Monday, June 26, 2017

What is in the bill?

Changing the quality of science at the EPA

For many, many years the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has relied on its Board of Scientific Counselors (BOSC) to review and advise EPA’s internal research departments on their scientific methodology. There were thirty-eight members of  BOSC when Trump was sworn in. Soon, there will be eleven. They will be replaced with more scientists from regulated industries. Since the new administration seems to take a very long time filling positions, the BOSC will likely be unable to function for quite a while.

The former BOSC Chairperson Deb Swackhamer notes "Science is the bedrock of EPA policy, and external independent advice by BOSC to guide and continually improve the research at EPA is critical to its mission. I am concerned that this will also impact the competitiveness of EPA science and the high regard it has in the world."

Thinking Time

Thursday, June 22, 2017

How to make $81,000,000

Forest or Desert

Afghanistan is not exactly a forest dreamland. Only 2.1 percent of the country’s total land area is covered with forest, the rest is mainly desert. Yet, we spent $94,000,000 to buy “woodland pattern” uniforms for the Afghan National Army. We could have supplied regular uniforms for free, but the Afghan defense minister liked the pattern. The fellow, Dr. Tim O'Neill, who created the camouflage pattern which served as the basis for the Army Combat Uniform, says, "DESERT DESIGNS DON’T WORK WELL IN WOODLAND AREAS AND WOODLAND PATTERNS PERFORM POORLY IN THE DESERT." Changing the uniforms used by Afghan troops “could save U.S. taxpayers between $68.61 million and $72.21 million over the next 10 years,” the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan says.

While there is not much news about Afghanistan, we are spending $3.1 billion a month there. Firther, we have committed $66 billion to equipping and supporting Afghan security forces, supplying them with fuel, ammunition and weapons to fight Taliban insurgents. 

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Spelling the correct word

Today is the day of the summer solstice. And this sundial located in Southern France tells us so. It will also tell us the days of the winter solstice and the equinoxes.

Thanks to a Duncaster scientist.

Social Progress Index

The following is taken from the site of the Social Progress Initiative:
We created the Social Progress Index to broaden how country success is measured, beyond economic indicators like GDP per capita. Social progress is about meeting everyone’s basic needs for food, clean water, shelter, and security. It is about living healthy, long lives, and protecting the environment. It is about education, freedom, and opportunity.
I've tried to find out who "We" is but the site is not the clearest in the world when it comes to saying who they are unless one is willing to spend a lot of time on the issue. The site lists a number of foundations that fund it and thanks a raft of people. Yet, it's hard to judge the accuracy of its work. 

The index is based on three major areas: 
1. Basic Human Needs, which are defined as Nutrition and Basic Medical Care, Water and Sanitation, Shelter Personal Safety.
2. Foundations of Wellbeing,  which are defined as Access to Basic Knowledge, Access to Information and Communications, Health and Wellness, Environmental Quality
3. Opportunity, which is defined as Personal Rights, Personal Freedom and Choice, Tolerance and Inclusion, Access to Advanced Education.

The report covers 128 countries.  We did not do very well; we ranked 18.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Combine Aleve and Nexium and you get Vimovo

Horizon Pharma, an Irish drug company, bought Vimovo from Astra Zeneca in 2013. They have done well with it, sales have exceeded $450 million. It sounds bizarre ,since Vivomo consists of two drugs that comprise the over-the-counter medicines, Aleve and Nexium. The Aleve handles your pain, and the Nexium helps with the upset stomach that’s sometimes caused by the pain reliever. The basic pitch is that it’s easier to take one pill than two.

The cost of a month's supply of Aleve and Nexium is about $40. For Vimovo, it's $3,252. Since Horizon has done so well with Vimovo , it has introduced  Duexis, a similar convenience drug that combines ibuprofen and famotidine, aka Advil and Pepsid.

25 kids die from bullet wounds in a typical week in America

That's what some researchers concluded after analyzing data gathered by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and by the National Electronic Injury Surveillance System. Gunshots are the second leading cause of injury-related death in children, exceeded only by car accidents. Also, they found that there were 5,790 nonfatal injuries a year from gunshots, most due to assault. Most children who died of unintentional gun injuries were shot by another child of about the same age, most often while playing with a gun or showing it to others. 

We're getting fatter

The New England Journal of Medicine has just published the results of an extensive study of obesity in the world. The study is the largest systematic analysis of obesity data ever done, with researchers combing the medical literature and crunching thousands of data sets on obesity in adults and children covering 195 countries.  What did they find?

More than 10 percent of the world's population — 107.7 million children and 603.7 adults — is now obese. This obesity contributed to 4 million deaths globally — or 7 percent of the deaths from any cause — in 2015. Most of those deaths were caused by cardiovascular disease, with diabetes following closely behind, along with kidney disease and cancers. 4 million is a big number. It is higher than the deaths caused by traffic accidents, Alzheimer’s, or other deadly issues that get a lot of airtime, like terrorism, combined.

Much of the blame for this rise is based on cheap fast food, such as that found at places like McDonalds where the food is cheap, calorie-dense and the drinks lacking in nutrients. And we're also simply eating more calories per person: Portion sizes have gone up, and eating outside of the home often means heavier, unhealthier foods, and sugary drinks to wash them down.

Of the 20 largest countries in the world, the US had the worst rate of childhood obesity, with 13 percent of children now obese. Egypt had the highest adult obesity prevalence, where 35 percent of adults are now obese.

Monday, June 19, 2017

Some sobering data

From Save The Children 


263 MILLION children are out of school.

168 MILLION children are involved in child labor. Half (85 million) are doing hazardous work.

NEARLY 28 MILLION children have been forced to flee their homes (11 million are refugees and asylum-seekers; 17 million are internally displaced).

AROUND 8 MILLION boys and girls aged 0-19 die each year; 75% (6 million) are children under age 5.

ROUGHLY 16 MILLION girls between the ages of 15 and 19 – and 1 million girls under age 15 – give birth each year. 75,000+ boys and girls under the age of 20 were murdered in 2015.

156 MILLION children under age 5 have stunted growth.

ABOUT 40 MILLION girls (aged 15-19) are currently married or in union. 15 million are married as children each year (under age 18) and 4 million of those are married under age 15.