Thursday, May 18, 2006

Human- Chimps speciation

New evidence released by the journal NATURE suggests a new theory to explain the gaps in the fossil records regarding the split between the humans and Chimps. According to this new hypothesis the final speciation; split between humans and Chimpanzees; is much more recent than what used to be commonly believed. It is now estimated that the split into two different species occurred less than 6.3 million years ago and might have been as recent as 5.4 million years ago.

It is commonly believed that the split from an original ancestor, into humans and Chimpanzees, took place 9 million years ago. This is still the belief. The fossil record, however, contained a large gap that went unexplained until this recent study of genomes.
What the scientists have concluded sounds bizarre but it is as of today the only possible explanation of the developments that can be seen in the genetic codes.

The Harvard and MIT study reiterated the belief that the split from a common ancestor started 9 million years ago and was completed 6.3 million years ago. But this is where the new revelations become interesting. Early humans must have been attracted to the Chimps and must have mated with them, which created new hybrid specie. Finally the two animals split totally around 5.3 million years ago because they just did not find each other to be physically appealing.

Scientific evidence does not only claim that humans and chimpanzees have common ancestors but that both have even mated with each other. Does such a trial and error process require an intelligent designer?

Monday, May 08, 2006

Can$$$$ buy you good Health?

A study conducted by a group of British and US researchers concluded that the typical white American is not as healthy as the white British in any of the seven areas investigated.

The study was done on a group of 55-64 years old and in order to isolate the race factor only whites were used. The Americans were almost twice as likely to have diabetes or cancer as their British counterparts and 50% more likely to develop a stroke or heart disease. Hypertension, heart attacks and lung disease were 25-30% more likely to occur in Americans rather than the British. What is astonishing is the fact that the Americans did not beat the British in any category despite the fact that the US outspends the UK on health care. What was even more astounding was the revelation that in most categories the British poor were healthier than the US rich; the poor Brits had fewer incidences of cancer, diabetes and hypertension than the wealthy Americans.

The explanation for the above unexpected results will require more detailed studies. The leading hypothesis by the researchers, however, centers on a lifestyle phenomenon called social isolation.

“We have many people working an enormous number of hours," says Lisa Berkman, a social epidemiologist with Harvard University. "But they also have no time to take care of themselves or their families, as well as maintain a certain kind of community or neighborhood or set of ties." If we would only remember the admonition that we do not live by bread alone!!!!!

Sunday, April 23, 2006

The Pot Calling the Kettle Black !!

Many of the most connected political operatives in the United States have reported on many of the potential topics that were discussed by President Bush and his Chinese counterpart President Hu.

A consensus has emerged among these well connected journalists and opinion shapers that a major topic was that of energy. President Bush, the political leader of a nation that consumes over 20 million barrels of crude oil a day has expressed concern about the rising level of consumption of a nation that has over five times the US population and yet consumes less than one third the US total. Can anyone pull that with a straight face? Are we truly telling others that we see nothing wrong in consuming fifteen times what they do on a per capita basis and that it is their relatively smaller consumption that needs to be constrained so that we can go on building our large homes, driving our huge SUVs and maintaining our highly energy intensive life style? It does take lots of chutzpah to do that, doesn’t it?

Sunday, March 26, 2006

Is It Too Late to Stop Global Warming?

A post regarding the issue of Global Warming has been added to Environmental Ramblings. You can get there by using the Environmental Ramblings link found on the right hand side area of this blog.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Oh The Webs We Weave...

“Oh what a tangled web we weave when first we practice to deceive”

The US government establishes a safety limit to the amount of mercury that children can be subjected to. That measure in itself is a good public health policy. These standards formed the basis of placing limits on the amounts of fish that are to be consumed when caught in polluted rivers and lakes. Unfortunately when pharmaceutical companies decided that they need to add a preservative, thimerosal, to children vaccines that are mercury based the government looked the other way.

No one has shown conclusively that the thimerosal causes Autism, yet. There is, however, a preponderance of evidence that Autism in the US has exploded with the beginning of the use of the mercury based preservative in vaccines. The amounts injected in each child are above the safety standards set by the US government.

Autism is currently occurring in one out of each 166 births in the US. It is a developmental disability that makes it difficult for autistic to communicate verbally or to interact socially. The cost is huge in human and dollar terms. The CDC has refused to ban the use of thimerosal on the grounds that there is “no evidence” of a causal link between the preservative and autism but they immediately add that no evidence of harm does not mean that it is safe!!!!

Sure let us use the children as guinea pigs because we are not sure that there is an evidence of harm and let us not remove heavy metal from flu vaccines because that might open big pharma to liability suits. What ever happened to the precautionary principal?

