Furry and Furious!


New Orleans street scene/Getty Images

They are furry and they are furious – and they may be the most desperate of diners to yearn for restaurants to unlock from shutdown…Rats, it seems, haven’t been satisfied with curbside pickup or delivery during the coronavirus pandemic.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is warning that rodent populations – which rely on a banquet of scraps and waste in restaurant dumpsters – are spiking in certain areas. Restaurant trash bins are no longer overflowing, and the famished creatures are scrambling for new sources of food.

“Jurisdictions have closed or limited service at restaurants and other commercial establishments to help limit the spread of COVID-19. Community-wide closures have led to a decrease in food available to rodents, especially in dense commercial areas,” the CDC said. “Some jurisdictions have reported an increase in rodent activity.”

Environmental and health officials may witness an increase in service requests amid reports of “unusual or aggressive rodent behavior.”

That’s about as politely as anyone might describe the situation. Rats can be scary and dangerous. The more rats in action, the more dangerous they become.

Trump Wanted [almost] Tenfold Increase in Nuclear Arsenal

❝ President Donald Trump said he wanted what amounted to a nearly tenfold increase in the U.S. nuclear arsenal during a gathering this past summer of the nation’s highest-ranking national security leaders, according to three officials who were in the room…

❝ Officials present said that Trump’s comments on a significantly increased arsenal came in response to a briefing slide that outlined America’s nuclear stockpile over the past 70 years. The president referenced the highest number on the chart — about 32,000 in the late 1960s — and told his team he wanted the U.S. to have that many now, officials said.

The U.S. currently has around 4,000 nuclear warheads in its military stockpile, according to the Federation of American Scientists…

❝ It’s unclear which portion of the Pentagon briefing prompted Tillerson to call the president a “moron” after the meeting broke up and some advisers were gathered around. Officials who attended the two-hour session said it included a number of tense exchanges.

The gathering included many of our highest-ranking national security leaders…and the account was confirmed by three officials who were in the room.

Canadian glaciers have become a major contributor to sea level change


Click to enlargeNASA/John Sonntag

❝ Ice loss from Canada’s Arctic glaciers has transformed them into a major contributor to sea level change, new research by University of California, Irvine glaciologists has found.

From 2005 to 2015, surface melt off ice caps and glaciers of the Queen Elizabeth Islands grew by an astonishing 900 percent, from an average of three gigatons to 30 gigatons per year, according to results published…in the journal Environmental Research Letters

❝ The team found that in the past decade, overall ice mass declined markedly, turning the region into a major contributor to sea level change. Canada holds 25 percent of all Arctic ice, second only to Greenland…

❝ The Canadian ice cap has glaciers on the move into the Arctic Ocean, Baffin Bay and Nares Strait. The researchers used satellite data and a regional climate model to tally the “balance” of total gain and loss each year, and the reasons why. Because of the huge number of glaciers terminating in area marine basins, they expected that discharge into the sea caused by tide water hitting approaching glacier fronts would be the primary cause.

In fact, they determined that until 2005, the ice loss was caused about equally by two factors: calving icebergs from glacier fronts into the ocean accounted for 52 percent, and melting on glacier surfaces exposed to air contributed 48 percent. But since then, as atmospheric temperatures have steadily climbed, surface melt now accounts for 90 percent.

❝ Lead author Romain Millan said that in recent years ice discharge was only a major component in a few basins, and that even rapid, short term increases from these ice fields only had a minor impact on the long-term trend.

Millan added, “We identified meltwater runoff as the major contributor to these ice fields’ mass loss in recent years…

Just keeping y’all up-to-date, folks. Climate change deniers won’t spend any of their bought-and-paid-for time checking scientific study. Folks with a real interest in real science enjoy the practice.

Quakes growing in frequency, strength, near world’s biggest oil storage hub

And they’re caused by oil-production wastewater injected back into the ground!

Cushing, OK Google Maps
Click to enlarge

A sharp earthquake in central Oklahoma last weekend has raised fresh concern about the security of a vast crude oil storage complex, close to the quake’s center, that sits at the crossroads of the nation’s oil pipeline network.

The magnitude 4.5 quake struck Saturday afternoon about three miles northwest of Cushing, roughly midway between Oklahoma City and Tulsa. The town of about 8,000 people is home to the so-called Cushing Hub, a sprawling tank farm that is among the largest oil storage facilities in the world.

Oil pimps in Cushing say it is the largest.

Scientists reported in a paper published online last month that a large earthquake near the storage hub “could seriously damage storage tanks and pipelines.” Saturday’s quake continues a worrisome pattern of moderate quakes, suggesting that a large earthquake is more than a passing concern, the lead author of that study, Daniel McNamara, said in an interview.

“When we see these fault systems producing multiple magnitude 4s, we start to get concerned that it could knock into higher magnitudes,” he said. “Given the number of magnitude 4s here, it’s a high concern.”

