Can bees be trained to sniff out cancer? – Salon.com

Can bees be trained to sniff out cancer? – Salon.com.

nsects offer key advantages over mammals and electronics, however, because of their antennae. For example, electronic nose devices have trouble detecting an odor amid more complicated conditions, like when there’s a greater mixture of gases, as is found in human breath. And studies have revealed that sniffer dogs identify odors correctly only about 71 percent of the time, while also requiring at least three months’ training. Bees, in contrast, have achieved an accuracy rate of 98 percent and can be trained in about 10 minutes.

In developing “Bee’s,” the Portuguese native needed something that enabled the user to easily transport bees into the instrument and safely suck them back out using a vacuum. The source material also had to be malleable enough to shape into a system with well-defined pathways that don’t impede their movement. She eventually settled on glass as the material because of its flexibility and transparency. “To know the results of a breath test, you’d have to see the behavior of the insects,” she says. “Everything is about their behavior.”

Prototypes have undergone field testing, and although it didn’t find any instances of cancer, it did turn up a case of diabetes that was later confirmed. It’s unlikely, though, that the concept will amount to anything beyond being an exhibition curiosity. While there was a brief period in which she felt ambitious enough to reach out to potential collaborators, the process proved so time consuming and unfruitful that she ultimately gave up. The only organizations that seemed even remotely interested in her idea were a handful of charities. So for now, “Bee’s” exists as one of those purely academic exercises to show, as she puts it, the “symbiotic relationship” humans have with nature and how “technology and science can better foster these relationships.”

“I think there’s only four labs in the world doing research into insects for disease screening, which shows you that this approach doesn’t go over well in the western world,” says Soares. “Medical and health technologies are a big business, and the bottom line is they just don’t see how something like this can be profitable.”

Glen C. Rains, an agricultural professor at the University of Georgia, largely concurs, though he adds that there are more complex issues besides economics. The entomologist, as well as licensed beekeeper, has dealt with numerous challenges while developing a similar device called the Wasp Hound, which uses a batch of five wasps to detect the presence of bedbugs. Rains’ system is a bit more elaborate in that it uses a camera to record the wasps’ behavior. The data is then fed into software that analyzes these movements to determine if the bugs actually did indeed detect these unwanted guests. After over a decade of development, Rains has forged a partnership with Bennett Aerospace, an engineering firm, to refine the technology for large-scale real applications.

The battle against climate change is not confined to Warsaw | EurActiv

The battle against climate change is not confined to Warsaw | EurActiv.

 

Still, it is clear that Warsaw will not produce a new climate treaty. The conference is an intermediate stop on the way to a global climate agreement to be adopted in Paris in 2015. Warsaw offers an opportunity to develop rules for this agreement. The disappointing summit in Copenhagen in 2009 showed the importance of having the building blocks for a new agreement in place before any emission pledges are put on the table. In addition, there will be talks on climate finance, ‘loss and damage’ and other key topics on which it is essential to maintain and build trust among countries. And the negotiations will help keep climate change on national and international political agendas at a time when it is often eclipsed by economic turbulence.

The summit in Warsaw is therefore important in the run-up to 2015, even if it won’t result in a climate-saving treaty. In fact, even an agreement in Paris is likely to be insufficient, because it cannot go further than individual Parties are willing it to go. Success in Paris thus is closely linked to changes that will need to take place at regional, national and local levels. The United States is a case in point: in 1997, their negotiators signed the Kyoto Protocol, but Congress refused to ratify it. Without political pressure on the major emitting countries and sectors to undertake action, the results of the climate negotiations will remain limited. However, in part thanks to the climate negotiations, this pressure is increasing, with climate change now regularly being on the agenda of the G20 and the UN Security Council, and the private sector increasingly being engaged in climate action.

Another key limitation of any Paris treaty is that it will only enter into force from 2020 onwards. Postponing action until then is not only irresponsible, but will increase the costs and difficulty of curbing emissions and adapting to climate change in the future. This means it is crucial to find other ways to keep making progress.

