Addicting Info – U.S. Maternal Death Rate Now Highest In The Western World, Thanks To GOP War On Women

via Addicting Info – U.S. Maternal Death Rate Now Highest In The Western World, Thanks To GOP War On Women.


Worldwide, fewer and fewer women are dying during pregnancy or from complications related to childbirth. In fact, women living almost anywhere in the developed world are safer today, than they were in the year 2000. Here in the United States, however,women are twice as likely to die during or after pregnancy, than they were 15 years ago. Thanks to the regressive party, otherwise known as the GOP, the United States is moving backwards, not forwards, when it comes to women’s health.

According to the latest State of the World’s Mothers report, released in May, 2015, the U.S. has the highest rate of maternal deathin any western nation. Women in the U.S. are ten times more likely to die from pregnancy as women living in Poland or Norway. Compared to women living in Belarus, the country with the lowest rate of maternal deaths, women in the U.S. are twenty times more likely to die before, during, or immediately after childbirth.

Globally, the rate of maternal deaths has been steadily declining over the past two decades. Around the world, the rate of maternal deaths has been reduced by 45 percent since the mid-1990’s. Meanwhile, a woman’s risk of death from pregnancy in the U.S. today is double what it was a decade and a half ago.

It gets worse, though. The rate of maternal deaths in the United States is calculated according to the number of deaths reported annually. According to a report published by the US National Library of Medicine and the National Institutes of Health, at least 38 percent of pregnancy-related deaths are not reported as such in the United States. Research also estimates that at least half of all maternal deaths are not listed as “maternal deaths” on the death certificate in cases where the fetus was not delivered, when a woman died more than a week after delivery, or in cases where a woman died from a condition that existed before pregnancy, which was worsened because of pregnancy.

Disturbingly, there is no federal law that requires U.S. hospitals to keep records regarding maternal deaths. So while we know that the maternal death is climbing in the U.S., we don’t really know how many women are dying as a result of a pregnancy.

What we do know is that in spite of all the advances in medicine and technology, the risk of pregnancy-related death in the US is going up every year, not down.

The State of the World’s Mothers report, which is published yearly by the nonprofit Save The Children Foundation, ranks 179 nations on ‘the Mother’s Index,’ illustrating where in the world “women and children fare best.” The U.S. has been steadily falling in rank, since the year 2000, when the study first began.

In 2000 the U.S. ranked among the top ten countries in the world for women’s health and well-being. It was listed as the 4th best country on earth for mothers’ health on the Mother’s Index. Only Norway, Canada and Australia ranked higher.

In the 15 years since the first State of the World’s Mothers report was published, the U.S. has dropped to number 33 on theMother’s Index. America now ranks 61 in maternal health, falling behind every other Western nation when it comes to protecting the health of pregnant women. In the year 2000, a US woman’s risk of death from pregnancy-related causes was 1 in 3500. Today that risk has risen to 1 in 1800, according to this year’s annual report.

The republican War on Women is not just a catchphrase used by the left. Every war has casualties, and this one is no different. Government restrictions on reproductive rights have a direct impact on women’s health and well-being. While national statistics can be informational, it’s also important to understand that not all states are equal, when it comes to maternal deaths.

A 2014 report by the Center for Reproductive Rights shows that states that have the highest number of abortion restrictions, score lowest on women’s overall health. On the contrary, states with the least amount of restrictions on abortion are doing a much better job of protecting women’s health.

image credit: screen capture Center For Reproductive Rights & Ibis Reproductive Health, Evaluating Priorities, 2014 report

This chart shows how abortion restrictions impact women’s health in the states:

image credit: screen capture Center For Reproductive Rights & Ibis Reproductive Health, Evaluating Priorities, 2014 report

The state of Vermont, which does not place any restrictions on abortion, has the second lowest maternal mortality rate in the country, with just 2.6 deaths per 100,000 live births. At the other end of the spectrum, the rate of maternal deaths in Oklahoma, a state with 14 laws designed to restrict a woman’s right to control her own reproductive health, ranks 48th in the country. Oklahoma has a maternal death rate that is almost ten times higher than Vermont, at 20.1.

The state of Maine also places very few restrictions on a woman’s right to choose. As of January of 2015, the Guttenmacher Institute reports that the only restrictions in the state are in regards to the use of public funding to pay for abortion services. Maine has the distinction of being the state with the lowest rate of maternal deaths, at 1.2 per 100,000 live births.

In contrast, states that undermine women’s rights, including their right to decide when or if they will have a child, have maternal death rates that are as much as 20 times higher than those in Maine. Mississippi, which has some of the most restrictive laws in the country when it comes to women’s reproductive health, has a maternal death rate of 19.0. Other states with 11 or more restrictions on abortion access also have alarmingly high maternal death rates. Those states include Michigan, which has amaternal death rate of 21.0 per 100,000 live births, the highest among the 50 states. Georgia’s maternal death rate is 20.9. In Louisiana, the maternal death rate is 17.9.  Arkansas and Idaho have maternal death rates of 16.0 and 15.0, respectively, according to the most recent report on maternal deaths by state.

According to the research from the Center for Reproductive Rights, states that have six or fewer laws regarding abortion access rank highest in the country for women’s health, overall. States that have 11 or more laws restricting a woman’s right to control her own body, rank at the bottom of the country, when it comes to women’s health and well-being.

This data tells us that, while the maternal death rate is climbing in the United States, not all states are equally responsible for the increase. As a nation it’s time for us to come together to ensure that the health and well being of all women is protected, no matter where in the United States they choose to live.

The United States also needs to catch up to the rest of the civilized world when it comes to collecting complete and accurate information on maternal deaths. More than a decade ago, the United States set a goal of reducing the maternal death rate to 3.3 per 100,000, by 2010. If this had actually been a priority for state and federal representatives, then accurate data collection would also have been a priority. But that never happened.

