Saturday, September 17, 2011

Mid-Day Paws (okay pause): PANDA therapy for stress relief







Top photo: Mum? Can you come and get me down now? :)

Photo right: On the count of three.... lift! :)

photo left:

It wasn't me! I didn't steal this bamboo shoot!
It was just sitting here, I swear it! :)

 Need more therapy?

 Go here to see more of these cuddly creatures.

Man caught with kilo of coke in belly, people who eat dirt, and yellow eyeblobs may mean hidden heart disease

Good Morning Humboldt County!

It’s another day in paradise and I’ve got a trio of headlines dealing with medical issues. So pull up a chair and have a cup of coffee with me. It never ceases to amaze me what some people will do. Swallowing nearly a kilogram of cocaine is just plain nuts!

How can 72 bags of cocaine fit in man's belly?

The gruesome images are a graphic reminder of just how far drug smugglers will go to elude law enforcement to get their product over the border. The images, which show an arrested man’s digestive tract that is literally stuffed with dozens of thumb-sized bags of cocaine, are also testimony to how far the digestive tract can expand. The 20-year-old Irish man was arrested at a Brazil airport with 72 bags filled with nearly a kilogram of cocaine.

Hospitalizations for dirt eating nearly double in past decade

The number of people hospitalized with pica, the disorder in which people eat non-edible substances including dirt and chalk, has nearly doubled within a decade, a new study finds.

Between 1999 and 2009, yearly hospitalizations in the United States for this disorder increased 93 percent, from 964 to 1,862, said the report from the government's Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality.

Pica is most commonly found in children, pregnant women and people with autism and other developmental disabilities. In many cases, the disorder lasts several months and then disappears without treatment, according to the National Institutes of Health. Dermatology - EYE: xanthelasma

Yellow eyelid blobs hint at hidden heart disease

We’ve all seen a few people, like maybe grandpa or grandma, with those little patches of yellowish plaques around the upper and lower eyelids. You know the ones, the tiny patches that look something like chicken fat. (Shown in photo)

As it turns out, if somebody you know has these (and it can occur in younger people, too), you should encourage them to be checked carefully for heart disease. A study published in the most recent British Medical Journal found that these patches, called xanthelasma, were predictors of heart attack, heart disease and death. In men between the ages of 70 and 79, those with xanthelasma had a 12 percent higher risk of heart disease than men without the eye blobs. The rise in risk in older women was 8 percent.

Time to walk on down the road…

Friday, September 16, 2011

Giant snails have Florida on search-and-destroy mission

Image: Giant African land snail

An invasion of giant snails sounds like a good storyline for a B-Horror movie, but unfortunately in this case it’s reality: 

“Florida is used to strange creatures, but the discovery of a non-native animal — a giant snail from East Africa — has got local officials really worried.

A search-and-destroy advisory that went out included this bit of history: the last time the giant snails were found in Florida (back in 1966) they had multiplied from three to 18,000 in seven years and cost $1 million to eradicate.

The new population of giant African land snails was found in Miami-Dade County, and several dozen technicians were quickly dispatched to search them out. About 1,000 were found Thursday within a one-square-mile radius, the Miami Herald reported. Several hundred were found in one backyard in Coral Gables. How they got there was not immediately known. Why worry? Besides their intimidating size — up to 8 inches long and 4 inches in diameter — "they consume at least 500 different types of plants, can cause structural damage to plaster and stucco, and can carry a parasitic nematode that can lead to meningitis in humans," the Florida Department of Agriculture said in a statement Thursday.”  source

Exclusive Timeline: Bush Administration Advanced Solyndra Loan Guarantee for Two Years, Media Blow the Story

It’s often claimed that the Solyndra loan guarantee was “rushed through” by the Obama Administration for political reasons.

In fact, the Solyndra loan guarantee was a multi-year process that the Bush Administration launched in 2007.

What critics fail to mention is that the Solyndra deal is more than three years old, started under the Bush Administration, which tried to conditionally approve the loan right before Obama took office. Rather than “pushing funds out the door too quickly,” the Obama Administration restructured the original loan when it came into office to further protect the taxpayers’ investment.

You’d never know from the media coverage that:

  1. The Bush team tried to conditionally approve the Solyndra loan just before President Obama took office.
  2. The company’s backers included private investors who had diverse political interests.
  3. The loan comprises just 1.3% of DOE’s overall loan portfolio. To date, Solyndra is the only loan that’s known to be troubled.

