ONTD Political

The new Liberal government in Canada has been highly praised for what many are calling the restoration of science in the country. As well as appointing a Minister of Science and Minister for Innovation, Science, and Economic Development, the new Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has also dropped the convoluted and highly criticized system of communications policies that federal scientists were forced to undergo before they were allowed to speak to the media. Even if they were granted permission, they could only talk in a highly controlled way.

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Well, certainly off to a good start with this new regime. Suggestions for more tags welcome.



You may know that you can earn $13,000 a year selling your own feces, but now it seems that the U.S. government stands to make bank on your solid waste, as well. According to new research presented at the national meeting of the American Chemical Society, the itty-bitty particles of gold, lead, copper and other valuable metals found in biosolids (which you probably just call poop) could be worth "mining."

Put your tiny pick-ax away and flush the toilet: Itʼs not that simple.

Led by Kathleen Smith of the U.S. Geological Survey, the team of researchers initially set out to find better ways of extracting foreign particles from human waste. They werenʼt looking to mine that silver and gold, but rather to toss it out. Once human waste is treated, about half of it (3.5 million tons, in the United States) is used to fertilize farms and forests across the country. The primary goal is to get metals — which get into our waste by way of their presence in cleaning agents, beauty and hygiene products, and clothing — out of this fertilizer end-product to keep them from impeding its usefulness.

But by thinking like miners, Smith said, wastewater treaters could get two poop byproducts for their trouble: fertilizer and reusable metals. In fact, a recent study estimated that a city of 1 million people might produce $13 million worth of these biosolid metals every year. [In Florida, a water-pollution warning that glows at night]

Smith and her team are still figuring out the best methods for extracting these metals, but theyʼve had a lot of luck using the same chemicals used to leach tiny particles of metal from rock. Indeed, Smith told the ACS, a lot of human waste seems to have high enough concentrations of leachable metals that it would be considered commercially viable to mine it — if it was rock, that is.

Since biosolid metal extraction would require new procedures and facilities, itʼs obviously not a given that anyone will decide to go spelunking for cellphone-building alloys in human poop. But Smith and her team say the feasibility of the process should be considered on a case-by-case basis and could end up providing a valuable income boost to local economies.

Washington Post
Two bills are up for a vote in the House of Representatives on Tuesday, both of which could significantly impact the way the Environmental Protection Agency is allowed to use science to come up with regulations. The Secret Science Reform Act and the Science Advisory Board Reform Act both require the EPA to consider only publicly available, easily reproducible data when making policy recommendations. Scientific organizations and environmental groups, as well as a number of Democrats, disapprove of the bills, arguing that they favor industry over real science.

Over 50 scientific organizations spoke out in opposition to the Secret Science bill, noting that large-scale public health studies would be ineligible for consideration because large sample sizes could not be easily reproduced.

“I cannot support legislation that makes it easier for industry to implement their destructive playbook, because risking the health of the American people is not a game that I’m willing to play,” said Representative Paul Tonko (D-NY) last week.

The Science Advisory Board (SAB) Reform Act would change the structure of the SAB, the board of scientists and economists that review EPA risk assessments. The bill would give industry scientists more opportunities to join the panel, while preventing academic scientists from discussing their own research, ostensibly to avoid conflict of interest. What it actually does is “turn the idea of conflict of interest on its head,” according to Andrew Rosenberg, the director of the Center for Science and Democracy.
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Highly contagious disease, which spread through airports and the theme park after woman contracted virus, now at 26 cases in four US states

What started as a measles outbreak among seven people who visited Disneyland in December has spread to more than 26, as an unvaccinated California woman apparently transmitted the virus through airports and the theme park, health officials said.

State health departments in California, Colorado, Utah and Washington and have confirmed cases of the extremely contagious virus, the Los Angeles Times reported on Wednesday. Taken together, the cases would account for almost 12% of the expected measles cases for the entire year (there are 220 cases per year on average, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention).

The CDC calls measles the “most deadly of all childhood rash/fever illnesses”. Measles is a virus that lives in the nose and throat of those infected, and causes fever, rash, red eyes and coughing. Though there is a vaccine that is commonly given, an anti-vaccination movement has gained traction in the US despite widespread scientific criticism and debunking of the movement’s claims.

The California department of public health said on 7 January that officials believe the woman who started the outbreak was staying in the Disneyland theme park in December. According to the LA Times, the woman is believed to be an unvaccinated traveler in her 20s.

