Science Snippets: January 22nd 2008

  • Well, here’s eco-news for ya. Heidi Fleiss, the famous (or infamous, depending upon point of view) prostitute/brothel manager and ex-con plans to open a stud farm – environmentally friendly, of course – The Daily Green, January 18th 2008 …

… The raven-haired, 80-pound ex-con plans to open the stud-farm and – get this – spa on land she owns near dusty Pahrump, Nevada. The facility will reportedly boast wind turbines, and the feisty proprietor is looking into non-toxic, green building materials and techniques, to make sure no one gets a chemical headache while getting boffed.
The Stud Farm will be “an exclusive resort, and I’ll make it really nice like the Beverly Hills Hotel,” Heidi reportedly has said, for women who “want to get a manicure, a pedicure, and a shag.”
So far Fleiss has hit a delay, after she was tangled up in some local intrigue. It seems another brothel owner was arrested for allegedly bribing a public official, and Fleiss had reportedly introduced those two parties. But the erstwhile madam of $10,000-night call girls believes her eco-brothel will soon get up and running.
Fleiss already owns a state-of-the-art, energy-efficient Laundromat in Pahrump.
Fleiss is a vegetarian who considers herself a tree hugger. …

Scientists only now are unraveling a legacy that has largely gone unnoticed. …they described high blood pressure, kidney damage, even full kidney failure striking 10 to 20 years later in people who survived severe E. coli infection as children, arthritis after a bout of salmonella or shigella, and a mysterious paralysis that can attack people who just had a mild symptoms of campylobacter. …
The CDC says food-borne illnesses cause 325,000 hospitalizations and 5,000 deaths a year. Among survivors, some long-term consequences are obvious from the outset. Some required kidney transplants. They may have scarred intestines that promise lasting digestive difficulty. But when people appear to recover, it is difficult to prove that later problems really are a food-poisoning legacy and not some unfortunate coincidence. …
For now, some of the best evidence comes from the
University of Utah, which has long tracked children with E. coli. About 10 percent of E. coli sufferers develop life-threatening complication called hemolytic uremic syndrome, or HUS, where their kidneys and other organs fail. … But proving a connection will require tracking a lot of patients who can provide very good medical records documenting their initial food-borne illness, he cautions.

  • One of the major points made by global warming alarmists is the fact that there is a period of melting going on in Antarctic. Kenneth Chang reports that the reason may have been found, and it’s a natural reason …

Another factor might be contributing to the thinning of some of Antarctica’s glaciers: volcanoes.
In an article published Sunday on the web site of the journal Nature Geoscience, Hugh Corr and David Vaughan of the British Antarctic Survey report the identification of a layer of volcanic ash and glass shards frozen within an ice sheet in western Antarctica. …
Volcanic heat could still be melting ice to water and contributing to thinning and speeding up of the Pine Island glacier, which passes nearby, but Vaughan said he doubted that it could be affecting other glaciers in western Antarctica, which have also thinned in recent years. Most glaciologists, including
Vaughan, says that warmer ocean water is the primary cause of thinning.

… Comparative psychologist Irene Pepperberg of Brandeis University bought Alex at a pet store in 1977, and trained him up until his death. “He broke all preconceived notions of what it meant to be a ‘birdbrain.’” She wrote in an email. “He showed us to what extent birds can process information – at the same level as apes or dolphins or young children.”
Pepperberg’s next project with Alex would have involved optical illusions, “to determine if Alex literally saw the world the same way we do.”

 
 
   

  • From the pages of Weird Science [Figments of Imagination?] by Brigid Schulte, Washington Post, January 20th 2008] …

Morgellons_Lesions_Hand Thousands of people around the world say they have a disease that causes mysterious fibers to sprout painfully through the skin, and they’ve given it a name. The spread of ‘Morgellons disease’ could be Internet hysteria, or it could be an emerging illness demanding our attention. …
Some call it the “fiber disease,” but most refer to it as Morgellons, a name taken from a similar condition of children wasting away with “harsh hairs” described in the 17th century. A frustrated mother, Mary Leitao, then living in South Carolina, happened upon the description in an old medical history book in 2002 after doctors didn’t believe her when she told them that her son had fibers growing out of his lip.
The catalogue of symptoms for Morgellons includes crawling, biting and stinging sensations, granules, itching, threads or black speck-like materials on or beneath the skin, skin lesions, fatigue, joint pain and the presence of blue, red, green, clear or white fibers,” such as mental confusion, short-term memory loss – and hallucinations such as, possibly, Sue’s description of the pink worm and springtail fly. …
Many Morgellons sufferers report they have lost their jobs, their homes, their spouses and even had their children taken away because of the disease. … Whatever it is – and most doctors believe it’s purely delusional – Morgellons has become a grassroots Web phenomenon. Google it, and nearly 162,000 references show up, many of them chock-full of vivid color photographs of what people claim are strange, colorful fibers growing under their skin. Several sufferers have taken graphic videos of themselves poking with tweezers at what appears to be fiber-entangled lesions and then posted them on YouTube. Long online discussions ramble on about the latest conspiracy theories that cause the disease … others debate the latest expensive cure-alls – antibiotics, antifungal creams, vitamin supplements, liquid silver, food-grade diatomaceous earth, deworming medication meant for cattle.

But look on the official American Academy of Dermatology Web site and Morgellons isn’t there. … There is only one study of Morgellons in a peer-reviewed medical journal, the Holy Grail for Western medicine. …
“People with very itchy skin have scabs, which ooze and tend to pick up threads from the environment, from dogs, cats, air filters, car upholstery, carpet” … “Any fibers that I have ever been presented with by one of my patients have always been textile fibers.”
Despite the extreme skepticism in mainstream medical circles, the federal government is now taking Morgellons seriously because of pressure from sufferers and the Morgellons Research Foundation, the nonprofit organization that Mary Leitao founded in 2002 and now runs out of her house in
Pennsylvania. The group is funded through contributions – $29,649 in 2006, according to the Web site. And it uses much of the money to promote public awareness and provide small research grants. …
…the CDC has budgeted nearly $1 million in the next two years for Morgellons research and is undertaking the first major epidemiological study of what it is calling an “unexplained dermopathy.” Sen. Tom Harkins inserted language in a Labor Health and Human Services bill, later vetoed by President Bush, urging the CDC to continue the Morgellons investigation and “as quickly as possible to plan and begin this important research.” …
And could some diseases, rather than being all in the head, involve both mind and body? … The Mayo Clinic is the only other organization in mainstream medicine, outside of the CDC, to include information about Morgellons in its list of human illnesses.