Because one of the Solyndra investors, Argonaut Venture Capital, is funded by George Kaiser — a man who donated money to the Obama campaign — the loan guarantee has been attacked as being political in nature. What critics don’t mention is that one of the earliest and largest investors, Madrone Capital Partners, is funded by the family that started Wal-Mart, the Waltons. The Waltons have donated millions of dollars to Republican candidates over the years.

With a stagnant job market and Obama sinking in the polls, the media has decided on a narrative that matches right-wing talking points but not the facts.  For instance, Bloomberg had this incredibly misleading headline yesterday, “Obama Team Backed $535 Million Solyndra Aid as Auditor Warned on Finances.”  If you replace “backed” with “touted,” that would be accurate.  But the headline makes it seem like the White House had decided to give $535 million to a company after an auditor had said it was financially troubled.

You have to read half the story to learn that the loan guarantee was made in 2009 and the audit was done in 2010 after market conditions had sharply worsened! And the Bloomberg story never explains that the company itself raised $250 million from private investors after the supposedly devastating audit!

To set the record straight, Climate Progress is publishing this timeline — verified by Department of Energy officials — that shows how the loan guarantee came together under both administrations. In fact, rather than rushing the loan for Solyndra through, the Obama Administration restructured the original Bush-era deal to further protect the taxpayers’ investment:

May 2005: Just as a global silicon shortage begins driving up prices of solar photovoltaics [PV], Solyndra is founded to provide a cost-competitive alternative to silicon-based panels.

July 2005: The Bush Administration signs the Energy Policy Act of 2005 into law, creating the 1703 loan guarantee program.

February 2006 – October 2006: In February, Solyndra raises its first round of venture financing worth $10.6 million from CMEA Capital, Redpoint Ventures, and U.S. Venture Partners. In October, Argonaut Venture Capital, an investment arm of George Kaiser, invests $17 million into Solyndra. Madrone Capital Partners, an investment arm of the Walton family, invests $7 million. Those investments are part of a $78.2 million fund.

December 2006: Solyndra Applies for a Loan Guarantee under the 1703 program.

Late 2007: Loan guarantee program is funded. Solyndra was one of 16 clean-tech companies deemed ready to move forward in the due diligence process. The Bush Administration DOE moves forward to develop a conditional commitment.

October 2008: Then Solyndra CEO Chris Gronet touted reasons for building in Silicon Valley and noted that the “company’s second factory also will be built in Fremont, since a Department of Energy loan guarantee mandates a U.S. location.”

November 2008: Silicon prices remain very high on the spot market, making non-silicon based thin film technologies like Solyndra’s very attractive to investors. Solyndra also benefits from having very low installation costs. The company raises $144 million from ten different venture investors, including the Walton-family run Madrone Capital Partners. This brings total private investment to more than $450 million to date.

January 2009: In an effort to show it has done something to support renewable energy, the Bush Administration tries to take Solyndra before a DOE credit review committee before President Obama is inaugurated. The committee, consisting of career civil servants with financial expertise, remands the loan back to DOE “without prejudice” because it wasn’t ready for conditional commitment.

March 2009: The same credit committee approves the strengthened loan application. The deal passes on to DOE’s credit review board. Career staff (not political appointees) within the DOE issue a conditional commitment setting out terms for a guarantee.

June 2009: As more silicon production facilities come online while demand for PV wavers due to the economic slowdown, silicon prices start to drop. Meanwhile, the Chinese begin rapidly scaling domestic manufacturing and set a path toward dramatic, unforeseen cost reductions in PV. Between June of 2009 and August of 2011, PV prices drop more than 50%.

September 2009: Solyndra raises an additional $219 million. Shortly after, the DOE closes a $535 million loan guarantee after six months of due diligence. This is the first loan guarantee issued under the 1703 program. From application to closing, the process took three years – not the 41 days that is sometimes reported.  OMB did raise some concerns in August not about the loan itself but how the loan should be “scored.”  OMB testified Wednesday that they were comfortable with the final scoring.

January – June 2010: As the price of conventional silicon-based PV continues to fall due to low silicon prices and a glut of solar modules, investors and analysts start questioning Solyndra’s ability to compete in the marketplace. Despite pulling its IPO (as dozens of companies did in 2010), Solyndra raises an additional $175 million from investors.

November 2010: Solyndra closes an older manufacturing facility and concentrates operations at Fab 2, the plant funded by the $535 million loan guarantee. The Fab 2 plant is completed that same month — on time and on budget — employing around 3,000 construction workers during the build-out, just as the DOE projected.

