Chemicals in the Environment

Endocrine disruptors are streaming through our industrialized way of life and are accumulating in the environment creating change that maybe we don’t need.

I think amphibians were among the first class of animals that were devastated by the changes in environment and they led the way in the mass extinction that is taking place today.  Maybe the life spent in water, where the chemical pollution of the industrial revolution accumulates accounts for the early impact.

So, do we need to worry about what the frog’s eye tells the frog’s brain?  Do frogs have a right to exist on a small blue planet?

Hat tip to Nicholas Kristoff and the NYT.

clipped from

It’s Time to Learn From Frogs

Some of the first eerie signs of a potential health catastrophe came as bizarre deformities in water animals, often in their sexual organs.
In the Potomac watershed near Washington, male smallmouth bass have rapidly transformed into “intersex fish” that display female characteristics. This was discovered only in 2003, but the latest survey found that more than 80 percent of the male smallmouth bass in the Potomac are producing eggs.
Now scientists are connecting the dots with evidence of increasing abnormalities among humans, particularly large increases in numbers of genital deformities among newborn boys. For example, up to 7 percent of boys are now born with undescended testicles, although this often self-corrects over time. And up to 1 percent of boys in the United States are now born with hypospadias, in which the urethra exits the penis improperly, such as at the base rather than the tip.This month, the Endocrine Society, an organization of scientists specializing in this field, issued a landmark 50-page statement. It should be a wake-up call.

“We present the evidence that endocrine disruptors have effects on male and female reproduction, breast development and cancer, prostate cancer, neuroendocrinology, thyroid, metabolism and obesity, and cardiovascular endocrinology,” the society declared.

“The rise in the incidence in obesity,” it added, “matches the rise in the use and distribution of industrial chemicals that may be playing a role in generation of obesity.”

  blog it

ACES is going to become the law of the land

Set for vote soon, I think this bill will pass. I hope that this bill will be the first step in many that the US will take to address global warming.

Make no mistake, I think it is a very weak bill. I think it will do little of the work that we have to do.  I think it will pass and then the question becomes: what is the next step after this weak opening?

Yale 360 has a good piece on it. I recommend reading. It’s short.

clipped from

The Waxman-Markey Bill:
A Good Start Or A Non-Starter?

The bill is officially entitled “The American Clean Energy and Security Act,” but most people who follow this issue simply call it Waxman-Markey. Named for its sponsors — Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA) and Ed Markey (D-MA) — the legislation has been roundly criticized for doing too little or too much, but one thing is clear: No matter what form it finally takes, the bill is historic. For the first time, the U.S. government would cap and regulate emissions of carbon dioxide.
As carbon cap-and-trade legislation works it way through Congress, the environmental community is intensely debating whether the Waxman-Markey bill is the best possible compromise or a fatally flawed initiative. Yale Environment 360 asked 11 prominent people in the environmental and energy fields for their views on this controversial legislation.

blog it


Tip of the hat to Mock, Paper, Scissors.

Busy week.  Actually had to prepare and go to trial this week.  I do freelance paralegal work, but I only end up at trial once in a great long while.  This was a grind, 5 plus hours on witness stand in a battle of experts child custody case.  I am decompressing and catching up on the news.

So, I am a couple days late celebrating Juneteenth.

clipped from
Today is Juneteenth. It is the name for a holiday celebrating June 19, 1865, the day when Union soldiers arrived in Texas and spread the word that President Lincoln had delivered his Emancipation Procalamation. News traveled so slowly in those days and Texas did not hear of Lincoln’s Proclamation, which he gave on January 1, 1863, until more than two years after it was issued! Although Juneteenth has been informally celebrated each year since 1865, it wasn’t until June 3, 1979, that Texas became the first state to proclaim Emancipation Day (Juneteenth) an official state holiday. But it is much more than a holiday. Juneteenth has become a day for African Americans to celebrate their freedom, culture, and achievements. It is a day for all Americans to celebrate African American history and rejoice in their freedom.

  blog it

In a Riff off the Sixth Sense, I See Dumb People

They don’t know they’re dumb. They’re everywhere.

Well, that’s a little uncharitable, but also a bit funny.

What is also funny is that there is a study that explains how dumb people can’t figure out they are dumb. It’s known as the Dunning Kruger effect.

