Twinkies aren’t immortal, after all


Left to Right: Deceased – Dying – Want a bite?

Last week, craving sweets, Colin Purrington remembered the Twinkies.

He’d purchased them back in 2012 for sentimental reasons when he heard that Hostess Brands was going bankrupt and Twinkies might disappear forever…

Like many people, Purrington believed Twinkies are basically immortal, although the official shelf life is 45 days. He removed a Twinkie from the box, unwrapped it — it looked fine — and took a bite. Then he retched…

…Researchers immediately thought some kind of fungus was involved in attacking the 8-year-old Twinkies, because they’ve studied fungi that kill insects and dry them out in a similar way. Plus, the reddish blotch on one Twinkie seemed to have a growth pattern that’s typical of fungi.

They reached out to Purrington, who was only too happy to mail them the Twinkies immediately. “Science is a collaborative sport,” he says. “If someone can take this and figure out what was actually growing, I’m all in. I really want to know what species exactly was eating my Twinkies.”

A fun read, unless you’re a big shareholder in whoever owns Twinkies, nowadays. Another addition to the long list of reasons why I don’t eat anything in this category of food I didn’t prepare myself.

Industry pimps want reduced rules for Tricholoroethylene. Science says it damages fetal hearts. Guess which side Trump supports?

John DeSesso was on a mission when he entered the halls of the Environmental Protection Agency in late September. Inside the ornate limestone building not far from the White House, he met with a dozen EPA scientists and officials…

For the past 40 years, DeSesso, a biochemist, has…primarily earned his living…as a contract scientist for chemical companies and their trade associations, promoting their positions on toxic chemicals from arsenic to Roundup…

For years, DeSesso and his chemical industry sponsors had been preoccupied with trying to undercut the findings of a 2003 University of Arizona study. That study, led by veterinary scientist Paula Johnson, had been a landmark in establishing that TCE exposure at trace levels was highly toxic to developing embryos. The Johnson study had been pivotal in past EPA evaluations of TCE’s risks…

(The) official evaluation was released for public comment last week, and it appears to show the influence of DeSesso and his chemical company sponsors. Dismissing the findings of the Johnson study and decades of scientific research, the published evaluation rejects fetal heart malformations as a benchmark for unsafe exposure levels to TCE.

Worse than that, it now appears that the body of evidence passing through the diluted remains of the EPA under Republican control still provoked agreement that even trace exposure to TCE was unsafe, could deform fetal hearts. So the Trump White House ordered the EPA to overrule their own scientists.

And so cute, too…


Click to enlarge

Baby spider (Carrhotus xanthogramma juvenile)/Pierre Anquet

“No one knows, incidentally, why Australia’s spiders are so extravagantly toxic; capturing small insects and injecting them with enough poison to drop a horse would appear to be the most literal case of overkill. Still, it does mean that everyone gives them lots of space.”

Bill Bryson, “In a Sunburned Country” (2001)

Still dumb, still self-destructive


Getty Images

❝ Dr. John E. Parker was working at a West Virginia hospital in 2015 when a 31-year-old female patient was admitted with acute respiratory problems. A team of doctors ultimately suspected that her mysterious case of lipoid pneumonia might be related to vaping and weren’t sure they had seen anything like it before. They were intrigued enough to present the case report — a type of medical paper on unusual or provocative patient findings. Such reports can serve as a call to the medical community to be on the lookout, though they sometimes raise more questions than they provide answers.

❝ This summer, almost four years later, federal officials began investigating a national outbreak of severe lung illnesses linked to vaping that has struck more than 150 patients in 16 states…

❝ We really felt that it wasn’t going to be a one-off event and that it was what we usually called in public health a “sentinel” health event … that it was an example of a respiratory illness that can be caused by this exposure and that it probably wasn’t the first case ever seen nor would it be the last…

❝ I know we’ve seen a case [of alveolar hemorrhage syndrome] that we published, and in polling some colleagues we think we’ve probably also seen [cases of] cryptogenic organizing pneumonia as well as lipoid pneumonia and acute eosinophilic pneumonia. Yeah, we’ve certainly seen at least probably four forms of lung disease from vaping.

Interesting chronology of medical researchers discovering ailments from recreational, addictive foolishness. The medical community will continue to sort out deaths and impairment — while politicians and the government bodies chartered to preserve health sit around, twiddle their thumbs and do nothing for years.

The water crisis government swamp-dwellers wanted to hide

The government just released a huge study about chemicals. Mazel tov! You made it through the most boring part of this article. Now for the fun stuff: The Trump administration didn’t want you to see the results of this study.

As you go about your daily business, you’re surrounded by compounds called perfluoroalkyls, or PFAS. They’re used in carpeting, food packaging, clothing, pots and pans, and the foam firefighters use to douse flames, to name a few. That’s because PFAS are resistant to heat, water, and oil. They’re incredibly helpful! They’re also toxic.

According to a major study published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Wednesday, the EPA has seriously underestimated how much of this stuff human beings can safely be exposed to. The major takeaway? PFAS have thoroughly contaminated many of the nation’s water sources, and they are associated with cancer, liver damage, fertility issues, and more — even in small doses. The study is the most fleshed-out assessment of information on PFAS to date, and it found that the EPA’s exposure limits should be 10 times lower than they are now.

RTFA and learn how EPA chief Scott Pruitt and our Fake President tried to block its publication in the first place.

Pollution’s Annual Cost? $4.6 Trillion and 9 Million Dead

❝ And that was just in 2015, according to a new global report on the consequences of humanity’s actions.


