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Download Full Movie John Wick: Chapter 2 (2017)

John Wick: Chapter 2 (2017) HD

Director : Chad Stahelski.
Producer : Basil Iwanyk.
Release : February 8, 2017
Country : United States of America.
Production Company : Thunder Road Pictures, LionsGate, 87Eleven.
Language : English, Italiano.
Runtime : 122 min.
Genre : Thriller, Action, Crime.

Movie ‘John Wick: Chapter 2’ was released in February 8, 2017 in genre Thriller. Chad Stahelski was directed this movie and starring by Keanu Reeves. This movie tell story about John Wick is forced out of retirement by a former associate looking to seize control of a shadowy international assassins’ guild. Bound by a blood oath to aid him, Wick travels to Rome and does battle against some of the world’s most dangerous killers.

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10 Oldest Known Diseases

HowStuffWorks “10 Oldest Known Diseases”.

In the study of ancient diseases, nothing speaks like the dead. “Bone abnormalities are a strong identification source,” said Dr. Anne Grauer, anthropologist at Loyola University Chicago and president of the Paleopathology Association, during a personal interview. So it’s relatively easy to date tuberculosis due to the lesions it leaves on bones. Pneumonia may be more ancient than TB, but lung tissue doesn’t hold up so well after being buried.

“Another source for dating diseases is genomic data,” said Dr. Charlotte Roberts, archaeologist at the University of Durham and author of the book “The Archaeology of Disease.” DNA testing of samples from mummies and skeletons can conclusively identify disease. And even without the evidence of a body, genes in existing samples of TB and leprosy bacteria suggest prehistoric origin.

But the most difficult trick in defining the oldest known diseases may be in how you define the word “disease.” For the purposes of this article, we’ll explore only human, infectious, viral or bacterial diseases. So nix tooth decay, psoriasis, gout, obesity, rickets, epilepsy, arthritis and other human difficulties that are perhaps best classified as “conditions.”

Notably absent from this list are some of history’s biggest killers, including influenza, measles, and the black plague. This is because these diseases require and the level of population density that didn’t develop until humans began living in cities. Influenza, measles, and the plague are social. Malaria isn’t.

We’ve listed 10 of the oldest known diseases, listed in no particular order. On the next page, we’ll get started with a condition that thrives in close quarters.

Around 400 B.C., the Athenian physician Hippocrates catalogued the diseases of his world. Cholera was on the list. But while Hippocrates provides the first proof of cholera beyond a reasonable doubt, the disease likely originated along the Ganges River while Athens was still a very young place.

Cholera lives in many of the world’s water sources, but it’s most dangerous when it has an environment in which there are many people among whom it can spread. The Ganges River happens to be one of the most ancient locations of human population density, and so it was long, long ago that upstream users gathered in the numbers needed to pollute the water for those downstream. In other words, as more people become infected with cholera, they pollute the water supply with more bacteria, which in turn infects more people.

Interestingly, the same problem might have been a major factor in the loss of troops in Hannibal’s march across the Alps. With a 50,000-soldier train, the troops and animals in front would have encountered pristine mountain streams, but those in back would have been forced to deal with putrid and potentially cholera-rich water [source: Hunt].

9: Typhoid

From 430 to 426 B.C., a great plague swept through the city-state of Athens. The historian Thucydides describes the symptoms:

“People in good health were all of a sudden attacked by violent heats in the head and the throat or tongue, becoming bloody and emitting an unnatural and fetid breath. When it fixed in the stomach, it upset it; and discharges of bile of every kind named by physicians ensued, accompanied by very great distress. If they passed this stage, and the disease descended further into the bowels, inducing a violent ulceration there accompanied by severe diarrhea, this brought on a weakness which was generally fatal.”

The disease couldn’t have come at a worse time. The plague contributed to Athens’ eventual loss to Sparta in the Peloponnesian War and a long hiatus for democracy in world history.

What was the cause of this plague?

8: Leprosy

The Bible passage Leviticus 13:2 reads, “When a man shall have in the skin of his flesh a rising, a scab, or bright spot, and it be in the skin of his flesh like the plague of leprosy; then he shall be brought unto Aaron the priest, or unto one of his sons the priests.”

But this isn’t the first concrete mention of the disease. That honor goes to the Egyptian “Ebers Papyrus,” written in 1550 B.C., which recommends, “If you examine a large tumor of Khonsu in any part of a man and it is terrible and it has made many swellings. Something has appeared in it like that in which there is air … Then you shall say concerning it: It is a swelling of Khonsu. You should not do anything against it” [source: Nunn].

While typhoid and cholera are fairly straightforward in their aggressive spread through water sources, leprosy relies on another dispersion strategy — that of dormancy. People can carry the bacteria that cause leprosy for 20 years or more before showing symptoms, and during this time can spread the disease.

One historical challenge in treating leprosy was diagnosis. In its early stages of expression, leprosy looks much like syphilis and somewhat like psoriasis. Misdiagnosis landed many psoriasis sufferers in leper colonies where many eventually did, ironically, contract and die from leprosy due to increased exposure.

7: Smallpox

Generally, the goal of mummification is to preserve soft tissue. So, as you would expect, Egypt provides a treasure trove of information on ancient, soft tissue diseases.

One of the first researchers to turn a paleopathological eye on Egyptian mummies was Sir Marc Armand Ruffer, who in his 1921 book “Studies of the Palaeopathology of Egypt” described three mummies with “dome shaped vesicles” extremely similar to those expected of smallpox [source: Ruffer]. The most ancient of these mummies was dated 1580 B.C. and the most recent was the mummy of Ramses V, who died in 1157 B.C. After his own inspection of the mummy, Donald R. Hopkins, who participated in the World Health Organization’s Smallpox Eradication Program, wrote of Ramses V, “Inspection of the mummy revealed a rash of elevated ‘pustules’, each about 2 to 4 millimeters in diameter, that was most distinct on the lower face, neck, and shoulders, but was also visible on the arms.” [source: Hopkins]

Is this conclusive? No, not necessarily, and to date there has been no modern analysis of Ramses V that could definitively determine if his condition was, in fact, smallpox. But the circumstantial evidence seems strong.

Smallpox is one of history’s greatest killers, responsible for 300 to 500 million deaths in the 20th century [source: Saint Louis University].

6: Rabies

Rabies is ingenious: Not only does it infect a host, but it also hijacks the host’s brain in a way that makes the host want to bite things. This is how rabies gets a ticket to ride. And it’s been doing it since at least 2300 B.C., when it was described in the Eshuma Code of Babylon [source: Rupprecht et al.]

The first person known to have survived rabies without a vaccination is Jeanna Giese, a Wisconsin teen who was bitten in 2004 by a rabid bat while at church. The New York Times reports that Jeanna went a month between bite and treatment, and was admitted to the hospital with symptoms of full-blown rabies [source: Rosenthal]. Doctors at the Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin initiated a cocktail of coma-inducing and antiviral drugs, though Giese’s family credits prayer with saving the girl’s life.

5: Malaria

The Romans offered the first cure for malaria: an amulet worn around the neck, inscribed with the powerful incantation “abracadabra” [source: Shah]. Over the years, we’ve attempted various other cures: adding oil to stagnant puddles to smother mosquito larvae, using pesticides, vaccines and nets, and even leveraging high-tech solutions such as a laser that shoots mosquitoes in midair. But the disease continues to infect 300 million people every year, killing 1 million of them [source: Shah].

The Wall Street Journal reports that malaria is responsible for half of all human deaths since the Stone Age [source: Shah].

Granted, that statistic extends the origin of the disease back in time past its first definite mention, which was in the Chinese “Nei Ching (“The Canon of Medicine”), around the year 2700 B.C. [source: CDC].

4: Pneumonia

People breathe more than 11,000 liters (3,000 gallons) of air every day [source: Nebraska Department of Environmental Quality]. And so, as you would expect, the lungs are a favorite home of bacteria, viruses, fungi and even parasites. And when anything foreign colonizes the lungs, the most common result is fluid. The umbrella term we use to describe fluid in the lungs is pneumonia.

Hippocrates wrote that fluid in the lungs should be called pneumonia if, “the fever be acute, and if there be pains on either side, or in both, and if expiration be if cough be present, and the sputa expectorated be of a blond or livid color” [source: Hippocrates]. But he also distinctly calls it a “disease of the ancients.”

Where exactly does pneumonia place in this list of oldest known diseases? Because it’s a soft tissue disease, the archaeological record isn’t strong. But it’s likely that various forms of pneumonia have been around as long as our lungs.

3: Tuberculosis

In 2008, a team of scientists from University College London excavated the submerged ancient city of Alit-Yam, off the coast of Israel. There, they found the buried remains of a mother and her child. Both skeletons showed bone lesions characteristic of tuberculosis [source: Lloyd]. DNA testing confirmed it: Tuberculosis is at least 9,000 years old.

Interestingly, this dig also lent evidence to an ongoing chicken-or-the-egg debate of whether we got TB from cows or they got it from us. In Alit-Yam, human skeletons showed signs of TB, while DNA from animal skeletons didn’t [source: Hershkovitz et al.]. So it seems cows are not the killers we once thought.

