Sunday, June 3, 2012

Sustainability news from commercial sources for the week before Memorial Day


Yesterday, I boasted:
Would you believe I have enough material left for a post about sustainability news from commercial sources? Believe it.
Over the jump are all the posts from commercial sources included in Overnight News Digest: Science Saturday (Dragon docks with ISS edition) on Daily Kos last week.

Environment, including science

Galveston County Daily News: Genetic susceptibility to mesothelioma
By Norbert Herzog and David Niesel
University of Texas Medical Center
Published May 22, 2012
Today, a simple blood test can tell whether someone carries the genetic mutation for breast, colon and possibly even lung cancer. This is possible because years of research have allowed scientists to identify genes responsible for tumor development.

Among the most recent discoveries is the genetic mutation behind mesothelioma, an aggressive cancer that forms in the lining of the chest and abdomen. About 3,000 people die of mesothelioma every year, nearly half within one year of diagnosis.

The main cause of this cancer is asbestos, a fibrous material that gets inhaled into the lungs. The National Institutes of Health estimates 11 million people were exposed to asbestos between 1940 and 1978, but symptoms typically don’t show up for 25 to 50 years, so the number of mesothelioma cases won’t peak until about 2020.

Yet, for years, scientists have been puzzled as to why only a small fraction of people exposed to asbestos develops mesothelioma. Scientists at the NIH might have just discovered the reason. They’ve identified a gene that, if mutated, predisposes people to mesothelioma and melanoma of the eye.
An environmental health article that wasn't from a campus on the campaign trail. I guess I was being a little too picky excluding it from health, as I don't exclude commercial stories from space. Besides, I found out about this article from the University of Houston Health Center at Galveston, so I could have counted it as from a campus on the campaign trail. Just the same, it works well here, as the last article wraps right back into this one.

Now, three posts about biodiversity. New Genus of Velvet Spider Named after Lou Reed
May 23, 2012
An international team of biologists has discovered a new genus of velvet spider and named it after Lou Reed, an American rock musician and songwriter.
They found that one particularly enigmatic species belongs to a new genus. In recognition of the fact that this velvet spider lives underground, the new genus has been named Loureedia in a whimsical salute to the musician who began his distinguished career leading the 60s rock band “The Velvet Underground.”
Very punny. Extremely Rare Sumatran Striped Rabbit Captured on Camera
May 25, 2012
Using camera traps, wildlife researchers have captured photographs of one of the rarest animals on Earth, the Sumatran striped rabbit.

This rare rabbit, Nesolagus netscheri, was first photographed in Kerinci Seblat National Park in 1998 and has rarely been seen since. The new pictures and other observations of the rabbit are reported in the current issue of the journal Oryx.

“Whether the rabbit does occur undetected in other parks is not certain, but the importance of protecting these two known strongholds of the species is critical,” said lead author Jennifer McCarthy, a doctoral candidate at the University of Massachusetts Amherst.
A striped rabbit. Cool. Researchers Identify New Sensory Organ in Whales
May 24, 2012
Researchers at the University of British Columbia and the Smithsonian Institution have discovered a new sensory organ in rorqual whales that coordinates its signature lunge-feeding behavior – and may help explain their enormous size.

Rorqual whales are a subgroup of baleen whales – including blue, fin, minke and humpback whales. They are characterized by a special, accordion-like blubber layer that goes from the snout to the navel. The blubber expands up to several times its resting length to allow the whales to engulf large quantities of prey-laden water, which is then expelled through the baleen to filter krill and fish.

A new study published in Nature reports the discovery of an organ at the tip of the whale’s chin, lodged in the ligamentous tissue that connects their two jaws.
And now, more climate news.

Houston Chronicle: Sure has been dry recently. Are we setting the stage for another drought?
By Eric Berger
May 24, 2012
The city of Houston got a nice burst of rainfall two weeks ago. Since that time most of the region has gotten about one-quarter of an inch of rain.

At the same time temperatures have risen to near 90 degrees or above for the greater Houston area, a plateau we’ve reached for good with the virtual onset of summer.

The bottom line is that the ground is thirsty, and there’s no sign of significant rain in the immediate forecast.

Are we set up for another dry spell, then?

Society, including culture and politics

Columbus Dispatch: Archaeology useless? Not in educated society
The Daily Beast, the online home of Newsweek magazine, recently posted a list of “the 13 most useless” college majors. Archaeology was listed along with anthropology at No. 9. The compilers of the list used employment opportunities and earnings potential as their criteria for usefulness.

I take issue with the notion that archaeology is useless and find it sad that the important contributions archaeology can make are so undervalued by the contemporary marketplace.

In a timely paper, published online last month in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, archaeologists Michael Smith, Gary Feinman, Robert Drennan, Timothy Earle and Ian Morris make the case that archaeology is a vital social science that provides a uniquely valuable perspective on human history.
Yeah, I know archeology has its own series, but I couldn't resist including this article.

Economy, including technology

Houston Chronicle: Hospitals prepare for a plus-size future
Hospitals, clinics making changes to accommodate heavier patients, reduce the risk of injury to staff
By Jeannie Kever
Updated 11:42 p.m., Sunday, May 20, 2012
Stretchers that can transport 500-pound patients. Wheelchairs designed for people who weigh 700 pounds. Toilets made to support half a ton.

Hospitals and clinics are preparing for a future in which almost half of the population will be obese.

"Obesity is just rampant," said Trudy Ivins, bariatric program director at Memorial Hermann-Memorial City, who has helped the hospital incorporate furniture and equipment for heavier patients and their families throughout its facilities.

The annual cost for obesity-related illnesses is estimated at $190 billion, but that doesn't count the price tag for plus-size furniture and equipment, which can cost 50 percent more than conventional equipment. Economists say those expenses ultimately will be passed on to everyone in the form of higher medical bills.
Now you see why I had the medical article first? Health economics leading back into environmental health!

And that's it for all the news from before Memorial Day. Time to move on to the next installment of space news!

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