EPA will limit mercury, other pollutants from cement plants

The Environmental Protection Agency has completed regulations limiting the release of mercury and other toxic air pollutants from cement plants, a move the Obama administration said would save lives but that cement makers warned could drive jobs overseas.

This is the first time the federal government has restricted emissions from existing cement kilns. The regulations aim to reduce, by 2013, the annual emissions of mercury and particulate matter by 92%, hydrochloric acid by 97% and sulfur dioxide by 78%.

EPA officials said the limits would benefit children, whose brains can be damaged by mercury that makes its way through the air to water and then to fish that children eat. They also predicted the rules would stave off thousands of premature heart and lung deaths each year attributed to particulate pollution.

By reducing harmful pollutants in the air we breathe, we cut the risk of asthma attacks and save lives,” EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson said in a statement.

Environmentalists said California, which is the nation’s largest producer of cement and has several heavy-emitting kilns, would see particularly high public health returns…

Cement producers said the rules would cost them “several billion dollars” to implement by installing pollution scrubbers at existing kilns. They warned that regulations could lead to plant closures and job outsourcing.

There’s more of the same from the corporate suits. Mostly crap threats.

They know that products with safety regulations governing their manufacture in the USA are just as easy to ban from import under the same regulations.

True. Manufacturers needn’t worry much about laws being enforced under a Republican administration; but, I believe we’re safe from that for another six years, anyway. Especially if the GOP continues to be led around by nose rings attached to teabaggers who wish for leaded gas, free cigarettes for schoolchildren and the return of black-and-white TV.

Obama’s Shadow War on Terror

Leading progress towards peace in Yemen

At first, the news from Yemen on May 25 sounded like a modest victory in the campaign against terrorists: an airstrike had hit a group suspected of being operatives for Al Qaeda in the remote desert of Marib Province, birthplace of the legendary queen of Sheba.

But the strike, it turned out, had also killed the province’s deputy governor, a respected local leader who Yemeni officials said had been trying to talk Qaeda members into giving up their fight. Yemen’s president, Ali Abdullah Saleh, accepted responsibility for the death and paid blood money to the offended tribes.

The strike, though, was not the work of Mr. Saleh’s decrepit Soviet-era air force. It was a secret mission by the United States military, according to American officials, at least the fourth such assault on Al Qaeda in the arid mountains and deserts of Yemen since December.

The attack offered a glimpse of the Obama administration’s shadow war against Al Qaeda and its allies. In roughly a dozen countries — from the deserts of North Africa, to the mountains of Pakistan, to former Soviet republics crippled by ethnic and religious strife — the United States has significantly increased military and intelligence operations, pursuing the enemy using robotic drones and commando teams, paying contractors to spy and training local operatives to chase terrorists.

RTFA. Long. In depth. Just the beginning of coverage of the war our government wishes to keep secret.

As usual, you can’t tell the players without a scorecard. Agency vs. agency. One group of political hacks with a set of loyalties vs. another group of political hacks with differing loyalties. Decisions made about who should have the power of life and death – determined by which agency has the least oversight from Congress. As if that mattered.

Plus, plausible deniability for the White House.

Dangerous bacterium hosts intermediary genetic remnant

Nope. No angels on pinheads.

Within a dangerous stomach bacterium, Yale University researchers have discovered an ancient but functioning genetic remnant from a time before DNA existed.

To the surprise of researchers, this RNA complex seems to play a critical role in the ability of the organism to infect human cells, a job carried out almost exclusively by proteins produced from DNA’s instruction manual.

“What these cells are doing is using ancient RNA technology to control modern gene expression,” said Ron Breaker…investigator for the Howard Hughes Medical Institute and senior author of the study.

In old textbooks, RNA was viewed simply as the chemical intermediary between DNA’s instruction manual and the creation of proteins. However, Breaker’s lab has identified the existence and function of riboswitches, or RNA structures that have the ability to detect molecules and control gene expression – an ability once believed to be possessed solely by proteins. Breaker and many other scientists now believe the first forms of life depended upon such RNA machines, which would have had to find ways to interact and carry out many of the functions proteins do today.

The new paper describes the complex interactions of two small RNA molecules and two larger RNA molecules that together influence the function of a self-splicing ribozyme, a structure many biologists had believed had no role other than to reproduce itself. The new study, however, suggests that in the pathogenic stomach bacterium Clostridium difficile, this RNA structure acts as a sort of sensor to help regulate the expression of genes, probably to help the bacterium manipulate human cells.