Thankfully, there are other forms of international cooperation that can help. For instance, addressing short-lived climate pollutants (SLCPs) such as tropospheric ozone, soot and hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) can lead to relatively fast and easy results, with additional benefits for public health. More and more is being done in this area. For instance, the Climate and Clean Air Coalition, established in 2012, has grown to 72 members, including 33 countries and the European Commission, as well as environmental, scientific and international organizations, all committed to implementing known emission reduction strategies. Tackling CFCs through the Montreal Protocol on ozone layer depletion has also contributed significantly to greenhouse gas emission reductions. Last week, parties to this agreement had a chance to make another contribution by reducing HFCs, but sadly missed the opportunity. Doing so in the near future could make a great difference.

Another short-term measure is the reduction of fossil fuel subsidies, which the International Monetary Fund (IMF) estimates at 480-1900 billion USD annually. Reducing them could shift consumption enough to reduce global CO2 emissions by 13%, the IMF suggests. With climate change in mind, the G20 agreed in September to phase out ‘inefficient’ government subsidies. This goal can be pursued through the World Trade Organization, where subsidies for unsustainable fisheries have similarly been targeted.

These examples confirm that progress on climate change can also be made outside the climate negotiations. The UN should track those activities and link them to overarching climate objectives. In this way, the negotiations can build on actions outside of the climate treaty, with small victories in the short term building trust – and confidence – for achieving long-term goals.

Copenhagen taught us the perils of setting unrealistic hopes for a UN climate conference; now we need to learn not to be cynical, either. Climate change has to be – and is being – tackled by a multitude of forums working in concert. Warsaw will probably not save the climate, but by gathering people who are committed to saving it, sharing ideas and understanding how all the pieces fit together, we can make real progress.”

Websites

Wild Bumblebees need protection | EcoWatch

Conservation and Science Leaders Demand Protection of Wild Bumblebees | EcoWatch.

 

To prevent the spread of disease to wild populations of agriculturally significant bee pollinators, petitioners asked U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) to use its authority to regulate commercial bumblebees. Specifically, the petitioners want APHIS to create rules prohibiting the movement of bumblebees outside their native ranges and regulate interstate movement of bumblebee pollinators within their native ranges by requiring permits that show the bumblebees are disease-free before being transported.
The letter comes nearly four years after an initial petition for rulemaking, which asked the APHIS to regulate the movement of commercial bumblebees to help control the spread of parasites to wild bees. The agency has not responded, despite dramatic declines in several native bee populations across the country. Researchers believe that pathogens transmitted by commercial bumblebees are likely part of the problem, prompting the call for agency intervention to help stem native bumblebee losses and avert the associated impacts on the U.S. food system.
“It has been almost four years since we filed our petition asking that APHIS regulate the movement of commercial bumblebees,” said Sarina Jepsen, endangered species program director at the Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation. “Several species of bumblebees are in steep decline and it is urgent that APHIS take action soon to protect these important pollinators.”
Bumblebee pollination is essential to the reproduction of many crops and native flowering plants, and pathogens of bumblebees can act as indirect plant pests that pose a significant threat to agriculture and native ecosystems.
“Without immediate agency intervention we will likely continue to see a dramatic decline in bumblebee pollinators with perilous and potentially irreversible consequences,” Giulia Good Stefani, attorney with NRDC said. “One-third of the food on our plates depends on pollinators. A failure to protect our bumblebees has direct implications for the health of the ecosystems that depend on them and for the security of our food supply.”
The unregulated interstate movement of bumblebees outside their native ranges may already have introduced diseases that have led to the rapid endangerment of four formerly common bee pollinators and the possible extinction of a fifth bumblebee. The last reported sighting of a Franklin’s bee (Bombus franklini) was in August 2006, and, without regulation, the western bumblebee (Bombus occidentalis), the rusty patched bumblebee (Bombus affinis), the yellow-banded bumblebee (Bombus terricola), and the American bumblebee (Bombus pensylvanicus) are each in danger of disappearing throughout significant portions of their distribution ranges.
Visit EcoWatch’s BIODIVERSITY page for more related news on this topic.

Why the Idea of a “Free Market” Is Total BS | Alternet

Why the Idea of a “Free Market” Is Total BS | Alternet.

