Saturday, February 27, 2010

First Senior Moment...

Friday, February 26, 2010

What happens if you put the genetics of a bacteria into a food crop?

Major field tests have been done since 2000 in India by USA Monsanto through an Indian Corporate partner, with a GM Eggplant called "BT Brinjal." Commercial release to the domestic Indian agriculture market was scheduled for this year. It has been delayed.

Basicly, you put the genes of the bacteria BT into the egg plant tissue structure.
An insect eats the plant until the accumulation of BT toxin kills it. Since the toxin will also be in the fruit of the eggplant, some people are concerned about eating it.

Since it has been proven with Monsanto's Roundup Ready crops (yes they are resistent to Roundup weed-killer also made by Monsanto) that GM changes can be transfered to plants around the GM crop field. There is also an environmental impact (or should I say "hazard") with GM crop plants. For example, grass growing around the field can acquire the weed-killer resistence, thus producing a better weed.

And, another food crop in the neighboring field might also become weed-killer resistent.

Finally, the pollen off BT GM plants is just as poisonous as feeding on the BT GM plant: there was a monarch butterfly larve kill off on milkweed covered in BT GM corn pollen. That got BT GM crops banned in Europe... I need to note that we commercially grow lots of BT GM and other GM crops in the USA and Mexico.

So, India is concerned about BT GM Eggplant....

Wall Street Journal

India is halting the release of its first genetically modified food crop due to safety concerns. Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh told a televised press conference that more independent studies must be done to ensure the hybrid eggplant is safe for human consumption.


Bt Brinjal (named for its gene modification) was developed in India one of its largest seed companies (Maharashtra Hybrid Seeds Company - Mahyco) The Bt Brinjal modification provides a build-in-pestiside against insects that bore into the plant's fruit and shoots and destroy it. India is one of the largest producers of eggplant in the world: eggplant is also a major food source for the country accounting for 9% of the country's total vegetable production.

The band on genetically modified eggplant wouldn't stop the use of biotechnology in the country's agricultural sector: India is one of the world's largest producer of genetically modified cotton. Genetically modified (GM) crops are commercially cultivated in 25 crop-growing countries world-wide, including the USA and Mexico.


"Bacillus Thuringiensis Brinjal, popularly known as Bt brinjal, is right now in the middle of an environmental and health controversy in India..."


Bacillus thuringiensis
by W.S. Cranshaw1 (12/08)
Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) is a naturally occurring bacterial disease of insects. These bacteria are the active ingredient in some insecticides.
Bt insecticides are most commonly used against some leaf- and needle-feeding caterpillars. Recently, strains have been produced that affect certain fly larvae, such as mosquitoes, and larvae of leaf beetles.
Bt is considered safe to people and nontarget species, such as wildlife. Some formulations can be used on essentially all food Crops.
Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) is an insecticide with unusual properties that make it useful for pest control in certain situations. Bt is a naturally occurring bacterium common in soils throughout the world. Several strains can infect and kill insects. Because of this property, Bt has been developed for insect control. At present, Bt is the only "microbial insecticide" in widespread use.

The insecticidal activity of Bt was first discovered in 1911. However, it was not commercially available until the 1950s. In recent years, there has been tremendous renewed interest in Bt. Several new products have been developed, largely because of the safety associated with Bt-based insecticides.

FD: This is a long paper on the topic, and it can be downloaded as a PDF file.


Thursday, February 25, 2010

Rasmussen Reports : Is China a threat to USa? Why do we continue to buy products Made In China at Walmart? Now, we don't have a choice...

FD: I have recently subscribed to the public release of Rasmussen Opinion Poll Reports...

Half the nation’s voters (50%) view China as a long-term threat to the United States, according to a new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey. Fueling this sentiment is concern over how much U.S. debt China now owns and the expectation that China will use that debt against the United States at a later point in time.

Just 21% do not believe China is a long-term threat, but another 29% are undecided.

Eighty six percent (86%) of voters are at least somewhat concerned about the level of U.S. debt now owned by China, including 62% who are very concerned. Just 11% voters are not very or not at all concerned about how much U.S. debt China now owns.

Seventy-three percent (73%) believe it is at least somewhat likely China will use this debt against the United States in some fashion within the next five years. That number includes 45% who believe it is very likely. Only 16% say China is unlikely to use the debt against America, but that finding includes just two percent (2%) who say it's not at all likely. Twelve percent (12%) are undecided.

(Want a free daily e-mail update? If it's in the news, it's in our polls). Rasmussen Reports updates are also available on Twitter or Facebook.

According to the Washington Post, China owned $755.4 billion in U.S. Treasuries by last December, putting it just behind Japan. White House officials are strongly urging Congress to pass legislation to tighten regulation of the U.S. financial system and reduce reliance on foreign loans. But the massive and growing federal deficit keeps the United States vulnerable to China and other countries that hold our debt.

Men are much more likely than women to say China is a long-term threat and also are more likely to believe China will use debt against the United States in the near future. Republicans are nearly twice as likely as Democrats to see China has a long-term threat.

Just 13% of voters agree with the statement that what is good for the Chinese economy is good for the American economy. That’s down seven points from last November but is little changed from results found on this question in November 2008. Sixty-one percent (61%) reject the notion that what’s good for China is good for the United States, while 26% are undecided.

Still, 83% see U.S.-China relations as at least somewhat important, showing vitually no change since November of last year. That finding includes 53% of voters who see the nation’s relationship with China as very important. Only 12% say the relationship between the United States and China is not very or not at all important.

However, 19% of voters now see China as an enemy of the United States, up six points over the past year. Just 10% see China as an ally, while most (61%) place it somewhere in between.

With China still blocking UN efforts to impose meaningful sanctions on Iran, 29% of voters think the United States should take action alone against the rogue Islamic nation.
If China is a threat to USa, it is our fault and not theirs.
We borrowed their money to fight our BUSH WARS ...
We exported our manufacturing jobs to them ...
We became their BIGGEST consumer for ALL of our manufactured goods... we don't make anything anymore.
We painted ourselves into this CORNER.
We continue to argue among ourselves, while feeding the DRAGON.
NOW, the DRAGON no longer needs USa.
Do we remain a SLAVE to the DRAGON?
The paint is dry. We can walk out of this corner...
Can we make up our collective mind to move again?

I did not know that Impasse was French... that is where we are, Folks....

im·passe (mps)
1. A road or passage having no exit; a cul-de-sac.
2. A situation that is so difficult that no progress can be made; a deadlock or a stalemate: reached an impasse in the negotiations.


[French : in-, not (from Latin in-; see in-1) + passe, a passing (from Old French, from passer, to pass; see pass).]

The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition copyright ©2000 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Updated in 2009. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.

impasse [æmˈpɑːs ˈæmpɑːs ɪmˈpɑːs ˈɪmpɑːs]
a situation in which progress is blocked; an insurmountable difficulty; stalemate; deadlock
[from French; see im-, pass]
Collins English Dictionary – Complete and Unabridged 6th Edition 2003. © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins Publishers 1991, 1994, 1998, 2000, 2003

I bet this exchange makes it on to the nightly news... and You-Tube.

The president, who wanted to steer the session away from the often-messy process of getting a health bill passed, cut off Mr. McCain. He said the senator was straying from the subject.

"The election's over," said Mr. Obama.

"I'm reminded of that every day," said Mr. McCain.

I have not SEEN the Summit... is just the NBC summary to the previous post.


In his opening remarks at the bipartisan summit on health care, President Obama said, "What I'm hoping to accomplish today is . to focus on where we agree, because there actually is some significant agreement."

In a deft move, the Republicans turned to congenial Sen. Lamar Alexander to make the GOP's opening remarks. Alexander called for Obama and the Democrats to start over. "This is a car that can't be recalled and can't be fixed. We need to start over."

Alexander also urged Obama and the Democrats not to use reconciliation to move health-care fixes through the Senate. Obama's reply was: Let's first figure out the areas where Democrats and Republicans agree, the areas where they don't, and "make an honest assessment whether we can bridge these differences. Let's talk about the substance . and we might surprise ourselves that we agree more than we disagree."

Later, Obama gave his answer on reconciliation, saying it was a legitimate course of action. "I do think [the American people] want a vote on how we're going to move this forward," he said. "A majority vote makes sense."

The testiest exchange of the day: John McCain was criticizing the various deals the White House cut with industry groups to help pass reform. Obama interjected to respond, and McCain quickly cut him off. After McCain finished, Obama replied, "We are not campaigning anymore. The election is over." McCain responded, "I know about that every single day."

Per NBC's Kelly O'Donnell, the president and McCain had another exchange with a decidedly different, less agitated tone -- over the matter of the Medicare Advantage program.

And at the summit, Republicans -- including Sens. Lamar Alexander and Jon Kyl -- asserted that health-care premiums would go up under the Democratic plans, according to the Congressional Budget Office. Obama responded that the assertion wasn't factually accurate.

