Technology

TECHNOLOGY, FOOD, ANIMAL RIGHTS, HEALTH:

I Scream Clone

Cloning won’t mean cute new little friends like these, what it means is the FDA approves farm animals for cloning.

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By Elizabeth Fiend 

In 1952 a special tadpole was born. It was the first animal ever cloned. After that breakthrough, scientists spent many years and many millions of dollars on unsuccessful cloning attempts. Then, in 1997, it was ‘Hello, Dolly,’ when this sheep became the first successfully cloned mammal. Since Dolly’s celebrated birth, scientists have cloned many different animals including goats, cows, horses, pigs, rabbits and mice. A guar (an exotic ox native to India) named Noah was the first endangered animal to be cloned, but unfortunately he lived only 48 hours.

There’s also been a big push to clone our beloved pets, for love and profit. The cat came first, then a dog. But it wasn’t easy and as it turns out, the cloning of pets wasn’t as profitable a business as some had hoped. Now the biotechnology industry has turned much of its attention to cloning barn yard animals for future human consumption.

The Food and Drug Administration has released an 800-page report which concluded that the milk and meat from cloned cattle, pigs and goats and their offspring is as safe to eat as the food we currently consume. They also added that they won’t recommend special labels for food from a cloned source, because the food from cloned animals is “virtually indistinguishable” from conventional food.

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‘Asbestos Warning’ on Nanotubes

Awhile back I wrote an article about nanotechnology predicating that things might get scary with this new and largely unregulated industry.

And now, disturbing evidence as to the safety of nanotechnology in every day objects like tennis rackets is starting to come in. Below is an article from the BBC News which suggests carbon-tube shaped nanomaterial, which has the same shape as asbestos molecules, might be leading to health and environmental dangers similar to what was experienced with asbestos production and use.

Read the new report below, and to see my primer on nanotechnology and what it’s all about click here. Love, Elizabeth Fiend

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By Jonathan Fildes
Science and technology reporter, BBC News

Source: BBC.com

Carbon nanotubes, the poster child of the burgeoning nanotechnology industry, could trigger diseases similar to those caused by asbestos, a study suggests.

Specific lengths of the tiny fibres were found to cause “asbestos-like” inflammation and lesions in mice.

Use of asbestos triggered a pandemic of lung disease in the 20th Century.

There are high hopes for the tiny carbon molecules, which have remarkable properties that could be used for advanced electronics and materials.

“As a society, we cannot afford not to exploit this incredible material but neither can we afford to get it wrong – as we did with asbestos,” said Dr Andrew Maynard of the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington DC, US.

They are already known to be incorporated into products such as tennis rackets, bicycle handlebars and baseball bats, where they are used because of their strength and light weight.

Other undocumented products may also make use of them, the researchers said, but companies did not have a duty to report their use.

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Union of Concerned Scientists Position on Nuclear Power and Its Place In Slowing Global Warming

The Union of Concerned Scientists is the leading science-based nonprofit working for a healthy environment and a safer world. UCS combines independent scientific research and citizen action to develop innovative, practical solutions and to secure responsible changes in government policy, corporate practices, and consumer choices.

Source: Union of Concerned Scientists Posted by: Elizabeth Fiend

To address global warming, we need a profound transformation of the ways in which we generate and consume energy. The urgency of this situation demands that we be willing to consider all possible options for coping with climate change.

In examining each option we must take into account its impact on public health, safety, and security, the time required for large scale deployment, and its costs.

While there are currently some global warming emissions associated with the nuclear fuel cycle and plant construction, when nuclear plants operate they do not produce carbon dioxide. This fact is used to support proposals for a large-scale expansion of nuclear power both in the United States and around the world.

It must be borne in mind that a large-scale expansion of nuclear power in the United States or worldwide under existing conditions would be accompanied by an increased risk of catastrophic events—a risk not associated with any of the non-nuclear means for reducing global warming.

These catastrophic events include a massive release of radiation due to a power plant meltdown or terrorist attack, or the death of tens of thousands due to the detonation of a nuclear weapon made with materials obtained from a civilian—most likely non-U.S.—nuclear power system.