Other historical speculation has proved equally false: Neither the fossil nor DNA records support the cause of TB as nightly revelry with fairies and the resulting lack of rest, nor is the disease the result of witches who transform the victim into a horse and then ride the victim to nightly meetings, as were once thought [source: Briggs].

While the Alit-Yam finding is the oldest confirmed case of TB, characteristic lesions have been found on bones found in Turkey, dated about 500,000 years ago [source: Lloyd].

2: Trachoma

Trachoma is a chronic infection of the upper eyelid that eventually results in the eyelid constricting and turning the eyelashes in toward the cornea. Over time, the rubbing of the constricted eyelid and especially the eyelash makes the patient go blind. This is what happened to Aetius, Paulus Aeginetus, Alexander, Trailaus, Horace and Cicero. And trachoma is described in Hippocrates and in the Egyptian Ebers papyrus [sources: Siniscal and Nunn].

But researchers make a compelling case for earlier trachoma found in a corner of the world little associated with early diseases: Australia. Aboriginal skeletons from 8000 B.C. show a common skull lesion around the eyes [source: Webb]. Scientists determined that these lesions were due to bone infection that had come from soft tissue infection. Though there are a few eye diseases that could fit this bill, the skeletons were found in the Australian region in which trachoma is most common today.

1: Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever

Mitochondria are small organelles found in nearly every cell in the human body. And they perform a function essential to human life, converting glucose from food to energy called adenosine triphosphate, or ATP, which cells can use.

But Mitochondria carry their own genetic material — separate from human DNA — and these genes look a lot like those of bacteria. In other words, it’s very likely that the mitochondria that we depend on for survival are the products of an ancient infection [source: Andersson et al.].

Whatever the infection, it predates animal life, let alone humans. So there’s no use exploring the fossil record. Instead, researchers compared the genes of mitochondria to those of existing bacteria. The closest match was to bacteria of order Rickettsiales, many of which cause diseases — including Rocky Mountain spotted fever [source: Eremeeva and Dasch, Andersson et al.].

But remember, we’re talking about a disease that existed before animal life. So the oldest disease isn’t really Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever itself, but some unnamed proto-disease with genetic similarity.

Long, long ago bacteria invaded a cell. And because of this infection, we have life as we know it.

Read on to the next page for more infectious details.

20 Ways to Build a Cleaner, Healthier, Smarter World

World Changing Ideas: 20 Ways to Build a Cleaner, Healthier, Smarter World: Scientific American.

What would happen if solar panels were free? What if it were possible to know everything about the world—not the Internet, but the living, physical world—in real time? What if doctors could forecast a disease years before it strikes? This is the promise of the World Changing Idea: a vision so simple yet so ambitious that its full impact is impossible to predict. Scientific American’s editorial and advisory boards have chosen projects in five general categories—Energy, Transportation, Environment, Electronics and Robotics, and Health and Medicine—that highlight the power of science and technology to improve the world. Some are in use now; others are emerging from the lab. But all of them show that innovation is the most promising elixir for what ails us.  —The Editors

The No-Money-Down Solar Plan
A new wave of start-ups wants to install rooftop solar panels on your house. Upfront cost: nothing
By Christopher Mims

The biggest thing stopping the sun is money. Installing a rooftop array of solar panels large enough to produce all of the energy required by a building is the equivalent of prepaying its electricity bill for the next seven to 10 years—and that’s after federal and state incentives. A new innovation in financing, however, has opened up an additional possibility for homeowners who want to reduce their carbon footprint and lower their electric bills: get the panels for free, then pay for the power as you go.

The system works something like a home mortgage. Organizations and individuals looking for a steady return on their investment, typically banks or municipal bond holders, use a pool of cash to pay for the solar panels. Directly or indirectly, homeowners buy the electricity produced by their own rooftop at a rate that is less, per kilowatt-hour, than they would pay for electricity from the grid. Investors get a safe investment—the latest generation of solar-panel technology works dependably for years—and homeowners get a break on their monthly bills, not to mention the satisfaction of significantly reducing their carbon footprint. “This is a way to get solar without putting any money down and to start saving money from day one. That’s a first,” says SolarCity co-founder Peter Rive.

SolarCity is the largest installer of household solar panels to have adopted this strategy. Founded in 2006 by two brothers who are also Silicon Valley–based serial entrepreneurs, SolarCity leases its panels to homeowners but gives the electricity away for free. The net effect is a much reduced utility bill (customers still need utility-delivered power when the sun isn’t out) plus a monthly SolarCity bill. The total for both comes out to less than the old bill. SunRun in San Francisco offers consumers a similar package, except that the company sells customers the electricity instead of leasing them the panels.

Cities such as Berkeley and Boulder are pioneering their own version of solar-panel financing by loaning individuals the entire amount required to pay for solar panels and installation. The project is paid for by municipal bonds, and the homeowner pays back the loan over 20 years as a part of the property tax bill. The effect is the same whichever route a consumer takes: the new obligation, in the form of taxes, a lease or a long-term contract for electricity, ends up costing less than the existing utility bill.

“What we’re really seeing is a transition in how we think about buying energy goods and services,” says Daniel M. Kammen, director of the Renewable and Appropriate Energy Laboratory at the University of California, Berkeley. Kammen, who did the initial analysis on Berkeley’s financing model, believes that by turning to financing, consumers can overcome the inherent disadvantage renewables have when compared with existing energy sources: the infrastructure for power from the grid has already been paid for and, in many cases, has been subsidized for decades.

All three approaches are rapidly expanding across the country. Despite the Berkeley program being less than two years old, 10 different states have passed legislation allowing their cities to set up a Berkeley-style bond-financed loan program. With the passage of the Waxman-Markey climate bill, the option for cities to set up these programs would become federal law. SunEdison in Maryland is currently active in nine states. SolarCity, which has more than 4,000 customers, is active in California, Arizona and Oregon and has promised to announce additional states after the new year.

Right now it is not possible to lower the overall cost of rooftop solar to “grid parity,” that is, to the same price as electricity from local utility companies, without federal subsidies such as the investment tax credit, which lowers the tax bill of banks financing these projects. Those subsidies, which amount to 30 percent of the cost of a solar installation, are guaranteed for at least eight years. By then, SolarCity and its competitors claim they won’t need them.

“Grid parity is driven by multiple factors,” says Attila Toth, vice president of marketing at SunEdison, including the cost of capital, the cost of panels and their installation, and the intensity of sunlight in a given region. “It will occur in different states at different times, but, for example, we expect that California will be one of the first states in the U.S. to get to grid parity, sometime between three and five years from now.”

While the cost of electricity from fossil fuels has increased 3 to 5 percent a year for the past decade, the cost of solar panels has fallen on average 20 percent for every doubling of its installed base. Grid parity is where these trend lines cross—after that, solar has the potential to power more than just homes. It’s hardly a coincidence that Elon Musk, head of electric car company Tesla Motors, sits on SolarCity’s board of directors.

More Ideas to watch
by Christopher Mims

The Gasoline Garden
It is the next step for biofuels: genetically engineered plant life that produces hydrocarbons as a by-product of its normal metabolism. The result will be fuel—common gasoline, even—using nothing but sunlight and CO2. In July, Exxon Mobil announced plans to spend more than $600 million in pursuit of algae that can accomplish the task. Joule Biotechnologies claims to have already succeeded, although the company has yet to reveal any details of its proprietary system.

Hot Nukes
Uranium and plutonium are not the only fuels that can power a nuclear reactor. With an initial kick from more traditional fissile materials, thorium can set up a self-sustaining “breeder” reaction that produces uranium 233, which is well suited to nuclear power generation. The process has the added benefit of being resistant to nuclear proliferation, because its end products emit enough gamma rays to make the fuel dangerous to handle and easy to track.

Save Energy with Information
Studies show that simply making customers aware of their energy use lowers it
by 5 to 15 percent. Smart meters allow customers to track their energy consumption minute by minute and appliance by appliance. Countless start-ups are offering the devices, and Google and Microsoft are independently partnering with local utilities to allow individuals to monitor their power usage over the Web.

Wind Power from the Stratosphere
According to a Stanford University study released in July, the high-altitude winds that constantly blow tens of thousands of feet above the earth hold enough energy to supply all of human civilization 100 times over. California’s Sky WindPower has proposed harvesting this energy by building fleets of giant, airborne, ground-tethered windmills, while Italy’s Kite Gen proposes to accomplish the same feat using kites.

Delivering the U.S. from Oil
Plug-in hybrid trucks are improving the long view of the short haul
By Amanda Schupak

Cargo trucks gulp about 40 percent of the fuel pumped in the U.S. While most consumer attention focuses on improving the fuel economy of consumer vehicles, a major opportunity goes rumbling by. “Folks do not realize that the fuel use of even a small truck is equal to many, many cars,” says Bill Van Amburg, senior vice president of Calstart, a clean transportation technology nonprofit, and director of the Hybrid Truck Users Forum. “A utility truck as a hybrid would reduce more petroleum than nine Priuses.”