Per the Pulitzer Prize-winning Politifact, the CBO said that -- for the most part -- premiums would go down or stay the same.

First Read with NBC News Political Director Chuck Todd, every weekday on MSNBC-TV at 9 a.m. ET.

For more: The latest edition of First Read is available now at !

Cold Fusion Again? ... I love either a Great Scientific Break Through OR a Great Hoax... which is it?

FD: Bloom Energy Boxes for the home... I like the sound of that!

This is getting a lot of interesting comments:

FOX News:

At a press conference Wednesday, Silicon Valley startup Bloom Energy showed off its new, heavily hyped technology, which harnesses chemical reactions to create energy. The company’s mission: to revolutionize the world’s fuel sources.

Bloom’s main product is the Bloom Energy Server, a generator based around a smart new fuel cell technology. Fuel cells rely upon chemical reactions to generate energy rather than fossil fuels, and as such are considered cleaner, more affordable, and more reliable than the traditional energy sources.

Fuel cell technology has been under development for decades, primarily concentrating on chemical reactions using hydrogen — an element that can be volatile and difficult to store. Bloom’s fuel cell technology is fundamentally different, running on a wide range of renewable or traditional fuels.

The technology has roots in NASA’s Mars space program, where Dr. KR Sridhar, principal co-founder and CEO of Bloom Energy, was charged with building technology to help sustain life on Mars. His mandate: Use solar energy and water to produce air to breath and fuel for transportation.

Sridhar’s invention converts air and nearly any fuel source — ranging from natural gas to a wide range of biogases — into electricity via a clean electrochemical process, rather than dirty combustion.

Even running on a fossil fuel, the systems are approximately 67% cleaner than a typical coal-fired power plant, explains Bloom. When powered by a renewable fuel, the company’s Energy Server can be 100% cleaner. Each Energy Server consists of thousands of Bloom’s fuel cells, flat, solid ceramic squares made from a common sand-like “powder.”

Bloom Energy states that to date, Bloom Energy Servers, currently in deployment for several Fortune 500 companies, have produced more than 11 million kilowatt hours (kWh) of electricity, with CO2 reductions estimated at 14 million pounds.

The technology industry breathlessly watched and waited for Wednesday’s unveiling. John Doerr, a partner at investment firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers and Bloom Energy board member, shared in the hype.

“For years, there have been promises of new energy solutions that are clean, distributed, affordable, and reliable; today we learn that Bloom, formerly in stealth, has actually delivered,” he said. “Americans want clean, affordable, energy, 24×7 — and all the jobs that go with it. Bloom’s boxes are a breakthrough, serving energy, serving demanding customers, and serving our country.”

The company’s customers seem to echo Doerr’s enthusiasm, many of which are leading businesses. Coca-Cola, Cox, eBay, FedEx, Google, Staples, and more have been running the Energy Servers.

Coke’s 500kW installation at its Odwalla plant in Dinuba, CA, will run on re-directed biogas and is expected to provide 30% of the plant’s power needs while reducing its carbon footprint by an estimated 35%.

“This new fuel cell technology has great promise and represents an important step for Coca-Cola in continuing to grow our business without growing the carbon footprint,” said Brian Kelley, President and General Manager, Coca-Cola North America. He noted that the Bloom Servers can help the company reduce carbon emissions while improving efficiency and using cleaner forms of energy.”

In a video shown at the event, California Senator Dianne Feinstein, Cypress Semiconductor CEO T.J. Rogers, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and others raved about the new innovation.

Mayor Bloomberg said he was excited from the first time he saw the technology in action: “My first reaction was this was a company guaranteed for greatness.”

“When we look at Bloom Energy,” he added, “we are looking at the future of business, at the future of the economy, at the future of America.”

WSJ was also there:


SAN JOSE, Calif.—A Silicon Valley start-up unveiled devices it claims can generate electricity at a price that will win customers, while cutting down significantly on emissions.

The formal announcement by Bloom Energy Corp. follows almost a decade of stealth development. Appearing on the campus here of eBay Inc.—one of several large companies that have been testing the devices—the company asserted its fuel-cell technology is nothing less than a breakthrough in weaning the world off conventional power.

"What people need to understand is we are not building a company, we are building an industry," said KR Sridhar, Bloom's chief executive officer.

KR Sridhar, co-founder and CEO of Silicon Valley startup Bloom Energy, held up a stack of fuel cells at a news conference at eBay offices in San Jose, Calif.

The statement is expected to meet skepticism, because fuel cells so far have proven too expensive to serve as a viable alternative to grid-supplied power. But Bloom officials say a number of large companies have tested the technology and found it works as advertised.

"The proof of the pudding is the reaction from the business people," said former U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell, who joined Bloom's board last year, during an event that also included an appearance by California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.

A lower manufacturing cost is one of Bloom's biggest advantages, company officials say. Whereas other fuel cells contain polymers and platinum that make them prohibitively expensive, Mr. Sridhar said Bloom's consist of specially coated ceramic squares made from a common sand-like substance.

Electricity is generated when fuel—such as natural gas—is passed through the ceramic. Carbon dioxide is released in the process, but much less than through burning fossil fuels, Bloom says.

The company says each Bloom Energy Server costs $700,000 to $800,000 and produces 100 kilowatts of power—enough for 100 homes.

Factoring subsidies in California for installing such equipment, customers wind up paying eight cents to 10 cents per kilowatt hour for electricity, said Stu Aaron, Bloom's vice president of marketing and product management. They now typically pay about 13 cents, he said.

Bloom didn't provide an estimate for costs without subsidies. The Energy Information Administration estimates that the average U.S. retail retail price for commercial customers in October was 9.46 cents per kilowatt hour and 6.16 cents for industrial customers, suggesting Bloom may have a tougher time selling in some states. "We are initially focused on California," Mr. Aaron said.

EBay has saved $100,000 in power costs since installing five Bloom devices on a campus near its headquarters here last July, said John Donahoe, its chief executive. They provide about 15% of the power on the campus.

Officials from testers such as Google Inc. and Wal-Mart Stores Inc. also reported energy savings. All the systems were purchased rather than loaned, Mr. Aaron said.

Analysts say the technology shows promise but faces hurdles such as a tendency of fuel cells to break down. "This technology will be proven only over time," said Dallas Kachan, managing director of the Cleantech Group, an industry research firm in San Francisco.

The principal financial backer of Bloom, which first discussed its technology Sunday night on CBS-TV's "60 Minutes," is Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers. The well-known venture-capital firm funded some big Silicon Valley hits like eBay and Google as well as some notable failures, such as the online supermarket Webvan Group Inc.

—Don Clark contributed to this article.

Write to Jim Carlton at

The Big Bladder Healthcare Summit has arrived... ALL SIX HOURS OF IT!


*** Show Time: You might have forgotten this, but President Obama hosted another bipartisan summit on health care nearly a year ago, on March 5, 2009. And since that time, we've seen endless partisan bickering over the issue, millions of dollars in TV ads, countless committee and floor votes, the summer town halls, the joint address to Congress ("You lie"), initial passage in November and December, and finally Scott Brown's election in Massachusetts. Now it has come to this -- a televised summit on health care at the Blair House beginning at 10:00 am ET. Will today's summit convince any Republicans? Not a chance. Will it be any different than what we've heard over the past year? Unlikely. Will it be full of health policy arcana? You betcha. But if anything, the summit -- and the build-up to it -- has achieved this goal: It has focused everyone's attention on health care. And if the White House is going to convince Democrats to vote for the legislation, it needs their attention.

*** What To Expect: The White House has two audiences. The first is the viewing public, whom it hopes to persuade that it has reached out to Republicans -- and even adopted their ideas -- as it begins laying the groundwork to use reconciliation to pass the fixes in the Senate. The second (and perhaps more crucial) audience are rank-and-filed congressional Democrats. As we explained yesterday, the big game is getting the 217 House Democrats to pass the Senate bill. The votes are there, potentially, but getting them won't be easy. As for Republicans, their hope is to stand firm as they point to public polls showing that the overall Obama health-reform effort is unpopular. Yet in perhaps a sign of how nervous Republicans believe they might fare against the president inside the summit, they've set up a so-called "truth squad" outside the proceedings. Let the games begin!

*** How It Will Work: The six-hour summit is broken down into five parts. First are the opening remarks -- by the president and the Democratic and GOP congressional leaders. Then comes a discussion on controlling costs, which will be introduced by the president. Next, is a talk on insurance reforms, which will be led by HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius. Then there's discussion of reducing the deficit, which Vice President Biden will start. And finally, there will be a conversation on expanding coverage, and Obama will once again lead that discussion.