The reality is that saving women’s lives is not a priority for too many U.S. representatives. Religious fanatics elected to office view women as baby-makers, nothing more, nothing less. The life a woman matters to the extent that it doesn’t interfere with a man’s right to procreate by using her body. That becomes all too clear when Republican politicians go to great lengths to protect rapistsand child molesters, or when they advocate for laws that would allow men to sue women for not giving birth to their fertilized sperm. In their warped minds, a woman’s body is not her own. A woman’s body only exists to be used by men, in an act of procreation. If the woman does not want to be impregnated, if she doesn’t want to birth a kid, as far as republicans are concerned, she can go ahead and die.

While the rest of the civilized world is working to protect women from the risks associated with pregnancy and childbirth, regressive US republicans are working to ensure that women birth those babies, or die trying. As a nation we cannot accept these horrifying statistics. We can not accept Republican policies that fail to protect the lives of the women we love because of their religious devotion to the idea that someone that was never born is just as important as someone who is obviously born.

*Featured image credit:, creative commons license 3.0


Pembient, a biotech firm, has mass-produced rhino horns that are genetically identical to, and indiscernible from, the ones cut off of rhinos–but instead, are grown in a lab. Then they flooded the black market with the fake horns, driving down the price and making rhinos an unappealing target to poachers

via Republican Idiots – today in RL superheroes.

They’re looking into ivory next. [source]


UK Doctors Warn TTIP Means Certain Death for Public Healthcare

via UK Doctors Warn TTIP Means Certain Death for Public Healthcare | Common Dreams | Breaking News & Views for the Progressive Community.

Physicians say national health service faces lawsuits, bullying, and privatization under contentious trade pact

by Lauren McCauley, staff writer

With TTIP negotiations set to continue in July, doctors in the United Kingdom have vowed to fight the deal. (Photo: Alex Proimos/cc/flickr)

Doctors in the United Kingdom are warning that passage of the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) will mean certain death for the country’s public healthcare system, opening the door for privatization and lawsuits from the United States’ for-profit medical industry.

Speaking at the annual meeting of the British Medical Association (BMA) in Liverpool on Tuesday, Dr. Henry McKee of Belfast warned members that “if there is anything resembling an [National Health Service] by the time this treaty is in negotiation, it won’t survive this treaty.”

“The correct motion is to kill this treaty dead, not to tolerate it sneaking in and mugging us,” he added.

McKee’s comments came as BMA members voted in favor of lobbying the UK government against the trade agreement, advocating for a provision that would remove healthcare from the contentious pact. In a vote earlier this month, the European Parliament backed a similar recommendation though it is up to the official European trade negotiators to demand such exclusions.

The TTIP and other pending global trade deals—the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) and the Trade in Services Agreement (TISA)—have come under fire for their corporate-friendly provisions, which many warn will promote business interests above the environment, workers rights, and public health. Particularly, the investor state dispute settlement (ISDS) provision would allow multinationals to sue governments for alleged loss of profits due to industry regulations.

In an address during the BMA meeting, Edinburgh physician Gregor Venters also warned that the “introduction of private providers into public services” will “allow the big American corporations to interfere with the NHS.”

Europeans are concerned that the United States’ lax rules regulation of genetically engineered, or GMO, crops and other lower health standards will allow for a “race to the bottom” in global food and health standards.

“Private corporations could use the process to bully governments into dropping legislation to improve food standards,” he explained.

In a related development, recently leaked sections of the TPP revealed how the deal would give big pharmaceutical companies more power over public access to medicine by undermining government efforts to subsidize pharmaceuticals and medical devices, effectively crippling public healthcare programs worldwide.

Earlier this month, faced with growing public and internal opposition, European Parliament President Martin Schulz cancelled a vote on the Parliament’s recommendations for the treaty. Negotiations are set to continue in July.

Meanwhile, on Tuesday, the U.S. Senate voted to back Fast Track trade promotion authority, which enables President Obama to ratify international trade deals with only an up or down vote by the U.S. Congress, essentially guaranteeing the passage of the TPP and TTIP.


The Strange History of Corn Flakes [a shocking and sad history]

via The Strange History of Corn Flakes.

It was always a mystery why I never liked corn flakes…

THU OCT 23, 2014 by Lenny Flank for History for Kossacks

Corn flakes cereal is a staple on breakfast tables all over the world. Today it is marketed as a healthy part of a balanced breakfast. But corn flakes were originally invented by a fanatically religious doctor as a way to stop people from masturbating.


The country’s most popular anti-sex food.

In 1894, two brothers, Dr John Harvey Kellogg and Will Keith “WK” Kellogg, were running a sanitarium and health spa in the town of Battle Creek, Michigan. John was the Superintendent, and WK was the bookkeeper. Among the treatments offered at the sanitarium/hospital for various ailments were hot and cold water baths, hydro-therapy with water enemas, electric-current therapy, light therapy using both sunlight and artificial lamps, and a regimen of exercise and massage. Among the more famous of the hospital’s clients through the 1910’s and 1920’s were President Warren G Harding, actor Johnny Weissmuller, Henry Ford, Amelia Earhart, Sojourner Truth, and Mary Todd Lincoln.

Both of the Kellogg brothers were Seventh-Day Adventists, a fundamentalist church emphasizing strict Biblical literalism and clean living, and their religious beliefs had a huge influence on many of their “treatments”. The Adventists believed in maintaining the purity of the “body’s temple”, and forbade the use of caffeine, alcohol and nicotine. They were also strict vegetarians.