Expansion of nuclear power would also produce large amounts of radioactive waste that would pose a serious hazard as long as there remain no facilities for safe long-term disposal.

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Firms Seek Patents on ‘Climate Ready’ Altered Crops

This is a really sick item. These companies aren’t going to try to fix climate change, just profit off it when things become bad. Boo! Shame on you Monsanto (again and again) and BASF. Posted by Elizabeth Fiend

Written By: Rick Weiss    Source: Washington Post

A handful of the world’s largest agricultural biotechnology companies are seeking hundreds of patents on gene-altered crops designed to withstand drought and other environmental stresses, part of a race for dominance in the potentially lucrative market for crops that can handle global warming, according to a report being released today.

Three companies — BASF of Germany, Syngenta of Switzerland and Monsanto of St. Louis — have filed applications to control nearly two-thirds of the climate-related gene families submitted to patent offices worldwide, according to the report by the Ottawa-based ETC Group, an activist organization that advocates for subsistence farmers.

The applications say that the new “climate ready” genes will help crops survive drought, flooding, saltwater incursions, high temperatures and increased ultraviolet radiation — all of which are predicted to undermine food security in coming decades.

Company officials dismissed the report’s contention that the applications amount to an intellectual-property “grab,” countering that gene-altered plants will be crucial to solving world hunger but will never be developed without patent protections.

The report highlights the economic opportunities facing the biotechnology industry at a time of growing food insecurity, as well as the risks to its public image.

Many of the world’s poorest countries, destined to be hit hardest by climate change, have rejected biotech crops, citing environmental and economic concerns. Importantly, gene patents generally preclude the age-old practice of saving seeds from a harvest for replanting, requiring instead that farmers purchase the high-tech seeds each year.

The ETC report concludes that biotech giants are hoping to leverage climate change as a way to get into resistant markets, and it warns that the move could undermine public-sector plant-breeding institutions such as those coordinated by the United Nations and the World Bank, which have long made their improved varieties freely available.

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Concrete Is Remixed With Environment in Mind

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The manufacturing of Portland cement is responsible for about 5 percent of human-caused emissions of the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide.

Source: New York Times

Posted by: Elizabeth Fiend

Written by: HENRY FOUNTAIN

Soaring above the Mississippi River just east of downtown Minneapolis is one remarkable concrete job.

There on Interstate 35W, the St. Anthony Falls Bridge carries 10 lanes of traffic on box girders borne by massive arching piers, which are supported, in turn, by footings and deep pilings.

The bridge, built to replace one that collapsed in 2007, killing 13 people, is constructed almost entirely of concrete embedded with steel reinforcing bars, or rebar. But it is hardly a monolithic structure: the components are made from different concrete mixes, the recipes tweaked, as a chef would, for specific strength and durability requirements and to reduce the impact on the environment. One mix, incorporated in wavy sculptures at both ends of the bridge, is designed to stay gleaming white by scrubbing stain-causing pollutants from the air.

The project, built for more than $230 million and finished in September, three months ahead of schedule, “might have been the most demanding concrete job in the United States in 2008,” said Richard D. Stehly, principal of American Engineering Testing, a Minneapolis firm that was involved in the project. It is a prime example of major changes in concrete production and use — changes that make use of basic research and are grounded, in part, in the need to reduce concrete’s carbon footprint.

Concrete may seem an unlikely material for scientific advances. At its most basic, a block of concrete is something like a fruitcake, but even more leaden and often just as unloved. The fruit in the mix is coarse aggregate, usually crushed rock. Fine aggregate, usually sand, is a major component as well. Add water and something to help bind it all together — eggs in a fruitcake, Portland cement in concrete — mix well, pour into a form and let sit for decades.

Let a lot of it sit. Every year, about a cubic yard of concrete is produced for each of the six-billion-plus people on the planet.

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Anniversary of Three Mile Island Reminds Us, Nuclear Power is Still Not the Answer
Statement of Tyson Slocum, Director, Public Citizen’s Energy Program

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Source: Public Citizen

Posted by: Elizabeth Fiend

WASHINGTON, DC -The anniversary of the Three Mile Island nuclear accident is a somber reminder of the fatal flaws of nuclear power and the unresolved dangers nuclear energy poses. However, despite the lessons learned from that catastrophe, the Bush administration is attempting to jump-start an industry that has been stagnant for almost three decades.

