Sleeping on animal skins may be good for babies — and other baby animals. eh?

Sleeping on animal skin may reduce a baby’s risk of developing asthma, research suggests…Germs in the hide and fur prime the immune system not to trigger allergies, scientists believe…The finding comes from a study of 2,441 healthy German infants whose progress was monitored until the age of 10.

More than half (55%) slept on animal skin during their first three months of life. They were 79% less likely to develop asthma by six years of age than children not exposed to animal skin.

The results, presented at the European Respiratory Society’s International Congress in Munich, lend support to the “hygiene hypothesis” that suggests too much cleanliness early in life can increase susceptibility to allergies.

Lead researcher Dr Christina Tischer, from the Helmholtz Zentrum Munchen Research Centre, said: “Previous studies have suggested that microbes found in rural settings can protect from asthma. An animal skin might also be a reservoir for various kinds of microbes, following similar mechanisms as has been observed in rural environments.

“Our findings have confirmed that it is crucial to study further the actual microbial environment within the animal fur to confirm these associations.”

Grandma was right. Of course, she only had to content with rural dirt, wild fur. Environments contaminated by industrial pollution probably still aren’t recommended sources for “natural”.

Thanks, Mike

Scottish Independence — Vulgate Opposition

If Scotland gains its independence in the forthcoming referendum, the remainder of the United Kingdom will be known as the “Former United Kingdom” …….or FUK.

In a bid to discourage the Scots from voting ‘yes’ in the referendum, the Government has now begun to campaign with the slogan “Vote NO, for FUK’s sake

They feel the Scottish voters will be able to relate to this.

If I was hanging out with my old mate, Morris, in his favorite pub in Greenock – that might get me nothing more than severely pummeled!

Thanks, Ursarodinia

Did you think buying influence in DC was limited to lobbyists?


STATOIL drill rig — Norway poured $24 million or more in recent years into Washington think tanks

The agreement signed last year by the Norway Ministry of Foreign Affairs was explicit: For $5 million, Norway’s partner in Washington would push top officials at the White House, at the Treasury Department and in Congress to double spending on a United States foreign aid program.

But the recipient of the cash was not one of the many Beltway lobbying firms that work every year on behalf of foreign governments.

It was the Center for Global Development, a nonprofit research organization, or think tank, one of many such groups in Washington that lawmakers, government officials and the news media have long relied on to provide independent policy analysis and scholarship.

More than a dozen prominent Washington research groups have received tens of millions of dollars from foreign governments in recent years while pushing United States government officials to adopt policies that often reflect the donors’ priorities, an investigation by The New York Times has found.

The money is increasingly transforming the once-staid think-tank world into a muscular arm of foreign governments’ lobbying in Washington. And it has set off troubling questions about intellectual freedom: Some scholars say they have been pressured to reach conclusions friendly to the government financing the research.

The think tanks do not disclose the terms of the agreements they have reached with foreign governments. And they have not registered with the United States government as representatives of the donor countries, an omission that appears, in some cases, to be a violation of federal law, according to several legal specialists who examined the agreements at the request of The Times.

As a result, policy makers who rely on think tanks are often unaware of the role of foreign governments in funding the research.

Or so NY TIMES reporters would have us believe.

RTFA for the details. They’ve done a solid job of research and display it in scholarly fashion.

I just wouldn’t be so kind to our politicians. I don’t think they care a whole boatload where money and “advice” originate. Regardless of blather and bluster about ethics and ideology, most of the hacks in Congress will accommodate whomever offers them enough temple gold.

Haboob swallows Phoenix, Arizona

The city of Phoenix, Arizona, was hit by a massive dust storm on Saturday evening…

The haboob left thousands of homes without power and grounded numerous flights at the city’s international airport.

Reports indicated this critter had about a 3000-foot top.

Now, folks over in Arizona will get to listen to Tea Party-types whine for a couple of weeks about this sort of dust storm being called a haboob. Even weather reports are judged on whether they’re white enough.