Saturday, July 31, 2010

Did You Know That...

There was a mountain of soft toys - 5,884 to be exact - when the Girl Scouts of Southeast Florida broke the world record for the largest gathering of soft toys. This happened on Sept. 6, 2008.

You may think goats eat anything in sight; but, they don't. They use their lips to explore things so it gives the appearance they're eating what they're nuzzling.

There are many landlocked countries in the world; but, Kazakhstan is the largest at 1,052,089 sq. mi. None of its border has access to the sea.

The most expensive shoes from a movie sold at auction were Dorothy's ruby slippers from "The Wizard of Oz". They sold at auction in New York City in 2000 for $666,000.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Quotable Quotes

"As far as I can see, animal experiments are one of the most political questions we have ever had to deal with. To become a radical in this area means to slaughter one of the holiest cows in Western idolatry, the `freedom of science'."

- Rudolf Bahro, author/activist.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Snail Spit Better Than Morphine

Snail Spit Chemicals from the saliva of marine cone snails can be used to make a powerful painkiller. Photo courtesy: Wikimedia Commons

Call it a new form of rapture of the deep. Chemicals from sea snail saliva can be made into pain pills that work as well as morphine; but, without the risk of addiction, a new study says.

Researchers have already used the saliva of marine cone snails as a potent painkiller, but it has to be injected into the spinal cord with a special implanted pump, which limits its use. Researchers led by David J. Craik of the Institute for Molecular Bioscience at the University of Queensland in Australia figured out how to make the peptide orally active, so patients could simply pop snail-saliva pills.

Snails' saliva contains conotoxins, which are peptide toxins that interrupt various biological functions. Snails inject it into their prey using needle-like teeth that shoot from their mouths like harpoons, according to a report on the findings by the American Chemical Society.

Although peptides can be very potent drugs, they're difficult to use as pharmaceuticals because they are unstable and not typically available orally. But Craik's group found that "cyclizing" larger peptides -- basically tying them into loops -- can make them functional in pill form.

The research is reported in the journal Angewandte Chemie International Edition, published by the German Chemical Society.

Craik's team used a string of six amino acids to tie the peptide together, because the amino acids don't interfere with the peptide's function. When the team tested it in rats, they found even a tiny dose was as potent as gabapentin, the most popular drug for neuropathic pain.

Other work on peptide painkillers includes manipulating scorpion venom to numb specific kinds of pain.

Craik has worked on naturally occurring cyclized peptides, which he calls cyclotides, since the 1990s, ACS says. They exist in several examples in nature, but the cyclized snail saliva peptide marks a new step in bioengineering drugs.

The next step is to start testing the use of saliva pills as a drug, Craik says.

Via popsci

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Milk From Cloned Cows Sold to Unsuspecting Public

Cloning controversy: Milk from the calves of a cloned cow is being sold illegally in Britain (file photo). Photo courtesy: dailymail

Last night the Food Standards Agency said it would investigate. It told the Mail that it believes the sale of milk from such cows is illegal under food regulations.

Research has identified serious concerns for the health and well-being of animals produced as a result of cloning. There is evidence of premature births, deformities and early death.

The cows being used to produce the controversial milk start life in the U.S. as embryos created from the eggs of cloned prize-winning Holstein cows and the sperm of normal bulls.

The embryos are frozen and flown to the UK, where they are implanted into host cows. The resulting supersize animals can be used to produce massive quantities of milk and for breeding purposes.

Dolly the Sheep was the first mammal to be cloned from an adult cell. Photo courtesy: dailymail

The Mail blew the whistle on this trade in "clone farm" cows more than three years ago following the birth of Dundee Paradise on a farm in Shropshire.

Subsequently, we revealed that a total of eight such calves were born on British farms.

It now appears that milk from at least one of these animals; and possibly many more, is being sold for human consumption.

The Mail revelations in 2007 were a complete surprise to the Government's food and farming department, Defra, and the FSA, which had no knowledge of the births.

Subsequently, the EU and the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) launched a major investigation in order to decide on how to handle the controversial technology. As a result, earlier this month, Euro MPs voted in favour of a ban on meat and milk from clones and their offspring going into human food without approval. However, the regime has not yet been passed into law.

Image courtesy: dailymail

Details of the claims that clone farm milk is reaching the public appeared in the respected International Herald Tribune.

It said a British dairy farmer had admitted using milk from a cow bred from a clone as part of his daily production.

The man said he was also selling embryos from the same cow to breeders in Canada. He said part of the reason he was staying anonymous was that he did not want to be required to get rid of a valuable cow.

An FSA spokesman said: "Since 2007 the FSA interpretation of the law has been that meat and products from clones and their offspring are considered novel foods and would therefore need to be authorised before being placed on the market.

"As the UK authority responsible for accepting novel food applications, the agency has not received any applications relating to cloning and no authorisations have been made.

"The agency will, of course, investigate any reports of unauthorised novel foods entering the food chain."

European experts have not identified a food safety risk associated with cloning. But some campaigners claim it could allow new diseases to pass from farm animals to humans.

The RSPCA and Compassion in World Farming (CiWF) are among a number of groups opposed to farm animal cloning for food. The chief policy adviser to CiWF, Peter Stevenson, said: "I would be appalled if milk from a clone offspring cow is coming into the food chain in the UK."

Image courtesy: dailymail

"As the farmer has acknowledged, the public is deeply concerned about this and does not want it.

"If this is happening, it demonstrates that there are very serious loopholes in the way food production is policed in this country. The Government has known these animals were in the country for at least three years, but it appears to have done nothing to ensure any milk or meat is not reaching the public."

A study conducted by the FSA found widespread opposition to clone farming and food. Dr. Steve Griggs, who led the research, said: "The majority of people came to the conclusion that they would not want to eat such food. The overwhelming majority either did not want it or were unsure.

"They struggled to identify any convincing benefits for them as consumers. There were concerns about the ethical side of animal cloning, indeed whether we have the moral right to go down this road."

Image courtesy: dailymail

Via dailymail

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Quotable Quotes

"What's the use of a house if you haven't got a tolerable planet to put it on?"

- Henry David Thoreau, American author/philosopher.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Photo courtesy: Wildlife Extra

Specially-trained sniffer dogs are now being used in Scotland's Western Isles in the hunt to find hedgehogs that have been preying on the eggs of native bird populations.The dogs are being used by the Uist Wader Project (UWP) as part of an ongoing drive to rid the Western Isles of the non-native hedgehogs.

New dog handler Stephen Robinson is in place to help the team along with golden Labrador Misca, who is fully trained and will mainly be used on the moorland on the east side of Benbecula, and parts of North Uist. She is expected to be extremely effective, especially in those areas where hedgehogs are thin on the ground and the terrain is tough going for the project's 16 trappers. The sniffer dog also gives us a means of determining the efficiency of trapping.

And Stephen has just got a second dog, Guss, who is just a few months old, but will be trained to search out hedgehogs.

The UWP is responsible for removing introduced hedgehogs from the Uists and Benbecula. Research has shown that hedgehogs have caused severe damage to the islands' biodiversity by eating the eggs of internationally important populations of wader birds.

UWP manager Gwen Evans confirmed: "We have already contacted many crofters and landowners to find out if they are willing for a dog to search part of their croft land, but we have more people to contact. Prior to appointing Stephen, we needed to be sure that Misca was suitable for the job, especially around stock, so we asked Pete Crichton to help."

Pete has impressive credentials as for the past 10 years he has been assessing the suitability of dogs for the Search and Rescue Dog Association (SARDA). This work is as a volunteer which he fits around his paid job as part of the SNH team based at Kinlochewe on the Beinn Eighe National Nature Reserve. With Calum Watt, the local SSCPA Inspector looking on, the prospective dog and handler were assessed for control of the dog; coverage of the ground and especially how they reacted to stock. Each dog was expected to sit in the corner of a pen of sheep, while the sheep were moved around.

