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الجمعة، 31 يوليو، 2015

California drought could doom endangered fish caught in the center of state's water battles

California's historic drought could wipe out a tiny, endangered fish that's played an outsized role in the state's water wars.
The delta smelt lives in the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta, the West Coast's largest estuary that supplies water to Central Valley farms and millions of Southern California residents.
The silvery, finger-sized fish has been in trouble for years, but the four-year drought is helping to push the smelt to the brink of extinction. And it threatens several other native fish species, including the longfin smelt, green sturgeon and winter-run Chinook salmon.
In July, a key index of delta smelt abundance hit zero for the first time since the survey began in 1959. Researchers found a handful of smelt, but the number was too small to register on the population gauge.
"The delta smelt is basically on its last legs right now. We'll be lucky if it survives the coming year," said Peter Moyle, a fish biologist at the University of California, Davis who has been studying the fish for four decades.
On a recent fish survey, Moyle and three other researchers trawled the turbid waters of the sprawling estuary that once teemed with the delta smelt.
They pulled a net out of the water and emptied dozens of fish into a plastic bin on their research boat. They logged and tossed back 13 species, including carp, crappie, catfish and striped bass — but no delta smelt.
Delta smelt populations have been declining for decades due to invasive predators, pollution, habitat loss and increased water exports to farms and cities. The drought has worsened conditions by reducing freshwater flows and raising water temperatures.
"The drought has basically made all the things that were bad for smelt worse," Moyle said.
The delta smelt has been at the center of vicious water fights between farmers, fishermen, cities and environmentalists ever since it was listed as a threatened species under the U.S. Endangered Species Act in 1993. It was listed as an endangered under state law in 2010.
The government regularly cuts water exports from the delta to protect the smelt and other threatened fish from being sucked into the giant pumps that send water south.
Scientists and environmentalists say the sensitive fish needs protection because it's a key indicator of the delta's health, but farmers say too much precious water has been wasted on the fish — water that could be used to grow crops and fill reservoirs.
Stanislaus County almond grower Jim Jasper, who relies on delta water to irrigate his orchards, was a part of a lawsuit that challenged the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service over delta smelt protections. The U.S. Supreme Court rejected their appeal earlier this year, leaving the water restrictions in place.
Last year, Jasper pulled out 400 acres of almond trees — about one-fifth of his orchards — because he couldn't get enough water to irrigate them, reducing his almond production and forcing him to cut employee work hours.
Standing next to the irrigation canal that delivers water from the delta, Jasper said endangered species protections have worsened the agricultural impacts of the drought.
"The delta smelt continues to wrack a lot of havoc on today's farming community," said Jasper, who runs Steward & Jasper Orchards, the Newman, California-based almond company his father co-founded in 1948. "If it became extinct would anybody's lives change? I really don't think so."
The UC Davis Fish Conservation and Culture Laboratory in Byron may be the last place where you can still find large numbers of delta smelt.
The hatchery was recently awarded a $10 million federal grant to continue its work breeding the smelt in captivity for scientific research and to ensure its survival if the species vanishes from the wild.
"One of our most important projects is to maintain a refuge population of this species," said Tien-Chieh Hung, the lab's director. "We may be the place that holds the most delta smelt in the world."
While the lab could eventually release its carefully bred smelt into the delta, there's no guarantee they could survive in the wild and there would be no point if their native habitat can no longer support them.
That's why researchers say it's better to protect the smelt now before they disappear from the delta.
"If you're saving the smelt," Moyle said, "you're saving the habitat for other species in the delta as well."

