Researchers striving to understand the origins of dementia are building the case against a possible culprit: lead exposure early in life. A study spanning 23 years has now revealed that monkeys who drank a lead-rich formula as infants later developed tangles of a key brain protein, called tau, linked to Alzheimer’s disease. Though neuroscientists say more work is needed to confirm the connection, the research suggests that people exposed to lead as children—as many in America used to be before it was eliminated from paint, car emissions, water, and soil—could have an increased risk of the common, late-onset form of Alzheimer’s disease.
Even in small doses, lead can wreak havoc on the heart, intestines, kidneys, and nervous system. Children are especially prone to its pernicious effects, as it curbs brain development. Many studies have linked early lead exposure with lower IQs. Researchers estimate that one in 38 children in the United States still have harmful levels of the metal in their systems, but evidence linking this exposure to dementia later in life has been tenuous.
A team led by toxicologist Nasser Zawia, however, has vigorously pursued the lead hypothesis. In one early study, from 2008, the group showed that plaques, insoluble globs of a protein called β-amyloid, marred the brains of five macaques that had consumed a lead-enriched formula as infants. The researchers had compared the preserved brain tissues from those macaques, sacrificed in 2003 at age 23 in a National Institutes of Health lab, with four similarly aged monkeys who had had lead-free formula. The amyloid plaques closely resembled those in the brains of adults with Alzheimer’s disease that are thought to contribute to the dementia.
Now, Zawia’s team has used brain samples from the same five macaques that received lead-enriched formula to find clear evidence of another structural change strongly linked to Alzheimer’s: tangles of tau protein. It’s not certain how, or even if, these tangles promote dementia, but when tau proteins decompose into crumpled strands inside a neuron, the cell’s vital transport system can become blocked. The researchers analyzed frontal cortex tissues to show that the lead-exposed monkeys had three times more irregular tau protein in their brain cells than the monkeys who drank normal formula as infants. Moreover, the genetic instructions that assemble the tau proteins were altered, suggesting that early lead exposure epigenetically reprogrammed the monkeys’ DNA.
“This is very strong evidence that early [lead] exposure can determine what happens in old age,” says Zawia, of the University of Rhode Island, Kingston. The team’s results appear in the December issue of NeuroToxicology.
The brain physiologies of macaques and humans are close enough that dementia researchers should pay attention to the findings, says neuroscientist Marc Weisskopf of the Harvard School of Public Health in Boston. “This study adds another important piece to this link between early-life lead exposure and Alzheimer’s-like pathology.”
While Weisskopf says he is “intrigued” that the researchers could find macaques that lived a full life after infant lead exposure, he is cautious. “As far as I can tell, there’s only one group putting this story out,” he says. “We [would] like to see that this is replicable, but that’s hard. It’s just a difficult study to wait that long and have that kind of data.”
Understanding how lead might interfere with DNA’s instructions to promote brain degeneration later in life will take much more work, Weisskopf adds. Correlating the lead exposure of human infants to a disease that doesn’t manifest until people are in their 60s, 70s, and 80s is challenging, he says.
Current lead regulations in the United States should suffice to prevent such long-term neurological harm, Zawia believes. However, children in many other countries still face this hazard—as do adults in the United States who grew up in densely populated areas much more contaminated by lead. “This study is a good indicator to not forget people who were exposed in the past before [lead] awareness and regulations,” he says. “Their risk [of developing dementia] might have been increased.”
A new diagnostic test that identifies genetic alterations in blood cancers will enable physicians to match patients with the best treatments for leukemias, lymphomas, and myelomas. Co-developed by Memorial Sloan-Kettering and cancer genomics company Foundation Medicine, the test analyzes samples from patients with the blood diseases and provides information about hundreds of genes known to be associated with these disorders.
The genetic profile will help physicians make more-accurate prognoses and also guide them in treatment recommendations — from deciding whether to take an intensive approach with existing drugs such as chemotherapy to enrolling patients in clinical trials investigating novel therapies. The new test is produced commercially by Foundation Medicine and is expected to be available by the end of this year.
Medical oncologist Ross Levine, who led research at Memorial Sloan-Kettering contributing to the development of the test along with physician-scientists Marcel van den Brink, Ahmet Dogan, and Scott Armstrong, presented results demonstrating its accuracy today at the annual meeting of the American Society of Hematology in New Orleans.
A Tool with Broad Impact
The test will play an essential role in the clinical care of most patients with blood disorders at Memorial Sloan-Kettering and, it is expected, in the care of patients throughout the United States. According to the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, an estimated 1.1 million people in the nation are currently living with, or in remission from, leukemia, lymphoma, and myeloma, and an estimated combined total of more than 148,000 will be diagnosed with one of these diseases in 2013.
“Our hope is that this test becomes available to all patients in the country with these malignancies,” Dr. Levine says. “We were particularly excited that we weren’t just developing a tool for the relatively small number of people who are treated at our institution, but providing access to state-of-the-art cancer genomics more broadly.”
The diagnostic test was developed and validated using more than 400 samples from Memorial Sloan-Kettering patients with the three blood disorders. Dr. Levine explains that it is far more comprehensive than existing tests, which focus on a small number of genetic mutations associated with specific blood cancer types. The new test analyzes more than 400 cancer-related genes, and unlike most standard tests, it looks for alterations in both DNA and RNA.
Sequencing RNA along with DNA is especially useful in the detection of certain kinds of genetic alterations that commonly occur in blood cancers. These include translocations (which occur when pieces of DNA are exchanged between two chromosomes) and fusion genes (new genes that include parts of two different genes). In addition to improving the treatment of patients, Memorial Sloan-Kettering will use information gleaned from the test to further advance research into blood cancers.
Clinically Relevant Mutations
Dr. Levine explains that Memorial Sloan-Kettering researchers worked with Massachusetts-based Foundation Medicine to annotate, or define, every gene in the panel to correlate it with clinical data and to provide insight into how this information can be used to guide clinical decision making.
“What’s vital about the test is that it’s not just reporting the presence of specific alterations but also indicating how a particular genetic event detected in a patient can guide either prognosis or therapy,” he says. “We identified clinically relevant mutations that were not found using standard tests. These mutations are ‘actionable,’ meaning that targeting them can change the course of the disease, including directing patients to innovative clinical trials.”
Initially, the goal for the test is to produce the full genetic profile from a patient sample within three to four weeks. “With the exception of someone who has very acute leukemia that requires immediate treatment decisions, this test is going to be valuable in clinical care,” Dr. Levine says.
The federal government is a complicated behemoth that takes a long time to change course. With technology changing faster than ever, it’s no surprise that government regulation and human stubbornness are slowing the transition to new methods. In fact, one government agency still requires parts of the government to submit information on floppy disks.
