Category Archives: Health

To Give Or Not To Give 50% of Earth to Wildlife

By : Robin Mckie

The orangutan is one of our planet’s most distinctive and intelligent creatures. It has been observed using primitive tools, such as the branch of a tree, to hunt food, and is capable of complex social behaviour. Orangutans also played a special role in humanity’s own intellectual history when, in the 19th century, Charles Darwin and Alfred Russel Wallace, co-developers of the theory of natural selection, used observations of them to hone their ideas about evolution.

But humanity has not repaid orangutans with kindness. The numbers of these distinctive, red-maned primates are now plummeting thanks to our destruction of their habitats and illegal hunting of the species. Last week, an international study revealed that its population in Borneo, the animal’s last main stronghold, now stands at between 70,000 and 100,000, less than half of what it was in 1995. “I expected to see a fairly steep decline, but I did not anticipate it would be this large,” said one of the study’s co-authors, Serge Wich of Liverpool John Moores University.

For good measure, conservationists say numbers are likely to fall by at least another 45,000 by 2050, thanks to the expansion of palm oil plantations, which are replacing their forest homes. One of Earth’s most spectacular creatures is heading towards oblivion, along with the vaquita dolphin, the Javan rhinoceros, the western lowland gorilla, the Amur leopard and many other species whose numbers are today declining dramatically. All of these are threatened with the fate that has already befallen the Tasmanian tiger, the dodo, the ivory-billed woodpecker and the baiji dolphin – victims of humanity’s urge to kill, exploit and cultivate.

As a result, scientists warn that humanity could soon be left increasingly isolated on a planet bereft of wildlife and inhabited only by ourselves plus domesticated animals and their parasites. This grim scenario will form the background to a key conference – Safeguarding Space for Nature and Securing Our Future – to be held in London on 27-28 February.

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Thwarting Climate Change Denial Will Require More Involvement From The People

By: Dana Nuccitelli of The Guardian

Climate myths are often contradictory – it’s not warming, though it’s warming because of the sun, and really it’s all just an ocean cycle – but they all seem to share one thing in common: logical fallacies and reasoning errors.

John Cook, Peter Ellerton, and David Kinkead have just published a paper in Environmental Research Letters in which they examined 42 common climate myths and found that every single one demonstrates fallacious reasoning. For example, the authors made a video breaking down the logical flaws in the myth ‘climate changed naturally in the past so current climate change is natural.’

Beating myths with critical thinking

Cook has previously published research on using ‘misconception-based learning’ to dislodge climate myths from peoples’ brains and replace them with facts, and beating denial by inoculating people against misinformers’ tricks. The idea is that when people are faced with a myth and a competing fact, the fact will more easily win out if the fallacy underpinning the myth is revealed. In fact, these concepts of misconception-based learning and inoculation against myths were the basis of the free online Denial101x course developed by Cook and colleagues.

The new paper published today suggests an even more proactive approach to defeating myths. If people can learn to implement a simple six-step critical thinking process, they’ll be able to evaluate whether climate-related claims are valid.

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Scientist Figure Solar Panel Problem Winning Another Battle Over Coal

By: CleanTechnica

Remember back when plastic was a new and exciting thing? That’s more or less where we are with that other p-word, perovskites. Legions of scientists around the world have been trying to tease a durable solar cell out of this optically-promising but fussy material, and it looks like a team from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory has put its finger on the solution.

Did we mention that perovskites are cheap and could be manufactured at high volume, too? Until recently natural gas was the main driver pushing coal out of the power generation business, but renewable energy is also becoming a force to be reckoned with, and its influence will grow stronger as the cost of photovoltaic modules continues to drop.

Another Perovskite Solar Cell Breakthrough

Perovskite is a natural occurring mineral with good optical properties, and its crystalline structure can be replicated with relative ease. NREL, for one, is a huge fan of synthetic perovskites for the low cost solar cells of the future, but the problem is that they deteriorate quickly when exposed to ambient air.

That’s quite an Achilles heel, right?

In the latest perovskite development, the NREL team seems to have solved that little thing about air. Here’s the teaser from the lab:

Researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) created an environmentally stable, high-efficiency perovskite solar cell, bringing the emerging technology a step closer to commercial deployment.

Do tell! The research team successfully tested a perovskite solar cell in ambient conditions without protection for 1,000 hours, and it retained 94% of its conversion efficiency.

