Month: March 2007

On Google map, everythings back to normal after Katrina | – Houston Chronicle

TBTB (Too busy to blog), but this struck me as very weird.

On Google map, everythings back to normal after Katrina | – Houston Chronicle

Google’s popular map portal has replaced post-Hurricane Katrina satellite imagery with pictures taken before the storm, leaving locals feeling like they’re in a time loop and even fueling suspicions of a conspiracy.

Scroll across the city and the Mississippi Gulf Coast, and everything is back to normal: Marinas are filled with boats, bridges are intact and parks are filled with healthy trees.

“Come on,” said an incredulous Ruston Henry, president of the economic development association in New Orleans’ devastated Lower 9th Ward. “Just put in big bold this: ‘Google, don’t pull the wool over the world’s eyes. Let the truth shine.’ “

I am sure there is the usual, non-conspiracy involving explanation to all of this, and I don’t know enough about NO geography to even verify this fact, but an explanation would be nice!


Turns out there was a major upgrade of the imagery on the 29th of March. Still does not explain the above…

Pesticide makes rat grandsons unattractive.

Yes, strained headline!

A Toxic Hand-Me-Down — Balter 2007 (327): 1 — ScienceNOW

Environmental contamination can cause cancer and birth defects. Of particular concern are a group of toxic chemicals called endocrine-disrupters, which interfere with reproductive hormones and may cause sterility. A new study, published online this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, suggests that these chemicals can change reproductive behavior as well, and that these behavioral changes can be passed on from parents to offspring. If correct, these changes could alter the course of evolution by giving natural selection new targets to act on.

In 2005, a team led by reproductive biologist Michael Skinner of Washington State University in Pullman reported in Science that the fungicide vinclozolin, an endocrine-disrupter used to spray vineyards and other crops, causes fertility defects in the male offspring of female rats treated with the chemical. These defects are, in turn, passed down to the males of subsequent generations. The toxin did not appear to be altering gene sequences; instead, Skinner and colleagues found, vinclozolin was somehow causing other chemical groups to latch onto certain genes, changing their expression (Science, 3 June 2005, p. 1391). The phenomenon is known as epigenetic inheritance. Last year, Skinner’s group identified 15 epigenetically altered DNA sequences in the sperm of the vinclozolin-treated rats

More signs of intergenerational effects of low levels of endocrine disruptors. I had blogged recently about Bisphenol A having intergenerational effects (where exposure to a chemical agent causes consequences for offspring and off off spring, etc).

It’s still early, but remember Children of Men (good movie, see it).

Tuesdays with Turtles – New US Regulations

The National Marine Fisheries Service protects turtles in the US. Here, bycatch, or the accidental capture of adult sea turtles, is one of the biggest causes of adult turtle mortality. So, it is good that the NMFS is bucking all other recent trends with endangered species (check this salon article about the gutting of the endangered species act) and actually proposing stronger regulation on reducing bycatch.

NMFS issues this advance notice of proposed rulemaking to announce that it is considering amendments to the regulatory requirements for turtle excluder devices (TEDs). Specific changes NMFS is considering include increasing the size of the TED escape opening currently required in the summer flounder fishery; requiring the use of TEDs in the flynet, whelk, calico scallop, and Mid- Atlantic sea scallop trawl fisheries; and moving the current northern boundary of the Summer Flounder Fishery-Sea Turtle Protection Area off Cape Charles, Virginia, to a point farther north. The objective of the proposed measures would be to effectively protect all life stages and species of sea turtle in Atlantic trawl fisheries where they are vulnerable to incidental capture and mortality. NMFS is seeking public comment on these potential amendments to the TED regulations. NMFS is also soliciting public comment on the need for, and development and implementation of, other methods to reduce bycatch of sea turtles in anycommercial or recreational fishery in the Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico where sea turtle conservation measures do not currently exist.

Well, that’s good news, and since I read the whole regulation twice over and did not change my mind about it, it must be good news, really!! Apparently, I write good news stories too!

Sea turtles are lucky to be so accessible, beautiful, completely harmless, long lived and loved, they would not get half the attention they get otherwise!

