We are making Ebola outbreaks worse by cutting down forests
Epidemiologists explain how human activity helps spread the deadly virus in West Africa.
In a relentless sweep across Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone, the largest outbreak of Ebola, a virus that causes to dramatic internal bleeding and often a hasty death, has now claimed 467 lives, from 759 infections, since February this year, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).
With victims identified across more than 60 different locations, there’s now a very real risk the outbreak will spread to even more countries, says Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), which calls the epidemic out of control.
Everyone with blue eyes alive today – from Angelina Jolie to Wayne Rooney – can trace their ancestry back to one person who probably lived about 10,000 years ago in the Black Sea region, a study has found. Scientists studying the genetics of eye colour have discovered that more than 99.5 per cent of blue-eyed people who volunteered to have their DNA analysed have the same tiny mutation in the gene that determines the colour of the iris.
This indicates that the mutation originated in just one person who became the ancestor of all subsequent people in the world with blue eyes, according to a study by Professor Hans Eiberg and colleagues at the University of Copenhagen.
The scientists are not sure when the mutation occurred but other evidence suggested it probably arose about 10,000 years ago when there was a rapid expansion of the human population in Europe as a result of the spread of agriculture from the Middle East.
“The mutations responsible for blue eye colour most likely originate from the north-west part of the Black Sea region, where the great agricultural migration of the northern part of Europe took place in the Neolithic periods about 6,000 to 10,000 years ago,” the researchers report in the journal Human Genetics.
Professor Eiberg said that brown is the “default” colour for human eyes which results from a build-up of the dark skin pigment, melanin. However, in northern Europe a mutation arose in a gene known as OCA2 that disrupted melanin production in the iris and caused the eye colour to become blue.
“Originally, we all had brown eyes,” said Professor Eiberg. “But a genetic mutation affecting the OCA2 gene in our chromosomes resulted in the creation of a ‘switch’ which literally turned off the ability to produce brown eyes.”
Variations in the colour of people’s eyes can be explained by the amount of melanin in the iris, but blue-eyed individuals only have a small degree of variation in the amount of melanin in their eyes, he said.
“From this we can conclude that all blue-eyed individuals are linked to the same ancestor. They have all inherited the same switch at exactly the same spot in their DNA,” said Professor Eiberg.
Men and women with blue eyes have almost exactly the same genetic sequence in the part of the DNA responsible for eye colour. However, brown-eyed people, by contrast, have a considerable amount of individual variation in that area of DNA.
Professor Eiberg said he has analysed the DNA of about 800 people with blue eyes, ranging from fair-skinned, blond-haired Scandinavians to dark-skinned, blue-eyed people living in Turkey and Jordan.
“All of them, apart from possibly one exception, had exactly the same DNA sequence in the region of the OCA2 gene. This to me indicates very strongly that there must have been a single, common ancestor of all these people,” he said.
It is not known why blue eyes spread among the population of northern Europe and southern Russia. Explanations include the suggestions that the blue eye colour either offered some advantage in the long hours of daylight in the summer, or short hours of daylight in winter, or that the trait was deemed attractive and therefore advantageous in terms of sexual selection.
Fascinating data from the Center for Disease Control. A generation ago we could not even spell Alzheimer’s. It now looks like we are facing an avalanche of seniors losing their minds, and their lives, in later years. You better believe that I will be looking for all preventative methods and cures for this dreaded degeneration of the brain. I have seen what it does and it has no dignity. Lou
In 2010, Alzheimer’s disease was the underlying cause for a total of 83,494 deaths and was classified as a contributing cause for an additional 26,488 deaths. Mortality from Alzheimer’s disease has steadily increased during the last 30 years. Alzheimer’s disease is the sixth leading cause of death in the United States and the fifth leading cause for people aged 65 years and over. An estimated 5.4 million persons in the United States have Alzheimer’s disease. The cost of health care for people with Alzheimer’s disease and other dementia was estimated to be 200 billion dollars in 2012, including 140 billion dollars in costs to Medicare and Medicaid and is expected to reach 1.1 trillion dollars in 2050.
Alzheimer’s disease mortality varies by age, sex, race, Hispanic origin, and geographic area. This report presents mortality data on Alzheimer’s disease based on data from the National Vital Statistics System from 2000 through 2010, the most recent year for which detailed data are available.
Data from the National Vital Statistics System
The age-adjusted death rate from Alzheimer’s disease increased by 39 percent from 2000 through 2010 in the United States.
Alzheimer’s disease is the sixth leading cause of death in the United States and is the fifth leading cause among people aged 65 years and over. People aged 85 years and over have a 5.4 times greater risk of dying from Alzheimer’s disease than people aged 75–84 years.
The risk of dying from Alzheimer’s disease is 26 percent higher among the non-Hispanic white population than among the non-Hispanic black population, whereas the Hispanic population has a 30 percent lower risk than the non-Hispanic white population.
In 2010, among all states and the District of Columbia, 31 states showed death rates from Alzheimer’s disease that were above the national rate (25.1).
Keywords: dementia, National Vital Statistics System, death rate, aging
Alzheimer’s disease mortality increased compared with selected major causes of death.
The 19-year-old Texas cheerleader whose trophy-hunting exploits sparked Internet outrage this summer is back with a YouTube series. The title? Game On.
The show’s 11-minute premiere episode, sponsored by rifle maker Remington, follows Jones and her best friend, Taylor Altom, “as they slip away from college for a weekend to go gator hunting” in Lake Charles, La.