"We are pleased to report that Misca passed with flying colours. The next stage was to search a field looking for hedgehog smells - we used bedding that hedgehogs had been using overnight, hidden down rabbit burrows and in walls. Again, Misca was clearly suitable for the job."

Ross Minett, the Uist Hedgehog Rescue (UHR) spokesperson, said: "We are pleased to be helping both hedgehogs and the wading birds by removing the hedgehogs from the Uists in a humane manner. We have already translocated lots of these wonderful creatures back to mainland Scotland where they have been released to live out their lives."

Scottish SPCA chief superintendent Mike Flynn said: "The introduction of hedgehogs on to Uist has been having a detrimental effect on the native bird population for many years now, therefore we fully appreciate the need to undertake this translocation project. So far this year the number caught in Benbecula stands at just 41 which represents significant progress with the trapping effort and a dwindling population of hedgehogs."

Via Wildlife Extra

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Record Numbers of Arabian Ungulates Killed by Fence

DEATH TRAP: The fence stopped animals finding sources of food and water during dry spells. Photo courtesy: Wildlife Extra

A fence may have been starving gazelles and other ungulates to death in Saudi Arabia, according to the latest research.

Die-offs of large numbers of globally-threatened Arabian oryx and Arabian Sand Gazelles were recorded from 1991 to 2008 in the fenced Mahazat as-Sayd protected area in Saudi Arabia. Researchers found that most deaths occurred during the summer, when rainfall was negligible. The animals starved to death because of the reduced availability, accessibility and quality of food plants in the area.

Grazing of Arabian Oryx habitat depends on rainfall and animals move over great distance in response to rain. However, the fence around the protected area at Mahazat as-Sayd prevents the natural movement of animals and artificially concentrates animals into what may be an unfavourable habitat.

The Sand Gazelle is a highly gregarious and migratory species, moving long distances in search of a good quality pastures - in central Asia they are known to cover several hundreds of kilometers. Researchers believe that it is, therefore, likely that fences such as the one around Mahazat as-Sayd protected area are exacerbating the effects of drought.

In an attempt to reduce the catastrophic effects, a strategy and action plan has since been developed to manage the Oryx and Gazelle within the reserve, providing food and water at five camps as an emergency plan to minimise mortalities.

Via Wildlife Extra

Saturday, July 24, 2010

New Plastic Gyre Found in Indian Ocean

Plastic debris collected from the ocean's newest floating "garbage patch." (Photo: 5 Gyres Institute)

Scientists previously mapped huge floating trash patches in the Pacific and Atlantic oceans, but now a husband-wife team researching plastic garbage in the Indian Ocean suggest a new and dire view. "The world's oceans are covered with a thin plastic soup," says Anna Cummins, cofounder of 5 Gyres Institute.

Cummins and her husband, Marcus Eriksen, established the 5 Gyres Institute to research plastic pollution in the world's oceans. The team works in collaboration with Algalita Marine Research Foundation and Pangaea Explorations, two nonprofit scientific organizations devoted to marine preservation. They report that all of the 12 water samples collected in the 3,000 miles between Perth, Australia, and Port Louis, Mauritius (an island due East of Madagascar), contain plastic.

Map of the five ocean gyres (Image: NOAA)

Their findings support earlier research about trash washed onto beaches in and around the Indian Ocean, and it's already been well established that there's an enormous amount of plastic trash swirling in the North Pacific and North Atlantic Ocean Gyres.

Gyres are powerful rotating currents in the world's major oceans. The five large subtropical gyres are located in the North Pacific, South Pacific, North Atlantic, South Atlantic, and Indian oceans. Once plastic makes its way into the ocean (through sewers, streams, rivers, or from the coast), it is ultimately swept up and trapped in these gyres and forms a swirling soup of garbage.

"There is no island of trash," says Anna Cummins, cofounder of 5 Gyres Institute. "It's a myth." Instead, she says the garbage patches resemble plastic soup or confetti. "We now have a third accumulation zone of plastic pollution that shows compounding evidence that the trash isn't condensed to an island," she says. "It's spread out across the entire gyre from coast to coast."

Ironically, it would be far easier to clean up the oceans if the trash were forming islands, Eriksen explains. In his opinion, it isn't practical to try to recover the plastic from sea because most is fragmented and widely distributed. "If you stand on island beaches and mainland coastlines, you can watch the plastic coming to you. That's where gyre clean up makes the most sense," Eriksen says, "but we need to stop the flow of plastic into the ocean."

The best solution, he says, is to collect debris that washes up on beaches, which act as natural nets, before it washes back into the ocean where it poses significant health risks for fish, seabirds, and other marine animals that mistake small plastic pellets for food or get tangled in discarded fishing nets.

Garbage washed up on island beaches. (Photo: 5 Gyres Institute)

This Indian Ocean garbage patch discovery means there are now three confirmed ocean zones of plastic pollution, and Eriksen and Cummins also expect to find others in the South Pacific and South Atlantic gyres also. The 5 Gyres Institute, a team of scientists and educators, will lead eight expeditions to explore the South Atlantic (starting later this summer) and South Pacific (scheduled for next spring).

More garbage floating in the ocean. (Photo: 5 Gyres Institute)

What can we do help prevent this plastic soup from growing larger? We can look for the new degradable bioplastics to replace conventional petroleum-based plastic. We can choose reusable items over disposables, buy less plastics overall, and help clean up beaches.

Via Yahoo!News

Friday, July 23, 2010

Russia Suffers From Worst Heat Wave in Decades

Russia is suffering from the worst heatwave in decades. Forest fires are burning all across Russia; homes are burning to the ground; approx. 25 people have died from the flames or smoke inhalation.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Traditional European Cold/Flu Tea

An extremely common, effective cleansing tea used by many Europeans at the first sign of a cold or the flu coming on is called, quite brilliantly, Traditional European Cold/Flu Tea. It is an equal mixture of dried elderflower, yarrow, and peppermint. Always buy the organically-grown herbs. I find that mixing 50 g. of each in a sealed jar lasts quite a long time. Use 1-2 teaspoons of the mix per pot of tea. Steep approximately 7 minutes, strain, add a touch of organic, unpasteurized honey and enjoy.

Why is this such a household fixture in Europe? It is an inexpensive tea that can be made with all organic herbs that is just loaded with health benefits.

The Health Benefits of Elderflower

Recent research has confirmed that elderberries help to shorten the strength and length of coughs and cold. There is a theory that is a result of the high amount of Vitamin C they contain. Elderberries rank up there with blueberries and cranberries as being full of flavanoids, amino acids, carotenoids, tannins and vitamins.

Elder has been used medicinally for 4,000 years and I referred to by many as “the medicine chest of the country folk.”

Elder is used:

• as a de-toxifier. It builds the immune system by clearing out toxins through the lymph glands.

• as an expectorant to thin out and clear mucus. In the days before modern medicine made such a big impact on everyone’s lives, it was also used for respiratory problems, particularly asthmatics.

• as a pick-me-up for “poorly” people (especially children and the elderly) before winter. It helped to build their immune systems before the cold of the winter set in. Unfortunately, coughs, colds and influenza were killers through a cold European winter.

• to relieve the symptoms of allergies to pollens and to reduce the effects of sinusitis. Elderflower concentrate was made in the springtime when the elderflowers were just into bloom and plentiful.

• as a blood purifier; and as a tonic or ointment to fade freckles or skin blemishes. Many modern skin tonics still contain elderflowers.

The Health Benefits of Yarrow

The yarrow plant is also known as “bloodwort”, “carpenter’s weed”, “common yarrow”, “knight’s milfoil”, “milfoil”, “noble yarrow”, “nosebleed”, “old man’s pepper” and “staunchgrass”.

