Junk Food Affects DNA – RT News

A study from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases in Maryland has provided yet another reason to drive past your favorite drive thru window: the deleterious effects of a poor diet can leave a mark on the DNA, passing along the genes to your offspring. The harmful effects of an unhealthy diet can “actually stretch across generations,” wrote Ian Myles, author of the study, which appeared in Nutrition Journal. Myles demonstrated that a mother’s eating habits “may potentially shape her child’s flavor preferences even before birth, potentially skewing their palette towards anything from vegetables to sugary sweets.” Passing along the proverbial sweet tooth could contribute to a child’s propensity to become obese at some point in his or her life.

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“When the mother’s diet causes a harmful imbalance of her bacteria, she passes this imbalance on to her child and thus fails to present the ideal commensals for a proper immune education during her child’s most critical developmental window,” according to the study. This developmental imbalance leaves the baby’s immune system “poorly trained to fight off infections and encourages autoimmune and allergic diseases.” Myles cautioned that the father’s dietary choices in life also play an important role in the health of offspring. The paternal DNA “can also be inherited by the offspring and could alter early development of the immune system,” according to the study. “Epigenetic changes in DNA are, in effect, cellular memory; these changes prevent dividing pancreas cells from becoming cells of the kidney or any other organ.”
Myles concludes that only a radical change of lifestyle will stop the transfer of stained DNA to future generations of babies. He also warned on the apparent uselessness of commercial extracts as a means of countering a poor diet. “The benefits of dietary modification over supplementation is furthered by evidence showing that dietary supplementation does not increase longevity, indicating that commercial interventions such as tea or berry extracts are unlikely to counteract poor dietary habits,” he advised. Myles advised that people should eliminate sugar and fat in processed form from their diets and move to fresh sources of protein and fat, such as fish and meat.

Source: RT News

400 Facebook Profiles Handed To Authorities – RT News

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Facebook is locked in a legal battle over a court ruling that forced the site to hand over data from almost 400 profiles to authorities. The social media site argues the decision is unconstitutional and violates the Fourth Amendment. Last summer, a New York court ordered Facebook to release data from the accounts of 381 people, who were suspected of being involved in a disability fraud case. The information included photos, private messages and other data. The social media platform had previously been unable to go public about their legal struggle against the “largest data request” by a government body because of a court gagging order. However, Chris Sonderby, Facebook Deputy General Counsel published a blog post on Thursday speaking out about the case after a New York judge granted permission to go public. “This unprecedented request is by far the largest we’ve ever received – by a magnitude of more than ten – and we have argued that it was unconstitutional from the start,” wrote Chris Sonderby, a legal adviser to Facebook. Sotherby goes on to say that of the 381 people whose account information was divulged, only 62 were actually charged. “This means that no charges will be brought against more than 300 people whose data was sought by the government without prior notice to the people affected,” said Sotherby. Facebook argues that such a request is unconstitutional as it violates the Fourth Amendment, which safeguards against unreasonable searches and seizures. In their latest appeal, Facebook’s legal team filed an appellate to push to invalidate the sweeping search warrants and return the data of the other 300 people that is still being retained by authorities. “We recognize that law enforcement needs to investigate potential crimes, but we believe all government data requests must be narrowly tailored, proportionate to the case, and subject to strict judicial oversight,” said Sotherby. Prosecutors argue, however, that given the magnitude of the case authorities needed access to suspects’ Facebook accounts. “This was a massive scheme involving as many as 1,000 people who defrauded the federal government of more than $400 million in benefits,” says Joan Vollero, spokesperson for Manhattan district attorney Cyrus Vance, Jr. “The defendants in this case repeatedly lied to the government about their mental, physical and social capabilities. Their Facebook accounts told a different story.” The data request eventually led to the charging of more than 130 New York civil servants, who had been cheating the system to obtain disability benefits.