February 2011: Due to a liquidity crisis, investors provide $75 million to help restructure the loan guarantee. The DOE rightly assumed it was better to give Solyndra a fighting chance rather than liquidate the company – which was a going concern – for market value, which would have guaranteed significant losses.

March 2011: Republican Representatives complain that DOE funds are not being spent quickly enough.

House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton (R-MI): “despite the Administration’s urgency and haste to pass the bill [the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act] … billions of dollars have yet to be spent.”

And House Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee Chairman Cliff Stearns (R-FL): “The whole point of the Democrat’s stimulus bill was to spend billions of dollars … most of the money still hasn’t been spent.”

June 2011: Average selling prices for solar modules drop to $1.50 a watt and continue on a pathway to $1 a watt. Solyndra says it has cut costs by 50%, but analysts worry how the company will compete with the dramatic changes in conventional PV.

August 2011: DOE refuses to restructure the loan a second time.

September 2011: Solyndra closes its manufacturing facility, lays off 1,100 workers and files for bankruptcy. The news is touted as a failure of the Obama Administration and the loan guarantee office. However, as of September 12, the DOE loan programs office closed or issued conditional commitments of $37.8 billion to projects around the country. The $535 million loan is only 1.3% of DOE’s loan portfolio. To date, Solyndra is the only loan that’s known to be troubled.

Meanwhile, after complaining about stimulus funds moving too slowly, Congressmen Fred Upton and Cliff Stearns are now claiming that the Administration was pushing funds out the door too quickly: “In the rush to get stimulus cash out the door, despite repeated claims by the Administration to the contrary, some bets were bad from the beginning.”

by Stephen Lacey and Richard Caperton

Albino seal pup shunned by his colony – saved by photographer

Sitting all alone on a beach, this little seal is an outcast from the colony.

Its crime? Having reddish-brown fur and the palest of blue eyes. The rest of its sleek black family took an instant dislike to the ginger pup, leaving it to fend for itself.

The loneliest seal in the world: This rare brown furred pup was spotted on the beach at Tyuleniy Island, Russia

The pictures were taken by Anatoly Strakhov, who spotted the seal on Tyuleniy Island, Russia.

The loneliest seal in the world: This rare brown furred pup was spotted on the beach.
Hiding hole: The seal, which is almost blind, had been hiding under a pile of logs when he was first spotted

Hiding hole: The seal, which is almost blind, had been hiding under a pile of logs when he was first spotted.

The photographer, 61, said: ‘He was hiding and waiting for his mother to come and feed him. ‘He had a very strange color fur and looked different from his two black brothers. I was pleased to be able to capture such an unusual animal, but the poor seal is almost blind and so was unlikely to survive in the wild.’

 Shunned: The pup sits on is own up the beach while other seals group by the water's edge

Shunned: The pup sits on is own up the beach while other seals group by the water's edge

Luckily, Mr Strakhov was with staff from a dolphinarium who took it into their care.The pup – whose color is the result of an accumulation of iron in its fur – might have had more luck in the U.S. One of the biggest concentrations of red-haired seals is in San Francisco.   source

Pair takes dead pal to strip club, man adopts duck as best friend, and teenager emerges from woods after five years

Good Morning Humboldt County!

The coffees hot and it’s that time again when we look at our trio of headlines to start the day. They’re all about people today. Slightly offbeat people…but interesting.

Cops: Pair took dead pal to strip club

In a real-life version of the movie "Weekend at Bernie's," two men drove around with a dead friend's body, used his ATM card and visited a strip club, police said. Robert Jeffrey Young and Mark Rubinson were charged with abusing a corpse, identity theft and criminal impersonation. They were freed on bond, according to the Denver Post. It's unclear how Jeffrey Jarrett died, but the men were not charged in his death. The cause has not yet been determined as toxicology tests are still under way, the paper reported.

This story will quack you up!

English-speaking boy emerges from German woods

Berlin police are investigating the story of an English-speaking teenager who appeared in the German capital last week saying he had lived the previous five years in the woods with his father, a spokesman said Friday.

Michael Maass said the approximately 17-year-old boy appeared Sept. 5 at Berlin's city hall and was then taken in by a youth emergency center.

Time to walk on down the road…

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Mystery of appearance of armless hot dog sculpture solved

What a relief! The case of the mysterious Hot Dog Man statue has been solved.

The statue, which appeared on a Council Bluffs, Iowa, street corner near a school, prompting a call to police by a citizen who thought it was a man in costume , has been claimed by its rightful owner, The Daily Nonpareil reports.

