Blue Marble Feed | Mother Jones Mother Jones logo en 6 Terrifying Facts About Measles <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>The current outbreak of measles that began in California has <a href="" target="_blank">sickened</a> 86 people and landed <a href="" target="_blank">30 babies</a> in home isolation. The California Department of Health has issued an official <a href="" target="_blank">warning</a> that "any place where large numbers of people congregate and there are a number of international visitors, like airports, shopping malls and tourist attractions, you may be more likely to find measles, which should be considered if you are not vaccinated."</p> <p>Not everyone is so concerned. In a <a href=";id=116317855073374" target="_blank">Facebook post</a> on January 16, celebrity pediatrician Robert "Dr. Bob" Sears encouraged his followers not to "let anyone tell you you should live in fear of" measles. "Ask any Grandma or Grandpa (well, older ones anyway)," he wrote, "and they'll say 'Measles? So what? We all had it. It's like Chicken pox.'"</p> <p>Well, Dr. Bob is wrong&mdash;measles is serious business. Consider these facts:</p> <ol><li><strong>Measles is one of the most contagious illnesses known to man.</strong> According to the <a href="" target="_blank">Centers for Disease Control and Prevention</a> (CDC), it infects about 90 percent of people who come into contact with it. The virus can survive on surfaces or even in the air for up to two hours. That means that if an unvaccinated person happens to pass through a room where someone with measles was a few hours before, he or she has a very high chance of contracting the disease.&nbsp;<br> &nbsp;</li> <li><strong>Some people who get measles become seriously ill.</strong> Before the advent of the measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR) vaccine, between 3 and 4 million people contracted measles each year in the United States. Of those, 48,000 were hospitalized, 4,000 developed the life-threatening brain condition encephalitis, and 400 to 500 died.<br> &nbsp;</li> <li><strong>Almost everyone needs to be vaccinated for measles in order to protect the most vulnerable people.</strong> The epidemiological concept of "herd immunity" means that enough people in a given community are immunized so that people who can't get vaccinated&mdash;infants that are too young to receive vaccines, people who can't get vaccinated because their immune systems are not strong enough, and the small number of people for whom the vaccine doesn't work&mdash;are protected. The threshold for herd immunity varies by disease; for measles, it's <a href="" target="_blank">92 to 94 percent</a>.<br> &nbsp;</li> <li><strong>In some places in the United States, MMR vaccination rates among kindergartners aren't anywhere near the herd immunity threshold.</strong> In Marin County, California, only 80 percent of students are up to date on their vaccinations. In Nevada County, California, the figure is 73 percent. <em>New York</em> magazine <a href="" target="_blank">reported</a> last year that dozens of New York City private schools had immunization rates below 70 percent. (Californians can check rates at individual schools <a href="" target="_blank">here</a>.)<br> &nbsp;</li> <li><strong>Worldwide, measles is far from eradicated.</strong> According to the <a href="" target="_blank">CDC</a>, in 2013, more than 60 percent of children in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ethiopia, India, Indonesia Nigeria, and Pakistan were not adequately vaccinated against measles. Seventy percent of measles deaths worldwide occurred in those countries.<br> &nbsp;</li> <li><strong>Measles could make a major comeback in the United States.</strong> It's happened in other developed nations: In the mid-1990s, UK public health officials considered measles eradicated in the country&mdash;but in 2008, because of low vaccination rates, measles once again hit <a href="" target="_blank">endemic status</a>. Between 2008 and 2011, France saw <a href="" target="_blank">more than 20,000 cases of measles</a>&mdash;after virtual elimination of the disease just a few years before.</li> </ol></body></html> Blue Marble Health Top Stories Wed, 28 Jan 2015 11:00:10 +0000 Kiera Butler 269046 at This Map Shows Why The Midwest Is Screwed <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>The ongoing drought in California has been, among other things, a powerful lesson in how vulnerable America's agricultural sector is to climate change. Even if that drought <a href="" target="_blank">wasn't specifically caused by man-made global warming</a>, scientists have little doubt that droughts and heat waves are going to get more frequent and severe in important crop-growing regions. In California, the cost in 2014 was staggering: $2.2 billion in losses and added expenses, plus 17,000 lost jobs, <a href="" target="_blank">according to a UC-Davis study</a>.</p> <p>California is country's hub for fruits, veggies, and nuts. But what about the commodity grains grown in the Midwest, where the US produces over half its corn and soy? That's the subject of a <a href="" target="_blank">new report</a> by the climate research group headed by former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, former US Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson, and billionaire environmentalist Tom Steyer (who <a href="" target="_blank">recently shut down rumors</a> that he might run for Senate).</p> <p>The report is all about climate impacts expected in the Midwest, and the big takeaway is that future generations have lots of very sweaty summers in store. One example: "The average Chicago resident is expected to experience more days over 95 degrees F by the century's end than the average Texan does today." The report also predicts that electricity prices will increase, with potential ramifications for the region's manufacturing sector, and that beloved winter sports&mdash;<a href="" target="_blank">ice fishing, anyone?</a>&mdash;will become harder to do.</p> <p>But some of the most troublesome findings are about agriculture. Some places will fare better than others; northern Minnesota, for example, could very well find itself benefiting from global warming. But overall, the report says, extreme heat, scarcer water resources, and weed and insect invasions will drive down corn and soybean yields by 11 to 69 percent by the century's end. Note that these predictions assume no "significant adaptation," so there's an opportunity to soften the blow with <a href="" target="_blank">solutions</a> like better water management, switching to more heat-tolerant crops like sorghum, or the combination of genetic engineering and data technology now <a href="" target="_blank">being pursued by Monsanto</a>.</p> <p>Here's a map from the report showing which states' farmers could benefit from climate change&mdash;and which ones will lose big time:</p> <div class="inline inline-center" style="display: table; width: 1%"><img alt="" class="image" src="/files/crop-map-630.jpg"><div class="caption">Risky Business</div> </div></body></html> Blue Marble Maps Climate Change Climate Desk Food and Ag Science Tue, 27 Jan 2015 21:44:23 +0000 Tim McDonnell 268986 at Obama's Trip to India Shortened His Life by 6 Hours <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>Over the weekend President Barack Obama was in India for talks with Prime Minister Narendra Modi on nuclear power, trade, climate change, <a href="" target="_blank">and other topics</a>. The climate piece was, if not necessarily a letdown, certainly less exciting than Obama's <a href="" target="_blank">wide-reaching deal with China</a> in November. Crucially, the China deal included specific carbon emissions reduction targets; those were left out in India over Modi's (<a href="" target="_blank">arguably justifiable</a>) insistence that the country be able to aggressively expand its electricity infrastructure to fight poverty.</p> <p>Instead, India committed to expand its solar power capacity by 33-fold within seven years, and to work closely with the United States in advance of major UN climate talks in Paris in December. (India's participation will be vital for the summit to produce a meaningful international agreement.)</p> <p>As <em>Bloomberg</em>'s <span class="author" itemprop="author">Natalie Obiko Pearson <a href="" target="_blank">noted</a>, </span>Obama got a first-hand taste in the trip of how important it is for India to fuel its growth with clean energy sources. India is already the world's third-largest greenhouse gas emitter behind China and the US, and air pollution in many of its cities far exceeds even the <a href="" target="_blank">infamous levels in Beijing and other Chinese megalopolises</a>.</p> <p>In fact, Delhi&mdash;the capital city where Obama's meetings took place&mdash;has the world's highest concentration of PM 2.5, <a href="" target="_blank">according to the UN</a>. These tiny airborne particulates can increase the risk of heart disease and a host of really awful respiratory ailments. The PM 2.5 levels in Delhi are so insanely bad that breathing the air for only a few hours can have irreversible health impacts&hellip;even on the leader of the free world.</p> <p>From <em><a href="" target="_blank">Bloomberg</a>:</em></p> <blockquote> <p>During Obama's three-day visit, PM2.5 levels in Delhi have averaged between 76 to 84 micrograms per cubic meter, according to <a href="" rel="external" title="Open Web Site">data</a> collected by India's Ministry of Earth Sciences&hellip;Those levels translate roughly into an estimated loss of 2 hours a day in <a href="">life expectancy</a>, said <a href="" rel="external" title="Open Web Site">David Spiegelhalter</a>, a statistician at the University of Cambridge, who specializes in quantifying risk in a way that is understandable to the public.</p> </blockquote> <p>Obama was there for three days, so that's six hours off his life. That is profoundly terrifying. It also underscores how, for developing countries, the need to stem pollution from power plants is about much more than solving the long-term problem of global warming. It's about addressing an urgent pubic health crisis.</p> <p><em>This post has been updated.</em></p></body></html> Blue Marble Climate Change Climate Desk Health International Obama Tue, 27 Jan 2015 17:08:54 +0000 Tim McDonnell 268931 at This Is Not a Drill: 29 Million Brace for Massive, Historic Snowstorm <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p><strong>Update: Monday, January 26, 6:35 p.m. EST: </strong>This was the scene outside our office this afternoon. Yikes!</p> <p><iframe allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="354" src="//" width="630"></iframe></p> <p><strong>Update: Monday, January 26, 6:00 p.m. EST: </strong>From <a href="" target="_blank">our friends at Climate Central</a>, here's a little background on the weather forces behind the storm and how they relate to man-made climate change:</p> <blockquote> <p>The low pressure area at the heart of the storm is tracking along the East Coast in a way that lets it exploit the contrast between the cold air over land and the warmth of the oceans, which are running more than 2&deg;F warmer than normal along much of the coast, said <a href="">Kevin Trenberth</a>, a climatologist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colo. The warmer ocean waters mean more moisture in the atmosphere for the storm to suck up; the cold air over the continent ensures that moisture falls as snow.</p> </blockquote> <p><strong>Update: Monday, January 26, 5:00 p.m. EST:</strong> New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has decided to put a "hard stop" on the region's public transit later tonight in preparation for worse snow conditions starting in the early hours of Tuesday:</p> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet" lang="en"> <p>As per <a href="">@NYGovCuomo</a>, all <a href="">@NYCTSubway</a>, <a href="">@NYCTBus</a>, <a href="">@LIRR</a> and <a href="">@MetroNorth</a> operations will be fully closed by 11pm.</p> &mdash; MTA (@MTA) <a href="">January 26, 2015</a></blockquote> <script async src="//" charset="utf-8"></script><p>New Yorkers were piling into the subway ahead of the evening rush hour:</p> <div class="inline inline-center" style="display: table; width: 1%"><img alt="" class="image" src="/files/bliz-6.jpg"><div class="caption"><strong>Heading into the Union Square subway entrance Monday afternoon. </strong>Tim McDonnell</div> </div> <p><strong>Update: Monday, January 26, 2:45 p.m. EST:</strong> Even just after a couple hours of snow dumped by the strengthening blizzard, New York City's landscape is white-washed for the first time this season:</p> <div class="inline inline-center" style="display: table; width: 1%"><img alt="" class="image" src="/files/bliz-1.jpg"><div class="caption"><strong>NYC's heroic fleet of food delivery cyclists soldiered on as snow came down in Manhattan. </strong>Tim McDonnell</div> </div> <div class="inline inline-center" style="display: table; width: 1%"><img alt="" class="image" src="/files/bliz4.jpg"><div class="caption"><strong>Almost as soon as it started, the snow was coming down in sheets. </strong>Tim McDonnell</div> </div> <div class="inline inline-center" style="display: table; width: 1%"><img alt="" class="image" src="/files/bliz-5.jpg"><div class="caption"><strong>In Midtown, so begins the long battle to keep sidewalks clear of snow and ice. </strong>Tim McDonnell</div> </div> <div class="inline inline-center" style="display: table; width: 1%"><img alt="" class="image" src="/files/bliz-3.jpg"><div class="caption"><strong>Stay warm, little guy! </strong>Tim McDonnell</div> </div> <div class="inline inline-center" style="display: table; width: 1%"><img alt="" class="image" src="/files/bliz-2.jpg"><div class="caption"><strong>Central Park quickly turned into a winter wonderland. </strong>Tim McDonnell</div> </div> <p><strong>Update: Monday, January 26, 2:15 p.m. EST:</strong> As the blizzard begins to hit New York City, my colleague James West ventured out to capture some Brooklyn street scenes, in super-slow motion (flick the player to HD for some fun snow-falling prettiness):</p> <p><iframe allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="354" src="//" width="630"></iframe></p> <p>After a few months of mild weather, today and tomorrow the East Coast is in for one hell of a snowstorm. <a href="" target="_blank">Twenty-nine million people</a> from New Jersey to Maine are under a blizzard alert. Here's the latest snow forecast for the Boston region from the National Weather Service:</p> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet" lang="en"> <p>Looks like <a href="">@NWSBoston</a> is all in. 28" for Boston (verbatim current fcst) would be a new all-time record. <a href=""></a></p> &mdash; Eric Holthaus (@EricHolthaus) <a href="">January 26, 2015</a></blockquote> <script async src="//" charset="utf-8"></script><p>And New York:</p> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet" lang="en"> <p>Here is our latest storm total snow range forecast graphic. <a href=""></a></p> &mdash; NWS New York NY (@NWSNewYorkNY) <a href="">January 26, 2015</a></blockquote> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><script async src="//" charset="utf-8"></script>The range shown for New York here&mdash;up to two feet dumped on the city by Wednesday&mdash;is at least down from yesterday's estimates, when, <a href="" target="_blank">as our friend Eric Holhaus at <em>Slate </em>reported</a>, meteorologists were warning that it could be the largest blizzard in the city's history. Still, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio <a href="" target="_blank">told residents</a> "to prepare for something worse than we have seen before." The worst of the worst is expected starting Monday afternoon and through Tuesday.</p> <p>Stay tuned here for more updates, as well as images from inside the storm.&nbsp;</p></body></html> Blue Marble Photo Essays Climate Change Climate Desk Science Top Stories Mon, 26 Jan 2015 16:10:17 +0000 Tim McDonnell 268801 at One Perfect Tweet Sums Up Why Climate Denial in Congress Is So Dangerous <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>Here's the good news: Yesterday the Senate <a href="" target="_blank">voted overwhelmingly</a> in favor of an amendment to the Keystone XL bill that says "climate change is real and not a hoax." Good work, ladies and gentlemen! Glad we got that on the record, <a href="" target="_blank">only 25 years</a> after scientists agreed on it.</p> <p>Here's the bad news: Turns out the vote was just an excuse for James Inhofe (Okla.) to say, as he has many times before: Sure, climate change is real. The climate changes all the time. But humans aren't the cause.</p> <p>His evidence for this dismissal of the mainstream scientific consensus? <a href="" target="_blank">The bible</a>.</p> <p>Oy vey.</p> <p>Now here's the really bad news: This same gentleman from Oklahoma recently became the chairman of the very Senate committee that oversees environmental policy. And two of his climate change-denying peers <a href="" target="_blank">will chair other subcommittees</a> that oversee vital climate science.</p> <p>In case it isn't self-evident why these facts are so terrible, we have our lovely readers to sum it up:</p> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet" lang="en"> <p><a href="">@MotherJones</a> How can United States possibly compete in the scientific community when we have throwbacks like this running major committees</p> &mdash; Sharon Dennis (@sddphoto) <a href="">January 22, 2015</a></blockquote> <script async src="//" charset="utf-8"></script><p>Thanks, <a href="" target="_blank">Sharon Dennis</a>!</p></body></html> Blue Marble Climate Change Climate Desk Congress Thu, 22 Jan 2015 21:13:16 +0000 Tim McDonnell 268676 at Are You at Risk for a Heart Attack? The Answer May Lie in Your Twitter Stream <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>Of the many illnesses that plague Americans, heart disease is the deadliest&mdash;and one of the toughest to predict. Epidemiologists have long used surveys and clinical data to tease out genetic factors from lifestyle risks such as diet, smoking, and stress, with little success. But a new study shows that there might be a better tool to assess heart disease: Twitter.</p> <p>A <a href="" target="_blank">study</a> published in the peer-reviewed journal <em>Psychological Science</em> analyzed tweets and health data from 1,300 counties across the United States. The researchers found that negative tweets&mdash;those expressing fatigue, hostility, and stress&mdash;were associated with elevated risk of coronary heart disease (the medical term for clogged arteries) in the counties where the writers of those tweets lived. High volumes of tweets expressing optimism, excitement, ambition, and activity, meanwhile, correlated with lower than average rates of heart disease.</p> <p>Here are some word clouds with examples of language that predicted higher and lower levels of disease:</p> <div class="inline inline-center" style="display: table; width: 1%"><img alt="" class="image" src="/files/small%20topics%20-%20redone%20copy_0.png"><div class="caption">Psychological Science</div> </div> <p>What's more, the researchers found that the language used in tweets correlates much more closely with heart disease rates than traditional predictive factors such as your income and education level, your weight, and even whether you are a smoker:</p> <div class="inline inline-center" style="display: table; width: 1%"><img alt="" class="image" src="/files/bar-plot-600.gif"><div class="caption">Psychological Science</div> </div> <p>Lead author Johannes Eichstaedt, a psychological scientist at University of Pennsylvania, described Twitter as "the perfect tool for figuring out something like heart disease." Researchers have long suspected connections between emotional states and heart disease risk. And while it's not surprising that people with high levels of stress and anger would be at higher risk than their mellower, happier peers, researchers have traditionally relied on surveys to evaluate people's psychological well being. The problem is that survey-based studies can take years, and people aren't always honest about their feelings. Which makes Twitter a researcher's treasure trove. "Twitter is where people talk about themselves, where they express their emotions candidly," Eichstaedt says.</p> <p>Here's a map showing coronary heart disease deaths by county, using data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention:</p> <div class="inline inline-center" style="display: table; width: 1%"><img alt="" class="image" src="/files/cdc%20map%20600.jpg"><div class="caption">Psychological Science, CDC</div> </div> <div class="inline inline-center" style="display: table; width: 1%"><img alt="" class="image" src="/files/key.jpg"></div> <p>Now compare it with this map, which predicts rates of heart disease based on tweet language:</p> <div class="inline inline-center" style="display: table; width: 1%"><img alt="" class="image" src="/files/twitter-map-600.gif"><div class="caption">Psychological Science, Twitter</div> </div> <p>Another bonus of using Twitter as an epidemiological tool: It's much easier and cheaper than going door to door or calling people to conduct surveys. "If I wanted to repeat this analysis I could do it in an afternoon," says Eichstaedt. "With surveys, that would take a year."</p></body></html> Blue Marble Charts Maps Health Thu, 22 Jan 2015 11:00:10 +0000 Kiera Butler 268586 at No, You Shouldn't Let Fears of a Scary Nervous System Disease Stop You From Getting a Flu Shot <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>Despite <a href="" target="_blank">abundant evidence</a> that flu vaccines are safe and effective, only about a third of Americans get the shots each season. Public health experts believe that one reason for the low immunization rates is misinformation about side effects of the vaccine. One is the belief that the vaccine can actually give you the flu (<a href="" target="_blank">false</a>); another is that it can cause autism in children (also false, as we've <a href="" target="_blank">said</a> <a href="" target="_blank">many</a> <a href="" target="_blank">times</a>).</p> <p>Add that to the worry that it will cause a rare but serious nervous-system disorder called <a href="" target="_blank">Guillain&ndash;Barr&eacute; syndrome </a>(GBS), an autoimmune disease in which the immune system attacks the nervous system, resulting in muscle weakness, or even temporary paralysis. This fear is not completely unfounded&mdash;several studies, including a <a href="" target="_blank">recent one</a> by Italian researchers about the 2010-2011 vaccine&mdash;have found that getting a flu shot can indeed very slightly elevate one's risk of contracting the disease, by about one additional case per million people.</p> <p>But here's where things get complicated: While it's true that the flu vaccine can raise your GBS risk, so can the flu itself. So which is more likely to lead to GBS: Getting the vaccine or getting the flu?</p> <p>That's the question that Steven Hawken and Kumanan Wilson, epidemiologists from The Ottawa Hospital, set out to answer. The researchers developed a calculator that took into account baseline GBS risk (overall, it's about 10 in a million, though it varies with age and sex&mdash;GBS affects more men than women and more elderly people than young adults and children), vaccine effectiveness, and overall incidence of flu. Their <a href="" target="_blank">findings</a>: For most people, in a flu season where the flu incidence is greater than 5 percent and the vaccine is more than 60 percent effective, says Wilson, "your risk of GBS actually goes down when you get the vaccine because it prevents the flu."</p> <p>That's good news in most years, when the flu vaccine is well over 60 percent effective. Here's the problem: This year's flu vaccine is only about 23 percent effective. Still, according to Wilson, while this year's total flu incidence isn't yet known, it appears to be greater than that of an average year&mdash;much higher than 5 percent. That means that even with the reduced effectiveness of the vaccine, the overall GBS risk is likely still greater for people who contract the flu than for those who get immunized, says Wilson.</p> <p>What's more, he adds, it's important to keep in mind that the risk of serious complications from the flu outweighs that of acquiring GBS. Last year, <a href="" target="_blank">according</a> to the CDC, 9,635 people were hospitalized with the flu in the United States. According to the <a href="" target="_blank">CDC</a> there are between 3,000-6,000 cases of GBS annually (though no hospitalization data is available). Most of those cases aren't caused by flu vaccines or the flu itself; the most common cause of GBS is infection with the bacterium <em>Campylobacter</em> <em>jejeuni, </em>usually the result of eating contaminated food.</p> <p>The takeaway: The GBS risk from the flu itself is most likely greater than that of the vaccine. And while GBS can be a scary disease, it's much less common than scary complications FROM the flu.</p></body></html> Blue Marble Health Top Stories Mon, 19 Jan 2015 11:00:08 +0000 Kiera Butler 268391 at Pope Francis: Climate Change Is Real and Humans Are Causing It <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>Pope Francis made headlines Thursday when he told reporters that he believes climate change is largely caused by humans. "I don't know if it [human activity] is the only cause, but mostly, in great part, it is man who has slapped nature in the face," said Francis, <a href=";ir=Green" target="_blank">according to the Associated Press</a>. "We have in a sense taken over nature."</p> <p>But how does the pope <em>know </em>that humans are responsible for most of the <a href="" target="_blank">unprecedented warming</a> that has occurred in recent years? How can he be sure it wasn't caused by <a href="" target="_blank">solar cycles</a>? Or <a href="" target="_blank">volcanoes</a>? Or "<a href="" target="_blank">global wobbling</a>"? Here's a hint: The AP mentions that some of Francis' top aides have recently noted "that there is clear-cut scientific evidence that climate change is driven by human activity."</p> <p>That's right. Unlike <a href="" target="_blank">much of the US Congress</a>, the pope seems seems to be relying on science to inform his opinions about climate change. And indeed, his remarks Thursday echoed the scientific consensus on the issue. The UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, for instance, <a href="" target="_blank">recently declared</a> it "extremely likely"&mdash;that is, at least 95 percent certain&mdash;that "human influence has been the dominant cause of the observed warming since the mid-20th century."</p> <p>Still, all the science in the world won't help much if we don't actually do something to reign in the greenhouse gas emissions that are causing the problem. And the pope is pushing for action. According to the AP, Francis criticized world leaders for failing to accomplish enough at a <a href="" target="_blank">recent climate conference</a> in Lima, Peru, and he called for them to be "more courageous" when they reconvene in Paris later this year.</p></body></html> Blue Marble Climate Change Climate Desk Religion Science Thu, 15 Jan 2015 22:55:48 +0000 Jeremy Schulman 268326 at McDonald's Just Recalled 1 Million Chicken McNuggets for a Super-Gross Reason <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p><em><strong>Update 12/15/15:</strong> Cargill <a href="" target="_blank">announced</a> that "they are confident the blue, plastic foreign material recently reported in one McDonalds Chicken Nugget in Japan did not originate from Cargill&rsquo;s production facilities." The source of the plastic is unknown.</em></p> <p>McDonald's Japan is having a rough start to 2015. Last week, the company apologized after a customer found plastic fragments in an order of Chicken McNuggets, which were thought to have been produced at a Cargill factory in Thailand. McDonald's pulled out nearly <a href="" target="_blank">1 million McNuggets</a> from the factory in one day. The same week, a customer in Misawa found a piece of <a href=";id=131053289&amp;size=huge&amp;image_format=jpg&amp;method=download&amp;;racksite_id=ny&amp;chosen_subscription=1&amp;license=standard&amp;src=dt_last_search-4" target="_blank">vinyl</a> in an order of McNuggets.</p> <p>In a statement about the plastic contamination, company spokesman Takashi Hasegasa said, "We deeply apologize for the trouble we have caused our customers and we are taking quick measures to analyze the cause of the contamination."</p> <p>Plastic and vinyl are, sadly, not the only gross items that customers have found in their McDonald's meals over the past year. In August, the company received a complaint from a customer in Osaka who had found the shard of a human tooth in an order of french fries. It was unclear at press time if the customer was in fact "<a href="" target="_blank">lovin' it.</a>"</p> <p>In July, McDonald's shut down its poultry supplier in China, Shanghai Husi Food Co, after allegations that the factory had deliberately mixed fresh chicken with expired produce. The meat had then allegedly been shipped to McDonald's in Japan and Starbucks and Burger King in China.</p> <p>The summer food scares led McDonald's Japan sales to drop more than 10 percent every month compared to the previous year, according to <a href="" target="_blank">CNN</a>. This fiscal year, the golden arches are bracing themselves for the their first net loss in Japan in 11 years.</p> <p>In an effort to bounce back, McDonald's Japan launched a sales campaign with discounts, giveaways, and new nuggets made from <a href="" target="_blank">tofu</a>.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p></body></html> Blue Marble Econundrums Food and Ag Health Thu, 15 Jan 2015 19:31:01 +0000 Julia Lurie 268286 at Obama's Crackdown on Methane Emissions Is a Really Big Deal <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>This morning the White House announced a <a href="" target="_blank">new plan</a> to crack down on the oil and gas industry's emissions of methane, a potent greenhouse gas. The move is the last major piece of President Obama's domestic climate agenda, following in the footsteps of tougher standards for vehicle emissions and a <a href="" target="_blank">sweeping plan to curb carbon dioxide emissions from power plants</a>.</p> <p>Like the power plant plan, the methane standards will rely on the Environmental Protection Agency's authority to regulate pollution under the Clean Air Act. The new rules will regulate the amount of methane that oil and gas producers are allow vent or leak from their wells, pipelines, and other equipment. Ultimately, according to the White House, the rules will slash methane emissions 40 to 45 percent by 2025. The proposal announced today is intended to be finalized before Obama leaves office, but it's certain to take a battering along the way from congressional Republicans and fossil fuel interest groups.</p> <p>Methane makes up a much smaller slice of America's greenhouse gas footprint than carbon dioxide&mdash;the <a href="" target="_blank">volume of methane</a> released in a year is roughly 10 times smaller than the <a href="" target="_blank">volume of CO2</a>&mdash;so the proposal might seem like small potatoes. But it's actually a pretty huge deal, for a few reasons.</p> <p><strong>Locking in climate protection: </strong>An underlying assumption of Obama's carbon emissions plan is that many power plants will switch from burning coal to burning natural gas. That's great, if your only concern is carbon dioxide. But methane, the principal emission of natural gas consumption, is 20 times more powerful than CO2 over a 100-year timespan. The problem is less with natural gas-burning power plants themselves, but with the infrastructure (pipes, compressors, etc.) needed to get gas from where it's drilled to where it's burned&mdash;and also with venting, the burning of excess gas from wells. So far, those bits and pieces have proven to be exceptionally leaky&mdash;some studies have found <a href="" target="_blank">up to 7.9 percent of the methane</a> from natural gas production simply escapes into the air.</p> <p>So if we replace our coal with natural gas but let methane go unchecked, we won't be much closer to meaningfully mitigating climate change, said Mark Brownstein of the Environmental Defense Fund. "Leak rates as low as 1 to 3 percent undo much of the benefit of going from coal to gas," he added. (Some climate scientists disagree with this assessment, <a href="" target="_blank">arguing that CO2</a> from coal is significantly more damaging over the long run than methane leaks from natural gas operations.) The plan proposed today will focus on plugging leaks and will help ensure that the quest to curb carbon emissions doesn't simply shift our climate impact to another gas.</p> <p><strong>Saving money and energy: </strong>Methane leaks aren't just bad for the climate, they're also bad for business. Every year, according to a <a href="" target="_blank">recent New York University analysis</a>, between 1 and 3 percent of all US natural gas production is lost to leaks and venting, enough to heat more 6 million homes. A separate study from the World Resources Institute <a href="" target="_blank">put the price tag for all that lost gas</a> at $1.5 billion per year. Plugging leaks and limiting venting from drilling sites would keep more gas on the market.</p> <p>The industry doesn't deny that leaks are a problem for its bottom line; the dispute is over whether intervention from the federal government is required and whether the cost to fix the leaks is worth it. Today the president of the American Petroleum Institute <a href="" target="_blank">called the methane proposal</a> "another layer of burdensome requirements [that] could actually slow down industry progress to reduce methane emissions." While it's true that overall methane emissions have been on a modest decline over the past several years, Brownstein said much more is needed to meet the nation's climate goals. And the oil and gas sector is the single biggest source of methane.</p> <p><strong>Cleaning up fracking:</strong> Behind any conversation about natural gas is always the specter of fracking. Of course, there are many concerns about fracking that have nothing to do with methane emissions: Public health issues related to water contamination, for example, or <a href="" target="_blank">earthquakes</a>. But stringent methane rules could alleviate some of the climate-related concerns about the fracking boom and could help refocus the debate around local pollution and land rights issues. These rules are also an opportunity, Brownstein said, for the gas industry to show good faith. "If the industry resists basic regulation for a relatively simple issue to solve, what is the public to think about the industry's willingness to solve more complex issues," he said. "This is a moment of truth."</p></body></html> Blue Marble Climate Change Climate Desk Energy Top Stories Infrastructure Wed, 14 Jan 2015 19:08:33 +0000 Tim McDonnell 268211 at 3 Medical Conditions That Bacon Can Cure <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>As we all know, the internet is obsessed with bacon. Physicians, however, are usually less bullish about the delicious yet notoriously artery-clogging treat. Until now: Over at the medical blog <em><a href="" target="_blank">KevinMD</a></em>, Dr. Jennifer Gunter combs the scientific literature and turns up three actual medical conditions that bacon can help treat:&nbsp;</p> <ol><li><strong>Nosebleeds.</strong> Last October, Stanford otolaryngologist Ian Humphreys <a href="" target="_blank">developed a nasal tampon made out of bacon that cured a young girl's bloody nose</a>, an accomplishment for which he was awarded a <a href="" target="_blank">2014 IgNobel Prize</a> in medicine. "Apparently the high salt content of bacon is believed to induce swelling which causes the blood vessels to constrict slowing the flow of blood and helping clotting," writes Gunter. When Humphreys won the IgNobel, Robert Jackler, chair of Stanford's otolaryngology department, <a href="" target="_blank">told</a> Stanford's <em>Scope</em> medical blog, "We are squealing with pride."<br> &nbsp;</li> <li><strong>An incredibly disgusting-sounding infection called furuncular myiasis</strong> in which the larvae of an insect called <em>Dermatobia hominis</em> nest in the human soft tissue or skin, resulting in boils and sometimes tissue destruction. Shudder. "The treatment largely consists of manually picking out the larvae with tweezers," writes Gunter. "Apparently&nbsp;<a href="">bacon fat</a>&nbsp;can be used as bait to lure the larvae to the skin surface for faster and more effective removal."<br> &nbsp;</li> <li><strong>Scabies.</strong> Apparently, bacon fat was once used in topical sulfur and salicylic acid creams used to treat this itchy and highly contagious skin infection. A 1991 <a href="" target="_blank">study</a> compared the bacon fat formulation to the more modern cold cream version and finds, Gunter writes, that "while the cold cream combination was 100% effective versus 88 percent for the bacon fat base the authors noted that the bacon fat concoction was 238 times less expensive than the cheapest scabicidal medication in the U.S."</li> </ol><p>So there you have it: bacon as medicine. Something to keep in mind if you have any left over after you make <a href="" target="_blank">that gross bacon lattice thing</a> for your Super Bowl party.</p></body></html> Blue Marble Food and Ag Health Top Stories Wed, 14 Jan 2015 11:00:13 +0000 Kiera Butler 268196 at Even Republican Voters Support Regulating Carbon Pollution <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>If you look at the new Congress, conservative sentiment seems overwhelmingly united against climate action&mdash;<a href="" target="_blank">72 percent of the Senate's Republican caucus</a> reject the science on climate change. But among the voting population, the numbers are slightly more optimistic, according to <a href="" target="_blank">Yale University polling data</a> released today.</p> <p>The data combines the results from six different polls conducted over the past three years, and it shows deep divisions within the Republican Party over belief in climate change and support for climate policies. Most interestingly, a majority of Republican voters support the government taking steps to curb carbon dioxide pollution. That's the very policy that GOP leaders like Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.) and House Speaker John Boehner (Ohio) have vowed to fight this year.</p> <div class="inline inline-center" style="display: table; width: 1%"><img alt="" class="image" src="/files/R-reg_as_pollutant.jpg"><div class="caption">Yale</div> </div> <p>Despite that call for action, belief that climate change is happening is common only among self-described liberal and moderate Republicans, who together comprise just 30 percent of the party:</p> <div class="inline inline-center" style="display: table; width: 1%"><img alt="" class="image" src="/files/R-belief.jpg"><div class="caption">Yale</div> </div> <p>So clearly climate advocates still have their work cut out for them in winning more Republicans over to the overwhelming mainstream scientific consensus on climate change. But at the same time, an all-out war on President Obama's climate initiatives won't be a clear-cut win for any but the most right-wing Republican legislators.</p></body></html> Blue Marble Charts Climate Change Climate Desk Energy Science Mon, 12 Jan 2015 21:17:41 +0000 Tim McDonnell 268091 at Please, Please Stop Making Mittens for Koalas <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>After record-breaking fires hit the Adelaide suburbs in South Australia last week, an emergency call went out on social media, which was <a href="" target="_blank">then quickly picked up by the international news media</a>: Injured koalas need cotton mittens to protect their burned paws! Since then, <a href="" target="_blank">according to the Australian Broadcasting Corporation</a>, thousands of pairs of mittens have poured into Australia from all around the world. "We're now getting offers from as far afield as Russia, Kazakhstan, China, the UK and the US," <a href="" target="_blank">said Josey Sharrad</a> from the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW), which put out the request. "It's truly phenomenal."</p> <p>The wildfires destroyed 27 homes and charred nearly 50 square miles. Koalas are especially vulnerable because they live in trees, which are the very fuel for the fires, and koalas just aren't very fast.</p> <p>The IFAW put out this call to action on January 9, 2015:</p> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet" lang="en"> <p>&gt;<a href="">@TakePart</a> - These injured <a href="">#Koalas</a> really need your mittens - <a href=""></a> <a href=""></a></p> &mdash; IFAW (@action4ifaw) <a href="">January 9, 2015</a></blockquote> <script async src="//" charset="utf-8"></script><p>The group even published a pattern to help avid sewers around the world:</p> <div class="inline inline-left" style="display: table; width: 1%"><img alt="" class="image" src="/files/KOALA-MITTENS-PATTERN--A4_0.jpg" style="height: 560px; width: 630px;"></div> <p>But perhaps don't dig out that old sewing machine just yet. There's dissent in the wildlife community about the best way to help the koalas, and their burned paws.</p> <p>The Australian Marine Wildlife Research and Rescue Organization (AMWRRO), a rescue and rehabilitation group based in South Australia, says the mittens are unnecessary and may even hinder the koalas' recovery. AMWRRO is the organization that first published the photo of now-famous "Jeremy," whose four paws were being treated for "second-degree partial thickness burns":</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-post" data-href=";id=106408776102025" data-width="630"> <div class="fb-xfbml-parse-ignore"><a href=";id=106408776102025">Post</a> by <a href="">Australian Marine Wildlife Research &amp; Rescue Organisation Inc. (AMWRRO)</a>.</div> </div> <p>AMWRRO has now put out a warning on its Facebook page: "Please note AMWRRO does not require mittens as they impede the animals ability to hold leaf and branches verses that of specific bandaging techniques as shown in previous images."</p> <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><p>In any case, the great mitten campaign is over. IFAW now says they have more than satisfied the need for koala mittens, and now the group's attention has turned to other injured wildlife. "This began as a small regional effort, and in Australia we are now moving to work with local people to create cozy pouches for other wildlife like possums, kangaroos and wallabies that are also at risk from bushfires," the IFAW said in a statement.</p> <p>In short, both groups now agree: Stop sewing koala mittens. Please, stop.</p> <p>P.S. I know you want to know. Jeremy is doing a lot better now:</p> <div class="fb-post" data-href=";id=106408776102025" data-width="630"> <div class="fb-xfbml-parse-ignore"><a href=";id=106408776102025">Post</a> by <a href="">Australian Marine Wildlife Research &amp; Rescue Organisation Inc. (AMWRRO)</a>.</div> </div> <p>And here he is, back to eating leaves!</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-post" data-href="" data-width="630"> <div class="fb-xfbml-parse-ignore"><a href="">Post</a> by <a href="">Australian Marine Wildlife Research &amp; Rescue Organisation Inc. (AMWRRO)</a>.</div> </div></body></html> Blue Marble Animals Climate Change Climate Desk Mon, 12 Jan 2015 19:46:16 +0000 James West 268041 at Can Monsanto Help Farmers Adapt to Climate Change? <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>At the world's most reviled agriculture company, a big change is taking root that could help farmers&mdash;both in the US and around the world&mdash;adapt to climate change. As we reported in November, executives at Monsanto are <a href="" target="_blank">plotting a major move into data and information services</a> within the next decade. The company is working with Bay Area data gurus to provide super-accurate weather updates and farming advice to growers via their smartphones.</p> <p>These new services can help farmers better predict climate trends that have been shaken up by global warming&mdash;in the last couple decades, according to Monsanto, corn production belts in the US have migrated about 200 miles north. And they can help farmers make more efficient use of water and potential pollutants like fuel and fertilizer. But some agriculture experts have raised concerns about whether Big Ag companies will responsibly manage farmers' proprietary data like yield sizes and seed choices; at the same time, <a href="" target="_blank">as my colleague Tom Philpott noted</a>, Big Data could potentially give an outsized advantage to giant, monoculture farms, to the detriment of small farms and the environment.</p> <p>Last week <a href="" target="_blank">I talked with MSNBC's Tony Dokoupil</a> about whether Monsanto's climate adaptation products are a bright spot on the company's dark reputation. As Tony put it, "If my eco-outrage meter is on 10 when I think about Monsanto, how far should we dial it back?"</p> <p><iframe border="no" height="496" scrolling="no" src="" width="630"></iframe></p></body></html> Blue Marble Video Climate Change Climate Desk Food and Ag Science Tech Mon, 12 Jan 2015 18:13:37 +0000 Tim McDonnell 268051 at 72 Percent of Republican Senators Are Climate Deniers <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>On Thursday, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) offered a simple amendment to the controversial bill that would authorize construction of the Keystone XL oil pipeline. <a href="">Sanders' measure</a>, which he proposed to the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, would have declared it the "sense of Congress" that climate change is real; that it is caused by humans; that it has already caused significant problems; and that the United States needs to shift its economy away from fossil fuels.</p> <p>Sanders' amendment <a href="" target="_blank">went nowhere</a>. But <a href="">Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska)</a>, the chair of the committee, used the opportunity to take a shot at climate science. "I do believe that our climate is changing," she said. "I don't agree that all the changes are necessarily due solely to human activity." Murkowski didn't elaborate on her current thinking about the causes of global warming, but in the past she's advanced a bizarre theory involving a <a href="">volcano in Iceland</a>.</p> <p>Sanders will get another chance next week, when the full Senate debates the Keystone bill&mdash;but he's likely to run into stiff resistance from GOP climate deniers. As <a href=""><em>Climate Progress</em> revealed</a> Thursday, more than half of the Republican members of the new Congress "deny or question" the <a href="">overwhelming scientific consensus</a> that humans are causing climate change. If you just look at the Senate, the numbers are even more disturbing. Thirty-nine GOP senators reject the science on climate change&mdash;that's 72 percent of the Senate Republican caucus.</p> <p>The list includes veteran lawmakers like <a href="">James Inhofe</a> (R-Okla.), who is the incoming chairman of the Environment and Public Works Committee (EPW) and has written a book titled, <em>The Greatest Hoax: How the Global Warming Conspiracy Threatens Your Future</em>. And it includes new senators like Steve Daines (R-Mont.), <a href="">who thinks</a> climate change might be caused by solar cycles. (For a great interactive map showing exactly how many climate deniers represent your state in Congress, <a href="" target="_blank">click here</a>.)</p> <p>What's more, the <em>Climate Progress</em> analysis shows that many of the congressional committees that deal with climate and energy issues are loaded with global warming deniers:</p> <blockquote> <p>&hellip;68 percent of the Republican leadership in both House and Senate deny human-caused climate change. On the committee level, 13 out of 21 Republican members of the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology, or 62 percent, reject the science behind human-caused global warming, joined by 67 percent, or 21 out of 31 Republican members, of the House Energy and Commerce Committee&hellip;In addition to Inhofe, 10 out of 11, or 91 percent, of Republicans on EPW have said climate change is not happening or that humans do not cause it.</p> </blockquote> <p>All this could have serious policy consequences: Republicans are <a href="" target="_blank">threatening</a> to use their majority to cut the EPA's budget and derail the power plant regulations at the heart of President Obama's signature climate initiative.</p></body></html> Blue Marble Climate Change Climate Desk Science Top Stories Sat, 10 Jan 2015 11:00:08 +0000 Jeremy Schulman 267961 at The House Just Voted to Approve the Keystone XL Pipeline <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>The House of Representative voted overwhelmingly Friday to approve construction of the controversial Keystone XL pipeline. But even with 28 Democrats joining nearly all Republicans in voting "yea," supporters of the project still fell short of the two-thirds majority needed to override President Barack Obama's <a href="" target="_blank">promised veto</a>.</p> <p>The State Department, which has jurisdiction over the proposed pipeline because it would cross an international boundary, is currently in the process of determining whether the project is in the national interest. The House bill would circumvent that process and force approval of the pipeline. In a <a href=";ir=Green" target="_blank">statement today</a> reiterating its veto threat, the White House said Obama opposes the bill because it "conflicts with longstanding Executive branch procedures&hellip;and prevents the thorough consideration of complex issues that could bear on U.S. national interests."</p> <p>The debate will now shift to the US Senate, which is planning to vote on the pipeline next week. Late last year, Senate Republicans came <a href="" target="_blank">within one vote</a> of the 60 needed to pass a bill to approve the project. With Republicans now in control of the Senate, the Keystone bill will likely pass next week. But as in the House, pipeline supporters will struggle to attract <a href="" target="_blank">sufficient Democratic votes</a> to override a presidential veto.</p></body></html> Blue Marble Climate Change Climate Desk Energy Infrastructure Fri, 09 Jan 2015 19:03:39 +0000 Jeremy Schulman 267921 at Mickey Mouse Still Stricken With Measles, Thanks to the Anti-Vaxxers <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p><strong>Update (1/23/2015):</strong> At least 59 Measles cases have been confirmed in California this year, 42 of them linked to the Disneyland outbreak, according to the state <a href="" target="_blank">health department.</a> Public health officials around the state, but particularly in Southern California, where the outbreak is the worst, are practically begging parents to have their children immunized. The disease is highly transmissible by air&mdash;droplets from an infected person's cough can remain suspended for up to two hours, <a href="" target="_blank">the CDC notes</a>, and the virus can live for just as long on surfaces. The current outbreak is "100 percent connected" to the anti-immunization movement, Dr. James Cherry, a specialist in pediatric infectious diseases at the University of California-Los Angeles <a href="" target="_blank">told the <em>New York</em> <em>Times</em></a>: "It wouldn't have happened otherwise&mdash;it wouldn't have gone anywhere," Cherry said. "There are some pretty dumb people out there."</p> <p><strong>Update (1/13/2015):</strong> The number of reported Measles cases linked to Disneyland has <a href="" target="_blank">grown to 22</a>, reports the <em>Los Angeles Times</em>. At least 12 of the infected people were unvaccinated, while four had had a Measles shot at some point. The vaccination status of the other six was unknown.</p> <p>****</p> <p>Yesterday, instead of cherishing freshly made memories of mouse ears or trying to get the song "A Pirate's Life for Me" to stop looping in their heads, nine Disneyland visitors were left battling a potentially deadly disease. As <a href="" target="_blank"><em>The LA Times</em></a> reports, the California Department of Public Health has <a href="" target="_blank">confirmed</a> nine cases and is investigating three others in California and Utah, all people who visited the Anaheim theme park last month.</p> <p><a href="" target="_blank">The highly infectious disease</a>, which is transmitted through the air, can lead to pneumonia, encephalitis, and sometimes death in children. In 2000, the US Centers for Disease Control declared it eliminated in the United States, thanks in large part to an effective vaccine. But because of anti-vaccination hysteria, <a href="" target="_blank">fueled by discredited claims</a> about links between vaccines and autism, many parents have opted out of vaccinating their kids, leaving them&mdash;and others, including children too young to be vaccinated&mdash;vulnerable. And while some children do react badly to vaccines, it's important to remember that the diseases we vaccinate against are killers; the shots <a href="" target="_blank">save countless lives</a>.</p> <p>Of the seven California cases, six hadn't been vaccinated&mdash;two because they were underage. (Doctors administer the vaccine twice after the child is 12 months old.)</p> <p>This outbreak is part of an ongoing trend. Measles rates have risen dramatically over the past few years. As my colleague Julia Lurie <a href="" target="_blank">pointed out last May</a>, the CDC reported record numbers in 2014, due in large part to gaps in vaccinations. According to a <a href="" target="_blank">CDC press release</a>, "90&nbsp;percent of all measles cases in the United States were in people who were not vaccinated or whose vaccination status was unknown. Among the US residents who were not vaccinated, 85 percent were religious, philosophical, or personal reasons."</p> <aside class="trb_panelmod_container" data-load-type="noop" data-panelmod-type="relatedContent" data-role="panelmod_container imgsize_ratiosizecontainer"><div class="trb_panelmod_body"> <div class="inline inline-left" style="display: table; width: 1%"><img alt="Measles chart" class="image" src="/files/Measles.jpg"></div> </div> </aside><p>In the video below, my colleague Kiera Butler interviewed a Marin County pediatrician who caters to anti-vaxxer parents:</p> <p><iframe allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="354" src="//" width="630"></iframe></p></body></html> Blue Marble Health Thu, 08 Jan 2015 22:47:17 +0000 Gabrielle Canon 267816 at This Is Why You're So Damn Cold Right Now <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p><em>This <a href="" target="_blank">story</a> originally appeared in <a href="" target="_blank">CityLab</a> and is republished here as part of the <a href="" target="_blank">Climate Desk</a> collaboration. </em></p> <p>To get an idea why wind chills will plummet to 45 degrees below zero in the US this week, look no farther than <a href=";MediaTypeID=1">this unreal image</a> of a colossal polar system cutting through the country like the icy scythe of a rancorous Norse god.