Thursday, December 19, 2013

Madagascar battles the Black Death | The Verge

If you have read Dan Brown’s recent blockbuster novel, Inferno, than you are pretty familiar with the discussions around The Plague, also known as the Black Death, Bubonic Plague, and a number of other pseudonyms.

Sadly, there is a modern day outbreak in Madagascar that has killed dozens of people. Health specialists add that antibiotics are difficult to bring into play as the time between infection and death could be as little as 3 days, leaving little time for the drugs to work.

"There is an epidemic in Madagascar which is currently affecting five districts out of 112", according to a Health Ministry statement. "Eighty-six people have been inflicted by the plague, of which 39 have died.” According to experts, over 80% of the reported Bubonic Plague cases in the world are from Madagascar.


Madascar, officially the Republic of Madascar, is an island nation located in the Indian Ocean, off the southeastern coast of Africa. Health conditions in the country are considered poor, with a lack of suitable housing one of the leading contributors.

Source: The Verge

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Is Beijing ‘ready’ to launch Mars mission

Mars atmosphere

Beijing ‘ready’ to launch Mars mission?

According to an article at, the Chinese government may very well begin launching Mars probe missions in light of their successful moon rover mission.


Antibacterial Soap May Not be Such a Good Thing Afterall According to the FDA

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has announced that it is taking a closer look at the marketing and use of antibacterial soaps. These products, which contain chemical ingredients such as triclosan and triclocarban may be creating unnecessary risks as there is no evidence that over-the-counter (OTC) antibacterial soap products are any more effective at preventing illness than washing with plain soap and water.

"New data suggest that the risks associated with long-term, daily use of antibacterial soaps may outweigh the benefits,” says Colleen Rogers, Ph.D., a lead microbiologist at FDA. There are indications that certain ingredients in these soaps may contribute to bacterial resistance to antibiotics, and may have unanticipated hormonal effects that are of concern to FDA.

On December 16, the agency has issued a proposed rule that would require manufacturers to provide more substantial data to support the the safety and effectiveness of antibacterial soaps. The new rule would only pertain to consumer antibacterial soaps and body washes that are used with water. Hand sanitizers, wipes and other products used in health care operations would not be effected.

The Environment Protection Agency is also involved in the review as some of the chemicals used are regulated as pesticides, as triclosan is categorized. Under existing regulations, pesticides are re-evaluated every 15 years. More on the EPA review of triclosan can be found on their Web site.

Source: Consumer Updates > FDA Taking Closer Look at 'Antibacterial' Soap

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Scientists Turn Algae Into Crude Oil In Minutes

Engineers at the Department of Energy's Pacific Northwest National Laboratory have successfully turned algae into artificial crude oil in minutes, as opposed to the millennia that nature normally requires. The newly developed process uses high pressure chambers and temperatures of 350 Celsius to overcome some of the hurdles of other techniques, including the time required for the conversion. As the process is refined, the issue of high-cost is expected to be solved as well.

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Photo by Pacific Northwest National Laboratory

The resulting product can be refined as any other crude product, including into such speciality items as aviation fuel. A positive by-product of this new technique is that the waste water produced can be processed to create combustible gas and other substances like potassium and nitrogen, which, along with the cleansed water, can also be recycled to grow more algae.

"Cost is the big roadblock for algae-based fuel," said Douglas Elliott, the laboratory fellow who led the PNNL team's research. "We believe that the process we've created will help make algae biofuels much more economical.” This has huge implications for the fossil fuel industry and the future potential for biofuels. The technology has been licensed to a Utah-based company, Genifuel Corp.

Source: PNNL

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Helping those in need this holiday season

To my readers: I'd like to propose a way to help those that need our assistance this coming shopping season. Just make a pledge to yourself to put aside 10-20-30% of the money that you SAVE from Black Friday/CyberMonday/Christmas/post-Holiday sales to donate to a worthwhile cause. You will still be "ahead" while also helping others.

And now for a plug for you to consider Family Services, Inc. as your benefactor. The organization is 105 years old and still helping families and those in need of mental health care, financial education, day care, and youth at risk throughout the Maryland, DC, and Baltimore areas.

About Family Services, Inc.

From newborns to adults, Family Services, Inc., an affiliate of the Sheppard and Enoch Pratt Foundation, provides high-quality services to foster health and wellbeing in the home, school and community. Whether offering Early Childhood Services, Family Support Services, Parental Education Services or Counseling and Therapy Services, for over 100 years Family Services, Inc. has responded to the growing and changing needs of the residents in the Maryland area.