*** Who Will Attend: The Democratic congressional attendees: Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin, Chuck Schumer, Patty Murray, Max Baucus, Chris Dodd, Tom, Harkin, Jay Rockefeller, Kent Conrad, Ron Wyden, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn, Charlie Rangel, George Miller, Henry Waxman, John Dingell, Xavier Becerra, Louise Slaughter, Rob Andrews, and Jim Cooper. On the GOP side: Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, Senate Minority Whip Jon Kyl, Lamar Alexander, Chuck Grassley, Mike Enzi, John McCain, Tom Coburn, John Barrasso, House Minority Leader John Boehner, House Minority Whip Eric Cantor, Joe Barton, Dave Camp, John Kline, Marsha Blackburn, Charles Boustany, Peter Roskam, and Paul Ryan.

*** Absence Of Snowe: By the way, one member of Congress who won't be attending is Sen. Olympia Snowe (R). The White House tried to invite her at the last minute, but she declined, saying it wasn't appropriate to go around the Senate leadership. Snowe's office released this statement yesterday: "The Republican leadership had long since selected their team and therefore, it would have been inappropriate for Senator Snowe, under those circumstances, to accept the invitation. Throughout this process, Senator Snowe has been sharing her views with the White House and she assured the White House today that she will continue to play a leadership role on this vital issue in the days and weeks after tomorrow's event."

*** Change You Can Believe In? If Republicans fail to make significant gains in the Senate this November, it probably meant 1) that the economy got better, 2) that national Republicans made key blunders, and 3) that some of the candidates they recruited were flawed, especially in this political environment. Indeed, a few of the top-tier GOP candidates are hardly new faces. For instance, the Republican candidate in Missouri is Rep. Roy Blunt, who served under Denny Hastert and Tom DeLay as House whip. In Ohio, the preferred GOP candidate is former Rep./Bush administration official Rob Portman. And in Indiana, the preferred nominee is former GOP Sen./lobbyist Dan Coats. "These are not agents of change," DSCC Chair Bob Menendez told reporters yesterday. And if Republicans are unable to defeat Harry Reid, it will be because they couldn't lure a candidate better than either Sue Lowden or Danny Tarkanian.

*** Same Old, Same Old: But if Blunt, Coats, and Portman aren't agents of change, then that's also true of Democratic incumbents like Reid, Blanche Lincoln, and Arlen Specter. And then there are the Dem candidates in Florida, Louisiana, and New Hampshire. As NRSC spokesman Brian Walsh emailed First Read yesterday, "We look forward to highlighting [Menendez's] statements . in states like New Hampshire, Louisiana and Florida, among others, because I can't imagine Paul Hodes, Charlie Melancon and Kendrick Meek will be happy to learn that they've been deemed 'Washington insiders.'"

*** American Express -- Can't Leave Home Without It: The Crist and Rubio camps are sparring over reports that Rubio "charged grocery bills, repairs to the family minivan and purchases from a wine store less than a mile from his West Miami home to the Republican Party of Florida while he was speaker of the Florida House. Rubio said Wednesday that he paid for all personal expenses billed to an American Express card given to him by the party to use from 2005 to 2008, when he left public office. The rest of the charges, he said, were legitimate party expenses." The Rubio camp is accusing Crist and his allies of leaking Rubio's credit card statement. "It is clear these internal documents were taken from the [state party] by former chairman Jim Greer or someone working for him and were leaked to the media by the Crist campaign," Rubio said in a letter to the FL GOP.

*** Incoming! This battle over Rubio's credit card expenses, as well as the news that he plans to travel to South Carolina next month, mark the first time that the conservative rock star has taken direct hits since becoming the front-runner in his race against Crist. And don't miss this statement from Rubio defending purchasing airplane tickets for his wife on the state party's credit card. "'My wife was the first lady of the Florida House of Representatives, and it is absolutely appropriate for her to accompany me to official events and party functions,' Rubio said." First lady of the Florida House of Representatives? Have you heard Harry Reid, Denny Hastert, etc. refer to their wives that way?

Countdown to NC filing deadline: 1 day
Countdown to TX primary: 5 days
Countdown to AR filing deadline: 11 days
Countdown to OR, PA filing deadlines: 12 days
Countdown to CA, NV filing deadlines: 15 days
Countdown to IA, UT filing deadlines: 22 days
Countdown to Election Day 2010: 250 days

Click here to sign up for First Read emails.
Text FIRST to 622639, to sign up for First Read alerts to your mobile phone.
Check us out on Facebook and also on Twitter. and
First Read with NBC News Political Director Chuck Todd, every weekday on MSNBC-TV at 9 a.m. ET. For more: The latest edition of First Read is available now at !

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

As a retired High School Science Teacher, I could not resist posting this one for you...

Obesity? Big Feet? Blame Darwin
Evolution Helped Humans Have Children and Survive,
But It Also Led to Modern-Day Maladies, Scientists Say


Evolution, the theory goes, guarantees survival to the fittest. But we can blame evolution for some of today's most pressing health problems, such as cancer, obesity, diabetes and cardiovascular disease.

A 2009 Gallup poll found that 44% of Americans believe that God created human beings in their present form within the past 10,000 years. Many of them also think the human body is perfectly designed.

But most scientists—including biologists, anthropologists, paleontologists and geneticists—see the 21st century human body as a collection of compromises, jury-rigged by evolution as our ancestors adapted to changing conditions.

"In many ways, we are maladapted for modernity," says Stephen Stearns, a Yale evolutionary biologist. He and others in the field are urging medical schools to include more evolutionary thinking when teaching doctors about modern diseases.

The Body EclecticView Interactive
See how human body parts are still changing today.
..For example, the immune system was honed to fight off epidemics like malaria and cholera, which proliferated along with urbanization. According to the "hygiene hypothesis," asthma and auto-immune diseases are increasing because the human immune system doesn't face enough challenges in today's cleaner environments and is picking fights with the body's own systems instead.

The current epidemic of obesity also has prehistoric roots. Our hunter-gatherer forbearers were tall, lean long-distance runners who subsisted on plants and protein. When populations shifted to agriculture about 10,000 years ago, a carbohydrate-rich diet became the norm. Early farmers had more calories but less nutrition, and average heights dropped from 5-foot-9 to 5-foot-3 for men, and from 5-foot-5 to 5-feet for women. Metabolisms adjusted over the millennia—but populations that shifted to agriculture more recently, like Polynesians and American Indians, have the highest rates of obesity and Type 2 diabetes today.

Evolution even plays a role in yo-yo dieting, according to Rudolph Leibel, an obesity expert at Columbia University Medical Center and one of the discoverers of leptin, the hormone that usually signals the body to stop eating. Leptin levels fall rapidly when people lose weight, setting off a cascade of physiological changes that burn fewer calories and act to pile weight back on. "That was great during times of famine, but these days, it's counterproductive," says Dr. Leibel.

With fewer predators and more resistance to disease, humans are now living long enough that cells have more chance to go haywire. Reproductive cancers may be a function of longer lives and changing cultures. For long stretches of history, the average woman had only about 100 menstrual cycles in her lifetime, because frequent pregnancies and breastfeeding kept her from menstruating. A typical woman today has 400 cycles, creating more stress on her ovaries and subjecting her breasts to more hormonal swings.

Outrunning Mastodons
One of the best known holdovers is the "fight-or-flight" mechanism that pumps out adrenaline, cortisol and other hormones when the brain senses danger, making muscles tense up, blood vessels constrict, the digestive tract slow and the heart beat faster. That was useful for outrunning mastodons—but counterproductive for sitting at the computer.

Even anxiety dreams—where you're unprepared for a test or falling off a cliff—may be a leftover from ancient times when people had to be constantly on guard for predators in the night, says Deirdre Barrett, a Harvard psychologist and editor of the journal Dreams.

"Some of this stuff we're carrying around is from the Pleistocene era," says Dr. Stearns of the period roughly 2 million to 10,000 years ago. He warns that the gap between human anatomy and modern culture may get wider in the years ahead. "My students keep asking me, 'Are we adapting to the computer age?' But technology and culture are changing so fast that our genes can't keep up with it."

Scientists studying genetic variations around the world say that about 1,800 genes—some 7% of the human genome—have been evolving rapidly in the past 10,000 to 40,000 years. The precise function of many isn't known, but researchers have identified several that provided a key advantage for survival and got passed along.

For example, dark skin that protected humans from the sun's ultraviolet rays in Africa was less needed as they migrated north beginning about 50,000 years ago. Gene variations for light skin identified in European and Asian populations would have allowed them to absorb more vitamin D, needed for strong bones and other body functions and been passed along.

A gene variation that enabled people to digest lactose—a sugar found in milk products—provided a big advantage for survival when they began herding and milking cattle. It cropped up in Europe about 7,000 years ago. Today 90% of people of Northern European descent are able to digest dairy products.

Many recent mutations developed in response to infectious diseases, particularly as people started living in large communities. In Africa, some 25 new gene variations and an entire blood type have emerged to help people resist malaria in the past 10,000 years. About 10% of people in Europe today have a gene variation that makes them resistant to HIV/AIDS.

