Disease linked to microplastics in your gut


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Scientists around the world have been ringing alarm bells about microplastics, tiny particles now found in pregnant people’s bodies, in the deepest reaches of the Earth’s oceans and unfortunately, your gut. For years it’s been unclear how these tiny pollution particles affect human health, but continued research is starting to zero in on the consequences.

Case in point, a new study by scientists in China found a link between microplastics and IBD, or inflammatory bowel disease…

According to Science Alert, it’s not clear whether people with IBD have more trouble filtering plastic out of their body, causing the increased levels, or whether the plastic itself causes the disease. What is clear, though, is that there’s some kind of link between chronic gut issues and microplastics exists, and it’s strong.

Scientists say we’re reaching an irreversible tipping point in the fight against plastic pollution. Once chemicals and particles enter our bodies, they may be with us for generations, and it’s not exactly easy to comb the Earth for microscopic particles.

Another cheerful news note to start off the New Year, eh?

Mohawks become first tribe to take down a federal dam


Click to enlargeTony David

❝ A century after the first commercial dam was built on the St. Regis River, blocking the spawning runs of salmon and sturgeon, the stream once central to the traditional culture of New York’s Mohawk Tribe is flowing freely once again.

The removal of the 11-foot-high Hogansburg Dam this fall is the latest in the tribe’s decades-long struggle to restore territory defiled by industrial pollution, beginning in the 1980s with PCBs and heavy metals from nearby General Motors, Alcoa and Reynolds Metal plants, a cleanup under federal oversight that’s nearly complete.

❝ The St. Regis River project is the first removal of an operating hydroelectric dam in New York state and the nation’s first decommissioning of a federally licensed dam by a Native American tribe, federal officials say. Paired with the recent success of North Dakota’s Standing Rock Sioux in rerouting a pipeline they feared could threaten their water supply, the dam’s removal underscores longstanding concern over the health of tribal lands.

“We look at this not only as reclaiming the resources and our land, but also taking back this scar on our landscape that’s a constant reminder of those days of exploitation,” said Tony David, water resources manager for the St. Regis Mohawk Reservation, which the Mohawks call Akwesasne.

❝ The former industrial site will become a focal point in the Mohawks’ cultural restoration program, funded by a $19 million settlement in 2013 with GM, Alcoa and Reynolds for pollution of tribal fishing and hunting grounds along the St. Lawrence River. The program partners young apprentices with tribal elders to preserve the Mohawk language and pass on traditional practices such as hunting, fishing, trapping, basket-making, horticulture and medicine.

Read this article with joy, take pride in the Mohawk nation.

Great Pacific Garbage Patch is worse than researchers expected

❝ The Ocean Cleanup, the Dutch foundation developing advanced technologies to rid the oceans of plastic…presented the initial findings of its Aerial Expedition — a series of low-speed, low-altitude flights across the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, the plastic accumulation zone between Hawaii and California. Using a modified C-130 Hercules aircraft, expert spotters, and an experimental array of plastic scanning equipment, the expedition aims to accurately measure the biggest and most harmful debris in the ocean. This is an essential milestone in preparation for the cleanup of the patch, scheduled to begin before the end of the decade.

❝ This first-ever aerial survey of floating ocean plastic provided confirmation of the abundance of plastic debris sized 0.5 m/1.5′ and up. While the flight plan took us along the Northern boundary of the patch, more debris was recorded than what is expected to be found in the heart of the accumulation zone. Initial estimates of the experienced observer crew indicate that in a span of 2.5hours, over a thousand items were counted.

❝ For the development of a cleanup technology, it is essential to understand the problem, specifically the dimensions of the individual objects and the plastic accumulation as a whole. The nature and amount of the debris determine the design of cleanup systems, the logistics of hauling plastic back to shore, the methods for recycling plastic, and the costs of the cleanup.

❝ The quest to answer this question started in August 2015, when The Ocean Cleanup’s fleet of about 30 vessels crossed the patch simultaneously in an operation named the Mega Expedition. On their crossing wide range of debris sizes were sampled, producing the first high-resolution map of the patch. By using sampling nets that were 80x larger than conventional scientific measurement tools, it was discovered that the amount of large debris was heavily underestimated

Once all exploration flights are finalized later this week, the results from the Aerial Expedition will be combined with the data collected during the 2015 Mega Expedition in a peer-reviewed scientific paper expected to be published early 2017…

❝ Instead of going after plastic debris with vessels and nets – which would take many thousands of years and billions of dollars to complete – The Ocean Cleanup is designing a network of extremely long floating barriers that will remain stationary in the water, enabling the ocean to concentrate the plastic using its own currents.