Yarrow has been used since at least ancient Greece as treatment for external skin wounds. The scientific name is Achillea millefolium. Achillea refers to the ancient Greek hero Achilles who is reputed to have used yarrow to treat himself and his soldiers. Millefolium means “of a thousand leaves” referring to the fine, delicate and feathery leaves of the plant.

Yarrow is used as a/an:

• antibiotic
• anti-inflammatory (helps with gastritis, stomach ulcers, enteritis, other gastrointestinal conditions, infections)
• an antiseptic
• astringent (helps with diarrhea, dysentery, internal bleeding)
• antispasmodic (intestinal issues like colic, cramps and flatulence)
• diuretic
• sedative
• aid to improve cardiovascular health by helping to regulate blood pressure
• blood purifier. It removes heat and toxins from the body by increasing sweating.
• repairer of damaged or worn body tissues due to the presence of silica
• appetite stimulant
• stimulant for the circulatory system and bile flow
• skin wash to help with skin problems such as eczema
• hair tonic

The Health Benefits of Peppermint

Peppermint is believed to be a natural hybrid of watermint and spearmint. The primary active components of peppermint are menthol and menthone. Historically, peppermint has been used to treat digestive disorders and upper respiratory infections.

Peppermint is an excellent source of vitamin C and vitamin A; and, a very good source of magnesium, folate, dietary fiber, calcium, iron, and vitamin B2.

Peppermint is used as an/a:

• analgesic (helps with pain relief)
• anti-inflammatory (helps with pain relief)
• anesthetic
• decongestant, expectorant, antiviral (helps with sinusitis, colds)
• astringent (helps with acne, blackheads, rashes, redness
• antiseptic
• antibacterial
• antimicrobial
• antispasmodic (helps with menstrual cramps)
• vasodilatory effects (helps with migraines)
• insect repellant (kills head lice)
• carminative properties (helps with irritable bowel syndrome)
• reliever of anxiety, stress, emotional imbalance and stress-induced headaches or migraines

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Major Dive Spots in the Coral Triangle Closed due to Massive Coral Bleaching

WHITE OUT: Bleached coral in the Philippines. Picture: WWF-Philippines / Lory Tan

Mass coral bleaching caused by global warming is threatening the health of the Coral Triangle, a vast marine region that is home to 76% of the world's known corals.

The Malaysian government recently closed portions of world-renowned dive sites on the tropical islands of Tioman and Redang, saying they would be off limits until October to give the fragile coral reef ecosystems time to heal.

Meanwhile, in the Philippines, bleaching has been reported in Anilao and Nasugbu, as well as off the cost of the western municipality of Taytay, Palawan. The latter saw corals, which usually exhibit a green and brown hue, temporarily turn unusual shades of pink, orange and yellow - a precursor to complete bleaching.

Numerous other Philippine reefs are likely to have been affected as well, exacerbated by localised outbreaks of Crown-of-Thorns Seastars.

Widespread bleaching has also been recorded in Indonesia, with areas near Sabang, Aceh, Padang, Thousand Island Jakarta, Bali, and many other locations.

"This widespread bleaching is alarming because it directly affects the health of our oceans and their ability to nurture fish stocks and other marine resources on which millions of people depend for food and income," says Richard Leck, Climate Change Strategy Leader of the WWF Coral Triangle Programme.

The Coral Triangle region covers the seas of Indonesia, Malaysia, Papua New Guinea, the Philippines, Solomon Islands and Timor Leste. This nursery of the seas contains more than 600 species of reef-building coral. Since March this year, about 50 different organisations and individuals have reported signs of coral bleaching in the region. Up to 100 per cent bleaching on susceptible coral species have been reported, and in some areas, severe bleaching has even affected more resistant kinds.

COLOUR CONCERN: Bleached corals in Taytay, Palawan. Originally hued green and brown, they are now unusual shades of pink, orange and yellow - a precursor to complete bleaching. Picture courtesy: WWF-Philippines

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's (NOAA) Coral Reef Watch stated that the current incident is the worst of it kind since 1997-1998, which decimated 16% of the world's coral reefs.

With many areas showing signs of mass bleaching, it has become apparent that more weight needs to be put behind long-term conservation strategies, such as marine protected area management, preventing coastal and marine pollution, as well as promoting sustainable fisheries. Coral bleaching is a phenomenon caused by global warming. Increased seawater temperatures, which in some regions have grown as much as 2°C above the long-term average maximum, can push the algae living inside corals beyond the brink, causing reefs to eventually turn white and die. Aside from increased sea temperatures, other causes of stress include disease, pollution, sedimentation, cyanide fishing, changes in salinity, and storms.

"Well-designed and appropriately-managed networks of marine protected areas and locally managed marine areas are essential to enhance resilience against climate change, and prevent further loss of biodiversity, including fisheries collapse," Leck also added.

Through new sustainable finance mechanisms and investments in climate adaptation, WWF plans to support networks of marine sanctuaries and locally managed conservation areas across the Coral Triangle. Better fisheries management is also key to alleviating the impacts of coral bleaching, ensuring that only viable sites are given access to fishing and that the more sensitive ones are given time to recuperate via strong regulations, enforcement and awareness.

In Malaysia, for instance, WWF is promoting the conservation of herbivorous reef fish, which plays a critical role of keeping algae populations lower, allowing room for coral recruits to settle on the potentially newly-dead coral skeletons. Only a year ago, WWF launched The Coral Triangle and Climate Change: Ecosystems, People and Societies at Risk, a report based on a thorough consideration of the climate biology, economics and social characteristics of the region, showing how unchecked climate change will ultimately undermine and destroy ecosystems and livelihoods in the Coral Triangle.

Via WildlifeExtra

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Chicken That Thinks She's a Penquin

Chinese chicken: Mumble the hen who thinks she's a penguin stares out across the water, perhaps wondering if she can swim. Photo courtesy: MailOnline

Standing proudly upright and straight, this chicken that thinks she's a penguin cuts an unusual figure around the farmyard.

Bizarrely mimicking the stance of her water-going cousins, the hen - named Mumble - even has smaller than normal wings, just like a penguin.

And she never attempts to fly like other chickens in the coop, choosing to waddle from side to side, although she is yet to take a dip in the water.

Odd one out: Mumble cuts quite a contrast with her more traditional chicken friends. Photo courtesy: MailOnline

The discovery of Mumble's unusual manner has also saved her life, with the family which owns her sparing her from the cooking pot.

The bird's identity crisis has made her a celebrity in Jiangsu, a province in eastern China where she is owned by farmer Lu Xi.

Local media outlets dubbed the chicken Mumble after the main character in the animated film Happy Feet, about a penguin that can't sing so dances instead.

Crazy bird: The chicken has proved popular in Jiangsu Province, China and has been spared from the dinner table. Photo courtesy: MailOnline

Mr Xi said: "He only has little wings as well just like a penguin which he sticks out when he walks. I guess that's why he never flies. I had not seen the film but I like the name, although my bird can't dance - and I don't think he can swim either."

"But he should be happy - my family all like him and so we decided to keep him instead of putting him in the pot."

And that's enough to make any chicken dance!

Via MailOnline

Monday, July 19, 2010

Indian State of Rajasthan Bans Plastic Bags

Photo courtesy: Claude Renault (Away) via flickr

India’s largest state, Rajasthan, has become the latest place to completely ban plastic bags. The ban has been put in place due to “both the short-term and long-term environmental hazards” of plastic bags.

One of the main reasons is the plastic bags are blocking sewer lines, drainage systems and water distribution pipelines increasing malaria and dengue fever in Rajasthan. All that lovely, stagnant water is a mosquito's dream home.

One of the other side effects of plastic bags blocking the drains and sewers showed itself in Mumbai in 2005. When the monsoon season arrived, the drains and sewers could not drain off any of the massive amounts of rain being dumped on the city. Over 1000 people died in the resulting flooding.