But many evolutionary advantages came with trade-offs. It has long been known, for example, that gene variations that protect some Africans from malaria make them vulnerable to sickle-cell anemia. Genes that helped early Africans retain salt guarded against dehydration in tropical climates now put some African-Americans at risk for high blood pressure today.

And some body parts that provided a benefit at some time in human history pose challenges today—a phenomenon Texas Tech University geneticist Lewis I. Held Jr. calls "bislagiatt," an acronym for "but it seemed like a good idea at the time."

Among the body's bislagiatt parts Dr. Held catalogs in his book, "Quirks of Human Anatomy," are men's testicles that hang outside the body because sperm develop best at slightly cooler temperatures—but that makes them vulnerable to injury.

In women, the mismatch between mother's narrow pelvis (which facilitates walking upright) and a newborn's large head (which facilitates cognitive development) makes childbirth a painful and sometimes dangerous process.

The appendix, which scientists think served as a fermentation chamber for helpful intestinal bacteria in primates, is less needed now that people have varied diets and cook food.

The human mouth has also evolved unevenly. Teeth shrank considerably as agriculture changed our ancestors' diets from mostly meat and plants to mostly carbohydrates. The human jaw shrank even faster, making wisdom teeth largely useless and creating the overcrowding that people face today.

Why haven't years of evolution corrected these quirks? "Many features of our anatomy operate 'under the radar' of natural selection," says Dr. Held. That is, they generally aren't problematic enough to affect people's survival before they reach reproductive age, so they keep getting passed on. Some experts think that wisdom teeth and the appendix may be slowly on their way out—some people are already born without them—since they do sometimes cause life-threatening infections.

These days, the key driver of evolutionary change isn't who survives long enough to have children, but who has the most children and how soon they start. It's those who procreate early and often who have the most genetic impact on future generations.

In an effort to see contemporary evolution at work, Dr. Stearns and colleagues tracked the health habits and fertility patterns of 2,238 women involved in the Framingham Heart Study, which has studied the medical histories of 14,000 residents of the Massachusetts town since 1948. The women who had the most children were slightly shorter and plumper than average. They also had lower cholesterol and lower blood pressure. If those trends continue, the researchers predicted that by 2409, the typical Framingham woman would be 0.8 inches shorter, 2.2 pounds heavier and have a healthier heart.

Small Brains, Big Feet
Other changes are happening, but the reasons aren't completely clear. Brains have shrunk by about 10% in the past 5,000 years. Average shoe sizes have grown four sizes for men and women since 1900, and heights are all over the map. Americans, who were among the world's tallest people in 1900, have leveled off in the past 25 years (averaging 5-foot-10 for men and 5-foot-4 for women). Europeans have continued growing—particularly in Holland, where men now average over 6-feet tall. The Japanese, among the world's shortest people in 1950, have grown nearly 5 inches, on average, since then, to 5-foot-7 for men. "They could equal American height standards in the next generation," says Richard Steckel, an Ohio State University economist and anthropologist.

Where the species is going from here is anyone's guess. Problems that affect fertility could become moot in future generations. "Diabetes and metabolic syndrome does cause a lot of infertility, male impotence and premature death," says Henry Harpending, a University of Utah anthropologist and co-author of "The 10,000 Year Explosion," on recent evolutionary changes. "I expect we will all be slimmer and trimmer in 1,000 years."

Some demographers are concerned that these days, in contrast to most of human history, the most educated and affluent people are having the fewest children. Fertility rates have dropped significantly in almost every industrialized country.

Futurologists have even predicted that the human race could diverge into two parts—tall, fit elites and a larger pool of shorter, less educated laborers. "But who knows—having big families could become fashionable again," says Gregory Cochran, co-author of "The 10,000 Year Explosion." "Stranger things have happened—just look at pointy shoes."

In the meantime, some anthropologists say the world's populations are becoming more diverse and that the growing global population will mean many more gene variations in the years ahead. Others say just the opposite—that evolution moved quickly when people lived in small, isolated communities competing with each other for survival. Now, travel, trade and intermarriage are making us more homogenous.

"We are one big reproductive pool," says paleoanthropologist Ian Tattersall, a curator at the American Museum of Natural History in New York. "The bigger the population is, the less likely it is to change in any one direction. I don't see anything that will stop that from happening—unless we get hit by an asteroid."

This one came in today's email... fully animated with blinking eyes, wagging tail and a sniffing nose... I have four REAL dogs that do this every day.

I was feeling a little nosey, so I thought I
would look in on you and see if you're sitting
at your computer and if you're OK.

Yup!!...there you are and you look and smell great!

Monday, February 22, 2010

Well, Folks, I hope we have a good outcome... maybe VP Bidden got his goat last week.

WASHINGTON -- Former vice president Dick Cheney was hospitalized after experiencing chest pains Monday, an aide said.

Cheney assistant Peter Long issued a statement that the 69-year-old Cheney was resting comfortably at George Washington University Hospital and his doctors were evaluating the situation.

Cheney has a history of heart problems, including four heart attacks starting at age 37.

When doctors rule out an immediate heart attack, the next step in evaluating chest pain usually is an X-ray exam called an angiogram to help uncover the cause. Doctors inject a dye that will highlight narrowed arteries leading to the heart.

Blockages aren't the only explanation for chest pain. But Cheney had bypass surgery in 1988, as well as two later angioplasties to clear narrowed coronary arteries, and bypasses tend to last about a decade before the rerouted blood vessels start to clog.

In 2001, he had a special pacemaker implanted in his chest. In addition, doctors in 2008 restored a normal rhythm to his heart with an electric shock. It was the second time in less than a year that Cheney had experienced and been treated for an atrial fibrillation, an abnormal rhythm involving the upper chambers of the heart.

The former vice president has kept a high profile since leaving the White House. He has sparred with the Obama administration over plans to close the U.S. detention facility for terror suspects at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and hold the trials of several high-profile detainees in civilian courts rather than military tribunals.

He made a surprise appearance last week at the Conservative Political Action Conference, where he accompanied his daughter Liz. He was greeted with chants of "Run, Dick, Run," but said "I am not going to do it."

Among his extensive government service, Cheney served as defense secretary under President George H.W. Bush.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

50 things you need to know about the candidates for Texas governor | News for Dallas, Texas | Dallas Morning News | Texas Politics | The Dallas Morning News

50 things you need to know about the candidates for Texas governor | News for Dallas, Texas | Dallas Morning News | Texas Politics | The Dallas Morning News: "Politicians are people, too. The five leading candidates for Texas governor come from different places and have led rich but distinct lives. Few voters get to meet the candidates in person, so we compiled 50 things you need to know about each as you decide who gets your vote.
50 things you need to know about:
• Kay Bailey Hutchison | Photos
• Debra Medina | Photos
• Rick Perry | Photos
• Farouk Shami | Photos
• Bill White | Photos"

There is too much irony in this Tit for Tat BX that is going on in Congress these days...

President Barack Obama used his weekly radio address to call on Congress to move forward on legislation to overhaul U.S. health care and to urge both political parties to work together on what has been a divisive and controversial issue.

The president's remarks precede a White House summit this coming Thursday on revamping health care. In his address, Obama said he hopes participants at the event act in good faith and put politics on the back burner.

"I don't want to see this meeting turn into political theater, with each side simply reciting talking points and trying to score political points. Instead, I ask members of both parties to seek common ground in an effort to solve a problem that's been with us for generations," Obama said in his address.

Obama said congressional Republicans have offered some good ideas, including allowing Americans to buy health insurance across state lines and permitting small businesses to pool together and offer health insurance to employees at lower prices. He said he would support such changes provided they are done in way that protects patients.

"To members of Congress, I would simply say this. We know the American people want us to reform our health insurance system. We know where the broad areas of agreement are. And we know where the sources of disagreement lie. After debating this issue exhaustively for a year, let's move forward together," the president added.

Recent double-digit increases in health care premiums show that the status quo is good for the insurance industry, whose largest members made record profits last year, the president asserted. He cited "jaw-dropping" price hikes by Anthem Blue Cross in California, and by Michigan Blue Cross and Blue Shield, among others, and said such increases have made it hard for many small business owners to offer health insurance to employees and prompted more individuals and families to drop health insurance coverage.

"And as bad as things are today, they'll only get worse if we fail to act," Obama warned.

Rep. Dave Camp (R., Mich.), who delivered the Republican response, urged Democrats to start over on a health-care overhaul and focus on making health care affordable, scrapping what he called a "misguided plan of a government takeover of health care."

"In fact, right now, Democrats are continuing to work behind closed doors, putting the finishing touches on yet another massive health care bill Americans can't afford and don't want," Camp said. "If the starting point for this summit is more of the same backroom deals and partisan bills, then this meeting will likely be a charade."

