Public is asked to look out for these warning signs after the plague is found in the United States

Public is asked to look out for these warning signs after the plague is found in the United States

Navajo County in Arizona have issued a disturbing public health warning after fleas tested positive for the plague. The county made the warning in order to let residents know about the symptoms of bubonic plague, including buboes, fever and muscle pain.

Fleas collected in Coconino County, Arizona, also tested positive for Yersinia pestis, which causes the plague in humans. Navajo County asked people to take extra measures of precaution of they are in an area where the plague has been identified.

“Navajo County Health Department is urging the public to take precautions to reduce their risk of exposure to this serious disease,” they wrote on Facebook. “The disease can be transmitted to humans and other animals by the bite of an infected flea or by direct contact with an infected animal.”

They also issued advice for people who suspect they have already contracted it. Another indication of the plague could be incidents of sudden die-offs of rodents, rabbits or prairie dogs.

The plague is rare in America in recent times, and cases tend to be reported in the west of the country. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

If you have any of the following symptoms of the plague, you should contact your physician immediately:

  • fever
  • chills
  • headache
  • weakness
  • muscle pains
  • swollen lymph glands (called “buboes”) in the groin, armpits, or limbs.

Authorities from Navajo County have warned that the disease can spread throughout the bloodstream and infect the lungs if left untreated. However, it can be cured with antibiotics of treated early enough

The plague is rare in the United States, so if you contract it you should be okay if you treat it quickly. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 12 people died from the disease between 2000 and 2015 (out of 96 cases of the disease).

Navajo County officials suggested extra precautions if you live in or visit the area, such as not handling dead animals and keeping your pets from roaming loose.

They also suggested using insect repellent if you visit areas that have been known to have the plague. Also avoid exposure to rodents wherever possible.

White supremacists taking genetic tests are disturbed by the results

White supremacists taking genetic tests are disturbed by the results

It wasn’t long ago that white nationalism was a fringe political movement, Now, it’s gained new relevance.

With Twitter feeds on fire, tempers flaring and tiki torches being lit, we’re living in a time of “identity politics”. We’re also living in a time when it’s never been easier to get hold of a genetic ancestry test (GAT).

Aaron Panofsky and Joan Donovan are two sociologists from the University of California, Los Angeles. They have investigated the rise of white nationalists and their increasing use of these GATs with the aim of affirming their assumed ancestry and identity.

Unfortunately for them, white nationalists are often disappointed with their results.

Donovan and Panofsky shared their findings at the annual American Sociological Association in Montréal last week, which was fortunate timing given the events in Charlottesville the weekend before. Their paper was titled “When Genetics Challenges a Racist’s Identity: Genetic Ancestry Testing Among White Nationalists.”

For years they have been gathering data from Stormfront, a white nationalist and neo-Nazi online forum set up by a former KKK member. On this forum they observed over 600 people react to their GAT results.

Some people were pleasantly surprised with their results. For example, one posted:

“I was surprised there wasn’t more German. Evidently, the Y DNA said ‘Nordic’ and traces back to the Cimbri tribe, which settled in Denmark.”

Others weren’t so positive:

“See, THIS is why I don’t recommend these tests to people. Did they bother to tell you that there were Whites in what is now Senegal all that time ago? No? So they led you to believe that you’re mixed even though in all probability, you are simply related to some White fool who left some of his DNA with the locals in what is now Senegal.”

At times forum users hit out at each other when finding out their members were of “non-white ancestry”. After finding out that someone was 61 percent European, one poster responded:

“I’ve prepared you a drink. It’s 61 percent pure water. The rest is potassium cyanide… Cyanide isn’t water, and YOU are not White.”

Another common response was rejecting the legitimacy of the tests, suggesting they are a misleading Jewish multi-cultural conspiracy.

The researchers note that this response by white nationalists should not be blankly dismissed as sheer ignorance, even though their theories more often prove groundless, that they reflect more than a simple misunderstanding of the science, but a purposeful misuse of it.

“Most population geneticists would be appalled at the use of their variation-based research to build typological theories of human classification. But these scientists have produced tools open to such interpretations,” Panofsky says at the end of article.

“GAT rests on an infrastructure presumed to be good and evil in conventional ways: that is, good for citizens to learn about themselves, bad because of privacy threats and undisclosed, open-ended data mining. But what GAT also does is set up a whole new infrastructure for racists to endow their groundless theories with a high-tech scientific imprimatur and to convince each other of the myths that mobilize them as a social group in the first place.”

[H/T Stat]

Scientist exploits the secret of plants to protect crops against global warming

Scientist exploits the secret of plants to protect crops against global warming

Climate change is no longer a myth that policy makers can scoff about. No pretending that it doesn’t exist. No pretending that it isn’t already affecting mankind. Not in the face of unprecedented and dramatic weather extremes that people all over the world are living through right now: heat waves, floods, mudslides, droughts, wildfires, hurricanes and more.