The Federal Register is basically a daily update on the activities of the federal government. It aggregates all the orders, rule changes, and notices issued by various agencies and publishes them online and in paper form. This fulfills a requirement that the information be made available for public inspection, but the way the Federal Register gets all that information is odd.
Agencies are required to submit multiple certified copies of each document, which they can do multiple ways. Some still send over paper documents, but others provide digital files to the Register. However, the Register won’t accept a thumbdrive or SD card — it’s only floppy or CD, and a surprising number of agencies still send over 3.5-inch floppies. Where are they even finding floppy drives anymore?
There is also a much more modern secure email system for providing files, but moving to this platform is a big expensive change that many agencies haven’t made yet. The alternative, apparently, is to continue using technology from the 80s. There is hope that the issues surrounding the healthcare.gov website launch will prompt agencies to modernize, but it might take an act of congress to mandate the use of new tehcnology like the secure email system. So, all we need is for congress to come together and do away with floppy disks in the federal government. If there’s anything that can bring the two sides together, surely it is a disdain for floppy disks.
Mankind’s attitude to gold is bizarre. Chemically, it is uninteresting – it barely reacts with any other element. Yet, of all the 118 elements in the periodic table, gold is the one we humans have always tended to choose to use as currency. Why?
Why not osmium or chromium, or helium, say – or maybe seaborgium?
I’m not the first to ask the question, but I like to think I’m asking it in one of the most compelling locations possible – the extraordinary exhibition of pre-Columbian gold artefacts at the British Museum?
That’s where I meet Andrea Sella, a professor of chemistry at University College London, beside an exquisite breastplate of pure beaten gold.
He pulls out a copy of the periodic table.
“Some elements are pretty easy to dismiss,” he tells me, gesturing to the right-hand side of the table.
“Here you’ve got the noble gases and the halogens. A gas is never going to be much good as a currency. It isn’t really going to be practical to carry around little phials of gas is it?
Gold – key facts
- Symbol: Au (from Latin aurum)
- Atomic number: 79
- Weight: 196.97
- One of the “noble” metals that do not oxidise under ordinary conditions
- Used in jewellery, electronics, aerospace and medicine
- Most gold in the earth’s crust is thought to derive from meteors
- Biggest producers: China, Australia, US, Russia
- “And then there’s the fact that they are colourless. How on earth would you know what it is?”
The two liquid elements (at everyday temperature and pressure) – mercury and bromine – would be impractical too. Both are also poisonous – not a good quality in something you plan to use as money. Similarly, we can cross out arsenic and several others.
Sella now turns his attention to the left-hand side of the table.
“We can rule out most of the elements here as well,” he says confidently.
“The alkaline metals and earths are just too reactive. Many people will remember from school dropping sodium or potassium into a dish of water. It fizzes around and goes pop – an explosive currency just isn’t a good idea.”
A similar argument applies to another whole class of elements, the radioactive ones: you don’t want your cash to give you cancer.
Out go thorium, uranium and plutonium, along with a whole bestiary of synthetically-created elements – rutherfordium, seaborgium, ununpentium, einsteinium – which only ever exist momentarily as part of a lab experiment, before radioactively decomposing.
Then there’s the group called “rare earths”, most of which are actually less rare than gold.
Unfortunately, they are chemically hard to distinguish from each other, so you would never know what you had in your pocket.
This leaves us with the middle area of the periodic table, the “transition” and “post-transition” metals.
This group of 49 elements includes some familiar names – iron, aluminium, copper, lead, silver.
But examine them in detail and you realise almost all have serious drawbacks.
We’ve got some very tough and durable elements on the left-hand side – titanium and zirconium, for example.
The problem is they are very hard to smelt. You need to get your furnace up into the region of 1,000C before you can begin to extract these metals from their ores. That kind of specialist equipment wasn’t available to ancient man.
Aluminium is also hard to extract, and it’s just too flimsy for coinage. Most of the others in the group aren’t stable – they corrode if exposed to water or oxidise in the air.
Take iron. In theory it looks quite a good prospect for currency. It is attractive and polishes up to a lovely sheen. The problem is rust: unless you keep it completely dry it is liable to corrode away.
“A self-debasing currency is clearly not a good idea,” says Sella.
We can rule out lead and copper on the same basis. Both are liable to corrosion. Societies have made both into money but the currencies did not last, literally.
So, what’s left?
Why is gold golden?
Gold’s golden colour has been a mystery until very recently, says Andrea Sella.
The secret lies in its atomic structure. “Quantum mechanics alone doesn’t explain it,” he says.
“When you get to gold you find the atom is so heavy and the electrons move so fast that you now have to include Einstein’s theory of relativity into the mathematics.
“It is only when you fold together quantum mechanics with relativity that suddenly you understand it.”
Unlike other metals, which in their pure form reflect light straight back, electrons in the gold “slosh around a little,” Sella says, with the result that gold “absorbs a bit of the blue spectrum light, giving the light that is reflected back its distinctive golden colour”.
Of the 118 elements we are now down to just eight contenders: platinum, palladium, rhodium, iridium, osmium and ruthenium, along with the old familiars, gold and silver.
These are known as the noble metals, “noble” because they stand apart, barely reacting with the other elements.
They are also all pretty rare, another important criterion for a currency.
Even if iron didn’t rust, it wouldn’t make a good basis for money because there’s just too much of it around. You would end up having to carry some very big coins about.
With all the noble metals except silver and gold, you have the opposite problem. They are so rare that you would have to cast some very tiny coins, which you might easily lose.
They are also very hard to extract. The melting point of platinum is 1,768C.
That leaves just two elements – silver and gold.
Both are scarce but not impossibly rare. Both also have a relatively low melting point, and are therefore easy to turn into coins, ingots or jewellery.
Silver tarnishes – it reacts with minute amounts of sulphur in the air. That’s why we place particular value on gold.
It turns out then, that the reason gold is precious is precisely that it is so chemically uninteresting.
Gold’s relative inertness means you can create an elaborate golden jaguar and be confident that 1,000 years later it can be found in a museum display case in central London, still in pristine condition.
So what does this process of elemental elimination tell us about what makes a good currency?
First off, it doesn’t have to have any intrinsic value. A currency only has value because we, as a society, decide that it does.
That’s the other secret of gold’s success as a currency – gold is unbelievably beautiful”
As we’ve seen, it also needs to be stable, portable and non-toxic. And it needs to be fairly rare – you might be surprised just how little gold there is in the world.
If you were to collect together every earring, every gold sovereign, the tiny traces gold in every computer chip, every pre-Columbian statuette, every wedding ring and melt it down, it’s guesstimated that you’d be left with just one 20-metre cube, or thereabouts.
But scarcity and stability aren’t the whole story. Gold has one other quality that makes it the stand-out contender for currency in the periodic table. Gold is… golden.
