Global pollution from maritime shipping has been grossly underestimated


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Britain and other European governments have been accused of underestimating the health risks from shipping pollution following research which shows that one giant container ship can emit almost the same amount of cancer and asthma-causing chemicals as 50 million cars.

Confidential data from maritime industry insiders based on engine size and the quality of fuel typically used by ships and cars shows that just 15 of the world’s biggest ships may now emit as much pollution as all the world’s 760 million cars. Low-grade ship bunker fuel has up to 2,000 times the sulphur content of diesel fuel used in US and European automobiles.

Pressure is mounting on the UN’s International Maritime Organisation and the EU to tighten laws governing ship emissions following the decision by the US government last week to impose a strict 230-mile buffer zone along the entire US coast, a move that is expected to be followed by Canada.

The setting up of a low emission shipping zone follows US academic research which showed that pollution from the world’s 90,000 cargo ships leads to 60,000 deaths a year in the US alone and costs up to $330bn per year in health costs from lung and heart diseases. The US Environmental Protection Agency estimates the buffer zone, which could be in place by next year, will save more than 8,000 lives a year with new air quality standards cutting sulphur in fuel by 98%, particulate matter by 85% and nitrogen oxide emissions by 80%…

…A spokesman for the UK government’s Maritime and Coastguard Agency accepted there were major gaps in the legislation. “Issues of particulate matter remain a concern. They need to be addressed and blah, blah, blah, blah,” said environment policy director Jonathan Simpson…

“It is unacceptable that shipping remains one of the most polluting industries in the world. The UK must take a lead in cleaning up emissions,” said Simon Birkett, spokesman for the Campaign for Clean Air in London. “Other countries are planning radical action to achieve massive health and other savings but the UK is strangely inactive.”

Overdue. As usual.

None of the science is especially new or surprising. The attitude of shippers, corporations providing most of the cargo, governments supposedly in charge of regulating the environment on behalf of their citizens – uniformly accepts profits as a higher priority than human lives.

Anesthesiologist trash-talks sedated patient — $500K worth!

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Sitting in his surgical gown inside a large medical suite in Reston, Va., a Vienna man prepared for his colonoscopy by pressing record on his smartphone, to capture the instructions his doctor would give him after the procedure.

But as soon as he pressed play on his way home, he was shocked out of his anesthesia-induced stupor: He found that he had recorded the entire examination and that the surgical team had mocked and insulted him as soon as he drifted off to sleep.

In addition to their vicious commentary, the doctors discussed avoiding the man after the colonoscopy, instructing an assistant to lie to him, and then placed a false diagnosis on his chart…

There was much more. So the man sued the two doctors and their practices for defamation and medical malpractice and, last week, after a three-day trial, a Fairfax County jury ordered the anesthesiologist and her practice to pay him $500,000…

The jury awarded the man $100,000 for defamation — $50,000 each for the comments about the man having syphilis and tuberculosis — and $200,000 for medical malpractice, as well as the $200,000 in punitive damages. Though the remarks by Ingham and Shah perhaps did not leave the operating room in Reston, experts in libel and slander said defamation does not have to be widely published, merely said by one party to another and understood by the second party to be fact, when it is not…

Because he was going to be fully anesthetized, the man decided to turn on his cellphone’s audio recorder before the procedure so it would capture the doctor’s post-operation instructions, the suit states. But the man’s phone, in his pants, was placed beneath him under the operating table and inadvertently recorded the audio of the entire procedure, court records show. The doctors’ attorneys argued that the recording was illegal, but the man’s attorneys noted that Virginia is a “one-party consent” state, meaning that only one person involved in a conversation need agree to the recording.

The recording captured Ingham mocking the amount of anesthetic needed to sedate the man, the lawsuit states…”…The discussion soon turned to the rash on the man’s penis, followed by…comments implying that the man had syphilis or tuberculosis. The doctors then discussed “misleading and avoiding” the man after he awoke

Ingham then mocked the man for attending Mary Washington College, once an all-women’s school, and wondered aloud whether her patient was gay, the suit states. Then the anesthesiologist said, “I’m going to mark ‘hemorrhoids’ even though we don’t see them and probably won’t,” and did write a diagnosis of hemorrhoids on the man’s chart, which the lawsuit said was a falsification of medical records.

After declaring the patient a “big wimp,” Ingham reportedly said: “People are into their medical problems. They need to have medical problems.”

Stupid 101. Testimony included expert opinion that anesthesiologists should be aware that any patient might not be in a deep sleep and might recall hearing silly, irrelevant remarks. Catching the whole procedure as an audio recording was a plus that locked everything up for the lawsuit.

If you feel like RTFA, some of the recordings are available. :)

Thanks, Honeyman

Never can tell what you’ll find — beachcombing in Tijuana

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A motorized surfboard loaded with $100,000 worth of crystal methamphetamine was found washed up on a Tijuana beach…

Police said the surfboard, powered by a turbine connected to eight batteries, was found Tuesday night by beach-goers in the borough of Playas de Tijuana.