Perhaps the most compelling reason for the ban is that in India the cow is considered sacred; and, wander unchecked and unhindered in India. Unfortunately, they often asphyxiate themselves while trying to eat the bags.

“No shopkeeper, retailer, trader, hawker or vendor will be allowed to supply goods to consumers in these carry-bags” beginning August 1, 2010 in Rajasthan, according to The Hindu. The ban is also on “manufacture, storage, import, sale and transport of plastic carry-bags.”

Rajasthan is taking this ban extremely seriously. Break this law and offenders face imprisonment for 5 years, a fine of up to Rs100,000 ($2,146), or both. In addition, repeat offenders could be penalized a further Rs5,000 ($107) a day. These consequences are incredibly severe in a country where many people live at or below the poverty level.

While Rajasthan is not the first place in India to institute a plastic bag ban, enforcement in other places hasn’t proved to be easy so far.

“The provinces of Kerala, Sikkim, West Bengal, Tamil Nadu and Maharashtra all have bans on plastic bags in place but so far they have proved difficult to police. Delhi also introduced a ban last year,” Tom Young of Business Green reports.

Via Planetsave

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Hosting a Zero-Waste Party

Photo courtesy: Care2

No matter what the party occasion, you can always make your party a zero-waste extravaganza. Corey Colwell-Lipson and Lynn Colwell, authors of Celebrate Green, offer these guidelines for making any party waste-free.

1. Decorate the tree together with edible/compostable ornaments (like hardened gingerbread cookies) and popcorn or cranberry garlands.

2. Use edible and compostable decor for the home and table.

3. Use cloth napkins and tablecloth instead of paper products.

4. Use only reusable glass and tableware, or compostable products made from corn, potato or other.

5. Compost all food scraps and send leftovers home with guests in pre-saved, re-purposed glass jars.

6. Serve organic or biodynamic wine with real cork stoppers. Recycle the glass bottle and compost the stopper.

7. Give consumables, experiences, carbon offsets or donations to a cause as parting gifts.

8. Use e-invitations or plantable invitations (embedded with seeds).

Via Care2

Saturday, July 17, 2010

New Sanitation System Being Tested in Haiti

Resident of an IDP settlement in Port-au-Prince receives a week's supply of biodegradable plastic bags being tested as toilets. Photo courtesy: Oxfam IRINnews

“Flying toilets” are common in slums worldwide: Residents unable to reach a latrine due to crowding, distance or insecurity, defecate in a plastic bag and then sling it over the rooftops. But in Haiti, aid teams are testing a specially treated bag designed to turn human feces into compost within weeks.

This is the first time the biodegradable single-use Peepoo bags are being tested in a post-disaster humanitarian response, according to Andy Bastable, public health engineering coordinator with Oxfam, which is evaluating the product at settlements of displaced people in the Delmas area of the capital, Port-au-Prince.

To date the Peepoo, which includes a chemical to break down waste for use as fertilizer, has been used in slum areas in Bangladesh and Kenya. Critics of the approach say by itself it does not resolve issues of privacy or hand-washing - essential in sanitation solutions - and there is no consumer incentive to use the bag.

An NGO project director working in urban sanitation who preferred anonymity said while the potential benefits are there in general public health terms, for the individual who can use any plastic bag for free it makes no difference.

The aid worker, whose work includes sanitation interventions in Nairobi’s largest slum, Kibera, said the product was “a lovely idea” but “a bit of a joke”.

At some sites where displaced people are living in Port-au-Prince, pit latrines commonly used in post-emergency situations are not feasible because of concrete or tarmac surfaces, a high water table or landowners prohibiting the digging, Oxfam’s Bastable told IRIN. One option in such settings is raised latrines, but US$20 per day per toilet to desludge gets quite expensive, and truck access to many of the sites is difficult, he said.

At one camp on a rubbish dump, International Rescue Committee workers dug nearly two metres and found no soil - only compacted garbage, said IRC’s Melissa Winkler.

Oxfam’s Bastable said: “We started thinking - what has been people’s sanitation practice before? Can we take what they do normally, systematize it and make it safer?”

For many in Port-au-Prince the odour-neutralizing bags, with gender-segregated stalls, hand-washing stations and bins regularly emptied by aid workers, are an improvement. Sanitation conditions were poor in Port-au-Prince before the 12 January earthquake and many people defecated in plastic bags, dumping them wherever they could.

Haiti is one of the few countries in the world where sanitation coverage for urban dwellers decreased between 1990 and 2006, according to the UN Children’s Fund and World Health Organization.

Excerpt from an Oxfam information sheet in a trial of the Peepoo composting toilet bag technology in Haiti. Photo courtesy: Oxfam IRINnews

Wilna Sinvry, 42, lives with her two children at the Delmas 31 camp, where residents received pictorial instructions on how to use and dispose of the bags. “Before the earthquake I would usually go in a black plastic bag and I would have to wake up at four in the morning to dump it in a ravine.”

Camilla Wirseen, Peepoo project director and one of the founders, said while Haiti is no longer in the initial response phase, Peepoo trials in Port-au-Prince will give useful information about the viability of the method in disaster response settings.

“It is a toilet we’re talking about, but it is also an entire sanitation system,” she told IRIN. “In disaster response situations, how would the bags be distributed, for example - airdropped if need be? With accompanying containers or without? How would collection happen? If it is a difficult to access area, could we dig a hole for disposing of the bags?”

Oxfam is finalizing its evaluation report, according to the NGO's Deepa Patel in Port-au-Prince. Recommendations include that storage requirements (such as temperature) must be spelled out and there should be a further study of cost effectiveness.

Oxfam and the NGO SOIL (Sustainable Organic Integrated Livelihoods) are also piloting compost toilets and other "ecological sanitation" techniques in Haiti.

Via IRINnews

Friday, July 16, 2010

1800-Year-Old Personal Care Set Found

An 1,800-year-old personal care set from the Roman period has been revealed during excavations at Myra-Andriake in Antalya’s district of Demre, daily Radikal reported Wednesay.

A pair of bronze tweezers and a manicure rasp were found at the excavations of the Andriake Port, said the head of the excavations, Professor Nevzat Çevi, an academic from Akdeniz University’s Archeology Department. Indicating that the 1,800-year-old care set was considerably advanced compared to similar ones in the Roman period, Çevik said human’s basic needs were the same even if history and culture change.

“Nevertheless, a counterpart for the special objects has never been discovered at excavations in the region, and thus its existence could not be proven,” he said. “Now, we are aware that the Lycian women of the Roman period 1,800 years ago were living well-groomed by using a pair of tweezers, rasp and mirror. ‘Whether they were caring for the world’ in those days, who knows?” said Çevik.

Meanwhile, Swedish scientists announced that they unearthed an object that “bears the unmistakable look of a penis carved out of antler bone,” LiveScience, a science news website, reported last week.

The dildo-like object is about 4 inches (10.5 cm) long and 0.8 inches (2 cm) in diameter.

"Your mind and my mind wanders away to make this interpretation about what it looks like – for you and me, it signals this erected-penis-like shape," said archaeologist Göran Gruber of the National Heritage Board in Sweden, who worked on the excavation. "But if that's the way the Stone Age people thought about it, I can't say."

The carved bone was unearthed at a Mesolithic site in Motala, Sweden, that is rich with ancient artifacts from between 4,000 to 6,000 B.C. "It's an organic object, that's why it's special," Gruber told LiveScience.

Perhaps instead of, or in addition to, its sexual purpose, the object may have been used as a tool, such as to chip flakes of flint, Gruber suggested.

Via hurriyetnews

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Scientists Invent Cloak of Invisibility

Photo courtesy: dailymail

It sounds like a far-fetched invention from science-fiction or fairy tales.

But US scientists have developed a working invisibility cloak made from small particles of glass.

