It’s hump day already. Let’s have a look at a bit of the news.
Though it’s hump day, you may not necessarily want to take that literally. Apparently Gonorrhea may become a superbug:
Catherine Ison, a specialist on gonorrhea from Britain’s Health Protection Agency said a World Health Organization (WHO) meeting in Manila next week would be vital to efforts to try to stop the bug repeatedly adapting to and overcoming drugs.
“This is a very clever bacteria. If this problem isn’t addressed, there is a real possibility that gonorrhea will become a very difficult infection to treat,” she said in a telephone interview.
Gonorrhea is a common bacterial sexually-transmitted infection and if left untreated can lead to pelvic inflammatory disease, ectopic pregnancy and infertility in women.
Globally, the WHO estimates that there are at least 340 million new cases of curable sexually transmitted infections — including syphilis, gonorrhea, chlamydia and trichomoniasis — every year among people aged 15 to 49.
Ison said the highest incidences of gonorrhea were in south and southeast Asia and sub-Saharan Africa, but as yet the WHO has no breakdown by individual infection type.
Yikes. But let’s continue to have abstinence only sex ed in some quarters because, you know, what could possibly go wrong.
The guy that came up with the Gaia Hypothesis, James Lovelock, says we should dump democracy in order to save ourselves from a climate change catastrophe:
Humans are too stupid to prevent climate change from radically impacting on our lives over the coming decades. This is the stark conclusion of James Lovelock, the globally respected environmental thinker and independent scientist who developed the Gaia theory.
It follows a tumultuous few months in which public opinion on efforts to tackle climate change has been undermined by events such as the climate scientists’ emails leaked from the University of East Anglia (UEA) and the failure of the Copenhagen climate summit.
“I don’t think we’re yet evolved to the point where we’re clever enough to handle a complex a situation as climate change,” said Lovelock in his first in-depth interview since the theft of the UEA emails last November. “The inertia of humans is so huge that you can’t really do anything meaningful.”
One of the main obstructions to meaningful action is “modern democracy”, he added. “Even the best democracies agree that when a major war approaches, democracy must be put on hold for the time being. I have a feeling that climate change may be an issue as severe as a war. It may be necessary to put democracy on hold for a while.”
Lovelock, 90, believes the world’s best hope is to invest in adaptation measures, such as building sea defences around the cities that are most vulnerable to sea-level rises. He thinks only a catastrophic event would now persuade humanity to take the threat of climate change seriously enough, such as the collapse of a giant glacier in Antarctica, such as the Pine Island glacier, which would immediately push up sea level.
Um, what democracy? If there is a place where they actually count your votes for these election thingys, I’d like to know. He’s got a point about people not making changes very easily. But then I’d say having leaders, and by that of course I mean corporations, who’s own self interest precludes such things, whether you have a pretend democracy or a dictatorship, the results will be the same since the very same oligarchy would be in charge either way. A large disaster like he says is the only thing that will do it. I personally think it’s too late, so who cares. Go out and party like it’s 2012!
USDOT is bringing in NASA scientists to help with the Toyota acceleration investigation:
The US Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration today said it was doing just by bringing in NASA engineers with expertise in areas such as computer controlled electronic systems, electromagnetic interference and software integrity to help tackle the issue of unintended vehicle acceleration in Toyotas. The NHTSA review of the electronic throttle control systems in Toyotas is to be completed by late summer.
The DOT said engineers from the National Academy of Sciences – an independent body of scientific experts – will also look into the overarching subject of unintended acceleration and electronic vehicle controls across the entire automotive industry.
For NASA, the space agency’s engineers will focus on technology such as electromagnetic compatibility as part of a shorter-term review of the systems used in Toyota vehicles to determine whether they contain any possible flaws that would warrant a defect investigation, the DOT stated.
NASA’s expertise in electronics, hardware, software, hazard analysis and complex problem solving ensures this review will be comprehensive. Currently there are nine experts from NASA assisting NHTSA, and additional personnel will join the team if needed, the DOT stated.
“We are determined to get to the bottom of unintended acceleration,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood in a statement. “For the safety of the American driving public, we must do everything possible to understand what is happening. And that is why we are tapping the best minds around.”
It’s not unusual for NASA to get involved in such investigations. Previous technology examinations involved electronic stability control and airbags.
And here we have it, it’s all the fault of magnets. I knew it wasn’t me. Apparently magnets can mess with your sense of morality according to a recent study:
Magnets can alter a person’s sense of morality, according to a new report in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
Using a powerful magnetic field, scientists from MIT, Harvard University and Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center are able to scramble the moral center of the brain, making it more difficult for people to separate innocent intentions from harmful outcomes. The research could have big implications for not only neuroscientists, but also for judges and juries.
