Regulatory Convergence in the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership
Nature has its own ideas about our good intentions. Bananas appear to be on her current hit list as reported by the South China Morning Post.
Bananas used to be cheap, really cheap in comparison to many other fruits found at your grocery store, but times are a-changing.
One of the reasons is a rapidly spreading fungus called Panama disease TR4 that is affecting nearly half of the crop imported to North America and Europe.
Source of Bananas
Over 80% of the world’s banana exports come from Brazil and other South/Central American countries and nearly the entire rest is from Asia, as apparent from the Food and Agricultural Organization graphs on banana exports (first) and imports (second):
The Food and Agricultural Organization of the UN (FAO) claims that bananas are the eighth most important food crop in the world and the fourth most important food crop among the world’s least-developed countries. Through trade and supply bananas make up a global $8.9 billion trade industry.
Varieties of Bananas
Though not commonly found in supermarkets, the (other) “999” varieties of banana-type fruits in the world are not widely available. You only find a few in local farmers produce sections around tropical countries and not in your major food outlets on this continent.
Of course, there are many varieties and cultivars of “bananas” grown, also with different names, like plantain, and they are prepared in a multitude of ways according to local customs and palates. In many parts of the world, they have become an important food staple in one form or another.
Scientists have discovered a previously unknown virus living in the human gut, according to a study in Nature Communications.
Exploring genetic material found in intestinal samples, the international team uncovered the CrAssphage virus. They say the virus could influence the behaviour of some of the most common bacteria in our gut.
Experts say these types of viruses, called bacteriophages, have been shown to play a role in chronic diseases. Led by a team at San Diego State University in the USA, scientists scoured genetic information stored in three large international databases.
They stumbled upon a piece of DNA, some 100,000 letters long, present in more than half of all samples from the gut.'Novel virus'
And while cross-checking its identity in global directories they realised it had never been described before.
Prof Robert Edwards, lead author, said: "It is not unusual to go looking for a novel virus and find one.
"But it's very unusual to find one that so many people have in common.
"The fact it has flown under the radar for so long is very strange."
People all around the world, responding to a survey by Ipsos MORI, have generally agreed with the ideas that scientists don't really know what they're talking about when it comes to the climate – and that governments are using environmental issues as an excuse to raise taxes.
These not-so-green views were transmitted as part of Ipsos MORI's new Global Trends 2014 survey, which can be seen here. Respondents were asked to respond "agree", "disagree" or "don't know" to various statements.
The survey respondents also strongly endorsed the idea that "the government is just using environmental issues as an excuse to raise taxes", with 58 per cent in agreement and just 31 per cent disagreeing worldwide. The only countries in the survey where people actually disagreed were Italy and Sweden. Brits and Americans concurred with the notion of green tax plundering, but not as strongly as most nations: Spain, France and Belgium were the places that really got behind the idea.
Much has been made by some news organisations of the response to the statement "the climate change we are currently seeing is a natural phenomenon that happens from time to time". Here some 49 per cent of the people of the world disagreed, and 41 per cent agreed: but in the US and Britain (also India and China), more agreed than disagreed.
According to some, the survey shows a connection between "global warming denial" and "speaking English", much though they don't speak English in China, India, Poland or Russia - all places where people apparently believe that today's climate change is natural.
In fact what the survey really shows is the weakness of surveys, because a further statement, "the climate change we are currently seeing is largely the result of human activity", gained strong agreement everywhere - even in Britain, the USA, Russia, China, India and Poland.
So it would seem that an awful lot of people believe that "the climate change we are currently seeing" is both a natural phenomenon which happens from time to time andlargely caused by humans.
Of course the confusion here may be worsened by the fact that we aren't "currently seeing" any climate change by the headline measure: there has been no global warming for perhaps 15 years.
The Sun seems to have given itself a few days off. As noted by the Solar Dynamics Observatory, with reference to data from the Royal Observatory of Belgium's Sunspot Index and Long-term Solar Observations (SILSO) project, last Thursday July 17th saw the Sun produce no sunspots.
