Archive for June 7, 2008

Sinkhole Opens With a Boom

LUTZ — For more than a month, Kimberly and Alan Whitehill watched and worried over the depression in their back yard. It was an inch deep in April, then knee deep earlier this week.

“We knew something was going to happen,” said Kimberly Whitehill, 38.

They found out what at 5 a.m. Thursday.

“You know when you hear the shuttle, the sonic boom?” she said. “That’s what it sounded like.”

The Whitehills discovered a sinkhole 30-feet wide and nearly as deep. The corner of their back porch dangled over one side. The shed housing their printing business dangled over the other. PVC irrigation pipes, which had laced their back yard, pointed into the watery bottom.

The first load of fill dirt arrived around 4:45 Friday. The dump truck driver peered into the sinkhole.

“Holy s—!” she shouted. “We need help, don’t we.”


Not really surprising that sinkholes pop up considering the drought and lowered water tables, although it came as a big surprise to the homeowners!

More information about sinkholes here.

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Two Deputies Shot, Fire Captain Killed Near Tampa

TAMPA — Two Hillsborough County Sheriff’s deputies pursuing a suspect in a triple homicide were shot in a bloody confrontation at the intersection of Henderson Road and Linebaugh Avenue.

The deputies were among a group pursuing a Jorge Orlando Bello Garcia, 54, in a red pickup truck around 9:30 a.m. this morning after Garcia shot his estranged wife and two of her friends at 11220 Elmfield Drive, near Anderson Road, Hillsborough Sheriff’s spokesman J.D. Callaway said.

Callaway said the victims were Hillsborough Fire Rescue Capt. Chris Artigas, 45, 949 Cadiz St., Tampa; Gina Marie Lamantia-Bello, 44, Garcia’s estranged wife, of the Elmfield address. And the third victim, who died at St. Joseph’s Hospital, was Regina Ann Coffaro, 44, of 2714 Lemon Street, Tampa.

He said Garcia drove up to the house and confronted the three friends on the back porch. “Motive?” he said, “we’re not sure what it is.”

There were no children inside the house at the time of the shooting, and the suspect does not stay there.

Hillsborough Fire Rescue Chief Bill Nesmith said Artigas was a 23-year veteran with Fire Rescue. He was “very very loyal employee. We’re extremely saddened today.”

He said Artigas worked at Westchase Fire Station #35 on Countryway Boulevard. He had a wife and three kids, two sons and a girl.

The flag at the fire station was at half mast Saturday afternoon to honor Artigas.

When the driver was cornered by deputies about a half mile from the murder scene, he was ordered to put his hands out the window, and a witness said he complied at first, then withdrew one hand, pulled a gun and fired several shots at officers, striking at least two. Deputies returned fire, killing the driver.

The shootout occurred in front of a convenience store in a quiet residential area of gated neighborhoods and cul de sacs at the western edge of suburban Carrollwood. The street was filled with squad cars and emergency personnel, as investigators sealed off the area with crime-scene tape.

The two deputies were taken to St. Joseph’s Hospital with what Callaway described as life threatening injuries. Callaway said the two deputies were going into surgery, with one in fair condition and the other critical.

Hillsborough Sheriff David Gee said the deputy in critical condition, identified as Art Lence, a 17-year veteran with the department, was shot through torso, with the bullet emerging from his back.

The second wounded deputy, identified as Ray Wilson, with 27 years on the force, was shot in arm, and took cover behind his car. The suspect then got out of the truck, charged the deputy behind the car and began fighting him, Gee said.

“His intent was apparently upon murdering him,” Gee said.

At that point another deputy approached, and killed the attacker.

“They were still locked into a life and death struggle at the time,” Gee said.

Neighbors of the residence where the homicide occurred said it is occupied by renters.

Source: Tampa Bay Online

As the temperature rises, so does the murder rate. My sympathies to the families of those murdered and prayers for recovery for those wounded.

