Category: Culture

African virus that infected Caribbean & Central America spreads to US

A mosquito-borne virus that can cause debilitating joint pain lasting for years has spread to the continental U.S. after infecting hundreds of thousands of people in the Caribbean and Central America.

The virus is called Chikungunya, an African name meaning “to become contorted.” While the illness, first identified in Tanzania in 1952, has long bedeviled Africa and Asia, the only recorded cases in the U.S. before July involved patients who contracted the virus abroad.

Now, 11 cases have been confirmed as originating in Florida, spurring concern this may be the beginning of the type of explosive growth seen elsewhere from a disease that has no vaccine or cure. Medical and environmental experts are debating how best to quell the outbreak before it takes off…

Patients who contract Chikungunya have joint swelling and pain, fever, headache and rash for about a week, though some symptoms last months or years in some patients, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

While the disease generally isn’t fatal, more than 100 people have died in the Western Hemisphere since December, according to the Pan American Health Organization…

Now that Chikungunya is in Florida, it could infect 10,000 people in that state alone, according to Walter Tabachnick, the director of the Florida Medical Entymology Laboratory, who said his estimate is based on the exponential growth of other outbreaks. More than 700,000 people, for instance, are suspected of being infected with the virus in South America, Central America and the Caribbean since it appeared there, according to the Pan American Health Organization.

RTFA for all the delightful details.

Just like the Ebola “outbreak” – which means a few medical missionaries returning home plus another patient obviously infected in Africe – Americans only pay attention to headline health news.

The actual danger from Chikungunya is immediate – though it may not impact widely till next year’s mosquito season. And it will be an enormous surprise to the Talking Heads on network TV and White House responders.

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Economics 101 for our latest Coalition of the Willing

US/UK warplanes are flying sorties, at a cost somewhere between $22,000 to 30,000 per hour for the F-16s, to drop bombs that cost at least $20,000 each, to destroy ISIL hardware.

That means if an F-16 were to take off from Incirclik Air Force Base in Turkey and fly two hours to Erbil, Iraq, and successfully drop both of its bombs on one target each, it costs the United States somewhere between $84,000 to $104,000 for the sortie

Watching today’s endlessly repeated video clip of one of our heroic sorties bombing a freaking pickup truck. At a cost of $85K-104K.

Just send in some creepy salesman from a local used car lot and offer the bandit in charge $20K cash on the spot for his truck – and we’re in business – making the world safe for capitalism.

A small town in Utah with a future


Geneva Steel under construction 1942

Vineyard, Utah — The future is swiftly unfolding just to the north where Utah’s Geneva Steel once stood.

In a few short years, a huge development at the site will transform his hometown with a pulsing 1,700-acre complex of houses, apartments, town homes, stores, offices, factories, school buildings and a new town center.

Vineyard is expected to mushroom from about 465 residents to as many as 27,000 in less than a decade as a shortage of developable land and booming real-estate markets drive one of the most ambitious projects seen in Utah County. That’s a growth rate of more than 5,700 percent.

The development, dubbed @geneva, is meant to bring new life and value to one of the largest U.S. brownfields west of the Mississippi River…

Today, construction crews are finishing the first homes and paving the initial roads into what is envisioned as a blend of residential, commercial and industrial buildings worth upward of $3.2 billion. Final totals on office and retail space alone could top 5.6 million square feet, comparable in span to 30 Wal-Mart Supercenters…

Land-use blueprints call for single- and multifamily housing, lakefront properties, commercial districts, corporate headquarters, a Utah Valley University satellite campus, Larry H. Miller Megaplex Theatres, a transit hub centered on FrontRunner and, perhaps, TRAX, three Interstate 15 interchanges, nine stoplights and a town center rivaling those in nearby Orem and Provo.

Managers with Anderson Development, which acquired the site for $46.8 million in bankruptcy proceedings in 2005, are moving fast these days. More than half the roughly triangular @geneva footprint has sold to future builders, said Park, with many remaining parcels under contract or getting multiple bids.

