A new report from the National Fish and Wildlife Forensics Laboratory has focused attention on bird deaths at three solar power plants in Southern California, including the recently launched Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System, touted as the world’s largest concentrating solar power (CSP) plant.
The report found that Ivanpah “may act as a ‘mega-trap,’ attracting insects which in turn attract insect-eating birds, which are incapacitated by solar flux injury, thus attracting predators and creating an entire food chain vulnerable to injury and death.” Ivanpah collects solar energy using nearly 350,000 mirrors, each the size of a garage door. The mirrors direct sunlight toward water towers, where the resulting heat boils the water and generates electricity. “Solar flux” is the highly concentrated heat surrounding the water boilers, and reaches temperatures of 1,000 degrees Fahrenheit.
Maryland becomes 21st US state to legalize medical marijuana
The US Agency for International Development (USAID), a government organization that promotes economic development and combats poverty abroad, secretly created asocial networking site designed to stir unrest and undermine the Cuban government, according to an Apr. 3, 2014 investigation by the Associated Press (AP).
The program, known as ZunZuneo (the sound of a Cuban hummingbird’s tweet), drew nearly 40,000 subscribers and lasted more than two years. Cuban users were unaware of the American origins of the program. According to AP, the plan was to stoke political unrest and undermine the Castro regime by secretly hiring writers to supply the social network with texts critical of the government. ZunZuneo was able to bypass Cuba’s strict restrictions on internet use (including the use of Twitter) by using text messages as the primary means of communication.
Cuban officials allegedly and unsuccessfully attempted to trace the text messages and hack into ZunZuneo. USAID told AP that ZunZuneo ceased operations in Sep. 2012 when a Congressional grant for the program ended. Congress has given USAID more than $200 million in funding for “democracy assistance” programs in Cuba since 1996. According to interviews and documents obtained by the AP, USAID and its contractors established shell companies in Spain and the Cayman Islands to disguise the funding for ZunZuneo, and recruited contractors to work on the project under false pretenses. It is currently unknown where the idea for ZunZuneo originated or whether President Obama knew about it.
Is Marijuana an Effective Treatment for Glaucoma?
Death penalty executions rose by 15% globally in 2013, according to a Mar. 27, 2014 report from Amnesty International. Excluding China, at least 778 executions were known to have been carried out in 2013, compared to 682 in 2012.
An over 30% increase in executions in Iran and Iraq in 2013 was responsible for the bulk of the 15% global increase, and those two countries plus Saudi Arabia accounted for at least 80% of executions worldwide (excluding China).
The five countries that executed the most people in 2013 were Iran (at least 369), Iraq (169), Saudi Arabia (79), the United States (39), and Somalia (34). According to Amnesty International, China tops the list with “thousands” put to death every year, though the official number of executions is kept secret.
A total of 22 countries executed people in 2013, one more than in 2012. Indonesia, Kuwait, Nigeria, and Vietnam all resumed use of the death penalty in 2013 after not executing anyone in 2012. Gambia, the United Arab Emirates, Pakistan, and Belarus suspended the use of the death penalty in 2013 after performing executions in 2012.
A controversial exemption in Hawaii law that permits police to have sex with prostitutes during investigations is in the process of being changed to make the practice illegal. Despite previously lobbying to retain the exemption, Honolulu police officials have now come to an agreement with legislators to have the law changed in a revised version of the state’s prostitution statutes.
Prostitution is illegal in Hawaii, but the existing law states that the prohibition “shall not apply to any member of a police department, a sheriff, or a law enforcement officer acting in the course and scope of duties.”
The issue was raised in February as Hawaii lawmakers debated ways to strengthen existing prostitution laws. Following police testimony defending the exemption, it was retained by the state House in a proposed new law, but the state Senate deferred a vote on Mar. 21 amidst a growing furor. Police and lawmakers reached a consensus on Mar. 25 to outlaw sexual penetration between police and prostitutes, but if the revised bill passes police will still be allowed to verbally solicit sex as part of an investigation.
When defending the exemption before the House Judiciary Committee, Honolulu Police Major Jerry Inouye said that department rules governing police officers’ conduct with prostitutes were in place, but that they must be kept confidential
On Aug. 7, 1996, the FCC created guidelines on cell phone radiation (RF) exposure with input from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).
The guidelines created a measure of the rate that body tissue absorbs radiation energy during cell phone use called the specific absorption rate (SAR). The SAR for cell phone radiation was set at a maximum of 1.6 watts of energy absorbed per kilogram of body weight. The limit was set due to the thermal effects of cell phone radiation (all RF radiation can heat human body tissue at high enough levels) - it was not set to mitigate other biological effects cell phone radiation might have such as DNA damage or cancer.
The FCC SAR limit is based upon a cell phone call that averages 30 minutes when the cell phone is held at the ear. SAR levels for cell phones sold in the US range from a low of 0.19 to the maximum of 1.58. Holding a phone away from the body or using a wired earpiece lowers the amount of radiation absorbed, and text messaging rather than talking, further lowers that amount.
On Mar. 18, 2014 the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), the world’s largest general scientific society, released a public warning on the dangers posed by climate change in its report, “What We Know: The Reality, Risks and Response to Climate Change.”
The new report focuses on three messages. The first is that “climate scientists agree: climate change is happening here and now.” The second is that “we are at risk of pushing our climate system toward abrupt, unpredictable, and potentially irreversible changes with highly damaging impacts.” The third is being that “the sooner we act, the lower the risk and cost. And there is much we can do.” According to the report, “97% of climate scientists have concluded that humans are changing the climate.”
However, some scientists question the idea that human-caused global warming could potentially have catastrophic impacts on the earth. Richard Lindzen, PhD, a Fellow at the AAAS who was not involved with the report, stated in an Oct. 19, 2013 CATO Institute publication that “the fact that greenhouse gases have increased over the past 200 years or so, and that their greenhouse impact is already about 80% of what one expects from a doubling of CO2 are all perfectly consistent with there being no serious problem. Even the text of the IPCC Scientific Assessment agrees that catastrophic consequences are highly unlikely.”
Belgium became the world’s first country to lift all age restrictions on euthanasia. King Philippe of Belgium signed legislation that allows children with terminal and incurable illnesses to choose to be euthanized.
Prostitution has an unusual feature: it is well paid despite being low-skill, labor intensive and, one might add, female dominated. Earnings even in the worst paid type, streetwalking, may be several multiples of full time earnings in professions with comparable skill requirements.
Cell phones distract parents from important face-to-face time with their children, according to a new study in the journal Pediatrics.The article found that a large percentage of parents are absorbed in their cell phones during meal times, leading to poor behavior in their children.
Researchers from the Boston Medical Center went undercover at 15 fast-food restaurants in the Boston area and observed 55 parents accompanied by one or more children. Observers wrote field notes describing all aspects of cell phone use and child and parent behavior during the meal.
Forty of the parents were on their phones at some point while dining with their children. Sixteen used their cell phones almost continuously throughout the meal, eating and talking while looking at their device or only putting it down briefly to eat or speak with their children. This pattern of use occurred across age groups, genders, and group sizes.
Parents who used non-calling functions such as texting, social networking, or playing a game, showed the highest degree of absorption, because they were looking primarily at the device. Phone calls could be absorbing, according to the study authors, but parents “usually maintained some eye contact with children during these calls, which did not last through entire meals as texting or swiping could.”