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New Cancer Vaccine Has 100% Cure Rate In Mice

By: Stanford Medical Center

Injecting minute amounts of two immune-stimulating agents directly into solid tumors in mice can eliminate all traces of cancer in the animals, including distant, untreated metastases, according to a study by researchers at the Stanford University School of Medicine

The approach works for many different types of cancers, including those that arise spontaneously, the study found.

The researchers believe the local application of very small amounts of the agents could serve as a rapid and relatively inexpensive cancer therapy that is unlikely to cause the adverse side effects often seen with bodywide immune stimulation.

“When we use these two agents together, we see the elimination of tumors all over the body,” said Ronald Levy, MD, professor of oncology. “This approach bypasses the need to identify tumor-specific immune targets and doesn’t require wholesale activation of the immune system or customization of a patient’s immune cells.”

One agent is currently already approved for use in humans; the other has been tested for human use in several unrelated clinical trials. A clinical trial was launched in January to test the effect of the treatment in patients with lymphoma.

Levy, who holds the Robert K. and Helen K. Summy Professorship in the School of Medicine, is the senior author of the study, which was published Jan. 31 in Science Translational Medicine. Instructor of medicine Idit Sagiv-Barfi, PhD, is the lead author.

‘Amazing, bodywide effects’

Levy is a pioneer in the field of cancer immunotherapy, in which researchers try to harness the immune system to combat cancer. Research in his laboratory led to the development of rituximab, one of the first monoclonal antibodies approved for use as an anticancer treatment in humans.

Some immunotherapy approaches rely on stimulating the immune system throughout the body. Others target naturally occurring checkpoints that limit the anti-cancer activity of immune cells. Still others, like the CAR T-cell therapy recently approved to treat some types of leukemia and lymphomas, require a patient’s immune cells to be removed from the body and genetically engineered to attack the tumor cells. Many of these approaches have been successful, but they each have downsides — from difficult-to-handle side effects to high-cost and lengthy preparation or treatment times.

“All of these immunotherapy advances are changing medical practice,” Levy said. “Our approach uses a one-time application of very small amounts of two agents to stimulate the immune cells only within the tumor itself. In the mice, we saw amazing, bodywide effects, including the elimination of tumors all over the animal.”

Cancers often exist in a strange kind of limbo with regard to the immune system. Immune cells like T cells recognize the abnormal proteins often present on cancer cells and infiltrate to attack the tumor. However, as the tumor grows, it often devises ways to suppress the activity of the T cells.

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San Francisco Begins To expunge Marijuana Misdemeanors

By: Damir Mujezinovic of Inquisitr

San Francisco District Attorney George Gascón announced that his office will retroactively apply California’s marijuana-legalization laws to past criminal cases. This means San Francisco will expunge and seal the records of misdemeanor marijuana offenders, the San Francisco Chronicle reported today.

This decision was announced by George Gascón at a news conference. The San Francisco District Attorney was joined by city supervisors, the director of the city’s Office of Cannabis, the Drug Policy Alliance reform group, and the president of the San Francisco chapter of the NAACP.

California legalized recreational marijuana in November. Voters approved Proposition 64, the LA Times reported, making California the most populous state in the nation to legalize the recreational use of marijuana. Californians who are 21 and older can possess, transport, and buy up to 28.5 grams of marijuana.

The same proposition that legalized recreational marijuana in the American coastal state allows offenders to petition for resentencing. That is, it allows it if their crime would have received a different penalty under the new law.

Proposition 64, the 2016 referendum item that legalized recreational marijuana in California, allows marijuana offenders to petition for re-sentencing if their crime would have received a different penalty, or no penalty at all, under the new law. An individual can petition a court to recall or dismiss their case, but not everyone has the money for legal feels or the time to go through the entire process.

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France To Do Away With Coal By 2021

By: Jeremy White of The Independent

French President Emmanuel Macron has pledged to shut all of his country’s coal-fired power plants by 2021.

“We’ve also decided to make France a model in the fight against climate change”, Mr Macron said at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.

In a speech stressing the economic benefits of innovation, Mr Macron called the commitment “a huge advantage in terms of attractiveness and competitiveness”.

“We should stop opposing on one side productivity, on the other side climate change issues,” he said.

The 2021 goal sets a more aggressive target than the timeline advanced by Mr Macron’s predecessor, Francois Hollande, who sought to shut down the country’s coal-powered plants by 2023.

France only produces around 1 per cent of its energy from coal-fired stations, but the commitment is a signal that the country is determined to lead on climate issues.

As Mr Macron has embraced moving France away from coal, the Trump administration has committed to going in the opposite direction.

Donald Trump made reviving the ailing coal industry a central campaign promise. Since taking office, he has reversed a series of his predecessor Barack Obama’s landmark environmental policies.