When light hits an object, it bounces off the surface and into the naked eye, making it visible.

But researchers at Michigan Tech University have found a way of capturing infrared light and bending it around an object, making it invisible.

At the moment the science is still based in the lab. But if the same results could be achieved with visible light, the shrouded object would disappear from sight.

Professor Elena Semouchkina has developed a nonmetallic cloak that uses identical glass resonators made of chalcogenide glass, a type of material that does not conduct electricity.

In computer simulations, the cloak made objects hit by infrared waves—approximately one micron or one-millionth of a metre long—disappear from view.

It is the first time scientists have tried using glass to bend light in this way.

Her invisibility cloak uses metamaterials, which are artificial materials with properties that do not exist in nature. These metamaterials are made of tiny glass resonators arranged in a concentric pattern in the shape of a cylinder.

The 'spokes' of the circle produce magnetic resonance which bends light waves around an object, making it invisible.

Metamaterials, which use small resonators instead of atoms or molecules of natural materials, straddle the boundary between materials science and electrical engineering.

The team is now testing an invisibility cloak rescaled to work at microwave frequencies and made of ceramic resonators.

They are carrying out the work in Michigan Tech's anechoic chamber: a cave-like compartment lined with highly absorbent charcoal-gray foam cones.

Inside, antennas transmit receive microwaves, which are much longer than infrared light, up to several centimeters long.

They have cloaked metal cylinders two to three inches in diameter and three to four inches high.

"Starting from these experiments, we want to move to higher frequencies and smaller wavelengths", the researchers said.

"The most exciting applications will be at the frequencies of visible light."

New Scientist magazine predicted last year that invisibility cloaks could be part of everyday life in 30 years.

The research appeared in the journal Applied Physics Letters, published by the American Institute of Physics.

Via dailymail

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Overfishing Allows Monster Jellyfish to Thrive

Photo courtesy: discovery news (Yomiuri Shibun/AFP/Getty Images).

Giant jellyfish like this one are taking over parts of the world's oceans as overfishing and other human activities open windows of opportunity for them to prosper, say researchers.

In this photo, a diver is attaching a sensor to track a monster Echizen jellyfish, which has a body almost 5 feet across, off the coast of northern Japan.

Jellyfish are normally kept in check by fish, which eat small jellyfish and compete for jellyfish food such as zooplankton, researchers said. But, with overfishing, jellyfish numbers are increasing.

These huge creatures can burst through fishing nets, as well as destroy local fisheries with their taste for fish eggs and larvae.

Anthony Richardson of CSIRO Marine & Atmospheric Research and colleagues reported their findings in the journal Trends in Ecology and Evolution to coincide with World Oceans Day.

They say climate change could also cause jellyfish populations to grow. The team believes that for the first time, water conditions could lead to what they call a "jellyfish stable state," in which jellyfish rule the oceans.

The combination of overfishing and high levels of nutrients in the water has been linked to jellyfish blooms. Nitrogen and phosphorous in run-off cause red phytoplankton blooms, which create low-oxygen dead zones where jellyfish survive, but fish can't, researchers said.

"(There is) a jellyfish called Nomura, which is the biggest jellyfish in the world. It can weigh 200 kilograms (440 pounds), as big as a sumo wrestler and is 2 meters (6.5 feet) in diameter," Richardson said.

Richardson said jellyfish numbers are increasing in Southeast Asia, the Black Sea, the Gulf of Mexico and the North Sea.

Via discovery news

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

New Species of Clam-Eating Map Turtle Discovered

Photo courtesy: Care2

U.S. Geological Survey scientists discovered a unique small clam-eating turtle species in Louisiana and Mississippi. It lives only in the Pearl River. It is a Map turtle and predictably is named the Pearl River Map Turtle. Its scientific name is Graptemys pearlensis. Previously it had been confused with the Pascagoula Map Turtle.

One of the researchers, Josh Ennen, said, “When people think about discovery and new species, they think of rainforests, or unexplored and isolated countries. Coming from southern Mississippi, I basically found this turtle in my own backyard.” It is thought some turtles evolved to live in specific rivers. Ennen found it strange that the Pascagoula map turtle was believed to be in both the Pearl and Pascagoula Rivers. So he started investigating the turtles in the Pearl River. He noticed subtle differences, and called in another researcher who had studied the turtles previously. Jeff Lovich worked on re-examining his map turtle data, and reported back to Ennen. Lovich said, “Josh asked me to reanalyze my data on color and the way the turtles look to combine with the genetic data.” Genetic differences confirmed that there were two distinct map turtle species.

The Pearl River species lives in freshwater rivers and streams. The males are smaller than females, and they don’t eat clams like the females. The females can be nearly twice as big, and can open clams with their jaws.

Via Care2

Monday, July 12, 2010

WD-40: Miracle in a Can

Before you read to the end, do you know what the main ingredient of WD-40 is? Don't lie and don't cheat. WD-40. I'm impressed! WD-40 who knew? "Water Displacement #40". The product began from a search for a rust preventative solvent and degreaser to protect missile parts.

WD-40 was created in 1953 by three technicians at the San Diego Rocket Chemical Company. Its name comes from the project that was to find a "water displacement" compound. They were successful with the 40th formulation, thus WD-40. The Convair Company bought it in bulk to protect their Atlas missile parts. Ken East (one of the original founders) says there is nothing in WD-40 that would hurt you.

WD-40 Uses:

1. Protects silver from tarnishing.

2. Removes road tar and grime from cars.

3. Cleans and lubricates guitar strings.

4. Gives floors that 'just-waxed' sheen without making them slippery.

5. Keeps flies off cows. Whoever thought to try this on a cow had way too much time on their hands.

6. Restores and cleans chalkboards.

7. Removes lipstick stains.

8. Loosens stubborn zippers.

9. Untangles jewelry chains.

10. Removes stains from stainless steel sinks.

11. Removes dirt and grime from the barbecue grill.

12. Keeps ceramic/terra cotta garden pots from oxidizing.

13. Removes tomato stains from clothing.

14. Keeps glass shower doors free of water spots.

15. Camouflages scratches in ceramic and marble floors.

16. Keeps scissors working smoothly.

17. Lubricates noisy door hinges on vehicles and doors in homes.

18. It removes black scuff marks from the kitchen floor! Use WD-40 for those nasty tar and scuff marks on flooring. It doesn't seem to harm the finish and you won't have to scrub nearly as hard to get them off. Just remember to open some windows if you have a lot of marks.

19. Bug guts will eat away the finish on your car if not removed quickly! Use WD-40!

20. Gives a children's playground gym slide a shine for a super fast slide.

21. Lubricates gear shift and mower deck lever for ease of handling on riding mowers.

22. Rids kids' rocking chairs and swings of squeaky noises.

23. Lubricates tracks in sticking home windows and makes them easier to open.

24. Spraying an umbrella stem makes it easier to open and close.

25. Restores and cleans padded leather dashboards in vehicles, as well as vinyl bumpers.

26. Restores and cleans roof racks on vehicles.

27. Lubricates and stops squeaks in electric fans.

28. Lubricates wheel sprockets on tricycles, wagons, and bicycles for easy handling.

29. Lubricates fan belts on washers and dryers and keeps them running smoothly.

30. Keeps rust from forming on saws, saw blades, and other tools.

31. Removes splattered grease on stove.

32. Keeps bathroom mirror from fogging.

33. Lubricates prosthetic limbs.

34. Keeps pigeons off the balcony (they hate the smell).

35. Removes all traces of duct tape.

36. Folks even spray it on their arms, hands, and knees to relieve arthritis pain.

37. Florida's favorite use is: "cleans and removes love bugs from grills and bumpers".

38. The favorite use in the state of New York, WD-40 protects the Statue of Liberty from the elements.

39. WD-40 attracts fish. Spray a little on live bait or lures; and, you will be catching the big one in no time. Also, it's a lot cheaper than the chemical attractants that are made for just that purpose. Keep in mind though, using some chemical-laced baits or lures for fishing are not allowed in some states.

