Judge once again rejects limits on emergency contraception

In yet another scathing critique of government health officials, a federal judge has refused to stay his order making emergency contraceptives available to consumers of all ages without a prescription.

Calling government efforts to restrict the sale of drugs such as Plan B “frivolous and taken for the purpose of delay,” U.S. District Judge Edward R. Korman of New York wrote that the medications would be available to all unless the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals ruled otherwise by noon Eastern time on Monday…

In a 17-page ruling, Korman said the actions of Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius were in “bad faith” and “politically motivated,” and that government lawyers were functioning in “an alternate reality” when they requested the stay.

Korman wrote that Sebelius lacked “any medical or scientific expertise” and that she undermined the nation’s drug approval process when she overruled a decision by the Food and Drug Administration to allow the drug to be sold to everyone without a prescription.

“The FDA is not the problem,” Korman wrote. “The cause of the rejection of over-the-counter sale of … emergency contraceptives was the secretary of Health and Human Services.”

Nancy Northup, president of the Center for Reproductive Rights, the New York-based advocacy group that is the plaintiff in the case, welcomed the order.

“Judge Korman’s sound ruling simply orders the government to do what the experts at FDA have been trying to do for years: to put politics aside and let science guide us to a policy that makes emergency contraception readily accessible to all women when they need it most urgently,” she said in a statement.


A quasi-liberal administration which ignores scientific fact to bolster their political cowardice ain’t offering anymore service to the citizens of this nation than the conservative and reactionary thugs that want the same backasswards regulations behind the same or slightly differing myths.

Nice to see a judge stand up to hacks and quacks for a change. Not that I’m confident the decision will stand. This ain’t a nation operating with a whole boatload of political courage, nowadays.

Former military dictator of Guatemala convicted of genocide

Rios Montt and the politician who bankrolled murders of “civilian support” for guerillas

Former Guatemalan dictator Efrain Rios Montt was found guilty on Friday of genocide and crimes against humanity during the bloodiest phase of the country’s 36-year civil war and was sentenced to 80 years in prison.

Hundreds of people who were packed into the courtroom burst into applause, chanting, “Justice!” as Rios Montt received a 50-year term for the genocide charge and an additional 30 years for crimes against humanity.

It was the first time a former head of state had been found guilty of genocide in his or her own country.

Rios Montt, now 86, took power after a coup in 1982 and was accused of implementing a scorched-earth policy in which troops massacred thousands of indigenous villagers thought to be helping leftist rebels. He proclaimed his innocence in court…

Prosecutors say Rios Montt turned a blind eye as soldiers used rape, torture and arson to try to rid Guatemala of leftist rebels during his 1982-1983 rule, the most violent period of a 1960-1996 civil war in which as many as 250,000 people died.

He was tried over the killings of at least 1,771 members of the Maya Ixil indigenous group, just a fraction of the number who died during his rule.

A throng outside the court chanted “Justice! Justice!” when the guilty verdicts were handed down on Friday…

“He had full knowledge of everything that was happening and did not stop it,” Judge Yasmin Barrios, who presided over the trial, told a packed courtroom where Mayan women wearing colourful traditional clothes and head-dresses closely followed proceedings…

Former U.S. President Ronald Reagan provided support for Rios Montt’s government and said in late 1982 that the dictator was getting a “bum rap” from rights groups for his military campaign against left-wing guerrillas during the Cold War.

He also once called Rios Montt “a man of great personal integrity”.

Birds of a feather and other similar dichos all apply here. All the Cold War crap rationales – from changing the name of the War department to supporting apartheid governments across the landscape of the Third World – are still grist for the propaganda mills of the Republican Party and their allies standing to the Right of Attila the Hun.

Eidos aids users in tuning their senses

They may look somewhat bulky and a bit like someone wandered out of an avant garde theater, but a pair of concept pieces developed by students and the Royal College of Arts in London allow wearers to fine tune their senses of sight and hearing. Called “Eidos,” from the Greek for “form,” “essence,” “type,” or “species,” the system uses sensors and computer processing to select sensory input and alter it for applications in sport, the arts and medicine…

Eidos Vision is a simple arrangement of a visor equipped with a camera and a head-mounted display attached to a computer. Its function is to take the input of the camera and process it so that what comes out of the eyepieces provides a sense of motion similar to long-exposure photography. In other words, the wearer sees moving objects as a series of overlapping images moving across the scene. This means that the viewer doesn’t just see things moving, but also trends and patterns of motion.

Behind the art deco exterior of Eidos Audio are directional microphones hooked to a computer that feeds into two earpieces and a transducer in the mouth for bone conduction. This means that the wearer not only hears through the ears, but also picks up the sound through the teeth and jaw bones directly in the inner ear. In other words, you can hear people talking inside your head.

The team sees a number of applications for the Eidos system. Eidos Vision could be used in sports to allow trainers to analyze performance in real time and by spectators to enhance their experience. It could also be used to add a new dimension to pursuits such as fashion and ballet.

Meanwhile, Eidos Audio might be used for listeners at concerts to focus on one instrument or singer while muting the rest. In addition to the aesthetic or sporting applications, the team also says that the technology could be used to help those whose senses have been lessened by age or disability, or to help students suffering from ADHD to avoid distraction.


Nordic ferries go LNG gas-powered

Click to enlarge

The Finnish flag is fiercely clacking at the stern as the Viking Grace carves through spring ice, past scores of small islands on the route between Stockholm in Sweden and Turku in Finland.

A maritime revolution is taking place in this narrow waterway and its archipelago of hundreds of small islands. The Viking Grace, a brand new cruise ferry, is fuelled entirely by liquefied natural gas (LNG) and is the first of a new generation of green passenger ships.

Down in the bowels of the ship, the engines are running on 100% gas, although they are capable of using old-fashioned diesel as a back-up propellant if necessary.

“LNG is the cleanest of the fossil fuels we have on Earth,” says First Engineer Victor Gingsjoe…”Compared to running on diesel oils, the particle matter that we release into the atmosphere is virtually nothing. The sulphur oxide emissions are practically nothing. And also we can reduce the CO2 [carbon dioxide] by up to 30%…”

By using LNG, the vessel is complying with new emission controls that come into effect in the Baltic Sea in 2015. Similar rules will begin simultaneously in the North Sea and along the east and west coasts of North America.

It is hoped the changes will make a significant difference to the ecology of the Baltic Sea, which is heavily polluted, in part from Russian ships coming from the east…

The project’s supporters say the new regulations will not just benefit nature, but also public health.

“In Europe, we know that about 50,000 premature deaths are caused from air pollution from shipping,” says Dr Presse-Kristensen…”And the cost to society is about 55 billion euros every year, so it’s a huge cost.”

An operating business/government structure that thinks beyond the next quarter or the next election is such a rarity here in the United States – I imagine this would be as difficult for our patent leather political hacks to get their heads round as the science and ethics behind the decisions resulting in transportation like this.