March 8, 2008

Solar Leaves: Tack 'em to Your House!

A sustainable design group named SMIT (Sustainably Minded Interactive Technologies) has come up with a great solar invention. Instead of mounting huge solar panels on heavy frames that need reinforcing, they've put the solar panels on small, flexible, durable pieces of plastic.

A large grid of them are then tacked onto the side of a house and wired together with its neighbors and you have a pretty small and inexpensive way to start getting solar power. The frames won't give you as much power as a large monosilicone roof-mounted installation, but your investment won't be as significant either. The idea is that the solar cells remind passers buy of ivy leaves. They're green, they blow in the wind, they absorb photons and convert them into electrons.

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March 7, 2008

Freakin' Cool

Girlfriends, dogs, cars, get ready to be kicked to the curb. This thing is damn near everything a guy could want in a friend/appliance. I think I need one.

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Say It Ain't So

John Brennan, Obama adviser and Chairman of the Intelligence and National Security Alliance, today claimed that he "believe[s] strongly that they [Telecoms] should be granted that immunity," referring to the FISA battle currently underway in Congress concerning the telecommunication industry's assistance in Bush's illegal domestic surveillance program. This flies in the face of Obama's stated position of opposition to amnesty for Constitution-violating corporations. I hope to see the quick response from the candidate that this statement by a top campaign official warrants.

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Hillary Campaigning...For McBush

McCain, as the presumptive Repug nominee, has a few solid months here to sharpen his claws and prepare his voodoo dolls and dark, smoking fires (in accordance to Republican tradition) for the general election. So we should not be surprised to see venom and bile, in true R style, thrown at both Democrat candidates.

Strong responses, and perhaps some attacks of their own, are to be expected from the Good Guys. After all, being able to weather and respond to the Conservative poo-flinging is an absolute necessity for a Dem nominee. Obama, riding his vast wave of voter turnout, fund raising, delegate count, primary wins...ok, his big ol' wave of "Kick Ass-ity," has been the obvious recipient of a great deal of this misplaced self-loathing from the rightwing nut houses and retirement homes.

But a strange story hit the wire today. Apparently Clinton has begun to hit with the weighted gloves as well. She aggressively asserted that she and her competitor possessed the qualities necessary to become our nations next president, yet one person running may not posses those aspects. Of course, she's talking about John McCain, right? I mean, there’s no way Hillary Clinton, a Democrat, would ever be talking up McBush, the "Fewer Jobs, More Wars" Republican, and deriding Obama, a fellow Democrat, right?

Wrong. Hillary:

“I think that since we now know Sen. (John) McCain will be the nominee for the Republican Party, national security will be front and center in this election. We all know that. And I think it’s imperative that each of us be able to demonstrate we can cross the commander-in-chief threshold,” the New York senator told reporters crowded into an infant’s bedroom-sized hotel conference room in Washington.

“I believe that I’ve done that. Certainly, Sen. McCain has done that and you’ll have to ask Sen. Obama with respect to his candidacy,” she said.

So...McCain, or the Second Coming of Bush, is more qualified to be president than that Obama guy, according to Hillary. With all the negative press (and negative reality) McBush is faced with, I'm sure he appriciates the strong support and near-endorsement Clinton offers.

She said she and McCain had traveled to Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan together as she repeated a line that surfaced from the campaign trail. She and McCain “bring a lifetime of experience to the campaign, Clinton said, while “Sen. Obama will bring a speech he gave in 2002,” stating his opposition to the Iraq war as an Illinois state senator."

Thanks Hil. Good to know which team your playing for. I'm not sure, but I think that little "D" before your name stands for Democrat...maybe...

Honestly, who the hell does she think she is? The obvious folly of praising the other party's nominee aside, what the hell does that mean? "the commander-in-chief threshold"? So because she walked through some metaphorical doorway on her husband's coat tails when he happened to be the CoC, she should be the next president? Come on. What actual experience are we talking about here Hillary? Your 2 terms as a senator from NY? Travel Experiance? Hey, I've traveled to a bunch of states in the US and even a few countries out there, how about hookin' me up with that UN Ambassador position? And I think that Obama guy has been in the senate too, and I think he's done some traveling, but obviously, its different for Clinton...some how...

So, why did McCain cross the "commander-in-chief" threshold?

Give up?

