parasites, disease, pesticide use, nutrition problems and a mysterious sudden die-off, 23 percent of bee colonies failed and experts say that's considerably less than the previous year or the eight-year average of 30 percent losses.

"It's better news than it could have been," said Dennis van Engelsdorp, a University of Maryland entomology professor who led the survey. "It's not good news."

Even small amounts of radiation damaging to butterflies

Smithsonian Magazine - It's no surprise that radiation is bad for animals, but how much is too much? Researchers in Japan decided to put this question to the test for the pale grass blue butterfly, a species commonly found around the remains of the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant. And, they discovered, even a small amount of radiation is too much.

Rather than study butterflies in the environment, the researchers performed meticulous lab experiments on specimens collected in Okinawa, far from any radioactive contamination. The scientists collected plant material from around Fukushima and fed it to pale grass blue butterfly caterpillars.

When the caterpillars turned into butterflies, they suffered from mutations and were more likely to die early than ones that had not eaten radioactive plants. This finding applied even to those butterflies had only eaten a small amount of artificial caesium as caterpillars. "We conclude that the risk of ingesting a polluted diet is realistic, at least for this butterfly, and likely for certain other organisms living in the polluted area," the team concludes.

May 16, 2014

Massive 50,000 gallons crude oil Pipeline Rupture Coats Streets Of LA

ThinkProgressOil in some areas was reported to be knee-high. According to current estimates, 10,000 gallons of crude oil poured onto the streets before the line could be remotely turned off. Two people were sent to the hospital after they reported feeling nauseous. People at the scene said that the smell of oil was very strong.
50,000 gallons of crude oil spilled onto L.A. streets early Thursday morning

50,000 gallons of crude oil spilled onto L.A. streets early Thursday morning


The Fire Department and a hazardous materials team remain on the scene. Several businesses — including a nearby strip club, which was evacuated during the spill — have reported damages. The exterior of the strip club was coated in oil from the spewing pipe. Cars parked near the site of the spill have also been affected. Although the pipeline was shut off within 10 minutes of emergency crews reaching the scene, oil continued to flow for 45 minutes.

Portable backpack, collapsible wind turbines take a turn at off grid power

Shared via feedly // published on Gizmag Emerging Technology Magazine // visit site
Keeping mobile electronic devices powered up can be difficult for the modern camper and hiker. Generating power from Mother Nature in the form of wind and sun is the preferred option for many, with a number of portable solar and wind generators emerging to fill this need. The latest is Windpax, a collapsible, portable wind turbine system designed to not take up too much space in a backpack... Continue Reading WindPax portable, collapsible wind turbines take a turn at off grid power 

Graphene and carbon nanotubes combined to create flexible, wearable supercapacitor [feedly]

Shared via feedly // published on Gizmag Emerging Technology Magazine // visit site
An international team of researchers has developed a supercapacitor composed of graphene and carbon nanotubes that is claimed flexible enough to be woven into clothing and potentially powerful enough to offer a real alternative to batteries for use in portable devices. Capable of being charged and discharged in excess of 10,000 cycles, the new supercapacitor also promises to be significantly lighter, faster to charge, and more robust than current battery technology. .. Continue Reading Graphene and carbon nanotubes combined to create flexible, wearable supercapacitor 

May 15, 2014

The life-saving simplicity of the triage tag for first responders in emergencies

The life-saving simplicity of the triage tag

"As we enter the era of wearable health trackers that beam our biometrics into the cloud, it seems almost quaint that over the last 50 years the triage tag has largely resisted technological upgrades. But the METTAG is a lesson to anyone who develops human devices: the most timeless designs are often the simplest ones. And in the case of triage tags, that simplicity saves lives."

The 5 second rule isn't bad, most surfaces have surprisingly little harmful bacteria - VOX

 Vox -There have been a few scientific studies into the five-second rule. They've basically found two things:

1) If you drop food onto a surface that you've intentionally contaminated with bacteria, it's going to pick up bacteria immediately.

2) But most surfaces have surprisingly little harmful bacteria.

As part of the only peer-reviewed study on this topic, scientists at Clemson dropped pieces of bologna and bread onto wood, tile, and carpet floors that had been heavily contaminated with salmonella.

There was some variation between the foods and surfaces, but in general, they found that 150 to 8,000 bacteria were picked up by the food within five seconds; after a full minute, these numbers were about ten times higher. Given that as few as ten individual Salmonella bacteria can cause an illness, this sounds like a pretty convincing case against eating off the floor.

"If you drop food onto a contaminated surface, it is going to pick up bacteria"

Except that's not exactly what Paul Dawson, the food scientist who led the study, took away from it. Although he certainly doesn't advocate eating off the floor, he told me that "the risk of getting sick from eating food dropped on the floor is very low, since most surfaces do not harbor pathogenic bacteria — unless you're in an environment likely to have harmful bacteria, like a hospital."

This point is underscored by an earlier (unpublished) study, conducted at the University of Illinois. In it, researchers (led by high school intern Jillian Clarke) started by testing how many bacteria of few particular species were on various floors across the campus — and found none.

"We were shocked," Meredith Agle, a then-Ph.D. candidate (a now food scientist) who worked on the study, told whoever wrote the university's press release. "We didn't even find a countable number of bacteria on the floor. We thought we might have made a mistake, so we tried again with the same result."
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Drought Recorded Across Half of the U.S. : Image of the Day [NASA]

Drought Recorded Across Half of the U.S.
acquired May 6, 2014download large image (574 KB, PNG, 3000x1950)

As of May 6, 2014, half of the United States was experiencing some level of drought. Nearly 15 percent of the nation was gripped by extreme to exceptional drought. For the Plains and the Southwest, it's a pattern that has been persistent for much of the past several years.

The map above was developed by the U.S. National Drought Monitor, a partnership of U.S. Department of Agriculture, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. It depicts areas of drought in progressive shades of orange to red. It is based on measurements of climate, soil, and water conditions from more than 350 federal, state, and local observers around the country. (NASA also provides experimental measurements and models to the drought monitoring effort.)

...Drought has had a serious impact on fruit and vegetable agriculture in California, and news reports sounded the alarm for grains and livestock in the Plains and South Central West. At least 54 percent of the nation's wheat crop is affected by some level of drought, as is 30 percent of corn, and 48 percent of cattle.

  1. References and Related Reading

  2. Associated Press, via The Brownsville Herald (2014, May 12) Arizona town near Grand Canyon runs low on water. Accessed May 12, 2014.
  3. Farmers Weekly (2014, May 12) U.S. drought could halve wheat harvest in Oklahoma. Accessed May 12, 2014.
  4. U.S. Drought Portal (2014, May 6) Weekly Drought Update. Accessed May 12, 2014.
  5. U.S. National Drought Monitor (2014, May 8) National Drought Summary for May 6, 2014. Accessed May 12, 2014.
  6. Weather Underground (2014, May 7) Weather Extremes: Record Heat, Drought Continues in Southern Plains. Accessed May 12, 2014.

Map courtesy of the U.S. Drought Monitor. Caption by Mike Carlowicz.