Immigrant Mass Graves Discovered In Texas – RT News

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Anthropologists uncovered a series of mass graves filled with the human remains of immigrants stuffed into shopping and garbage bags in a county-owned section of a cemetery in South Texas. Now, a local politician is calling for an inquiry. The group of anthropology researchers is made of professors and students from the University of Indianapolis and Baylor University, who are working on the Reuniting Families project. The multi-year project seeks to identify the bodies of the hundreds of undocumented immigrants who died (usually from exposure in the 100-degree-plus heat) while crossing the Texas-Mexico border over the last few years. They resumed work two weeks ago, exhuming 52 plots in a Brooks County-owned section of the Sacred Heart Burial Park in Falfurrias. In those plots, they found the remains of multiple people instead of just one. In one burial plot, bones of three bodies were inside one body bag. In another instance, there were at least five people in body bags and smaller plastic bags were piled on top of each other, Baylor University anthropologist Lori Baker said to the Corpus Christi Caller-Times. Skulls were found in biohazard bags — like the red plastic bags in receptacles at doctors’ offices — placed between coffins. “To me it’s just as shocking as the mass grave that you would picture in your head, and it’s just as disrespectful,” Krista Latham, a forensic anthropologist at the University of Indianapolis, said to the Caller-Times. Due to the commingling of remains, the researchers are unable to determine the total number of people buried in the 52 plots. County Judge Raul Ramirez told the Caller-Times that, for at least 16 years, Brooks County paid the local funeral home, Funeraria del Angel Howard-Williams, to bury the bodies after they were discovered in the remote areas of the county’s brush country. The funeral home currently charges $450 to handle each body, Brooks County Chief Deputy Benny Martinez said. The funeral home has “certain records related to these burials, but this does not amount to confirmation that Howard-Williams was involved in depositing the remains in the manner the researchers described” Houston-based Service Corporation International (the parent company of Howard-Williams since 1999) spokeswoman Jennifer McDunn told the Corpus newspaper in an e-mail. “Because of the sensitive nature of our business, it is not our general practice to share our records publicly, no matter the decedent or the family we serve.” McDunn said. After the discovery became known, Democratic state Sen. Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa called for the district’s attorney general to open a criminal investigation by the Texas Rangers, the Caller-Times reported. “This is too serious of a wrongdoing,” he said. “It is horrible, and any human being deserves a burial of respect and dignity,” Hinojosa went on. “I’m appalled at the number of bodies just left in body bags and, in many instances, more than one body in one bag. That’s not right. We need to get to the bottom of the situation.” Various Texas laws and regulations require records be kept for burials, set minimum burial depths, require certain containers and prohibit mass burials in some instances, according to the Caller-Times. “When I see that more than likely this was done by a funeral home, well, they’re supposed to be aware of the regulations and what they’re supposed to do and how they’re supposed to do it,” 79th Judicial District Attorney Carlos Omar Garcia said to the Corpus paper.Chief Deputy County Clerk Elva Ray Silvas said the county courthouse held no records of burials except for an assessment of grave markers performed by a volunteer group in 2000.

Source: RT News

Iberian Peninsula’s Geothermal Power Capacity

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About 500 power stations around the world use geothermal power to generate electricity, although there are yet to be any in Spain. The temperature increases by 30 ºC for every kilometer further underground. This thermal gradient, generated by the flow of heat from the inside of the Earth and the breakdown of radioactive elements in the crust, produces geothermal power. The temperature increases by 30 ºC for every kilometre further underground. This thermal  gradient, generated by the flow of heat from the inside of Earth and the breakdown of radioactive elements in the crust, produces geothermal power. About 500 power stations around the world already use it to generate electricity, although there are yet to be any in Spain. However, the subsoil of the Iberian Peninsula has the capacity to produce up to 700 gigawatts if this resource was exploited with enhanced geothermal systems (EGS) at a depth of between 3 and 10 kilometres, where the temperatures exceed 150 ºC. This is confirmed in a study that engineers from the University of Valladolid (UVa) have published in the journal Renewable Energy.
“The operation of an enhanced geothermal system uses the injection of a fluid (water or carbon dioxide) to extract thermal energy from the rock located a few thousand metres below the surface, and whose permeability has been improved or stimulated previously with fracturing processes,” explains César Chamorro, one of the authors. “Afterwards, the heated fluid is taken upwards to the geothermal station, where it produces electricity, generally via a binary cycle (exchanging heat between the water and an organic liquid), and it is re-injected into the site in a closed cycle.” Although there are experimental EGS stations in countries such as the United States, Australia and Japan, there is only one connected to the grid: Soultz-sous-Forêts in France. The rest of the current geothermal stations are in the few areas of the world where there are thermal anomalies and the presence of hot water at a shallow depth. “Nevertheless, EGS resources are distributed widely and uniformly, meaning they have enormous potential and could supply significant power in the medium or long-term, 24 hours a day constantly,” points out Chamorro, who makes this comparison: “The 700 GW of electricity indicated in the study represent approximately five times the current electrical power installed in Spain, if we add together fossil fuels, nuclear and renewable power.” “Even if we limit the calculations to a depth of 7 km, the potential reaches 190 GW; and for between 3 and 5 km it would be 30 GW,” adds Chamorro. All of this data refers to the so-called ‘technical potential’, which entails a cooling (using water) of 10 ºC in rocks that are at least 150 ºC to extract a fraction of energy during the 30-year operating period. There is another renewable or sustainable potential, which only considers the electrical energy that could be obtained if the thermal flow was harnessed at the rate it arrives at the crust from Earth’s core. This value is significantly less, and in the case of Spain is estimated at 3.2 GW. “It seems low, but it is the equivalent of three nuclear power stations,” states the engineer, who clarifies that the installable power limit would be somewhere between the technical and the renewable potential. According to the study, the regions which reach the highest temperatures at shallower depths, and therefore, have greater geothermal potential and are prone to more detailed studies for their development are Galicia, western Castilla y León, the Sistema Central mountain range, Andalusia and Catalonia. The reason is that there is greater friction in their subsoil between the base plates and presence of granite materials. The results are on a regional scale and therefore, the installation of a geothermal station in a specific place would require more detailed studies.
To estimate the temperature at various depths (from 3,500 m to 9,500 m depth) the researchers have used the heat flow and temperatures at 1,000 m and 2,000 m provided in the Atlas of Geothermal Resources in Europe, as well as thermal data of the land surface available from NASA.
Applying the same information to the whole of Europe, the researchers have published another study in the journal ‘Energy’, where they compare the potentials of each country. Turkey, Iceland and France show the greatest potential. Altogether the technical potential of the continent exceeds 6,500 GW of electricity. With regards to the implementation of EGS technology, the authors recognise that there are still significant problems that must be researched, such as the appropriate perforation technique, the best way of fracturing the rock or how to operate advanced thermodynamic cycles. “But when these are resolved we can move on from the technical feasibility reached now to economical feasibility which allows for their commercial operation,” Chamorro points out. According to a report from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), in 2050, after suitable investment in R&D, 100 GW of electricity could be installed with this technology in the United States. “In the case of Spain, EGS systems could significantly contribute to the national energy mix, reducing energy dependency on other countries and cutting greenhouse gases,” the engineer concludes.