</p> <p>A NOAA satellite caught the coast-to-coast eyeball-freezer on Tuesday as it was revving up for an icy romp across America. Writes the agency:</p> <blockquote> <p><span style="line-height: 1.52941;">The weather pattern over the next few days will feature a massive surface high settling southward from Canada to the Great Plains on Wednesday, following by another large surface high by the end of the week. Both of these features are of Arctic origin, and will bring bitterly cold weather from the western High Plains to the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast US In addition to the frigid temperatures, the cold air advection over the Great Lakes along with upper-level shortwave energy moving over the region is expected to produce significant lake effect snow downwind from the Great Lakes through midweek. </span></p> </blockquote> <p><span style="line-height: 1.52941;">Areas east of Lake Erie and Lake Ontario are predicted to get the worst of the accumulations, which must be a comfort to Buffalo residents who are probably <em>almost</em> finished digging out from <a href="">the last winter storm</a>. NOAA says these regions will be served with snowfalls that </span>"will<span style="line-height: 1.52941;"> easily exceed one foot."</span></p> <p>As for the other <a href="">weather</a> misery afflicting the nation, take a peek at these expected wind chills. It's not a great time to be outside in the northern states, where the government is advising travelers to pack <a href=";storyid=59946&amp;source=0">winter-survival kits</a>.</p> <div class="inline inline-center" style="display: table; width: 1%"><img alt="" class="image" src="/files/c892fe914.jpg"><div class="caption">NOAA</div> </div> <p>&nbsp;</p></body></html> Blue Marble Climate Desk Wed, 07 Jan 2015 21:59:03 +0000 John Metcalfe 267716 at BREAKING: President Obama Will Veto Congress' Keystone XL Pipeline Bill <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>President Barack Obama is planning to veto a bill that would force approval of the controversial Keystone XL Pipeline, according to the Associated Press:</p> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet" lang="en"> <p>BREAKING: White House says President Obama would veto Keystone pipeline legislation.</p> &mdash; The Associated Press (@AP) <a href="">January 6, 2015</a></blockquote> <p><script async src="//" charset="utf-8"></script>White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest <a href="" target="_blank">said that the president's position hasn't changed</a> since November, when pipeline supporters in Congress last attempted to push through its approval&mdash;an effort that <a href="" target="_blank">fell just one vote shy of the 60 votes</a> needed to pass the Senate. Obama was adamant then that approval for the pipeline come not from Congress, but from the State Department, which normally has jurisdiction over international infrastructure projects like this one. A final decision from State has been delayed pending the outcome of a Nebraska State Supreme Court case, expected sometime early this year, that could alter the pipeline's route.</p> <p>Senate Majority Leader Mitch McDonnell and other Republicans have vowed to make passage of a new Keystone XL bill a top priority for the new year, and <a href="http://Senate%20Majority%20Leader%20Mitch%20McDonnell%20(Ky.)%20and%20other%20Republicans%20have%20vowed%20to%20make%20passage%20of%20a%20new%20Keystone%20XL%20bill%20a%20top%20priority%20for%20the%20new%20year,%20and%20they%20seem%20prepared%20to%20move%20forward%20with%20a%20vote%20later%20this%20week.%20The%20bill%20is%20likely%20to%20pass.%20But%20the%20challenge%20for%20Republicans%20is%20to%20garner%20enough%20support%20from%20Democratic%20senators%20to%20achieve%20the%2067%20votes%20required%20to%20override%20a%20presidential%20veto.%20Yesterday,%20Sen.%20John%20Hoeven%20(R-N.D.)%20told%20reporters%20he%20had%20just%2063%20votes." target="_blank">they seem prepared to move forward</a> with a vote later this week. The bill is likely to pass. But the challenge for Republicans is to garner enough support from Democratic senators to achieve the 67 votes required to override a presidential veto. Yesterday, Sen. John Hoeven (R-N.D.) told reporters he had just 63 votes.</p> <p>Even if Congress fails to override Obama's veto, it still won't be the end of what has become the flagship issue for US climate activists; the possibility remains that the State Department could still approve the project. But the Obama administration may be leaning against approval. In December, <a href="" target="_blank">the president said</a> the pipeline is "not even going to be a nominal benefit to US consumers."</p> <p><em>This post has been updated.</em></p></body></html> Blue Marble Climate Change Climate Desk Energy Top Stories Infrastructure Tue, 06 Jan 2015 18:33:29 +0000 Tim McDonnell 267651 at It's Official: 2014 Was the Hottest Year on Record <!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><strong>Update, January 16, 10:50 am, ET:<strong> </strong></strong>NASA and NOAA announced on Friday that 2014 was indeed the warmest year on record. As NASA explained in a <a href="" target="_blank">press release</a>, "Since 1880, Earth's average surface temperature has warmed by about 1.4 degrees Fahrenheit (0.8 degrees Celsius), a trend that is largely driven by the increase in carbon dioxide and other human emissions into the planet's atmosphere. The majority of that warming has occurred in the past three decades."</p> <p>For more on the new findings, watch the video from NASA above.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <div class="inline inline-left" style="display: table; width: 1%"><img alt="" class="image" src="/files/japan-2014-graph.jpg"><div class="caption">Japan Meteorological Agency (JMA)</div> </div> <p>For many Americans, 2014 will be remembered for its multiple blasts of Arctic air and bitter winters. And this week, another bout of freezing temperatures is marching east across the country, in the first major thermometer plunge of the season.</p> <p>But as cold as you may have been last year, it's now official that 2014 was actually the hottest year globally since record-keeping began. So confirmed the Japan Meteorological Agency in preliminary data released Monday.</p> <p>The Japanese government agency monitors and records the long-term change of the global average surface temperatures and found that 2014 was far warmer than previous years. How much warmer? 2014 exceeded the 1981-2010 temperature average by 0.27 degrees Celsius (or 0.49 degrees Fahrenheit). There was unusually warm weather all around the world, from a <a href="" target="_blank">record-breaking heat wave in Australia</a> to the <a href="" target="_blank">hottest European summer in 500 years</a>.</p> <p>The data shows that four out of the five hottest years on record have occurred in the last decade: In second place is 1998, then 2010 and 2013 tied for third, and 2005 in fifth place. The new numbers reveal that the world has been warming at an average rate of 0.7 degrees Celsius (or 1.26 degrees Fahrenheit) per century since records began.</p> <p>Two US government agencies, NOAA and NASA, are expected to confirm the results of the Japanese observations in the coming weeks.</p></body></html> Blue Marble Charts Mon, 05 Jan 2015 22:31:21 +0000 James West 267566 at How a 20-Minute Conversation Can Convince People With Anti-Gay Views to Change Their Mind <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>A recent study suggests that a single conversation between a gay person and a same-sex marriage opponent may have the power to change the&nbsp;person's mind on the issue.&nbsp;</p> <p>The study, published last week in the journal <a href="" target="_blank"><em>Science</em></a>, analyzed data collected by the <a href="" target="_blank">Los Angeles LGBT Center</a> after it sent pro-gay marriage canvassers to areas of southern California that had voted overwhelmingly in favor of Proposition 8, which banned same-sex marriage in California in 2008 until the Supreme Court overturned it in 2013. Starting in 2009, canvassers&mdash;both gay and straight&mdash;engaged in over 12,000 brief one-on-one conversations with those precincts' registered voters about either gay marriage or, with a placebo group, recycling. The survey found that respondents who had discussed gay marriage showed less prejudice towards gay people following their chat with the canvasser than those who had discussed recycling.</p> <p>But these conversations weren't equally effective across the board: At a certain point in the initial conversation, the gay canvassers had been instructed to reveal that they were gay and hoping to get married, but that the law prohibited it, whereas the straight canvassers spoke of a "friend" or "relative."</p> <p>Only the gay canvassers' effectiveness proved enduring.</p> <p>"Those who discussed same-sex marriage with straight canvassers," write the study's authors, Michael J. LaCour and Donald P. Green, "quickly reverted to their pretreatment baseline opinions, and 90% of the initial treatment effect dissipated a month after the conversation with canvassers."