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Corn Illustrated’s Plots Will Study Effect of Delayed Planting

If Mother Nature finally smiles upon us, the last of the 2008 Corn Illustrated plots may finally be in the ground by now. If not, decision time will be fast approaching on how to proceed. Planting full-season corn after June 10 gets tricky in central Indiana where the plots are located. The population study went in May 5 and is up, although there were differences in hybrid emergence, as noted last week. Three more plots were on hold yet late last week.

Dave Nanda, consultant for Corn Illustrated plots and president of Bird hybrids, LLC, Tiffin, Ohio, tries to put a positive spin on the unfortunate delays. “It’s terrible for farmers who waited this long to plant, but from a researcher’s standpoint, this could be another one of those years that helps set the parameters of what’s possible,” he says. When weather conditions are extreme, researchers get to see how products and concepts react under the best or worst of conditions. Sometimes you learn more as a researcher when testing at the extremes than when it’s a normal year.”

Only problem is last year was also extreme- very dry with record-setting heat, especially late in the season. Even Nanda might be wondering when that so-called normal year is going to come along to set the norm for how products and concepts should react in a more typical environment.

In ’07 Nanda and the CI crew discovered that without irrigation, yields on ground underlain with gravel, even planted timely, can be cut in half or more. Top yields in a nitrogen plot, with rates form zero to 150 pounds per acre, with three hybrids at 32,000 and 41,000 plants per acre, yields topped at 245 bushels per acre, despite 40 days of 90 degrees F or higher temperatures.

This year looks to test the theory of how much yield potential is lost by delayed planting. Agronomists Jim Herbek and others at the University of Kentucky, on the southern edge of the Corn Belt, in more recent studies claim that in their state the yield drops begins during the first week of May. The Purdue University Corn & Soybean Field Guide, prepared by the Purdue Crop Diagnostic Training Center, also supports yields starting to slip in early May. Earlier research indicated that the magic date historically was closer to May 10 to May 15.

Based on the most recent data, 20% yield reductions could be possible. That means instead of shooting for 300 bushels per acre, Nanda and company could hope for 240 bushels per acre at best. Ironically, that’s the number they hit a year ago, planted on time but stricken with extreme heat and drought. The plot was irrigated, but Nanda is convinced there is no replacement for natural rainfall at the right time. And there is certainly no way to totally account for extra heat pumped into the equation. The only saving grace a year ago, certainly not guaranteed this year, was that heat started around August 1, with July, the critical pollination period a year ago, actually running slightly below normal on temperatures.

Source: Southern Farmer

I’ll be interested to know how badly the yield suffers from delayed planting.

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La Nina Eases

A steadily weakening La Niña is expected to bring back normal rainfall patterns, but that won’t be enough to make up for long-term drought stress in the Southeast, according to the Southeast Climate Consortium.

“Regardless of the state of the Pacific, La Niña has very little impact on summer climate patterns in the Southeast,” the SECC forecast, issue May 21, says. “Summer climate in the Southeast is characterized by hot, humid conditions and convective thundershowers. Coverage and frequency of these afternoon thunderstorms is higher in Florida and extreme South Georgia, but more “hit and miss” in the remainder of Georgia and Alabama. While normal summer rainfall is not enough to make up for the long term deficits, these rains may mitigate drought effects in selected areas.”

Evapotranspiration in much of inland Alabama and Georgia exceeds normal rainfall during the summer, the SECC points out, “thus ending most meaningful recharge of surface and groundwater until the following winter.”

Those areas hit hardest by the two-year drought will be the slowest to recover.

“Given that we are entering this critical period with enduring deficits in river flows, lake, reservoir, and groundwater levels, drought will likely remain a critical issue in North Alabama and North Georgia,” according to the SECC forecast. “Over Florida, the onset of the summer rainy season is usually anywhere from mid-May to early June. The summer rains effectively end the wildfire season in the state, but potential for large fires will continue until rains begin in earnest. The wildfire season rarely lasts past mid-June. Unlike Georgia and Alabama, summer is the season for recharge in Lake Okeechobee. Last summer’s rains were not sufficient to bring Lake levels back to normal, so we are entering the season with near-record low levels once again.”

