US Opens Public…

US Opens Public Land for Utility Scale Solar Projects

The Whitehouse has released plans to increase access to public land for solar installations with the hope of encouraging more capacity. 285,000 acres in parts of Arizona, California, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, and Utah will be made more accessible through easier permit application processes.

Before Obama’s presidency started no solar projects were allowed on public lands in an attempt to preserve their natural state. However, since 2009 the Department of the Interior has approved 17 large scale solar projects on such ground, expected to generate 5,900 MW of power when completed, enough to supply 2 million homes.

It is expected that the new land will enable a further 23,000 MW of solar capacity to be installed, and provide sufficient electricity for nearly 7 million homes.

Steven Chu, the US Energy Secretary, said that “developing America’s solar energy resources is an important part of President Obama’s commitment to expanding American-made energy, increasing energy security, and creating jobs. This new roadmap builds on that commitment by identifying public lands that are best suited for solar energy projects, improving the permitting process, and creating incentives to deliver more renewable energy to American homes and businesses.”

Environmentalist fears of damage to the precious land have been relatively pacified due to the fact that the plan only includes about 40% of the area considered in the original discussions.


  Food-borne …


Food-borne illnesses not diminishing, CDC finds

Little progress has been made in combating many types of food-borne illnesses in recent years, according to new federal data, an outcome that food safety advocates say underscores the need to put into place the landmark food-safety bill signed by President Obama more than a year ago.
The most recent figures from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show that the rates of infections linked to four out of five key pathogens it tracks — salmonella, vibrio, campylobacter and listeria — remained relatively steady or increased from 2007 through 2011. The exception is a strain of E. coli, which has been tied to fewer illnesses in the same time frame.
The statistics also show that the government did not meet the goals it set for reducing illnesses tied to salmonella, the top cause of food-related infections resulting in hospitalizations and death. The goal was seven infections per 100,000 people by 2010. Instead, the state laboratories involved in producing statistics for the CDC confirmed 17 infections that year and about 16 last year.
The results frustrated consumer advocates, who along with industry groups pushed for passage of the Food Safety Modernization Act, which empowers the Food and Drug Administration to prevent food-borne illnesses instead of simply reacting to them. Obama signed the legislation in January 2011 after a string of food-borne outbreaks shook consumer confidence in the nation’s food supply.

Read more:

  Gulf of Mex…


Gulf of Mexico dead zone is smaller this year because of drought, researcher says

This year’s Gulf of Mexico “dead zone,” an area of low oxygen that develops every spring and summer, is the fourth-smallest since measurements of the zones began in 1985, a new report says. The zone measured 2,889 square miles, said the report released Friday by the Louisiana Universities Marine Consortium. The dead zone forms because fertilizer and other nutrients run into the Mississippi River, which empties into the Gulf. The nutrients feed huge numbers of microscopic organisms. When they die, their decomposition uses up oxygen. It is a recurring problem affecting sea life off the Louisiana coast, and sometimes the coasts of Mississippi and Texas.
Last year’s hypoxic zone was about 6,765 square miles. The record is 8,400.
The consortium said the dead zone is relatively small this year because record drought across the country meant fewer nutrients were washed into the river — not because needed steps have been taken to prevent the runoff.
“The issue of nutrient overload, of both nitrogen and phosphorus, remains a critical issue for the health of water bodies within the Mississippi River Basin and in the northern Gulf of Mexico. Efforts should continue in full force to reduce nutrient loads,” the LUMCON report said.
LUMCON Chief Scientist Nancy Rabalais noted that the distribution of low-oxygen waters along Louisiana’s continental shelf differed from years past.
“There was a narrow band close to the Mississippi River and large, non-hypoxic area between there and the Atchafalaya River,” the report said.

