Added: June 03, 2009
– Airborne fungus Ug99 threatens global wheat harvest (The Guardian):
“The US army produced wheat rust as part of its biological weapons programme in the 1960s.”
– UN alert: One-fourth of world’s wheat at risk from new fungus (World Tribune)
– Billions at risk from wheat super-blight (New Scientist)
Oregon State scientist Mary Verhoeven is among those working to develop wheat varieties resistant to a strain of “stem rust” that a colleague calls “a time bomb.”
The Ug99 fungus, called stem rust, could wipe out more than 80% of the world’s wheat as it spreads from Africa, scientists fear. The race is on to breed resistant plants before it reaches the U.S.
The spores arrived from Kenya on dried, infected leaves ensconced in layers of envelopes.
Working inside a bio-secure greenhouse outfitted with motion detectors and surveillance cameras, government scientists at the Cereal Disease Laboratory in St. Paul, Minn., suspended the fungal spores in a light mineral oil and sprayed them onto thousands of healthy wheat plants. After two weeks, the stalks were covered with deadly reddish blisters characteristic of the scourge known as Ug99.
Nearly all the plants were goners.
Crop scientists fear the Ug99 fungus could wipe out more than 80% of worldwide wheat crops as it spreads from eastern Africa. It has already jumped the Red Sea and traveled as far as Iran. Experts say it is poised to enter the breadbasket of northern India and Pakistan, and the wind will inevitably carry it to Russia, China and even North America — if it doesn’t hitch a ride with people first.
“It’s a time bomb,” said Jim Peterson, a professor of wheat breeding and genetics at Oregon State University in Corvallis. “It moves in the air, it can move in clothing on an airplane. We know it’s going to be here. It’s a matter of how long it’s going to take.”
The documents also revealed Lilly officials wrote medical journal studies about Zyprexa and then asked doctors to put their names on the articles, a practice called “ghostwriting.”
Lilly employees compiled a guide to hiring scientists to write favorable articles, complained to journal editors when publication was delayed and submitted rejected articles to other outlets, according to the documents.
The drug has never been approved for use with dementia patients, according to the FDA’s Web site.
A file photograph of Eli Lilly & Co.’s schizophrenia medication, Zyprexa, in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Photographer: JB Reed/Bloomberg News
June 12 (Bloomberg) — Eli Lilly & Co. urged doctors to prescribe Zyprexa for elderly patients with dementia, an unapproved use for the antipsychotic, even though the drugmaker had evidence the medicine didn’t work for such patients, according to unsealed internal company documents.
In 1999, four years after Lilly sent study results to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration showing Zyprexa didn’t alleviate dementia symptoms in older patients, it began marketing the drug to those very people, according to documents unsealed in insurer suits against the company for overpayment.
Regulators required Lilly and other antipsychotic drug- makers in April 2005 to warn that the products posed an increased risk to elderly patients with dementia. The documents show the health dangers in marketing a drug for an unapproved use, called off-label promotion, said Sidney Wolfe, head of the health research group at Public Citizen in Washington.
“By definition, off-label means there is no clear evidence that the benefits of a drug outweigh the risks,” Wolfe said. “The reason why off-label promotion is illegal is that you can greatly magnify the number of people who will be harmed.”
In 1999, when Lilly began its marketing push, Zyprexa’s only approved use was for patients suffering from schizophrenia, according to the FDA. In 2008, Zyprexa was Lilly’s best-selling drug, with $4.7 billion in sales, while antipsychotics as a group topped U.S. drug sales last year, with $14.6 billion.
In a request for a December 2003 meeting over a proposed label change, Lilly told the FDA that data from seven studies showed Zyprexa didn’t alleviate symptoms of Alzheimer’s or other dementia.
The studies found death rates among older dementia patients taking Zyprexa were “significantly greater” than those who didn’t get the medicine, the company said, according to the unsealed documents.
Statement before the US House of Representatives, June 4, 2009
By Ron Paul:
Madam Speaker, before voting on the “cap-and-trade” legislation, my colleagues should consider the views expressed in the following petition that has been signed by 31,478 American scientists:
“We urge the United States government to reject the global warming agreement that was written in Kyoto, Japan in December, 1997, and any other similar proposals. The proposed limits on greenhouse gases would harm the environment, hinder the advance of science and technology, and damage the health and welfare of mankind.
