Radioactive birth control helps fruit farmers fight fly sex

At the height of the tangerine season in Croatia’s Neretva river delta, two pickup trucks scour a maze of water channels carrying an odd-looking contraption: a mortar-like pipe spraying orchards with sterilized flies.

Each launch sends into the air thousands of males of the fruit fly, one of the most harmful orchard pests, in what advocates say is a prime example of how nuclear science can benefit both agriculture and the environment.

They have been bombarded with radioactive Cobalt-60 in an Israeli biotechnology plant to make them sterile in a bid to reduce the fly population and the damage they wreak on the crop…

It is essentially a form of birth control,” IAEA head Yukiya Amano said. “The result has been a drop of no less than 75 percent in fruit fly damage” in Neretva, where nine out of ten people are involved in the citrus fruit industry…

The sterilized males outnumber the local fruit flies and gradually take the place of normal males. They can mate, but there is no offspring. Consequently, the number of larvae, which feed on ripening tangerines, quickly declines…

Jorge Hendrichs, who heads a joint pest control program of the IAEA and the U.N. Food and Agriculture Agency, said the SIT method was a win-win because it enabled farmers to fight a pest which “can easily eliminate 30 to 100 percent of the crop” and at the same time use fewer pesticides…

For other countries – like the United States, Japan and Chile – the main thing is to prevent new pest outbreaks. “They want 100 percent assurance that the product you are exporting is 100 percent free, not one worm,” he said…

Greenpeace – which opposes nuclear energy on safety grounds – said blah, blah, blah.

If you mention the work “radioactivity” our current generations of ignoranuses panic and dash about forming circular firing squads – much in the same manner as obedient Catholics volunteered to inform on witches and Jews during the Inquisition.

People simply are unread and inexperienced enough to know that descriptions of radioactive half-life have nothing whatsoever to do with the effects of radiation on sterilized products. There is no radioactive residue left behind to contaminate your fruit compote.

“If Internet governance ain’t broke, don’t fix it!”

The best solution to improving oversight of the Internet may be to do nothing at all, a senior U.S. official said…while briefing reporters on a conference…that could decide to consolidate control within a U.N. body.

The International Telecommunication Union, the U.N. body convening the conference, has said there is broad consensus that the treaty governing the way international voice, data and video traffic is handled needs to be updated after 24 years.

With the rapid spread of the Internet around the world, the 178 signatories have decided to look into ways of increasing collaboration, using telecoms to drive economic development, and making the rules more relevant and responsive to the fast-evolving industry.

However, doing nothing “would not be a terrible outcome at all”, said U.S. Ambassador Terry Kramer, who will head the U.S. delegation at the World Conference on International Telecommunications, which will be held in Dubai.

“The natural path we’re on is pretty good,” he told reporters in Geneva.

“Does that mean there aren’t things that could improve? Absolutely there are things that could improve. But the best thing to do, if you could pick two options, one is to get prescriptive and get into a lot of things versus leaving things open, we’re much better by leaving things open…”

Between ideologues who have nanny state-remits the size of a biblical epoch and political hacks living off the corporate dole I wonder sometimes how much longer Netizens will enjoy the comparative freedom we’ve had, so far. Yes, I know that varies from culture to culture. Cripes, I’ve been online since 1983.

The battle closest to my heart remains the confrontation between Web generations still intoxicated by the level of free speech afforded by the Web – and puritans, hucksters for rules and regulations committed as thoroughly to preventing thought as restricting dissent and freethought.

Ukrainian student-activist gets suspended sentence for frying eggs over eternal flame

A Ukrainian court has handed down a suspended three-year prison sentence to a student who fried eggs over the eternal flame at a World War Two memorial to protest against government policies.

Hanna Sinkova was found guilty of desecrating The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Kiev.

Sinkova, 21, a member of radical youth movement called The Brotherhood of St. Lucas, said her actions were meant to draw attention to the plight of impoverished war veterans.

Its symbolical meaning was that soon, very soon, veterans, old people, poor people will queue up in front of this flame to cook food there because they will have nowhere to live, nothing to cook on and nothing to eat,” she said on Friday.

The average monthly pension in the former Soviet republic was about $140 last year, according to official statistics.

Sinkova said she would challenge the court ruling. State prosecutors said they wanted an actual jail sentence and would do the same.

Save me from purists and anarchists who decide their direct action will lead the world from despots – and clerks.

I can appreciate the sense of what she did – barely. The fact remains that if you wish to affect decision-making by some of the sleaziest politicians in the world [yes, I know a couple of the Kiev-flavor] you better serve your cause by choosing an action that reaches out, draws in sympathy from the greatest number of civilians who – in turn – will voice support for your cause.

This choice won’t even get support from egg-lovers.

British and Japanese scientists win Nobel for stem cell research

Scientists from Britain and Japan shared a Nobel Prize today for the discovery that adult cells can be transformed back into embryo-like stem cells that may one day regrow tissue in damaged brains, hearts or other organs.

John Gurdon, 79, of the Gurdon Institute in Cambridge, Britain and Shinya Yamanaka, 50, of Kyoto University in Japan, discovered ways to create tissue that would act like embryonic cells, without the need to harvest embryos.

They share the $1.2 million Nobel Prize for Medicine, for work Gurdon began 50 years ago and Yamanaka capped with a 2006 experiment that transformed the field of “regenerative medicine” – the field of curing disease by regrowing healthy tissue.

“These groundbreaking discoveries have completely changed our view of the development and specialization of cells,” the Nobel Assembly at Stockholm’s Karolinska Institute said.

All of the body’s tissue starts as stem cells, before developing into skin, blood, nerves, muscle and bone. The big hope for stem cells is that they can be used to replace damaged tissue in everything from spinal cord injuries to Parkinson’s disease.

Scientists once thought it was impossible to turn adult tissue back into stem cells, which meant that new stem cells could only be created by harvesting embryos – a practice that raised ethical qualms in some countries and also means that implanted cells might be rejected by the body.

A significant reason why the United States wasn’t competitive in this research for years. Not because of legitimate ethical concerns – automatic in this realm. No – because of anti-science interference, handicaps introduced by the Bush Administration and the nutballs brought into political power by the Party-formerly-known-as-Republican.

My contempt never recedes for ideologues, pundits and prophets who assign values of good or bad to knowledge. They would thwart any research topic by assigning a value to study based on what they think may result.

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Jack Welch’s conspiracy theory shows how out-of-touch with reality ideology can leave you

A good conspiracy theory is irrefutable. A bad one usually collapses when confronted by reality.

The claim by some supporters of Republican challenger Mitt Romney that President Barack Obama’s Chicago-based campaign doctored September’s unemployment figures for political gain falls into the second category, say members of both parties who have served in the government’s economic-data system.

Jack Welch, the former chief executive officer of General Electric Co. (GE), touched off an Internet-based frenzy on Oct. 5 when he suggested on Twitter that Obama’s team lowered the U.S. unemployment rate to 7.8 percent to give the president a boost. “Unbelievable jobs numbers. . . these Chicago guys will do anything. . . can’t debate so change numbers,” he wrote…

On NBC’s “Meet the Press”, Robert Gibbs, an Obama campaign adviser, dismissed Welch’s remarks as “crazy.”

“I assume, David, there’s a number of people that believe the real unemployment report is somewhere in a safe in Nairobi with the president’s Kenyan birth certificate,” Gibbs said to moderator David Gregory. “This stuff is absolutely crazy…”

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