Sunday, June 15, 2008
SOME male birds possess a wiggling tongue-like knob on their genitals, probably to titillate their mates.
In typical bird copulation, males and females momentarily press together their cloacas - genital openings - in what biologists call a cloacal kiss. A muscled tongue-like projection called a cloacal tip, spotted for the first time in males of several species of Australian wrens, means this might be more like a French kiss.
Melissah Rowe of the University of Chicago and colleagues studied eight species of wrens. Based on the alignment of the muscles, the cloacal tips seem able to wiggle from side to side. Though Rowe hasn't seen a tip in action, she says it would be odd to find a structure made of muscle that didn't move (Journal of Avian Biology, DOI: 10.1111/j.2008.0908-8857.04305.x).
The team also found that the tips were proportionally larger in wren species where females mate with many partners, suggesting that its function might be to stimulate females and encourage them to take up and retain the males' sperm, says Rowe.
Judge Alex Kozinski's statements about the stash of sexually explicit images he collected and that the public (until this week) could view on his website have been varied, although not necessarily inconsistent: He thought the site was for private storage and offered no public access (although he shared some of the material on the site with friends). People have been sending him this stuff for years (implying that it just accumulates, like junk mail). He might accidentally have uploaded the photos and videos when intending to upload something else. His son did it.
There's a different statement we'd like to hear from him, and no, it's not an apology, an expression of regret or even an explanation. It's this: "So what?"
Not everyone may like it, but pornography is freely available on the Internet, whether it be from a commercial site dedicated to adults-only material or from the personal site of the chief judge of the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals. Any adult has, and ought to have, the right to view those sites and to download those photos and videos -- subject, of course, to the strictures of copyright law. People who don't want to see such images can, and should, avoid them.
Scolds who argue that judges should uphold a higher standard of decorumthan the common citizen and should somehow be prevented from engaging in such private activity as gathering subjectively amusing or even appalling smut should recall that the 1st Amendment is not limited to high-minded endeavors.
The controversy about the site, to which Kozinski blocked public access after a story by Times reporter Scott Glover, would be less engrossing were the judge not so highhanded when holding forth on judicial propriety or taking apart a legal argument. The story might have a higher profile on TV and radio if he were a supposedly typical 9th Circuit liberal, rather than one of the nation's most brilliant conservative legal scholars. But it makes no difference whether the person with the porn site is left or right, smart or dull, a judge or anybody else.
It is also true that judges are charged with administering justice and instilling public confidence in the law. Under the circumstances, it makes sense for Kozinski to recuse himself from the obscenity trial he was assigned to hear -- not because there is any readily apparent conflict but because the website controversy has become a distraction and will undermine public trust in the verdict.
If there's any question about the connection between height and health, consider that longevity has also decreased during the same time that height has dropped. References vary, but the usually-reported figure is that the United States is between 28 and 38 in the world for life expectancy, behind nearly all western European nations.
Having spent most of his professional life poring through historical records of height, Professor John Komlos of Germany's University of Munich has become known as the pope of anthropometric –- measurement of humans -- studies. Komlos, his colleagues, and graduate students consider historical records of soldiers to be the mother lode for information about height. These records tend to be complete, are accurate about men's civil status, and, of course, provide objective height measurements.
Over the last 1,200 years, a graph of the height of European men is shaped like a wide U. Charlemagne stood about six feet tall and his soldiers' heights averaged nearly the same. A thousand years later, during the French Revolution, the average male height was a mere five feet.
What can account for such a change? During the time when Europeans were losing height, the most obvious change in their lives was the development of cities and the move away from an egalitarian agricultural life. A very few, mostly the wealthy, were well-fed. The feudal system took most of the food away from serf farmers, giving it to the lords in taxes.
After the French Revolution, the average person became wealthier. Access to adequate food became more commonplace. Thus, people grew taller. Today, Europeans are the tallest in the world.
The tallest of all are the Dutch. In The Netherlands, the average man is 6' 1". Compare that to the average American man at 5' 9-1/2" today.
Americans have historically enjoyed an abundance of good food. The land itself provided exceptionally well. Whether wealthy or poor, nearly everyone ate well. As Europeans have grown taller, their lifespans have lengthened, too. American's lifespans have lost ground compared to the Europeans.
There are many ideas on why Americans are relatively shorter, but the only one that holds up to scrutiny is diet. Historically, the quality of diet has been associated with the economic well-being of a culture. That has not changed, though there is one distinct difference today -- the type of food. Let's take a look at suggestions for why the change in height.
Wealth is often offered as a reason for increased height. Historically, the connection has been quite clear. However, it's obvious that no one grows taller from carrying a wad of money in his pocket.