'Cause his head was lodged up Bush's ass!!!!! HAHAHAHAHA


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Bullsh*t, the Next Renewable

Some California farmers came up with an ingenious idea to recycle their cow's manure into the methane. Manure is collected and stored in a vat the size of 5 football fields and 33 feet deep. Methane is naturally produced from the breakdown of the manure and as it rises it is caught and shipped to a power plant in Northern California. One dairy has already started this process with another soon to start. With both farms operational it is estimated the power produced can service 2,500 homes a day.

Not only is this process producing renewable energy, the power production provides a second income to those farmers who participate. It is an excellent way for the farmers to capitalize on an energy production method that solely uses waste products from their industry.

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March 6, 2008

Holy Shit its Cold in Texas!!!

Here's a pic from today at 2:45pm from just north of Dallas.

Holy crap my soccer game is going to be cold tonight.

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"For a Fraction of the Cost of This War...

we could have put Social Security on a sound footing for the next half-century or more.” - Joseph Stiglitz, Nobel Prize winner in Economics (2001).

Robert Hormats, vice chairman of Goldman Sachs International, cited the committee’s (Joint Economic Committee, chairman Senator Chuck Shumer) own calculations from last fall that showed that the money spent on the war each day is enough to enroll an additional 58,000 children in Head Start for a year, or make a year of college affordable for 160,000 low-income students through Pell Grants, or pay the annual salaries of nearly 11,000 additional border patrol agents or 14,000 more police officers

Read the full New York Times Opinion piece here.

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Mental Health Coverage Parity Bill Passes House

Today H.R. 1424, the Paul Wellstone Mental Health and Addiction Equity Act was passed by the US House. This is a major development in the struggle for sane, fair healthcare for Americans. Until this bill becomes law, insurance companies are able to deny coverage for most mental health and addiction issues, leaving millions of Americans, who give hard-earned dollars to these corporations for their policies, out in the cold if their medical crisis comes in the form of a mental illness. The merits of this bill are debatable, particularly in light of competing bills in both the House and Senate. But this marks the first time Republican efforts to deny health insurance to the mentally disabled, and shield the Heath Corps from the financial burden of actually providing meaningful coverage, has been thwarted by Congressional Democrats.

Hey, I know it’s a baby step, but any progress is a good thing, and a freakin’ miracle to boot in this era of Pax-Republicana.

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The Solar Power Push

Everyday it blazes across the sky and shares more energy with the Earth than humans could ever hope to use. The greatest energy factories on Earth use its never ending supply of high power radiation to assimilate carbon, produce oxygen, and feed the world. If we add up all the power that could ever be harvested by our oil and coal deposits, it would laugh and produce the same in a 24 hour span. Yet everyday we see the sun rise and set and rarely contemplate just how important that glowing ball of plasma is.

The energy from sunlight falling on only 9% of the California's Mojave Desert could power all of the United States' electricity needs if the energy could be efficiently harvested. Really? So if we could dedicate 9% of unusable desert land to solar energy production we could turn all of our coal and gas power plants off? That sounds like a great future technology, but the truth is with the right incubation and nurturing of technology this type of energy production is just around the corner.

A team at Northwestern recently discovered a new way to make solar cells that boosted their efficiency "by approximately 40 percent and the power conversion efficiency from approximately 3 to 4 percent to 5.2 to 5.6 percent." I know those numbers don't mean a lot to you non-science folks, but they are quite amazing for such a simple solution. The group is continuing to do work on recovering efficiency within the system and the results look promising to further increasing the ability to store solar electricity. There are numerous advances within the efficiency of solar capture and conversion.

A great advantage to solar cells is their ease of production. Many cells are now produced just like a newspaper, with huge sheets of malleable plastic being printed with the solar capture machinery by the roll. A small startup company can make small solar cells using an inkjet printer. This means that in the future large quantities of commercial products can be produced to meet consumer demand with little capital investment. A major concern for massive production though is the pollution that solar cells may make. Production of solar cells includes the use of toxic heavy metals such as lead, mercury and cadmium. But with proper monitoring and capture strategies it has been shown that "producing electricity from solar cells reduces air pollutants by about 90 percent in comparison to using conventional fossil fuel technologies.

