Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Ads That Read You Instead of You Reading Them

Photo courtesy: cbsnews

George Orwell would be laughing in his grave if he knew what is going on now. It has been revealed that there are digital billboards with cameras inserted in them that "read" the personality of the viewer and sequence ads for that particular viewer. This is based, of course, on profiling - racial, age, sex, etc. - to bring these "compatible" ads to the various viewers. This article, from cbsnews, spills the beans.

In the 2002 film Minority Report, video billboards scanned the irises of passing consumers and advertised to them by name. That was science fiction back then, but today’s marketers are creating digital signs that can display targeted ads based on information they extract from examining the contours of individual human faces.

These smart signs are proliferating in commercial establishments and public places from New York’s Times Square to St. Louis area shopping malls. They are a powerful innovation in advertising, but one that raises compelling privacy issues - issues that should be addressed now, before digital signs that monitor our behavior become the new normal.

The most common name for this medium is digital signage. Most digital signs are flat-screen TVs that run commercials on a continuous loop in airports, gas stations, and anywhere else marketers think they can get your attention. However, marketers have had difficulty determining exactly who sees the display units, which makes it harder to measure viewership and target ads at specific audiences. The industry’s solution? Hidden facial recognition cameras.

The tiny cameras can estimate the age, ethnicity and gender of people passing by and can track how long a given person watches the display. The digital sign can then play an advertisement specifically targeted to whomever happens to be watching. Tens of millions of people have already been picked up by digital signage cameras.

While camera-driven systems are the most common, the industry is also utilizing mobile phones and radio frequency identification (RFID) for similar purposes. Some companies, for example, embed RFID chips in shopper loyalty cards. Digital kiosks located in stores can read the information on the cards at a distance and then display ads or print coupons based on cardholders' shopping histories.

Facial recognition, RFID and mobile phone tracking are powerful tools that should be matched by business practices that protect consumer privacy. All of these technologies have the capacity to identify individuals and gather personal data about them, though it remains unclear the extent to which the digital signage industry is using that capacity. Indeed, that is the problem.

To their credit, some of the companies using these tools have published privacy policies stating that they do not retain consumer information. However, other major companies that use these tools are completely silent on what they do with the information they collect by tracking consumers. Likewise, while the digital signage trade associations tout the potential of tracking technology to increase the industry’s profits, none of the associations currently recommend any privacy safeguards.

Moreover, digital signage company representatives have refused to identity the locations of these smart signs, openly stating that they do not want people to know which signs are watching them. Such anti-consumer secrecy is a dangerous precedent for an industry hoping to cash in on surveillance.

This must change. The first step is for digital signage companies to develop and publish privacy policies specifying what information they collect, on whom, and to what uses it is put. Digital signage companies and trade associations should publicly adopt comprehensive guidelines that explicitly forbid retaining consumers' personal information and that commit to providing consumers with notice when audience measurement devices are in operation.

However, companies' privacy policies are subject to change at any time. Ultimately, baseline privacy legislation must be enacted for there to be any hope that consumer protection laws will catch up to modern technology. Such legislation should include a prohibition against the use of personally-identifiable biometric data (such as facial features) for commercial purposes without the informed consent of the individual consumer.

Some in the industry are likely to view proposals for privacy safeguards as premature because most digital signs don’t yet retain images or identifying data on individuals. However, it is naive to expect that will always be the norm when mining consumer data is so very profitable. The marketing business thrives on detailed audience information for tailored advertising. Indeed, the industry already acknowledges audience profiling as the key to its future success. There will be a greater push to identify individuals with digital signage as soon as it becomes more cost effective to do so.

Now is the time for digital signage privacy precisely because these audience measurement techniques are still somewhat new. It will be less difficult to build in privacy protections now than in the future, after companies are heavily invested in the systems and intrusive marketing too entrenched to halt. While an increase in spying-for-profit is inevitable in the age of digital marketing, the digital signage industry will be doing the public a grave disservice if this fancy new advertising medium becomes just another mass surveillance system with poor data management practices. Consumers and lawmakers need to speak up now, because a common standard for digital signage privacy is past due.

Via cbsnews

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Quotable Quotes

I was reading an article on anger when I came across this gem:

"You can't shake hands with a clenched fist."

- Indira Ghandi

Monday, June 28, 2010

Melting Italian Glacier Gets Thermal Blanket

Photo courtesy: MeteoLive

In hopes of slowing the rate at which ice is melting in the mountains of northern Italy, officials have begun covering one their most threatened glaciers with insulating fabric, creating what is essentially a giant security blanket to help keep the ice from melting in the summer heat. It may sound a bit unusual, but tests have shown that the thermal blanket may be just the thing to save the region's glaciers from disappearing completely, for the time being, at least.

Armed with nearly 970 thousand square feet of 4 millimeter thick thermal material, workers scramble to cover the highly threatened Presena glacier to protect it from the sun's ultraviolet rays. With any luck, the insulating material reduce the amount of ice that melts from the summer heat until it's removed at the end of the season.

Photo courtesy: MeteoLive

This isn't the first time Italy has used this material to help preserve its glaciers. Two years back, a smaller-scale test was made and the results showed it to be quite effective. Ice covered by the insulating material melted 60 percent less than exposed portions which lost an average of 5 feet in thickness during the test.

The creative plan couldn't come at a better time for the glaciers in Italy's Province of Trento, which, like many of the world's glaciers, has seen dramatic decreases in recent decades. According to BBC Brasil, between 1993 and 2003 alone, Trento's Presena glacier lost as much as 39 percent of its total mass.

And the culprit? You guessed it.

"One thing is certain: the melting of glaciers occurs because of the increase in global temperature," Nicola Paoli, an environmental engineer, tells BBC Brasil. "In the last four, five years , we observed that the melting snow has doubled compared to normal rhythm."

Unfortunately, no matter how ambitious or creative such local efforts may be in regions of the world most effected by rising temperatures, it is a global problem that will take an international effort to mitigate. So despite all the hard work to save the Presena glacier, it may be only delaying the inevitable.

Via TreeHugger

Sunday, June 27, 2010

The Dog Days of Summer

As the summer heats up and becomes unbearably hot for some of us, I was wondering about the expression "dog days of summer". What exactly are the "dog days"?

The phrase "dog days of summer" describes the period of time between July 3 and August 11 each year. Though some people attribute the origin of the phrase to the fact that the hot days cause dogs to go crazy, the name is actually a reference to the fact that, during this time, the Sun occupies the same region of the sky as Sirius, the "Dog Star". It was once believed that the star somehow conspired with the Sun to make the days hotter.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Preparing for Death

No one likes to think about dying, but it’s something that we all experience, and ignoring it won’t make it any easier. And, while it probably won’t be any walk in the park for you, remember that your loved ones will be also profoundly affected by your passing.

Indeed, it’s not just the emotional effects that they have to deal with; there are a number of other concerns associated with the death of someone close, particularly a breadwinner. Obviously, you want to make things as easy as possible for your family and friends, so it’s essential to have your affairs in order. Here are 10 things you can do to prepare for when you finally cash in your chips:

1. Buy Life Insurance

If there are people counting on you for income, you must have life insurance, no matter your age. Whether you have a young family, or whether you’re elderly and your pension supports your spouse, it’s important to make sure that your obligations will still be met after your death. A financial professional can help you determine whether term life or whole life insurance is best for your particular stage in life. Life insurance can also be used to pay estate taxes, funeral expenses and other costs associated with your death.

2. Prepare a Will

Ensure that your estate is disposed of as you wish. A will can ensure that your wishes are carried out, and that the state isn’t making decisions about what to do with your possessions. Your will should provide guidance to your loved ones, and should account for your assets.