Dr John Kellogg, however, took the Adventist faith in the purity of the body to an even further extreme. He was firmly convinced that sex itself was impure and harmful–and most especially the “solitary vice”, the “self-pollution” of masturbation. Kellogg married, but never consummated the union–he and his wife had separate bedrooms, and they adopted all their children. Kellogg became famous across the country for his books condemning sex, promoting celibacy, and luridly describing the evil health effects of “onanism”, which included everything from epilepsy to mood swings to dementia. “Neither plague, nor war, nor small-pox,” he thundered in one of his anti-sex books, “have produced results so disastrous to humanity as the pernicious habit of onanism. Such a victim dies literally by his own hand.” Among the “treatments” that Kellogg proposed for masturbation were piercing the foreskin with silver wires to prevent erections, and using carbolic acid to burn the clitoris so it wouldn’t be touched.

But another part of his anti-sex and anti-masturbation “treatment” came from his traditional Adventist reliance on vegetarianism. Kellogg convinced himself that eating meats and spicy foods increased the desire for sex, and forbade any of them at his sanitarium. Instead, he prescribed a bland tasteless diet containing mostly whole grains and nuts. In this, he was following the earlier lead of Presbyterian religious fanatic Sylvester Graham, who had invented the whole-wheat graham cracker as part of a diet that would reduce people’s sexual desire and stop them from both copulating and masturbating. Kellogg now attempted to make his own anti-sex food, by mixing corn meal and oatmeal into dough, adding nuts, and baking them into biscuits which were then crumbled into pieces. He called it “granula”. Unfortunately for Kellogg, that name was already being used by another health food fanatic with a similar product, and he threatened to sue–so Kellogg changed the name of his concoction to “granola”.

The Kellogg brothers also experimented with different types of bread, and with using whole-grain dough to make thin rolled sheets of toasted crackers. One day, after just having cooked some wheat for rolling, they were unexpectedly called away. When they got back, they ran the cooled wheat through the rollers, and each grain was flattened into an individual flake. It was, they thought, a wonderful health food. In 1898 they tried the same process using corn instead of wheat, and “corn flakes” were born.

John Kellogg immediately began serving corn flakes to his patients at the sanitarium, as a method of cleansing their bodies and reducing their sex drive. His bookkeeper brother WK, meanwhile, had less religious fervor and more business sense than John did, and thought they should add sugar to the mixture to eliminate the cardboard taste (a heretical thought to John) and sell it to the public as a breakfast cereal. After some arguing, the two patented their flake cereals and formed the Sanitas Food Company to sell them through mail-order, mostly to former patients of the sanitarium. After a time, the wheat flakes were dropped. But corn flake sales remained low, mostly because John Kellogg still refused to add sugar to the recipe to make it more palatable. Finally in 1906, in frustration, WK Kellogg purchased the rights to make “corn flakes” from his brother, changed the recipe, and set up the Battle Creek Toasted Corn Flake Company. After a long legal battle with his brother over the use of the name “Kellogg”, this became the Kellogg Cereal Company, adding Bran Flakes to its product list in 1915 and Rice Krispies in 1927.

By 1930, the Kellogg Cereal Company was the largest breakfast cereal maker in the world. Its primary competition, the Post Cereal Company, had been founded by CW Post–a former patient at the Kellogg Sanitarium, who, WK Kellogg always claimed, had stolen the recipe for corn flakes from the hospital’s safe. Today, Kellogg’s Corn Flakes are the best-selling breakfast cereal in the US.




Why are saiga antelope dying in record numbers? | MNN – Mother Nature Network

via Why are saiga antelope dying in record numbers? | MNN – Mother Nature Network.

Scientists race to identify the cause of the mystery die-off, as half of the species’ population perishes within a matter of weeks.

By: Bryan Nelson – Tue, Jun 02, 2015

saiga antelope drinking

The saiga is perhaps most recognizable for its unique, elephant-like nose. (Photo: Saiga Conservation Alliance)

The saiga antelope, an ice age relic, once roamed alongside woolly mammoths and saber-toothed tigers. Today, the population of this ancient species is in collapse. In just a 15-year period, their numbers have dropped by 95 percent, which represents the sharpest collapse for a mammal species ever recorded. Poaching and habitat loss are historically the main culprits, but over the last several years a new scourge has arrived: a mysterious disease that has wiped out more than 120,000 saiga in a matter of weeks, nearly half of the remaining worldwide population, reports Nature.
It’s difficult to comprehend the loss that this species has suffered in such a short time. “Apocalyptic” is not too strong a word.
“I’m flustered looking for words here,” Joel Berger, a senior scientist at the Wildlife Conservation Society, told the New York Times. “To lose 120,000 animals in two or three weeks is a phenomenal thing.”
So what could cause such a mass die-off? Scientists still aren’t entirely sure, but there are some clues. Here’s what they do know: Autopsies of dead saigas have revealed that they were infected with two species of bacteria, Pasteurella and Clostridium, and that these infections contributed to their deaths. But this knowledge hardly solves the mystery because these bacteria are present in most healthy antelope too. In other words, it’s likely that some other unknown ailment is crippling their immune systems, allowing the bacterial infections to take hold.
Scientists are also considering whether the cause is from something other than viral or bacterial pathogens. For instance, Central Asia has experienced heavy chemical pollution over the decades from factories and farms. Climate change could also be at fault. Heavier than normal rainfall has led to lush plant growth in the region, and saigas are known to overeat, become bloated and get sick. But so far these are mere speculations.
Whatever this disease is, it strikes with alarming quickness. Animals typically die within hours of developing symptoms, which include depression, diarrhea and frothing at the mouth. The only good news is that the mass die-off appears to be over, as few new deaths have occurred since the initial collapse. But unless scientists can identify exactly what is killing the antelope, there could be no stopping another catastrophe.
One reason for optimism is that the saiga is a resilient animal, and the species has survived population collapses in the past. Though not as severe as the recent die-off, similar events also occurred in 1984, 2010 and 2012, and the species was able to recover. Part of the reason the saiga is so well-adapted to such population collapses is that the animals have a high reproductive rate. They regularly produce triplets and have the highest fetal biomass of any mammal.
Still, it’s a long uphill climb for a species that has been so utterly decimated in such a short period of time, and there are heavy hearts for the conservationists who have worked so diligently to protect this beautiful antelope.
The fossil record reveals that the prehistoric range of the saiga stretched from the United Kingdom to Alaska, though today their range is limited to pockets in Kazakhstan, Mongolia, Russia, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan. The species is most recognizable for unusual noses, which look roughly like rudimentary elephant trunks. Though the noses look goofy, they represent remarkable adaptations. They act as filters, protecting the animals from breathing in rising dust from the dry ground in summer, and warming the air during the cold of winter.
“It’s a remarkable structure, really,” said Dr. Kühl-Stenzel, a saiga expert, to the New York Times. “In the rutting season, the male’s nose swells even more, and then they shake their heads and it makes a squishy sound.”