Camp, the senior Republican on the House Ways and Means Committee, endorsed legislation proposed last fall by House Republicans that would prohibit insurance companies from denying coverage on the basis of a pre-existing medical condition. The bill also would allow states to adopt their own health-care reforms and would curb medical malpractice lawsuits that Camp said drive up the cost of health insurance for all Americans.

According to the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office, the Republican bill would lower health insurance premiums across the board by up to 10%, or about $2,000 per year, without cutting Medicare, raising taxes or increasing the federal deficit, Camp said. He urged Americans to examine details of the GOP approach online, at

-By Judith Burns, Dow Jones Newswires, 202-862-6692;

Write to Judith Burns at

Friday, February 19, 2010

The Ballard of Joe Stack... Best Commentary I could find on the event and the man.

Before the flames from Joseph Stack's suicide run at an Austin, Texas, building had been extinguished, fires broke out on the Internet over whether his attack could or should be linked to the Tea Party movement.

A mere two hours after the plane struck, the liberal site Daily Kos weighed in, saying that Tea Party "anti-government forces ... have struck with their first 9/11-inspired terrorist attack."

Over at the Washington Post, Jonathan Capehart wrote in a blog post that, after reading Stack's manifesto, "I am struck by how his alienation is similar to what we're hearing from the extreme elements of the Tea Party movement."

And Chris Rovzar posted on the New York magazine site that "a lot of his rhetoric could have been taken directly from a handwritten sign at a Tea Party rally."

Time magazine made a subtler hint in that direction, with a link to a story about "the making of the Tea Party movement" right after a quote from Stack's apparent suicide note.

- The Pilot's Manifesto:

All of which prompted conservative bloggers to denounce attempts by the "mainstream press" to make such a connection.

"The mainstream liberal media is already having a field [day] with the plane crash," says Habledash. "Their obvious attempts to connect the suicide pilot ... to the Tea Party movement completely unveils their political agenda."

Prison Planet added that "Even before many of the details were confirmed surrounding yesterday's tragic events in Austin, political operatives were callously exploiting the incident to advance their agenda in demonizing opponents of big government."

And declared itself "stunned and outraged by the coverage of the Joseph Stack attack in the liberal blogosphere and then the mainstream media." It went on to quote Tea Party leaders in the Austin area saying that Stack was not a member.

Writing in the Washington Examiner, meanwhile, David Freddoso argues that the press are ignoring Stack's "left-wing discontent," pointing to language in Stack's posting that "could have appeared in some form on any of several left-wing message boards."

Truth is, precious little is known about Stack at this point, except that he was deranged and suicidal nutjob.

And there's certainly no way to glean any coherent political message -- liberal, conservative or any other bent -- from his post.

After all, the centerpiece of his complaint is about a section of the 1986 tax reform act, signed into law by President Ronald Reagan. The only politicians Stack specifically names are George W. Bush (whom he calls a "presidential puppet") and former centrist New York Democratic Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan (who according to Stack was "sleazy"). The Catholic Church comes in for a Stack attack (it's "vulgar, corrupt"), as does organized religion generally ("monsters"), the FAA, GM, capitalism and the entire American public.

Right-leaning PoliPundit summed it up this way: "Mad as Hell, at Everyone!"

But Richard Benjamin, writing for the liberal Huffington Post, perhaps put it best:
"The tortured manifesto cannot be properly labeled as 'left-' or 'right-wing'. Rather, it's a non-partisan screed against problems roiling the Republic -- and Stack's head -- for years."

Commentary by John Merline for AOL

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Well, Folks, I don't think that Georgia is going to just let this death go un-reviewed in the world court....

The Wall Street Journal

In its strongest condemnation yet of the horrific accident that killed 21-year-old Georgian luger Nodar Kumaritashvili hours before the opening of the Winter Olympics, the Georgian Olympic Committee on Thursday blamed the track, not the athlete.

"I exclude the possibility that Nodar was not experienced enough," committee chief Giorgi Natsvlishlili said in televised comments. "From my point of view the track was at fault."

Mr. Kumaritashvili died in a training accident when he lost control of his luge on the final turn of the track at the Whistler Sliding Center, the world's fastest, and hit a steel support at 145 kilometers per hour.

With a simple Google Search, we find that GE spent $7 million lobbying Congress in just three months....

Medical device industry's Q4
lobbying spend tops $20 million

January 29, 2010 by MassDevice staffMedical device makers, health information technology providers and AdvaMed together spent more than $20 million lobbying Congress, the White House and the Food & Drug Administration during the fourth quarter.

The medical device industry spent a lot of money making sure its voice was heard in Washington during the healthcare reform kerfluffle at the end of last year, dropping more than $20 million on lobbying efforts for health issues at the U.S. House and Senate, the White House and the Food & Drug Administration.

According to filings made to the Lobbying Disclosure Act Database, during the fourth quarter ended Dec. 31 companies spanning the industry's largest players and smallest fry spent amounts ranging from nearly $7 million (General Electric Co. (NYSE:GE) and all of its subsidiaries, including GE Healthcare) to $9,000 (health information technology provider ZirMed Inc.).

Predictably, the biggest spenders were also the sector's biggest players, according to the database. The next-largest lobbying spend after GE's was made by Abbott (NYSE:ABT), which spent nearly $2.2 million during the quarter. Johnson & Johnson (NYSE:JNJ) spent nearly $2 million, Baxter International $1.2 million, and Medtronic (NYSE:MDT) and Covidien (NYSE:COV) each spent about $1 million. Boston Scientific Corp. (NYSE:BSX) spent a paltry amount in comparison with its peers, a mere $590,000.

GE - Introduces an innovative hand-held ultra-sound device, designed in Norway, made in China...Maybe we need to incentivize USa manufacturing...

Vscan, GE Healthcare's Newest Pocket-Sized Visualization Tool for Point-of-care Imaging, to Support Physicians Providing Medical Care for Athletes, Visitors and Trainers at Vancouver 2010 Olympic Winter Games Competitions

Pocket-sized, easy-to-use device enables physicians to provide more rapid diagnoses by enhancing the physical exam

VANCOUVER, Feb 18, 2010 (BUSINESS WIRE) -- GE Healthcare announced today that the company's latest ultrasound innovation, Vscan, will be utilized at the Mobile Medical Unit, the medical emergency unit extension of the Whistler Polyclinic in support of athletes, trainers and visitors attending the Vancouver 2010 Olympic Winter Games competitions.

Roughly the size of a smartphone, Vscan houses powerful, ultra-smart ultrasound technology that provides clinicians with an immediate, non-invasive method to help secure visual information about what is happening inside the body. Vscan is portable and can easily be taken from room to room to be used in many clinical, hospital or primary care settings.

"GE's goal is to improve the quality of care by increasing access to important healthcare technologies, and this pocket-sized visualization tool will help do that with its portability and high image quality," said Peter Robertson, General Manager of GE Healthcare Canada. "Vscan is a non-invasive tool that can help physician's perform more focused physical exams and provide additional information with immediate visual validation, which may help speed diagnoses, reduce patient wait-times and improve physician workflow."

The ability to take a quick look inside the body using Vscan may help clinicians detect disease earlier. This may prove invaluable in today's busy practice environment including primary care physicians and those specializing in cardiology, critical and emergency care and women's health, as well as hospitalists.

Vscan offers the image quality that until recently was only available with a console ultrasound. Vscan leverages GE's high-quality black and white image technology and color-coded blood flow imaging in a device that fits into a pocket and weighs less than one pound at 3 inches wide and 5.3 inches long. Other features include:

-- An online portal provides Vscan users with training tools for the product and basic clinical applications with sections about imaging technique, anatomy and trouble shooting

-- Intuitive user interface that can be controlled using the thumb

-- Battery charger station and battery life of one hour scanning -- good for up to 30 patients based on average of 2 minutes per scan

-- Voice annotation

-- USB docking station

-- Link to a PC for organization and export of data

-- Gateway software with services tools and remote diagnostics

"Vscan may help change frontline healthcare practice -- improving patient management during the physical exam by providing immediate, non-invasive, visual information inside the body," said Dr. Ross Brown, manager of the Whistler Polyclinic. "We are thrilled to have access to this new ultrasound innovation at the Whistler Polyclinic to help deliver outstanding health care support to the range of individuals visiting the Olympic competitions."

Vscan is a prescription device for ultrasound imaging, measurement and analysis in the clinical applications of abdominal; cardiac (adult and pediatric); urological, fetal/OB; pediatric; and thoracic/pleural motion and fluid detection, as well as for patient examination in primary care and in special care areas.

The Vscan imaging device received 510(k) clearance in the U.S. by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the CE Mark by the European Union, as well as the Medical Device License from Health Canada and is now commercially available in the U.S., Europe, India and Canada.