40. Use it for fire ant bites. It takes the sting away immediately and stops the itch.

41. WD-40 is great for removing crayon from walls. Spray on the mark and wipe with a clean rag.

42. Also, if you've discovered that your teenage daughter has washed and dried a tube of lipstick with a load of laundry, saturate the lipstick spots with WD-40 and rewash. Presto! The lipstick is gone!

43. If you sprayed WD-40 on the distributor cap, it would displace the moisture and allow the car to start.

BTW: The basic ingredient is FISH OIL.

Who knew!?

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Another BP Coverup: Those Plumes are Escaping Oil

Sampling operations being conducted on the research vessel Brooks McCall, near the site of the oil breach at the Macondo well in the Gulf of Mexico. (Photo: Dr. Oscar Garcia / Florida State University). Photo courtesy: truthout

Reprinted from truthout

Through a chemical fingerprinting process, University of South Florida researchers have definitively linked clouds of underwater oil in the northern Gulf of Mexico to BP's runaway Deepwater Horizon well — the first direct scientific link between the subsurface oil clouds commonly known as "plumes" and the BP oil spill, USF officials said Friday.

Until now, scientists had circumstantial evidence, but lacked that definitive scientific link.

The announcement came on the same day that the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration announced that its researchers have confirmed the existence of the subsea plumes at depths of 3,300 to 4,300 feet below the surface of the Gulf. NOAA said its detection equipment also implicated the BP well in the plumes' creation.

Together, the two studies confirm what in the early days of the spill was denied by BP and viewed skeptically by NOAA's chief — that much of the crude that gushed from the Deepwater Horizon well stayed beneath the surface of the water.

"What we have learned completely changes the idea of what an oil spill is," said chemical oceanographer David Hollander, one of three USF researchers credited with the matching samples of oil taken from the water with samples from the BP well. "It has gone from a two-dimensional disaster to a three-dimensional catastrophe."

The other scientists involved in making the link, USF said, were biological oceanographer Ernst Peebles and geological oceanographer David Naar.

The finding is important because oil that escaped from the mile-deep, blown-out well had been treated with dispersants, which broke the oil in the water column into tiny droplets, and therefore did not form an oil slick at the surface, said Richard H. Pierce, senior scientist and director of the Center for Ecotoxicology at Sarasota's Mote Marine Laboratory.

"It's more readily taken up and absorbed and ingested by marine animals," he explained.

Although dispersed oil degrades more quickly over the long-run, in the short-term, it poses a more toxic threat to marine life, Pierce said.

"So, we've been very concerned, and it is critical USF has verified it," he said.
The full report was not released Friday, but will be available sometime next week, USF spokeswoman Vickie Chachere said.

BP declined to comment on the USF discovery. "We have only seen media reports, and have not yet seen the report and underlying data," BP spokesman Phil Cochrane said in an e-mail.

USF scientists found microscopic droplets of biodegraded oil at varying depths beneath the Gulf's surface, the university said in a statement.

One layer was 100 feet thick; it was found 45 nautical miles north-northeast of the well site, officials said.

The researchers found the plumes after models created by a USF expert in ocean currents, Robert Weisberg, predicted subsurface oil from the Deepwater Horizon well would move toward the north-northeast, USF said.

"The clouds were found near the DeSoto Canyon, a critical area that interacts with Florida's spawning grounds," USF said.

The NOAA study made similar findings. According to the report, which was reviewed by 19 scientists known as the Joint Analysis Group, data collected by five research ships deployed in the Gulf from May 19 to June 19 showed oil suspended in the water between 1,000 and 1,300 meters — about 3,280 feet to 4,265 feet.

The NOAA scientists detected the oil by measuring its fluorescence — many of the droplets are too small to detect otherwise — and said that that measurement linked it to the BP well.

The report said the oil had been detected in heaviest concentrations near the BP well and that its concentrations dropped as the ships moved away from the well; but, that not enough samples had been taken to determine the full "horizontal extent" of the plumes.

The report also said the impact of the oil on sealife had yet to be determined. Even at low concentrations, the report said, the oil "might be biologically meaningful" because of the length of time fish and other organisms would be exposed to it.

The report also said that scientists had detected lower levels of dissolved oxygen in the water at depths below 3,280 feet, but that they couldn't determine why the levels were low with certainty. They said the levels were not so low as to be fatal to sealife.

Steven Murawski, chief scientist for NOAA's National Marine Fisheries Service, said the data confirm that the subsea plumes of oil were the result of the Deepwater Horizon well.

"That's a real smoking gun, as far as we're concerned," he said. "It really is a flow" from the well.

In May, when scientists first reported that they had discovered oil beneath the Gulf's surface and blamed it on the Deepwater Horizon spill, they were denounced by both BP and NOAA chief Jane Lubchenco.

BP CEO Tony Hayward denied that such plumes existed and Lubchenco called the reports "misleading, premature and, in some cases, inaccurate."

Via truthout

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Excitotoxins - Hidden Danger in Your Food

Photo courtesy: Care2

Fair warning: If you are drinking a diet drink, munching on chicken-flavored crackers or enjoying a fast-food lunch while you’re reading this, odds are good that you’ll toss them out by the time you finish the article. Why? Because many low-calorie sodas, highly flavored snacks and processed foods of all kinds contain substances known as excitotoxins – substances that could very well be doing a serious number on your health.

Excitotoxin substances have long been used by food manufacturers to pump up the flavor of their products, and food manufacturers continue to insist they are safe. But in recent years, many health experts have regarded both excitotoxins and manufacturers’ assurances with increasing concern. Excitotoxins are a class of chemicals (usually amino acids) that overstimulate neuron receptors. The Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) has put both aspartame and MSG on its list of food additives to avoid (for details, see additives).

Much recent research suggests that regularly consuming excitotoxins, like MSG and aspartame, over an extended period of time can destroy significant numbers of brain cells and lead to serious health problems, including seizures and strokes. According to Russell L. Blaylock, a neurosurgeon and author of Excitotoxins: The Taste That Kills, excitotoxins have also been linked to human neurological disorders such as multiple sclerosis, Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease.

The chemicals in excitotoxins stimulate the taste cells in the tongue, causing the flavor of the foods we eat to be greatly enhanced. Soups, snacks, sauces, gravies, many low-fat and vegetarian processed foods – manufacturers often pack them with “flavor enhancers” in an effort to make them taste irresistible.

Although excitotoxin poisoning has gotten much of its recent publicity under the rather misleading title, “Chinese Restaurant Syndrome,” the fact is, American processed foods – from McDonald’s to Weight Watchers to Campbell’s soup – are just as likely to contain excitotoxins like mono-sodium glutamate (MSG) and aspartame (NutraSweet® or Equal®). And according to many experts, these same foods are just as often to blame for the headaches, water retention, skin problems and other health complaints that some consumers experience.

As a general rule, the more a food is processed, the more likely it is to contain MSG. Foods that commonly use MSG include potato chips, flavored crackers, canned soups, dry soup mixes, canned meats, diet foods, soy sauces, salad dressings, cured meats and poultry injected with broth. But reading the labels won’t always help you.

When a food product is 99 percent pure MSG it is called “monosodium glutamate” by the FDA and must be labeled as such. However, when a food product contains less than 99 percent MSG, the FDA doesn’t require that the MSG be identified. So it often appears on labels in various disguised forms, such as “hydrolyzed vegetable protein,” “spices” and “natural flavoring.” Here’s a quick list of potentially suspect ingredients to watch for (when in doubt, call the manufacturer to inquire).