DelhiUdit Kulshrestha/Bloomberg

❝ Pollution in all its forms killed 9 million people in 2015 and, by one measure, led to economic damage of $4.6 trillion, according to a new estimate by researchers who hope to put the health costs of toxic air, water and soil higher on the global agenda.

In less-developed nations, pollution-linked illness and death drag down productivity, reducing economic output by 1 percent to 2 percent annually, according to the tally by the Lancet Commission on Pollution and Health, published Thursday by the U.K. medical journal. The report is intended to illuminate the hidden health and economic consequences of harmful substances introduced into the environment by human activity…

❝ The report represents an “extremely comprehensive and rigorous quantification” of pollution costs, said Francesca Dominici, a professor of biostatistics at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, who wasn’t involved in the study.

“In the scientific community, I don’t think there is any disagreement about the cost-benefit analysis of controlling pollution,” Dominici said. Reducing air pollution from vehicles and power plants, for example, would simultaneously improve human health and reduce planet-warming carbon emissions, she said. “The major barrier has been political, but not scientific.”

❝ As large as that figure is, it may even underestimate the full cost of pollution. Because the amount is derived from death rates, it doesn’t include the price of medical expenditures or lost productivity from those sickened but not killed by pollution-related disease. And it doesn’t measure some forms of pollution that are likely to have health effects, such as soil tainted with heavy metals or industrial toxins, because data to calculate its influence on health are insufficient.

No surprise when Bloomberg offers articles like this one. Folks selling services to investors realize that folks in all walks of life can develop a conscience about principled profit-making versus scumbags who don’t care how their profits are acquired.

No — that’s not tinsel wrapped around the Xmas tree

❝ It’s no partridge in a pear tree but a Melbourne woman got a seasonal surprise when she found a tiger snake entwined among the tinsel on her Christmas tree.

The Frankston woman discovered the snake in her tree on Sunday morning and called in professional snake catcher Barry Goldsmith.

“It’s one of the more different ones, but we find them in all sorts of places,” Goldsmith said. “Tiger snakes are very good climbers.”

❝ With the warmer weather, snakes are more active, but people should leave them alone and not try to kill them, Goldsmith said. “It’s dangerous, it’s illegal, and it’s cruel.”

Eeoouugh!

Thanks, Honeyman – I think

Why was the last Ebola epidemic so much worse than previous?

❝ In late 2013, the Ebola virus began spreading through a small village in the West African nation of Guinea following human contact with an animal, likely a fruit bat. This was the start of what turned out to be the most widespread of all recorded Ebola outbreaks, resulting in 28,646 confirmed and suspected cases of illness, and 11,323 recorded deaths.

The unprecedented outbreak left a devastating toll on the social and economic infrastructure in West Africa, but it also forever changed the perspective from which virologists and epidemiologists study and track infectious diseases.

❝ Kristian Andersen…set out to determine why the recent epidemic was different from previous Ebola outbreaks. Specifically, his team wanted to figure out exactly how the virus spread so rapidly—and why it had such devastating effects on the people infected.

❝ Ebola is in a category of viruses that are especially prone to mutations because they lack the ability to correct mistakes during replication. This means that a virus such as Ebola can rapidly change as it spreads, for example, by evolving into a more deadly virus. That is the scenario that appears to have played out during the epidemic in West Africa.

But how? As described in a paper in the recent issue of Cell, a peer-reviewed scientific journal focused on the life sciences, Andersen and his group found what could be the smoking gun: a mutation—dubbed the GP-A82V mutant—on a particular type of protein, the viral receptor glycoprotein, in samples of the virus from the epidemic. This mutation increased the ability of the virus to infect human dendritic cells, the type of immune cells that the Ebola virus uses to make copies of itself.

A few more links in the article are useful for further perusal. I think we’re all fortunate that Andersen’s study landed on target in a reasonable stretch of time. No one knows when and exactly where the next outbreak of Ebola will strike. Perhaps by then his research will have better equipped other medical professionals to fight back and save more lives.

Scientists have identified how cigarettes damage your DNA

❝ The dangers of smoking tobacco are undeniable — it kills more than 480,000 in the US alone each year. Scientists have known for a while that smoking tobacco causes significant damage to the body; as well as causing or worsening respiratory and cardiovascular issues, smoking can trigger genetic mutations that can result in cancer. But the detailed mechanisms on how smoking wreaks damage on the body’s DNA have remained somewhat elusive.

❝ There’s finally some clarity in a new study, which provides a comprehensive picture on the devastating impact of smoking. People who smoke a pack a day (20 cigarettes) for a year develop the following mutations every year:

150 extra mutations in each lung cell
97 in each larynx cell (voice box)
23 in each mouth cell
18 in each bladder cell
six in each liver cell.

Each mutation doesn’t necessarily pose an immediate danger (most mutations are relatively harmless). But the more mutations there are, the higher the risk that accumulating mutations occur in key genes that turn cells cancerous.

❝ “You can really think of it as playing Russian roulette,” Ludmil Alexandrov, lead researcher and biologist at Los Alamos National Lab in New Mexico told the Guardian. “You can miss the right genes. But if you smoke you still play the game. It’s a very strong message for people not to start smoking. If you smoke even a little bit you’ll erode the genetic material of most of the cells in your body.”

One of my few really bright accomplishments at an early age. Quitting smoking. Like most kids in my factory town neighborhood, I was smoking by age 12. It’s what our parents did. Made us “grown-ups”. By 20 I was smoking over 2 packs a day.

Quit cold turkey. Motivation doesn’t matter. Ayup, one of the best things I did for my own life as a young man.