According to the episode’s YouTube page, the hunt was part of an annual state-promoted alligator-hunting season on Private Island. On camera Jones and Altom show off their harvest tags and hunting licenses, issued by the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries. With the help of local rancher Charles Schultz and a baited hook, Jones guns down and catches an eight-footer. (Just in case viewers missed it, the shot is replayed in slow motion.)
“Now that’s how you shoot an alligator right there,” says Jones as the animal is pulled into the boat. On her Facebook page, Jones posted a “bonus scene” in which Schultz tells the girls all about ammo selection as their catch’s head sits on a dining room table.
Four decades ago, hunting and habitat loss almost drove alligators to extinction. Twenty years after being declared endangered, the animal was removed from the endangered species list in 1987. Besides Louisiana, South Carolina, Florida, Mississippi, and Georgia supervise the hunting of alligators. But as The Dodopoints out, hunting methods including baited hooks have been called inhumane.
What animals are next for Jones’ show? She hasn’t announced them yet, though her previous hunts—photos of which incurred the wrath of wildlife advocates—included lions and cheetahs. The first animal Jones shot, as a 13-year-old on a safari trip in South Africa, was a southern white rhinoceros, a nearly threatened species. (As of Oct. 17, only six of the species’ northern counterparts are left.)
But Jones’ stunts don’t offend everyone. In July, golfer John Peterson tweeted, “If it was a 60-year-old overweight dude posing with his African kills, no one would talk.
Aboriginal Provisional Government logo. Non-Originals in Australia Should Obtain a Passport or Visa to be lawfully in Australia. The Canberra regime is not a lawful government and continues to occupy this oppressed nation. This article shows all who respect the Original Australians how to apply for a passport or a visa.
The idea of an Aboriginal government was developed by some Aboriginal delegates of the Federation of Land Councils at its meeting at JaJa in the Northern Territory in 1990. The Federation was a powerful national body but which pretty much limited its involvement to land issues. Some Federation members felt the Aboriginal cause had to move to another level and the name of any new body should reflect a broader horizon while complementing existing Aboriginal groups. The “Provisional” aspect was included for two reasons: first, this Aboriginal body would foster a transition from white government control to an eventual…
Today [this is not a joke, by the way] I wanted to draw your attention to this series by Chris Jones and his New Hero Pictures. He was kind enough to include our track Amharique Numérique in this episode as well as Air Waves by our alter ego Beatnik Aria. In addition to supporting the message that Save Me is promoting, we would recommend watching it simply because it is great drama. Thanks.
“Save Me” is a new series on domestic violence. We hope to reach out to those in need, inspire them, educate them, and let them know that they are not alone.
Would you be more likely to save a dolphin if you could become one?
Researchers at Johns Hopkins University and the National Aquarium in Baltimore hope so. They’ve created a new online game, I Am Dolphin, that lets players get inside the mind of a dolphin and help it swim, leap, forage for prey, and fend off predators. Players using a smartphone or pad can direct cybernetic cetaceans through the sea and watch as the animals respond to commands issued with the flick of a finger.
“It’s very hard to describe in words; you really need to play the game for yourself,” said codeveloper Omar Ahmad, director and chief engineer at Johns Hopkins’ Kata Project, part of the BLAM (Brain, Learning, Animation, and Movement) Lab.
The technology behind the game was initially developed to help stroke patients regain critical motor function by providing a stimulating, fully immersive rehabilitation environment. Currently in clinical trials, the therapy lets patients put an arm in a robotic sling to maneuver a realistic but simulated dolphin on a screen.
Researchers and trainers at the National Aquarium worked with the Johns Hopkins team to develop the technology, which took about five years to complete. The game app was launched two weeks ago and is available for download in the iTunes store.
“We are not animating; we are simulating something with bones, muscles, and many complicated things,” Ahmad said. “When you play, it’s like you’re playing with a real creature in your machine, reacting to forces and acting on its own, almost. You see the subtle play-out of all the physical forces involved.”
The game allows players to look at dolphins in a completely different way by spending time inside their motor systems, Ahmad said.
Players begin with a dolphin named Bandit, who initially chases and eats fish and later must take on snapping mackerel and deadly bull sharks. Other games include a Commerson’s dolphin and a killer whale, a member of the dolphin family.
“I’ve always loved and been fascinated by them,” Ahmad said, adding that everyone on the development team—including a neuroscientist, an artist, engineers, and marine mammal experts affiliated with the National Aquarium—agreed.
“We all think it’s a very beautiful, smooth, and harmonious creature in its movement,” Ahmad said. Dolphins, he added, are also one of the few creatures that seem to be curious about humans.
The idea is to get humans more interested in helping dolphins.
“We think it’s a very powerful tool for conservation, because the emotional reality of this animal is becoming embedded in the player through this motor connection,” Ahmad said.
Diana Reiss, a marine mammal scientist and a psychology professor at New York’s Hunter College, who consulted on the project, said she hopes the game will get people to empathize with dolphins.
“We hope it will really draw people into the dolphin’s world,” Reiss said. “When you start working with it, you really do get engaged, and you do feel empathy doing these motoric movements, where you sort of become the dolphin. It creates this corresponding feeling. I was amazed.”
Reiss said that type of engagement can inspire support for conservation.
“What’s really important is giving people more than factoids,” she said. “They can read a lot and they’ll learn a lot, but that doesn’t necessarily connect with their hearts and minds. But when you start feeling like you’re this dolphin, that’s a deeper form of engagement.”