All the other metals in the periodic table are silvery-coloured except for copper – and as we’ve already seen, copper corrodes, turning green when exposed to moist air. That makes gold very distinctive.
“That’s the other secret of gold’s success as a currency,” says Sella. “Gold is unbelievably beautiful.”
But how come no-one actually uses gold as a currency any more?
The seminal moment came in 1973, when Richard Nixon decided to sever the US dollar’s tie to gold.
Since then, every major currency has been backed by no more than legal “fiat” – the law of the land says you must accept it as payment.
Nixon made his decision for the simple reason that the US was running out of the necessary gold to back all the dollars it had printed.
Find out more
In Elementary Business, BBC World Service’s Business Daily goes back to basics and examines key chemical elements – and asks what they mean for businesses and the global economy.
- And here lies the problem with gold. Its supply bears no relation to the needs of the economy. The supply of gold depends on what can be mined.
In the 16th Century, the discovery of South America and its vast gold deposits led to an enormous fall in the value of gold – and therefore an enormous increase in the price of everything else.
Since then, the problem has typically been the opposite – the supply of gold has been too rigid. For example, many countries escaped the Great Depression in the 1930s by unhitching their currencies from the Gold Standard. Doing so freed them up to print more money and reflate their economies.
The demand for gold can vary wildly – and with a fixed supply, that can lead to equally wild swings in its price.
Most recently for example, the price has gone from $260 per troy ounce in 2001, to peak at $1,921.15 in September 2011, before falling back to $1,230 currently.
That is hardly the behaviour of a stable store of value.
So, to paraphrase Churchill, out of all the elements, gold makes the worst possible currency.
Apart from all the others.
The film that kick-started Hong Kong cinema‘s kung-fu renaissance and launched Jet Li towards a future of substandard western action movies. Its subject was already well known to local audiences: Wong Fei-hung was a real person: a turn-of-the-century martial arts master and healer who’s become something of a folk hero. Like Sherlock Holmes or Robin Hood, he’d been portrayed many times before. Jackie Chan played him in Drunken Master, and a long-running Wong Fei-hung film series during the 1950s and 60s gave roles to the fathers of Bruce Lee and Yuen Wo-ping, among many others.
Transposed to 1990s Hong Kong, with the handover from British to Chinese sovereignty on the horizon, this story of a Chinese rebel fighting oppressive colonialist powers had extra resonance. Its British and American baddies are cartoonishly demonised, and the plot is often convoluted to the point of impenetrability, admittedly, but what this film chiefly provides is dazzling, colourful, kinetic, epic, pre-CGI spectacle. Director Tsui Hark, schooled in both the US and Hong Kong, fills the screen with movement and energy. The wire-assisted fight scenes – choreographed by Yuen Wo-ping, inevitably – are ingeniously staged. Earthbound reality is left far behind.
And Li is simply incredible. He’s got gravitas as an actor, but when he’s in action, he really takes some beating. He does it all: fighting with hands, feet, sticks, poles, umbrellas. He kills one baddie with a bullet – without using a gun. But Li is a gymnast, too, pirouetting and somersaulting across the screen with the agility of a cat. He’s surely the most graceful martial artist out there. Those skills come to bear in a jubilantly athletic final duel, which takes place in a warehouse conveniently full of bamboo ladders. It’s one of the most celebrated sequences in martial arts movies, and it leaves you wanting more, of which there is plenty: they made four sequels in the next two years. Steve Rose
Akira Kurosawa drew upon American pulp sources for Yojimbo’s plot, principally the Hollywood western but also Dashiell Hammett’s broken-city melodrama The Dain Curse. Here a lone, probably disgraced, certainly hungry samurai (Toshiro Mifune, the Wolf to Kurosawa’s Emperor) wanders into a town where two factions are in eternal conflict, glaring at one another from their matching headquarters on opposite sides of the town’s wide, western-like main street. Since each faction lacks a distinguished warrior with whose aid they might tip the balance of power in their favour, they each badly want the newcomer on their side, something the samurai figures out within moments, and exploits throughout the movie.
As the power games play out to their nihilistic, corpse-choked conclusion, Kurosawa demonstrates a mastery of his medium in almost every frame. His sense of spatial relations is beyond compare: panels in interior walls slide away to reveal whole exterior street-scapes and crowd scenes perfectly framed within the smaller new frame. Intimate conversations take place as a turbulent skirmish rages in the deep background center-screen, between the talkers’ faces in the foreground. And what faces! From the moronic warrior with the M-shaped unibrow and the giant wielding a huge mallet to Mifune’s increasingly battered countenance, sardonic, cynical and ever defiant, every single face is at once a landscape and an epic poem unto itself.
Along with all that comes Kurosawa’s furious visual energy, his virtuoso choreography of moving camera and bodies of warring men; and his talent for adding enriching layers of kinetic, elemental motion – rain falling, leaves or smoke blowing in the unceasing winds – to the violence already in play. Yojimbo led to the Italian A Fistful of Dollars, which in time completely remade the American western, completing a circle of international cultural exchange that foreshadows a give-and-take among international filmmakers that we take for granted today. John Patterson
We have A Touch of Zen to thank for Harvey Weinstein’s interest in Asian cinema; it was after Quentin Tarantino screened King Hu’s 1971wuxia that the mogul began a controversial spending spree in the east that led to his current controversial involvement with Bong Joon-ho’s Snowpiercer. It’s not hard to see why: Hu’s film is unusually epic for the genre, clocking in at over three hours, and made cinema history by being the first Chinese film to win an award at Cannes, missing out on the Palme d’Or but taking home the Technical prize.
A Touch of Zen is most notable nowadays as the template for Ang Lee‘s Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, being the 14th century story of an artist, Ku, who encounters a beautiful woman living in a rundown house with her elderly mother. In true wuxia fashion, however, she is not all she seems, and so the story grows, until Ku realises that he is in the middle of a major dynastic war between rival factions. And as the story develops – effortlessly absorbing elements of comedy and romance – so does the spectacle, increasing in scale and scope in ways that would be unimaginable today.
It is these fight sequences that have endured, and although wuxia briefly fell out of favour soon after, it is easy to see Hu’s influence on the hit martial arts films of recent years. More so than Crouching Tiger, A Touch of Zen casts a long shadow over the films of Chinese director Zhang Yimou, whose House Of Flying Daggers directly references Hu’s film in its bravura bamboo forest sequence. But it is Hu’s deadpan sense of the grand that keeps this astonishing film fresh, with its themes of justice and nobility, shot through with a strange spirituality that earns the film its title in a sequence involving a pack of bouncing, kick-ass Buddhist monks.Damon Wise
As a breathless and brutal martial arts thriller shot in Jakarta and directed by a Welshman, The Raid would already have been worthy of note. That it is a film of precision and inventiveness, taking fight sequences into the realm of horror, slapstick comedy, even the musical, guarantees its place in action-movie history. The plot is as simple as its choreography is complicated. A police unit sets out one morning to seize control of a tower block in Jakarta that has fallen into the hands of a gang. But not just any gang: this mob has kitted out the high rise with sophisticated CCTV and public address systems monitored from a top-floor control room. The gang-lord, presiding over the CCTV screens, broadcasts a call to his tenants: “We have company. You know what to do.” He doesn’t mean put the kettle on and crack open the custard creams.