الخميس، 30 يوليو، 2015

Death toll from Legionnaires’ disease up to 12, NYC Mayor says


The reported number of deaths from the largest outbreak of Legionnaires’ disease in New York City has increased from 10 to 12, NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio said during a press conference Monday. The total number of Legionnaires’ cases is now 113, up from 101 on Friday. Of those patients who have been hospitalized, 76 had been discharged as of Monday afternoon, de Blasio said.
De Blasio confirmed that the bacteria had also been found in an additional two cooling towers in the neighborhood, and officials said a total of 12 of 39 cooling towers in the South Bronx had been impacted. Those cooling towers, which are used to cool down large air conditioning units, have been disinfected or would be by the end of the day Monday, the mayor said. 
City officials confirmed Friday that five Bronx buildings tested positive for the bacteria, and on Saturday that an additional five also tested positive, including two courthouses, a post office and a high school. Those buildings have already had their cooling towers cleaned and do not appear to pose any danger to locals, health officials said.
“We are still several days away from getting final results of those tests that will allow us to make firmer conclusions, but everything that we know today points to one or more of those five original sites as the problem location,” de Blasio said Monday.
Following an order Thursday from the NYC Health Commissioner that building owners with cooling towers disinfect their towers, the city began collaborating with the state and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to deploy teams for testing.
De Blasio said there is no evidence that there have been new Legionnaires’ cases since Aug. 3 and that the new cases could be attributed to a lag time in reporting. The number of new daily cases peaked July 30.
“We have encouraging news that this outbreak has slowed,” city health commissioner Dr. Mary Bassett said during the press conference.
Legionnaires’ disease is a respiratory disease that causes pneumonia-like symptoms, and isn’t transmitted from person to person but rather by contact with the bacterium Legionella. The bacteria can thrive in warm water and become especially dangerous when the water is turned into a mist that can be inhaled. Medical investigators have linked past outbreaks to public fountains, air conditioning systems, spas, showers and even the misters than keep fruit moist in supermarkets.
The elderly, the young and individuals with underlying health issues are most at risk. Officials aren’t sure what started the current outbreak, which began last month.
The CDC estimates that between 8,000 and 18,000 people in the United States are hospitalized with Legionnaires' disease every year, but the actual number may be higher due to underreporting. More illnesses usually occur in the summer and early fall.
“It is vital to remember that because this is not a contagious disease and because it is a disease that can be treated with antibiotics, it is still crucially important to inform anyone in the affected area who believes they have the symptoms that they must get care immediately,” de Blasio said.

الأربعاء، 29 يوليو، 2015

‘Pac-Man’ bacteria eats nicotine before it reaches the brain, study finds


Between 80 and 90 of smokers try smoking cessation aids without success, but now researchers have discovered a promising solution: a bacterial enzyme that destroys nicotine in the body before it reaches the brain.
"The bacterium is like a little Pac-Man," researcher Kim Janda, a professor of chemistry and member of the Skaggs Institute for Chemical Biology at The Scripps Research Institute, said in a news release. "It goes along and eats nicotine."
By seeking out and stopping nicotine from reaching the brain, the bacterium, which would be used in a drug and prescribed as a stop-smoking tool, deprives the person the “reward” of nicotine.
The Scripps Research Institute’s research is in the early phase of the drug development process, but the team believes the bacterial enzyme can be a successful therapeutic that would help prevent relapse.
For their study, scientists combined serum, a component of blood, from mice with a one-cigarette dose of nicotine. When they added the enzyme, the amount of nicotine in the serum dropped by half in nine to 15 minutes. The typical nicotine half-life is two to three hours.
Researchers also found that the enzyme stays stable in lab conditions and does not create toxic metabolites when it degrades nicotine, making it a good candidate as a drug, according to the news release.
The team is now working on altering the enzyme’s bacterial makeup to help mitigate potential immune liabilities and maximize its therapeutic potential.
"Hopefully we can improve its serum stability with our future studies so that a single injection may last up to a month," first study author Song Xue said in the news release.

الثلاثاء، 28 يوليو، 2015

The surprising way taking a vacation improved my health


I just returned from a week away with my sister Laura. As I’ve said before, there is nothing like a sister.  
Crazy things happen when we're together. Sometimes I feel we are in an episode of “I Love Lucy” because we laugh until we cry.
I don't know how many times I have said laughter is healing. I have a bit of proof from my sister-vacation. The day after I got home, I had an appointment for my CT SCAN. As I have shared with you before, I have had high blood pressure since about the age of 42, which is the same age both of my parents began taking medication for high blood pressure. (What a lovely thing to inherit.)
With medication, I can only get my blood pressure down to 135/93, which is still considered high. When the doctor took my blood pressure this time, it was 120/60. This is considered the very best number! We thought the machine had malfunctioned, so we took it again. The doctor and I looked at each other in silence, astounded.
"The vacation?" he said.
"Whoa," I said, "looks like I'd better get back on the road again. Willie Nelson, where are you, buddy?"
Just goes to show you what a little time away with someone you love can do for your health.
Accolades seem few and far between these days. But I recently received a letter from the Jonsson Cancer Center Foundation (JCCF) at the University of California, Los Angeles thanking me for my help funding research at the center. The kind folks at the JCCF credited my support with helping them earn their highest rating in top U.S. cancer centers named by the U.S. News & World Report’s latest rankings.
It feels good to be making a difference in the lives of women living with breast cancer, like myself, alone. But receiving a generous pat on the back for it makes those efforts all the more rewarding.