It’s almost as if the Bush administration forgot what happened March 28, 1979, when feedwater pumps failed at Three Mile Island nuclear plant near Harrisburg, Pa., leading to a partial core meltdown and the release of significant amounts of radiation. Prior to this event, mounting public concern and disastrous cost overruns led to the cancellation of most proposals for new reactors. Three Mile Island was the final blow.

Almost 30 years later, the flaws that halted interest in nuclear power have not changed. Cost, security, safety and waste proliferation are lingering problems that have yet to be resolved. Nuclear power is still dependent on taxpayer handouts for survival; plants still face safety shortcomings and lack of protection from terrorist attacks. Nuclear power is not a clean energy source, producing low- and high-level radioactive waste at every step of the process – from uranium mining to energy production.

What has changed since Three Mile Island? The nuclear industry has targeted not just ratepayers to bear the financial risk of these boondoggles, but is looking to saddle all taxpayers with the cost of guaranteeing the loans used to build new nuclear reactors.

Despite the president’s endorsement, nuclear power is not a solution to global warming. We have a 10-year window before global warming reaches its tipping point and major ecological and societal damage becomes unavoidable, says NASA scientist James Hansen. Even if a nuclear energy project was given government approval today, it would take about 10 years for the plant to start delivering electricity. The attempt to revitalize nuclear power is distracting us from cleaner, safer alternatives, such as renewable energy and energy efficiency.

Let’s remember Three Mile Island so that we don’t make the same mistakes. Written March 27, 2008

THREE MILE ISLAND a HISTORY

Source: Super70s.com

By Patrick Mondout

At four in the morning on March 28, 1979, a malfunction in the cooling system at the Three Mile Island Nuclear Generating Station led to the most serious commercial nuclear accident in US history and paved the way for reforms in the way nuclear power plants are operated and regulated. It also made Americans question the safety of nuclear power and helped make The China Syndrome – which had been released three weeks earlier – one of the biggest movies of the year.

About Three Mile Island

The Three Mile Island (TMI) Nuclear Generating station is located on 814 acres on an island in the Susquehanna River some 10 miles southeast of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania near some farmland. There are four separate generators at TMI and it was #2 that failed (it has been closed since then).

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FEDERAL GOVERNMENT TURNS THEIR EYE TO RENEWABLE  ENERGY ISSUES
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Source Associated Press. Posted by Elizabeth Fiend.

WASHINGTON – The Senate’s top Democrat is proposing special power lines to carry renewable energy,  like solar and wind power, from remote places. The Federal government would be able override states and direct where the lines would go and who would pay for them. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada unveiled his proposal Thursday. It is expected to become part of a broader energy bill the Senate plans to take up in the coming weeks. The green power lines would boost development of solar, wind and geothermal energy projects otherwise cut off from the nation’s electric grid. It’s also a proposal that Reid acknowledged in a news release would give “an enormous boost” to his own state of Nevada where companies are eyeing large solar projects.

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Ok, now we’re talking. Someone is putting on their thinking cap, stepping outside the box and making things HAPPEN.

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Google taking a step into power metering
By Matthew Wald and Miguel Helft

Source:  International Herald Tribune

Posted by Elizabeth Fiend

SAN FRANCISCO: Google will announce its entry Tuesday into the small but growing business of “smart grid,” digital technologies that seek to both keep the electrical system on an even keel and reduce electrical energy consumption.

Google is one of a number of companies devising ways to control the demand for electric power as an alternative to building more power plants. The company has developed a free Web service called PowerMeter that consumers can use to track energy use in their house or business as it is consumed.

Google is counting on others to build devices to feed data into PowerMeter technology. While it hopes to begin introducing the service in the next few months, it has not yet lined up hardware manufacturers.