 

In reality, the “free market” is a bunch of rules about (1) what can be owned and traded (the genome? slaves? nuclear materials? babies? votes?); (2) on what terms (equal access to the internet? the right to organize unions? corporate monopolies? the length of patent protections? ); (3) under what conditions (poisonous drugs? unsafe foods? deceptive Ponzi schemes? uninsured derivatives? dangerous workplaces?) (4) what’s private and what’s public (police? roads? clean air and clean water? healthcare? good schools? parks and playgrounds?); (5) how to pay for what (taxes, user fees, individual pricing?). And so on.

These rules don’t exist in nature; they are human creations. Governments don’t “intrude” on free markets; governments organize and maintain them. Markets aren’t “free” of rules; the rules define them.

The interesting question is what the rules should seek to achieve. They can be designed to maximize efficiency (given the current distribution of resources), or growth (depending on what we’re willing to sacrifice to obtain that growth), or fairness (depending on our ideas about a decent society). Or some combination of all three — which aren’t necessarily in competition with one another. Evidence suggests, for example, that if prosperity were more widely shared, we’d have faster growth.

The rules can even be designed to entrench and enhance the wealth of a few at the top, and keep almost everyone else comparatively poor and economically insecure.

Which brings us to the central political question: Who should decide on the rules, and their major purpose? If our democracy was working as it should, presumably our elected representatives, agency heads, and courts would be making the rules roughly according to what most of us want the rules to be. The economy would be working for us; we wouldn’t be working for the economy.

Instead, the rules are being made mainly by those with the power and resources to buy the politicians, regulatory heads, and even the courts (and the lawyers who appear before them). As income and wealth have concentrated at the top, so has political clout. And the most important clout is determining the rules of the game.

Not incidentally, these are the same people who want you and most others to believe in the fiction of an immutable “free market.”

If we want to reduce the savage inequalities and insecurities that are now undermining our economy and democracy, we shouldn’t be deterred by the myth of the “free market.” We can make the economy work for us, rather than the other way around. But in order to change the rules, we must exert the power that is supposed to be ours.

Monsanto Insiders Dump Stock as the Truth about GMOs Spreads across Wall Street | REALfarmacy.com | Healthy News and Information

Monsanto Insiders Dump Stock as the Truth about GMOs Spreads across Wall Street | REALfarmacy.com | Healthy News and Information.

 

Just the fact that Monsanto’s GE wheat trials got out of control and contaminated a wheat field in Oregon — causing Japan and South Korea to ban U.S. wheat imports — has resulted in 150 groups now demanding the USDA keep a tighter lid on Monsanto’s GMO experiments. These groups are fed up with seeing the market value of their crops destroyed by sloppy “open field” experiments being conducted by Monsanto that spread genetic pollution across the country and contaminate non-GMO crops. (Monsanto goes even further and actually sues the farmers whose fields they contaminated!)

Hedge funds dumping Monsanto

As InsiderMonkey.com reports, Monsanto “has experienced declining interest from the entirety of the hedge funds we track.”

The report goes on to say:

At the top of the heap, Jeffrey Vinik’s Vinik Asset Management said goodbye to the largest stake of the 450+ funds we monitor, totaling close to $100.8 million in [Monsanto] stock. Sean Cullinan’s fund, Point State Capital, also dropped its [Monsanto] stock, about $54.7 million worth.

These sales leave Stephen Mandel’s Lone Pine Capital with the largest holdings of Monsanto, over $613 million worth of the company’s stock. Natural News urges all investors to ditch Lone Pine Capital and take your money somewhere else that doesn’t invest in “the world’s most evil corporation.”

Blue Ridge Capital also owns over $320 million in Monsanto stock and should be immediately abandoned by all investors.

Monsanto share prices plummeting ever since the March Against Monsanto

So far this year, Monsanto (MON) share prices have plummeted from a high of $109 to a current trading range around $95. That’s a drop of nearly 13%, and the bad news for Monsanto just keeps coming.

For one, the European Union’s new food safety guidelines affirm the methodology and findings of the Seralini GM corn rat study. As much as the biotech industry and all its pimped-out science trolls have attempted to attack the study, the secret is already out: GM corn causes cancer tumors and consumers accurately see GM corn as equivalent to a “poison” symbol on foods.

The Seralini study, by the way, found that:

• Up to 50% of males and 70% of females suffered premature death.

• Rats that drank trace amounts of Roundup (at levels legally allowed in the water supply) had a 200% to 300% increase in large tumors.

• Rats fed GM corn and traces of Roundup suffered severe organ damage including liver damage and kidney damage.

• The study fed these rats NK603, the Monsanto variety of GM corn that’s grown across North America and widely fed to animals and humans. This is the same corn that’s in your corn-based breakfast cereal, corn tortillas and corn snack chips.

Anyone who is still investing in Monsanto is investing in this:

School is a prison — and damaging our kids – Salon.com

School is a prison — and damaging our kids – Salon.com.

I have spent much of my research career studying how children learn. Children come into the world beautifully designed to direct their own education. They are endowed by nature with powerful educative instincts, including curiosity, playfulness, sociability, attentiveness to the activities around them, desire to grow up and desire to do what older children and adults can do.

The evidence for all this as it applies to little children lies before the eyes of anyone who has watched a child grow from birth up to school age. Through their own efforts, children learn to walk, run, jump and climb. They learn from scratch their native language, and with that, they learn to assert their will, argue, amuse, annoy, befriend, charm and ask questions. Through questioning and exploring, they acquire an enormous amount of knowledge about the physical and social world around them, and in their play, they practice skills that promote their physical, intellectual, social and emotional development. They do all this before anyone, in any systematic way, tries to teach them anything.

This amazing drive and capacity to learn does not turn itself off when children turn 5 or 6. We turn it off with our coercive system of schooling. The biggest, most enduring lesson of our system of schooling is that learning is work, to be avoided when possible.

The focus of my own research has been on learning in children who are of “school age,” but who aren’t sent to school, or not to school as conventionally understood. I’ve examined how children learn in cultures that don’t have schools, especially hunter-gatherer cultures, the kinds of cultures in which our species evolved. I’ve also studied learning in our culture by children who are trusted to take charge of their own education and are provided with the opportunity and means to educate themselves. In these settings, children’s natural curiosity and zest for learning persist all the way through childhood and adolescence, and into adulthood.

Another researcher who has documented the power of self-directed learning is Sugata Mitra. He set up outdoor computers in very poor neighborhoods in India, where most children did not go to school and many were illiterate. Wherever he placed such a computer, dozens of children would gather around and, with no help from adults, figure out how to use it. Those who could not read began to do so through interacting with the computer and with other children around it. The computers gave the children access to the whole world’s knowledge — in one remote village, children who previously knew nothing about microorganisms learned about bacteria and viruses through their interactions with the computer and began to use this new knowledge appropriately in conversations.

Mitra’s experiments illustrate how three core aspects of human nature — curiosity, playfulness and sociability — can combine beautifully to serve the purpose of education. Curiosity drew the children to the computer and motivated them to explore it; playfulness motivated them to practice many computer skills; and sociability allowed each child’s learning to spread like wildfire to dozens of other children.

The Surprising Reason Americans Are Far Less Healthy Than Others in Developed Nations | Alternet

The Surprising Reason Americans Are Far Less Healthy Than Others in Developed Nations | Alternet.

 

Just how does inequality translate into unhealthy outcomes? Growing numbers of researchers see stress as the culprit. The more inequality in a society, the more stress. Chronic stress, over time, wears down our immune systems and leaves us more vulnerable to disease.

This same stress drives people to seek relief in unhealthy habits. They may do drugs or smoke — or eat more “comfort foods” packed with sugar and fat.

Can the United States change course on health?

Japan offers an encouraging precedent. Sixty years ago, Japan ranked as a deeply unequal and unhealthy nation. But, since the 1950s, Japan has become one of the world’s most equal places and, on life expectancy, now ranks number one globally.

The United States, over the same span of time, has gone in the exact opposite direction. We have become the world’s most unequal major nation, with health outcomes among the developed world’s worst.

How can we turn this around? Most Americans, Stephen Bezruchka notes, already understand the concept of “vital signs.” We feel their importance “every time we step on a scale at the doctor’s office or feel a blood pressure cuff tighten.”

But societies have “vital signs,” too, with none more important than our level of inequality. If we start recognizing these vital signs — and acting on them — we’ll stop dying so much younger than we should.

Originally posted at OtherWords.Org.