May 14, 2015 archive
May 14 2015
May 14 2015
Lots of bad environmental news this week. I don’t really know much about Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) so I’ll let the pieces speak for themselves.
Bees Are Dying and We’ll All Pay for It
Kiona Smith-Strickland, Gizmodo
Bee colonies are still dying, and food may get more expensive as a result.
Beekeepers in the U.S. lost 42.1 percent of their bee colonies between April 2014 and April 2015, according to a recent annual survey. Those losses continue a trend of die offs among bee colonies, which beekeepers say could drastically affect our food supply.
Without bees to pollinate crops, we stand to lose many staple foods that we eat every day, from apples and tomatoes, to onions and berries.
Winter losses tell only part of the story. In fact, U.S. beekeepers lost enough colonies during the last two summers to make up for the improvements in winter losses. Last summer, about 27.4 percent of colonies died out. Large-scale commercial beekeepers, those with more than 50 colonies, seem to be especially prone to losing bee colonies during the summer.
Why are bee colonies dying? Several reasons: sometimes they succumb to winter cold, and sometimes a colony falls prey to mites, viruses, or fungi. Colony collapse disorder, or CCD, is one of the biggest problems, and it’s actually pretty creepy. Colonies that have succumbed to CCD are eerily deserted. The adult bees are gone, but there aren’t any bodies. It’s likely that the workers died elsewhere, but they left with unhatched young in the brood chamber, ample supplies of food in the hive, and the queen all alone in the hive.
Researchers think CCD is the product of an unfortunate combination of pesticides, parasites, pathogens, and nutritional problems caused by less diversity and availability of sources of pollen and nectar. Any of those causes could also contribute to more ordinary kinds of colony loss.
A Sharp Spike in Honeybee Deaths Deepens a Worrisome Trend
By MICHAEL WINES, The New York Times
MAY 13, 2015
In an annual survey released on Wednesday by the Bee Informed Partnership, a consortium of universities and research laboratories, about 5,000 beekeepers reported losing 42.1 percent of their colonies in the 12-month period that ended in April. That is well above the 34.2 percent loss reported for the same period in 2013 and 2014, and it is the second-highest loss recorded since year-round surveys began in 2010.
Most striking, however, was that honeybee deaths spiked last summer, exceeding winter deaths for the first time. Commercial beekeepers, some of whom rent their hives to farmers during pollination seasons, were hit especially hard, the survey’s authors stated.
“We expect the colonies to die during the winter, because that’s a stressful season,” said Dennis vanEngelsdorp, an assistant entomology professor at the University of Maryland who directs the survey for the bee partnership. “What’s totally shocking to me is that the losses in summer, which should be paradise for bees, exceeded the winter losses.”
Dr. vanEngelsdorp said increasingly poor nutrition could be a factor in the rising summer death rate. Rising crop prices have led farmers to plow and plant millions of acres of land that was once home to wildflowers; since 2007, an Agriculture Department program that pays farmers to put sensitive and erosion-prone lands in a conservation reserve has lost an area roughly equal to half of Indiana, and budget cuts promise to shrink the program further. Dr. vanEngelsdrop and other scientists cite two other factors at work in the rising death rate: a deadly parasite, the varroa mite, and pesticides.
In recent years, some experts have focused on neonicotinoids, a class of pesticides used almost universally on some major crops in the United States. The European Commission has banned the use of three variants of the pesticide on flowering plants, citing risks to bees, and questioned whether they should be used at all.
Honeybees dying, situation ‘unheard of’
By Justin Wm. Moyer, Washington Post
May 14 at 3:11 AM
Just last year, it seemed there was something to celebrate despite planet Earth’s ongoing honeybee apocalypse: Bee colony losses were down. Not by enough, but they were down.
“One year does not make a trend,” Jeff Pettis, a co-author of the survey who heads the federal government’s bee research laboratory in Beltsville, Md., told the New York Times.
Turns out Pettis was right. VanEngelsdorp and other researchers at the Bee Informed Partnership, affiliated with the Department of Agriculture, just announced more than 40 percent of honeybee hives died this past year, as the Associated Press reported. The number is preliminary, but is the second-highest annual loss recorded to date.
“What we’re seeing with this bee problem is just a loud signal that there’s some bad things happening with our agro-ecosystems,” study co-author Keith Delaplane of the University of Georgia told the AP. “We just happen to notice it with the honeybee because they are so easy to count.”
The state worst affected was Oklahoma, which lost more than 60 percent of its hives. Hawaii escaped relatively unscathed, losing less than 14 percent.
“Most of the major commercial beekeepers get a dark panicked look in their eyes when they discuss these losses and what it means to their businesses,” Pennsylvania State University entomology professor Diana Cox-Foster, who didn’t participate in the survey, said. Her state lost more than 60 percent of its colonies.