Dust, TB and HIV: the ugly face of mining in South Africa

via. theguardian

The Wellcome Trust and Gates Foundation fund health centres in the country, but remain invested in fossil fuel companies whose mining operations, it is claimed, have a profound impact on the health of local communities

Zululand anthracite colliery

Zululand Anthracite Colliery is owned by Rio Tinto, a mining company invested in by the Gates Foundation and the Wellcome Trust. Photograph: Khaya Ngwenya/Demotix/for the Guardian


dropped worried that his eyes and urine were turning a deep yellow, Gednezar Dladla made his way to a local clinic and was referred to a district hospital, where he was x-rayed, diagnosed with gallstones, and admitted for the night. Both institutions receive funding from the Wellcome Trust and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

A day later, Dladla set off through the hills and valleys of rural Zululand to a village near his childhood home, where a group of men played cards in the shade of a tree. The environmental activist listened to their grievances about dust pollution, water shortages and lack of assistance from a local mine owned by Rio Tinto – whose investors include the Wellcome Trust and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

Two of the greatest philanthropic organisations in the world, responsible for saving countless lives through scientific research and healthcare programmes, are heavily invested in fossil fuel industries that have profound impacts on the health of local communities and cause climate change. Nowhere is this paradox more acute than in South Africa, a country with the biggest HIV caseload in the world and an economy founded on mining.


Gednezar Dladla

keep it
“I would absolutely recognise that it’s a very difficult decision for big funders like the Wellcome Trust and Gates Foundation: they need to manage their investments in the best way possible to maximise funding for research,” said Marie-Louise Newell, former director of the Africa Centre for Health and Population Studies, which receives money from both to combat HIV. “But if you think back to apartheid days, there are times when you need to make big statements, and the climate change issue is very worrying.”

The Africa Centre is located in the beautiful KwaZulu-Natal province, where one in three people have HIV and – around the town of Mtubatuba, 173 miles north of Durban – a 15-year-old girl has an 80% chance of contracting it in her lifetime. Inside its modern building, which has won architecture prizes, are staff in T-shirts and jeans processing data on laptops.

Zanele Zungu

Zanele Zungu, 43, who has HIV and TB, collects her medication from Hlabisa hospital, in northern KwaZulu-Natal. Photograph: Khaya Ngwenya/Demotix/for the Guardian


In a poverty-stricken area where joblessness is estimated at 70%, the Africa Centre is one of the three biggest employers. It does vital work supporting healthcare for local people and receives up to £4m a year from the Wellcome Trust and contributions from donors including the Gates Foundation for world-class HIV and tuberculosis research. The list of papers published by the centre’s researchers in scientific journals numbered 99 last year alone. The centre works in lockstep with the South African government and provides advice, expertise and training to Hlabisa district hospital and 17 associated primary care clinics.

At the hospital earlier this month, half a dozen patients wearing face masks sat on plastic chairs outside a prefab structure, awaiting the free TB medication that keeps them alive. Among them was Zanele Zungu, 43, who was diagnosed with TB and HIV in 2003, the same year her 34-year-old husband, Sipho, died of Aids. “The passing of my husband was shocking to me,” the mother of five recalled through a Zulu interpreter, a tear on her cheek.

“I was very scared because I had the same symptoms my husband died of. He had sores on the mouth and all over the body. He used to scream a lot in his last days. He was feeling a lot of pain, and that’s why I took him to hospital. There was no treatment at that time and he passed away.”

Zungu, who walks for an hour from her mudbrick home to reach the hospital, was unaware that it is supported by the Africa Centre – or that its benefactor, the Wellcome Trust, invests in the mining industry. “I would like to say thank-you because they provide life to us. That’s why we are alive. But investing in a mine is not right … They must only give to the hospitals, because people are dying every day.”

Newell’s successor, Prof Deenan Pillay, said: “The aim of the Africa Centre is to do world-class science and the Wellcome Trust is one of the major and most prestigious funders of science. As such I’m very happy to receive Wellcome Trust resources for that because it brings a reputation for high quality of research.”

On the Wellcome Trust’s investment policies, he added: “Climate change and energy use are some of the most pressing global issues, and I welcome the debate on the impact of investment policies. I recognise the variety of views within this debate.”

Deenan Pillay, 57, director of the Africa Centre.

Deenan Pillay, 57, director of the Africa Centre. Photograph: Khaya Ngwenya/Demotix for the Guardian


South Africa has the deepest mines in the world and the industry employs half a million people. But nature’s blessing of coal, diamonds, gold and platinum has also been a curse over the past century and a half. Thousands of workers have died in accidents. Continual exposure to mineral dust in mine shafts has resulted in high rates of silicosis. That, and the proximity of mineworkers underground, contributes to the spread of TB. In South Africa’s mines the disease is up to six times more common than in the general population. Men in a mining area tend to attract commercial sex workers, leading to the spread of HIV. Scientists are studying the potential dangers of acid draining from disused mines into water supplies.