What proof of ownership did Curtis Wennhold offer that the statue, which was missing its arms, was his? The arms, said police Capt. Terry LeMaster, according to the Nonpareil.

“(Wennhold) has the arms; to me, that’s enough proof that it is his,” LeMaster laughed. “We’ll be glad to give it back to him.” Wennhold told police he found the statue in California and brought it to his Council Bluffs yard, LeMaster told the Nonpareil.

The captain said a group of teenagers saw the statue and decided to take it. In lifting the 400-pound hot dog into a vehicle, the teens managed to break off the arms, one of which was applying ketchup to the wienie's head, the other holding mustard.

The statue-nappers took Hot Dog Man home, LeMaster told the Nonpareil, but they soon became "creeped out" by its leering expression, took it to the corner of Harmony Court and Benton Street, and left it. LeMaster told the paper that the teenage culprits had been identified but that no one involved in the case wanted to press charges. After some paperwork is taken care of, Hot Dog Man will return home with Wennhold, LeMaster told the Nonpareil. And then the widespread attention the statue's appearance attracted is likely to die down — police said they received tips and offers to take it from as far away as Australia.  Via Weird News

Part II – More stupid laws in 10 California cities


Don’t worry. I’ll be featuring every state in the union after I’ve exhausted all the dumb laws in each. Currently, I’m looking at cities In California:

Arcadia - Peacocks have the right of way to cross any street, including driveways.

Baldwin Park - Nobody is allowed to ride a bicycle in a swimming pool.

Blythe - You are not permitted to wear cowboy boots unless you already own at least two cows.

Carmel - A man can’t go outside while wearing a jacket and pants that do not match.

Chico - One must obtain a permit from the city to throw hay in a cesspool. Full text of the law.

             It is illegal to own a green or smelly animal hide.Full text of the law.

Cathedral City - It is prohibited to sleep in a parked vehicle.Full text of the law.

             Persons may not ride their bicycles through the “Fountain of Life”.Full text of the law.

Dana Point - One may not use one’s own restroom if the window is open.Full text of the law.

El Monte - Pinball machines are outlawed, as well as mock horse racing games.Full text of the law.

Eureka - Persons may not sleep on a road.Full text of the law.

Fresno - No one may annoy a lizard in a city park. Full text of the law.


‘New Reality’ for postal service, Pat Robertson says it’s okay to divorce spouse if they have Alzheimer’s, and a dazzling fireball in the Southwest skies

Good Morning Humboldt County!

Grab a chair and a cup of hot Joe and off we’ll go! Today’s headlines are a mixed bag of realities. Pat Robertson says it’s alright to divorce your spouse if they have Alzheimer’s. Where’s the love? Your mail is not going to be as fast anymore, and people are dazzled by bright lights in the Southwest.

Struggling Postal Service announces ‘new reality’

The U.S. Postal Service, burdened with huge financial losses, said Thursday that it was facing a "new reality" that would include shutting a slew of processing facilities, changing service standards for first-class mail and cutting up to 35,000 positions.

The moves will mean mail will no longer reach most customers the day after it was mailed. "We are forced to face a new reality today,” said Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe in a statement. “First-Class Mail supports the organization and drives network requirements. With the dramatic decline in mail volume and the resulting excess capacity, maintaining a vast national infrastructure is no longer realistic." The news comes after the agency recently announced it was studying shutting hundreds of post offices across the nation as its business erodes amid the growing use of e-mail and other Internet tools. The agency has reported a series of financial losses that have pushed it to the edge of insolvency.

Pat Robertson: Divorcing a spouse with Alzheimer's is justifiable

Religious broadcaster Pat Robertson told his "700 Club" viewers that divorcing a spouse with Alzheimer's is justifiable because the disease is "a kind of death."

During the portion of the show where the one-time Republican presidential candidate takes questions from viewers, Robertson was asked what advice a man should give to a friend who began seeing another woman after his wife started suffering from the incurable neurological disorder.

"I know it sounds cruel, but if he's going to do something, he should divorce her and start all over again, but make sure she has custodial care and somebody looking after her," Robertson said.

Multicolored fireball in sky dazzles Southwest

A brilliant bright light seen streaking over the Southwestern sky Wednesday night was most likely a fragment of an asteroid that entered Earth's atmosphere, a NASA scientist said.

Residents from Phoenix to Las Vegas to Southern California's coastal areas reported to local authorities and media outlets that they saw the light move quickly from west to east at around 7:45 p.m. PT (10:45 p.m. ET). Experts said a fireball — or very bright meteor — was likely to blame.