In the absence of much dialogue, the weapons do the talking: guns, knives, swords, hammers. A man receives an axe to the shoulder, which is then used to yank him across the room. A refrigerator doubles as a bomb. The gang’s most vicious member, Mad Dog (Yayan Ruhian, who also served as one of the film’s fight choreographers), acts as mouthpiece for the film’s philosophy. Casting aside his firearms, he explains: “Using a gun is like ordering takeout.” If that’s the case, Mad Dog would merit a fistful of Michelin stars.
Some of the fight sequences are enclosed claustrophobically in hallways where the only option is to use walls as springboards, Donald O’Connor-style. Others, such as a dust-up in a drugs lab, expand like dance numbers. Evans’s prime achievement has been to make a berserk adventure characterised by clarity. In contrast to most action cinema, the frenzy arises from the performers rather than the editing; no matter how frenzied things get, we never lose sight of who is karate-chopping the windpipe of whom. Ryan Gilbey
Hands and feet are one thing in martial arts; elbows and knees are quite another. And after seeing this Muay Thai showreel, you’d put money on Tony Jaa against any other screen fighter. Even in the scenes where Jaa isn’t fighting anyone at all, simply going through some moves, he’s awesomely formidable.
Ong Bak as a movie is fairly straightforward: city baddies steal a village’s Buddha head; a humble peasant goes to get it back, individually crushing each adversary with his bare hands in the process. That’s all it needs. Ong Bak’s prime objective is to say, “Can you believe this guy?” and with the added note that no special effects or stunt doubles were used, it more than accomplishes it. In fight after fight, Jaa unleashes moves that leave you thinking, “That’s gotta hurt”, if not “That’s gonna require major cranial reconstruction”. No holds are barred and few punches are pulled, but rather than brute violence, you’re left marvelling at Jaa’s speed, technique and pain threshold. The fights are skilfully staged, particularly an exhilarating, three-round barroom brawl that leaves no opponent or piece of furniture standing.
Jaa shows off his physical prowess in other ways, too, from an opening tree-climbing race to a Bangkok street chase that sends him along a hilarious assault course of cafe tables, market stalls, children, cars, trucks, sheets of glass and hoops of barbed wire. He’s almost too much to believe, and Ong Bak acknowledges our incredulity by frequently rewinding the action to show us Jaa’s moves in slow motion, as if to say, “Do you want to see that again?”. We do. SR
Cocteau imagined the mirror as a gateway to another world in his 1930 film The Blood of a Poet, and it’s a testament to the durability of this image that when it turned up again in The Matrix, it had lost none of its allure. The film clocks up a further debt in its plot, which proposes that what we perceive as reality is actually a cosmetic facade constructed to conceal a terrible truth about our existence. Neo, a computer boffin played by Keanu Reeves, is selected to bear the burden of enlightenment. Reeves’s blankness in the part is perfect, mainly because Neo is required to display only those skills and qualities that are downloaded into his brain. Required to master jujitsu, he is simply installed with the relevant computer programme. In no time at all, he is pulling off those tricks from 1970s martial arts movies, where a man can launch himself in a flying kick and somehow manage to prepare a cocktail, read a short novel and fill out his tax return, all before his feet touch the ground.
The film’s Cocteau-esque concept is harnessed to some X-Files-style paranoia, but it is the dazzling martial arts work that gives the film its special lift. The directors, the Wachowski brothers, were already having ideas above their station when they came up with The Matrix (their only previous film, after all, was the sweaty, claustrophobic thriller Bound). It was the martial arts choreographer Yuen Woo-ping who helped them reach the next level.
The movie’s fight sequences provide its purest source of pleasure for a number of reasons. First, the violence doesn’t come with redemptive overtones; it is played out for the thrill of the choreography, not the anticipation of injury or righteousness. Death is flippant, but it provides no moral kick. Second, the movie introduced a strange new effect, much copied or parodied since in everything from Charlie’s Angels to Shrek: a character freezes in midair while the camera circles the tableau like a computer imagining a 3D representation of a 2D image. When the camera has completed its movement, the physical motion of the scene resumes. Suddenly the humdrum vocabulary of the action movie has been extended before our disbelieving eyes. RG
Watch the opening 20 minutes of House of Flying Daggers and it’s not hard to see why the Chinese picked its director, Zhang Yimou, to direct the opening ceremony of the Beijing Olympics. Even though the action unfolds within a reasonably sized brothel waiting room instead of a stadium, there’s all the elements that Zhang would multiply by the thousands in 2008: traditional Chinese music, dancing, swathes of brightly coloured silk cloth, drummers and, of course, martial arts. It makes for a magnificent spectacle that’s sets a high bar for the rest of the movie. Fortunately, there’s more dazzle to come in this follow-up to Zhang’s first wuxia film, Hero. Zhang’s 2006 Curse of the Golden Flower concluded the trilogy, but for many the romantic, operatic yet satisfyingly compact Flying Daggers represents the best of the three.
Set during the Tang dynasty, two police captains, Leo (Andy Lau, best known for the thematically-not-dissimilar Infernal Affairs trilogy) and Jin (hunky Takeshi Kaneshiro) are searching for the leader of the Flying Daggers, a counterinsurgency group. They suspect blind courtesan Mei (Zhang Ziyi) may be a secret member of the Daggers, so Jin, posing as a citizen, busts her out of jail and goes on the run with her, pursued by Leo and numerous expendable officers. Love seems to flower between Jin and Mei, but no one and nothing are as they seem here.
Although the fights are terrifically choreographed by Tony Ching Siu-tung – especially a bamboo-forest chase that tops Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon and a final mano-a-mano in the snow – judged against other classic martial arts films, Daggers is actually a little light on combat scenes. Indeed, the fighting is so stringently stylized it’s more like dancing with knives. No matter: the love story may be almost as schematic as the film’s rigorous use of colour, yet the acting is so powerful from the core trio that deep emotional depth is created seemingly out of nothing. Leslie Felperin
Although it was obvious at the time, it seems strange now that Jackie Chan was originally groomed by at least one Hong Kong producer as a successor to Bruce Lee, the lithe master of martial arts whose style was almost laughably serious in its grim-faced intensity. After a few tryouts in the genre, however, Chan took things in a much more comedic, but no less athletic route, which is why, after breaking out in the Yuen Woo-ping classic Drunken Master, the former stuntman found himself in Hollywood, adding light relief to The Cannonball Run in 1981.
