Monday, September 2, 2019

Trees in Eire


Irene Barrett Miller is one of the 1000 

To celebrate Dublin's Millennium year in 1988, the Parks Department in co-operation with the Tree Council of Ireland, initiated the Millennium Arboretum. Consisting of 16 acres located between the main avenue and St. Anne's housing estate, the arboretum is planted with over 1000 types of trees and was sponsored by 1000 participants.

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Ireland plans to plant 440m trees by 2040

Farm land to be used for some of the 8,000 hectares of new forestry every year

Sat, Aug 31, 2019, 18:18 - Irish Times
Brian Hutton
( Re-printed/copied to allow those without newspaper subscriptions an opportunity to read articles)
Twenty-two million trees are to be planted every year in Ireland over the next two decades as part of a plan to tackle climate change, the Government has said. 
While the Government’s climate action plan, published in June, proposed 8,000 hectares – or 19,768 acres – of new forestry every year in a bid to capture carbon emissions, it did not specify the number of trees involved. 
In its latest calculations, it suggests this will involve 2,500 conifers or 3,300 broad-leaf trees for every hectare planted. 
The target is for 70 per cent conifers and 30 per cent broad leaves. 
“The climate action plan commits to delivering an expansion of forestry planting and soil management to ensure that carbon abatement from land-use is delivered over the period 2021 to 2030 and in the years beyond,” a Department of Communications Climate Action and Environment spokeswoman said. 
“The plan sets out key actions to be taken by the Department of Agriculture. 
“The target for new forestation is approximately 22 million trees per year. Over the next 20 years, the target is to plant 440 million.”
The ambitious plan would mean a significant shift in the use of farming land in Ireland. 
The climate action report acknowledges a lack of enthusiasm among the farming community for forestry. 
A key part of the plan will be to persuade farmers to designate some of their holdings for tree-planting in the future.
Government-organised town-hall-style meetings are being held throughout the country to encourage communities to support the targets.
Also proposed under the plan, is a massive increase of electric vehicles (EVs), up by an average of 100,000 annually over the next decade, to reach almost one million EVs by 2030.
Some 50,000 homes will need to undergo deep retrofits each year to meet the the plan’s targets.”

Friday, August 30, 2019

Werewolf Syndrome


Medication Mix-Up Leaves 17 Children Suffering From ‘Werewolf Syndrome’

smithsonian.com 
August 30, 2019 12:34PM

This summer, more than a dozen parents across Spain noticed unusually high amounts of hair appearing all over their children’s bodies. Now, Oriol Güell reports for El País, authorities have identified the culprit behind this unexpected growth spurt. As the Spanish Agency of Medicines and Medical Devices (AEMPS) confirmed earlier this month, the 17 individuals affected developed hypertrichosis—a condition colloquially dubbed “werewolf syndrome”—after taking anti-baldness medication mislabeled as acid reflux treatment.
Speaking with Güell, Ángela Selles, a mother whose son had at least two bottles of syrup containing the anti-hair loss drug, says her six-month-old’s “forehead, cheeks, arms and legs, hands became covered in hair.” She adds, “He had the eyebrows of an adult. It was very scary because we didn’t know what was happening to him.”
According to Agence France-Presse, the outbreak stemmed from a mix-up at the Farma-Química Sur laboratory in Málaga. As health minister Maria Luisa Carcedo explained to reporters Wednesday, staff accidentally put minoxidil—the active ingredient in Rogaine—into containers marked as the heartburn treatment omeprazole. These mislabeled drugs were then distributed to pharmacies, where they were prepared as syrups for specific patients.
Sources within AEMPS tell El País that the error occurred during packaging, not production of the original pharmaceutical compounds, which were imported from a separate company based in India: “It’s not that omeprazole was mixed with minoxidil, but rather that the package leaflet said one thing and the pharmacy another.”
Per an AEMPS press release, all affected batches of omeprazole have now been withdrawn from the market. In an interview with Granada Hoy, Manuel Fuentes, president of the Official College of Pharmacists of Granada, offered additional reassurance to those still wary of the popular reflux drug, emphasizing that the omeprazole used in children’s syrup is distinct from the kind used in adults’ capsules.
Officials suspended operations at Farma-Química Sur earlier this week, and the New York Times’ Raphael Minder reports that several families impacted have already filed lawsuits against the laboratory.
Although dermatology experts say the children struck with hypertrichosis should start losing their excess hair within three months of discontinuing treatment, some parents report otherwise. As Amaya, the mother of a 26-month-old who drank the minoxidil-laced syrup, tells El Mundo’s Ana María Ortiz, her daughter stopped taking the medicine in mid-June, but she remains covered in hair. Another unidentified mother shared similar updates with El País, saying her baby’s hair has started to fall off but is only happening “little by little.”
Minoxidil’s effects on children’s health are little-studied, leaving parents uncertain of what to expect as their sons and daughters start recovering. Selles, the mother of six-month-old Uriel, reports that testing has shown signs of liver damage, although doctors tell her the condition “is not serious and that [the organ] will regenerate.”
Speaking with Ortiz, Amaya says that authorities are “trying to minimize the seriousness of the matter.”
She adds, “Thank God that the symptom was as noticeable as excess hair. If it had been a latent thing that was gradually affecting internal organs, [my daughter] would have certainly continued to take [the wrong formula]."
( Re-printed/copied to allow those without magazine/newspaper subscriptions an opportunity to read articles)