What is it about wealth that has made the difference between being tall and short? In the past, the very wealthy have always tended to be significantly taller than the poor. Towards the end of the 18th century, the difference in height between wealthy and poor young men was nearly nine inches.
Especially now, with the unexamined presumption that modern healthcare is the reason for longer lives, healthcare is often automatically listed as a reason for taller stature. Does this hold up under examination? The fact is that nothing of substance is ever identified to show any connection between the modern medical system and health, let alone height. This, though, doesn't slow down the major news reports that connect healthcare with height. In a recent BBC News report on this issue, the bulk of the article discusses healthcare, with talk about pre- and post-natal care and the availability of healthcare to most people in Europe. Nowhere, though, is this assumption examined.
Let's scrutinize it using one of the so-called successes that the healthcare system routinely trots out -- the implementation of mass vaccination. If it has produced better health, then there should be a correlation between greater height and increased vaccinations. As documented in "Childhood Vaccinations Hoax" (http://www.naturalnews.com/022617.html), the reality is far different from the medical system's claims. There has been almost no benefit from childhood vaccinations during the latter half of the twentieth century.
If there was a positive connection between healthcare and height, then wouldn't there be an increase in height to match the greatest success story of the allopathic medical world? Reality, though, doesn't match the fiction. In fact, the latter half of the twentieth century was a time of decreased height among Americans. During the same time, here has been a massive buildup in vaccinations, starting in the 1940s and accelerating during the '60s.
Genetics and Immigration
Genetics and immigration are often cited as the reason behind the relative shrinkage of Americans. With only a small number of exceptions, this theory is flawed.
The implication is that native-born Americans have maintained their height, but immigrants, who often are shorter, are skewing the records. On examination, though, this does not hold up. First, one needs to note that Americans are already a land of people from other countries. Thus, their historically greater height must be the result of something that has happened since their ancestors arrived from then-short Europeans, Africans, and Asians.
During the latter half of the twentieth century, both Europe and America have been home to huge influxes of immigration. The U.S. has gotten more people from South America. True, these people are generally shorter. However, western Europe has had extremely heavy immigration from lands with shorter people, including Asia, Africa, and eastern Europe. In spite of this, western Europeans have grown taller.
Another point countering the argument that Americans have grown shorter because of immigration is that, with only a few exceptions, such as the Pygmies of Africa, most people seem to reach similar heights when conditions are similar. That can be demonstrated by looking at third generation people who have immigrated from all over the world. People whose grandparents came from South America are as tall as those whose grandparents arrived on boats from Europe.
The Maya are one of the two main ethnic groups of Guatemala. They were thought to be genetically short and were called the "Pygmies of Central America". They were subjugated by the ruling Ladinos. In the 1970s, the average Mayan man was only 5' 2" and the average woman only 4' 8". By the mid-eighties, many Mayans had escaped from their poverty to the U.S. The average U.S. Mayan was four inches taller than the average Guatemalan Mayan by 2000.
Food and Diet
In the United States, food has been available in abundance to most people. That is why Americans were the world's tallest people for most of 200 years, until the mid-twentieth century.
What happened in the latter half of the twentieth century? There's another clue: Americans not only ceased to gain height, they also got fatter. A lot fatter. It's well documented that this happened because of diet. The advent of junk food and junk diets has led to an American health disaster.
Thus, while Americans have not only had adequate food, they've had an abundance of it –- but in the last 50 years, a large portion of it has been calories without substance.
The American diet is atrocious, leading to deteriorating health. As a result of diminished health, Americans are less able to function well. Intelligence is affected, and testing has documented poorer mental capacity, not just poorer performance in schools. Chronic diseases, such as arthritis, cancer, diabetes, and asthma have become rampant.
Why the American Diet is So Poor
The real question is why Americans eat so badly. Look no further than the USDA, the arbiter of the American diet, and its Food Pyramid to understand the problem. It emphasizes foods that are relatively calorie-rich and nutrition-poor. The recommendation for the ideal diet is mostly grains. Fruits and vegetables are second, dairy products and proteins are third, and fats are treated as something to avoid.
Nothing could be further from the truth. If you want a diet that leads to diabetes, the USDA's food pyramid is an excellent guide. It even suggests eating "fortified" breads, rather than suggesting whole grains that have never been adulterated. People who follow this diet are doomed to live in hunger. The body demands adequate nutrition. When it doesn't get it -- and the USDA's diet assures that it won't -- then it will demand more food.
