A study published in the August issue of the journal Pediactrics shows that kids exposed in the womb to heavy doses of common combustion pollutants—car and truck exhaust, industrial boiler and coal-fired power plants emissions, cigarettes—showed an average 5 point loss in IQ by kindergarten age. The study followed 400 pregnant women from inner-city neighborhoods in New York City between 1998 and 2003. A five-point drop in IQ is in the range of what might triggered by exposure to high levels of lead or by fetal alcohol syndrome.
“For any individual child, unless it’s your own, you might consider a five-point drop in IQ as no big deal,” notes Dr. Bruce Lanphear, a pediatric epidemiologist at Simon Fraser University. Extrapolated across the entire US population, however, a five-point downward shift in IQ would increase the number of mentally retarded children by 3.5 million.
Source: Science News
Former House Majority Leader Dick Armey appeared at a Republican bicameral hearing on climate change on July 30. At the hearing, the former Texas congressman decried “eco-hysteria” and wondered whether America wasn’t becoming a nation of “environmental hypochondriacs.” “If the Lord God Almighty made the heavens and the earth,” said Armey, “and he made them to his satisfaction, it is quite pretentious of we little weaklings here on earth to think that we are going to destroy God’s creation.”
A Canadian high school student won first prize in Canada-Wide Science Fair in Ottawa for an idea that will help plastic shopping bags degrade in three month’s time. (The 500 billion bags we currently landfill each year take 1,000 years to decompose.) Sixteen-year-old Daniel Burd of Waterloo, Canada, isolated microorganisms that can break down plastic in 90 days. Reproducing Burd’s experiment on a large, industrial shouldn’t be too difficult. The inputs are cheap, maintaining the required temperature takes little energy because microbes produce heat as they work, and the only outputs are water and tiny levels of carbon dioxide—each microbe produces only 0.01 per cent of its own infinitesimal weight in carbon dioxide, according to Burd.
Source: Waterloo Record (Canada)
Deutsche Bank released a report on August 5 predicting that the percentage of US homeowners who owe more than their house is worth will nearly double to 48 percent in 2011. (As of March of this year, 26 percent of homeowners had “negative equity.”) Deutsche Bank ‘s gloomy assessment comes after three years of falling prices in the housing market. The drop in home prices is fueling a vicious cycle of foreclosures as it eliminates homeowner equity and gives borrowers an incentive to walk away from their mortgages. Regions suffering most from equity reversals are areas in California, Florida, Arizona, Nevada, Ohio, Michigan, Illinois, Wisconsin, Massachusetts and West Virginia. Las Vegas and parts of Florida and California will see 90 percent or more of their loans underwater by 2011.
In the Hudson Valley, prices of existing homes fell regionwide in July, with the exception of Columbia County, where they rose by just under two percent.
Source: Reuters, Mid-Hudson News.com
Between 1998 and 2005, 26 scientific papers emphasizing the benefits and de-emphasizing the risks of hormone replacement therapy for women were published in 18 medical journals. Newly unveiled court documents reveal that ghostwriters, paid by Wyeth, a pharmaceutical company that marketed hormone drugs Premarin and Prempro (with sales of $2 billion in 2001 alone), prepared the articles, which were then rubber stamped by doctors, who were cited as lead authors. Wyeth faces over 8,000 lawsuits from women who claim that the company’s hormone drugs caused them to develop illnesses.
Source: New York Times
A long-secret 2004 internal report by the CIA’s inspector general released on Monday documenting techniques used by the agency during interrogation of terrorism detainees was released in late August. The report’s catalog of abuses has prompted Attorney General Eric Holder to appoint a criminal prosecutor to investigate cases in which the CIA strayed beyond its authorities. The report describes an instance in which the CIA fired a gun in a room adjoining a detainee in an effort to convince the prisoner that another terrorism suspect had been executed. The report raised concerns about the frequency with which certain prisoners were being waterboarded. Segments of the report indicate that two senior Al Qaeda prisoners, Khalid Shaikh Mohammed and Abu Zubaydah, were waterboarded a total of 266 times, far more than had been envisioned in Justice Department memos that gave the CIA permission to use the method.
Source: Los Angeles Times
The estimated 1.5 billion expected to be added to Asia’s population by 2050 will double the continent’s demand for food, and unless a massive infusion of capital is made to the food infrastructure, starvation and social unrest on an unprecedented scale could occur, according to a report from the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization. The report urges countries to repair and modernize irrigation systems, as better management of existing water supplies is the only real option to deal with increased demand. The UN expects the world to have an extra 2.5 billion mouths to feed within 40 years, most of them in developing countries. Precious little land still available
Source: Guardian (UK)
According to a Centers for Disease Control report released in late August, life expectancy hit an all-time high in the United States. The most recent data, from 2007, shows women living until 80.4 years and men living 75.3 years. (The gender gap has narrowed from a peak of 7.8 years in 1979.)
Thirty other countries have higher estimated life spans; Japan leads the field with a life expectancy of 83 years for children born in 2007. The report also noted that black males had reached a life expectancy of 70 years for the first time.
Source: Associated Press