The woman became sick and contagious on 28 December while at the theme park. From there, the LA Times reports, she flew from Orange County to Snohomish County in Washington state. She then returned to Orange County on 3 January, and California health officials announced the outbreak on 7 January.

The virus is highly contagious, can live for up to two hours on surfaces and is transmitted through an infected person’s coughs or sneezes. Measles is so contagious that “90% of the people close to that person who are not immune will also become infected”, according to the CDC.

Though an estimated 20 million people worldwide contract measles each year, the CDC only expects about 220 people in the US will become infected. American public health officials tamped down spread of the virus through the measles, mumps and rubella vaccine that children older than one year are recommended to receive two doses of, and which most college students are required to receive.

Though the vaccines are said to be 99% effective, a recent anti-vaccination movement in the US has falsely linked autism to the vaccines. Scientists have thoroughly decried the claims as false and misleading. Nevertheless, many have linked the movement to the record number of measles cases in 2014. Last year, 644 cases were confirmed, accounting for a nearly two-decade high.

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(CNN) -- While the world watched the historic landing of a space probe on a comet 310 million miles from Earth, many were distracted by what was happening closer to home.

Rosetta Project scientist Matt Taylor caused a firestorm with his choice of fashion during the European Space Agency's live stream of Wednesday's Philae landing.Taylor initially sported a shirt featuring women in lingerie, possibly not the wisest choice of attire given all of the discussion surrounding the challenges for women in the tech and science fields.

"The fact that a scientist of any gender, but especially a man, would think it's a good idea to wear a shirt covered in naked women while representing a major space agency and a significant research project is appalling; and clearly, he had no idea that he was engaging in exactly the kind of casual sexism that drives women away from STEM," S.E. Smith wrote in an article on XOJane.

STEM is the acronym for science, technology, engineering and mathematics, and women in those disciplines have long complained of sexism and other difficulties in their male-dominated fields.

The shirt quickly spawned its own hashtag on Twitter -- #shirtstorm -- as both sexes took Taylor to task.

"No no women are toooootally welcome in our community, just ask the dude in this shirt," tweeted The Atlantic tech writer Rose Eveleth.

"I don't care what scientists wear. But a shirt featuring women in lingerie isn't appropriate for a broadcast if you care about women in STEM," tweeted astrophysicist Katie Mack.

"You think a shirt like this makes women feel welcome? I don't," Mack added when another Twitter user questioned whether she was going too far.

Smith wrote that the shirt was sexist and that "The people who were upset by it weren't just those silly oversensitive feminists who can't take a joke. Scientists from all perspectives were unimpressed with the shirt, both on professional grounds and gendered ones. "


Taylor has been one of the most public faces of the mission and is known as an unconventional scientist. He sports tattoos all over his arms and, in honor of the Rosetta mission, got some new ink in January: a drawing of the space probe landing on the comet.

During a recent Wall Street Journal Facebook Q&A, Taylor was asked about whether tattooed men can achieve greatness and said, "The people I work with don't judge me by my looks but only by the work I have done and can do. Simple."

Taylor reportedly changed out of the shirt during the live stream.

On Friday, he made an emotional apology during another live stream about the mission.

"The shirt I wore this week, I made a big mistake, and I've offended many people, and I am very sorry about this," Taylor said before wiping his eyes.
We can land on a comet, but we can't ...

Matt Taylor's apology


The Young Turks soundoff (independent news source)


Source: http://www.cnn.com/2014/11/13/living/matt-taylor-shirt-philae-rosetta-project/

Opinions?
Babies Are Getting Brain Bleeds—Are Vaccine Fears to Blame?
Some parents are refusing vitamin K injections for their newborns. The consequences can be devastating.

In May, the Tennessean reported on a truly shocking medical problem. Seven infants, aged between seven and 20 weeks old, had arrived at Vanderbilt University's Monroe Carell Jr. Children's Hospital over the past eight months with a condition called "vitamin K deficiency bleeding," or VKDB. This rare disorder occurs because human infants do not have enough vitamin K, a blood coagulant, in their systems. Infants who develop VKDB can bleed in various parts of their bodies, including bleeding into the brain. This can cause brain damage or even death.