It gets worse, though. For the sake of convenience, because people's lives are so filled with the stuff of modern living, and because it's pushed so heavily, people have turned to even worse junk food. People are stuffing themselves with sugar, processed grains, and processed petroleum, rather than eating real food. Their bodies go into starvation mode, demanding more and more food as they try to get the real nutrition they require.
Who Benefits from the American Diet?
Ultimately, the question must be asked: Why would people eat such bad food? The answer is found by identifying who benefits from the American diet, since it obviously isn't the American people. Dr. Barry Sears wrote, "...asking the USDA to develop the Food Pyramid was like asking the fox to guard the hen house." The primary agribusinesses in the United States are corn and wheat. These grain lobbies are among the most powerful in the government. As a result, the USDA dances to whatever tune they play.
When it came to putting the Food Pyramid together, the needs and desires of grain-based agribusiness had more to do with it than people's dietary needs. There is no good science behind it. As Dr. Walter Willett of the Harvard School of Public Health and Medicine Professor at Harvard is quote in The Anti-Inflammation Zone, "The USDA Pyramid is wrong. It was built on shaky scientific ground... the USDA Pyramid offers wishy-washy, scientifically unfounded advice... nor has it ever been tested to see if it really works."
So, the American people have been propagandized from earliest childhood into eating a diet that is virtually guaranteed to make them fat and not get the nutrition needed to reach their full height or their full potential. The well-being of Americans was sacrificed for the profits of a few agribusiness corporations. No wonder Americans are no longer the world's tallest people!
"Underperformance in affluence: the remarkable relative decline in American heights in the second half of the 20th-century", Munich Economics, by John Komlos and Benjamin E. Lauderdale, ((http://epub.ub.uni-muenchen.de/1241/1/u...)
"Land of the Giants: Dutch Tower over Americans", by Jim Sciutto, ABC News, (http://abcnews.go.com/print?id=2998245)
"On English Pygmies and Giants: the Physical Stature of English Youth in the late-18th and early-19th Centuries", by John Komlos, Munich Economics, ((http://epub.ub.uni-muenchen.de/573/1/ch...)
"European men outstrip Americans", BBC News, (http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/health/3625031.stm)
The Anti-Inflammation Zone, by Dr. Barry Sears, pub. 2005 by Harper Collins
About the author* Heidi Stevenson, BSc, DIHom, FBIH
* Fellow, British Institute of Homeopathy
* Gaia Therapy (http://www.gaia-therapy.com)
* The author is a homeopath who became concerned with medically-induced harm as a result of her own experiences and those of family members. She says that allopathic medicine is the arena that best describes the motto, "Buyer beware."
* Iatrogenic disease is illness, disability, and death caused by medical practice. It is common, resulting in huge costs to society and individuals. It's possible - even common - to suffer an iatrogenic illness without realizing its source.
* Heidi Stevenson provides information about medically-induced disease and disability, along with incisive well-researched articles on major issues in the modern world, so members of the public can protect themselves.
Steve Kreuscher is no more.
A Lake County judge granted permission to the Zion man Friday to officially change his name to "In God We Trust." That's "In God" as a first name and "We Trust" as a last name.
The 57-year-old artist and bus driver was ecstatic about the name change as he exited court Friday.
"I feel great. It's just like, yes!" We Trust said.
The entire process before Judge David Hall took less than two minutes, but We Trust said he was quite nervous.
"I have been praying for this. I didn't want anything to mess this up," he said.
We Trust said the new name more closely represents his devotion to God than "Steve Kreuscher" did.
The process to change his name took roughly three months. Throughout the course We Trust said he was looking for a sign from God that would let him know it was a good idea. He got it one day while adding up the expenses for the name change, which came out to roughly $600.
"I didn't want to use my own money because things are tight," said the father of four. "Three weeks later, I got my (tax) rebate check for $600."
Changing his name to something so out of the ordinary is bound to get mixed reactions from people, especially because of the religious overtones, he said.
"I'm not out to offend anybody. People can call me something different," We Trust said.
We Trust must now go about changing his name on all legal documents. Early next week, he'll visit the Social Security office in Waukegan and then the Secretary of State's office and his bank.
He's already begun signing his artwork with his new moniker, a move that may add value to his work.
"There are billions of artists out there. If you don't do something to stand out in the crowd the world won't recognize you," We Trust said.
A 17-YEAR-old rookie plumber has burned down a £5 million ($12 million) waterside mansion in southwest England, after a soldering task during his first day on the job went horribly wrong.
The historic mansion in Kingswear, Devon, was undergoing a £2 million renovation when a fire ripped through the eight-bedroom house overnight.
In just minutes it burned it down to the ground.
