Archive for January, 2012

Jessica Ainscough is Going to Die

Saturday, January 28th, 2012

Jessica Ainscough is a model and fashion writer turned “wellness warrior.” She’s an Australian media personality who, in 2008, was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer that is slow growing but extremely prone to spreading and which doctors recommended be treated by amputating an arm, where the tumor was located. It’s understandable that someone would want to avoid such radical and disfiguring surgery, but for this type of cancer, such extreme measures provide the best long term prognosis. Ainscough elected to have intensive local chemotherapy instead, which eventually did eliminate all detectable cancer. Sadly, it recurred about a year later, as this type of cancer often does. At that point, her doctors advised her that amputation was the best option for treatment.

The story might have ended there and been the sad tale of a young lady who lost an arm to cancer. However, due to her poor choices, the story is much much sadder. Ms. Ainscough decided to decline further treatment. She instead opted for an organic diet, coffee enemas and various detoxification rituals. She believes she is “healing” her cancer and that this is an example of her taking responsibility and doing the right thing.

Ms. Ainscough looks pretty good and, according to her, she feels pretty good. That’s actually not too surprising. The cancer has invaded her soft tissues and is growing and spreading, but, at least from the sound of it, it has not become debilitating just yet. The sad thing is Ms. Ainscough seems to be very confident she is getting better because she lacks the most basic understanding of what the condition is and how it needs to be treated. It’s certainly true that surgery, chemotherapy and radiation are damaging, but that’s because they have to be. Cancer cannot be “healed.” It must be killed. Cancerous cells are damaged cells of ones own body, which grow out of control, due to a breakdown in the function of the mechanisms that control cellular growth. Cancer is a problem inherent to animal cell biology, it can happen in anyone, for any number of reasons, but usually with no single attributable cause, and when it does, the only way it can be cured is by destroying the cancerous cells.

Ms. Ainscough’s complete lack of even the most basic understanding of how cancer is treated is apparent in some of her statements, such as this one:

Drugs do not cure cancer. They just don’t. Every now and then, chemotherapy and radiation treatments may put a patient into “remission”, but this is not truly healing. This is certainly not a cure. Why? Because cancer is so much more than the tumour it shows up as. The tumours are merely the symptoms. And when you just target the symptom without dealing with the root cause, the disease is going to keep showing up. You can chase the disease around your body with surgery and radiation, and you can douse it with toxic chemicals, but this is not an effective long-term solution. This is why you here so often of people whose “cancer came back”. They didn’t do the work to truly reverse their disease. Cancer is nothing more than your body telling you that something has got to give. It is the result of a breakdown in your body’s defenses after it has endured years of abuse in the form of a toxic diet, toxic mind and toxic environment.

No. That’s not it at all. The tumors are the problem. The tumors are composed of the cancerous cells that are the root of the problem and the reason it often comes back is that it’s so damn hard to get every one of those cells, especially when they start spreading to different areas of the body. While cancer can be the result of carcinogenic chemicals, it can also be caused by heredity or by the random degradation of genetic material that happens as a result of cellular respiration.

Let me be blunt about the sad truth here. Jess Ainscough is going to die. I don’t mean in fifty years either. The cancer she has now is going to kill her. It’s too late for her to have a good prognosis, and if she continues without treatment, then the already poor odds are going to get worse. She may feel okay for the time being, but she will die. Her only hope is spontaneous remission, which in this kind of cancer is all but unheard of.

I should note that I am not a doctor and I do not have access to Ms. Ainscough’s complete medical information. However, what I do know is that she claims to have been diagnosed with epithelioid sarcoma. If this is indeed true (and if it’s a lie then she’s downright evil), and if she is not receiving treatment by surgery, radiation and chemotherapy, then the cancer can be expected to be fatal. This has been confirmed by experts I have consulted before writing this. As one put it “Not treating epithelioid sarcoma is suicidal.”

The thing that really bothers me, however, is that she is working very hard to put out the message that her non-treatment is working and is the best course of action. She’s been embraced by the media and this idiocy could easily kill others who buy into it.

Via Dolly:


How to Kill Chemtrails… With Vinegar (yeah people believe this)

Friday, January 27th, 2012

So you’ve come to believe that aircraft are spraying dangerous substances above your heads and you want to get rid of them? So, how about using some vinegar?