Chan’s Hollywood career, however, didn’t pan out, and after a disappointment in 1985 with The Protector – a collaboration with neo-grindhouse director James Glickenhaus, perhaps not the most sympatico of all possible talents – Chan returned to Hong Kong to take matters into his own hands, directing and cowriting Police Story, in which he played a disgraced cop who is forced to go undercover and clear his name after being framed by drug barons.
Making a direct rebuttal of the Hollywood way of doing things (in his mind, sloppily and half-heartedly), Chan prioritised the fights and stuntwork, using the genre elements mostly as filler. Refusing to use a body double for every scene (bar one that involved a motorcycle), Chan began to earn his reputation as a fearless and pioneering action star. On this film alone, he was hospitalised with concussion, suffered severe burns, dislocated his pelvis and was almost paralysed by a shattered vertebrae. The resulting film was a huge hit and spawned five strong sequels. Seen now, it seems remarkably straight given what was to follow – the cartoonish Rush Hour series – although Chan certainly must have enjoyed the irony of being embraced by Hollywood for a film that is, essentially, a critique of everything it was doing wrong. DW
Why is Ang Lee’s film Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon such a sublime experience? Perhaps because every bone in your body tells you it shouldn’t work. It’s a tranquil action movie. Whoever heard of one of those? And it’s a love story with a kick: a kung-fu kick. It begins with the theft of a fabled sword, the Green Destiny. As the sword is stolen, the camera takes flight along with the thief, for whom gravity is a restricting garment to be cast off at a moment’s notice. The warrior Yu Shu Lien (Michelle Yeoh) gives chase, skipping blithely across rooftops that glow silver in the moonlight. When the pursuit gives way to combat, the rule book of action cinema is not only discarded but sliced to ribbons. For viewers too young to remember, the shock of seeing a Sam Peckinpah shoot-out back when slow motion was an innovation rather than a nasty virus, then the sight of these warriors levitating calmly to nosebleed-inducing heights will provide something of that same liberating jolt.
The midair skirmishes of martial arts movies were brought to mainstream audiences by The Matrix, and Lee enlisted that film’s choreographer, Yuen Woo-ping (who later worked on Kill Bill and Kung Fu Hustle), to take that style even further. The resulting fight routines evoke Olympic gymnastics, break dancing and those cartoon punch-ups where one of the Tasmanian Devil’s limbs would emerge briefly from within a frantic cyclone. And if Yu occasionally steps on her opponent’s foot, she’s not fighting dirty – it’s just the only way of ensuring that the battle remains at ground level.
For all the finesse of the choreography, the action sequences would be superficial without the emotional weight Lee brings to the picture, notably in the largely unspoken tenderness between Yu and her fellow warrior Li Mu Bai (Chow Yun Fat). As a director he doesn’t differentiate between the way he shoots tenderness and violence. In his hands, a love scene can come to be brutal, with a man’s blood forming a fork across his lover’s breast as they embrace, while a struggle between opponents in the forest treetops, with the supple branches doubling as nests, catapults, rungs and bungee ropes, achieves a sensuous serenity. RG
Bruce Lee purists may or may not agree that Enter the Dragon is his greatest film. But this is the one that has passed into legend: it was the colossal box office smash of 1973 and the most famous film of that unrivalled martial arts superstar who had died the summer before its release of a cerebral reaction to painkillers. He shared with James Dean the grim distinction of appearing posthumously in his most famous picture. After a career as a child star in Hong Kong cinema – almost the Macaulay Culkin of his day – and a spell on TV’s The Green Hornet, Lee exploded into action pictures that were simply so popular and profitable that Warner Brothers agreed to make Enter the Dragon, with Lee as star and coproducer: Hollywood’s first martial arts movie. Robert Clouse directed, and the script was by Michael Allin, who wrote the Isaac Hayes film Truck Turner. Lalo Schifrin composed the music.
Bruce Lee was possessed of extraordinary physical grace, balletic poise, lethal speed and explosive power. He was a master of kung fu, judo and karate, and is considered the spiritual godfather to today’s mixed martial arts scene. He was not a big man, and so his presence was better captured by the camera lens. Moreover, he had a delicately handsome, almost boyish face and had a charm and verbal fluency as he expounded his Zen theories of combat in interviews, something more like dynamic motivational philosophy than any fortune-cookie cliché. Lee had a presence and charisma comparable to Muhammad Ali, and that was perhaps never better captured than in Enter the Dragon. Perhaps only Jackie Chan now rivals him as an Asian star in Hollywood – and Hollywood has not shown much interest in promoting an Asian-American A-lister since Enter the Dragon.
Lee plays a Shaolin master who is recuited by British intelligence to enter a martial arts tournament undercover. This event is being run by a sinister megalomaniac called Han who is suspected of involvement in drugs and prostitution. Lee has a personal beef with Han, whose goons terrorised and attempted to rape Lee’s kid sister – she committed suicide rather than submit. He shows up at the island with a couple of American fighters: Williams, played by Jim Kelly, provides some Shaft-style street cred while Roper, played by John Saxon, is a playboy type who is close to the James Bond template. In truth, of course, it is Lee himself who is the James Bond, but he is no womaniser. Bruce Lee has a monkish purity and spirituality, with a laser-like focus on exposing Han – and of course kicking ass.
The look of the movie is exotic and extravagant, especially its inspired hall-of-mirrors showdown, with Lee sporting the weird, almost tribal slashes across his midriff. His strange, animal quavering cry and piercing gaze are entirely unique. But what makes Enter the Dragon outshine the rest is the serene, almost innocent idealism of Lee himself. In the opening scenes, Lee speaks humbly to the aged Abbot at his temple, coolly takes tea with the British intelligence chief Braithwaite, and interrupts their conversation to instruct a teenage boy in martial arts. When this young hothead is easily bested in combat, Lee says to him with inimitable seriousness: “We need emotional content – not anger.” It is the philosophy of this martial arts classic, and its unique star. Peter Bradshaw
The “connectome maps” reveal the differences between the male brain (seen in blue) and the female brain (orange)
Male brains appeared to be wired front to back, with few connections bridging the two hemispheres.
In females, the pathways criss-crossed between left and right.
These differences might explain why men, in general, tend to be better at learning and performing a single task, like cycling or navigating, whereas women are more equipped for multitasking, say the researchers in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).
The same volunteers were asked to perform a series of cognitive tests, and the results appeared to support this notion.
But experts have questioned whether it can be that simple, arguing it is a huge leap to extrapolate from anatomical differences to try to explain behavioural variation between the sexes. Also, brain connections are not set and can change throughout life.
In the study, women scored well on attention, word and face memory, and social cognition, while men performed better on spatial processing and sensori-motor speed.