3. Consider Ownership

It seems straightforward: You die, your partner gets your stuff, or it is parceled out according to your will. However, it is important to note that there are different ownership arrangements, including different types of joint ownership. Look at your financial accounts, and consult an estate planning specialist, to make sure that ownership of assets is what you want them to be, and that any trusts, investments and other financial items are structured the way you want them.

4. Organize Your Important Documents

You probably have dozens of important documents from birth certificates to home titles to life insurance policies to investment information. All of this information should be organized so that it is accessible. It should be kept in a safe place. Consider a fireproof safe. Then, make sure that there are people who know where these documents can be found, and where the key is located. The idea is to make it easy for your loved ones to find all the information on your situation and assets as quickly as possible. Round up documents instead of leaving them scattered in various places.

5. Arrange for Guardianship

If you’re younger, it’s a good idea to arrange for guardianship of your children. Discuss your options with your partner, and with those who are likely to be asked to take care of your children, should it become necessary. You can also arrange for guardianship of your spouse, if he or she is incapacitated in some way. If you have pets, it is also a good idea to arrange for their care as well.

6. Know Who Should be Notified

Put together a list of those who should be notified upon your death. You want the right people to be aware of your demise. Your list should include names and contact information of the principal people who need to know of your passing. This normally includes your spouse, former spouses, children, attorneys, insurance companies, estate planners and others who have an interest in your death. Put your list together and leave it with someone reliable. That person’s contact information can be carried on your person if necessary.

7. Reveal Passwords

In our digital world, you are likely to have subscriptions, and access to different web sites, accounts and other items. Make a list of relevant accounts and web sites and their passwords. Include instructions on how to cancel different subscriptions. This can be kept with your will, in a safe place with a lawyer, or it can be kept with your important documents. You can also keep it in an innocuous folder on your computer. Make sure that you update this list when you change passwords, and that someone knows how to find this list.

8. Make Peace with Family and Friends

You can make peace with family and friends with who you have had disagreements. Try not to hold grudges, and seek reconciliation with those that you may not be in contact with. Everyone will have better feelings all around if you do this. And you increase the chances that you will die a little more comfortably, with peace of mind, and knowing that you are happy with your loved ones.

9. Look for Loose Ends to Tie Up

Consider things left undone. Before you die, as part of your preparation, think about loose ends that may need to be tied up. Have you always wanted to start a college fund for a grandchild, or create a trust for a charity? If these are things you want to do, either arrange for them now, or adjust your will and estate plan so these items are addressed. Think of the things you want to accomplish, and start doing them now. You never know when your lease on life will be up. Take care of any loose ends you may have now.

10. Determine Powers of Attorney

You’ll also need to appoint someone to take care of your affairs just prior to your death, should you be incapacitated. You’ll need to appoint a Healthcare Proxy, as well as assign Power of Attorney and make other arrangements. Ensure that your wishes are carried out in that gray area between life and death.

After you have made all of the proper arrangements, it’s important to revisit your estate plan regularly. Review your will on a regular basis, and make sure your documents are updated and properly organized. This way, you’ll be properly prepared, and changes to your situation will be properly accounted for.

Via budgetlife

Thursday, June 24, 2010

10 Possible New Species Discovered at Bottom of Atlantic

During a research cruise in the North Atlantic Ocean, scientists aboard the British vessel James Cook cataloged a menagerie of marine organisms, including more than 10 possible new species. This is a purple variety of the enteropneust acorn worm, which may be a transitional species between invertebrates and backboned animals. The creature feeds on seafloor sediment, leaving behind variable wavy traces. (David Shale)

Scientists from Britain and 16 other nations have just returned from an expedition to explore a never-before-seen area of the ocean floor. Instead of the barren, sparsely inhabited environment some expected to see, scientists brought back pictures of a mysterious world that is teeming with life.

The research focused on the Mid-Atlantic Ridge, a massive, undersea mountain range which essentially splits the ocean in half, dividing east from west. The seascape, featuring rocky outcroppings, sheer cliffs and flat open plains, might look familiar to anyone who has spent time in the American West. The residents of this ridge, however, are decidedly exotic.

At least 10 creatures that possibly represent new species were discovered during the six-week journey aboard the James Cook, a British research vessel.

Scientists sent a remotely operated vehicle, the Isis, on dives lasting up to 30 hours, down to depths of up to 12,000 feet (3,600 meters). Outfitted with 10 high-definition, studio-quality cameras and powerful lamps to illuminate the darkness of the sea floor, the van-sized ROV took hours of footage of myriad species, all interacting in their natural habitat.

Of particular interest are three new species of brightly colored enteropneust, a kind of deep-sea worm. The small invertebrates, about 4 inches (10 centimeters) long, had previously been found only in the Pacific Ocean.

Professor Monty Priede, director of the University of Aberdeen’s Oceanlab, said the first enteropneust spotted by the researchers was a pink variety.

“It was a very exciting moment. We said, 'Ah, we’re the first people to see this!'" Priede said. "Other samples have been fragmented and broken up — we were the first to get specimens of these animals.”

For Priede, the real eureka moment came when the team saw one of the worms actually swimming.

“It was just floating in the water, curled up and drifting along in the current,” said Priede. “But when it perceived our presence, it held its tail straight, almost like a human diver, and went shooting down to the bottom.”

Priede said that the eyeless creatures can’t actually see, but the worm must have somehow sensed the Isis lurking nearby.

The discovery of the new worm species was important, Priede said, because these creatures represent “the base of the chain of evolution. They’re not the missing link, but they’re very close to it.”

Daniel Jones of Britain’s National Oceanography Centre said the rocky regions of the Mid-Atlantic Ridge were the most surprising areas. “We really didn’t know what to expect,” he said.

Researchers found new varieties of cliff-dwelling, uncharacteristically active sea cucumbers; corals several meters tall that might be a thousand years old; and sea lilies, which are marine animals that look like flowers.

Priede said the Cook’s expedition, part of the international Census of Marine Life, opens a new chapter in our understanding of ocean populations.

“There’s plenty of real estate out in the middle of the ocean where these animals are living,” he said. “We’re realizing there’s much more habitat out there than we realized. So that will turn around our whole idea about how life is organized in the ocean as a whole.”

Via msnbc

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Ancient Hunting Weapon Discovered in Melting Ice

Craig Lee, of the University of Colorado Boulder, holds a 10,000-year-old atlatl dart that had been frozen in an ice sheet near Yellowstone National Park. The dart was straight when it was entombed and became bowed from the melting and barely survived being snapped in half by a passing animal. Credit: Casey A. Cass/University of Colorado.

What looked like a small branch that blew off a tree during a storm turned out to be an ancient wooden hunting weapon wielded by Paleo Indians.

The 10,000-year-old atlatl dart was discovered in a melting patch of ice high in the Rocky Mountains close to Yellowstone National Park.

The dart was made from a birch sapling and still carried personal markings from the ancient hunter. When it was shot, the 3-foot-long (0.9 meter) dart had a projectile point on one end, and a cup or dimple on the other that would have attached to a hook on throwing tool called an atlatl.

The Native American hunter would have used the atlatl, a tool about 2 feet long (0.6 m), for leverage to achieve greater velocity, said Craig Lee, of the University of Colorado at Boulder, who discovered the weapon.

When he found it, the dart was bent with a sharp kink in it, likely the result of a mini-avalanche called a slump followed by a stomping from a large animal foot. "The inside of that kink seems to match what the shape of a big horned sheep hoof would've looked like," Lee told LiveScience.

The dart, along with other finds in melting ice, is in some ways the tip of the iceberg.