Given the situation, SECC actually hopes for an active tropical storm season.

“This season is forecasted to be active again, so let us hope for a good dose of tropical rainfall that was missed out on last year,” the forecast says.

Source: Southern Farmer

Here in north Florida, our rainy season has yet to commence. The hit and miss thunderstorms that have popped up around the area completely missed me. I hope any of the rest of y’all in south Georgia/NE Florida have been a little luckier with rainfall.

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Adult Stem Cell Findings Offer New Hope for Parkinson Cure

Research released today provides evidence that a cure for Parkinson’s disease could lie just inside the nose of patients themselves.

The Griffith University study published today (Thursday 9am US East Coast) in the journal Stem Cells found that adult stem cells harvested from the noses of Parkinson’s patients gave rise to dopamine-producing brain cells when transplanted into the brain of a rat.

The debilitating symptoms of Parkinson’s such as loss of muscle control are caused by degeneration of cells that produce the essential chemical dopamine in the brain.

Current drug therapies replace dopamine in the brain, but these often become less effective after prolonged use.

The discovery is the work of the National Centre for Adult Stem Cell Research, part of Griffith’s Eskitis Institute for Cell and Molecular Therapies.

Project leader Professor Alan Mackay-Sim said researchers simulated Parkinson’s symptoms in rats by creating lesions on one side of the brain similar to the damage Parkinson’s causes in the human brain.

“The lesions to one side of the brain made the rats run in circles,” he said.

“When stem cells from the nose of Parkinson’s patients were cultured and injected into the damaged area the rats re-aquired the ability to run in a straight line.

“All animals transplanted with the human cells had a dramatic reduction in the rate of rotation within just 3 weeks,” he said.

“This provided evidence the cells had differentiated to give rise to dopamine-producing neurons influenced by being in the environment of the brain. In-vitro tests also revealed the presence of dopamine.”

“Significantly, none of the transplants led to formation of tumours or teratomas in the host rats as has occurred after embryonic stem cell transplantation in a similar model.

He said like all stem cells, stem cells from the olfactory nerve in the nose are ‘naïve’ having not yet differentiated into which sort of cells they will give rise to.

“They can still be influenced by the environment they are put into. In this case we transplanted them into the brain, where they were directed to give rise to dopamine producing brain cells.”

The advantage of using a patient’s own cells is that, unlike stem cells from a foreign embryo, they are not rejected by the patient’s immune system, so patients are free from a lifetime of potentially dangerous immuno-suppressant drug therapy.

This development follows Professor Mackay-Sim’s 2006 development of a world-first technique that demonstrated that olfactory adult stem cells can give rise to heart, nerve, liver and brain cells.

Co-authors on the paper were Wayne Murrell, Andrew Wetzig, Michael Donnellan, François Féron, Tom Burne, Adrian Meedeniya, James Kesby, John Bianco, Chris Perry, Peter Silburn.

The study was funded by the Australian National Health and Medical Research Council and the Australian Department of Health and Ageing.

Download the full article here at

Interesting, although I believe that in a previous study with donor stem cells, the Parkinson disease progressed and new stem cell infusions were needed. Perhaps the outcome will be different if autologous stem cells are used without the need for immunosuppressive agents.

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Moore’s UCSD Center Links Low Vitamin D Levels and Type 1 Diabetes Risk

Sun exposure and vitamin D levels may play a strong role in risk of type 1 diabetes in children, according to new findings by researchers at the Moores Cancer Center at University of California, San Diego (UCSD) and the Department of Family and Preventive Medicine. This association comes on the heels of similar research findings by this same group regarding vitamin D levels and several major cancers.

In this new study, the researchers found that populations living at or near the equator, where there is abundant sunshine (and ultraviolet B irradiance) have low incidence rates of type 1 diabetes. Conversely, populations at higher latitudes, where available sunlight is scarcer, have higher incidence rates. These findings add new support to the concept of a role of vitamin D in reducing risk of this disease.

Ultraviolet B (UVB) exposure triggers photosynthesis of vitamin D3 in the skin. This form of vitamin D also is available through diet and supplements.