“We can’t build this product all by ourselves,” said Kirsten Olsen Cahill, a program manager at Google.org, the company’s corporate philanthropy arm. “We depend on a whole ecosystem of utilities, device makers and policies that would allow consumers to have detailed access to their home energy use and make smarter energy decisions.”

“Smart grid” is the new buzz phrase in the electric business, encompassing a variety of approaches that involve more communication between utility operators and components of the grid, including transformers, power lines, customer meters and even home appliances like dishwashers.

“They’ve been putting a chip in your dishwasher for a long time that would allow you to run it any time you want,” said Rick Sergel, chief executive of the North American Electric Reliability Corporation, an industry group that sets operating standards for the grid.

If the utility could “talk” to the dishwasher, it might tell the machine to run at 2 a.m. and not 2 p.m., or it might tell the homeowner how much money would be saved by running the dishwasher at a different hour.

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GENETIC ENGINEERING (Genetic Modification, GM or GMO).

A primer written and illustrated by Elizabeth Fiend

DEFINITION: Genetic engineering is a biological science that involves modifying plants, animals or any living cell on a genetic level using gene splicing and gene modification. Complex technology allows scientists to isolate DNA from a plant or animal, and also from tinier organisms like bacteria. The DNA is then cut and spliced and either removed from the original source or implanted into another organism. This allows alterations and direct manipulation of hereditary traits of either the original organism, or whichever new host organism the DNA has been implanted into.

OLD SCHOOL: Hybridization, the old way of making new plants and animals, involves cross breeding (aka animal or plant sex) between species that are related. This is a natural process and is TOTALLY different than modification on a cellular or genetic level. Be wary of any source, article or argument that tries to tell you they’re similar processes, they are not.

FRANKENFOODS: Foods that have been genetically modified are here and have the catchy nickname Frankenfoods. Genetically engineered crops have only been planted since 1996 but already account for 60-70% of the food in the grocery store. And almost all food that comes in a box or a package. Genetically modified products that are already in the store include dairy products; beef, pork and chicken raised on genetically modified feed; peanut butter; salad dressing; muffins; bread; cake; candy; chocolate bars; protein bars; veggie burgers; corn chips; French fries; cereal; tomato sauce; soy sauce; canola oil; Bacos; soda; beer; fruit juice; non-dairy creamer; pasta; Nutrasweet; corn; squash; potatoes; soy; strawberries and lettuce; not to mention non-food items like detergent, soap, aspirin. . . .

THE PROBLEM: Genetic engineering has already allowed scientists to take DNA from a fish and transplant it into the cell of a tomato plant — the purpose, to make the plant hardier in cold weather. Proponents of GMO say that a tomato from the original tomato plant and one from the new plant, the one with the gene from the flounder, should be treated as indistinguishable. But are they?  What happens if you have an allergy to fish? Substance equivalence has yet to be proven. And there is no law that requires the makers of GMO products to do so. To make matters worse, there is no required labeling of products that contain genetically altered components either.

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DEBUNKING URBAN MYTHS IN THE AGE OF EMAIL

By VaLerie K

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You know those email forwards you get that warn you about health hazards, give you tips for avoiding getting kidnapped or mugged, show you puppies that need adoption right now or they’ll be killed, inform you of six ways to save gas by the way you pump it, tell you about a missing little girl whom you might save by forwarding?

The iterations are endless, but the common thread is the directive to send the email to as many people as possible ASAP, because the message is so critical there isn’t time for analysis, it could save lives or save people from ruin (or whatever the claimed benefit is).

It’s so seductive, the desire to do good, and with so little effort, it almost seems silly not to.  Why not pass along messages that could possibly help someone somewhere?  Well, I’ll tell you why not – the pervasive anxiety of our times does not need any help from you!  (Or me, I must confess I’ve forwarded a hoax or two.)

Most forwarded emails from anonymous sources that urge us to pass them along RIGHT NOW are EMAIL HOAXES – emails containing either false, misleading, or outdated information that get forwarded from person to person, often being altered as they go, in whisper-down-the-alley style. Some of them circulate for years. 

No matter how clever the advice, how grave the warning or how dire the situation, control your forwarding finger for a couple seconds.  Take a breath, whatever it is can wait long enough for you to do a little recon.

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