"We didn't realize until the early 2000s that there was a potential to find archaeological materials in association with melting permanent snow and ice in many areas of the globe," said Lee, who is a specialist in an emerging field called ice patch archaeology. "We're not talking about massive glaciers, we're talking about the smaller, more kinetically stable snowbanks that you might see if you go to Rocky Mountain National Park."

As glaciers and ice fields continue to melt at an unprecedented rate, increasingly older and significant artifacts, along with plant material, animal carcasses and even ancient feces, are being released from the ice that has gripped them for thousands of years, Lee said. In fact, this year scientists reported a treasure trove of ancient hunting tools discovered in the Canadian High Arctic as a result of melting ice patches.

Over the past decade, Lee and his colleagues have compiled biological and physical data on ice fields that may have been used by prehistoric hunters to kill animals seeking refuge from heat and insect swarms in the summer months.

"In these instances, what we're finding as archaeologists is stuff that was lost," Lee said. "Maybe you missed a shot and your weapon disappeared into the snowbank. It's like finding your keys when you drop them in snow. You're not going to find them until spring. Well, the spring hasn't come until these things started melting for the first time, in some instances, in many, many thousands of years."

Later this summer Lee and CU-Boulder student researchers will travel to Glacier National Park to work with the Salish, Kootenai and Blackfeet tribes and researchers from the University of Wyoming to recover and protect artifacts that may have recently melted out of similar locations.

It's important the archaeologists work quickly, since once organic artifacts, such as wooden tools or clothing, are exposed to the elements they can decompose quickly. The artifacts can also get disturbed by passerby animals, as was the recently discovered dart.

Currently, most of the archaeological record includes inorganic materials, such as chip stone artifacts, ground stone artifacts, perhaps old hearts (fire pits), or rock rings used to stabilize a house, Lee said.

"So we really have to base our understanding about ancient times on these inorganic materials. But ice patches are giving us this window into organic technology that we just don't get in other environments," he added.

Via LiveScience

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Belize's First Fossils Found?

Diving into natural pools in Belize in the quest for offerings from the ancient Maya, explorers found what's believed to be the country's first recorded fossilized remains. In the course of the expedition, one diver "disappeared" into the pool's floor.

Bizarre Things That can be Recycled

Recycling isn’t just about everyday household items any more. Nonprofit organizations and specialized businesses are springing up everywhere to recycle almost everything imaginable. Here are some that might surprise you....

Jeff Yeager (creator of this article) blogs as The Green Cheapskate and is the author of the book The Ultimate Cheapskate's Road Map to True Riches. His Website is

All photos courtesy: thedailygreen

Ever wonder what happens to those little slivers of soap you leave in the shower at the hotel? More and more hotel chains are recycling their leftover soap and shampoo, or joining forces with nonprofit organizations like Clean the World to recycle it and donate it the needy. Of course you can always take the soap slivers home with you, like I do; put a bunch of them in the heel of an old pair of pantyhose to make your own Green Cheapskate soap-on-a-rope.

Of course cloth diapers have always been recyclable, although few Americans use cloth diapers anymore. But since 1999 a British company, Knowaste, has been pioneering the recycling of disposable diapers, or disposable “nappies” as the Brits call them. The movement (so to speak) is catching on in the U.S., which a good thing since the average baby requires about 6,000 disposable diapers by the time they’re potty trained.

Speaking of sleep, why not try a recycled coffin? Consider renting a casket from the funeral home rather than purchasing one if you’re planning on being cremated ... or think you might still snap out of it. For cremation or regular burial, often times it’s even less expensive and more eco-friendly to buy a cardboard coffin, many of which are made from 100% recycled materials.

Given their hefty price tag, you can bet that I run my running shoes into the ground before retiring them. But even worn out shoes can be recycled into building materials, or, if they still have some life in them, donated to the less fortunate. Check out the Website for shoe recycling facilities and organizations near you.

Locks of Love is a well-known nonprofit organization that accepts donations of human hair to recycle into hairpieces for financially disadvantaged children suffering from medical hair loss. But even smaller quantities of human hair – including much of what used to end up in the barbershop’s wastebasket – is now being recycled into a variety of gardening products that encourage healthy plant life and naturally deter unwanted pests in the garden.

According to the Amputee Coalition of America, “Prosthetic components are generally not reused in the United States because of legal considerations. However, used prosthetic limbs may be disassembled and the components shipped to Third World countries for use by landmine victims and/or other individuals in need.” See their Website for a list of organizations in the U.S. that accept donations of prosthetics.

Every year there are roughly 3.6 million sets of dentures manufactured in the world, and each set contains about $25 worth of precious metals, including gold and silver. Most unwanted dentures are thrown away, but a nonprofit organization was recently created in Japan to recycle the metals found in dentures and donate the proceeds to UNICEF. To date, it has raised more than $250,000 for UNICEF and other organizations. Is anyone looking for a worthwhile nonprofit venture to bring to the U.S., maybe something to sink your teeth into?

For many people of the world, a bicycle is basic transportation – not recreation – but still a luxury they can’t afford. Providing bicycles to those living in Third World countries can change lives for the better. Americans throw away more than 15 million bicycles each year, but the nonprofit organization Bikes for the World is working to keep those unwanted bikes out of our landfills and put them in the hands of people who really need them.

An increasing number of mattress retailers will accept your used mattress for recycling, but specifically ask/insist about recycling before you agree to buy a replacement. Mattress recycling centers are springing up around the country, where they recycle about 90% of the mattress into fiber for clothing, wood chips, foam products, and scrap metal. Given that about 20 million mattresses are replaced every year in the U.S., you’ll sleep better knowing that your old mattress isn’t spending the night in the landfill.

Just when you thought you’d heard all of the recycling news that’s fit to print, here’s some that perhaps isn’t (so be forewarned before opening this link): The folks at Sex Toy Recycling are in the business of doing just as their name implies. Apparently their mothers never told them, "Don't play with that thing. You don't know where it’s been."

Via thedailygreen

Monday, June 21, 2010

Mission Impossible: Squirrel Runs Obstacle Course to get to Food

Squirrels are very intelligent animals. The following video shows a squirrel running an obstacle course to get to the food at the end. In less than a minute, this squirrel pulls of feats of amazing agility and intelligence to get to his prize. Enjoy!

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Are Cell Phones to Blame for Colony Collapse Disorder?

Photo courtesy: genehanson

A new study has suggested that cell phone radiation may be contributing to declines in bee populations in some areas of the world.

Bee populations dropped 17% in the UK last year, according to the British Bee Association, and nearly 30% in the United States says the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Parasitic mites called varroa, agricultural pesticides and the effects of climate change have all been implicated in what has been dubbed "colony collapse disorder" (CCD).

But researchers in India believe cell phones could also be to blame for some of the losses.

In a study at Panjab University in Chandigarh, northern India, researchers fitted cell phones to a hive and powered them up for two fifteen-minute periods each day.

After three months, they found the bees stopped producing honey, egg production by the queen bee halved, and the size of the hive dramatically reduced.

It's not just the honey that will be lost if populations plummet further. Bees are estimated to pollinate 90 commercial crops worldwide. Their economic value in the UK is estimated to be $290 million per year and around $12 billion in the U.S.

Andrew Goldsworthy, a biologist from the UK's Imperial College, London, has studied the biological effects of electromagnetic fields. He thinks it's possible bees could be affected by cell phone radiation.

The reason, Goldsworthy says, could hinge on a pigment in bees called cryptochrome.

"Animals, including insects, use cryptochrome for navigation," Goldsworthy told CNN.

"They use it to sense the direction of the earth's magnetic field and their ability to do this is compromised by radiation from [cell] phones and their base stations. So basically bees do not find their way back to the hive."

Goldsworthy has written to the UK communications regulator OFCOM suggesting a change of phone frequencies would stop the bees being confused.