Well… it is a weak acid so it could possibly react with chemicals that are either alkaline in nature or are just prone to breaking down in acid. But those “chemicals” are rather high up in altitude, and aside from that obvious problem, one might think that if the chemicals were potent enough to be dangerous even after drifting down and surviving the harsh conditions of the upper atmosphere than vinegar probably would not do much.

Really, do I need to explain the flaws in the logic here?

Apparently so.

There are actually a lot more videos about this on Youtube. I did not have time to look at them all, so some may be even more lame.

Some updates on the run for the US Congress

Thursday, January 26th, 2012

Yes, I’m still running for the US Congress and if you’ve noticed that this blog has not been updated as much as it once was, that is why. It’s taking up a lot of my time, but I will still try to add fresh content to this site.

One thing that certainly needs to be mentioned is that the campaign still is very much in need of donations. We’ve received a few very generous contributions, but it has proven to be an extremely expensive endeavor. If you can chip in a few dollars or a few hundred, it will help a great deal. I cannot take any donations from those outside the United States (unless you’re a US citizen living abroad.) That is simply federal election law. There has always been concern that foreign interests could influence US politics, so it is illegal to in any way fund a US campaign.

There is now also a campaign store, where bumper stickers, shirts and so on can be purchased. Because a portion of these purchases goes to the campaign, they can also only be purchased by US citizens. If there’s a lot of demand for them from outside the US, we’ll consider allowing foreign citizens to buy them at cost, thus avoiding that problem, but as it stands that’s not currently being offered. Really, I don’t see much reason why someone outside the US would want the campaign gear, anyway.

There are some things that anyone can do to help out, including foreign nationals and those who might not have a lot of money. Some of the things that can be done are listed here.

The campaign needs help getting the word out on social media. We also are trying to get news submitted to various sites to get more attention. It helps a lot when such submissions come from multiple parties.

One thing we really need is a Wikipedia entry for the candidacy. It’s really better if that kind of thing is done by a third party, not associated officially with the campaign. It makes the article more credible and avoids it looking like it’s been written entirely by the campaign for good PR. If it has multiple authors and editors, that is even better. I certainly don’t want to write it myself, because that makes it look like little more than a self-produced advertisement.

We also need residents of Connecticut and especially the Third District who can help out in some other ways.

Refuted: What to do with the epidemiology, cell phones and brain cancer?

Friday, January 20th, 2012

Recently came across an especially irritating editorial in the Washington Times and decided I really could not let the contentions stand.

Here it is, by Dariusz Leszczynski:

Helsinki/Finland, January 11, 2012-Epidemiological studies are given the most weight in evaluation of human health effects. Therefore, when researchers started their effort to find out whether cell phone radiation causes brain cancer, epidemiology was given the most of attention – and the most funding.

Well… yes, since Epidemology is the study of health events, disease patterns, health statistics and disease rates and their relation to factors like environment, lifestyle and other causes, it would seem to be the field of study that would apply to such a question.

It’s as straight forward as determining that geology is the appropriate field of science to look to when trying to determine the characteristics of a rock.

However, and please let me play “devils advocate”,

Only if I can play with science advocate.

is the epidemiology overrated?


There, are we done?


Psychic Char Margolis Fails Badly On TV

Tuesday, January 17th, 2012

I have to admit, this really does not amount to much of a story, since it’s unlikely to change anyone’s mind, but god I love watching something like this…

Interesting that she brought up the “M or J” thing. I mean, how can you mistake an M for a J, which one is it? And why do spirits always provide things one letter at a time? The funny thing is that it actually would apply to me to a huge extent. My deceased paternal grandfather was named Joseph Joyce. My grandmother is Mary Joyce. I have an uncle whose name is also Joe Joyce, I have an aunt named Mary Anne, a cousin named Megan and my brother’s name is James. It might be more of a stretch (although that never stopped a psychic from claiming success), but my sister’s middle name is Marie and my paternal Grandmother’s maiden name was Moriarty. I have many J and M names in my relations, although names starting with either one of those letters are extremely common.