Some 1,300 commercial hybrids on the road today get up to twice the fuel efficiency of their conventional counterparts. But these traditional hybrids are inherently limited. They make more efficient use of petroleum-based fuel by capturing some of the energy lost during braking.

Plug-in hybrids, on the other hand, draw energy from the grid. They can drive for miles—in many cases, an entire day’s route—without using any fossil fuel at all. This shifts energy demand away from petroleum and toward grid-based sources. (Last year zero-carbon renewables and nuclear supplied 30 percent of all electric power in the U.S.)

In many ways, plug-in hybrid technology makes more sense for delivery trucks than for consumer sedans. A cargo truck runs a short daily route that includes many stops to aid in regenerative braking. Most of the U.S. Postal Service’s 200,000-plus mail trucks, for example, travel fewer than 20 miles a day. In addition, fleet vehicles return nightly to storage lots that have ready access to the 120- or 240-volt outlets required to charge them.

The Department of Energy recently launched the nation’s largest commercial plug-in hybrid program, a $45.4-million project to get 378 medium-duty vehicles on the road in early 2011. The trucks, which will go to 50 municipal and utility fleets, will feature a power system from Eaton, a large manufacturer of electrical components, on a Ford F-550 chassis. (For its part, Ford will wait for the market to prove itself before designing its own commercial plug-ins.) “These are going to start breaking free in 2011,” says Paul Scott, president of the Electric Vehicle Association of Southern California.

Start-up company Bright Automotive has a more ambitious plan. It aims to replace at least 50,000 trucks with plug-in hybrids by 2014. Bright’s IDEA prototype travels 40 miles on battery power before switching to a four-cylinder engine that gets 40 miles to the gallon. The streamlined aluminum body has the payload of a postal truck yet is far more aerodynamic. The truck weighs as much as a midsize sedan.

John E. Waters, Bright Automotive’s founder and the former developer of the battery system for General Motors?’s groundbreaking EV1 electric car, says that each IDEA would save 1,500 gallons of fuel and 16 tons of carbon dioxide emissions a year over a standard utility truck. Waters says he is ready to begin assembly in his U.S. plant once a pending $450-million federal loan comes through.

Despite the appeal of the carbon savings, the fleet owners who are the trucks’ primary customers have more practical considerations. Bright’s executives are coy about the IDEA’s eventual price tag but assert that a customer with 2,000 trucks driving 80 miles a day five days a week could save $7.2 million a year. Right now that is probably not enough to justify large-scale purchases without additional rebates—or a price on carbon. Van Amburg estimates that going hybrid currently adds $30,000 to $50,000 in upfront costs per vehicle, although that figure should come down as production volumes increase.

Improved battery technology will also help. Today the IDEA’s 13-kilowatt-hour lithium-ion battery pack accounts for nearly a quarter of the vehicle’s total cost. Much of the research being done for the batteries going into the Chevy Volt? and other consumer plug-ins should also be applicable to commercial batteries. “For all the good we all want to do,” says David Lauzun, Bright’s vice president of product development, “these vehicles will not take over the world until it becomes the economic choice—‘I have to have them because it saves me money.’”

Bus Rapid Transit
Subwaylike bus lines mobilize the urban future
By Michael Moyer

For the first time in human civilization, more people now live in urban areas than in the countryside. This shift creates a number of dilemmas, not least of which is how to move people within the world’s rapidly growing metropolises. Pollution and traffic point away from car-based options, while light-rail systems are slow to construct and prohibitively expensive. One disarmingly simple—and cheap—possibility is Bus Rapid Transit, which is engineered to operate like a subway on wheels. In these systems, concrete dividers on existing roads separate high-capacity buses from the rest of traffic. Riders pay before boarding, then wait in enclosed stations. When a bus arrives, sliding partitions open to allow riders to board from a platform that is level with the bus floor. The traffic-free thoroughfares, quick boarding times, and modern, comfortable stations resemble light-rail systems more than the chaos of typical bus travel. In Bogotá, Colombia, which has had seven Bus Rapid Transit lines in operation since 2001, the buses handle 1.6 million trips a day. Its success has allowed the city to remove 7,000 private buses from the city, reducing consumption of bus fuel and its associated pollution by more than 59 percent.

Ocean Overhaul
Marine zoning is a bold remedy for sick seas
By Sarah Simpson

These days not even many politicians deny that the oceans are ill. Protecting the health of coastal waters is now a matter of national policy in dozens of countries, including the U.S., and world leaders are beginning to prescribe a revolutionary remedy that conservationists have been promoting for years: marine planning and zoning.

The idea is a natural extension of management policies that have guided the development of cities and landscapes for nearly a century. Porn shops aren’t next to preschools, after all, and drilling rigs aren’t the centerpieces of national parks. Similarly, zoning advocates envision a mosaic of regional maps in which every watery space on the planet is designated for a particular purpose. Drilling and mining would be allowed only in certain parts of the ocean; fishing in others. The most critically threatened areas would be virtually off-limits.

Whereas people can easily find maps telling them what they can do where on land, the marine realm is a hodgepodge of rules emanating from an army of agencies, each one managing a single use or symptom. In the U.S., for example, one body regulates commercial fishing, usually a single species at a time. Another group manages toxic substances, still another seabed mining, and so on—some 20 federal agencies in all. They tend to make decisions without regard to what the others are doing, explains Duke University? marine ecologist Larry B. Crowder. “Imagine all of the medical specialists visiting a patient in intensive care one at a time and never talking to one another,” he says. “It’s a wonder that the oceans aren’t in worse shape than they are now.”

Ocean advocates such as Crowder eagerly await the final recommendations of a special task force President Barack Obama charged with presenting a plan for overhauling management of U.S. waters, which extend 200 nautical miles offshore. The scope of such an undertaking is huge: the U.S. controls 4.4 million square miles of seascape, making the country’s underwater real estate 25 percent larger than its landmass. The committee’s preliminary report, released in September, suggests that the best way to minimize harmful human impacts on the oceans is to manage regions rather than symptoms.

Many environmentalists are hopeful that such plans will be implemented through the marine equivalent of municipal zoning, which would give them some influence in areas where they now have none. In zones where conservation is designated as the dominant activity, fishing and industrial activities such as mining would no longer have free rein. Under current rules, about the only way a conservation group can block a project it deems harmful—say, a new site for offshore drilling—is through expensive litigation.

So far, though, the president’s task force has been careful not to suggest that ocean zoning will be the only treatment plan, in great part because any effort to restrict commercial interests is bound to meet stiff opposition. “Zoning isn’t anybody’s favorite exercise,” notes John C. Ogden, director of the Florida Institute of Oceanography at the University of South Florida at Tampa. “Someone’s ox is always getting gored.” Most resistant to such change will most likely be the traditional users of the open ocean—namely, commercial fisheries and the petroleum industry. “They’ve had the place to themselves for a long time,” Ogden says.

Ogden and others are quick to point out, however, that zoning practices can benefit commerce as much as conservation. By giving up access to certain areas, industries gain the security of knowing their activities would be licensed in a more predictable and less costly manner than they are today, explains Josh Eagle, associate professor at the University of South Carolina School of Law. Now an oil company can apply for permits to drill virtually anywhere, but it takes on a significant financial risk each time. The business may dump millions of dollars into researching a new facility only to have a lawsuit derail it at the last moment. When opposing parties have more or less equal voices early in the planning process, Eagle says, they are less inclined to block one another’s activities once zones are drawn on a map.

Whether the final report of the president’s task force will promote ocean zoning explicitly is uncertain. But the group has already promised to overhaul the structure of ocean governance by proposing the creation of a National Ocean Council, whose job it will be to coordinate efforts of the myriad federal agencies now in charge.

The move comes just in time. Just as society is beginning to appreciate the enormous efforts it will take to preserve the health of the oceans, it must ask more of them—more energy, more food, and better resilience to coastal development and climate change. The reason the oceans are in trouble is not what people put in and take out. It is a failure of governments to manage these activities properly. Says Crowder: “We have to treat the oceans holistically, not one symptom at a time.”

The Power of Garbage
Trapped lightning could help zap trash and generate electricity
By John Pavlus

Trash is loaded with the energy trapped in its chemical bonds. Plasma gasification, a technology that has been in development for decades, could finally be ready to extract it.

In theory, the process is simple. Torches pass an electric current through a gas (often ordinary air) in a chamber to create a superheated plasma—an ionized gas with a temperature upward of 7,000 degrees Celsius, hotter than the surface of the sun. When this occurs naturally we call it lightning, and plasma gasification is literally lightning in a bottle: the plasma’s tremendous heat dissociates the molecular bonds of any garbage placed inside the chamber, converting organic compounds into syngas (a combination of carbon monoxide and hydrogen) and trapping everything else in an inert vitreous solid called slag. The syngas can be used as fuel in a turbine to generate electricity. It can also be used to create ethanol, methanol and biodiesel. The slag can be processed into materials suitable for use in construction.