The big barrier to commercial potential for solar lies in the startup and installation costs. But with continued research the cost of components and manufacturing will continue to decrease. A recent publication showed that efficiency was not hampered when some of the most expensive materials are replaced by good ole steel. Conductively coated glass sheets have been the standard for making solar cells but now new production methods allow manufacturers to substitute low cost, thin steel sheets. The glass sheets account for more than 30% of usual production costs but steel is extremely inexpensive per pound when compared to the glass sheets.

And while production costs will start to go down with increased efficiency and larger production infrastructure, right now the demand is outpacing the supply. This is a double-edged sword as an increase in consumer demand indicates growing public support for residential and commercial solar technology, but also brings with it an increase in price. The cost of photovoltaic (PV) cells has declined steadily over time, but in the last three years the price per watt has risen from $6.93 in 2005 to $7.25 in 2006 and $7.62 in 2007. has the full economic results for PV costs.

The supply though will continue to rise to meet the demand. Already we have seen a huge boom in renewable energy plants, not just solar. This investment in energy supply will eventually lead to cheaper electricity costs as mining for solar and wind power takes very little sustained investment. Think about the front-end cost for coal consumption, huge machines and a dangerous work environment that requires many laborers, those things all cost vast quantities of money. Now consider that mining for solar energy consists of waiting for the sun to rise and for wind technology sitting waiting for the breeze. The reduced cost of obtaining an energy supply should be passed onto consumers (unless we let the electric companies run like oil companies) by way of decreased cost per kilowatt hour. Now this decrease in cost will take a while as the supply and demand must settle in and reach an equilibrium but it should be encouraging to know that it costs nothing to make the sun rise or listen to the wind blow.

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Lightway, Revolutionary Lighting Concept

The above image was taken at night and there is no power being supplied to the window panes and yet they light up? This is a revolutionary new window and glass technology that looks like it will have promise for commercial applications and hopefully with a decrease in pricing residential installations as well.

The technology is based on cutting edge Organic Light Emitting Diodes (OLEDs) and transparent photovoltaic nanoscale technology which allows the window to capture light during the day and at night illuminate using the stored energy. For commercial applications this could cut 22% of night lighting costs making it eco-friendly.

Lightway is the first technology which assimilates the necessary solar energy during the daytime and then using its inner devices enlightens the area (for instance, house or streets) during the night. I don't think this has much use right now for residential applications but the big story should be about a window that can store energy. Right now the discharge is light, but in the future could be energy to run heating and cooling. Instead of individual windows, they could be connected together to provide a percentage of the a buildings energy usage during both the day and night. This is the picture in mind when I think of how this technology will help.

I can't even count the number of windows in this picture and everyone of them is bombarded daily with huge amounts of solar energy. Somebody is about to make a ton of money on these ideas and hopefully the construction sector will start to promote the use of this technology.

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So I've Stayed Away From Sports Topics...

But this one is just too damn good. Baylor's fans were getting rowdy and one had already been ejected for throwing things on the the floor. Then, up by 10 points with the game over, Donald Sloan put up an exclamation point with 1.8 seconds left that turned the Baylor home crowd into a bloodlust mob. Check it out...

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March 5, 2008

What The Hell Is It?

This is a picture of bacteriophage Epsilon15 taken at a 4.5 angstrom resolution, the highest resolution achieved for a living organism of this size. To give you a size scale about 1 million angstroms is the diameter of a human hair. That is incredibly small and the researchers want to push it to 3 or 4 angstrom resolution, which would allow them to visualize individual amino acids in a protein chain. This work will probably be invaluable in determining just how viral infections take place at the cell to virus surface. Stay tuned...

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Wind Power!

The World's first residential wind turbine is now available for purchase! The Power Save Wind Turbine is able to produce 2.5 times more power than conventional wind turbines.

Power Save is a company who has offered residential solar panels for a few years now and has jumped into the wind market. It will be interesting to track their sales and see what kind of numbers they can generate in the US. More on the Power Save Wind Turbine.

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God Retracts Endorsement of Huckabee.

Anyone remember Huckabee saying this after winning the Iowa caucus?

HUCKABEE: There’s only one explanation for it, and it’s not a human one. It’s the same power that helped a little boy with two fish and five loaves feed a crowd of five thousand people. (Applause) That’s the only way that our campaign can be doing what it’s doing. And I’m not being facetious nor am I trying to be trite. There literally are thousands of people across this country who are praying that a little will become much, and it has. And it defies all explanation, it has confounded the pundits. And I’m enjoying every minute of them trying to figure it out, and until they look at it, from a, just experience beyond human, they’ll never figure it out. And it’s probably just as well. That’s honestly why it’s happening.
Well Huck, can you explain why the man upstairs would endorse a candidate to win a state but not the whole country? The bearded white man works in mysterious ways.