Coal is the dirtiest of fossil fuels and soot and dust emissions from coal burning are, along with diesel engines, the biggest contributors to microscopic particulate pollution that penetrates deep into the lungs. This causes heart attacks and lung cancer as well as increasing asthma attacks and other respiratory problems. A 2013 study found that air pollution from Europe’s 300 largest coal power stations causes 22,300 premature deaths a year and costs companies and governments billions of pounds in treatment and lost working days.

Dladla, a retired cattle herder who is married and has three sons, wears a faded T-shirt that reads: “Remember the slain of Marikana,” – a reference to the 2012 police massacre of 34 striking mineworkers. He sits on the steering committee of the Mining and Environmental Justice Community Network of South Africa.

Looking out from a car as it bumped slowly towards the Zululand Anthracite Colliery (ZAC) near the town of Ulundi – about 25 miles (40km) from the Africa Centre – Dladla sighed. “The trees are full of dust, the grass is full of dust. It will have to rain a lot for the grass to be washed, for the leaves to be washed. It has become the life people are living here: they are living in dust every day.” A billboard proclaims the town to be “the core of the Zulu heritage”.

Soon a giant discarded dump emerged into view from the countryside, along with the vast cranes and machinery of a processing plant where cows grazed nearby. It produces anthracite, a relatively clean coal, which the mine’s owner, Rio Tinto, sends to provide raw material for its Richards Bay mine on the coast.


Inside, a poster announced: “Rio Tinto. Speak out. Doing what’s right.” Rio Tinto is a leading international mining giant in which the Wellcome Trust and Gates Foundation have invested $157m (£100m) and $10m respectively. The Guardian’s Keep it in the Ground campaign is calling for both charities to move their investments out of fossil fuel companies, including Rio Tinto.

The company bought the ZAC in 2011, inheriting a troubled history that included the digging of three mine shafts without environmental authorisation, for which Rio Tintolast year paid a cursory fine.

People in the village of Okhukho, which is virtually surrounded by the mine, are critical of its side effects. Sitting under a tree with a group of jobless men playing cards, Thembinkosi Zulu, 20, a student, said: “There are a lot of trucks and they are never sealed. I’ve got sinus problems from inhaling the dust. My nose gets blocked and painful. The mine must cover the trucks and water the roads. The mine does create jobs, but they don’t attend to the community’s needs adequately.”

Xolani Majola, 23, who lives next to the road used by trucks around the clock, said his brothers, aged 10 and nine, were constantly coughing and complaining about chest pains. “When your clothes are on the washing line, by the time you come back, they’ll be all dusty. If you sleep with your window open, you’ll be dusty yourself. With the noise, you find it hard to sleep.”

Lindekile Mncube, 26, added: “There is dust when they haven’t watered the roads. The dust makes it difficult for us to breathe and it falls on our curtains. I’m worried about the effect on our lives here, but there’s nothing I can do.”

Mining consumes huge quantities of water and the ZAC draws it from the local Umfolozi river, a vital source for the community and its livestock. Mncube said: “We’ve been complaining about water, but the mine has done nothing. When the mine came, we thought we would get everything we need.”

Lungile Ngqulunga, 54, also mentioned a lack of water as she leaned against her front step with her 15-month-old grandson, Kusile. A nearby bowl crawled with flies as goats wandered by and cockerels sang cock-a-doodle-doo. Her husband was away, she explained, receiving treatment for TB that he contracted a decade ago while working at the ZAC.

“We don’t have water,” Ngqulunga complained. “The river has been suffering ever since the mine started working. One of the pipes from the mine burst and now we’re scared of going to the river. There are no taps in this area and we struggle for drinking water. We ask the mine for water and they say we must go to the government. We go to steal it inside the mine, but if the security guards catch you, you will be locked up.”

The ZAC denies polluting the river or the air and says it is helping local villages. David Outhwaite, a London-based spokesman for Rio Tinto, said: “The Zululand region as a whole, and Okhuko community in particular, has been adversely affected by a severe drought being the worst in many decades. ZAC supplies in excess of 40m litres of potable water free of charge at various strategic water points in the community close to our operations. ZAC is not in a position to supply water to every one of the 80,000 people living in the rural community surrounding the mine.”


Zululand Anthracite Colliery (ZAC) near Ulundi. It is owned by the mining giant Rio Tinto

Responding to complaints about dust, he said: “All trucks transporting final product from the plant area to the siding are covered with tarpaulins. The coarse size of the run-of-mine product from the shafts to the plant does not necessitate the covering of those trucks. Dust generated by vehicles, both our own and others, on the public gravel roads is actively managed by ZAC on a daily basis through an extensive dust suppressing programme.” Rio Tinto did not respond to questions about TB.

A Wellcome Trust spokesperson said: “When managing the investment
portfolio that funds our mission, we consider companies’ social and
environmental responsibilities carefully and engage to encourage them
to take these seriously. We do not comment on individual companies.”

A spokesperson for Bill Gates’s private office said: “Bill and Melinda Gates wrote in their recent annual letter that ‘the long-term threat [of climate change] is so serious that the world needs to move much more aggressively – right now – to develop energy sources that are cheaper, can deliver on demand, and emit zero carbon dioxide.’ Bill is privately investing considerable time and resources in this effort and the breakthrough innovations needed and will continue to speak out about it. We respect the passion of advocates for action on climate change, and recognise that there are many views on how best to address it.”

But setting off for home, Dladla was convinced he had experienced the sharp end of a contradiction involving two of the world’s leading givers. It did not add up. He demanded: “[They] must stop investing in these mines because the mines are making people suffer while the management enrich themselves … They should divest.”