There is a simple protection against VKDB that has been in regular medical use since 1961, when it was recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics: Infants receive an injection of vitamin K into the leg muscle right after birth. Infants do not get enough of this vitamin from their mother's body or her milk, so this injection (which is not a vaccine, but simply a vitamin being delivered via a shot) is essential, explains pediatrician Clay Jones on the latest installment of the Inquiring Minds podcast (stream below). It's also quite safe.

So then why are some parents refusing to get it, leaving their infants vulnerable to a potentially devastating condition? It's difficult to understand the phenomenon outside the context of a growing fear, in general, about vaccines in the US. "There's a lot of overlap with that anti-vaccine mentality," says Jones. Indeed, reporting on the Vanderbilt VKDB cases, the Tennessean explained that "Vanderbilt doctors believe incidences are on the rise because of the anti-vaccine movement."

VKDB comes in two versions, an "early" form (occurring in the first week of life) and the much more dangerous "late" form, which tends to strike infants between two and 12 weeks old who have not received Vitamin K, and who are "exclusively breastfed" by their mothers. The problem, writes Jones, is that "levels of vitamin K in breast milk are low, much lower than in infant formula."

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, infants who do not receive a vitamin K injection have an 81 times greater chance of coming down with late stage VKDB. Even then the risk remains small: Between 4.4 and 7.2 infants out of every 100,000. But a Vitamin K injection is "virtually 100 percent protective," Jones explains.

Such are the facts, yet nonetheless, parents interviewed by the CDC after bringing in their infants with VKDB showed concerns about the injection. "Reasons included concern about an increased risk for leukemia when vitamin K is administered, an impression that the injection was unnecessary, and a desire to minimize the newborn's exposure to 'toxins,'" observes a CDC report. These concerns are scientifically questionable at best. "Earlier concern regarding a possible causal association between parenteral [injected] vitamin K and childhood cancer has not been substantiated," states the American Academy of Pediatrics.

A quick Google search returns a number of dire warnings about vitamin K shots circulating on the Internet. One of the top results is an article at TheHealthyHomeEconomist.com, which urges readers to "Skip that Newborn Vitamin K Shot," before going on to list an array of "dangerous ingredients in the injection cocktail." (The site also calls vaccines "scientific fraud.")

And then there's physician Joseph Mercola (whose popular website calls vaccinations "very neurotoxic" and suggests they are associated with a list of conditions, including autism). In another article on his site, Mercola suggests there is a "Potential Dark Side" to the vitamin K shot. "A needle stick can be a terrible assault to a baby's suddenly overloaded sensory system, which is trying to adjust to the outside world," it reads. (Although Mercola himself rejects and debunks the alleged leukemia link.) Mercola instead suggests administering vitamin K orally, claiming it's "safe and equally effective."

In a written statement provided for this article, Mercola elaborated on his views. He said that as a doctor, he has personally seen "direct evidence of trauma from injections," and he cited risks from aluminum preservatives contained in vitamin K shots. "It is incomprehensible to me how any rational individual could even consider arguing the use of vitamin K injections over a simple and inexpensive, painless oral dose that has never been shown to fail," Mercola wrote.

Jones disagrees. "We have decades of data from a number of countries, some of which have oscillated between doing the [intramuscular injection], doing the oral, and doing nothing," he says. "And so we have good data that shows that while oral is certainly better than nothing, it is not as effective as intramuscular dosing." In particular, with oral vitamin K, there are problems involving making sure that people take the right dose and stick to the regimen—and then of course added problems if a baby vomits up the dose. "There's a lot of factors that could potentially interfere with the ability of the oral dosing to work," adds Jones. "Intramuscular is the best way to do it." (For Jones' more thorough rebuttal to Mercola, read here.) A 2003 statement from the American Academy of Pediatrics makes a similar point, citing evidence that "oral prophylaxis" may fail more often than an injection in preventing late VKDB. (Here's a paper discussing the cases of several infants in the Netherlands who received oral Vitamin K, but still came down with late VKDB.)

Science aside, evidence presented by the CDC suggests that refusal of vitamin K shots may be a major phenomenon to contend with. In Tennessee, the CDC found that at the hospital with the highest rate of missed vitamin K injections, 3.4 percent of infants were discharged without receiving one. At birthing centers in the state (a hospital alternative, often run by nurse-midwives), the number was much higher: 28 percent. (The agency also hinted that medical staff may not be adequately informing parents about the need for the shot.)