I think this explains so much about trickle down economics and the foreign policy expertise that has the US fighting wars in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan today.

clipped from
The Dunning-Kruger effect is an example of cognitive bias in which “…people reach erroneous conclusions and make unfortunate choices but their incompetence robs them of the metacognitive ability to realize it”[1]. They therefore suffer an illusory superiority, rating their own ability as above average. This leads to a perverse result where people with less competence will rate their ability more highly than people with relatively more competence.
Across four studies, the authors found that participants scoring in the bottom quartile on tests of humor, grammar, and logic grossly overestimated their test performance and ability. Although test scores put them in the 12th percentile, they estimated themselves to be in the 62nd.
They won Ig Nobel Prizes in Psychology in 2000 with their report Unskilled and Unaware of It: How Difficulties in Recognizing One’s Own Incompetence Lead to Inflated Self-Assessments.

blog it

The Dred Scott Court is Back

The US now faces the most regressive Supreme Court of my lifetime. The battle that is brewing to prevent the appointment of Judge Sotomayor, a mainstream, qualified and experienced judge by any reasonable measure to replace Justice Souter, shows the extent to which the Republican party has pushed the Court to the right. What is the end game of the Republican drive to seat a harshly conservative court? Can we put more people in prison? Is there an upside to limiting the rights of the American people? What happens when we seat a court that will fail to acknowledge and enforce the constitutional protections of fundamental civil rights that are articulated in the Bill of Rights?

Here is the Dred Scott case for those who are unfamiliar with the judicial leanings of a corporate Supreme Court.

Robert Hunter and the Dead can have the last word for now: what a long, strange trip it’s been.

clipped from

Justices Reject Inmate Right to DNA Tests
WASHINGTON — Prisoners have no constitutional right to DNA testing that might prove their innocence, the Supreme Court ruled on Thursday in a 5-to-4 decision.
“It’s unquestionable that some people in some states who are factually innocent will not get DNA testing and will languish in prison,” Mr. Neufeld said. “Some of them will die in prison.”
Justice Souter issued a dissent saying that officials in Alaska had “demonstrated a combination of inattentiveness and intransigence” that add up to “procedural unfairness that violates the due process clause.”But Chief Justice Roberts concluded that the issue of when to allow DNA testing was best handled by the states.

“The question,” he wrote, “ is whether further change will primarily be made by legislative revision and judicial interpretation of the existing system, or whether the federal judiciary must leap ahead — revising (or even discarding) the system by creating a new constitutional right and taking over responsibility for refining it.”

  blog it

Hmm, is this really news?

After a decade of letting the Bush global warming deniers do nothing, the press suddenly discovers the globe is warming a bit.

clipped from

Report on Warming Offers New Details

Estimates Specify Effects on Different Regions of U.S.

Man-made climate change could bring parching droughts to the Southwest and pounding rainstorms to Washington, put Vermont maple sugar farms out of business and Key West underwater over the next century, according to a federal report released yesterday.

“In our back yards, climate change is happening, and it’s happening now,” Jane Lubchenco, administrator of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, said at a news conference yesterday afternoon. She continued: “It’s not too late to act. Decisions made now will determine whether we get big changes or small ones.”

The report, available online at, began by restating what other scientific panels have said: Warming of the climate is “unequivocal,” and man-made greenhouse gases are primarily to blame.

Among the specific effects it found for the United States:

— The heaviest rainstorms have already become 67 percent heavier since 1958 in the Northeast, as warmer weather evaporates more water vapor into the atmosphere to feed storm clouds. Around the Great Lakes, “lake effect” snowstorms could get heavier as ice recedes and exposes more open water.

— The hottest days could get hotter across much of the country: Parts of the South that experience about 60 days a year with temperatures higher than 90 degrees could experience 150 such days by 2100. The same warming could make Washington’s summers even more uncomfortable.

— Higher temperatures could mean longer growing seasons for some farmers but might also bring more pests or change weather patterns that some crops depend on. Scientists said a warmer New England would be less hospitable to maple sugar farms, apple orchards and cranberry bogs.

— Sea levels might rise three feet this century, which could flood a large section of South Florida.

blog it

John C. Yoo Should Be Disbarred

Justice has coming looking for Mr. Yoo. It’s a start.  Testify under oath. Be subject to civil penalties for deprivation of civil rights. It’s a start. I am guessing Mr. Yoo is wondering if he was a pawn. He’s apparently a very smart guy, you would think the consequences of his work might have crossed his mind when he was “researching” how to craft memos to justify harsh interrogation tools that the US has previously prosecuted as war crimes.

clipped from

Judge Allows Civil Lawsuit Over Claims of Torture
The decision issued late Friday by a judge in San Francisco allowing a civil lawsuit to go forward against a former Bush administration official, John C. Yoo, might seem like little more than the removal of a procedural roadblock.
But lawyers for the man suing Mr. Yoo, Jose Padilla, say it provides substantive interpretation of constitutional issues for all detainees and could have a broad impact.
During the time Mr. Padilla was held in the brig, according to his filings in the case, he “suffered gross physical and psychological abuse at the hands of federal officials as part off a systematic program of abusive interrogation intended to break down Mr. Padilla’s humanity and his will to live.”