"I saw something that looked like a falling star but it must have been a fireball in the atmosphere," one witness told NBCLA. "It was huge. It had a green glow in front of it and a white tail. It looked like green fireworks going across the sky."

Time to walk on down the road…

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Ban proposed on electronic cigarettes on planes

(AP) -- The Obama administration Wednesday proposed banning the use of electronic cigarettes on airline flights, saying there is concern the smokeless cigarettes may be harmful.

"Airline passengers have rights, and this new rule would enhance passenger comfort and reduce any confusion surrounding the use of electronic cigarettes in flight," Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said in a statement.

The ban would clarify an existing Transportation Department rule prohibiting smoking cigarettes or similar products on airline flights. The proposal would apply to all domestic airline flights, as well as scheduled flights of U.S. and foreign carriers to and from the U.S. The department is also considering whether to extend the ban to charter flights.

E-cigarettes, as they are popularly called, are designed to deliver nicotine or other substances to the smoker in the form of a vapor. They are powered by small lithium ion-batteries. Industry officials say there is no possible harm to the public from their use.

"Everybody knows that when you are smoking on an airplane that's an absolutely a no- no. But this is not smoking. This is vaping," Ray Story, CEO of the Tobacco Vapor Electronic Cigarette Association, said.

The Transportation Department is "asking for something that makes zero sense because this product emits nothing," Story said. "I don't think the masses have been educated enough to know this isn't smoking."

But the department said there is a lack of scientific data and knowledge of the ingredients in electronic cigarettes. The Air Force Surgeon General issued a memorandum highlighting the safety concerns regarding electronic cigarettes and placed them in the same category as tobacco products, the department said.

Several states have taken steps to ban either the sale or use of electronic cigarettes. Amtrak has banned the use of electronic smoking devices on trains and in any area where smoking is prohibited. The U.S Navy has banned electronic cigarettes below decks in submarines.

The e-cigarette association, which represents 25 manufacturers and distributors, says on its website that there are five ingredients in the devices: nicotine, water, coriander, citric acid, and fragrant orchid element.

The Satirical Art of Paul Kuczynski - Stop and Think


Go to this website to see numerous other examples of this talented artist’s work.

Study says laughter is physical, Cherokee Indians oust black members, and the truth about eye boogers

Good Morning Humboldt County!

Here we are again. It’s that time when the coffee is on and we greet the day with a few news items. It looks to be another nice today. Thanks for stopping by. Enjoy:

Laughter is a physical, not a mental, thing, study suggests

Laughter is regularly promoted as a source of health and well being, but it has been hard to pin down exactly why laughing until it hurts feels so good. The answer, reports Robin Dunbar, an evolutionary psychologist at Oxford, is not the intellectual pleasure of cerebral humor, but the physical act of laughing.

The simple muscular exertions involved in producing the familiar ha, ha, ha, he said, trigger an increase in endorphins, the brain chemicals known for their feel-good effect. His results build on a long history of scientific attempts to understand a deceptively simple and universal behavior. “Laughter is very weird stuff, actually,” Dr. Dunbar said. “That’s why we got interested in it.” And the findings fit well with a growing sense that laughter contributes to group bonding and may have been important in the evolution of highly social humans.


Cherokee Indians: We are free to oust blacks

The nation's second-largest Indian tribe said on Tuesday that it would not be dictated to by the U.S. government over its move to banish 2,800 African Americans from its citizenship rolls. "The Cherokee Nation will not be governed by the BIA," Joe Crittenden, the tribe's acting principal chief, said in a statement responding to the U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs.

Crittenden, who leads the tribe until a new principal chief is elected, went on to complain about unnamed congressmen meddling in the tribe's self-governance. The reaction follows a letter the tribe received on Monday from BIA Assistant Secretary Larry Echo Hawk, who warned that the results of the September 24 Cherokee election for principal chief will not be recognized by the U.S. government if the ousted members, known to some as "Cherokee Freedmen," are not allowed to vote.

The dispute stems from the fact that some wealthy Cherokee owned black slaves who worked on their plantations in the South. By the 1830s, most of the tribe was forced to relocate to present-day Oklahoma, and many took their slaves with them. The so-called Freedmen are descendants of those slaves. After the Civil War, in which the Cherokee fought for the South, a treaty was signed in 1866 guaranteeing tribal citizenship for the freed slaves.

Are yours crusty or wet? The truth behind eye boogers (ew)

Some of the evidence of a night's sleep are visible when you lift your head off the pillow -- bed head, morning breath, dried-up drool, and eye boogers.