Corn Can't Solve Our Problem –

A must read for anyone who likes articulate scientists writing very approachable articles about important subjects!
Corn Can’t Solve Our Problem –

If every one of the 70 million acres on which corn was grown in 2006 was used for ethanol, the amount produced would displace only 12 percent of the U.S. gasoline market. Moreover, the “new” (non-fossil) energy gained would be very small — just 2.4 percent of the market. Car tune-ups and proper tire air pressure would save more energy.

Proper tire pressure is not sexy, and does not lead to billions of dollars of profits!

The net effect is that ethanol from corn grown in the Corn Belt does increase atmospheric greenhouse gases, and this increase is only about 15 percent less than the increase caused by an equivalent amount of gasoline

Corn is such a boondongle, it’s amazing what the ADMs and Monsantos of the world can do.

This means that when tropical woodland is cleared to produce sugar cane for ethanol, the greenhouse gas released is about 50 percent greater than what occurs from the production and use of the same amount of gasoline. And that statistic holds for at least two decades.

Brazil will not solve all your problems (unless they’re samba related!). Increased demand for ethanol from Brazil could lead to clearcutting of the rain forest/other fallow grassland.

Across the full process of growing high-diversity prairie hay, converting it into an energy source and using that energy, we found a net removal and storage of about a ton and a half of atmospheric carbon dioxide per acre. The net effect is that ethanol or synthetic gasoline produced from this grass on degraded land can provide energy that actually reduces atmospheric levels of carbon dioxide.

It’s a very well written article.

NC smoking bill extinguished?

Laura Leslie has the scoop…

Monday: Snuffed Out? — North Carolina Public Radio WUNC

Looks like House Maj. Leader Hugh Holliman’s smoking ban may be in trouble. The first sign of trouble was that it didn’t come up for a floor vote in the few days following its 9-4 approval in J1 committee. Today, Holliman told NCNN’s Matt Willoughby he’s planning to pull the bill off the calendar when it comes up tomorrow.

It’s only a matter of time, they can fight it all they want, the smoking bans will pass throughout the country in a a decade or less, that’s a bold prediction!

Most critics say the legislation goes against private property rights in banning all workplace smoking, regardless of the context. But supporters point out the government has been regulating workplace safety on issues like asbestos for a long time, even on private property. Since secondhand smoke is an environmental toxin, they say, it should be regulated, too.

As I mentioned in comments on an earlier post, property rights is a catchall rhetorical tool that can defend just about anything, good bad or neutral. So, I am not surprised it is being used here. The obvious counter argument that property rights do not give you the right to pollute is apparently lost on this debate. But this is not really about property rights, is it? It is about protecting the tobacco industry, good old plut-prot-principle!

Environmental Justice Protest in Scotland County, NC

Scotland County Of Tomorrow

As some of you might know, it is a well known fact that race is a predominant factor in the siting of landfills (warning, pdf, but worth it!!). But the folks at the North Carolina Environmental Justice Network (NCEJN) and its member organizations do a wonderful job in organizing, protesting, and lobbying against this egregious practice. If you’re in the neighborhood (or in the mood for a road trip), please do consider joining the protest.

Nuclear Energy not Carbon Free?

Who would have thunk it, turns out that uranium mining and nuclear waste storage result in significant carbon emissions…
New Debate Over Nuclear Option

Now, some scientists and other experts are beginning to raise a different question about nuclear power: Is it really as clean as supporters contend? A report, released on Mar. 26 by a British nongovernmental organization called the Oxford Research Group, disputes the popular perception that nuclear is a clean energy source. It argues that while nuclear plants may not generate carbon dioxide while they operate, the other steps necessary to produce nuclear power, including the mining of uranium and the storing of waste, result in substantial amounts of carbon dioxide pollution. “As this report shows, hopes for the climate-protecting potential of nuclear energy are entirely misplaced,” says Jürgen Trittin, a former minister of the environment in Germany and a contributor to the report. “Nuclear power cannot be promoted on environmental grounds.”

