Category Archives: Science

Gerard Richardson Exonerated!

A U.S. Customs and Border Protection chemist r...

A U.S. Customs and Border Protection chemist reads a DNA profile to determine the origin of a commodity. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Just a few hours ago, Somerset County Prosecutors filed a motion dismissing the indictment against Gerard Richardson, exonerating him of murder for which he served nineteen years.  Gerard’s exoneration comes two months after a court overturned his conviction and ordered his release from prison.

Gerard was convicted of the 1994 murder based on the testimony of a forensic dentist who claimed that a bite mark on the victim’s body matched him.  Gerard maintained his innocence. Although testing was inconclusive, he held out hope that DNA would one day exonerate him.  In the most recent round of testing, the lab was able to detect a complete male DNA profile from the bite mark that excluded Gerard.

Gerard has begun to put his life back together after his wrongful imprisonment, starting work at FedEx just days after his release.

FBI regulations have prevented officials in New Jersey from entering the DNA profile from the bite mark into the DNA database, which has over ten million profiles of convicted offenders and could name the person responsible for the 1994 murder.

To read more about his case, visit the Innocence Project website.

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Estrogen Drives Men’s Life Changes Too, Study Finds

The New England Journal of Medicine

The New England Journal of Medicine (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Estrogen, the female sex hormone, plays a bigger role in men’s bodies than previously thought, and falling levels contribute to men’s expanding waistlines.

Until recently, testosterone deficiency was considered nearly the sole reason that men undergo the familiar physical complaints of midlife. Falling levels of estrogen regulate fat accumulation, according to a study published Wednesday in The New England Journal of Medicine. Both hormones are needed for libido.

Via The New York Times.

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CDC: Teen Pregnancy Rate Hits All-Time Low

Countries by birth rate in 2008

Countries by birth rate in 2008 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The CDC has released a report on the birth rate in America for 2012, and the number of teenagers having babies continues its downward trend:

The birth rate for American teens fell to 29.4 births per 1,000 in 2012 — a six percent drop from 2011, alone.

Data shows it fell for all ethnic groups.

To put that into perspective, the report finds it’s the lowest rate in 73 years. That’s how long the government has been keeping track of teen births.

A lot of the progress has been made in the last few years. The birth rate in 2007 was 41.5 births per 1,000 teenage girls — falling almost 30 percent in the last five years.

The Obama Administration has invested in teen-pregnancy-prevention programs. In a shocking coincidence, red states continue to have the highest rates of teen pregnancy.

At the other end of the spectrum, birth rates for women between the ages of thirty and forty-four have increased slightly.

Via the CDC and the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.


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Poll: 66% Opposed to Ban on Abortion after 20 Weeks

Planned Parenthood volunteers help bring the f...

Planned Parenthood volunteers help bring the fight for health insurance reform to the Ohio Statehouse in Columbus. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Sixty-six percent of people believe that abortions should be legal after twenty weeks if the woman would “suffer serious long-term health problems” from a full-term pregnancy, according to a new survey.

Sixty-one percent said the procedure should be legal in cases when the fetus is not viable, or when the pregnancy is a result of rape or incest.

Read more:

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Grocery Stores Nudge Shoppers into Buying Better Food

North Market Produce stand at the North Market...

North Market Produce stand at the North Market in downtown Columbus, OH. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Supermarkets are employing subtle methods to try to influence the way we shop – for the healthier.

In one store, a mirror attached to the car reflects back the image of the person pushing the cart and prompts him to buy with an eye toward health.

In another store, grocery carts were divided in half by a yellow stripe. Shoppers were instructed to place produce in the front half of the cart, and produce sales more than doubled.

At still another, giant green arrows on the floor pointed to the produce aisle.

In some places, scientists are tinkering with the idea of placing placards in cards, announcing the average number of fruits and vegetables shoppers buy, thus enforcing the social norms. Two weeks into the program, produce sales jumped 10% overall – but among participants in the Women, Infants and Children nutrition program, there was a 91% increase in produce purchases.

Overall, customers spent more money on produce but the same amount overall, meaning that they were spending less on processed, packaged food. This is better for the consumer and the grocer, who gets better margins on the produce section than on prepackaged foods.

Via NYT.

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Swedish Scientists Confirm Existence of New Element

Periodic Table - final version

Periodic Table – final version (Photo credit: denn)

Swedish scientists have confirmed the existence of a new chemical element.

The Lund University researchers back up claims by Russian and American teams that had remained unverified for the past decade. They were able to detect the “fingerprint” of the very heavy element ununpentium. The name refers to the elements spot at 115 on the periodic table of elements.

Once the discovery is formally approved by the International Union of Pure and Applied Physics and Chemistry, it will get a new name.

Via The Washington Post.


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Baby Girl Born with HIV Cured


Researchers announced today that a Mississippi girl born with HIV has been cured after very early treatment.

The girl’s story is the first account of a “functional cure,” a rare event in which a person achieves remission without the need for drugs.