100km-wide ocea…

100km-wide ocean funnels that suck-up carbon

SCIENTISTS say they have unravelled the mechanism by which Earth-warming carbon is sucked deep into the Southern Ocean to be safely locked away.
Wind, currents and eddies (a current running opposite to the main current) work together to create carbon-sucking funnels, said the research team from Britain and Australia in a discovery that adds to the toolkit of scientists attempting climate warming predictions.
About a quarter of the carbon dioxide on Earth is stored away in its oceans – some 40 per cent of that in the Southern Ocean encircling Antarctica.
At a depth of about 1000 metres, carbon can be locked away for hundreds to thousands of years, yet scientists had never been sure exactly how it gets there after dissolving into surface waters.
They had suspected the wind was the main force at play, pooling up surface water in some areas and forcing it down into the ocean depths.
Using 10 years of data obtained from small, deep-sea robotic probes, the researchers found that in addition to the wind, eddies – big whirlpool-like phenomena about 100km in diameter on average, also played a part.

New protein cou…

New protein could rival antibiotics

AUSTRALIAN scientists have made a breakthrough in finding a powerful alternative to antibiotics – at a time when the World Health Organisation is predicting a bleak future in which bug-killing drugs are so ineffective that ”a child’s scratched knee or a strep throat could kill again”.
The threat of the world returning to a pre-antibiotic era has been fretted about for at least a decade because of microbes becoming increasingly resistant to drugs.
But Monash University researchers, in collaboration with Rockefeller University and the University of Maryland, have published a paper revealing the structure and workings of PlyC – a flying saucer-shaped protein that kills bacteria that cause infections from sore throats to pneumonia and streptococcal toxic shock syndrome.
PlyC is a viral protein, known as a bacteriophage lysin, that specifically infects and kills bacteria. James Whisstock, Ashley Buckle and Sheena McGowan from the School of Biomedical Sciences have spent the past six years deciphering PlyC’s atomic structure – a crucial step in developing the protein into a drug therapy.

  Mutant gene…


Mutant gene linked to skin cancer

SCIENTISTS have identified a gene mutation found exclusively in deadly skin cancers caused by exposure to ultraviolet radiation.

The discovery by Yale University researchers in the US, in collaboration with the Queensland Institute of Medical Research could eventually lead to new drugs to target the mutation found in about nine per cent of melanoma patients.
The finding emerged from the largest melanoma gene study to date, which involved the examination of every gene in 147 skin cancers.
Professor Nick Hayward from the QIMR’s Oncogenomics Laboratory said scientists also showed the mutation promoted malignant cell growth, spreading the cancer beyond the skin to critical organs.
Most importantly, the mutation was caused by exposure to sunlight.
“This mutation was exclusively found in melanomas on parts of the body that were exposed to sunlight,” Prof Hayward told AAP.
“The actual mutation itself has a chemical or molecular signature that indicates it was likely caused by ultraviolet light,” he said.
“This particular defect seems to be one that occurs in melanomas that have had excessive sun exposure.”

Read more:

The “Fatal Co…

The “Fatal Conceit” of Federal Hydraulic Fracturing Regs

There is a push to implement federal regulations on hydraulic fracturing or “fracking.” There are plenty of problems with the specific regulations that proponents have in mind. However, we can also step back and realize that the very premiseof federal regulations on hydraulic fracturing ignore the lessons in humility that Nobel laureate Friedrich Hayek tried to teach.
Whatever one thinks of the pros and cons of hydraulic fracturing, clearly the alleged dangers are local issues. In other words, even if we accept for the sake of argument that hydraulic fracturing cannot be economically justified because its total costs (all things considered) outweigh its total benefits, notice that these costs would be borne by the people living near the hydraulic fracturing. People in Hawaii have absolutely nothing on the line when it comes to the issue of hydraulic fracturing in (say) Pennsylvania. In fact, the people in Hawaii only stand to benefit from hydraulic fracturing, because the only way it can impact them is by providing lower energy prices.
Thus we see that hydraulic fracturing, by its very nature, confers benefits on the whole world (in the form of greater supplies of oil and natural gas) while any potential harms are concentrated primarily in the communities where the hydraulic fracturing actually occurs. Thus any federal regulations that hindered hydraulic fracturing would be nonsensical, and would amount to pure paternalism. It would effectively mean the representatives of the American people in general, were telling the people in Pennsylvania (say) that they are too stupid to make decisions about hydraulic fracturing that could harm only them, and therefore the rest of us will have to take that responsibility away from them.