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March 4th Primary Results

Big night last night at the polls. The Republican nominee looks to be locked up, with McCain taking all 4 primaries last night and mathematically eliminating the Huckster. I'm a little sad. I would have loved to see the GOP attempt to justify running a candidate, like Huckabee, who denies almost every established scientific truth in the name of Gawd, and who believes we need to amend the Constitution to ban gay marriage and a few other equally crazy positions. It would have been fun to see GW's vision of a unified GOP/Christocrat ticket cause the Republican Party to go down forever in a ball of flames, scandal, and shame. Alas, it is not to be. But fear not, Lovers of Truth and Sanity, McBush is still more than capable of destroying his party, and it remains a near certainty that no candidate running as the Second Coming of Bush, on a platform of No More Jobs and Tons More War, will ever win a spelling bee, much less the highest office in the land.

On to the news that matters, the Dems. Ok, so I am an admitted Obama supporter, just for the sake of full disclosure. So last night was a little tough for me to take. Obama looked poised to sweep Texas, which would have made it extremely difficult for Clinton to justify staying in the race. Yet, results via

Ohio: Clinton 54%(62 delegates) - Obama 44%(46 delegates)
Rhode Island: Clinton 58%(12) - Obama 40%(8)
Texas: Clinton 51%(16) - Obama 48%(10) ***Caucus Results Still Pending***
Vermont: Clinton 39%(6) - Obama 59%(9)

Not quite the Obama hammer-blow most folks were looking for. Clinton is a tough ol' gal, and she's not going anywhere without a fight. Obviously, Ohio was a big win for her, and RI was an unexpected windfall. That state was going to Obama, according to the ever-fallible Conventional Wisdom. Obama dominated VT, as was expected.

Texas is the big story. An incredibly close race, and the full results are still in the works. From my amateur understanding, Hillary took the overall majority in TX, but Obama may have "won" the state. We're still waiting on the results of the caucus to determine the final delegate allocation, but the talk is that Obama might actually walk away with more delegates, as he won the more populated precincts with more delegates to offer. This is still an unclear point as of now, as the results of delegate assignments are still coming in. In either case, Obama led the race before March 4th by 150 delegates, and after Clinton's wins last night, he still leads by something around 140 delegates. And there are only few hundred left to assign, so if the split continues to be 50/50, it will be extremely difficult for Clinton to close the gap. Hillary won some big states last night, but states don't get you the nomination, delegates do, and right now, Obama is flush.

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Creationists Fail to Take Texas School Board

So the Presidential Primary in Texas was yesterday, but another equally important vote was won in the Texas School Board.

Barney Maddox ran a weird campaign where he spent $120,000 to the incumbent Pat Hardy's $10,000. But Maddox refused interviews and really only put forth one statement of purpose and that was to include creationism in the state textbooks (and thereby leverage national bookmaking companies to sell creationist edited books, more here). Hardy won handily.

Mary Helen Berlanga, also challenged by a right-wing creationist soundly defeated her in District 2.

Later this year the Texas School Board will come together to adopt new science curriculum standards, and these two nutballs luckily won't be there to spew their creationist agenda.

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Universal Healthcare?

For what its worth, in about 2-3 months the Presidential race is going to heat up and hopefully some real issues will cross the table. Healthcare will definitely be one of these issues and the big debate will be on whether to keep our current system or switch to a publicly managed insurance system.

I make no secret that Universal healthcare should be a pillar of modern society and public health. With the amount of travel and personal exposure due to rising population density it is important that we value the health of our neighbors and fellow citizens.

So my question is why is there such an upwelling of support against a universally accepted insurance program? Currently in the US we have 2 different publicly managed insurance programs. One is Medicare/Medicaid and the other is the for national children's health insurance. Currently most Americans are happy with this system and believe that it is right to help insure those with fixed incomes and those too young to care for themselves.