The report, called “Secure Energy? Civil Nuclear Power, Security and Global Warming,” examines a number of risks from nuclear power development, including concerns over the disposal of radioactive waste and the threats from terrorist groups. But its most novel component may be the quantitative examination of carbon emissions on a comprehensive basis. “Carbon emissions are a global problem and it’s time to look at the carbon released by nuclear power globally,” says Jan Willem Storm van Leeuwen, author of the report’s chapter on carbon emissions. “The assumption has long been that the [greenhouse] effect is zero, but the evidence shows otherwise.”

carbonfacts_sm.jpg“Novel component”?, well, I would not go that far, it appears that the authors performed a carbon footprint analysis and concluded that the carbon footprint of nuclear fission energy production was somewhere between renewables and fossil fuel power generation, which is not entirely surprising. Coupled with all the other issues facing nuclear energy, and the obvious environmental justice issues that impact the siting of any new plant or waste repository, nuclear energy should not be a very serious option at all. Unfortunately, it’s a great boondongle for the developers of the plants because the subsidies and power pricing mechanisms ensure profits for the developer at the expense of the general public, and waste disposal issues can forever be postponed, eventually leaving governments (and tax payers) to pick up the tab.

By the way, go read Jamais Cascio’s interesting post about the carbon footprint of a cheeseburger. The “nutrition like label” shown here is something I wish to see in almost every product used! It would make the regulation of carbon a lot less complicated. It appears that England will take the lead on this concept, see Carbon Labelling (yes, 2 L’s, the “correct” spelling!).

Tarheel Tavern # 109 – One Bourbon, One Scotch and many a Blogger

It’s a lot of fun hosting a blogger carnival, I should know, I’ve never done it before. But on this beautiful spring day in Chapel Hill, everything seems wonderful, full of life and on the way up (talk to me in November for the other side!). To find out more about the carnival, including how to host one, go to the Tarheel Tavern mother ship.

Before I go any further, the very able and experienced Scrutiny Hooligans will be hosting the April Fools Day edition of the Tar Heel Tavern next week (or will they? It’s April 1! – No, they will, serious!).

Since we’re talking about the Scrutiny Hooligans (great name!), their featured post is about “The defense of marriage” and some rather interesting people involved (see if you can spot a theme!).

Thank God we are being protected by the aging white men you see pictured here. My favorite is this smiling dude to the right, Jim Forrester. He represents Gaston and Lincoln counties in the state senate. And once you get to know him, I know you’ll feel adequately protected from all harm.

He’s the primary sponsor of Senate Bill 13. It’s otherwise known as Defense of Marriage. You see, it’s not enough that there are laws in this state against marrying two people of the same gender.

People like Forrester, his co-sponsors, as well as the sponsors of the more recent House Bill 493, need to add an amendment to the state’s constitution. Don’t you feel the need for their protection? Help! Help! Potentially married gay people are stealing and murdering and otherwise harming me in some way I haven’t figured out yet. Help!

Go and see it, beautifully written (I love sarcasm!) and the pictures of all those “aging white men” does prove an important point about who makes decisions in this state/country and how such a small cultural demographic has such a disproportionately large impact on all our lives. I happen to believe that the fight against gay rights is a losing battle, the youth of this country grew up in a gay friendly culture and you know what, the key word in “Aging White Men” is Aging!!

We move on to Anton of Mistersugar:

Here in Durham, Callie the cat has in recent weeks got hold of baby squirrels and played that innate game of cat-and-mouse. But a squirrel makes one heck of a loud squeal when succumbing to Mother Nature, and my entreaties to Callie to leave the poor creature be just doesn’t work.

This echoes a conversation I was having last night about cats, and how I’ve never seen one catch a squirrel, I guess baby squirrels are easier, but I can’t imagine Clack my dog-cat (yes, there is such a beast, who will show you a belly to scratch, who will fetch sometimes, who will look goofy and ungainly at times) catching anything that moves. But he moves on to more serious things…

Looking at my resume file last night, I noticed a rash of typos in one section, and my heart sank. For all the proofreading over the Christmas holidays — me and three others — some keyboard slip introduced errors, and dammit if the printed resume I sent for that j-school job didn’t reflect those errors. Embarrassing, and maddening.