To prevent any more horrific brain bleeds in infants, that has to stop. The case for the vitamin K shot is irrefutable, says Jones, "especially when you take into account just how ridiculously safe these intramuscular injections are."

Creationist Ken Ham, who recently debated Bill Nye the Science Guy over the origins of the universe, is calling for an end to the search for extraterrestrial life because aliens probably don't exist -- and if they do, they're going to Hell anyway.

"You see, the Bible makes it clear that Adam’s sin affected the whole universe," Ham wrote on his blog on Sunday. "This means that any aliens would also be affected by Adam’s sin, but because they are not Adam’s descendants, they can’t have salvation."

The post was driven in part by NASA experts saying that they expect to find evidence of alien life within the next 20 years.Read more...Collapse )

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Also: after getting a fuckton of negative feedback, Ham posts a "rebuttal" in which he reiterates all the things he claimed he didn't say in the first place.


In a condemnatory speech last week against the Obama administration’s new Environmental Protection Agency carbon emission regulations, Kentucky state Sen. Brandon Smith (R) claimed that man-made climate change is scientifically implausible because Mars and Earth share “exactly” the same temperature.

Smith, the owner of a mining company called Mohawk Energy, argued that despite the fact that the red planet doesn’t have any coal mines, Mars and Earth share a temperature. Therefore, Smith reasoned, coal companies on Earth should be exempt from emission regulations.


During a Natural Resources and Environment Committee meeting Thursday, Smith, the Senate majority whip, said:

"As you [Energy & Environment Cabinet official] sit there in your chair with your data, we sit up here in ours with our data and our constituents and stuff behind us. I won’t get into the debate about climate change but I’ll simply point out that I think in academia we all agree that the temperature on Mars is exactly as it is here. Nobody will dispute that. Yet there are no coal mines on Mars. There’s no factories on Mars that I’m aware of."

According to NASA, the average temperature on Earth is 57 degrees Fahrenheit -- 138 degrees above Mars' average of -81 degrees.

Although the Kentucky Energy and Environment Cabinet has stated that the new EPA rules will not cause Kentucky to shut down any additional coal-fired power plants, state lawmakers Thursday blamed federal environmental regulations for shuttering the state’s coal mines.

Thursday’s committee meeting was dominated by a slew of outlandish scientific claims from both Republican and Democratic climate change deniers.

State Rep. Kevin Sinnette (D) dismissed the threat of man-made global warming by pointing out that dinosaurs survived climate change.

“The dinosaurs died, and we don’t know why, but the world adjusted,” Sinnette said. “And to say that this is what’s going to cause detriment to people, I just don’t think it’s out there.”


State Rep. Stan Lee (R) claimed that climate-warming trends caused by human activities -- a phenomenon backed by 97 percent of climate scientists -- are nothing more than calculated scare tactics.

“All this stems, this carbon capture, all this other stuff, it stems back to a scare, generated years ago about global warming,” the Fayette County lawmaker said on Thursday. “Finally it turned out there hasn’t been global warming in 15 or 20 years, then they changed the name to climate change.”

Even the committee's chairman, state Rep. Jim Gooch Jr. (D), is one of the state’s leading opponents of federal environmental regulations, going as far as to suggest in 2011 that Kentucky would secede from the union to avoid the EPA’s crackdown on mining pollution.

By Shadee Ashtari. Posted: 07/08/2014 6:25 pm EDT.

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I have been traveling to East Asia (and many other parts of the world) for more than 25 years and over that time one of the things that has always struck me is how intelligent the general public in countries like Japan appear to be. It's not that there aren't dummies in East Asia, but it always seems that the average level of education and ability to think about the world intelligently and critically is impressively widespread. I've often thought about why this is the case and also why the same seems more difficult to say about the U.S. The answer, I think, can be found in a comment science fiction writer Isaac Asimov made about the U.S. while being interviewed in the 1980s: "There is a cult of ignorance in the United States, and there has always been. The strain of anti-intellectualism has been a constant thread winding its way through our political and cultural life, nurtured by the false notion that democracy means that my ignorance is just as good as your knowledge."

Asimov is right on the mark, and this cult of ignorance is the most serious national security issue facing the U.S. today. It is more important than the external threats from terrorists or the rise of a politically and economically powerful China. And a major part of the reason it is such a major issue for Americans to fix is that our immediate competitors, particularly those in Asia, have managed to create a culture in which rather than a cult of ignorance, a cult of intelligence plays a major role in shaping attitudes about the world and, thus, policies about dealing with other countries.

