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December 31, 2013

Tar sand extraction is covering Canada with mercury

Mercury is an incredibly potent neurotoxin. It really isn't safe at any level. It's a shame then that over seven thousand square miles of Canada is coated with the stuff. Scientists Find 7,300-Mile Mercury Contamination 'Bullseye' Around Canadian Tar Sands | ThinkProgress
Just one week after Al Jazeera discovered that regulatory responsibility for Alberta, Canada’s controversial tar sands would be handed over to a fossil-fuel funded corporation, federal scientists have found that the area’s viscous petroleum deposits are surrounded by a nearly 7,500-square-mile ring of mercury. Canadian government scientists have found that levels of mercury — a potent neurotoxin which has been found to cause severe birth defects and brain damage — around the region’s vast tar sand operations are up to 16 times higher than regular levels for the region. The findings, presented by Environment Canada researcher Jane Kirk at an international toxicology conference, showed that the 7,500 miles contaminated are “currently impacted by airborne Hg (mercury) emissions originating from oilsands developments.” The Canadian government touts Alberta’s oil sands as the third-largest proven crude oil reserve in the world, next to Saudi Arabia and Venezuela. The region’s heavy crude oil is mixed with clay, bitumen, and a good deal of sand — hence the name “oil sands.” This makes for a unique and energy-intensive extraction process that some scientists say produces three times the greenhouse gas emissions of conventionally produced oil. Environment Canada has said it expects production emissions from tar sands to hit 104 million tonnes of CO2 by 2020 under current expansion plans.

December 28, 2013

Researcher admits he faked AIDS vaccine results

Joe. My. God.: Researcher Resigns After Confessing To Faking AIDS Vaccine Results
Dong-Pyou Han was an assistant professor of biomedical sciences. He resigned in October after admitting responsibility, an ISU spokesman said. The fraudulent results helped an ISU research team gain millions of dollars in federal money, according to James Bradac, who helps oversee AIDS vaccine grants for the National Institutes of Health. Bradac said in a phone interview Monday that Han apparently added human blood components to the rabbit blood to skew experiments' results. He said this was the worst case of research fraud he'd seen in his 24 years at the federal agency. The human blood came from people whose bodies had produced antibodies to HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, Bradac said. The presence of these antibodies in the rabbits' blood made it appear that the vaccine was spurring the animals to build defenses against HIV.

December 20, 2013

World experiences hottest November in 134 years

Global warming and climate collapse should be the lead story every day, but no one is talking about it. World experiences hottest November in 134 years | The Raw Story
The average temperature was 0.78 Celsius (1.40 Fahrenheit), above the 20th century average of 12.9 Celsius (55.2 Fahrenheit), NOAA said. It was also the 37th November in a row with worldwide temperatures above the 20th century average. In fact, the last 28 years have been warmer than normal, NOAA added. “The last below-average November global temperature was November 1976 and the last below-average global temperature for any month was February 1985,” the agency said.

December 18, 2013

Scientists confirm narcolepsy is an autoimmune disease

Narcolepsy confirmed as autoimmune disease : Nature News & Comment
As the H1N1 swine flu pandemic swept the world in 2009, China saw a spike in cases of narcolepsy — a mysterious disorder that involves sudden, uncontrollable sleepiness. Meanwhile, in Europe, around 1 in 15,000 children who were given Pandemrix — a now-defunct flu vaccine that contained fragments of the pandemic virus — also developed narcolepsy, a chronic disease. Immunologist Elizabeth Mellins and narcolepsy researcher Emmanuel Mignot at Stanford University School of Medicine in California and their collaborators have now partly solved the mystery behind these events, while also confirming a longstanding hypothesis that narcolepsy is an autoimmune disease, in which the immune system attacks healthy cells. Narcolepsy is mostly caused by the gradual loss of neurons that produce hypocretin, a hormone that keeps us awake. Many scientists had suspected that the immune system was responsible, but the Stanford team has found the first direct evidence: a special group of CD4 T cells (a type of immune cell) that targets hypocretin and is found only in people with narcolepsy. “Up till now, the idea that narcolepsy was an autoimmune disorder was a very compelling hypothesis, but this is the first direct evidence of autoimmunity,” says Mellins. “I think these cells are a smoking gun.” The study is published today in Science Translational Medicine1. Thomas Scammell, a neurologist at Harvard Medical School in Boston, Massachusetts, says that the results are welcome after “years of modest disappointment”, marked by many failures to find antibodies made by a person's body against their own hypocretin. “It’s one of the biggest things to happen in the narcolepsy field for some time.”