Anderson and town officials both say their dealings are cooperative these days. Longtime Town Council member Sean Fernandez said Vineyard’s leaders, for their part, have scaled a steep learning curve.

For a long time we were somewhat skeptical, but we’ve really embraced it and tried to make it a nice development,” Fernandez said. “It’s a huge deal, especially for the residents who have grown up in Vineyard.”

The mayor and four-member council reluctantly created a Redevelopment Agency, or RDA, letting Vineyard bond for more than $300 million to put toward cleanup, developer incentives and new water, sewer and road amenities for the project… The town’s RDA debts will be paid off in increments with new tax monies drawn from @geneva’s upward impact on the site’s property values…

The kind of thing that can be developed in many a depressed area. All it takes is up-to-date planning, an educated population capable of providing workforce requirements, a local political structure that isn’t too greedy.

Well, OK. Maybe it is difficult to find somewhere to accomplish this.

Thanks, Mike

Life on Eigg


Click to enlargeReuters/Paul Hackett

The Island of Eigg, located about ten miles off the Scottish mainland, is made somewhat famous by its rich and varied wildlife, beautiful scenery and its residents’ attempts to become self sufficient.

It has the first completely wind, water and sun-powered electricity grid in the world, according to the Isle of Eigg Heritage Trust.

The island’s climatic conditions allow it to generate power from hydroelectric generators, wind turbines and photovoltaic panels.

Between 85 and 95 percent of the energy it consumes comes from renewable resources, according to locals.

Before the switch to renewables, the island relied on diesel generators for power. Locals described them as noisy, inconsistent and said there used to be a lot of scrambling around in the dark.

Conditions only improved on the island when the community took control over its assets in a 1997 buyout.

With the financial support of various trusts, a milestone was reached in 2008, when Eigg Electric provided 24-hour power for the first time.

Click through to the article. There is a delightful slide show illustrating the changes built by the islanders.

It speaks well of the advocacy for crofters having the right to buyout their land, townships and [sometimes] whole islands – so that beautiful, historically-important garden spots like Eigg now have the independence and support to rebuild their island into energy self-sufficiency. The Community Land Unit was for many the seed planted which grew into a new and proper life for places like Eigg.

Strictly on a personal note, I believe Brian Wilson, former Labour MP and Minister deserves credit for the groundwork for ventures like this one. The West Highland Free Press established a baseline for economic and cultural freedom unmatched by UK Establishment politicians. His persona is strong-willed enough to offend as many folk as he pleases; so, I defer to folks’ personal experiences.

Thanks, Mike — great minds and etc.

Everyone in America loves guns — even two-year-olds

Screen Shot 2014-09-28 at 6.43.02 PM

A family road trip comes to a frightening end when their two-year-old daughter finds a gun in the back of the car they had rented.

The Davie, Fla. family had just returned home from Cocoa Beach when the gun was found.

The gun — which was still loaded — was found underneath the seat of the Toyota Avalon the family had rented from Enterprise Rent-A-Car.

The girl’s father, Louis Venuto said, “She knew something was wrong. She knew she was doing something wrong. So I didn’t hear her for a second because she always makes little noises and whatnot, so I quickly look back to make sure she’s OK, and she kinda was like, ‘Look what I found.’ I just reached around, and I grabbed it.”

Venuto also said, “She could have easily pulled the trigger is what I’m try to say,” he also added, “She rough houses with my 65-pound dog in there and to pull that trigger would have been nothing to do.”

Davie police were called. They took the gun away and are investigating who it belongs to.

Enterprise said they are also investigating the situation.

Yup, everyone will make certain that gun is returned to its rightful owner.

An open letter to Fox News — from a lot of veterans

We are veterans of the United States armed forces, and we are writing to inform you that your remarks about United Arab Emirates Air Force Major Mariam Al Mansouri were unwarranted, offensive, and fundamentally opposed to what the military taught us to stand for.