Monday, March 20, 2006

Homo Sapiens Sapiens vs Chimps

It’s official. Many have speculated that the DNA of humans and that of Chimpanzees are very similar. Now that both DNA sequences have been completed the factual evidence proves that all these theories were absolutely on the money. The DNA sequencing of humans and that of Chimps are 98% the same. What accounts for the major difference in our cognitive abilities is explained by the 2% difference.

The comparative studies have already started. A surprising preliminary conclusion is that the difference in the structure of the brain is minimal and cannot explain the rather substantial difference between the two primates. Further studies will reveal the area where we differ the most and whether any “genetic” engineering could benefit either of the two species.
The promise that has accompanied DNA sequencing as an answer to many of the questions about treatments of various diseases and even evolution has diminished .One reason for the current pessimism is what the courts have wrought. They have awarded patents on 20% of the human genes to various commercial enterprises. A product of nature, a gene, is now the private property of a corporate entity which can demand a huge payment for the use of a gene that it had nothing to do with its creation in the first place. But that is the law of the land until now. The Supreme Court is being asked to review the intellectual property rights tomorrow in a case that will have far reaching implications on
patenting genes and ideas. Will we ever stop this process of commodification?

Saturday, March 18, 2006


Big Bang has not been definitively confirmed yet but we have moved one step closer towards that confirmation. A NASA satellite, Wilkinson Microwave Anisotropy Probe, has sent new data to suggest that the universe, 13.7 billion years old, did experience a rapid inflation in the first one trillionth of a second. It was during these first few moments that the universe ”underwent a violent growth spurt, ballooning from submicroscopic to astronomical size in the blink of an eye”.

This should help to dispel the literalist interpreters of the story of biblical creation. Maybe, after all, this world was not created for us but that we are off this world, we evolved from. Lynn White was right all along, it is the Judeo-Christian story that lies at the root cause of ecological deprivations.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

URGENT: Take Action, Call your SENATOR

This is your chance to stop the Congress from approving the bill, already passed by the House, to weaken the power of the States in labelling food. Please read the following from ORGANIC CONSUMER and call your Senator.



The House of Representatives has passed a controversial "national food uniformity" labeling law that would take away local government and states' power to require food safety food labels such as those required in California and other states on foods or beverages that are likely to cause cancer, birth defects, allergic reactions, or mercury poisoning. This bill would also prevent citizens in local municipalities and states from passing laws requiring that genetically engineered foods and ingredients such as Monsanto's recombinant Bovine Growth Hormone (rBGH) be labeled.The Senate will son be voting on this bill which would gut state food safety and labeling laws. The "National Uniformity for Food Act," lowers the bar on food safety by overturning state food safety laws that are not "identical" to federal law. Hundreds of state laws and regulations are at risk, including those governing the safety of milk, fish, and shellfish. The bill is being pushed by large supermarket chains and food manufacturers, spearheaded by the powerful Grocery Manufacturers of America.Big food corporations and the biotech industry understand that consumers are more and more concerned about food safety, genetic engineering, and chemical-intensive agriculture, and are reading labels more closely. They understand that pesticide and mercury residues and hazardous technologies such as genetic engineering and food irradiation will be rejected if there are truthful labels required on food products. This industry-sponsored bill is gaining momentum and must be stopped! Act now! Preserve local and regional democracy and protect yourself and your family from unsafe food by sending an email or calling your Senator.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Technology , Accidents and risk Taking

The large spill, 267000 gallons, that occured on March 2, 2006 on the north slope of Alaska is another example still of the risks that we take in our never ending search for oil and our dependence on technology.

BP is the owner of the pipeline that developed that leak which is causing tremendous damage to the ecology of the area. No doubt BP did not wish for the oil spill to occur and I am confident that they have used the best available technology in the construction and subsequent operation of the pipeline in question. Unfortunately welds do weaken , metal does fatigue and a quarter inch rupture can go undetected. And yet we go on producing nuclear waste that we do not know how to dispose off and drilling for oil in ecologically sensitive areas in order to satisfy our voracious appetites for gadgetry.

Saturday, March 11, 2006

Nutrition and Longevity

There is strong evidence from studies performed on mice and worms that life expectancy experiences a substantial increase , in the case of mice a doubling, once the regular daily caloric intake is reduced by 30%. Apparently such a major drop in calories induces the defence mechanisms to become more efficient and extend life by a substantial margin.

In the case of humans the required drop in nutritional intake is so large that no pharmaceutical company believes that they will be given the green light to conduct such experiments. A number of companies , however, would like to develop druge that will achieve the same results but that do not require a starvation diet. All what would be needed is to pop a pill a day that would replicate in the dbody system the conditions of "caloric deprivation" and if the original hypothesis prove to be true then we can have our cake and eat it too. How does 125 years sound? 25 years of schooling, 75 years of work and 25 years of retirement. Any takers?