It is thought the fire started after polystyrene insulation caught alight from the flame of a blow torch.
The plumber was working for a firm of sub-contractors.
John Howes, of the Devon and Somerset Fire and Rescue Service, said the plumber was "very upset", according to the Daily Mail newspaper.
"It appears at this stage that this was an unfortunate plumber who was soldering in the roof space of a large building, which was undergoing total renovation".
"We think a blowtorch may have set light to expanded polystyrene foam in the roof space"
More than 60 firefighters were called to the listed building to fight the blaze.
No one was hurt.
One neighbour said: "I heard it was started by a teenager on his first day. You have to feel sorry for the poor lad. He must feel terrible," the Daily Mail said.
Apparently the millionaire owner, Andrew Brownsword, wasn't very happy either. But his spokesman said Mr Brownsword believed there was no malice involved.
- Calm waters in the Sea of Cortez can be deceiving. At night, Humboldt squid rise to the surface, and Mexican fishermen catch them with jigs on handlines, hauling in more than 100,000 tons per year. In March 2007 Oregon State University researchers on the research vessel Pacific Storm developed acoustic imaging techniques to estimate squid biomass. Credit: Kelly Benoit-Bird, Oregon State University
- Squid can reach 2.5 meters in length within two years. Kelly Benoit-Bird and her team found that the strength of acoustic echoes is related to the length of the mantle, an external hood covering the animal’s vital organs. The voracious predators prey on lanternfish — and each other. Credit: Kelly Benoit-Bird, Oregon State University
- Oregon State scientists Kelly Benoit-Bird and Chad Waluk get ready to deploy Simrad EK60 split beam echosounders off the RV Pacific Storm. The system emits acoustic pulses at four frequencies: 38, 70, 120 and 200 kilohertz. Credit: Kelly Benoit-Bird, Oregon State University
- Echograms, or time-depth plots of echo strength, show how acoustics can reveal the behavior of squid. This echogram shows two groups of squid that were separated by about 30 meters in the water column swimming to meet each other in the middle, forming one larger group. Credit: Kelly Benoit-Bird, Oregon State University
- This echogram shows a large school of squid as an intense red mass around 50 meters. Individual squid, indicated by the upward streaks, are leaving the school and swimming up to the surface. Researchers could see these squid from the boat, but it took acoustics to reveal the massive school below them. Credit: Kelly Benoit-Bird, Oregon State University
This Behind the Scenes article was provided to LiveScience in partnership with the National Science Foundation.
It was like a scene from a grade-B horror film. On a gently rocking vessel in the warm waters of the Sea of Cortez, a young oceanographer earnestly watches her computer screen while colleagues lower a cable into the water. Instruments aboard the ship, the Pacific Storm, ping sound waves toward the cable. The oceanographer’s eyes flicker across the screen to make sure the signal is clear. Tethered to the cable is a 5-pound Humboldt squid, and the sound waves, set at 38 kilohertz, bounce off the squid. An image shows up on the screen.
The oceanographer raises her fist in triumph. It marks the first time scientists had clearly picked up a strong sonar signal for squid, which lack the bones and swim bladders that give away other marine creatures.
Suddenly a second image appears, darting up from below. The acoustic signal tracks it from the depths toward the cable — and the tethered squid. It is another squid, larger than the first, and it attacks the tethered animal. The oceanographer screams.
Fade to black.
“Actually, I think I swore instead of screamed,” says Kelly Benoit-Bird cheerfully. “We were watching it in ‘real time’ and it was like a scene from a scary movie. But in this case, the science is real.”
In April, Benoit-Bird, an assistant professor in Oregon State University’s College of Oceanic and Atmospheric Sciences, published a paper in the journal Acoustical Society of America on her success, and she received 19 e-mails from colleagues the first day the article appeared. “I’ve never had such a response before,” she says.
The reasons for the excitement are two-fold. On one hand, the ability to track squid with sonar may reveal new details about how ocean ecosystems work. Squid are thought to be a primary food source for sperm whales, but ecologists have never been sure how the whales hunt. A study just five years ago concluded that whales couldn’t use echolocation to target squid because signals wouldn’t reflect off the squids’ soft bodies. Now researchers will need to re-examine the capacity of whales, dolphins, porpoises and other marine creatures to use their own sonar.
Part of an NSF-supported study, Benoit-Bird’s research is also important because it gives scientists a new way to look at an important link in the marine food chain. Squid may not have been properly appreciated, but their impact is becoming apparent. The Humboldt squid appears to be expanding its territory, moving from the Pacific Ocean off Mexico and California into the colder waters near Oregon.