Read more:

 Politicizing …


Politicizing Voting Rights Act dims luster

The fundamental goals and bipartisan legacy of the Voting Rights Act are imperiled by Attorney General Eric Holder’s Justice Department and the administration he serves.
The beleaguered attorney general recently asserted that common-sense efforts to ensure the identity and citizenship of voters represent a modern “poll tax” — inconsistent with the Voting Rights Act.

The Voting Rights Act was signed into law in 1965. Historic in nature, the civil rights law sought to end decades of racial discrimination that prevented minorities from fully exercising their constitutional right to vote.

In 1982, I helped lead negotiations to reauthorize it. The House passed the reauthorization 389-24, and President Ronald Reagan signed it. In July 2005, I stood before the NAACP’s national convention in Milwaukee and announced my intention as chairman of the Judiciary Committee to introduce and move legislation reauthorizing the Voting Rights Act for an additional 25 years.
A year later, the Fannie Lou Hamer, Rosa Parks and Coretta Scott King Voting Rights Act Reauthorization and Amendments Act of 2006 passed the House 390-33; it cleared the Senate 98-0, and President George W. Bush signed it into law in a rare moment of historic bipartisan unity.

  Natural Gas…


Natural Gas Gets Green Light To Power Britain

Centrica is to create 4,000 jobs in Britain with the development of a huge North Sea gasfield after the Government signalled a new “dash for gas”. After weeks of delay, heated negotiations and only hours after a £500 million tax break for this type of field was unveiled, the owner of British Gas said that it would invest £1.4 billion with its French partner GDF Suez.
Ed Davey, the Energy and Climate Change Secretary, said yesterday that gas would be at the heart of Britain’s energy strategy and promised that new gas-fired power plants would play a “key role” in keeping the lights on. He also said that consumer-funded subsidies for onshore wind farms would not be cut by as much as expected.

The moves comed after intervention from the Treasury, which wants more gas-fired power plants and fewer wind farms to be built to limit rises in energy bills. The Chancellor has been arguing with his Liberal Democrat counterpart Mr Davey over the level of subsidies for onshore wind farms.

Read more:

One man’s crus…

One man’s crusade to redefine African-American fatherhood


In one of his more interesting comic sketches, Chris Rock compares one group of African Americans, “niggas,” to another more wholesome group, “black people.” “You know what really bugs me about niggas is the way they always take credit for stuff a normal man would just do,” says Rock. “Like, ŒI raised my kids.'”
By Rock’s definition, I know exactly where I belong among African Americans today. For I am sure that even for this meager deed of fatherhood I am performing, I deserve a lot more than credit. My mission sounds simple enough: carting my young son through West Manhattan to visit another friend, working in Chelsea. I have logged enough baby hours to earn the title “stay-at-home dad,” so I’m not exactly new to this. But our trek into the city elicits terror because of three converging factors: 1.) I am a hefty 6’4″ black male—anything can happen. 2.) It’s Manhattan—everything might happen. 3.) My son is 7 months old—something always happens.
To take the mystery out of the island on this visit to New York, I have recruited two friends. It helps that they are native New Yorkers and know the geography. It doesn’t help that they are also young, black, male writers, whose size and dress (like my own), says almost nothing about who they are. Pushing the stroller, I remember the last time I was in New York with two other black male writers. As we were emerging from a Brooklyn subway that day, a white lady coming down the steps glanced our way and when she did not see Langston Hughes, immediately reversed direction. 

Read more: