Blue Marble Feed | Mother Jones Mother Jones logo en New Study Finds That Humans Should Kill Smaller, Younger Animals <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>When it comes to food, humans gravitate to the biggest item on the menu: overstuffed turkeys, 1,000-pound sturgeons, the fattest burger. But a <a href="" target="_blank">new study</a> in <em>Science </em>shows how our obsession with taking down the biggest prey is damaging the world's wildlife.</p> <p>Looking at 282 marine species and 117 terrestrial mammals, researchers at the University of Victoria found that human hunters and fishers overwhelmingly target adult animals over juveniles. Driven by the prestige and financial payoff of a trophy kill or gargantuan catch&mdash;and an aversion to killing young animals that might be seen as cute&mdash;humans consume up to 14 times the amount of adult animal biomass as other predators. And that's contributing to the swift decline of populations of large fish and land carnivores, the researchers say.</p> <p>Thanks to advanced hunting tactics and tools that allow us to kill without getting too close, humans have long been able to take down massive prey (<em>e.g.</em>, the Ice Age mammoths). But with modern advancements such as guns and the automated dragnets of industrial-scale fishing, we've turned into "super-predators," the researchers write. That's just one reason, along with the ravages of climate change and habitat destruction, we're currently in the process of losing <a href="" target="_blank">one in six species</a> on Earth.</p> <p>These findings go against the assumption that it's better to target mature animals and spare younger ones. "Harvesters typically are required by law to release so-called under-sized salmon, trout, or crabs, or to set their rifle scopes on the 6-point elk and not the calves," explained Chris Darimont, one of the study's authors, in a call with reporters. Those regulations are in line with the paradigm of "sustainable exploitation," the idea that killing off big adult animals that dominate a habitat will allow the young to flourish and reproduce.</p> <div class="inline inline-left" style="display: table; width: 1%"><img alt="" class="image" height="353" src="/files/worm1HR.jpg" width="363"><div class="caption"><strong>Humans exploit large prey at far higher rates than other predators. </strong>P. Huey/ Science</div> </div> <p>The authors argue that this approach causes undesirable reverberations in the food web and, eventually, the gene pool. While the loss of the largest predators may be a boon to their prey in the short-term, ballooning populations of herbivores can devastate vegetation and have been linked to festering illnesses. While humans may raise increasingly large domesticated animals&mdash;whether by pumping cows with steroids or breeding only the fattest hogs&mdash;exploiting the largest animals in the wild can lead to tinier animals. For example, as bigger, stronger fish are plucked from the oceans, survival of the fittest undergoes a strange inversion: Smaller fish are more likely to reproduce in their absence, producing fewer, smaller offspring that are less resistant to further threats.</p> <p>The authors suggest that human hunters start thinking small. In the case of fisheries, they suggest focusing on smaller catches&mdash;a process of narrowing entrances into traps and nets and using hooks to allow larger fish to evade capture. To preserve top carnivores on land, Darimont and coauthor Tom Reimchen say that tolerance&mdash;and a decreased emphasis on <a href="" target="_blank">prized trophy kills</a>&mdash;is the best way to bolster dwindling populations.</p></body></html> Blue Marble Animals Food and Ag Science Top Stories Thu, 20 Aug 2015 15:00:06 +0000 Gregory Barber 282306 at There Might Be Fracking Wastewater on Your Organic Fruits and Veggies <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>The US Department of Agriculture's organics standards, written 15 years ago, strictly <a href="" target="_blank">ban</a> petroleum-derived fertilizers commonly used in conventional agriculture. But the same rules do not prohibit farmers from irrigating their crops with petroleum-laced wastewater obtained from oil and gas wells&mdash;a practice that is increasingly common in drought-stricken Southern California.</p> <p><a href="" target="_blank">As I reported last month</a>, oil companies last year supplied half the water that went to the 45,000 acres of farmland in Kern County's Cawelo Water District, farmland that is owned, in part, by Sunview, a company that sells <a href="" target="_blank">certified organic</a> raisins and grapes. Food watchdog groups are concerned that the state hasn't required oil companies to disclose all the chemicals they use in oil drilling and fracking operations, much less set safety limits for all those chemicals in irrigation water.</p> <p>A spokesman for the USDA's National Organics Program confirmed that it has little to say on the matter. "The USDA organic regulations do not directly address the use of irrigation water on organic farms," said the spokesman, who asked to be quoted on background, "but organic operations must generally maintain or improve the natural resources of the operation, including soil and water quality."</p> <p>Of course, that's easier said than done. USDA organic regulations do not require farms to perform water quality tests, and irrigation water is not evaluated as an input by the Organic Materials Review Institute, which vets products used on organic farms. Calls placed to California Certified Organic Farmers, which certifies organic farms in California, were not returned.</p> <p>Irrigation water appears to be a major loophole in a food safety program that otherwise strictly controls what farmers can apply to their land. Notably, the organics program <em>does</em> prohibit the use of sewage sludge-based fertilizer, a product widely used on nonorganic farms that <a href="" target="_blank">sometimes contains chemicals such as flame retardants and pharmaceuticals</a>.</p> <p>On Monday, California Assemblyman Mike Gatto, a Democrat from Glendale, introduced <a href="" target="_blank">a bill</a> that would require crops irrigated with wastewater from oil and gas operations to be labeled as such. "No one expects their lettuce to contain heavy chemicals from fracking wastewater," he <a href="" target="_blank">explained in a press release</a>.</p> <p>That's especially true if their lettuce is labeled "organic," adds Adam Scow, the California director of the environmental group Food and Water Watch: "I think most people's logic would tell them that's not a practice consistent with organic standards."</p></body></html> Blue Marble Food and Ag Science Top Stories Farmers fracking organic Thu, 20 Aug 2015 10:00:07 +0000 Josh Harkinson 282086 at The FDA Just Approved "Viagra for Women" <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>More than 17 years after it ushered in Viagra, the Federal Drug Administration <a href="" target="_blank">approved the first women's sex-drive drug</a>, flibanserin, earlier today.&nbsp; Sprout Pharmaceuticals will manufacture the drug, which they've named Addyi, and sell it to women with low libido, or <a href="" target="_blank">hypoactive sexual desire disorder (HSDD)</a>.</p> <p>While the pill has garnered much attention under monikers like "pink Viagra" or "Viagra for women," its purpose and mechanism have little in common with the famous blue pill for men. The drug will not physically bring blood to parts of the body to assist&nbsp;arousal, but instead will alter chemicals in the brain to increase sexual desire.</p> <p>Is this a victory for women after decades of being ignored by biased pharmaceutical researchers?</p> <p>Well, not necessarily. As <a href="" target="_blank">we reported in June</a>:</p> <blockquote> <p>Women who took the drug in trials reported no more than one additional <a href=";action=click&amp;pgtype=Homepage&amp;module=first-column-region&amp;region=top-news&amp;WT.nav=top-news" target="_blank">"sexually satisfying event"</a> per month than women who received a placebo.</p> </blockquote> <p>Not a great track record. Many health experts and academics <a href="" target="_blank">doubt the existence</a> of HSDD and believe Big Pharma is fabricating a disorder and exploiting gender imbalances to create a new market. Private investors <a href="" target="_blank">staked</a> some $50 million on flibanserin's approval, according to <em>Forbes</em>.</p> <p>The FDA's decision came after two prior rejections of the drug because of side effects like dry mouth, fatigue, nausea, and fainting. On the bright side, consumers of Addyi ready to jump into bed will be relieved to hear that the side effects have apparently been diminished.</p></body></html> Blue Marble Health Sex and Gender Wed, 19 Aug 2015 00:35:16 +0000 Luke Whelan 282201 at California Is on Fire. This Map Shows Where. <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>On August 17, 2013&mdash;two years ago today&mdash;a deer hunter near California's Yosemite National Park ignored a campfire ban and <a href="" target="_blank">burned trash from his dinner</a>. The embers blew into dry brush, starting <a href="" target="_blank">the third worst wildfire in the state's history</a>. All told, the Rim Fire, as it came to be called, <a href="" target="_blank">burned</a> 257,314 acres <a href="" target="_blank">in and around Yosemite</a>.</p> <p>No wildfires of that scale have occurred since, but, <a href="" target="_blank">thanks to drought and climate change</a>, California <a href="" target="_blank">is far from out of the woods</a>. In fact, in 2015, 4,382 wildfires have already scorched a total of 117,960 acres, <a href="" target="_blank">more than double the five-year average</a> for this time of year. <span style="font-family: Verdana, Arial, sans-serif; line-height: 24px;">Firefighters&nbsp;</span><a href="" style="line-height: 24px;" target="_blank">have finally controlled</a><span style="font-family: Verdana, Arial, sans-serif; line-height: 24px;">&nbsp;the largest two fires, in Northern California's Jerusalem Valley, but not before the blazes razed&nbsp;nearly 100,000 acres.&nbsp;</span></p> <p>The map below, made by California's wildfire fighting agency, Cal Fire, gives a sense of where these fires are occurring.&nbsp;To read more details about each fire and how much of it is contained today, click on the map's fire icons or see<a href="" target="_blank"> Cal Fire's ongoing reports here</a>.&nbsp;</p> <p><iframe height="480" src=";hl=en" width="630"></iframe></p> <p>And California isn't even the state with the most acres burning&nbsp;right now.<a href="" target="_blank"> A blaze in Idaho</a> has consumed more than 200,000 acres so far. In Alaska, wildfires have <a href="" target="_blank">burned more than 5 million acres</a> this year. This map from the&nbsp;research organization <a href="" target="_blank">Climate Central</a> shows&nbsp;where wildfires are occurring nationwide:</p> <p><iframe height="500" scrolling="NO" src=";utm_medium=embed&amp;utm_campaign=wildfiremap" width="630"></iframe></p></body></html> Blue Marble Maps Climate Change Food and Ag Mon, 17 Aug 2015 23:21:36 +0000 Luke Whelan 282076 at Your Meat-Eating Habit Is Killing More Than Just Cows <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>The earth is in the middle of its <a href="" target="_blank">sixth mass extinction,</a> and die-offs are happening more quickly<a href="" target="_blank"> than ever before</a>. In a little over a century, the world has said goodbye to more than 400 species&mdash;and many biologists believe this is just the beginning. Scientists predict that in the next 35 years, as many as 37 percent of the world's species could go extinct, if current trends continue.</p> <p>While we know that<a href="" target="_blank"> climate change is a major culprit</a> in the loss of biodiversity, some researchers now believe burgers might also be to blame. In a new <a href="" target="_blank">report</a>, a team from Florida International University cited the land degradation, pollution, and deforestation caused by rising global demand for meat as "likely the leading cause of modern species extinctions," and the problem is only expected to get worse.</p> <p>"It's a colossally important paper," Gidon Eshel, a geophysicist at Bard College in Annandale-On-Hudson, New York, who studies how human diets affect the environment, told<em> </em><a href="" target="_blank"><em>Science Magazine</em>: </a></p> <blockquote> <p>Researchers have struggled to determine the full impacts of meat consumption on biodiversity, Eshel says. "Now we can say, only slightly fancifully: You eat a steak, you kill a lemur in Madagascar. You eat a chicken, you kill an Amazonian parrot."</p> </blockquote> <p>Meat consumption has increased globally by 24 percent since the 1960s, mostly fueled by high demand from wealthy countries like the United States. Each year the number of livestock&mdash;specifically cattle, sheep, goats, and buffalo&mdash;increases by 25 million, requiring more space for both housing and feed production. Cattle, which require vast amounts of feed and produce the potent greenhouse gas methane, are expected to grow in number by more than 1 billion by 2050.</p> <p>The world's "biodiveristy hotspots," areas biologists have identified where many species flourish, have already been reduced by nearly 90 percent in size and are now restricted to only 2 percent of the Earth's land surface. What's worse is that these biodiverse areas are the places where meat production is most likely to increase in the coming years. Researchers have predicted an additional loss of as much as 50 percent of land to livestock production.</p> <p>Though Americans are already <a href="" target="_blank">eating less meat than they used to</a>, the researchers emphasized the continued need to cut back, especially because of how much meat ends up going to waste: Thirty percent of food&mdash;or $48 billion worth&mdash;is wasted in the United States each year, pushing up demand for meat production. "To support a future with lower animal product food demands," they write, "would drastically reduce habitat and biodiversity loss, fossil fuel energy use, greenhouse gas emissions, and pollution, while providing highly nutritious diets that greatly improve human health."</p></body></html> Blue Marble Climate Change Food and Ag Top Stories Mon, 17 Aug 2015 10:15:06 +0000 Gabrielle Canon 282016 at Los Angeles Just Found an Awesome Way to Fight the Drought. It Involves Balls. Here Is a Video. <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>On Monday afternoon, the mayor of Los Angeles found a ballsy way to fight California's unprecedented drought:</p> <div id="fb-root">&nbsp;</div> <script>(function(d, s, id) { var js, fjs = d.getElementsByTagName(s)[0]; if (d.getElementById(id)) return; js = d.createElement(s); = id; js.src = "//"; fjs.parentNode.insertBefore(js, fjs);}(document, 'script', 'facebook-jssdk'));</script><div class="fb-video" data-allowfullscreen="1" data-href="/garcetti/videos/vb.12476614805/10153545448799806/?type=1"> <div class="fb-xfbml-parse-ignore"> <blockquote cite=""> <p>LA just completed a project at the LA Reservoir to save 300 million gallons of water by deploying shade balls on its surface, saving our city over $250 million dollars while keeping our water clean &amp; safe.</p> Posted by <a href="">Mayor Eric Garcetti</a> on Monday, August 10, 2015</blockquote> </div> </div> <p>There are now 96 million "shade balls" floating on the surface of the LA Reservoir. They're made of plastic, the same kind of polyethylene that gallon-sized milk jugs are made of, so they don't pose a threat to the drinking water, according to the <a href="" target="_blank"><em>LA Times</em></a>. They're designed to keep water from evaporating and are expected to conserve 300 million gallons per year. And at a cost of $35 million, they're about $250 million cheaper than the alternative, a tarp-like covering.</p> <p>So, saving California from the drought just takes leadership from someone with a pair of&hellip;sorry I'll just stop now.</p> <p>#shadeballs.</p></body></html> Blue Marble Video Climate Change Climate Desk Infrastructure Wed, 12 Aug 2015 21:40:42 +0000 Tim McDonnell 281816 at Here's Another Vital Conversation That Donald Trump Is Ruining <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><div class="inline inline-center" style="display: table; width: 1%"><img alt="Donald Trump" class="image" src="/files/trump630_1.jpg"><div class="caption"><a href="" target="_blank">Albert H. Teich</a>/Shutterstock</div> </div> <p><em>This <a href="" target="_blank">story</a> was originally published by </em><a href="" target="_blank">Grist</a><em> and is reproduced here as part of the <a href="" target="_blank">Climate Desk</a> collaboration.</em></p> <p>Over at Vox, David Roberts <a href="">investigates</a> Republican presidential frontrunner Donald Trump's views on climate change and finds that they are thoughtful, nuanced, and carefully grounded in science.</p> <p>Kidding, kidding. Trump's proclamations on climate change are as sweeping, bombastic, and asinine as his shocking claim that Mexican immigrants are a bunch of rapists. Here are a couple of typical tweets:</p> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet" lang="en"> <p dir="ltr" lang="en">It's snowing &amp; freezing in NYC. What the hell ever happened to global warming?</p> &mdash; Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) <a href="">March 21, 2013</a></blockquote> <script async src="//" charset="utf-8"></script><blockquote class="twitter-tweet" lang="en"> <p dir="ltr" lang="en">Ice storm rolls from Texas to Tennessee - I'm in Los Angeles and it's freezing. Global warming is a total, and very expensive, hoax!</p> &mdash; Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) <a href="">December 6, 2013</a></blockquote> <script async src="//" charset="utf-8"></script><p>Trump thinks cold weather in the US in winter disproves the demonstrable fact that global average temperatures have been <a href="">steadily rising</a> since the Industrial Revolution. Roberts' pithy conclusion is that Trump's opinions are wrong, but, "They are, for the most part, mainstream Republican positions." That depends on how you look at it. Rejecting climate science is the norm among Republican politicians. (Republican voters are more evenly <a href="">split</a> between climate science acceptance and denial.) But Trump's specific approach to climate change represents a more rare and particularly disturbing species of climate science denialism.</p> <p>Most other Republican presidential candidates do not actually deny that the Earth is getting warmer. Rather, <a href="">they hem and haw</a> about whether humans and greenhouse gas emissions are the cause of it, and to what extent. Here are some examples:</p> <p>Jeb Bush: "I think global warming may be real&hellip;It is not unanimous among scientists that it is disproportionately manmade."</p> <p>And Rick Perry: "I don't believe man-made global warming is settled in science enough."</p> <p>And just yesterday, John Kasich: "I think that man absolutely affects the environment, but as to whether, what the impact is&hellip;the overall impact&mdash;I think that's a legitimate debate."</p> <p>They argue that the science of human-induced climate change is incomplete, but they accept that warming is measured by data and that NASA's temperature readings are accurate.</p> <div><div id="mininav" class="inline-subnav"> <!-- header content --> <div id="mininav-header-content"> <div id="mininav-header-text"> <p class="mininav-header-text" style="margin: 0; padding: 0.75em; font-size: 11px; font-weight: bold; line-height: 1.2em; background-color: rgb(221, 221, 221);"> How the 2016 contenders will deal with climate change </p> </div> </div> <!-- linked stories --> <div id="mininav-linked-stories"> <ul><span id="linked-story-276166"> <li><a href="/politics/2015/05/george-pataki-climate-change"> George Pataki Leads 2016 GOP Crowd&acirc;&#128;&brvbar;</a></li> </span> <span id="linked-story-280011"> <li><a href="/environment/2015/07/john-kasich-climate-change"> John Kasich Actually Believes in Climate Change. But He Doesn't Want to Fix It.</a></li> </span> <span id="linked-story-277231"> <li><a href="/environment/2015/06/jeb-bush-global-warming-skeptic"> Jeb Bush on Climate Change: "I'm a Skeptic"</a></li> </span> <span id="linked-story-273261"> <li><a href="/blue-marble/2015/04/marco-rubio-president-climate-change"> Marco Rubio Used to Believe in Climate Science</a></li> </span> <span id="linked-story-276516"> <li><a href="/politics/2015/06/rick-perry-climate-change-skeptic-oops"> Rick Perry Know 3 Things About Global Warming&acirc;&#128;&brvbar;</a></li> </span> <span id="linked-story-273141"> <li><a href="/environment/2015/04/rand-paul-climate-change"> Rand Paul Is No Moderate on Global Warming</a></li> </span> <span id="linked-story-272011"> <li><a href="/blue-marble/2015/03/ted-cruz-seth-myers-climate-change"> Scientists: Ted Cruz's Climate Theories Are a "Load of Claptrap"</a></li> </span> <span id="linked-story-271541"> <li><a href="/environment/2015/03/scott-walker-environment-climate-change-2016"> Scott Walker Is the Worst Candidate for the Environment</a></li> </span> <span id="linked-story-257241"> <li><a href="/environment/2014/09/hillary-clinton-fracking-shale-state-department-chevron"> How Hillary Clinton's State Department Sold Fracking to the World</a></li> </span> <span id="linked-story-267041"> <li><a href="/environment/2014/12/jim-webb-climate-change"> Jim Webb Is Awful on Climate Change</a></li> </span> <span id="linked-story-266956"> <li><a href="/environment/2014/12/martin-omalley-longshot-presidential-candidate-and-real-climate-hawk"> Martin O'Malley Is a Real Climate Hawk</a></li> </span> <span id="linked-story-275161"> <li><a href="/environment/2015/05/bernie-sanders-greenest-presidential-candidate"> Is Bernie Sanders the Best Candidate on Climate Change?</a></li> </span> </ul></div> <!-- footer content --> </div> </div> <p>Some more extreme conservatives, like Ted Cruz, question whether the data actually even shows the Earth is warming. The more mainstream way of doing this, which <a href="">Cruz did</a> in his appearance at the Koch brothers' recent confab in California, is to selectively and misleadingly present very specific facts in order to create a false impression. The more fringey, conspiracist approach, which Cruz also engaged in at that event, is to claim that the temperature measurements are being manufactured by scientists with an agenda. Cruz said, "If you look at satellite data for the last 18 years, there's been zero recorded warming&hellip;They're cooking the books. They're actually adjusting the numbers."</p> <p>That's pretty out there, but less so still than Trump because Cruz does accept that one would establish warming by measuring the temperature, and by doing so not just on one day in one place, but all over the Earth for years. Trump doesn't selectively present the data or assert that it's been rigged, he just ignores it. If it's cold outside in New York in the winter, Trump says, then there is no global warming. His problem is twofold: He does not understand the difference between weather (still often cold in New York in the winter) and climate (gradually warming on average over the entire Earth), and he does not respect the difference between data and anecdote. Trump is hardly unique in this regard&mdash;remember Senate Environment Committee Chair James Inhofe (R-Okla.) <a href="">and his snowball</a>&mdash;but Trump is the only top-tier Republican presidential candidate who subscribes to it.</p> <p>So the fact that Trump is in first place in the GOP presidential <a href="">polls</a>, with more than twice as high a percentage as his nearest competitor, Jeb Bush, reveals some alarming things about a large segment of the Republican voter base (not smart) and the prospects for reaching consensus on the need for climate action (not good).</p> <p>Trump isn't merely another extremist who rejects climate science. Trump isn't really a conservative at all. He's a reactionary populist who has elevated ignorance to a political philosophy. Call it ignorantism.</p> <p>Even if Trump hadn't said anything about climate change in particular, his dismissiveness toward objective fact-finding processes would bode ill for the environment. Government policies&mdash;economic, public health, environmental&mdash;require an accurate measurement of data to inform policymakers who write laws and regulators who enforce them. And a plurality of the Republican electorate currently supports a presidential candidate who does not accept that data, rather than personal anecdote, is how one measures empirical fact.</p> <p>Despite the widespread opinion that Trump performed poorly in the first Republican debate last week, the only poll to come out since shows him still in the lead <a href="">with 23 percent</a> of Republican voters. The same poll shows 29 percent of respondents saying Trump did worst in the debate. But a lot of Republicans find his buffoonery and belligerent ignorance compelling.</p> <p>Even though Trump <a href="">will not </a>be the GOP nominee, whoever it is will need to keep Trump's supporters on board. And all those climate hawks hoping the GOP will stop being "the party of stupid" will be disappointed.</p></body></html> Blue Marble 2016 Elections Climate Change Climate Desk Science Top Stories Tue, 11 Aug 2015 10:00:40 +0000 Ben Adler 281626 at 9 Supermarket Staples That Were Created by the Military <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>Go down an aisle in your supermarket and pick up a packaged item. Chances are, the contents of that can, bag, box, or pouch were designed in a US military building in the suburbs of Boston.</p> <p>According to Anastacia Marx de Salcedo's insightful new book, <a href="" target="_blank"><em>Combat-Ready Kitchen: How the US Military Shapes the Way You Eat</em> </a>(Current), the effort to nourish faraway GIs with portable, nonperishable, and edible (if not tasty) food has shaped the landscape of our modern food system. How so? Since World War II, the US military's well-funded food science lab in Massachusetts, <a href="" target="_blank">the Natick Center</a>, has dominated the development of new food science and technology to create meals with longer shelf life, better flavor and texture, and more convenient packaging. But the Natick Center doesn't keep its findings to itself. It partners with private corporations (&agrave; la ConAgra, General Mills, Hershey, Hormel, Tyson, and Unilever, to name a few) to produce this food for the general public, as well. It's a win-win for both sides: Corporations get a leg up on the latest and greatest processing and packaging techniques, and the military is ensured a massive supply of rations if war ever breaks out.</p> <p>If you are feeling queasy about eating food originally created for soldiers, you better watch out: Just about any processed food with a shelf life of more than a couple of days probably has its origins in the Natick Center. Below we outline a few of the biggest military food breakthroughs that you can find in your local grocery store or bodega:</p> <ul><li><strong><strong>Canned food: </strong></strong>The effort to preserve meat for troops in combat began in the United States in earnest during the Spanish-American War, but it took years before the military understood the science of germs, bacteria, and how food spoils, and could successfully can meat and other perishables.</li> <li><strong>Energy and granola bars: </strong>After trying trying in vain during World War II to create a chocolate bar that wouldn't melt, the army developed a fortified fruit bar that was sweet and of "intermediate moisture." The "fruit bar" evolved into the granola bars and energy bars found in every grocery store and gas station today.</li> <li><strong>Packaged, boneless meat: </strong>Meat is expensive, especially when you need to feed an entire army. Thus the development of restructured meat: taking the ignored meat chunks and scraps and creating a new, longer-lasting meat. Now many Americans prefer restructured nuggets, patties, and slices over fresh meat from the bone.</li> <li><strong>Sliced bread:</strong> Making bread is labor-intensive, and the product goes stale and moldy quickly, which is a problem for feeding soldiers who spend days and weeks far from kitchens with ovens. So military food scientists came up with anti-staling additives to make shelf-stable bread, which, after World War II, entered households everywhere, becoming the best thing since, well&hellip;</li> <li><strong>Dehydrated cheese:</strong> Soldiers had such a huge appetite for cheese during the world wars that suppliers had difficulty packaging and shipping enough to meet demand. So the Natick Center went to work to find a better way process cheese for troops. The result? Dehydrated cheese powder. Now it's found everywhere from the cheese packets in our mac 'n' cheese to the Cheeto dust stuck to our fingers.</li> <li><strong>TV dinner packaging:</strong> In its search for more flexible packaging resistant to changes in temperature and pressure, the Natick Center had a breakthrough when it combined the flexibly of plastic and the vapor-resistance of foil. This led to the plastic and foil "retort pouches" used for everything from heat-and-serve TV dinners to juice pouches, sauce packets, squeeze yogurts, and pet food.</li> <li><strong>"Fresh-squeezed" juice and smoothies<a href="#correction">*</a>: </strong>Ever wonder why the "fresh-squeezed," unpasteurized bottles of fruit and vegetable juice in supermarket coolers last so long without spoiling or making you sick? It turns out their long shelf life owes itself to a military-invented food technology called high-pressure processing. Essentially, pressure is applied to foods at such a high volume that it breaks the bonds holding together bacteria molecules. This process is also used for salsa, guacamole, and "100 percent natural, no preservatives" cold cuts.</li> <li><strong>Packaged, prewashed salad: </strong>To transport fresh greens to troops, the military developed a way to package produce that controlled oxygen and carbon dioxide levels, slowing down ripening and spoilage.</li> <li><strong>Instant coffee: </strong>A freeze-drying process initially used for transporting blood and vaccines to battlefield medics during World War II was repurposed as a way to make familiar foods long-lasting and lightweight. That's how we got instant coffee, as well as the fruit bits in your cereal, the vegetables chunks in your instant noodles, and cake mix&mdash;convenient, long lasting, tasty, and brought to you by the US military.</li> </ul><p id="correction"><em>Correction: An earlier version of this article misidentified the kind of juice that undergoes high pressure processing.</em></p></body></html> Blue Marble Food and Ag Health Military Top Stories Thu, 06 Aug 2015 10:05:07 +0000 Luke Whelan 281221 at Scott Walker Thinks Obama’s Climate Plan Will Jack Up Your Electric Bill. He’s Wrong. <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>Today President Barack Obama <a href="" target="_blank">released the final version</a> of his signature climate plan, which sets new limits on carbon dioxide emissions from the power sector. Each state has a unique target, custom-built for its particular mix of energy sources. Each state also has total freedom to determine how exactly to reach the target. But the rules are clearly designed to expedite the closure of coal-fired power plants, the nation's number-one source of CO2 emissions.</p> <p>It took less than a day for the <a href="" target="_blank">first legal challenges</a> to the plan to emerge from coal interests. The news rules also attracted some pointed criticism from leading Republican presidential contenders, including Jeb Bush and Scott Walker. Here's what Walker had to say on Twitter:&nbsp;</p> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet" lang="en"> <p dir="ltr" lang="en">Obama's plan should be called the Costly Power Plan because it will cost hard-working Americans jobs and raise their energy rates. -SW</p> &mdash; Scott Walker (@ScottWalker) <a href="">August 3, 2015</a></blockquote> <script async src="//" charset="utf-8"></script><p>Neither of those predictions is likely to come true. Cries about job loss and high costs always accompany new environmental regulation. In the case of the Clean Power Plan, as the rules announced today are known, the fear revolves around the image of coal plants around the country going dark. Folks get laid off from the plant, there's less electricity on the grid, so the price of electricity goes up, so factories can't afford to pay their workers, so they lay them off&hellip;you get the idea.</p> <p>But as <a href="" target="_blank">I've reported in the past</a>, that view of the plan is misguided for two reasons. The first is that Obama's new rules, while an important and historic milestone in the annals of climate action, really aren't much of a departure from the direction that the energy market is already going. As our friend <a href="" target="_blank">Eric Holthaus at <em>Slate</em> points out</a>, many states are already well on their way to achieving the new carbon targets simply because, for lots of reasons, making tons of inefficient energy from dirty old coal plants just isn't economically feasible anymore. So you'd be hard-pressed to pin any particular lost job in the coal industry on Obama alone.</p> <p>The second reason Walker and his ilk are off-base is that they focus too heavily on the coal-killing aspect of the plan, without also considering two equally vital aspects: (a) The building of tons of new energy supplies from renewables, and (b) big improvements in energy efficiency, which will allow us to use less power overall.</p> <p>It's true that by the time the plan takes effect, electricity prices will have risen steadily, as they always have for as long as we've had electricity. Because electric utilities typically have monopolies over their service area and prize reliability over affordability, power costs don't naturally fall over time in the way that the costs of other technologies do. But even though electric <em>rates</em> will probably go up, monthly electric <em>bills</em> are likely to go down, thanks to efficiency improvements. The exact calculus will be different in every state, but to take one example, the Southern Environmental Law Center <a href="" target="_blank">projected</a> that in Virginia, the Clean Power Plan will lead to an 8 percent reduction in electric bills. <a href="" target="_blank">According to</a> the Natural Resources Defense Council, savings like that add up to $37.4 <em>billion </em>for all US homes and businesses by 2020. The NRDC also projects that the plan will create hundreds of thousands of jobs in the energy efficiency sector, as homeowners, businesses, factories, etc. invest in upgrades that enable them use less power.