…Major tank ruptures could cause serious environmental damage, raise the risk of fire and other disasters and disrupt the flow of oil to refineries nationwide, said Dr. McNamara, a research geophysicist at the National Earthquake Information Center in Colorado.

The Cushing quake is among the largest of thousands of temblors that have rocked central and northern Oklahoma in the past five years, largely set off by the injection of oil and gas industry wastes deep into the earth. The watery wastes effectively lubricate cracks, allowing rocks under intense pressure to slip past one another, causing quakes.

The tens of millions of barrels of injected wastewater have helped make Oklahoma the second most seismically active state, behind Alaska. Although quakes have damaged or destroyed buildings and roads and, in a few instances, injured people, regulators do not have the authority to seriously curb waste disposal, and politicians in a state dominated by the energy industry have made no move to give it to them.

The state had three earthquakes of magnitude 3 or greater in 2009. Last year, it had 585, and this year’s total exceeds that.

Politicians – and the citizens who elect those politicians – who dedicate their service to lies and those who profit from lies may have lucrative careers for as long as they last. The fools who continue to vote them back into office are leaving their children and grandchildren a heritage of nature thrown directly into imbalance by fossil fuel profiteers.

Sometimes you not only get what you want – you get what you deserve.

Over 40% of bee hives died in past year – Bayer says “Don’t worry, bee happy”

More than two out of five American honeybee colonies died in the past year, and surprisingly the worst die-off was in the summer…

Since April 2014, beekeepers lost 42.1 percent of their colonies, the second highest loss rate in nine years, according to an annual survey conducted by a bee partnership that includes the U.S. Department of Agriculture…

What shocked the entomologists is that is the first time they’ve noticed bees dying more in the summer than the winter, said vanEngelsdorp said. The survey found beekeepers lost 27.4 percent of their colonies this summer. That’s up from 19.8 percent the previous summer.

Seeing massive colony losses in summer is like seeing “a higher rate of flu deaths in the summer than winter,” vanEngelsdorp said. “You just don’t expect colonies to die at this rate in the summer.”

Oklahoma, Illinois, Iowa, Delaware, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Maine and Wisconsin all saw more than 60 percent of their hives die since April 2014, according to the survey…

Delaplane and vanEngelsdorp said a combination of mites, poor nutrition and pesticides are to blame for the bee deaths. USDA bee scientist Jeff Pettis said last summer’s large die-off included unusual queen loss and seemed worse in colonies that moved more.

Dick Rogers, chief beekeeper for pesticide-maker Bayer, said the loss figure is “not unusual at all” and said the survey shows an end result of more colonies now than before: 2.74 million hives in 2015, up from 2.64 million in 2014.

That doesn’t mean bee health is improving or stable, vanEngelsdorp said. After they lose colonies, beekeepers are splitting their surviving hives to recover their losses, pushing the bees to their limits, Delaplane said.

Bayer’s sophistry is impressive. They should make even larger donations to Congressional fops. They need the creeps in government who refuse responsibility for any destructive result from the corporate quest for profit at any price.

Autoimmune diseases rising in 9/11 workers

The list of ailments afflicting the World Trade Center first responders has grown to include systemic autoimmune diseases…

The conditional odds ratio for autoimmune diseases rose by 13% for each month individuals spent working at the site…according to Mayris P. Webber, DPH, Montefiore Medical Center in New York City, and colleagues.

And for those who spent 10 months working at the site the risk tripled the researchers reported…

“The terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center buildings and the subsequent building collapses and fires exposed rescue/recovery workers to aerosolized WTC dust, an amalgam of pulverized cement, glass fibers, silica, asbestos, lead, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, polychlorinated biphenyls, and polychlorinated furans and dioxins,” they noted.

The result has been the development of various respiratory and other diseases including asthma, gastroesophageal reflux, and cancer in up to 70% of the exposed New York City fire department members, but the entire range of potential health effects is not yet known and may take decades to fully manifest.

Autoimmune diseases have been linked with multiple environmental exposures, including silica, hydrocarbons, and particulates.

These autoimmune conditions include rheumatoid arthritis (RA), systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE), dermatomyositis, vasculitis, and Sjogren’s syndrome, and most often have been reported after many years of exposure and predominantly among women.

The finding of an increase in autoimmune disease among WTC responders was “unexpected and highlights the need for increased clinician awareness of the possibility of these and perhaps other autoimmune disorders in their WTC-exposed male patients…”

The authors concluded that workers and residents should be closely monitored for these conditions. “The stakes are high because enhanced surveillance can lead to early detection and treatment, which has been shown to improve quality of life and reduce or delay organ damage including erosive joint destruction, kidney failure, pulmonary fibrosis, and hypertension.”

And so it goes. Disease and disability caused by industrial material and chemical can surface many years later. I hope, in this case, our government, the powers that have responsibility for support in unusual circumstances will respond with more pace and thought than they did to the ailments incurred by first responders.