Well, been there, my friend, it is maddening, you would hope that people would look beyond your typos, you would hope that the friendly people at Microsoft (who are only looking out for you!) would develop an intelligence based proofing system (as opposed to Clippy!). But, it is March, so don’t be mad…

At the backyard feeder, the birds have returned: bluebirds and goldfinches and woodpeckers and mourning doves. Our friend Butch has kept us stocked with birdseed for three years now, and we’re the luckier for it.

It’s hard to be mad about anything for too long when it’s spring!

On to Abel Pharmboy of Terra Sigillata (man, most awesome moniker ever, tells you all you need to know!). I really like his blog because it is thoughtful, well reasoned, and he writes about things I know a little about and consider important, so I am able to relate. His featured post is about the source of prescription drugs.

Nature remains the source of 70% of prescription drugs

Category: ChemistryPharmaceuticalsPharmacognosyPharmacology
Posted on: March 20, 2007 10:01 AM, by Abel Pharmboy

So say the American elder statesmen of natural products in the 2007 update of their periodic review of the subject to be published in the 23 March issue of the Journal of Natural Products. (Details are in this Reuters article with by Julie Steenhuysen). I will post more about the article when I get my hands on it, but it comes from NCI’s Dr David Newman and recently-retired Dr Gordon Cragg. Cragg had led the NCI Natural Products Branch, a position that Newman now holds.

Hmm… Interesting, it is an article written by advocates of natural products, so once Abel Pharmboy gets his hands on the article and reads it (and posts about it, ahem!!), I will be interested in what he has to say (Does advocacy compromise accuracy?). Two things that struck me from the post…

Drug discovery hit a 24-year low in 2004, with just 25 unique compounds known as new chemical entities introduced that year, said David Newman, who runs the U.S. National Cancer Institute’s natural products branch

Well, I think that the dearth in drug discovery is not just an issue of new molecular entity search strategies. The drug companies make plenty of money making copycat and me-too products. Blockbuster innovation that revolutionizes a particular aspect of medicine (for example, statins and cholesterol control) does not come along that often because a) It’s hard b) Many of the low hanging fruit are gone c) There’s plenty of money being made at the long tail d) Patent law does not encourage innovation as much as it protects income (Read Dean Baker’s Conservative Nanny State).


More recently, some researchers have taken to cloning the biosynthetic genes whose encoded proteins are responsible for creating the natural compound.

Do you want to go the biological route, or the chemical route? That’s the debate, I guess it will be a bit of both. But Abel Pharmboy knows where the future is g
oing to be…

But the bottom line is that natural products represent medicine’s past, present and, hopefully, our future.

Preach it, brother Abel! – Great stuff!

Justin Thibault of The View from the Cheap Seats (a blog that focuses on Cabarrus County issues) has this contribution about economic and other issues surrounding the proposed North Carolina Research Campus in Kannapolis. Here’s one of his posts about the NCRC. While he thinks it is not very engaging, it’s for me one of the things blogs are best at, fast and easy collection and dissemination of information. Anyone can have an opinion, but it takes a lot of work to collect a bunch of information and put it out there. His post demonstrates the incredible democratization of our political discourse in the last few years driven mainly by the internet and the combined people power of the blogosphere.

This is the raw data that members of the press were given this weekend on the North Carolina Research Campus from the City of Kannapolis.  I haven’t gotten a chance to go through it, myself; but some folks may find it interesting.

Easy as that, information that was once the privy of smoke filled back rooms (why are back rooms always smoke filled?) is out in the open for people to read, digest, and act upon. Great work!

Ron Hudson of 2sides2ron has this great post introducing Robin Hope, a parent of three HIV Positive children she adopted in the early 1990s. One person can make a difference. It is an uplifting read.

Child by child, thousands were saved with this kind of meticulous care. The graph of AIDS-related deaths in this country looks like a steep ski slope. 1995 is the peak, when some 53,000 people died of AIDS. Then it’s a steady downhill plunge straight through 2001, when there were fewer than 16,000 AIDS deaths nationwide.

