Sugar beets are potentially better for ethanol production than corn

Sugar beets are a more efficient source for ethanol production than corn for a lot of reasons: they use less land, less water and, they can grown in many regions during the winter where it’s too cold to grow corn.

Sugar beets, which are mostly water, use 40 percent less water for growth than corn does, and require about half as much land, according to oil-industry website Also, there’s little waste involved in processing sugar beets to alcohol because much of the waste material can be converted to either fuel or fertilizer.

Finding new sources for ethanol is topical because of both rising federal quotas for renewable fuel and the push by many to cut corn-based ethanol production because of concerns over food shortages, waterway contamination and water and electricity requirements. Late last month, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency boosted its 2012 goals for production of non-corn-based biofuels by about 36 percent. This includes quota hikes for sugarcane and algae-based ethanol and cellulosic biofuels, or biofuels produced from grasses, wood and plants. Could sugar beets be the next reasonable large-scale ethanol crop?

The best bet is so-called energy beets which convert more efficiently into sugars for biofuels rather than human consumption.

White House compromise still guarantees contraceptive coverage for women — sort of!

Turning their backs on Catholic women
Daylife/AP Photo used by permission

Seeking to allay the concerns of Catholic leaders and head off an escalating political storm, President Obama on Friday announced an adjustment to the administration’s health-care rule requiring religiously affiliated employers to provide contraceptive coverage to women.

Women still will be guaranteed coverage for contraceptive services without any out-of-pocket cost, but will have to seek the coverage directly from their insurance companies if their employers object to birth control on religious grounds…

Religiously-affiliated non-profit employers such as schools, charities, universities, and hospitals will be able to provide their workers with plans that exclude such coverage. However, the insurance companies that provide the plans will have to offer those workers the opportunity to obtain additional contraceptive coverage directly, at no additional charge.

Churches remain exempt from the birth-control coverage requirement. And their workers will not have the option of obtaining separate contraceptive coverage under the new arrangement.

The administration’s decision to make an adjustment reflected the high political stakes of an issue that had generated intense criticism in recent days from a growing chorus of Catholic and Republicans leaders, as well as some Democrats. In Congress and on the campaign trail, leading Republicans attacked the Obama administration’s position as a war on religion.

The article carries on with the usual blather about even-handedness, reflection, blah, blah, blah.

The decision is one of opportunism and cowardice from a politician without the backbone of Richard Nixon. Nixon may have been a crook – but he signed off on the 1970 Title X Public Health Service Act supporting access to contraception. Obama sounds like he wouldn’t sign it 42 years later.

Republicans may be right-wing ideologues; but, they’re willing to stand up and confront the overwhelming majority of our populace, men and women — and advocate for backwards religious concepts that have nothing to do with civil rights, science or advancing society. Obama hasn’t the courage to defend women, civil rights, science or society.

I thought I was only being pressed to vote against the evil of two lessers in the coming election. It appears I haven’t even that much of a choice. If I only get to choose between a reactionary politician and an opportunist who won’t stand up to reactionary politicians – I can refuse to vote for either one.

Home schoolers make a play for high school teams

Patrick Foss is a top teenage soccer player who plans to graduate a semester early and enter the University of Virginia next January. His neighbor is a point guard on the local public high school basketball team in northern Virginia.

Next fall, Patrick, 17, would like to try out as a kicker on the football team at Freedom High School in South Riding, Va., but he is home-schooled and thus ineligible.

“My parents pay the same exact taxes as my next-door neighbor who plays varsity sports,” he said. “I just want to be part of the community. You shouldn’t have to pick between athletics and academics.”

The usual beancounter’s excuse. Why fight for improvements in the public school system when you can go outside the system. And, then, you want to cherry-pick what bits and pieces you find fit your desires.

A hotly contested bill that passed the Republican-controlled House of Delegates in the Virginia General Assembly on Wednesday would change that, permitting home-schooled students to play varsity sports at public high schools. The Virginia bill is the latest attempt by home-schooling advocates around the country to gain greater access to extracurricular activities at public schools…

Opponents of the bill argue that playing varsity sports is a privilege surrendered when students opt out of the public school system; that home-schoolers might take roster spots from public school students; and that it would be extremely difficult to apply the same academic, attendance and discipline requirements to home-schooled students as to those who are monitored daily in public schools.

