WHO labels 2,4-D herbicide as ‘possibly’ causing cancer


Reuters / Daniel Munoz

The WHO cancer research unit has deemed 2,4-D, the active ingredient of Dow’s herbicide – once used in infamous Agent Orange – as ‘possibly’ causing cancer. The chemical ranked one behind the ‘probably carcinogenic’ glyphosate in Monsanto’s Roundup.

Upon careful review of scientific data regarding 2,4-D, a chemical used for a Dow AgroSciences product, WHO’s International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) unit has determined that the weed killer be classified as “possibly carcinogenic to humans.”

The verdict, produced by a team of 24 scientists, including he Dow scientific lobby, came after a week-long scientific findings review that took place on June 2-9, which met in Lyon, France.

IARC said that the “possibly carcinogenic”classification was assigned because of “inadequate evidence in humans and limited evidence in experimental animals” of links between 2,4-D and cancer.

Studies over the years pointed to evidence showing cancer connections with 2,4-D, especially in non-Hodgkin lymphoma (NHL). However IARC said, “epidemiological studies did not find strong or consistent increases in risk of NHL or other cancers in relation to 2,4-D exposure.”

WHO said that epidemiological studies provided “strong evidence that 2,4-D induces oxidative stress … and moderate evidence that 2,4-D causes immunosuppression.”

Since its inception in 1945, 2,4-D has been widely used to control weeds in urban and residential settings. The chemical also makes up half of the toxic mix in Agent Orange, once used by the United States during the Vietnam War, which is thought to have resulted in the deaths of an estimated 400,000 and birth defects in 500,000 people.

Dow AgroSciences, a unit of Dow Chemical Co, rejected the findings of the IARC review, claiming the new classification is “inconsistent with government findings in nearly 100 countries.”

Dow says WHO finding are based on“incomplete” information that has focused on“whether a substance or activity could be a carcinogen, not whether it is a carcinogen when used under real-world circumstances.”

“IARC has classified only one of about 1,000 agents and activities it has reviewed as ‘probably not carcinogenic to humans,” said John Cuffe, from Dow’s Global Regulatory Sciences and Regulatory Affairs. “IARC has classified products we use as potential carcinogens, including coffee, aloe vera, and pickled vegetables.”

The move by IARC to brand 2,4-D as possibly carcinogenic comes shortly after the agency classified glyphosate or Roundup herbicide, produced by Monsanto, as “probably” carcinogenic.

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​Droning on forever? Boeing patents UAV that could fly indefinitely, recharge in mid-air — RT News


Still from YouTube video/PatentYogi

As drone technology continues to advance, Boeing has raised the bar even higher. The aerospace giant has received a patent for a UAV that could fly forever – recharging in mid-air via a tether attached to the ground.

The patent – filed in March 2013 and approved by the US Patent and Trademark Office last week – could revolutionize unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) as we know them, foregoing the need to refuel or recharge on land.

According to the patent, the electrically-powered drone would have a retractable tether cable that would connect to a power source. When the drone was fully charged, it would automatically fly off to continue its task, and another UAV could then take its place at the charging station.

The drone could be connected to a number of sources, including land- and sea-based power supplies. It could even be connected to moving vehicles, allowing the drone to fly while charging.

The concept could be extremely beneficial for drone delivery services, or for those which need to stay airborne for an extended time due to long-term experiments, monitoring or travel, GeekWire reported. It could also completely do away with landing gear, which can be heavy and burdensome for drones.

 

Boeing has so far given no indication on whether it actually plans to build the drones.

An increasing number of companies are currently testing drones, indicating that widespread usage could be just around the corner.

As was reported last week, NASA and Verizon are investing in new technology that would use already existing cell phone towers to monitor civilian and commercial drones.

In April, Amazon was granted the authority totest delivery drones in the US. The e-commerce giant hopes to revolutionize delivery services with the technology. That same month, the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) approved the testing of UAVs by three insurance giants: AIG, State Farm and USAA.

The FAA has already come under fire for its alleged lack of privacy protections in its initial set of drone regulations. In April, the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) filed a suit against the agency, asking a federal appeals court to review its decision.