A Youth Camp Where No Issue Is Off Limits


A Youth Camp Where No Issue Is Off Limits

Arts and crafts, water sports and roaring bonfires have been replaced by exercises in decision-making.
By Audra D. S. Burch
Published NYT, Aug. 29, 2019 - Updated Aug. 30, 2019, 12:10 a.m. ET
( Re-printed/copied to allow those without newspaper subscriptions an opportunity to read articles)
“They went to the Heritage Foundation, the conservative think tank in Washington, to learn about income inequality. They went to Birmingham, Ala., where they sang hymns and talked about the civil rights movement. In Salt Lake City, they met a gun lobbyist who discussed the sanctity of the Second Amendment.
Each stop was designed to reveal something about the country and how the students, all between the ages of 14 and 18, form their opinions on the great social and political issues of our time.
Etgar 36 is a summer camp meets road trip, and campers are exposed to opposing arguments about hotly debated issues at a time when many Americans are not used to talking to people with whom they disagree. The arts and crafts, sports and roaring bonfires of traditional sleepaway summer camps have been replaced by cultural journeys and exercises in critical thinking and civic engagement.
For Billy Planer, the camp’s founder, arming young people with information and ideas is the best way to prepare them for the emerging challenges of the world. Perhaps more quickly than ever before, teenagers are pressured to take a side and have an opinion amid an unending sea of status updates on social media.
“Success for us is finding humanity in discussions with people who have opposing views,” Mr. Planer, 52, said. “We want our kids to ask questions” and “gut-check their own positions,” he said. 
On a bus that resembled the rolling digs of a rock band, the campers crisscrossed the country for several summer weeks to hear about women’s reproductive rights and gun control, the West Bank and marijuana legalization.
This year, Etgar included stops in 26 cities. The teenagers, carrying cellphones, pillows, backpacks and the occasional stuffed animal, first loaded onto the bus in Atlanta. In addition to nights in hotels, they slept on the bus during long drives, like the stretches from Boulder, Colo., to Salt Lake City or Los Angeles to San Francisco.
The campers entertained themselves with silly inside jokes and played on Snapchat. Between attending presentations on abortion and race, they celebrated birthdays, gossiped about school and munched on Twizzlers. Before their trip to the Heritage Foundation, they visited United for a Fair Economy, a nonpartisan advocacy group in Boston.
“My world is essentially liberal so I wanted to do this camp so I could see the other side,” said Jesse Eick, 15, who is from Manhattan and wants to work on political campaigns or become a journalist. “In my normal life, I might not ever interact with people who think differently. That is not a productive perspective — you have to understand the whole picture.”
Jim Pfaff, the chief of staff of the Colorado House Republicans, has been speaking to the young people of Etgar for 13 years. Mr. Pfaff opposes gay marriage and said he knew that many of the campers disagreed with his views. But that was not the point.
“A free exchange of ideas is crucial for a free society. One of the things that makes our country great is that people with disparate viewpoints could be friends,” said Mr. Pfaff, who hosted this year’s conversation in a Colorado Springs park. “That is rapidly changing. From a political perspective, we are seeing people shut down ideas because they don’t agree.”
In Birmingham, the campers gathered at a park near 16th Street Baptist Church, where four girls were killed by white supremacists in a 1963 bombing. Bishop Calvin Woods Sr. spoke about the importance of music during the civil rights movement, and it was not long before “We Shall Overcome” and “This Little Light of Mine” filled the air.