Americans can’t tell what healthy children look like anymore –

via Americans can’t tell what healthy children look like anymore –

TUESDAY, MAY 12, 2015

94.9 percent of parents of overweight children think their child is “just right” — which is actually lovely (sic)


Americans can't tell what healthy children look like anymore

In this March 14, 2014 picture, students take part in an early morning running program at an elementary school in Chula Vista, Calif. Amid alarming national statistics showing an epidemic in childhood obesity, hundreds of thousands of students across the country are being weighed and measured. The Chula Vista Elementary School District is being touted as a model for its methods that have resulted in motivating the community to take action. (Credit: AP/Gregory Bull)

A new study from researchers at NYU Langone Medical Center found that 94.9 percent of parents of overweight children aged 2 to 5 believe their kids’ weights are “just right.” The study is a follow-up of a similar survey taken around 20 years ago — most alarmingly, the researchers found that the chances of parents appropriately gauging the weight and health of their children went down by 30 percent.

“We have changed our perceptions of what our weight ideals are,” said Dustin T. Duncan, an assistant professor at NYU’s Department of Population Health and the study’s lead researcher. Because of that, Duncan argues, we are less capable of seeing your child accurately.

“If every other child is obese or overweight, you would think your child is [normal],” he continued.

The study, which was published in the journal Childhood Obesity, focused on a sample of over 3,000 children from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (one sample taken in 1988-1994 and the other from 2007-2012) —  instead of on a sample of exclusively overweight kids.

The Washington Post’s Lenny Bernstein reports:

Parents were asked the “Goldilocks” question: “Do you consider [child’s name] to be: overweight, underweight, just about the right weight, or don’t know?” Researchers compared those responses with the children’s data on standard childhood growth curves.

With parental attitudes quite similar in both surveys and more overweight children in the population, the chances of any child being seen correctly had declined sharply, according to the study… More obviously, parents have lost a clear idea of what a healthy youngster looks like, just as we all have as waistlines have expanded throughout our society.

Overweight children are more likely to have cardiovascular disease including high cholesterol and high blood pressure. They are also at an increased risk for joint and bone problems, diabetes, and psychological problems due to societal stigma and low self-esteem, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In the past 30 years, childhood obesity has more than doubled in children and tripled in adolescents in the United States.

On the TODAY show, NBC medical contributor Dr. Natalie Azar said, “Parents have this idea that children are going to outgrow obesity and I think that’s why they are more reluctant to acknowledge it. We know really importantly that these habits that children learn start very young. In the preschool age is when these healthy behaviors are going to form.”

“It’s communication with the pediatrician that’s so important,” she continued. “We have to start intervening early.”


Joanna RothkopfJoanna Rothkopf is an assistant editor at Salon, focusing on science, health and society. Follow @JoannaRothkopf or email

The next public health challenge: Retrofitting Suburbia. Huh?

via The next public health challenge: Retrofitting Suburbia. Huh?.

SUN MAY 10, 2015

The next public health challenge: Retrofitting Suburbia. Huh?

by this is only a test

A commercial street designed as a traffic sewer, not designed for people“Dead malls,” “traffic sewers,” “parking deserts.” These terms are now common among civic planners. They also have a common origin: suburbia.

These are not the usual terms used in public health discussion. Yet the physical design of U.S. suburbs – based on the assumption that virtually all transport would be done by automobile – probably kills more Americans than smoking or drug and alcohol abuse.

Wait a minute! Diabetes, heart disease, cancer, depression. Those are the proper terms of public health. Valiant doctors and nurses and hospitals fight chronic disease.

What does the fight against chronic illness have to do with the suburbs? Or civic planners?

In my opinion, pretty much everything. I believe the key reasons for poor health outcomes in the U.S. are lack of physical activity, low-quality food, and stress. The design of our physical places, and in particular our suburban streets, is a key underlying cause of our sedentary, crap-for-food, stressed out lives. Bad suburban-style street designs are killing us. Perhaps more than any other thing.

The suburban development pattern in the U.S., which blossomed mostly after World War II, is now entering its second and third generation in many places. And it is starting to fail. It is failing fiscally, as the upkeep cost of sprawled-out infrastructure exceeds the tax base that all that infrastructure supports. And I believe it is a deep root cause of the explosion of chronic disease.

Really? After all, the suburbs were supposed to be a healthful improvement over squalid conditions in crowded cities, with plenty of fresh air, green grass, open space. New schools, low crime rates, playgrounds, ballfields. What’s unhealthy about that?

What went wrong?

Humans are at our core are bipedal and tribal. Suburbs, where the only feasible means of transportation for most people is the automobile, essential defeat both core human traits.

We don’t walk (or otherwise use our legs and feet for mobility), and we don’t touch each other in community. The main fault lies with the physicial development pattern – sprawl – which forces humans out of our evolutionary comfort zone.

This has a profound impact on the way we live. As a group, suburban Americans are fat, stressed, angry, resentful and unhealthy. Maybe not you or me personally. But that is a fair characterization of us as a people. And we wonder why. It must somehow be Obama’s fault. Or the terrorists. Or the immigrants. Or the gays. Or the poors.

We try to compensate. We drive to megachurches to get a substitute for local community. That helps, for some. We drive to the park to jog around the lake. We drive to the gym to ride the exercise bike. We join a softball league that plays at ballparks we drive to all over the county. Those things help too. We bring in a farmers market on the empty parking lot, and there’s an organic market to compete with the supermarket. First generation fast food drive-ins fail and are replaced by ethnic joints with fresher, higher quality food. It all helps.

Solar panels and (hopefully soon) full-house batteries replace fossil-generated electric and gas. That’s a big thing the suburbs can do to clean up their air and their carbon footprint.

But these things are compensating for an underlying habitation pattern – home, work, market, school – that is essentially sedentary and non-social.

We drive to work alone. We work in offices and cubes with people who live elsewhere. We drive to big boxes and shop among strangers. We drop off our kids at school or at the bus stop. We drive to the fern bar for a drink after fighting the traffic all the way from downtown. Then we drive home, hopefully without killing anyone. We drive to a restaurant, sometimes. Or grab a bag of comfort grease at a drive-thru. Assuming deskwork and a now-standard 9 (or 10) hour work day, and 2+ hours a day in our cars, many suburbanites spend more time sitting than sleeping.

