Utah law lets authorities take down drones at wildfires

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Utah’s governor has signed into law a measure that makes the state the first to let authorities jam drone signals and crash the devices specifically for flying too close to wildfires.

Republican Gov. Gary Herbert’s office announced Monday that he signed the law over the weekend, just days after lawmakers met in a special session to pass it and a handful of other bills.

State Sen. Evan Vickers, who co-sponsored the law, says it technically allows firefighters and law enforcement to shoot down drones, but they probably won’t do that because it’s too difficult. Instead, authorities are expected to use technology that jams signals and crashes drones.

Utah passed the law after a drone recently was sighted five times over one wildfire, causing firefighters to ground their aircraft and slow their work.

But, but, but…some idjit was seriously getting some dynamite images and video for his YouTube account. Might’ve gone viral and got him a real job.

“President” Trump would threaten world economy as much as jihadi terror

The prospect of Donald Trump winning the race to the White House has joined China’s slowing economy, the Greek debt crisis and Britain’s EU referendum as a major threat to the global economy, according to a respected risk analysis firm…

The EIU placed the possibility of Trump being sworn in as US president next January sixth on their latest list of global threats, as serious as a resurgence of jihadi terrorism, and only marginally less risky than the collapse of the eurozone…

❝ “In the event of a Trump victory, his hostile attitude to free trade, and alienation of Mexico and China in particular, could escalate rapidly into a trade war…”…It added: “His militaristic tendencies towards the Middle East – and ban on all Muslim travel to the US – would be a potent recruitment tool for jihadi groups, increasing their threat both within the region and beyond…”

According to the EIU, there was “a moderate probability” of Trump winning November’s presidential election, and serious conflict in Washington if he succeeded.

“Although we do not expect Mr Trump to defeat his most likely Democratic contender, Hillary Clinton, there are risks to this forecast, especially in the event of a terrorist attack on US soil or a sudden economic downturn,” it said.

But, then, are there any Trump supporters who care a rat’s ass about global commerce, international treaty obligations, friendship and cooperation between nations and nationalities?

Innovation and dysfunction at Los Alamos National Laboratory

Containers of radioactive waste on the way to storage in Carlsbad, NM

On May 3, an electrical accident at a Los Alamos National Laboratory substation injured nine workers, burning one of them so severely he was hospitalized for more than a month.

Federal officials in December cited the incident as a “significant failure” on the part of the contractor charged with managing the nuclear weapons repository and research facility. The contractor — Los Alamos National Security — lost $7.2 million in federal performance fees because of the accident.

The incident also might have been the final straw that cost LANS — a consortium in which the University of California and Bechtel Corp. are the primary players — the lucrative $2.2 billion-a-year contract to manage the lab that it has held for nearly a decade.

The electrical accident was the latest in a string of problems for LANS that include injured workers, improperly handled hazardous waste, missing enriched uranium, stolen tools and the public release of classified documents. The most costly incident occurred in 2014, when a container of radioactive waste repackaged at the lab later ruptured in the nation’s only underground nuclear waste repository, contaminating workers and costing hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars to clean up.

Federal officials told Congress in December that they will put the LANL contract up for competitive bid for only the second time since the lab opened in 1943. The current LANS contract ends Sept 30, 2017.

Investigators say the problems stem from repeated management weaknesses, the kind that were supposed to get fixed when the Department of Energy turned to private industry in 2006 to oversee the lab. It was the first time the federal government had put the lab’s management up for bid, with the idea that a for-profit model, operating under an incentives-based contract, would fix the problems that haunted the nonprofit University of California, which had run the lab since World War II.

RTFA. You really should. Most of our few and treasured national labs probably are managed as erratically, poorly, occasionally as dangerously or worse – as LANL. Folks “up on the hill” are so well-paid they make Los Alamos the richest city/county in the United States. Not all are as dedicated to death and destruction as they once were required to be. News which Congress in its current 19th Century incarnation probably would not welcome. But, since the Beltway crowd mostly fears or hates anything that includes some knowledge of science – they ain’t about to peer too closely.

This is a long detailed, tightly edited history. The topic is worth volumes some of which have been written. Just wandering through I’ve noticed a few omissions, mostly unimportant, just local color. Wen Ho Lee’s avocation away from the labs is well-known. An avid, talented fly fisherman especially with light tackle. I sometimes bumped into him at a stream that also was a favorite of Al Capone.