About GE Healthcare:

GE Healthcare provides transformational medical technologies and services that are shaping a new age of patient care. Our broad expertise in medical imaging and information technologies, medical diagnostics, patient monitoring systems, drug discovery, biopharmaceutical manufacturing technologies, performance improvement and performance solutions services help our customers to deliver better care to more people around the world at a lower cost. In addition, we partner with healthcare leaders, striving to leverage the global policy change necessary to implement a successful shift to sustainable healthcare systems.

Our "healthymagination" vision for the future invites the world to join us on our journey as we continuously develop innovations focused on reducing costs, increasing access and improving quality and efficiency around the world. Headquartered in the United Kingdom, GE Healthcare is a $17 billion unit of General Electric Company /quotes/comstock/13*!ge/quotes/nls/ge (GE 16.14, -0.01, -0.06%) . Worldwide, GE Healthcare employs more than 46,000 people committed to serving healthcare professionals and their patients in more than 100 countries. For more information about GE Healthcare, visit our website at

For our latest news, please visit

SOURCE: GE Healthcare


NEW DELHI—India's tax regime often favors importing finished products rather than components and raw materials, and the Indian government needs to offer new incentives to stimulate homegrown manufacturing, a senior Indian official at General Electric Co. said Monday.

V. Raja, president and chief executive of GE Healthcare South Asia, said in an interview that the import tariff on finished goods that GE brings into India typically runs at about 10%. Because of the way the tariff structure works, the duty on the import of components or raw materials necessary for local manufacturing often amount to more than 10%.

"The country is not incentivizing local manufacturing," Mr. Raja said. "There aren't really any incentives for me to do this."

GE is making a big push in the Indian health-care market and has established India as one of its major research and development centers for products that will be sold both in the developed and developing worlds.

A GE Healthcare Vscan portable visualization machine is displayed following a news conference in New York, Oct. 21, 2009. As part of that push, the company unveiled a small new ultrasound machine called the Vscan Monday that it says will bring the advantages of ultrasound diagnosis to many more doctors and clinics in India.

The Vscan is portable, battery-operated and will sell in India for about $12,000 (550,000 to 600,000 rupees), which the company hopes will make it popular in a health-care market that is in its infancy and where patients, especially in rural areas, often lack access to sophisticated medical equipment.

"We believe Vscan can reduce the need for more tests and referrals during physical examinations and could make health care more accessible to people in India," Mr. Raja said.

The Vscan was designed in Norway and is being manufactured in China. Mr. Raja said the company evaluated the relative advantages of manufacturing in other places, including India, but decided that China offered the best combination of cost and closeness to a major market. He said he hoped eventually to manufacture the product in India.

The wider availability of ultrasounds in India is a controversial topic since there is a traditional preference for boys over girls. In 1994, the government outlawed sex selection. Still, the country's ratio of boys to girls tilts sharply in favor of boys. Some government officials have linked the skewed ratio to the wider availability of ultrasounds, as the determination of sex can prompt the abortion of a female fetus.

Mr. Raja said sales of the Vscan would be governed by the same rules as for other ultrasound machines. The government requires doctors to undergo training and receive a license before purchase. GE also does an internal audit to ensure that every ultrasound sale is to a licensed purchaser. He added that the Vscan is not primarily targeted at the traditional pre-natal medical market but at emergency rooms and general physicians.

GE Healthcare's Indian revenue grew at an annual average rate of 16% to 17% in the past five years. The company declined to disclose specific revenue numbers for sales in India. But Mr. Raja said he expects the revenue growth rate to increase to 30% a year over the next five years as the company focuses on expanding accessibility to its products, lowering the cost, and working with the government to improve health-care quality. The goal, Mr. Raja said, "is how we can try to drive health care, which could be made affordable and available to the masses."

That drive faces a number of challenges. There is very little regulation of health-care equipment in India, which leaves the market vulnerable to sales of shoddy machinery, Mr. Raja said.

The vast majority of Indians still pay for health care out of their own pocket because health insurance is in its infancy so "the propensity to pay is still a huge challenge given the per capita income," Mr. Raja said.

Nor does the government treat health care as a priority worthy of special treatment such as power generation or road construction, he said. As a result, it does not received favorable financing terms as these other sectors do.

Write to Paul Beckett at

My problem is that I assume that we will have to move out into Space, off this Earth, and these resources are the economic reason for exploration....

Humans are no strangers to ravaging the land, but the stars have proven a good deal more elusive. So far, our ethical concerns have remained limited to the contamination of extraterrestrial environments, but what will the future bring?

Last night I attended a lecture by Jesuit Brother Guy J. Consolmagno, a U.S. research astronomer and planetary scientist at the Vatican Observatory. He gave a very engaging talk about the ethics of exploration and planetary astronomy, touching on two particularly noteworthy items:

Asteroid Mining
Can you put a price tag on an asteroid? Sure you can. We know of roughly 750 S-class asteroids with a diameter of at least 1 kilometer. Many of these pass as near to the Earth as our own moon -- close enough to reach via spacecraft. As a typical asteroid is 10 percent metal, Brother Consolmango estimates that such an asteroid would contain 1 billion metric tons of iron. That's as much as we mine out of the globe every year, a supply worth trillions and trillions of dollars. Subtract the tens of billions it would cost to exploit such a rock, and you still have a serious profit on your hands.

But is this ethical? Brother Consolmango asked us to ponder whether such an asteroid harvest would drastically disrupt the economies of resource-exporting nations. What would happen to most of Africa? What would it do to the cost of iron ore? And what about refining and manufacturing? If we spend the money to harvest iron in space, why not outsource the other related processes as well? Imagine a future in which solar-powered robots toil in lunar or orbital factories.

"On the one hand, it's great," Brother Consolmango said. "You've now taken all of this dirty industry off the surface of the Earth. On the other hand, you've put a whole lot of people out of work. If you've got a robot doing the mining, why not another robot doing the manufacturing? And now you've just put all of China out of work. What are the ethical implications of this kind of major shift?"

Brother Consolmango also stressed that we have the technology to begin such a shift today; we'd just need the economic and political will to do it. Will our priorities change as Earth-bound resources become more and more scarce?

Most of our planetary colonization dreams revolve around changing the environments of other worlds to cater to our own astronomically particular needs. Seriously, imagine if the Smoking Gun posted humanity's tour rider for visiting other worlds. What utter divas we are! As the alternative of changing ourselves to inhabit other worlds is largely unexplored, we have to ponder the far-future ethics of terraforming another planet.

Specifically, Brother Consolmango mentioned the idea of taking material from a c-class asteroid or a Martian moon and spreading it over Mars' pole caps. In theory, this feat would create the sort of drastic global warming we're hoping to avoid on Earth. Coated with dust, the poles would then absorb even more solar radiation than before, causing them to heat up and release carbon dioxide. Atmospheric pressure would increase. The resulting greenhouse effect could possibly raise temperatures to facilitate stabilized liquid water. This could lead to lakes, oxygen and a successful seeding of plant life. Eventually, Arnold Schwarzenegger would be able to take his space helmet off without his eyeballs exploding.

But what are the ethics of this (the terraforming, not the eyeball thing)? What if Mars already contains hidden life? Might the origins of life on Earth trail back to the red planet as well? Thoroughly contaminate everything and we might erase all trace of what was. And the past isn't the only thing potentially at stake.

"Here's a deeper question," Brother Consolmango said. "What if there is no life on Mars or Titan or some other place we're going to go to, but all the ingredients are there, such that at some future time life could exist. The potentiality of life is there and, by terraforming it, we're aborting that possibility. Under what circumstances is that an ethical thing to do?"

What do you think?

In addition to covering these topics, Brother Consolmango also touched base on the issues of light pollution, meteorite collecting and the coexistence of science and religion. On the meteorite issue, I was pleased to hear him hit all the points I made in my recent post on the matter.

And you can read Robert Lamb's blog post
Can science and religion coexist?
for more on the religion/science issue.

Either way, feel free to spill your thoughts on the ethics of planetary exploration
and colonization.
Learn to exploit some space at
How Asteroid Mining Will Work
How Iron and Steel Work
How Mars Works
How Terraforming Mars Will Work
How Light Pollution Works

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Jammed Printer Mouse....

Well, Folks, We might get bipardisan participation when we get a 50/50 split of the votes in Congress....

Senator Bayh's Domino Effect
Democrats could wind up with only 52 Senate seats.

Political handicappers Larry Sabato and Nate Silver both projected recently that if the November election were held today, Democrats would wind up with only 52 Senate seats, a net loss of seven. Evan Bayh's sudden retirement yesterday is prompting most observers to give Republicans an edge to capture his vacant seat, which would mean a net loss of eight Democratic seats.

Such a setback isn't unprecedented. In "wave" elections, one party tends to win all of the close races -- in 2008 Democrats captured eight seats from Republicans by running the table on competitive Senate seats.