Rachel Rubins, 17, of Lansdale, Pa., wrote a journal entry about that afternoon that was shared on the camp’s website. “Mr. Woods showed us how to use love and singing to express our emotions in the fight for justice,” she wrote. 
“It was definitely the most powerful moment in my life,” she added.
The roots of Etgar are from Mr. Planer’s experiences in the mid-1980s, when he spent summers at traditional Jewish sleepaway camps in western Massachusetts. In high school, he traveled to Israel with a camp, and the concept of learning through experience and travel stuck.
Mr. Planer was working as a youth director at a synagogue in Atlanta before he started Etgar in 2003. About 475 teenagers have participated in the summer camp, which is open to all faiths, although most who participate are Jewish. The name, he said, means “challenge” in Hebrew.
This year’s campers came from states including Tennessee, Oklahoma, New York, Georgia and Illinois. Most were able to afford the $5,000 or $7,000 fee for the three- and five-week camps; those who could not were aided by private donations or a reduced fee. Many of the campers said they were liberal, and a few said they were libertarians or socialists.
As part of their experience, the campers are encouraged to confront issues rather than people. They are taught to defend their ground while leaving room for different ways of thinking.
After hearing from representatives at J Street, a pro-Israel lobbying group, Max Orston, 15, said he changed his mind about the possibility of a two-state solution. 
“Our conversations prompted me to do more research and I ended up leaning toward one-state,” Max explained.
Max’s father, Todd Orston, said he partly chose Etgar to give his son the opportunity to learn about issues from different perspectives before coming to his own conclusions.
“I wanted my son’s eyes to be open and for him to be exposed to real-world issues that people face on a daily basis so he can grow intellectually,” said Mr. Orston, a family lawyer in Sandy Spring, Ga., who attended traditional Jewish camps through high school.
In Maryland, the campers gathered in a suburban hotel room to hear the story of Daryl Davis, a blues musician who befriended members of the Ku Klux Klan, including Scott Shepherd, a former Grand Dragon. Mr. Davis described attending Klan rallies and forming friendships with K.K.K. members, some of whom have turned their robes over to him and denounced white supremacy.
The next morning, Jesse, the teenager from Manhattan, stared out a bus window, still thinking about Mr. Davis’s talk and the power of forgiveness. “It was eye-opening to think someone in this terrible group can be turned around,” she said. 
On the ride to the nation’s capital toward the end of this year’s journey, Matt Levine, a 15-year-old from Scotch Plains, N.J., pored over a newspaper article about debt and the middle class. 
He was reading to prepare for a discussion at the Heritage Foundation. There had been other presentations on the tour and Matt said he regretted not following up with a question or two. This time would be different, he said. 
At the end of the presentation, he raised his hand and asked about the shrinking middle class. The moment was a personal breakthrough. 
“I found my voice!” Matt said as he headed back to the bus. 
For Mr. Planer, the purpose of the camp is not about moving someone along the political spectrum, but about teaching young people to listen to arguments and to be better prepared to defend their own. 
“Maybe they change their minds” he said. “Maybe they don’t.”








 

Sunday, August 25, 2019

We Are Taking Steps to End Cancer!


We are taking steps to end cancer. 