In practice, the gasification idea has been unable to compete economically with traditional municipal waste processing. But the maturing technology has been coming down in cost, while energy prices have been on the rise. Now “the curves are finally crossing—it’s becoming cheaper to take the trash to a plasma plant than it is to dump it in a landfill,” says Louis Circeo, director of Plasma Research at the Georgia Tech Research Institute. Earlier this summer garbage-disposal giant Waste Management partnered with InEnTec, an Oregon-based start-up, to begin commercializing the latter’s plasma-gasification processes. And major pilot plants capable of processing 1,000 daily tons of trash or more are under development in Florida, Louisiana and California.

Plasma isn’t perfect. The toxic heavy metals sequestered in slag pass the Environmental Protection Agency?’s leachability standards (and have been used in construction for years in Japan and France) but still give pause to communities considering building the plants. And although syngas-generated electricity has an undeniably smaller carbon footprint than coal—“For every ton of trash you process with plasma, you reduce the amount of CO2 going into the atmosphere by about two tons,” Circeo says—it is still a net contributor of greenhouse gases.

“It is too good to be true,” Circeo admits, “but the EPA has estimated that if all the municipal solid waste in the U.S. were processed with plasma to make electricity, we could produce between 5 and 8 percent of our total electrical needs—equivalent to about 25 nuclear power plants or all of our current hydropower output.” With the U.S. expected to generate a million tons of garbage every day by 2020, using plasma to reclaim some of that energy could be too important to pass up.

More Ideas to watch
By John Pavlus

Cement as a Carbon Sponge
Traditional cement production creates at least 5 percent of global carbon dioxide emissions, but new materials could create carbon-neutral cement. Start-up Novacem, supported by Imperial College London, uses magnesium oxide to make cement that naturally absorbs CO2 as it hardens. California-based Calera uses seawater to sequester carbon emissions from a nearby power plant in cement.

The New Honeybee
Colony collapse disorder (CCD) has killed more than a third of honeybee colonies since 2006. Farmers who depend on bees to pollinate such crops as almonds, peaches and apples are looking to the blue orchard bee to pick up the slack.

One efficient Osmia lignaria can pollinate as much territory as 50 honeybees, but the bees are harder to cultivate because of their solitary nature. These pinch hitters won’t completely replace honeybees, but as scientists continue to grapple with CCD, they could act as an agricultural safety net.

Saltwater Crops
As the world’s freshwater supply becomes scarcer and food production needs balloon, salt-tolerant crops could ease the burden. Researchers at Australia’s University of Adelaide used genetic engineering to enhance a model crop’s natural ability to prevent saline buildup in its leaves, allowing the plant to thrive in conditions that would typically wither it. If the same gene tweak works in cereal crops such as rice and wheat—the researchers are testing them now—fallow lands destroyed by drought or overirrigation could become new breadbaskets.

The Omnipotence Machines
Tiny, ubiquitous sensors will allow us to index the physical world the way the Web maps cyberspace
By Gregory Mone

Earlier this year Hewlett-Packard announced the launch of its Central Nervous System for the Earth (CeNSE) project, a 10-year effort to embed up to a trillion pushpin-size sensors across the planet. Technologists say that the information gathered by this kind of ubiquitous sensing network could change our knowledge of the world as profoundly as the Internet has changed business. “People had no idea the Web was coming,” says technology forecaster Paul Saffo?. “We are at that moment now with ubiquitous sensing. There is quite an astonishing revolution just around the corner.”

The spread of versatile sensors, or “motes,” and the ability of computers to analyze and either recommend or initiate responses to the data they generate, will not merely enhance our understanding of nature. It could lead to buildings that manage their own energy use, bridges that flag engineers when in need of repair, cars that track traffic patterns and detect potholes, and home security systems that distinguish between the footfalls of an intruder and the dog, to name a few.

CeNSE is the boldest project yet announced, but HP is not the only organization developing the technology to make ubiquitous sensing possible. Intel is also designing novel sensor packages, as are numerous university labs.

For all the momentum in the field, though, this sensor-filled future is by no means inevitable. These devices will need to generate rich, reliable data and be rugged enough to survive tough environments. The sensor packages themselves will be small, but the computing effort required will be enormous. All the information they gather will have to be transmitted, hosted on server farms, and analyzed. Finally, someone is going to have to pay for it all. “There is the fundamental question of economics,” notes computer scientist Deborah Estrin of the University of California, Los Angeles. “Every sensor is a nonzero cost. There is maintenance, power, keeping them calibrated. You don’t just strew them around.”

In fact, HP senior researcher Peter Hartwell acknowledges that for CeNSE to hit its goals, the sensors will need to be nearly free. That is one of the reasons why HP is designing a single, do-everything, pushpin-size package stacked with a variety of gauges—light, temperature, humidity, vibration and strain, among others—instead of a series of devices for different tasks. Hartwell says that focusing on one versatile device will drive up volume, reducing the cost for each unit, but it could also allow HP to serve several clients at once with the same sensors.

Consider his chief engineering project, an ultrasensitive accelerometer. Housed inside a chip, the sensor tracks the motion of a tiny, internal movable platform relative to the rest of the chip. It can measure changes in acceleration 1,000 times as accurately as the technology in the Nintendo Wii?.

Hartwell imagines situating one of these pins every 16 feet along a highway. Thanks to the temperature, humidity and light sensors, the motes could serve as mini weather stations. But the accelerometers’ vibration data could also be analyzed to determine traffic conditions—roughly how many cars are moving past and how quickly. The local highway department would be interested in this information, he guesses, but there are potential consumer applications, too. “Your wireless company might want to take that information and tell you how to get to the airport the fastest,” Hartwell says.

All of this gathering and transmission of data requires power, of course, and to guarantee an extended life, the HP pushpin will not rely solely on batteries. “It is going to have some sort of energy-scavenging ability,” Hartwell says. “Maybe a solar panel or a thermoelectric device to help keep the battery charged.”

With the power hurdle in mind, other groups are forgoing batteries altogether. At Intel Labs in Seattle, engineer Josh Smith? has developed a sensor package that runs on wireless power. Like the HP pushpin, Intel’s WISP, or Wireless Identification and Sensing Platform, will include a variety of gauges, but it will also draw energy from the radio waves emitted by long-range radio-frequency ID chip readers. Smith says a single reader, plugged into a wall outlet, can already power and communicate with a network of prototype WISPs five to 10 feet away—a distance that should increase.

Smith cites many of the same infrastructure-related possibilities as Hartwell, along with a number of other uses. If WISPs were placed on standard household items such as cups, these tags could inform doctors about the rehabilitation progress of stroke victims. If the cups the patient normally uses remain stationary, Smith explains, then the individual probably is not up and moving around.

The potential applications for ubiquitous sensing are so broad—a physicist recently contacted him about using WISPs to monitor the temperature outside a proposed neutrino detector—that, as with the Internet, Smith says it is impossible to foresee them all. “In terms of the impact it is going to have on our lives,” Hartwell adds, “you haven’t seen anything yet.”

The Do-Anything Robot
Your PC can accomplish any computing task you ask of it. Why isn’t the same true for robots
By Gregory Mone

Robots have proved to be valuable tools for soldiers, surgeons and homeowners hoping to keep the carpet clean. But in each case, they are designed and built specifically for the job. Now there is a movement under way to build multipurpose machines—robots that can navigate changing environments such as offices or living rooms and work with their hands.

All-purpose robots are not, of course, a new vision. “It’s been five or 10 years from happening for about 50 years,” says Eric Berger, co-director of the Personal Robotics Program at Willow Garage, a Silicon Valley start-up. The delay is in part because even simple tasks require a huge set of capabilities. For a robot to fetch a mug, for example, it needs to make sense of data gathered by a variety of sensors—laser scanners identifying potential obstacles, cameras searching for the target, force feedback in the fingers that grasp the mug, and more. Yet Berger and other experts are confident that real progress could be made in the next decade.

The problem, according to Willow Garage, is the lack of a common platform for all that computational effort. Instead of building on the capabilities of a single machine, everyone is designing robots, and the software to control them, from the ground up. To help change this, Willow Garage is currently producing 25 copies of its model PR2 (for “Personal Robot 2”), a two-armed, wheeled machine that can unplug an appliance, open doors and move through a room. Ten of the robots will stay in-house, but 10 more will go to outside research groups, and everyone will pool their advances. This way, Berger says, if you want to build the robotic equivalent of a Twitter, you won’t start by constructing a computer: “you build the thing that’s new.”

Pocket Translator
The military, short on linguists, is building smart phone–based devices to do the job
By Gregory Mone

Sakhr Software, a company that builds automatic language translators, recently unveiled a prototype smart phone application that transforms spoken English phrases into spoken Arabic, and vice versa, in near real time. The technology isn’t quite ready for your next trip to Cairo, but thanks to recent advances in machine-translation techniques, plus the advent of higher-fidelity microphones and increasing processing power in smart phones, this mobile technology could soon allow two people speaking different languages to have basic conversations.

Before the 1990s automatic translation meant programming in an endless list of linguistic rules, a technique that proved too labor-intensive and insufficiently accurate. Today’s leading programs—developed by BBN Technologies?, IBM, Sakhr and others as part of a Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency effort to eliminate the military’s need for human translators—rely on machine-learning techniques instead. The software works from a database of parallel texts—for example, War and Peace in two different languages, translated United Nations speeches, and documents pulled off the Web. Algorithms identify short matching phrases across sources, and the software uses them to build statistical models that link English phrases to Arabic ones.