"It's possible to modify the signal coming from the [cell] phones and the base station in such a way that it doesn't produce the frequencies that disturb the cryptochrome molecules," Goldsworthy said.

"So they could do this without the signal losing its ability to transmit information."

But the UK's Mobile Operators Association -- which represents the UK's five mobile network operators -- told CNN: "Research scientists have already considered possible factors involved in CCD and have identified the areas for research into the causes of CCD which do not include exposure to radio waves."

Norman Carreck, Scientific director of the International Bee research Association at the UK's University of Sussex says it's still not clear how much radio waves affect bees.

"We know they are sensitive to magnetic fields. What we don't know is what use they actually make of them. And no one has yet demonstrated that honey bees use the earth's magnetic field when navigating," Carreck said.


Saturday, June 19, 2010

We Should All be so Determined to Help

A tortoise comes across a stranded fellow tortoise. Even though the turtle on his back is nearly twice the size of his/her rescuer, the little hero does not give up until she/he succeeds. Just a little something that will touch your heart.

Friday, June 18, 2010

13 Uses for Cucumbers

Photo courtesy: Care2

Ah, the humble cucumber–it sits patiently in the crisper drawer while its flashier cousins are being scooped up and devoured for dinner. The cucumber just waits and waits in all of it’s watery, melon-tinged mild manner. So, what is a cucumber’s claim to fame?

Not only is cucumber light and refreshing to eat; but, it can replace many expensive facial preparations that may or may not be good for you.

The flesh of the cucumber is mostly water; but, also contains ascorbic acid (vitamin C) and caffeic acid. Both of these help soothe skin irritations and reduce swelling which explains why they make such a great aid for puffy "morning" eyes. These acids are also known to prevent water retention which may be another reason why cucumbers (when applied topically) are often helpful for swollen eyes, burns and dermatitis.

Cucumbers are a great treat for the skin. They have the same pH as the skin so they help restore the protective acid mantle. As a bonus, they also possess hydrating, nourishing and astringent properties.

Cucumbers’ skin is rich in fiber and contains a variety of beneficial minerals including silica, potassium and magnesium. The silica in cucumber is an essential component of healthy connective tissue; which includes muscles, tendons, ligaments, cartilage, and bone. Cucumber juice is often recommended as a source of silica to improve the complexion and health of the skin. Since cucumber’s high water content makes it naturally hydrating, it is a natural way to get glowing skin.

1. Make a Cooling Summer Bath
It’s a bath that incorporates, ta da, cucumbers! Along with fresh mint and a hit of floral essential oil. Mmmmm. According to University of Maryland Medical Center, peppermint has a soothing and cooling effect on skin irritations caused by hives, poison ivy, or poison oak; it reduces headache symptoms; and it can be used in the treatment of depression. (So if you’re hot, itchy, depressed and have a headache …)

To a tub of tepid water add 2 cups epsom salt, stir in 1 sliced cucumber, a handful of torn peppermint leaves and an optional 3 drops ylang ylang pure essential oil. Soak, be soft and happy.

2. Soothe Puffy Eyes
This is one of the oldest tricks in the book. The high water content helps to hydrate tender skin in the eye region while the chill of a refrigerated cucumber helps contract blood vessels in the area – both effects combine to reduce swelling. It also feels incredible. To use cucumbers as an eye treatment, grab a cold cucumber from the refrigerator and cut two thick slices. Find a comfortable place to relax and set the cucumbers over your closed eyes for about 10 to 15 minutes.

3. Make a Cucumber Toner
This formula is inspired by one in the book Ecobeauty: Scrubs, Rubs, Masks, and Bath Bombs for You and Your Friends–it is very mild and works well for all skin types. If you ever wake up feeling like your face is a little puffy, this toner is your best bet for calming and tightening your skin.

1/2 cucumber with peel, chopped
3 tablespoons witch hazel
2 tablespoons distilled water

Put all of the ingredients in a blender or food processor and blend until smooth. Pour the mixture through a fine-mesh sieve to remove all of the solids, then pour the toner into a clean bottle with a tight-fitting lid. Store this toner in the refrigerator for a longer shelf life—it should last for several weeks. To use, apply the toner to your face using a clean cotton ball.

4. Make a Cucumber Avocado Facial Mask
The next two formulas are from the Cucumber Growers' Association and are simple yet sumptuous treats for your face.

1/2 cup chopped cucumber
1/2 cup chopped avocado
1 egg white
2 teaspoons powdered milk

Blend all the ingredients together until they form a smooth, paste-like consistency. The mask can either be used immediately or left in the fridge for half an hour first. Massage 2 tbsp of the mask onto face and neck using circular upward motions. Relax for 30 minutes, or until the mask is dry. Rinse off with warm water, then follow with a cold water rinse. Pat dry.

5. Make a Cucumber & Yogurt Mask
This one is good for combination sin.

1/2 cucumber
1 tbsp plain/natural yogurt

Puree the cucumber in a blender. Mix in the yoghurt. Apply all over face and neck. Relax for 15-20 minutes. Rinse off with warm water, then follow with a splash of cold water.

6. Make a Cucumber Anti-Blemish Face Mask
From the book, The Ultimate Natural Beauty Book by Jo Fairley.

1-inch chunk of cucumber
1 drop rosemary essential oil
1 egg white

Whizz the cucumber in a blender until it becomes completely liquid, then add the drop of rosemary essential oil. Whisk the egg white until stiff, fold in the cucumber mixture and smooth over the face avoiding the eyes and mouth area. Remove after 15 minutes using a clean, damp washcloth.

7. Refresh with a Cucumber Skin Tonic
Chop 1 cucumber and puree in a blender with 4 tablespoons mint. Strain off the juice and store in the fridge. The tonic will keep for 24 hours in the fridge. To increase its life add 1 teaspoon vodka.

8. Mix Cucumber with honey for a Cucumber-Honey Toner
This recipe is from the National Honey Board

1 medium cucumber, peeled and cut up into pieces
2 teaspoon honey

Puree cucumber in a blender. Line a sieve with cheesecloth and set the sieve over a glass bowl or measuring cup. Pour the cucumber puree through the sieve and let it stand for 15 minutes for the juices to drip into the bowl. Pour the clear juice into a clean bottle and add honey. To use, shake the bottle and saturate a cotton pad with the lotion. Sweep over face, neck and chest morning and night, and let it air dry (about 3 to 4 minutes). Store covered in the refrigerator for up to 1 week. Makes about 1/2 cup.

9. Condition Chlorine-Damaged Hair
This conditioner is said to work wonders on hair damaged by routine swimming in chlorinated water.

1 egg
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 quarter of a peeled cucumber

Blend the egg, olive oil and peeled cucumber. Spread evenly through your hair, leave on for 10 minutes, then thoroughly rinse. For the best results year-round, continue this treatment monthly.

10. Make Quick Pickles
This recipe for quick crock pickles from Serving Up the Harvest (Storey, 2007) by Andrea Chesman, isn’t quick in terms of brining time (two days to six weeks); but, the preparation time is speedy indeed. If you don’t have cucumbers, get creative – other vegetables such as cauliflower, carrots, or zucchini will make just as wonderful pickles! After they have pickled, the vegetables can be stored for up to three months in the refrigerator, bringing a few flashes of summer greediness into the approaching cool weather.

11. Eat Cucumber Salads

Cucumber Cashew Coleslaw
2 large cucumbers, cleaned, partially peeled (see note), and coarsely cubed
1/3 head cabbage, cleaned and coarsely chopped
1 cup roasted salted cashews
2 scallions, trimmed and finely chopped
1/2 teaspoon grated ginger
3 tablespoons seasoned rice wine vinegar
1 1/2 tablespoon tamari
1 tablespoon sesame oil
1 teaspoon honey

1. Combine all ingredients except for cashews and refrigerate, tossing occasionally, for at least 30 minutes for flavors to meld.