At present, the FAA prohibits commercial drone operators from flying drones beyond their line of sight, and restricts their use to daylight hours. Drones must weight a maximum of 55 pounds, stay below 500 feet in the air, and fly less than 100 miles per hour. A drone operator must also pass an aeronautics test.

Solar panels can power the world


Reuters / Jorge Cabrera

The world’s population currently consumes 15 terawatts of power from various energy sources, according to the Economist. Despite making up less than 5 percent of the world’s population, Americans use 26 percent of the world’s power.

The publication, by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, shows that no revolution in solar energy needs to take place, as scientists already have everything they need to harness the energy of the sun and turn it into electricity, though minor tweaks may help to improve efficiency.

The US, for example, generates less than 1 percent of its energy from solar power. This is something the researchers are looking to change.

 

“Our objective has been to assess solar energy’s current and potential competitive position and to identify changes in US government policies that could more efficiently and effectively support its massive deployment over the long-term, which we view as necessary,” Robert Armstrong, the director of MIT Energy Initiative, said in a statement.

The Topaz solar farm in California went online at the end of 2014. It generates 500 megawatts of energy, which is enough energy to power at least 160,000 homes. A terawatt is 1 million megawatts of energy.

The company behind the project, First Solar, uses 9 million solar panels to generate electricity. Crucially, it also eliminates over 350,000 tons of CO2 every year, Techspot reports.

“Solar electricity generation is one of very few low-carbon energy technologies with the potential to grow to very large scale. As a consequence, massive expansion of global solar generating capacity to multi-terawatt scale is very likely an essential component of a work-able strategy to mitigate climate change risk,” the MIT report said.

The study has emphasized the need for more research at a federal level, as well as more development support to help to advance low cost and large scale electricity storage technologies.

Battery technology is expected to be a crucial part of the future development of solar power energy, as the batteries can be used to store electricity during peak production and then dispense it at times when there is no sunshine.

The CEO of Tesla industries, Elon Musk, has been a big advocate of trying to develop better batteries that could help to store electricity.

“Our goal here is to fundamentally change the way the world uses energy,” Musk said on April 30, Bloomberg reported. “We’re talking at the terawatt scale. The goal is the complete transformation of the entire energy infrastructure of the world.”

The ability to get funding is out there. For example, the International Monetary Fund has calculated that the fossil fuel industries are receiving $5.3 trillion a year in subsidies, which is the equivalent to $10 million every minute. This is a figure that those looking to promote solar power can only dream of.

The authors of the MIT publication believe that the production of solar power will only increase if carbon dioxide emissions become costly. They admit this is unlikely to happen without a drastic rethink in US government policy.

“The main goal of US solar policy should be to build the foundation for a massive scale-up of solar generation over the next few decades,” the report said.

The researchers point to the example of Germany as a standout in pursuing green energy. In 1991, Berlin adopted a Feed-in Tariff scheme which was a rebate scheme to encourage the production of low carbon source energy.

The scheme was so successful that by 2013 Germany was producing 45 percent of solar energy in the EU, and 27 percent of solar energy around the globe, despite the fact that the country is not renowned for having a year-round sunny climate.

Genetic test can predict if you survive radiation poisoning.


A team of scientists have found an accurate way to immediately identify long term radiation damage by examining blood-bound genes, allowing more accurate predictions of who can survive radiation exposure after a nuclear catastrophe or a dirty bomb.

Reuters / Sergei Karpukhin

In previous nuclear incidents, such as the 1986 Chernobyl disaster in the USSR or the 2011 Fukushima debacle in Japan, doctors and scientists were unable to accurately diagnose the radiation damage a patient has been exposed to.

They had to estimate the level of radiation poisoning by basing it on where someone was during a nuclear disaster or by taking blood samples and seeing how many white blood cells have died.

Neither of these two techniques can differentiate between a deadly dose of radiation and a very high but survivable one.

“After a radiation release, there is currently no way to tell who was exposed and who wasn’t, and if someone was exposed, is it lethal or not?” said Dipanjan Chowdhury of Dana-Farber’s Department of Radiation Oncology, the report’s senior author.

Chowdrhury together with a team of scientists at Harvard Medical School and Montefiore Medical Center in New York City have found a way of telling exactly what radiation dose someone has had by looking at the genes in their blood. Their findings were published in the journal Science Translational Medicine.