That's the first sunspot-free day since 2011. And as the graph below shows, Sol seems to be having a bit of a rest at present.
Before you rush to any conclusions about what this all might mean for the state of the Sun's climate, or Earth's, here's SILSO's longer-term look at sunspot activity.
This graph shows a trend towards a dip, but also that low sunspot activity has recently been observed.
One last set of data, in the form of the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's (NOAA) and American Meteorological Society's (AMS) annual State of the Climate report (PDF) for 2013.
The NOAA says the report shows that “In 2013, the vast majority of worldwide climate indicators — greenhouse gases, sea levels, global temperatures, etc.—continued to reflect trends of a warmer planet”.
I have already discussed my disdain for gluten in previous articles, citing numerous research studies reporting its negative effects on the brain and digestive health. Gluten is a very hard protein found in wheat, barley, and rye products, and most individuals today are sensitive — if not downright intolerant — to its structure. One topic frequently overlooked is the relationship between gluten consumption and thyroid disease. Although the connection between nutrition and thyroid health has been circulating in the medical and nutrition literature for years, it’s only recently that we’re seeing an increasing amount of scrutiny being placed on gluten’s effects on thyroid health.
The Problem with Gluten
Gluten contains gliadin, a protein that is foreign to the human body. The unfamiliarity leads to the initiation of an immune response, an action that is amplified in individuals with Celiac disease. Many people today are sensitive or intolerant to gluten, and an immune response is not just excluded to those with Celiac. Depending on the intensity of the immune response, an individual may notice little effect; for intolerant individuals, profound symptoms may present themselves immediately.
Through the years, wheat has been extensively cultivated and gluten has become much harder to digest. The wheat of our ancestors resemble nothing of what it is today, as evidenced by the ever-increasing cases of Celiac disease in the last 50 years. Individuals merely sensitive to gluten may experience symptoms that seem unrelated to wheat consumption. These symptoms include hormonal imbalance, skin issues, brain fog, fatigue, depression, arthritis, and migraines. Many of these annoying symptoms remain prevalent in the lives of many people today simply because it’s difficult to connect these symptoms to eating gluten-containing products.
Molten rock travels a long road before it spews from volcanoes during deadly eruptions. Mapping out the journey could help scientists better understand how volcanoes work and improve early warnings of oncoming blasts, but tracking down blobs of magma deep within the Earth's crust is no easy task.
Now, at Washington's Mount Rainier and Mount St. Helens, two of the most dangerous volcanoes in the United States, researchers are getting their best look yet at magma's underground path via a pair of new scientific studies.
The first study, published today (July 16) in the journal Nature, clearly illustrates how magma is produced deep beneath Mount Rainier. With the second study, which is just getting underway, researchers hope to generate similarly revealing results for Mount St. Helens.
Birth of the Cascades
Mount Rainier and Mount St. Helens are two of scores of snow-capped volcanoes that march up the West Coast, from Northern California to British Columbia, Canada. If Mount Rainier erupts, its glaciers could melt and trigger lethal mudflows called lahars that would race through the Seattle-Tacoma metropolitan area.
A mystery has also emerged. The team found that active volcanoes accounted for only about 60 percent of Io’s heat. This component mostly emanates from flat-floored volcanic craters called paterae, a common feature on Io. But where is the “missing” 40 percent? “We are investigating the possibility that there are many smaller volcanoes that are hard, but not impossible, to detect,” said Veeder. “We are now puzzling over the observed pattern of heat flow.”There’s also a problem with the amount of heat the “volcanoes” themselves emit. When the space probe Galileo passed by Io, it found the plumes to be so hot that it overloaded the sensors on the spacecraft. The early estimates of heat from the plumes were so high that NASA had to go back and revise their models to make the results match their “theoretical limits.
STICK an electrode in the ground, pump electrons down it, and they will come: living cells that eat electricity. We have known bacteria to survive on a variety of energy sources, but none as weird as this. Think of Frankenstein's monster, brought to life by galvanic energy, except these "electric bacteria" are very real and are popping up all over the place.