And while the cause of most of these sleep remnants is fairly obvious, the reason behind those sometimes-sticky, sometimes-crusty gobs of crud that can dot the lashes or cling to the corners of the eye is less clear. Why do our peepers churn out this gunk at night and what's in the stuff? For answers to these important questions, Body Odd turned to an eye expert.

"The general consensus is that this debris is the stuff leftover from dried out tears," says Dr. Sherleen Chen, director of the cataract and comprehensive ophthalmology service at Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary in Boston. Tears are made up of water, protein, oils, and a mucous layer known as mucin, which typically coat the surface of the eye to moisten and protect it from viruses and bacteria.

But when your eyes are closed and your eyelids are not blinking, dirt and debris within the eye isn't continually washed over by tears, which would help to dilute them. So at night, dryness causes the stuff in tears to precipitate out, explains Chen. Then the crud collects toward the inside corner of the eye, where tears usually end up.

Time to walk on down the road…

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

New Fisher House opening has special meaning to me and my family


My wife Shirley (photo right) had the opportunity to talk with Senator Elizabeth Dole (photo left) during the opening of the most recent Fisher House in Washington D.C.

marching guys

The Fisher House Foundation welcomed the newest Fisher House on the grounds of the Washington DC VA Medical Center on Thursday, September 8. The 16,800 square foot, 20-suite home is just walking distance from the VA medical center, offering first-class accommodations.

shirley & sheriShirley (left) and our Sister-in-Law Sheri Holloway (right). Sheri’s husband (and Shirley’s brother) Tom, was being treated at the Washington D.C. hospital for Leukemia. Shirley and Sheri were honored at the opening as the first official guests in the new facility for families with veterans in the hospital for extended stays.

The Thursday evening reception/dedication was filled with nearly 200 well-wishes, including Senators Bob and Elizabeth Dole, to celebrate the opening of another home to support our service members and their families.


I expect to see my bride of 37 years on September 30th, when I pick her up at Sacramento Airport. She’s been there for six weeks. The really good news is that Tom’s cancer is in remission (tested his bone marrow a couple of days ago) and his treatments seem to be doing the job. Shirley reports that all the staff at the VA hospital have been fantastic. She was especially impressed by the Fisher House representatives and Elizabeth Dole (who she said was a sweetie). Special thanks to Ashley Estill who took these photos.
Photos by Ashley Estill - Media Relations Assistant | *Fisher House Foundation  To see more photos go here.

Itchy things, Insulin nasal spray may slow Alzheimer’s, and new Dad’s may be wired for nuturing

Good Morning Humboldt County!

Welcome to this morning’s coffee klatch. Grab a cup of coffee and join us. With all the things happening today I picked these three for your amusement and edification. Enjoy:

Spiders! Ants! Did that make you itchy? Here's why

WARNING: Reading the following post will make you itchy.

There probably aren’t any tiny ants feeling their way over your limbs and across the back of your neck right now. But wouldn’t you feel better scratching anyway?

Why is it that seeing, discussing, or even just thinking about creepy crawlers makes us feel itchy all over? It turns out the experts aren’t sure.

Insulin nasal spray may slow Alzheimer's

A new study released Monday shows that insulin applied daily through a special nasal spray might be a treatment that slows or stops the progression of Alzheimer’s disease. That’s hopeful news for millions facing the memory-robbing disease, because nothing has been successful at halting its awful progress.

In the small study, called a Phase II, researchers from the Veterans Affairs Puget Sound Health Care System in Seattle, enrolled 104 people with Alzheimer’s or mild cognitive impairment. The participants were given 20 IU (international units) of insulin, 40 IU of insulint or a saline placebo. Memory, cognition and functional ability were measured before and after treatment. Some of the participants also received lumbar punctures to test cerebrospinal fluid and brain scans before and after treatment.

Image: father and baby

Testosterone takes a dip in new dads, may wire them to nurture

Fathers may no longer have the excuse that they aren’t born for child care. Actually, they’re designed for it, according to a new study that finds a significant drop in testosterone levels in new dads, suggesting that men may be wired to nurture.

Northwestern University anthropologists speculate that the drop in the primary male sex hormone signals that fathers evolved to care for kids, not just to hunt for game and drop it in mom’s lap.

Their findings are published in the latest issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Time to walk on down the road…


Monday, September 12, 2011

British use cannabis in hospital treatment for cancer sufferers

Cannabis-based medicine spray (Pic:PA)

CANCER sufferers will be prescribed a spray containing cannabis as a new form of pain relief treatment. Experts say the medication – derived from marijuana plants – works by numbing the muscles.