A tiny group of free-floating pieces of genetic information called microRNAs reveal how much radiation someone has received as well as the damage this will have on their body.

The scientists subjected two groups of mice to 650 rads of radiation, which is a high but survivable dose, and 800 rads which is lethal.

By any other means of analysis both groups of mice looked the same for the first two weeks after exposure, and it was only by testing their microRNAs that the scientists could determine which mice would survive.

MicroRNAs were identified only 20 years ago. They help the human body translate DNA into a workable blueprint to build new cells.

According to the new research, radiation actively alters the structure of the microRNAs in mice; the bigger the dose the greater the change. Only 68 of almost 170 types of microRNAs are in the blood, but the scientists found that by analyzing just a handful of these they could tell the amount of radiation damage someone had received in the first 24 hours after exposure.

“All of the equipment used to detect these microRNAs is already widely available in many clinics. So there’s no obvious reason that such a test would be expensive,” Chowdhury said, as cited by Popular Mechanics.

He is, however, worried that developing an emergency test for assessing radiation poisoning might take quite some time, as “unlike developing cancer drugs, this is not an area that’s considered very lucrative.”

Porn and video game addicts risk ‘masculinity crisis,’ says Stanford professor — RT News


Men who play video games “in excess” and watch online porn are facing what has been called a masculinity crisis, according to a leading US psychologist.

Reuters/Robert Galbraith

For those who think online video games and porn are passive online activities that have no real consequences in the real world, take heed.

Psychologist Philip Zimbardo interviewed 20,000 young people in the United States, 75 percent of them male, and found that excessive, solitary playing of video games and watching porn is seriously damaging the social development of young men.

“Our focus is on young men who play video games to excess, and do it in social isolation – they are alone in their room,” Zimbardo, who just released a book on the subject, entitled“Man (Dis)Connected,” told the BBC in an interview.

“Now, with freely available pornography – which is unique in history – they are combining playing video games, and as a break, watching on average, two hours of pornography a week.”

Zimbardo says “excessive” use of video games and pornography is not necessarily a matter of specific time, but rather the psychological change in mindset that such isolated activities produce, where the individual begins to feel he’d rather be doing that particular activity than anything else.

Phillip Zimbardo, 82, is a psychologist and a professor emeritus at Stanford University. He is perhaps best known for his 1971 experiment in which students were asked to play the roles of ‘guards’ and ‘prisoners’ in a mock prison. Intended to continue for two weeks, the experiment was aborted in less than a week as the initially normal ‘guards’ eventually became sadistic and the ‘prisoners’ became submissive and depressed. Zimbardo has also written introductory psychology books, textbooks for college students, and other notable works, including The Lucifer Effect and the The Time Cure. Zimbardo is the founder and president of the Heroic Imagination Project.

“When I’m in class, I’ll wish I was playing World of Warcraft. When I’m with a girl, I’ll wish I was watching pornography, because I’ll never get rejected,” he explained. The brains of young men are actually becoming “digitally rewired” by these new pastimes.

Zimbardo says that one of the consequences is the so-called“porn-induced erectile dysfunction,” or PIED, where young men who should be sexually active are “having a problem getting an erection.”

“You have this paradox – they’re watching exciting videos that should be turning them on, and they can’t get turned on.”

While playing video games and watching pornography are not necessarily bad activities, they can begin to have a negative effect on the social development of individuals if used in excess, the psychologist said.

He believes that parents need to take more control of the situation by taking simple steps, like keeping a journal for tracking how much time is being set aside for a variety of different activities, like doing homework, reading and writing.
At the same time, schools need to rethink their sexual education requirements, and instead of placing excessive emphasis on the physical side of relations, talk more about communication and expressing emotions, he said.

“We need to set standards of excellence, and be aware that there is a problem in the first place,”Zimbardo said.

Robotic telescope discovers 3 super-Earths ‘very close’ to us


Image by Karen Teramura & BJ Fulton, University of Hawaii, Institute for Astronomy

Let’s not pack our bags yet though – the three celestial bodies actually perform much more daring orbits around their host star than even our Mercury, taking 5, 12 and 24 days respectively. And we all know what happened to Mercury because of its close proximity to the Sun.

