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Fri Oct 31, 2014 at 04:41 PM PDT

Virigin Galactic Spaceship 2 explodes

by dinotrac

Reposted from dinotrac by kalmoth Editor's Note: Sad news. -- kalmoth

Not much information yet, but one test pilot is dead and another seriously injured after an explosion while the Virgin Galactic suborbital space plane was flying under rocket power over the Mojave desert.

Many celebrities, including Sir Richard Branson and his family, Lady Gaga and Kate Winslet have signed up for seats on a Virgin Galactic flight.

Coupled with the explosion of the Oribital Sciences Antares rocket/Cygnus cargo ship just a few days ago, today's tragic event reminds us that space is not (yet) for the faint of heart.  

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Sat Oct 04, 2014 at 06:35 PM PDT

The Money Behind the GMO Debate, Part 1

by edg

Reposted from edg by kalmoth Editor's Note: This screed needs a stern and definitive rebuttal, and perhaps more than one. Today is Bad Science Conspiracy Theory Day on Daily Kos. -- kalmoth

GMO proponents often proclaim that science is highly united in vociferous support for including genetically manipulated ingredients in the human food supply. Some go so far as to claim that the unanimity equals that of climate science, where more than 97% of scientists believe that mankind's activities contribute to changes affecting the only known livable planet in our solar system.

But is that really true? Are scientists really in near total agreement? And, unlike climate scientists, where few if any on the "yes, climate change is real" side are bankrolled by or employed by or associated with the fossil fuel industry, how many participants in the Great GMO War are connected to or funded by the GMO industry?

In addition, where does all that money come from for the fancy pro-GMO websites, TV and print advertisements, and the various marketing and public relations campaigns? (For example, look at the adorable new Frank N. Foode™! plushie. Wouldn't your child love one of these benign GMO corn critters to sleep and play with?)

Follow me below the orange Frank N. Fleur as I begin to answer those questions.

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Reposted from slinkerwink by kalmoth Editor's Note: Bad science on rec list. Bad, bad, bad. -- kalmoth

The CDC admitted that the Ebola outbreak in Dallas could widen beyond the current Liberian case, and said that restricting travel would not help contain the spread of additional outbreaks from citizens from affected countries.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Director Tom Frieden vowed to "stop Ebola in its tracks" in the United States while acknowledging that the Dallas outbreak could become larger than one case.

"I'm not going to promise that we can stop this at just one case, but I can tell you we have the advantage because the right steps are being taken," Frieden wrote late Thursday in a CNN op-ed.

What Frieden said about not even bothering to contain the spread of potential Ebola risks from other countries is utter bullshit:
"Even if we tried to close the border, it wouldn't work," Frieden said Friday on MSNBC's "Morning Joe."

"People have a right to return, people transiting through could come in, and it would backfire because by isolating these countries it will make it harder to help them."

People DO NOT have the right to return to the U.S. from these affected countries. Non U.S. citizens do not have the right to return -- what they have are visas that allow them entry to the United States, and it's clear that self-reporting at the border or checkpoints does not work especially since the man from Liberia lied about being exposed to Ebola. What the government needs to do and actually should have done two or three weeks ago is to put a ban on issuing visas to Non-U.S. citizens from Ebola-affected countries, and put travel restrictions on U.S. citizens traveling to these countries where Ebola outbreaks are occurring.

There's a reason why isolation and containment is so effective. It prevents the disease from spreading, and minimizes the risk of a ripple effect of infection going out among the populace. I'm disappointed in the failure of the Texas hospital to contain and isolate the man from Liberia. I'm disappointed in the failure of the Obama administration to put a stop to issuing visas to people from these countries, and for not putting travel restrictions into place.

And even more so, I'm disappointed in the State of Texas for not expanding Medicaid because we now have a large uninsured population here that are at risk of contracting Ebola and not coming in for medical treatment. This whole situation is a flustercuck from start to finish.