The USDA estimated that honeybees add more than $15 billion to the value of the country’s crops per year.
“If losses continue at the 33 percent level, it could threaten the economic viability of the bee pollination industry,” the department said. “Honey bees would not disappear entirely, but the cost of honey bee pollination services would rise, and those increased costs would ultimately be passed on to consumers through higher food costs. Now is the time for research into the cause and treatment of CCD before CCD becomes an agricultural crisis.”
Science Oriented Video
The law that entropy always increases holds, I think, the supreme position among the laws of Nature. If someone points out to you that your pet theory of the universe is in disagreement with Maxwell’s equations – then so much the worse for Maxwell’s equations. If it is found to be contradicted by observation – well, these experimentalists do bungle things sometimes. But if your theory is found to be against the second law of thermodynamics I can give you no hope; there is nothing for it but to collapse in deepest humiliation.
–Sir Arthur Stanley Eddington, The Nature of the Physical World (1927)
Science News and Blogs
- U.S. Will Allow Drilling for Oil in Arctic Ocean, By CORAL DAVENPORT, The New York Times
- Alaska’s Tricky Intersection of Obama’s Energy and Climate Legacies, By CORAL DAVENPORT, The New York Times
- Shell’s Record Adds to the Anger of Those Opposing Arctic Drilling, By JOHN SCHWARTZ and CLIFFORD KRAUSS, The New York Times
- Seattle Port Votes to Delay Drilling Rigs on the Way to Alaska, By KIRK JOHNSON, The New York Times
- Port Of Seattle Votes To Delay Arrival Of Shell Oil Rigs, But The Fight’s Not Over Yet, by Natasha Geiling, Think Progress
- Deep-water drilling to resume near site of 2010 BP oil disaster, Al Jazeera
- Enbridge, Michigan settle over 2010 Kalamazoo River oil spill, by Renee Lewis, Al Jazeera
- Arctic drilling for ‘extreme oil’ is risky – and letting Shell do the work is reckless, by Cindy Shogan, The Guardian
- Fear of Ruin as Disease Takes Hold of Italy’s Olive Trees, By JIM YARDLEY, The New York Times
- First collision data from a new detector at CERN’s Large Hadron Collider, by Jon Butterworth, The Guardian
- Large Hadron Collider Detects Extremely Rare Particle Decay Predicted By Standard Model, By Avaneesh Pandey, International Business Times (autoplay ad)
- Crew Change on International Space Station Is Delayed, By NICHOLAS ST. FLEUR, The New York Times
- Sarah Brightman cancels trip to the International Space Station, By Martin Chilton, The Telegraph
- A Grisly Find Under a Supermarket Illuminates France’s Medieval History, By AURELIEN BREEDEN, The New York Times
- Gold-Filled Tomb of Chinese ‘Survivor’ Mom Discovered, by Owen Jarus, Live Science
- PHOTON SPACE SAIL successfully Kickstarted into orbit, by Richard Chirgwin, The Register
- All 5 of Pluto’s Known Moons Spied by NASA Probe (Photo), by Mike Wall, Space.com
- Mercury got very old magnetic field: NASA, By: Parham Dolati, Young Herald
- Oxygen on Mars to Make Human Missions ‘Lighter’, AFP
- New details emerge about Ceres’ bright spots, by Laurel Kornfeld, The Space Reporter
- New type of star cluster spotted in neighboring galaxy, by Kathy Fey, The Space Reporter
- New Dinosaur Is Velociraptor’s Cousin, And It May Have Been Even More Dangerous, By Ed Mazza, The Huffington Post
Obligatories, News and Blogs below.
May 14 2015
This is your morning Open Thread. Pour your favorite beverage and review the past and comment on the future.
Find the past “On This Day in History” here.
May 14 is the 134th day of the year (135th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 231 days remaining until the end of the year.
On this day in 1796, Edward Jenner, an English country doctor from Gloucestershire, administers the world’s first vaccination as a preventive treatment for smallpox, a disease that had killed millions of people over the centuries.
Edward Anthony Jenner (17 May 1749 – 26 January 1823) was an English scientist who studied his natural surroundings in Berkeley, Gloucestershire. Jenner is widely credited as the pioneer of smallpox vaccine, and is sometimes referred to as the “Father of Immunology”; his works have been said to have “saved more lives than the work of any other man”.
Lady Mary Wortley Montagu witnessed the Ottoman Empire practice of variolation during her 1716-1718 sojourn in Istanbul, where her husband was the British ambassador. She brought the idea back to Britain. Voltaire, a few years later, recorded that 60% of people caught smallpox, with 20% of the population dying of it. In the years following 1770 there were at least six people in England and Germany (Sevel, Jensen, Jesty 1774, Rendell, Plett 1791) who had successfully tested the possibility of using the cowpox vaccine as an immunization for smallpox in humans. For example, Dorset farmer Benjamin Jesty had successfully vaccinated and presumably induced immunity in his wife and two children with cowpox during a smallpox epidemic in 1774, but it was not until Jenner’s work some twenty years later that the procedure became widely understood. Indeed, Jenner may have been aware of Jesty’s procedures and success.