Oklahoma Republican politics means you don’t have to obey the president – but, you do have to obey the governor!

Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin signed a bill into law Monday that passes a statewide ban on raising the minimum wage and prohibits cities from legislating to establish mandatory employee benefits like vacations or sick leave…Opponents view the law as retaliation against grass roots organizers gathering signatures in the capital to raise the city’s minimum wage from $7.25 to $10.10.

After Fallin signed the bill, her office released a statement claiming that “most minimum-wage workers are young, single people working part-time or entry-level jobs.”

Fallen said, “Mandating an increase in the minimum wage would require businesses to fire many of those part-time workers. It would create a hardship for small business owners, stifle job creation and increase costs for consumers.”

You decide if she’s ignorant or a liar. The average minimum wage earner is a single mom in her 30’s.

A major paper published last year covered by the Washington Post found that economists agree that raising the minimum wage actually reduces poverty.

Reducing poverty is one of those goals that you never hear addressed by Republicans except as some kind of supposed inevitability from their favorite dribble-down economics. Which hasn’t worked anywhere on Earth, yet.

They will get righteous about protecting profits, though.

Researchers from North Carolina and China increase solar cell efficiency on the cheap


A reminder of another public space to install solar panels

Researchers from North Carolina State University and the Chinese Academy of Sciences have found an easy way to modify the molecular structure of a polymer commonly used in solar cells. Their modification can increase solar cell efficiency by more than 30 percent.

Polymer-based solar cells have two domains, consisting of an electron acceptor and an electron donor material. Excitons are the energy particles created by solar cells when light is absorbed. In order to be harnessed effectively as an energy source, excitons must be able to travel quickly to the interface of the donor and acceptor domains and retain as much of the light’s energy as possible.

One way to increase solar cell efficiency is to adjust the difference between the highest occupied molecular orbit (HOMO) of the acceptor and lowest unoccupied molecular orbit (LUMO) levels of the polymer so that the exciton can be harvested with minimal loss. One of the most common ways to accomplish this is by adding a fluorine atom to the polymer’s molecular backbone, a difficult, multi-step process that can increase the solar cell’s performance, but has considerable material fabrication costs.

A team of chemists led by Jianhui Hou from the Chinese Academy of Sciences created a polymer known as PBT-OP from two commercially available monomers and one easily synthesized monomer. Wei Ma, a post-doctoral physics researcher from NC State and corresponding author on a paper describing the research, conducted the X-ray analysis of the polymer’s structure and the donor:acceptor morphology.

PBT-OP was not only easier to make than other commonly used polymers, but a simple manipulation of its chemical structure gave it a lower HOMO level than had been seen in other polymers with the same molecular backbone. PBT-OP showed an open circuit voltage (the voltage available from a solar cell) value of 0.78 volts, a 36 percent increase over the ~ 0.6 volt average from similar polymers.

According to NC State physicist and co-author Harald Ade…we have found a chemically easy way to change the electronic structure and enhance device efficiency by capturing a larger fraction of the light’s energy, without changing the material’s ability to absorb, create and transport energy.”

I wonder when the Confederate trolls in the North Carolina statehouse and their counterparts in Congress will notice this project. Not only does the research further the progress of alternative energy sources, this was a joint project funded by the U.S. Department of Energy…and the Chinese Ministry of Science and Technology.

Gasp!

One soft drink a day increases Type 2 diabetes risk by 22%

Drinking a can of cola a day increases the risk of developing diabetes by a fifth, according to research.

The largest study of the link between soft-drink consumption and Type 2 diabetes in Europe has found that the sweetened beverages not only cause weight gain, which is associated with a higher rate of diabetes, but also increase the risk of the condition independently…

Researchers from Imperial College, London, led the study of more than 12,000 people with Type 2 diabetes whose diets were compared with 16,000 controls in nine European countries, including the UK.

The results showed that people who drank one can of sweetened soft drink a day had a 22 per cent increased risk of diabetes…

Sweetened soft drinks contain a lot of calories which contribute to overweight and obesity, which in turn is a cause of diabetes. But the drinks appeared to increase the risk separately from this effect, possibly by triggering insulin resistance, reducing the body’s ability to use glucose…

Dr Dora Romaguera, of Imperial College, who led the study published in Diabetologia, said: “There was an association in normal weight individuals, overweight and the obese. Even in normal weight individuals, those who drank a glass of soft drink a day were more likely to develop diabetes.”

Dr Romaguera said: “The hypothesis for fruit juice is different. We know they naturally contain sugar but fruits are not associated with an increase in diabetes, rather they are protective. It may be the anti-oxidants they contain that counter the effect of the sugar.”

Sugar has to be the most widely consumed poison in our culture – and corporate profiteers love it. If they could figure out some easy way to combine sugar with driving overpowered automobiles or getting a new credit card I think they’d be in hog heaven.