I love how she says she didn’t know the age of the anchor woman’s daughter and therefore couldn’t know if she had a boyfriend. The whole damn point of being a psychic is you’re supposed to know stuff without being given all the information necessary to figure it out. If you know a person’s daughter is seventeen, for example, it’s not a long shot to guess she either has a boyfriend or has some kind of romantic interests. If she’s six, you can probably guess she does not. It’s so ridiculous to think a real “psychic” would need to be primed with the information to know this.

The best part is the other news anchor who actually takes her to task, pointing out that she didn’t guess the name of the woman’s daughter but only guessed J or an M for someone relating to the woman. It’s very common for a psychic to claim success for something they didn’t get outright but were lead to. It’s also rare to get a news personality who will take them to task for this. I wonder why she wants to do his reading off camera?

No, Obama Did Not Save the Grand Canyon From Uranium Mining

Monday, January 16th, 2012

Stories like this really just grind my gears, because the way it is portrayed in the media is simply false. If you read any of the reports about the recent extension of a moratorium on mining (uranium mining included) in the Grand Canyon area, you’d think that the big bad uranium mining industry was hell bent on destroying one of the world’s natural wonders and was only stopped by the Obama Administration from doing so.

Via the Mail and Guardian:

Obama rescues the Grand Canyon

Barack Obama took a big step towards preserving one of the world’s natural wonders on Monday, banning uranium mining on 400 000 hectares of land around the Grand Canyon.

The move, announced by the interior secretary, Ken Salazar, at a film screening in Washington DC, bans new mining claims around the canyon for the next 20 years. The area is rich in uranium deposits.

“A withdrawal is the right approach for this priceless American landscape,” Salazar said. “People from all over the country and around the world come to visit the Grand Canyon. Numerous American Indian tribes regard this magnificent icon as a sacred place and millions of people in the Colorado river basin depend on the river.”

Environmental groups said the move, which was opposed by the mining industry and some Republicans, would secure the American president’s environmental legacy.

The measure does not affect about 3 200 existing mining claims around the canyon, however. The administration said there would be continued development of 11 uranium mines.

Conservation groups said Obama had shown political courage in going ahead with the ban in the face of opposition. “Despite significant pressure, the president did not settle for a halfway measure,” said Jane Danowitz of the Pew Environment Group. In the final years of the George Bush presidency, when uranium prices were rising worldwide, mining companies filed thousands of claims in northern Arizona on lands near the Grand Canyon.

They also proposed reopening old mines adjacent to the canyon.

Salazar ordered a temporary halt to claims in 2009 after Obama came to office. Government officials proposed the 20-year ban in October last year, after an environmental review calling for the preservation of an “iconic landscape”.


Harsh Winter Threatens To Leave Alaska Settlements Without Fuel

Sunday, January 15th, 2012

Although the winter for much of North America has been mild this season, in Alaska it has been extremely harsh. While those who live in the more remote parts of Alaska are used to dealing with the extremes of nature, this year they are facing the prospect of being cut off from vital supplies of fuel due to the extent of ocean icing and the harsh weather that has made even airlifting of fuel problematic. This is not the first time these settlements have faced these kind of fuel problems, and it’s not likely to be the last. In the past, there have been close calls and times when distant Alaskans have been left without fuel for periods of time. Yet each time this happens, there is always the possibility that remote villages will suffer or even lose lives.

Remote areas of Alaska are off the wider electrical grid and are far from natural gas pipelines or railways to deliver coal. Heat may be provided, at least in part, by wood burning stoves that can use local fuel, although wood supplies may also be limited. However, by far the most important source of energy is oil. Diesel oil is the only way for these communities to generate electricity and provides most of the heat. Petroleum also powers local transportation and powers the vital systems of the communities, either directly or by generating electricity. Communications, drinking water wells, sanitary systems, heat and lighting all require energy provided by oil.

These communities use a lot of oil, and although they may have large storage tanks, the energy density of petroleum means that they can’t go very long without replenishment. Getting the supplies to these communities is never a sure thing. When it does arrive it’s expensive and it’s rapidly becoming more expensive as petroleum prices go up. Due to both the costs of oil as a commodity and the difficulty in delivering it, the final cost can be upwards of ten US dollars a gallon when it is delivered.