John Makhoul, BBN’s chief scientist, says the current technology is at its best when confined to subject areas with specific phrases and terminology—translating a weather report from English into French, for example, or helping soldiers gather basic biographical information from people in the field. Makhoul envisions the first consumer applications, five years from now, being similarly constrained. A tourism-related translation app on a smart phone could help an American in Florence get directions from a non-English-speaking local, but they won’t chat about Renaissance art. “It is not going to work perfectly,” he says, “but it will do a pretty good job.”

Know if Disease Grows Inside You
Complex diseases have complex causes. Luckily, they also leave a multitude of traces
By Melinda Wenner

With the exception of certain infectious diseases, few of humanity’s ailments have cures. More than 560,000 Americans will die of cancer this year, and despite the 250,000 coronary bypass surgeries doctors perform annually, heart disease is still the country’s number-one killer.

The hardest diseases to cure are the ones that take the longest to develop. They are the end result of decades of complex molecular interactions inside your body. Yet this complexity also pre­sents an opportunity. Scientists have discovered that these interactions leave discernible fingerprints on the body. By unweaving the complex tapestry of molecular clues—changes in the body’s proteins, nucleic acids and metabolites, collectively called biomarkers—doctors hope they will soon be able to not only detect disease but predict a coming illness in time to take action.

Biomarkers are not new. Since 1986 doctors have monitor­ed prostate cancer by measuring blood levels of the protein known as prostate-specific antigen (PSA). But tests that rely on a single biomarker to detect disease are rare, because most disorders involve intricate changes in a collection of biomarkers.

Take schizophrenia: in January 2010 scientists will release a biomarker test that distinguishes schizophrenia from other psychiatric conditions. The test, which is being commercialized by Rules-Based Medicine, a laboratory in Austin, Tex., is based on the characteristics of about 40 blood-based proteins.

To find potentially useful biomarkers, researchers collect blood samples from thousands of healthy people and analyze them. Biomarker levels in these samples provide a baseline reading. Then they do the same for people with a specific condition such as diabetes or breast cancer. If reproducible differences emerge between the groups, scientists can use the patterns in the disease group to diagnose the same condition in others. By collecting samples over time, researchers can also go back and analyze early samples from individuals who later become ill to identify patterns indicative of early disease or high disease risk.

Biophysical Corporation, a sister company to Rules-Based Medicine, is one of several companies that has developed blood-based biomarker tests and marketed them to the public [see “The Ultimate Blood Test,” by Philip Yam; Scientific American, June 2006]. The company searches for up to 250 biomarkers suggestive of cancer, inflammatory conditions, heart disease and other illnesses. Mark Chandler, Biophysical’s chair and CEO, says that the real value of the tests lies in long-term monitoring. A person could “get a test monthly, just a finger stick, that would be able to say, we have had a serious change here that is indicative of an early-stage cancer,” he explains.

Yet not all experts are convinced that the age of biomarkers is at hand. Cheryl Barton, an independent U.K.-based pharmaceutical consultant who authored a Business Insights market analysis report on biomarkers in 2006, says she remains “a little bit skeptical about how clinically useful they are.” A study of 5,000 subjects published in the Journal of the American Medical Association in July 2009 found that six cardiovascular biomarkers were only marginally better at predicting heart disease than were standard cardiovascular risk factors, such as whether the subjects smoked or had diabetes.

Adding to the overall difficulty, a person might suffer from two or more diseases—prostate cancer and heart disease, for example. No one knows how multiple diseases might affect overall biomarker signatures or how profiles will change as other diseases develop. “When you get to be 65 or 70, almost everybody has other conditions,” Chandler says. “We don’t know how to deal with that right now.” And scientists still need to discern which biomarkers are truly relevant to disease—a difficult task when working with blood, which contains tens of thousands of proteins at concentrations spanning more than 10 orders of magnitude.

Some companies have simplified the problem by avoiding blood altogether. LabCorp recently commercialized a biomarker test that analyzes colon cells in stool for the chemical signatures indicative of colorectal cancer. “The stool is in intimate contact with the lining of the colon, so it becomes much more highly populated with these rare molecules than would get into the bloodstream from colon cancer,” says Barry Berger, chief medical officer of Exact Sciences, a Madison, Wis.–based biotechnology company that developed the test technology.

In time, scientists are confident that they will eventually crack the more difficult problem of finding distinct disease signatures in the noisy data. “The evolutionary process, being complex and unknown, does not always give us an easy route,” Berger notes, “but it definitely gives us lots of opportunities.”

Satellites Diagnose Disease Outbreaks
Space-based data are helping to track and predict the spread of deadly diseases ?
By Katherine Harmon

Many contagious diseases spread through carriers such as birds and mosquitoes. These vectors in turn move with heat and rainfall. With this in mind, researchers have begun to use satellite data to monitor the environmental conditions that lead to disease. “Ideally, we could predict conditions that would result in some of these major outbreaks of cholera, malaria, even avian flu,” says Tim Ford of the University of New England at Biddeford and co-author of a paper on the subject published this past September in Emerging Infectious Diseases.

Satellite data have already been used to map the advance of the H5N1 avian influenza in Asia. The domestic duck, a common inhabitant of Southeast Asia’s rice paddies, is one of the main carriers of the disease. Xiangming Xiao, associate director of the University of Oklahoma?’s Center for Spatial Analysis, uses satellite images to map agricultural patterns in the region. These maps show where the ducks are most likely to live and thus where the avian influenza is most likely to spread.

Migratory birds also carry the virus, but their travel patterns are more difficult to predict. Xiao and his colleagues combine the satellite imagery with satellite-gathered surface-temperature data to estimate the birds’—and thereby the virus’s—trajectory. Computer models then link these environmental drivers to the spread of the flu in human populations.

Of course, not all of the work can be outsourced to orbiting observatories. Xiao says that judging the severity of avian flu’s spread from satellite imaging required knowing details about the human populations as well—for instance, how likely certain communities were to raise ducks for poultry consumption. “Satellite monitoring has a capacity to provide consistent observation,” Xiao says. “On the other hand, the in situ observations are still very, very important, so the key is to combine those together. That is a real challenge.”

More Ideas to watch
By Melinda Wenner

Quick Clots
Emergency technicians could prevent up to 35 percent of prehospital trauma deaths if they had better and cheaper ways to prevent blood loss. Now a University of Maryland–affiliated start-up called Trauma Solutions has developed a synthetic hydrogel that can clot blood by prompting the body to make fibrin, a protein that seals wounds and stops bleeding. Future iterations could simultaneously release such medicines as antibiotics and painkillers. Each application will cost about $5, compared with some natural blood-clotting substances that cost upward of $500.

Liver damage is a major side effect of HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis drugs, yet few developing countries have enough trained scientists or equipment to monitor it. Nonprofit Cambridge, Mass.–based Diagnostics For All has developed an inexpensive fingernail-size device made almost entirely of paper that monitors liver damage using a single drop of blood. Channels in the paper guide blood to regions that change color depending on the levels of two damage-related liver enzymes.

Bacterial Toothpaste
Streptococcus mutans bacteria in the mouth decay teeth by converting sugars into enamel-eroding lactic acid. Florida-based Oragenics has genetically engineered a new strain of bacteria that converts sugars to trace amounts of alcohol instead. Because the new strain permanently displaces natural S. mutans, the therapy, which is currently in clinical trials, will be available as a one-time prescription that will protect teeth for life.

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Bat killing fungus identified, but deaths continue

Bat killer identified, but deaths continue – life – 26 October 2011 – New Scientist.Movie Fifty Shades Darker (2017)

A fungus long suspected of killing more than a million batsMovie Camera in the US since 2006 has been pronounced guilty after a series of experiments on captive animals. The tests confirm that “white nose syndrome”, so called because it leaves fuzzy white smudges on the muzzles of its victims, is caused by the Geomyces destructans fungus.

When researchers infected 29 captive little brown bats (Myotis lucifugus) with lab-grown samples of the fungus, they all developed the disease, showing the tell-tale signs and symptoms about three months after infection. None of the 34 controls, which were not infected with the fungus, developed the condition.

Through complementary experiments in which the researchers housed 25 infected bats together with 18 healthy bats, they demonstrated that bats catch the syndrome from each other through physical contact. It cannot spread through the air: healthy bats did not pick up the infection when housed near to, but physically isolated from, diseased bats.

The experiments confirm what many experts had suspected, and rule out the possibility that the fungus preys on sick animals but does not actually cause the disease.

“The discovery allows us to focus our research efforts to develop management and control strategies,” says David Blehert of the National Wildlife Health Center, part of the US Geological Survey in Madison, Wisconsin, who led the research team. “Unfortunately, there’s no silver bullet to kill the fungus.”

Hard to prevent

Most potential solutions have drawbacks, explains Blehert. Applying fungicides in caves might harm plants and other animals living there, and this would have to be done year after year to keep the fungus at bay. Even culling bats in infected caves wouldn’t work, because some infected bats would escape and return, or spread the fungus elsewhere.