In 2001, the median income for Medicare receiving families was $20,000. The cost of Medicare is 15% of the cost for private coverage which means many of these families could never afford private insurance. It is estimated that 43 million individuals who are not on a fixed income receive Medicare benefits, that is over 10% of the nation (most in the working population) that would not be covered if not for the public system now in place.

Another concern is exactly how we're going to pay for this. And that is a good question that policy makers will have to address going forward. One fallacy of universal healthcare is that we will have to pay to insure those who aren't contributing to the healthcare fund. While this may be true and another roadblock to universal coverage, the truth is that many people today are receiving treatment at our public hospitals and not paying for it. Many of these people contribute very little to no tax revenue and are still receiving services at no charge. These services and time logged by physicians and nurses still have to be paid, they are not a pro-bono service, and will receive payments whether the patient can pay or not. This payment comes in the form of increased insurance premiums and elevated cost of service.

If a hospital can expect 60% of people receiving CT scans to be able to pay, the cost of each CT scan is going to rise as the cost of unpaid service has to be ameliorated through a concurrent price increase in each individual procedure. Now that a CT scan price has increased any insurance company with a client receiving a CT scan will now have to pay more for the procedure than previously. The rise in price is not absorbed by anyone other than the patient themselves as their premiums and most likely deductible will continue to rise as the insurance company is responsible for higher procedural payments. To compound the problem, the insurance company is not seeking good faith and word of mouth advertising, they are looking at their profits.

Here is another reason why healthcare here is so expensive. If a procedure costs $100 and the insurance company is responsible for $80 your copay is $20. That doesn't sound too bad, but why do you have to pay $300 a month to maintain your coverage? The answer is profits. In order for the insurance company to make money the consumer must pay above and beyond the cost of care received. Its really a simple equation, if the insurance company has to pay X you can be sure that you will be contributing X + Y to the insurance company in order to feed its profits. So you are paying both for your coverage and services received and the profit margin for the company. This is ridiculous, and add to it the cost of the doctor's profits and you are looking at a steep price with hidden profits behind every procedure you have done. If these companies are allowed to reap in huge profits it is not coming from the hospitals, physicians, or government, its coming from our pockets!

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March 4, 2008

NEJM Blasts Bush on S-CHIP Stance

In the latest edition of the New England Journal of Medicine, Sara Rosenbaum writes a scathing article detailing why Bush's opposition to S-CHIP (State Children's Health Insurance Program) isn't based on economics, but rather Bush's right-wing dogmas.

This is just another example of the administration putting the screws to those who aren't in their party. How can you withhold care to millions of children because you're afraid of exposing huge corporate machines in the insurance industry. Its time that the power in this country get out of the pockets of large corporations. It is insane that healthcare in this country costs more for every single product or procedure than those countries we count among our peers.

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Pro-Hillary Group Running False Ads in Texas just busted the Hillary campaign running a false ad in Texas. In the ad the narrator says Barack's plan won't cover 15 million Americans while Hillary's would cover every American. The source for the stat is a 2/14/2008 article on about the two candidates health plans. have said, "we quoted independent experts who predict that Obama's plan would leave out 15 million or more who would choose to go without coverage, but we also said that even Clinton's mandate "would leave out a million people or perhaps more, depending on how severe the penalties would be for those who don't comply.""

Small stuff, but you think these guys would be careful enough not to stir up bad press like misquoting a fact based resource.

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Incredibly Talented Photographer Barry Stone

is exhibiting an outdoor installation of large photos of galaxies made from flour at the Buffalo Bayou Art Park in Houston. The dates are from March 1-May 2. If you get a chance go check it out, he is an amazing artist.

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Clinton Campaign's Press Room

Wow. What else can you say?

This is freakin' hilarious. Sounds like something out of a Hunter S. Thompson novel.

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Its All About the Vaccines.

So after John McCain's statement that mercury based vaccinations were causing autism the anti-vaccination crowd started to rumble a little louder. Most groups want you to believe that they are against vaccines because mercury has caused autism and other neurological disorders in children (a claim which the CDC and the American Academy of Pediatrics). But the truth of the matter is that most of the groups are plain anti-vaccination and are using this mercury tactic as a ploy to circumvent the vaccination process. Take a look at this ad:

Now it looks like a rather straightforward poster with easy to read and significant data. But let me break it down. The syringe on the left indicates there were only 10 mandatory vaccines in "1983" and 1 in 10,000 children had autism. The "2008" syringe contains 36 vaccinations (although Generation Rescue cheats by including the prenatal flu vaccine recommended for pregnant women and several non-mandatory flu vaccines to pump up the 2008 number). Then comes the big bomb in the text with more fallacies than gnostic gospels.

"The statistics speak for themselves. Since 1983, the number of vaccines the CDC recommends we give to our kids has gone from 10 to 36, a whopping increase of 260%. And, with it, the prevalence of neurological disorders like autism and ADHD has grown exponentially as well.

Just a coincidence? We don't think so. Thousands of parents believe their child's regression into autism was triggered, if not caused, by over-immunization with toxic ingredients and live viruses found in vaccines. The Centers for Disease Control and the American Academy of Pediatrics dispute this but independent research and the first-hand accounts of parents tell a different story."

Since 1983 a few other things have happened that are ignored in the text. For example, in the early 1990s, the diagnostic criteria for autism were broadened, and campaigns for greater awareness were begun. Diagnoses of autism in 1983 were made using the DSM-III, where the criteria for an autism diagnosis were much more restrictive than those in the DSM-IV, released in the early 1990s. Moreover, in 1983, categories of Asperger's and pervasive developmental disorder-not otherwise specified, both of which are lumped into the 1 in 150 figure for 2008, weren't recognized in the DSM-III. In 1983 the Apple Macintosh debuted and IBM released a PC, the first CD also showed up later that year. I blame the rise in autism on these three things (I really don't, but you see my point).

And a lot of other things have happened since 1983 as well, but to Jenny McCarthy and now John McCain it has to be those evil vaccines. And since the mercury theory is taking a beating in the scientific community the antivax people were ready to up and move onto something else.

Why do we only test vaccines individually and never consider the combination risk of vaccines administered together? Given the dramatic rise of autism to epidemic levels, isn't it time for the scientific community to seriously consider the anecdotal evidence of so many parents?

Here note the moving of the goalposts and unfalsifiable hypothesis that it is some "combination" of vaccines that causes autism. How would you test this theory unless you purposely withhold necessary and sometimes lifesaving vaccines from very young children? I'm sure the antivax would love that but it is unethical to subject children to an increased risk of disease contraction to see if you're right. Note the post hoc ergo propter hoc fallacy and conspiracy mongering. Everytime one of their theories on causation is shot down by scientific studies they never give up, and just keep going. If you still think this is about the mercury then check out this rally held by a group of antivax.

If that doesn't seal the deal then I don't know what does. These guys have surrounded themselves with a false theory and are attacking the medical community based on false observation and conspiracy mongering.

And usually I would let this lie, but now a possible President has thrown his hat behind the antivax movement. This is an egregious miscalculation and oversight by a large public figure. Universal vaccination is one of the pillars of modern community health and circumventing the health of the nation to pander to right-wing conspiracy theorists is unacceptable for someone who will control the machinery of our public health system. Beware if McCain is elected, he obviously will support science very little.

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Happy Primary Day!

Get your butts out and vote if you're in Texas, Ohio, Vermont, or Rhode Island.

Gig' Em Obama!

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March 3, 2008

"Strong Evidence" Mercury Causes Autism claims McCain

Jake Tapper, ABC News' Senior National Correspondent, reports John McCain's views on thimerosal and autism.

At a town hall meeting Friday in Texas, Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., declared that "there's strong evidence" that thimerosal, a mercury-based preservative that was once in many childhood vaccines, is responsible for the increased diagnoses of autism in the U.S. -- a position in stark contrast with the view of the medical establishment.
McCain said, per ABC News' Bret Hovell, that "It's indisputable that (autism) is on the rise amongst children, the question is what's causing it. And we go back and forth and there's strong evidence that indicates that it's got to do with a preservative in vaccines."

Really John? Well lets check out what the established medical and research community has to say about this.

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) says "evidence from several studies examining trends in vaccine use and changes in autism frequency does not support such an association." The CDC was supported by a scientific review* by the Institute of Medicine (IOM) which concluded the "evidence favors the rejection of a causal relationship between thimerosal-containing vaccines and autism."

The American Academy of Pediatrics says "No scientific data link thimerosal used as a preservative in vaccines with any pediatric neurologic disorder, including autism."

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) conducted a review in 1999 -- the year thimerosal was ordered to be removed from most vaccines -- and said that it "found no evidence of harm from the use of thimerosal as a vaccine preservative, other than local hypersensitivity reactions."