2. Add cashews and serve.

Dilled Cucumber and Sour Cream Salad
2 medium cucumbers, peeled if not organic, and thinly sliced
1/4 cup sour cream
1/4 cup milk
1 garlic clove, pressed or finely minced
salt and pepper to taste
1 teaspoon dried dill weed

1. Place sour cream, milk, garlic, salt and pepper in a small lidded jar. Shake thoroughly to combine.

2. Place cucumber slices in a serving bowl and drizzle dressing over them. Sprinkle with dill. May be served immediately, or chilled until ready to serve.

12. Make Chilled Soups

Chilled Cucumber-Mint Soup Recipe
2 cups plain low-fat yogurt
1 medium cucumber, peeled, seeded, and minced
2-3 tablespoons chopped fresh mint
3/4 teaspoon ground roasted cumin
1/4 teaspoon chili powder
Salt and freshly-ground pepper to taste

1. Beat the yogurt in a bowl with a whisk or fork until smooth. Mix with the remaining ingredients.

2. Chill until ready to serve.

Chilled Persian Cucumber Yogurt Soup
3 tablespoons golden raisins
1 1/2 cups hot water
3 cups plain yogurt
1 1/2 cups ice water
1 1/2 cups sour cream (use reduced fat if you like)
1 1/2 medium cucumbers, peeled, seeded, and grated
3 scallions, green parts only, sliced very fine
1/4 cup coarsely chopped walnuts
Salt and pepper to taste
2 tablespoons minced fresh dill or spearmint, whichever you prefer

1. Soak the raisins in the hot water for 1 hour, then drain them.

2. Place the yogurt in a serving bowl, then beat with a fork or whisk until creamy. Beat in the ice water and the sour cream. Add the cucumber, scallion, walnuts, salt, and pepper, and mix well. Sprinkle the raisins and dill or spearmint over the top.

3. Serve the soup immediately, or chill until you’re ready to eat.

Chilled Cucumber Avocado Soup
1 English cucumber, peeled, seeded, and chopped
1 ripe Haas avocados, pitted, peeled, and chopped
2 green onions, chopped
2 tablespoon freshly squeezed lime juice
1 cup sour cream
1 cup cold water
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro leaves

1. In a blender or food processor, combine the cucumber, avocados, green onions, lime juice, sour cream, and water. Process until smooth. Season to taste with salt and pepper. If the soup is too thick for your liking, thin it with water.

2. Stir in the cilantro and serve immediately, or cover and let chill.

Serves 4.

Cucumber and White Grape Gazpacho
2 cups peeled, seeded, and diced cucumbers
2 cups seeded and diced tomatillos
2 cups diced white grapes
1/4 cup ginger juice
Salt and freshly ground white pepper to taste

1. Mix all ingredients in a large bowl; season to taste.

2. Place three-fourths of the mixture in a food processor and process until smooth.

3. Put it back in the bowl with remaining fruit and vegetables and stir to combine. Serve chilled.

13. Try Cucumber Side Dishes

Summery Couscous with Cucumber and Mint
1 lemon
5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
2 cups gently packed arugula leaves
1/3 medium English cucumber, halved lengthwise and sliced
3 tablespoons chopped fresh mint
1 3/4 cup vegetable broth
1 small shallot, minced
1 cup couscous, preferably whole wheat
3 tablespoons pine nuts, toasted (optional)

1. Squeeze the juice from the lemon into a medium bowl. Whisk in 4 tablespoons of the olive oil in a slow, steady stream until thoroughly blended. Whisk in 1/2 teaspoon of the salt and pepper. Stir in the arugula, cucumber, and mint. Set aside.

3. Bring the broth to a boil in a small saucepan. Set aside.

3. Heat the remaining 1 tablespoon oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add the shallot and cook for about 1 minute. Stir in the couscous, tossing until coated with the oil, about 1 minute.

4. Add the hot broth and remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt. Bring to a vigorous simmer, stirring frequently. Remove from heat, cover, and let stand until the liquid is absorbed, about 8 minutes.

5. Fluff couscous with a fork and then stir in the arugula mixture. Cover and let stand until the arugula is slightly wilted, 2 to 3 minutes. Serve sprinkled with pine nuts, if desired.

Serve 4 to 6.

Dilled Rice and Lentils with Creamy Cucumber Salad
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 yellow onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup green lentils
1 cup basmati rice
5 cups good-quality vegetable broth
1 tablespoon tamari or good-quality soy sauce
1 teaspoon aged balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon dried dill weed, or 2 tablespoons fresh

1. In a large, heavy-bottomed pot over medium-high heat, heat the olive oil and then add onion and garlic, sautéing about 5 minutes, until onion is translucent.

2. Add lentils, stirring to coat, then add broth. Turn heat to high and bring mixture to a boil, cover, reduce heat, and simmer for 20 minutes. Add rice and continue to cook for another 20 minutes, adding water or broth if the mixture is too dry, until rice and lentils are cooked and the liquid has been absorbed.

3. Add tamari, vinegar, and dill, stirring to combine. Set aside.

Don't forget one of my favourites - Greek salad!

Via Care2

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Love Comes in all Shapes and Sizes

Love comes in all shapes and sizes. This is the story of just such a love.

Please ignore the small commercial at the beginning. This story will tug at your heart.

Watch CBS News Videos Online

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Coral Sanctuary Discovered in US Virgin Islands

Photo courtesy: Caroline Rogers/USGS, via Our Amazing Planet

A scientists snorkeling in the Virgin Islands Coral Reef National Monument, in St. John, U.S. Virgin Islands made an unexpected discovery -- a mangrove harboring a rich and vibrant coral reef. According to the US Geological Survey (USGS), as many as 30 different species of coral are living happily among the roots in a "secret garden" of sort. Such a well protected and untouched coral ecosystem is a rare find in the Virgin Islands.

Caroline Rogers, a scientist with USGS made the discovery last year: "The discovery of all of the corals in the mangroves is very exciting. Within Hurricane Hole, there are at least 30 coral species, some of which are rarely seen even in the nearby coral reefs," she said.

"The diversity is remarkable and is not unique to the corals. We're seeing great diversity in the sponges as well. Many of the sponges are more typically found in coral reefs than in mangroves," said Rogers.

Our Amazing Planet writes, "The discovery of a hidden stash of apparently healthy corals, made in March 2009, is particularly surprising because in 2005, seawater temperatures in the Virgin Islands skyrocketed to the highest on record, and a bout of coral bleaching whitened and weakened many of the coral colonies in the area."

Coral bleaching and the impact of warming ocean temperatures on reefs is a serious problem. Last summer proved to be especially hard on corals in the Carribean, which equaled the heat experienced in 2005. Yet somehow, the corals in the mangroves are doing better than the corals on the reefs. It isn't clear exactly why the corals found in the mangroves such as Hurricane Hole are so diverse and healthy compared to other corals in the Virgin Islands. But the fact that they are is something researchers want to study more of in hopes of finding keys for saving reefs elsewhere.

USGS explains the name Hurricane Hole, stating it "describes the protective function the mangrove-lined bays provide during hurricanes. When a hurricane threatens the area, boaters seek shelter in the protected waters. Sometimes in the past, before the monument was established, they even tied their boats directly to the mangrove tree trunks and roots."

While it isn't a practice that is good for the mangroves, which can be damaged by the boats and ropes, the name does have historical significance, and a pretty nice ring to it.

Click here for some truly marvelous photos from Caroline Rogers of the tucked-away coral haven she discovered.

The following video is of the mangroves of Hurricane Hole.