Jenner’s Initial Theory:
The initial source of infection was a disease of horses, called “the grease”, and that this was transferred to cows by farm workers, transformed, and then manifested as cowpox.
Noting the common observation that milkmaids did not generally get smallpox, Jenner theorized that the pus in the blisters which milkmaids received from cowpox (a disease similar to smallpox, but much less virulent) protected the milkmaids from smallpox. He may have had the advantage of hearing stories of Benjamin Jesty and others who deliberately arranged cowpox infection of their families, and then noticed a reduced smallpox risk in those families.
On 14 May 1796, Jenner tested his hypothesis by inoculating James Phipps, a young boy of 8 years (the son of Jenner’s gardener), with material from the cowpox blisters of the hand of Sarah Nelmes, a milkmaid who had caught cowpox from a cow called Blossom, whose hide hangs on the wall of the library at St George’s medical school (now in Tooting). Blossom’s hide commemorates one of the school’s most renowned alumni. Phipps was the 17th case described in Jenner’s first paper on vaccination.
Jenner inoculated Phipps with cowpox pus in both arms on the same day. The inoculation was accomplished by scraping the pus from Nelmes’ blisters onto a piece of wood then transferring this to Phipps’ arms. This produced a fever and some uneasiness but no great illness. Later, he injected Phipps with variolous material, which would have been the routine attempt to produce immunity at that time. No disease had followed. Jenner reported that later the boy was again challenged with variolous material and again showed no sign of infection.
Smallpox is more dangerous than variolation and cowpox less dangerous than variolation.
Infection with cowpox gives immunity to smallpox.
If variolation after infection with cowpox fails to produce a smallpox infection, immunity to smallpox has been achieved.
Immunity to smallpox can be induced much more safely than by variolation.
Ronald Hopkins states: “Jenner’s unique contribution was not that he inoculated a few persons with cowpox, but that he then proved they were immune to smallpox. Moreover, he demonstrated that the protective cowpox could be effectively inoculated from person to person, not just directly from cattle. In addition he tested his theory on a series of 23 subjects. This aspect of his research method increased the validity of his evidence.
He continued his research and reported it to the Royal Society, who did not publish the initial report. After improvement and further work, he published a report of twenty-three cases. Some of his conclusions were correct, and some erroneous – modern microbiological and microscopic methods would make this easier to repeat. The medical establishment, as cautious then as now, considered his findings for some time before accepting them. Eventually vaccination was accepted, and in 1840 the British government banned variolation – the use of smallpox itself – and provided vaccination – using cowpox – free of charge. (See Vaccination acts). The success of his discovery soon began to spread around Europe and as an example was used en masse in the Spanish Balmis Expedition a three year mission to the Americas led by Dr Francisco Javier de Balmis with the aim of giving thousands the smallpox vaccine. The expedtition was successful and Jenner wrote, “I don’t imagine the annals of history furnish an example of philanthropy so noble, so extensive as this.”
Jenner’s continuing work on vaccination prevented his continuing his ordinary medical practice. He was supported by his colleagues and the King in petitioning Parliament and was granted £10,000 for his work on vaccination. In 1806 he was granted another £20,000 for his continuing work.
In 1979, the World Health Organization declared smallpox an eradicated disease. This was the result of coordinated public health efforts by many people, but vaccination was an essential component. And although it was declared eradicated, some samples still remain in laboratories in Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in Atlanta, Georgia in the United States, and State Research Center of Virology and Biotechnology VECTOR in Koltsovo, Novosibirsk Oblast, Russia.
The importance of his work does not stop there. His vaccine also laid the groundwork for modern-day discoveries in immunology, and the field he began may someday lead to cures for arthritis, AIDS, and many other diseases of the time.
May 14 2015
In an unprecedented break with the White House, Democrats in the Senate refuse to back fast-track authority for the president. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) and Nobel laureate in Economics Joseph E. Stiglitz joins”All In” host Chris Hayes after he called the president’s criticism “disrespectful.
The 10 biggest lies you’ve been told about the Trans-Pacific Partnership
David Dayen, Salon
You can call it “misleading” or “offering half-truths,” but when push comes to a shove, these are lies
It’s beneath the dignity of the Presidency to so aggressively paint opponents as not just wrong on the facts, but hiding the truth on purpose. Warren has responded without using the same indecorous tactics. Unfortunately, I don’t have the same self-control. So by way of response, here are ten moments where the President or his subordinates have lied – call it “misled” or “offered half-truths” or whatever; but I’m in an ornery mood so let’s just say lied – about his trade agenda:
1. 40 PERCENT: The President and his team have repeatedly described TPP as a deal involving nearly 40 percent of global GDPThis tells only part of the story. [..