Saturday, March 04, 2006

More on Food Safety

Both California Senators, Boxer and Feinstein, are raising objections to the impending efforts by the Feds to preempt all state regulations on food safety that are stronger than the proposed federal standards. This measure , if approved, might be even considered unconstitutional. For over two centuries the states had to meet the Federal standards but had the choice to require tougher standards if and when they choose. It is ironic that a Republican led administration is willing to weaken the power of the states in order to serve its arching interest, weaken environmental standards. The following exerpt is a more detailed explanation of this bill.


The National Uniformity for Food Act of 2005, otherwise known as H.R. 4167, has a nice ring to it, doesn’t it? Sadly, this bill now being considered in the U.S. House of Representatives is anything but nice to the safety and well-being of people concerned about safe food.In fact, the bill should probably be called The Nullification of State Food Safety Laws. H.R. 4167 would nullify state-level protections against the many food safety threats the federal government has ignored.States cannot water down federal laws and regulations, but our tradition of federal government has always upheld states’ rights to adopt more protective laws and create rules where no federal rules exist. But now, the factory farm and food industry lobbyists in Washington, D.C are on the verge of taking away our right to protect ourselves at the state level.It is imperative that advocates for safe food (and for democracy) share these concerns with our federal legislators. We must urge Congress to oppose H.R. 4167, before it preempts vital state laws that protect consumers from toxins and other contaminants in our food supply. California’s Proposition 65 law, for example, would be undermined by H.R. 4167. In California, Proposition 65 requires seafood markets to post mercury warning signs, helping to protect children, expecting mothers and unborn babies from the all-too-real threat of mercury in seafood. Some supermarket chains outside of California, like Safeway and Wild Oats, have even voluntarily started using the California warnings as models for posting fish advisories in all their stores nationwide. Proposition 65 is one of the nation’s strongest public health measures, and the food industry lobbyists are working to invalidate the law with this federal food preemption bill.And it’s not just California that would be affected. The Congressional Budget Office says this food safety preemption legislation could nullify about 120 state and local food safety or labeling requirements nationwide. Given the factory farm industry and the Bush Administration’s ongoing assault on environmental and food safety protections, it’s likely that many if not all state level food safety rules would be lost if H.R. 4167 passes.

Friday, March 03, 2006

Pesticides, Herbicides and safety

The United States Geological Survey, USGS, has conducted tests of the water quality of rivers and streams all across the nation. Not surprisingly, trace amounts of pesticides and herbicides were found in each of these bodies of water.
About half of the shallow water tables have been contaminated and the contaminants were detected in all fish. A spokesperson for Beyondpesticide claims that the US uses every year over a billion pounds of these deadly chemical compounds.
No one is currently worried about these findings because none of the compounds is found in any concentrations that pause a human safety risk. Again as expected, this was the point that was emphasized by CropLife, the association that represents all the pesticide and herbicide manufacturers. What is we find out that our original estimates of the safety standards were lax? Why can't we ever learn that there is nothing that can be thrown away, everything is connected to everything else. I imagine that these are the risks that we feel that we must take if we are to feed the 6.5 billions of us. It is a vicious circle isn't it?

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Where have the Vitamins Gone?

Whenever concern is voiced regarding our ability to produce enough food for the expected 9.5 billion people by 2040 we are always reminded of the Greening Revolution and the subsequent increase in agricultural yields.

A new study at the University of California Davis has shown what many environmentalists have always suspected. Even if we were to go along and pretend that the new techniques and the resultant crops are safe and economical they are qualitatively inferior to their older counterparts by an astounding 38%. The study has investigated the content of vitamins and proteins in the new larger yielding crops of fruits and vegetables with the contents of fruits and vegetables prior to the modification.All nutritional contents were lower , in the new crops, by more than a third. Scientists explained these results by saying that faster growing crops do not allow the plants enough time to manufacture and store nutrients, nutritional value and the required time to grow are indirectly related.

To make things worse, the preliminary results on 18 kinds of new and improved wheat suggest also a substantial decrease in the nutritional contents of the new crops. Maybe we can eventually grow crops to expand the yields by a factor of say fifty but the new plants will have no nutritional value whatsoever!!! When will we ever learn.

Saturday, February 25, 2006

Do We Have Adequate Food Supplies?

The Malthusian idea that a population crash is inevitable rests on the assumption that the human ability to increase its stock of food is confined to an arithmetic rate of increase while the human population increases at an exponential rate.

It is easy to argue that Malthus was wrong. The ability to increase food production has grown at a larger rate than the rate of growth in population and statistics suggest that the global food production is sufficient to provide a healthy and a nutrisious meal to each of the expected 9-9.5 billion people by 2040. Yet many nutritionists, economists and environmentalists are convinced that our biggest challenge is the provision of an adequate diet to the over a billion people who suffer of malnutrition and food inadequacy.

So where do you stand regarding this seminal issue? Do we have adequate food supplies or is food inadequacy a major problem?