The political picture for Democrats could improve between now and November -- or it could deteriorate. What if former Wisconsin Gov. Tommy Thompson, who leads incumbent Senator Russ Feingold in at least some polls, decides to run? Similarly, former New York Governor George Pataki could enter the Senate race, hoping to take advantage of a divisive Democratic primary between appointed Senator Kristen Gillibrand and former Congressman Harold Ford. Finally, Democratic Senator Patty Murray could face a last-minute challenge from Dino Rossi, the well-known Republican who came within an eyelash of being sworn in as governor a few years ago.

Should Democrats fall to only 50 or 51 seats in the Senate, they would be at the mercy of Connecticut's Joe Lieberman on many key procedural votes. Mr. Lieberman has already signaled his willingness to consider running as a Republican in 2012. He could always threaten to jump the political fence early if it meant giving the GOP Senate control.

Even without further deterioration in their political prospects, Democrats could end up holding only a slim majority or exercising control only by virtue of Vice President Joe Biden's tie-breaking vote. You could forget about much of the Obama legislative program unless input from moderate and even conservative Republicans is incorporated into legislation. This may not be the "change" that President Obama believes in, but it would be the only kind that could happen.

The new political landscape also has big implications for the Supreme Court. The odds of one or even two vacancies occurring this summer before the current oversized Democratic Senate majority shrinks have just gone up in the wake of Scott Brown's victory in Massachusetts and Mr. Bayh's retirement. Justice John Paul Stevens turns 90 this April, and has already signaled his retirement by hiring only one law clerk for the Supreme Court term that begins next October. A retired justice is allowed a single clerk; a sitting Justice normally has four clerks.

Mr. Stevens may not be the only retirement. Ruth Bader Ginsburg is 76 years old and has struggled with poor health. She may calculate that the odds of being replaced by a like-minded liberal -- perhaps Solicitor General Elena Kagan or 7th Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Diane Wood -- would be significantly better if she timed her departure to take advantage of the Democrat-dominated Senate that gave Sonia Sotomayor easy confirmation last year. If she waits, the prospect of a bitter confirmation battle in a closely divided Senate might sway President Obama to make a more pragmatic appointment.

To read more stories like this one, please subscribe to Political Diary.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Why don't we/USA turn Haiti into an Economic and Ecological Experiment in Developing Technology Innovation to Solve Haiti's Fundamental Problems...

And our own problems of reviving our Technology Leadership and Manufacturing Jobs?

We found many of the same problems in Iraq: infrastructure failure and lack of innovative economic and evironmental solutions.

We were not able to rebuild their power system, their water systems, their agriculture, or even their oil production.

We don't own or manufacture that technology and related products here anymore... it is time to turn it around for USa and the rest of the world. We could develop, manufacture, and export these basic economic and environmental solutions as products and services.
We could be come system intregators: drill the water wells, lay the piping, provide the sanitation and agriculture tie-ins, and provide the recycling of waste materials. Build the factories and hire the labor... then sell it off and move on to the next lesser developed country.
We could make this our foreign policy. We could make this our domestic policy. We could invest here and go back to manufacturing what the world wants to buy. We can stop out the out-sourcing policy that has bankrupted our nation.

It is an election year, so hold our politicians to the task of making USA the source of these types of solutions, technology, and products, once again.


Experts: Aid Must Target Haiti's Underlying Issues : NPR:
"In the coming weeks, aid agencies will begin planning how to rebuild what the earthquake destroyed in Haiti.
Aid experts who have worked in the country say that money could be wasted if it isn't used to fix deep-seated problems that have reinforced poverty and even exacerbated the effects of last week's earthquake."


Some of the panel's more specific findings were:

Infant And Maternal Health: "Low birth weight babies (less than 2.5 kg) rose from 4% in 1990 to around a quarter of registered births in 1997, due mainly to maternal malnutrition. UNFPA and other sources such as the International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies believe that as many as 70% of Iraqi women are suffering from anaemia." (§18)
Malnutrition: "The dietary energy supply had fallen from 3,120 to 1,093 kilo calories per capita/per day by 1994 - 95. The prevalence of malnutrition in Iraqi children under five almost doubled from 1991 to 1996 (from 12% to 23%). Acute malnutrition in Center/South rose from 3% to 11% for the same age bracket. Results of a nutritional status survey conducted on 15,000 children under 5 years of age in April 1997 indicated that almost the whole young child population was affected by a shift in their nutritional status towards malnutrition (Nutritional Status Survey of Infants in Iraq, UNICEF November 7 1998)." (§19)
Prices: The UN World Food Programme "indicates that according to estimates for July 1995, average shop prices of essential commodities stood at 850 times the July 1990 level." (§19)
Infrastructure: "In addition to the scarcity of resources, malnutrition problems also seem to stem from the massive deterioration in basic infrastructure, in particular in the water-supply and waste disposal systems. The most vulnerable groups have been the hardest hit, especially children under five years of age who are being exposed to unhygienic conditions, particularly in urban centers. The WFP estimates that access to potable water is currently 50% of the 1990 level in urban areas and only 33% in rural areas." (§20)
Health facilities: "Since 1991, hospitals and health centers have remained without repair and maintenance. The functional capacity of the health care system has degraded further by shortages of water and power supply, lack of transportation and the collapse of the telecommunications system. Communicable diseases, such as water borne diseases and malaria, which had been under control, came back as an epidemic in 1993 and have now become part of the endemic pattern of the precarious health situation, according to WHO." (§21)
Education: "School enrollment for all ages (6-23) has declined to 53%. According to a field survey conducted in 1993, as quoted by UNESCO, in Central and Southern governorates 83% of school buildings needed rehabilitation, with 8,613 out of 10,334 schools having suffered serious damages. The same source indicated that some schools with a planned capacity of 700 pupils actually have 4500 enrolled in them. Substantive progress in reducing adult and female illiteracy has ceased and regressed to mid-1980 levels, according to UNICEF. The rising number of street children and children who work can be explained, in part, as a result of increasing rates of school drop-outs and repetition, as more families are forced to rely on children to secure household incomes." (§22)
Society: On "the cumulative effects of sustained deprivation on the psycho-social cohesion of the Iraqi population [...] the following aspects were frequently mentioned: increase in juvenile delinquency, begging and prostitution, anxiety about the future and lack of motivation, a rising sense of isolation bred by absence of contact with the outside world, the development of a parallel economy replete with profiteering and criminality, cultural and scientific impoverishment, disruption of family life. [...] UNICEF spoke of a whole generation of Iraqis who are growing up disconnected from the rest of the world." (§25-26)
Mental health: The World Health Organization "points out that the number of mental health patients attending health facilities rose by 157% from 1990 to 1998 (from 197,000 to 507,000 persons)." (§25)
Economy: "The data provided to the panel point to a continuing degradation of the Iraqi economy with an acute deterioration in the living conditions of the Iraqi population and severe strains on its social fabric. As summarized by the UNDP field office, "the country has experienced a shift from relative affluence to massive poverty"." (§43)

The Revised Book of Genesis, which attempts to frame the Science of the Book of Genesis, although it does take away from the poetry of the first book.

The Revised Book of Genesis [DoB (Galileo) = 06/11/1564] [Today = 06/11/2008]:
"Chapter 1
1. In the beginning, there was a bang.
And it was a big bang** --- one that was filled with implications for all that would follow.
The first consequence was time; the second was space."

Burnt Orange Report: Another Website for Background on the Candidates in the Primary Elections...

Burnt Orange Report: Who We Are:

"Over the past few years Burnt Orange Report has evolved. When Burnt Orange Report started with Byron LaMasters and Jim Dallas on April 24, 2003, it was a site written by students for anyone interested in listening. It was a basic live-journal and its focus on Austin and the Capitol had a modest but loyal readership.
Over half a decade has passed and BOR is a different site. Since moving on to our latest soapblox platform, BOR has had over 4.5 million visitors come by the site over 8.5 million times to date. There are over 5,000 members of our community, and our third editor never attended a single class at UT.
BOR's editorial staff -- Matt and KT -- have been involved in politics, collectively, for almost 20 years. KT, has worked for internet guru ActBlue and now works for a U.S. Senate candidate. Matt has been a part of local, state, and federal races all over the country and worked the 80th session under the pink dome.
We don't bring this up to tell you how smart or clever we are, but to say, appearances might not always be what they seem. We have student writers but BOR also has institutional leaders, political consultants, elected officials, lobbyist and concerned Texans writing in our journals and in the comments."

Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympic Games - Link is updated daily for a quick check....

Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympic Games -
"Medal Count Medal Count
Country Gold Silver Bronze Total
USA 123 6
Germany 130 4
France 201 3
Canada 111 3
South Korea 110 2"

Let the Good Times Roll...Laissez les bons temps rouler!

Early voting is Fat Tuesday, February 16:

If you really want to know something about the candidates in each primary...