We won’t know if that experimental measure works until the group moves to a pilot plant stage. As important as questions of plastic pollution in our oceans appear to be – it might be nice if nation-states and governments provided some regulation and oversight along the way to solutions.

Cannabis compound removes Alzheimer’s plaque from brain cells

Alzheimer’s disease may now be added to a list of diseases with promising treatment from cannabis compounds, a new study from the Salk Institute says.

While there has been research and trials to use compounds to treat chronic pain, cancers, epilepsy, and other diseases and illnesses, this laboratory study is the first of its kind to test tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), a main component in marijuana, against the plaque buildup of the brain associated with Alzheimer’s disease…

What they found was that not only did the THC cause a breakdown of the protein buildup, but a reduction in inflammation in the cells. ​Inflammation is bad because it makes it harder for your neurons to communicate with one another correctly…

This study is also novel because the research also provides a stronger link between protein buildup and the inflammation of the neurons. Some past hypotheses had thought that other immune-like cells had been inflamed, and not the neurons themselves…

Much more study must be conducted before a causal link can be suggested between THC and beta amyloid, the researchers say, including human clinical trials. These exploratory laboratory models are just the beginning.

Plus, there will be the usual crap researchers have to go through just to be able to perform this kind of research. Uncle Sugar is still motoring along with laws decades out of date. Never justified by anything other than religious hysteria, cannabis compounds are still listed as dangerous as heroin and numbnuts in Congress are afraid to challenge such silliness.

EPA trying to build a barrier between fire and toxic radioactive waste – in suburban St. Louis


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Those living near a landfill complex in suburban St. Louis where an underground fire is burning near Cold War-era nuclear weapons waste say they remain afraid and frustrated despite a government pledge to build a barrier between the two.

In the past, tests have found radioactive materials in the complex that were previously unknown to regulators, raising fears that the extent of the contamination — in terms of severity and location — remains unclear. Maintaining that its data is sound, the EPA, which has regulatory oversight over the West Lake Landfill, announced on Dec. 31 that it is moving forward with a plan to build an isolation barrier between the fire and known waste, but many residents and environmentalists are worried that is too little too late…

A largely unknown amount of radioactive waste from the Manhattan Project was illegally dumped at the West Lake Landfill in Bridgeton in 1973. In 2010, an underground fire was detected in the adjacent Bridgeton Landfill. Reports ordered by Missouri’s Attorney General — who has sued the landfills’ owner over the state of the complex — suggest that the fire could reach the known radioactive waste in a matter of months…

The EPA, however, is confident in the characterization of the site, according to EPA Region 7 spokesperson Chris Whitley. The agency oversaw additional testing to characterize the extent of the contamination in 2015, but the results are not being released to the public at this time.

Uh-huh.

In response to the announcement, Russ Knocke, a spokesperson for Arizona-based Republic Services, which owns the landfill complex, offered a simple reply to Al Jazeera: “Ready.” The company will partner with EPA to build the barrier. No specific plans, location, or timetable regarding the barrier are being released at this time. The agency made a similar announcement in 2013…

However, as part of its own cleanup program, the Army Corps of Engineers, which has jurisdiction over most of the other contaminated sites in St. Louis, has already unearthed and transported more than a million cubic yards of materials contaminated with radioactive waste out of the area and through Missouri without incident. Many residents living in north St. Louis County want to see the same done with the radioactive waste at the West Lake Landfill.

EPA’s announcement regarding the barrier came just days after a new study was released, showing that radioactive materials are migrating from the landfill into the surrounding area.

RTFA. Lots of delightful examples of government flunkies engaged in a contest to see whether passing the buck or ignoring the problem altogether is their best solution. Other radioactivity sources in the region also derive from our government’s dedication to death and destruction. All these now threaten locals instead of foreigners. Anyone surprised?

All of Mexico’s highly-enriched uranium removed to United States

Rachel Maddow reports exclusively the breaking news that all of Mexico’s highly enriched uranium has been removed to the United States, and talks with Sarah Dickerson, National Nuclear Security Administration threat reduction director, and Anthony Wayne, U.S. Ambassador to Mexico, about the distribution of nuclear material around the world by the U.S. and how the deal was made with Mexico to take their nuclear material off their hands.

That’s the intro to several videos released last night as a special on MSNBC. About a month ago Rachel Maddow traveled with NSA specialists supervising the removal of highly-enriched uranium from Mexico’s research reactors – to be brought back to the United States. The program was interesting in more than one way.