“This is the first study, to our knowledge, to show that higher serum levels of vitamin D are associated with reduced incidence rates of type 1 diabetes worldwide,” said Cedric F. Garland, Dr. P.H., professor of Family and Preventive Medicine in the UCSD School of Medicine, and member of the Moores UCSD Cancer Center.

The study is published June 5 in the online version of the scientific journal Diabetologia.

Type 1 diabetes is the second most common chronic disease in children, second only to asthma. Every day, 1.5 million Americans deal with type 1 diabetes and its complications. About 15,000 new cases are diagnosed in the United States each year, where this disease is the main cause of blindness in young and middle-aged adults and is among the top reasons for kidney failure and transplants in youth and midlife.

“This research suggests that childhood type 1 diabetes may be preventable with a modest intake of vitamin D3 (1000 IU/day) for children, ideally with 5 to 10 minutes of sunlight around noontime, when good weather allows,” said Garland. “Infants less than a year old should not be given more than 400 IU per day without consulting a doctor. Hats and dark glasses are a good idea to wear when in the sun at any age, and can be used if the child will tolerate them.”

The association of UVB irradiance to incidence of type 1 diabetes remained strong even after the researchers accounted for per capita healthcare expenditure. This was an important consideration because regions located near the equator tend to have lower per capita healthcare expenditures, which could result in under-reporting of type 1 diabetes.

The researchers created a graph with a vertical axis for diabetes incidence rates, and a horizontal axis for latitude. The latitudes range from -60 for the southern hemisphere, to zero for the equator, to +70 for the northern hemisphere. They then plotted incidence rates for 51 regions according to latitude. The resulting chart was a parabolic curve that looks like a smile.

In the paper the researchers call for public health action to address widespread vitamin D inadequacy in U.S. children.

“This study presents strong epidemiological evidence to suggest that we may be able to prevent new cases of type 1 diabetes,” said Garland. “By preventing this disease, we would prevent its many devastating consequences.”

This is the fifth environmental paper from this research team to show a strong association between vitamin D and various major diseases using global incidence data. The previous four were related to cancer incidence, the first of which illuminated a similar pattern for kidney cancer, published Sept. 15, 2006, in the International Journal of Cancer. The second, on ovarian cancer, was published Oct. 31, 2006, in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine. The third, on endometrial cancer, was published Sept. 16, 2007, in Preventive Medicine. The fourth, on breast cancer, was published in the May-June 2008 issue of The Breast Journal.

Authors on the diabetes study are Sharif B. Mohr, M.P.H., Cedric F. Garland, Dr. P.H., Frank C. Garland, Ph.D., and Edward D. Gorham, Ph.D. of the UCSD Department of Family and Preventive Medicine and Moores UCSD Cancer Center.

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Weight Gain Healthy with Type 1 Diabetes

SAN FRANCISCO, June 6 – Gaining body fat may be a good thing, at least for people with type 1 diabetes, say researchers at the University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health. Their study, being presented at the 68th Scientific Sessions of the American Diabetes Association in San Francisco, followed 655 patients with type 1 diabetes for 20 years and found that patients who gained weight over time were less likely to die.

The findings are based on participants in the Pittsburgh Epidemiology of Diabetes Complications Study, a long-term prospective study of childhood onset type 1 diabetes, which began in 1986. Participants in the study, an average age of 28 when entering the study and 44 at its completion, were diagnosed with type 1 diabetes between 1950 and 1980. Researchers measured patients’ body mass index (BMI) and waist circumference and assessed BMI every two years during the study period. Over the course of the study, 147 deaths occurred.

Results showed that patients whose BMI increased the most during the study (2 to 11 points or about 10 to 55 pounds) were one-third less likely to die than those who had smaller increases in BMI, indicating that weight gain may protect people with type 1 diabetes from premature death.