And of course, suburban design puts tremendous stress on people with low incomes. It’s difficult, if not impossible, to support a decent lifestyle and a car on a service economy wage. And people who can’t afford cars and their upkeep have few options, and waste countless hours trying to navigate piss-poor or too-expensive public transit. Too often, suburban street design literally kills those of us who don’t drive.

As the suburbs mature, their upkeep usually slips. This is inevitable in all but the richest places. Much of the original infrastructure was funded by developers or by the state or federal government. But in the second and third generation, schools aren’t new anymore, and the developers and feds and state programs aren’t paying much. Schools decay. Roads show their age. In the oldest suburbs, water mains are starting to break, and electric lines are starting to depreciate rapidly. Stuff is too far apart and too expensive to maintain versus the tax base that it supports.

As sprawled-out infrastructure wears out, costs of maintenance go up. Maybe your jurisdiction raises taxes. Maybe you increase municipal fines (see Missouri, Ferguson). Maybe the worn out pavement and bridges and sewer systems and water lines and electric poles are replaced only by triage, with lots of needed maintenance deferred and only the worst problems addressed. You learn to live with the potholes and rough patch and faded street lines. And structurally deficient bridges.

When the suburbs were built on farmland and pastures, the roads often had a pleasant, country feel. No longer. Country roads have been widened and converted into semi-highways, ostensibly to relieve traffic congestion, but really to facilitate new suburban developments even farther out. Bucolic vistas have become strip malls.

The resulting “STROADS” – part high-use street, part high-speed road – are incredibly dangerous, to drive, walk, or bike. Not to mention ugly, demoralizing, and dehumanizing.

Guard rails fill the medians, to prevent speeding drivers from running head on. Of course, they also prevent pedestrians just trying to get across. Trees are cut back in the “clear zone” so that fewer motorists crash into them. But removing the trees also removes the life of the road. No shade, no sidewalks, no bus shelters, no sidepaths. We can’t have nice things.

As the roads widen and parking lots expand, runoff increases and the water quality in streams, ponds, and lakes worsens. As traffic congestion increases, air quality falls. Even in the leafy suburbs.

Elderly residents are increasingly stranded and isolated, especially if they can’t (or at least shouldn’t) drive.

Stressed out commuters buzz through suburban subdivisions so fast that kids can’t play in the streets. It’s “safer” to play video games after school, right?

Actually, no. Children are increasingly obese, and obesity is hard to rid of. It takes years of physical activity and good food to convert fat to fit – dieting and fads rarely work. Trust me on that.

Many U.S. suburbs are a financial Ponzi scheme, using “greenfield development” revenues from new subdivisions and strips built ever further into farm and woods country to pay off the infrastructure replacement and maintain the schools closer in.

But all Ponzi schemes eventually collapse, and that is starting to happen now. There are no more nearby greenfields to pave, and the far away ones are too far for even an insane car commute. States can’t afford to build more or wider sprawl facilitation highways. Housing values in distant, car-dependent areas have seen most of the foreclosures and bankruptcies in the Great Recession. Housing prices are stagnant at best in car-locked areas.

When the suburban movement blossomed in the 1950s and 1960s, cities were paved over with highways. Barren carscapes and fumes from leaded gas ruined the liveability of whole neighborhoods in cities. (“Slum” clearance and urban “renewal” didn’t help either, but that’s another story.)

Now, that is switching around, mostly organically. Many cities are growing more pleasant, and it shows in skyrocketing housing prices. Cities have many non-car transit options. Streets have been reclaimed for people, with narrower, easier to cross travel lanes, street trees, bike lanes, and sidewalks. Old buildings on walkable streets are in high demand, for small shops and businesses.

The downside of the rebirth of our walkable cities is their very desirability, which has made their housing costs too expensive for many, even if you don’t need a car. That’s why we need to retrofit the suburbs for livability too. We need to redesign our neighborhoods to give suburban people who don’t want to strap on a 2-ton machine and burn gas to get their errands done alternative ways of getting around. And that will make more room on the streets for people who do need to use heavy cars and trucks for their work or transport.

Battles of the burbs are being fought throughout the Washington DC area, where I live, whether it’s trading rarely used car parking for bike lanes in Alexandra, replacing used car lots with residential and commercial communities in Hyattsville, or (maybe someday)regreening empty parking lots in Greenbelt.

How do we win the battles of the suburbs, improve our communities, improve our lives and our public health? Can we make our suburbs more city-like in value and accessibility while maintaining their green and leafy nice parts?

Before anything can be done, we need to retire a generation of traffic and civil engineers. These guys (and they’re mostly guys) should have their cars confiscated, and be required to live in tents for a year beside their beloved traffic sewers, breathing car exhaust fumes. Their designs have forced everyone in the suburbs to drive big, heavy cars to get every place. They have forced everyone in the suburbs to buy cars, even if they work and shop and go to school close to home. Their semi-highway, strip streets are killing my town economically. Their “standards” amount to malpractice. They are among the most deadly people in society.

Conversation with an Engineer (video), via

(I’ll have more to say about traffic and street engineers in a follow-up diary, if you want to what how I really feel about them. But until the current generation is safely packed off to retirement and their car-only, high-speed and sprawl-facilitating design standards are sent straight to hell, we can’t make much progress. And yes, I realize some engineers “get it” and are fighting to improve the standards that currently dictate death by car, and are trying to use their knowledge and expertise to adjust street design to local context, instead of using the idiotic standards in the first place. Sadly, they remain a small and uninfluential minority in my county.)

First, convert suburban traffic sewers into tree-lined, walkable boulevards. These boulevards should be lined with shops and apartments, easily accessible by transit (bus or streetcar ideally), with wide sidewalks and protected bike lanes. Parking should be around back, and only as much as is necessary on an average day. The street can have the capacity to handle lots of cars, but only at low, steady speeds, like 25 miles per hour.

