There’s an app for that – from NASA

NASA has launched an iPad application for those interested in Earth science.

Dubbed the NASA Visualization Explorer, the application delivers real-satellite data, including movies and stills, of Earth, that enable users to learn a bit more about the “natural world.” Short stories accompany the videos and stills to explain what users are seeing and why it’s important.

“The app will explore stories of climate change, Earth’s dynamic systems, plant life on land and in the oceans–all of the small and large stories captured in data by NASA satellites and then visualized,” Michael Starobin, a senior producer at the Goddard Space Flight Center, said in a statement.

Science should be accessible to everyone, and visualization reveals the meaning and value of the often intangible, but essential, data delivered by NASA’s research efforts,” Starobin continued. “Data visualization makes information immediately visual and understandable when it otherwise might go unnoticed.”

In addition to visualizations, the app also comes with six editorial features related to Earth science. According to NASA, two new editorials will be added each week. The organization also said it might include stories about the sun and solar system at some point.

The free NASA Visualization Explorer is available now in Apple’s App Store.

Mountain lion killed after a two year journey across America


One of my favorite parkway bridges down in Stamford

A mountain lion killed on a Connecticut highway in June was a wild animal from South Dakota that prowled more than 1,500 miles eastward before meeting his death 70 miles from New York City, genetic tests confirmed this week.

The big cat with a long tail and an even longer tale was determined to have travelled through Minnesota and Wisconsin in late 2009 and 2010 before arriving in the posh suburb of Greenwich, Connecticut, according to DNA testing of the animal and his scat.

The cougar was struck and killed on a commuter roadway, the Wilbur Cross Parkway, on June 11.

“I think it’s staggering that he was able to go 1,500 miles but also travel through those areas without being detected or killed,” said Mark Dowling, a director at the Cougar Network.

“Moving through the Midwest and Northeast, it’s a gauntlet of potential detection — roads, highways, rivers and dogs to get through,” he said.

The cross-country trek is one of the longest movements on record for a land mammal and nearly doubles any known distance traveled by a mountain lion, according to Connecticut environmental officials. It’s also the first recorded confirmation of a wild mountain lion in Connecticut in more than 100 years, officials said…

But DNA tests on the 140-pound animal, believed to be two to five years old, matched the genetic structure of the mountain lion population in the Black Hills region of South Dakota, officials said.

Other signs that he was a wild animal included the fact he was not declawed, neutered or implanted with a microchip but did have porcupine quills embedded in his tissues.

I know the area well where his life was ended. My family lived for years right next to the parkway, just over from Milford – it’s called the Merritt Parkway or the Wilbur Cross Parkway depending on whether you’re east or west of the Housatonic River.. It was one of the first limited access, dual lane highways with a median – built starting back in 1934.

Yup. Part of a stimulus plan that focused on infrastructure. Each overpass or underpass is different, but all designed by the same architect.

Not that any of that impressed Mr. Mountain Lion. Our loss.

“Bet I can sneak into the bank through the chimney!” That was 1984…

Skeletal remains found in the chimney of an Abbeville, Louisiana, bank two months ago have been identified as those of a local man who hadn’t been seen in 27 years.

The remains are those of Joseph W. Schexnider, who vanished at age 22 in January 1984, Abbeville police Lt. David Hardy told CNN. Schexnider’s disappearance was noted after he failed to show up for a court hearing on a charge of possession of a stolen vehicle. When officers showed up at his home to take him in to custody, Schexnider’s mother said he had fled to avoid arrest.

The remains were discovered in May when construction workers were doing renovations on the main branch of the Bank of Abbeville, a historic building that sits on the main square in the southwestern Louisiana town of 25,000 people. Tests done at a Louisiana State University forensics lab established the remains were those of Schexnider.

The cause of death was likely dehydration and starvation, Hardy said. Foul play was not suspected and the case is closed, he said.

But why Schexnider was in the chimney remains a bit of a mystery…

A mystery to whom? Do you think he was waiting for a bus? He stood atop the chimney to pee in the hole – and fell inside? Give me a break!

Save the “mystery” for Nancy Grace.

Catholic Bishop tells True Believers to halt donations to Komen cancer research charity


What me worry?

A Roman Catholic bishop in Ohio has called on supporters of a breast cancer foundation to suspend donations because the charity may, in the future, turn to stem-cell research in its fight against the disease.

Said Bishop Leonard P Blair of Toledo, Ohio: “While we want to do everything possible to support the search for a cure, sadly the landscape of medical research today is sometimes marred by the erroneous belief that research is not bound by moral norms rooted in faith and reason, as reflected in the teaching of the church.