“The three planets are unlike anything in our solar system, with masses 7-8 times the mass of Earth and orbits that take them very close to their host star,” Berkeley graduate Lauren Weiss said.

The above findings are presented in the Astrophysical Journal.

Although one planet was discovered back in 2009, only now have the scientists at universities in California, Hawaii, Arizona and Tennessee compiled a workable map of the neighborhood, where all three orbit their host star HD 7924. As with previously-discovered potentially habitable worlds, scientists measured the wobble in light caused by the bodies passing in front of their sun, which allowed them to estimate the size and trajectory of the bodies. To achieve this they used the Automated Planet Finder (APF) Telescope at Lick Observatory in California, the W.M. Keck Observatory on Maunakea in Hawaii, and the Automatic Photometric Telescope (APT) at the Fairborn Observatory in Arizona.

The news APF facility is lauded by scientists for speeding up the process of planet-finding substantially. This is due to the observatory’s dedicated facility, armed with robotic technologies. The tools can work all night without human oversight and don’t ever get tired.

“This level of automation is a game-changer in astronomy,” astronomer Andrew Howard, based in Hawaii, said. “It’s a bit like owning a driverless car that goes planet shopping.”

Following one of the discoveries in 2009, a further five years of exploring followed. Then the APF Telescope came into play and completed the picture of the particular galactic neighborhood in a matter of a year-and-a-half.

“We initially used APF like a regular telescope, staying up all night searching star to star. But the idea of letting a computer take the graveyard shift was more appealing after months of little sleep. So we wrote software to replace ourselves with a robot,” BJ Fulton, a graduate at the University of Hawaii, was cited as saying.

One may remember the ground-breaking announcement of the Kepler program, which first brought to fruition the concept of measuring the changes in a star’s glow, as possible planets passed in front. Well, the APF continues the job with flying colors. Because, unlike Kepler’s thousands of Earth-like planets found all across the Milky Way, the APF’s discoveries are dramatically close to our own neighborhood.

Scientists on the project are very optimistic about a more thorough analysis of that sector in the near future and anticipate new discoveries.

These robotic observations are just the start of a new search campaign, which is part of Fulton’s doctoral dissertation. The new wave of robotic planet research will become a systematic survey of nearby stars in its own right. Two new Hawaiian facilities dedicated to this are currently being built. The APF is here to stay.

 

1,000 British soldiers given psychiatric help after consuming ‘zombie drug’ – new figures


The British military is accused of failing to protect its soldier’s mental health. Figures show nearly 1,000 have sought psychiatric treatment after being given the MoD’s budget price anti-malarial drug Lariam.

A Freedom of Information (FoI) request revealed the figure is much higher than previously thought, with 994 service personnel being admitted to mental health clinics or psychiatric hospitals since 2008.

The figures only go back to 2007, so the true number may be much higher, as Lariam, also known as mefloquine, has been in use for much longer.

The MoD has consistently defended the drug, which is one of several it issues to troops, amid concerns that Lariam is contributing to an Armed Forces mental health epidemic. This is despite growing pressure from senior military figures, campaigners and relatives of those affected.

The drug, banned by US Special Forces two years ago, and which the UK military avoids giving to pilots or divers, is still issued to UK troops.

Its use continues despite evidence linking the anti-malarial to the 2012 Panjwai Massacre, in which a US soldier slaughtered 17 Afghan civilians after taking the drug.

Sergeant Robert Bales has since been sentenced to life imprisonment.

In an internal report, Roche, the drug’s manufacturer, described the killings as an “adverse event.

Roche themselves have conceded that the side effects can include “hallucinations, psychosis, suicide, suicidal thoughts and self-endangering behavior” and may induce “serious neuropsychiatric disorders.

Reuters / Nigel Roddis

The figures come as it was revealed a retired British general, who took the drug during service, is currently in a secure psychiatric unit.

Major General Alastair Duncan commanded British troops in Bosnia. His wife, Ellen, told the Independent: “Like others, I believe that this is a scandal. If 1,000 troops have reported the effects then you can be sure there are others who have not. I know personally of several, and anecdotally of many more.

The long-term effects of this will be more and more in evidence over the coming years.