* Ingredients that may contain 30 to 60 percent MSG: hydrolyzed vegetable protein; hydrolyzed protein; hydrolyzed plant protein; plant protein extract; sodium caseinate; calcium caseinate; yeast extract; textured protein; autolyzed yeast; hydrolyzed oat flour; Accent.

* Ingredients that may contain 12 to 40 percent MSG: malt extract; malt flavoring; bouillon; broth; stock; natural flavoring; natural beef or chicken flavoring; seasoning; spices.

* Ingredients that may contain some MSG: carrageenan; enzymes; soy protein concentrate; soy protein isolate; whey protein concentrate; some soymilk.

Sources: FDA backgrounder #BG-9516 (available at and In Bad Taste: The MSG Syndrome, by George R. Schwartz, MD.

Small amounts of MSG are found naturally in many common foods such as seaweed, mushrooms, whole grains, carrots, meat, nuts and cheese. In its natural state, however, MSG is slowly assimilated by the human body and broken down so that the levels of concentration are kept low. The MSG in processed foods, on the other hand, is highly concentrated. And when people eat these foods, says Blaylock, they unwittingly bombard their brain cells with excitotoxins in large enough quantities to cause real trouble.

If you eat a predominately healthy diet and you’re not particularly sensitive to MSG, then a can of soup that lists MSG as the last ingredient on the label may not cause you much trouble. But if you guzzle diet sodas every day and your idea of a snack is a chunk of MSG-laden sausage on an MSG-laden cracker, it might be a good idea to assess whether limiting or eliminating the excitotoxins in your diet will make you feel better.

George R. Schwartz, MD, author of In Bad Taste: The MSG Syndrome, believes there are three general categories of symptoms that result from MSG consumption:

Allergic Symptoms

Asthma, shortness of breath
Running nose

Peripheral Symptoms

Jaw tightness
Rapid heartbeat
Chest tightening
Diarrhea, stomach cramps

Central (Brain) Symptoms


Via Care2

Friday, July 9, 2010

2700 year-old Cannabis Found in old Chinese Tomb

This is the actual cannabis found in the tomb. It is undergoing testing to determine how many of its properties remain. Photo courtesy: grabi

Researchers say they have located the world's oldest stash of marijuana, in a tomb in a remote part of China. The cache of cannabis is about 2,700 years old and was clearly ``cultivated for psychoactive purposes," rather than as fibre for clothing or as food, says a research paper in the Journal of Experimental Botany. The 789 grams of dried cannabis was buried alongside a light-haired, blue-eyed Caucasian man, likely a shaman of the Gushi culture, near Turpan in northwestern China.

Photo courtesy: grabi

The extremely dry conditions and alkaline soil acted as preservatives, allowing a team of scientists to carefully analyze the stash, which still looked green though it had lost its distinctive odour.

"To our knowledge, these investigations provide the oldest documentation of cannabis as a pharmacologically active agent," says the newly published paper, whose lead author was American neurologist Dr. Ethan B. Russo.

Remnants of cannabis have been found in ancient Egypt and other sites, and the substance has been referred to by authors such as the Greek historian Herodotus. But the tomb stash is the oldest so far that could be thoroughly tested for its properties.

The 18 researchers, most of them based in China, subjected the cannabis to a battery of tests, including carbon dating and genetic analysis. Scientists also tried to germinate 100 of the seeds found in the cache, without success.

The marijuana was found to have a relatively high content of THC, the main active ingredient in cannabis, but the sample was too old to determine a precise percentage.

Researchers also could not determine whether the cannabis was smoked or ingested, as there were no pipes or other clues in the tomb of the shaman, who was about 45 years old.

The large cache was contained in a leather basket and in a wooden bowl, and was likely meant to be used by the shaman in the afterlife.

"This materially is unequivocally cannabis, and no material has previously had this degree of analysis possible," Russo said in an interview from Missoula, Mont.

"It was common practice in burials to provide materials needed for the afterlife. No hemp or seeds were provided for fabric or food. Rather, cannabis as medicine or for visionary purposes was supplied."

Via grabi

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Quotable Quotes

“I have found the paradox, that if you love until it hurts, there can be no more hurt, only more love.”

- Mother Teresa

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Kabul, Afghanistan Faces Water Shortage

A girl at a communal water pump in Kabul, Afghanistan. More than half the shallow wells people use will dry up if temperatures continue to rise as predicted. Photograph: Rodrigo Abd/AP Photo courtesy: guardian

Once again, water (or lack thereof) is making the news. This time it's Kabul, Afghanistan.

Kabul and its surrounding region are perilously short of water and may not be able to supply a fast-growing, more affluent population, a joint US and Afghan government scientific report has warned.

Rapid population growth and expected temperature rises due to climate change mean the area – which just manages to support 6 million people today – will need six times more water by 2050, the US Geological Survey report says.

More than half the shallow wells people now rely on will dry up if temperatures continue to increase as expected, it warns.

Thousands of wells have been sunk in Kabul in the last decade as the city's population has more than doubled. But the water table has dropped several metres, and many settlements already experience water shortages.

In addition, most of the shared water points and wells are contaminated, leading to illness. According to current United Nations estimates, Kabul's population could reach 9 million by 2050.

The two-year Kabul basin water survey warned that barely exploited deep underground water sources may not be sufficient to provide for all human and farming needs.

Mountain snow, which feeds rivers throughout the basin, is melting earlier each year, leaving less water for use later on, particularly during summer, when it is needed most.

Kabul residents use around 40 litres a day each, far less than most other Asian cities, but demand is expected to soar as communities develop and numbers grow.

The study backs up Oxfam research which shows that competition for water in both rural and urban Afghan communities is increasing, leading to heightened tensions and violence. According to the aid agency, 43% of local conflicts are now over water.

The Oxfam policy officer, Ashley Jackson, said: "Thirty years of war has left sources of water co-opted, stolen and contaminated.

"Oxfam research has found that water is now a major cause of local conflicts. Disputes over these scarce resources lead to violence and even, in some instances, fuel the greater conflict."

Last year, two men were killed after being found trying to steal water from the river Paghman in Kabul province. Families took sides, the row escalated and fights broke out between people armed with knives.

The conflict was only resolved when elders found a new way to channel the river, which provides 20 villages with water.

Via guardian

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

500 Dead Penquins Washed Up on Brazilian Beach in 10 Days

A dead penguin at Peruibe beach in Sao Paulo, Brazil. Photograph: AP Photo/Aquario Municipal de Peruibe) Photo courtesy: guardian

Hundreds of penguins that have apparently starved to death are washing up on the beaches of Brazil, worrying scientists who are investigating their exact cause of death.

Around 500 penguins have been found in the last 10 days on Peruibe, Praia Grande and Itanhaem beaches in São Paulo state, said Thiago do Nascimento, a biologist at the Peruibe aquarium.

Most were Magellan penguins migrating north from Argentina, Chile and the Falkland Islands in search of food in warmer waters.

Many are not finding it: autopsies done on several birds revealed their stomachs were entirely empty – indicating they likely starved to death, Nascimento said.

Scientists are investigating whether strong currents and colder-than-normal waters have hurt populations of the species that make up the penguins' diet, or whether human activity may be playing a role.

"Overfishing may have made the fish and squid scarcer," Nascimento said.

Nascimento said it was common for penguins to swim north this time of year. Inevitably, some get lost along the way or die from hunger or exhaustion, and end up on the Brazilian coast far from home.

But not in such numbers – Nascimento said about 100 to 150 live penguins show up on the beach in an average year, and only 10 or so are dead.

"What worries us this year," he said, "is the absurdly high number of penguins that have appeared dead in a short period of time."

Via guardian

Monday, July 5, 2010

Sample of Gulf Water Explodes

The EPA, NOAA, and BP officials have insisted over and over again that air and water samples collected during the course of the Gulf oil spill are well below dangerous toxin levels.