We’ve made huge progress against AIDs, it is now an issue of ensuring that every single HIV+ person gets the care and attention that a Robin Hope was able to provide her three kids. Read to the end of her post to find out how her children are doing!

Then there is the clockman himself, Coturnix, who I am sure, has sold his soul to the devil, how else can he have a family, hold down a teaching job and still post on his blog like there’s no tomorrow?). Maybe in his chronobiology research, he’s found a time-turner? (Share brother Coturnix!). Anyway, he wanted me to choose between three posts, so I decided to pick the one about the assumption that it is normal to work on “farm time”, and how late risers are somehow B-class citizens in Denmark.

Apparently, in Denmark, the ‘larks’ (early-risers) are called ‘A-people’ while ‘owls’ (late-risers) are ‘B-people’. We all know how important language is for eliciting frames, so it must feel doubly insulting for the Danish night owls.

Today, in the age of the internets, telecommuting and fast-increasing knowledge about our rhythms and sleep, retaining the feudal/early capitalism work schedules really does not make sense.

Being a lark myself, it’s easy for me to wake up early in the morning and be productive before noon (like today, doing this carnival!). It must be difficult to work efficiently, and be judged for it, at a time when your circadian rhythms just don’t want to cooperate. But it’s an interesting point, we cling to history and old rhythms for too long. I guess it is a generation gap, and we know that workplaces are very conservative in their thinking.

Then, there is the truly cool Surreal O’Rama from Billy Sugarfix. His featured post is the winner of the very first song poem bizarre lyrics contest. The song is There are things we say in bars, There are things we do.

Take you and your last Good Find.
Go to a nearby star and sleep.
It has happened before but never so bad.

Cool stuff, I love songs that use the word entropy, takes me back to Thermodynamics 101!

We finish with Buzzard Parking, about some of my favorite birds, vultures. I’ll let the pictures do the talking…


That is it from me, hang around, read the rest of the blog, you’ll find it to be all over the place, reflecting my upbringing in India and the attendant hypersensitivity to development issues and colonialism, my time doing sea turtle conservation, my research in environmental science, my current work in the pharm world, and my deep and abiding interest in environmental justice. And remember, next week, we’re being hosted by Scrutiny Hooligans. Now excuse me while I head outdoors for some much needed beach volleyball (woohoo, it’s getting warm!!).

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Pakistan's Cricket Coach was murdered…

Obviously, not good at all. Apparently, “It’s only a game” is not the operating credo in the subcontinent.

Woolmer was strangled, police say –

KINGSTON, Jamaica (CNN) — A pathology report indicated that Pakistani cricket coach Bob Woolmer died of “manual strangulation,” according to a statement from Jamaican police commissioner Lucius Thomas.

“In these circumstances, the matter of Mr. Woolmer’s death is now being treated by the Jamaican police as a case of murder,” the statement said Thursday night.

Police announced Tuesday that Woolmer’s death was suspicious, two days after he was found unconscious in his room at the Pegasus Hotel. Woolmer, 58, was declared dead at a hospital soon after he was found.

Initial media reports indicated he died of a heart attack.

Woolmer’s death came less than 24 hours after former world champion Pakistan was beaten and eliminated by the relatively unknown Irish team on St. Patrick’s Day, one of the biggest shocks in World Cup cricket history. The loss on Saturday prompted outrage among the team’s hardcore fans, with protesters burning effigies of Woolmer and the team captain in Karachi.

Asked about suspects, Deputy Police Commissioner Mark Shields would only say, “We have a few definite lines of inquiry,” acknowledging later that betting on cricket matches was among them.

Today is World Water Day

World Water Day – World Water Day

As opposed to every other day when water’s not all that important! But seriously, the site is a good compendium of resources. This year’s theme is coping with scarcity. I remember when Madras had severe water shortages in the late ’80s until a couple of years back. You had to be either very lucky to live in the right neighborhood/rich enough to buy water from private tankers to fill up your water tank. Running water was off and on, we had giant buckets of stored water, it was quite an adventure for me (and a great deal of stress for my parents, of course). Those days still leave a big impression on me. Everytime I leave the tap running for more than 30 seconds, or stand in the shower for longer than necessary, I can hear my mom yelling!