He pulled America from the Paris Climate agreement and signing an executive order aimed at dismantling Mr Obama’s Clean Power Plan, which sought to curtail greenhouse gas emissions — like those produced by burning coal — from power plants.

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Kentucky School Shooting 14 Hospitalized 2 Killed

By: CBS

A 15-year-old boy shot 14 people Tuesday morning at southwestern Kentucky high school, Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin said. A 15-year-old boy and a 15-year-old girl died.

Five others suffered non-gunshot injuries, the governor said. The suspect in the incident at Marshall County High School in Benton, Kentucky, has been apprehended, according to officials with Marshall

County Emergency Management.

It was the nation’s first fatal school shooting of 2018.

Police were seen leading a teenager away in handcuffs.  The shooter will be charged with murder and attempted murder, Kentucky State Police Lt. Michael Webb said.

“He was apprehended by the sheriff’s department here on site, at the school, thankfully before any more lives could be taken,” Webb said.

Police did not release any identities, nor did they describe a motive. Webb said detectives are looking into his home and background.

Kentucky State Police Commissioner Richard Sanders said during a press conference Tuesday afternoon that the suspect, a student, entered the school at 7:57 a.m. and soon opened fire with a handgun. Sanders said the first 911 call came in two minutes later, and police were on scene by 8:06 a.m.

A Marshall County deputy apprehended the shooter. One of the two deceased victims, the 15-year-old girl, died at the scene, Bevin said during the press conference. The other deceased victim passed away at a hospital. He was one of five students flown to the nearest Level 1 trauma center, Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville, Tennessee.

The boy died of a “non-survivable gunshot wound to the brain,”  trauma doctors there said. The others who were air-lifted to Vanderbilt, all males between the ages of 15 and 18, are expected to survive and doing “quite well,” trauma surgeon Oscar Guillamondegui told reporters.

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Denver Employs Homeless To Day Labor Jobs & Many Shortly After Find Long Term Employment

By: Jon Murray of Denver Post

Jeffrey Maes didn’t expect to live on the streets in his 50s. He had started several businesses, but he says the last one, a remodeling company, went south just as he was stretched thin on four properties.

He lost them all, he said, and ended up without a home — along with the realization that he was considered unemployable. But last year, he heard about a Denver-sponsored day-labor program that had helped friends get back on their feet.

After nearly four years of homelessness, Maes gave it a shot.

And on Tuesday, he spoke about how the Denver Day Works program has helped restore his pride — and helped him find a full-time job retrofitting lights at the city’s Central Library —  as city officials announced the expansion of the program in the coming year. During a news conference at the library, Mayor Michael Hancock and others said the first-year numbers exceeded most of their goals.

In the first year after the program’s launch in November 2016, Denver Human Services says 284 people worked at least a day — with all but 10 sticking around longer — performing landscaping duties in parks, helping out at the Denver Elections Division, aiding public-works crews and other job assignments.

Of those participants, Maes was among 110 who found full-time work, with 15 landing permanent or project-based city jobs and the rest finding work with dozens of outside private and public employers.

“When you take a good person (who’s) down, broken, discouraged, and you give them an opportunity to be proud of their self — to stand up and do something for their self — that’s one of the greatest gifts anybody can give to anybody,” said Maes, 57. “And for that, I’d like to say thank you.”

Denver Day Works, run by contractor Bayaud Enterprises, has organized work crews three days a week. Next month, it will add a fourth day, with a fifth shift planned later in the year.

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The Government Restarts With A Signature From POTUS

By: Ted Barrett, Dana Bash, Daniella Diaz and Ashley Killough, of CNN

President Donald Trump signed a bill Monday night ending the government shutdown, capping off a nearly three-day deadlock and reinstating funds until February 8, a senior administration official said.

The House and the Senate voted Monday to end the government shutdown, extending funding for three weeks, following a deal being reached between Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell regarding assurances related to immigration.

The House passed the continuing resolution 266-159, with 36 more yes votes than the four-week resolution they passed last week.

The movement comes thanks in part to commitments from McConnell and other Republicans in bipartisan meetings, according to four Democratic sources.

The votes came several hours after the workday for hundreds of thousands of furloughed federal employees was supposed to have begun, and it comes three days after the government officially shut down Friday at midnight.

The movement comes thanks in part to commitments from McConnell and other Republicans in bipartisan meetings, according to four Democratic sources.

“We will vote today to reopen the government,” Schumer said earlier on the Senate floor, saying he and McConnell had reached an “arrangement.”