Via TreeHugger

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Evidence That Sea Turtles are Drowning in Shrimp Nets

Associated Press archive. Institute of Marine Mammal Sciences researcher Justin Main takes photographs of a dead sea turtle on the beach in Pass Christian, Miss., in May. Photo courtesy:

More than half the endangered sea turtles dissected after being found dead in Mississippi in the wake of the Gulf oil spill -- 21 of 40 -- had sediment in their lungs, indicating they probably drowned in trawl nets near the sea floor, a federal biologist said Thursday.

The bodies are still being tested for toxins, especially those from algae blooms, but that's unlikely as a cause of death, said Brian Stacey of the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration.

The numbers make other causes of drowning unlikely, Stacey said.

"We do get sporadic entrapment in wrecks, or entanglements in nets," but not nearly that many, he said.

Authorities have said they were investigating whether turtles might have drowned in shrimp nets.

All five species of sea turtles in the Gulf of Mexico are threatened or endangered; federal law requires escape hatches called turtle excluder devices on shrimp nets, which are towed along the bottom where shrimp congregate.

Most of the 411 dead and 128 live turtles found since April 30, when collections began, have been Kemp's Ridley sea turtles, the smallest and most endangered.

According to figures compiled by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 210 dead turtles were found in Mississippi, 88 in Louisiana, 66 in Alabama, 43 in Florida and four in the Gulf of Mexico. Only five turtles found dead on the shore had oil on them.

Collections started a day after Louisiana opened an emergency season to let shrimpers harvest a crop ahead of the oil spill.

On Monday, Mississippi authorities ordered shrimpers trawling in the Mississippi Sound to pull up their nets every 30 minutes rather than every 55 minutes, to reduce the chance of drowning turtles.

Turtle strandings are common along the Gulf of Mexico, but this year's numbers are higher than usual, Stacey said.

He spoke by phone from Gainesville, Fla., where he was about to resume necropsies -- animal autopsies -- on sea turtles.

He said the 67 necropsied so far included 26 too decomposed for detailed study.

More than 120 live sea turtles, 84 of them found covered in oil, are in rehabilitation centers. They include 76 found swimming in oil out in the Gulf of Mexico, two caught in oil skimming operations, and two each found in Alabama, Florida and Louisiana waters.

Another 42 rescued turtles did not have any visible oil on them, and two have not been classified. At least four were released.

The BP-operated rig Deepwater Horizon exploded April 20 and sank two days later, generating the massive oil spill.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Sea Shepard Releases 800 Captured Bluefin Tuna

CAUGHT: The two nets, one of which was holding 800 tuna that were released by the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society. Photo courtesy: Wildlife Extra News

June 2010 will be remembered as the month the Steve Irwin with Captain Paul Watson and crew released 800 illegally caught bluefin tuna. The divers from the Sea Sheperd Conservation Society engaged in a dramatic confrontation with fishermen in Libyan waters.

Capt. Watson and his crew discovered two fishing vessels towing two cages. One of the cages contained approx. 800 fish while the second cage was empty. Capt. Watson was unhappy with the crew's explanation about how, when and where these tuna were caught. Suspecting that quotas were being ignored, Capt. Watson brought the bow of the Steve Irwin up to the cages to get a better look.

"At this point," says Capt. Watson, "one of the fishing boats rammed the Steve Irwin and a fisherman tried to violently gaff Sea Shepherd crew members with a long, sharp-hooked pole. The Steve Irwin crew retaliated with eight litres of rotten butter forcing the fishing vessel to retreat and to stand off."

The two fishing vessels began circling their cages in a defensive and suspicious manner. Sea Sheperd notified the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tuna of possible violations; but, they did not respond.

Divers knew they must cut the nets and free the tuna.

GREAT ESCAPE: Simon Ager captures the moment the tuna are let out of the net. Photo courtesy: Wildlife Extra News

Capt. Watson explains how the rescue came to be: "With two fishing vessels containing angry Italian crews, there were risks involved with getting into the water to assess the bluefin catch, but if the catch was illegal, Sea Shepherd divers knew they must cut the nets and free the bluefin tuna.

"A five-person dive crew entered one of two cages being towed by the main fishing vessel to identify the size, age, and quantity of the bluefin tuna within. Once it was clearly established that the cage was overstocked and that a high percentage were juveniles, Sea Shepherd divers freed the 700-800 tuna.

"It is our position that the bluefin tuna we freed from that cage held a large number of juveniles and that the fish were caught after the official closure of the season. It is also our position that the fish that we freed exceeded the quota."

Canadian cameraman, Simon Ager, a Sea Shepherd crew member filmed the release of the tuna from the center of the cage. Swimmers confirm that all 700 - 800 tuna inside the enclosure were freed.

"They shot out of that net like racehorses," said Simon Ager.

Via Wildlife Extra News

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Cries From The Gulf

This video was produced by people who live in the center of the oil spill crisis. It talks plainly and simply about what is really happening. Please watch.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

A Green Wall in the Desert?

Photo courtesy: BBCNews

African leaders are meeting in Chad to push the idea of planting a tree belt across Africa from Senegal in the west to Djibouti in the east.

The Great Green Wall project is backed by the African Union and is aimed at halting the advancing Sahara Desert.

The belt would be 15km (nine miles) wide and 7,775km (4,831 miles) long.

The initiative, conceived five years ago, has not started because of a lack of funding and some experts worry it would not be maintained properly.

The BBC's Tidiane Sy in Senegal says the initiative has the full backing of Senegalese President Abdoulaye Wade, who is in Chad with 10 other heads of state to discuss desertification.

His government has created the website dedicated to the Great Green Wall.

But our reporter says many other leaders seem ready to forget the project.

At the Copenhagen Climate Change summit last year, for instance, the Senegalese delegation made a presentation on the project.

Photo courtesy: BBCNews

It is envisaged that the belt would go through 11 countries from east to west.

The trees should be "drought-adapted species", preferably native to the areas planted, the Great Green Wall website says, listing 37 suitable species.

The initiative says it hopes the trees will slow soil erosion; slow wind speeds and help rain water filter into the ground, to stop the desert from growing.

It also says a richer soil content will help communities across the Sahel who depend on land for grazing and agriculture.

Senegal says it has spent about $2m (£1.35m) on it and communities are being encouraged to plant trees.

The BBC's former Chad correspondent Celeste Hicks says older people in N'Djamena - where the conference is being held - talk anecdotally about how the capital city has become a dustbowl over the last 20 years as the Sahara Desert has encroached southwards.

The country has made efforts to plant a green belt of trees around the capital, and tens of thousands of young trees are being grown in nurseries on the outskirts of the city, she says.

But so far little has been done to transplant these trees to the northern desert areas to become part of the Great Green Wall.

Via BBCNews

Friday, June 11, 2010

When Necessity Meets Creativity

This is an absolutely amazing example of making do with what you have. An inventor in Brazil developed this idea in 2002 when a massive blackout hit Brazil. Since then, it has been adopted by many of the inventor's friends and neighbours as an inexpensive way to bring the light of 50-watt bulbs into their homes without electricity. All that's needed is an empty soda bottle, a small amount of bleach and a 35mm film dispenser. The video is not in English; but, does have English subtitles.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Natural Remedies for Mosquito Bites

Your smell, heat, body odor, perspiration, and even exhaled breath all attract this winged pest. She makes an often undetected landing; before you know it, she has stuck her thin proboscis into your skin and began her meal.

Photos courtesy: HealthMad

The mosquito saliva contains proteins, anticoagulants, and digestive enzymes to assist her in a speedy attack. Maybe she gets the few seconds it takes for her to finish her meal, or maybe she meets her demise with the swoop of your hand. Either way, your bite is swimming in the proteins from the mosquito saliva, which causes an immune response of itching and swelling.

