Marine Phytoplankton in decline over the last century

Using the Secchi disk ca. 1910

Research collected for more than a century is helping Dalhousie University researcher Daniel Boyce in his quest to examine the health of the world’s oceans.

A simple tool known as a Secchi disk as been used by scientists since 1899 to determine the transparency of the world’s oceans. The Secchi disk is a round disk, about the size of a dinner plate, marked with a black and white alternating pattern. It’s attached to a long string of rope which researchers slowly lower into the water. The depth at which the pattern is no longer visible is recorded and scientists use the data to determine the amount of algae present in the water.

More specifically, the research is focused on a particular type of algae known as phytoplankton. This is the first time that significant research has been complied and examined to study the algae levels in the world’s oceans.

Phytoplankton provides food for basically everything in the ecosystem, from fish right up to human beings,” says Mr. Boyce, a PhD candidate with the Department of Biology at Dalhousie. “Phytoplankton is also important in maintaining sustainable fisheries operations and the overall health of the ocean. We need to make sure that the numbers do not continue to decline.”

The researchers found that the number of phytoplankton has been decreasing by a rate of about one per cent per year, for the past 110 years. While this might not seem like a large number, this translates into a decline of about 40 per cent since 1950. In total, just under half a million observations were compiled to be able to estimate phytoplankton levels through the years…

Based on the research collected, phytoplankton levels have decreased in eight out of 10 ocean regions.

Boyce makes the point that we don’t thoroughly understand all the ramifications of such a decline. Wanna bet it doesn’t bode well for our continued existence?

It’s like running out of dirt.

Israeli rabbis deal with Jewish women wearing burkas

Israeli rabbis are to clamp down on the growing number of devout Jewish women wearing the burka by declaring the garment an item of sexual deviancy.

At the insistence of the husbands of some burka-wearing women, a leading rabbinical authority is to issue an edict declaring burka wearing a sexual fetish that is as promiscuous as wearing too little.

A small group of ultra-orthodox Jews in the town of Beit Shemesh chose to don the burka, usually associated with women in repressive Islamist regimes, three years ago in a bid to protect their modesty.

Since then, the habit has spread to five other Israeli towns causing alarm among ultra-orthodox religious leaders who once saw it as a relatively harmless eccentricity – even though the number of Jewish burka wearers is not thought to be more than a few hundred…

Ultra-Orthodox women are required to dress conservatively and keep their heads covered with a scarf, hat or wig when in public.

But even that was not enough for some, who insisted that only by covering their faces and wearing multiple layers of clothes to hide the shape of their bodies can they really be chaste…

The trend has also caused tensions in family life. One man went to a rabbinical court in an attempt to get a ruling to force his wife to stop wearing the burka.

The plan backfired, however. The court ruled that that woman’s behaviour was so “extreme” that it ordered the couple to undergo an immediate religious divorce.

I shouldn’t be surprised. Looneybirds in a fundamentalist cult – in a theocratic state – adopting the trapping of other looneybirds in a different fundamentalist cult shouldn’t surprise anyone.

They all deserve each other.

Republicans + election slogans = crapping on 9/11 responders

When does the Republican party abandon 9/11? When it’s time to provide $7.4 billion in medical treatment and compensation to first responders and residents sickened by the toxic dust after the September 11, 2001 attacks at the World Trade Center. Yesterday, the House’s 255-159 vote (243 Democrats and 12 Republicans supported the measure; 155 Republicans and 4 Democrats voted nay) fell short of the majority needed to pass the long-debated James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act of 2009.

Not that a simple democratic majority ever mattered to Republicans.

Oklahoma county must pay up in Ten Commandments case

The Haskell County, Oklahoma, Commission has 10 years to pay attorneys’ fees of $199,000 after it was forced to remove an 8-foot-tall Ten Commandments monument.

The county has been in litigation with the American Civil Liberties Union of Oklahoma since 2006, after it allowed a resident to pay for and erect the granite monument on the courthouse lawn in Stigler.

After a series of court decisions up to the U.S. Supreme Court, which refused to hear the case, the ACLU prevailed. The monument was removed in March, and the attorneys’ fees were settled last week, ACLU attorney Micheal Salem said…

“It’s a very unwelcoming thing for those who do not subscribe to the Judeo (Christian) belief system. The government should not be in the business of showing favoritism or endorsing religion,” ACLU’s Chuck Thornton said. “The ACLU would never have been involved if it was somewhere other than public property. We don’t want to squelch anyone’s rights of free expression.”

Haskell County is a community of more than 12,000 residents southeast of Tulsa.