The Santa Fe NEW MEXICAN has done stellar work criticizing the labs and oversight from the Nuclear Regulation Commission. An award-winning series for the editor BITD. The previous generation of the family that still owns the paper was sufficiently dedicated to the Republican Party and conservative ideology to fire that editor after congratulations. 🙂

US government admits common pesticide harms honeybees

The US government has acknowledged for the first time that one of the world’s most widely used pesticides can be harmful to honeybees.

The results of field trials, released…by the US Environmental Protection Agency, show imidacloprid, a common neonicotinoid, can cause hive populations to fall among the world’s most important pollinators…

Declines in the number of bees and the honey they produced were seen when imidacloprid was at the “low level” of 25 parts per billion (ppbn) in the nectar and pollen of the plants, which worker bees carry back to their hive…

Three neonicotinoids, including imidacloprid, are currently banned in the EU. Imidacloprid was the first of the neonicotinoid chemicals to come on the market in the US and has been in wide use since 1994 on crops from corn to vegetables. The global production of the substance in 2010 was 20,000 tonnes, making it one of the world’s most-used pesticides.

The finding fuelled long-standing demands from campaign groups and beekeeper organisations to restrictthe use of neonicotinoids…

A ban on the use of such chemicals would not be enough on its own to revive the honeybee population, which Walker said have also been affected by habitat loss, disease and parasites. “But this is one factor we can control immediately,” said Larissa Walker, from the Centre for Food Safety…

The report was faulted for its relatively narrow focus on large honeybee colonies – instead of the native bee species and smaller colonies that may also be at risk.

Jones said it was the EPA’s assessment that honeybees would make a good surrogate for other species. But Walker and Chris Connolly, who studies the effects of neonicotinoids on bees at Dundee University in Scotland, disagree, arguing that the level at which the EPA had found honeybees were harmed was much higher than the threshold for other bee species…

The pesticide industry continues to lobby against controls on neonicotinoids. They maintain that realistic field studies show nothing out of the ordinary. OTOH, a major field study last April found neonicotinoids have a “dramatic” impact on populations of bumble bees and other wild bees…including the pesticide applied through seed coating. And so it goes.

Feds launching huge study of oil and gas worker safety

An unprecedented study of the hazards rooted in America’s largest oil patches will be launched next year by federal health officials in Colorado who hope to cut the dangers faced by oil and gas workers.

Scientists from the Denver office of the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health — which is part of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention — will distribute questionnaires to 500 oil field workers in North Dakota, Texas and another unnamed state.

Institute personnel will fan out to so-called “man camps”; training centers; equipment and trucking yards; well sites; and community centers in oilfield towns.

Oil field work is considered one of the most dangerous in the country. Between 2005 and 2009, the national occupational fatality rate for the oil and gas industry was seven times higher than the general industry rate and 2½ times higher than the construction industry rate.

Workers will be asked about the types of injuries they’ve suffered while on the job, what they were doing when they were injured, the training they’ve had and whether oil companies provide bonuses to workers who don’t report an injury or incident over a certain length of time, said Kyla Retzer, a Denver-based epidemiologist with the institute’s oil and gas program…

“We’ve analyzed fatality numbers, and we knew that fatality rates were high among oil field workers,” Retzer said. “But we haven’t talked to workers directly in a systematic way about some of their safety-related behaviors and what their concerns are.”

“It’s not an organized workforce,” Retzer said, “so there is no real access to a specific group.”…

Overdue. Always has been pushed back by every level of government. Dirty money crosses lots of palms.

I haven’t worked in the oil industry since the 1960’s. Nothing has changed.

Go ahead! Keep texting and your head will fall off

“It is an epidemic. Or, at least, it’s very common,” New York-based spine surgeon Kenneth Hansraj told The Washington Post last week. He was referring to something that is being called “text neck,” a purported condition of the spine related to the posture of bending forward to look at a phone…

…It was an interesting account of the suggestions of one private-practice neurosurgeon. But the post and the illustration spread widely around the Internet, and the stakes elevated quickly.

In the past week, the study and the diagram have been published by hundreds of outlets, including The Chicago Tribune, Slate, NPR, Business Insider, The Sydney Morning Herald, NBC News, The Globe and Mail, Today, Time, Yahoo, Shape, BuzzFeed, The Huffington Post, and many others. New York’s headline, for example, was “Look at How Texting Is Warping Your Spine.” At several publications, the story was the most popular post on the site. With claims of epidemic and implications of serious spinal damage, the story has elevated to something that maybe warrants a closer look.