Investigators said the surfboard was found to be hollowed out and filled with 20 pounds of meth, worth an estimated $100,000.

The surfboard, believed to be a means of smuggling drugs into the United States, suffered an apparent mechanical failure when water entered the electrical compartment…

Breaking bad on the beach doesn’t refer to surf – I guess.

Antihypertensive drug may remove major component of drug and alcohol addiction

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Researchers at The University of Texas at Austin have successfully stopped cocaine and alcohol addiction in experiments using a drug already approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to treat high blood pressure. If the treatment is proven effective in humans, it would be the first of its kind — one that could help prevent relapses by erasing the unconscious memories that underlie addiction…

Scientists once believed that drug addiction was simply a physical craving: Drug addicts who became sober and then later relapsed merely lacked willpower. But that view has gradually shifted since the 1970s.

Today, most experts acknowledge that environmental cues — the people, places, sights and sounds an addict experiences leading up to drug use — are among the primary triggers of relapses. It was an environmental cue (a ringing bell) that caused the dogs in Ivan Pavlov’s famous experiments to salivate, even when they couldn’t see or smell food.

Led by Hitoshi Morikawa…a team of researchers trained rats to associate either a black or white room with the use of a drug. Subsequently, when the addicted rats were offered the choice of going into either room, they nearly always chose the room they associated with their addiction.

Then one day, the researchers gave the addicted rats a high dose of an antihypertensive drug called isradipine before the rats made their choices. Although rats still preferred the room they associated with their addiction on that day, they no longer showed a preference for it on subsequent days. In fact, the lack of preference persisted in the isradipine-treated group in ways that couldn’t be found in a control group — suggesting the addiction memories were not just suppressed but had gone away entirely…

Addictive drugs are thought to rewire brain circuits involved in reward learning, forming powerful memories of drug-related cues. Antihypertensive drugs all block a particular type of ion channel, which is expressed not only in heart and blood vessels but also in certain brain cells. The researchers found that blocking these ion channels in brain cells, using isradipine, appears to reverse the rewiring that underlies memories of addiction-associated places…

“Addicts show up to the rehab center already addicted,” Hitoshi Morikawa said. “Many addicts want to quit, but their brains are already conditioned. This drug might help the addicted brain become de-addicted.”

Morikawa noted that because isradipine is already labeled as safe for human use by the FDA, clinical trials could potentially be carried out much more quickly than with nonapproved drugs.

Regular readers of my personal blog know I’m not especially positive about dealing with junkies. It’s just the streets where I grew up don’t ever seem to lose that population. I don’t spend much time on the range of reasons why – or why not. There hasn’t been any diminishing of my cynicism over a long, long time.

This sounds positive. This sounds potentially useful. My basics haven’t changed. I still think we can take the crime out of drugs by completely decriminalizing drug use. That removes most costs from addiction and from society. But, this is an addition to treatment worth following up on in serious research.

Americans tired of explaining things to idjits


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Many Americans are tired of explaining things to idiots, particularly when the things in question are so painfully obvious, a new poll indicates.

According to the poll, conducted by the University of Minnesota’s Opinion Research Institute, while millions have been vexed for some time by their failure to explain incredibly basic information to dolts, that frustration has now reached a breaking point.

Of the many obvious things that people are sick and tired of trying to get through the skulls of stupid people, the fact that climate change will cause catastrophic habitat destruction and devastating extinctions tops the list, with a majority saying that they will no longer bother trying to explain this to cretins.

Coming in a close second, statistical proof that gun control has reduced gun deaths in countries around the world is something that a significant number of those polled have given up attempting to break down for morons.

Finally, a majority said that trying to make idiots understand why a flag that symbolizes bigotry and hatred has no business flying over a state capitol only makes the person attempting to explain this want to put his or her fist through a wall.

In a result that suggests a dismal future for the practice of explaining things to idiots, an overwhelming number of those polled said that they were considering abandoning such attempts altogether, with a broad majority agreeing with the statement, “This country is exhausting.”

The Borowitz Report nails it, once again. Though I’ve spent most of my adult life fighting to overcome several of the most significant stupidities in American culture I admit that retirement from work a number of years ago – combined with the Web offering avenues for activism that don’t involve getting into my pickup truck and driving to town – opened the door to a life of being a proper hermit.

Now that my wife has achieved early retirement, we get to be hermits together. Which suits both of us. I can holler at the idjits on television. Which I can turn off. I can harangue the nation via my personal blog. Which I can turn off.

We go for walks with Sheila the dog.

Congratulations to our LGBT friends and relatives – Constitutional progress prevails

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White House illuminated in celebration, tonight

A special Thank You to Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy. He is the sole traditional American conservative within that court. The sole honest conservative in that court. Willing to look forward, willing to join in building progress and understanding in a nation still wracked by divisions grounded in hate and fear on the Right.