*Eight active research projects in Washington state represent an overall commitment of over $2.9 Million locally.
*In the last 15 years the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society has invested more than $20 Million dollars in research in Washington State cancer researchers.
* In fiscal year 2018, the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society co-pay Assistance Program helped 453 financially - eligible blood cancer patients in Washington and Alaska, for a total of $1,151,078.00 in direct support to local families.
                                                                     ###

Your donation is  helping us find a cure. Thank you for bringing light to the darkness of cancer, in all the ways you support the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society.
Your donation helps advance breakthroughs in immunotherapy, genomics and personalized medicine. This research saves lives.
Your donation is contributing to find a  cure for blood cancer, but also enable pioneering new treatments for other cancers.
Your donation helps patients navigate their cancer treatments and ensure they have access to quality, affordable and coordinated care.
This is the first year I've personalized my request for donations to help combat various Blood Cancers.  This campaign will run until mid October so expect to hear from me fairly often. If you click the link just about everything you'll want to know is on the donation page. You'll notice I'm part of the Wedgwood Walkers which is the name of my greater hood. This year the "Light the Night" gathering and walk will take place at the Seattle Center on Saturday 26 October 2019 at 6 P.M -Wanta join me?
Thanks...and many thanks to all of you that have already donated.


Friday, August 23, 2019

Northern White Rhinos

 


Eggs Successfully Collected from the Last Two Northern White Rhinos

( Re-printed/copied to allow those without newspaper subscriptions an opportunity to read articles)
Jason Daley - Smithsonian Magazine 23 August 2019
"In March 2018, the death knell rang for the northern white rhino when a 45-year-old male named Sudan passed away at the Ol Pejeta Conservancy in Kenya. That left only two individuals of the subspecies, Ceratotherium simum cottoni, left on Earth, both females. However, neither is capable of giving birth since 30-year-old Najin has lesions on her uterus and her daughter Fatu, 19, has bad hind legs that could complicate pregnancy. It seemed as if the northern white rhino was destined for oblivion.
But there’s a new hope for the subspecies reports Fran Blandy at AFP. Yesterday a highly skilled international veterinary team successfully extracted eggs from both Najin and Fatu at Ol Pejeta during a two-hour surgery.
“It was a great success, yesterday ten oocytes were harvested which was about the number we hoped for” team member Jan Stejskal of the Dvur Kralove Zoo in Czech Republic tells Blandy.
The eggs have been airlifted to a laboratory in Italy and will be combined with frozen sperm collected from four deceased northern white rhino bulls, likely by the end of the week. The embryos will then, at a future date, likely be implanted in surrogate southern white rhinos for the 14-month gestation.
According to a press release, this wasn’t just some experimental operation. It’s part of years of planning and experimentation designed to save the species. Helen Thomson at Nature reports that, in July 2018, researchers practiced the technique by collecting eggs from southern white rhino females, the other subspecies which numbers over 20,000. They then fertilized the egg with frozen sperm collected from deceased northern white rhinos and the eggs developed into hybrid blastocysts.
Now, researchers hope to also create blastocysts from the frozen northern white rhino sperm and the eggs collected from Najin and Fatu to create pure northern white rhino embryos. But, Rebecca Boyle at Discover reports, that’s still an iffy proposition. It’s not known if southern whites can carry a northern white to term, or if the different genetics of the two subspeceis could cause problems. And even if the procedure does produce a calf, there’s a chance that the offspring could be sterile.
If the in vitro process works out, conservationists still face another problem—the preserved gene pool for the northern white rhino is tiny, just a few sperm samples from deceased males and the eggs from Najin and Fatu, who are closely related. To get around that, another group is working on producing artificial gametes—egg and sperm—from preserved skin tissue from 12 white rhinos. So far, reports Thomson, researchers have developed five lines of “induced pluripotent stem cells” and they believe they can coax them into becoming artificial sperm and egg cells in the near future.
All of that research is being conducted under the banner of a new research consortium called the BioRescue project, which will take what it learns from working on the white rhino and apply it other endangered species.
“As scientists we are gaining so [many] results and information about reproduction biology and assisted reproduction that can and will help other species which are not so close to the verge of extinction as the northern white rhino,” Frank Goritz, head veterinarian at the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research, a participant in the project, tells Blandy at AFP.
The northern white rhino once inhabited the modern nations of Uganda, the Central African Republic, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Sudan and Chad. According to the conservation group Save the Rhino, in 1960, there were still 2,360 northern white rhinos in their natural habitat. Poaching and ongoing civil wars in the region, however, brought the population down to just 15 by 1984, all of them in Garamba National Park in the DRC. Rescue efforts brought the number up to 30 by 2003, but poaching once again took its toll and no live rhinos have been seen in the wild since 2006.
In 2009, four of the eight remaining northern white rhinos, Najin, Fatu, and the males Sudan and Suni, were transferred from the Czech Republic to Ol Pejeta in the hopes that returning to their natural habitat would spur them to reproduce. They did not, and one by one the aging captive rhinos died off, until just Najin and Fatu remain, with human technlogy as the species' only hope.
“On the one hand Ol Pejeta is saddened that we are now down to the last two northern white rhinos on the planet, a testament to the profligate way the human race continues to interact with the natural world around us,” Richard Vigne, managing director of Ol Pejeta says in the release. “However we are also immensely proud to be part of the ground breaking work which is now being deployed to rescue this species. We hope it signals the start of an era where humans finally start to understand that proper stewardship of the environment is not a luxury but a necessity.”