Via NPR:

Ultra-Harsh Alaska Winter Prompts Fuel Shortages

ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) — Living in Alaska’s outer reaches is challenging enough, given the isolation and weather extremes, but at least three remote communities also have experienced weather-related late deliveries of fuel so crucial to their survival during an especially bitter winter.

The iced-in town of Nome and the northwest Inupiat Eskimo villages of Noatak and Kobuk faced fuel shortages that illustrate the vulnerability of relying solely on deliveries by sea or air, potentially subjecting communities to the mercy of the elements. The villages, which just received their fuel, are especially vulnerable, unable to afford more additional storage tanks for gasoline and heating oil, which can run as high as $10 a gallon.

Compounding a problem with no easy answers, temperatures dipping as low as minus 60 over the past few weeks means air deliveries are delayed at the same time people are consuming more fuel more quickly. Some people in both villages also use wood-burning stoves for supplemental heat, but diesel is the critical commodity.

“It’s been pretty tough,” Noatak resident Robbie Kirk said of life in the community of 500, which finally received a fuel delivery on Tuesday, three days after the village store ran out of heating oil. “We usually have a nice reserve of fuel. Now we’re just playing catch-up.”

Nome missed its pre-winter delivery of fuel by barge when a huge storm swept western Alaska. In a high-profile journey, a Coast Guard icebreaker is cutting path in thick sea ice for a Russian tanker delivering 1.3 million gallons of fuel to the community of 3,500.

Without a fuel delivery, Nome would likely run out of certain petroleum products before the end of winter and a barge delivery becomes possible in late spring.

Until recently, the situation was much more dire for the smaller communities of Noatak and Kobuk, located farther north above the Arctic Circle, where relentless extreme cold prevented fuel deliveries by plane until this week, residents say.

Before the new supply of fuel arrived in Noatak, the village store borrowed some heating oil from the village water and sewer plant, said store manager Connie Walton. But filling the store’s two 23,000-gallon tanks has diverted any potential crisis.

“We’re good for another month and a half,” Walton said.

Residents in Kobuk also were highly relieved by an air shipment of heating oil that arrived Wednesday in the village of 150 people about 175 miles to the east. It’s been too cold for people to use their snowmobiles much, so gasoline isn’t as much of a concern, said City Clerk Sophia Ward. Running low on the diesel used to warm homes was another matter.

“I’m glad that it came in today,” Ward said Wednesday. “It’ll keep our elders warm.”

In Noatak, residents once had fuel shipped by barge on the Noatak River, but that has long been impossible since the river shifted and became shallow there.

Two years ago, residents began tapping into another source of fuel, thanks to the Red Dog zinc mine 40 miles to the northeast. The mine in 2009 began a program to sell gasoline and diesel to Noatak and another close neighbor, the village of Kivalina. The fuel is sold at cost, said mine spokesman Wayne Hall.

“This is strictly for what we can do to help out our closest community members,” he said. “Energy and heating costs are one of the biggest costs to families in this region.”

The program lets individuals buy fuel on Saturdays every three weeks at a staging area about 23 miles from the village. This winter, they can buy gas in 55-gallon drums calculated at $4.89 a gallon. Villagers also bring their own drums to fill with diesel fuel at $4.35 a gallon.

The latest Red Dog fuel day for Noatak took place on the day the village store ran out of diesel. So villagers formed a convoy of about 30 snowmobiles and freight sleds, and headed out in weather marked by temperatures of 47 below and, for the first 10 miles, dense fog, said Kirk, who regularly takes advantage of the sales.

“It basically cuts my heating fuel in half,” he said. “It’s pretty critical for me.”

The state also helps lower the soaring cost of electricity in Alaska’s rural areas, spending almost $32 million in fiscal year 2011 through its Power Cost Equalization program, which subsidizes residential electric rates and the power bills of community buildings. Power in most villages is diesel-generated.

With so many scattered settlements of a few hundred or less, the logistics of keeping them all supplied is daunting. The very fact that oil would be brought in by air should drive home just how difficult and expensive an operation this is. Even when the system works and fuel and electricity are available, it’s always extremely expensive. The cost may be offset by subsidies, but that only shifts the burden to the government and tax payers. Ultimately, there’s no getting around the fact that getting hundreds of thousands of gallons of diesel to remote settlements is a costly undertaking.


