Pic of the Day


Click to enlarge — AP Photo/Gregorio Borgia

Newspapers, other media, even galleries displaying the work of photographers stick to the protocol of detailing not only every technical jot of taking the photo; but, they persist in describing the context and incidence of the photo. This is one of those photos where I think it doesn’t matter in the least.

It’s an interesting picture. Use your imagination.

If you really need to know what’s going on – click over here.

Agencies warn Africans over bogus Ebola cures

Panic over Ebola has the makers of dietary supplements aggressively targeting Africans, claiming to have a cure for the lethal virus.

Late this week, both the World Health Organization and the United States Food and Drug Administration issued strong warnings about false Ebola cures. The latter threatened American companies with penalties if they continue making such claims…

Earlier this week, a W.H.O. expert panel ruled it ethical to try some experimental drugs to fight this outbreak; some supplement makers have implied that ruling constituted permission for use of their products, though a top W.H.O. official emphasized that it did not.

The hustlers who specialize in the class of medical alternatives guaranteed to be nothing more than a hustle – take this as an invitation to flood the market of fear with so-called wonder cures.

While discussing the shipment to Liberia of an experimental drug the panel did endorse, ZMapp, Nigeria’s health minister, Onyebuchi Chukwu, said an unidentified Nigerian scientist living overseas had arranged for Nigeria to get a different experimental medicine, according to Nigerian news outlets. They identified it as NanoSilver, a supplement offered by the Natural Solutions Foundation, which said that it contains microscopic silver particles, although, as a food supplement, it is not tested by regulatory agencies. Silver kills some microbes on surfaces and in wounds, but it can be toxic and is not F.D.A.-approved for systemic use against viruses…

ZMapp is a set of antibodies made by the Mapp company of San Diego. Only a few doses exist, and the first two were given to American health workers who contracted Ebola in Liberia and are now hospitalized in Atlanta.

NanoSilver is for sale on the foundation’s website alongside hemp oil, ear candles, chocolate and “mental clarity packs.”

Dr. Marie-Paule Kieny, an assistant director general of the W.H.O., said that testing promising treatments “doesn’t mean that any crazy idea that people have — things that have barely been tested in anything — will now be brought to Africa to test on patients. This is absolutely out of the question…”

Since the outbreak started, many rumored cures have swept West Africa. A popular Nigerian rumor is that bathing in or drinking saltwater is protective. Bags of “blessed Ebola cure salt” are for sale.

While bathing in saltwater is harmless, drinking large amounts of it is not. The W.H.O. said two Nigerians have died of it.

Medical hustles abound in every culture in direct proportion to the segment of the public still stuck into religion and superstition. Poverty is another quality creating an open door to snake oil salesmen. If your nation has a significant number of politicians afraid of science and education it’s all the more likely that 14th Century solutions will take hold of the hopes and prayers of ignorant folk.

The placebo effect is next to useless on a virus as deadly as Ebola. So, miracle cures, amazing remissions, aren’t likely. Just more dead – after being drained of every penny they could come up with.

Global warming is humidifying the upper atmosphere

We have long suspected that greenhouse gases which cause the Earth to warm would lead to a wetter atmosphere. The latest research published by Eul-Seok Chung, Brian Soden, and colleagues provides new insight into what was thought to be an old problem. In doing so, they experimentally verified what climate models have been predicting. The models got it right… again.

To be clear, this paper does not prove that water vapor is a greenhouse gas. We have known that for years. Nevertheless, the paper make a very nice contribution. The authors show that the long-term increase in water vapor in the upper troposphere cannot have resulted from natural causes – it is clearly human caused. This conclusion is stated in the abstract,

Our analysis demonstrates that the upper-tropospheric moistening observed over the period 1979–2005 cannot be explained by natural causes and results principally from an anthropogenic warming of the climate. By attributing the observed increase directly to human activities, this study verifies the presence of the largest known feedback mechanism for amplifying anthropogenic climate change.

As stated earlier, climate models have predicted this moistening – before observations were available. In fact, the models predicted that the upper troposphere would moisten more than the lower atmospheric layers. As the authors state,

Given the importance of upper-tropospheric water vapor, a direct verification of its feedback is critical to establishing the credibility of model projections of anthropogenic climate change.

To complete the experiments, the authors used satellite measurements of radiant heat. The emissions have changed but it wasn’t clear why they have changed. Changes could be caused by increases in temperature or from increased water vapor. To separate the potential effects, the authors compared the first set of experiments with others made at a different wavelength. That comparison provided a direct measure of the separate effect of moistening.

Next, the authors used the world’s best climate models to test whether the observed trends could be caused by natural changes in the Earth’s climate or whether they require a human influence. Sure enough, only the calculations that included human-emitted greenhouse gases matched the observations. The authors conclude that,

Concerning the satellite-derived moistening trend in recent decades, the relations of trend and associated range among three experiments lead to the conclusion that an increase in anthropogenic greenhouse gases is the main cause of increased moistening in the upper troposphere.

Another box ticked, another set of relevant questions answered. Now, real scientists will continue with their work – preparing answers for those nations and politicians ready to deal with serious ecological questions.

The rest…? I don’t know. Don’t waste too much time asking a Republican what they intend to do?

Thanks, Mike

Rick Perry indicted on two charges of felony corruption

A Travis County grand jury Friday indicted Gov. Rick Perry on two charges related to his effort last year to force District Attorney Rosemary Lehmberg to resign after her drunken driving arrest.

Grand jurors charged Perry, 64, with abuse of official capacity, a first-degree felony, and coercion of a public servant, a third-degree felony. The first charge carries a punishment of 5-99 years and a fine of up to $10,000. The second charge is punishable by 2-10 years and a fine of up to $10,000.

The indictment stems from Perry’s threat last summer to withhold $7.5 million in state money from Lehmberg’s office unless she step down – a threat he later carried out by vetoing an appropriation in the state budget.

Mary Anne Wiley, General Counsel for Perry, said blah, blah, blah, blah, blah…

The special prosecutor in the case, San Antonio attorney Michael McCrum, said he was confident with the strength of the charges filed against Perry.

“There has been an immense amount of work that has gone into my investigation up until this point,” he told reporters after announcing the indictment. “I have interviewed over 40 people who were related in some way to the events that happened.”

He later added: “I looked at the law. I looked at the facts. and I presented everything possible to the grand jury.”

RTFA for all the political brouhaha that immediately followed Perry’s indictment. Everyone knows what sort of opportunist power-hungry liar Rick Perry is. Given the accepted level of corruption in the Confederacy, no one expected him to be indicted.

Funs and games ahead, folks.