Including the syllabus of the original filing, here is the Supreme Court’s decision [.pdf] – which Anthony Kennedy wrote for the majority.

Court rules “gay conversion therapy” nothing more than consumer fraud

A New Jersey group that claimed it could “cure” gay people and make them straight has been ordered to pay $72,400 in damages to its former clients, after being found by a jury to have broken the state’s consumer fraud protection law.

A jury of seven men and women took about three hours to reach what is being hailed as a landmark civil-rights verdict on Thursday against the founders of Jews Offering New Alternatives for Healing (Jonah), a group that said it had provided “gay conversion therapy” to clients largely from the Jewish faith.

The group was sued by three former clients and two mothers of ex-clients, who collectively told the court in Jersey City that they had suffered great psychological damage as well as considerable financial loss as a result of the fraudulent program.

The lawsuit, launched by the Southern Poverty Law Center, is believed to have been the first in the US to use consumer protection laws to challenge the controversial practice. Most of the major professional bodies including the American Psychiatric Association and American Psychological Association have long denounced the treatment, and many states have also moved to restrict its practice. The White House supports a ban…

David Dinielli, the Southern Poverty Law Center’s deputy legal director…said…“Conversion therapy and homophobia are based on the same central lie – that gay people are broken and need to be fixed,” he said. “Conversion therapists, including the defendants in this case, sell fake cures that don’t work and can seriously harm the unsuspecting people who fall into this trap.”

Theocratic mumbo-jumbo has a “cure” rate roughly akin to any other placebo based on superstition. That someone might convince themselves to behave to a societal norm doesn’t have a damned thing to do with altering behavior that’s part of the genetic chemistry set you were handed on birth.

Nice to see a brilliant legal response like this winning the start of what I hope will be a long string of victories.

Washington think tank says cute little nukes are just what America needs

Normally, when you hear the term “think tank” you assume that the people within the organization are there to actually think. Unfortunately, that’s not always the case. During the course of trying to find “outside the box” solutions to national and international problems, sometimes think tanks come up with ideas that are patently absurd. Such is the case with the Center for Strategic and International Studies, and their plan to arm America with numerous small, tactical nukes.

The United States should develop new low–yield, tactical nuclear weapons to deter countries from seeking nuclear weapons of their own, a new think-tank report says. It also argues that the U.S. should base more nuclear weapons around the world to better deter attacks.

“Forward deploying a robust set of discriminate nuclear response options conveys the message that the United States will ‘respond in kind’ and proportionately to nuclear attacks on its allies,” wrote Clark Murdock, a former Pentagon policy official who is now a senior adviser with the Center for Strategic and International Studies…

Boy, where I do start? First off, since when did building nuclear missiles prevent other countries from doing the same? Doesn’t it have the opposite effect? I thought that was the Cold War in a nutshell. We built a few, then they built a few, and then we kept going back and forth with the Russians like that, until they went bankrupt. Now the planet is littered with thousands of these weapons in several different countries. Also, haven’t the war hawks in Washington been telling us for years that the Iranians want to build nuclear weapons, in part because they want to counter Israel’s nukes?…

…And finally, arming ourselves with small yield nuclear weapons is just an all around terrible idea. In fact, we’ve done it before. Meet the Davy Crockett:

2,100 of these nukes were produced in the late 50’s, and they were deployed to conventional forces between 1961 and 1971. There were several different versions that had an explosive yield of between 10 tons, and 1 kiloton. Franz Josef Strauss, the former defense minister of West Germany, was obsessed with this weapon and desperately wanted the Americans to give them to the German Army. His request was repeatedly denied.

Why? Because it practically guaranteed that any ground war with the Soviets would inevitably escalate into a nuclear war. If you considered using high yield strategic nukes, you’re talking about the end of the world as we know it. But these tiny devices don’t carry the same psychological weight. It’s easier to pull the trigger on something that would only level a few acres.

So all in all, this think tank’s plan for maintaining America’s military dominance, is probably one of the worst ideas anyone has ever come up with. It reads like a how-to guide for starting a nuclear war.

Joshua Krause at The Daily Sheeple has it wired.

And I fall apart every time, any time, someone reminds me of the Davy Crockett rocket. Because I did a little bit of work on that silly-ass piece of crap. I made it clear at the time it was one of the dumbest ideas in military history.

Krause doesn’t wander into details; but, the damned thing never sent a warhead far enough away to keep from frying the troops using it in their own radiation-whoopee. A portable death trap. Anyone who survived the testing phase was a walking lawsuit for stupid WMDs.

NO, even BITD no one let me near the part that went BOOM! I was involved with other portions of the launch.

What’s Really Warming the World? NASA data provides proof

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Click through to a dynamic set of infographics

NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies has done a knockout series of infographics based on decades of data and study. They deserve all the credit in the world for maintaining real science in the face of superstition, myth and the new American disease – self-deception.