Nuclear Plant Operators… GASP…. Surfing the internet???

Thursday, January 12th, 2012

Okay, I admit it. I’ve been at work in a circumstance where I should have been writing code or responding to e-mails and I may have hit up Facebook or Google News. Sometimes I had a half-assed excuse to it, like that the weather was bad and I needed to know if there were any impending weather emergencies that might force the business to close early. I might also say justify my Facebook surfing as “exploring the possibilities of social marketing.” The fact of the matter is that I was slacking a little from time to time. Who amongst us hasn’t?

But uh oh… it seems nuclear plant operators may have surfed the net

Via CNN:

NRC: Nuclear technicians surfed web on the job

Nine technicians responsible for monitoring operations at a Louisiana nuclear power plant spent on-duty time surfing the Internet — visiting websites that included news, sports, fishing and retirement information — jeopardizing the safety of the plant, federal regulators say.

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission disclosed the web-surfing activities Monday in a letter that proposes a $140,000 fine against the River Bend nuclear power station, 24 miles northwest of Baton Rouge.

No pornography sites were accessed, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission said. And importantly, the NRC said, the computer use did not present an avenue for hackers to gain access to reactor control systems, a modern-day fear at industrial plants.

But the NRC said the web-surfing control room operators were directly responsible for monitoring the reactor and other plant systems, and that their actions violated plant procedures requiring operators to remain attentive and focused on their work.

According to an NRC investigation, nine operators “deliberately violated” the safety procedures by surfing the web between January and April of 2010. Three of the nine did so with such frequency and duration that they are being issued “severity level three enforcement violations.” (Severity level one represents the greatest significant violation and severity level four is the lowest.) The remaining six operators will receive severity level four violations.

The operators were not named by the NRC.

An NRC spokesman said the proposed fine for web surfing is the only such action for web surfing in memory, and may be the only such action in the history of the agency.

In a notice to Entergy Operations Inc., operators of the River Bend Station, the NRC said that it appears that operators “remained attentive to reactor operations, indications, and alarms” while surfing the Internet.

“However, because most of the operators involved knew and understood” the prohibitions on Internet access, they exhibited “deliberate misconduct” and engaged in “hundreds of instances” of accessing the Internet from the “at-the-controls” area of the control room.

Score one for ridiculously reporting.

No, there was never a safety risk. While I don’t know exactly what the operators were assigned to do or how the systems operated here, all indications are that they were simply passing some time by surfing the net when they didn’t have any need to directly interact with the controls. Nuclear reactors certainly do not require continuous second by second human input nor do they need to have a reactor operator spending hours blankly staring at the dials that usually don’t change. Granted, all indicators are checked frequently, as they should be, but that was never interrupted.

It seems that in this case the operators were doing something many of us have: using company computers with internet access for personal surfing. Companies don’t like this, of course, because it tends to encourage employees to spend their time non-productively. If not for the internet, the operators might be more prone to doing something more useful for the company during the time they spend babysitting the control room. It’s like anything else, where the operator is primarily there for contingencies or if problems arise.

Still, this really just isn’t a news story. The workers never left their posts and they were ready to respond to any incident. That’s the important thing. I guess in the future they’ll have to go back to old fashioned paper crossword puzzles and magazines.

The US Space Program’s Plutonium-238 Crisis

Friday, January 6th, 2012

When spacecraft are sent to explore the inner solar system, solar cells are usually the choice to provide power. However, when venturing out past the orbit of mars, the intensity of sunlight available makes it increasingly difficult to obtain sufficient amounts of power. Past Jupiter, it’s virtually impossible to power a space probe with solar cells as they would need to be enormous to gather enough sunlight. Even within the inner solar system, where sunlight is reasonably intense, solar cells provide limited energy for probes that explore the surface of planets, such as the mars exploration rovers. Sunlight is also problematic for places like the earth’s moon, where spacecraft would sit in complete darkness for days.