“Although weight gain in adulthood is typically associated with increased mortality, this may not be the case for those with type 1 diabetes,” said Trevor Orchard, M.D., professor of epidemiology at the University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health. “Gaining a reasonable amount of weight may be a sign patients are getting enough insulin and appropriately controlling their disease, which may partly explain why those who gained weight over time had lower mortality rates,” said Dr. Orchard, who also is professor of medicine and pediatrics at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine.

Dr. Orchard and colleagues also looked at BMI ranges and mortality and found no difference in mortality between those with a BMI in the overweight range (BMI 25 to 30) and the normal range (BMI 20 to 25). Conversely, they found that having a BMI in the underweight (BMI less than 20) or obese range (BMI 30 and greater) was a strong predictor of mortality. When researchers controlled for waist circumference, a commonly cited reason for general fat mortality, patients with a BMI in the underweight range were at greatest risk for death, while those with a BMI in the overweight or obese ranges had a decreased risk of mortality compared to patients with a normal BMI.

“These results are not a firm recommendation to people with type 1 diabetes to put on weight, but it does raise the possibility that weight recommendations in type 1 diabetes may be somewhat different than those for the general population, and emphasizes the complex relationship between body fat and mortality in diabetes,” added Baqiyyah Conway, M.P.H., lead author of the abstract.

In addition to Dr. Orchard and Ms. Conway, other authors include Rachel G. Miller, M.S.; Tina Costacou, Ph.D.; Linda Fried, M.D.; Robert Evans, Ph.D.; and Sheryl Kelsey, Ph.D., all of the University of Pittsburgh. The study was funded by the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases at the National Institutes of Health.

Previously known as juvenile diabetes, type 1 diabetes is usually diagnosed in children and young adults. In type 1 diabetes, the pancreas produces little or no insulin to properly control blood sugar levels. It is typically treated with insulin replacement therapy. As many as 3 million Americans have type 1 diabetes.

I don’t believe that fat is as bad for us as the people with a financial incentive to promote thinness (weight loss plans, books, and supplements to sell) would have us believe.

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Construction Forensic Team at UNF to Study Hurricane Aftermath

JACKSONVILLE, FL — A construction forensic team at the University of North Florida is being created to study why some buildings stand and others fall following a hurricane.

The course is brand new at UNF with 12 students training to use the latest in technology to map and document building damage.

Dr. David Lambert is heading up the team that is learning to assess damage with digital cameras that are GPS enabled.

On Friday, the Hurricane Damage Assessment and Recovery Research Team trained at Hanna Park to become familiar with the tools they will be using.

Albert Mackoul is taking the course and is ready to respond following a hurricane strike anywhere in Florida.

Mackoul says digitally documenting the damage and analyzing thousands of pictures will offer insight into construction strengths and weaknesses.

Dr. Lambert says few schools offer undergraduate students the chance to jump into this type of forensic work.

“Was it wind exacerbated by prior workmanship or improper installation?” Lambert said that is the focus of the forensic work that will done in the field.

The students are prepared to respond this summer to a hurricane strike anywhere in Florida, the Gulf Coast or the coastline north of Florida.


I think that what they’ll find is that there’s been a break in the (house) envelope allowing wind penetration. It doesn’t take much. An older garage door that isn’t engineered for hurricane force winds that fails, an unprotected window, a branch piercing through the roof allowing wind entry, any of those things can cause catastrophic failure.

That said, I’ve been a lil’ bit concerned over the houses that have been in style here recently; the kind with the steep-sloped roofs as though they were going to have to shed a blizzard’s worth of snow. That style became very popular when the big national builders came in and bought up the local builders; I suppose they were using the same plans nationwide OR the more familiar type roof line appealed to the masses of people that were moving to Florida. I’ve heard many people remark that the shallow-sloped roofs of the older houses just don’t “look right”. I know that the steep roofs have been certified by engineers as being able to withstand hurricane force winds….that is, if they were built after hurricane Andrew.

There is a reason that houses used to be built with the minimum slope that they could make that would still shed torrential rain. The less resistance to tropical and hurricane force winds, the less chance that the roof would fly off the house piece by piece.

It made life a lil’ easier for the roofers, too.

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