Ameliorating Cancer



We are taking steps to end cancer.

Your donation is helping us find a cure. Thank you for bringing light to the darkness of cancer, in all the ways you support the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society.
Your donation helps advance breakthroughs in immunotherapy, genomics and personalized medicine. This research saves lives.
Your donation is contributing to finding a cure for blood cancer, but also enable pioneering new treatments for other cancers.
Your donation helps patients navigate their cancer treatments and ensure they have access to quality, affordable and coordinated care.
...
This is the first year I've personalized my request for donations to help combat various Blood Cancers. This campaign will run until mid October so expect to hear from me fairly often. If you click the link just about everything you'll want to know is on the donation page. You'll notice I'm part of the Wedgwood Walkers which is the name of my greater hood. This year the "Light the Night" gathering and walk will take place at the Seattle Center on Saturday 26 October 2019 at 6 P.M -Wanta join me?
Thanks...and many thanks to all of you that have already donated.


Tuesday, August 20, 2019

She Studies Sea Snakes


She Studies Sea Snakes by the Seafloor

Sea snakes are the most diverse group of marine reptiles in the world, but they are poorly understood and threatened by development. Blanche D’Anastasi is among the scientists working to save them.
( Re-printed/copied to allow those without newspaper subscriptions an opportunity to read articles)
By Devi Lockwood - Aug. 19, 2019 - NY Times Science Section
“Six to eight million years ago, a snake related to swamp snakes or tiger snakes slithered into the sea. Over evolutionary time, descendants of that snake developed flattened paddle tails, an ability to breathe through the skin and a valve to stop water from entering the lungs. Today these creatures live their entire lives in the water. Clad in spots, triangles and stripes, they undulate across coral reefs or meadows of sea grass.
There are some 70 species of sea snakes in the world; they live in the Indian and Pacific oceans, in water less than 600 feet deep. Half of all species can be found in Australia, and they are particularly visible during their mating period, in July and August.
But sea snake populations have been declining rapidly for the last 20 years worldwide, as a result of climate change, pollution, fishing, habitat loss, mining exploration and disease. Although sea snakes are the most diverse group of marine reptiles — they outnumber sea turtle species by 10 to one — less is known about their ecology than that of any other group of reptiles. 
This is because the research is difficult. If you want to find a sea snake, you have to go out searching for one.
Blanche D’Anastasi, a sea snake researcher at James Cook University in Queensland, Australia, travels to remote regions like Exmouth Gulf, on the country’s northwest coast, to find sea snakes in the wild. Sometimes she scuba dives or snorkels, but the most efficient technique is to be towed behind a boat while wearing a snorkel. When she spots a snake, Ms. D’Anastasi dives down to catch it in a bag. 
“Sometimes one will swim up to me and lick my mask and neck,” she said. Others hide by swimming to the floor and sticking their heads in the sand near sea grass. Perhaps they are impersonating it.
Back on the boat, she collects a sliver of tail tissue, takes photos, measures the snake and sets it free. In her lab, she analyzes the animal’s genetic diversity.
Ms. D’Anastasi initially pursued a Ph.D. on the genetic diversity of sharks and rays. She shifted her focus to sea snakes after learning about the decline in their numbers. 
The switch “felt like setting myself adrift in a warm, wild ocean current,” Ms. D’Anastasi said. “It was a scary step to take. I didn’t fully comprehend, at the time, the positive impact that this would have on my life and the conservation of sea snakes.” 

