Don’t let Armadillos spit on you in Florida!


Click to enlargeGetty Images

For once…Florida citizens are not the focus of a news story. Instead, Florida armadillos are in the spotlight.

Local health officials are warning Floridians to stay away from the animals after nine people were infected with leprosy after coming into contact with the leathery armored creatures.

Typically, Florida sees just 10 cases of leprosy in a year. The centuries-old bacterial infection, also known as Hansen’s disease, causes nerve damage and disfigurement and was once a considered a sentence to death or life in isolation. Thanks to antibiotics, the disease is now treatable and only rarely spreads from person to person in the U.S., typically via coughing or sneezing.

A 2011 genetic study found that armadillos naturally harbor the bacteria that causes the illness in humans, and they may be responsible for some infections, though it is far less common for leprosy to be spread that way.

But that’s what seems to be happening in Florida.

“New homes are being developed, and we are tearing down armadillos’ homes in the process,” said Dr. Sunil Joshi…of the Duval County Medical Society. “Now these creatures are coming out in the daytime, and the people who are getting exposed are those working outside.”

Armadillos aren’t native to Florida, but the cat-sized mammals are now common throughout the state, according to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission…“Especially if they’re trying to get out of a cage they can spit on you,” said Florida wildlife trapper Kyle Waltz.

The bacteria that causes leprosy can lie dormant for years, according to the CDC, and it may take up to a decade for symptoms to appear. Most of the human population isn’t susceptible to the disease, and fewer than 300 new cases were reported in the U.S. in 2010…As many as 2 million people have been permanently disabled by the disease worldwide.

One of the instances where you don’t want to be the exception that proves the rule.

A surgical glue that shuts down bleeding wounds in 60 seconds

The ability of mussels to stubbornly bind themselves to underwater surfaces has intrigued scientists for years. If this ability could be recreated in the lab, it could lead to new adhesives for all kinds of applications. A team of Korean scientists has now developed a surgical glue inspired by these natural wonders that’s claimed to be cheaper, more reliable and incur less scarring than existing solutions.

In surgery, stitches and staples are very effective at binding body tissue together, but they can cause scarring and aren’t always appropriate when treating more sensitive flesh and organs. These drawbacks have motivated the development of adhesives that are strong enough to hold tissue together in wet environments, and do so without inciting adverse chemical reactions…

Scientists at Pohang University of Science and Technology have a…solution…inspired by intersections of amino acids called tyrosines that can be found in dragonfly wings and insect cuticles. These are created by exposure to visible light, a process that boosts both their strength and stickiness.

The team found that when they took mussel proteins chock-full of tyrosines and exposed them to blue visible light, the photochemical reaction saw them instantly pair up to form these tyrosine intersections. The result was a material with better structural stability and adhesive properties. They have dubbed it light-activated, mussel protein-based adhesive (LAMBA) and claim to have proven its superiority to existing surgical glues. In testing the glue in animals, the scientist say it was able to close bleeding wounds in less than 60 seconds and healed them without inflammation or scarring.

Sounds good to me. Can’t wait till there’s an over-the-counter version. Hopefully, affordable.

Ten dirtiest power companies in the USA


Duke Energy

Coal-fired power plants are the single biggest driver of global climate change in the United States. That’s why President Barack Obama’s Environmental Protection Agency is moving quickly to put the finishing touches on a new set of regulations, called the Clean Power Plan, that aim to reduce the nation’s overall carbon footprint 30 percent by 2030 by cracking down on emissions from the energy sector.

Unsurprisingly, many power companies — particularly those that rely on coal as their main source of fuel — are crying foul. Recently, one major coal company and a dozen coal-reliant states tried to block the new rules in federal court. (The court decided last month not to hear the challenge, since the rules haven’t yet been finalized.) And this week, executives from two of the country’s biggest power companies met with White House officials in an attempt to persuade them that the crackdown would be “too much too soon.”

As it turns out, those same two companies — Duke Energy and American Electric Power — emit more carbon pollution than any other power producers in the country. That’s according to a new report released from a coalition of environmental groups and power companies, which draws on public data from the EPA and the Energy Information Administration to reveal the carbon footprints of the 100 biggest power producers in the nation…

There’s some good news in the data, as well. In the last few years, nationwide coal use has dropped precipitously. That’s mostly a product of market forces, rather than environmental regulation: Natural gas, made cheaper by the fracking boom, has displaced coal in power plants across the country. At the same time, renewable energy sources have boomed.

This will continue as long as ordinary citizens keep up the pressure on the Congressional clown show. Rightwing creeps – like New Mexico’s own Steve Pearce – continue to do their worst in conjunction with the remaining Blue Dog Democrats who were’t knocked off their rusty-dustys in the last couple of congressional elections.

But, sufficient pressure on everyone from the occupant of the White House to individual bureaucrats in DC – to your friendly neighborhood politicians in whichever state legislature you’re saddled with – all helps. Let them know we’re all watching. We all remember who deserves to lose their precious job.

RTFA – and check the charts to see if your own electricity giant made the lists.

NYC settles Occupy Wall Street pepper spray lawsuit


Kelly Schomburg screaming in pain after assault by the pig, Anthony Bologna

I don’t think I’ve been angry enough to use the word “pig” to describe a cop in decades. For Anthony Bologna, a deputy inspector in the NYPD, the use is perfectly appropriate.

New York City has reached a settlement with an Occupy Wall Street protester who was pepper-sprayed and arrested by a city police officer during a peaceful demonstration in 2011.

Debra Lea Greenberger, a lawyer representing protester Kelly Schomburg confirmed that the city agreed to settle the suit for $50,001, in addition to yet-to-be-determined legal fees.

The settlement provides a “measure of justice that was a long time coming”, Greenberger told the Guardian on Tuesday…

Schomburg, who was 18 years old at the time, was among protesters who were maced, corralled and then arrested during a 2011 demonstration against economic inequality in New York. She is now 22.

A viral video from the September 2011 Occupy Wall Street demonstration captured the incident. In the video, a New York police officer, later identified by the hacktivist group Anonymous as deputy inspector Anthony Bologna, pepper-sprays a group of protesters fenced in by orange netting. These images helped galvanize support for the movement.

Several protesters filed lawsuits in response to the NYPD’s crackdown on the protest movement. In total, Bologna’s actions have cost taxpayers $382,501 through settlements from at least seven lawsuits…

The NYPD responded by reprimanding Bologna for violating police department guidelines and docking him 10 vacation days…

I compliment the bravery of Kelly Schomburg – not only in her confrontation with the forces of political evil in NYC under the “benevolent” conservative, Mike Bloomberg – but, carrying on the fight to victory in the courts.