Of all the possible solutions, vaccination might provide the best hope, says Blehert, because it would potentially give bats lifelong immunity. He points out that wild foxes, skunks and racoons have been successfully vaccinated against rabies by dropping vaccine-baited food into their habitats from planes.

Earlier this year, a study found that the Geomyces destructans fungus found in US bats is almost identical to one in Europe to which most native bats seem to be resistant. Finding out what makes the European bats resist the fungus could help find ways to protect their US cousins.

The earlier study also raised the possibility that the US fungus originated in Europe and was inadvertently brought to the US by humans. The US Fish and Wildlife Service says that existing precautions issued by the US Geological Survey to stop humans spreading the fungus any further remain essential.

The wildlife service has called for proposals to follow specific research objectives designed to help the US bats. These include identifying the times of the year when the fungus spreads most easily, the factors that affect bat survival, the features of bat-cave environments that might potentially be altered to obstruct spread, and screening for other microbes that may kill the fungus or hamper transmission without harming bats.

Journal reference: Nature, DOI: 10.1038/nature10590

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Malaria deaths fall 20% worldwide in last decade

BBC News – Malaria deaths fall over 20% worldwide in last decade.

There has been a fall of just over 20% in the number of deaths from malaria worldwide in the past decade, the World Health Organization says.

A new report said that one-third of the 108 countries where malaria was endemic were on course to eradicate the disease within 10 years.

Experts said if targets continued to be met, a further three million lives could be saved by 2015.

Malaria is one of the deadliest global diseases, particularly in Africa.

In 2009, 781,000 people died from malaria. The mosquito-borne disease is most prevalent in sub-Saharan Africa, where 85% of deaths occurred, most of them children under five.

An earlier report here incorrectly referred to a 40% drop in deaths.

It has been eradicated from three countries since 2007 – Morocco, Turkmenistan and Armenia.

The Roll Back Malaria Partnership aims to eliminate malaria in another eight to 10 countries by the end of 2015, including the entire WHO European Region.

Malaria Factfile

  • 2000: 233 million cases, 985,000 deaths
  • 2009: 225 million cases, 781,000 deaths
  • Malaria present in 108 countries and territories
  • 1.3% GDP reduction in heavily-infected countries

Robert Newman, director of the WHO’s Global Malaria Programme, said “remarkable progress” had been made.

“Better diagnostic testing and surveillance has provided a clearer picture of where we are on the ground – and has shown that there are countries eliminating malaria in all endemic regions of the world,” he told an international Malaria Forum conference in Seattle.

“We know that we can save lives with today’s tools.”

Global eradication

Graphic: Global Malaria deaths 2000-09

A global malaria eradication campaign, launched by WHO in 1955, succeeded in eliminating the disease in 16 countries and territories.

But after less than two decades, the WHO decided to concentrate instead on the less ambitious goal of malaria control.

However, another eight nations were declared malaria-free up until 1987, when certification was abandoned for 20 years.

In recent years, interest in malaria eradication as a long-term goal has re-emerged.

The WHO estimates that malaria causes significant economic losses, and can decrease gross domestic product (GDP) by as much as 1.3% in countries with high levels of transmission.

In the worst-affected countries, the disease accounts for: Up to 40% of public health expenditures; 30% to 50% of inpatient hospital admissions; and up to 60% of outpatient health clinic visits.

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The risk of an influenza pandemic is a fact

The risk of an influenza pandemic is fact, not fiction – health – 26 September 2011 – New Scientist.

SOME people don’t seem to believe anything they’re told about flu. You’ll often hear that the swine flu pandemic of 2009, along with the spectre of H5N1 bird flu, were “scares” backed by some conspiracy or other.

Of course, the 2009 pandemic was real, it just wasn’t as bad as it could have been. Bird flu is about as bad as flu can get, and the only thing that has kept it at bay has been its inability to spread easily between people.

That may have been a temporary situation. Work reported last week suggests that just a few mutations could make H5N1 highly contagious in humans without losing its ability to kill 60 per cent of those it infects (see “Five easy mutations to make bird flu a lethal pandemic”).

Now more than ever, the world needs its flu defences to be in order. The 2009 pandemic showed they aren’t, with vaccine arriving late, in relatively few countries. And because the pandemic was limited, investment to improve vaccines is far from booming.

It should be. If vaccines are not ready fast enough after the next pandemic hits, there will still be conspiracy theories, but the “scare” will be all too real.

Read more (also below): Five easy mutations to make bird flu a lethal pandemic

H5N1 bird flu can kill humans, but has not gone pandemic because it cannot spread easily among us. That might change: five mutations in just two genes have allowed the virus to spread between mammals in the lab. What’s more, the virus is just as lethal despite the mutations.

“The virus is transmitted as efficiently as seasonal flu,” says Ron Fouchier of the Erasmus Medical Centre in Rotterdam, the Netherlands, who reported the work at a scientific meeting on flu last week in Malta.

“This shows clearly that H5 can change in a way that allows transmission and still cause severe disease in humans. It’s scary,” says Peter Doherty, a 1996 Nobel prizewinner for work in viral immunology.

H5N1 evolved in poultry in east Asia and has spread across Eurasia since 2004. In that time 565 people are known to have caught it; 331 died. No strain that spreads readily among mammals has emerged in that time, despite millions of infected birds, and infections in people, cats and pigs. Efforts to create such a virus in the lab have failed, and some virologists think H5N1 simply cannot do it.

The work by Fouchier’s team suggests otherwise. They first gave H5N1 three mutations known to adapt bird flu to mammals. This version of the virus killed ferrets, which react to flu viruses in a similar way to humans. The virus did not transmit between them, though.

Then the researchers gave the virus from the sick ferrets to more ferrets – a standard technique for making pathogens adapt to an animal. They repeated this 10 times, using stringent containment. The tenth round of ferrets shed an H5N1 strain that spread to ferrets in separate cages – and killed them.

The process yielded viruses with many new mutations, but two were in all of them. Those plus the three added deliberately “suggest that as few as five are required to make the virus airborne”, says Fouchier. He will now test H5N1 made with only those five.

All the mutations have been seen separately in H5N1 from birds. “If they occur separately, they can occur together,” says Fouchier. Malik Peiris of the University of Hong Kong, a flu virologist, says this means H5N1 transmissible between humans can evolve in birds, where it is circulating already, without needing to spend time in mammals such as pigs.

Peter Palese, a flu specialist at Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York City who has expressed doubts that H5N1 can adapt to mammals, is not convinced.

“Ferrets are not humans,” he says. “H5N1 has been around for a long time” and failed to mutate into a form that can jump between people.

“That it has not adapted doesn’t mean it cannot,” replies Jeffery Taubenberger of the US National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Maryland, who studies how a bird flu became the deadly pandemic of 1918.

“It simply means that so far it has not – luckily for us.”

The Terrible Naivete Of Scientists

Mon Sep 26 16:18:14 BST 2011 by Jeff Corkern

If this virus could infect humans, it would make one helluva biological weapon. A FIFTY per cent kill rate.

This possibility is not even mentioned. It hasn’t even crossed their tiny little naive academic minds, has it. All they’re thinking of is accidental release. The idea of deliberate release does not even seem possible, because of the terrible killing power of this thing.

What kind of security do you guys have around your viral stocks? How many levels of locked doors? Can your stocks be destroyed in seconds in case of attempted theft? Have you considered what action you would take if a terrorist showed up, pointed a gun at a secretary’s head and said, “Give me your viral stocks or I will blow her brains out all over your nice clean lab coat?”

You guys think this can’t happen?

You guys don’t think evil exists in the world?

Jeff Corkern


Consider the following as a statement of logic, and rank it as “True” or “False”:

“If people possess immortal souls, it should be possible to logically deduce this by objective analysis of their actions.”


The Terrible Naivete Of Scientists

Tue Sep 27 00:46:33 BST 2011 by Random Dude

Weaponisation and defence against said weapson is probably on the fore front of the funding body’s mind. Scientist can only work on a project if SOMBEBODY funds them.

Do you remember who funded the resurrection of the 1918 H1N1 virus?

Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA).

Governments are interested in what makes these super flu work.

The Terrible Naivete Of Scientists

Tue Sep 27 02:28:16 BST 2011 by Jeff Corkern

Precisely my point. My objection is not so much to what they’re doing as they don’t seem to understand the implications of it.

You can use what they’re doing to fight viruses.

You can also use it for biological terrorism.

There’s not the slightest hint they understand the danger.

There was an NS article recently where a scientist who worked on emotion drugs was shocked, SHOCKED, I tell you, that the bad guys were taking his research and using it to make better emotion drugs.

Scientists want to be famous.

If some terrorist takes their these guys’ work and uses it to create a flu that kills millions, well, they’ll be famous.

Jeff Corkern


Consider the following as a statement of logic, and rank it as “True” or “False”:

“If people possess immortal souls, it should be possible to logically deduce this by objective analysis of their actions.”


The Terrible Naivete Of Scientists

Sun Oct 02 16:13:56 BST 2011 by Andrew Thompson

Just because they don’t blurt it out in public, does not mean they are unaware of the possibilities.