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Reposted from Daily Kos by A Siegel
Mary Anne Hitt helping with the solar-panel
ribbon-cutting at Shepherdstown Presbyterian Church in West Virginia.
Many environmentally related posts appearing at Daily Kos each week don't attract the attention they deserve. To help get more eyeballs, Spotlight on Green News & Views (previously known as the Green Diary Rescue) appears twice a week, on Wednesdays and Saturdays. The most recent Wednesday Spotlight can be seen here. So far, more than 19,140 environmentally oriented diaries have been rescued for inclusion in this weekly collection since 2006. Inclusion of a diary in the Spotlight does not necessarily indicate my agreement with or endorsement of it.
Labor of Love: How My Small WV Town Launched a Game-Changing New Model to Go Solar—by Mary Anne Hitt: "This week, my small town in West Virginia cut the ribbon on a solar project that isn't just the largest crowd-funded solar project in the state, but also launches a new model making it possible for any WV community organization to go solar. On a perfect sunny day, 100 elementary school students and dozens of community members joined my husband, Than Hitt, and my daughter Hazel, who cut the ribbon for a 60-panel solar system at the historic Shepherdstown Presbyterian Church. It was an unforgettable day that crystalized all our hopes for the future of West Virginia, and exemplified the power of regular people to change the world. The genius of this project was that the church went solar for just $1, thanks to over 100 community members who contributed - but they donated their water heaters, not their dollars. Maryland-based Mosaic Power pays homeowners $100 per year to have smart meters installed on their home water heaters that save energy and, in the aggregate, operate as a safe, efficient mini-power plant. These community members are each donating their $100 per year to the church solar project, collectively raising enough money to pay for the solar system. The financing model was developed by our brilliant friend Dan Conant and his company Solar Holler, and now that we have proof of concept in Shepherdstown, he's taking it statewide. The church is going to generate nearly half of its electricity from the sun, reducing pollution, saving money, and living out the congregation's commitment to caring for the Earth."
green dots
Huge Dam Removed, Fish and Critters Happy, Union Jobs Saved—by 6412093: "They're done demolishing the 108-feet-tall Elwah Dam in northwest Washington State. It's the largest dam ever removed. The formerly huge runs of huge salmon are beginning to recover. The fish are reaching some river areas from the first time in over 100 years. The restored river is creating restored habitat for many critters besides the fish. The River's new estuary will allow crabs and other shoreline sea critters to get established there. Birds of every size and shape will feed on the restored aquatic life. Land mammals will nibble on the revegetated  former reservoir areas. Another thing I like about this dam removal project was the preservation of an endangered species, the Pacific Northwest Unionized Paperworker."
green dots
Solar voltaic energy production nearly doubles in U.S. in 2014—by HoundDog: "Here's some good news that may brighten up your day: US electrical generation from renewables hits 14.3%. Dennis Schroeder of NREL reports that U.S. solar power generation more than doubled in the first half of 2014 according to a new report by the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA). Data from the EIA’s latest Electric Power Monthly report indicates non-hydro renewables, including solar, wind, geothermal and biomass, made up a 7.3% share of electrical generation, while conventional hydropower accounted for 7%. ... Solar-generated electricity more than doubled, growing by 115.7%, while wind power increased by 9% compared to last year, accounting for 5% of the nation's electrical generation during the first six months of the year. Biomass also grew by 4%. Geothermal power, however, dipped by 1.5% and conventional hydropower declined by 4.2%. ... 'Not long ago, EIA was forecasting that renewables would not reach 14% of U.S. electrical generation until the year 2040,' noted Ken Bossong, executive director of the Sun Day Campaign. 'And even the current 14.3% figure undoubtedly understates the real contribution from renewables inasmuch as EIA's data does not fully reflect distributed and off-grid generation.'"
green dots
Why We March... Against Extinction—by JrCrone: "We March for Elephants. We March for Rhinos. We March for Lions. People have asked us—“Why do you march? What good is marching? You should be making direct contact with people in power, with people who can ‘make a difference.’ Every day 96 elephants are killed. That’s one every 15 minutes. A march does not stop this. You need to raise money and lobby politicians. And you should be writing: writing legislation.' Other people have told us, 'Why do you march? What good is marching? You can do nothing. Those with the power to make a difference, in China, overseeing the 37 ivory carving factories and 145 licensed shops, will do nothing because you march. Elephants will continue to die. No elephant will be saved because of the protest actions in the United States.' Regarding rhino horn, they say 'you cannot lessen its fashion or influence those in Vietnam who consume it.' The people who question us say that marches seem “nice” and make those who march 'feel good,' but are ultimately useless—a futile gesture good for nothing other than the egos of those who take part, far away from the halls of power, far away from the carving factories, far away from the scenes of injustice, death, and wholesale destruction of the elephant, rhinoceros, and lion populations that have been under relentless attack by poaching, wildlife trade, corruption, and consumption. They say we are too far away and our activities are merely a waste of time and resources. They are wrong to say this."