الاثنين، 27 يوليو، 2015

New jelly-bean-size 'masked' frog discovered in the Andes


A tiny new frog species discovered in the Peruvian Andes has a white-mottled belly and a dark face mask that makes it look like a bandit.
Noblella madreselva lives in the humid cloud forest near Cusco, Peru, probably only in the valleys right around where it was discovered, researchers report Aug. 6 in the journal ZooKeys. The frogs, which are not much bigger than jelly beans, can fit on the tip of a human finger. They're active during the day, and live in leaf litter on the forest floor.
Vanessa Uscapi, a biologist at the National University of Saint Anthony the Abbot in Cusco, Peru, discovered the new tiny frog in January 2011, but only now has it been officially described. She and her colleagues picked the name madreselva to honor conservation initiatives in the region: The word means "mother jungle" and is also the name of a nearby ecotourism lodge and a small valley where a group called Sircadia is trying to launch a sustainable eco-community. [In Photos: Teeny-Tiny Frogs Found in Brazil]
N. madreselva has a dark-brown body with a darker patch on its head. Its belly is decorated with striking white marks. It's not the only recently discovered tiny frog with bold coloration; in June, researchers in Brazil announced the discovery of seven itsy-bitsy new frogs from rainforests in Brazil. Those frogs, all of which belong to the genus Brachycephalus, came in colors ranging from greenish-brown to bright orange and blue.
The smallest frog ever discovered hails from Papua New Guinea, and could perch quite comfortably on a penny. Frogs, of the genus Paedophryne, are less than half an inch long. The smallest species in the genus, Paedophryne amauensis, grows to be just 0.3 inches, on average. It's not only the world's smallest frog, but also the smallest vertebrate discovered so far.
The newly discovered Peruvian frog likely has a very limited geographical range, making it vulnerable to the effects of deforestation and habitat loss, Uscapi and her colleagues said. Andean frogs are also at risk of a deadly chytrid funguscalled Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis. This fungus has devastated frog populations worldwide. It causes the amphibians' skin to harden, disrupting their electrolyte balance and causing cardiac arrest. A December 2013 study in the journal Conservation Biology found that climate change in the Andes is increasing the area in which this fungus can thrive. Alessandro Catenazzi, one of the researchers on the team that discovered the new frog along with Uscapi, was an author of that 2013 study as well.
The researchers found that highlands frogs in the Andes were vulnerable to the fungus, while lowlands frogs were likely to suffer not from the fungus, but from warming temperatures.
"The frogs in the highlands will not suffer from climate change anytime soon, but they're doomed because of the fungus, whereas the frogs in the lowlands are shielded from the fungus but they're going to be toasted because it's too hot," Catenazzi told Live Science at the time.

الأحد، 26 يوليو، 2015

Easy to swallow: The simple remedy that has replaced my blood pressure pills


It hasn't been easy, but I have stepped up my exercise and gone back to meditation and yoga: techniques I had done regularly in the past. 
I am a believer in the importance of sleep, yoga and meditation, but I can't remember how or when I got off track.
It's weird how these things happen to us yet we can't recall what triggered it. Forget the guilt, and slowly get yourself moving in the right direction.
I don't know the demographic of those who read this blog, but if you're over 60, you may think these techniques are a leftover from the 1960s, hippies and flower power. Not true!
Yoga, sleep, and meditation can have an impact on cancer. Did you know that yoga poses actually massage organs? I am concentrating on yoga poses that work on the liver.
I have hereditary high blood pressure. In May, they stopped making the medication I was taking. It was a drug that treated both high blood pressure and high cholesterol in one pill. Surprise, surprise: They decided to double their profits and sell each pill individually, and one of those was just dropped by my insurance plan! I had been wanting to get off this medication after reading articles indicating high blood pressure can be controlled with diet change. I decided not to take either of these drugs for a month and see what happened.
With medication, my blood pressure had been running about 135 over 93. The optimum number should be less than 120 over less than 80, according to the American Heart Association. If you hit 140 over 90, you have high blood pressure, or hypertension.
I took a meditation class, which just happened to be on a day when I had an appointment with my doctor. The nurse took my blood pressure, and it was 125 over 65. I asked her to retake it because I could not believe it was so close to normal. I had stopped the meds for about two weeks and had added one day of meditation. It still read 125 over 65! That blew my mind.
Meditation is now on my schedule full time, and we will see what happens at my next doctor's appointment. 
I read an interview with Pete Carroll, who is coach of the Seattle Seahawks. He has his team doing yoga and meditation, and monitors the amount of sleep his athletes get at night. He finds these therapies to be as important as their practice routines.
Apparently, several well-known athletes also do yoga, including Kevin Garnett of the Brooklyn Nets, Evan Longoria of the Tampa Bay Rays, and Tom Brady, of the New England Patriots.
I am feeling so much more energetic by adding these practices. I was spending too much time sitting and could feel my body losing muscle tone. It had become more difficult to pick up something from the floor, or to get up from the floor after stretching. I do believe this has had a positive effect on my general attitude. When you are tired and weak, you are not yourself. We should all force ourselves to walk to the corner every day. Even something this small can make a difference.