</p> <p>Meanwhile, the respondents who spoke to gay canvassers remained just as enlightened nine months later.</p> <p>"The data show that in 20 minutes, the Los Angeles LGBT Center&rsquo;s volunteer canvassers accomplished what would have otherwise taken five years at the current rate of social change," the center's David Fleischer said in a <a href="" target="_blank">statement.</a>&nbsp;"How did we do it? Our team had heartfelt, reciprocal and vulnerable conversations on the doorsteps of those who opposed marriage for same-sex couples, and volunteers who were LGBT came out during their conversations."</p> <p>Researchers are hopeful their persuasion methods can produce similar results in&nbsp;reducing&nbsp;prejudices on other social issues as well.&nbsp;</p></body></html> Blue Marble Gay Rights Science Thu, 18 Dec 2014 11:00:06 +0000 Inae Oh 266631 at New York State Just Banned Fracking <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>After years of wrangling between environmentalists, lawmakers, and fossil fuel companies, New York's top public health administrator said he would ban fracking in the state, citing health risks.</p> <p>From <a href=";_r=0" target="_blank">the </a><em><a href=";_r=0" target="_blank">New York Times</a>:</em></p> <blockquote> <p>The Cuomo administration announced Wednesday that it would ban hydraulic fracturing in New York State, ending years of uncertainty by concluding that the controversial method of extracting gas from deep underground could contaminate the state&rsquo;s air and water and pose inestimable public-health risks.</p> <p>"I cannot support high volume hydraulic fracturing in the great state of New York," said Howard Zucker, the acting commissioner of health.</p> <p>That conclusion was delivered publicly during a year-end cabinet meeting called by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo in Albany&hellip;The state has had a de facto ban on the procedure for more than five years, predating Mr. Cuomo's first term. The decision also came as oil and gas prices continued to fall in many places around the country, in part because of surging American oil production, as fracking boosted output.</p> </blockquote> <p>New York is the second state to ban fracking, after <a href="" target="_blank">Vermont did so in 2012</a>. That move was largely symbolic, since Vermont has no natural gas to speak of. New York, by contrast, would have been a prize for the fracking industry, thanks to its massive share of the <a href="" target="_blank">Marcellus shale formation</a>.</p> <p>"This is the first state ban with real significance," said Kate Sinding, a senior attorney in New York for the Natural Resources Defense Council. "My head is still spinning, because this is beyond anything we expected."</p> <p>The fracking battle in New York isn't quite over yet, Sinding said. Now the attention of activists will turn toward proposed infrastructure projects in the state&mdash;like a <a href="" target="_blank">gas storage facility</a> by Lake Seneca and an <a href="" target="_blank">export facility on Long Island</a>&mdash;that would handle natural gas from fracking projects in neighboring states like Pennsylvania.</p> <p><em>This post has been updated.</em></p></body></html> Blue Marble Climate Change Climate Desk Infrastructure Wed, 17 Dec 2014 18:01:03 +0000 Tim McDonnell 266836 at These Are the Cutest Animal Videos of 2014, According to the World's Leading Science Journal <!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><em>Nature</em> is one of the world's flagship peer-reviewed scientific journals, a venue for some of our best new ideas about the world. Sometimes, those ideas are about animals that also happen to be outrageously, unconscionably cute. I'm talking baby-penguins-and-pomeranians-and-monkeys-cute. This morning the ingenious folks in <em>Nature</em>'s video department rounded them all up into <a href=";" target="_blank">one face-melting video</a>.</p> <p><a href="" target="_blank">Here's how to put a YouTube video on endless loop</a>. You're welcome.</p></body></html> Blue Marble Video Animals Climate Change Climate Desk Film and TV Science Tue, 16 Dec 2014 16:08:30 +0000 Tim McDonnell 266696 at Here's How Much the Storm Is Helping California's Epic Drought <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>In the midst of the most intense <a href="" target="_blank">drought</a> in hundreds of years, Northern California is being bombarded with rain (<a href="" target="_blank">here</a> are some crazy photos). In a state that produces roughly <a href="" target="_blank">half of the country's</a> fruits and veggies, the water is more than welcome. The storm is expected to dump 2-8 inches of water in the Bay Area, and 2-5 inches in Southern California. But California would need 18-21 more inches of rain over the next six months in order to make up for the drought, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. The state usually gets about 23 inches of rain per year.</p> <p>Check out the similarity between a drought intensity chart from two weeks ago, when California was still pretty dry, and two days ago, after several days of rain.</p> <div class="inline inline-center" style="display: table; width: 1%"><img alt="" class="image" src=""></div> <p>Compared with the levels two weeks ago, there's been a small but noticeable increase in the state's reservoir water; California's two largest reservoirs,&nbsp;Shasta Lake and Lake Oroville, have both seen a three percent rise. The image below, updated on December 10th, compares how much California's reservoirs can hold (in yellow) with how much they're currently holding (in blue).</p> <div class="inline inline-center" style="display: table; width: 1%"><img alt="" class="image" src="/files/reservoir.gif"><div class="caption">California Department of Water Resources</div> </div> <p>Some experts are worried that the rain will make people forget about the fact that California's still in a drought. "Thursday it'll rain, and people will say, 'Oh, I'm very excited,' and Saturday it'll rain, and 'Oh, drought&rsquo;s over.' Not even close," Jeffrey Mount, a senior fellow with Public Policy Institute of California focused on water, <a href="" target="_blank">told KQED</a>. "This has been three consecutive years of extreme dryness, and that extreme dryness translates to much lower groundwater levels, and very dry soils. It&rsquo;s going to take a lot of rain to break this drought."</p></body></html> Blue Marble Climate Desk Econundrums Thu, 11 Dec 2014 23:21:02 +0000 Julia Lurie 266461 at There's a Big Coal Giveaway in the Cromnibus Bill <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p><em>This <a href=";ir=Green" target="_blank">story</a> originally was originally published by </em><a href="" target="_blank">The Huffington Post</a><em> and is republished here as part of the <a href="" target="_blank">Climate Desk</a> collaboration.</em></p> <p>The 1,000-page omnibus spending package released Tuesday night is reigniting a fight over rules for U.S. financing of coal plants abroad.</p> <p>In October 2013, the <a href="" target="_hplink">Treasury Department announced</a> that it would stop providing funding for conventional coal plants abroad, except in "very rare" cases. And in December 2013, the Export-Import Bank <a href="" target="_hplink">announced a new policy</a> that would restrict financing for most new coal-fired power plants abroad. The bank, often called Ex-Im, exists to provide financial support to projects that spur the export of U.S. products and services. The change in coal policy aligned with President Barack Obama's <a href="" target="_hplink">June 2013 call</a> to end US funding of fossil fuel energy projects abroad unless the products include carbon capture technology.</p> <p>But the language in the omnibus blocks both Ex-Im and the Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC), the US's development finance institution, from using any funds in the bill to enforce these new restrictions on coal projects.</p> <p>Rep. Hal Rogers (R-Ky.), chair of the House Committee on Appropriations, touted this prohibition in his statement on the spending package. He said the measure would help "to increase exports of US goods and services." Rogers <a href="">told The Hill that coal exports</a> "are just about the only bright light in the coal business these days."</p> <p>Environmental groups have <a href="" target="_hplink">fought for years</a> to get the government's financial institutions to stop funding <a href="">fossil fuel projects abroad</a>, including a number of coal-fired power plants, mines, pipelines and natural gas export terminals. Friends of the Earth President Erich Pica said in a statement that including this rider in the omnibus "undercuts one of the most important contributions President Obama has made to climate policy internationally."</p> <p>"This continued desperate attempt by Republicans to prop up the moribund coal industry is a fools errand," Justin Guay, associate director of the international climate program at the Sierra Club, told The Huffington Post. "The coal industry is a dead man walking; it's time to align our economy with an industry that actually has a future."</p></body></html> Blue Marble Climate Change Climate Desk Energy Infrastructure Thu, 11 Dec 2014 19:17:51 +0000 Kate Sheppard 266426 at