</p> <p>In any case, the solar industry alone already employs <a href="" target="_blank">more than twice</a> the number of people who work in coal mining. Making the energy system more climate-friendly is as much about juicing the clean energy industry as it is dismantling the coal industry.</p></body></html> Blue Marble 2016 Elections Climate Change Climate Desk Jeb Bush Scott Walker Infrastructure Mon, 03 Aug 2015 20:48:46 +0000 Tim McDonnell 281161 at The HPV Vaccine Prevents Cancer. So Why Aren't Most Teens Getting It? <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>According to latest National Immunization Survey, <a href="" target="_blank">released</a> by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Thursday, around 60 percent of teenage girls and 78 percent of teenage boys haven't received all three of the recommended doses of the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine, which helps prevent reproductive cancers and genital warts caused by the virus.</p> <p>Administered through three shots over a six month period, the vaccine protects against the most common types of the highly contagious virus, which is spread through sexual contact. Health officials recommend that adolescents receive the shots between the ages of 11 and 12 to boost the chances for immunity prior to any sexual activity, but the survey showed that 40 percent of girls and 60 percent of boys&nbsp;ages 13 to 17 hadn't received even the first dose.</p> <p>HPV is the most common sexually transmitted disease&mdash;most people will contract one of the 40 strains at some point in their lives. Seventy-nine million people in the United States have HPV, and an additional 14 million people are infected annually. Many people don't even know they have the virus, and it often goes away on its own.</p> <p>But not everyone is so lucky: One in every 100 will develop genital warts and 23,000 are diagnosed with HPV-caused cancers each year. According to the CDC, the vaccine prevents almost all pre-cancers and warts caused by the virus in both males and females. Since the first HPV vaccine was developed <a href="" target="_blank">in 2006,</a> the vaccine has helped reduce HPV infections among teenage girls by 56 percent&mdash;even with vaccination rates as low as they are.</p> <p>Still, many parents are deciding to pass. A <a href="" target="_blank">study published in <em>Pediatrics </em></a>in 2013 showed that the reasons most cited included unwarranted fears about vaccine safety and disbelief that their kids would be sexually active. Despite it's proven safety and effectiveness, the vaccine has become a politically divisive issue. In 2011, Texas Governor Rick Perry was the <a href="" target="_blank">first in the country to order a mandate</a>, sparking <a href="" target="_blank">outrage from the religious right.</a> During a 2011 debate, Michele Bachmann claimed that the vaccine was "very dangerous" and caused "mental retardation," and Rick Santorum called vaccine mandates, "just wrong."</p> <div id="stcpDiv" style="position: absolute; top: -1999px; left: -1988px;">HPV vaccine uptake has not kept pace with that of other adolescent vaccines and has stalled in the past few years. In 2012, only about one-third of 13- to 17-year-old girls received all three recommended doses. These levels fall considerably short of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services <span class="italic">Healthy People 2020</span> goal of having 80 percent of 13- to 15-year-old girls fully vaccinated against HPV. Immunization rates for U.S. boys are even lower than for girls. Less than 7 percent of boys ages 13 to 17 completed the series in 2012. This low rate is in large part because the ACIP recommendation for routine vaccination of boys was not made until 2011. However, it is even lower than what was observed for girls in 2007&mdash;the first year following the recommendation for females&mdash;suggesting that concerted efforts are needed to promote HPV vaccination of males. - See more at:</div> <p>The National Cancer Institute <a href="" target="_blank">has called</a> for an "urgency of action" in closing vaccination gaps , citing that current vaccine rates are falling short of the US Department of Health and Human Services Goal for 80 percent coverage among 13 to 15 year old girls by 2020.</p> <p>Though the focus is more often on girls, men are at also risk for HPV-caused cancers, including throat cancer, which may soon replace cervical cancer as the <a href="" target="_blank">most common</a> caused by the virus.</p> <p>The survey did show there had been big gains in some parts of the country&mdash;Illinois, Montana, North Carolina and Utah all averaged increases of roughly 20 percent&mdash;which health officials say is an encouraging sign.</p> <p>"The large increases in these diverse parts of the country show us it is possible to do much better at protecting our nation's youth from cancers caused by HPV infections," Dr. Anne Schuchat, assistant surgeon general and director of CDC&rsquo;s National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, said in a statement released with the report. "We are missing crucial opportunities to protect the next generation from cancers caused by HPV."</p></body></html> Blue Marble Health Top Stories Fri, 31 Jul 2015 18:37:41 +0000 Gabrielle Canon 280986 at Watch Activists Dangle Off a Portland Bridge to Block Shell's Arctic-Bound Ship <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p><strong>Update 7/31/15</strong>: Thursday evening, Shell's MSV Fennica made another attempt to pass through protestors on Portland's Willamette River. This time, the icebreaker was successful; the Fennica is now on its way back up to the Arctic. The video below shows the dramatic confrontation between the ship and the environmental activists:</p> <p><iframe allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="354" src="" width="630"></iframe></p> <p>Environmental activists have taken to <a href="" target="_blank">kayak</a>, <a href="" target="_blank">chain</a>, and even <a href="" target="_blank">rocking chair</a> to slow down Royal Dutch Shell's <a href="" target="_blank">plans to drill for oil in the Arctic</a> this summer. For the past two days, they took their protest to a new extreme. Early Wednesday morning, around <a href="" target="_blank">a dozen Greenpeace activists rappelled off a bridge</a> over the Willamette River in Portland, Ore. to stop a Shell ship stationed there for repairs from returning to the Arctic. This morning, it appears <a href="" target="_blank">they caused the ship to turn around</a> after it tried to rejoin Shell's fleet in the Arctic's Chukchi Sea.</p> <p>The ship, called the MSV Fennica, went all the way up to the Arctic only <a href="" target="_blank">to find a 39-inch-long gash in its side</a>. The damage was so serious, the ship had to travel all the way back to Portland for repairs. The Fennica is an icebreaker, but also carries Shell's capping stack, needed to stop an underwater well leak; Shell can't begin its exploring until the Fennica and its equipment is back and functioning in the Arctic.</p> <p>In an effort to stop it from rejoining Shell's fleet in the Chukchi Sea, and delay the oil giant's drilling plans there, Greenpeace organized protestors to dangle from Portland's St. John's bridge and physically stop the ship from traveling down the Willamette River and back out to the Pacific. We reached out to Shell to confirm if the protestors have affected the Fennica's schedule, but have not heard back.</p> <p>Below, we collected some Twitter photos of the dramatic protest:</p> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet" lang="en"> <p dir="ltr" lang="en">The ship is headed towards us <a href="">#shellno</a> <a href="">#youshellnotpass</a> <a href=""></a></p> &mdash; Dan Cannon (@DanEnviroCannon) <a href="">July 30, 2015</a></blockquote> <script async src="//" charset="utf-8"></script><blockquote class="twitter-tweet" lang="en"> <p dir="ltr" lang="en">The fennica is headed back to its dock where it belongs - not the arctic! <a href="">#ShellNo</a> <a href=""></a></p> &mdash; Dan Cannon (@DanEnviroCannon) <a href="">July 30, 2015</a></blockquote> <script async src="//" charset="utf-8"></script><blockquote class="twitter-tweet" lang="en"> <p dir="ltr" lang="en">We have a beautiful view over the water. Supporters on the shore and in kayaks, and NO Fennica in sight. <a href="">#ShellNo</a> <a href=""></a></p> &mdash; Kristina N. Flores (@KristinaNFlores) <a href="">July 30, 2015</a></blockquote> <script async src="//" charset="utf-8"></script><blockquote class="twitter-tweet" lang="en"> <p dir="ltr" lang="en"><a href="">#ShellNo</a> protesters cheer as the icebreaker backs down, turns around: <a href=""></a> <a href=""></a></p> &mdash; The Seattle Times (@seattletimes) <a href="">July 30, 2015</a></blockquote> <script async src="//" charset="utf-8"></script><blockquote class="twitter-tweet" lang="en"> <p dir="ltr" lang="en">These 13 folks are what stands between Shell and the Arctic. Many thanks for their courage and skill <a href="">#shellno</a> <a href=""></a></p> &mdash; Bill McKibben (@billmckibben) <a href="">July 29, 2015</a></blockquote> <script async src="//" charset="utf-8"></script><blockquote class="twitter-tweet" lang="en"> <p dir="ltr" lang="en">.<a href="">@OregonGovBrown</a> <a href="">@MayorPDX</a> say <a href="">#ShellNo</a> to drilling in the Arctic and let the St Johns climbers stay! <a href=""></a></p> &mdash; Mark Ruffalo (@MarkRuffalo) <a href="">July 30, 2015</a></blockquote> <script async src="//" charset="utf-8"></script><blockquote class="twitter-tweet" lang="en"> <p dir="ltr" lang="en">Demonstrators hang from Portland bridge to block Shell ship <a href=""></a> <a href="">@katunews</a> <a href="">#ActOnClimate</a> <a href="">#ShellNo</a> <a href=""></a></p> &mdash; Pipe Up Network (@PipeUpNetwork) <a href="">July 30, 2015</a></blockquote> <script async src="//" charset="utf-8"></script><blockquote class="twitter-tweet" lang="en"> <p dir="ltr" lang="en">Shell's icebreaker was supposed to leave for the Arctic last night. Then <a href="">@GreenpeaceUSA</a> climbers said <a href="">#ShellNo</a>: <a href=""></a></p> &mdash; 350 dot org (@350) <a href="">July 29, 2015</a></blockquote> <script async src="//" charset="utf-8"></script></body></html> Blue Marble Climate Change Energy Thu, 30 Jul 2015 18:59:44 +0000 Luke Whelan 280966 at This Map Shows What San Francisco Will Look Like After Sea Levels Rise <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>Developers in the booming San Francisco Bay Area are busy planning everything from much-needed <a href="" target="_blank">new housing</a> to <a href="" target="_blank">sports stadiums</a> and <a href="" target="_blank">gleaming tech campuses</a>.</p> <p><a href="" target="_blank">But according to a new report</a> just published by the<em> San Francisco Public Press</em>, many of these construction projects sit on land susceptible to rising waters due to climate change. And regulators and local governments are not doing much to prepare.&nbsp;</p> <p>The<em> Public Press</em> found 27 major commercial and residential developments that will be vulnerable to flooding if San Francisco Bay sea levels rise as much as climate researchers like the National Research Council project in the next century. These developments include a new stadium for the Golden State Warriors, campuses being built by Google and Facebook, and revamped public spaces like San Francisco's iconic ferry terminal and Jack London Square in Oakland.