Mosquito’s carry many diseases such as, West Nile Virus, that are passed from person to person when they bite you. If you feel nauseated, faint, experience headaches, fever, chills, muscle aches, or have trouble breathing after a mosquito bite…it may be a sign of serious reaction or passage of disease. You should go to the emergency room or primary caregiver if you experience any of the above symptoms.

Otherwise, there are some excellent natural home remedies that can decrease the immune response.

Start any treatment by cleaning the bite area(s) with soap and water as soon as you realize you are bitten. This will wash away any remaining saliva. Pat dry the area instead of scrubbing or rubbing it.

1. Make a baking soda paste using two parts baking soda to one part water. Apply the thick past directly to the bite. This mild treatment is great for small children and those with sensitive skin.

2. A paste of equal parts salt, baking soda, and water can also help draw out saliva and dry up the bite.

3. Gently apply freshly cut aloe to the mosquito bite. Reapply several times over the next two days.

4. Apply a cold compress to the bite for 30 minutes. Repeat the application for the next few hours.

5. Place the pulpy surface of a banana peel over the bite…this relives the itch. Don’t ask me how it works.

6. Peppermint oil is a natural mosquito repellent, but it also works well as a numbing agent for the pain and irritation associated with mosquito bites.

7. Oral evening primrose oil and palavering contain natural anti-inflammatory properties.

8. Gently rubbing the juice from an onion on the bite helps to relieve irritation.

9. A paste of witch hazel, crushed basil leaves, and baking soda helps to eliminate itching. The witch hazel also acts as an antiseptic.

10. A oatmeal bath can help soothe skin, reduce inflammation, and reduce itching. This is especially useful when there are multiple bites or bites in hard to reach areas.

11. Dissolve one Aspirin in 1/8 cup of water. Gently apply to the bite as anti-inflammatory.

12. Applying vinegar to the bite can reduce itching.

13. Applying a small amount of bleach to the bite can immediately stop the itching.

14. Boil tea or tobacco leaves for a few minutes to soften the leaves. After the leaves have cooled, apply the leaves directly to the bite to reduce swelling.

15. Eucalyptus oil is a good pain reliever and swelling reducer.

Via HealthMad

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Hawaiian Pearls

Photo courtesy: Care2

Feel the touch of Hawaiian thought and spirituality with these pearls of wisdom from a book by a Hawaiian Kahuna, Keeper of the Deep Mysteries. Pearls of wisdom are those phrases that hold up for generations and offer insight that help us to realize goals of health and happiness.

Never judge a day by the weather.

The best things in life aren’t things.

Tell the truth–there’s less to remember.

Speak softly and wear a loud shirt.

Goals are deceptive. The unaimed arrow never misses.

He who dies with most toys still dies.

Age is relative. When you are over the hill, you pick up speed.

There are two ways to be rich – make more or desire less.

Beauty is internal – looks mean nothing.

No rain, no rainbows.

Say “I love me,” and you’ll always have plenty.

Readers: Do you have any other gems we can add?

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Natural Ways to Ease Sunburn

Photo courtesy: Care2

As springtime heads into summer, our thoughts often turn to fun in the sun. Sometimes though, we overdo it and end up with a painful sunburn. While some daily sunshine is extremely healthy, the best idea is to avoid too much sun exposure at one time. When you do get too much sun, promptly take steps to help relieve the pain and heal your skin.

One common remedy for sunburn is yogurt. Smear yogurt on your skin as soon as it turns pink to help cool the skin, reestablish pH balance and promote faster healing. It is best to use plain unsweetened full-fat yogurt that contains few additives. Let it sit on your skin until it warms up and then rinse it off with tepid water. Apply as often as needed. Better still, use a paste made of barley, turmeric and yogurt in equal proportions. Apply it over the affected areas for sunburn relief and healing.

Another common item that can be used for sunburns is tea. Make a large pot of very strong tea, use a towel to soak up all the tea and then apply to the sunburn area. Alternately, use a large number of teabags and make a bathtub full of tea; soak in the bath when the temperature is tepid to barely warm. The tannins in tea help draw out the burn and heal the skin. You can also apply cold, used tea bags to sun-burned eyelids to relieve pain and swelling.

When it comes to burns, one should never be without Aloe Vera gel, which is also wonderful for minor scrapes and cuts and an all around wonderful substance for the skin. One superior good remedy for sunburn is to combine aloe Vera, vitamin E oil, and cucumbers. Liquefy cucumbers in a blender and mix with aloe vera gel, and vitamin e oil.

An age old remedy for sunburns mentioned in ancient texts is potato peels - and it appears to have science on its side. Doctors have found that in case of minor burns, potato peel bandages work better than conventional dressing. Potato peels provide moisture and they also have anti-bacterial properties that help in healing.

Another superior sunburn remedy is lavender. Lavender essential oil not only relieves sunburn, but it also prevents peeling and may enable you to keep your tan.

A homemade sunburn spray can be made as follows:


2 fluid ounces of distilled water
9 drops of lavender oil
2 drops of peppermint oil
1 drop of spearmint oil


Mix all, and spritz lightly over sunburned skin.

Other suggestions are:

* Try applying thin slices of cold cucumbers or apples directly to the skin.

* Puree a peeled cucumber and rub it on your face.

* Mix two teaspoons of tomato juice and 4 tablespoons of buttermilk and apply on the face. Leave for one to two hours and wash off.

* Mix olive oil with equal quantity of vinegar and apply an hour before your bath.

* Apply a thin paste of sandalwood to the sunburn area.

* Apply vitamin E oil and plenty of moisturizer for several days after the initial sunburn.

* Chill a spray bottle of Vinegar in the fridge and then spritz it on your burn.

* Apply mayonnaise on sunburned areas.

* Wipe your face with a cloth soaked in chilled rose water (gulab jal) after a long tiring day.

Note: Avoid using any products which contain lanolin immediately after a sunburn. Lanolin can actually make the burn feel worse once it is warmed by the body's temperature. Many aloe products contain lanolin.

Via NaturalNews

Monday, June 7, 2010

Cut Flowers are Killing a Kenyan Lake

Photo courtesy: joebeone

Flamingos are landing at Lake Naivasha in Kenya. This might seem like a good thing at first - more wildlife is a sign of vitality, right? But there's one problem. Flamingos like salt water and Lake Naivasha is a fresh water lake. Or at least, it's supposed to be. The flamingos are one of many signs showing that the chemistry of the lake is changing and that spells bad news for the flora and fauna that call it home. While there is a debate raging on what is causing the pollution and problems for the lake, several fingers point to the flower farming industry.

Circle of Blue reports, "Lake Naivasha was a site visited by several journalists following the major UN conference for World Water Day in Nairobi. The lake, which is listed as protected by the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands, was once an incredible tourist attraction. Development around the lake has resulted in deforestation and now wildlife is disappearing. In the meantime, two of the rivers that flow into the lake, Malewa and Gilgil, are drying up and a thick algal soup develops among the papyrus groves on the lake's margin. The algae, just like the flamingos, shouldn't be there."

Algae has developed on Lake Naivasha’s margin along the pier at Fisherman’s Camp, which is a sign of the lake’s worsening condition. Photo courtesy: Circle of Blue

Hippo pods have been devastated by the shrinking water levels - stranded between farmland and a disappearing water source, and flora and fauna at the base of the food chain are disappearing.

While climate change is in part to blame, agriculture is taking a major toll from pulling water to polluting what is left. Flower farming seems to be a major culprit, and because Kenya is the top flower supplier for the European Union, the debate over how much impact flower farms are having on the lake is a hot one. According to the Kenya Flower Council, the industry earned US$585 million in 2008 - so which is more important, the tourism around a healthy Lake Naivasha, or the flower industry?