Source: ScienceDaily

Suspected Methane Leaks in Pennsylvania – RT News

Thousands of abandoned oil and gas wells across the state of Pennsylvania could be leaking methane gas into the atmosphere, a new report states. If true, it could mean the same is happening in old wells all over the United States, potentially contributing to climate change in ways that are not effectively documented by government groups like the Environmental Protection Agency. The study was conducted by Princeton University scientist Mary Kang, and involved the inspection of 19 abandoned oil and gas wells in Pennsylvania. According to a report by the Guardian, each well was confirmed to be leaking various amounts of methane – a greenhouse gas that, over the course of a century, is about 34 times more powerful than carbon dioxide. Since Pennsylvania is home to anywhere between 280,000 and 970,000 abandoned oil and gas wells, the possibility that thousands of them are releasing methane is cause for concern.
What’s more, the EPA does not account for methane in its federal estimates for total US greenhouse gas emissions, and Kang’s study stated that Pennsylvania’s current regulations are insufficient for controlling the wells’ methane leaks. Wells are not routinely inspected by officials, and the state’s rules are geared towards liquids, not gases. Although Kang would not comment on the issue since her study is under review, Duke University’s Robert Jackson has also conducted research revealing methane leaks to be a problem in the US, and he said it was one worth seriously looking into.
“The emissions from single wells were relatively small, but there are hundreds of thousands of such wells in Pennsylvania alone,” he told the Guardian. “The total emissions could be as much as one eighth of all methane released by human activities in the state.” Concern over a link between methane and oil exploration also made headlines earlier this month, when scientists found a link between the high levels of the gas in Parker County, Texas, and neighboring fracking operations. As RT reported previously, the Texas Railroad Commission found the link to be “inconclusive” but closer inspection of the data by another earth scientist said it’s clear the methane in the water supply came from the fracking process. Separate tests by the University of Texas at Arlington, meanwhile, found methane levels in the water to be much higher than the Railroad Commission did. In Pennsylvania, though, it will likely be unclear just how much methane is being released until more studies are conducted encompassing more wells. Pennsylvania State University professor Terry Engelder said that although methane is obviously leaking from some wells, chances are that not all of them are, since some geologic formations release lots of gas early in the drilling operation and less later. Cornell University’s Lawrence Cathes, meanwhile, downplayed methane leakage’s present effect on the climate, but said if Kang’s study is accurate, it might help to reduce emissions going forward.

“I don’t think presently leaking wells will change our perspective on greenhouse warming because their leakage has already been accommodated by the climate system and methane is only 20 to 30 percent the total greenhouse forcing at present,” Cathles told the Guardian. “What matters is how methane leakage changes in the future. If the well leakage is significant, reducing it in historic wells might reduce greenhouse forcing somewhat (and thus present a remedial opportunity).”
- RT News