To look at brain connectivity, the researchers used a type of scan called DTI – a water-based imaging technique that can trace and highlight the fibre pathways connecting the different regions of the brain.
Study author Dr Ruben Gur said: “It’s quite striking how complementary the brains of women and men really are.
“Detailed connectome maps of the brain will not only help us better understand the differences between how men and women think, but it will also give us more insight into the roots of neurological disorders, which are often sex related.”
Prof Heidi Johansen-Berg, a UK expert in neuroscience at the University of Oxford, said the brain was too complex an organ to be able to make broad generalisations.
“We know that there is no such thing as ‘hard wiring’ when it comes to brain connections. Connections can change throughout life, in response to experience and learning.
“Often, sophisticated mathematical approaches are used to analyse and describe these brain networks. These methods can be useful to identify differences between groups, but it is often challenging to interpret those differences in biological terms.”
Dr Michael Bloomfield, Clinical Research Fellow at the Medical Research Council Clinical Sciences Centre in London, said: “It has been known for some time that there are differences between the sexes when it comes to how our bodies work and the brain is no exception.
However, he said care must be taken in drawing conclusions from the study, as the precise relationships between how our brains are wired and our performance on particular tasks needed further investigation.
“We cannot say yet that one is causing the other.
“Furthermore, the measure used in the study, called “connectivity”, is only one aspect of how our brains our wired.
“We think that there can also be differences in certain chemicals in the brain called neurotransmitters, for example, and so we need more research to fully understand how all these different aspects of brain structure and function work together to answer fundamental questions like “how do we think?”.
“One thing that remains unknown is what is driving these differences between the sexes. An obvious possibility is that that male hormones like testosterone and female hormones like oestrogren have different affects on the brain.
“A more subtle possibility is that bringing a child up in a particular gender could affect how our brains are wired.”
There is little evidence to suggest differences between male and female brains are caused by anything other than cultural factors. Photograph: Alamy
As hardy perennials go, there is little to beat that science hacks’ favourite: the hard-wiring of male and female brains. For more than 30 years, I have seen a stream of tales about gender differences in brain structure under headlines that assure me that from birth men are innately more rational and better at map-reading than women, who are emotional, empathetic multi-taskers, useless at telling jokes. I am from Mars, apparently, while the ladies in my life are from Venus.
And there are no signs that this flow is drying up, with last week witnessing publication of a particularly lurid example of the genre. Writing in the US journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, researchers at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia revealed they had used a technique called diffusion tensor imaging to show that the neurons in men’s brains are connected to each other in a very different way from neurons in women’s brains.
This point was even illustrated by the team, led by Professor Ragini Verma, with a helpful diagram. A male brain was depicted with its main connections – coloured blue, needless to say – running from the front to the back. Connections within cranial hemispheres were strong, but connections between the two hemispheres were weak. By contrast, the female brain had thick connections running from side to side with strong links between the two hemispheres.
A photo issued by University of Pennsylvania researchers showing intra-hemispheric connections (blue) and inter- hemispheric connections (orange) in men’s and women’s brains. Male top row, female bottom row. Photograph: National Academy Of Sciences/PA”These maps show us a stark difference in the architecture of the human brain that helps provide a potential neural basis as to why men excel at certain tasks and women at others,” said Verma.
The response of the press was predictable. Once again scientists had “proved” that from birth men have brains which are hardwired to give us better spatial skills, to leave us bereft of empathy for others, and to make us run, like mascara, at the first hint of emotion. Equally, the team had provided an explanation for the “fact” that women cannot use corkscrews or park cars but can remember names and faces better than males. It is all written in our neurons at birth.
As I have said, I have read this sort of thing before. I didn’t believe it then and I don’t believe it now. It is biological determinism at its silly, trivial worst. Yes, men and women probably do have differently wired brains, but there is little convincing evidence to suggest these variations are caused by anything other than cultural factors. Males develop improved spatial skills not because of an innate superiority but because they are expected and encouraged to be strong at sport, which requires expertise at catching and throwing. Similarly, it is anticipated that girls will be more emotional and talkative, and so their verbal skills are emphasised by teachers and parents. As the years pass, these different lifestyles produce variations in brain wiring – which is a lot more plastic than most biological determinists realise. This possibility was simply not addressed by Verma and her team.
Equally, when gender differences are uncovered by researchers they are frequently found to be trivial, a point made by Robert Plomin, a professor of behavioural genetics at London’s Institute of Psychiatry, whose studies have found that a mere 3% of the variation in young children’s verbal development is due to their gender. “If you map the distribution of scores for verbal skills of boys and of girls, you get two graphs that overlap so much you would need a very fine pencil indeed to show the difference between them. Yet people ignore this huge similarity between boys and girls and instead exaggerate wildly the tiny difference between them. It drives me wild.”
I should make it clear that Plomin made that remark three years ago when I last wrote about the issue of gender and brain wiring. It was not my first incursion, I should stress. Indeed, I have returned to the subject – which is an intriguing, important one – on a number of occasions over the years as neurological studies have been hyped in the media, often by the scientists who carried them out. It has taken a great deal of effort by other researchers to put the issue in proper perspective.
A major problem is the lack of consistent work in the field, a point stressed to me in 2005 – during an earlier outbreak of brain-gender difference stories – by Professor Steve Jones, a geneticist at University College London, and author of Y: The Descent of Men. “Researching my book, I discovered there was no consensus at all about the science [of gender and brain structure],” he told me. “There were studies that said completely contradictory things about male and female brains. That means you can pick whatever study you like and build a thesis around it. The whole field is like that. It is very subjective. That doesn’t mean there are no differences between the brains of the sexes, but we should take care not to exaggerate them.”
Needless to say that is not what has happened over the years. Indeed, this has become a topic whose coverage has been typified mainly by flaky claims, wild hyperbole and sexism. It is all very depressing. The question is: why has this happened? Why is there such divergence in explanations for the differences in mental abilities that we observe in men and women? And why do so many people want to exaggerate them so badly?
The first issue is the easier to answer. The field suffers because it is bedevilled by its extraordinary complexity. The human brain is a vast, convoluted edifice and scientists are only now beginning to develop adequate tools to explore it. The use of diffusion tensor imaging by Verma’s team was an important breakthrough, it should be noted. The trouble is, once more, those involved were rash in their interpretations of their own work.
“This study contains some important data but it has been badly overhyped and the authors must take some of the blame,” says Professor Dorothy Bishop, of Oxford University. “They talk as if there is a typical male and a typical female brain – they even provide a diagram – but they ignore the fact that there is a great deal of variation within the sexes in terms of brain structure. You simply cannot say there is a male brain and a female brain.”