Monday, February 20, 2006

Laura on Environmentalism and Immigration

The purpose behind this experiment, the blog, is to get you to think about some ecological issues and to encourage you to start a dialogue with your colleagues. I would much rather stand on the sidelines and observe the free exchange od ideas without tipping my hand by commenting on what the posters say.

Well, having said that I am going to break my unwritten rule and ask (not recommendlol) that you should read the post by Laura about "Environmentalism and Immigration". For those of you who are new to bloges, go to the post in question and click on comments at the end of the item. Laura , that was a very well thought out and very nicely written response. Tnx. As far as I am concerned the experiment is a success!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Sunday, February 19, 2006

Global Warming: Have we lost the race to stop it?

Another evidence yet that global warming might have reached the "tipping point".


Top News
Could Global Warming Become a Runaway Train?
Updated 11:49 AM ET February 19, 2006
Recently, it was another beautiful, sunny day out on the Arctic tundra.
It may sound nicer that way -- but it's a big problem for the earth.
Scientists say the warm weather adds to global warming because of "feedback loops."
In a feeback loop, the rising temperature on the Earth changes the environment in ways that then create even more heat. Scientists consider feedback loops the single biggest threat to civilization from global warming.
Past a certain point -- the tipping point, they say -- there may be no stopping the changes.
Scientists working in the Arctic report that feedback loops are already underway. As the frozen sea surface of the Arctic Ocean melts back, there's less white to reflect the sun's heat back into space -- and more dark open water to absorb that heat, which then melts the floating sea ice even faster. More than a third of summer sea ice disappeared in the past 30 years.
In the ground next to the ocean, scientists say, warming has also awakened another enormous danger -- billions of tons of carbon locked up for eons by was once frozen ground.
"I feel very uncomfortable about it," says Walter Oechel, a scientist studying the problem. "I mean, it's not the way the Arctic should be."
Oechel discovered that as global warming thaws and dries out the vast tundra, old decayed vegetation releases carbon dioxide. That's the same greenhouse gas that comes from car and plane exhausts, and power-plant chimneys -- and the tundra releasing carbon dioxide warms the atmosphere even more.
Scientist: Reduce Fossil Fuels
It's a slow-motion time bomb that's speeding up and could become self-generating, Oechel says.
"Humans are putting about 6 or 7 billion metric tons of carbon in the atmosphere a year," he adds. "And we are standing on 200 billion tons here. If any significant portion came out, that dwarfs the current human injection into the atmosphere. And once that runaway release occurred, there'd be no way to stop it."
Oechel and other scientists now report that there are an additional 200 billion metric tons of carbon now beginning to leak from the northern boreal forests that encircle the Arctic tundra -- apparently for the same reason: The rising temperatures are drying out these forests, which means more decayed vegetation releasing yet more carbon dioxide.
Oechel says new carbon-free energy technologies, such as injecting greenhouse gas from power plants back into the ground, or zero-emissions cars, will be vital for maintaining a livable planet -- eventually, once they're developed.
But first, he adds, "The longer we wait, the worse the situation gets, and the harder it's going to be to crack."
Oechel says that, by his calculations, the only possibility for preventing a runaway greenhouse effect on earth is to start reducing the use of fossil fuels like oil, gas and coal immediately.

Friday, February 17, 2006

Environmentalism and Immigration

A comprehensive immigration policy for the United States is conspicuous by its absence. Actually, the current immigration policies or lack thereof, has come under attack from many sides over the recent years.
As you all know, more than 3/4 of the annual net growth in the US population is attributed to immigration. A rough back of the envelope kind of a calculation would suggest that immigration is responsible for about 2 million out of the 2.75 million annual growth. That is the equivalent of a major new city every year!!!. Once that figure of 2 million is combined with the typical level of consumption that is associated with life in the US it becomes clear that the ecological impact of such an increase in the US population has global ramifications.
Based on the above some have advocated the adoption of strict immigration limits on purely ecological grounds. What is your personal point of view regarding such efforts? Can the world afford an additional 2-2.5 million US style consumers every year?

Thursday, February 16, 2006


In response to a comment by an Anon regarding the extent of the HIV AIDS epidemics in the world and whether the resulting death rate is large enogh to negate the growth in world population I have looked up the following data for the year 2005:

Total number of people living with HIA AIDS 40.2 Million

Total estimated deaths from HIV AIDS 3.1 Million

Total number of people living with HIV AIDS
in sub-saharan Africa 26.0 Million people

Total deaths from HIV AIDS since 1961 12.0 Million

Note the very high concentration of HIV AIDS in sub- saharan Africa.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

How Many?

It is very clear that "only mad men and Economists" believe that it is possible to have infinite growth on a finite base. If you believe that the size of the human population in the world has reached a level that is already of concern what would be the specific policies that you would be willing to follow in order to resolve the issue?