These severe weather conditions will increasingly affect food security. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change estimates that the risk of hunger and malnutrition worldwide could increase by as much as 20 percent by 2050, with developing countries predicted to be especially vulnerable.

But mankind has genius on its side – people whose curiosity, observation and love for nature is insisting on finding solutions. One such person is microbiologist Rusty Rodriguez, CEO and founder of Symbiogenics. He gave a fascinating TEDxTalk on his work that promises to secure food production for generations to come (see below).

He believes we can protect crops against global warming by exploiting the secrets of plants that already thrive in the most punishing climates. To find out how plants survive in soil and moisture extremes he and geneticist Regina Redman collected 200 different samples of panic grass in Yellowstone National Park.

Rodriguez and his team studied the plants under microscopes and discovered that all the plants were colonized by the same fungus. The scientists then grew the plants and fungi separately to find out if there were an ecological significance to this association.

They made a significant discovery: when growing separately neither could survive temperatures above 100 degrees but when they grow together they can survive temperatures of 160 degrees and more.

“These plants were no more adapted to those stressors than your average garden plant, but they had adapted by forming symbiotic associations with the microscopic fungi that lived inside them,” says Rodriguez.

The researchers realized they were on to something. They sprayed different agricultural plants with fungi and subjected them to a range of stressed conditions in their lab and discovered that the fungi and the plants survived.

“Some fungi have the ability to form symbiotic associations with plants that are genetically distant from the species they were discovered in,” told his TEDxRainer audience.

This is the key point: fungi can form symbiotic relationships with a large range of different food crops humans need to survive.

“We looked at stress habitats ranging from coastal beaches to high up on Mount Everest. We found that none of the plant survived, except through symbiotic cooperation with microscope fungi that live inside the plants – they grow in between then plant cells.”

The amazing life-saving takeaway?

The scientist developed formulations of micro-organisms that can be sprayed onto the seeds of crop plants and the emergent plants are resistant to drought, temperature and salt stress.

This technology has been proven to increase crop yields and it has happened without requiring additional land, fertilizer, labor or most importantly, water.

“It’s a truly remarkable technology, and you know, it has been developed by nature for about 450 million years,” says Rodriguez.

This is a reminder from nature to all of us that extraordinary things can be achieved through cooperation concluded Rodriguez.

As humanity scrambles for ways to adapt, scientists are looking for ways to protect the future of food. Seattle-based microbiologist Rusty Rodriguez believes one possible solution might be to leverage an ancient cooperative relationship between fungi and plants.

A new discovery is challenging Einstein’s theory of relativity

A new discovery is challenging Einstein’s theory of relativity

Earlier this year, physicists celebrated the discovery of gravitational waves by the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO). These are ripples in spacetime curvature, and they were discovered at the site of a black hole merger, confirming part of Albert Einstein’s theory of general relativity.

However, it may be the case that this discovery suggests that the same theory breaks down at the edge of black holes.

Physicists who have studied in more depth LIGO’s data on the black hole merger claim that it reveals “echos” of gravitational waves which contradict what Einstein’s general theory of relativity say should appear.

It used to be that physicists thought Einstein’s theory broke down in extreme conditions like what we find at a black hole’s core. Now, they believe the recently discovered echos indicate that relativity fails around a black hole’s edges.

According to the standard model based on Einstein’s theory, there shouldn’t be anything at the edge of a black hole. This is in contrast with other theories such as quantum physics, which suggests the edge should have a ring of high-energy particles around it.

Cosmologist Niayesh Afshordi of the University of Waterloo in Candada created models of these black hole mergers, assuming they do have something at their edges. The model suggests that black holes do have some kind of structure and not a whole lot of nothingness as suggested by Einstein’s theory of relativity.

“The LIGO detections, and the prospect of many more, offer an exciting opportunity to investigate a new physical regime,” said black-hole researcher Steve Giddings from the University of California, Santa Barbara (UCSB).

It’s no surprise that we’re finding evidence that confirms one theory and then breaks it the next.

A company is implanting microchips in its employees says it’s no big deal

A company is implanting microchips in its employees says it’s no big deal

It starts innocuously enough.

An implanted chip to buy snacks.

No GPS capability, the company assures us.

No big deal.

Nonetheless, employees around the world are walking around with implanted microchips, offered to them by their employers.

The latest is Three Square Market (32M) based in River Falls, Wisconsin. 32M claims to be the first company in the U.S. to implant employees with an RFID chip. They’ve done this so they can shop at the company’s micro market during break without having to use cash or credit cards. The implants will also allow employees to open doors, login to computers and use the copy machine without the need for passwords.

The company provides self-service “micro markets” – a sophisticated version of a vending machine where employees can buy food and beverages during their break – to businesses around the world.

RFID technology or Radio-Frequency Identification uses electromagnetic fields to identify electronically stored information – it’s also used to track packages in transit. The chip implant uses near-field communications (NFC), the same technology that allows you to pay with your phone by holding it up to a device.