Net Neutrality on Mobile Phones – RT News

The realm of mobile internet is currently unaccounted for in the Federal Communication Commission’s most recent effort to rewrite the rules of net neutrality rules, but industry lobbyists in the United States say that could soon change. Critics have until September 10 to petition the FCC and weigh in on the proposal currently being considered by the agency that was written by Chairman Tom Wheeler and contains provisions that may allow Internet Service Providers to prioritize some web traffic over others. According to a report published by Reuters over the weekend, big tech firms and consumer advocates alike are asking the FCC to widen that proposal to include new rules for the mobile internet. “The distinction between wireless and wireline is certainly not the same as it was,” Michael Beckerman, the head of the Internet Association trade group, told Reuters. “The enforceable net neutrality rules should apply equally, whether you use the Internet on your mobile or home broadband.”
“There will be differences in terms of network management, but at the end of the day, the same fundamental principles…need to apply to the mobile world,” said Beckerman, whose group lobbies on behalf of web giants like Google, Facebook, AOL and Amazon.
Earlier this year in May, a coalition of Silicon Valley heavyweights including Microsoft, Netflix, Twitter and Yahoo echoed that call and said that “Instead of permitting individualized bargaining and discrimination, the Commission’s rules should protect users and Internet companies on both fixed and mobile platforms against blocking, discrimination, and paid prioritization, and should make the market for Internet services more transparent. The rules should provide certainty to all market participants and keep the costs of regulation low.” “Those of us who believe that the principle of net neutrality is crucial to a truly open internet – the kind of web required to ensure innovation and free speech – need to recognize that in many places, including the United States, we’ve already lost the near-term battle when it comes to mobile,” added Guardian columnist Dan GIlmor in a recent op-ed.
A major point brought up by Gilmor at the time was that “mobile essentially is the internet” in much of the developing world, where phones are the only web-ready devices many people have. In Reuters this week, reporters Alina Selyukj and Marina Lopez wrote that a “growing number of US consumers, many of them low income, non-white and young, rely on such devices as their primary means of Internet access.”
“The FCC already acknowledged the unique nature of wireless, specifically the technical and operational challenges our industry faces, including the need to…actively manage networks to provide high quality service to a customer base that is constantly on the go,” Meredith Attwell Baker, CEO of the wireless trade group CTIA, added to Reuters. Chairman Wheeler’s proposal has attracted the ire of open internet advocates in recent month by including language that some say will open the door for a two-tiered payment system in which the delivery of content could be prioritized by ISPs. “To be very direct, the proposal would establish that behavior harmful to consumers or competition by limiting the openness of the Internet will not be permitted,” Wheeler has responded to critics.

- RT News

NASA ‘smells’ Saturn’s moon Titan, finds it ‘aromatic’ – RT News

Titan, Saturn's largest moon appears before the planet as it undergoes seasonal changes in this natural color view from NASA's Cassini spacecraft in this handout released by NASA August 29, 2012. (Reuters/NASA)

The US space agency has come up with a recipe that captures key flavors of Saturn’s moon Titan – out of a need to understand a previously unidentified chemical composition hidden beyond its orange haze.

When NASA’s Cassini spacecraft peered at the material gathered from Titan’s atmosphere at alternate wavelengths, beyond the infrared spectrum, in the far infrared region, it suggested a molecular mixture the scientists wanted to decipher.

“Now we can say that this material has a strong aromatic character, which helps us understand more about the complex mixture of molecules that makes up Titan’s haze,” Melissa Trainer of NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, told the press. However, Trainer did not detail the smell, but it might be close to gas station.

Scientists arrived at this in much the same way a chef tastes a dish and ascertains its components. By experimenting with combining gases in various ways and under differing lab conditions, NASA was able to approximate the initial mixture spotted earlier by Cassini. It was a matter of matching it as close to the captured colors as possible.

The trouble was always that Titan’s atmosphere with its dark orange hue could be a result of a number of chemical mixtures, because what was visible from the outset is the sheer number of aromatic hydrocarbons in the moon’s atmosphere.

But when scientists exhausted all the nitrogen and methane combinations possible, it occurred to them to try adding a third gas – benzene. That’s when they got closer than anyone else at figuring out Titan’s taste and smell. It was then a matter of juggling it with some other possible options, all belonging to the subfamily of aromatics – a type of hydrocarbon.

Co-author of the study and Cassini scientist Carrie Anderson’s results were closely replicated when an aromatic containing nitrogen was combined with the first two gasses. And this is the first success science has ever had at “creating with lab experiments this particular feature seen in the Cassini data,” Joshua Sebree, who led the study, said.

Now that the resulting mixture has given scientists a much bigger chance at understanding the precise mixture of gases in the unseen areas of Titan’s atmosphere, the “veritable zoo of complex molecules”can only continue to give us a more expansive picture of “just how complex and wondrous this Earth-like moon really is,” Scott Edgington of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory said.

The project and accompanying study, published in Icarus, have been sanctioned by the space agency’s Planetary Atmospheres program, although the Cassini-Huygens mission has been carried out in concert with the European Space Agency (ESA).

- RT News