It will be given to terminally-ill hospital patients as part of a ground-breaking trial. But Sativex does not get users high. Research nurse Sam Jole said: “Patients using the spray do not experience the euphoria associated with illegal recreational use of cannabis.

“It has passed strict tests for quality, safety and efficacy and doctors already prescribe it to other patients.” Multiple sclerosis sufferers have been able to get Sativex on prescription since last summer but the medication has never been used in hospitals anywhere in the world before.

Patients taking part in the trial at North Manchester General Hospital and Fairfield General Hospital in Greater Manchester will be asked to spray it under their tongue up to 10 times a day. Eight patients have signed up and 32 others will be recruited over the next two years. If the trial is a success, Sativex could be passed for use in hospitals across the country.

Dr Iain Lawrie, a consultant at North Manchester General Hospital, said: “This study is an exciting development in the field of cancer pain management. Initial observations suggest Sativex will have an important role to play in palliative care.”

Daily Mirror 3/09/2011

A blind man shocks researchers with what he sees

Patient TN was, by his own account, completely blind. Two consecutive strokes had destroyed the visual cortex of his brain, and consequently, his ability to see.

It is not uncommon for stroke patients to suffer brain damage, but the case of TN — referenced by his initials, the general practice in such studies — was peculiar. His first stroke had injured only one hemisphere of his visual cortex. About five weeks later, a second stroke damaged the other hemisphere. An assessment of his brain function revealed that after two strokes, TN, in his 50s, was clinically blind.

Known as selective bilateral occipital damage, TN’s unusual injury made him the subject of much interest while recovering at a hospital in Geneva. Researchers began examining him and discovered that despite his blindness, he had maintained the ability to detect emotion on a person’s face. He responded appropriately — with emotions such as joy, fear, and anger — to a variety of facial expressions. Observed activity in his amygdala — the part of the brain responsible for processing emotions — confirmed the curious results.

To further test the extent of TN’s abilities, researchers from Tilburg University in the Netherlands devised a simple yet decisive experiment: an obstacle course. They arranged boxes, chairs, and various other objects down a long hallway. The team then asked TN to navigate the course without any sort of assistance. TN was skeptical, as he required the aid of a cane and a guide to get around. But eventually, he decided to participate. Researchers recorded the result in their recent paper: “Astonishingly,” the report reads, “he negotiated [the course] perfectly and never once collided with any obstacle, as witnessed by several colleagues who applauded spontaneously when he completed the course.”

TN’s rare condition is known as blindsight. Because his stroke damaged only his visual cortex, his eyes remain functional and as a result can still gather information from his environment. He simply lacks the visual cortex to process and interpret it. Sight has changed for TN from a conscious to a largely subconscious experience. He no longer has a definitive picture of his surroundings, but he has retained an innate awareness of his position in the world. He is, to some degree, able to see without being aware that he is seeing.

The researchers explained that TN’s success indicates that “humans can sustain sophisticated visuo-spacial skills in the absence of perceptual awareness.” Similar abilities have been observed in monkeys, but TN’s is the first study of these abilities in humans. According to Beatrice de Gelder, a neuroscientist from Harvard and Tilburg, who helped conduct the study, “we see what humans can do, even with no awareness of seeing or any intentional avoidance of obstacles. It shows us the importance of these evolutionarily ancient visual paths.”

- New Ideas / by Joe Kloc / January 14, 2009

Behind bars for being poor, SpongeBob in trouble again, and M-16s scramble after ‘Mile-High Club’ couple raises alarm

They compare the plight of such parents to the poor people consigned to infamous “debtors’ prisons” before such institutions were outlawed in the early 1800s.

Good Morning Humboldt County!

Pull up a seat and have a cup of coffee with me as we examine a diverse trio of headlines to start this week;

Unable to pay child support, poor parents land behind bars

I try very carefully not to exaggerate, but I do think that’s an apt comparison,” said Sarah Geraghty, the attorney handling the Georgia case for the Southern Center for Human Rights.

And I think anyone who went down and watched one of these proceedings would agree with me. … You see a room full of indigent parents — most of them African-American — and you have a judge and attorney general, both of whom are white. The hearings often take only 15 seconds. The judge asks, ‘Do you have any money to pay?’ the person pleads and the judge says, ‘OK you’re going to jail,’” she added.

Image: SpongeBob SquarePants

Pants-wearing sponge blamed for kids' poor attention spans

Poor SpongeBob.

Back in 2005 he caught flak from a Christian evangelical group because its leader thought he was gay. Now a small new study suggests he could be turning preschoolers' minds to mush.