The point is that saying TPP is about “40 percent of GDP” intimates that it would massively change the ability to export without tariffs. In reality it would have virtually no significance in opening new markets. To the extent that there’s a barrier in global trade today, it comes from currency manipulation by countries wanting to keep their exports cheap. The TPP has no currency provisions.
2. JOB CREATION: Saying, as the White House has, that the deal would support “an additional 650,000 jobs” is not true. This figure came from a hypothetical calculation of a report by the Peterson Institute for International Economics, which the Institute itself said was an incorrect way to use their data. [..]
The deal is actually more about building up barriers than taking them down. Much of TPP is devoted to increasing copyright and patent protections for prescription drugs and Hollywood media content. As economist Dean Baker notes, this is protectionist, and will raise prices for drugs, movies and music here and abroad.
3. EXPORTS ONLY: The Administration constantly discusses trade as solely a question of U.S. exports. A recent Council of Economic Advisors report (pdf) touts: Exporters pay higher wages, and export industry growth translates into higher average earnings. But the Economic Policy Institute points out that this ignores imports, and therefore the ballooning trade deficit, which weighs down economic growth and wages.
4. MOST PROGRESSIVE: Obama has called TPP “the most progressive trade deal in history.” First of all, so did ill Clinton and Al Gore, when talking about NAFTA in 1993. Second, there’s reason to believe TPP doesn’t even clear a low bar for progressive trade deals. [..]
Labor groups can only ask the White House to enforce labor rights violations, and for the past several years, the Administration simply hasn’t. So when Obama says violators of TPP will face “meaningful consequences,” based on the Administration’s prior enforcement, he’s lying.
5. CHANGING LAWS: On the controversial topic of Investor-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS), where corporations can sue sovereign governments for monetary damages for violating trade agreements that hurt the company’s “expected future profits,” the White House has engaged in a shell game. [..]
Even third-party countries have curtailed regulations in reaction to ISDS rulings, as New Zealand did with their cigarette packaging law, awaiting the outcome of a dispute between the tobacco industry and Australia (a suit that continues despite an initial victory for Australia).
6. NEVER LOST: The White House assumes that the only thing America cares about with ISDS is the upsetting of our own laws. [..]
This is irrelevant. What ISDS does is offer bailout insurance policy to multinational corporations. If they run into discrimination or regulatory squeezing by a foreign government, they can use an extra-judicial process to recoup their investment. Workers screwed over by trade agreements have no ability to sue governments; only corporations get this privilege.
7. WEAKENING DODD-FRANK: Obama reacted strongly to Senator Warren’s charge that a future President could overturn financial regulations or other rules through trade deals. [..]
A future President might find it acceptable, and today’s vote on “fast-track” authority would give trade deals an expedited process, with no amendments or filibusters by Congress, for six years, outlasting the current Administration. Scott Walker or Jeb Bush may decide it’s perfectly appropriate to undermine regulations in trade deals.
8. STOPPING CHINA: President Obama frequently casts TPP as a way to “contain” China. [..]
This is so facile as to be totally meaningless. China is a major Pacific Rim economy, and will have a presence regardless of our actions. As former Clinton Defense Department official Chas Freeman writes, “China has been and will remain an inseparable part of China’s success story.” [..]
9. SECRET DEAL: Obama has angrily dismissed the notion that TPP is a “secret” deal, saying that everyone will have public access to the TPP text for at least 60 days before a final vote. This is not the point opponents are making. The vote on fast track would severely limit Congressional input into the deal. And right now, members of Congress can only see the text in a secure room, without being able to bring staffers or take notes, or even talk about specifics in public. That makes the deal effectively secret during the fast track vote. [..]
10. JUST A POLITICIAN: This idea from Obama that everybody opposing fast-track is acting like a mere “politician,” aside from demonizing the concept of representing constituents, neglects the fact that he’s a politician too. [..]
Since Obama has a large platform and will not publicly debate any opponent on trade, he can float above it all, acting like a principled soul only wanting to better the country rather than a transactional ward heeler. This may be the biggest lie, that Obama’s somehow superior to everyone else in this debate.
May 14 2015
You stop being racist and I’ll stop talking about it.
Soul Daddy interviews Morgan Freeman
This week’s guests-
Reza Aslan will probably be on to talk about Of Kings and Prophets, a new ABC series based on the life of King Saul. He will be one of the producers. His last 2 books, No god but God: The Origins, Evolution, and Future of Islam and Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth were critically well received except on Faux and he has a noted celebrity feud with Bill Maher.
Tom Brokaw’s web exclusive extended interview and the real news below.