To maintain varsity eligibility, for instance, Virginia’s public school students must take five courses in the current semester and must have passed five in the previous semester. Home-schooled students do not have to adhere to that standard…

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Researchers accidentally learn cancer drug reverses Alzheimers!

Scientists say they “serendipitously” discovered that a drug used to treat a type of cancer quickly reversed Alzheimer’s disease in mice.

“It’s really exciting,” said Maria Carrillo, senior director for medical and scientific relations for the Alzheimer’s Association. “They saw very positive and robust behavior effects in the mice.”

In the study, researchers at Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine gave mice mega-doses of bexarotene, a drug used to treat a type of skin cancer called cutaneous T-cell lymphoma. Within 72 hours, the mice showed dramatic improvements in memory and more than 50% of amyloid plaque — a hallmark of Alzheimer’s disease — had been removed from the brain.

Gary Landreth, the lead researcher at Case Western, cautioned that even though his results were impressive in mice, it may turn out not to work in people. “I want to say as loudly and clearly as possible that this was a study in mice, not in humans,” he said. “We’ve fixed Alzheimer’s in mice lots of times, so we need to move forward expeditiously but cautiously.”

Mice — and humans — with Alzheimer’s have high levels of a substance called amyloid beta in their brain. Pathology tests on the mice showed bexarotene lowered the levels of amyloid beta and raised the levels of apolipoprotein E, which helps keep amyloid beta levels low.

Landreth said he hopes to try the drug out in healthy humans within two months, to see if it has the same effect.

Those participating in the trial would be given the standard dose that cancer patients are usually given.

I get to note this sort of occurrence more often than you’d think. One of the benefits of consistent, detailed scientific methodology in research is that tests sometimes appear with beneficial side effects. Part of the overwhelming conservatism of proper science. You note everything. You don’t throw anything away.

It’s only the nutballs and their magic saviors and solutions who pop up into the news stream with a magic cure they cooked up in the garage and tested on a neighborhood cat – if at all.

Villagers told “move your cars” so caravan can be illegally parked

Villagers have reacted with fury after being ordered to move their cars so that police can escort an extra wide mobile home to an “illegal” travellers’ site.

They have been told to move their cars off the road so that the 15 foot wide mobile home can be delivered to the site which has been ruled illegal but which is subject to a planning appeal. The wide load will be accompanied by a police motorcyclist and Land Rover and any cars blocking the path face being removed.

Two caravans have occupied Three-Cornered Piece, in East Harting, West Sussex, since 2009 after self-proclaimed “travellers” from a village 15 miles away moved in on a Bank Holiday weekend.

Now villagers in South Harting, are up in arms that they risk having their vehicles towed away by police if they don’t remove them from one of the two main village streets. Two days ago they found a notice on their car windscreens saying: “Will owners of vehicles please make sure that there (sic) vehicles are removed from these roads until after the abnormal load has passed, which should hopefully be by 2pm Friday.

Any vehicle that is obstructing this movement will be towed away at the owners’ expense.”

The occupation led to a planning inspector’s inquiry, but Eric Pickles’s Local Government department stepped in to rule the land agricultural…

The caravanners are claiming that the mobile home is a “replacement” for one of the other much smaller caravans. A concrete base for it is already laid, even though a retrospective planning application for that and a septic tank has yet to be considered.

A spokesman for Sussex Police said: “At the moment, this is not an illegal site. The court case is pending. We’re blind to the wider sensitivities of the case.

In my peaceful neighborhood, someone attempting to do something like might be met with the neighborhood lying in the road to halt the procession. The saddest part – as I’m certain everyone in East Harting already realizes – is that the local coppers are “blind to the wider sensitivities” of an illegal act.

So, if someone decided to open an illegal gambling casino in their potting shed the police wouldn’t get in the way of that endeavor either?

Hogwash. Lazy coppers. Incompetent roads administration. Politicians with the testicles of a fruit fly.