</p> <p>To make its maps, the <em>Public Press</em> partnered with the University of California-Berkeley Cartography and Geographic Information System Education Lab and used flooding and sea level projections from the US Geological Survey and the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission. The San Francisco Public Utilities Commission predicts that in the next hundred years, water levels in the Bay could rise as much as 8 feet over high tide at current levels, including storm surge:</p> <p><iframe allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="900" mozallowfullscreen="" msallowfullscreen="" oallowfullscreen="" src="" webkitallowfullscreen="" width="100%"></iframe></p> <p>Despite the fact that more than $21 billion of new development is at stake, the report found that very little is being done to prepare for potential waterfront flooding risk. While most cities and counties around the Bay Area have begun studying the effects of sea level rise, none have actually enacted climate adaptation plans, like updating flood plain ordinances and buildings codes. Only one county (Santa Clara) has revised its local flooding maps.</p> <p>We've <a href="" target="_blank">seen before</a> in other major urban areas that such short-sightedness can lead to staggering costs. Many scientists and environmental advocates believe the Bay Area could experience similar devastation if more is not done to adapt to climate change.</p> <p>Brian Beveridge, co-director of the West Oakland Environmental Indicators Project, told the <em>Public Press</em>, "It's going to fall down along lines of class and political power&mdash;who will be protected and who will be thrown to the dogs."</p></body></html> Blue Marble Maps Climate Change Wed, 29 Jul 2015 23:24:31 +0000 Luke Whelan 280811 at These National Parks Got an "F" in Air Pollution <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>It's late summer, and Americans are flocking to the country's national parks for some recreation and fresh air.</p> <p>But a <a href="" target="_blank">study</a> released this week by the National Parks Conservation Association found that air in some of the country's most popular parks is not so fresh&mdash;and it's potentially hazardous. The report rated the country's 48 parks in three categories: levels of ozone (a pollutant that can irritate or damage lungs), haziness, and the impacts of climate change on the park. Here are the 12 worst contenders (full list available <a href="" target="_blank">here</a>):</p> <div class="inline inline-center" style="display: table; width: 1%"><img alt="" class="image" src="/files/polluted-parks-list.png"><div class="caption">National Parks Conservation Association</div> </div> <p>Ozone is a pollutant common in smog, and it's particularly prevalent on hot summer days. Seventy-five percent of the parks had ozone levels between 2008 and 2012 that were "moderate" or worse, according to the federal government's <a href="" target="_blank">Air Quality Index</a>. Four national parks&mdash;Sequoia, Kings Canyon, Joshua Tree, and Yosemite&mdash;regularly have "unhealthy" ozone levels, meaning that the average hiker should reduce strenuous activity and those with asthma should avoid it altogether. (You can see the air quality in your area <a href="" target="_blank">here</a>.)</p> <p>Jobs at Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks, including those indoors, come with pollution warnings saying that at times the air quality "may pose human health problems due to air pollution," according to the report.</p> <p>Pollution doesn't just make visitors and employees sick; it also ruins one of the parks' main attractions: the views. Smog affects vistas in all of the parks; on average, air pollution obstructs fifty miles from view. Here are some examples of how far visitors can see in miles today compared to "natural" levels, when air isn't affected by human activity.</p> <div class="inline inline-center" style="display: table; width: 1%"><img alt="" class="image" src="/files/visibility-in-miles.png"><div class="caption">National Parks Conservation Association</div> </div> <p>The NPCA didn't look into specific causes of air pollution in each location, but generally, the the report attributes it to the the usual suspects: coal-fired power plants, cars, and industrial and agricultural emissions. Under the <a href="" target="_blank">Regional Haze Program</a>, developed by the Environmental Protection Agency in 1999, states are required to implement air quality protection plans that reduce human-caused pollution in national parks, the NPCA contends that loopholes prevent power plants and other big polluters from being affected by the rules.</p> <p>Ulla Reeves, the manager of the NPCA's clean air campaign, maintains that if enforcement for the Regional Haze Program isn't improved, only 10 percent of the national parks will have clean air in 50 years. "It's surprising and disappointing that parks don't have the clean air that we assume them to have and that they must have under the law."</p></body></html> Blue Marble Charts Climate Change Econundrums Top Stories Wed, 29 Jul 2015 10:05:11 +0000 Julia Lurie 280806 at Soon You Might Actually Be Able to Tell How Much Added Sugar Is in Your Food <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>When the popular news quiz show <em>Wait Wait...Don't Tell Me! </em>hosted the country's Surgeon General, Vicek Murthy, <a href="" target="_blank">last weekend</a>, he was confronted with the question: What's your one weakness? "Sweets," he answered, "I like bread pudding and cheesecake, in particular."</p> <p>Many of us can identify with the hankering for the occasional piece of cheesecake after dinner. But lots of the added sugar you inhale probably doesn't come in the form of dessert. Rather, Americans get much of their sweetening in the form of beverages&mdash;especially soda&mdash;and packaged foods that at first glance seem snacky or savory (yep, <a href="" target="_blank">one serving of hoisin sauce</a> has two whole teaspoons; barbecue sauce one and a half). While the World Health Organization <a href="" target="_blank">has suggested</a> that adults should get no more than 5 percent of their daily calories from added sweeteners&mdash;that's about 6 teaspoons&mdash;the average American ingests roughly five times that amount every day.</p> <p>For decades, researchers and doctors have been sounding the alarm about the negative health risks associated with a diet too rich in added sugars&mdash;from obesity, poor nutrition, diabetes, and <a href="" target="_blank">even heart disease</a>. But as <a href="" target="_blank">I've written about in the past</a>, even if you're concerned about your levels of added sugar intake, it's nearly impossible to tell how much you might be eating: Current food labels don't require added sugar to be listed. There's even indication that food companies have gone to great lengths to keep that information hidden from the public's eyes. The US Department of Agriculture used to list added sugars for popular products in online, but the database <a href="" target="_blank">was removed in 2012</a> after companies claimed that added sugar amounts should be considered trade secrets.</p> <p>So in March, the Food and Drug Administration proposed revising nutrition labels to include added sugars on packaged foods. And on Friday, the agency went even further by <a href="" target="_blank">proposing to require</a> that packaged food companies must also include a percent daily value of added sugar on the nutrition label. (The daily value would be based on the recommendation that added sugar not exceed 10 percent of total calories, or roughly 12 teaspoons of sugar a day).</p> <p>The FDA has already received pushback from industry groups about the attempt to make added sugar quantities more transparent; the Corn Refiner's Association <a href="http://file:///Users/moatman/Downloads/Corn_Refiners_Association_CRA_Comments_re_FDA_Docket_No_FDA-2012-N-1210_NFP_Proposed_Changes.pdf" target="_blank">questioned</a> the agency's "statutory authority to do so" and complained of a lack of "credible scientific evidence." Meanwhile, <a href="http://file:///Users/moatman/Downloads/FDA_2012_N_1210_Kellogg_Comments.pdf" target="_blank">Kellogg argued</a> that the proposal "to distinguish added sugars...may confuse consumers." Of course, Kellogg happens to be the world's "second largest producer of cookies, crackers, and savory snacks."</p></body></html> Blue Marble Food and Ag Health Regulatory Affairs Tue, 28 Jul 2015 10:09:33 +0000 Maddie Oatman 280751 at Hillary Clinton Refuses to Take a Position on the Keystone Pipeline <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>Hillary Clinton took a strong stance on clean energy Monday, telling a crowd in Des Moines, Iowa, that her efforts to tackle climate change would parallel President John F. Kennedy's call to action during the space race in the 1960s.</p> <p>"I want to get the country back to setting big ambitious goals," Clinton said. "I want us to get back into the future business, and one of the best ways we can do that is to be absolutely ready to address the challenge of climate change and make it work to our advantage economically."</p> <p>Her remarks tracked closely with an ambitious plan her campaign released Sunday night, which <a href="" target="_blank">set a target</a> of producing enough renewable energy to power all the nation's homes and businesses by 2027.</p> <p>"America's ability to lead the world on this issue hinges on our ability to act ourselves," she said. "I refuse to turn my back on what is one of the greatest threats and greatest opportunities America faces."</p> <p>Still, the Democractic front-runner refused&mdash;as she has <a href="" target="_blank">several times before</a>&mdash;to say whether or not she supports construction of the Keystone XL pipeline. That project, which would carry crude oil from Canada's tar sands to refineries and ports in the United States, is seen by many environmentalists as a blemish on President Barack Obama's climate record. It has been <a href="" target="_blank">stalled for years</a> in a lengthy State Department review that began when Clinton was still Secretary of State. The Obama administration has resisted several recent attempts by Congress to force Keystone's approval, but it has yet to make a final decision on the project&mdash;although one is expected sometime this year.</p> <p>"I will refrain from commenting [on Keystone XL], because I had a leading role in getting that process started, and we have to let it run its course," Clinton said, in response to a question from an audience member.</p> <p>Her non-position on Keystone earned derision from environmentalist Bill McKibben, whose organization has been at the forefront of opposition to the pipeline.</p> <p>"I think it's bogus," he said in an email. "Look, the notion that she can't talk about it because the State Dept. is still working on it makes no sense. By that test, she shouldn't be talking about Benghazi or Iran or anything else either. The more she tries to duck the question, the more the whole thing smells."</p> <p>Clinton also punted on an audience request to reveal further details of how exactly she would finance the renewable energy targets she announced yesterday, which aim even higher than those already put in place by Obama. She reiterated that one key step would be to ensure the extension of federal tax credits for wind and solar energy that have expired or are set to expire over the next few years. And she said that she would continue Obama's practice of pursuing aggressive climate policies from <a href="" target="_blank">within the White House</a>, saying that "we still have a lot we can do" without waiting for a recalcitrant Congress to act.