Regulars here know that one function of this, my personal blog, is to offer for reflection some of the few remaining bits and pieces of professional journalism I can find. It’s a diminishing skill for a number of reasons – the biggest being the transformation of “news” into “entertainment”.

Rachel Maddow is part of an even smaller percentage of journalists who carries job skills from print to video. As a news junkie I watch a lot more news than most. I watch news programs and explode often over incompetent journalists who haven’t yet learned to ask leading questions – instead of stupid questions.

For this reason, I suggest you watch the linked videos available at the MSNBC site, Rachel’s Maddow’s blog. She and they may someday release these to easier access on YouTube or somewhere. Not yet. So, I’m not going to jump through all the technical hoops needed today – to host this at this site. But, I highly recommend watching, learning, thinking about the questioning both casual and critical. We don’t get very much of this.

Click on the photo to go to the video site. After the bloody commercial and the intro segment, I’d suggest watching the videos in sequence. There’s a menu on the left side of the screen.

Army hospital commander removed during PTSD probe


Medical aid in the snow — does it matter which war?

The Army has removed the head of the Madigan Army Medical Center in Washington state during an investigation into whether soldiers had diagnoses of post-traumatic stress disorder reversed to reduce medical costs.

“This is a common practice during ongoing investigations and nothing more,” Maj. Gen. Phillip Volpe, who heads the Western Region Medical Command, said Monday about the removal of Col. Dallas Homas.

Homas is a West Point graduate whose career has included deployments to Afghanistan and Iraq, where he served as command surgeon. His military honors include two Bronze Stars…

The focus of the Army Medical Command investigation is a Madigan forensic psychiatric team that has the lead role in screening soldiers being considered for medical retirement due to PTSD, a condition that results from experiencing or seeing a traumatic event, such as a battlefield casualty.

Symptoms can include recurrent nightmares, flashbacks, irritability and feeling distant from other people. Soldiers diagnosed with PTSD gain at least a 50 percent rating of disability, and qualify for pensions, family health insurance and other financial benefits.

In 2011, an ombudsman investigated complaints from soldiers who said the forensic psychiatric team had reversed earlier diagnoses of PTSD and tagged some of them as possible malingerers.

The ombudsman also wrote a memo about a lecture in which a member of the forensic psychiatric team talked about the need to be good stewards of taxpayer dollars and not rubber stamp PTSD diagnoses that could result in a soldier earning $1.5 million in benefits over a lifetime…

I didn’t know there was a specific field of psychiatric study dedicated to oversight by beancounters.

The ombudsman investigation resulted in more than a dozen soldiers getting a chance for a second PTSD screening by doctors from Walter Reed National Military Medical Center outside Washington, D.C.

Fourteen of those soldiers will have the results of their Walter Reed reviews detailed in individual meetings at Madigan with Col. Rebecca Porter, chief of behavioral health, Office of the U.S. Army Surgeon General.

One would hope the analysis reverts to psychiatric concerns rather than saving the budget.

I’ve mentioned my closest friend being the most decorated WW2 veteran from our home state and the months he spent in hospital after the war. That helped his physical wounds. There wasn’t any broad definition of PTSD available for those vets. So, he received nothing – either for what he suffered in battle – or what he saw and felt at the liberation of Hitler’s Death Camps.

But, I shall never forget the times he woke in the middle of the night and rolled under his bed because he thought there was incoming artillery fire – and that he was back in Bastogne in the winter of 1944-45.

New York to manage snow plows with GPS systems


Daylife/AP Photo used by permission

Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced Thursday that some city snow plows will be fitted with global positioning systems in a pilot program meant to better track sanitation vehicles as officials brace for a winter storm.

It gives us the ability to check on the location and progress of our snow plows,” Bloomberg told reporters, saying that the devices will be added to some trucks in New York’s Brooklyn and Queens boroughs where heavy snowfall last month left many residents snowbound.

The city will also deploy scout teams to transmit video images of neighborhoods back to City Hall during clean-up efforts, the mayor said…

The heavy slow hampered morning commuters, delayed first responders and even prevented aircraft service personnel from reaching airports where 29 international flights were stuck on the tarmac for more than three hours, officials said.

Though it may get in the way of goof-off time, the fact remains that decent logistics software combined with rather inexpensive GPS locators enables more efficient traffic management and even the potential of cost reduction while getting a better job done.

The only surprise is why hasn’t this been done earlier? Cab companies figured this out a long time ago.