Unlike any other living thing on Earth, electric bacteria use energy in its purest form – naked electricity in the shape of electrons harvested from rocks and metals. We already knew about two types, Shewanella and Geobacter. Now, biologists are showing that they can entice many more out of rocks and marine mud by tempting them with a bit of electrical juice. Experiments growing bacteria on battery electrodes demonstrate that these novel, mind-boggling forms of life are essentially eating and excreting electricity.
That should not come as a complete surprise, says Kenneth Nealson at the University of Southern California, Los Angeles. We know that life, when you boil it right down, is a flow of electrons: "You eat sugars that have excess electrons, and you breathe in oxygen that willingly takes them." Our cells break down the sugars, and the electrons flow through them in a complex set of chemical reactions until they are passed on to electron-hungry oxygen.
In the 19th century, scientists were working under the presumption that the universe was stable and, for practical purposes, infinite in all directions. They believed matter moved through a field that gave it form. They called this field an aether.
Then Einstein came along and discovered a way to calculate relativistic mechanics without the need for an aether. Einstein’s theory was subsequently backed up by experiments that seemed to show there was no aether of the type scientists had once presumed existed.
At the time Einstein first proposed his theories of bending space and relativity without an aether, he did not believe in a “Big Bang” expanding universe. The Big Bang was actually the brain child of a Catholic priest. It wasn’t until Hubble came along and showed that the spectra of distant galaxies seemed to shift toward the red end of the light spectrum in proportion to their brightness that Einstein finally conceded that the universe may actually be the product of a “Big Bang.” However, in the decades that followed, a mountain of contradictory evidence has been accumulating that undermines these assumptions.
Today, we are at a point where scientists are claiming over 90% of the universe is made out of matter and energy that we can’t see and can’t detect. They are claiming that infinitely dense objects exist (something Einstein also disagreed with.) They are claiming that stars the size of asteroids can spin around at near light speed and emit a focused beam of energy that is detectable across galactic distances. They are claiming that stable matter exists in the universe that violates the Island of Stability in nuclear chemistry. In fact, I could go on listing absolutely bizarre and unproven claims until I had enough theory to fill an entire book.
All of these bizarre theories are the result of a few fundamental unproven assumptions.
Talking about Monsanto’s latest attempt to obstruct justice, halt transparency, and prevent people from stopping their seed and herbicide businesses from spreading is starting to seem redundant, but the company just keeps acting in increasingly objectionable ways. Now, the company is refusing to release to the public lab tests conducted in St. Louis, Missouri, which gave them authority to use glyphosate in China.
Just months ago, Chinese food safety volunteers tendered a request to China’s Ministry of Agriculture to release the study that justified issuing the safety certificate for the import into China of Monsanto’s glyphosate-based herbicide RoundUp. Glyphosate was given a safety certificate in 1988 after studies submitted by Monsanto were conducted at Younger Laboratories in St. Louis Missouri.
The test was meant to be an acute exposure toxicity test in which rats were given RoundUp by mouth for several days, and rabbits were exposed to RoundUp by skin. The company claims that the herbicide had no effect on the eyes or the skin, and that no allergies ensued. However, they are refusing to release the lab report to China’s food safety volunteers, stating that it is an ‘industry secret.’
The media are abuzz with news about another villain—the element nickel, with the chemical symbol “Ni.” For example, as USA Today reports, the maker of a wristband—made of plastic material—with a small tech device made of surgical steel was forced to institute a recall with full refund to wearers of such items after a few people complained about skin irritations.
Nobody seems to have looked at the wrist-band, everyone just assumes it must be the nickel content of the actual device.
Let me say it straight out: This is total nonsense!
Elemental nickel is a silvery shiny metal similar to chromium in its appearance and prior to the use chromium for the coating of car bumpers (for us oldy types) many implements were coated with nickel metal instead. For example, we still use a lead-glass (oh my gosh!) salt shaker with a screw-top lid coated with a layer of shiny nickel.
Though this salt shaker has been in regular use for about 80 years, as far as I know, neither I nor my parents suffered from any nickel poisoning or allergic reaction because of it. It also remains as shiny as it ever was. The trick for that is simply to keep it dry.