According to this report, the charity at the centre of a controversy sparked by this posturing blockhead is the Susan G Komen for the Cure…He…noted the foundation does not exclude the possibility of funding research that uses embryonic stem cells. While acknowledging that Komen does not currently fund research using embryonic stem cells, he said Its policy does not exclude that possibility…

The man is an ideological turd. If he consistently lived up to an iota of his reasoning then he must be picketing the Pentagon on a daily basis. Oh?

Mary Westphal, Executive Director of Komen’s Northwest Ohio Affiliate, and board chairman Angie Ash said here that they were “extremely disappointed” in the bishop’s decision. They said the bishop and other diocesan leaders had not called or met with local Komen officials before the decision’s announcement and gave no opportunity to discuss his concerns.

In modern theology [I know – probably mutually exclusive], you learn the term “pelvic theology.” This describes purportedly celibate priests, bishops, cardinals and popes god-given right to order women how to deal with their bodies. Women haven’t the right to do so on their own. So say the divinely inspired.

You can add in the crap from Catholics and Kool Aid Party anti-abortion nutballs about Planned Parenthood – which sits out at the front of their political onslaught. Though abortion services and information is one of the smallest segments of Planned Parenthood’s activities, the Xhristian Crusaders would take away contraception, vaccination against cancers and dozens of aspects of programmatic women’s health planning.

Though my forebears were shipped off to North America in chains in part for their Catholicism, my immediate family walked out of that Church the day after my grandfather’s funeral. The priest took the occasion to berate the eight children of the deceased for not being Good Catholics like their father – since none of them had more than two children. After the burial my father told the priest to stick his religion where the sun don’t shine – and we never looked back.

Thanks, Mr. Fusion

New York revives leadership in civil rights – sues to end DOMA


Attorney General Eric Schneiderman

Two days after same-sex marriage became legal in New York, the state’s attorney general has taken legal action challenging the constitutionality of the U.S. law which defines marriage as between a man and woman.

In court papers filed on Tuesday in U.S. federal court in Manhattan, New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman said the Defense of Marriage Act, or DOMA, violates same-sex couples’ right to equal protection under the U.S. Constitution.

The 1996 law prohibits same-sex couples from receiving marriage-based benefits such as Social Security survivor benefits, health benefits and the right to file taxes jointly.

Schneiderman argued the law intrudes on the state’s right to regulate marriage. On Sunday, gay couples began to marry in New York after it was made legal…

“By discriminating among married couples based on sexual orientation and sex, DOMA deprives New York of the ability to extend true equality to all marriages valid in the State,” Schneiderman wrote…

In February, the Obama administration announced it would no longer defend the Defense of Marriage Act’s section which defines marriage as between a man and woman.

Yes, the bigots and homophobes of America will continue to join with the most backwards elements in American politics to try to halt the progress of this new generation of civil rights advances. They should fail as abysmally as they did in the 1960’s.

This act by the New York State AG feels to me like the 1958 passage of the Fair Housing Practices Law. When the business and commercial capital of the world stands up for human rights, the nation, the world, has to step back and acknowledge their failings. The state of New York has set an example for all the United States that pretend to modernity to get up on their hind legs and fight for the rights of all their citizens.

Whistleblower lawsuit charges manufacturer wasted dialysis meds


DaVita’s new planned world headquarters in Denver

One of the nation’s largest providers of kidney dialysis deliberately wasted medicine in order to reap hundreds of millions of dollars in extra payments from Medicare, a former clinic nurse and a doctor are charging in a whistle-blower lawsuit.

The lawsuit says that the company, DaVita, used larger than necessary vials of medicine knowing that Medicare would pay for the unused portion of each vial if it were deemed unavoidable waste. DaVita, which treats nearly a third of the nation’s dialysis patients, denies the accusations.

The accusations are the latest related to how financial incentives may have driven overuse of pharmaceuticals in the dialysis business. In January, Medicare began a payment system that pays for the overall treatment and does not pay separately for the drugs accompanying it. Many practices, including the size of some vials used, suddenly changed, providing an instant case study of how financial incentives can influence treatment choices.

The lawsuit says that until January, for example, DaVita required nurses to use one 10-microgram vial of Zemplar, a vitamin D drug, instead of a six-microgram dose in three two-microgram vials,. It then billed Medicare for all 10 micrograms even though four went unused.

Instead of giving an entire 100-milligram vial of Venofer, an iron drug, once or twice a month, the clinics gave 25-milligram doses more frequently, the suit says. But since the drug came only in a 100-milligram vial, Medicare was billed for 100 milligrams for each dose, even though 75 milligrams were wasted, the lawsuit says…

This so-called bundled payment system has instantly turned drugs from a source of profit to a cost to be avoided. And dialysis clinics have responded.

Not especially different from the ever-popular cost-plus billing often used in the military-industrial complex. My least favorite form of welfare for capitalists producing non-consumable goods. If you have a guaranteed profit of any size – and can inflate the legitimate costs 100% – you double your profit.