Hunching over isn’t ideal, and it’s worth thinking about sitting or standing up straight when possible. But our necks are made to bend forward, and it’s not something that’s new to humans. Texting invokes the same posture as holding a book.

Or a baby.

Or a rock…

The reality is that an axial load, one applied from the top down onto the spine, at the weights in question is not dangerous. “People can carry a lot more than 60 pounds on top of their head if it’s actually an axial load,” neurosurgeon Ian Dorward said, noting that people have evolved to have their heads flexed in a variety of different angles and postures without issue…

For most people, though, the point remains that good posture is generally good when possible, but texting is not an imminent threat to spinal health.

RTFA for all the details of an unnecessary flap over a non-problem.

Clean coal chemical spill puts up to 300,000 in danger

A chemical spill into a West Virginia river has led to a tap water ban for up to 300,000 people, shut down bars and restaurants and led to a run on bottled water in some stores as people looked to stock up.

West Virginia Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin declared a state of emergency Thursday in several counties because of a chemical spill into the Elk River.

The advisory was expanded at night to nine counties and includes West Virginia American Water customers in Boone, Cabell, Clay, Jackson, Kanawha, Lincoln, Logan, Putnam and Roane counties…

The West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources told NBC affiliate WSAZ symptoms include: severe burning in throat, severe eye irritation, non-stop vomiting, trouble breathing or severe skin irritation such as skin blistering…

Residents were told not to drink the tap water, bathe in it or cook with the water and only use it for flushing and fire emergencies. Boiling it will not remove the chemicals.

“Right now, our priorities are our hospitals, nursing homes, and schools,” Governor Tomblin said in a statement. “I’ve been working with our National Guard and Office of Emergency Services in an effort to provide water and supplies through the county emergency services offices as quickly as possible…”

West Virginia American Water did not provide a timeline for the clean-up process, but the company’s external affairs manager Laura Jordan told Reuters that the spill originated with Freedom Industries, a Charleston company…

Clean coal from Freedom Industries. Severe burning in throat, severe eye irritation, non-stop vomiting, trouble breathing or severe skin irritation such as skin blistering are all you have to worry about.

Another non-stop example of crap ideology telling folks their freedom is being protected by burning coal instead of those commie pinko alternative energy plans. Just listen to the politicians and pundits who supplement their salary with kickbacks from coal companies – and everything will be all right.

Don’t get sick in July – really!

With almost no experience, newly graduated medical students enter teaching hospitals around the country every July, beginning their careers as interns. At the same time, the last year’s interns and junior residents take a step up and assume new responsibilities.

In addition to developing their nascent clinical skills, each entering class of interns must grasp the many rules and standards for operating in this “new” hospital structure.

More experienced physicians share a joke about this changing of the guard: Don’t get sick in July

“The good news for patients is that in most cases, it’s very difficult for a physician to make a mistake that results in a patient’s death,” said Anupam Jena, HMS assistant professor of health care policy and of medicine at Massachusetts General Hospital and lead author of the study. “But for severely ill patients, health can be very tenuous. A small error or a very slight delay in care is potentially devastating…”

Overall, they found that patients at teaching hospitals had a lower risk of dying than at non-teaching hospitals, but in July, the risk at teaching hospitals rose to the same level that patients at non-teaching hospitals faced. For high-risk patients who came to the teaching hospitals with heart attacks, the risk of death in hospital went from 20 percent to 25 percent. They also found that among teaching hospitals, the difference between outcomes in May and July is greatest in institutions with the highest percentages of trainees.

The researchers ruled out two potential factors that they suspected may have accounted for some of that difference — the prevalence of percutaneous coronary intervention (i.e. cardiac stents) and of complications from the use of blood thinners.

Without evidence for specific procedures or protocols that could prevent increased deaths, the researchers said that their findings suggest that, especially during the early months in the training cycle, oversight should be intensively focused on high-risk cases rather than across cases overall. In July, doctors with more experience should play a greater role in the care of high-risk patients than has typically been the case.

I never ran into this dicho before. Though it has been at least 40 years since I worked in a teaching hospital. And it was one of the very best.

Still – remind self not to have a stroke or heart attack in July. Especially since the only hospital in town is known as Saint Victims.