And a study of California Department of Developmental Services data published last month indicated that there was "an increase in autism in California despite the removal of thimerosal from most vaccines."

There is a vocal and determined group of medical researchers who dispute what the medical community says about the issue. One question they ask is why would the thimerosal have been removed from the vaccines if there was no real harm? The answer so far has been, according to the Public Health Service, "because any potential risk is of concern."

Either way the Republican nominee is stating that he at the very least isn't as sure about thimerosal than the medical community. Even further, the way he speaks about the vaccine totally masks the fact that the thimerosal is gone from almost every childhood vaccine, and has been since 1999. Now explain that John.

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2 comments: Back!

Update from an earlier post. The judge in this case has admitted that his first order demanding the sites American address,, be shut down perhaps went too far. He has resinded that order. Score one up for free speech and whistle blowers' rights. Whoop

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Are you Thirsty Yet? Give it 20 Years...

Drinking water, its something so inconspicuous that most of us take it for granted. If you think about it, there's nothing stopping you from turning on every faucet in your house and leaving them on while you go to work (besides the cost). Our ease of access to clean, public drinking water has diminished our concern for the quality of water as well as the planning and management of future water use.

Of utmost importance to those studying our water supply is the protection from point source and non-point source pollution and contamination. Every year we are dumping more and more hazardous or foreign materials into the water table and open reservoir system. This does not bode well for our future and here's why.

Water, just like oil, has a finite supply. There is the same amount of water on Earth now as when it was formed (you may drink water the Neanderthals drank). Freshwater, safe for drinking, has a much smaller supply. Of all water on the Earth 0.76% can be found as fresh groundwater, 0.007% is found as freshwater lakes, and 0.0002% is found in rivers. So our total pool for drinking water is only 0.7672% of all water found on Earth. That's only 2,548,339 cubic miles of water! And this supply is only getting smaller as it takes about 100 years for a water molecule to get from the ocean to a freshwater source. In the US we have 25 states under drought conditions, with 9 suffering from extreme to exceptional drought. Atlanta is going to have their wakeup call before anyone else as its been predicted their reservoir system will be drained in 10 years if rainfall doesn't increase or a more progressive management system isn't utilized.

So yeah the supply of drinking water is a small percentage of total water on the Earth, but who cares? Well I do for one, and here's a few reasons why.

Rocky Mountain National Park reports trout in 5 lakes have both male and female sex organs. These fish have never had a sex determination naturally that ended in hermaphrodites and the cause of this has been pinned on pollution in the water altering endocrine function in the fish. Fish are great biomarkers for the health of water reservoirs because they are constantly exposed to all contaminants and are an early warning sign of what water can do to us.

China recently has had great problems as it becomes industrialized as large plants are dumping toxic chemicals into their river systems (see photo above). Government oversight has been slow to respond to the threats and many people have lost access to public drinking water. In fact, China has 2 of the top 10 polluted places on Earth. Around Tianying the birth defect rate is so high that it passes stroke as the leading cause of morbidity and mortality. Just last month over 60,000 Chinese citizens had to rely on bottled water for their needs due to a massive runoff of a coal plant. And this isn't the first time this has happened in China, in November 2005 a spill of cancer-causing chemicals, including benzene, forced the government to cut off drinking water to 3.8 million people for 5 days.

Another aspect of all of this dumping is that all of the waterways in the world are connected. Throughout the water cycle a molecule will travel from ocean to precipitation to groundwater to rivers, and the cycle has no concern for national or international borders. Russia has had to deal with 3 large chemical spills in China that were washed into Russian territory by rainfall and river runoff.

But what about Texas?
The red areas of this map indicate polluted waters in Texas. It comes out to about 30% of surface water which is contaminated by some sort of pollutant. This could be bacterial blooms, toxins, heavy metals, or plastic based by-products. We need to stand up and protect our waterways before we are in a situation like Georgia.

Texas leads the nation in the number of treatment plants and industrial facilities that fail to meet pollution standards for the wastewater they dump into rivers and streams.

A report by US Pirg, Troubled Waters, found that 318, or about 53 percent, of the state's major industrial and wastewater plants failed Clean Water Act standards in at least one of 12 reporting periods in 2005.