Land-based lizards and snakes have sensilla, bumps on their head scales that are used to sense objects through touch. The sensilla of sea snakes are dome-shaped and protrude farther, possibly enabling them to detect vibrations underwater.
“I have always wondered how sea snakes seem to know I am there before they see me,” Ms. D’Anastasi said. “Sometimes I see a tail or body coil sticking out from under a ledge, and before I get close the snake has popped its head out for a look.” 
This sensitivity to underwater vibrations also makes sea snakes vulnerable to engines and other human-generated noises. Seismic testing, which relies on loud underwater blasts to explore for oil and gas, likely damages their hearing, which would disrupt their ability to hunt and hide in the wild.
Sea snakes occupy the middle of the food web. Most feed on fish and eels. Sea eagles, ospreys, crocodiles and sharks eat them. They gravitate toward structurally complex habitats that provide places to hunt, rest and hide: coral reefs, estuaries, sea grass beds and mud flats. Many sea snakes are specialized to hunt particular prey — damselfish eggs, frog fish, gobies. As a result, 10 or more species may live in the same habitat.
Where they occur, they are abundant. “Turtle-headed sea snakes are reluctant to move even one kilometer to breed with snakes in the next bay,” Ms. D’Anastasi said. At least 15 species of sea snakes live in Exmouth Gulf, including two species previously thought to be extinct: the leaf-scaled sea snake, Aipysurus foliosquama, and the short-nosed sea snake, Aipysurus apraefrontalis. To protect the full range of genetic diversity, management is necessary.
The Timor Sea, extending from Australia’s northwest coast to the southern coast of Timor, is a hot spot of sea snake biodiversity. Exmouth Gulf, a 1,600-square-mile estuary nearby on the Indian Ocean, has remained relatively untouched. It supports more than 1,800 species of fauna; critically endangered sawfish use the area as a pupping ground, and at least 15 species of sea snakes live there. Seven of them are genetically highly distinctive, compared to snakes on the Great Barrier Reef, and they may be new species entirely. “I am sure that once we start looking, we’ll find more,” Ms. D’Anastasi said. 
“This place is teeming,” said novelist and environmental activist Tim Winton. “It’s alive.”
But the region has experienced rapid industrialization in the past two decades. Outside the Middle East, Australia’s northwest shelf is one of the largest oil- and natural-gas producing regions in the world. A development project proposed by Subsea 7, an energy company, would allow six-mile-long lengths of pipeline to be towed through a shallow portion of Exmouth Gulf. The proposal is currently being evaluated by the Environmental Protection Authority in Western Australia.
Although some jobs would be created from industrializing Exmouth Gulf, this “seems like a poor deal when you consider the environmental impact,” said Ben Fitzpatrick, ecologist and director of Oceanwise Australia, a research organization. The group recently published a report highlighting the biodiversity in Exmouth Gulf and the scientific research ongoing there.
Conserving Exmouth Gulf may allow Western Australian sea snakes, including those yet to be described by scientists, a chance at survival, Dr. Fitzpatrick said. The Ningaloo Reef, near Exmouth Gulf, is a World Heritage Site. Scientists like Ms. D’Anastasi are trying to extend the protection to Exmouth Gulf and the sea snakes that live there.
“As a scientist, sometimes it’s hard because you need to be the honest broker and walk that neutral line and just provide the advice,” Ms. D’Anastasi said. “But we’re in an age where that’s just not enough.”