You can find more rescued green diaries below the sustainable squiggle.

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Reposted from SkepticalRaptor by Wee Mama
Apparently, the "polio vaccine causes cancer" zombie meme has been reanimated by the antivaccination cult. Lacking evidence for their beliefs, retreading old debunked memes is their standard operating procedure.

The interesting thing about social media (Facebook, Twitter, blogs, Google, reddit) is that it's fairly easy to push pseudoscientific beliefs. The first problem is that many people read the headlines, and never the underlying discussion. If it can be said in 140 characters, or a misleading infographic, many individuals will share that across the internet as a "fact". So, if you see an claim that "Polio vaccines infected 98 million Americans with a cancer virus," many people will immediately see that an accept it without much criticism.

Of course, this leads to a second problem. To refute this claim takes a lot more than 140 characters. The refutation is often complex, nuanced and highly scientific, and may take 2000 words or more to blast the claim into orbit. It's highly emotional to claim a vaccine can cause cancer. On the other hand, to say it is not isn't emotional–it's coldly logical. And takes a lot of words.

And the third problem is that is that social media fallacies have multiple lives, so when someone reads one of these memes a year from now, they think "yeah, this is great information", and pass it along as if it's the Truth. Killing zombie memes are just as difficult as killing zombies in real life, or at least, on a TV show. Debunking these zombie memes is a full-time job. And, once it's been debunked, we move back to the first problem again, again, and again.

Thus, the best we skeptics can do is keep discrediting these social media fables and tall tales, and move along to refuting the next one in line. I wrote about this topic over a year ago, but now I have to refresh it, just to make sure someone who Googles "polio vaccine cancer" has my article near the top of their list of Google hits.

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Reposted from SkepticalRaptor by Wee Mama
As I've written a few hundred times before, there's really no such thing as a "debate" in science, at least in the sense that two sides argue in front of the public, and then there is vote on who is "right" or "wrong." All that matters in science is the quantity and quality of evidence, that's it. Yes, sometimes scientists do argue about evidence, but that's usually done in peer reviewed articles, notes, and other forms of communication. It is mostly civil. And eventually, the evidence drives to a consensus.

Only to the public is there a delusion that there are debates on science. You might think there are debates about anthropogenic global warming, evolution, vaccines, HIV/AIDS, and GMO/biotechnology, but there really isn't. Scientists aren't sitting in bars across the world throwing bottles of beer at each other because everyone is divided between pro and anti-GMO. Because that's just plainly not happening.

When I read that 97% of climate scientists support the fact of global warming or that 99.4% of natural scientists agree with the fact of evolution, it implies that there's some sort of vote. But if there were, it would be, what we call in US elections, a landslide. But in reality, scientists come to a consensus about broad principles over time, and that is based on published evidence, not logical fallacies or bad data.

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Reposted from SkepticalRaptor by Wee Mama
Let's make something clear right here, at the beginning of the article–there is a vast amount of legitimate scientific literature that describes evidence that GMO crops are safe to both human health and the environment.

In the world of scientific research, the absolute highest quality evidence are meta reviews, which are methods to contrast and combine results from a wide swath of peer-reviewed studies which may be useful in identifying patterns, sources of disagreement and other relationships. Since meta reviews combine the results from a larger number of studies, they can be more statistically significant.

Last year, a team of Italian researchers published one such meta review of GMO studies in a peer-reviewed, high impact factor journal, Critical Review of Biotechnology (pdf). The authors collected and evaluated 1,783 research papers, reviews, relevant opinions, and reports published between 2002 and 2012, a comprehensive process that took over 12 months to complete. The review covered all aspects of GM crop safety, from how the crops interact with the environment to how they could potentially affect the humans and animals who consume them. Their conclusion, even in science-speak, could not be clearer:

The scientific research conducted so far has not detected any significant hazards directly connected with the use of GE crops.
The EU, which has shown some resistance to GMO crops, has spent over €300 million on GMO research over the last 20 years. Their 2010 report on GMO, which summarized the previous decade of research (pdf), concluded that:
It follows up previous publications on EU-funded research on GMO safety. Over the last 25 years, more than 500 independent research groups have been involved in such research.

According to the projects’ results, there is, as of today, no scientific evidence associating GMOs with higher risks for the environment or for food and feed safety than conventional plants and organisms.