And that is causing some concern.
“The Humboldt squid is a voracious predator that will eat anything it can get its tentacles on,” Benoit-Bird says. “We put a pair of 10-pound squid into a tank and one immediately beheaded the other. These are fierce little beasts.”
Mexican fisherman have a name for the Humboldt squid: diablos rojos, or red devils. Known for their strength and razor-sharp beaks, these animals flash red and white at the end of a fishing line. They can get as large as six feet in length and weigh up to 100 pounds, though adults more typically weigh 20 to 40 pounds. They travel in schools of up to a thousand squid and will eat any fish in sight.
In the Sea of Cortez, the Humboldt squid target lanternfish but are opportunistic feeders. They are highly energetic and require a lot of food to maintain their metabolic rate. Their move into northern California, Oregon and Washington — at a time when salmon stocks are depressed — is a concern to scientists like Benoit-Bird, who studies ecological interactions among marine species.
“Typically, when a species moves into a new area, it adapts,” she says. “If they can’t find the lanternfish they ate in the Sea of Cortez, they may look at juvenile salmon, as well as herring, sardines and other species that salmon may eat.
“Then there is the flip side of the equation,” Benoit-Bird points out. “What will target the Humboldt squid as prey? In Mexico, it is the sperm whale, but they are uncommon off Oregon. Most of our whales are baleen whales, and these squid will be too big for them. Perhaps orcas, perhaps sharks — or they may have free rein.”
Next to sperm whales , the primary predators for the Humboldt squid in Mexico are coastal villagers who row their wooden boats offshore at night, when the red devils are closer to the surface. Fishermen catch squid by the hundreds and sell them for food. It doesn’t appear that over-fishing is a problem. National Geographic recently reported that some 10 million squid might be living in a 25-square-mile area off Santa Rosalia.
Reliable estimates have been hard to achieve and are historically based on catch rates. With the new acoustic advancement made by Benoit-Bird and colleagues, scientists now have a tool to better monitor the squids’ range and habits.
Scientific advancements are rarely easy, and this one was no exception. In 2006, Bruce Mate, director of OSU’s Marine Mammal Institute, was taking the Pacific Storm to the Sea of Cortez to study sperm whales and invited Benoit-Bird along to look at its prey, the Humboldt squid. She assembled funding from a variety of sources to pay for the necessary technicians and instruments.
The Pacific Storm is a former fishing vessel, donated to OSU for use by the Marine Mammal Institute and retrofitted for research. Once they were in the Sea of Cortez, Benoit-Bird and her colleagues had to catch squid and dissect them, carefully measuring each body part and experimenting with different sound frequencies to see what signals might work.
“You need a density difference to get back scatter,” Benoit-Bird says, “and squid are difficult because they have no hard parts. Eventually, we used multiple frequencies and were able to pick up a clear signal, probably from the brain case, but perhaps from the teeth on the suckers along their arms.”
Through days of experiments, the researchers were able to calibrate the signal to pinpoint individual squid and even estimate their size. They were able to observe a squid group, how individuals moved in the water and when they rose from the depths to feed. Using this technology, Benoit-Bird says, scientists should be able to transect a fishing ground and get a better estimate of the squid population.
She also hopes to go back through 20 years of hake surveys from the National Marine Fishery Services and recalibrate their acoustic signal to look for evidence of squid.
“We don’t know why Humboldt squid are moving north up the coast,” Benoit-Bird adds, “but now we have a better chance of studying their movements and impact on the environment.”
Helsel was at her home in Blanchard, about 50 miles northeast of, watching thunderstorms roll by on June 6 when she noticed rain entering an open kitchen window.
"She went to close the window and the lightning came through and hit her," her mother, Linda Johnson, told The Daily News of Greenville. "We think it must have hit the house or something."
Helsel struggled to describe the sensation she felt as the electricity passed through her body.
"It felt like when your foot falls asleep," she said.
Helsel said she saw the electricity shoot out of her fingers and into the overhead lights, immediately knocking out the house's power.
At first, the teenager didn't want to be checked out at a hospital, but when she started complaining about a tingling sensation in her arm, she and her mother drove through the rain to get toin Lakeview.
Helsel was checked out and the only signs of thewere some darkened fingertips on her right hand and a shaking arm from damaged muscles that will require some therapy. A full recovery is expected.
"Everyone said I'm really lucky," she said.
Hospital employees suggested that Helsel was on such a lucky streak, she should immediately play the lottery. She's too young, so her mother went out the next day and bought a Michigan lottery ticket for her.
"And we won $20," Johnson said, laughing. "What a way to start the summer."