There is no convincing scientific evidence that human release of carbon dioxide, methane, or other greenhouse gases is causing or will, in the foreseeable future, cause catastrophic heating of the Earth’s atmosphere and disruption of the Earth’s climate. Moreover, there is substantial scientific evidence that increases in atmospheric carbon dioxide produce many beneficial effects upon the natural plant and animal environments of the Earth.”
Circulated through the mail by a distinguished group of American physical scientists and supported by a definitive review of the peer-reviewed scientific literature, this may be the strongest and most widely supported statement on this subject that has been made by the scientific community. A state-by-state listing of the signers, which include 9,029 men and women with PhD degrees, a listing of their academic specialties, and a peer-reviewed summary of the science on this subject are available at www.petitionproject.org.
The peer-reviewed summary, “Environmental Effects of Increased Atmospheric Carbon Dioxide” by A. B. Robinson, N. E. Robinson, and W. Soon includes 132 references to the scientific literature and was circulated with the petition.
Signers of this petition include 3,803 with specific training in atmospheric, earth, and environmental sciences. All 31,478 of the signers have the necessary training in physics, chemistry, and mathematics to understand and evaluate the scientific data relevant to the human-caused global warming hypothesis and to the effects of human activities upon environmental quality.
In a letter circulated with this petition, Frederick Seitz – past President of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences, President Emeritus of Rockefeller University, and recipient of honorary doctorate degrees from 32 universities throughout the world – wrote:
Some researchers believe that the solar cycle influences global climate changes. They attribute recent warming trends to cyclic variation. Skeptics, though, argue that there’s little hard evidence of a solar hand in recent climate changes.
Now, a new research report from a surprising source may help to lay this skepticism to rest.
Solar activity has shown a major spike in the twentieth century, corresponding to global warming. This cyclic variation was acknowledged by a recent NASA study, which reviewed a great deal of past climate data.
A study from NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland looking at climate data over the past century has concluded that solar variation has made a significant impact on the Earth’s climate. The report concludes that evidence for climate changes based on solar radiation can be traced back as far as the Industrial Revolution.
Past research has shown that the sun goes through eleven year cycles. At the cycle’s peak, solar activity occurring near sunspots is particularly intense, basking the Earth in solar heat. According to Robert Cahalan, a climatologist at the Goddard Space Flight Center, “Right now, we are in between major ice ages, in a period that has been called the Holocene.”
Past studies have shown that sunspot numbers correspond to warming or cooling trends. The twentieth century has featured heightened activity, indicating a warming trend.
Thomas Woods, solar scientist at the University of Colorado in Boulder concludes, “The fluctuations in the solar cycle impacts Earth’s global temperature by about 0.1 degree Celsius, slightly hotter during solar maximum and cooler during solar minimum. The sun is currently at its minimum, and the next solar maximum is expected in 2012.”
(NaturalNews) More than 1,300 girls in the United Kingdom have experienced negative reactions to the government-mandated Cervarix vaccine for the human papillomavirus (HPV), according to adverse events reports collected from doctors by the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA).
“When they introduced this new vaccine, we had major concerns about its safety,” said Jackie Fletcher of Jabs, a support group for those negatively affected by vaccines. “The current statistics detailing adverse reactions — including cases of epilepsy and convulsions — bears out that we were right to be concerned.”
Cervarix, manufactured by GlaxoSmithKline, inoculates patients against strains 16 and 18 of HPV, which are believed to be responsible for 70 percent of cervical cancer cases. The British government began a program to vaccinate all secondary school girls in September 2008, and 700,000 have received the injections so far. The government’s plan is to have all girls under the age of 18 vaccinated by 2011.
When and what to fire will be part of hardware and software ‘package’
Lethal military robots are currently deployed in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan. Ground-based robots like QinetiQ’s MAARS robot (shown here), are armed with weapons to shoot insurgents, appendages to disarm bombs, and surveillance equipment to search buildings. A Georgia Tech computer science professor is developing a package of software and hardware that tells robots when and what to fire.