Even more critical is Marco Catani, of London’s Institute of Psychiatry. “The study’s main conclusions about possible cognitive differences between males and females are not supported by the findings of the study. A link between anatomical differences and cognitive functions should be demonstrated and the authors have not done so. They simply have no idea of how these differences in anatomy translate into cognitive attitudes. So the main conclusion of the study is purely speculative.”
The study is also unclear how differences in brain architecture between the sexes arose in the first place, a point raised by Michael Bloomfield of the MRC’s Clinical Science Centre. “An obvious possibility is that male hormones like testosterone and female hormones like oestrogen have different effects on the brain. A more subtle possibility is that bringing a child up in a particular gender could affect how our brains are wired.”
In fact, Verma’s results showed that the neuronal connectivity differences between the sexes increased with the age of her subjects. Such a finding is entirely consistent with the idea that cultural factors are driving changes in the brain’s wiring. The longer we live, the more our intellectual biases are exaggerated and intensified by our culture, with cumulative effects on our neurons. In other words, the intellectual differences we observe between the sexes are not the result of different genetic birthrights but are a consequence of what we expect a boy or a girl to be.
Why so many people should be so desperate to ignore or obscure this fact is a very different issue. In the end, I suspect it depends on whether you believe our fates are sealed at birth or if you think that it is a key part of human nature to be able to display a plasticity in behaviour and in ways of thinking in the face of altered circumstance. My money is very much on the latter.
WHAT THE NEW STUDY SHOWS
In their study, Verma and her colleagues, investigated the gender differences in brain connectivity in 949 individuals – 521 females and 428 males – aged between eight and 22 years. The technique they used is known as diffusion tensor imaging (DTI), a water-based imaging technology that can trace and highlight the fibre pathways that connect the different regions of the brain, laying the foundation for a structural connectome or network of the whole brain. These studies revealed a typical pattern, claim Verma and her team: men had stronger links between neurons within their cranial hemispheres while women had stronger links between the two hemispheres, a difference that the scientists claimed was crucial in explaining difference in the behaviour of men and women.
But the technique has been criticised. “DTI provides only indirect measures of structural connectivity and is, therefore, different from the well validated microscopic techniques that show the real anatomy of axonal connections,” says Marco Catani, of London’s Institute of Psychiatry. “Images of the brain derived from diffusion tensor MRI should not be equated to real connections and results should always be interpreted with extreme caution.”This point is backed by Prof Heidi Johansen-Berg, of Oxford University, who attacked the idea that brain connections should be considered as hard-wired. “Connections can change throughout life, in response to experience and learning. As far as I can tell, the authors have not directly related these differences in brain connections to differences in behaviour. It is a huge leap to extrapolate from anatomical differences to try to explain behavioural variation between the sexes. The brain regions that have been highlighted are involved in many different functions.”
Commemorating the 25th World AIDS Day a day late, President Obama announced an initiative Monday to find a cure for HIV infections that would be funded by $100 million shifted from existing spending.
“The United States should be at the forefront of new discoveries into how to put people into long-term remission without requiring lifelong therapies — or better yet, eliminate it completely,” Obama said at a meeting in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building next to the White House.
The initiative reflects a growing optimism among scientists that it may be possible to get patients’ immune systems to control HIV without drugs, or even to eliminate the virus from their systems. A feat like that seemed impossible not so long ago. The moneywill come from expiring AIDS research grants over the next three years, the administration said in a statement.
The president also pledged $5 billion over the next three years to the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, TB and Malaria if other countries contribute twice that amount. The Global Fund is holding its fourth replenishment meeting this week in Washington, with a goal of topping the $9.3 billion pledged three years ago.
Obama boasted that PEPFAR has exceeded the goal — thought to be ambitious when he set it on World AIDS Day two years ago – of getting anti-HIV treatment to 6 million people in developing countries. “Today I’m proud to announce that we’ve not only reached our goal, we’ve exceeded our treatment goal,” he said. “We’ve helped 6.7 million people receive life-saving treatment, and we’re going to keep at it.”
Obama also noted that the waiting list for treatment under the federal-state AIDS Drug Assistance Program last week fell to zero, from a peak of 9,310 in the fall of 2011.
Apart from that domestic bright spot, however, a report card on how America is doing with its own HIV epidemic reveals only slow progress.
In a panel discussion following Obama’s remarks, Dr. Chris Beyrer of Johns Hopkins University pointed out that when PEPFAR and the Global Fund began, AIDS experts were betting it would be easier to combat HIV in targeted populations in America than to get millions of HIV-infected people in sub-Saharan Africa into treatment.
But the opposite has happened. “African-American men are about half as likely” to have their HIV infection under control as non-Hispanic white men, Beyrer says. “And two-thirds of new infections are among men who have sex with men.”
The White House report is thin on promising results, as one section puts it, and heavy on challenges.
For instance, a 2010 National AIDS Strategy set a goal of reducing new HIV infections in this country by 25 percent. But the incidence “remains unacceptably high,” the latest report says. And, in fact, new HIV infections increased 12 percent among men who have sex with men in the most recent figures – 22 percent among the youngest males, from 13 to 24 years old.
The strategy aimed to increase the percent of HIV-infected who know their status to 90 percent. But the most recent figures indicate undiagnosed HIV decreased by only 9 percent between 2006 and 2010. And fewer than half of those between ages 13 and 24 years are aware of their infection.
When it comes to effective anti-HIV treatment, fewer than half of Americans at highest risk – men who have sex with men, blacks and Latinos – get sufficient antivirals drugs to keep their HIV under control.
Still, there’s evidence that concerted efforts to combat HIV can pay off in the most heavily affected places. The report cites impressive gains in New York City, the District of Columbia and San Francisco.
“All three have made care and treatment very available, have ramped up testing and needle exchanges,” says Chris Collins, policy director of amfAR, the American Foundation for AIDS Research. “When you do that, you see infection rates fall.”
For instance, when Washington, D.C., increased publicly funded HIV testing from 400 tests in 2007 to 120,000 in 2011, newly diagnosed cases went down by almost half. Newly diagnosed cases have also fallen by half in New York City and San Francisco.
The proportion of HIV-treated people whose virus was suppressed has gone steadily up in New York City, especially after the health department recommended that all newly diagnosed patients should be offered anti-retroviral treatment. By the end of last year, nearly 8 in 10 were virally suppressed.
The map below comes from the Nuclear Emergency Tracking Center. It shows that radiation levels at radiation monitoring stations all over the country are elevated. As you will notice, this is particularly true along the west coast of the United States. Every single day, 300 tons of radioactive water from Fukushima enters the Pacific Ocean. That means that the total amount of radioactive material released from Fukushima is constantly increasing, and it is steadily building up in our food chain.