Federal officials expand efforts as cantaloupe warnings continue

Federal officials expand efforts as cantaloupe warnings continue – CNN.com.

Jensen Farms is recalling Rocky Ford whole cantaloupes that were shipped between July 29 and September 10.
Jensen Farms is recalling Rocky Ford whole cantaloupes that were shipped between July 29 and September 10.

  • Listeria can take three weeks or longer to make a person sick
  • Tainted cantaloupes are linked to 13 deaths; 72 illnesses have been reported in 18 states
  • It is the deadliest U.S. outbreak of a food-borne illness in more than a decade

(CNN) — Federal health officials are expanding efforts to ensure no additional bacteria-tainted cantaloupes get to consumers in what has become the deadliest U.S. outbreak of a food-borne illness in more than a decade.

The Food and Drug Administration said it has teamed up with state officials in the effort.

“FDA and its state partners are conducting checks at retail stores, wholesalers and distributors to make sure they have received notification about the Jensen Farms’ whole cantaloupe recall and that they have taken appropriate action to notify their customers and remove the recalled whole cantaloupes from the shelves,” the agency said in a statement Wednesday.

Thirteen people have died in what has become the deadliest U.S. outbreak of a food-borne illness since 1998, according to records from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The outbreak — blamed on the bacteria Listeria monocytogenes — was first reported September 12. It was traced to consumption of Rocky Ford cantaloupes grown at Jensen Farms’ fields in Granada, Colorado.

What you need to know about Listeria

As of Monday, it had grown to 18 states, 72 illnesses and 13 deaths, according to the CDC’s latest statistics.

13 dead after eating cantaloupe

13 cantaloupe related deaths

“Because some of the wholesalers and distributors may have further distributed the recalled cantaloupes to food processors, it is possible that additional products that contain cantaloupe from Jensen Farms could be recalled,” the FDA said. “There is no indication of foreign distribution at this time.”

New E. coli contamination scare

In 1998, 21 people died from consuming tainted hot dogs, according to a CDC database.

Food poisoning 101

In the current outbreak, four people who ate contaminated cantaloupes died in New Mexico, two each in Colorado and Texas, and one each in Kansas, Maryland, Missouri, Nebraska, and Oklahoma.

Public health officials also have reported illnesses in California, Florida, Illinois, Indiana, Montana, North Dakota, Virginia, West Virginia, Wisconsin and Wyoming.

Listeria can grow even at low temperatures and can also can take three weeks or longer to make a person sick, so more cases may emerge in the coming weeks, officials said.

Listeriosis causes fever, muscle aches, diarrhea and other gastrointestinal symptoms. It is rarely a serious concern for healthy children and adults, according to the CDC, but it is particularly dangerous for older adults, people with weakened immune systems. In pregnant women, it can cause miscarriages, stillbirth and premature delivery.

Pregnant women may experience only mild flu-like symptoms, said Dr. David Acheson, a former chief medical officer for the FDA who is now the managing director for food and import safety practice at Leavitt Partners, a firm which advises clients on health care and food safety. Listeria can be devastating to a fetus, he said, particularly in the second or third trimesters, so pregnant women who may have been exposed and have any flu-like symptoms should see a doctor. Symptoms can be more pronounced in the elderly or those with compromised immune systems, he said.

About 1,600 people become seriously ill because of the bacteria each year, the CDC reports, and about 260 die.

The wrong message on vaccines?

The wrong message on vaccines : Nature : Nature Publishing Group.

(22 September 2011)
Published online
21 September 2011

Unfounded fears about vaccines are already reaching worrisome proportions. No public figure should stoke them — as US presidential hopeful Michele Bachmann has done.

In 2009 and 2010, fewer than half of all US states reported that the proportion of children aged five to six who were properly vaccinated against measles before they entered school had reached the desired 95%. In parts of the country, the rate of refusal of mandatory childhood vaccinations for non-medical reasons stands at 25%. And as-yet-unpublished data show that this rate in continuing to increase.

The results of vaccine refusal are already evident in Europe. France reported 4,937 cases of measles in the first three months of this year — nearly as many as in all of 2010. In total, 30 countries in the World Health Organization’s European region reported a marked increase in measles cases early this year. At some point, the herd immunity that protects the unvaccinated and the immunosuppressed could be lost.

Against this backdrop, it is vital that public debates on vaccination stick to the facts — and that politicians who make science-supported decisions be applauded. Unfortunately, it was Michele Bachmann who received the applause at the Republican presidential candidates’ debate earlier this month. The Minnesota congresswoman had attacked rival candidate Rick Perry for his failed attempt in 2007, as Texas governor, to mandate vaccination against human papilloma virus (HPV) for 11- and 12-year-old schoolgirls, as recommended by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in Atlanta, Georgia.

Perhaps Perry did the right thing for the wrong reasons: he has close ties to pharmaceutical company Merck, a generous donor to his campaigns and the only maker of an HPV vaccine at the time of his attempt. But his goal was laudable: HPV is the most common sexually transmitted infection in the country and the major cause of cervical cancer, which kills 4,000 US women each year. The Food and Drug Administration has also approved the HPV jab for the prevention of vulvar and vaginal cancers, and of anal cancer in both males and females.

That did not stop Bachmann from making the astonishingly irresponsible claim, on national television, that the vaccine is a “potentially dangerous drug”. She later suggested that it is linked to “mental retardation”. Yet the CDC says that the vaccine is safe. Some 35 million doses have been delivered in the United States since its approval, but just 0.05% of recipients have reported side effects, mostly minor. Nor is there scientific support for the belief that presumably drives Bachmann’s misstatements — that vaccinating prepubescent girls will somehow encourage them to become sexually active.

If Bachmann wants to do right by the millions of girls she claims to care about, she ought to retract her words and urge HPV vaccination. That might do more than anything else to combat an increasingly common parental mindset that takes for granted the past century of gains against infectious disease, and in so doing threatens to reverse them.


  1. 2011-09-21 02:26 AM

    Report this comment #26876

    Dario Antonio said:
    Worries about the effectiveness and dangers of vaccines ARE scientifically supported. A serious debate is appropriate. What I believe is reaching worrisome proportions is the amount of editorials and articles in Nature about this topic. These articles are not always very scientific, resorting to emotions (mainly fear) and always biased towards the praise of vaccines and against the dangerous individuals that question them.

  2. 2011-09-21 04:19 AM

    Report this comment #26881

    Geoffrey Vargish said:
    The declining rates of vaccination in both the US and abroad ARE cause for serious concern. What’s more pressing is that the most salient messages regarding vaccine efficacy and safety often come from non-scientific sources, such as anti-vaccine advocates (most commonly founded by parents and/or celebrities not trained in scientific disciplines) and politicians more interested in garnering votes than disseminating accurate information. Unbeknownst to many, the US has a very effective system for monitoring the safety of vaccines in the Vaccine Adverse Events Reporting System (cosponsored by the CDC and DHHS). Adverse events occur in less than 1% of individuals receiving vaccination.
    As Art Caplan and a variety of other bioethicists have pointed out, the history of vaccine policy in the US is littered with fear mongering and non-scientific claims, threatening the safety of our population by deterring individuals from vaccinating. What’s lacking in the vaccine debate is a true ethos, disseminating information backed by science and devoid of emotional, unsupported anecdotes. Vaccines are arguably the most important discovery in the history of public health, let’s not disregard their value in protecting us from disease both as individuals and as a population.

  3. 2011-09-21 04:25 AM

    Report this comment #26882

    Clark Hinderleider said:
    “Worries” are not scientific data. “Always biased” is a pejorative phrase, There are “dangerous individuals” who, using false information, dispense misinformation which directly results in morbidity and mortality.
    Please read the September 2011 Institute of Medicine report which addresses these “worries.”

    Clark D. Hinderleider, M.D., Ph.D.
    Principal Consulting Clinician-Scientist in Cardiothoracic Surgery and Physiology,
    Chair, Health Care Legislation and Comparative Effectiveness Research Task Force,
    Health Council of Marin
    Treasurer, Marin Immunization Coalition
    Member, Personal Belief Exemptions (PBE) Task Force, California Immunization
    Coalition Leader Panel, Immunization Action Coalition
    Contributing Editor, Science Advisory Board
    Member; Center on Science, Technology, and Space; Health Policy
    Center; Roosevelt Institution at Stanford University
    Member, Integrity in Science Program; Union of Concerned Scientists
    Member; Congressional Liaison Committee; Coalition for the Life Sciences
    Member, New York Academy of Sciences
    Member, Reuters Insight Community of Experts

    email: CLARKMDPH@aol.com
    (415) 244,6203

  4. 2011-09-21 04:35 AM

    Report this comment #26883

    Christopher Lee said:
    I agree with Dario Antonio. This editorial, in the the thunderous style, could lead to suspicions that this commercial journal has been infiltrated. It is a serious mistake to connect the healthcare debate to the American partisan political scene, which has a long-standing worldwide reputation for irrationality and similar manifestations of madness.