The solution to this problem has been the radioisotope thermal generator. An RTG is a simple device, consisting of a strong particle-emitting isotope that produces heat and a thermoelectric generator which converts that heat into electricity. The heat can also be used to keep vital components of the probe warm. Unlike nuclear reactors, radioisotope thermal generators are extremely simple, have no minimum critical mass, produce little gamma and almost no neutron emissions, which could blind scientific instruments, and therefore require little or no shielding. Modern RTG’s can provide hundreds of watts of reliable electrical power for years on end in a small, durable package.

The choice of isotope for space missions has always been, and continues to be plutonium-238. Plutonium-238 is a powerful alpha emitter which produces enormous amounts of heat energy. Plutonium-238 produces only a small amount of low energy gamma emissions, making it easy to shield. It’s easily prepared into ceramic oxide pellets that are chemically stable and have good thermal transfer. With an 88 year half-life, plutonium-238 is short lived enough to be a good energy producer yet long lived enough to allow for missions of many decades.

All radioisotope thermal generators used for deep space missions have used plutonium-238. RTG’s were also used to power the Apollo Lunar Surface Experiments Packages left by astronauts on the moon. The RTG used for the Mars Science Laboratory provides 110 watts of electricity and uses about 4.5 kilograms of plutonium-238. Larger RTG’s have been built for deep space probes, which provide up to 300 watts of power and use 7.8 kilograms of plutonium-238. Some spacecraft have used multiple RTG’s, for example, Cassini was equipped with three RTG’s which provided a total of 900 watts of power to the spacecraft.

There are other isotopes that can also be used to provide power for RTG’s, but none are as desirable as Pu-238. Strontium-90, a high energy beta emitter, which can be extracted from spent fuel, also produced significant amounts of heat, but would require substantially more shielding and produces less power per gram of material. Isotopes of Curium have been studied as well, but also provide much less power and require greater shielding. Americium-241 has also been considered, but at least four times as much material would be needed to produce the same amount of power, and greater shielding would also be required. Still, Am-241 is regarded as being the second most well suited fuel for RTG use.

Worldwide production of Am-241 is only a few kilograms per year, with US production capacity standing at only 500 to 750 milligrams annually. Most of this material is already used to fill demand for smoke detectors and moisture gauges. In order for the US to have a viable chance of using Am-241 as an RTG fuel, production would have to be ramped up significantly.

At one time, plutonium-238 was relatively cheap and easily available. The United States had large stocks of the material and used it for numerous space missions. Yet since the early 1990′s, that has not been the case. Since then, only Russia has had the capacity to produce plutonium-238 and the price has skyrocketed. US missions have been entirely dependent on plutonium-238 purchased from Russia at the cost of hundreds of millions of dollars. Yet now even this limited supply is threatened, as Russia has begun to signal that it will no longer be able to provide the quantities of Pu-238 that the US (or potentially other nations) would require for continued space exploration.


Australia Fears Tiny Traces of Uranium in Copper Concentrate Spill

Tuesday, January 3rd, 2012

A train carrying copper ore concentrate from a mine in Australia derailed a few days ago. It was carrying 1500 tonnes of the concentrate when it derailed and a significant proportion of the load seems to have spilled from the cars. Some of the concentrate spilled into the Edith River. It’s not entirely clear how much actually spilled into the river, but some estimates are that up to 1200 tonnes spilled from the cars, with a large portion ending up in the river.

Whether or not this is cause for concern really depends on the exact composition of the copper concentrate. Most forms of copper concentrate have low soluability in water, so much of it may just sit in a big pile where it landed in the river. Copper oxide is not hazardous at all, and is found very commonly in nature. On the other hand, if it contains large quantities of copper sulfate, there may well be reason for concern. Copper sulfate is mildly toxic and certainly would be reason for concern if it were present in such a large spill.

Although copper concentrate produced by mines is generally not considered hazardous material, it may contain other minerals that present a problem. If the material contains significant amounts of cadmium, lead or mercury, then this could be a problem, since such a huge quantity has been spilled. Of course, it would depend on the concentration of those materials and what type of chemical compounds they were part of.

Reports from Sky News do indicate that this copper concentrate was regarded as toxic, so there does appear to be some valid reason for concern over contamination of the river. Officials have stated that any material that dissolves should be diluted to levels that are not hazardous.

But that’s not what everyone is so damn concerned about.