Let’s see – that’s a bit over $16.58 apiece just to show the world how important their religion must be.

I don’t know about y’all; but, if I had a spare $16 to blow on what I believe – I’d probably spend it on buying someone a meal or supplies for schoolchildren.

B.C. ends weird sex test for juvenile offenders

Controversial sex arousal tests used on young offenders have been permanently halted, following news that a medical technician working in the program has been charged with an unrelated sexual offence.

Mary Polak, the B.C. minister of children and family development, said her ministry learned Thursday that the technician, who was working on contract, was charged earlier this month. The charge is unrelated to his work for the ministry or the youth facility where he was employed, she said…

Polak temporarily suspended the tests after the province’s child advocate announced…she’d review the testing program.

The tests, carried out by the government-sponsored Youth Forensic Psychiatric Service, involve attaching a “penile plesthysmograph” to adolescent boys’ genitals to measure sexual responses. The youths — aged 12 to 17 — were shown photographs of naked or semi-naked adults, children and infants. The images were accompanied by a story, read out loud, that described coercive or forced intercourse. The test is supposed to determine whether young offenders have gained control of their sexual impulses through treatment, and to predict the likelihood of them reoffending.

Polak said the B.C. Civil Liberties Association notified her of the tests only several days ago, although they have been administered for 20 years…

20 years!?

After instructing staff to look into the testing protocol, she said: “The information provided to me has led me to believe there’s no reason for us to continue such an intrusive practice that is so concerning, when we have other treatments and assessment practices to treat youth individuals in our care…”

Similarly, while the BCCLA believes Polak’s decision to end the sex tests is “good news,” it also plans to investigate the ethical protocols that authorized this research in the first place.

We have the occasional loony city council in our neck of the prairie that would authorize something like this. The only difference being that our loonies would also photograph the juvenile offenders’ aura.

Party of NO blocks funds for small business loans

Senate Republicans blocked a $30-billion plan to help community banks boost lending to small businesses, dealing a blow to President Barack Obama’s election-year battle to reduce unemployment.

Tempers ran high as Democratic leaders failed to muster the 60 votes needed to advance the measure over a Republican filibuster…

Even if the Senate passes the small business lending bill next week, it will be too late to get it to Obama’s desk before mid-September. The House of Representatives, which passed its version of the bill in June, is set to begin a six-week break on Friday. The House will be unable to vote on the version passed by the Senate until then…

An earlier Democratic effort to pass a jobs package that included money for cash-strapped states and extended some expired individual and tax breaks was also blocked in the Senate by Republicans who argued that the extra spending should be covered by cuts elsewhere in the budget.

Senate Democrats are making another push to provide $10 billion in education funding to states and $16 billion to help with the Medicaid health program for the poor. Reid filed a separate bill on those measures and a procedural vote is set for Monday.

Surely, no one expects Republicans will support schoolchildren or the poor.

Obama has been pushing for passage of the lending measure arguing that getting more capital into the hands of independent community bankers would lead to more small business loans. It is supported by independent bankers and business groups.

The Republican Party is the best example of American dementia. People vote for Republicans because they say that supporting the rich and powerful will bring jobs and a healthy economy. No one remembers how we got to this recession.

Repeating the same stupidity and expecting a different result is the definition of insanity.

On a subjective note, riht now, there is no sector of regional banking here in the Southwest with more energy and activity than small business lending. Every penny made available to community banks would be going straight back out the door into economic stimulus – and to qualified borrowers at that.

The Republican Party could care less.

Tokyo’s ‘oldest man’ dead for 30 years

A man listed as the oldest living male in Tokyo died some 30 years ago, city officials said after his body was found mummified in his bed.

Police visited the home of Sogen Kato at the request of ward officials updating their list of centenarians ahead of Respect for the Elderly Day in September. Kato was born July 22, 1899, which would have made him 111.

Japanese welfare officials have tried to meet Kato since earlier this year, but his family members repeatedly chased them away, saying Kato was well but didn’t want to see anyone, said Tomoko Iwamatsu, an official at Tokyo’s downtown Adachi Ward, where Kato lived.

Officials grew suspicious and sought an investigation by police, who forced their way into the house Wednesday. Police said the mummified body believed to be Kato was lying in his bed, wearing underwear and pyjamas, covered with a blanket.

His granddaughter told investigators Kato holed up in his room about 30 years ago after declaring he wanted to be a living Buddha, police and Tokyo officials said. They believe Kato died soon after that.

Tokyo police were investigating possible crimes on suspicion Kato’s family received pension money of the man and his dead wife.

Uh, OK. Usual reasons. But, still – that’s a long time to keep the hustle rolling.