</p> <p>Clinton acknowledged that the clean energy boom would come at a cost for the US coal industry, which is already in <a href="" target="_blank">steep decline</a>. She said she would "guarantee that coal miners and their families get the benefits they've earned," but didn't elaborate on what she meant or how specifically she would achieve that.&nbsp; &nbsp;</p> <p>Environmental groups offered a generally positive reaction to Clinton's policy announcement Sunday. In a statement, League of Conservation Voters vice president Tiernan Sittenfield commended her for "calling out climate change deniers and effectively illustrating the urgent need to act on a defining issue of our time." She also <a href="" target="_blank">earned praise</a> from billionaire environmentalist Tom Steyer, who has set a high bar on climate action for any candidate who wants to tap his millions.</p> <p>"I refuse to let those who are deniers to rip away all the progress we've made and leave our country exposed to climate change," Clinton said.</p></body></html> Blue Marble 2016 Elections Climate Change Climate Desk Hillary Clinton Top Stories Infrastructure Mon, 27 Jul 2015 17:45:30 +0000 Tim McDonnell 280686 at Study: Juvenile Detention Not a Great Place to Deal With Mental Health Issues <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>If you land in the hospital as an incarcerated teen, it's more likely for mental health reasons&mdash;psychiatric illnesses, substance abuse, depression, or disruptive disorders&mdash;than for any other factor, says a new study.</p> <p>Researchers from the Stanford University School of Medicine examined nearly 2 million hospitalizations in California of boys and girls between the ages of 11 and 18 over a 15-year period. They found that mental health diagnoses accounted for 63 percent of hospital stays by kids in the justice system, compared with 19 percent of stays by kids who weren't incarcerated, according to <a href="" target="_blank">their study</a> published Tuesday in the <em>Journal of Adolescent Health</em>.</p> <p>The study's lead author, Dr. <a href="">Arash Anoshiravani</a>, said it seems likely that many locked-up kids developed mental health problems as a result of earlier stressful events during their childhoods, such as being abused or witnessing other acts of violence. "We are arresting kids who have mental health problems probably related to their experiences as children," he <a href="" target="_blank">said in a statement</a>. "Is that the way we should be dealing with this, or should we be getting them into treatment earlier, before they start getting caught up in the justice system?"</p> <p>Even if someone enters detention without a major mental health problem, she has a good chance of developing one once she's there. The World Health Organization <a href="" target="_blank">cites</a> many factors in prison life as detrimental to mental stability, including overcrowding, physical or sexual violence, isolation, a lack of privacy, and inadequate health services. And the problem is obviously not just limited to juvenile offenders: Earlier this year, <a href="" target="_blank">a study by the Urban Institute</a> found that more than half of all inmates in jails and state prisons across the country have a mental illness of some kind.</p> <p>In the California study, kids in detention and hospitalized were disproportionately black and from larger metropolitan counties like Los Angeles, Alameda, and San Diego. Among children and teens in the justice system, girls were more likely than boys to experience severe mental health problems, with 74 percent of their hospitalizations related to mental illness, compared with 57 percent of boys' hospitalizations. (Boys, on the other hand, were five times more likely to be hospitalized for trauma.)</p> <p>Earlier mental health interventions could lead to major savings, the researchers added: Detained youth in their study had longer hospital stays than kids outside the justice system, and a majority of them were publicly insured.</p></body></html> Blue Marble Health Care Prisons Thu, 23 Jul 2015 19:39:27 +0000 Samantha Michaels 280311 at Good News, Bad News: Your Almond Milk May Not Contain Many Almonds <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>Still chugging almond milk, despite <a href="" target="_blank">everything we've told you</a> this past year? There's some good news: you may not be destroying the environment as much as you've continued to not care about. Why? Because of the bad news: you are likely getting duped.</p> <p>According to a new lawsuit, Almond Breeze products only contain 2 percent of almonds and mostly consist of water, sugar, sunflower lecithin, and carrageenan, the blog <a href=";utm_medium=email&amp;utm_campaign=22-Jul-2015&amp;c=vKuGflyMHAoOf2i2%2FeVC%2FQk9DtXbqc%2Fk&amp;p2=" target="_blank"><em>Food Navigator </em></a>reports. Almond Breeze is among the top five milk substitute <a href="" target="_blank">brands</a> in the country.</p> <p>The <a href="" target="_blank">class action lawsuit</a>, filed by two unhappy almond milk drinkers in the US District Court in New York earlier this month, seeks $5 million in damages from the products' distributor, Blue Diamond Growers.</p> <p>While Blue Diamond Growers doesn't label how much of a percentage of its milk is made from almonds, plaintiffs Tracy Albert&nbsp;and&nbsp;Dimitrios Malaxianis say the company&nbsp;is&nbsp;misleading consumers by its claim on the front of the package that it is "made from real almonds."</p> <p>Water-wasting and now potentially deceptive, if you needed one more reason to lay off the almond milk, here it is.</p></body></html> Blue Marble Food and Ag Wed, 22 Jul 2015 18:26:11 +0000 Inae Oh 280236 at Republicans Are Still Totally Wrong About ISIS <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>On Monday, Democratic presidential candidate Martin O'Malley made an astute observation about ISIS in an interview with <a href="" target="_blank"><em>Bloomberg</em></a>.</p> <p>"One of the things that preceded the failure of the nation-state of Syria, the rise of ISIS, was the effect of climate change and the mega-drought that affected that region, wiped out farmers, drove people to cities, created a humanitarian crisis [that] created the&hellip;conditions of extreme poverty that has led now to the rise of ISIL and this extreme violence," said the former Maryland governor.</p> <p>Republicans were quick to seize on the comment as an indication of O'Malley's weak grasp of foreign policy. Reince Priebus, chair of the Republican National Committee, <a href="" target="_blank">said</a> the suggestion of a link between ISIS's rise to power and climate change was "absurd" and a sign that "no one in the Democratic Party has the foreign policy vision to keep America safe."</p> <p>Here's the thing, though: O'Malley is totally right. As we've <a href="" target="_blank">reported</a> <a href="" target="_blank">here</a> <a href="" target="_blank">many</a> <a href="" target="_blank">times</a>, Syria's civil war is the best-understood and least ambiguous example of a case where an impact of climate change&mdash;in this case, an unprecedented drought that devastated rural farmers&mdash;directly contributed to violent conflict and political upheaval. There is no shortage of high-quality, <a href="" target="_blank">peer-reviewed research</a> explicating this link. As O'Malley said, the drought made it more difficult for rural families to survive off of farming. So they moved to cities in huge numbers, where they were confronted with urban poverty and an intransigent, autocratic government. Those elements clearly existed regardless of the drought. But the drought was the final straw, the factor that brought all the others to a boiling point.</p> <p>Does this mean that America's greenhouse gas emissions are solely responsible for ISIS's rise to power? Obviously not. But it does mean that, without accounting for climate change, you have an incomplete picture of the current military situation in the Middle East. And without that understanding, it will be very difficult for a prospective commander-in-chief to predict where terrorist threats might emerge in the future.</p> <p>The link between climate and security isn't particularly controversial in the defense community. Earlier this year, President Barack Obama <a href="" target="_blank">called</a> climate change an "urgent and growing threat" to national security. A recent <a href="" target="_blank">review</a> by the Defense Department concluded that climate change is a "threat multiplier" that exacerbates other precursors to war, while the Center for Naval Analysis <a href="" target="_blank">found</a> that climate change-induced drought is already leading to conflict across Africa and the Middle East.</p> <p>In other words, O'Malley's comment is completely on-point. If Priebus and his party are serious about defeating ISIS and preventing future terrorist uprisings, they can't continue to dismiss the role of climate change.</p></body></html> Blue Marble 2016 Elections Climate Change Climate Desk Military Top Stories Tue, 21 Jul 2015 20:16:39 +0000 Tim McDonnell 280141 at How the US Chamber of Commerce Is Helping Big Tobacco Poison the Rest of the World <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>The US Chamber of Commerce hasn't just worked to <a href="" target="_blank">thwart climate change legislation</a>, obstruct <a href="" target="_blank">health care reform</a>, and pooh-pooh <a href="" target="_blank">Wall Street regulations</a>. The nation's most powerful business lobby recently turned its attention to promoting cigarettes overseas, apparently using a rationale that corporations are, well, people:</p> <p>"The Chamber regularly reaches out to governments around the world to urge them to avoid measures that discriminate against particular companies or industries," the Chamber said in a short statement responding to a recent <em>New York Times</em> <a href="" target="_blank">piece</a> on its tobacco lobbying. Since 2011, according to the <em>Times, </em>the US Chamber intervened in at least nine countries and the European Union&mdash;either directly or through one of its many foreign affiliates&mdash;to oppose regulations designed to prevent smoking.</p> <p>Moreover, according to a <a href="" target="_blank">report</a> released last week by anti-smoking groups, including the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids and Action on Smoking and Health, tobacco companies have joined US Chamber affiliates in 56 countries. Those companies also sit on Chamber affiliates' boards or advisory councils in 14 countries&mdash;most of which happen to be <a href="" target="_blank">places where people smoke a lot</a>: Albania, Armenia, Estonia, Germany, Italy, Kosovo, Lithuania, Macedonia, Malaysia, Morocco, Poland, Serbia, the Slovak Republic, and Taiwan.</p> <p>The report also highlighted previously unreported cases in which the US Chamber has gone to bat for its tobacco company members:</p> <ul><li><strong>Burkina Faso:</strong> In January 2014, the US Chamber sent a letter to Prime Minister Luc Adolphe Tiao warning that the country's plan to implement graphic warning labels on cigarette packages violated international property rights and trade agreements. The threat of costly trade litigation delayed implementation of the law, according to government officials.