She said the MoD was “staggeringly unprepared to deal with the fallout.

In 2012, Dr Remington Nevin, a US Army epidemiologist whose research found the drug could be toxic to the brain, told the Daily Mail: “Mefloquine is a zombie drug. It’s dangerous, and it should have been killed off years ago.

He said Lariam was “probably the worst-suited drug for the military,” adding that its side effects closely matched the symptoms of combat stress.

Considering why the drug remains in use, one former general speculated that it was a matter of economics over welfare.

Former marine Major General Julian Thompson led 3 Commando Brigade during the Falklands War. He told the Independent: “I can only come to the conclusion that the MoD has a large supply of Lariam, and some ‘chairborne’ jobsworth in the MoD has decreed that as a cost-saving measure, the stocks are to be consumed before an alternative is purchased.

Larium is significantly cheaper than comparable anti-malarials, such as Doxycycline and Malarone.

An MoD spokesperson said: “All our medical advice is based on the current guidelines set out by Public Health England.

Based on this expert advice, the MoD continues to prescribe mefloquine (Lariam) as part of the range of malaria prevention treatments recommended, which help us to protect our personnel from this disease.

The Labour Party responded to the revelations by promising to fully address the impacts and use of Lariam if the party comes to power in the May general election.

Shadow Defense Secretary Vernon Coaker told Channel 4: “Given the growing evidence of the potential damage caused by this drug we are committed to immediately reviewing its use should we form the next government.

White House declares war on ‘superbugs’ .


U.S. President Barack Obama.(Reuters / Jonathan Ernst)

U.S. President Barack Obama.

The Obama administration has unveiled a $1.2 billion plan to combat drug-resistant bacteria, also known as ‘superbugs.’ Five out of six Americans are on antibiotics, and 23,000 die annually of drug-resistant infections.

Released to the public on Friday, the National Action Plan for Combating Antibiotic Resistant Bacteria envisions efforts to rein in over-prescription of antibiotics by doctors, use of “medically important antibiotics” in food animals, and the spread of drug-resistant bacteria, while promoting the development of new and more effective antibiotics for human use.

We know that 5 out of 6 Americans are prescribed antibiotics each year. That adds up to 262 million antibiotic prescriptions annually,” president Obama said in an exclusive interview with WebMD. “And studies have consistently shown that a lot of America’s antibiotic use is unnecessary.

One of the main causes of antibiotic-resistant bacteria is the use of antibiotics when they are not needed, the president said. Drug-resistant infections are on the rise: according to government statistics, there are two million infections a year in the US, resulting in 23,000 deaths.

The plan envisions $1.2 billion in funding to various government agencies. The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) would begin research on new antibiotics, while the Department of Agriculture is to start reducing “irresponsible use” of antibiotics in livestock and poultry. A newly created Presidential Advisory Council on Combating Antibiotic-Resistant Bacteria, with up to 30 members managed by the HHS, would be entrusted with oversight of the plan.

We’re seeing an increase in drug-resistant organisms that are affecting every community,” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) director Dr. Tom Frieden told The Hill, “and are at risk, really, to undermine much of modern medicine.

The CDC would use the $264.3 million increase in funding to develop prevention programs in every state, potentially forestalling 600,000 infections and $8 billion in medical costs, Dr. Frieden said.

Some questions remain as to where the money would come from. President Obama says some of the funding is already in the 2016 budget, but it appears the rest will have to get approval from the Republican-controlled Congress.

Wherever we can act without Congress, we will. But to get the whole job done, we need Congress to step up,” Obama told WebMD.

The plan has already faced some criticism for not going far enough to reduce antibiotic use in agriculture. Industrial farming accounts for the vast majority of antibiotic consumption in the US, and is on the rise around the world.

The plan continues to allow the routine feeding of antibiotics to animals that live in the crowded conditions endemic to industrial farms,” said a statement by environmentalist group Natural Resources Defense Council.

​Smoking marijuana is 114 times safer than drinking alcohol .


Reuters/Marcos Brindicci

As the debate over marijuana legalization continues in the United States, a new study suggests that smoking the controversial plant is about 114 times safer than drinking alcohol.