Smart missiles, rolling robots, and flying drones currently controlled by humans, are being used on the battlefield more every day. But what happens when humans are taken out of the loop, and robots are left to make decisions, like who to kill or what to bomb, on their own?
Ronald Arkin, a professor of computer science at Georgia Tech, is in the first stages of developing an “ethical governor,” a package of software and hardware that tells robots when and what to fire. His book on the subject, “Governing Lethal Behavior in Autonomous Robots,” comes out this month.
He argues not only can robots be programmed to behave more ethically on the battlefield, they may actually be able to respond better than human soldiers.
“Ultimately these systems could have more information to make wiser decisions than a human could make,” said Arkin. “Some robots are already stronger, faster and smarter than humans. We want to do better than people, to ultimately save more lives.”
Lethal military robots are currently deployed in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan. Ground-based robots like iRobot’s SWORDS or QinetiQ’s MAARS robots, are armed with weapons to shoot insurgents, appendages to disarm bombs, and surveillance equipment to search buildings. Flying drones can fire at insurgents on the ground. Patriot missile batteries can detect incoming missiles and send up other missiles to intercept and destroy them.
Breathing in small bits of dust and soot may reprogram your DNA in as little as three days, possibly causing increased rates of lung cancer and other diseases, a May 2009 study says.
Researchers tracked DNA damage in 63 steel-foundry workers in Brescia, Italy (above, a worker cuts steel in Ohio in 2004) who, under their normal factory conditions, were exposed to particulate matter. Photograph by Ron Schwane/AP
Breathing in polluted air may wreak havoc on our DNA, reprogramming genes in as few as three days and causing increased rates of cancer and other diseases.
So says a new study that tracked DNA damage in 63 steel-foundry workers in Brescia, Italy, who, under their normal factory conditions, were exposed to particulate matter.
The same damage may occur in city dwellers exposed to normal air, the researchers say.
Particulate matter includes suspended, tiny bits of dust, metal, or soot in the air, which can lodge deep in the lungs. Exposure to the substance has been linked to respiratory diseases, lung cancer, and heart problems.
Scientists know little about how inhaling particulate matter can cause health problems, according to lead study author Andrea Baccarelli of the University of Milan.
But they did find that exposed workers’ DNA was damaged by a slowed rate of “methylation,” a biological process in which genes are organized into different chemical groups.
Pentagon Preps Soldier Telepathy Push
Forget the battlefield radios, the combat PDAs or even infantry hand signals. When the soldiers of the future want to communicate, they’ll read each other’s minds.
At least, that’s the hope of researchers at the Pentagon’s mad-science division Darpa. The agency’s budget for the next fiscal year includes $4 million to start up a program called Silent Talk. The goal is to “allow user-to-user communication on the battlefield without the use of vocalized speech through analysis of neural signals.” That’s on top of the $4 million the Army handed out last year to the University of California to investigate the potential for computer-mediated telepathy.
Before being vocalized, speech exists as word-specific neural signals in the mind. Darpa wants to develop technology that would detect these signals of “pre-speech,” analyze them, and then transmit the statement to an intended interlocutor. Darpa plans to use EEG to read the brain waves. It’s a technique they’re also testing in a project to devise mind-reading binoculars that alert soldiers to threats faster the conscious mind can process them.
(NaturalNews) According to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, most researchers believe exposure to some kind of toxin or toxins in the environment triggers the development of Parkinson’s disease (PD) — the degenerative disorder of the central nervous system that impairs motor skills (including walking), speech and other functions.
Pesticides have long been on the list of possible suspects as a PD-causing toxin. But a new study just published in the American Journal of Epidemiology by University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA) scientists appears to be the “smoking gun” that places pesticides at the top of that list.
They found that exposure to a combination of two widely used pesticides increased the risk of Parkinson’s disease by an incredible 75 percent.
In previous animal studies and cell cultures, researchers have shown pesticides spark a neurodegenerative process that leads to Parkinson’s disease. The UCLA scientists, however, are the first to provide evidence for a similar process in humans.
They came up with their alarming results by analyzing an epidemiological study of Central Valley, California, residents. The region is one of the nation’s top food-growing regions and crops like potatoes, dry beans and tomatoes have long been routinely sprayed with fungicides, herbicides and pesticides.