When the girl was born in July 2010, her mother had just learned that she was HIV-positive. HIV-positive mothers are typically given drugs to cut the chance of transmission to their children. Without this option available to them, doctors began treating the Mississippi girl with a cocktail of three drugs commonly used to treat HIV within just thirty hours of her birth.

More testing must be done to see if the treatment will have the same effect on other children.

Via Yahoo!

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SpaceX Aborts Rocket Launch

Kennedy Space Center, Cape Canaveral, Florida, USA

Kennedy Space Center, Cape Canaveral, Florida, USA (Photo credit: Pet_r)

The private company SpaceX aborted the launch of a rocket that would have carried a capsule to the International Space Station.

The launch countdown reached zero, but the rocket failed to lift off at Cape Canaveral, Florida.

SpaceX would have been the first private company to dock with the International Space Station.

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Big Ag and Big Pharma Fight Attempted Ban on Antibiotic Overuse

Core structure of the cephalosporin antibiotic...

Image via Wikipedia

The FDA is poised to stop the overuse of a class of antibiotics by factory farms, but Big Ag is pushing back

Cephalosporins are a critical class of antibiotics that treat bacterial meningitis and salmonella in children and the seriously ill in hospitals, but factory farms are putting the effectiveness of cephalosporins at risk through overuse in livestock.

Factory farms give cephalosporins to almost all broiler chickens before they hatch, whether they have infections or not, and use the drugs in cows and pigs. Without FDA regulation, this off-label overuse has led to an increase in cephalosporin-resistant bacteria in animal populations.

The link between antibiotic use in factory farming and antibiotic-resistant bacteria is clear; the more these drugs are used in animals, the less effective they are in humans. Because these drugs are especially important for treating children, the risk to our kids of cephalosporin-resistant bacteria is significant.

If we want antibiotics to work for us when we need them, we have to stop their misuse and overuse in farming.

The FDA plan would limit the use of cephalosporins in food animal production. It’s not the first time they’ve tried to set up such a rule. A 2008 attempt failed when the FDA was flooded with comments from farmers and drug companies opposing the ban.

The FDA’s new rule against off-label uses of cephalosporin bans routine injections of cephalosporins into chicken eggs and large dosing in cattle and swine, but allows smaller dosing under veterinary supervision and usage in animals like ducks and rabbits.

It is a small but important step, both in protecting this class of antibiotics and putting the brakes on the overuse of antibiotics in factory farming. If the FDA can regulate cephalosporins, it’s a foothold to go after bigger wins, including finalizing a guideline proposed in 2010 focused on putting a stop to the use of antibiotics solely to promote growth or to compensate for animals’ unsanitary living conditions.

Click below to send a public comment before the Tuesday deadline supporting the FDA’s recent decision to limit cephalosporin use in factory farming:

Thank you for taking action to fight dangerous antibiotic abuse by factory farms.

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Shrimp’s Carbon Footprint Is 10x Higher Than Beef’s

Cover of "Bottomfeeder: How to Eat Ethica...

Cover via Amazon

“Shrimp lovers don’t need to crash a fancy party to enjoy premium, seasoned-to-perfection shrimp,” announced a Taco Bell press release heralding the chain’s “Pacific Shrimp Taco,” which featured a half-dozen “premium shrimp” for just $2.79.

Marketing campaigns like Taco Bell’s, along with Red Lobster‘s “Endless Shrimp” promotions, crystallize shrimp’s transformation from special-treat food to everyday cheap fare.

What happened?

Twenty years ago, 80% of shrimp consumed here came from domestic wild fisheries. Today, the United States imports 90% of the shrimp consumed here. We bring in a staggering 1.2 billion pounds of it annually, mainly from farms in Asia. Between 1995 and 2008, the inflation-adjusted price of wild-caught Gulf shrimp plunged 30%.

In his 2008 book Bottomfeeder: How to Eat Ethically in a World of Vanishing Seafood, Canadian journalist Taras Grescoe took a hard look at the Asian operations that supply our shrimp. His conclusion:

The simple fact is, if you’re eating cheap shrimp today, it almost certainly comes from a turbid, pesticide- and antibiotic-filled, virus-laden pond in the tropical climes of one of the world’s poorest nations.

These factory farms generate poverty in the nations that house them; they privatize and cut down mangrove forests that once sustained fishing communities, leaving dead zones in their wake.

A new study from University of Oregon researcher J. Boone Kauffman finds that the flattening of Southeast Asian mangrove forests is devastating in another way, too. Mangroves are rich stores of biodiversity and of carbon, and when they’re cleared for farming, that carbon enters the atmosphere as climate-warming gas.

Fifty to sixty percent of shrimp farms occupy cleared mangroves, and the shrimp that emerges from them has a carbon footprint ten times higher than the most notoriously climate-destroying foodstuff: beef from cows raised on cleared Amazon rainforest.

Mr. Kaufman calls shrimp-farming in Asia “the equivalent of slash-and-burn agriculture,” because farm operators typically “only last for 5 years or so before the buildup of sludge in the ponds and the acid sulfate soil renders them unfit for shrimp,” he told Science.

Cheap shrimp, like cheap oil, is looking increasingly like a dangerous delusion.

Via Mother Jones.

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