As this video demonstrates, the same ocean water that officials insist is safe for swimming explodes when tested. Dangers for those working in the Gulf or eating seafood harvested from this area are obvious.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Quotable Quotes

"I love cats because I love my home and after a while they become its visible soul."

- Jean Cocteau, French writer/artist.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Cucumbers - Helpful Hints

Photo courtesy: Care2


Did you know these facts about cucumbers? I didn't ... some 'fresh' ideas ...

1. Cucumbers contain most of the vitamins you need every day, just one cucumber contains Vitamin B1, Vitamin B2, Vitamin B3, Vitamin B5, Vitamin B6, Folic Acid, Vitamin C, Calcium, Iron, Magnesium, Phosphorus, Potassium and Zinc.

2. Feeling tired in the afternoon, put down the caffeinated soda and pick up a cucumber. Cucumbers are a good source of B Vitamins and Carbohydrates that can provide that quick pick-me-up that can last for hours.

3. Tired of your bathroom mirror fogging up after a shower? Try rubbing a cucumber slice along the mirror, it will eliminate the fog and provide a soothing, spa-like fragrance.

4. Are grubs and slugs ruining your planting beds? Place a few slices in a small pie tin and your garden will be free of pests all season long. The chemicals in the cucumber react with the aluminum to give off a scent undetectable to humans but drive garden pests crazy and make them flee the area.

5. Looking for a fast and easy way to remove cellulite before going out or to the pool? Try rubbing a slice or two of cucumbers along your problem area for a few minutes, the phytochemicals in the cucumber cause the collagen in your skin to tighten, firming up the outer layer and reducing the visibility of cellulite. Works great on wrinkles too!!!

6. Want to avoid a hangover or terrible headache? Eat a few cucumber slices before going to bed and wake up refreshed and headache-free ... cucumbers contain enough sugar, B vitamins and electrolytes to replenish essential nutrients the body lost, keeping everything in equilibrium, avoiding both a hangover and headache!!

7. Looking to fight off that afternoon or evening snacking binge? Cucumbers have been used for centuries and often used by European trappers, traders and explores for quick meals to thwart off starvation.

8. Have an important meeting or job interview and you realize that you don't have enough time to polish your shoes? Rub a freshly cut cucumber over the shoe, its chemicals will provide a quick and durable shine that not only looks great but also repels water.

9. Out of WD40 and need to fix a squeaky hinge? Take a cucumber slice and rub it along the problematic hinge, and voila, the squeak is gone!

10. Stressed out and don't have time for massage, facial or visit to the spa? Cut up an entire cucumber and place it in a boiling pot of water, the chemicals and nutrients from the cucumber with react with the boiling water and be released in the steam, creating a soothing, relaxing aroma that has been shown the reduce stress in new mothers and college students during final exams.

11. Just finish a business lunch and realize you don't have gum or mints? Take a slice of cucumber and press it to the roof of your mouth with your tongue for 30 seconds to eliminate bad breath, the phytochemcials will kill the bacteria in your mouth responsible for causing bad breath.

12. Looking for a 'green' way to clean your faucets, sinks or stainless steel? Take a slice of cucumber and rub it on the surface you want to clean, not only will it remove years of tarnish and bring back the shine, but is won't leave streaks and won't harm your fingers or fingernails while you clean.

13. Using a pen and made a mistake? Take the outside of the cucumber and slowly use it to erase the pen writing, also works great on crayons and markers that the kids have used to decorate the walls!!

Friday, July 2, 2010

Five Superstitions and How They Came About

Superstitions ascribe supernatural origins to things that humans don’t understand, and they occur across the world. Early humans had a lot that they didn’t understand, but modern people are much more enlightened. Superstitions about bad luck feel like the kind of things we tell gullible children, so why do I still see people knocking on wood, throwing salt over their shoulders, and refusing to walk under ladders? Exactly where do these strange superstitions come from, and do any have even the tiniest basis in reality?

Don’t Spill the Salt!

Salt is one of our most ancient and versatile foodstuffs used for preserving food as well as flavoring it. For most of history, it was incredibly valuable; sometimes even used as currency. In some cultures, salt was the most precious commodity you could own. Spilling such a precious commodity was akin to dumping the thirty-year-old Scotch down the drain. For anyone who was careless enough to waste salt, throwing a pinch over the left shoulder was said to keep the devil away as he would be sure to want to exact revenge for such a heinous offence.

Walking Under Ladders Brings Bad Luck

This superstition has its roots in religion. Some Christians believe that any object with three points — like a ladder leaning against a house — represents the Trinity of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Early Christians believed that to destroy or subvert a three-pointed object (such as by walking through it) one was expressing disbelief in the Trinity; and, would therefore probably go to Hell. As religious conviction softened, the promise of eternal damnation was relaxed to merely the threat of bad luck.

UnLucky Number Thirteen

Plenty of otherwise rational people are loath to schedule important events on the thirteenth of the month while many buildings and towns don’t number a thirteenth floor or thirteenth street as such because so many people believe the number to be cursed. The origins of this superstition are factually tenuous, and there are many theories about how it came about. Christian theology teaches that Judas was the thirteenth guest at the Last Supper thereby making him unlucky. Norse mythology states that the god Loki, who was the thirteenth guest at a banquet, killed the hero, Balder. Not to mention the fact that several serial killers have thirteen letters in their name, like Charles Manson or Jeffrey Dahmer. Fear of the number thirteen even has its own name, triskaidekaphobia, and many sufferers refuse to be the thirteenth guest at a party, or to sit in row thirteen on an airplane for fear that some terrible fate will befall them. In reality, there’s no credible evidence to suggest anything sinister about any particular number, and in some cultures, the number thirteen is actually considered quite lucky.

Shakespeare’s “Scottish Play”

Actors are notoriously superstitous people. One of the better known superstitions is instead of wishing fellow actors "Good Luck", they say "break a leg". This is to deceive the demons who hide in the shadows. If the demons were to hear you wish someone "good luck" the demons may cause harm to them.

Another superstition revolves around one of Shakespeare's plays. Many actors refuse to say the name Macbeth especially when they’re inside a theater. The play is said to be cursed, and is usually referred to as simply, “The Scottish Play.” Some accounts say that productions of Macbeth have been plagued by an unusually high number of accidents, injuries, and deaths on- and offstage, perhaps because the play itself is unusually ripe with fights, weapons, battles, and opportunities for things to go wrong. Since the play features three witches, some origin stories for the superstition say that the lines uttered by the witches are real curses, that real witches were offended by the play and cursed it, or that Shakespeare’s original prop master stole items from a real witches’ coven. The most likely explanation is that Macbeth, being one of the English language’s most enduring pieces of drama, is often put on by theaters trying to stave off bankruptcy, and the play eventually got a reputation as foreshadowing a theater’s demise.

Sacred Sneezes

All cultures offer some sort of blessing after a person sneezes. While the origins of the benedictions are muddled, it seems certain that primitive people thought that a person’s soul could leave the body through the nose, and asking for God’s protection was a way to prevent its escape. Romans, however, believed that sneezing expelled demons, and witnesses to a sneeze offered congratulations and support. During the sixth century, there was a plague raging, and the populace thought that sneezing was a symptom of impending death. Pope Gregory pronounced that the official response to a sneeze would be “God bless you,” which was thought to invoke divine protection for both the sneezer and the sneezed-upon.

Even though we know that minor actions like opening an umbrella in the house have no bearing on our personal wellbeing, it’s hard to stop minding these deeply ingrained superstitions. For better or worse, they’ve become a part of our culture, even though nobody ever talks about the many serial killers without thirteen letters in their name, or the many people who walked under a latter and didn’t die. Even I lived for a year on the thirteenth floor of an apartment building and lived to tell the tale. So go ahead — put your hat on the bed, pick up a penny when it’s tails-up, or break a mirror. And if you’re ever in a production of Macbeth, break a leg.

Via Care2