McConnell reiterated the same on the Senate floor, adding the shutdown was distracting senators from focusing on passing legislation.

“I respect the passion that many of my friends in this chamber, Democrat and Republican alike bring to the major issue before the Senate, all of these issues,” McConnell said. “But we should not let the political feuds or policy disagreements obscure the simple fact that every member of this body cares deeply about the challenges facing our country.”

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Women’s March Speech Echos Globally

By: AJ Willingham of CNN

One of the most moving moments from the Women’s Marches that took over the country this weekend came when 23-year-old singer Halsey delivered a free-verse poem to a New York City crowd recounting her experiences with assault and feelings of powerlessness.

Her poem closed with strong words of hope and encouragement that triggered an outpouring of support and gratitude from around the world.

In her nearly five-minute performance, titled “A Story Like Mine,” the Grammy-nominated singer recalled several moments when her life was changed by assault or abuse. The full transcript of the poem is below.

It’s 2009 and I’m 14 and I’m crying

Not really sure where I am but I’m holding the hand of my best friend Sam

In the waiting room of a Planned Parenthood

The air is sterile and clean, and the walls are that not gray, but green

And the lights are so bright they could burn a hole through the seam of my jeans

My phone is buzzing in the pocket

My mom is asking me if I remembered my keys ’cause she’s closing the door and she needs to lock it

But I can’t tell my mom where I’ve gone

I can’t tell anyone at all

You see, my best friend Sam was raped by a man that we knew ’cause he worked in the after-school program

And he held her down with her textbook beside her

And he covered her mouth and he came inside her

So now I’m with Sam, at the place with a plan, waiting for the results of a medical exam

And she’s praying she doesn’t need an abortion, she couldn’t afford it

And her parents would, like, totally kill her

It’s 2002 and my family just moved and the only people I know are my mom’s friends, too, and her son

He’s got a case of Matchbox cars and he says that he’ll teach me to play the guitar if I just keep quiet

And the stairwell beside apartment 1245 will haunt me in my sleep for as long as I am alive

And I’m too young to know why it aches in my thighs, but I must lie, I must lie

It’s 2012 and I’m dating a guy and I sleep in his bed and I just learned how to drive

And he’s older than me and he drinks whiskey neat and he’s paying for everything

This adult thing is not cheap

We’ve been fighting a lot, almost 10 times a week

And he wants to have sex, and I just want to sleep

He says I can’t say no to him

This much I owe to him

He buys my dinner, so I have to blow him

He’s taken to forcing me down on my knees

And I’m confused ’cause he’s hurting me while he says please

And he’s only a man, and these things he just needs

He’s my boyfriend, so why am I filled with unease?

It’s 2017 and I live like a queen

And I’ve followed damn near every one of my dreams

I’m invincible and I’m so f***ing naive

I believe I’m protected ’cause I live on a screen

Nobody would dare act that way around me

I’ve earned my protection, eternally clean

Until a man that I trust gets his hands in my pants

But I don’t want none of that, I just wanted to dance

And I wake up the next morning like I’m in a trance and there’s blood

Is that my blood?

Hold on a minute

You see I’ve worked every day since I was 18

I’ve toured everywhere from Japan to Mar-a-Lago

I even went on stage that night in Chicago when I was having a miscarriage

I mean, I pied the piper, I put on a diaper

And sang out my spleen to a room full of teens

What do you mean this happened to me?

You can’t put your hands on me

You don’t know what my body has been through

I’m supposed to be safe now

I earned it

It’s 2018 and I’ve realized nobody is safe long as she is alive

And every friend that I know has a story like mine

And the world tells me we should take it as a compliment

But then heroes like Ashley and Simone and Gabby, McKayla and Gaga, Rosario, Aly

Remind me this is the beginning, it is not the finale

And that’s why we’re here

And that’s why we rally

It’s Olympians and a medical resident and not one f***ing word from the man who is President

It’s about closed doors and secrets and legs and stilettos from the Hollywood hills to the projects in ghettos

When babies are ripped from the arms of teen mothers and child brides cry globally under the covers

Who don’t have a voice on the magazine covers

They tell us take cover

But we are not free until all of us are free

So love your neighbor, please treat her kindly

Ask her story and then shut up and listen

Black, Asian, poor, wealthy, trans, cis, Muslim, Christian

Listen, listen and then yell at the top of your lungs

Be a voice for all those who have prisoner tongues

For the people who had to grow up way too young

There is work to be done

There are songs to be sung

Lord knows there’s a war to be won

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