السبت، 25 يوليو، 2015

7 of the weirdest sculpture parks in the world


When most people think of sculptures, classics like Rodin’s The Thinker or Michelangelo’s David come to mind, not gigantic hands or underwater goddesses.
We’ve collected a list of parks across the globe that are home to some of the strangest, most off-the-wall sculptures you can imagine. From Man Throwing Babies to 1001 Nights built from thousands of tons of sand, these works of art will likely leave you scratching your head in wonder.
  • 1. All Hands on Deck

    Suncruise Resort
    At Sun Cruise Resort in South Korea, you can enjoy the feel of a cruise while staying safely on land. At the hotel, shaped like a full-size cruise ship perched on the edge of a cliff overlooking the ocean, you can find a variety of eccentricities-- not the least of which is the sculpture garden. Its centerpiece is a gigantic pair of hands called “The Hands of Blessing,” which open to the sea and are a perfect spot to catch the sun rise.  Also found in their sculpture garden is a collection of totem poles nestled among flowers and gardens. The resort is reportedly a popular place to propose.
  • 2. Under the Sea

    www.jasondecairestaylor.com
    In Mexico, dive into the waters around Cancun, Isla Mujeres and Punta Nizuc to discover an underwater museum of 450 permanent life-size sculptures by Jason deCaires Taylor. Named the Museo Subacuatico de Arte (MUSA), the underwater park provides a reef structure that encourages coral life, while also offering an attraction for snorkelers and divers, drawing them away from other natural reefs that are in recovery.  Mexico is not the only home to one of Taylor’s under-the-sea sculpture parks.  You can also find them below the sea in Grenada, in a river in Canterbury, England, and the Bahamas.
  • 3. A Desert Marvel

    The Sand Sculpture Company
    What can you do with 35,000 tons of sand, 70 sculptors and five soccer fields of space? Create the world’s largest sand sculpture, of course.  Opened from January to April 2014, the sands of time recently erased this marvel in Kuwait (all sand sculptures are temporary).  Yet, the park was a spectacle to behold.  Created by the Sand Sculpture Company and commissioned by the Proud to Be Kuwaiti organization, this sculpture pictured took nine weeks to build and featured a 10,000-ton central palace that was more than five stories high and which ranks as the tallest sand sculpture ever built. Look for more sand sculptures around the world this year at the Fulong Sand Sculpting Art Festival in Taiwan through June, the Fiesa International Sand Sculpture Festival in Portugal May through October, and Storyland at Frankston Waterfront in Australia in December.
  • 4. Art in the Park

    Visit Oslo
    Norway offers visitors the world’s largest sculpture park made by a single artist, and is one of the country’s most popular attractions. Vigeland Park in Oslo features more than 200 bronze and granite sculptures by artist Gustav Vigeland whose works evoke twisting, intertwining people in various poses. Although within a lovely park setting that’s a favorite with locals, the sculptures are off the wall with names like “Man Throwing Babies” and a somewhat erotic mixing of bodies. 
    Oslo is also home to a brand new sculpture park within Ekeberg public park, where Edvard Munch famously got his inspiration for his painting “The Scream.” The park is a mix of artists from classical masters, such as Rodin and Renoir, to more modern and contemporary artists-- all of whose works honor women.
  • 5. About Face