A 2003 state auditor's report that looked at 80 pollution cases backs that contention. The auditor found that state fines for the pollution cases totaled less than $1.7 million, but the facilities involved benefited more than $8.6 million by not complying with regulations.

And the problem isn't always industry. Check out this waterway in China meant to runoff to the local treatment plant. After a good rain everything in the trash leaches back into the water supply and continues to build to a toxic level. Over time this will effect the microflora and fauna which is the backbone to a healthy pond or stream environment. Without those primary producers and the oxygen their photosynthesis produces there is no way to sustain a large tissued animal.

And the problem isn't confined to the up-and-comers of the world. Right here in the US you can see scenes like this in Los Angeles. We need to wake up people and see what we're doing to the environment.

More After the Fold...


Texans of Fort Worth, Parker, Ellis, and Johnson counties: Vote for Pat Hardy!

There's a school board election in District 11 of Texas that has a clear choice: Pat Hardy is the pro-science candidate, despite being a conservative, religious Baptist, while her opponent is a deranged lunatic who is quietly outspending her 12:1 while avoiding the public eye altogether. You do not want to vote for Barney Maddox — he is an "ill-informed nutcase".

What's weird is how people across the country and tuning in to see how this Texas thing goes. In Minnesota a fellow blogger covering the situation said, "we're affected by the outcomes of local school board races in Texas — allowing ignorant, raving lunatics to make textbook decisions there is going to shape the choices we get to make here." So if you know any Texans, spread the word: Barney Maddox is bad news.

As a little background, Texas, along with Florida, buy more textbooks than the rest of the nation combined so creationists are looking to change the Texas curriculum to include creationist information. Most likely to save costs, the book companies will print only the versions with creationist info and distribute it around the country. This is why many scientists and policy makers are watching Texas and Florida closely about this issue.

More After the Fold...


Our Children Will Never Forgive Us

So after the optimism of the last post, this one is kinda hard to stomach. Apparently, Democrats really do suck just as much as we all thought they do.

Apparently, according to the AP and, House Rep Reyes (D- TX) has given indication that the Dems are preparing to run their favorite political power play against the Thugs-That-Be, the patented "Cave-Like-A-Little-Bitch" maneuver. Looks like their response to the American Peoples' message in Nov. '06, (the one where we screamed "Stand Up to Bush!" from the ballot box) is to once again hand the Criminal In Chief everything he wants on a silver platter. Maybe we'll piss and moan about "political realities" and "vote counts" in the aftermath, but meaningful opposition to the lawbreaking, Constitution-defiling, corporate money-loving policies of this administration? Forget about it. Not with these Dems folks, thats not what we're about. We're gonna do everything we can to make sure we, and the American People, are bent over nice and pretty for BushCo to take a whack at whenever they get that old-fashioned, Abu Ghraib feeling.

Ok, so a translation from my out-of-control partisan ranting. Bush and the Telecoms have been breaking the law since 2001. That one law, written down somewhere, that says the gov. must get a warrant before searching American citizen's property. Bush said we would all die if Congress didn't legislate those pesky crimes away (Surprise! That was a lie.), and in the process, remove the possibility that a court case might expose, well, what courts are supposed to expose; that a crime had been committed. The Senate Dems, following proud tradition, said "Yes sir, Mr. Preznit, anything else we can do for you today?" and gave in on his demands for Telecom immunity. The House actually balked, let the law (whose expiration the R's claimed would cause THE END OF THE WORLD) expire (the world is still here), and looked like they might stand up to Chimpy and allow an actual court to determine if the law had been broken, instead of Dick Cheney.

Now if this story is correct, that might be all out the window. Here comes Telecom Immunity. There goes accountability.

Welcome to the United States of Fear


More After the Fold...


Yeah, So We're Gloating

Pretty much every statistic relating to the '08 race has been positive for the good guys (Dems) and negative for the very bad guys (Repugs). Everything from voter turnout, first-time voters, young voters, polls about everything including the candidates' favorite flavor of ice cream (/snark), comparison polls b/w Hillary/Barack vs. McBush, etc. Yet this one really blows the mind. Dems have been out-raising the hell outa the Bad Guys. A money advantage is not something the Left is accustom to, so I'm excited to see where we can go with not only the popular support in our corner, but the ciz-ash as well.

And yeah, we're gloating a little bit...

More After the Fold...