According to Circle of Blue, over 50 farms line the lake's shore, and half of the water withdrawals from the lake go to the farms. The water being pumped back in is polluted with pesticides and fertilizers. While a handful of individual big companies are concerned, they make up only about 25% of all the companies, which means there aren't many advocates for figuring out solutions to keep the lake healthy and the flower industry booming.

"We suspect some chemicals are being released to the lake from the flower farms," said Geoffrey Mwirikia, the chairman of one of the lake's fishing associations. "But the government says it's not the farms."

The massive impact of agriculture on water sources is no secret - China dumps millions of gallons of commercial fertilizer into their rivers every year with dire consequences, and in the US, agriculture is causing massive dead zones in the Gulf of Mexico. So while the government and flower companies say the farms aren't to blame, it's difficult to believe that they aren't at least a big part of the cause of Lake Naivasha's woes.

Via TreeHugger

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Lemons - They're a Natural

Photo courtesy: Care2

Lemons have such a totally refreshing smell - they just scream cool, fresh, invigorating. Lemons are also incredibly versatile. They're not just for lemonade any more.

Like vinegar, much of lemon’s gift is that it is an acid. It smells much fresher than vinegar (which is fermented); but, they carry the same punch.

Here are tips for using lemons for hair spray, cleaning metal, freshening the air, cleansing your skin, lightening your hair, and more.


Lemon oil is renowned as being very lubricating, which is why it is so often used on furniture.

Known to calm fears and lift depression, adding a few drops of pure lemon oil to a diffuser is considered to be calming when someone is experiencing these symptoms.

Lemon juice is a great choice for deodorizing counters, cutting boards, and more. The acid in lemon juice kills mold, bacteria and germs. While it will not provide a 100% kill rate, it does as good a job as any commercial product without all the harmful chemicals and toxins they insist on adding.

Sending leftover lemon and/or lime rinds through the garbage disposal will deodorize this sometimes smelly kitchen helper.

Glass and China Cleaner
The acid in lemon juice will break down the alkaline minerals found in hard water and also works on stains. Make a solution of ½ water to ½ lemon juice and place in the glass. Let the solution sit for a few hours before washing as usual.

Air Freshener
Simmer sliced lemons in water.

Microwave Cleaner
Just put a slice or two of lemon in a cup of water and put in the microwave for 30 seconds on high. Use a cloth to clean dry. You can substitute a tablespoon or so of lemon juice with water.

Metal Cleaner
An acid like lemon juice works wonders for cleaning metals such as chrome, copper, and brass. Either rub the metal with a cut lemon; or, if something a bit more abrasive is required mix salt into lemon juice.

Lemon juice and the sun combined proves to whiten clothes, hair, and more. Clothes that require a little brightening can be left to soak in a solution of ½ a cup lemon juice per laundry load before washing.

Soap Scum/Shower Stalls
Soap is very alkaline and when combined with hard water minerals it tends to form soap scum. Put some lemon juice full strength on a sponge, wipe on the soap scum and leave for an hour or so. Rinse and voila - no more scum.

Mineral Buildup/Scale
Lemon acid cuts through and dissolves the alkaline minerals that form known as scale. Scale is usually found around faucets. Pour straight lemon juice onto a cleaning cloth, then lay the cloth over the scale, leave for several hours and rinse.


Alpha Hydroxy Acid
Lemon is a natural alpha hydroxyl acid and works like a charm to remove dead skin cells. Add some carrot juice for some vitamin A and you have a facial scrub as good as spa treatment.

Hairspray is flammable and hair coated with spray can catch on fire if near an open flame. Try this lemon-based natural hair spray instead.

Hair Lightener
Squeeze ½ cup of lemon juice into a container with a spout, pour on your hair, work it through, and sit in the sun until it is fully dry. Then wash as usual. Make sure not to get the lemon juice in your eyes!

Skin Lightener
Dab freshly squeezed, straight lemon juice on dark spots like “liver spots” that you want to remove. Let it fully dry and then rinse.

Add a lemon wedge to your glass of water. Lemon is a great cleanser and a glass of water with lemon is a great way to start your morning. Don't forget to add lemon to all your water.

Via Care2

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Puerto Rico Wants to Exchange Endangered Turtle Habitat for a Golf Course

A beach in Puerto Rico's Northeast Corridor. Photo by Jose Menendez

Critically endangered Leatherback sea turtles must feel like humans have it out for them. As they cope with the massive BP oil disaster in the Gulf of Mexico, the least we could do is keep one of their most important nesting areas safe. Yet if Puerto Rico Governor Luis Fortuño has his way, that nesting area could soon be covered with luxury housing, hotels and golf courses.

The beautiful Northeast Ecologico Corridor's pristine beaches, wetlands and dry coastal forest that lie adjacent to El Yunque National Forest, the Service's only tropical rainforest is in danger. The protection of the Corridor is one of the Sierra Club of Puerto Rico's top conservation priorities, and is also one of the most important U.S. nesting grounds for the Leatherback, the world's largest sea turtle.

Covering more than 3,000 acres in the northeast corner of Puerto Rico, the Northeast Ecologico Corridor had been designated as a nature reserve in 2008 by preceding governor Aníbal Acevedo Vilá after a multiparty effort in the state legislature. But in October 2009, the new governor, Luis Fortuño, removed the designation allowing for large-scale development in the area, including more than 4,500 residential and tourist units and four golf courses.

The Corridor is the second most important Leatherback turtle nesting beach in U.S. jurisdiction, and of the top three, it is now the only one without protection as a nature reserve.

In addition to being a key nesting area for the Leatherback, the Ecological Corridor is home to more than 50 rare, threatened, endangered, and native species, including the Snowy Plover, the Brown Pelican, the Puerto Rican Boa, the Hawksbill Sea Turtle, and the West Indian Manatee.

Instead of becoming a governor noted for his protection of the environment, Luis Fortuño is now known as the first governor in the history of Puerto Rico to eliminate a nature reserve in its entirety.

According to Camilla Feibelman, a Sierra Club organizer in Puerto Rico, (who works with thousands of residents and local and organizations toward preserving the Northeast Corridor) Fortuño's plan does not make much sense — it's as if he didn't know what the original nature reserve designation included. That management would have allowed the construction of eco-lodges in the Corridor and the only step left was for the planning board to approve the plan.

It's not as if there are not great economic opportunities in leaving the area with its nature designation. "The protection of the Northeast Ecological Corridor represents not only an opportunity to protect this critical Leatherback turtle nesting area, but it is also an opportunity to develop nearby towns as gateway communities with small businesses and good ecotourism jobs," said Feibelman.

Hikers on a trail in the lush Northeast Corridor rainforest. Photo by Jose Menedez.

She added that another oddity is that the Puerto Rican government is spending hundreds of thousands of dollars to promote El Yunque National Forest, the U.S. Forest Service's only tropical rainforest, as one of the New Seven Wonders of the World—yet at the same time the government now wants to open El Yunque's coasts to hotel-luxury residential projects, golf courses, shopping centers, and a new road.

What's the sense in that? There is a way to protect this valuable area while also having it help boost the local economy. A coalition supporting the nature designation of the Northeast Corridor (including the Sierra Club) sees an economic development proposal based on the hundreds of thousands of tourists who visit El Yunque each year and the many more who will come if the forest wins a spot among the New Seven Wonders of the World. The Corridor is a complementary destination, where people can kayak, bike, camp, hike but most especially see the Leatherback turtle nesting.

Write to governor Luis Fortuño asking him to return the Nature Reserve in its entirety if you are so moved. To send a preset message by email, click here. Take action and help protect the area.

Via TreeHugger