</li> <li><strong>Philippines:</strong> In 2012, the US Chamber and its local affiliate fought an effort to raise taxes on cigarettes, claiming it would create a black market. The commissioner of the Filipino Bureau of Internal Revenue recently told the local press that those fears have proved unfounded.</li> <li><strong>United Kingdom:</strong> In 2014, the US Chamber released a joint statement with business groups and sent letters opposing a bill that would create standardized packaging for tobacco products. The bill "sends a negative message to the United Kingdom's trading partners," one letter said, "and undermines its reputation for the rule of law." The bill passed in March 2015.</li> </ul><p>US Chamber CEO Tom Donohue's most striking innovation has been to allow controversial industries to use the Chamber as a means of anonymously pursuing their political ends. The same politicians who might ignore a complaint from a tobacco company may listen when that complaint comes from a group that claims (<a href="" target="_blank">albeit disingenuously</a>) to represent 3 million businesses.</p> <p>But the strategy comes with a risk in terms of its corporate clientele. Apple and Nike quit the Chamber over its stance on climate change, and CVS just <a href="" target="_blank">parted ways with the group over its tobacco lobbying</a>.</p></body></html> Blue Marble Health International Money in Politics Top Stories Chamber of Commerce Tue, 21 Jul 2015 10:05:18 +0000 Josh Harkinson 279951 at California Just Fined Some Farmers $1.5 Million for Using Too Much Water <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>California's Water Resources Control Board proposed a $1.5 million fine today for a farming district's unauthorized use of water&mdash;the first such fine in the state's four-year drought. The Board <a href="" target="_blank">alleged</a> that the Byron-Bethany Irrigation District, a region serving 160 farmers just east of San Francisco, illegally diverted nearly 700 million gallons of water over the course of two weeks in June.</p> <p>Byron-Bethany is one of about 5,000 water-rights holders notified this year that there isn't enough water to pump from lakes and rivers, and it's illegal to divert water after receiving such notifications. In response, several water users, including Byron-Bethany, have <a href="" target="_blank">sued</a> the state for cutting off its water supply.</p> <p><span id="MNGiSection">"We will vigorously defend our rights," said Rick Gilmore, general manager of the district, to the <em>San Jose Mercury News</em> last month. "All our sweet corn and tomatoes</span>&mdash;<span>they won't make it to harvest. Almonds and cherries will suffer damage," he said. "They'll lose the water they need for July and August."</span></p> <p>The proposed fine, which the district will likely contest in a coming hearing, is the first fine sought by the Board under a new structure in which water rights holders can be penalized for past unauthorized use of water, even if they have stopped diverting since. But Byron-Bethany probably isn't alone; Andrew Tauriainen, a lawyer for the state's Division of Water Rights, says, "It's highly likely that additional enforcement actions will follow in weeks and months ahead."</p></body></html> Blue Marble Climate Change Food and Ag Regulatory Affairs Mon, 20 Jul 2015 21:25:29 +0000 Julia Lurie 280031 at Koalas Get Laid By Making This Horrifyingly Disgusting Grunting Sound <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p><iframe allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="354" src="" width="630"></iframe></p> <p>Listen to the sound in that video. If I had to guess what it meant, soliciting sex would probably be pretty far down my list. It strikes me more as the sound a Chicago Bears fan might make after swilling a pitcher of Bud Light.</p> <p>But <a href="" target="_blank">new research</a> has revealed for the first time that this mysterious bellowing is most likely the male koalas' mating call.</p> <p></p><div id="mininav" class="inline-subnav"> <!-- header content --> <div id="mininav-header-content"> <div id="mininav-header-image"> <img src="/files/images/motherjones_mininav/koala-mini-nav_1.jpg" width="220" border="0"></div> <div id="mininav-header-text"> <p class="mininav-header-text" style="margin: 0; padding: 0.75em; font-size: 11px; font-weight: bold; line-height: 1.2em; background-color: rgb(221, 221, 221);"> Weekends are always better when they start with koalas. </p> </div> </div> <!-- linked stories --> <div id="mininav-linked-stories"> <ul><span id="linked-story-270971"> <li><a href="/blue-marble/2015/02/koala-car-jack"> This Koala Is So Cute You'll Want It To Get Away With Stealing This Kid's Car</a></li> </span> <span id="linked-story-272511"> <li><a href="/mixed-media/2015/03/you-didnt-know-koalas-were-fierce"> Koalas Are Cute and Cuddly. This Video Proves They Are Also Fearsome Warriors. </a></li> </span> <span id="linked-story-269381"> <li><a href="/blue-marble/2015/01/jeremy-koala-australia-bushfire-returned-wild"> We Have Some Good News For You About the Koala That Was Burned in the Fire</a></li> </span> <span id="linked-story-268041"> <li><a href="/blue-marble/2015/01/wildfires-koala-paws-burn-australia-mittens"> Please, Please Stop Making Mittens for Koalas</a></li> </span> <span id="linked-story-264866"> <li><a href="/mixed-media/2014/11/here-photo-president-obama-holding-koala"> Here Is a Photo of President Obama Holding a Koala</a></li> </span> <span id="linked-story-279481"> <li><a href="/blue-marble/2015/07/koalas-get-laid-making-horrifying-disgusting-grunting-sound"> Koalas Get Laid By Making This Horrifyingly Disgusting Grunting Sound</a></li> </span> </ul></div> <!-- footer content --> </div> <p>Despite their popularity, relatively little is known about koalas' social interactions, since they tend to be solitary and thus difficult to study. To overcome that challenge, researchers at Australia's University of Queensland fitted 21 koalas on <a href=",+Australia/@-20.9243253,149.4420818,14z/data=!3m1!4b1!4m2!3m1!1s0x6bd96871ef4a1da7:0x400eef17f2091a0" target="_blank">St. Bees Island</a> with GPS tracking collars during the summertime mating season.</p> <p>Over two months, the GPS devices recorded how often koalas came into contact with one another. The scientists found that while male-female interactions increased during mating season, male-male encounters remained rare, suggesting that the male koalas had a way of avoiding each other while attracting females.</p> <p>The most likely explanation is that bellow, lead author William Ellis told the <a href="" target="_blank">Australian Broadcasting Corporation</a>:</p> <blockquote> <p>Researchers suggest that the male koala's bellowing serves to warn other males away from their territory, so there's no need for close-up grappling and competition.</p> <p>Ellis says the bellows may also be a way of communicating important information to potential mates.</p> <p>"Our studies on the bellows have certainly shown us that the bellow itself contains information on size but also individuality; they are distinct for each particular male," he says...</p> <p>Given the often isolated nature of koala groups, individuality of bellows may help female koalas avoid mating with close relatives, thereby maintaining the population's genetic diversity, says Ellis.</p> </blockquote> <p>Happy Friday!</p></body></html> Blue Marble Video Animals Science Fri, 10 Jul 2015 18:59:55 +0000 Tim McDonnell 279481 at Here Is the Clearest Image NASA Has Ever Taken of Pluto and its Moon Charon <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>For years now, NASA's New Horizons spacecraft has been hurtling towards the far edges of the Milky Way for its July 14 rendezvous with one of the great mysteries of the solar system: Pluto. But we're already receiving captivating, never-seen-before images of this icy world, such as the one above, of Pluto and its largest moon, Charon. NASA says New Horizons was about 3.7 million miles from Pluto when it snapped this picture late on Wednesday. See the full image <a href="" target="_blank">here</a>.</p> <p>From NASA:</p> <blockquote> <p>"These two objects have been together for billions of years, in the same orbit, but they are totally different," said Principal Investigator Alan Stern of the Southwest Research Institute (SwRI), Boulder, Colorado.</p> <p>Charon is about 750 miles (1200 kilometers) across, about half the diameter of Pluto&mdash;making it the solar system's largest moon relative to its planet. Its smaller size and lower surface contrast have made it harder for New Horizons to capture its surface features from afar, but the latest, closer images of Charon's surface show intriguing fine details.</p> <p>Newly revealed are brighter areas on Charon that members of the mission's Geology, Geophysics and Imaging team (GGI) suspect might be impact craters. If so, the scientists would put them to good use. "If we see impact craters on Charon, it will help us see what's hidden beneath the surface," said GGI leader Jeff Moore of NASA's Ames Research Center. "Large craters can excavate material from several miles down and reveal the composition of the interior."</p> </blockquote> <p>The mission, which launched in 2006, has already traveled 3 billion miles to get to Pluto. The spacecraft will go on to race past the dwarf planet at 30,000 miles per hour next week, absorbing all the data it possibly can about our least-understood distant neighbor&mdash;snapping photos with its Long Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI), a <a href="" target="_blank">little color-adding camera Ralph</a>, and a host of other gadgetry.</p> <p>We'll bring you the latest images when they become available next week. Can't wait.</p></body></html> Blue Marble Science Fri, 10 Jul 2015 18:25:46 +0000 James West 279466 at "Safe" Plastic Alternatives Linked to Scary Health Problems <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>Exposure to two chemicals widely considered safe&mdash;and used in <a href="" target="_blank">hundreds of consumer products </a>including plastics, cosmetics, and soap&mdash;has been linked to increased blood pressure, insulin resistance, and other dangerous health problems in children, according to a new <a href="" target="_blank">study</a>.</p> <p>The chemicals, di-isononyl (DINP) and di-isodecyl (DIDP), were long seen as safer alternatives to their precursor, a phthalate called DEHP, which was associated with hypertension. Even though their use has been on the rise over the past decade, they were never fully tested&mdash;until now.</p> <p></p><div id="mininav" class="inline-subnav"> <!-- header content --> <div id="mininav-header-content"> <div id="mininav-header-image"> <img src="/files/images/motherjones_mininav/plastics-mininav.jpg" width="220" border="0"></div> </div> <!-- linked stories --> <div id="mininav-linked-stories"> <ul><span id="linked-story-244486"> <li><a href="/environment/2014/03/tritan-certichem-eastman-bpa-free-plastic-safe"> The Scary New Evidence on BPA-Free Plastics </a></li> </span> <span id="linked-story-244511"> <li><a href="/environment/2014/03/regulatory-capture-bpa-plastic-estrogen-endocrine-disruptor-feds"> How Industry and the Feds Suppressed Evidence That Plastics Wreak Havoc on Our Hormones </a></li> </span> <span id="linked-story-149231"> <li><a href="/environment/2011/11/tyrone-hayes-atrazine-syngenta-feud-frog-endangered"> The Frog of War: One Biologist's Crusade Against Atrazine</a></li> </span> <span id="linked-story-72096"> <li><a href="/environment/2010/09/plastic-bpa-in-cans"> Waiter, There's BPA in My Soup</a></li> </span> <span id="linked-story-237681"> <li><a href="/environment/2013/10/endocrine-disruptors-household-items"> Which 9 Household Items Will Make Your Hormones Go Haywire?