A chip, about the size of a grain of rice, is implanted between the thumb and forefinger underneath the skin at the company’s cost.

Todd Westby, 32M CEO, noted in a press release that the technology will eventually become standardized allowing it to be used in place of a passport, for public transit and shopping.

“We foresee the use of RFID technology to drive everything from making purchases in our office break room market, opening doors, use of copy machines, logging into our office computers, unlocking phones, sharing business cards, storing medical/health information, and used as payment at other RFID terminals,” Westby noted.

32M is partnering with BioHax International and Jowan Osterland, CEO, based out of Sweden. The company decided to chip their employees when they saw the concept in operation in Sweden.

32M is not the only company to tag employees.

In April this year LA Times reported that the Swedish startup hub Epicenter offered to implant workers and start-up members with microchips that function as swipe cards to open doors, operate printer or buy snacks.  Mail Online reported in February that the Belgium digital marketing and tech firm NewFusion, was going to implant identity chips in employees. The chips contain personal information and provide access to the company’s IT systems and headquarters, replacing existing ID cards.

So, being tagged is on the cards so to speak. In the case or 32M the company gives the insurance that employees won’t be tracked, but what about the future, and this practice becomes so common that we don’t even question it anymore? What say will people have on what those innocuous chips are imbedded with?

For now the procedure is quick and free and convenient if it’s too much trouble to remember to take a key, a credit card or a smartphone with you.

For now.

3 modern day health fads that are actually bad for you

3 modern day health fads that are actually bad for you

Why is it so damn hard to lose weight? Seriously? There seems to be a million wants to lose weight, but do any of them actually work?

I mean, isn’t the entire diet industry built on your failure so you will continue to buy their products, drink their shakes, eat their bars, and give them money?

Think about it, the diet industry succeeds where you fail, so why would they give you diet solutions that actually work? You won’t need them if you lose weight successfully. 

That’s why it’s also so hard for people who do lose weight to keep it off. There is an entire industry out there betting against your success. If you manage to lose the weight and keep it off, you must be some kind of superhero because the truth is that diets are designed to fail.

Juicing

Sure, it sounds great: grind up your fruits and vegetables to help you digest your nutrients faster and easier than ever before.

But there is a growing body of evidence and naysayers that say juicing isn’t as healthy as it appears to be. Because people are consuming large amounts of pureed or “juiced” fruits and vegetables, they are forgetting that they are still consuming calories, and they don’t change enough of their lifestyle to actually see results overall.

If you drink a large glass of juiced fruit and vegetables for lunch, you might be tempted to eat a sandwich or grab a high calorie protein bar thinking that you still have many calories left for the day.

What researchers are finding is that if you consume large amounts of fruit in juiced form, you are ingesting a great deal of sugar, which your body processes and then can’t use, and then it turns to fat. Couple that with the added calories, sugar, fat, and sodium of including a meal with your juiced lunch and suddenly you are consuming more calories that you realize.

Fasting and Detoxing

Come on, people. You need food to live. Your brain needs carbohydrates to function. Fasting has been popular for a while and there is mounting evidence that it is a dangerous practice.

When you stop eating for fear of gaining weight, you have effectively given yourself an eating disorder. Sure, overeating is also a form of eating disorder, but at least when you are overeating your brain is getting the vitamins and minerals it needs to function.

Your body isn’t starving itself trying to function. Detoxing is a slippery slope as well because it usually means limiting your food intake drastically, but replacing the food you would eat with “good for you” shakes, drinks, pills, and other forms of weight loss products that clean out your gut. Sounds delightful.

People swear by it, but in a world where we have access to so much healthy food, we shouldn’t punish our bodies for our bad choices. Giving your body good, clean food can do more for it than starving ever could.

“Healthy Fats” are Good Fats

There is a growing group of believers that oil and healthy fats can be consumed without consideration. As with anything, moderation is key, but because oils like coconut oil and olive oil have increased in popularity in recent years, people are consuming more saturated fats than they realize.

This study took a shot at the supposed health benefits of coconut oil. They say that the oil has more saturated fat than even butter or lard, but its popularity has surged in recent years due to many reports of health benefits.

It said the “current claims of documented health benefits of the tropical oils are unsubstantiated…and use of these oils should be discouraged.”

People think the counterbalance of the healthy effects outweigh the damage being done by saturated fats.

But think about this for a minute: if a coconut oil manufacturer pays for advertising that says coconut oil is good for you, then you open a magazine and see a full page ad for coconut oil, and then your diet coach tells you to eat a few spoonfuls of oil per day, WHAMO! Suddenly people think it’s okay to eat this stuff by the handfuls.

So whether you are trying to lose 5 pounds or 50 pounds, make sure you do your homework about the options that are out there for you. Start slowly and make little changes that you can see yourself continuing for the rest of your life. Focus on changing your entire lifestyle and not just the food you eat, and you’ll be more likely to experience long term success.