“They were though to be molecular parasites, but it is clear they are being harnessed by cells to do some good for the organism,” Breaker said.

This is the sort of RNA structure that would have been needed for life existing before the evolution of double-stranded DNA, with its instruction book for proteins that carry out almost all of life’s functions today.

Interesting research – of the chicken or egg variety.

Sooner or later, the research will appear on a free site for us ordinary mortals to wander through.

Who will hit the screen with the 1st 3D porn flick? Who cares?

Took six days to film

Hong Kong director Christopher Sun is currently filming his $3.2 million ‘3-D Sex and Zen: Extreme Ecstasy’, which is due for release in May, but Italian director Tinto Brass has already announced he will produce a 3D remake of his 1979 erotic film Caligula.

Although mainland Chinese censors are almost certain to block the movie’s screening, it has sparked wide interest in other Asian markets, including Japan and South Korea, as well Europe, and the United States.

Producer Stephen Shiu said: “This is the future of the movie business — it’s human nature to want to see things in 3D.”

Adding to the pressure, the American company Hustler is making a pornographic spoof of 3D science fiction blockbuster Avatar, the highest-grossing movie of all time and the film that heralded the beginning of the mainstream 3D boom.

Are we supposed to be gullible enough to believe it takes more than a week or two to produce, edit and turn out a porn film? 3D or otherwise?

Professional production values are one thing. Plot, story line – acting talent?

It is to laugh.

President defends Constitution. Hypocrites go bonkers!

Over the weekend, President Obama did something that all American presidents are called upon to do. Defend the Constitution of the United States.

One of those tenets is Freedom of Religion. Not amend section A: popular religion [this week] only.

It’s how and why I feel free to tell folks I’m an atheist – or introduce someone in my family as a student of Buddhism – or note in the course of a conversation about San Antonito Chapel down the road that most of my neighbors are Catholics.

But, right-wing nutballs and the proto-fascists who infest the Tea Party wing of the Republican Party go crap out of their mind if Christian godliness and morality ain’t the only way endorsed to fly straight to heaven. Much less catch a tax break from the IRS.

So, combine all the hypocrisy into one big ball of cigar-snot and mealymouthed punditry – and you get this weekend’s tempest in a teabag.

Here’s a copy of the dangerous sedition uttered by Obama.

I’m not getting into cutting and pasting and commenting line-by-line because, frankly, it’s just the usual straight-up rhetoric required of any official who’s trying to explain our Constitution to people who don’t think it’s worth defending. The whole point of having a standard by which to govern a nation is that it is a standard to be upheld – not amended every time someone asks a hard question or a tough challenge comes along.

Our Founding Fathers realized that and fought and died for it. Now, because some terrorist gangsters come along and say our standards are worthless – a certain portion of our population is willing to prove them correct.

Not today. Not any day.

Apple official busted for taking kickbacks and bribes

A global supply manager working for Apple has been charged in a US federal grand jury indictment for wire fraud, kickbacks and money laundering, and is also facing a civil suit from Apple itself.

According to a report by the San Jose Mercury News, 37 year old Paul Shin Devine of Sunnyvale, California was named in the 23 count indictment along with Andrew Ang of Singapore.

The charges relate to an alleged fraud scheme that claims Devine used his security clearance at Apple to provide confidential information about upcoming products to Apple’s suppliers, including Ang. The indictment says those suppliers then used the secrets to negotiate favorable contracts with Apple and subsequently paid Devine kickbacks, which he shared with Ang…

The companies involved were not named in the indictment, but include suppliers for iPhone and iPod products and were said to be located in “various countries in Asia,” including China, Singapore, South Korea and Taiwan…

In addition to the criminal prosecution, Apple is also reportedly bringing a civil suit that claims Devine accepted more than a million dollars in “payments, kickbacks and bribes” over several years…

Apple has long worked hard to maintain secrecy in order to keep competitors guessing and to excite customers with flashy product releases, but the case also highlights threats the company faces in working with its own partners in the lucrative business of supplying parts and assembling new products.

And – as did the folks at Apple Insider – I wonder if this will affect the recent increase of apparently easy leaks on imminent Apple products.

The vendors these two worked with wouldn’t feel bound by the sort of non-disclosure agreements Apple requires – already working with crooks while chasing business.