Remember, scientific consensus is not based on debate or arguing. Yes, the lone voice pushing new ideas or fighting a dogma should be given a pulpit to share their evidence. And that's the key point, evidence matters, dramatic beliefs do not. If someone is going to state that GMO's are unsafe, then they need to bring evidence, published in real journals, that carry the same weight as the thousands of articles that say "GMO's are safe." Just like the climate change deniers, who claim there's a scientific debate, but have never brought the quality and quantity of evidence of the climate change supporters, the anti-GMO crowd uses the same exact tactics–screaming and yelling about the dangers of GMOs using very bad science.

And right now, the scientific consensus regarding GMO's is solid–they are safe.

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Thu Aug 28, 2014 at 02:26 PM PDT

Americans Distrust Science . . .

by Lenny Flank

Reposted from SciTech by Wee Mama

And so do far too many Kossacks.

A friend of mine sent me this--I thought I'd pass it on. It concerns the bizarre idea that science is an ideological plot, and why so many Americans swallow that silly idea.

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Reposted from SkepticalRaptor by Wee Mama
Oh no, here we go again. The antivaccination cult, lacking any real evidence, grabs onto the flimsiest of stories, disregarding the foul and corrupt individuals promoting the story–using it all to scream "GOTCHA" to anyone involved with vaccines. Last year, it was laughably jumping on some comments of Dr. Diane Harper, who was promoted by the antivaccination crowd as the "lead researcher" for Gardasil, that appeared to say that Gardasil was useless.

Or promoting an "Italian court" that decided that MMR caused autism, relying upon the discredited and retracted study by one of the greatest scientific criminals of the past 100 yearsMrAndy Wakefield, who fraudulently alleged a connection between the MMR vaccine and autism.

Or furthering the story of a French businessman, who claimed to have intimate knowledge of Merck's data about Gardasil–all of it negative. Except he never worked in Merck's R&D department, and was made redundant when his company was acquired by Merck.

The Church of Antivaccines, whose god, Mr. Andy Wakefield, should be held criminally responsible for deaths of children who never got the MMR vaccine, are so bereft of any real evidence to support their beliefs, they will either invent, misrepresent, or manipulate any story that even tenuously supports their dogma that vaccines are dangerous.

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Reposted from Climate Hawks by Wee Mama

A new paper in Nature Geoscience looks at the potential causes of the recent slowdown in global mean surface warming and identifies factors that, when combined, reconcile the long-term climate model projections with the observed short-term weather trends.

The El Niño/Southern Oscillation is responsible for a cooling trend of about –0.06°C, while aerosols and reduced solar irradiance cause a slightly bigger drop of –0.07°C. What this means, the abstract concludes, is that "there is little evidence for a systematic overestimation of the temperature response to increasing atmospheric CO2 concentrations in the CMIP5 ensemble."

In other words, once you account for observed natural variability, climate models are doing just fine.

Discuss
Reposted from SkepticalRaptor by kalmoth Editor's Note: Lots of quotable material. Bookmark it :) -- kalmoth
I know I shouldn't use the conspiracy theory fallacy when talking about the pseudoscience-pushing science deniers, who are the bread and butter of topics for skeptics. But, when I keep observing the same ridiculous and insanely illogical arguments used in the same manner by all of the deniers, I begin to wonder if they don't get together annually at the International Society of Pseudoscience meeting, usually held in Sedona, Arizona, ground zero of woo. They obviously share their stories, because we hear the same regurgitated stories in different contexts.

The antivaccinationists, creationists, anthropogenic global warming deniers, and whomever else pretends to use science to actually deny science frequently focus on a trope that "science makes mistakes." And then they produce a list of historical events that "prove" that science is wrong. Of course, this indicates more of a misunderstanding of what is science and the history of science than it is a condemnation of science. But your typical science denier is probably not going to let facts get in the way of maintaining faith in their beliefs. So let's deconstruct and discredit these "science makes mistakes" tropes.

By the way, in my story, I admit that "science makes mistakes," so read on.

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Fri Aug 01, 2014 at 07:36 PM PDT

Monsanto's Minions

by mem from somerville

Reposted from mem from somerville by palantir

Well, the newest minion into the hall of fame is none other than Neil deGrasse Tyson! That's right, despite having no relationship with Big Ag, Monsanto, or a job associated with them in any way--Neil is being called an ignorant shill all over the place. Let's take a look at some of the examples:

At SFgate, in response to: Neil deGrasse Tyson tells GMO-haters to ‘chill out’, we have the erudite "eru" with this claim:
 photo Neil_shill_zps6aec414c.jpg

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