Ultimately, all of this nuclear radiation will outlive all of us by a very wide margin. They are saying that it could take up to 40 years to clean up the Fukushima disaster, and meanwhile countless innocent people will develop cancer and other health problems as a result of exposure to high levels of nuclear radiation. We are talking about a nuclear disaster that is absolutely unprecedented, and it is constantly getting worse. The following are 28 signs that the west coast of North America is being absolutely fried with nuclear radiation from Fukushima…
Wildlife experts are studying whether fur loss and open sores detected in nine polar bears in recent weeks is widespread and related to similar incidents among seals and walruses.
The bears were among 33 spotted near Barrow, Alaska, during routine survey work along the Arctic coastline. Tests showed they had “alopecia, or loss of fur, and other skin lesions,” the U.S. Geological Survey said in a statement.
At island rookeries off the Southern California coast, 45 percent of the pups born in June have died, said Sharon Melin, a wildlife biologist for the National Marine Fisheries Service based in Seattle. Normally, less than one-third of the pups would die. It’s gotten so bad in the past two weeks that the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration declared an “unusual mortality event.”
4. Something is causing fish all along the west coast of Canada to bleed from their gills, bellies and eyeballs.
5. A vast field of radioactive debris from Fukushima that is approximately the size of California has crossed the Pacific Ocean and is starting to collide with the west coast.
6. It is being projected that the radioactivity of coastal waters off the U.S. west coast could double over the next five to six years.
7. Experts have found very high levels of cesium-137 in plankton living in the waters of the Pacific Ocean between Hawaii and the west coast.
8. One test in California found that 15 out of 15 bluefin tuna were contaminated with radiation from Fukushima.
9. Back in 2012, the Vancouver Sun reported that cesium-137 was being found in a very high percentage of the fish that Japan was selling to Canada…
• 73 percent of mackerel tested
• 91 percent of the halibut
• 92 percent of the sardines
• 93 percent of the tuna and eel
• 94 percent of the cod and anchovies
• 100 percent of the carp, seaweed, shark and monkfish
10. Canadian authorities are finding extremely high levels of nuclear radiation in certain fish samples…
Some fish samples tested to date have had very high levels of radiation: one sea bass sample collected in July, for example, had 1,000 becquerels per kilogram of cesium.
11. Some experts believe that we could see very high levels of cancer along the west coast just from people eating contaminated fish…
“Look at what’s going on now: They’re dumping huge amounts of radioactivity into the ocean — no one expected that in 2011,” Daniel Hirsch, a nuclear policy lecturer at the University of California-Santa Cruz, told Global Security Newswire. “We could have large numbers of cancer from ingestion of fish.”
12. BBC News recently reported that radiation levels around Fukushima are “18 times higher” than previously believed.
13. An EU-funded study concluded that Fukushima released up to 210 quadrillion becquerels of cesium-137 into the atmosphere.
15. At this point, 300 tons of contaminated water is pouring into the Pacific Ocean from Fukushima every single day.
16. A senior researcher of marine chemistry at the Japan Meteorological Agency’s Meteorological Research Institute says that “30 billion becquerels of radioactive cesium and 30 billion becquerels of radioactive strontium” are being released into the Pacific Ocean from Fukushima every single day.
17. According to Tepco, a total of somewhere between 20 trillion and 40 trillion becquerels of radioactive tritium have gotten into the Pacific Ocean since the Fukushima disaster first began.
18. According to a professor at Tokyo University, 3 gigabecquerels of cesium-137 are flowing into the port at Fukushima Daiichi every single day.
19. It has been estimated that up to 100 times as much nuclear radiation has been released into the ocean from Fukushima than was released during the entire Chernobyl disaster.
20. One recent study concluded that a very large plume of cesium-137 from the Fukushima disaster will start flowing into U.S. coastal waters early next year…
Ocean simulations showed that the plume of radioactive cesium-137 released by the Fukushima disaster in 2011 could begin flowing into U.S. coastal waters starting in early 2014 and peak in 2016.
21. It is being projected that significant levels of cesium-137 will reach every corner of the Pacific Ocean by the year 2020.
22. It is being projected that the entire Pacific Ocean will soon “have cesium levels 5 to 10 times higher” than what we witnessed during the era of heavy atomic bomb testing in the Pacific many decades ago.
23. The immense amounts of nuclear radiation getting into the water in the Pacific Ocean has caused environmental activist Joe Martino to issue the following warning…
Your days of eating Pacific Ocean fish are over.
24. The Iodine-131, Cesium-137 and Strontium-90 that are constantly coming from Fukushima are going to affect the health of those living the the northern hemisphere for a very, very long time. Just consider what Harvey Wasserman had to say about this…
Iodine-131, for example, can be ingested into the thyroid, where it emits beta particles (electrons) that damage tissue. A plague of damaged thyroids has already been reported among as many as 40 percent of the children in the Fukushima area. That percentage can only go higher. In developing youngsters, it can stunt both physical and mental growth. Among adults it causes a very wide range of ancillary ailments, including cancer.
Strontium-90’s half-life is around 29 years. It mimics calcium and goes to our bones.
25. According to a recent Planet Infowars report, the California coastline is being transformed into “a dead zone”…
The California coastline is becoming like a dead zone.
If you haven’t been to a California beach lately, you probably don’t know that the rocks are unnaturally CLEAN – there’s hardly any kelp, barnacles, sea urchins, etc. anymore and the tide pools are similarly eerily devoid of crabs, snails and other scurrying signs of life… and especially as compared to 10 – 15 years ago when one was wise to wear tennis shoes on a trip to the beach in order to avoid cutting one’s feet on all the STUFF of life – broken shells, bones, glass, driftwood, etc.
There are also days when I am hard-pressed to find even a half dozen seagulls and/or terns on the county beach.
You can still find a few gulls trolling the picnic areas and some of the restaurants (with outdoor seating areas) for food, of course, but, when I think back to 10 – 15 years ago, the skies and ALL the beaches were literally filled with seagulls and the haunting sound of their cries both day and night…
NOW it’s unnaturally quiet.
26. A study conducted last year came to the conclusion that radiation from the Fukushima nuclear disaster could negatively affect human life along the west coast of North America from Mexico to Alaska “for decades”.
27. According to the Wall Street Journal, it is being projected that the cleanup of Fukushima could take up to 40 years to complete.
28. Yale Professor Charles Perrow is warning that if the cleanup of Fukushima is not handled with 100% precision that humanity could be threatened “for thousands of years“…
Conditions in the unit 4 pool, 100 feet from the ground, are perilous, and if any two of the rods touch it could cause a nuclear reaction that would be uncontrollable. The radiation emitted from all these rods, if they are not continually cool and kept separate, would require the evacuation of surrounding areas including Tokyo. Because of the radiation at the site the 6,375 rods in the common storage pool could not be continuously cooled; they would fission and all of humanity will be threatened, for thousands of years.
Are you starting to understand why so many people are so deeply concerned about what is going on at Fukushima?