“It’s one thing to ‘know’ that we’ll find morality in the brain,” said Liane Young, a scientist at MIT and co-author of the article. “It’s another to ‘knock out’ that brain area and change people’s moral judgments.”
Of course that can only mean one thing. Soon in court cases around the country, we’ll be seeing… the “magnet defense.”
While we’re looking at Discovery, here’s a nice find. A written language has been discovered of ancient Scotland:
The ancestors of modern Scottish people left behind mysterious, carved stones that new research has just determined contain the written language of the Picts, an Iron Age society that existed in Scotland from 300 to 843.
The highly stylized rock engravings, found on what are known as the Pictish Stones, had once been thought to be rock art or tied to heraldry. The new study, published in the Proceedings of the Royal Society A, instead concludes that the engravings represent the long lost language of the Picts, a confederation of Celtic tribes that lived in modern-day eastern and northern Scotland.
“We know that the Picts had a spoken language to complement the writing of the symbols, as Bede (a monk and historian who died in 735) writes that there are four languages in Britain in this time: British, Pictish, Scottish and English,” lead author Rob Lee told Discovery News.
Although Lee and his team have not yet deciphered the Pictish language, some of the symbols provide intriguing clues. One symbol looks like a dog’s head, for example, while others look like horses, trumpets, mirrors, combs, stags, weapons and crosses.
The later Pictish Stones also contain images, like Celtic knots, similar to those found in the Book of Kells and other early works from nearby regions. These more decorative looking images frame what Lee and his team believe is the written Pictish language.
“It is unclear at the moment whether the imagery, such as the knots, form any part of the communication,” Lee said. He believes the stones also contain semasiographic symbols, such as a picture of riders and horn blowers next to hunting dogs on what is called the Hilton of Cadboll stone. Yet another stone shows what appears to be a battle scene.
Drill baby drill!! Obama’s going to push for more drilling for oil in Alaska among other places:
President Barack Obama today will announce a compromise to broadly open new areas off the U.S. coast to oil and natural gas drilling while protecting specific swaths, including Alaska’s Bristol Bay.
The plan, to be announced at a late morning energy security event at Andrews Air Force Base may help Obama court bipartisan support for contentious climate change legislation but also could chafe environmental activists in states affected by expanded drilling.
A White House aide describing the details ahead of the announcement said that an upcoming Interior Department lease sale 50 miles off the Virginia coast would mark the first new offshore oil and gas sale in the Atlantic in more than two decades.
Drilling off the coast from the mid-Atlantic to the Southeast could be broadly expanded, pending further study. Drilling off the Florida coast would be subject to a minimum 125 mile distance. A previously scheduled lease sale in Alaska‚s Cook Inlet could go ahead, but Bristol Bay and pending lease sales in the Chuckchi and Beaufort Seas, in North Alaska, will be canceled. No West Coast exploration is being announced.
“To set America on a path to energy independence, the President believes we must leverage our diverse domestic resources by pursuing a comprehensive energy strategy,” said the aide who was not authorized to speak on the record ahead of the president’s announcement.
Bill Clinton to co-chair committee overseeing funds to Haiti:
Former U.S. President Bill Clinton will co-chair a committee overseeing at least $3.8 billion in post-quake aid to Haiti, the ravaged country’s prime minister said.
The announcement was made ahead of a critical donors conference Wednesday at the United Nations headquarters in New York.
Haitian officials will ask representatives from more than 130 countries for reconstruction help at the meeting chaired by U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, the former president’s wife, and U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon.
A senior U.S. official said the Obama administration would pledge $1.15 billion over the next two years to rebuilding Haiti. The official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Hillary Clinton would announce the pledge at the conference later Wednesday.
Some serious rumbling is happening in the gene business world after a ruling throwing out a gene patent:
Many biotechnology stocks fell on Tuesday as investors struggled to understand the impact of a ruling that threw out parts of two gene patents and called into question thousands more.
Stock market losses were muted, with two major indexes that track the shares of the industry falling by less than 1 percent each. In part, that was because biotechnology executives hastened to reassure their investors that the ruling would not necessarily undermine their businesses, at least in the short run.
But the executives themselves were struggling on Tuesday to figure out what the long-term impact would be. Biotech companies spend billions every year trying to develop new tests and treatments based partly on genes they have isolated and patented.
Those are a few things rattling around in the news today. Chime in with anything you’re finding to day. Or just whatever is on your mind.