In fact, alcohol was found to be the deadliest drug on an individual level, at least when it comes to the likelihood of a person dying due to consuming a lethal dose. Heroin and cocaine were the next most deadly substances, followed by tobacco, ecstasy, and meth. Trailing up the rear was marijuana.

According to the team of international researchers behind the study, published in the journal ‘Scientific Reports,’ the findings suggest that marijuana risks – at least those related to mortality – are trumped when compared to substances like alcohol.

“The results confirm that the risk of cannabis may have been overestimated in the past,” the report reads. “At least for the endpoint of mortality, the [margin of exposure] for THC/cannabis in both individual and population-based assessments would be above safety thresholds (e.g. 100 for data based on animal experiments). In contrast, the risk of alcohol may have been commonly underestimated.”

 

As reported by the Washington Post, the study’s results aren’t exactly new, though they do confirm similar findings first reported a decade ago. In a separate story last year, the Post noted that Wayne Hall of the World Health Organization said it’s nearly impossible for even those who smoke large amounts of cannabis to overdose on the drug.

“The estimated fatal dose [of THC, the primary active compound in marijuana] in humans derived from animal studies is between 15 and 70 grams. This is a far greater amount of cannabis that even a very heavy cannabis user could use in a day,” Hall wrote last year.

Even alcohol’s unsafe margin of exposure (MOE) ratio isn’t all that surprising since, unlike heroin and cocaine, it is legal and much more readily available and accepted.

Marijuana legalization advocates are welcoming the new study, using it to suggest that America’s current ban on the drug is wrong and misguided, considering the mortality rates associated with alcohol and tobacco – both of which are legal and easily accessible to those of age. Marijuana, meanwhile, is still illegal on the federal level and largely illegal on the state level – except in Colorado, Oregon, Alaska, and the District of Columbia.

Even the researchers noted that compared to other drugs, their findings support regulating pot as a legal substance instead of a banned one.

“Currently, the MOE results point to risk management prioritization towards alcohol and tobacco rather than illicit drugs,” the report reads. “The high MOE values of cannabis, which are in a low-risk range, suggest a strict legal regulatory approach rather than the current prohibition approach.”

Despite the new study, the American Academy of Pediatrics cautions that pot should not be smoked by children or teenagers, as there have been studies suggesting a link between youth smoking and impaired child development.

Contact lens with… inbuilt telescope to increase peripheral vision 3-fold in a wink — RT News


Reuters / Brian Snyder

The new technology is set to help sufferers of age-related macular degeneration (AMD), which can result in the loss of vision in the center of the visual field. This makes it difficult to read and recognize faces.

The 1.55mm thick lens contains an extremely thin, reflective telescope. Small mirrors inside bounce light around, expanding the perceived size of objects and magnifying the view, similar to looking through low-magnification binoculars.

It is very simple to operate with the lens working in conjunction with glasses. A simple wink of the right eye makes the telescope zoom in, while if the user winks with their left eye, then the telescope is turned off.

“The most compelling reason why you would want to have this is to help people with serious visual problems, such as macular degeneration, or other retinal illnesses where people have severe vision loss,”said Dr. Eric Tremblay, who is a designer with the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, which is based in Lausanne.

“In a lot of cases magnification is very useful. So what people usually use are head-mounted telescopes which don’t work for everything,” which was reported by the Daily Telegraph.

The contact lens had an unlikely source for funding, with DARPA, the Pentagon’s research agency providing the cash. They wanted it to be developed to give soldiers a form of bionic vision.

“They were really interested in supervision, but the reality is more tame than that,” said Tremblay at the American Association for the Advancement of Science in San Jose. So far, only five people have tested the latest version, according to the Guardian.

View image on Twitter

There are currently telescope glasses on the market, however they have proved to be cumbersome and expensive for the public, with the technology on sale at $9,240. The new makers of the lens say the new design will be much cheaper. However, it will need some more work before it can be sod publicly as the user can only currently wear it for 30 minutes, as it blocks oxygen to the eye.

Cathy Yelf, the acting CEO of the Macular Society, said: “There is virtue in having a zoomable contact lens for some people with macular degeneration who have lost their central vision. We will be interested to see how, in practice, it works for people with AMD. With an ageing population, investment in research and new treatments is a pressing issue as there,” she said.