T Murphy writes: "Neonicotinoid pesticides, designed to attack insects such as beetles and aphids, have been shown to harm bees' ability to navigate back to the hive. While initially assumed safe in low enough, non-fatal doses for bees, twopapers have shown that may not be the case. Although the studies don't directly study the Colony Collapse Disorder, the scientists believe these pesticides are likely a contributing factor."
T Murphy writes: Although in the draft stages, a treaty being pushed by the United Nations Environment Programme has a blanket ban on mercury. While the ban would stop the use of mercury in paints or pesticides, it currently has no exemptions to allow for minute uses, such as in thermisol which is used as a preservative in vaccines. The next meeting to discuss this treaty will be at the end of October.
T Murphy writes: On their tenth day of deliberations, the jury for the corruption trial of former Illinois governor Rod Blagojevich has reached a verdict. Their virdict on 18 of the 20 counts will be announced in court later today. The jury hung on the other two charges
T Murphy writes: Although the measure is not expected to become law, a senate vote 73-27 in favor of repealing ethanol subsidies and tariffs means a lot for future legislation. The White House stands opposed to changes in the subsidies or tariffs, so they will likely go untouched before they expire at the end of the year. Even so, this is a strong indication that such government support for ethanol will be reduced if not eliminated. The response to the senate vote has been mixed, from corn prices falling, to the World Bank encouraging lower food prices, to concerns over reduced funding for alternative energy, to supporters of such budget cuts.
T Murphy writes: The US supreme court has ruled 8-1 that police may enter a residence without a warrant if, upon knocking, they hear sounds suggesting evidence my be getting destroyed. The ruling was made over a case where police pursuing a drug suspect into an apartment building knocked on the wrong apartment when they smelled marijuana smoke. They heard people moving and assumed evidence was being destroyed, so they entered and arrested the defendant for drug trafficking upon finding cocaine. Justice Ginsburg, alone in dissent, raised a concerning question: “How ‘secure’ do our homes remain if police, armed with no warrant, can pound on doors at will and, on hearing sounds indicative of things moving, forcibly enter and search for evidence of unlawful activity?”.
T Murphy writes: A report describes US dialysis care — America's "trial run" of universal health care, as costly, ineffective, poorly run and overrun by profit-seekers. America's mortality rate of dialysis patients is around 1 in 5, while the report describes Italy's care with only 1 in 9 patients dying, despite Italy spending less per patient. It has become common practice at many dialysis centers not to have doctors on hand, and maybe one nurse, opting for minimally trained technicians handling more patients than safely recommended. The report describes various problems with clinics, from making medication errors to negligent sanitation practices leading to infections, coupled with poor response from Medicare to address these problems. Despite the poor conditions, the two largest chains combined have posted record profits of over $2 billion. The report puts much of the blame for all of this on Medicare for poor planning and oversight, especially their practices of offering a flat fee (letting clinics pocket the difference when cutting corners), and the way medications are reimbursed above cost, encouraging over-use of medication. Although Medicare is starting to push for improvement, the changes aren't the complete overhaul the US needs to catch up to dialysis care in other countries.
T Murphy writes: The Supreme Court, when ruling that corporate and union political donations were allowed under free speech, assumed the source of the donation would be disclosed immediately under current donation laws. Due to loopholes, this has not been the case, eliminating the hoped-for transparency the Supreme Court ruled to be vital to democracy. Justice Kennedy, who sided with the majority on the ruling, has been called naive for his expectation that there would be greater transparency. In the meantime, campaign spending for House candidates alone is expected to reach $1.5 billion.
T Murphy writes: Michael Specter, who writes for the New Yorker, talks at TED about the recent growing fear and rejection of science. He touches on vaccines, genetically modified foods and alternative medicines and his experience from writing about them.
T Murphy writes: A study published in the British Journal of Psychiatry links daily consumption of candy at the age of 10 to an increased chance of being convicted of a violent crime by age 34. The researchers theorize the correlation comes from the way candy is given rather than the candy itself. Candy frequently given as a short-term reward can encourage impulsive behavior, which can more likely lead to violence. An alternative explanation offered by the American Dietetic Association is that the candy indicates poor diet, which hinders brain development. The scientists stress they don't imply candy should be removed from a child's diet, although they do recommend moderation. The study controls for teachers' reports of aggression and impulsivity at age 10, the child's gender, and parenting style.
T Murphy writes: "Wind farms can appear like storms or tornadoes on Doppler radar when placed too close to the radar. Tornado alley is a good area for wind farms, and good terrain for the turbines is also ideal for Doppler radar. With many new farms being constructed, the problem is growing. A false tornado warning was issued in Kansas by a computer, although canceled by a meteorologist aware of the problem- there are fears that false positives will grow. Worse would be a tornado ignored as a wind turbine. While meteorologists are trying to work with wind farm owners to shut off the turbines during bad weather, they have no control over the placement or operation of the turbines. Efforts are being made to improve detection technology to avoid further problems."
T Murphy writes: The ACLU has filed a lawsuit, claiming patents on genes BRCA1 and BRCA2 are unconstitutional. The suit is against the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, Utah-based Myriad Genetics and the University of Utah Research Foundation. Mutations in the genes are linked to breast and ovarian cancers. The ACLU goes on to say the patents limit the medical options for patients, as Myriad charges for tests and must grant permission for others to look at the genes. Myriad even claims the rights to future mutations of the BRCA2 gene. The ACLU hopes to use this case to invalidate all patents on genes.