Texas GOP Website:

Texas Libertarian Website:

Texas Democratic Website...:

Texas League of Women Voters Website:

Maybe not on the scale of China Summer Olympics, I still enjoyed the MAGIC of Stage Craft use this year in Vancover, especially the pod of whales...

The historic journey from native man trekking across "frozen" land to modern Vancouver was narrated by Donald Sutherland, who has the perfect voice for the job, and blended perfectly the combination of culture, iconography and technology. The breaking up of a glacier and the aquatic creatures, particularly the whales, swimming on the projected floor were particularly captivating.

The Photo looked like a set of plastic solders in a sand box in the play ground... We just need to pick up our toys and go home!

BBC News - Afghan civilians killed in strike by Nato rockets: "Nato troops are now working to secure Marjah in the offensive
Nato has confirmed that two rockets fired at militants during its offensive in Helmand, south Afghanistan, missed their target and killed 12 civilians.
The rockets struck a house in Marjah as thousands of Nato troops continued their operations to oust the Taliban.
Nato's commander Gen Stanley McChrystal said that 'we deeply regret this tragic loss of life'."

Saturday, February 13, 2010

The Case for and against Private for Profit Space Exploration

Space: The Final Frontier of Profit?
A debate on the pros and cons of commercializing the cosmos; valuing asteroids at $20 trillion each. Peter Diamandis makes a case for private space.


Government agencies have dominated space exploration for three decades. But in a new plan unveiled in President Barack Obama's 2011 budget earlier this month, a new player has taken center stage: American capitalism and entrepreneurship. The plan lays the foundation for the future Google, Cisco and Apple of space to be born, drive job creation and open the cosmos for the rest of us.

Two fundamental realities now exist that will drive space exploration forward. First, private capital is seeing space as a good investment, willing to fund individuals who are passionate about exploring space, for adventure as well as profit. What was once affordable only by nations can now be lucrative, public-private partnerships.

Second, companies and investors are realizing that everything we hold of value—metals, minerals, energy and real estate—are in near-infinite quantities in space. As space transportation and operations become more affordable, what was once seen as a wasteland will become the next gold rush. Alaska serves as an excellent analogy. Once thought of as "Seward's Folly" (Secretary of State William Seward was criticized for overpaying the sum of $7.2 million to the Russians for the territory in 1867), Alaska has since become a billion-dollar economy.

The same will hold true for space. For example, there are millions of asteroids of different sizes and composition flying throughout space. One category, known as S-type, is composed of iron, magnesium silicates and a variety of other metals, including cobalt and platinum. An average half-kilometer S-type asteroid is worth more than $20 trillion.

Technology is reaching a critical point. Moore's Law has given us exponential growth in computing technology, which has led to exponential growth in nearly every other technological industry. Breakthroughs in rocket propulsion will allow us to go farther, faster and more safely into space.

View Interactive
See a timeline of American space exploration.
Perhaps the most important factor is the empowerment of youth over the graybeards now running the show. The average age of the engineers who built Apollo was 28; the average age in the aerospace workforce is now over 50. Young doers have less to risk when proposing bold solutions.

This is not to say that the government will have no role in the next 50 years in space. Governments will retain the critical work of pure science, and of answering some of the biggest unknowns: Is there life on Mars, or around other stars? Governments will play the important role of big customer as they get out of the operations business. Private industry routinely takes technologies pioneered by the government—like air mail, computers and the Internet—and turns them into affordable, reliable and robust industries.

The challenge faced by all space-related ventures is the high cost of launching into orbit. When the U.S. space shuttle stands down later this year, NASA will need to send American astronauts to launch aboard the Russian Soyuz at a price of more than $50 million per person. The space shuttle, on the other hand, costs between $750 million to $2 billion per flight (for up to seven astronauts) depending on the number of launches each year. Most people don't realize that the major cost of a launch is labor. Fuel is less than 2%, while the standing army of people and infrastructure is well over 80%. The annual expense NASA bears for the shuttle is roughly $4 billion, whatever the number of launches.

The government's new vision will mean the development of multiple operators, providing the U.S. redundancy as well as a competitive market that will drive down the cost of getting you and me to orbit. One of the companies I co-founded, Space Adventures, has already brokered the flight of eight private citizens to orbit, at a cost of roughly $50 million per person. In the next five years we hope to drive the price below $20 million, and eventually below $5 million.

Within the next several decades, privately financed research outposts will be a common sight in the night sky. The first one-way missions to Mars will be launched. Mining operations will spring up on the moon. More opportunities we have yet to even comprehend will come out of the frontier. One thing is certain: The next 50 years will be the period when we establish ourselves as a space-faring civilization.

As the generation that has never known a world without "Star Wars" and "Star Trek" matures, it will not be content to watch only government astronauts walk and work on the moon. A "let's just go do it" mentality is emerging, and it is that attitude that will bring the human race off this planet and open the final frontier.

—Peter Diamandis is chief executive of the X Prize Foundation, a nonprofit that conducts incentivized competitions. He is also CEO of Zero Gravity, which offers weightless flights; and chairman of the Rocket Racing League, an interactive entertainment company.

=== CON ===
The Other Argument
The Case Against Private Space

President Barack Obama's proposed plan for NASA bets that the private sector—small, entrepreneurial firms as well as traditional aerospace companies—can safely carry the burden of flying U.S. astronauts into space at a fraction of the former price. The main idea: to spend $6 billion over the next five years to help develop new commercial spacecraft capable of carrying humans.

The private sector simply is not up for the job. For one, NASA will have to establish a system to certify commercial orbital vehicles as safe for human transport, and with government bureaucracy, that will take years. Never mind the challenges of obtaining insurance.

Entrepreneurial companies have consistently overpromised and under-delivered. Over the past 30 years, over a dozen start-ups have tried to break into the launch business. The only one to make the transition into a respectably sized space company is Orbital Sciences of Dulles, Va. Building vehicles capable of going into orbit is not for the fainthearted or the undercapitalized.

The companies that have survived have done so mostly by relying on U.S. government Small Business Innovation Research contracts, one or more angel investors, or both. Big aerospace firms tempted to join NASA's new projects will remember the public-private partnership fiasco when Lockheed Martin's X-33 design was chosen to replace the space shuttle in 1996. Before it was canceled in 2001 this program cost the government $912 million and Lockheed Martin $357 million.

Of the smaller failures, there was Rotary Rocket in California, which promised to revolutionize space travel with a combination helicopter and rocket and closed down in 2001. In 1997, Texas banker Andrew Beal announced that his firm, Beal Aerospace, was going to build a new large rocket. He shut it down in 2000.

In the 1990s, Kistler Aerospace designed a reusable launcher using reconditioned Russian engines. In 2006, reorganized as Rocketplane Kistler, it won a share in a NASA program designed to deliver cargo to the International Space Station. When the company did not meet a financial milestone the following year, NASA withdrew financing.

View Interactive

See a timeline of American space exploration.
.Blue Origin, a secretive spacecraft development firm owned by Chief Executive Jeff Bezos, is interesting because it uses concepts and technology for reusable vehicles originally developed by the Reagan-era Strategic Defense Initiative Organization. In the early 1990s, the organization set up the DC-X program, and its suborbital test vehicle flew 12 times before it was destroyed in a landing accident.

The Clinton administration saw the DC-X as a Reagan/Bush legacy program, and was happy to cancel it after the accident. The sad lesson of the DC-X is that some politicians won't keep their predecessors' programs going, no matter how promising. To turn the DC-X into a space launch vehicle would have taken at least a couple of decades and a few billion in investments. Yet the total cost might not have been much more than the amount the government has spent on other failed launch vehicle development programs over the past 20 years.

Recent history shows that development programs take a long time to mature, but when they do they can produce excellent results. Since it was given the go-ahead in 1984, the space station has faced delays, cost overruns and an unceasing barrage of criticism. Yet NASA kept at it. With the full-time six-person crew now operational, the range of technological and scientific work being done has increased dramatically, from fluid physics experiments to tests on the effects of microgravity on human physiology.

George W. Bush's promising Constellation human spaceflight program—which would be killed under Mr. Obama's plan—has already cost $9 billion since 2004. It is hard to imagine how the private sector can build a replacement for the spacecraft and booster rockets of Constellation, let alone a program to get America back to the moon, with the relatively paltry sum of $6 billion and the scattershot funding approach that NASA's leaders are proposing.

The Augustine Commission's recent report to the White House was entitled "Seeking a Human Spaceflight Program Worthy of a Great Nation." The space entrepreneurs may claim that they can send people into space for a fraction of the previous cost, but they have not yet proved it. NASA's policy is neither bold nor new; it is yet another exercise in budget-driven program cancellation. Until the American government can bring itself to choose a path and stick to it for more than a single administration, its claim to be worthy of a great nation will be in doubt.

—Taylor Dinerman writes a regular column for and is a member of the board of advisers of Space Energy, a company working on space-solar-power concepts

Printed in The Wall Street Journal, page W3