Many Americans are aware that the U.S. does not score well on measure such as international student assessment tests when compared to other industrial countries. For example, the 2011 Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS) the top five societies for math were Singapore, South Korea, Hong Kong, Taiwan, and Japan-- the U.S. is not in the top ten. It is better by 8th grade, where the same societies are in the top five (although the order changes) and the U.S. makes number 9. Roughly the same pattern can bee seen for science results. This doesn't seem too bad, but in a different testing organization's measure, the Programme for International Student Assessment, the U.S. does not fare quite so well, scoring 36th for math, 28th for science, and 24th for reading. With the exception of science, where Finland is ranked 5th, all of the top five countries in this measure are from East Asia.

American policy has generally worked from the assumption that the problem lies in basic weaknesses in the structure of our educational system with its inherent inequalities and the way in which our school curricula are constructed. These certainly have contributed to comparatively weak scores. I have long been convinced that one of the reasons Japan's educational system is better than the U.S.--at least in the sense that a very broad swath of the general public receives a good and equal education through high school--is related to funding. The U.S. system generates inherent inequalities in school funding by depending upon property taxes. Even in states where there is some (usually grudging) redistribution of wealth to support public schools in poor areas (in Texas it is called the Robin Hood law), it is obvious that children in wealthy areas receive a better education with far greater academic and other resources than those in poorer areas. In Japan, because there is a national curriculum and a significant portion of the funding for public schools comes from the national government, in addition to funding from prefectural and municipal governments, there is considerably less inequality in distribution of and access to quality education than in the U.S.

Unfortunately, the troubles with the U.S. education system are much deeper than distribution of funding or curriculum weaknesses, although these are both a byproduct of the cultural issue that Asimov observes. The troubles lie in the cult of ignorance and anti-intellectualism that has been a long-standing part of American society and which has become increasingly evident and powerful in recent years through the propagandizing and proselytizing of groups like the Tea Party and the religious right.

The fundamental reason that countries in places like East Asia present such a significant challenge to the U.S. politically and economically is not because they have a lot of people or big militaries, or seem to be willing to grow their economic and political might without concern for issues like damage to the environment (China). The problem is that these countries have core cultural values that are more akin to a cult of intelligence and education than a cult of ignorance and anti-intellectualism. In Japan, for example, teachers are held in high esteem and normally viewed as among the most important members of a community. I have never run across the type of suspicion and even disdain for the work of teachers that occurs in the U.S. Teachers in Japan typically are paid significantly more than their peers in the U.S. The profession of teaching is one that is seen as being of central value in Japanese society and those who choose that profession are well compensated in terms of salary, pension, and respect for their knowledge and their efforts on behalf of children.

In addition, we do not see in Japan significant numbers of the types of religious schools that are designed to shield children from knowledge about basic tenets of science and accepted understandings of history--such as evolutionary theory or the religious views of the Founding Fathers, who were largely deists--which are essential to having a fundamental understanding of the world. The reason for this is because in general Japanese value education, value the work of intellectuals, and see a well-educated public with a basic common knowledge in areas of scientific fact, math, history, literature, etc. as being an essential foundation to a successful democracy.


Americans need to recognize that if the cult of ignorance continues, it will become increasingly difficult to compete politically and economically with countries that highly value intelligence and learning. Nowhere is this more problematic in the U.S. than among a growing number of elected officials who are products of that cult of ignorance and who, thus, are not equipped to compete with their international peers. Why is this a problem of national security? Because a population and its leadership need to have the knowledge and intellectual skills necessary to analyze world affairs in an intelligent and sophisticated way and to elect intelligent, capable representatives. The problem is not really with our educational system; it is with our educational culture. Americans need to remember the words of Thomas Jefferson, who wrote to Charles Yancey on January 6, 1816: "if a nation expects to be ignorant & free, in a state of civilization, it expects what never was & never will be."

This article also currently appears in The Diplomat.

By John W. Traphagan. Professor of Religious Studies, University of Texas, Austin.

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People don’t take hurricanes as seriously if they have a feminine name and the consequences are deadly, finds a new groundbreaking study. Female-named storms have historically killed more because people neither consider them as risky nor take the same precautions, the study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences concludes.

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