Archive for February 6, 2008

Critics Say NASA’s New Rocket Ares is Flawed

CAPE CANAVERAL – The rocket that NASA is betting on to return humans to space after the space shuttle retires is in trouble.Assailed by a loud chorus of critics, hobbled by a lack of money and beset by technical problems, the Ares I launch vehicle is suffering from a growing perception that it is another NASA project that will never get off the ground.In particular, some critics have urged that NASA ditch the untested Ares, a so-called “stick” rocket powered by five segments of the solid rocket boosters used on the shuttle, in favor of the Atlas V401, which is already used by the military and CIA to reliably launch spy satellites into orbit.

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I certainly hate to hear of more problems bedeviling the Space Coast. Rather than a waste of money, I view the expenditure of funds on exploring space as a good investment in mankind’s survival.

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Florida Lawmakers Consider Tougher Immigration Laws

TALLAHASSEE – State lawmakers on Tuesday unveiled a series of immigration-related bills aimed at making it tougher to hire illegal immigrants, limiting public services they can receive and penalizing anyone who brings them into Florida.

The last proposal comes in response to a unique problem facing Florida: the growing number of Cubans and others smuggled across the Florida Straits each month.

The majority of the half-dozen bills reflect similar measures proposed in states across the country, all backed by the national nonprofit Federation for Immigration Reform, which supports a freeze on nearly all immigration.

Rep. Gayle Harrell, R-Stuart, led the call for tighter immigration laws during a news conference at the state Capitol.

“We want to make sure the state of Florida can do everything in its power to deal with illegals,” she said. “It’s a federal issue, but there are things states can do.”

Harrell has proposed a law that would make it illegal for any state funds to go to day labor centers where illegal immigrants are among those seeking work, usually in construction and landscaping.

Those supporting the proposals, including Rep. Don Brown, R-DeFuniak Springs, represent the Republican Party’s most ardent hard-liners when it comes to immigration.

Brown sponsored the most comprehensive bill (HB 73), much of which simply codifies existing practices or parallels federal law.

The bill would prohibit cities from restricting any efforts to enforce immigration laws, pre-empting municipalities from creating so-called “sanctuary cities” for illegal immigrants. The bill also requires driver’s licenses to be issued only to U.S. citizens or those with legal status in Florida. Brown also wants verification of immigration status for those seeking certain public benefits but said he wasn’t yet sure which benefits.

“I don’t know that there will be anything,” he said. “I’ve got some research to do myself on what services they are getting.”

Brown argued the state doesn’t know how much of its resources go to illegal immigrants because nobody ever asks. The law would provide this crucial information, he said.

The aspect of the bill that could have the greatest effect on Florida business is a requirement that anyone contracting with the state participate in the federal government’s volunteer worker verification program. Under the program, employers run the names of prospective employees through Social Security and Department of Homeland Security databases.

The program has been criticized by Congress’s investigative arm for its high rate of error. Immigrant advocates argue the state lacks the authority to require such participation.

The bills are being reviewed by committee and require approval before they can be considered by the full chambers.

Source: Tampa Bay Online

The states are overrun and, as the Federal government continues to abrogate its responsibilities for border protection, the states will have to enact their own laws for their own protection.

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Appeals Court Rejects Water Settlement

TALLAHASSEE – The Army Corps of Engineers overstepped its authority five years ago when it granted Georgia additional water rights that affected rivers in Florida and Alabama, a U.S. Court of Appeals ruled Tuesday.

Florida experts were elated, saying the decision will “level the playing field” in a multistate tug-of-war over water that spans nearly 20 years.

“It’s tremendous, because now we’re all back to where we ought to be,” said Dan Tonsmeire with the Apalachicola Riverkeeper environmental advocacy group. “Nobody has an advantage.”

The water wars are over the Apalachicola-Chattahoochee-Flint rivers system, whose flow is controlled by the corps.

For Florida, what’s at stake is the Apalachicola River and the nearly $200-million oyster and seafood industry that depends on it. For Georgia, it’s the water supply for Atlanta and surrounding industry, like Coca-Cola. For Alabama, it’s the ability to turn the lights on throughout most of the state.

In 2003, Florida and Alabama complained Georgia got the upper hand in water negotiations, when the corps, Georgia and other water providers unveiled a settlement agreement, that gave Georgia up to 20 years worth of “temporary” use of reservoir tied into the river system. Florida and Alabama sued to stop the deal, but lost.

On Tuesday, the federal appeals court in Washington said Georgia and the corps, don’t have the authority to dedicate that much water to Atlanta without first asking Congress, because such an agreement “constitutes a major operational change,” wrote the three-judge panel.

The agreement between the corps and Georgia has never been implemented due to the litigation.

Read the rest at the St. Petersburg Times.

And about time, too.

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Button Mushrooms Contain as Much Anti-Oxidants as Expensive Mushrooms

Want to have lots of anti-oxidants in the diet but are on a tight budget?   

The humble white button mushroom (Agaricus bisporus) has as much, and in some cases, more anti-oxidant properties than more expensive varieties.

Although the button mushroom is the foremost cultivated edible mushroom in the world with thousands of tonnes being eaten every year, it is often thought of as a poor relation to its more exotic and expensive cousins and to have lesser value nutritionally.

But according to new research in SCI’s Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture, the white button mushroom has as much anti-oxidant properties as its more expensive rivals, the maitake and the matsutake mushrooms – both of which are highly prized in Japanese cuisine for their reputed health properties including lowering blood pressure and their alleged ability to fight cancer.

Anti-oxidants are believed to help ward off illness and boost the body’s immune system by acting as free radical scavengers, helping to mop up cell damage caused by free radicals.

Read the rest here.

 Mmmmmm, mushrooms ‘n onions.

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*Mysterious* Bird Flu Baffles Indonesian Scientists

JAKARTA (AFP) — Indonesian scientists and officials said they were baffled by the “mysterious” behaviour of the bird flu virus here, which has already claimed nine lives this year in the world’s worst-hit nation.Indonesia has reported 126 cases of H5N1 bird flu, 103 of them fatal, since 2005. This year’s victims have all come from the capital Jakarta and its satellite cities.

Officials from the ministry of agriculture’s bird flu control unit told a media briefing that the risk factors for human infection remained unclear after studies were conducted around victims’ homes.

“In some of the cases we found the virus in the water and chickens, but in many other cases the studies showed no signs of the virus in the surroundings,” said the unit’s Tjahjani Widjastuti at the briefing late Tuesday.

The usual mode of transmission of the deadly H5N1 strain of bird flu is directly from an infected bird — typically poultry — to humans.

“The behaviour (of the virus in Indonesia) is mysterious and we are competing with the dynamics of the virus. There needs to be deeper study on why there are more cases in humans, what are the risk factors… so we can cut the chain of infection to humans,” Widjastuti said.

Read the rest here.

If people are contracting/ dying from H5N1 without any known poultry contact and the water is not contaminated, then there is another vector that has yet to be discovered. Nothing mysterious about that. Meanwhile, the 2 orphan ducklings are doing well inside a box in the (sigh) house.

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