    Irrationality is, of course, a worldwide phenomenon. A result of of adverse public comments (sometimes related to connections between politicians and the pharmaceutical industry) is that the WHO is considered by many ordinary people to be discredited by the fact that the last predicted flu epidemic caused many fewer deaths than the 1918 one, which was due to a similar virus. Nasty forms of flu will be back, quite soon apparantly. Well, the biggest human problem at the moment is overpopulation, though that won’t affect my own rational decision to pay my 8 euros (I’m not quite old enough to qualify for a free jab).

    There is, however, a need more more public information, and more clear information. The statistics of very rare adverse events are not obvious, even to statisticians. Scare stories sometimes turn around cases of babies who fall seriously ill shortly after a vaccination, and they always neglect the unfortunate fact that babies babies fall seriously ill every day. Do experts intervene in the common debate, for example by providing traceable and readable data on the incidence of such events in the absence of vaccination? Do they give the number of children dead or committed to mental institutions each year as a result of measles? Perhaps it’s beneath their dignity to post on all those quack websites, but they could at least try to find some other medium that is not a sponsored journal or visibly tied to institutions that are either plugging expensive treatments or attempting to ration public health services.

  5. 2011-09-22 03:54 AM

    Report this comment #26895

    Bart Penders said:
    The vaccination problem is not a problem of who is right or wrong. It is about the public credibility of governments and scientists. While science focuses on universally valid claims, public debate is guided by particulars: single cases and stories of inexplicable deaths or diseases following inoculation. A well calibrated display of particulars enables many people to relate to such stories. Solely sticking to facts and arguments is destructive for public credibility as it does not satisfy the need for narratives. If our aim is to raise vaccination numbers, it is wise to take the people who oppose, or who are in doubt, seriously. The question here is where the doubts and worries of the US and EU populations come from.

    We need to realize that better science and improved dissemination does not solve the vaccinationists? credibility crisis. ?Antivaccinationists? play the game according to different rules – occasionally quite effectively. Thus, we need to study the strategies used by antivaccinationists to engineer credit for themselves and their claims, and take them seriously as competitors in the public credibility marketplace. Engineering credibility implies demonstrating the ability to take doubts seriously, not to reject them as ignorant. Beyond the boundaries of the lab, emotions and narratives contribute as much as data.

    Bachmann stating that the HPV vaccine is a ?potentially dangerous drug?, is in high contrast to the dominant scientific position towards the safety of the vaccine. It is, however, not coming from nowhere. Bachmann is aligning herself with a large part of the (US) population, who is worried about the status of this and other vaccines. This is an understandable and probably worthwhile path for someone who wants to be elected to office.

  6. 2011-09-22 05:20 AM

    Report this comment #26900

    A J said:
    Excellent Editorial on vaccines.

    The city Hyderabad (India) has witnessed a major measles outbreak January to March 2011, pushing the total number of cases to an alarming 345 as against 279 last year. What’s more, several children who were vaccinated against the infection figure in this measle headcount. Surprisingly, that the itchy rash did not spare even the 40 and 50-year-olds.

  7. 2011-09-22 10:18 AM

    Report this comment #26907

    apostate scientist said:
    Bart Penders makes the only point worth making at the present stage in the debacle that the mass vaccination movement is developing into. That we now have entrenched ?pro-vaccination? and ?anti-vaccination? camps is evidence enough of the failure of communication that lies at the heart of all this. Use of language is always a good clue as to what is going on and the implications of unquestioning use of the word ?herd? by pro-vaccinationists says it all.

    The word ?herd? carries more baggage than even the recent London Fashion Week could probably handle. So, whilst pro-vaccinationists can talk assuredly about herd-immunity and less than one percent adverse reaction rates to a measles vaccine, members of that ?herd? are going to be thinking ?One percent ? that?s one-in-a-hundred ? that could be my child?. And whilst pro-vaccinationists can talk incontrovertible, herd-based evidences for herd benefit from HPV vaccination, female members of that ?herd? are going to be marching in on their parents demanding to know “What the hell are these people thinking of wanting to inject me on the assumption that I?m going to be screwing around?”. And whilst pro-vaccinationists can justifiably assert that giving three vaccines at once will significantly augment the herd?s antibody response, members of that ?herd? are going to be thinking, ?Three at once ? doesn?t that increase the chances of an adverse reaction and, anyway, why should my boy be immunised against rubella when he?s never going to get pregnant?.

    The pro-vaccinationists’ response to their herd failing to respond to the cattle prods has been strictly analogous to the caricature Englishman abroad who, when the ?natives? fail to understand his English simply shouts more loudly. Sorry doctors and scientists ? where vaccination is concerned ? and possibly not a few other preventive measures ? you?re going to have to learn a new language ? the language of individual experience rather than that of statistically tractable mass averages.

  8. 2011-09-25 12:55 PM

    Report this comment #27088

    Jms rndll said:
    The problem here I think more lies in the fact that science has lost a lot of credibility over the past years, in the fact that most science seems to be geared towards making a product that can be sold for profit. Sure this is fine and dandy, but the less popular more radical theories are never given any head wind because of the less economic value of the research. As for vaccinations themselves, I wonder about the evolutionary implications of preventing a mechanism that is supposed to control animal population numbers from doing its job? Are we really constantly on this teetar toter of ‘hopefully polio won’t come back’, as we see with recent TB in Africa. Wouldn’t it be innovative if scientists took a scientific approach when dealing with human populations as well as animal populations? Do you not see that the whole ‘save every child possible born’ is only serving to weaken us as a species? Where is the sound science in this? Is the goal of modern science to live as far out of balance with the natural world as possible? Or is there some crossover there? What are we going to do when we are on the brink of the next mass extinction, try and stop it? What then, will the planet be able to take a cycle without being ‘refreshed’? I am anti vaccination simply because I do not trust the science behind it.

  9. 2011-09-26 01:18 AM

    Report this comment #27106

    David McRae said:
    Chistopher, Dario,

    There is a debate. Presentation of evidence in a peer-reviewed journal is scientific debate.

    Who can yell the loudest, charm the best or sound the most convincing is not a scientific debate and contributes nothing to science – however entertaining, and these debates can be.

    Please advance scientific knowledge and publish your data.

Scientists find way to disarm AIDS virus

Scientists find way to disarm AIDS virus | Reuters.

LONDON | Mon Sep 19, 2011 5:08pm EDT

(Reuters) – Scientists have found a way to prevent HIV from damaging the immune system and say their discovery may offer a new approach to developing a vaccine against AIDS.

Researchers from the United States and Europe working in laboratories on the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) found it is unable to damage the immune system if cholesterol is removed from the virus’s membrane.

“It’s like an army that has lost its weapons but still has flags, so another army can recognize it and attack it,” said Adriano Boasso of Imperial College London, who led the study.

The team now plans to investigate how to use this way of inactivating the virus and possibly develop it into a vaccine.

Usually when a person becomes infected with HIV, the body’s innate immune response puts up an immediate defense. But some researchers believe HIV causes the innate immune system to overreact. This weakens the immune system’s next line of defense, known as the adaptive immune response.

For this study — published on Monday in the journal Blood — Boasso’s team removed cholesterol from the membrane around the virus and found that this stopped HIV from triggering the innate immune response. This in turn led to a stronger adaptive response, orchestrated by a type of immune cells called T cells.

AIDS kills around 1.8 million people a year worldwide. An estimated 2.6 million people caught HIV in 2009, and 33.3 million people are living with the virus.

Major producers of current HIV drugs include Gilead Bristol Myers Squibb, Merck, Pfizer and GlaxoSmithKline.

Scientists from companies, non-profits and governments around the world have been trying for many years to make a vaccine against HIV but have so far had only limited success.

A 2009 study in Thailand involving 16,000 volunteers showed for the first time that a vaccine could prevent HIV infection in a small number of people, but since the efficacy was only around 30 percent researchers were forced back to the drawing board.

An American team working on an experimental HIV vaccine said in May that it helped monkeys with a form of the AIDS virus control the infection for more than a year, suggesting it may lead to a vaccine for people.

HIV is spread in many ways — during sex, on needles shared by drug users, in breast milk and in blood — so there is no single easy way to prevent infection. The virus also mutates quickly and can hide from the immune system, and attacks the very cells sent to battle it.

“HIV is very sneaky,” Boasso said in a statement. “It evades the host’s defenses by triggering overblown responses that damage the immune system. It’s like revving your car in first gear for too long — eventually the engine blows out.

He said this may be why developing a vaccine has proven so tricky. “Most vaccines prime the adaptive response to recognize the invader, but it’s hard for this to work if the virus triggers other mechanisms that weaken the adaptive response.”

HIV takes its membrane from the cell that it infects, the researchers explained in their study. This membrane contains cholesterol, which helps keep it fluid and enables it to interact with particular types of cell.

Normally, a subset of immune cells called plasmacytoid dendritic cells (pDCs) recognize HIV quickly and react by producing signaling molecules called interferons. These signals activate various processes which are initially helpful, but which damage the immune system if switched on for too long.

Working with scientists Johns Hopkins University, the University of Milan and Innsbruck University, Boasso’s team found that if cholesterol is removed from HIV’s envelope, it can no longer activate pDCs. As a result, T cells, which orchestrate the adaptive response, can fight the virus more effectively.