The study, published online Monday by the journal Pediatrics, found watching a snippet of a SpongeBob cartoon negatively affected 4-year-olds’ attention spans. Watching a more realistic PBS cartoon did not.

Citing law enforcement sources, ABC News reported the couple had been "making out" in the restroom.

Mile-high club? F-16s sent after 'long' bathroom visit

Fighter jets were scrambled to escort two commercial flights into New York City and Detroit "out of an abundance of caution" after crews reported suspicious activity on the 10th anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks , officials said.

The bathroom use by some passengers aroused the suspicion Sunday, but all were released after being questioned by authorities on the ground.

On an American Airlines flight from Los Angeles, three passengers who made repeated trips to the bathroom were cleared after the plane safely landed at New York's Kennedy Airport.

Time to walk on down the road…

Sunday, September 11, 2011

As It Stands: There’s hope for the ‘Made in the USA’ label


   By Dave Stancliff/for the Times-Standard
 I’m not going to make any wild claims about an American manufacturing renaissance restoring our country to it’s 19th century dominance. I do think there’s hope for more production here in the future.
 The “Made in the USA” label is adapting to the global market. Products made in the USA are now about 22 percent higher than the average of nine of its largest trading partners. This is actually an improvement.  In 2006 our products cost 32 percent more in those same nine countries, according to the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM).
Here’s another positive sign; after years of American companies shipping jobs and contracts overseas, some are choosing local manufacturers or even "re-shoring" — bringing jobs and work back to the United States.
 In a June survey by - an online global manufacturing marketplace for sourcing specialists and manufacturing companies - 21 percent of North American manufacturers said they'd brought production into, or closer to, the U.S. in the past three months. That’s up from 12 percent in the first quarter.

imagesCA6RJGAY We’ve been fighting an unequal wage battle for decades with  countries like China, where workers earn a tenth of what U.S. workers make. U.S. manufacturing employment, after peaking at 19.4 million in 1978, now hovers around 11.6 million, according to NAM. We have lost more than 2 million factory jobs since the recession hit.
 In the last decade, Chinese factory workers have organized into unions and begun to strike. The result, their wages have increased by 15 percent. On top of that, shipping costs have gone up by about 71 percent in the last four years as a result of higher oil prices.
  Ships and containers have been cut back because of a slump, according to HIS Global Insight, a country and industry forecasting company which offer economic and financial analysis, forecasting, and market intelligence for 204 countries.
  Don’t get me wrong. The Chinese worker still gets paid considerably less than an American worker doing the same job. What’s happening is the production cost gap between the U.S. and other countries is narrowing. 

immnvu5ages  Another positive thing for American manufacturers is quality control. The spotty quality of foreign goods has made an opening that Americans are starting to exploit.
A good example is Sleek Audio, which makes high-end earphones. Fed up with the Chinese contractors turning out shoddy goods, Sleek Audio moved most of it’s manufacturing back to its plant in Manatee County, Florida last year.
 Another American company, The Outdoor GreatRoom, had similar problems with Chinese contractors who couldn’t keep up production schedules and account for shipping lags. The Outdoor GreatRoom company CEO, Dan Shimek, decided to move the manufacturing of fire pits and some outdoor shelters back to the U.S. this past year.
Other American companies moving all or part of their manufacturing back to the states are: General Electric Co., who recently announced plans to invest more than $400 million to bring refrigeration and appliance manufacturing back from South Korea to plants in four U.S. states. General Motors, which is investing heavily in electric cars, is moving electric motor production to Michigan from plants in Europe, and Caterpillar. There are many others, for similar reasons.
Making products closer to home also appeals to U.S. companies because protecting thimagesCAYML3P5eir intellectual property from being stolen is a problem in the Asian markets.
One-fourth of more than 850 companies surveyed by, returned work to North America from overseas in the last quarter of 2010.

 For prospective, that’s more than double the number of companies that took such a step in the first three months of last year. Examples like Zenteck, an American manufacturer starting to win business that in the past might have gone to overseas factories are becoming more common.
  My favorite successful example has to be a small American company called Georgia Chopsticks. They are growing so fast - two million pairs of chopsticks per day- they can barely keep up with the demand from China, Korea, and Japan.
  As It Stands, for those of you who thought American manufacturing was doomed, it isn’t so - American ingenuity is still alive and well.

Blog Break Until Presidential Election is Over

I finally hit the wall today. I can't think of what to say about all of the madness going on in this country right now. I'm a writer...