    Reuters
    Where can you see the world’s most famous (and infamous) people recreated in stone? At Great Stone Face Sculpture Park in South Korea.  About an hour or so by bus from Seoul, this park is full of sculptures (mostly just large faces) of everyone from Sharon Stone, Elvis, Fidel Castro and Abraham Lincoln to Jesus and Arnold Palmer. The founder has created a space that he says honors some of the most important political leaders, writers, scientists, philosophers, artists and more from 180 countries around the world. The park is divided into themed walks like Buddhism, Greek Gods, Musicians, Sports Stars and others. You can even catch a demonstration of how the “faces” are created.
  • 6. Heavy Metal

    Audrey Porter
    If you happen to be driving through South Dakota, you might notice some large sculptures out in the middle of the prairie. Located off I-90 in Montrose, S.D., Wayne Porter has created metal giants like a bronze horse and a bull head as part of his Porter Sculpture Park. Porter’s works are largely constructed out of junk metal with the largest coming in at 25 tons and six stories tall. Stop by anytime Memorial Day through Labor Day for a guided tour of his more than 50 towering works of
  • 7. Colombian National Pride

    Jaime Duque
    Parque Jaime Duque in Colombia is an eclectic tribute to God, as well as the country’s national symbols and icons of world culture. Named after a famous aviator, who helped open international air routes to Colombia, the park lets you wander among a recreation of the Taj Mahal, a replica of the archeological site of San Agustin, a giant map of Colombia, a museum of 700 life-size sculptures that tell the story of mankind’s history, the seven wonders of the ancient world, a medieval castle which recreates Dante’s Divine Comedy and other curiosities. For perhaps the best look at the various attractions, hop on the park’s train for panoramic view.

الجمعة، 24 يوليو، 2015

5 under the radar state parks

Exploring caves, hiking to waterfalls and climbing over rocks may sound like adventures in an Indiana Jones movie. But these are among the many exciting activities to do with kids in U.S. state parks. 
While national parks generally get more attention, state parks also offer a bounty of outdoor fun and are often more easily accessible. Pack hiking shoes, a camera and binoculars for real-life adventures at these hidden gems. Be sure to stop by the visitor center for maps and tips from rangers before venturing out.
  • 1. Henderson Beach State Park, Florida

    Flickr/Bill McElligott
    Hiking, swimming, fishing and camping are popular activities along this Gulf Coast shoreline in Destin, Florida. Take a walk on the wild side among pine trees and wildflowers or just kick back with a picnic and enjoy the park’s rolling coastal dunes, home to a thriving natural habitat. Family-friendly amenities include a playground and tidy outdoor showers.
  • 2. Ha Ha Tonka State Park, Missouri

    Flickr/Milanite
    Situated on the arm of Lake of the Ozarks, the 17,441-acre Ha Ha Tonka State Park is an explorer’s dream. The former stomping grounds of fur trapper Daniel Boone and his son Nathan, the park has more than 15 miles of trails leading to several caves, tunnels, natural bridges and sinkholes. A unique feature of this park is the stone ruins of a turn-of-the-20th-century castle built by a prominent Kansas City businessman high atop a bluff.
  • 3. Tumalo State Park, Oregon

    Flickr/Amy Meredith
    Located along the Deschutes River, the 330-acre Tumalo State Park is close to the town of Bend, Oregon, but feels worlds away. Hiking, fishing, camping and wildlife-viewing are among the many fun things to do with kids. On warm summer days, there’s nothing better than tubing in the cool river. Hiking trails fan out from the river through the canyons, offering opportunities to see deer and other wildlife. In winter, skiers and snowboarders have access to nearby Mt. Bachelor.
  • 4. Lucky Peak State Park, Idaho

    Flickr/TheBoisePics
    Round up the kids and family dogs for a fun-filled day on the sandy beaches of this laid-back state park, conveniently situated just eight miles southeast of Boise.
    Lucky Peak Dam’s sandy beaches are popular with swimmers while Discovery Park is ideal for fishing and romping with dogs in the Boise River. Find supplies, rentals and boat ramps with parking for trailers at the full-service Spring Shores Marina.
  • 5. Goose Island State Park, Texas

    Flickr/Angi English
    Visitors to this unique nature are in Rockport, Texas - will find a range of recreational activities -- except swimming. That’s because oyster shells, mud flats and marsh grass comprise the shoreline. However, families can still enjoy a plethora of activities, such as nature hikes, birding, fishing, boating and camping. 
    Ranger programs include interpretive talks and guided nature walks. In summer, kids can borrow a Junior Ranger Explorer Pack filled with binoculars, a magnifying glass, crayons and many other items to record what they see.

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