These should be living and working and shopping streets, not damned highways, and they need to be designed that way. If you want to drive fast to get somewhere else, take the highway instead, not the suburban boulevard.

Second, limit surface parking to only as much as needed. This is largely a zoning issue, which must be fought county by county or city by city. Zoning officials who know all the complexities tend not to want change. But change is essential. The suburban development pattern based on current zoning is inefficient and deadly, and it needs to be urbanized along the key transit corridors to survive. Zoning codes need to reflect this. Many large surface parking lots areempty year-round in my town, creating runoff and not contributing to the economic base. It’s ridiculous.

Third, connect the cul-de-sacs and common areas with bike and jogging trails. Ultimately, the suburbs should be ribboned with shady bike trails, along the rivers and between the subdivisions. Give the people a choice other than just their cars, give students a safe way to walk or bike to school, make bike commuting a trip through nature and peace, not exhaust fumes and noise and danger.

Fourth, fight greenfield development and sprawl facilitation highways. In a warming world, with the likelihood of future agricultural shocks, we need arable land near cities, so that we can improve local food supplies. We have to stop paving our nearby farm land, now. Likewise, building highways to relieve “congestion” only creates more sprawl and rarely actually relieves congestion. We need to focus on improving the streets for the people who live near them, not for the benefit of new sprawl developments further and further away.

Does this mean the suburbs are dead, and we all have to move to apartments? Of course not. Suburban spaces can still be viable if maintaining their infrastructure is affordable for the local tax base. But we can’t count on federal or state funds.

We need to figure out how to replace our roads and rebuild and retrofit our schools and community buildings and amenities with funds we can generate within the community.

That will mean more tax revenues somehow, either by raising rates or expanding the tax base. A lot of communities can’t realistically afford ever-higher tax rates (my community can’t). Instead, the revenues need to come from getting more economic value and tax revenue from the current pavement and pipes and power lines that are already in place.

Some suburbanites fight all new developments. It’s a logical thing to do if “development” only facilitates more sprawl that devalues current neighborhoods. But we’re going to need to pick our battles.

Sure, oppose sprawl development that leapfrogs the current suburbs, paves current green space, and continues the suburban financial Ponzi scheme. However, we’re going to need to embrace new development around transit corridors and suburban boulevards, which, if built thoughtfully, won’t necessarily put more cars on the road.

Thanks for making it this far though a long diary. I’m trying to work out these thoughts with an idea of trying publish them in the public health literature at some point.

Appreciate your comments, pro or con, engineer, driver, bus rider, walker or bike rider. I have mother’s day festivities to attend today, but will try to check in periodically to deal with the tender feelings of the engineering profession if they find this diary.

Some Resources:  (Congress for the New Urbanism)

Retrofitting Suburbia (Ellen Dunham-Jones)…


Antibiotic Pulled From Dirt Ends 25-Year Drug Drought

Pueo Eyes.

By Doni Bloomfield

(Bloomberg) – Scientists have discovered an antibiotic capable of fighting infections that kill hundreds of thousands of people each year, a breakthrough that could lead to the field’s first major new drug in more than a quarter-century.

The experimental drug, which was isolated from a sample of New England dirt, is called teixobactin. It hasn’t yet been tested in people, though it cured all mice infected with antibiotic-resistant staphylococci bacteria that usually kills 90 percent of the animals, according to a study published today in the journal Nature. Bacteria appear to have a particularly difficult time developing resistance to the drug, potentially overcoming a major problem with existing antibiotics.

“It should be used, if it gets successfully developed, as broadly as possible, because it is exceptionally well-protected from resistance development,” said Kim Lewis, one of the study’s authors and a professor at Northeastern University in Boston. Lewis estimated that it may take more than 30 years for bacteria to become resistant to teixobactin. He is also a co-founder of NovoBiotic Pharmaceuticals LLC, which is developing the drug.


Could We Clone Ourselves? – YouTube

via Could We Clone Ourselves? – YouTube.


It’s Okay To Be Smart

Published on 4 May 2015

Just be yourself! Or be your other self. Whichever.
Subscribe: Twitter: @okaytobesmart
↓ More info and sources below ↓

Is the science of Orphan Black realistic? Could we clone humans, or engineer them to have customized traits? We take a look at today’s genetic engineering technologies to find out if designer babies and human cloning is, or should be, a reality.

BOOKS! For more on the modern science of cloning and genetic modification, read the book “Frankenstein’s Cat” by Emily Anthes:

Chinese scientists have edited the genome of human embryos (sadly this news came out after we had filmed):…
How CRISPRs work:…
Scientists call for a moratorium on human gene editing:…
Three-parent babies:…

Have an idea for an episode or an amazing science question you want answered? Leave a comment below!
Follow on Twitter:
Follow on Tumblr:
Follow on Instagram:

It’s Okay To Be Smart is written and hosted by Joe Hanson, Ph.D.
Follow me on Twitter: @jtotheizzoe
Email me: itsokaytobesmart AT gmail DOT com
For more awesome science, check out:
Produced by PBS Digital Studios:…

Joe Hanson – Creator/Host/Writer
Joe Nicolosi – Director
Amanda Fox – Producer, Spotzen Inc.
Kate Eads – Associate Producer
Andrew Matthews – Editing/Motion Graphics/Animation
Katie Graham – Director of Photography
John Knudsen – Gaffer
Dalton Allen – Post-Production Intern

Theme music:
“Ouroboros” by Kevin MacLeod

Other music via APM
Stock images from Shutterstock, stock footage from Videoblocks


Last week’s video:
Is Ultron Inevitable?…

More videos:
Why Does February Have 28 Days?…
Why Vaccines Work…
Why Are Some People Left-Handed?…
Where Does the Smell of Rain Come From?…

  • Category

  • Licence

    • Standard YouTube Licence