Judge White, who was appointed by President George W. Bush, rejected all but one of Mr. Yoo’s immunity claims and found that Mr. Padilla “has alleged sufficient facts to satisfy the requirement that Yoo set in motion a series of events that resulted in the deprivation of Padilla’s constitutional rights.”

Tahlia Townsend, one of Mr. Padilla’s lawyers, called it “a significant victory for American values, government accountability and our system of checks and balances.” Mr. Padilla’s legal team also included students from Yale Law School’s international human rights clinic.

  blog it

Could White Roofs Really Buy Us Time on Global Warming?

I have to give the idea some credit simply because it is being repeated by US Energy Secretary Steven Chu.  This is a smart guy, I am happy to see him in the mix trying to determine energy policy.  Maybe in the long run it is the kind of simple adjustment in infrastructure that makes for a sustainable world. I don’t know.

clipped from

Energy Secretary Pitches Low-Tech Idea to Reflect Solar Energy Back Into Space

White Rooftops May Help Slow Warming

Making roofs white “changes the reflectivity . . . of the Earth, so the sunlight comes in, it’s reflected back into space,” Chu said. “This is something very simple that we can do immediately,” he said later.
White roofs work because of the physics of sunlight. Dark roofs absorb and hold more than 80 percent of solar energy, while white ones can reflect 75 percent of it away. That makes a white-roofed building cooler and cheaper to air-condition.Because of that energy savings, California has since 2005 required most flat-roofed buildings to have white tops, and Walmart has installed them on about 75 percent of its U.S. stores. In January, the District will require new flat roofs on commercial buildings to be covered in vegetation or a reflective material.The idea does not treat the root cause of climate change, which is heat-trapping pollution such as carbon dioxide and methane. But white roofs do help with the primary symptom: heat. The light they reflect escapes through the polluted atmosphere like a BB through a greenhouse.
“We may have to figure out a way to artificially cool the planet while the atmosphere is still super-saturated with greenhouse gases,” said Mike Tidwell of the Chesapeake Climate Action Network. This could be it, he said, “because the planet, it’s a closed system, it’s an absolutely closed system, except for one thing: sunlight.”

A spokeswoman for Chu said the Energy Department is exploring ways to encourage more white roofs on private and public buildings. (For now, Google Maps shows that Chu’s own headquarters is a light beige on top.) She also noted that some homeowners who purchased a “cool” roof would be eligible for an expanded tax credit intended for “weatherizing” homes.

And then there is the look of the thing.

To get all the benefits of a white roof, plain old white paint will not do. Instead, the roofs should be covered in a reflective coating, or a specially made membrane (Details about cool-roof products approved by the Environmental Protection Agency can be found at

  blog it

Frog’s Eye to Frog’s Brain, Part IV

So, Lettvin, Maturana et al make it clear that the frog’s eye does not tell the frog’s brain what exists in the world around the frog, the frog’s eye tells the frog’s brain about where it thinks food exists.  Darwin’s natural selection process has helped the frog develop its senses and neurological system in ways that have produced a frog who is not capable of seeing the world, but is tuned to seeing food before it.

Think about that a bit and ask yourself how natural selection has affected what a human being actually sees?   What does a human being’s eye tell a human being’s brain?

Can we sense slow-moving threats to our existence or do we rely on a “nervous” system that has developed to help us avoid being eaten by quick-moving threats?  Can we evolve in our ability to process information and make sensible long-term decisions that are truly good for us and our offspring or are we doomed to the distractibility available through things that go bump in the night, terrorists lurking in the shadows?

We Are On the Move

Thanks to Common Dreams for the article.

clipped from

Report Finds Climate Change a Detectable Driver of Migration

Some 200 million people could be on the move due to climate change by 2050

ATLANTA, Georgia – June 10 – Unless aggressive measures are taken to halt global warming, the
consequences for human migration and displacement could reach a scope
and scale that vastly exceed anything that has occurred before,
according to a report released today during climate change talks in
Climate change is already contributing to migration
and displacement, the report from CARE, U.N. University and Columbia
University found. All major estimates project that the trend will rise
to tens of millions of migrants in coming years. Within the next few
decades, the consequences of climate change for human security efforts
could be devastating, according to the report entitled, In Search of Shelter: Mapping the Effects of Climate Change on Human Migration and Displacement.

blog it