</a></li> </span> <span id="linked-story-217396"> <li><a href="/tom-philpott/2013/03/study-eating-fresh-local-and-organic-wont-protect-you-nasty-chemicals"> Buying Local and Organic? You're Still Eating Plastic Chemicals</a></li> </span> </ul></div> <!-- footer content --> </div> <p>In one study, researchers from the NYU Langone Medical Center analyzed urine samples of over 1,300 adolescents between the ages of 8 and 19 and found that the levels of DINP and DIDP corresponded to levels in blood pressure. In a separate study, the same team studied 356 teens and found a similar correlation between the chemical levels and insulin resistance&mdash;a condition that can lead to diabetes.</p> <p>The researchers recommend limiting exposure to these compounds by avoiding plastics marked with 3, 6, and 7, opting for fresh food over packaged, and making sure never to put plastic containers in the microwave or dishwasher, where they are more apt to leech chemicals.</p> <p>This isn't the first time plasticizing chemicals marketed as safe alternatives have proven otherwise. In last year's <a href="" target="_blank"><em>Mother Jones </em>investigation</a> into the dangers of BPA-free plastics, Mariah Blake uncovered the plastic industry's "Big-Tobacco" style campaign to bury research that showed how their products were connected to a litany of health problems&mdash;and the US government's failure to step in:</p> <blockquote> <p>US regulators also have continued to ignore the mounting evidence linking BPA and similar chemicals to human disease, even as bans have cropped up around the world. Although more than 90 studies examining people with various levels of exposure suggest BPA affects humans much as it does animals, the FDA recently announced that its research "<a href="" target="_blank">supports the safety of BPA</a>" in food containers and packaging. And the EPA program that was supposed to screen some 80,000 chemicals for endocrine disruption hasn't fully vetted a single substance. In 2010, the agency sought White House approval to add some endocrine-disrupting chemicals that are commonly found in plastic&mdash;among them BPA, phthalates, and a class of compounds known as PBDEs&mdash;to its "chemicals of concern" list because it found they "may present an unreasonable risk to human health." This would have required chemical makers to share safety-testing data with federal regulators. The proposal languished until last September, <a href="" target="_blank">when the EPA quietly withdrew it</a>, along with a proposed rule requiring manufacturers to disclose safety data on chemicals in their products.</p> </blockquote></body></html> Blue Marble Health Regulatory Affairs Top Stories Fri, 10 Jul 2015 10:05:09 +0000 Gabrielle Canon 279426 at These Antidepressants May Increase the Risk of Birth Defects <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>Babies born to women who took certain antidepressants during pregnancy may have an elevated risk of birth defects, according to a <a href="" target="_blank">study</a> published Wednesday in the medical journal <em>BMJ</em>.</p> <p>Over the past few years, researchers have come to conflicting conclusions about the health impacts of taking common antidepressants called selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, or SSRIs, early in pregnancy. Some studies have found prenatal exposure to SSRIs to be associated with heart and brain defects, autism, and more, while others have found the risk to be minimal or nonexistent.</p> <p>The <em>BMJ</em> study, led by researchers at the the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, shed light on the matter by analyzing <a href="" target="_blank">federal data</a> of 38,000 births between 1997 and 2009. Researchers interviewed the mothers of children with certain birth defects associated with SSRIs, asking if they took certain antidepressants during the first three months of pregnancy or the month prior to it. Unlike many previous studies, which looked at the effects of SSRIs as a group, the researchers looked at the health impacts of five specific drugs. They found that two drugs were associated with birth defects, while three of the drugs were not. Here are the details:</p> <ul><li>Sertraline (Zoloft): No increased risk of birth defects. (This was the most common of the five drugs, taken by forty percent of the women on antidepressants.)</li> <li>Paroxetine (Paxil): Babies were between 2 and 3.5 more likely to be born with <a href="" target="_blank">heart defects</a>, <a href="" target="_blank">brain defects</a>, <a href="" target="_blank">holes</a> between heart chambers, and <a href="" target="_blank">intestinal</a> <a href="" target="_blank">deformities</a>.</li> <li>Fluoxetine (Prozac): Babies were two times more likely to experience <a href="" target="_blank">heart defects</a> and <a href="" target="_blank">skull and brain shape</a> abnormalities.</li> <li>Escitalopram (Lexapro): No increased risk of birth defects.</li> <li>Citalopram (Celexa): No increased risk of birth defects.</li> </ul><p>Researchers are quick to note that even in the case of paroxetine and fluexetine, the absolute risk of these defects is still very small. If mothers take paroxetine early in pregnancy, for example, the chance of giving birth to a baby with anencephaly, a brain defect, rise from 2 in 10,000 to 7 in 10,000.</p> <p>Some <a href="" target="_blank">doctors</a> worry that studies like this dissuade mothers who truly need mental health treatment from seeking it&mdash;particularly since the stress associated with depression in the mother can impact the <a href="" target="_blank">health</a> of the baby. Elizabeth Fitelson, a Columbia University psychiatrist who treats pregnant women with depression, described this tricky balance to the <a href="" target="_blank"><em>New York Times</em></a> earlier this year: "For about 10 percent of my patients, I can readily say that they don't need medication and should go off it," she said. "I see a lot of high-risk women. Another 20 percent absolutely have to stay on medication&mdash;people who have made a suicide attempt every time they've been unmedicated. For the remaining 70 percent, it's a venture into the unknowable."</p></body></html> Blue Marble Health Pharma Thu, 09 Jul 2015 22:22:32 +0000 Julia Lurie 279386 at Solar Power Is Mostly for the Affluent. Here's Obama's Plan to Spread the Wealth Around. <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>Rooftop solar power systems cost <a href="" target="_blank">a lot less</a> these days than they did five or 10 years ago, and with many solar companies now offering leases and loans, it's safe to say that going solar is more affordable than even before. That trend goes a long way to explaining why solar, while still making up less than 1 percent of the total US energy mix, is the fastest-growing power source in the country.</p> <p>But access to solar power is still overwhelmingly skewed toward affluent households. Of the roughly <a href="" target="_blank">645,000 homes and business</a> with rooftop solar panels in the US, less than 5 percent are households earning less than $40,000, according to a <a href="" target="_blank">report</a> earlier this year from the George Washington University Solar Institute. The typical solar home is <a href="" target="_blank">34 percent larger</a> than the typical non-solar home, according to energy software provider Opower.</p> <p>President Barack Obama wants to change that. On Monday the White House announced a package of initiatives to make solar more accessible for low-income households. The plans include a new solar target for federally subsidized housing and an effort to increase the availability of federally insured loans for solar systems.</p> <p>Low-income households face a number of barriers to going solar. They're less likely to own their own roof, less able to access loans or other financing options for solar, and more likely to have subsidized utility bills that don't transfer the financial benefits of solar to the homeowner. And yet, in many ways low-income households stand to benefit the most from producing their own energy: The proportion of their income spent on energy is about four times greater than the national median, according to <a href="" target="_blank">federal statistics</a>. And because lower-income households tend to use less electricity overall than higher-income households, a typical solar setup covers more of their demand. The GW study found that a 4 kilowatt solar system, about the average size for a house, would cover more than half of a typical low-income household's energy needs and that if all low-income households went solar, they would collectively save up to $23.3 billion each year.</p> <p>"[This is] aimed at taking directly on those challenges and making it easier and straightforward to deploy low-cost solar energy in every community in the country," senior White House climate advisor <a href="" target="_blank">Brian Deese</a> <a href="" target="_blank">told reporters</a> in a call yesterday.</p> <p>The initiative starts by tripling the target for solar on federally subsidized housing to 300 megawatts by 2020, as well as directing the Department of Housing and Urban Development to provide technical guidance for state and local housing authorities on how to go solar. The White House also announced more than $520 million in commitments from private companies, investors, NGOs, and state and local governments to pay for energy efficiency and solar projects for low-income households. The initiative places particular emphasis on so-called "community" solar, in which groups of households pool resources to build and maintain a shared solar system in their neighborhood.</p> <p>Some states and power companies are already angling to support solar for low-income housing. Arizona Public Service, a Phoenix-area utility, recently launched a $28.5 million program to install its own solar panels on rooftops in its service area, specifically targeting low-income households. And New York's electricity regulators recently bolstered incentives for power companies that invest in energy efficiency and renewables. Con Ed, the power company serving most of New York City, <a href="" target="_blank">plans to spend</a> $250 million on such upgrades in Brooklyn and Queens, as an alternative to a $1 billion upgrade to the old natural gas-fired electric grid.</p> <p>The president's plan builds on a <a href="" target="_blank">commitment</a> he announced earlier this year to train 75,000 workers for the solar industry (which is already adding jobs <a href="" target="_blank">10 times faster</a> than the overall economy). It also dovetails neatly with Obama's larger climate objectives, especially his <a href="" target="_blank">hotly-contested plan</a> to reduce the nation's energy-related carbon emissions 30 percent by 2030, as well as the <a href="" target="_blank">economy-wide climate targets</a> that form the US bargaining chip for this year's UN climate negotiations in Paris.</p> <p>For all those promises to work, "the question is how states and utilities can reduce their emissions, and the buildings that they serve are a critical part of that system," said Natural Resources Defense Council financial policy analyst Philip Henderson. "Making those buildings more efficient and using less energy from dirty power plants is a direct and essential way to meet those goals." &nbsp; &nbsp;</p></body></html> Blue Marble Climate Change Climate Desk Energy Top Stories Infrastructure Tue, 07 Jul 2015 17:33:13 +0000 Tim McDonnell 279116 at