First, foremost, and most obvious to everyone other than yourselves, your remarks were immensely inappropriate. Your co-host Kimberly Guilfoyle was so right to call attention to an inspiring story of a woman shattering glass ceilings in a society where doing so is immeasurably difficult. We never heard an answer to her question: why did you feel so compelled to “ruin her thing?”…

The less obvious implication of your remarks, however, is that by offending an ally and cheapening her contribution, you are actively hurting the mission. We need to send a clear message that anyone, male or female, who will stand up to ISIS and get the job done is worthy of our respect and gratitude.

We issue an apology on your behalf to Major Al Mansouri knowing that anything your producers force you to say will be contrived and insincere. Major, we’re sincerely sorry for the rudeness; clearly, these boys don’t take your service seriously, but we and the rest of the American public do.

RTFA for the complete statement – and the signatures of dozens of veterans, members of The Truman National Security Project uniting next-generation veteran, political, and policy leaders to develop and advance strong, smart, and principled solutions to global challenges…

Like most thoughtful, principled Americans, they reject the contemptible, backwards and bigoted ideology that lies decaying at the heart of Fox News.

Thanks, Ursarodinia

Teen salt intake especially worrying

Just like adults, children and teens in the U.S. consume a great deal of sodium — about 1,000 mg above the recommended maximum daily intake on average, according to a new CDC “Vital Signs” report.

Results from the 2009-2010 edition of the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, which included 2,266 children 6- to 18-years-old, indicated a mean daily intake of 3,279 mg of sodium, whereas the recommended maximum in the Healthy People 2020 initiative is 2,300 mg/day, according to the report.

Sodium consumption was especially high in teens — participants of high school age had a mean intake of 3,672 mg/day.

As has been reported many times before, the report indicated that much of the sodium came in the form of commercially prepared foods — pizza, fast foods, soups, and snacks. Between-meal snacking accounted for 16% of overall intake, and school cafeteria foods contributed 26% of daily sodium intake on the days that children ate them.

The report’s authors noted that new standards for school meals will reduce their sodium content by 25% to 50% by 2022. But the impact on total sodium intake will reduce the average by only 150 mg/day at most — still leaving most children with daily intake well above the recommended maximum.

Given some recent reporting perhaps I shouldn’t be too cynical about Americans revising their diet, learning enough about nutrition to build a healthier life for future generations.

Well, maybe.

Brain health may be boosted by curry spice

A spice commonly found in curries may boost the brain’s ability to heal itself, according to a report in the journal Stem Cell Research and Therapy.

The German study suggests a compound found in turmeric could encourage the growth of nerve cells thought to be part of the brain’s repair kit.

Scientists say this work, based in rats, may pave the way for future drugs for strokes and Alzheimer’s disease.

But they say more trials are needed to see whether this applies to humans…

Researchers from the Institute of Neuroscience and Medicine in Julich, Germany, studied the effects of aromatic-turmerone – a compound found naturally in turmeric.

Rats were injected with the compound and their brains were then scanned…Particular parts of the brain, known to be involved in nerve cell growth, were seen to be more active after the aromatic-turmerone infusion…

In a separate part of the trial, researchers bathed rodent neural stem cells (NSCs) in different concentrations of aromatic-tumerone extract…NSCs have the ability to transform into any type of brain cell and scientists suggest they could have a role in repair after damage or disease.

Dr Maria Adele Rueger, who was part of the research team, said: “In humans and higher developed animals their abilities do not seem to be sufficient to repair the brain but in fish and smaller animals they seem to work well.”

The research found the higher the concentration of aromatic-turmerone, the greater the growth of the NSCs…And the cells bathed in the turmeric compound seemed to specialise into certain types of brain cells more rapidly too.

Always worth studying folk medicine to see if apocrypha translates to useful modern medicine. Some myths are downright dangerous and unproductive; but, like digitalis research, aromatic-turmerone may benefit a lot more than the South Asian palate.

Tip o’ the hat to Mike – great minds and etc.